Apologies to my art teacher

Greetings, Crickets.

These past few months started with such fictional promise but turned into a slog at work. On a good note, I get to write at work, which means I am not lacking for time with a keyboard.

So I decided to give in to advice from others and make “An Unusual Haunting” free on Smashwords for the months of October, November and December. Supposedly, this encourages people to purchase, read, and potentially review it, letting me know, once and for all, whether or not I did a decent job of getting the story across.

And people have bought it, along with Maker (which is also free for the same amount of time). Still, I can’t help but remember some advice my high school art teacher gave me many years ago. She said that you should get in the habit of receiving something for your creativity. “Even if it’s just a dollar, that dollar gets people used to the fact that it takes effort to produce art, and you should be compensated because you worked at it. Don’t give away your talent for free.”

Thinking it over, she was right. The “Stories from the Hut” anthology has always been free. Hundreds of people have read it. And not one of them has ever let me know what they thought about it. I’m just as guilty, as I rarely reach out to authors to let them know what I think of their work either. I guess the lack of feedback is just something to live with, and I shouldn’t give the books away just because I want a pat on the head or a bit of welcomed guidance.

The books will remain free through December – my Christmas present to any crickets out there reading this (LOL, which there aren’t) – but I will not do this experiment again. I owe it to my art teacher to at least charge a dollar for things that took me years to produce.

Until next time, Crickets, be well. And happy holidays!

Short story to the rescue

Greetings, crickets!

If anyone is actually reading this, I apologize for the delay in posting, and yet I don’t. It’s been a busy few months and, let’s face it, blogging is not a priority for me. Writing is.

And I have been writing. Finally completed a (relatively) short story I started two years ago. It came out nicely and will go into the growing pile slated for another “Stories from the Hut” anthology. I must say, I’m a bit overwhelmed by how many people read that book, at least on Smashwords. Then again, it’s a freebie.

The novel I just published “An Unusual Haunting” is not free, but it is on sale this month in honor of the main character’s birthday. Actually, it’s a test to see if anyone will pay $0.99 for it. So far, no nibbles. And that’s not a problem. If I was in this to make money, I’d be going at the marketing of it with a vengeance. Possibly printing it out and selling it myself at bookstores.

Even so, it can be disheartening not to get nibbles (where someone at least views it, even if they don’t buy). That’s why I was so glad I finished the short story and am picking up another one I have yet to finish but will this year. Short stories are great for keeping my spirits up and creativity going when I get stuck in momentum writing a large novel. Shorts offer a fresh breath, a change of venue, and can help me get out of a slump of “why am I writing this again?” mood.

So I’m still working, still writing, still creating, and still listening to the characters rambling around in my head.

Hope you are being creative too, crickets. Be well!

New Year Attitude

Greetings, crickets!

I haven’t written much since I posted the book. (Work and holidays swept my writing time aside.) But I had to write something this morning because, well, I wore a mask in the grocery store yesterday.

Now, wearing a mask is not a controversial action nowadays. In fact, it’s the law here to wear them around other people, especially in enclosed spaces like stores or office buildings.

But this mask was controversial. I knew this because several fellow shoppers looked at it and quickly averted their eyes as I walked past them down the aisles. Others stretched their own masks down in a way that let me know they were slack-jawed and gawking.

That said, the mask did do as I intended: it reached out to some people in a positive way.

One mother giggled behind her face protection, then tapped the shoulder of her young child and pointed so they could both stare at me in wonder. Three people glanced at it and we ended up having short but pleasant conversations, though without mentioning what I wore. An older gentleman was not subtle about his response. He grabbed his mask, pulled it down so I could actually see his grin, and spoke directly to me, saying, “Your mask made me smile.”

And it was supposed to.

You see, the mask was given to me by fellow co-workers to cheer me up. Made of lurid yellow material trimmed with white, it sports an ear-to-ear line drawn in black paint that breaks open into a goofy cartoon grin complete with white teeth and a red tongue. It is a defiantly positive symbol of happiness to combat these critical and chilling times.

I was prepared for a confrontation in the store, to be harangued for wearing it when others are suffering illness and death. And I could have told stories that confirmed me and my family had suffered similarly but I prepared myself to listen to their rebukes instead of defending myself. After all, the other person might need to vent their frustrations. And that, for them, might feel as therapeutic as a smile.

But no one, other than the cheerful people, made any remarks.

Maybe 2021 is starting off with hope, I don’t know. It’s more likely we just want any kind of positive feelings in our lives right now. I know I do, even though 2020 did have a few bright spots for me.

That’s why I choose to wear a smile, both on my mask and on my face. 

I can’t change the wrongs of the world; I can only change myself and my attitude. The weight of lamentable past mistakes and historic events I cannot alter might be lessened if I make the small, positive differences I’m capable of locally, both now and in the future; one human among billions doing what is personally possible in this chaotic life.

Even if my goofy mask receives only one giggle at a time, that sound will be as good for me to hear as it will be for the person who utters it, and that briefly makes us two humans together among billions in these strange times. 

That’s also why writing is so important to me. It supposedly helps me make a connection with others too, though most of the time I will never know. But I will continue to reach out. Until next time, crickets, take care and be well. Happy New Year!

An Unusual Haunting

cover art for An Unusual Haunting featuring sketch of Sara and text

Finally published the book last week through Smashwords, crickets. Yay!

Going through the publishing process was a bit daunting, since I hadn’t released anything in years, but the file and art for An Unusual Haunting sailed through once I had done my homework on preparation.

If I was a serious writer, I suppose I should work harder at promoting what I do. Yet I am serious about writing. Each new project should show improvement over what I did before. And I have been reading and learning and honing the craft as much as I am able. Publishing only serves to mark the end of a project, a challenge to me to put my work out there for someone else to enjoy. If I make anything, it only goes back to purchasing more toner and paper so I can keep going without too much expense.

What will I do now? Direct my attention back on finishing the third story in the Sara series. When that’s completed and goes through the beta-reading process, I will move on to the fantasy book that has languished so long in an unfinished state. Also, the short stories are piling up again, meaning it might be time to publish another collection.

It’s funny how getting one monster six-year project off my desk is leading to more writing instead of time off. I guess that’s the joy of becoming a serious writer, and I am in it for the joy of it.

Until next time, crickets, be well.

Notable Reads and a Writing Update

This year has definitely been an up-ender. Pandemics, work changes, illnesses, remote operations: these past few months have been nothing if not interesting.

I have been reading, though not as much as I would like to. Some of the more notable ones:

  • Bleachers by John Grisham
  • Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
  • Peace Talks by Jim Butcher
  • Actually, the Comma Goes Here: A Practical Guide to Punctuation by Lucy Cripps
  • On Writing by Stephen King

As for the book, An Unusual Haunting, I have everything I need but have yet to run it through the meatgrinder at Smashwords. It’s not a case of fear (I’ve published through the system before, though it’s been a while), yet I am reluctant. This might be a case of perfectionism vs. practicality. Will anyone read the story? The odds are against it, but I want it to be nice for those who do. Are there mistakes in it? Sure. All books have mistakes. I catch them all the time in published novels; I just can’t seem to catch them as easily in mine.

Maybe it’s just hard to set a story free that I’ve held onto closely for several years now. That said, perfect or not, it’s time to let the book go. Expect to see An Unusual Haunting published this month.

Until next time, crickets, take care and be well.