Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Amazon Connect - Another Blog-ish Thingy

A few weeks ago I got an email from my publisher's office manager. She was kind of excited about this new program Amazon was offering called Amazon Connect. Here's part of her mail:

Amazon.com is launching Amazon Connect, an exciting new program created specifically for authors. This program will give you direct access to your readers by providing online tools to post messages to their Amazon.com home page. You will be able to create unique messages (from your own pc), similar to a blog, and post them to all readers who have purchased your books on Amazon.com. These messages will also appear on your book detail pages and your new profile page. The profile page, as part of this program, is a customizable “site within a site” including your bio, complete bibliography and any other pertinent information you would like to share with your readers.

Amazon Connect will be a great way to increase your exposure on Amazon.com and provide an innovative tool to directly reach your readers. We hope you’ll find this a tremendously efficient and useful way to develop more frequent communication with your readers, promote new projects and develop stronger reader loyalty. Please see the attached fact sheet and sample Author Profile Page for more information on the program.

I checked it out and decided it sounded kind of nifty so I made my initial post which can be seen about midway down the page listing my book.

I honestly have no clue whether it will help book sales at all. Not sure about the interactivity with the folks who bought it will go either. I suppose when the program officially launches next month I'll get a clearer idea.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Maturity and goofing off

Growing up is doing the things you don't want to do, when you don't want to do them. Most of us walk that path at some point in our lives. Many, maybe most, walk it throughout their working life.

Some poor souls hate their jobs, their home life and points in between. But they keep the same job and return to the same home day after day, year after year. I feel badly for them. We all need to grow up - to accept and shoulder responsibilities. But if you don't like what you do; you inevitably don't like who you've become.

We need to play. There's a reason schools have recess. If we don't, we start doing stuff like drinking too much to "unwind." Or having to take Valium or Prozac or somesuch to get through the day. Or even dunking someone's pigtails in the inkwells. (I just heard a collective "Huh?" from everyone born after 1956. Crap - that's most of the world now.)

Playing is healthier. Either real physical play like sports/exercise or just being a goof now and again. Both are good for you.

The above is my explanation for why I've been goofing off and not writing much and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Sartorial Splendour

That's not a description many would use when describing how I dress. I'm a jeans and t-shirt guy who adds a sweater or sweatshirt in winter. When it comes to sweaters and shirts, I'm fond of colourful jobbies. Colourful, but tasteful.

A year or so ago, I sent a few online friends a picture of me in my favourite sweater. To my dismay, their reaction was horrified amusement. Across the board. Much mockery ensued. To the extent that a contest was started, asking people to buy, and send to me, the "ugliest" sweaters they could find. There was a $5 limit which restricted folks somewhat from the more upscale shops.

Anyway, I was reading Dawno's blog, her December 10th entry, and she showed a couple of pics of very spiffy Christmas sweaters. I wanted them. Not the pics, the sweaters. Unfortunately, they weren't my size (XL) otherwise I'm sure Dawno would have happily turned them over to me. I told her if I could figure out how, (thanks Mac) I'd post a couple of pics of my sweaters here.

Here's the one that started the whole mocking thing.

Hard to figger ain't it? Sure it's colourful, but in a refined, non-senses-assaulting sort of a way.

Here's the first entrant in the Find Frank An Ugly Sweater Challenge.

I liked this one just fine, despite its colour-impairedness. It's just a wee bit bland.

I much prefer this later, and thus far, winning entry.

Now this is a sweater! With pretty much every colour in the visible spectrum (and quite possibly a couple which aren't) represented, it doesn't matter what colour of pants I grab that day. This one, like my original fave, goes with anything.

I'm honestly perplexed that most of my friends consider these sweaters to be ugly. I guess there's just no accounting for taste.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Right now, I'm "it."

I've been tagged. Amy blindsided me, courtesy of Mac (whom I once considered a friend).

That was a joke! I was winking there. But I've decided my blog is a smiley-free zone.

Anyway, I'm supposed to write "15 personal facts or preferences about books."

So I will.

1 - I devoured books as a child. I often read late into the night, hunched against the bedroom window, holding my book out to catch as much of the light as I could gather from the streetlight outside.

