What To Give The Author Who Has Everything

Well, that’s a ridiculous headline.

There is not one author who has everything. Except maybe J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. They might. I don’t know. Probably. Everyone else? Nah. But still, I thought the title had a nice ring. I’m easy.

But if you think about all the people in your life who mean something to you, people you occasionally gift with this or that, there probably are a few writers in the bunch. And when you gift those writers, you want those gifts to be items they really want, really like, really need, right? Even in those exceedingly rare cases where they appear to have everything (which, trust me… they don’t), you want to be purposeful in your generosity to your writer pals. At least that’s the way it is for me.

And, in this particular case, we are talking about me. But not me as the gifter, me as the giftee; a writer who definitely doesn’t have everything, and would like more of what I really need (which we’ll get into in a minute).

A mentor of mine once told me, “People think you don’t need anything.” This was meant as a nod to my particular brand of independence and self-confidence, while also asserting that I was terrible at articulating what I needed, and, therefore needed to learn how to ask for what I needed since no one, apparently, presumed I did. Need anything. Which is so odd. But, OK, lesson learned.

So, in that spirit, I offer pertinent suggestions related to my upcoming book launch, an “author’s gift registry,” of sorts, to assist you in knowing what I need and would be delighted by as you join me in celebrating that event. Much like bringing flowers to an actress on opening night, except, in this case, the “flowers” are simple actions you can take that will benefit the launch in all the best possible ways, and, handily, is a list that can also be applied to any writer you’d like to honor with similarly perfect gifts.

Author’s Gift Registry for The Alchemy of Noise Launch:

1. SOCIAL MEDIA: I would be delighted if you’d share any news, thoughts, opinions you have about the book via your social media… any of the medias will do (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). Share widely and freely, make jokes, coin phrases; whatever amuses you, and, if so inclined, use the hashtag #TheAlchemyofNoise whenever posting. I think we all know by now how effective social media can be in stirring word-of-mouth, and this book and I will definitely appreciate any words coming from yours. Mouth, that is.

2. PRE-ORDER THE BOOK: It turns out this is a BIG deal for everyone involved in the marketing and distribution of a new book. Pre-orders, and sales during the first few days post-launch, are VERY important for a new book (like the opening weekend of a movie). So please do me the favor of clicking right HERE to pre-order your print or e-book copy, and, if you already have, THANK YOU!

3. REVIEWS: This is another big one. Reader reviews are crazy/important in this media focused world, and every single one—no matter how long or how many stars—helps. Now I must be honest: I get squeamish asking people to write reviews for me; it feels a little bit like, “Please applaud for me, will you?” But it’s really not that. It’s a far more professional exchange, and I realized that, oddly, when I got my car windows tinted. Let me explain:

After the job was done, the guy, who’d done a great job, asked, “Hey, would you do me a favor and leave a review at Yelp for us?” I noticed I had absolutely no back off on him asking; it felt like a normal 21st century transaction where we all know posting reviews can help a business, product, book; whatever we might be reviewing. I was happy to do it and I did. I wrote a swell review about my tinted windows, all the while thinking, “If Window-Tint Man is comfortable asking, why aren’t I?”

That answer would require some deeper conversation than we need to get into right here and now, but suffice it to say I am putting aside my squeamishness to flat-out ask:

After you’ve read The Alchemy of Noise, I’d be so grateful if you’d post a review/rating of the book on the Amazon page. Just go to the book’s page, right HERE, scroll down toward the bottom of the page, click the “Write a Customer Review” button, and convey your thoughts. They don’t have to be long; candor is appreciated, and you do not have to gush (though feel free if honestly so moved 🙂 ). Know that reviews really do help potential readers decide whether or not to buy a book… as they help marketers get a sense of how your book is being received.

There. I said it. I thank you in advance.

4. GOODREADS: If you are a member of this very popular book site, I’d love if you’d add The Alchemy of Noise to your “shelf.” Just go HERE to the book’s page, then click the green button under the book thumbnail to choose your shelf. After you’ve read it, you can cut & paste the review you wrote for Amazon and copy it right there on that same Goodreads page (look, I asked again!) And feel free to “follow” and “friend,” as we do on these sites.

OH, and until March 26th there’s a Goodreads Giveaway for the book; just scroll down the page and click to take a shot at winning 1 of 10 free books being given away.

5. BOOKBUB: Similar to Goodreads, BookBub is an enormous book site that engages with both readers and authors across a deep and eclectic platform. Many of you possibly subscribe to their “deal emails,” alerting you of the slate of books on sale any given day. It’s a big site, with lots of everything, and another one where “following” my page, and copying that Amazon review over would be incredibly beneficial. Just click HERE to find me there.

6. READING EVENTS: If you’re in one of the cities where bookstores will be hosting events for my launch (in April/May)… please COME! I’d love to see you and it should be great fun. And please be prepared to purchase the book at the store so the owners think I’m one of those cools authors whose fans are attuned to supporting independent bookstores. 🙂 Check the itinerary below and/or the Facebook Event Pages for each event.

6. WEBSITE: Don’t forget to keep an eye on my website for upcoming events www.lorrainedevonwilke.com.

7. MY SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES: … they’re all below… you know what to do:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lorrainedevonwilke
Facebook Writer’s page: www.facebook.com/lorrainedevonwilke.fans/
Twitter: twitter.com/LorraineDWilke
Instagram: www.instagram.com/lorrainedevonwilke/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/lorrainedwilke/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorrainedevonwilke/
Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/-/e/B00K2ZOLSA
Rock+Paper+Music blog: www.rockpapermusic.com

And that’s it; that’s the “registry,” comprehensive, complete, and, at least to this writer, incredibly valuable. I thank you in advance for your generosity, and know that you’ll always have my enthusiasm in returning the favor in kind.

