blogging, book promotion

On Extending Our Reach.

I’ve brought this up previously and gotten no response, neither pro nor con, from anyone but Curtis. I’m willing to work on our look, but so far I have to assume that you all think it just fine.

The Writer Coop Annex page I’ve created as an experiment on my own site, is it too slick for you? Curtis says too much work. Yes, it is more work than what we have at present, and I am not eager to dive in, but what we show here does not say, to me anyway, we’re in this game to win.

We have had a few folks put up a post and disappear. Do they see us as a waste of time? They obviously do not want to chat, they want a site with activity, that they can market to and through. That means numbers, which we ain’t got. I put Tom Wolosz in this category, and the guy with the riddles.

We have great, wide-ranging content, we need a better presentation, a front page slate of offerings, where people will see plenty going on, plenty to be excited about, that makes them eager to jump in.

I get emails, so-and-so liked your comment, names I don’t know. Why do few of you speak up? I’m damn curious.

Let’s take a survey: Why are you here? What do you like about this site? What don’t you like?

Are you a wanna-be (published) like me, or are you already in (trad/ebook) print? What tactics have you used to get out the word?

I consider Writer Coop to be grand entertainment. Do you? (It’s fun to read, even more fun to write for.)

Facebook has a number of groups where you can cry your wares. Writers do, in droves, hit-and-run appeals, and that gets tedious real fast. This site is more of a soft-sell marketing magazine with feature-length articles. And, literary-leaning, I love that. Do you?

Those who apparently have no time to prepare a piece for us, who are, presumably, busy with the blog tours and such, good luck to them. How’s that going?

Those who proudly proclaim, my book is #425 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Paranormal & Urban, give me a break. That’s a load of crap and you know it.

Hey, break it down even further: Yada > Yada > Paranormal & Urban > Alien Comedians. (There you go, GD.) You select a category narrow enough, of course you’re going to sound good. I would guess that not many of us, at this point, fall for that. How many books have you sold/given out, in the hands of readers, the start (theoretically) of a fan base?

Marketing is exposure, that’s a given. It’s also seduction. The best way to seduce me is to demonstrate your facility with language. And where better to do it than on here? We have no rules here, except perhaps, no bullshit (except in fun), and don’t bore us. Are you up to that?

Lurkers! How’s about, everybody into the pool. Start at the shallow end, the comments section. Get your fanny wet there.

I’m all-in on this, in case you haven’t noticed. But I’ve got my own site (in progress). When it’s ready, I’ll be pushing it gangbusters. So this effort isn’t make-or-break for me. But it’s a tool in my toolbox, and I want to see it succeed.

I bow to the majority will. If you’re happy with our as-is, I won’t bring it up again. Isn’t it worth an on the record yea or nay to shut me up? Everyone admits the need for a professional-level cover on a book. How is a website any different?

What does our DIY-feel format say about our marketing sophistication? Are we an enjoyable writer hangout, a place to recharge our batteries, marketing one of many topics we tackle, or the reverse, a small start on a marketing think-tank, stylish, smart schmooze our (tasty, if I do say so myself) bait?

Am I over-focused on cosmetics? Networking, that’s a vital strategy. Mentions scattered around the web may pay off. I announced our presence yesterday on Book Country. The result so far: 57 views, no replies.

Do we have a way to track visits? One site I followed had a visible daily tally. The owner turned that off fast. It was embarrassing how few dropped by. She’d set up shop as a web designer, but her effort on behalf of her most important client, for herself, fell way short. (That’s what I worry about here.) She targeted small business owners because small business owners, in my experience, don’t know good work from crap. When her domain name came up for renewal, she let it lapse, a wise decision. In the fifteen years I knew her, she never produced a piece I admired.

I could insert our link in the comments section of the YouTube publishing/marketing videos that I comb relentlessly for ideas. Do any of the big-name sites, Jane Friedman for instance, have the equivalent of letters to the editor? I am ready to try all of this, but first I think we need to reconsider our personal-blog style presentation.

