Thursday, May 11, 2017

THOR'S DAY RANT: Mother's Day?!


It's that time of year again, when we are inundated with advertising pushing the Mother's Day holiday. We are cajoled and guilted into buying cards, flowers, and gifts, while showered with images of smiling, gentle mothers--the kind who kiss boo-boos, offer shoulders to cry on, and are just wonderful, glowing, soft-filtered human beings. 

But not all of us have those. 

Now, I don't begrudge good mothers a day of recognition, although I do have to question waiting until May to thank your mom for being a good mother. What I do question is the obvious commercialization of the day, and the idea that all children owe their mothers something special for birthing and nurturing them. See, not all of us had mothers growing up, and I think that in our modern age of rampant snowflake political correctness, it's high time we start recognizing that. 

There are many, many folks out there who are orphans--people who lost their parents, or who were abandoned by their parents. For them, I'd wager Mother's Day is a bitter reminder of what they didn't have as a child. I empathize with these folks, because when I was a child, I, too, lacked a mother. 

I don't mean that I was hatched from an egg or assembled in a lab. I mean that I literally had no mother for most of my childhood. My mother decided around the time I was about 5 to have an affair with a young man of 18 years of age she worked with. It was her seventh or so year of marriage to my father, and she was in her mid-20s, I believe. She again became a mother--carrying my half-brother and divorcing my father. 

For a brief year or two, I lived with my mother and her other child. This was because my wonderful parents put me on the spot, telling me about the impending divorce and asking me who I wanted to live with. My father wasn't even present for this conversation--he called from somewhere else, forcing me to pick a parent over the phone. Reluctantly, I chose my mother, not sure what else to say. 

After the divorce, we moved around a lot, and she had different men staying the night in our apartments on a regular basis. Most days, I was shoved outside and told to "go play" while she slept off hangovers. During the school year, I missed a lot of school, because apparently her nightlife interfered with getting up in the morning to make me breakfast and send me on my way. Tardiness and hunger were a daily way of life. I distinctly remember those days of walking to school late. An airplane flew over about the time I would be on my way to school. To this day, whenever I hear a propeller-driven airplane fly over in the morning hours, I get that sensation of being late. 

By age 7, my poor school attendance was enough of an issue my father took custody of me. And that was pretty much the last time I saw my "mother". She didn't die or leave the area, she just refused to have anything to do with me; even at family Christmas gatherings. Years later, when I was 18, and about to enlist in the service, she tried to re-establish a connection with me, confiding that she had resented me choosing my father over her, and telling me about her LSD use and how her memories of the time weren't so good. 

I reluctantly accepted this attempt at reconciliation, and her offer to provide me a free place to live while I attended college. But a zebra can't change it's stripes, and my mother soon found herself another much younger man in (sixteen years younger). I determined that the real reason for my residency was really just to be a role model for my sibling, while Mommy Dearest played cougar. I bid Oedipus and his soon-to-be-bride adieu and moved out. 

Years later, when I got engaged, my future wife insisted I include my mother (once again divorced) in our wedding plans. We went through the motions, going over for dinner, meeting her, occasional visits, etc. etc. But things returned to normal when my wife and I had our first child. My mother visited her grandchild in the hospital, then disappeared for two weeks, until we bumped into her at a family reunion and she refused her own siblings' efforts to get her to hold my daughter. This ended, once and for all, any mother-child relationship I had with my mother. I may have suffered abandonment and rejection repeatedly at her hands growing up, but I was damned if I was going to subject my own child to the same misery and neglect from an indifferent grandmother. It's a decision I have not regretted once.

I realize that there are good mothers out there--I was fortunate enough to meet several of them (mothers of my friends) over the years. Many are indeed poster-worthy for this impending holiday and could give June Cleaver a run for her money. My own wife is beloved by our two daughters, and has a good mother herself. 

But the point is, that growing up, my mother wasn't there--by her own choice. I often countered the intended insult of "son-of-a-bitch" directed at me with "You know my mom?". To this day, I joke regularly that I was raised by television, and that on Mother's Day that's who I choose to spend my day with (my beloved big screen). 

This year, just as I do every Mother's Day, I'll ensure my kids will spend the day with their mom, and that she's able to get some quality time with her own mother. But for me, and the countless others like me who didn't have a mother there when we were growing up, or who had terrible, despicable mothers who were raging alcoholics, addicts, or otherwise just horrible, I'd like to ask that the rest of you rethink this weekend's holiday. Don't wait to thank your own mother once every May, and don't rub my nose in this holiday.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Secrets of Self-Publishing A to Z: Conventions


CONVENTIONS!


