Saturday, December 26, 2015

Veni, Vidi, Sticki

I don't understand why folks get so worked up about selfie sticks. 

For the most part, people use them to include the photographer so no one is left out of a photo. What's wrong with that? Some places have banned selfie sticks out of safety concerns and requests from visitors. I'd be more concerned about concealed weapons. Maybe there will be a movement to require people to have a license to carry a selfie stick?

Yes, I know they can be dangerous (I suppose one could poke out another person's eye), but for the most part, I find them rather harmless and useful. No, I don't want to be in a mass of selfie-stick users, but I avoid large crowds for the most part so that's not much of a problem for me. Here's a USA Today story about deaths resulting from using selfie-sticks. Seems like more folks die from selfie-stick accidents than from shark attacks!

I've seen a lot of photos of people using selfie sticks at family gatherings during the holidays. Shouldn't the holidays include everyone?

While in Europe earlier this year, I didn't see a single selfie stick in London and a few in Paris. To be honest, I had never heard of them and really didn't know what they were other than some device to take photos. But in Roma, they were all over the place, especially with street vendors hawking them at the various tourist sites.  

I think people like to use selfie sticks to show they were at famous landmarks, something they can use as proof that they were indeed at those places. A selfie stick comes in handy when you're by yourself for that once-in-a-lifetime image or when you want to be that image with another person.

I've heard arguments that it's part of our narcissistic society, with people wanting to focus on themselves rather than on the spectacle. I argue that folks simply want to be part of the scene, something they can view in future to bring back pleasant memories.

I love photography and own several cameras as well as a smart phone with a camera. I can tell you it's easier using a selfie stick for a good photo rather than trying to align your arm at the right angle and get what you want in focus. I also own two tripods and a remote for my cameras, which also have self-timers, but most of the time it's difficult to use them for spontaneous or unplanned photos.

I've read that some folks recommend just handing your camera to someone and let them take the photo of you. But isn't that kind of an intrusion? Maybe being a nuisance to others? I admit that I've done that, usually with me also taking a picture of them with their camera. A nice trade off.

But what if you don't know anyone at the landmark? Do you take the chance of handing your camera to a stranger, and then watch them off to the races? Or what if you ask someone and they promptly tell you where to stick your camera -- and it's not on a stick.

Yes, I own a selfie stick. I purchased it after I returned from Europe. I've only used it once, just to see how it works. I plan to take it with me on trips for those occasional shots of me and my wife. I'll try not to poke anyone's eye out or crack them on top the head. Just keep your distance and you should be safe.

Any opinion on selfie sticks?

Until the next time....

Friday, December 18, 2015

Story Songs: Rock in the Christmas Season

Christmas has been the air for quite some time (since August?) so here's some holiday music by rock artists to deck your halls and jingle your bells. 

The first ones I ever recall were back in the 1950s (yes, Virginia, I am that old),  Bobby Helms' "Jingle Bell Rock" in 1957 and Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" in 1958. Those songs seem to open the door for other rockers to sing Christmas cheer. They've also became holiday music staples.

The great Elvis Presley recorded a classic in 1957 with "Blue Christmas," which was released again in 1964 to even more acclaim. 

In the 1960s, The Beach Boys released a Christmas album which included the bouncy "Little Saint Nick." The Ronettes got into the holiday fun with the Phil Spector-produced "Frosty the Snowman." 

From across the big pond, The Beatles found time to record "Christmas Time Is Here Again" and The Kinks sang "Father Christmas."

The Boss recorded a rockin' version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" in the 1975 and again in 1985.

The Carpenters recorded memorable holiday song with "Merry Christmas, Darling" in 1970, an annual reminder of the beauty of Karen's voice.

Paul McCartney and Wings produced a delightful tune with "Wonderful Christmastime" in 1979 that is guaranteed to lift your spirits.

I'll close out this post with two Christmas songs that focus on peace on earth. The first is The Moody Blues' "Yes I Believe."

And my favorite Christmas-inspired rock tune is John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." 

What are your favorite Christmas rockers?

Happy holidays everyone!

Until the next time...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Another Promotion

After the novel is finished and in print, the next step is promote, promote, promote.

Some authors suggest that promotion should begin before a book is published. I find it difficult to write, edit, proof the galleys and promote although I suppose I do it passively through this blog and other places.

Perhaps I'm a bit cautious about actively promoting before the release date because I know there are variables which could affect the transition of a manuscript into a novel such as editorial issues, production problems, and personal setbacks. You never know what obstacles may arise in the process.  