I’ve dropped the term Glabelhammies into my remark on a Mark Knopfler video, and advised viewers to google it up. The hit on the search result brought me straight here. Guerrilla Marketing! Channel Hunter S. Thompson and get to work. That’s why we need a really exciting front page, so our accidental tourists are persuaded to peruse, and perhaps bookmark for a return visit.

Give us more neat words, GD. I’ll disperse them, here, there, in ways that (seem to) make (some kind of) sense. Write us a blog-post full of wonderful invented words and I’ll skip, tra-la, tra-la, from Facebook to YouTube to Twitter, Gretel-like, judiciously dropping my bread crumbs. I love new words. I’m always looking them up. I can’t be the only word-nut around.

Craigslist! Is there a category on Craigslist for us? If not, can we make one up? I’ve said it before. I say it again: NO STONE UNTURNED.

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Here’s a screen shot of my latest try. This is built in Wix. I would look for something of this nature in the WordPress templates.

The blue and dotted lines are there because I took the screen shot in the Editor. A header and footer would display on all pages. And, of course, a menu.

A template, where you would have your features set up and only have to plug in new copy, I don’t think that would be too much work.

What you see below is real easy to do in Wix. The time consuming part is, you have to tweak everything. Every item impacts what sits beneath it. Any increase in depth on nearly anything, what lies below bumps and jumps around. Annoying as hell! A locked in place template is definitely in order.

FYI: From dotted line to dotted line is the recommended width for a standard screen. To accommodate a decorative edge right and left, I would have to skinny up the guts.

If I were working in Wix, I would create a spare, random repeat/motif of the symbols as a background, to liven up the empty side space on a big screen. I don’t know if you can do that with WordPress.

Screen Shot 2016-12-05 at 12.33.31 AM.png

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In Defense of “Escapist” Literature

In his essay Escape and Interpretation Professor Laurence Perrine argues that all literature can be divided into two broad categories, “escapist” and “interpretive”:

Escape literature is that written purely for entertainment—to help us pass the time agreeably. Interpretive literature is written to broaden and deepen and sharpen our awareness of life. Escape literature takes us away from the real world: it enables us temporarily to forget our troubles. Interpretive literature takes us, through the imagination, deeper into the real world: it enables us to understand our troubles. Escape literature has as its only object pleasure. Interpretive literature has as its object pleasure plus understanding.”

Perhaps anticipating the objections raised by his critics, Perrine hastens to add:

Escape and interpretation are not two great bins, into one or the other of which we can toss any given story. Rather, they are opposite ends of a scale—the two poles between which the world of fiction spins.”

The problem with this definition of escapist vs. interpretive literature is that it encourages the reader to denigrate and undervalue works with a higher fantasy-to-reality quotient than those books currently shelved under the headings of “literature” or “general fiction” in the bookstores. By this criterion, a novel that concerned itself with, say, the plight of black slaves in the antebellum American South would automatically be accorded a higher literary status than a book chronicling the experiences of an earthling raised on Mars come back to his home planet to become a martyred messiah. The personal conflicts and drama occasioned by a suburban American housewife attempting to bed every married man in her neighborhood would be judged a more “interpretive” work than the adventures of an Icelandic-legends-inspired group of halflings, elves, dwarves and wizards. Using this standard, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (that wooden work of stilted dialogue, crude stereotypes and breathless melodrama) must be accorded higher literary status than Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land (the underground science fiction classic that addressed themes of free love, the empty authoritarianism of organized religion and the unthinking cruelties perpetuated by willfully stupid, xenophobic people upon the nonconformist and the iconoclast). The twenty-four Newsday writers who collaborated in the making of the satirical hoax Naked Came the Stranger would be hailed as better writers than J. R. R. Tolkien. Is this really a workable standard? Is Perrine’s escapist-vs.-interpretive dichotomy a useful criterion by which we may judge the excellence, relevance and general importance of different types of literature?

