book industry, books, hope, indie author, indie books, indie writer, journaling, Reviews, self publishing, stories, writing

The Holy Grail of Authors

1512303_805590249521973_5607612739990836441_nAs a child, I wrote on walls to learn the art of creating a word.  Later I wrote because words were fun. In the teenage years, I wrote in secret to express the mountain of emotions roiling inside of me. Then, as an adult, I wrote because a job demanded it. But there was always the reason I loved to write, and that was for the pure joy of it. When I retired, I finally could chase my dream of writing a book.

I discovered the new frontier of self-publishing and all those who blogged about making money selling their books. So, I learned to blog.  I followed all the lemmings into the sea of self-publishing, and then something changed.  It wasn’t about writing anymore. I perfected my writing style. Learned to kill off my darlings that were ineffectual to a story, doubled down on the grammar, began to figure out what made a good story, hired an editor and cover artist, then published. Before I just gleefully pounded out words to create scenes, imaginary characters, and involved plot structure. But along the way, I lost the joy of writing and became driven to seek the Holy Grail of Authors, book reviews.

I wanted the reader to enjoy the story, and I craved feedback for my effort. My family was great at this. Friends as well, but something was lacking.  I wanted the accreditation of the Reader, a stranger who didn’t know me or want to feed my struggling ego. I needed the Reader to give me an honest opinion to prove I wasn’t wasting my time. When creating books, this had been the carrot at the end of the stick for all those nights of tapping away at the computer, researching infinite details, getting every sentence right.

I gave away a zillion copies in hopes of a review. I bought high-powered write-ups through accredited sources like Clarion and Kirkus, but to no avail.  I spent hours learning about how to promote, advertise, and edit again. Tried keeping up with Amazon as they changed program after program on me, trying to grasp the secret language of the algorithm. I became obsessed with needing to check sales reports, seek out new contacts, to create mailing lists, and have a million ‘friends’ on places like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

No matter how good the book was, no matter how hard I tried to advertise, no matter all the elusive leads that I chased to find the Holy Grail, I failed — leaving me to ponder where the joy had gone.

But there is a happy ending.

What did I do? I went back to my first love, writing. I started blogging again and created more books. Most importantly, I reviewed other people’s books. Yup, I found the Holy Grail of Authors. Not for my books, but for others who are creating even better stories than me. I found peace in giving reviews, striving to help others find that validation I sought. I wrote words of encouragement, honesty, and gave back to people who provided me many hours of enjoyment in reading. I don’t do this on Amazon because I’m an author and can’t review other author’s books. But, on sites like Authors Den, Smashwords, Bookrix, Goodreads, and a myriad of other places where I find books for my enjoyment, I respond to people who ask for advice, input or a review.

How can we expect something from a self-consuming, greedy world, unless we, ourselves, are willing to give it? I have not seen reviews of my books magically appear because it is not about that. It’s the satisfaction in creating art from words. I find comfort in the words of support, direction and validation I give to others.

Of course, I still want the Holy Grail, but it’s not the focus of this journey anymore. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway, being here for each other?

 

 

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Amazon, book industry, books, historical romance, indie books, Reviews, stories, vikings

Authors and Reviews

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I remember during the edit of my first book, Windswept Hearts, the editor commented that one chapter should be two chapters and it needed more back story. I was upset because I hate writing joiners. Those sections you need that continue the flow of the story but to you seem boring. How do you spice them up? It also meant another 1200 words and there would be an uneven number of chapters.  All creative types have their idiosyncrasies. My quirk is wanting my books to end on an even number of chapters. Ugh.

I was mad at my editor but too passive to say anything. So, I decided my heroine would wake up grumpy, then the coffee maker goes out, and her love interest irritates her. I relished writing this scene and I put all my frustration into it. My editor is no dummy. She figured out my angst and added salt to the wound by telling me it was the best scene in the book. We have laughed many times over it.

My point? We all know, as writers where our weaknesses lie. Whether it’s writing a scene ten times and not getting it right or merely skipping something we don’t want to work out. We know when our writing doesn’t make the grade and we worry the reader is going to notice. Every author knows you get tired at the end of writing, editing and re-writing the story. There are scene changes that don’t go smoothly, those plot holes that take a dump trunk of words to fill in and all your skill to cover. Then you are finished, and you send your project out into the reader pool hoping it won’t get torn to shreds by public opinion or worse yet, left to die a slow, dusty death on a bookshelf.