2- I loved reading about Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. That lead to an interest in books about mythology. By 10 or 11, I'd read everything the childrens' library had on Native American, Roman, Greek and Norse myths and legends. I was given a special pass to the adult library and was allowed to take out more books from there. Heaven!

3 - I was a teen/young adult in the 60s/70s. Sex, drugs and rock n' roll was happening. Mind expansion was as common a topic as the weather. I read William Burroughs, Carlos Castaneda, Hunter Thompson, Ken Kesey, Jerzy Kosinski, Samuel Delany, Philip Dick and Hermann Hesse. My mind expanded.

4 - Reading J. P. Donleavy's books crystallized my desire to be a writer. He made me laugh and think. I wanted to do that to/for others.

5 - Like many (I suspect), I went through phases when it came to genres. In a couple of years, I read hundreds of mysteries (Rex Stout was a terrific writer). Then I'd switch to horror for a year or so and devour a bunch of those. (Btw, I gave up on Stephen King about a third of the way through Pet Semetary - Mac, we need to talk.) SF & Fantasy were recurring constants. The latter makes up 90% of the books I read these days.

6 - Mordecai Richler is my favourite Canadian writer. He was witty, amusing and acerbic.

7 - Speaking of Canuck writers, for much of my life I boycotted them. I was afraid they'd be too good and I'd be too intimidated to continue writing.

8 - I'm much less patient as a reader now. I used to grind my way through a so-so book like I was running a marathon. It was important that I just finish-for-gawd's-sake. No more. I've tossed books against the wall at page 2 and page 500. Life's too short.

9 - I'm much happier talking about others' books than I am my own.

10 - I've never read a book about writing, or how to write. I just didn't think a book could tell me that. I knew how to write. What I needed to learn was how to sell it. And I found that info in Writer's Market, on online writing sites and message boards (esp. the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler) and through trial and error.

11 - The hardest part about writing a book is the rewriting after it's been sold. Suddenly, the baby that's been solely yours for years has to be shared. And strangers are advising you to give her a nose job when you think hers is just fine as it is. "Fine" they say, "but those thighs need liposection - no ifs ands or buts." Virtually every day for several weeks can be a battle of wills. You need to balance their expertise with your own gut feelings. To those waiting to sell their first manuscript and are dealing with rejection after rejection, this might sound like a problem you'd love to have.

That's true. I intend to have it again.

And when I do, I'll hate it.

12 - I mentioned earlier that I mostly confine my reading to fantasy. I'm sure I'm missing out on lots of wonderful books. But there's only so many hours in a day/lifetime and my to-be-read stack never really seems to diminish.

13 - Recently read and recommended: Dan Simmons' Ilium, Robin Hobb's Fool's Fate and Victoria Strauss' The Burning Land.

14 - Currently reading (and enjoying thus far): Neil Gaiman's American Gods.

15 -
When my book was finally, finally done - I was sick of it. I'd been living with it every day for years. I'd be happy if I never saw it again.

So of course the first thing I did when my author's copies arrived (after woo-hooing) was sit down and read it cover-to-cover.

It was goooooood.

Okay Lady of Prose. You're it.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

There's this song

I've been hearing on the radio a lot lately. It's one of those ones that initally didn't register on my Like-O-Meter but subsequent listenings have charted it. It's now #2 with a bullet. (#1 is still The Killers' All These Things That I Have Done.)

It's by James Blunt and is called You're Beautiful. You've probably heard it. He's got kind of a strange voice, high and fragile. I'm not normally one for listening to guys with high and fragile voices. Give me Van Morrison, Ray Charles or Bob Seger most days. (I love Roy Orbison too and his voice was high I suppose, but definitely un-fragile.)

But in this song, Blunt's voice fits the bill perfectly. It's about a guy who's haunted by a girl he's seen. Just seen. They haven't shared anything beyond a moment of exchanged glances, yet his life has been altered forever. The wistfulness in his voice woke echoes and I finally figured out why I like it so much.

