Baby Boomer Literature – A New Genre?

Last week, I read an article on Boomer Cafe called “Author Claude Nougat Knows the Next Trend in Publishing”.

Boomer Cafe.. it’s your place is a site that explores issues which affect people of the BB generation. You can find informative articles about financial management, health issues, trends, retirement topics and lots of other interesting subject matter, and they welcome contributions from readers too.

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The article header says:

“Almost since we reached middle age, advertisers and marketers have sold us short. They said we no longer represented the demographic they were looking for. Well, we’ve got news for them: baby boomers are the biggest, richest demographic in the world today. Author Claude Nougat already knew that, and has begun to promote books written specifically for, and about, baby boomers. She says, it’s the next phenomenon in publishing.”

Coincidental. I had been thinking about pitching Boomer Cafe to do a guest post of my own. But I didn’t have to do that, because Ms. Nougat did it first. I have been talking about this for a long time myself, so I was very glad to read it and discover others were thinking the same way.

In the article, there is a link to a Goodreads Group specifically for BB authors which promotes nothing but BB Lit. YEAH! It took me eleven seconds to sign up for the group and comment. All you readers who are BB authors, you need to check this out! You are not alone. Help is on the way.

Here is the Goodreads group and this link is also in Claude’s article.

Since that article was published, it was picked up by the Passive Voice. It attracted some, shall we say, negative attention. Here are a sampling of some of those not-so-nice remarks:

”As for many baby boomer novels being published, last time I pitched one I can’t remember if the agent guffawed or gagged.”

“There are, Lord knows, some Baby Boomers out there who are so self-absorbed that they think the sole function of popular culture is to chronicle their every whim and eructation.”

“To come to such a conclusion does indeed require the assumption that whatever stage of life the Baby Boomers are going through at a given moment, the paramount purpose of popular culture is to record it.”

“The bottom line is: Old people just aren’t very interesting (I know, I am 65).”

And later, the article was picked up by Kindle Nation Daily. This site didn’t generate much negativity. Most of the commenters felt it was a great idea and many listed books they have written. Some interesting titles: “Bastard Husband: A Love Story”, “Sex, Lies & Hot Tubs” and “The Old Guy Rules”.

Naturally there are going to be a huge cross-section of people who don’t want to see this, especially those who have it in for our generation, that we are all a bunch of selfish, it’s-all-about-me, self-centered crybabies. If you don’t believe me, google “baby boomers suck” and see what you get. We are blamed for everything from the financial crisis to the current political situation to the high medical costs. We are responsible for taking younger people’s jobs because we won’t die off soon enough. We are aiding in the demise of the world and causing the earth to warm by our conspicuous consumerism.

This is disconcerting, that as a generation we are viewed that way. Personally, I have always been rather pleased to be part of a world-changing group of people. We were sought after, and marketed to when we were younger, but now, not so much. A while back I bitched about NBC taking Harry’s Law off the air. Their reasoning was, we’re old, we’re stuck in the past, we don’t switch brands, we don’t buy enough stuff. All crap, of course, but it appears we, as a generation, have outlived our appeal to advertisers.

Still, there is strength in our sheer numbers, 79 million being one of the more popular counts. It’s decreasing daily, of course, as we die off (although not fast enough for some). If only a portion of this group is interested in reading novels about people their own age, that is still a sizeable market.

The oldest of us are beginning to retire. I did. Gave up the Corporate Hell Life in order to do what I wanted to do. In the coming years, people will retire in great numbers, and with retirement comes leisure, and with leisure comes more time to read.

Baby Boomers Do Not Suck. We are still cool and we will rock our nursing homes. And we’ll still be reading.

It’s about time we had an official Baby Boomer Literature genre.

Rock 'n Read

Rock ‘n Read

Photo courtesy of Microsoft Clipart

 

 

The Baby Boomer Reviewer?

I’ll drink to that!

This post started out as a whiney, complainy, bogged down piece of crap-writing that I started weeks ago and then decided never to publish. And I keep whittling it down, taking out the Poor Me stuff until this is what remains.

I’ve been on this marketing project for several months now, and not getting anywhere with it. As a matter of fact, it’s downright discouraging. Many of the new writers I have come to know are having a lot more success than I am. I am beginning to suspect that there are a lot of folks out there who have no interest in what I write, which is fine. Not everyone likes the same thing.

However! It might be time to ask, “Hold up a minute here! What’s the problem?”

So far I can’t figure out what the problem is. Whether I am not reaching my target audience or whether my target audience really would rather read the Twilight series or Fifty Shades of Grey.  

Photo by saratogajean

Where did everyone go?

Recently, I did a free giveaway of the Kindle version of Perigee Moon and got less than 200 downloads and no reviews out of it, the reviews being the main point of the giveaway. So what good did the whole exercise do? I went to all the book free day sites and made the announcement. I don’t see any positive results in doing any of it, although maybe it will take time for reviews to come in. The more good reviews a book has, the better it does. 

