Friday, March 30, 2018

Free is a good price

Storytellers are a strange bunch, who tend to be deeply invested in the stories they tell. They have, after all, spent months, even years, imagining and bringing to life the people, places, and events that inhabit their stories. Why wouldn’t they want the resulting book to be read and appreciated by as many people as possible?

Yet in today's brave new world of ‘Print on Demand’ publishing, where splashy promotional budgets are not part of the landscape, how will prospective readers ever know about self-published books they might find worth reading? 

The range of today’s ‘indie’ fiction is astounding, ranging from whodunits, young love, time-travel, zombies and vampires, or in the absolute extreme---October seniors stumbling toward relational success. As for the quality of self-published fiction, it ranges from ‘downright ugly’ to ‘better than you expected.’ The only way to know for sure is to check it out.

I will admit there was a time, as a youthful seventy-year old, when I was a too timid to stand up for my October Years stories. But I have moved past that. More to the point, I am proud of what they represent---tales of real people meeting late-life challenges head on. 

And---like many of my ‘indie’ peers---I have turned to Amazon’s Free Kindle Ebook promotions to gain additional exposure for my stories. With that in mind I have arranged for the Kindle version of yet another book to be available Free of charge on Amazon for the next five days. (March 30th thru April 3rd.) 

You see, I’m guessing that you were once a teenage, a high schooler, stumbling through the ebb and flow of adolescence. I'll bet most of you can remember those days? Those heady, and sometimes confusing, times provide the background for Second Chances - making the most of their 50th reunion. How would you deal with an October return to that earlier time? If you gathered fifty years later would you remember the names and faces that were perhaps special to you in those teenage times? Have your memories lasted that long?

        That might have the sound of a feel-good adventure, renewing your interest in the girl or boy who had won your teenage attention so long ago. Sounds like a story with the makings of happily-ever-after, doesn't it? Even when told from a male perspective.

But in the real world it might not be that easy, not fifty years after the fact. Adolescent infatuations can be complicated, even in October. As it was in those earlier times there may be rivals to contend with, possibly dangerous rivals. And from the beginning there can be doubts to overcome. With all that in mind would the following tease, from the book’s Amazon page, have you wanting to learn more?

Could there be Second Chances at their age?
It was their fiftieth high-school reunion. Widowed brothers Clint and Gary Harris
were expecting a quiet evening spent among one-time classmates they scarcely 
remembered. They were certainly not thinking of relational possibilities. Still,
sometimes those things just  seem to happen.

And the ladies? Were they buying into that?
What about Elly and Claudia, each of them attending their first ever high-school
reunion, each nursing her own history of relational failure----Elly’s bitter divorce and 
Claudia’s cruel betrayal. Small wonder neither of them had a Second Chance in mind. 
As in their long-ago high-school days, it would take a determined and persuasive suitor 
to win their interest.

There was bound to be mischief and mayhem along the way.
The Harris brothers might have been showing their age, but there was no doubting
their determined pursuit of a last Second Chance. Whether it was Clint’s
intimidating excursion into Elly’s country-club world, or Gary’s tense standoff with
Claudia’s son, intent on saving his mother from another heartbreak, they would carry 
on in the face of obstacles most seventy year olds had long since outgrown. 

Until finally, old men were fighting to win the one-time Prom Queen. 
Soon Clint and Tom Berry, Elly’s one-time boyfriend, the one with the nasty temper,
were locked in an increasingly-intense battle of wills, with Elly as the pawn in their
dangerous game. What began as a geriatric tug-of-war over the girl they had each pined
for in high school, would become a violent, potentially lethal showdown that had old 
men playing with guns. Before it was over everyone concerned had learned that
Second Chances sometimes carried a very high price.

If a 50th reunion story sounds interesting to you, here is your chance. Amazon sells the paperback for $11.95, but you don’t have to spend a dime for the Kindle Ebook version of Second Chances - making the most of their 50th reunion. Amazon is offering the Kindle edition for FREE right now---from March 30th through April 3rd. Just click on this Amazon page link to order your copy. 

Finally, if I am able to transport you back to that time, if only for a while, would you be willing to give me your unvarnished opinion of the story I tell and how well I tell it? I would appreciate your feedback in the form of Comments, emails, and especially Amazon Reviews, which are the holy grail for any self-published writer wanting to win an audience. 

Amazon Reviews are a straight forward process. On the Second Chances Amazon page (see above) click on ‘Customer Reviews,’ which will take you to previous reviews and a box labeled “Write a Customer Review.” Click on that. Once on the review page click on the star rating you are offering and the ‘Comment’ space will appear. Just leave your comment and check out. It’s that simple.

Thanks again for checking in. I hope I can interest you in taking a Second Chance.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Redefining Normal

     I suppose by now you have a pretty good idea of where you are on the ladder of life. Suppose for a moment you are like me, somewhere on the October and November rungs---a septuagenarian or octogenarian if you prefer a bit of drama.