I remember on the flight home from Europe too many years ago, I was smitten by a girl sitting across and a couple of rows ahead of me. She wore one of those small kerchief things on top of her head like so many girls did back in the late 60s and early 70s. She was beautiful. My heart started pounding the minute I saw her. This flight was headed to New York City and I was to take a connecting flight to Toronto within an hour of landing. I was certain this girl was staying in New York.

I spent most of the flight in agony. I tried to distract myself by reading. I redoubled my usual efforts at keeping a heavier-than-air craft aloft through sheer will power. It was no use. I couldn't get my mind off the girl and we'd be landing in a half-hour or so.

I borrowed a piece of paper and pen from someone and scribbled a note. I forget the exact words but I told her she was beautiful and I loved her. I then beckoned the stewardess (they were still called that in 1971), explained that I was in love and pointed out the object of my ardour. I asked if she would please give her the note and tell her it was from me.

She did and the girl turned around, locked eyes with me and smiled.

Now the perfect ending would be that we got married, had kids and lived happily ever after. And if that's the ending you'd prefer, you can stop reading now.

But here's what really happened.

I walked over to her seat and started babbling. She babbled back. She did indeed live in NYC and was returning home after several months working in a kibbutz in Israel. She laughed when I told her I loved her. But she blushed too and I took that as a good sign. We exchanged addresses and I even got a hug when the plane landed and we parted.

We wrote each other a couple of times but life got in the way and I never saw her again.

But she was beautiful. And I guess I've never forgotten her.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Because I can.

That's the answer to the question I just asked myself: Why do you want to post another blog entry so soon after the last one?

It got me thinking about other questions every writer asks him or herself eventually: Why the heck am I doing this? Why is it so important that I tell stories? Why do I want others to read and like them? What makes me think people should pay to read and (hopefully) like them?

I've seen these and other similar questions asked and answered dozens of times on writing boards. But I don't think I've seen anyone use the "e" word as part of their answer.

Ego. I think some of us are needy in that area.

We all need affirmation - to be seen, heard, recognized. As children we needed our parents to acknowledge us. As teens, we needed our peers to do so. As adults, it should be enough that our boss, co-workers, friends and family know us and like us.

But not writers.


We want total strangers to be gobsmacked by our talents and affirm the heck out of us by buying our work or at least becoming fans. Both would be way better.

Most of us won't admit it though. We'll murmur appropriately-modest stuff about writing for ourselves. Maybe about exorcising our demons or performing intellectual calisthenics.

I'll believe this of those whose work never sees the inside of an envelope (or an email) addressed to a publisher. I'll buy it from those who wouldn't dream of blogging in front of the whole, wide world.

But the rest of us -- the ones who know all about SASEs and have to take pains not to end letters to family and friends with "Thank you for your time and consideration" -- if we look into our hearts we'd see the truth.

We have much in common with our 3-year-old selves - tugging on Mom's skirt, saying "Look! Look!" - and needing to hear "I see you."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Cleverly, I reduced expectations via my blog's title.

I'm a sucker for remainder bins. I know many of the books mouldering there aren't very good. Maybe even dreck. I don't care. They're affordable dreck - hardcovers even! Besides, every now and then there's a gem buried there. When I find one, I feel like a kid again, finding a quarter that fell out of somebody's pocket under the swings.

I subtitled my emailed humour column "The Random Musings of Frank Baron." A bit trite maybe - but apt. I rarely have a clue what that week's topic is going to be until I confront the Great White Monitor a day or two before it's to go out. Although I've been earning money from writing off and on for 30 years, I give that column away. (Once I figure out some of the technical stuff around here, I'll post a link, or give the address where you can sign up.)

Anyway, occasionally I have leftover musings. Maybe it's stuff about writing and I don't want to bore most of my readers (who aren't writers). Or maybe it's sports, or politics, or fishing or (gasp!) sex.

Well, maybe not sex. We'll see.

I have a "real" website at www.frankbaron.com but I'm a techno-dweeb and can't update it myself. I don't want to always rely on the good auspices of my friend AbbyTheWebsiteMaven to do it for me either.

So here we are. My first solo blog entry. I'll try to scatter the occasional gem amidst the dross.

I welcome any and all visitors and appreciate and will carefully peruse all highly-laudatory comments.

I'll delete the ones I hate.