On a more positive note, I believe I have learned a lot about the writing craft in the last decade or so. I know what I perceive is good writing. I know whose voice I love and whose I don’t. I can recognize good writing, believable characters, and excellent stories. So I am thinking very seriously of becoming an “official” book reviewer.

I wrote a post recently about trying to find sites to get my own book reviewed, about the criteria I used to determine if a site would be a good fit. I wrote about the overabundance of people willing to review books about vampires and monsters and other foul creatures, but there were very few, make that none, that I could be absolutely positive would be a site that would want to review books about baby boomers finding their way at last, determining who they want to be later on in life, finding love.

One thing I have always believed, and still do, is that our generation is one of readers. We didn’t have video games and computers and other electronics to distract us when we were growing up, we had television and books. And while many of us have embraced the technology that makes our lives more connected and more interesting, we still basically love to read. As we start to retire, we have more time to read, and what better subject to read about than our own generation?

What if I become the Baby Boomer Reviewer? Books by and/or about that generation? They wouldn’t all have to be in my exact genre, but if they are written by baby boomer authors who just want to get reviewed then I’d be willing to do it. Hell, you don’t even have to be a baby boomer. Just a new author trying to get a start. And, of course, these reviews will be given with no currency exchanging hands.

If I can help to spread the word, help a new author, then why not?

Here’s the catch. I’d have a very hard time telling an author that I didn’t like his work. I’d have to be really honest and that will be hard for me, but a review isn’t worth anything unless it’s genuine. And who’s to say, I might not like it but someone else might love it? I’ve sure noticed that all people don’t like the same thing myself.

I’d be reluctant to give 5 star reviews. I have given them in the past, but really, I think 5 star reviews are reserved for truly great pieces of literature. Prose where I marvel at the beautiful sentences, and the exquisite phrasing. You all probably know by now how I feel about Scott Spencer and Jonathan Franzen. These men have both written books I would consider 5 star quality. But for the rest of us, well, we can’t all be authors of that caliber. We just can’t. It isn’t possible.

I’ve written quite a few reviews lately. Few of them were 5 star, but some of them were really, really good books. I’m including a link here to my Amazon reviews.

I’d post each review on a new My Reviews page as I do them, with a link to Amazon (or wherever the author would like the review directed). Here are some of the genres of books I would review:

  • General Fiction
  • Historical Fiction
  • Literary Fiction
  • Baby Boomer Fiction
  • Memoir
  • Mystery/Thrillers
  • Short Story Collections
  • Non-fiction (as long as I have some knowledge of the topic)

No genre romance, no inspiration, no erotica. No urban fantasy, no vampires, werewolves or drudges. No steampunk — and if anyone can explain to me exactly what this is, would you please comment? None of these interest me and I wouldn’t be able to give a satisfactory review of that material.

I’d love to hear if there are any new authors who would be interested in having me review their work.

Should a Newbie Author Pay For a Review?

Speaking of reviews, Perigee Moon had a nice one here. Thanks to Carrie (AKA Connie) Rubin for including me in her list of books by fellow bloggers. I read her new book too and posted a review here. And no, it wasn’t a case of “you give me five stars and I’ll return the favor”, it was a genuinely fast-paced, exciting, well-written first novel. I recommend it, especially if you like medical thrillers with a little Sci Fi thrown in. Really, I recommend it to anyone.

Another blogger, Peggy Strack, in her post about Credible Reviews and the Debut Author, talked about how she decided to spring for a Kirkus review. Kirkus will review pre-released novels, which can be a great marketing tool, supposing that you get a good review, especially if you are self-publishing.

They (Kirkus) don’t make any promises, send them a crappy novel and you’ll get a crappy review.  If it happens that way, that the review is bad, the author has the option of not accepting it and it will never be seen by anyone. So, hmmm. Doesn’t that mean that all Kirkus reviews will be good ones? On the other hand, why not? If it’s good, it’s good, and if it’s bad, no one will be the wiser, except the author who can cry about it in private.

Kirkus charges between $400 and $500 for a review, which is pricey, and probably another example of an outlay of cash for my rather expensive hobby. My books aren’t selling well, and I am struggling with marketing them. So I’m considering it.

There is another more inexpensive option that I could try, $149 for a Publisher’s Weekly review. Authors submitting to them may or may not have their books accepted for a review. 25% are accepted, and the review still is not guaranteed to be good, which of course it shouldn’t be. These reviews get published on their website, bad or good. I’m considering that too.

I also consulted the Book Blogger Directory, which is a list of blogs/sites of book reviewers who will review for nothing. Normally they specify a genre that they prefer, but sometimes they’ll say “I’ll Review Anything!!” yet when you look at what they have reviewed you see (yet again) books about vampires and drudges and werewolves. So I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to be into character-driven novels about people who came of age in the sixties.

I delved into this huge list alphabetically, and went to each site and looked to see if it could be a fit. I got through the B’s which took days of endless searching. And it has to be on a Good Internet Day, which is another story, but the short version is I have a Verizon Mifi Hotspot which tends to suck, on and off, and provide me with less than optimum opportunities to surf.

