When “Free” Isn’t, And What You Can Do About It

His “book launch team” was going to make a big splash.  In return for reading and reviewing his new title, Mr. Book Launch offered some freebies and insider goodies – if you made the cut.

That’s right.  His invitation to “join the team” required an application.  He wanted social media stats, Facebook numbers, promo ideas.  And his invitation was exclusive to “big fish.”

Another blogmeister advertised a *free* webinar on how to generate a ton of traffic to your blog.  He included one of seven tips.  To get the rest, you had to sign up for his other seminar – for $497.  The balance of his *free* presentation was a sales pitch for the not-so-free “real deal.”

Are You a Would-Be Whale?

Commenting on the above, someone said, “The writing biz is hard enough without locking people out, tangling them up in nets.  How does one writer say ‘no’ to another writer who’s willing to help?  What kind of ‘teamwork’ is that?”  Someone else asked, “What’s with, ‘sorry, you’re not a big enough fish.  This offer limited to whales only’?”  Another wondered, “What about writers who don’t have $497 to spend on more razzle-dazzle – they’re just outta luck?”

No one likes being turned down, not even for an unpaid gig.  No one likes having doors close because they can’t afford the price of admission. I’m willing to bet that at least some of the people Mr. Big Shot and Mr. Not-So-Free turned away weren’t only willing to do promotional work gratis, they may also have been writers who wanted to learn and who could use reciprocal exposure the most.

How many would-be whales were left flapping their flukes?  How ’bout you?

Let’s Start an Avalanche!

That’s why I’m launching Avalanche.  Think rush.  Flood.  Landslide.  Writers helping writers.

No application required.  I won’t even ask how many followers you have.  Really.

Sound good?  If you’re looking to gain exposure for your work and build your audience, simply respond with, “I’m in.”

Or check out: Avalanche!

Getting It Write by Doing it Wrong

I did it all wrong.

When I started cranking out newsletters – shortly after the earth’s crust cooled – I wanted to Get It Right.  So I studied every template, tip and technique available.  Scoured the internet and library for pointers and how-tos.  Wrote and rewrote headlines, by lines, subject lines and clotheslines.  Chased every cool idea and creative lead I could.  Producing a quality newsletter is serious stuff.  I wanted to Get It Right.

The result?

A newsletter that was as flat as an open can of soda left out for a week.

Something Missing

The “experts” (who are these people?) may have answers related to style, format and even basic content.  But something was missing: Me.

I was trying so hard to Get It Right, I was churning out someone else’s idea of a great newsletter. Not mine.  The result was a product that tasted like yesterday’s oatmeal.

Continue reading

Anyone Have a Spare Tylenol?

Flickr/CC

If you’ve been writing for any length of time – 20 minutes or so – you’ve seen ’em. Maybe you’ve accumulated a whole stack of ’em.  What do I mean?  Well, the Dreaded, “Your submission does not meet our editorial needs at this time….” Rejection Letter.

Ouch.

These letters are the “Dear John” writer equivalent of taking one on the chin.  Is there anything worse for a writer?

Answer: Yes.  Let me explain.

Continue reading

Are Your Veins Open?

Public domain

One of my all-time favorite writing quotes is by sportswriter Walter “Red” Smith:

There’s nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.  

If you’re a writer, you know what I mean. If not, well. Hang on a min. It goes like, “I sometimes think that if my veins were cut, they would bleed Mount Rainier snow melt.”

12 Top Trails at Mount RainierThat’s because my latest, 12 Top Trails at Mount Rainier, combines two long-time faves: hiking and Mount Rainier National Park.

From the Author’s Note:

Asking a Rainieraholic like me which Mount Rainier trail is her “favorite” is like asking a mom which kid she likes best. So selecting the “top 12” trails at one of the world’s most majestic mountain sites isn’t quite like falling off a Douglas fir, if you know what I mean. But as my dear hubby, Old Iron Knees, says: You were born to write this book.

Why does he say that? Well, either he hasn’t yet had his morning caffeine fix, or he knows I’ve been hiking Mount Rainier National Park since 1964. I have a pretty good view of the Mountain’s trails from my perch here in the nosebleed section of the “50+ yard line.”

I wouldn’t trade it for all the snow in Paradise.

So this little tome is my version of Top 12 Trails at Mount Rainier National Park (MRNP). Kindly note that it is my version of top trails at Mount Rainier. Not yours. Meaning, this list is highly subjective. If you don’t mind, neither do I. Also note that these are day hikes. Not week or month-long adventures or multi-night backpacking excursions. Savvy? …

And just so we understand each other: This isn’t another Mount Rainier trail guide. If you’re looking for mileage, elevation gain, landmarks or where to park, etc., some of that’s included. But 12 Top Trails is more like a trail guide/personal narrative/carpe diem/how in the world can you miss any of these, because your life’s not complete till you do kind of tome. Don’t forget to pack your sense of humor. Just sayin.’

Includes trails in Longmire/Reflection Lakes area, Paradise, Sunrise, and Chinook Pass. Part trail guide, part memoir, part humor. All heart. Or in this case, Mount Rainier snow melt.

Happy trails!

 

 

What I’m Reading – And You?

Wikimedia Commons

Ever notice how “summer” and “reading” seem to go hand-in-hand? Kinda like “whine and cheese.” “Peanut butter and jelly.” “Presidential debates and you’re kidding, right?”