Happy reading, Circle!

Gift photo by jesse ramirez on Unsplash


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Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, has an April 2019 pub date, with pre-orders currently available at Amazon and elsewhere.

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

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Sale Away: HYSTERICAL LOVE @ 99¢ Through 10.14

Having just won the solo medal in “general fiction” at New Apple Awards, Hysterical Love is being offered at the promotional price of 99¢ through Saturday, October 14, 2017. Just click HERE.

From Amazon’s “From the Author”:

Your debut novel, After the Sucker Punch, also dealt with family secrets and estranged parent-child relationships. What is it about these themes that intrigues you? They’re relatable, almost always a mix of humor and drama (great fun to write!), and probably the most universal themes in existence. We all have a family of some kind, so there’s always something within the politics of that group that will resonate with most readers.

How did growing up in a big family influence your work? It gave me an insider’s seat in the dramatic and evolving culture that is a big family, allowing me to observe and explore those dynamics in as natural and experiential a way as possible.

Dan is a male protagonist with a strong, quirky perspective. Was it a challenge to craft such a well-rounded male character? I have five brothers, a son, a husband, many male friends, and I spent years on the road in rock bands… I got my male bona fides! 🙂

What do you think is the most important part of Dan’s personal odyssey? Finding truth. Within his romantic relationships, his work, his family, and, most importantly, himself. Truth is always the grand prize.

What inspired you to write Hysterical Love? An anecdote was shared with me by a guy who briefly fixated on his father’s old girlfriend, sparking a compelling, “what if he actually made it a quest?” Folding in the notions of lost love, enduring heartbreak, and defining the validity of soul mates, a story emerged that ultimately became Hysterical Love.

You’re an author, a former rock-and-roller, a photographer, a singer-songwriter, and you’ve worked in theater and film. How do you feel these diverse experiences have influenced your writing? Each element of my creative life has given me unique perspective, amazing stories, and always compelling characters. I’ve dipped and double-dipped into each to flesh out and enrich my books. It’s like living your own research!

What (or who) were some of the biggest influences on your literary career? An early childhood without TV led to voracious reading, which inspired a passion for words, narrative, good stories, and great writers. So I guess you could say that not being able to watch Mickey Mouse inspired my writing! 🙂

Which types of characters do you enjoy writing the most? The more human, flawed, heartfelt, real, irreverent, funny, and seeking, the better!

What drives you to write? A desire to tell a story, express my thoughts, make a point.

Do you have an overall goal as an artist in general, or specifically? To create meaningful, authentic work that inspires, entertains, and provokes thought… and to reach the biggest audience I possibly can in accomplishing that.

What is the number one thing you hope readers take away from your book? Emotion. Feeling something. Being moved. I know… that’s three things! ☺

Thank you for choosing Hysterical Love. It’s a story I thoroughly enjoyed writing, exploring characters, ideas, and plot twists that dug deep yet still found the humor in it all. I hope you enjoy the read!

For independent authors like myself, the support of readers is essential. In that spirit, I invite you to leave a short review of Hysterical Love at the Amazon purchase page once you’ve finished reading. Positive feedback goes a long way toward advancing the cause of writers and indie publishing in general, and I thank you in advance for your contribution!

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Yep… all that. And thanks!


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

AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH – No, Not the Election, the BOOK – Heads Into a Celebratory Week of Dollar Days

atsp_music-by-brenda-perlin

Being an independent author is like being a single parent.

You’ve birthed this glorious entity, you love and cherish it with all your heart; you do everything in your power to escort it safely through the twists and turns of life, and it’s pretty much all on you to keep it breathing.

And like an exhausted parent, I spent 2016 not promoting either of my two novels for a number of reasons:

1.) (and I’m just being honest here): I was sick of doing it. Convinced I’d overstayed my welcome in chattering about them; certain that anyone I could actually reach had already been amply alerted, and twitchy at having to conjure up new and clever ways to talk about them without coming off like an overweening “helicopter parent,” I stepped back.

2.) I found most promotional options to be either surprisingly ineffective or beyond my budget; and

3.) My many and not-inexpensive efforts in previous years had netted less than the desired results.

chalk-art_atsp_photoart-by-brenda-perlin

So, I took a sabbatical from promoting and spent my time doing lots of other things: selling a house, corporate writing, attempting to get caught up on my photography site, joining the cast of a new musical, driving myself mad with this election (don’t get me started!), and primarily writing my third novel (more on that later!).

But THIS WEEK all that changes… I’m bringing out the big promotional guns!

The very coveted book site, BookBub, has selected my first novel, AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH, to include in a feature this week. And since this will be my one and only book promotional effort of the year, I figured I’d fill the slots before and after with a few of the other higher profile book promotional sites as well.

The perk for you, dear reader? During this week of promotions, and in the spirit of getting AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH properly introduced to new readers and reintroduced to those of you who might appreciate a reminder (Christmas gifts, stocking stuffers, holiday vacation reading), you’ll be able to pick up a Kindle copy of the book during this week for only 99¢!

Here’s the schedule of sites that will be featuring After The Sucker Punch at this special promotional price:

Monday, 11/14: ReadCheaply 

Monday, 11/14: ManyBooks (with “Feature Author of the Day interview)

Wednesday, 11/16: EreaderNews

Thursday, 11/17: BookBub

Friday, 11/18: Awesome Gang

The promotional price at Amazon will be in effect from Monday, 11/13 (12 am) — Friday 11/18 (12 pm)

Here’s the blurb:

“With bare-bone honesty and fiery dialogue, Wilke explores the loaded relationship between parents and their adult-children, examining the brave and lonely journey of self-discovery, reinvention, and healing…raw and brave—a great read.”—Tracy Trivas, author of The Wish Stealers (Simon & Schuster)

They buried her father at noon, at five she found his journals, and in the time it took to read one-and-a-half pages her world turned upside AfterTheSuckerPunch_front_coverdown… he thought she was a failure.

