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Monday, July 27, 2015

A Fleeting Flirtation with Fame

July 18 through 20, I did a giveaway of Unpredictable Worlds on Kindle as part of my publicity experimentation. Apparently, because I haven't set up a newsletter (yet), the best I could hope for with this is a few downloads, fewer reads, and vastly fewer new reviews.

During the free days, Unpredictable Worlds hovered around 113 in the Short Stories category most of the time. The number felt meant to be, containing as it does my husband's and my most romantic number, and I was happy with it, but if pressed, I would admit that I'd hoped to make it into the top 100 in at least one category.

After I made a Facebook plea (though I can't be sure that caused it), Unpredictable Worlds attained its highest rank on Monday at 9:44 pm: #67 in Short Stories!

And not only that, but I also happened to look at the section of the page that indicates "Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed," and I couldn't be more pleased with the results. I'm beyond honored to have the slightest association with these fine books!

Although this giveaway didn't bring me much closer to literary stardom, I'm happy it resulted in a few more readers gaining awareness of Unpredictable Worlds. I hope they enjoy it!

Any other giveaways will be with different books, rest assured. They will be less last-minute and will involve a newsletter of some kind, because that's what the gurus are now preaching.

The big takeaway here is: thank you for your support from the bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Map of Chaos by Félix J. Palma

I made a vague New Year's resolution to "read more." I thought that might look like reading ten novels over the course of the year. Either I underestimated myself, or that gift card I got at work really did help, because I've already exceeded that goal. The last book I was able to buy with the gift card was The Map of Chaos by Félix J. Palma.

This is the book I've been waiting for since I finished The Map of the Sky in 2012. When I saw that it would be available in July this year, I preordered the ebook without consideration for when it would arrive or how much it would cost. The years of yearning!

It all paid off. The Map of Chaos wraps up all the adventures from the first two books in the biggest way imaginable—by describing all the possible universes. How does all that fit into a single book? In the best way. For much of the book, it seems this final chapter will be quieter than world-destroying Martian invasion of The Map of the Sky. And then all the possible universes collide! The reader gets to feel the flash of recognition not only of characters from the previous books, but also of other personages from history. It would be difficult and pointless not to take pleasure in the overarching concept of this novel, which provides a unified theory to explain apparent time travel, ghostly visitations, and authorial inspiration.

Sound complex? It is, and I was often frustrated I hadn't purchased the print version because I wanted to page through what I'd already read in order to update my theory of what was really going on as I got more clues. But in the end, that's part of the fun, and I needn't have worried, anyway, as each element of the universe Palma has created gets its own capsule summary at the last possible important moment.

I mentioned in my review of The Map of the Sky that the characters weren't exactly prime examples of development (but that it didn't matter in the midst of so much action). As the reader witnesses the multiverse unfolding, the more meditative pace of some sections of this book allows for subtleties of character even between the different universes' "twins." Finally, The Map of Chaos is the crowning glory of an exploration of the meaning of love—true, complicated, ugly, and beautiful. Read the trilogy for the romance taken it to its furthest extreme if for no other reason. Above all, it is an ode to imagination and possibility.

The only question remaining is, when will they make the series based on this trilogy? Viewers love complicated plots and alternate history of the Victorian Age. It seems right that the BBC should produce the series, since the stories are so focused on London (in every possible universe). I'm ready, whenever they want to start. I've noticed that Eleanor & Park and Mermaids in Paradise are slated for movie versions. I'm sure it's because of my reviews ;) so let this serve as a stronger hint.

In short, there is no other trilogy like this one, which began with The Map of Time. The best books of the decade, and maybe of all possible decades.

Novels I've Read in 2015: 
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Along the Far Shores by Kristin Gleeson

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

A Kiss at Kihali by Ruth Harris

Mermaids in Paradise  by Lydia Millet

Raven Brought the Light by Kristin Gleeson

The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Most Popular Book on Pluto—FREE Here on Earth!

Even from 476,00 miles above the surface, scientists have been able to learn fascinating facts about Pluto. Foremost among these is that the best selling book there is none other than Unpredictable Worlds—Plutonians like their fiction unusual. They love to read about Earth's warmth, its liquid water, and its rhinos. On their icy dwarf planet, this short story collection costs eight million plutons, which is the equivalent of a median year's salary there!

Here's the big news for us Terrans:

Unpredictable Worlds, a five-star-rated fresh release, normally $3.99 on Kindle, is now FREE this weekend! Saturday, July 18 through Monday, July 20, this collection with award-winning stories can be yours at no charge

A teacher controls her students with an edible microchip. A reporter turns into a rhinoceros. A couple’s efforts to eat local go frighteningly awry. If you’re looking to be surprised, puzzled, or just plain entertained, pick up this omnibus. There’s something for everyone! 

More than twenty years in the making, Unpredictable Worlds contains all of Jessica Knauss’s published and prize-winning short fiction as of March 2015 and a few of her best stories never before seen in print or ebook. Zany plots and outrageous characters will stretch your belief and tug at your heart. 