Literally, I went through hundreds of sites, and found 3 which may be applicable but learned a lot about who I might approach for a review and who I would not. The following is a list of reasons I would bypass a particular review site:

  1. Your blog says “Grand Opening June 30th, 2012” and it’s already August.
  2. The dreaded “Error 404 No Page Found” comes up. This one is self-explanatory.
  3. Your blog is not in English. This wouldn’t be a problem for an author who speaks your language, but you know, it’s probably going to be a bit of a communication barrier for us.
  4. Your last post was one year ago. Got a problem with commitment?
  5. You say you are “not currently reviewing books”. Then what are you doing on this list of book review blogs?
  6. I see reviews for books about “faeries”. Or any of the above-mentioned stuff, for the above-mentioned reason.
  7. You deign not to review self-published books. Aren’t we fussy?
  8. You say you are “currently without internet access”. Well, I know all about that. It can be a real problem, but still, better get on that if you want to be a book reviewer.
  9. You apologize profusely for your absence and give an explanation of “where you have been”. I wonder how often that happens with you, Ms. Book Reviewer. Not sure I want to take the chance that you will go away again and I’ll think it’s because you can’t bear to give me bad news.
  10. Your site offers the possibility to “embrace my decadent desires” and there is a warning that it is a “Mature Site”. Pretty sure this isn’t a good fit.
  11. Your review policy is “Coming Soon”. Shouldn’t you have this figured out before you created your site and appeared on the list?
  12. Your website/blog color combo is such that it makes it impossible for my older eyes to read the text. An example: yellow lettering against a red background. This is obviously an age discrepancy, which probably makes us incompatible as reviewer/reviewee anyway.
  13. Your reviews are so chock full of bad English and misspellings that I don’t think you’d recognize good writing if it fell at your feet. (How do you spell misspelling? Is that right?)
  14. There’s a picture of a guy with a six-pack on your latest review, and it’s not the kind that comes in cans, it’s the abdominal thing.
  15. Your site is too pink. This is irrational, I know. Just  got a feeling about it.
  16. You review The Hunger Games and the latest Nora Roberts romance novel. These books don’t need your reviews, they have the New York Times, among others.
  17. Your latest post wishes me Happy New Year (2012). See #4 above for a question about commitment.

This brings me to question if I might do reviews myself. I already have my Review Policy worked out. I’d review books in my own genre, by new authors, of my particular age group. Is there a market for it? Would anyone be interested? Would I be able to give bad news to aspiring writers? Does anyone care what I have to say anyway?

Is there a future for baby boomer literature? Or matron-lit as it’s sometimes called, although I do hate that term. Don’t you think there must be a lot of retiring boomers out there with more time on their hands now? Wouldn’t they like to read stories about their own age group?

Or are they all living in Fifty Shades of Fantasy Land?

 

Can You Make a Boring Subject Funny?

Interesting search criteria today, which resulted in a click on the Home Page of this blog – “fiction book on getting rid of baby boomers”. I am pretty sure this searcher did not get what s/he hoped for.

I guess there are a lot of younger people out there who would like to get rid of baby boomers. We must be the thorn in the sides of many Gen Xers (and younger) but getting rid of a whole generation of people would be difficult to achieve. Maybe they don’t want to support us, our socialized incomes that they are forced to contribute to? Maybe they think, as we age, and retire, and go on Medicare that we will bring on even more financial ruin to this country? Or, maybe, we’re just regarded as a bunch of self-centered, me-first, egotistical cry-babies that everyone else loves to hate.

Speaking of Medicare, is there anyone else out there who is tired of getting Medicare mailings? Can anyone enlighten me, if there is a subject more boring than Medicare? Can anyone further enlighten me, on why they feel it necessary to bombard us with mailings every single day? Is it because it’s so confusing to begin with? Is it because they think more is better when it comes to junk mail? The following is a partial list of the types of junk mail one can expect to receive when one reaches a “certain age”:

  • Medicare and Medicare related mailings, including (but not limited to) Medicare Part A (hospitalization), Medicare Part B (doctors),  Medicare Part C (HMO’s which are too complicated to explain here), Medicare Part D (drug coverage), and enough Medicare Supplemental Insurance information to fill the bed of a Ford F-250.
  • Invitations to lunch or dinner, but oh by the way, you are required to sit through a presentation of how to protect your assets through annuities.
  • Hearing aid devices (to my knowledge, I am not yet deaf).
  • Funeral pre-arrangement plans.

I refuse to think of myself in these terms, that the wheels are falling off. When I hear that particular phrase, I always think of the little red wagon, the Radio Flyer. Everyone had one back when we were kids. The wheels may be getting wobbly, but they are not falling off. The paint is peeling, and the metal a little rusty, but basically the wagon is still street-worthy.

