Home of the Brave

9/11 seems so long ago, but I remember it vividly, like it was yesterday. That morning, for some reason, I was watching the news when the second airliner hit the World Trade Center. I remember becoming very sick, realizing that it wasn’t just some stupid soap show.

This morning I’m reading the Washington Post and come across a story about an F-16 pilot, Heather Penny, one of the first women in our nation’s history to go into combat as a fighter pilot.

On the morning of 9/11, she was stationed at Andrews Air Force base, outside of Washington, DC, when her squadron heard about the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and learned that a forth plane was headed for Washington, its probable target, the White House.

She and her commanding officer that day, because they were the only aircraft in the area capable of getting into the air rapidly, would be tasked with bring down flight 93. The only problem was both their planes were unarmed. They had no missiles or bullets. To bring down flight 93, they would have to use their F-16s as missiles. On that day, over Pennsylvania, they would have to be kamakazi pilots.

Her commander said he would aim for the cockpit and she said she would hit the aircraft’s tail. That was they could possibly be assured that fight 93 would go down and not reach its intended target. They didn’t think about the fact that they would not survive this mission. They were warriors and this is what warriors do.

As they streaked across the sky, it was announced that other brave people had also given their lives. They were not warriors, they were just brave and they brought down flight 93 themselves before others could be hurt by the cowards who had pirated their flight.

We are in the midst of an election in which one of the candidates is a woman. I’m sure there are some of who feel, because Hillary Clinton is a woman, that she is somehow not as strong-willed as a man. But if you have followed her over the years as I have, I can assure you she is made of the same metal as Heather Penny. They are both warriors and will do what they must to assure that our country is safe.


Satisfied Mind

I sit and stare at the empty page and wonder why there’s so much white space. What might I write?

There was a time in my life when I had no regrets and felt I needed nothing. I had an ordinary job, had no debt, lived alone but didn’t mind it. I had great friends and a simple life. In other words, I had nothing and wanted nothing. Satisfied mind is what they used to call it. It’s so difficult when we get older to have a satisfied mind. We want things. We want what others have and therefore spend our days toiling at work, associate with people we tolerate but don’t particularly like. Years go by and we grow to dislike who we are but, because we’ve been that person for so long, we don’t remember who we were.

We sometimes call this maturity—this growing into a person who fits. Somewhere back around the 11th grade, we begin to shed our child self and grow into this other person. We try on personalities like shirts and pants, looking for what’s acceptable to those around us. We strive to be popular. Males want girls to like them and girls want guy to do the same. So we lose the lightness that once was us. We conform and change and give up the simple things that used to be fun. Kid stuff. Don’t be such a child. But it was fun. It was fun to be stupid. It was fun to say dumb things and still have friends. Where did it go? Being adult is not much fun—much too serious to have a satisfied mind.

Do Publishers Market Directly to Readers?

Do publishers advertise books? Yes, but not directly to readers. Larger publishers produce book catalogues that are sent through their marketing department to their distributors, who, in turn, send them to bookstores.

Publishers also send books to reviewers at Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, and The Library Journal. Do reader subscribe to these review magazines? No. These reviews are for those who buy books for bookstores or libraries or those looking to buy reprint rights.
Probably the best sources for reviews that are reader friendly are those in major newspapers. But with newspaper readership and ad revenue on the decline, many newspapers have dropped book reviews. With that said, the most promises reviews that readers might see are those that are posted online at Amazon, Goodreads.com or other such sites.

Do not, I repeat, do not fall for paid reviews, book tours or those who advertise they will do all your marketing for you. Remember scammers see eager new authors as easy pickings. If it looks too easy, it’s probably from someone who wants to get his or her hand in your billfold.

So where and how do readers learn about books? Unfortunately, most readers select books only from authors they’ve read and these authors are normally those with big names. Readers also learn about authors from other readers through word of mouth. Amazon also does a wonderful job promoting books to readers through its bestseller lists.

