We writers are so fragile, aren’t we? A single, lousy, one-star review sends us underground for some binge drinking and manuscript burning. While some poor reviews may have an adverse effect on sales, they aren’t the end of the world, and some, while spiteful, are either so stupid they make you pity the reviewer, or funny enough that we just have to give some respect to the reviewer.

A friend and fellow author told me about a one star review he received. The reveiwer said he hoped the book would be made into a movie so he could trash that as well. My own books have a total of just 26 reviews. Two of them are one star reviews, but they are boring one star reviews. Certainly nothing I would share with a fellow writer, just the “Don’t waste your time, this book is dumb” sort of thing.

Don’t allow a bad review to ruin your day. In fact, let some of these bad reviews make your day. These are from online reviews of classic books.

For Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, which is one of the funniest books I ever read:

 

I know I didn’t give it enough time before giving up, but I figured I had suffered enough.”

 

Ulysses by James Joyce, is considered to be either a brilliant book or utter gibberish. This reviewer thought the latter:
This is a tough book to read unless you understand several languages and are on LSD.”

 

Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury
I took this book with me to rifle practice and I shot at it instead of the targets. I got busted, but hey, it was worth it. Mail me if you want a picture of my shooting.”

 

The Devine Comedy: Dante

The most worrisome part of this book is that Dante left out one circle of hell…the one where you are forced to read this book.”

 

The Holy Bible: New Testament:
For those of you who don’t know, this is God’s second novel after the Old Testament…”

 

Tales of HP Lovecraft:
Lovecraft was a bad writer and I’m glad he’s dead.”

 

The Giving Tree: Shel Silverstein
At some point, the tree should have started singing Janet Jackson’s ‘What Have You Done for Me Lately?’ and begun dropping apples on the human’s head.”

 

A Good Man is Hard to Find: Flannery O’Connor
I’d really, REALLY like to read a pleasant book for English class. Just once.”

 

One-star reviews can be pretty entertaining…if they are for someone else’s book. Sometimes, though, if the review is funny, we writers just have to laugh. In fact, if your own books are lacking one-star reviews, there’s a site, onestarreview.com, that will give your book a snarky, humorous one-star review for just $25.00. They claim that such a review, if it’s mean and funny enough, will actually boost sales. Hmm. You go first!

 

 

 

 

Race Car Writers

 

cars-2-movie

 

At my writer’s group, I recently mentioned that reading one of our more gifted writer’s latest chapters was akin to driving a Corvette filled with cheap gasoline. I had expected to fly through the straightaways, but instead, the machine had sputtered.

This turned my mind toward other writers. Writers who don’t know me. Writers I can’t talk to. Writer’s who can’t throw a cup of tepid coffee in my face. What if these writers were cars? What kind of an auto would they be based upon their work? Here are a few examples:

 – Elmore Leonard

Reading Elmore Leonard is like driving a stripped down race car. Everything is all black exhaust, speed, and smoking rubber flying into the stands:

The church had become a tomb where forty-seven bodies turned to leather and stains had been lying on the concrete floor the past five years, though not lying where they had been shot with Kalashnikovs or hacked to death with machetes.

(Pagan Babies: 2000)

A little dialogue? Try this from Riding the Rap. Cop Raylan Givens is at an estate interviewing a thug who is posing as a gardener:

You see her every day?”

Two times, I just start to work here. You looking to buy this place?”

Why, is it for sale?”

I don’t know that.”

What’s the name of the nursing home?”

I forget.”

But you go there.”

Yeah, it’s by the hospital, that street there.”

Flager?”

Yeah, I think that’s it. Listen, I got all this work to do, okay?”

Raylan watched the guy turn and walk away, a pair of pruners on his belt at the hip, the same place Raylan carried his gun.

 

Maybe auto racing isn’t for you. You like comfort. Plush leather. Smooth rides. Frosty air conditioning on long desert highways, and blasting heat during midnight winter drives. You like a long, shiny car. You like a Cadillac. With fins.

– James Lee Burke is your writer:

Molly was sprinkling the flowers in the window boxes with a watering can when I got back to our cabin. To the south, rain was falling in the valley, and in the sunlight it looked like spun glass on the trees that grew along the slopes.

Swan Peak: 2008

This isn’t to say that pretty can’t be gritty:

Honoria’s eyes remained fixed on mine, expectant, somehow trusting, the redness of her mouth and the mole next to it as inviting as a poisonous flower.