Mailings for Medicare always seem to have pictures of people with gray or white hair, smiling Crest Whitestrip smiles, who are enjoying very active lives. They go to the beach and ride bikes a lot. I think some of the people in these pictures are really younger people with old-looking hair. Good news and bad news. The good news is you get the gig to be a pamphlet model, the bad news is you have to wear a gray wig and pretend you’re 65.

Recently I received, as part of my brand new Medicare Supplemental Plan, an invitation to sign up with the “SilverSneakers” program. Really? I guess I have an aversion to signing up for programs with dumb sounding names because it went immediately to the recycle bin, even though there were lots of pictures of happy looking (albeit older) women who were very satisfied with themselves for “getting fit and staying healthy”.

Earlier this week, ten (that’s 10!) letters from my Medicare Supplemental Plan came on the same day.

I decided to blog about it, Medicare and the mailings forthwith , in the hopes that I could take a subject that is more boring than watching Pimp My Ride, and try to make something humorous out of it.

A while back, I blogged about Idiot Letters by Paul C. Rosa. The following is a Paul Rosa-type letter I composed, back to the Medicare Supplemental people who had sent the ten letters. Here it is:

National Novel Writing Month 2011 Ends

National  Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for 2011 is over now, and a lot (thousands? millions?) of writers have accomplished the 50,000-word goal. I completed mine, with a few hundred words to spare, and even though I didn’t write every day, and even though I didn’t make the daily wordcount every day, I had enough inspired days where I wrote twice the number of words to make up the difference.

It’s a way to encourage authors, both first-time and those who’ve done it before, (I will refrain from using the term “experienced”) to get it down on paper, whether or not it’s ready for prime time. And it’s likely that it won’t be ready, when writing under a deadline like that.

I’ve been writing on a deadline for several months now, with this blog, so I was fairly used to it, and I have come to realize that yeah, it’s probably going to suck, the first time you scratch it out, but it will get better and better as you go along, easier for the words to flow onto the page. And the bad stuff can be changed later.

I had a head start anyway, because my novel, Perigee Moon, was already in outline form. I pretty much knew what would go into each chapter, yet I did find that some chapters needed to be split up, as I was writing. I completed 17 chapters out of 38 so I’m nearly half way, and I’m aiming for a 120,000 word count or less, so it fits.

Going into December, my personal goal (without the NaNo people to keep urging me on) is to do the next 50,000 words and wrap up the first draft by early January. I’m aiming for completion at the end of January in order to submit it to the ABNA, in which I will once again no doubt be thrown out in the first round, because my short descriptions are never any good.

One thing that is troublesome, is that once again, the story is chronological, and I fear that may be amateurish, to have a story start at the beginning and end at the end. It’s one of those baby boomer stories too, and so it goes on for a really long time. But I wanted to chronicle a relationship that began very early (age 9) and develop it through the years, and couldn’t see how to do it other than as it happened, step by step.

I really enjoy writing, and thinking about the people I’m constructing makes me happy, but I seriously wonder if it’s not just a hobby. There are just too many great authors out there, and it’s too easy to get a book onto a Kindle or into print, for me to ever make a difference in the literary world.

Perigee might be my last effort, or I might take one more on, at the suggestion of a couple of friends, and write about a group of us, and the different directions of our lives with some fictional intrigue to make it more interesting. Kind of a joint effort, basing characters on real people. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, I’m plotting on.

Treadmills and Blog Stats and Electric Appliances

Treadmill update: Still using that great playlist. I think it’s just about perfect now, good warm up and cool down songs, and I like how the ZZ Top stuff is always about the same tempo, no matter what song it is. It’s a long, stretched-out stride because it’s just a bit slower, intermixed with the faster pieces. Because of the ZZ Top songs, this has made me think 3.3 MPH might be my top speed. Of course, a taller person would probably have different requirements but this works for me. According to my friend Mary, elevation is the key, speed isn’t as important. (More about my friend, Mary later.) I’ve started doing that, and true to my exercise-nature, I’ve started out with 1% and will continue with that until it seems “easy”, if that ever happens.

Blog stats update: I thought July wasn’t going to make it, that it would be the first month that wouldn’t show an increase in readership, but that wasn’t the case. It’s now August that I think may be a problem. See these stats. Where have all the readers gone?

Maybe I’ll slip in an extra post, see if I can bump it up to at least equal July. Is that cheating?

We (my husband and I) recently traveled to Florida by car. We discovered we could take I77 instead of I75 and it would add almost nothing to our trip. I saw that we would be going close to Charleston, SC where my friend, Mary, lives.

Mary was one of my best friends in high school, and though we lost track of each other for many years, recently, we’ve been in touch again. She hosted a one-week get together at her lovely waterfront home in April of 2010, which we coined the GTE (Get Together Extravaganza). The preparation and logistics of getting seven women together for a week was intimidating. The morning after we’d all finally got there, Mary had gift bags for all of us, and included were matching tee shirts, coffee mugs, and funny sunglasses, among other things. Here is a picture of the seven of us.