Every child, no matter what age, wants to know their father loves them, and Tessa Curzio – thirty-six, emerging writer, ex-rocker, lapsed Catholic, defected Scientologist, and fourth in a family of eight complicated people – is no exception. But just when she thought her twitchy life was finally coming together – solid relationship, creative job; a view of the ocean – the one-two punch of her father’s death and posthumous indictment proves an existential knockout.

She tries to “just let it go,” as her sister suggests, but life viewed through the filter of his damning words is suddenly skewed, shaking the foundation of everything from her solid relationship and winning job to the truth of her family, even her sense of self. From there, friendships strain, bad behavior ensues, new men entreat, and family drama spikes, all leading to her little-known aunt, a nun and counselor, who lovingly strong-arms Tessa onto a journey of discovery and reinvention. It’s a trip that’s not always pretty – or particularly wise – but somewhere in all the twists and turns, unexpected truths are found.

Author and longtime Huffington Post contributor, Lorraine Devon Wilke, takes an irreverent look at father/daughter relationships through the unique prism of Tessa’s saga and its exploration of family, faith, cults, creativity, new love and old, and the struggle to define oneself against the inexplicable perceptions of a deceased parent. Told with both sass and sensibility, it’s a story wrapped in contemporary culture but with a very classic heart.

“A keenly executed character study. The novel is tightly structured and holds its complex elements with a sure and skillful grip. The dialogue pops…a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable read.”—Junior Burke, author of Something Gorgeous (farfalla press/McMillan & Parrish)

Thank you for your time, please enjoy the read, and let’s keep sharing creativity in these strange and challenging times!

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All 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.

Horn-Blowing and Other Necessary Evils of The DIY World

horn blowing

“But enough about me, let’s talk about you… what do YOU think of me?”
— 
Beaches, 1988

I was originally going to title this post: “I Don’t Want To Talk About My Books Anymore!” but figured it might come off as a little whiny. And really, it’s not that I don’t like talking about my books—I LOVE talking about my books—it’s that I get twitchy when I’m the only one doing the talking, flashes of those obnoxious parents endlessly jabbering about their “really cute kids” while everyone smiles tightly and averts their eyes (cannot be one of those!). I’d prefer to talk about my books because other people asked about them; someone else wanted to discuss plot and character, or how to order a dozen or two copies. I’d rather respond to a whole other person tooting that horn than pull out the trumpet myself.

It’s hard out there for a book-pimp.

See, all this self-promotion started when the entire world went DIY some years back, with everyone doing anything and everything for themselves. The trend was seen largely as a positive thing: a democratizing, equalizing, barrier-breaking thing for all those independent people out there with a dream. Writers could put up their own articles, artists and photographers could set up their own blogs to sell their art; businesses and private practitioners could hang shingles in the form of interactive websites, and authors, they self-published. It’s gotten so democratically DIY, I half expect women to start delivering their own babies with headphones and an online tutorial!

And it has been a boon in many ways. The DIY market has allowed countless creators of every industry and medium to move forward without the limitations of picky gatekeepers, elitist corporations, prohibitive budgets, and miserly invitation lists. But where it’s proven challenging is in the wrangling (i.e., affording) of ancillary team-members who typically help creators move, sell, and promote their products. The horn-tooters, trumpet blowers, PR flacks, publicity people. And while there is not one “self-anything” who doesn’t need those people doing those jobs, a big fat contingent can’t afford them.

A full-time publicist for any business typically costs thousands of dollars a month, sometimes many thousands. A big-ticket item. But smaller marketing and promotional campaigns can also run into many hundreds of dollars and must be cyclically and consistently rerun to be effective. Even artists lucky enough to be affiliated with “umbrella” companies that provide some marketing and promotional support will find they’re obligated to implement those efforts on their own time and their own dollar. In other words, no matter where you fall on the “self” spectrum, you’re pulling that horn out of the closet.

And doing my own trumpet-blowing has always made me a little queasy.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family of eleven children where one had to leap up and down and wave their arms to get any kind of non-generic, “oh, I see you” attention, but I find the “leaping” necessary to self-promotion (particularly in the glutted indie book market) to be oddly demeaning. Instead of your work drawing people to you while you stand there being quietly brilliant, you’re obligated to chase after them like a panting schoolgirl trying to snag the interest of the most popular guy (switch genders as applicable). Beyond that, it sometimes feels too self-focused, too attention-grabbing, too… I dunno… creatively narcissistic. I’d prefer that the work itself, or someone with excellent trumpet skills, speak for me.

But there’s no choice. As indie artists, we not only have to do the job, we have to be indefatigable about finding new and clever ways to get it done. There are thousands of businesses and websites out there tooting their horns in hopes we’ll hire them to help toot ours (sort of a DIY Circle of Life), but the costs can run anywhere from cheap (various “tweet your book” sites, featured pages, book-of-the days sorts of things) to downright expensive (Book Bub, Foreward and Kirkus reviews, online ads), and some, but very few, are free. Often you pay loads of money to set up sales in which you give your books away for free or very cheaply (always an odd oxymoron), and given the “effective marketing = persistent marketing” equation, even the most economical campaigns will add up.

So where do indie creators with limited budgets go? To social media, of course! It’s not only what’s left to them once they’ve tapped-out their budgets, it’s the information highway everyone uses, regardless of product. Which means social media is regularly BOMBARDED with streaming posts from all sorts of people touting the “latest with my fill in the blank (book, band, record, art, store, tour, company, etc.),” and, in some cases, that’s all they ever post. About their book. Their record. Their tour. Their whatever.