At some point in your self-publishing career, you may be invited to a convention, or just come up with the idea to go by yourself. Before you book that table in the lonely creator's alley, there are a few things to consider:

1. Conventions are normally on the weekends, and that's when many of us like to write. In other words, sitting at a table, trying to hawk your books means you won't be getting any writing done. 


2. Unless you're an invited guest, conventions cost money to attend. Primarily, table fees. But there's also food, travel, and if you're out of town, lodgings. These costs can quickly mount, surpassing several hundred dollars. That's a lot of books to sell. 


3. Conventions cater to a specific demographic. For instance, comic book fans. Unless your book is about comic books, or comic book characters, you're going to have a hard time competing with cover-to-cover art. 


4. Selling books in person isn't as easy as you might think. Particularly bearing in mind the fact you'r competing against art, props, toys, and a lot of other things that can much more easily be visually appraised for their value.


If you do decide to set up at a convention, bear in mind there's a LOT of sitting involved. Sitting at your table/booth that is. You can bring something to do, or read, but if you do get a visitor, you have to be ready to drop everything and give them all your attention. 


Don't get too excited about visitors though... many are authors themselves, eager to network with other authors, or maybe looking for some tips from someone more experienced. Or they could be an aspiring author who has a lot of questions about self-publishing, but no intention to buy anything. 


And don't go to the convention empty handed. Even if you're only trying to sell ebooks (or rather, direct people to them) you need stuff at your table. Bookmarks, buttons, pencils, flyers, cards... the more stuff the better. 


As you can see, conventions are a lot more complicated to be a vendor at, than they are to visit. You're probably better off visiting, then returning home and doing some writing. 

Monday, April 03, 2017

Secrets of Self-Publishing A to Z: Businessing the Craft out of Writing

BUSINESSING THE CRAFT OUT OF WRITING

As I mentioned in yesterday, there are a lot of people out there that want to take your money and “help” you print your books. Book doctors who’ll re-write your work for you, Cover Designers who’ll come up with that perfect cover, and even formatters who’ll ensure your work is ready for upload to whatever online service you choose to self-publish on.

But worse among them all are the business people. These folks claim that writing is a business and that you can’t succeed if you don’t treat it like one. They offer seminars (for a fee) or even consultations (for a fee). They extoll spreadsheets, virtual assistants, and acting professionally. Some of them are even authors.

Again, I have to call bullshit. Writing is a craft. We aren’t stamping out books from a mold, we’re spinning stories for readers. It’s art as much as painting or music. When you think of it as business, you’re taking the art away. The same thing has happened on television, which now features teams of writers on most shows, all methodically and systematically churning out formulaic scripts.


Whether you are saving the cat, or Denting some pulp, please don’t ever lose sight of the most important thing about self-publishing: telling a good story. Study the craft, not the marketing. Once you can master self-publishing, then you can move on to selling more copies, and then once you do that, you can worry about keeping track of expenses, maximizing your profits and all that other non-artistic crap. 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Secrets of Self Publishing: All By Yourself


A to Z secrets of Self-Publishing:

ALL BY YOURSELF



For almost five years now, I've been actively self-publishing. You can too, and I'm going to help you figure out the secrets of self-publishing. Unlike a lot of my peers though, I'm not going to charge for my knowledge, I'm going to share it for free. AND I'm going to give you the no-holds-barred, bullshit-free truths of self publishing.

First up, I'll tell you that you don't need anyone else. Self-publishing is just what it says it is: publishing yourself, instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

Before Kindle, self-publishing was limited to vanity publishing, which really was nothing more than self-printing. Having a print copy of your work doesn't really amount to much, because you need to find a way to sell it to customers. Kindle Direct Publishing is completely different thought. Instead of filling boxes in your garage with unsold copies of your work, you actually place your work on a digital marketplace where customers can, in theory, see it without any further work from you. That is, it's available to everyone, rather than just folks that come to your yard sale.

KDP isn't the only marketplace for self-publishers. There's Nook, Kobo, iTunes. Smashwords, and even Google Play (assuming you can figure out their interface). But I'll get into them more later. 

What's really important to remember about self publishing is that it truly is DIY. If you have a computer and can put your words in electronic format for uploading, then you also have the means to make covers, to edit, spellcheck and even proofread your own work. It may indeed be true that you might lack the talent to do these things, and that's okay. But you should at least try.

