Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, September 28, 2015

Storming the Castle

I was asked to do a guest post for the IWSG website about submitting to a small press. Many writers seeking publication with a traditional publisher may not realize how many options are available for them beyond the Big 5.

And as I say in my post, "After many rejections, writers can feel like publishing companies are the enemy and their editors the army blocking entrance to the castle. In fact, editors want to open the castle gate and usher in the right person. Publishers don’t exist without writers and manuscripts but it needs to be a good fit."

To see the full post go here.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Calm down Everyone, it's only the End of the Ebook Boom

If you're an author watching your ebook sales and rankings, you've no doubt noticed the decline and may be wondering what happened. It all relates to the ebook boom and its subsequent collapse. In order for something to go down, first it had to be up. And ebook sales were up, up and up.

When Amazon came out with the Kindle, customers not only bought it like crazy but downloaded books in huge quantities to fill their new devices with reading material. This led to the ebook boom of 2009, and it lasted about 2 years before things changed. What happened?

In 2011 and 2012, ebooks were being published as fast as people could write them, everyone wanting to get in on the big money. In 2013, the ebook market had become highly competitive, with new titles still flooding Amazon while readers had become more discriminating.

As a result of these two converging elements, sales dropped considerably. Also, during this time, Netflix and Amazon Prime with their streaming of movies and TV shows were growing larger, their offerings expanding as more people began live streaming entertainment, a strong competitive force to books and reading.

In 2014 and 2015, publishers who rode the ebook wave from 2009- 2012 and invested unwisely began closing up shop. Many writers have become discouraged because they aren't seeing strong sales, when the promise was so sweet only a few years ago.

Being sensitive artistic types, we tend to take it personally, thinking it's our fault for not marketing enough or not writing well in the first place. Some blame the publisher for not promoting, or for a weak cover, wrong pricing or any number of mistakes they imagine were made.

Poor sales are not your fault, not the publisher's fault, not even Amazon's fault, although you'll see numerous complaints about what Amazon has done to hurt ebook sales.

Don't look for someone to blame. It's simply the nature of the book publishing business reflected in ebooks. In the time it takes to write and publish a few new books, this market went crash and burn. Both publishers and writers have felt the pain.

For a couple glorious years when ebooks were new, high sales fueled high investment, and people were making money. Those who in the past wouldn't have sold many books, like the self-published selling not very good books for .99, and small publishers who normally struggled to break even, were surprised and astounded to discover a gold mine with books on the Kindle.

But like all bubbles this one had to burst, and it has. About the only entity not feeling the pinch is dear old Amazon. Besides their highly profitable self-publishing services, Amazon is also a traditional publisher with a dozen imprints. No matter which way the coin falls, they're prepared to win big in the book industry.

In addition, they've consistently pushed for lower ebook prices. I can't fault this thinking. For a few dollars a month, people stream unlimited entertainment into their homes, creating very strong competition for books. This explains Amazon's Kindle Select program, which offers the consumer unlimited ebooks for a monthly fee, similar to Netflix for movies.

The current lull in ebook sales is due to very real reasons. A million new books a year! All while Kindle owners are jaded, swamped with promotional notices, and no longer downloading free or bargain books in huge numbers. Everyone has become much more discriminating with what they download to their devices.

The bubble has burst. I'm not happy about it but I accept it. What to do next?

Believe in your talent. Believe in your work. Believe in the joy of writing and reading. But be extremely realistic about book sales, and try not to get discouraged when they don't happen like you hoped.

Also, in such a competitive arena, now is no time to give up on marketing!

 For me, if I hear about a book on Kindle Unlimited that looks interesting, I'll download it since I'm a member. If it's not on Kindle Unlimited, probably not. KU has been a huge selling point for me as a reader.

What kinds of promotions do you feel work best as an author or as a reader?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Writing and Wellness and My Darkest Moment

Author Colleen Story maintains one of the most helpful, informative writer websites I've seen. It's called Writing and Wellness, dealing with every kind of trouble we writers may experience from depression to writer's block to chronic back pain, along with a lot of positive encouragement too.

On Colleen's blog I regularly find inspiration, motivation, helpful publishing information, marketing tips, as well as that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you find another writer going through the exact same thing as you.

Colleen asks each writer she interviews about their darkest moment, which of course being a glass half empty kind of person, is my favorite paragraph to read. It's always hopeful to read about what miserable thing someone else has experienced and overcome.

