Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Getting Books Reviewed - My Experience

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I have been writing books for about 6 years now, and I am currently working hard to promote the first ebook I've self-published on Amazon, A SPY AT HOME. In order to do that, I've tried a variety of methods: free ads, paid ads, blog posts, bookmarks, word of mouth, free book giveaways, etc. I truly believe that the best and most effective way to promote a book is through reviews; the question then becomes "How do I get someone to review my book, and who should I ask to do so?"

I started out Google-ing "book reviewers"; had a few of those respond; moved on to bloggers, had more respond; began requesting reviews from Amazon reviewers, had some respond. I think the point is, you have to work hard at it. For every 200 requests for reviews you make, you may get one or two responses. It gets frustrating, but when those reviews start coming in, it is so satisfying and rewarding, and it truly does help you sell your book(s)!

The best part of all is that if the reviewer likes your book, he/she will inevitably tell someone else about it, and between the review and the word-of-mouth, sales will increase.

I am so grateful to all the reviewers who are taking the time to read and review my book, A SPY AT HOME (available on Amazon), and especially to those who thoughtfully suggest improvements I could make in future books. Writing novels is a learning process (with a HUGE learning curve), but it is one that I have really enjoyed.

I would like to know what other writers have done to get the word out there about their books. What has your experience been in seeking reviews? Have you paid for any advertising, and if so, was that a successful way to generate buzz and sales? The community of writers is a great one for sharing, and I am learning so much from them. My thanks to all who take the time to respond.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Evolution vs. Creationism: Can't we have both?

If you believe in God and the Bible, you believe that God created everything, and that He created everything in 7 days. Okay. I'm good with that, and I'm going to explain here and now why this is NOT the antithesis of evolution.

Let's begin with a story: I was driving back from somewhere to my hometown with a good friend's daughter in the car. We'd been talking about a variety of things - she was about 10 at the time and very curious about life. She was distressed because she had learned at school about dinosaurs, but her grandmother had told her that there were no dinosaurs because they weren't mentioned in the Bible.

I thought carefully about her question. I could have easily brushed the question off with a sarcastic rejoinder such as: "Well, they don't mention cars in the Bible, either, but you're riding in one, aren't you?" Because I cared about her and her grandmother, I decided to tell her what I really believe.

I believe in evolution; it is a science, so saying you don't believe in evolution is the equivalent of saying you don't believe in the law of gravity. I also believe that people have the right to believe in God and the Bible and the story of creation. What I told her was that in my opinion the two things, evolution and creation, didn't have to be diametrically opposed to one another (of course, I didn't say 'diametrically opposed' to a 10-year-old, but you get the idea). What if God created all the original animals and mammals - say, dinosaurs and primates - and created those animals to evolve into the animals, primates, and even humans we have around us today?

She was thrilled with this answer (later, I discovered that her grandmother was LESS thrilled), and I think it caused her to really begin to think about the way science and religion can co-exist. My own beliefs are my own, and I will keep them private, but I don't think people have to choose to believe either in God and the Bible or in evolution. I think there's room for them both in our world, if we just let our minds open up a  little and allow for all possibilities.

Her next question was about how God could have created everything in seven days (This was one argument her grandmother used to pooh-pooh evolution, since scientists claim that evolving takes millennia.). This one was much easier. Since there is nothing in the Bible about how long GOD'S day was, why couldn't His day be as short as one second or as long as one millennium? People who believe in the Bible, believe that it is the word of God written down by men. These same people surely understand and believe that men are flawed creatures capable of, even destined to, make mistakes. So logic tells us that in writing down even divinely-inspired words, men could have, and probably did, make mistakes in the transcription of those words. Anyone who has served as a translator knows how tricky it is to get not only the language correct, but the inflection, the slang, the accent, and even the intent. Why, then, would it not have been likely that the men writing down what they claimed was the word of the creator, may have made mistakes in the language they used? Furthermore, since the original Bible was written down, it has been translated hundreds of times into many different languages and versions - would it not also make sense that in these translations, mistakes could (indeed, would) have been made?