I also worry about how a reader is going to react to the social setting of the time.  I find writing historical fiction gives me more leeway to be creative but keeps my feet to the fire because I still have boundaries I must work within. The period I chose, Viking history, is a little rough around the edges for our present time.  They weren’t called barbarians for no reason. They eked out an existence in the harshest of lands, fought like demons, loved wildly, had a sophisticated social setting and were independent to a fault.  They did not live by our current societal rules.  I knew I would have to be accurate about their lifestyle yet I knew this would be offensive to some.  I was concerned about my heroine’s age. Typically, in the period I was in, young girls were married off by the age of fifteen. I have felt the parents may have been smarter then. (I raised three teenage daughters) At that age a girls’ hormones are raging, she wants to do things her way. Could those parents have decided, “let’s just marry her off and let the husband handle it?”

However, in our day and age girls are considered underaged until 18. I knew where the hard spots were, and worried how they would be perceived. Take for instance the rape of hostages or woman of a conquered village. This was the norm.  Also, a woman didn’t have much choice or say in whom they may have to marry. They were used as bargaining chips for peace or alliances, or for improving the family wealth. They could even be sold into slavery. On top of that, they were held to high standards, such as being a virgin when they married.

Nowadays men are expected to treat women equally, fairly and respectfully. Women have rights and freedoms that didn’t exist back then. I knew Viking men in the 800’s were a rough crowd and conditions harsh. Though Viking women had more rights than most of that time, men still held most of the power. Historical fiction can be hard to read through the lens of our modern society.

The bottom line, when a reviewer comes along, it’s easy to become defensive, angry or filled with self-pity if they don’t like something. If you are honest with yourself though, you know when they are spot on and have ferreted out your weaknesses. So, what do you do?

Everyone handles it differently. All I can tell you is how I did it. On my recent book, Norse Hearts, I sent out and paid for three professional reviews.  The first two reviews, Kirkus and Foreward Reviews, came back with glowing comments. I was ecstatic. Then the Blue Ink review came in. I was surprised, but I stepped back and analyzed it.

The reviewer hit on every one of my fears. Did that make her wrong? Did that make my book a piece of crap? Did that mean I should never write again? Nope. It said that I was an average writer, and the reviewer was one of the one-third of people who would not like the book and not necessarily for the same reasons.

I have to say I liked her style. She gave respect where respect was due, recognizing my hard work and research. However, it socially did not fit with what she wanted to read. When Blue Ink contacted me about releasing the review, I said go ahead. They seemed surprised. I explained that I needed this review. I wanted those who might hesitate about reading such material, to be able to make an educated decision on whether this was the story for them.

I want my readers to enjoy the material I write. If it is not a subject they care for, I’m okay with that. I have read books I disagreed with, or I didn’t enjoy the writers’ style.  But, I respected their effort.  I respected this reviewer’s honesty, and it will help others who have her same view to avoid an unenjoyable read.

I also looked at the percentage. If I had gotten two negatives out of three, maybe the book needed another rewrite. Instead, I was overjoyed; my rate is two out of three on the positive. I have done my best, and that is all any of us can do.  I can say I am okay with what I have accomplished, and this negative review has given me insight and ideas for another book!

If you would like to read any of those reviews, please click on my site page, headed “Books by Robynn Gabel.”

If you would like to comment on any experiences you have had, please feel free to do so below! Have a Happy Writing Day!

Amazon, book industry, books, indie author, indie books, indie writer, journaling, self publishing, stories, viking, vikings, Vikings, writing

Promoting Yourself

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So, imagine you are in a bustling city, and you are asked to walk down the street naked. Just cringed, didn’t you?

That’s what I feel like every time I finish a book and start advertising it. In this age of information saturation, to sell a book, I have been instructed to make a brand, not of my storytelling, but of myself.

I enjoy taking everyday happenings and like clay, forming it into a story. My imagination knows no bounds. There isn’t just one genre that calls to me, but many. In my head are about ten stories all the time, and writer’s block is only prevalent when I work to make that story into a readable manuscript.

But the curiosity a reader may have about me, well that makes me want to hide behind a pen name, and a made-up story about my life. I don’t understand why I like to create with the written word. It’s just images and moments are stored, then my brain gets full, and I move some of the stuff out onto paper. While doing this I have a little fun rearranging it into even better moments. I feel a little self-conscious when I share it. Like, who in their right mind thinks up things like this? But then, there is this strange happiness that fills me when someone actually enjoys my creations of imagination. It’s the same feeling I get when someone likes the slop I call cooking!