We get no other insight from them, no other angle on their personality or point of view; they don’t connect to or comment on other people’s posts, and far too often, their only contribution to the greater conversation is about that _________ they’ve created. Which makes their social interaction akin to turning a coffee shop into a billboard.

So my remedy, since we’ve got to do this horn-blowing thing whether we want to or not, is this: Get involved with other people, share about more than your own creation; “like” posts other people put up, jump in on a thread or two. Be human. Be interested. Be involved. So when you do talk about your whatever, we’re interested because we’re interested in you… and you’ve shown some interest in us. It’s an all-around happy social media thing, as it should be.

And until a scenario involving an enthusiastic horn blower comes my way, know I’ll be doing it for myself on social media too. Graciously, I hope. Forgive me if I ever seem redundant or one-note; if I ask too many times for you to reiterate your wonderful email response in a review at Amazon, or push too hard to get you out to a reading. I’m obligated to honor my work by wearing this hat, blowing this horn, but know I’m trying to be nuanced and selective about the notes. This thing is tricky, but I’ve heard practice makes perfect!

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

Writer or Author? What To Call Whom and Other Industry Silliness

writer author copy

A writing colleague of mine sent me an interesting article recently; wanted my opinion on a piece written by a book blogger with a rather fierce agenda about who gets to call themselves an “author” these days. The piqued pontificator asserted that there are fundamental distinctions to be made between “author” and “writer,” nuances he deemed essential to preventing confusion in the literal and virtual book-buying marketplace.

And here I thought readers just wanted to know which were the good books!

This inexplicably grumpy guy (who shall remain nameless and linkless in a nod to collegial decorum), purports to have his finger on the pulse of the book industry’s beating heart, and takes personal umbrage at our loosey-goosey tendency to let just anyone use the term “author.” Since it’s a matter of great importance to him, and, unfortunately, many others in this rapidly evolving marketplace, I decided to give his thesis a whirl:

According to our parsing pundit, the title of “author” applies only within this very limited parameter: a writer who makes a living with the books they write. Their full-time living. No side-jobs. No article writing, copyediting, babysitting; mowing of the neighbor’s lawn, or even the occasional catering gig. If there is any under-the-table commerce unrelated to the business of the book, well then, they are not an author. They are just a writer.

Why that assignation—writer— is considered lesser, I do not know; but, apparently, it is.

Obviously this semantical corralling would include most self-published authors—I mean, writers—because, except for the select few who’ve managed to self-publish their way to enviable fame and fortune, the rest are busy selling real estate, proofing web copy, or teaching grade schoolers while pursuing their passion on the side…and until they hit their literary jackpot. Our bitching blogger believes distinctions are to be made for these folks.

But even if you agree with him, I have to ask: why should the distinction matter…to anyone? And yet it does. To that particular blogger and others I’ve encountered along the way. So much so that self-publishers who dare refer themselves as “authors” are likened, in some ways, to paralegals posing as attorneys, interns marching hospitals in doctor whites, or security guards puffed up like the NYPD Blue. In other words: pretenders, imposters, frauds.

Really? The distinctions between writer and author are SO carved in stone as to allow the Word Police to pejoratively deny one group use of the more vaunted descriptive of author?  Well, how ’bout we leave it to the dictionary? 

Author: noun; 1. a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.; the composer of a literary work; 2. the literary production or productions of a writer; 3. the maker of anything; creator; originator. Verb: to write; be the author of:

That seems clear. Shall we continue?

Writer: Noun: 1. a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist. [emphasis added]

Yep, as interchangeable as driver and motorist, teacher and educator; trapeze artist and aerialist. More importantly, did you note the first, most important definition of “writer”? According to the dictionary, it’s the writer who’s identified as the professional, not the author!

Holy bloviating blogger, that drops the whole theory on its head!

But while I poke fun at the condescension of said cynic and his ilk, the sad fact remains that they are emblematic of many who marginalize independent, self-published authors as dilettantes and amateurs, relegating them (sometimes literally) to card tables in the back room rather than up on the dais with the “real authors.” Fair? No. But the nose-snubbing endures.

It likely began with the vanity press, that notorious business model that gave amateur writers the opportunity to publish their work for a fee. The narcissism of the option was presumed: anyone who would pay to have their own book made, a book they obviously couldn’t get published through professional means, must surely be a vainglorious sort.

Forget that they might have just wanted a few copies to leave the family.

Self-pub meme

But moving past vanity presses came the even more paradigm-shifting digital revolution, which first hit the music industry like a hurricane, forcing analogue studios into Pro Tools machines, and traditional record companies upside-down-you-turn-me. No one was sure how to adjust (it’s still a conundrum…see Taylor Swift and Spotify; see Apple and Spotify, see Spotify and Pandora…), but adjustments were and continue to be made. And artists who’d previously been kept outside the gates were suddenly making and selling their own, affordably recorded, music, while payment formulas, arcane to begin with, went up in smoke. No one knows how anyone’s making a living these days, but there’s lots of great music and many excellent (heretofore ignored) singers, songwriters, bands, and musicians who are finally able to get their work out there. That, alone, is worth a great deal to a great many.

Are they, then—those scratching out a living however they can while playing gigs, hawking CDs, and keeping hope alive on the Internet—allowed to call themselves musicians, recording artists, bands, and so on? Of course! Because they actually are all those things. How they get their art produced and delivered, or how much money they’re able to accrue in the process, has zero bearing on their talent, skill, or the value and artistry of their work.

Or what they’re called.

Is it all good work? No. But it never was all good work, even when record companies were stationed like trolls at the gate. But much of it is astonishing music that would have never seen the light of day under the old regime. And now it’s the audience, the marketplace, that not only has access to many more artists by virtue of this democratization, but will be the arbiter of just how the supply and demand piece plays out.