Crusader’s Cross: 2005

– Stephen King

This your first automobile. Not your first new car. But that first used car you bought with a desperate fistful of wadded cash. The car you had to start with ether and then dash out the engine fire with a water hose. The car with brakes that might work if you pumped them just right. The car with the dubious steering and the wipers that failed in the rain. The car that always stranded you and your girlfriend, yet somehow always managed to get you to work each day.

From Firestarter: 1980

The world, although well-lighted with fluorescents and incandescent bulbs and neon, is still full of odd dark corners and unsettling nooks and crannies.

What car reminds you of a favorite author? Have you had any successful test drives with an undiscovered Indy author? What writer really drives you? I’d love to hear about it!

If you enjoyed this Email, would you please forward it to a friend? I’m trying to build my Email list, and sitting in front of liquor stores and saying, “Bro, could you join my list?” isn’t working. I have, however, acquired 36-cents in change and one King Cobra malt liquor. Vroom, vroom!

Oh, so Old Am Mio!

08o-sole-mio

Well, I finally have reached the age where, as far as falling down goes, I have skin in the game. I could never understand why falling down was such a jolt to old people. Get up! My friends and I used to joke, back in our smooth-skinned days, about the fragile age we’d turn someday. For me, that age landed a couple weeks ago upon my doorstep like an evening newspaper. It was numbered 57 years and counting, waiting for me to come out and pick it up.

So, there I was, walking to the front door to lock it. And walking toward the door to lock it, my foot caught upon the carpet, and I fell in a grand, exaggerated manner. I fell with a surprised face. I fell like a reputation in Washington, D.C. I fell like a soccer player trying to con the ref. I fell like…an old person.

In the wrinkle-free zone where I lived my youth, I would’ve put out my hand to absorb the shock of the fall and protect my face. I would’ve uttered an “oof,” rolled, and bounced back up. The only damage to my face would have been my blush. However, this time I fell as a 57-year old man, and though I stuck my hand out as I had done so many times before, when I landed, my shoulder popped out from it’s mooring, and my oof of yore became a stream of profanities that continued into the night until I finally drove myself to the emergency ward at the local hospital.

I am gaining the use of my arm again. Slowly. This time. However, as I ease into the period of my life where the heating bill far exceeds the air-conditioning bill, I feel as though I’m on the clock each trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Each time I return home, arms full of groceries. Each step outside. Every single crack in the sidewalk. I may have fallen as a 57-year old man, but I got back up much older, and now, I am on the clock.

Are You Experienced? Well, I’m Not!

 

I have read, and I do not doubt, that the Kingston Trio knew it was over when they saw Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire at the Monterey Pop Festival. How great must it have been to show up to a concert, hump your amplifier while your guitar screamed in panic, drop some acid, go to France and await the royalty checks? The Trio knew that it’s always out with the old, and in with the new.

However, as a writer finding his way among the electric boogie land of Indy writing, I wonder how great must it have been to be Jack Kerouac? Just take a long roll of industrial strength paper towels and write all your hep cat experiences on it. Roll the scroll into one big mess, dump it on your publisher’s desk, tell them “You can have whatever seeds shake out of that,” go home, get high and wait for royalty checks.

Do you know how great it is to be an Indy author like me? Write a book, pay an editor, pay a book cover designer, pay a formatting expert, pay a keyword expert, pay to get the print version up and running on Create Space, pay to have them make the cover fit the print version, pay for promotion, pay for reviews—err, hustle your butt off to get some reviews, promote it on free days, promote it on cheap days, promote it on normal days, write the description to perfection, rewrite it incorporating the keywords, publish it and then sit back at home and watch the money not roll in.

After a couple of months, something does roll in; a sale. Thank God, after all that, it was worth it. 35-cents! However, there is more…a review!

  • “Not What I Expected.” Or, the increasingly popular minimalist: “Just, no.”

Well, at least you now have lunch money in your pocket, plus when your skeptical friends force a smile and ask, “How are your book sales?” You can return serve on that smile and add a forced thumb’s up.

Well, I’m mad as hell and I’m not taking it…that much…anymore! So today was a great, big howdy doody for me. I paid money for an online keyword class. I studied it. I took notes. I began to understand. I watched the video again, took more notes, and then I took action.