I hadn’t realized how appliance-happy Mary was, until our recent visit. The first night, I don’t think we used any appliances but early next morning, we were treated to coffee via the new Keurig coffeemaker. We were suitably impressed by this very high tech device. Then Mary whipped out the Electric Egg Poacher and five minutes later she slid a perfectly cooked egg onto toast. While I watched, she went to the closet to get the Electric Garlic Baker. Yes, there really is an appliance just for that. She had a dinner party that evening, so around 5-ish out came the Electric Martini Shaker. After a few dirty martinis and citrus something martinis were imbibed, we settled into dinner (which was delicious, but to my knowledge, no special appliances were used in its preparation). At the table we used the Battery-Operated Wine Decorker to liberate about three bottles of red wine. The next morning, we had waffles on the (you guessed it!) Electric Waffle Maker. And now I hear that Mary is now the owner of an Electric Crepe Maker, and the next time we go, it’s crepes, Baby!

By the way, everything was delicious, thank you again, Mary!

I’m ending this post with a general gripe, and if anyone can help me – PLEASE! I am losing my mind, losing “it”, losing control, losing my temper. No matter what application I’m in, Word, email, any application where I am typing along (and I’m pretty fast, back in the 60’s I could do 60 wpm – that’s words per minute with no errors). Anyway, I am happily typing along and all of a sudden my cursor is somewhere else in the document! The typed words are then in their new location, whkeyboard? ich of course makes absolutely no sense. It’s happened here, as I have typed this about 10 times. Is it my laptop, is it my keyboard? OMG, it just happened, see that, up there?

Sorry this post is not about writing. I haven’t been doing much writing, but I did compose a poem to be used at the beginning of the book. I have also completed a short prologue, and I am still working on my Snowflake Methodology. Also I thought I’d like to do a post on music, what music I listen to while writing, and music that is included in my novels.

The Snowflake Method – Step 3 (Names of Characters)

Step 1 of Step 3 of the Snowflake Methodology. This part defines the characters, and asks for particulars about each one. You can define as many characters as you  like, even the minor ones. I have defined my three main characters so far: Luke, Kate and Abby.

Each defined character has the following criteria: Name, ambition, story goal, conflict, epiphany, one sentence summary and one paragraph summary.

Let’s start with names, and how we pick them. Here are some of the don’t do’s:

  • Don’t name a character some really common name (e.g. Tom Jones) unless there is a good reason to do it.
  • Don’t name any of the characters the same first name because that’s confusing, unless there is a good reason to do it.
  • Don’t name characters names that sound alike or start with the same letter, like Jen and Joan and John, unless there is a good reason to do it.
  • Don’t name characters something really fake-sounding. Have you ever been reading a novel and thought, that is a such dumb sounding name, no one has a name like that. Example: Amber Summerfield. Too nice, too beautiful, too cutesy. But again, unless there is a good reason to do it. And my apologies to anyone named Amber Summerfield out there. Your name is pretty, but probably not going to show up in my novel.

I like names that are semi-common but not “John Smith” common.

Certain names conjure up personality types for me. It may be because of people I’ve met in my life who have certain traits. So I might use the name because that’s the way whats-his-face was and that’s the way I want my character to be. Or the fact that I don’t know anyone with that particular name works too because then it isn’t tarnished by anything that I might associate with the name and I can make him have whichever traits and characteristics I want.

Luke Koslov. Luke makes me think of the strong, silent type. Of a sensual, yet subtle male. Probably tallish, probably not dark, probably not handsome in the traditional way. I chose this name because I think a man named Luke could be capable of what I intend to put him through. I chose Koslov because I intend to go a little bit into the fact that his father’s family was originally from Russia. I perceive Russian men as strong, silent, a bit on the chauvinist side, but I could be entirely wrong about that. Luke’s father is though.

Kathleen Willoughby Koslov. I think of Kate as the strong, take-charge type. Someone who wants things her way and does what it takes to get there. A self-starter, an A-type. And Kate will be all this, and more, and probably not a likeable character. Which brings up an interesting topic, of characters and their likeability. I’ve had the criticism that my female characters are “mean”. I never meant that they should be that, just that they might want things other than what has been pre-programmed for them, and that they do what needs to be done, in order to get off the hamster wheel. Kate is going to be, well, a little nasty actually.

Abigail Pentergast Dorchester. The Pentergast part will become clear. And she couldn’t help the Dorchester part, when she married John Dorchester, widower, with two insufferable daughters. She took his name, maybe to get rid of Pentergast. I don’t think I know anyone named Abby, but I like the name, so she can be whatever I want her to be. I think she must be a convincingly nice person, forgiving, and loving, and deep, and somewhat spiritual. Not so much in an organized religious way, but grateful for life, and nature, and dedicated to preserving it, life and nature, that is. An organic woman, a gardener, a recycler, pure but not simple, used to being “second best” and longing to be someone’s first choice for once.

Ambition. Coming soon.