Like most writers, I’m also a voracious reader.  Here’s what’s on my plate at present:

You may already know that Richard Paul Evans is a long-time favorite. I snap up everything this guy cranks out. Usually within a nano-second of publication. He’s that good. I’m reading through his Michael Vey series right now. Just polished off Book 4, Hunt for Jade Dragon. Fresh and engaging with a dose of gentle humor, this series is just plain fun. Highly recommended if you have a kiddo who’s a “reluctant reader.”

Dogsong – You can almost taste the snow and feel the cold in this terrific outdoor story by Gary Paulsen.  Being a dog lover helps.

Renegade – The Silver Blackthorn Trilogy Kerry Wilkinson’s novel about 11 teenage “Offerings” on the lam from King Victor and the Kingsmen is vaguely reminiscent of The Hunger Games. But there are enough intrigues and surprises to keep you turning pages. Fast. Set in a dystopian kingdom where just about everyone is a fief, a vassal, or enslaved to a sadistic, mad monarch. Bonus points: the author is British. The text is marinated with enough British-isms like “lift” (elevator) and “bonnet” (think car) to keep your average Yank guessing. Lots of fun!

Lie in Plain Sight  Maggie Barbieri’s multi-faceted “who dunnit?” *starring* baker and amateur sleuth Maeve Conlon. I don’t typically gravitate toward “who dunnits.” But this one is fun. Realistic dialogue and three-dimensional characters, with lots of unexpected twists and turns.

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Word or Less. I grabbed this one off a library shelf on a lark. It was one of those “swoop in, swoop out” expeditions. This remarkable true-life story by Terry Ryan doesn’t disappoint. Sensitive, crisp and briskly paced, this memoir is as “catchy” as the author’s mother’s “25 words or less” contest entries that keep the family afloat during the 1950s.  There’s plenty of subtle humor and rapier wit in this lively read. I loved it!

The book was made into a 2005 movie with Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore and Laura Dern.

Any favorite titles or authors to recommend?  Chime in!

REAL DADS: Not Just One Sunday in June

Dad Naas Scan 2

It’s Father’s Day. Time for a card or two, a new tie, maybe breakfast in bed or a nice dinner out.  But have you noticed? There’s something off-kilter about a culture that spends 364 days a year  belittling dear old dad, then turns around to “honor” him on one Sunday in June.

Sadly, we live in a time and place where dads are often viewed or portrayed as: 1) Bumbling oafs who can’t tie their shoes without written instructions; 2) Insensitive clods and boorish louts or; 3) Invisible and irrelevant. Like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without peanut butter. Or jelly. Or bread.

What Does It Mean?

There’s a fair amount of confusion about what constitutes a “real dad.”  Some equate dadness with volume, brute force, or beer bellies. They think the dude who sires a string of children and then disappears without a trace makes the yahoo a “father.” Or “dad” is the lunkhead who throws his weight around because there’s plenty of it. There’s a word for these kinds of guys. And it’s not “dad.” (Since this is a G-rated blog, you’ll have to fill in the blanks yourself.)

Real Dads

Real Dads can be hard to find these days. There are plenty of fakes. Just turn on the TV. But the Real Deal is still  around.  And often unsung.

A Real Dad is decent, hard-working, and upstanding. A Real Dad takes his family, job, and responsibilities seriously.  He gets outside himself to benefit others.   A Real Dad puts his family first.  Even when it’s “inconvenient.” Sometimes especially when it’s inconvenient.

Faucets, Flicks and Foregoing

Real Dads fix leaky faucets. Hang pictures or wall paper (without killing anyone). Walk on the outside of the sidewalk, nearest the street. Endure chick flicks without complaint.  A Real Dad may toil long hours in a thankless job to keep a roof over his family’s heads and put food on the table. Forego Monday Night Football to cheer a child’s Little League game. Put up a tent in the rain. Do dishes. Clean up dog barf. Teach junior how to slide into second without breaking anything, or stay home with the kids so Mom can have lunch out with the ladies.

Go Get Them

Real Dads take 1:00 a.m. phone calls in the middle of a sleep-over – come get me Daddy, I’m scared – and break every land-speed record on the books in the process.  They attend daughter’s tea parties, scrunch their knees into their chins in those made-for-kindergartener chairs. Down gallons of pretend tea and wear those funny little party hats like they’re dining with royalty. Because they know they are.

Real Dads may not always know how to express themselves. They may have a hard time finding the words to tell the wife and kids how much they mean to him.  So they do instead of say, speaking the language of self-sacrifice, service and grace.

Real Dads:

  • Stand for the National Anthem. They remove their hats, hold ’em over their heart and sing about rockets’ red glare, bombs bursting in air as their eyes mist.
  • Don coat and tie and conduct somber graveside services for dead gold fish and neon tetras.
  • Burn Christmas Eve and the wee hours of December 25 assembling brand new purple Schwinns.
  • Open those stupid pickle jar lids.
  • Spend an entire afternoon traipsing from store to store in the mall with the wife or kids, pretending they’re having a great time.
  • Say Yes when they can and No when they should.
  • Have arms that embrace, shield and protect. Their shoulders are big enough to ride, cry on, and hide behind.
  • Pray. And teach their kids to pray.
  • Are never quite thanked enough.

Real Dads cement a protective wall around the fam as no one else can. Real Dads stand on that wall, often alone, and patrol. Real Dads put any lurking menace or stalking evil on notice with, “Not on my watch. You’ll have to come through me first, and I’m here for keeps.”

With Dad at Neff How do I know? Because my dad was a Real Dad.  And not just on one Sunday in June.

***

This post was previously published on June 16, 2013.