If that describes you too, you know that by now you are allowed to have opinions---as if anyone could stop us from that. Thing is, no one expects old fossils like us to actually solve the multitude of worldly ills that surround us. We’re too old to do that. Instead, we are free to bitch and moan, growl and grumble about things we may not understand, and certainly cannot change.
So it was last Sunday, as I perused the morning paper, I bounced from one head-scratching headline to the next, reading about some of the ways the world in general, and my beloved country in particular, has wandered off what I always assumed was a well-worn and usually-sane path to the future.
To be sure, that morning’s list of complaints and questions was not exhaustive. It was, however, about all I could take for one day. I invite you to join me as I revisit what I found there. But remember, we don’t have to create any answers or solve any problems. As I read those stories my eighty-one year old mind had just one role to grumble about “How the hell could that be?” or “ Can’t they see how wrong that is?”
I suppose each of us has our own unique threshold for the sort of things that upset us. With that in mind let’s consider some of the items that registered on my Grumble Gauge that morning.

*1*Oregon public schools rank last in the nation in dealing with students’ mental health issues. The story claimed that as many as 1 in 5 Oregon students deals with some degree of mental illness---problems that are too often aggravated by drugs, alcohol, and single parent households.
*2*Across the nation neighborhood ‘Surgery Centers,’ often
understaffed, under-qualified, and ill equipped, are increasingly favored over more-expensive hospitals, sometimes putting patients at risk.
*3*Nationwide, blacks are twice as likely to go hungry as the rest of the population.
*4*Virtually everywhere in the country the cost of housing has put our most vulnerable on the streets. Some places have small cities of tents, trailers, motorhomes, and campers serving as homes, not to mention the ‘under the bridge’ homeless camps that spring up everywhere.
*5*And finally, there was this ultimate sign of the times. US New and World Report recently rated California’s quality of life last in the nation---based on Sunny Cal’s air quality, environmental pollution, traffic congestion, and low voter participation.  

Now take a moment to consider those five items that made the news on a random Sunday morning. Just think, twenty percent of our youth, a huge portion of tomorrow’s problem-solving adults, deal with mental issues that are not likely to get better over time without appropriate intervention. What might that mean for our future?
More than that, decent housing is beyond the reach of an ever-growing segment of our population---including many of our October/November peers. In addition to sub-standard housing, a significant number of our people go hungry every day. And then, to top it all off, they tell us that California, long our sun-bathed Nirvana, has become an unpleasant, even unhealthy place to live.
Of course, in the next breath we are told that help is close at hand. Those problems will be overcome. Our leaders, the public servants who step forward to lead us into the future, are on the job. 
Except, the ones we entrust to address and hopefully remedy our shortcomings, are often no longer beholden to those of us who pay the price of their inattention. Instead they, Democrat and Republican, Liberal and Conservative, State and Federal, are on the job to do the will of their sponsors, acting as faithful servants, following the dictates of their Special Interest masters.
As you can imagine, that too often means the odds of finding the political will and the funding to seriously address those obstacles, and the many others we deal with on a daily basis, are very slim indeed---especially given how cruelly divided our nation and government has become.
I won’t pretend to know how all that strikes you. God knows there seems to be precious little agreement on what should be done. But I will charge ahead, offering my personal take on our dilemma---the reality I believe we late-lifers have carried with us from childhood. You tell me, does the following resonate with you?
We are children of another time, shaped and molded by the late 40s and 1950s. That was the springtime and heyday of our October/November lives, the time we came to accept as ‘normal’---the way life should be. But in fact those calm and apparently secure years were something of a rarity---a most unusual time---a warm and comfortable oasis in the constantly shifting sands of time. 
Chances are most of us grew up, and have grown old, assuming that our ‘Becoming’ during that peaceful interlude was simply the way the world worked. We came of age assuming that opportunities abounded, good jobs were there for the asking, affordable housing, and a burgeoning economy were facts of life. 
For many of us, and I’ll admit to being one of them, our understanding of a promising future and successful life was constructed from lessons those glory years taught us.
But we know now how much of that has changed. Looking back, it is clear that we children of the 30s and 40s were blessed to have lived in a time that was nowhere near as ‘normal’ as we believed. While on a selfish level that was great for us, it may have impacted how well we prepared, or failed to prepare, our children and grandchildren for the ‘real’ world they have inherited.
All of which brings me to the conclusion I have drawn from this life experience of mine. Though I am reluctant to surrender my right to grumble about this new and sometimes frustrating world, somewhere along the way an emerging maturity has produced this new and more realistic insight. The only life I can change, the only ‘Becoming’ I can direct, is my own. Which probably means that from now on I ought to grumble less, and pray more---a lot more.
What do you think? Can you think of a better way to address the world our generation has produced?