The Snowflake Method – Step 2

Update: Treadmill 101. I’ve continued treadmilling, thanks to the excellent playlist I’ve assembled. I couldn’t have done it without that playlist. And another reason I’ve succeeded at my (approximately) fiftieth attempt at an exercise program: I have more discretionary time, now that I no longer have a day job. Setting the alarm early in order to slog through it before getting ready for work is an exercise in procrastination and a means to formulate spectacularly creative excuses in one’s own mind as to WHY it would be insane/unwise/dangerous to hit that treadmill.

A friend sent me a Pandora station created from the twelve songs I listed and I learned two things from it:

  1. Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones is great, and would be an excellent addition to my workout playlist, and, in fact, what better way to begin the whole 40 minutes than with this song? It lends itself well to the warm up portion because it is not too fast, yet very uplifting. And who doesn’t love Mick Jagger anyway? (Picture his rugged, craggy, unbotoxed and unsurgically altered face now.)
  2. The quality of songs one gets from Pandora when you put in “She’s Not There” by the Zombies is abysmal. I never heard so much awful, tuneless, lyricless, clueless music by goofy English groups in my life. Talk about caterwaul. Garage bands who should have stayed there, or been demoted to the basement. There was a lot of really bad stuff written and performed in those days, just listen to the Oldies TV Music Channel if you don’t believe it.

Start Me Up is now the #1 song on the playlist, and Proud Mary, by CCR, moves to #11, replacing Making Some Noise by Tom Petty, which is out. Sorry Tom, but I said it was the weakest link and it is. And I love Proud Mary and it lends itself to a cool down, the same way it did for the warm up.

Onto the real blog stuff which is, Step 2 of the Snowflake Method.

Snowflake Step 2: Expands the one sentence summary into a one paragraph summary, with five sentences, and follows the Three Act structure.

Act 1 is the first quarter of the book, Act 2 is the middle half of the book, and Act 3 is the final quarter. The “three disaster” formula is suggested, with one disaster at the end of Act 1, another in the middle of Act 2 and the final at the end of Act 2. Act 3 is the wrap-up, the conclusion.

I thought the idea of “disasters” was odd, and I believed it too formulaic. But when I went back through Whatever Happened to Lily? I noticed something interesting.

At a little past one quarter of the book, Lily stops writing to Jay. Disaster 1.

At the halfway mark, Jay learns of Nan’s pregnancy and nearly blows it, by his callous remarks to her when she informs him. I thought that was a disaster because if Nan hadn’t been willing to forgive him, the story could have had a much different outcome. Disaster 2.

At the three-quarter mark, Lily comes back into his life. Disaster 3.

Unconsciously, I must have been following this pattern.

  • Act 1 is Jay’s early life, the good days with Lily.
  • Act 2 is his life without her, his quest to find her, his acceptance that she doesn’t want to be found, and his new life with Nan and their daughter.
  • Act 3 is the renewed relationship with Lily and the resolution.

The five sentences of the paragraph should summarize:

  • The backdrop, the setup of the story.
  • Through Act 1 to the first disaster.
  • Halfway through Act 2 to the second disaster.
  • Through Act 2 to the third disaster.
  • Wrap-up. The end of the story

I wrote my summary paragraph. But I can’t decide if I should post it here because if I do everyone will know what the book is about, and then they won’t have to read it. It will be like the Reader’s Digest Condensed version only more so, since it’s only one paragraph. The Twitter version of a novel.

I like this methodology so far. I believe it’s going to work for me.

Writing a Novel Using the Snowflake Method

There are several blog posts about using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method for developing novels. I thought about doing yet another post on it, but maybe in a little more detail than some of the other bloggers, as I develop my storyline and characters for The Perigee Moon. Step by step. This will be the first, and Step 1.

You can tell by the diagram that it starts out very general and is refined over time, until the whole novel is conceptualized and the writing of that first draft becomes easier, and it is more unlikely that there will be unwanted gaps or errors or inconsistencies with characters or storyline.

This is the first time I’ve used this methodology. I bought the Fiction Writing for Dummies book (also by Randy Ingermanson). An aside here, who came up with the phrase “for Dummies” anyway? I don’t think a person who wants to write a novel but doesn’t know how to go about it, is necessarily a “dummy”. I wonder if there is a book called “Rocket Science for Dummies” or “Brain Surgery for Dummies”. But from a marketing perspective, it sure works, I have a lot of these books, Quicken 2011 for Dummies, Unix for Dummies, Excel for Dummies, Photoshop for Dummies, to name a few. The characteristic yellow and black cover for every Dummy book makes it instantly recognizable and the common formatting of the interior is kind of soothing to me. I know what to expect, and the books are usually tinged with humor, or at least a valiant attempt at humor.

The Snowflake Method is used in Mr. Ingermanson’s software called Snowflake Pro, and I’m using it and it is easy to understand. By that I mean the software is easy to understand, what you need to do to design your novel isn’t necessarily.

In the beginning, I witnessed the full moon in February of this year while on Clearwater Beach. The full moon, over the water, with a few clouds that would temporarily obstruct the moon, or part of it, or where you could see part or all of it shining through, was breathtaking. I took pictures of it and a story idea started.