That same paradigm shift is happening in book publishing.

Since sites like Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks, IngramSparks and others have created platforms for independent authors to upload, publish, and sell their work, similar fears, criticisms, and condescensions have percolated. But just as those who naysay indie musicians tend to be backward travelers, so, too, are the curmudgeons who’d generalize, dismiss, and denigrate independent authors across the boards.

Because the talent, skill, and artistry of authors is not based on whether or not they fit the narrow demands of publishers scrambling to stay relevant (or solvent); nor is it based on whether the sum total of dollars they’re able to earn is enough to cover their bills. No; the talent, skill and artistry of authors is based on…drum roll…the talent, skill, and artistry of each individual author. Period.

Is every book by a self-published author a good one? No, of course not. That’s been established. But many are as profound, as resonating, as any good book sitting on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. And, conversely, all one has to do is ferret through a book bin at CVS, peruse the racks at an airport, or consider some of the most viral of bestsellers put out by traditional publishers to find examples of the kind of drek that makes our blogger’s teeth grind.

It’s past time for the media, the publishing industry, book stores, and cultural taste-makers to move beyond elitist, myopic attitudes about the clearly indefatigable self-publishing world. As that demographic evolves, the authors within it will raise their own bar to demand the highest standards from its members: constructive peer pressure designed to make sure the steps are taken, the funds invested, and the necessary work done to deliver the most excellent books possible. And what will happen then is that more and more of those authors will break through the barriers to slowly but surely make more money, get more attention, and find their way onto bestseller lists, award tables, Kindles, and bed stands of discerning readers.

Because they are authors, just as the dictionary confirms: “writers creating original, literary works.” Which is exactly what self-published and independent authors have been doing all along.

Image courtesy of Wellcome Images @ Wikimedia Commons

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

The New Novel Is Here! HYSTERICAL LOVE Hits The Book Shelves

HL on the rocks

Like a gestating, beloved baby, Hysterical Love has been nurtured, polished, fed well, spit-shined, and lovingly led to glorious life in the last many months, coming to full creative fruition, and finally, right on time, stepping onto the stage:

HYSTERICAL LOVE now available for purchase!  

For those who’ve asked, it is, in some ways, a bookend to my debut novel, After The Sucker Punch. Though very different stories told from very different points of view, both books involve adult children reading the written words of a father and being propelled onto a journey of a personal and/or transformative nature as a result. In the case of Hysterical Love, the story is told from the first-person perspective of Dan McDowell, a man knee-deep in a burgeoning existential crises:

Dan McDowell, a thirty-three-year-old portrait photographer happily set to marry his beloved Jane, is stunned when a slip of the tongue about an “ex-girlfriend overlap” of years earlier throws their pending marriage into doubt and him onto the street. Or at least into the second bedroom of their next-door neighbor, Bob, where Dan is sure it won’t be long. It’s long.

His sister, Lucy, further confuses matters with her “soul mate theory” and its suggestion that Jane might not be his… soul mate, that is. But the tipping point comes when his father is struck ill, sparking a chain of events in which Dan discovers a story written by this man he doesn’t readily understand, but who, it seems, has long harbored an unrequited love from decades earlier.

Incapable of fixing his own romantic dilemma, Dan becomes fixated on finding this woman of his father’s dreams and sets off for Oakland, California, on a mission fraught with detours and semi-hilarious peril. Along the way he meets the beautiful Fiona, herbalist and flower child, who assists in his quest while quietly and erotically shaking up his world. When, against all odds, he finds the elusive woman from the past, the ultimate discovery of how she truly fit into his father’s life leaves him staggered, as does the reality of what’s been stirred up with Fiona. But it’s when he returns home to yet another set of unexpected truths that he’s shaken to the core, ultimately forced to face who he is and just whom he might be able to love.

Hysterical Love infuses a deft mix of humor and drama into a whip-smart narrative told from the point of view of its male protagonist, exploring themes of family, commitment, balancing creativity, facing adulthood, and digging deep to understand the beating heart of true love.

I realize these are wild times in the book industry, traditional, independent and everything in between. Hundreds of thousands of titles are published each year and it’s a challenge for readers to know what to buy, what books will engage them, and which authors they want to explore and follow. As a reader myself, I know it’s hard to ferret through the tsunami of supply to find the work that resonates with you. Given that, I hope you will take a look at this new book of mine. I guarantee you will find something within it to engage you, make you laugh, pique a thought or two, and, hey, there’s much mention of ice cream and pie… that can only be good! 🙂 

Pick up a copy…and ENJOY! I’ll be most appreciative, I promise.    

Hysterical Love on Amazon
Hysterical Love on Smashwords

Photograph of Hysterical Love by Julie Schoerke @ JKSCommunications.

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

Here’s To The Ladies of the Valencia Hills Book Club

VHBC1

Being an author is a somewhat mysterious and solitary trade, regardless of how one ultimately publishes their books. When you’re self-published, however, there’s a whole other level of mystery that gets stirred into the mix, questions and opinions about why you published the way you did and what it all means in the big picture of how your value, your book’s value, is perceived.

Those outside the industry, however, the readers, generally keep their focus on the books: the stories, the covers, the draw of the narrative; the reviews, the word-of-mouth, etc. What they generally don’t think about? How or in what manner an author got their book published. Which is good. It shouldn’t matter. All anyone should give a hoot about is whether or not a book has been well-written, well-produced, grabs their interest, and, ultimately, delivers the goods.

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Still, stigmas persist, so when you do find reviews on Amazon from total strangers expressing delight with your work, when a heretofore unknown blogger announces your book is one of the best he’s read in 2014; when a publicist plucks your work out of the ethers to declare it a “top read of the year,” you are all the more touched. Because you take none of it for granted.