What irritates me the most about the modern self-publishing landscape is all the deceitful hucksters out there insisting that if you don't have a "professional" cover, or a "professional" editor, etc. etc. you won't sell anything. I say bullshit. You don't need professional services, they are just ways to improve your odds of making sales. 

Think of it in car terms. When you buy a car, it doesn't need air conditioning. Or a sunroof. Or Power seats, power mirrors, GPS, etc. etc. Those are options. A five speed manual transmission with hand crank windows and manual door locks will get you to work. A/C will just get you there more comfortably. 

Self-publishing is the same. If you just can't make a cover to save your life, that doesn't mean you won't make any sales. It's an indicator you won't make very many, but there's still that element of dumb luck involved. 

Here's where I'll digress for a moment. A lot of people confuse luck with karma. You ca't change luck. By definition, it's random. And no matter how much money you throw at book you've self-published, it still just might not sell, and not because it's bad. On the other hand, complete crap (whether it's published by traditional publishers or you) can sell many, many units if you're lucky enough for the right people to see it, share it, talk about it, etc. 

The most important thing about true DIY self-publishing, is that you are willing to work. And no, it's not a "business", as so many other hucksters will proclaim. It's not a business until you actually are selling. Until then, it's a dream, and you have to work hard and cross your fingers that dream comes true. But the good news is that it can

Not everyone wins the lottery who buys a ticket. Self-publishing has better odds than the lottery, in that you can sell some of your books no matter how bad the cover, the editing, or the spelling. If you want to improve your odds by putting a second mortgage on your home to pay experts who themselves aren't writing, go right ahead, but please, please, please remember that all the money in the world may not be enough to sell your work to readers. 

It's a new day in publishing, and you owe it to yourself to give it a shot. It costs nothing but time to publish in our modern, digital world. 






Tuesday, March 21, 2017

On Hiatus...

Just a quick update for those who follow this blog...

The Chowmageddon articles and interviews will be returning, as well as some other stuff I had planned for April's A to Z Challenge, I've just been a little pre-occupied of late...

February ended in a bang, or rather, a snip, when an AT&T contractor cut my line while installing at the neighbor's house. That killed my internet, phone, and TV for a weekend, and involved much yelling at AT&T.

March started with our dog sick... when I came home to check on her on my lunch hour one day, I found a big contractor dumpster in our driveway. It was delivered to the wrong house, but getting that squared away, and getting it moved, took half a day.

Throw in my eldest's theater season, with daily rehearsals after school, and my youngest's tennis season starting up (with practices after school) and it's been hectic.

Then my wife had a car wreck.

Some idiot pulled out in front of her from a stop sign. That disabled our new car we got back in October. Well, I say new. It was a 2011 Subaru Forester with 31,000 miles on it that apparently spent most of it's life in a garage. It looked brand new, with nary a scratch or ding anywhere on it. Fabulous car, that we were lucky to find.

So now, on top of everything else, I have to take the wife to doctor's appointments, make calls to try and get insurance to pay for everything, make arrangements to get another car, etc. etc.

And since not enough of your friends are buying my books, I still plug away at a day job as well.

Time has been a commodity I am in very short supply of.

Hopefully, things are settling down and I can return to my regular weekend and evenings writing schedule, and get this thing going again.

Until then, thanks for checking in every now and then...

Thursday, March 02, 2017

CHOWMAGEDDON: Post-Apocalyptic Author Lawrence Herbert Tide

As part of the ongoing Chowmageddon series, I talked to Post Apocalyptic Author Lawrence Herbert Tide about eating after the End of the World...



1. How long have you been writing post-apocalyptic fiction or non-fiction?

I’ve been writing about nine months, the time I’ve needed to write this ebook which is my very first Novel; until then, I only had written a few short stories and Novella, some of them only in French at first, before writing also in English (using the service of Editors-Proofreaders to improve the quality of the texts).

2. What kind of apocalyptic event do you find most interesting?

In the case of this Novel, I wanted to have fun by writing my first Zombie Horror story, having usually been more attracted by Science Fiction. Of course, I could’ve written a SF Novel concerning the survival in an Alien invaded world, with human beings fighting to survive (what happens to Tom Cruise and his character’s family in the movie War of the Worlds is really interesting, by the way). 

3. What kind of apocalyptic event do you fear the most?

I have difficulties to choose between two events, more realistic than a virus transforming human beings into cannabalistic monsters: 

- The collision of a giant meteor.
- The eruption of a super volcano of the Caldera type.

In both cases, survivors will have to cope with the coming of the equivalent of an Atomic Winter, which would stop the arrival sun’s rays on the surface of the Earth, meaning the disappearance of agriculture, and famine for billions of people.