Sometimes that stuff happens to me, I looked at that moon and just let my mind take me wherever it wanted to go and a novel idea (pun intended) was birthed.

The Perigee Moon was in March, so back in Ohio, I took pictures of that, with the moon through the trees on the exact night of the full moon. I think I have the cover designed already and the title is set, although I also like February Moon. Even though the actual Perigee moon happened in March, I doubt anyone will care about that detail, to point out that the month is off by one.

I started using the software and have completed Step 1.

Step 1: Summarize your storyline in one sentence. This isn’t easy to do, but is a valuable exercise. It should be no more than 25 words, closer to 15 is better. I got mine down to 19. In the beginning, I thought it would be the story of a guy who is in a bad marriage, and how he finds a new relationship and the problems he encounters along the way. And it is still about that, but upon dissecting the character, Luke, I discovered a lot more about him. That it’s not just the marriage, but his whole lifestyle that he wants to alter. The corporate job, the commercialization, the fact that you can drive for twenty minutes and not see anything that isn’t ugly.

Remember Bonnie in Second Stories, who laments what America has turned into by describing gas stations and fast food restaurants? It’s like that, only a whole book about it, more or less, and his marriage and his job, how nothing in his life seems right. Classical mid-life crisis stuff, only on a grander scale, as he contemplates turning into a minimalist. And I expanded it even further to include the notion that he wants to be more spiritual, he wants to grow things, understand what he’s only touched on before. He desires serenity, he wants to contemplate, explore ideas, read, learn, experiment. And he wants to give up his day job to do it.

This sounds heavy, and parts of it will be, but I hope to make this book funny, with hints of sarcastic humor which I do pretty well I think (shameless non-humility). I know a bit about big corporations, and dead end jobs, and the desire to do something else. Along the way, there will be the breakup of a long-standing relationship, and the start of a new one, and family issues to take care of, and a bit of suspense, as some psychotic behavior is observed from the woman who no longer wants Luke, but doesn’t want anyone else to have him.

Here’s the final summary sentence:

One man’s struggle to cast the urban corporate lifestyle behind him and pursue a life of serenity through spirituality.

Editing and re-editing

Is everyone on vacation? It’s been a rough week, as far as blog readers go. I can see how many readers there are! I’m watching you and I’m not feeling the joy right now. It’s times like these I think, why bother? My post is late this week too, due to a family emergency.

And furthermore, and as an aside, I travelled to Rochester, New York Monday (the afore-mentioned emergency) and had lunch in a Cracker Barrel (don’t ask, it’s because this particular restaurant chain is the only one where you can get “greens” yet greens are never ordered by the person who insists we must stop at Cracker Barrel). There we were at the Cracker Barrel and I discovered that they had Halloween decorations out, complete with eerily laughing brooms which skimmed magically across the floor. Just what everyone needs, right? Brooms that travel by themselves?

But the point is, on July 18th we are subjected to Halloween crap? If I’m not mistaken, it’s over three months until we will need any of it, if “need” is the operational word here.

When we were at the front counter paying the bill, the Cracker Barrel lady tried to push candy on us.

“Three for the price of two!” she promised.

“Well, I see you have your Halloween stuff out already,” I said, ignoring the candy offer.

“Oh, yes,” she said, as if this were a good thing.

And I, being in a not-good frame of mind, said, “You know that is exactly what I hate about your place here. I can’t stand it that you have this stuff out so early.”

Ignoring my obvious disdain, she said, “Our Thanksgiving display is out too, over there.” She pointed to an area on the other side of the store. The “store” by the way, could be the subject of a whole other blog, but a talking broom that skims the floor is a clue as to the quality of the merchandise sold there.

I said, “You know, it’s July and I’m pretty sure I’m not ready to think about Thanksgiving. When does the Christmas stuff come out, anyway?” (I may have said something a little worse than “stuff”, I’m not sure, but remember, I was in a crappy mood.)

“The last week in July,” she announced, and I think she was kind of proud about that, as if, we can SO compete with the big time – the box stores and Macy’s and even J.C. Penney and Sears!

Whatever.

Here’s the real blog content now:

A few months back a friend of mine commented that when she searched for my books on Amazon, they don’t both come up under Lynn Schneider, but Whatever Happened to Lily? the print version, comes up only under Lynette. So searching for books under the author name of Lynn Schneider does not bring up everything, which is two print versions and two kindle versions, but one print and two kindle versions. Not good.

Way back when, without properly thinking it through, I listed the author name as “Lynette” then decided I wanted to change it to Lynn. But too late, the author name is listed as Lynette. I asked CreateSpace about this and they informed me that that I’d have to rerelease the book because the author name can’t be changed.

The kindle versions are not an issue. These are easily changed.

I’m going to rerelease both the print and kindle versions of the novel, but first I thought I’d edit it again, to see if it could still stand up to my newly acquired writing standards. This is what I found.

