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.

Perfection is the Enemy

My post is a little early this week. But I wanted to share it.

I had an eye-opening discussion with my daughter-in-law over the weekend, as I attempted to assist her with an upcoming interview. When I asked if there was a time she sacrificed quality on a project, she said something interesting, that yes, there were times when absolute perfection might not be the ultimate goal, if it involves missing a deadline or going over budget. And as my husband says, “Perfection is the enemy of just good enough.”

It occurred to me, that’s what is happening to me, even though I don’t want my book to be “just good enough”, the comparison is clear. I have edited, and proof-read, Second Stories so many times that I think I might know it by heart. And every time I say, I’ll just look at the things I changed, make sure that’s right, and then I end up reading the whole thing through again. Frankly, I’m sick of it. And now I’ve found one thing, yet again, that I don’t like. I’ve fixed that, and a couple of other things that nagged at me and now I am ready to pull that trigger. Get it out there. Has anyone else gone through this?

Second Stories is actually my first book. I put it on the shelf for a while, and wrote Whatever Happened to Lily?, and afterwards went back to it. It needed to be tweaked, of course, and many parts were completely rewritten but the basic story is the same. It’s the story of four men, and a lasting friendship among them, since their first day of work at Bethlehem Steel. The office politics, the union problems, the angst when the place shut down, all of that is in the book. Of the four, three of them have relationship issues, to varying degrees. Especially one of them, a guy who always tried to do the right thing, and discovered he’d done everything wrong.

They say the first book is autobiographical, and that’s probably true. You write what you know. There’s Lydia, who is agoraphobic, and has low self-esteem, and renovates her house, and all she wants is to have her beautiful home and the love of her family. Of course, she can’t have that, because she’s married to the guy who did everything wrong. Then there’s Bonnie, who went back to school later in life, and Angie who became a macramé addict and a feminist and a computer programmer in the eighties, and Patti, who loved soap operas and romance novels. They are all me, to varying degrees. I took something of myself, and exaggerated it and formed four separate characters. Although, in defense of my soap-watching days, I did that while steaming wallpaper off the walls. Well, mostly, I did.

I wanted the book to be about experiences in the sixties, seventies, eighties, up to the present. The first chapter is a bit of a prologue, it takes place in May, 2008. Then there is a history of each of the four couples, up until the time the men start work in August of 1968. Then the Steel years, the changes that take place in the relationships of the couples, and finally, back to 2008 and the last half takes place from May through New Year’s, when the excrement hits the fan, with Lydia and her wrong-doing husband, and other changes take place, with the other couples. There’s a little politics in the book, as the guys sit around in a delightfully dumpy bar, named Wally’s, and discuss the events of the day, and the upcoming election. The model for Wally’s is a bar called Obie’s in Toledo, Ohio. Mr. Obie (aka O’Brien) used to lean on the counter and pass out beers and talk to the regulars, while Mrs. Obie just smiled at everyone and flipped burgers.

Back in the sixties, it was a lot easier for misunderstandings to happen. That’s why I like writing about it. Today, with voicemail and email and texting and IMing and Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn to name a few, combined with the way people are today, free, unencumbered by hang-ups like we were, or maybe not to the extent we were, it seems harder to me, to have the kinds of gut-wrenching problems that could have happened back then. Back when there weren’t even answering machines, and the phone just rang and rang and rang when nobody was home.

Remember when Jay tried to call Lily after she stopped writing to him? He called and no one answered. That’s because Lily couldn’t talk to him, she was there but didn’t pick up. She didn’t have the guts to tell him what had happened. If she’d had an answering machine, he’d have left a message. If she didn’t return his call, he would have got it, that she didn’t want to be with him any longer. End of relationship, end of story. But he really didn’t know what happened to her. Ah, conflict. Conflict = Good.

Do you recall the story of the Duke University student who rated her lovers, last year? I thought, wow. That’s sure a lot different than it was back when I was a college student. Back then, we still were a lot more romantic about sex. I think I liked that better. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of young women out there who will find the kinds of issues that happen to the Second Stories characters, a bit, uh, dated. Or silly, or just plain stupid. But then, as I said in an earlier post, this may not be their genre. And it’s history. It wouldn’t happen today, but it could have happened back then.