4. Are you a prepper? At what level do you consider yourself?

I’ll classify myself as a beginner by saying that I’m interested by the survival subject, and if ever world havoc arrives, at least I’ll have had thoughts about it. 

And I can only hope that if ever hell on Earth arrives, these reflexions will enable me to save my family and myself.

5. Where do you think the ideal place to live is prior to an apocalyptic event?

A farm would be the ideal place to live, for me, in the case of an apocalyptic event. But not an ordinary farm : a farm surrounded by walls, a citadel.

Because it would enable one to protect oneself and one’s precious food products from other humans, whether they would be normal human beings or zombies.

6. Shelter-in-place, or bug out?

Shelter-in-place will be the preferred option for me, and that’s why in my story, survivors of the zombie apocalypse take shelter in a huge fortress-like structure called the Community. Because with such harsh conditions for survival, I think that the financial system would disappear, replaced by a more communal way of life.

7. What do plan to eat in the apocalypse?

Mainly products of hydroponics or aquaponics, but also insects, larvae and… maggots.
Yum!

8. What foods do you regularly stock in your home that would be adaptable to a post-apocalyptic situation?

Notably rice, pasta, even if I must admit that, for the moment, I haven’t stockpiled.

9. What is your preferred preservation method for post-apocalyptic foods?

Canned and vacuum-packed food are and would be my favorites.

10. What's the primary factor for you in deciding on a survival food? Taste? Weight? Nutritional Value? Ease of preparation?

Being a French gourmet because of my culture, my natural tendency would be to be attracted by tasty food. Now, I’m a realist person, and I would at least chose nutritional and easy to prepare food.

11. What's the worst "survival food" you've ever tasted?

I’ve never eaten what I would classify as « survival food » : insects, maggots, and… human flesh.

Perhaps, well prepared, are they delicious, LOL ?

Like many men of my generation, I had to serve as a military, in the French Navy. I ate once a food ration, during a long walk.

I found it rather tasty, while others hated it, one of them telling to our superior authority that he wouldn’t ever give such a food to his dog. Perhaps this means that I would be a good prepper, if I’m able to eat many things ?


12. What's the best?

I love potatoes, like the character in the novel The Martian. 

I’ve heard that human flesh has the taste of pork, something that I love to eat.

But I wish that I’ll never be forced to eat such a thing. For me, human beings are too precious to be undermined as food.

13. Any special survival recipes you have up your camouflaged sleeves?

I love to eat great cooking by my wife and restaurants, but I’m a very bad amateur cook myself.

So, I don’t have any survival recipe that I could use…

But I think that, when one’s forced by events, one can find great resources in oneself, so I think that I would be able to adapt. 

14. What's the best survival food tip you've ever heard?

When motivated by hunger, I think that anyone would find solutions enabling to open tin cans or any other food package. Concrete surface, rocks, sticks.

Frankly ? I think that learning how to use firearms or arrows and bows efficiently, for hunting, would be the ultimate solution for survival.


You can learn more abut Herbert and his upcoming Zombie Trilogy at his blog, http://lawrenceherberttid.wixsite.com/tidesworlds

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

CHOWMAGEDDON: Post Apocalyptic Author Cora Buhlert

As part of the ongoing Chowmageddon series, I talked to Post Apocalyptic Author Cora Buhlert about dining after Doomsday...

1. How long have you been writing post-apocalyptic fiction or non-fiction?

My first work of post-apocalyptic fiction, the novelette The Hybrids, was published in 2013. However, the roots of the story are much older, since The Hybrids is a reworking/updating of a short story I wrote during my second semester at university in the 1990s. So I guess you could say that I've been writing post-apocalyptic fiction for twenty years, though I've only been publishing it for four years.


2. What kind of apocalyptic event do you find most interesting?

Whichever scenario I'm writing about at the moment. So far, I've had nuclear war, a killer pandemic, global warming, global cooling, climate change in general, asteroid impact, solar surge/EMP pulse, alien invasions, kaiju attacks, a zombie apocalypse and a robot apocalypse. I write mostly short fiction, which means I can try out a lot of different scenarios.


3. What kind of apocalyptic event do you fear the most?

The ones that have a decent chance of actually happening. Let's face it, the chances of a zombie apocalypse or a kaiju attack happening in the real world are pretty much nil. But climate change, natural disasters or killer pandemics are a lot more likely. However, I think the apocalyptic event I fear most are nuclear war or an INES 6 or 7 level nuclear accident. I grew up in the 1980s, when fears of nuclear war and mutually assured destruction were widespread. I was twelve when the Chernobyl accident happened and since I lived in Germany, we got some of the fallout. At school, we weren't allowed to go outside in the rain, we weren't allowed to drink milk or eat fresh vegetables for a couple of weeks and all because of a danger you could neither see nor feel. And the nearest nuclear reactor, thankfully shut down by now, was only fifty kilometres from where I lived. Experiencing that sort of thing as a kid leaves its mark.