This week I'm honored to be the featured writer on Writing and Wellness. I explain how blogging helped me get through my darkest moment. The link to my interview is here.

Speaking of darkest moments, today is the 14th anniversary of 9-11, the bombing of the Twin Towers, which for most of us alive now was the darkest moment in our nation's history. I suppose for the previous generation it would have been the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I do remember the assassination of President Kennedy, as I was 15 years old when it happened.

And then the Viet Nam War I remember also as a dark time in our nation, where US citizens screamed obscenities and spit on our returning Viet Nam war veterans. These young men were just kids who'd been drafted. It sickens me to think of that particular time in our nation during the late 1960s when our country was bitterly divided over a war.

Although 9-11 was a tragic event one of the good things that came of it was unity, although temporary, within the various political factions in our nation.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

IWSG Post: Hello Followers, Do I Know You?

A lot has changed with blogging since I first began Coming Down the Mountain six years ago. I remember my first follower I didn't know from somewhere else-- Simon Kewin. I was totally amazed how this person found my blog from who knows where and decided to follow it. I still visit Simon's blog and have read several of his books. He's an amazing writer I discovered through blogging.

Many of my early friends are no longer active. It takes more work to get the same results as early on when blogging was new and exciting. Back then it was easy to get followers. You went out, followed people, commented on posts, they'd follow you back. This was a rush since it meant people were reading your posts and liked them enough to click the follow button.

When someone follows me I like when they also leave a comment, so I can identify them and follow back. Anyone who comments regularly on my blog, I add to the sidebar so I can quickly see when they've written a new post.

I feel bad if people follow me and I miss following them back. To me, it's common courtesy. Just like if someone comments on my posts and I neglect to return the favor. From childhood, my mother drilled the Golden Rule into me: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." That sums up my life (and blogging) philosophy.

I often wonder how well I'm keeping up with my idea of blogging etiquette. Do I follow everyone who follows me? Do I comment on bloggers who comment on my posts? I hope so.

If you follow or visit my blog and I never visit yours, please let me know in the comments, leaving your blog's URL, and I will remedy the oversight.

Is there anything about blogging you're anxious about? Or are you feeling carefree and on top of the world today?

This is the IWSG post for September.  Go here to find more IWSG posts!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

No Rules

I appreciate all those who weighed in on my last IWSG post about the doubts concerning my blog and website. And also those who made comments on the previous post about my grandson's no punctuation masterpiece.

It reminded me again of what I already know: where creativity exists, there are no rules, no right or wrong way to express one's art. Except that the right way is to express it and the wrong way is block oneself due to fear of breaking some rule or making a mistake.

True joy comes from fearless creative expression, learning what works and what doesn't as you go, like this little guy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

When a 10 year old writes a story with passion but no punctuation and you know if it was a school assignment he'd have gotten a bad grade but it's so good you want to give him a prize or at least publish it on your blog

We went to Bufallo Wild Wings and dad decided he wanted to do the wing challenge so asked if they still did it and they said yes so then they told the manager and he got this big red light like a siren but without the noise and he put it on the table then he got a microphone and all the speakers in the cafe were saying to find the red light and watch that table because my dad was doing the wing challenge. So my dad had to finish 12 wings (with bones) that had the spiciest sauce on them in under 6 minutes. So the guy hit a buzzer and dads time started the guy was watching our table the entire time but dad finished with a 5:53.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Insecure about my Website and Blog

I almost forgot about the Insecure Writer Wednesday post this month until I saw all the posts from others showing up. This is my favorite day of the month to go bloghopping. I find these IWSG the most real and interesting posts, and I don't like to miss any of them. You can sign up here.

Lately I've been feeling unsettled about this blog and my author website layout. I can't seem to get my book covers consistent or laid out properly. I get emails about people willing to "fix" my professional website to "reflect" my author image blah blah blah, but I'm really hesitant to pay money to someone for things Blogger and Wordpress make fairly easy to do yourself.

I guess if I just spent the time at it, I could figure it out. Blogger I know needs the covers a certain size. With Wordpress, the more I work on a page, the weirder it gets, and I'm afraid to do too much or I'll mess up what I have. Clearly I don't have the skills required to make my author website look "professional."

One day I'll figure out what to do. But that day has not yet come, and meanwhile my book covers are all weird sized and out of order. If you have any advice for me, I'll be happy to listen, even if it confuses me even more.

Friday, July 31, 2015

My Favorite Inspirational Writing Book

I have certain books I go back to again and again to get inspiration when my creative impulses seem to be buried under the tedium of daily routine. One of these is If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland, published in 1938.