My point is, there doesn't have to be a conflict between creationists and evolutionists. The two can co-exist in harmony, as long as they allow a little flexibility into their beliefs.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dogs vs. Cats - Guest Blog by Vivian Rinaldo

We are cat people. I know that conjures up a particular picture in people's minds, and that's okay with me. We have two cats: one enormous (20-lb.) tiger tabby, and one small calico. Friends have told me they don't like cats because cats are "sneaky", and you can't ever tell what they're thinking. Too true. That's one reason I like them so much. Dogs are fairly predictable: they slobber, they lick, they demand to be attended to, and they have a distinct odor (and not just when they're wet, though God knows that makes it worse). They'll pretty much eat anything, generally like everyone, and have to be walked.
Cats are much more independent and discriminating. They don't have an odor (I don't count the litterbox. That's an entirely different issue.), they mostly don't care whether or not you are there, and they take care of their own toileting. They do go a little crazy when they see birds outside the window, but they don't bark. Cats are sneaky. They have to be. They are delicate, and in order to survive, they have had to develop slyness, quietness, and a slinky way of moving that is almost undetectable to their prey. This makes them very successful hunters.

Because cats are so persnickety about the people they love, some people find them stand-off-ish. People, that is your own insecurity speaking! Don't blame that on cats. If cats love you, you should be proud, because they are pretty particular about their humans.

So, cats rule, and dogs drool. Need I say more?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Southern speech

Some people claim that southerners are lazy in their speech, that they aren't smart, that they are people who should be mocked because of the way they talk.

This is wrong. Southerners are NOT lazy, they are just economical. Since the Civil War, people who live in the South have had to be frugal; they have struggled to hold onto or reclaim what they had. Even today, people in the southern states (excluding Florida, perhaps) are among the poorest in the country. As a child, I watched my grandmother cut up old sheets to use as pillow cases and dishtowels. Nothing went to waste around her house. Leftover bacon grease was re-used as oil to cook in or with. She was thrifty and had no patience for those who wasted food or anything else.

Because they've had to be careful with everything, so they have learned to be careful in their speech. I call it "economy of language". For example, why use up three words to describe a group of people when the word "y'all" says the same thing and you save two words!

Southerners have learned to conserve; they conserve resources, and they conserve language. They deserve respect, not ridicule!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Is Larry Flynt a hero or a villain?

My ebook,  A Spy At Home, makes the U S government look bad, and deals with killing and money laundering. Do I owe the freedom to write about these topics under the First Amendment to Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler? What do you think?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Excerpt From A SPY AT HOME, available on Amazon

Note To Reader:

Since you’re reading this, I’m dead. A great many years of my life I worked for the CIA, Central Intelligence Agency, for the federal government of the United States of America. I didn’t say proudly worked, because I wasn’t proudly serving the entire time. Don’t yawn; you haven’t read this one before. The book won’t self-destruct; this isn’t the same reworded spy novel you’ve read a dozen times where the hero does the right thing in the final scene, and everyone good lives happily ever after, and the bad guys go to jail. To be honest with you, I don’t know how much spy stuff will be in this book. The important thing for you to know is that the royalties from this book support Noah, my son. He was a surprise, but not the kind of surprise you’re thinking. You’ll meet him later, and I assure you that you'll like him. Everyone does. We’re complete opposites. He’s innocent, and I’m not.

As for me, you’ll get to know me. I’d really like to hear what you think about me, but I was too chickenshit to release this while I lived. You’ll have to judge me posthumously. Most people tell stories using themselves as the conquering hero. I tried not to do that; in fact, I’m certain you won’t conclude I’m any kind of hero. On the other hand, I hope you don’t end up hating me. My excuse for not presenting this during my lifetime was National Security. You know the term that forgives all government workers for being dishonest and secretive.

In case I forget to say it later, thanks for the money. You paid me a lot of dough over the years for my salary, and one big lump sum, which you’ll hear about in detail. Being a CIA operative means everything I do is covered under the veil of National Security. Don’t worry; nothing you’re going to read will put any American agents in danger. I’ve been out of the game for a long time, and most of the governments I helped create or defeat have no one left alive who can figure out my real identity.