Some of the things people want to know confuse me. I’m boring. I don’t live anywhere glamorous. I scrape by like everyone else. My habits, good or bad, are average. My inspirations are relatively low key

When I find a story that captivates me (for I like to consume stories as much as I love to create them) I must admit I only want to know if the author has written other stories I can scarf down. Call me narrow-minded or self-centered, but I have never had a desire to know anything further. As a private person, their lives are their own. It is, after all, just a story.

I suppose there is a curiosity about how a story comes about. What made someone think of vampires, murder motives, science fiction, etc? But the answer is right there. Curiosity. A thing we all have in common as a species. Maybe we love stories because we can escape from our own humdrum existence of paying bills, going to work, and trying to survive. For a moment we can step into fantasy and leave behind the real world filled with its problems.

For the author, it could be the same thing. I create a world that I have control in, and I dictate the outcome. Having a whole lot of pride and control issues might help with the creation of imaginary people, worlds and events. Or maybe I just wish I could control the chaos around me, so I create my own little happy world. Who knows, I don’t always understand my own compunctions.

But does knowing where I live, what I wear, what I do or what I had for breakfast really matter? As some wise person once said, “it’s about the story, silly.”

I have been told it is healthy to voice frustrations in journals or diaries and from what I have read in memoirs and blogs, it has been going on for a long time. I guess blogging is another form of that. And for me personally, writing a story does help me to learn to work things out, and sometimes gives me insight into a problem I have at hand.

Every writer has reasons for the story they develop. It is a personal journey that some are more willing to share than others. I can only hope that if you are a writer and reading this, you realize that you are normal. If you are a reader who has no desire to write, but happily consumes stories, I hope I have given insight into why I’m a writer, but not a very good promoter.

Otherwise, I hope you enjoy my quirky little foray into self-pity for not having any privacy. But then again, why would I whine about that? I should be used to it. After raising five kids, enjoying seventeen grandkids, plastering myself all over the internet, and writing about bloodthirsty Vikings, you’d think I wouldn’t mind walking naked down any street!

And feel free to comment. Wouldn’t mind hearing about you, the reader. 🙂

 

 

 

Amazon, book industry, books, indie author, indie books, indie writer, self publishing, stories, writing

Pulse of the Book Industry

For several years I have followed Kristen Lamb’s blog. I have found her commentaries filled with witty, humorous self-help tips and noted she has definitely a finger on the pulse of the book industry. The link below will take you to her blog post that gives a bird’s eye view of the ever-changing landscape of Indie Publishing and gives hope for the future of the business. I encourage you to read it today!

https://authorkristenlamb.com/2018/01/book-business/

 

books, indie books, indie writer, journaling, stories, writing

Changes and Face Lifts

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It was time. Almost ten years ago I ventured timidly onto WordPress to do the thing all authors were raving about, building and writing a blog. I am technically challenged. Took me forever to figure out WordPress. I am an introvert. Write about myself? I would rather go through labor again.

So I got on the chat line, which is a perk of having a business account, (which I love) and got a very nice tech who was polite and patient. With their help, I was able to change my site name from Common Sense Experiences to A Journey Thru Words.

When I first started I figured I would blog about a wide variety of things. But it soon became obvious I was writing more about my experiences as an author. So this site needed a more modern name, and a new facelift.

I was in luck. WordPress has updated and created new, easy to use templates that transfer immediately. I won’t talk about how you used to have to do it in the past. I love the new perks. Also, now that I have managed to author five books, I decided it was time to look more like an author. A dear friend and life coach, Cherie, (http://totalwellnesscenter.net/ ) found a beautiful background pic and create a new banner for me.

I welcome you to my new, improved blog and website. I am looking forward to guest blogs, impromptu writing, keeping you up to date on my next book in the historical Vikings series I am doing, and an occasional re-blog on industry news.

Meanwhile, I invite you to visit another blog that I follow and have learned a lot from. Chris recently had me on his site as a guest and did an awesome job with all the bits and pieces I sent to him.  The interview link is below. I hope you will continue to follow and enjoy my writings.

https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/author/thestoryreadingape/

books, historical romance, indie writer, stories, vikings, writing

Birth of a Dream

 

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What would you do to accomplish a dream? You hear stories about it all the time. One advertiser cleverly took a twist on that and asked what would you do for a Klondike bar? Obviously we hold the goal of dreams high.

I know I did. When I first learned how to read I remember it was a great joy to be able to read the signs that went by on the highway. It seemed a wonderful secret that I was let in on. To this day, I prefer to communicate by the written word. To me, words are a tool, an art form. My mother could create rhyming poetry off the top of her head. My sister could draw and paint anything. Dad was a wizard of self-learning and mathematics. All I seemed to be able to do was read a lot.

