Month: October 2021
Three Things You Might Not Expect on Your First Day of Publication
Strange Appetites is Launched!
You can purchase a paperback or kindle version on Amazon HERE today, and an audible version should be available shortly.
Startling, lyrical, and tender, Strange Appetites shines a light on loneliness in magical and mythical ways. Reality is bent but beautiful in these intricately carved stories, and the author’s varietal, passionate and subtle tone shifts fall on the ear with astonishing rightness.Red Penguin Books Editor
It has been rewarding and — yes—strange— to see my first book-length work go up for sale. I have been writing since the age of seven, 50 years! A spelling tutor was assigned to me in first grade because I had learned to read and write in Germany. There’s a story about macabre German readers circa 1969 in Strange Appetites. The tutor was trying to explain the concept of vowels, and I was totally confused. Finally, she said, “Why don’t you write a story?
The news that I could write a story was a thrilling revelation. I’d spent years listening to my mother read to us at night, and the idea that I could change the endings filled me with light. But the road to publication took me through many a labyrinth. Most of these stories were published online all over the country, and a hand bound version won the Adirondack Center for Writing’s People’s Choice Award in 2015.
Free Download of Audio Story, “The Opal Maker,” Winner
Three you might not expect on your first day of publication:
There have been several fittingly strange occurrences on the very last leg of this journey: like how Amazon autocorrects my name to LAKE, and then the book doesn’t show up. Algorithm killer right there. I haven’t been able to change that… so you have to search my last name and the title to get there.
Another amusing event was when my first search result placed my book next to a plastic yodeling pickle. Who knew such things existed. It was, again, fittingly strange. Sadly, that pickle is not in my book. Maybe next time!
With every twist of the journey, there’s something new to learn and/or buy. I’m trying to do more of the former and less of the latter. You know how everyone talks about being a bestseller? Turns out there’s a way to game the system on Amazon by picking the right categories. How which category is the most advantageous depends on who you have to beat in that category, how many sales a day that category makes, and something else… I started to space out after the seventh paragraph and the purchase icon.
The Northshire Bookstore is hosting a books signing for me on Thursday, December 9th from 5:30-6:30 and I’m planning a Book Launch Bash. Details TBA. Of course everyone I ever laid eyes on is invited.
Thank you for supporting me on this journey.
To Tiktok or to Twitter, That is the Question
Over the last few months, I’ve been exploring a variety of social media platforms to cultivate an audience for my upcoming book releases. I must have listened to the same podcasts as all the other writers (Creative Penn, The Bestseller Experiment) because there’s so much chatter out there, it’s hard to hear ourselves speak. We’ve all become slaves to whatever shifting algorithm these platforms use to determine who gets the views. So now, not only do we have to write, we have to master fifteen new apps. And often, to use an app, you have to master another one first. We have to become our own marketing mavens.
There’s a high likelihood we’ve been tricked into becoming human battery cells à la Matrix for the benefit of the social media CEOS and advertisers. Oh well.
Here’s what I’ve learned. My Tiktok following has stagnated at less than 200, and the number of likes and views seem to be inversely related to the time I spend making them. Tiktok likes humor, spectacle, self-branding, and imitation (via “dueting” and “stitching”). I know, right? I should write a glossary. Anyway, I can be humorous, but not wildly so, and being ADHD, I thrive on variety, so I’m not really suited to Tiktok. They say it’s four young people, anyway.
Also, Tiktok doesn’t foster the kind of literary audience I’m looking for with a few exceptions, like Panic_Kyle. Finally, I’m NOT going to do the literal song and dance routine required of Tiktok authors. I’ve got nothing against dancing. I just like to do it for fun, not for selling books.
In contrast, Twitter has a stronger literary community. In a few short weeks I’ve doubled my followers by seeking out like-minded authors. There’s a strong ethos in Twitter that if someone follows you, you follow them back. Replying to posts is as important to posting your own thoughts. I find my best twitter replies are instinctive– the ones I don’t think too hard about. It’s like trying to see the Northern Lights when they are visible in NY. They are so faint that if you look at the sky too hard to you don’t see them. You have to cultivate a fuzzy focus.
My Twitter follower number seems to hover at about 44% of the number of people I follow. I’ve gone from not understanding Twitter to looking forward to engaging with strangers about New Yorker articles. In fact, I almost look forward to checking my Twitter messages more than my text messages. Worrisome. Borg induction? Social dissolution? Hope not.
Nevertheless, I enjoy the video editing app on Tiktok. It provides a set of creative constraints, visual tools, and copyrighted sound clips. It has prompted to me to revise, edit, and shorten previously written works, just for the hell of it – which is a good thing.
So, last night, I took a poem from the previous post “November Bones” and, in the effort to fit it into a 60-second Tiktok with visuals and music, I “stripped it down to the bones,” a process I enjoy as much as earth does in the poem, now an “Ode to Death.” A similar thing occurred with my flash fiction, “Lilith Confesses.” I like how the app forces me to weigh each word individually. So, it might not get me views, and it might not sell any books, but it does something far more important. It stimulates curiosity and creativity. Algorithm be damned. See what you think. But don’t think too hard.
ADHD and Pandemic Effect on Writing With Me, Barbara Chepaitis, and Ray Graf on WAMC’s Vox Pop Writer’s Forum
I was delighted to be invited to be on Vox Pop with Barbara Chepaitis and Ray Graf as we talked about the creative process. Had to tell myself as I watched the clock count down to the second we were on air– it’s just a conversation with a good friend. Only one f-up– when I said the title of Anne Lamott’s essay, “Shitty First Drafts.” Ironic that we can teach that in public college, but can’t say it on public radio. Almost gave them a heart attack because of the fines they would get. Luckily, they have a delay and were able to catch it and bleep it out! Exciting.
Barbara Chepaitis is author of 12 published novels, including her most recent The Aquarius Project, about a young woman who can wish people dead. She’ll be telling ghost stories with Whispering Bones this October, and is currently working with some Lithuanian folks on her screenplay, The Amber. She teaches performance and writing at the College of St. Rose.
My novel, Blue Woman Burning, a road-trip in search of family with lashings of the supernatural, will be published this November by Red Penguin Books. My short story collection Strange Appetites won the Adirondack Center for Writing’s People’s Choice Award and will be re-released soon! Oct 26! As you know, I am a Distinguished Professor of writing at SUNY Adirondack, and recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Scholarship and Creative Activities.
Listen here, but not before you subscribe to my mailing list for a free digital copy of my collection of short stories, Strange Appetites. For more description, check out the books tab above.
Now is the time when earth cracks her skirt like a whip and sends her dress up in flames The place where she strips down to her bones and dances fiercely with the stars Where instead of bundling up against bitterness she throws down her ashen cloak and covers ground with softness as air-akin as moth. Where she turns her naked face to the outer dark seared by stars and eyes of owls with sight so keen no mouse is safe in its warmest, most secret, most carefully padded nest Where all the labor of harvest comes to naught and death flies on furred wings across winter steal to grinning, starry heights Where she pauses to sing among bare barked trees that glow brown as dove breasts, and mauve as dusk, “It has ended! It has ended!” Then she rests, mute and hard, seemingly for eternity before she has to put her shoulder back to the sun-warmed, moss covered, millstone of life.