If you’re an author who expects his publisher to promote your book for you, it’s highly unlikely that’s going to happen. Major publishers only promote those authors who make them money. Smaller publishers don’t have the advertising budgets to promote individual authors as they must concentrate on promoting their entire list.
So I’ve got this book I’ve been thinking about writing. If you publish it, how can I promote it? First of all you should begin building a name. Book marketing experts advise that name building should begin about the same time you begin writing. Social media is a great place to begin this task. However, if you’re not outgoing, this might not work well for you because to make an impact on social media, one has to be very active there.

The next best place to begin is blogging. WordPress software is free. A Web Site built around WordPress can be a site and a blog all in one.

So now I have a Web site and a blog, what do I blog about? Begin anywhere. What are your likes and dislikes? What about hobbies? What kind of work do you do? Do you travel? Give advice about something about which you have knowledge. Advice is one of the best ways to connect with others. Popular blogs are about sharing, therefore your mantra should be: How can I help others?

To be a successful author is not any different from being successful at anything. Jobs, hobbies, even travel takes study and preparation and the knowledge of what needs to be done to be successful. Writing is truly no different.

Publishing Contract Conversations

I’m not frequently asked what’s the reason for a publishing contract, but I’m sure many authors wonder. I’ll try to make this very short as there are entire books written on this subject. The short version is there must be agreement between the parties involved. Publishing contracts deal with copyright. When an author sits down to write, everything written by him or her is instantly copyrighted by law according to U.S. and international copyright conventions.

With that said, no one except the author has the right to copy his or her work. Stealing one’s work is called copyright infringement. So, the main purpose of a publishing contract is to allow someone besides the author—a publisher in this case—to copy, distribute, and. in most cases, to grant the ability to the publisher to license others to copy and distribute said copyrighted property.

All of this is usually contained in a paragraph or so at the beginning of the contract, so why 20 or more pages of paragraphs and subparagraphs in most contracts? The answer is there are more issues that need to be resolved and understood, issues covering other important items beyond rights.

How about money? Income from the sale of intellectual properties (books, novels, plays, TV scripts, music, etc.) also must have a place in a contract and be agreed upon by the parties involved. For instance, there must be, described and agreed upon, when royalties are paid, in what form, and how royalties are to be divided between author and publisher.

How about the length of time the publisher gets to keep those rights? Also, there are movies and TV shows made from books. Contracts must also cover who controls these rights and how these rights, called secondary rights, are to be handled.

Then there are many issues in contracts that protect the author and publisher against infringement, meaning someone else publishing the book and putting money from sales in his/her pocket. There are also parts on the contract that protect the publisher from unscrupulous authors stealing someone else’s book and claiming it is theirs.
I’ve promised to make this short, but that doesn’t mean the conversation has to stop here. If you have a question concerning contracts or just general questions about publishing, feel free to comment.

Narrative Discovery

New authors usually write like they talk and this results in overwritten passages. When editing your work, ask yourself this: Does my reader need this information? Am I telling instead of showing my story or ideas? Here’s an example:
It is a family tradition to go to the fair in the summertime. We always go by car and drive there. It is about five miles from our house in Farmville to the fairgrounds. When we arrive, I always hurry past the many venders who are all in vending trailers selling all sorts of goodies. My favorite is cotton candy. So when we go to the fair next Saturday, I am going to get lots of cotton candy.
Here’s a very short version that actually says the same thing: Next Saturday, I’m going to the fair and eat lots of cotton candy.
I’ve cut everything except what’s necessary to paint a very minimal word picture and, in so doing, have replaced a whole paragraph with one sentence. Possibly the only item that could have been added would be that it’s a family tradition—but is it necessary for your reader to know going to the fair is a family tradition?
Let’s now look at what’s left out and why. First, aren’t most fairs held in summer? Is it necessary to know the distance was traveled by car? Isn’t it assumed, if one goes by car, that the car is driven? Is this information necessary? Does your reader need to know the fairground area is five miles away? Isn’t it assumed there are lots of venders at fairs and who cares if there’s only one that sells cotton candy, because, for the protagonist, doesn’t cotton candy seem to be his/her focus?
The worst thing about overwriting is readers sense the author thinks them to be not too bright. If this isn’t the case, then why explain each and every detail? Isn’t it better to let your reader join you in narrative discovery? After all, both you and your readers have very creative minds. Please let them use theirs by not explaining every single detail.