Anybody who was old enough to witness the sudden explosion of commercial online activity in the 1990s will almost certainly remember the "You've got mail!" new email sound for AOL, which they promoted so heavily in their advertising that even non-AOL users would be familiar with it. It even became the title of a movie in the 90s. While the level of AOL advertising has thankfully subsided (no more garbage discs constantly arriving in the mail!), email is still an important part of our Internet-enabled lives (even though some people are unwisely opting to use inferior tools like Facebook messages in place of email). If you're a writer who wants to stay in touch with readers, you should consider the question that is the title of this blog post: Do they have mail?
Writings of Stuart Whitmore
Want to win an autographed set of my books? It's easy to do, and you have until the end of February to enter to win. All of the details are in the Facebook post at that link, but the gist of it is that if you help me get more people to like my fan page on Facebook, you and a person you refer to that page could win an autographed set of all of the books I currently have in print. This is part of a broader push to improve my book marketing.
This isn't a soccer or hockey blog, so if the title confused you… well, I guess you'd have to be pretty new to my writing blog for that to happen! ☺ You might have noticed that I haven't posted to this blog since early December, so you might think that "more regular posting to my blog" would be one of my goals for 2014. In that, you would be sort of right. It's not a key goal (not yet, at least), but it is a general intent. However, I do have some pretty specific goals for this year, writing-wise, and it's past time for me to get some fresh content posted here, so that's what this post is for. And yes, I'll try to get back to my post-every-Friday rule!
There's a free offer in this blog post, but I'm going to be a little preachy first. You've been warned! :) Anyway, I don't need to tell you what Black Friday is, there's no escaping the deluge of advertisements from companies seeking to cash in on holiday shopping by offering deals that are played up to be significant discounts, although often the deals are not really worth getting excited about. This kick-off to the holiday season, and the claimed turn from being "in the red" to "in the black" for stores, is a flurry of commercial activity that recently has been pushed to begin on (or even before!) Thanksgiving. Black Friday is followed by Small Business Saturday, and let's not forget Cyber Monday for the online shoppers.
If you are not participating in NaNoWriMo this month, I challenge you to what I call an empathy project. :) I challenge you to write a 10,000 word short story between today and the 30th of this month. This is easier than NaNoWriMo in two ways: The total word count is less, and the daily target is lower. Like with NaNoWriMo, you can spread your work out evenly among the available days, or do more work on some days than on others. You can even try to write it all in one day (some people reach 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo in one day).
Why is this an "empathy" project? Because if you make a serious effort to do it, and if you've never written (or made a serious effort to write) a novel before, you will soon get a feel for what it's like and you will gain some writer empathy for those of us tackling the larger NaNoWriMo challenge!
If you buy a copy of Assets, Budgets, and Credit: A Financial ABC, you might think that I, as the author, should be able to easily see that I've made a sale, whether it was on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or elsewhere — regardless of where it was purchased. "Easy" is in the eye of the beholder, but needing to log in to each bookseller's self-publishing platform is not what I call easy. This blog post is inspired by the current process of checking sales, and is an open letter to those who can improve the experience for small and self publishers.
Months before I set up my profile on Wattpad and uploaded a couple short stories to it, I'd heard of the site as a place for writers to post chapters of their works in progress. As in, that was all it was described as, so after a quick look at it, I decided not to create an account. I would prefer that the first impression a complete stranger has of my writing, especially one of my book-length works, is based on a polished work, not a first draft. I'm sure it works for some people to put complete first-draft works out there for anyone to see, but it's not my cup of tea as a writer. Then, months passed. I don't know exactly how many, but enough that I pretty much forgot about Wattpad. Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, and I heard from Ksenia Anske that she was in the process of posting her novels on Wattpad. (She has posted them in many places for free, in addition to selling them.) This triggered my interest again, so I went back to take another look.
When I wrote Assets, Budgets, and Credit: A Financial ABC, I dedicated it mainly to a guy I hadn't seen or heard from in about 25 years. This was definitely someone I was no longer in touch with, and who might (at best) vaguely remember me from when we were both stationed at the same overseas Air Force base. Yet, despite that long-term disconnection, he ended up with one of my books dedicated to him, which he will probably never know. He may not even be alive anymore — not everyone I knew back then is still among the living. I don't even remember his last name. So you might wonder, why did I dedicate that book to him? This blog post examines that and my thoughts around dedications, which is something I've touched on in the past but I wanted to delve into further.
Originally a Facebook Note, the following little story will help you read e-books without an e-reader!
Once upon a time, there was an avid reader named Bob who loved his shelves of books. Bob and his wife, Jan, lived on the banks of a scenic river. Bob liked to select a nice book from his many shelves and take it out to read while sitting on their deck overlooking the river. One day, Bob heard on the weather report that floods were expected in his area. Bob was dismayed. All of his shelves of books were on the ground floor of his house. He needed to move them all upstairs and the flood waters were due to arrive any moment.
"What shall I do?" Bob asked Jan. "I can't move all of my books in time!"
Today is a big day for a young writer I know, but I can't be with her to celebrate. So, I decided to dedicate today's blog post to her instead. She's not just a creative spirit and dedicated student, she's also my daughter. That pretty much guarantees that we won't see eye to eye on everything, but there's no doubt that I am very proud of her accomplishments so far, and I can't wait to see what she does next. Like me, Dana started her first novel before graduating from high school, and she was quite far into that project when she headed off to begin working on her degree in a field (bioengineering). She will probably find, as I did, that the work involved in completing a degree will limit her writing time. However, she managed to make good progress in high school despite having a heavy class load there (including multiple AP classes), so I expect her novel will continue to grow. She takes her writing seriously and was very pleased to meet Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, when he visited her university — and he gave her personal writing advice, making the experience even more memorable.