I changed my keywords in my Amazon page. I added those keywords to my book’s description. Now, all I had to do was add the keywords to the book’s text. This is easy! I learned that all you have to do is chuck them in like fairy dust at the bottom of the copyright page.

Okay, then. Easy peasy. I’m not going to bother the guy who does my conversions for me. All I have to do is creep into my Amazon book file, lay those keywords underneath the copyright page like a tooth fairy, save, and I’m out of there!

I didn’t expect the HTML wilderness I encountered. There were so many strange colors, shadows, shapes, figures, and symbols, I could almost feel the crackling heat of a dragon’s lair. I tried not to panic. I studied the code, took a breath, and quietly entered my new keywords, and then I tried to slip back out.

“DO YOU WANT TO SAVE CHANGES?”

I jumped. Like a girl. In leotards. “Um…yes?”

“YOUR CHANGES ARE SAVED”

I heard a grating iron gate slam shut, and felt a chill. I backed out of my Amazon account and checked out my book. “Oh,” the word tumbled from my lips like a domino. “I’ve just published War and Peace in Martian.”

“Yeah! Purple Haze…”

Well!

This blog that I have ignored for five years now has two followers, and I know them both by name! Hi Melinda, Hi Al. Give me a moment to adjust this font…Okay, never mind. I suppose I’ll leave it like this.

Just want to say Hi, and thanks for following this blog. I will try to keep it up to date. It probably will just be a log about dental pain, but hey, you can’t get enough of that sort of thing!

Now, before I take the dog out and go to Ventura for the cheap stores, I will attempt to link this blog to my webpage. Wish me luck. I wish you all (both) a good day!

The Aliso Street Bear

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  Inbetween the beaches of Ventura and the Los Padres National Forrest, Ojai is a small town where the citizens know the homeless population by name.  Ojai, (Oh, hi) is the Chumash word for Closed after eight PM.  On any sunny Sunday morning you’re bound to see a peddeler’s fair, a horse drawn carriage clip-clopping down a shady side street or a four-hundred pound bear up in a tree in somebody’s yard.

The latter is what caused a stir a couple Sundays ago but because of the competitive garage sales in the area the crowd was managable.  Bears often wander down at night from the Los Padres, into avocado orchards and from there, down the paths to the outskirts of town following the promise of fresh garbage.  From there it’s a hop, skip and a jump into the residential areas.  Usually the bear will find his way back home before morning and for people in Ojai, it’s no harm, no foul, and a pretty good topic starter around the coffee shops in the morning.

Unfortunatley, this eight-year-old black bear climbed a tree in someone’s front yard on Aliso street around midnight and was still clinging to the branches when I saw him at seven-thirty in the morning.  The crowd was around twenty–coming and going , and the police had to be on hand to save one from the other.  By the time they wrapped the street in yellow tape the bear wasn’t going anywhere and neither was the crowd.

This was Dog Day Afternoon and the bear was Al Pacino.  As I watched the bear gaze down at us while clinging to his spot about forty-feet high in the pine I almost expected the police to start yelling at him through megaphones and the crowd to mimic, “Hey, Sonny!”

Forced to return to work behind the counter at the Chevron, I felt like Sitting Bull getting battlefield reports from The Little Bighorn.  As the morning cycled through the sun, and the afternoon, the shadows, people would rush in to report the latest.

     “They’ve got the pet psychic out there now!”

     “The Department of Fish and Game is coming out, but they can’t remove him, they’ll only tranquilize him.”

     A policeman who came in to get gas explained to me, “Once he gets tranquilized he’ll have to be destroyed because it’s the beginning of hunting season and if, say,  a hunter shoots and eats  tranqued bear meat, he’d be poisoned and probably die.  The best thing to do is just to let him find his way home; it’s not like he’s going to go on a killing spree.”

The rumours came and went until I went home that night.  The next morning I heard the news.  The Department of Fish and Game had indeed come out and shot a tranquilizer into the bear.  He had crashed onto the street and was hit again with another tranquilizer, then taken away and destroyed.

Questions are still being asked of the Department of Fish and Game reguarding their conduct that day.  Today I was told that the officer in charge that day has resigned.   Is that a good enough answer?

 I can still see that bear looking down at us while hanging on up in the tree.  It was as if he had his own questions:  “Why are you here?  What do you want?  Why won’t you go away so I can come down and leave?”

Because, we’re human.  Isn’t that a good enough answer?