And when a venerable book club that’s been around for over fifteen years chooses your book to be their March read, gathering to enthusiastically discuss that book with wit and intelligence… well, for this self-pubbed author who’s been through every kind of artistic gauntlet over a long and largely independent career, Book cover cookie1that’s GOLDEN. And not to be taken for granted.

Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect when my college pal, Eileen Butler (part of the group), sent a note informing me of the March selection of AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH by the Valencia Hills Book Club, extending an invitation to attend the “discussion” gathering at her home mid-month. I wondered if a tight-knit group of women from Valencia, CA, might find my somewhat rough-edged tale a bit off-putting and unrelatable. I wondered if they’d find me a bit off-putting and unrelatable (I am not getting out that much! 🙂 ); I wondered if… hell, I had absolutely NO idea what to expect, but either way, I was honored and certainly up for it. I ordered some of my Chicago cousin’s famous book cookies, printed up some “coming soon” cards for my next book, Hysterical Love, and circled the date.

VHBC2
Eileen Butler (left) and the ladies of the Valencia Hills Book Club

And when I met the Ladies of the Valencia Hills Book Club—Linda Skvarna, Sandra D’souza Benjamin, Shelly Paolucci Coleman, Kimberly Briggs Reed, Patti Paglia, Alice Sain and Suzanne Rioux —I was more than delighted to make the acquaintance of a group of smart, funny, progressive, really interesting, and really interested women. To hear them discuss the book’s characters by name, debate covered issues of cults and religion, talk about the epilogue song, look to me for answers about my thinking on certain plot elements and story twists was like being surrounded by people talking about and discussing the finer points of my child…what “parent” wouldn’t love that?

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know a bit about each of them: their fascinating stories and backgrounds, the kinds of books they’ve read over the years, and certainly about their late founder, a woman whom they speak of with deep respect. We shared good food (thank you, Eileen!), great conversation, and tremendous mutual interest.

I walked away from the evening imbued with a sense of having been honored. To have such an eclectic group of remarkable women give their reading time and attention to me and my book is no small thing. Certainly not something I take for granted. And regardless of how or in what manner I might choose to publish any of my books in years to come, I hope I always feel that way.

Thank you, Ladies of the Valencia Hills Book Club; you truly made my day!
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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

How We Find Our Stories and What Sparked Mine: AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH

Meeting with Readers

Do we write for ourselves or for our readers? Do we write what we think will sell, what might get us the most attention, or what we’re compelled to write? All fair questions, particularly given the challenges of marketing a book, specifically an indie book, in an ever-changing industry.

A colleague of mine, quite the brilliant writer, spoke with me recently on the topic, specifically about “fan fiction,” that ubiquitous genre that has unleashed vampires, zombies, paranormal lovers, and whip-yielding CEOs on an eager reading public. In his weariness at the uphill climb of promoting literary fiction (my genre, as well), my friend asked if I thought I could ever write a “genre” book, for no other reason than to tap into the trend and hopefully hit the mother lode. I thought about it. I mean, if you used a pseudonym, if you created an alter ego, why not?

Because I couldn’t do it. Not because I’m above such things, but because the Muse that compels me to write, to sit down at the computer and tap into something ephemeral and demanding and propulsive, has to be sparked by the Idea That Must Be Written. For me, that happens rarely and only with stories I’m moved by, stories I’d want to read myself, stories I feel contribute something of depth and value to the world. They don’t have to be dirges, certainly humor is a big part of my style, but they’ve got to tap into something meaningful. For me. Nothing against vampires—if I had a vampire story that tickled my brain to the point that I had to write it, I would—but I cannot imagine finding the mental, emotional, and creative energy to write a “trend-tap” story in hopes of going viral.

Could you? How do writers find their stories? What does move most authors to do the work, take the steps, dedicate the time to complete a novel? 

Fact is, I wasn’t sure I’d ever write a novel… of any kind! It seemed so large and looming, that process, particularly after years of writing screenplays with their 120-page formats and mandate to move the story along with just visuals and dialogue. That was certainly its own challenge and skill set, but it couldn’t approach the depth and breath of an 80K-100K+ word novel! And I never felt I had a story deep enough to compel the novel format… until After The Sucker Punch came to me.

ATSP has gone global... now being read in Greece in by Marina Terzopoulos!

Some of you are familiar with the story: a thirty-six-year-old woman—ex-rocker, lapsed Catholic, defected Scientologist, and fourth in a family of eight complicated people—finds her father’s journals on the night of his funeral and discovers he thought she was a failure. The journal she reads is ten-years-old, there are others that may offer more contemporary, less denigrating, opinions, but the impact of knowing he’d ever dismissed and mischaracterized her struggles, her successes, her relentless quest to achieve her goals, is shattering… a “sucker punch.” As the title suggests, the story follows her journey as she goes from reeling at the information to attempting to make sense of it, getting beyond it rebuild her sense of self, her view of her family and childhood, and certainly her understanding of her father.

It was a story sparked by a real incident: My own father wrote journals and, many years after his death, one was brought to my attention that was particularly focused on me in a somewhat, shall we say, critical way. I had my understandable reaction, but since I’d had a fairly distant relationship with my father throughout my adult life, his retrospective critique, while hurtful, was not, for me, particularly life shattering. It was only when I brought it up in a women’s group I was in at the time that I realized just how provocatively the incident translated to others: The women in the group were collectively horrified; the variety and intensity of their responses was fascinating, most exclaiming that such an indictment from their own fathers, particularly posthumously, would have left them devastated. Suddenly this seemed like a story worthy of novel treatment! 

My enthusiasm stirred, I then took the prompt – “how would you feel if you found your father’s journal and he said you were a failure?” – to a number of others, both men and women, and accrued a panoply of replies on all sides of the spectrum. From there, so excited about the depth and variety of what I was hearing, I began to piece my story together, dug deeper to go beyond the “inciting incident” to explore issues that resonated with many of the people I spoke to: love, relationships, religion, careers, how we frame success, how we define ourselves, etc. 