As I got older and perfected the ability to communicate through the written word, I found another exciting mystery. I could create stories too. My teachers encouraged and gave me the hope that it was actually something I could do well.

Then, I was out on my own and raising children, working and keeping up a house were my sole focus. I kept my love of literature close, and quite often would escape into a good romance or two. At work, my writing skills were once again put to the test, as I wrote business letters, hospital policies, memos, advertising material, and even sent a few letters to senators.

Through it all there was a nagging thought at the back of my mind. It became a dream. I wanted to write a romance story. And not just any romance. I wanted to write about Vikings.  Why would a quiet housewife and hardworking business woman be interested in Vikings? Well, have you ever worked in business? It truly is dog eat dog world, or, one Viking warrior against another!

I was fascinated by a lot of things and history was one of them. Loved the Egyptians, but the fierce, independent, wild and savage profile of a Viking caught my greatest curiosity.  How did they survive in the barren north that could be more brutal than they could? What drove them to burst upon the world and take it by storm, not to conquer, but to find farmland? What made them so tough, independent yet have a code of ethics in battle that gave them hope their eternity would be filled with drinking and fighting? And yet this same ferocious, hardy people would become some of the most devout Christians and help in its spread.

They were a mystery and conundrum to me. I thought a romance between them could be a fascinating read. So for twenty years a cast of characters lived in my head. During long drives, long nights sitting beside sick kids, and any moment I could take to day dream, I would create scene after scene of a story that just wouldn’t go away,

So when I got a chance to retire and spend time with my husband, I took to social media, learned Word programing and started to finally live my dream of writing.  I discovered I had waited long enough to realize a writer’s dream, the age of independent authors. No longer would I have to travel the road of rejection, but could write, edit and produce my own dream.

I was also smart enough to know it would still be a long road. I knew nothing about editing, formatting or how to promote. So I joined a few writer sites and started to learn, listen and write. I created a romance story based on something I knew about.  Then I found a very talented editor.  I was fortunate enough to find a formatter who could help me realize my dream by getting the book into Createspace. I studied Amazon and the mysterious algorithm, and then went on to Goodreads and finally the world of blogging.

Since I have started my journey I have seen the rise and fall of a plethora of media sites and learned what does and does not work for a writer. I have seen major changes in the book industry from the chant that the physical book was dead, to changing digital readers that morphed into smartphones which do it all now.

My first two books were done to learn the ropes. Now I got serious.  Research files were created to be at my fingertips for referral. I built a library of physical books, filled with tags on certain subjects and timelines so I could quickly review. I spent a year at the computer ignoring the world around me as I created and freed the world I had trapped in my mind for many years.

Characters took on lives of their own. The plot changed and grew as they did. The original plot became buried under the will of my strong characters. And when that book was done, I realized the prologue was actually a story unto itself and was the start of it all. So I began to write a series, backwards.

Then life interrupted. My soul mate, encourager, supporter and lifeline in life, passed away from cancer. The real battle that had intruded into our marriage after only five years of being married, finally won twenty years later and Darrell was its casualty. His death took my heart, my will, my direction, and any desire to do anything, let alone achieve a lifelong dream.

He had been such a help in writing Norse Hearts. Many of the insults he had invented. We acted out sword play like two little kids so I could get a feel of how the body would have to move. He had patiently listened to each chapter as I read it out loud to catch any errors. Then when it was finished, he sat down and spent two weeks reading it, though he didn’t like to read because he was a slow reader.

The story was finished and had been edited by friend and editor. Yet is lay hidden in my computer as I went about putting my life pieces back together. But family, Facebook friends, life friends and an editor and widowed friend, would not let me quit.

More edits, formatting, beta readers and life coach, would eventually help me do CPR on my languishing world of Vikings. It was their very strength and stubborn will that help me to come back to this dream and move on.

In the wee house of 8-26-18, a weary formatter put in the last keystroke on the manuscript and Norse Hearts was born.  It went right to the printer to be approved.

What does it take to realize a dream?

I don’t know.  Determination?  Stubbornness?  Talent?  Money?  Time?  Blood, sweat and Tears?  Education?  Passion?  Family and Friends?  Well, I would have to say all of these have been part of the journey, but none of these would have been enough on their own.

I think its Perseverance. That is the one ingredient at the root of achieving any dream.  And who taught me that? Well in all those hours of studying the Vikings, it is the one thing I found most fascinating. They persevered all the time, against the elements, against the world, and against each other. They persevered, and now their DNA is spread all over the world.

So if you think it’s only a dream,  and you can’t achieve it, I want you to look up the word perseverance.