My job enters into this book some, well, a lot, but it’s not really the point. I hope you think I ended up being a good person. My guess would be that most folks will see what I did in my job as acts of evil piled onto one another to build a temple to undermining decency. At the time, I acted for God and country, actually, just country because I don’t believe in God. I was raised Catholic – before you ask, no, I wasn’t molested by a priest. After touring the worst parts of the world, and seeing the worst side of humanity, I decided not to worship anything that had the power to rectify those cruelties and chose not to. Life is less complicated for me when I believe God simply doesn’t exist.

Some of you might recognize part of this story from newspaper accounts in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m the guy who shot his wife; again, not for the reason(s) you think. We’ll cover that in detail, too. You’ll hate me for shooting someone who gave so much to the world and always thought of others. I hate myself for it.

I wrote some of the book and then came back to this note. You should be warned that this tale doesn’t follow some chronology of events. It’s not some impossible to read stream-of-consciousness, but it is out of order.

My death happens at a shootout with a terrorist group from a small Middle Eastern country where I help thwart the terrorist group’s coup against the country’s President, who secretly sympathizes with America’s precarious oil dependency. Just kidding – how in the hell could I possibly know that while I’m writing this? I probably die alone of some common disease in a nursing home with so many beds that all the patients become anonymous. Who cares? (Other than Noah if he survives me)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Writing books is hard!

Don't ever let anyone tell you that writing a book is easy. It's NOT! My first effort came about because I was between jobs. I had always been a voracious reader, and I thought, "Gee, how hard could it be to write a book?" The answer is: not hard to write one, just hard to write a good one.

I began with my first mistake: too much research on the subject of the book, too little creative thinking before I plunged into the "story". The story itself was thin, the protagonist not particularly admirable, and the ending abrupt and incomplete. In other words, my first novel sucked! In my naive perception of how books are published, I began mailing entire manuscripts to agents and publishers. I can't even remember how much postage I wasted doing that before I realized that most of them only want query letters. So then I began writing query letters. The problem is I was writing them as if they were business letters; because I work in finance, these letters were dry and uninteresting, and they didn't have any life of their own. The rejections poured in.

You'd think that this would have deterred me from writing another book, but I had many more stories in me, so I plunged into the next novel headfirst. Again, too much research, but a much better story.

Now I have written nine novels, have one published and available on Amazon as an ebook, and have another one in the editing stages. The ebook, A SPY AT HOME, is selling fairly well, and I am working the social media frantically, trying to get the word out.

So, novice writers, take heed. Even if you believe that your novel is the best work out there, remember there are tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) just like you who believe the same thing. Work hard, promote your book every way you can, and don't lose heart. But remember, you are up against some very stiff competition, and you must persevere!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Let's Talk About Polygamy

Okay. Let's talk about polygamy. Webster defines polygamy as "the practice of having more than one wife (or husband) at one time".

Polygamy is illegal in every state in the U.S. So how can someone be a polygamist and be arrested and prosecuted for that? If it's illegal, you can't have more than one wife at a time, so any other women you "marry" are not your legal wives to begin with. If they aren't your legal wives, how can you be prosecuted for being married to more than one wife? Is it just me, or is this one of those stupid things that makes no sense?

I admit I have become quite addicted to the show Sister Wives, although in truth, because plural marriage is illegal, shouldn't the show be called Sister Wife Plus Three? After all, only the first woman Cody married is his legal wife. So now they are all leaving Utah because they are supposedly in trouble with the law for their "plural marriage". I say that there are no grounds for prosecution because Cody isn't really "married" to any of the three last "wives". Doesn't that make more sense? And to carry on about this, even if they move to Nevada, won't they still be in trouble if the "plural marriage" is what's getting them in trouble in Utah? I don't get it.

So here are the facts: Cody is married to one wife, and he is living in a committed relationship with and has children with three additional wives (well, actually only two, because he has no children yet with Robin). He is legally married to one, living with three others, and a whole bunch of children also live in the household. What law(s) has he broken? He is really only legally married to one wife, so how is he guilty of polygamy?

In my opinion, polygamy does not exist because in every one of the 50 states, you can really only legally be married to one person at a time. So why are they all packing up (in fear) and leaving one state to go to another because they are in "danger" of being prosecuted for plural marriage? I am baffled by this. Anyone care to comment?