At that point I had the arc, created a plot, fleshed out characters informed by my research, and became driven to write that narrative, with those characters, and the very specific ending they all led me to. It was an exciting, exhilarating, creative process…

Lining up for a book signing.
Lining up for a book signing.

… and the only way I can write a novel: relentlessly pushed by my Muse to tell that specific story. Literary fiction? Not genre? Won’t necessarily bring in the hordes,  go viral, inspire a rabid fan base? So be it. But I guarantee, whoever lines up to purchase my book, whoever clicks a buy button, whoever goes to a bookstore to find it on a shelf, will find a narrative told with passion, imbued with heart, and reflective of people and experiences that have moved me. And will, I hope, move them as well!

How do you find your stories, fellow writers?     

TO PURCHASE AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH AT AMAZON OR SMASHWORDS, CLICK LINKS.  

Reading Photographs by Tom Amandes

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

Falling Into HYSTERICAL LOVE: the New Book Cover Makes Its Debut

HL front cover

When you ponder the task of writing a novel, the idea alone seems to come with certain cultural longing, the sense that everyone with a love of words has had the urge to do the same. Write a novel, that is. Some talk about it, some have tried and failed, some have worked hard and succeeded; even the phrase, “the great American novel,” is an embedded part of our national lexicon. Writing a novel seems to be an almost mystical journey, a creative vision quest filled with trials and terrors, but still, and always, a goal of profound eminence.

And it is. It really is. It’s a singularly stellar experience, a creative process I seriously love, and one I’ve had the good fortune to experience twice (so far), first with my debut novel, After the Sucker Punch, and, most recently, with the completion of my latest, soon to be released, Hysterical Lovepublication date, April 7, 2015. I’m excited to introduce the book with the colorful prelude above, the cover designed by Grace Amandes, who also created the evocative cover of After The Sucker Punch.

My publicist, Julie Schoerke of JKSCommunications enjoying an advanced read!
My publicist, Julie Schoerke of JKSCommunications, enjoying an    advanced read of Hysterical Love!

I’m sharing this with you now, so many months ahead of the pub date, because this go-around I’m working with a top-notch publicity company, JKSCommunications, whose team, led by the indefatigable Julie Schoerke, is currently rolling out a robust pre-launch campaign to get this new book properly and prominently introduced, launched, and promoted. As in indie writer, it’s exciting (even comforting) to have a team of highly skilled, warmly accessible, and incredibly enthusiastic professionals getting in the trenches with me, a place that tends to be lonely for those of us publishing on the path considered “non-traditional.” I’m delighted to have their collaboration and guidance, and certainly the shared intent to make Hysterical Love a smashing success in all the ways it can be.

Towards that end, the book is currently available as a preorder at both Amazon and Smashwords; you’re all invited to jump to the front of the line to sign up for your copy! 🙂

(And for those interested, the paperback will be set up for preorders soon…stay tuned.)

Now that you’ve met the cover, the publicity team, and the preorder links, let me tell you a bit about the storyIt is, in some ways, a bookend to After The Sucker Punch: though very different stories told from very different points of view, both involve adult children reading the written words of a father and being propelled on a journey of a personal and/or transformative nature as a result. Here’s HL‘s synopsis:

Dan McDowell, a thirty-three-year-old portrait photographer happily set to marry his beloved Jane, is stunned when a slip of the tongue about an “ex-girlfriend overlap” of years earlier throws their pending marriage into doubt and him onto the street. Or at least into the second bedroom of their next-door neighbor, Bob, where Dan is sure it won’t be long.

It’s long.

His sister, Lucy, further confuses matters with her “soul mate theory” and its suggestion that Jane might not be his… soul mate, that is. But the tipping point comes when his father is struck ill, sparking a chain of events in which Dan discovers a story written by this man he doesn’t readily understand, but who, it seems, has long harbored an unrequited love from decades earlier.

Incapable of fixing his own romantic dilemma, Dan becomes fixated on finding this woman of his father’s dreams and sets off for Oakland, California, on a mission fraught with detours and semi-hilarious peril. Along the way he meets the beautiful Fiona, herbalist and flower child, who assists in his quest, while quietly and erotically shaking up his world. When, against all odds, he finds the elusive woman from the past, the ultimate discovery of how she truly fit into his father’s life leaves him staggered, as does the reality of what’s been stirred up with Fiona.

But it’s when he returns home to yet another set of unexpected truths that he’s shaken to the core, ultimately forced to face who he is and just whom he might be able to love.

Hysterical Love offers a deft mix of humor and drama in a whip-smart narrative told from the point of view of its male protagonist, exploring themes of family, commitment, balancing creativity, facing adulthood, and digging deep to understand the beating heart of true love.

More as we go…!

PREORDERSAmazon & Smashwords

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

OK, Let’s Discuss This Whole Book Review Thing… Please

read your novel
“Oh, yes… 5-STARS GUARANTEED!!”

I spent some time chatting with a group of writers today, discussing a topic that seems to not only be tripping up indie authors in a variety of ways, but contributing to the persistence of stigmas and attitudes about the self-publishing “brand” in general:

REVIEWS.

Coveted, powerful, manipulated; misguided reviews.

It was a spirited debate — though, in truth, everyone was in agreement — focused squarely on the corrosive effect of what some in the discussion called the “5-Star Circle” and the “Review Swap Gang.”

