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New Directions

For several months I have been reading various books and writing reviews to post on Amazon and Goodreads. Reading and writing are favorite activities, and this has helped fuel both passions. I’m surprised how quickly I’ve read a half dozen books and submitted lengthy reviews for each. I used to rarely do online evaluations but now as a published author I’ve made it one of my projects. I pick a book I believe I can write a noteworthy review for, either pro or con.

Reading with the intention of doing a review is putting me more in touch with the three sides of a book: writer, printed material, and reader. I’m trying to expand my awareness as a writer. But there may be another reason. Maybe I’m putting off writing my next book. I’ve never had a problem with writer’s block but thoughts of starting that first page suddenly seem daunting. Reading a spate of books and doing reviews on them may be a diversion.

Currently I’m working with the publisher to get my novel in print, but there are times when I’m idle, when the editor is going over my latest corrections, periods I could be working on the next book. A writer usually makes their best effort with their first work, leaving them a greater challenge on the second attempt. Of course, you want to make the next book as good as the first, if not better. But how do you do that if you’ve already used your best ideas.

For now, I’m not putting a lot of thought into the next novel but I’m dividing my time among other things including the books I’m reading to review. But the last one done (“Shadow’s Reel” by C.J. Box: I gave it three stars) may be the end of it. I’m having to get ready for something on the calendar.

I’m preparing to be “guest speaker” at a fraternal historical group in Delaware and Maryland for their monthly meetings. The topic is my first book “War in the Mountains”. I only began doing talks in January, giving my first at a local group where I’ve been a member for twenty-eight years. These are great opportunities, to promote myself as a writer, sell books, and encourage interest in history.

Since the local group had known me only as a regular attendee at meetings, the speech I gave was more about how I became an author, doing research, writing the book, and getting published. But for the groups on the east coast where I’m heading, the talk will be more of what the book is about which should be more interesting and entertaining. I’m trying to get better as a promoter. Although I will continue going to events like Military History Shows and Gun Shows, these have had limited success, often just breaking even. Looking forward, I feel speaking engagements will generate more interest and lead to greater book sales although that is not my main purpose.

My goal for “War in the Mountains” was to remember the sacrifice of the soldiers. As a writer, my principal goal is to grow readership and one strategy was taking part in a book “Giveaway” on Goodreads.com, the largest forum for readers in the world. The program is intended to generate interest and conversation among those who participate in a lottery for the chance of receiving a free book and the ones winning are expected to write a review. Last year I contributed seventy-five books in the effort, incurring significant shipping costs.

The result was not what I expected. It has been nearly a year since the books were shipped but I have gotten only about five reviews. One was quite laudatory, an opinion that would please any author. But another was quite scathing, giving my work the lowest possible rating. No writer likes such an evaluation, but I accepted it, trying to see a positive, writing about the experience in my blog.

Although disappointed, I believe the “Giveaway” was worthwhile, keeping with my aim of garnering more readers. While monetary reward was not the principal goal for my first book, it is more importance with my second. Indeed, I switched from history to fiction in my latest writing effort to see if I might have better sales.

I think of myself as an artist, painting what I see with words. Preparing for the talks I am soon to give; I am thumbing through my first book. Reading, I find delight in what I wrote, knowing I have succeeded and believing there are many people in the world who would feel the same.

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