I argue: most emphatically not. In place of Perrine’s principle I propose that we should—nay, must—discuss literature in terms of its arete (a Greek term signifying excellence). Normally translated “virtue”, The Oxford Companion to Philosophy informs us:

. . . arete refers to a quality the possession of which either constitutes the possessor as, or causes it to be, a good instance of its kind. Thus sharpness is an arete of a knife, strength an arete of a boxer, etc. Since in order to be a good instance of its kind an object normally has to possess several excellences, the term may designate each of those excellences severally or the possession of them all together—overall or total excellence.”

Surely this makes more sense? In fact, isn’t that the very way we contextualize and judge literature, highbrow and low, when we communicate our opinions to one another? Who but a pedantic fool would judge a suspense thriller by the same criterions as literary fiction? Shall we pit a Robert E. Howard swords-&-sorcery fantasy novel against Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago and argue over which book is the more “interpretive”?

What of Perrine’s assertion that “interpretive literature takes us, through the imagination, deeper into the real world”? Many members of academia and the general reading public, in thrall to realism and the intellectual bigotry that equates realism with relevance—and relevance with the celebration of the mundane and quotidian, the modern and the commonplace—would automatically judge a book that featured elves, space ships or vampires a “lesser” work than a book that confined itself to descriptions of people, places and things that actually exist, or have existed.

And yet—and yet! Do not the majority of readers profess belief in the supernatural? Are not most readers believers in gods, angels, demons, “principalities and powers” of one kind or another? What of atheists and agnostics, who may reject all religionist or mystical claims to epistemological knowledge yet still believe in the importance and influence of the Id, the subconscious, the “reptilian brain”, or any of the other myriad atavistic drives and impulses which work to influence a man or woman through genetic determinism? Dare we reject an entire body of “escapist” literature if it speaks powerfully to this aspect of man’s existence? Are we to ignore and denigrate man’s shadow-self: his nightmare fears and wishful fantasias, opiate visions and lurid midnight madnesses, fleeting hypnogogic visions and clarion calls from “realms beyond”? To do so, I would argue, is to be escapist in the worst sense: intellectually dogmatic, creatively constipated and psychologically jejune. (For as C. S. Lewis has noted, “Nothing is more characteristically juvenile than contempt for juvenility.”)

In conclusion, I argue that this escapist vs. interpretive benchmark by which we are encouraged to judge the seriousness of literature misses the mark. It is useful, yes—but only as one of many criterions by which we may judge a book’s excellencies, or regrettable lack thereof.

Carl E. Reed

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blogging, Uncategorized

Tomb Of The Unknown Writer

Note: The following is but a whimsical filler, cobbled from bits of my current WIP, Bob Vs The Aliens, because there’s nothing else in the hopper. C’mon you guys, write a blog & draft it so Curtis can schedule it. Nobody wants to keep reading fillers…  although, I hope you enjoy this one.

+++“Look, a park,” said Piper.
+++“Could be a golf course,” Bob thought aloud.
+++“It’s a cemetery,” Old Spice said. The fat little Alien had the advantage of built-in GPS. “We can spend the night in the Caretaker’s Shack.”
+++Bob looked at Piper. He wasn’t going to admit an unwillingness to sleep among the dead and from her expression, he surmised neither would she. “Fine.” Together, the couple braked the railroad hand car to a stop where a gravel path crossed the tracks. Poppies lined the path leading them to a small cottage. Inside, they found a front reception area and a side room, apparently a gift shop.
+++The Alien winked at the ventriloquist doll on his arm. “Look, Lizbeth. A gift shop. Would you like a souvenir?” The doll nodded, “Yes! Yes!” Inside, they found the shop empty. “Looted!” exclaimed Lizbeth. “Zombies?”
+++“Uh, unlikely,” Bob told her, wondering why he bothered.
+++“Maybe this wasn’t a gift shop.” Piper read from brochures on a table by the back door. “‘Read A Book While You Can.’  These are authors’ invites to book readings.”
+++The back door opened onto a tiny secluded garden where a skeleton, outstretched over a pile of books, reached for a tomb. The stone tomb resembled an outhouse. Above the door were carved big letters, “THRONE OF UNKNOWN WRITERS,” and names were chiseled into the marble door. The skeleton clutched a chisel in one hand and a hammer in the other.
+++“Well, he almost made it,” noted Lizbeth.

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