I found a lot of overused, duplicate, unnecessary words. I tend to use words like “that”, “so”, and “just” way too much. These words are “throwaway words”. Many times they can be eliminated. For instance, take this sentence:

I had known what it would likely say, that my wife looked nice, that my daughter was beautiful and that I looked wonderful. And she did say all that and more, that she had cried when she saw it, that it had likely been a mistake to ask to see it, because it had upset her more than she would have thought possible.

I count way too many “thats”, in fact there are six of them. Some of these are superfluous. Here is the correction:

I had known what it would likely say, that my wife looked nice, my daughter was beautiful and I looked wonderful. And she did say all that and more. She had cried when she saw it, and it had likely been a mistake to ask to see it, because it had upset her more than she would have thought possible.

Take this sentence: He thought that he might go back inside. The “that” is not needed. He thought he might go back inside.

Sometimes “that” is needed, but 75% of the time it’s not. So I always have to edit for “that”.

Other words I overuse (especially in dialogue) are “just” and “so”. I’m not sure why, but I tend to use these words ad nauseum and must edit them out.

For example:

“So, I was just walking by your house and saw that the light was on in your room, so I figured that it would be okay for me to ring your doorbell.”

This can (and should) be edited, unless for some reason, all those extraneous words seem necessary in order to make the point, that the character is kind of clueless.

“I was walking by your house and saw the light was on in your room, and figured it would be okay for me to ring your doorbell.”

The corrected sentence gets rid of a couple of occurrences of “so” and “that” and a “just”.

Another thing I noticed and which I wanted to fix, is inappropriate punctuation after sentences that contain dialogue.

“That has nothing to do with me,” she shut the refrigerator with a thump.

Incorrect!

If dialog is followed by an attribution (she said, for example), it can be thus:

“That has nothing to do with me,” she said and she shut the refrigerator with a thump.

Or:

“That has nothing to do with me.” She shut the refrigerator with a thump.

But really, I wanted to edit the character, Jay. The more I thought about it, the more I believed he was a crude jerk, when he goes for a run in order to “decide” whether he should continue his cyber-relationship with Lily or not. What a weasel. He runs and thinks about how his marriage sucks and how it’s not really his fault, that it’s Nan’s fault – blah, blah. Meh. He needs to own it. He is the one who wanted it, he decided to do it, he needs to be responsible for his decisions without blaming others. Here is the new passage:

As I ran, I thought about my marriage to Nan. It had been on a gradual decline and I couldn’t say when it had first begun, but I wondered if now that Grace was gone, there really wasn’t a reason for us to be together any longer, as she had suggested. She was tired of the whole situation, of me, and my feelings for Lily.

[Seems like he is telling himself what he wants to hear in the above paragraph.]

If I were honest with myself I would have to admit that I loved her, but not like I’d loved Lily. She seemed unapproachable to me now. No matter what I said or did, I couldn’t get past the wall she had built up between us. She didn’t want me now. I had a role in it too, of course, with what was happening between Lily and me. I tried to tell myself it was Nan who was solely responsible, but I knew it wasn’t so.

[He’s being honest with himself, aren’t we lucky? She’d (Nan) had built up a wall. With good reason, and he’s starting to feel like he might have done some things to affect their situation. Wow. How very perceptive.]

My chest hurt, and I had to stop. I felt bad, shaking and nauseous. I wondered if I had overdone it, was I having some sort of attack? A heart attack maybe? I had never entertained the possibility that such a thing could happen. I was healthy, a runner. Look at my father, still vital in his eighties. But something felt twisted, and I sank down onto the sand.

[My male characters all tend to have physical issues, chest pains and the like, when they get upset.]

My breathing slowed and I felt better and realized it must have been some kind of panic attack, that the combination of the run and my delusions about myself had thrown me into.

[An aha moment, he’s realized he has delusions about himself.]

Because it had nothing to do with Nan. It wasn’t my perceived notion that my marriage was going sour that would make it okay to establish some sort of relationship with Lily. It was me. I was solely responsible for it, I wanted it. I didn’t have the strength to not want it. I wanted to know Lily again. I wanted to have something with her. I couldn’t stop it. I was a weak, horrible person. I knew that. But I couldn’t stop it.

[Finally. He acknowledges what the reader already knows. The author wanted him to come across as a very sympathetic character, but blaming others for his actions doesn’t work. He will still be a nice guy in the readers’ eyes, I think, but with imperfections and real-life temptations and decisions to make.]

By the time I reached home, I’d made my decision what to do about Lily and I needed to tell Nan what had happened.

My male characters aren’t alpha males, like in romance novels. One of my good friends told me she thought I did women characters better and my male characters were a little “wussy”. I’d like to think Jay isn’t wussy, but he’s no alpha male.

I don’t believe in alpha males. I don’t think there are any, but if there is a sliding scale between alpha and wussy, Jay falls somewhere in between.

The above are some of the things I needed to do to my novel to (I hope) improve it. I hadn’t read it in a long time, more than a year, and I found I still liked it, but there were a few things I wanted to change about it to make it even better.