I downloaded it on my Kindle simply because it was free one time, and a book about writing. I really didn't expect it to be worth much, having been written 75 years ago when the world, and especially the writing and publishing world was so very different. I certainly didn't expect it to become my go-to little book when I need a kick in the pants to get back to working.

It's written in such a simple, flowy, free and easy style, it feels like you're sitting in one of her writing classes. And in between such obvious statements as "With every sentence you write, you have learned something. It has done you good. It has stretched your understanding" there are wonderful little gems like this: “The imagination needs moodling,--long, inefficient happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”

Why do we need to idle and dawdle for long hours if we want to write? Because of this: "inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness.”

It's a short book of just over 100 pages, filled with nuggets of wisdom that are so applicable to the stresses and strains we experience in our modern world, those things fighting against our creativity. I think this is why it has struck such a chord of familiarity with writers today who are joyfully rediscovering Ueland's book.

“I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten - happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.” --Brenda Ueland

What are your favorite inspirational books, writing or otherwise?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Joy in the Small Things

My daughter recently sent me a picture of the box of clothes she was getting rid of because, as she said, "wearing them no longer brings me joy."

I thought of the clothes I wear all the time that no longer bring me joy. Two pairs of pants I used to love but now have stains on the cuffs I can't get off. Shirts that don't quite fit me right or the colors are faded. A knit dress several years old that's now pilled. The list was quite long and disheartening.

These small imperfections I try to ignore because new clothes are hard to come by where I live in Guatemala, and I only go back to the States once a year. That's a long time to wait between shopping trips.

Then I began to think of other things that take up my time and energy which do not bring me joy. Not a lot, I must admit, because at my age I've learned how to bring joy into my life even with mundane tasks. But still, there are a few areas for improvement. Like the clothes.

Have you ever given up something when it no longer brought you joy?

Monday, July 13, 2015

How Much Information is Too Much?

In this age of information overload, how much online sharing is too much? As authors with books out, we understand the necessity of getting our name and work out there. People have to know about a book in order to buy it, and bookstores and libraries aren't where readers go anymore to discover new books and authors.

With millions of books out there, a physical bookstore can only hold a tiny fraction of them. Besides, what about the unknowns who have written good stuff just waiting to be discovered?

And thus we love Amazon with its unlimited shelf space, and the e-reader with its unlimited storage space.

Writers face this new frontier of book publishing with hopeful enthusiasm for the possibilities. Yet the problem of discoverability remains. With so many to choose from, how will anyone find your book?

We get on social media, figuring the more people know about us, the more we will sell. I wonder if this trend causes us to not only spread ourselves too thin but overshare in the process.

Image result for F. Scott fitzgerald photoRemember back in the far distant past when the mystique of the writer was part of the excitement of reading their stories? I used to wonder about the people who wrote my favorite books: what was their life like, how did they get their ideas, were they anything like the characters they wrote about? What kind of house did they live in? What was their favorite food? What did they look like beyond the author photo on the back?

We don't need to wonder any longer. It's all out there for the world to see. I know my life is. Read one of my books and want to know more? You'll find everything in a few clicks. This concerns me sometimes.
Not about my identity being stolen or being stalked by eager fans or having my picture taken without makeup. It's that I, who used to be such a private person hating anyone to know my business, now freely share so much of it online.

Blogging especially does this to a writer. You need a topic and there's your convenient daily life including pictures for variety. Besides, as writers, this is what we do. We write. And write. And write. We write about what we know, which is ourselves and our families and our activities, our good days and bad.

Seriously, there are times I'm tempted to delete my blog, wipe the slate clean and keep a nice, spare website with very little personal information. Do you ever feel that way?

But then reality hits. We no longer live in the day of author mystique. A writer who avoids social media might be diminishing the chance of success. So there we have it. The conflict between oversharing and the need to make oneself and one's work known on social media.

A few have found a nice balance between the two. Most have not. There's a well-known women's fiction author whose books I used to love, until I started following her Facebook fan page where she posts long, boring updates about her everyday routine. I can't get past the first sentence. Since I liked her on Facebook, I've had no desire to read any more of her books. Her Facebook oversharing has taken away my interest.

Do you think social media can hurt a writer more than help? 

How do you feel about oversharing with your own blogs or with others you've read? How much is too much? 

Think the pendulum will ever swing back toward writer mystique? I kinda wish it would, how about you?