Who agrees? Love to hear from you…

Not everyone has to like your book for it to be a success

I’ll bet every writer feels the same way, when that first novel is finally out there, and s/he waits with a great amount of trepidation, what will the comments be? What will people say about it? The notice goes out, okay all you Friends and Family, I’ve been talking about it for a couple of years now, it’s ready for prime time. And they tell you, I just ordered your book, or I’m going to order your book but couldn’t find it on Amazon, or I looked for your book in the store but couldn’t find it, and so you answer each one, because after all, it’s important for as many people to get their hands on it as possible.

(Never mind that Amazon’s search engine won’t find the book unless the title is typed in exactly, “Whatever” is one word not two, and “Lily” is with one L not two, and if you mess up, you won’t find it. That’s not good. I’m betting if you screwed up one of John Grisham’s titles, it would probably come up anyway. But that’s another story.)

The first two weeks are the hardest, although occasionally someone will tell you that they are reading it, and they really like it, or once in awhile they’ll say, “I can’t put it down.” That’s good. But still, no one has reached the end yet, so maybe they can’t put it down now, but it gets boring in the end, or maybe the end is just, well, dumb.

I gave a proof copy to my daughter-in-law. She likes cozy mysteries, and has a job, and a five-year-old, and a house to take care of. She doesn’t get much time to read she said. She texted me six days later to tell me she’d been hooked from the first, that she thought it was really, really good. To say her comments were important to me, and very, very gratifying, would be an understatement. I was stunned. I hadn’t expected it.

And then I got an email from a high school friend, who ordered the book and it arrived in time for him to take on a trip to Europe and he read it on the plane, and while he was there, and on the trip back. He wrote to me when he got home and told me he absolutely loved it, that the characters were great, and he used lots of exclamation points. I could tell he meant it, he wouldn’t have had to be that complimentary, and I had only seen him once in twenty years. He wouldn’t have had to say anything, but he did. That was a turning point for me. Two people liked it, and one was a guy. I was on my way.

And a few of my friends, women, started to tell me they really liked it too, and I noticed some were very moved by the story. But still, some of the comments were more like “Good job, I liked it”. I went to a week long gathering with six friends, and they all liked it, but I knew some liked it more than others.

One of my best friends said it was the best book she’d ever read. Although she may have actually said “it was maybe the best book I’ve ever read” or “one of the best books I’ve ever read”. I’ll have to go back and check that voicemail, which I kept.

Another close friend of mine ordered it, immediately after it came out. And to this day, not one word has been said between us, about it. To me, this means she probably started to read it, didn’t care for it, and gave up on it. Or maybe she read the whole thing through, gritting her teeth the whole time, and still didn’t care for it, or disliked it a lot, or actually thought it sucked, but couldn’t say that.

I talk about it with my husband sometimes, my writerly insecurities, and one day he said, you know, not everyone has to like your book for it to be a success. And I thought about that, and how right he was.

My close friend, above, the one who has yet to say anything, is a Stephen King fan, a lover of Dean Koontz. She likes action movies, science fiction. We can hardly find a movie to talk about that we both like, although we did both like Fargo and Pulp Fiction. She likes musicals. I dislike musicals. She loves the TV show Glee. So I tried to watch Glee. You Glee-watchers will know the plot better than I, but I watched a segment about the cute cheerleader, who is pregnant and everyone thinks it’s one guy’s baby, but it’s really another guy’s baby. Apparently the Glee cheerleaders are doing more in their spare time than practicing their back flips. The guy-who-everyone-thought-was-the-father, while at the cheerleader’s house, and at the dinner table with her parents, breaks into song, “You’re Havin’ My Baby”.

What?!! Really?

Really?

Is it any wonder, then, that perhaps she couldn’t be as enthusiastic as some of the other readers, who might be more inclined to favor the genre in which I write? She just doesn’t have the guts to say it. Your book… well, it sucked. For me anyway.