4. Are you a prepper? At what level do you consider yourself?

Preppers are mostly an American phenomenon. We don't really have them here in Germany. That said, I do believe in having sufficient food supplies to hold out for a while in case of natural disasters, etc… We also have a vegetable garden and a greenhouse, so we can grow our own food. 

I'm also lucky enough to live in a house that is largely self-sufficient with regard to power. We have solar panels, a co-generation unit and a battery storage which can still supply power, even if the grid goes down. And should the grid go down for longer than the battery lasts, we also have an emergency diesel generator. We also have a wood-fired stove in the basement, so we can still cook even if the power goes down (plus, it keeps you warm). I picked this idea up from the old farmers in my area, who always kept a wood-fired stove around, even after they got gas or electricity, just in case. 

I think such precautions are sensible, for even though you'll probably never experience the zombie apocalypse, power outages due to natural disasters, etc… happen and can last several days, if you're unlucky.


5. Where do you think the ideal place to live is prior to an apocalyptic event?

I think a semi-rural, semi-suburban area is best, because that way you'll probably have enough space to grow at least some of your own food and/or keep chickens, pigs, etc…, but you're still close enough to major population centres that you're not completely cut off from emergency services. 

Also, try to choose a spot on relatively high ground, so you won't be affected by floods. I live near the North Sea coast, so storm surges and flooding are a genuine risk. We get storm flood warnings a couple of times every year, while the last really big flood, which drowned more than three hundred people in Germany alone, happened in 1962, i.e. only 55 years ago. 


6. Shelter-in-place, or bug out?

It really depends on the nature of the apocalyptic event: In case of a killer pandemic, shelter-in-place is the best strategy. But in case of a massive flood or a nuclear meltdown, you'll want to get the hell out of there. 


7. What do plan to eat in the apocalypse?

Whatever is in the basement. I keep my pantry well stocked, so the food should last a while. We also have a vegetable garden and a greenhouse to grow our own food. I could also can and pickle food, if necessary.


8. What foods do you regularly stock in your home that would be adaptable to a post-apocalyptic situation?

I always buy the big fifteen kilogram bags of dry rice, so that should last for a while. I also always have a decent supply of Ramen noodles, other noodles, canned and pickled foods as well as dried lentils, beans, etc… in the pantry. The freezer is usually full of garden vegetables, so I could have those, too, as long as the power lasts. What is more, I usually have several crates of bottled water in the cellar, so hydration is assured as well. 


9. What is your preferred preservation method for post-apocalyptic foods? 

I don't have any specific preference. It's probably best to have a variety available, so if there's something you cannot use for some reason, you still have an alternative.


10. What's the primary factor for you in deciding on a survival food? Taste? Weight? Nutritional Value? Ease of preparation?

I don't stock any survival foods per se, just regular food supplies that could be adapted, if necessary.

11. What's the worst "survival food" you've ever tasted?

I'm not sure if I ever had anything that was specifically marketed as a survival food, but those powdered protein shakes they sell to bodybuilders taste pretty bad.


12. What's the best?

See above: I don't think I've ever had anything specifically marketed as a survival food.


13. Any special survival recipes you have up your camouflaged sleeves?

Nothing specific, but I think it's helpful if you know how to pickle or can food. Home-canning has fallen somewhat out of fashion in the past forty years or so, but your grandmother might still have a home-canning cookbook (or you can pick one up at the flea market) and maybe even the respective equipment like Mason jars or Weck jars. 


14. What's the best survival food tip you've ever heard? 

Not really a survival food tip, just a neat story: In the early 1970s, a massive storm hit the area where I live and knocked out the power for several days. As a result, frozen food quickly began to spoil. So the people took their frozen food to the local undertaker and put it into the morgue, because it had an emergency diesel generator and therefore still had power. This story illustrates an aspect that is often missing from post-apocalyptic fiction, namely people helping each other and working together to get through the disaster and survive. 

To find out more about Cora, or check out her amazing written work, visit her website: http://corabuhlert.com

Cora is also on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CoraBuhlert

Apocalyptic/Post-apocalyptic works:
The Death of the American Dream: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01F6FB1FQ