For "Old Ways and New Days," I've had a promotion on Goodreads soon after it's release. I've also  used Apex Reviews and Author Shout in recent weeks to spread the word about the novel on various social media sites. And, of course, various posts on my blog and Twitter tweets have been used about the book. 

My most recent is a giveaway on The contest is limited to those residing in the United States. If I can find a way to offer a similar promotion for the e-version, I will do that internationally. Please share with me if you have any ideas on how to do that.  

So if you're interested in entering latest giveaway, which runs through Dec. 22, click here

I also learned that my publisher, Wings ePress, will be upgrading its website over the next few weeks, which should help me and their other authors. 

Promotion is an ongoing process, at least for six months after the release of a book. I try to keep it active while working on my next book (something I hope to do beginning the first of the year). 

Until the next time....

Monday, December 14, 2015

In Review of Books

I'm a reviewer. After I  go to restaurants, stay at hotels, purchase appliances, hire a contractor for home repairs, buy music, watch movies, I usually leave a review at a relevant website. 

I do it because I want to share my experiences with others. And because quite a few folks do the same, helping me make decisions on various and sundry activities. I hope I'm being helpful to others by sharing my opinions. 

I also leave book reviews at places such as Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and lesser known sites. As an author, I appreciate those who leave reviews of my books and those of others. While reviews are purely subjective, they do provide insights on books.

They also help books gain some traction with the reading public and give authors a bit more exposure. With the thousands of books and authors out there, every review helps. 

I've heard from some readers who tell me they find it difficult to write a review. I tell them to keep it short and simple -- basically why they liked or didn't like the book.  

If that proves difficult, at least leave a rating. And try to be honest. 

As a reader, I usually write a review soon after I finish a book, while it is still fresh in my mind. 

By being a reviewer, it helps me understand, as an author, that it takes a while for a review to appear after purchasing a book. In other words, a person generally doesn't buy a book and post a review the next day.  

I usually have several books that I'm reading, or about to read, and they usually take precedence over a new book, especially those I have from the library with due dates. So it may take up to a month before I begin reading a new book (I currently have four books on my list now). 

I hope you're a reader and reviewer. I know authors, booksellers, and readers appreciate the time you take express your thoughts.

Until the next time....

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Highs and Lows of Selling a Book

You've written the great (name your country) novel and it's out there for everyone to read. 

You hope to see it on bestseller lists. You wait for calls from network radio and television talk shows for prime-time interviews. You look forward to hearing from magazine and newspaper feature writers and reviewers wanting to discuss your opus.

Unless your name is Mary Higgins Clark, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, Stephen King, Sue Grafton, Danielle Steel, Lee Child, J.K. Rowling, Joyce Carol Oates....well, don't get your hopes up. 

It's tough and brutal in the publishing world where only the strong survive on all levels -- large publishing houses, small presses, and self-published. Check out Steve Piersanti's "10 Awful Truths About Book Publishing" for some scary numbers.

So who is going to buy your wonderful way with words?

I hope your Mom or Dad isn't on the buyer list because they should receive a freebie. We know that they'll be working behind the scenes, telling everyone about what you've accomplished. At least we hope so.  

Some of your friends and relatives may fork over the money for your book. Not all; only a few. Some folks prefer a specific genre that you may not write so don't get your feelings hurt over it. As mentioned in my previous post, some people simply don't read books. They spend their hard-earned money on other things. 

I was recently at a book signing and a fellow author mentioned to me that I needed to put some books aside because several folks told me they would be back to buy autographed copies. I couldn't help but smile, then told him they were just being nice and polite. And I was right. I never saw them again the remainder of the day. 

Book buyers need to know that authors don't expect you buy a book when you stop at their table, especially when there are lots of authors selling books. To be honest, I'm flattered to simply have someone pick up one of my books and glance at it for a few seconds, especially when they open it and read the blurbs or the first paragraph. At least they've been exposed to my work.

I never expect a sale until the reader picks up the book and hands it to me to be autographed. Other than that, it's kind of like a flea market where folks examine many items (books) before they make a final decision.

Actually, some folks who don't say anything may return to buy your book after making the rounds. And there is always the possibility that potential buyers my go back home and order an e-version from one of the online retailers.

The same goes when online friends say they're going to order one of your books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords or some other retailer. Again, I believe they're being nice and polite.  If they do, great. If they don't, life goes on. 

The author can only do so much. You can promote, promote, promote, and hope that it connects with readers. And the odds aren't really that good. 

A key is not to get discouraged by the process. You have to be strong. I know several authors who beat the odds. Just keeping plugging away, especially at the keyboard. Sometimes it takes several years to become an overnight success.

Until the next time....