For those unaware, the 5-Star Circle is that loose contingent of indie author who will automatically award 5-star reviews to colleagues regardless of the quantifiable merits of their books. This is done, purportedly, to show support for fellow self-pubbers, but there’s also an unspoken quid quo pro element at work, assuring that the 5-star-wielding reviewer will be gifted in kind. The Review Swap Gang is essentially an off-shoot, a more organized venture whereby authors agree to write reviews for each other and I don’t think anyone need guess how rife with corruptible possibilities that deal might be!

I expect a holler at this point, an insistence by some in the self-publishing world that they will and do and always give honest, authentic reviews regardless of how swappers review their own books, and, hey, it’s possible. But what’s also possible (and likely probable) is an inherent awkwardness to the set-up, the politics involved if, say, they give you a good review and you don’t return the favor. In fact, I spoke to one author who confessed that he often gives weak, inept books much higher than deserved ratings for the sake of group politics. Another spoke of feeling pressured within professional friendships to do the same; someone else mentioned not wanting to spark trollish behavior from disgruntled authors unhappy with their “swap.”

And the result of all this? Far too many poorly executed and amateurishly written books sporting a raft of undeserved 5-star reviews from gushing (or, perhaps, intimidated) “friends” who apparently don’t see the value of creative accountability; a fact that has the long-term effect of misguiding readers and perpetuating negative attitudes about all self-published writers, even those whose work is worthy of the accolades.

There’s a book blogger I happen to like, Tara Sparling, who regularly offers sharp (and very funny) analysis of the self-publishing world on her blog, Tara Sparling Writes (check out her posts about book covers, fonts, and what compels readers to choose — or not choose — self-published novels). She recently wrote a piece on the topic of reviews, Why 5-Star Book Reviews Are Utter Rubbish, that triggered a strong reaction from readers on the title alone (my response is in the comment section). Tara offered seven reasons in support of her thesis, some of which echoed my own points; for example:

“One 5-star review is ok. But, if there are only 7 reviews in total and all of them are all 5 stars, I don’t believe a single one of them.”

OK, I’m not sure I wouldn’t believe a one… maybe, but she lost me a bit on the next sentence:

“So I disregard the lot and vow never to read the book instead. Which rather defeats the purpose.”

I got her point, but took umbrage with the resolution. Since I am not a swapper, nor a review solicitor, I can’t control what reviewers end up saying about my work and certainly don’t want to be discounted out-of-hand — by Tara or anyone else — if the lot of them happen to honestly like my book! I made this rebuttal in my comment; she graciously took the point, as well as similar points made, allowing that, yes, if a book truly deserves 5-stars, wonderful. But the more salient issue is that, like me, like others, she finds solid reason to raise a ruckus on the topic, a shared impulse that indicates just how transparently corrupt this reviewing thing has become.

Look, the value of reviews to anyone selling anything — whether a toaster, movie, restaurant, or book — is indisputable. But the politics of reviews has turned the process into a sort of creepy, virtual-payola scenario that’s about as manipulative as A&R thugs dropping cash-packs and trip tickets into the laps of slick fingered radio programmers. And when we’ve got countless threads on Goodreads hawking “swap requests,” Yelp choked with either phony take-downs or BFF gush-fests, and Amazon battling some version of the same on all kinds of products (including books), we’ve lost the point of the endeavor… for honest people to leave honest responses to just how much they did or didn’t like something. Period.

Here’s my personal stance: I do not want ONE, not one, review on my author page that is not authentic or honestly felt. Whatever “star” rating or review comments you think my work warrants based on your truthful, visceral response to my book, that’s what I want you to leave. Don’t troll, don’t be irrational or other-agenda’d; but don’t feel obligated, under any circumstances, to leave a puffed-up, bullshit review. If you’re uncomfortable about what you might honestly have to say, I’d rather you not leave anything than an unauthentically positive review. And I mean that. An unearned “star” should mean nothing to any of us.

To my indie author colleagues: Please understand that I will not leave a 4- or 5-star review on work that does not warrant it based on my experience and perceptions as a writer and my response as a reader. It doesn’t matter how famous you are, how much I support your efforts, how well I like you, or how much you’ve done for me. But, taking into account the shared obstacles and challenges of being in this self-publishing game together, the best I can agree to is that I won’t leave a decidedly negative review on your page (which, in this world, appears to be anything below 4- or 5-stars!). If you know I’ve read your book and want my response privately, I will be happy to share it with you.

And one more thing: PLEASE, please, indie authors, do not rant on social media about your negative reviews and do not ask fellow writers to go to your Amazon page to make any response to them. Both the rant and the request are not only distasteful, but utterly unprofessional. As is presuming a negative review is automatically undeserved, unauthentic, or written by a troll. Let’s please, for God’s sake, have some grace and dignity and take our hits where they come. Every reader has the right to their honest response no matter how many reviews they’ve written. And if you truly believe a troll is having his/her way with you, handle it privately. Don’t play creative-victim in an effort to engage fellow writers to circle the wagons; we all have to stand by our work, good, bad or in-between.

The impact of all these shenanigans is that readers — the very people we’re hoping to engage — can no longer count on reviews to guide them to what they might enjoy or find excellent.  Personally, I’ve now downloaded far too many books by self-published authors — abundant in stellar reviews — that were, ultimately, poorly written. I’ve spent my money and my time only to either not finish a book, or to put it aside with a shake of my head and a growing uneasiness about what all of this is doing to the self-publishing world at large.

For now, though I’m being much more selective about the books I buy, I still believe in the movement and will continue to support my indie colleagues, particularly those who’ve earned my reader loyalty, as I hope they will support me. But I will continue to candidly address the issues we face, holding out hope that we as a group learn from our mistakes and honestly strive to be better. More professional. More demanding. Of ourselves… and our fellow authors.

Related articles: 

• Who Do We Have To _____ To Get a Little Respect Around Here? 
• The Persistence of Self-Publishing Stigmas and How To Transcend Them

Cartoon by Kudelka

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