I’ve read reviews of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Most liked it. Some did not. We all know how successful that book has been. Oprah liked it, that’s enough. The reviewers who didn’t like it probably gave rave reviews to the Twilight series.

The President’s approval rating will fluctuate between 40% and say, 60%, although that’s on the high end. There are 40% of people out there who will never approve of the President no matter how good a job he does. If he found every single American a job, and stopped global warming, and secured the borders, and reduced the deficit to the point where we had a surplus, and didn’t raise taxes, and wore a flag pin every day, and even learned how to bowl better, 40% of the population still would not approve.

So the moral of the story is: Not everyone likes the same stuff. And it’s a good thing we don’t.

I’d love some comments!

First Entry – January 9, 2011

First Entry! I’m glad to be here…

I’m new to the blogging world. It’s a little harder than I first thought it would be. I decided to start out simple, maybe progress from there, so it might look different week to week. I hope so, at this point I’m not too sure about anything. Hopefully, it will become easier with time and I’ll figure out how to get neat things on the sidebars. For now, it’s pretty basic, I’m afraid.

A few years back, I decided I’d like to write a book, which is not an uncommon goal. Many people want to and some actually do it. There are more books being written today than at any other time.  I’d thought about it for years, what it would be about, what the characters might be like, where the plot would take the reader. It was to be a story about a group of women, friends who had graduated from high school together, and still live in the same town, and get together once a month at each other’s homes and play a mindless game, of maybe, Bunko. The purpose of the gatherings is not to play Bunko of course, but to gossip and compare notes and outdo each other with fancy margarita recipes.

I didn’t end up writing it, but maybe I will someday. I still like the concept, that the women continue to get together month after month, year after year, because it’s become a habit. Their lives have gone in very different directions and today, many of them would very likely not be friends at all. Some are nicer than others.

I ended up writing a book about a friendship among men instead and the relationships with the women in their lives. Second Stories, which will be available very soon. Before that, I wrote one about a romance that didn’t end properly, Whatever Happened to Lily?, a love affair which left many unanswered questions, and the two people in it hadn’t properly closed the chapter on that time in their lives.

When the books are written, and available on Amazon.com, what comes next? The author must market them, whether s/he publishes in the old traditional way, or in the new traditional way, i.e. self-publishes. The author has exhausted his/her circle of family and friends, so how to break out of that sphere and go, dare I say, viral?

I took an online course called Social Networking for Authors (Beth Barany, it’s well worth it) who shares her tips and tricks. Pick your poison, she says, decide what works for you and concentrate on that. We can’t do everything, after all. I decided to put up a Facebook fan page for my books, and began to tweet some and thought about blogging. I knew if I decided to blog, I had to decide how often I would post, and commit to it. Nothing will discourage readers more than their visiting your blog only to discover it hasn’t been touched in three weeks, after you’d advertised that it would be updated weekly. If it were me, I’d probably take that off my Favorites right then and there.

How many blogs are out there? Millions! Millions of blogs, the number goes up every minute. Who wants to read another one? I’m not sure, I only know what will happen if I don’t try, and that’s… nothing. So I’m committing. It will be a weekly blog, and will be updated at the end of each week. And if there’s an emergency, if I’m in the hospital, or if I have such a case of writer’s block that I’m paralyzed by it, there will at least be an entry to explain it, and beg for forgiveness and to be allowed to remain on your Favorites list a while longer.

The subject matter will, naturally, center on writing, but also on things one degree removed from that, or two, or three. And maybe I’ll write next Christmas when my annual trip to Toys R Us is over, when I haven’t done a good enough job ordering online, and have to actually, venture into that evil, fluorescent den of Chinese-made, overpriced, marketing miracles they call toys these days. Just an example.

Subjects like, listening to music while you write, writing in your head when you can’t be at the computer, things I’ve learned along the way. Maybe I can even help some people. I’d like that. And subjects that interest my target audience, men and women who grew up in the sixties and seventies.

Please comment and come back next week!