Reviewers have called Unpredictable Worlds “funny, touching, thought-provoking, anger-inducing, and faith-affirming.” You can’t regret spending $0 on this unique journey through worlds and words. 

Easy links to the sale, July 18 through July 20:
US | UK | Canada
Let those Plutonians know you have good taste, too, and download Unpredictable Worlds and tell other Earthlings about it. More news about this interplanetary success soon!

Monday, July 13, 2015

"To sell a lot of books, you have to give up on what you believe in."

In order to sell any books, do I have to sell my soul?
I've always been a dedicated writer. I mean always. Just ask my grade school teachers. But I've never sold a lot of books. My freelance editing business is picking up, so paying rent doesn't seem as daunting as it once did, but that glowing orb of idealism hangs around in the background, reminding me that what I'd really like is to get money for my writing.

It's such a cliché! "Every editor is a failed author." But I don't consider myself to have failed. I am, after all, an author, and people who read my work don't tell me to stop (as if I could). It's only the selling where I've fallen grievously short. One of my writing goals this month has been to dedicate serious consideration to what I could do to increase the likelihood that readers will discover my books and then proceed to buy them.

Sound hard? It's harder than you think! I'll just mention in passing, because so many others have said it already, that as soon as one method of book publicity works, every other author tries it and it becomes less and less effective. Normally, I'm not even aware of a particular method until it's run its course. So all you have to do is come up with your own totally new idea.

I've known this for a year or two, but totally new ideas don't just lie around waiting for anyone to pick them up and make millions with them. My husband knows this particular dilemma. When I told him I was hoping to come up with a doable game plan by the end of July, he responded with the title of this post.

"To sell a lot of books, you have to give up on what you believe in."
My husband, like me, is an irrepressible optimist, so the pronouncement was unexpected. He's come to this conclusion after years of watching two things: my anonymity, and a certain famous author doing TV ads and getting richer by the day without doing all his own writing.

I've never read any of that author's work, and he gives away significant chunks of his cash to literacy causes, so I've refrained from judging him in spite of how annoying those ads are. This author also has recently had a TV series made of one of his books, which does nothing to mend the antagonistic relationship humans have with other animals. From these unresearched pieces of evidence and his massive book sales, I gather that this author's writing appeals to the reading masses. Rather than challenging perceptions or cultural norms, this writing plays right into them.

It's only when thinking about commercial writing that I realize my own ideals for the author's profession. My method is to write about what I think is important or fascinating. There is no greater feeling in the world than having someone read my work, "get" it, and enjoy it! So it's not that I'm trying to alienate my potential readers. I'm looking for readers who want a challenge.

I'm a reader who seeks to experience other points of view and other worlds, which may not mesh with her own understanding, and I hope there are many other readers like me "out there." I was told at a young age that writing from my own inspiration would mean someone else would sympathize. It was good advice, but I may have taken it too literally.

Because, so far, there don't seem to be a whole lot of paying customers interested in what I have to say. Returning to the title of this post, my husband thinks the only way to sell a lot of books is to think about what people already believe and write something that confirms that belief—put my own beliefs and/or questions on a shelf and forget about challenging readers, because that's not profitable.

It's cynical, but it has a ring of truth for me. What do you think?

I'm hoping against hope that all of this is moot, that once you have some good writing, it's all about getting noticed. I mean, Suzanne Collins had something she really wanted to say, and it... well, it caught fire! This month, I'll still be working on publicity I can accomplish with my budget and personality. Fingers crossed!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet

If I had known that each of these stories takes a different point of view on human relationships with animals, I would've picked up Love in Infant Monkeys sooner. Shocking and sensitive all at once, Lydia Millet delivers in a concentrated short story format all the impact of her novels. Each story is a memorable mixture of fact and fiction and each gives the reader something new to think about, some aspect of the way humans act in the world and how our behavior affects the other residents of this planet.

I was appalled to learn that the title story was inspired by a real-life study and intrigued by the possibilities of Edison's obsession with his film of an elephant execution (which is now digitized for anyone to view). A story about a Komodo dragon who attacked Sharon Stone's husband becomes a meditation on the meaning of celebrity and the relative value of life.

My favorite story is "Girl and Giraffe." Here Millet presents a realistic version of the humans who worked with the lions in Born Free and what they think and feel about the animals they work with, and then proceeds to bear witness to some lion behavior that no human can understand. For me, the behavior isn't below human experience, but transcends human comprehension.

Love in Infant Monkeys is not for faint-hearted readers, surely, but is an exquisite book. But everyone else knew that already!

Novels I've Read in 2015: 
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Along the Far Shores by Kristin Gleeson

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

A Kiss at Kihali by Ruth Harris

Mermaids in Paradise  by Lydia Millet

Raven Brought the Light by Kristin Gleeson

The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan