“Help! My Family Hates My Pen Name!” – The Result!

I’ve been running this blog for over a year (recently we ran through the best of the best and the worst of the worst) and I have to say this is one of the most fun things I’ve done. Let’s recap:

First, I posted a note from a Wonderful Reader who is struggling with a tough issue: her family does not like her pen name! In fact, it’s interfering with some of her familial relationships, and it might be affecting her writing:

I have a question. My pen name is my grandmother’s name. It took a long time and a lot of thought to chose that name, but now various members of the family (grandchildren and great-grandchildren of all things — she’s been dead for over 60 years and I never knew her) are offended that I’m publishing, even daring to blog in her name. Should I change to make them all happy? Should I write only “nice” things under that name? I’d love to know how you came to your name and what you think.

I posted my own response and opened the comments for additional feedback. And it was awesome! You guys had some empathetic, hilarious, and wise advice for our struggling Wonderful Reader.

Even after reading your comments, I generally felt pretty good about my response. I couldn’t compete with the many personal stories about choosing a pen name or dealing with family. But I think I got the important themes right. In short, my advice was to break down the decision into three options: keep it, drop it, or discuss it with your family so you all are on the same page about what you’re doing and why. The main point I wanted to make was that there are probably larger issues of self-esteem and control – issues that could be due to writing (or even life, really) and might arise no matter what pen name the reader is using. Does the reader feel like her family doesn’t respect her and the things that are important to her? That’s a larger issue that should be considered as part of the resolution.

There’s one thing that bothered me about this. I never really like those advice columnist that boil everything down to two things: 1) seek professional help, or 2) communicate better. Thank you, Captain Obvious! While that may be fine advice, even the BEST advice, it doesn’t really solve every problem. Not everyone wants to head to a professional to deal with each and every problem. (Some no doubt do want to and/or should – I’m not trying to say there aren’t serious problems people have!) And communicating better is often impossible. We deal with people all the time who don’t listen to us! That’s probably the reader’s problem in the first place! There are WHOLE SOCIETIES that are uncomfortable talking through issues. Do we really think the reader is going to solve her problems that way? Maybe. But it might not be practical.

I’m reminded of a story about Bill Murray when he was directing his first movie. He was asked to describe the kind of advice he gave to actors, and he said he tried to be practical. A Method Actor might come up to him and say, “I’m supposed to look like I’m in pain in this scene. What should I be thinking about? What do I need to know in order to get the sense of pain to come across in the scene?” And Bill Murray would shrug and roll his eyes, and then look at one of the crew and say, “Somebody go find a rock to put in this guy’s shoe.”

Practical advice! A few of you pointed out what I thought would be a great option. Not communication, not choosing between two bad options, but another way out. Here it is: Continue reading

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Writers Laughing: Gabriel García Márquez

Another big smiler – like Alice Munro, there are a million pictures of him smiling. And smiling broadly, with his eyes crinkly and his mouth slightly open. But laughing? You just know he had to laugh all the time – but whether those were captured in the pre-cell phone era is another question.

I found a few where he and Fidel are laughing, which I decided not to use. Instead, I’ll go with this one:

Gabriel García Márquez 1

And then this one, which I love (“writers laughing with small children” is a good sub-category):

Gabriel-García-Márquez-GM-Family-Archive

Staged for a photographer? Possibly. Do I care? Not at all!

Image credits: GM Family Archive

“An Easy and Sophisticated Read”: A Review of The Promotion by My Little Book Blog

“An incredibly quick read…this is a book that makes the reader think…” – My Little Book Blog 

Wow, another great day here on the Jacke blog. I’ve been very fortunate with positive reviews, and the latest review of The Promotion (from Lizzy of My Little Book Blog, who also reviewed The Race a while ago) is another one to print out and hang on the refrigerator.

I love everything about this review; it’s hard to clip passages. But I’ll start with this:

One of the things that I loved most about the book was Wilson’s ability to create so much content in such a short amount of space. We see the main protagonist build, and build to a peak, before seemingly spiraling out of control, unable to deal with the facts he has been told. The mix of trouble and depression contrasted with anticipation and promise is built up astonishingly well.

Great! And what about the humor? I promised “intrigue and deadpan comedy” on the cover…

The dialogue is sarcastic and funny, but has a deep sense of a struggle, and of anxiety which gives the book a deeper meaning which kept me turning the pages till the very last sentence had been read.

I think that counts! And then the review has this, which has had me smiling all day:

As in all of Wilson’s work the writing is beautiful balanced between dialogue and description and is smooth in the telling which makes for a very easy but sophisticated read.

Man. This is about as flattering as I could imagine. It’s hard to top this as a description of what I’m trying to do. Providing an “easy but sophisticated read” could basically serve as my mission statement. To hear that it struck a reviewer that way—particularly one with as much enthusiasm for books as My Little Book Blog—is truly gratifying.

My thanks to Lizzy at My Little Book Blog for the excellent review.  Onward and upward, people!

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You can check out my response to reviews of The Race by My Little Book Blog (“warm and full of life”),  Small Press Reviews (“an incredibly astute novella about ego and politics”), and Radical Science Fiction (“Self-Deception Is Human”). Or you can read my thoughts on a previous review of The Promotion by My Author Within (“humor, depression, and hope, all together in one”). I’m terribly grateful for all of the fine reviewing I’ve received by these indie reviewers.

And of course, you can find The Promotion and The Race at Amazon.com (in Kindle and paperback versions). The Race is also available in other formats and locations.

Are you a reviewer? Leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll ship you a free review copy of either The Race (ex-governor of Wisconsin recovering from a scandal) or The Promotion (D.C. lawyer becomes obsessed with a woman he’s never met). Or you can enjoy the 100 Objects series, which is still going strong, which are all available for free here on the website.

“Humor, Depression, and Hope All Together in One Short Book”: A Review of The Promotion by My Author Within

The Promotion was my first book by Jacke Wilson, and now I am wondering if I have been sleeping under a rock not to notice this amazing author…” – My Author Within

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Wow! Another great day here on the Jacke blog. The first review of The Promotion has come in, and it’s excellent. My thanks to Mariam at My Author Within for giving the book such an intelligent read and such an enthusiastic thumbs up.

I’m tempted to just cut and paste the entire review, but I’ll limit myself to a few selections. Here we go!

It was an exceptionally fast read.

Wonderful! Not only is this the goal for just about any author, in this case I tried to push the accelerator pedal a little harder to reflect the narrator’s obsession and his spiraling out of control. Glad to hear it worked!

Since the book’s main setting was in a law firm, it was important for me to see that the author did research and included believable material. Jacke Wilson’s knowledge of legal world makes me think that he has some legal education at least.

Good guess! And in particular the book takes a look at the craziness of recruiting season, when aspiring young attorneys parade through, encountering a lot of grizzled old veterans. It’s an unusual dynamic to say the least. A great setting for an Edgar Allan Poe style descent into madness.

The author managed to include humor, depression, and hope all together in one short book.

Thank you!

This is the type of book that makes you think and evaluate your own life. As I was reading it, I kept thinking if my life is any better than the main character’s?

I hope it is!

The character development was done amazingly well. The story introduced us to many characters, and the reader can fairly accurately describe each one. The protagonist’s character is very well developed. As I was reading the book, I felt his pain, his loneliness, and depression. He is a person who wants his job to matter. He wants to leave a legacy behind. He is a person who is obsessed with passion and passionate people, which sometimes leads to his downfall and reason for being lonely in the first place. If I were to describe him with a short sentence, I’ll say that he is someone who is going through a mid-life crisis, and realizes that he has nothing to show for the years he lived.

What an excellent encapsulation of the main character. I’m so glad it came through! Even though he runs off the rails, I have a soft spot for him too.

Jacke Wilson wrote the book in such a manner that every reader will have a different interpretation and understanding of the story. At the end of the book I felt just like I felt during the finale of “Lost” TV show. I kept questioning myself, and trying to understand what really happened. It takes a certain skill to be able to write in such a manner.

Yes! I’m so pleased to hear that this is coming through. One set of readers disagreed—each of the three had a different interpretation of what happened, and none could persuade the other. And another reader told me she read the book and immediately started over. I’m flattered and honored.

And my thanks to Mariam of My Author Within, whose thoughtful and salient review of my odd little book has truly made my day. I noticed that her blog is currently on hiatus as she studies for the bar. Let’s hope her legal career goes better than the narrator’s—as I’m sure it will! (It could hardly go worse…)

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You can check out my response to reviews of The Race by My Little Book Blog (“warm and full of life”),  Small Press Reviews (“an incredibly astute novella about ego and politics”), and Radical Science Fiction (“Self-Deception Is Human”). I’m terribly grateful for all of the fine reviewing I’ve received by these indie reviewers.

And of course, you can find The Promotion and The Race at Amazon.com (in Kindle and paperback versions). The Race is also available in other formats and locations.

Are you a reviewer? Leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll ship you a free review copy of either The Race (ex-governor of Wisconsin recovering from a scandal) or The Promotion (D.C. lawyer becomes obsessed with a woman he’s never met). Or you can enjoy the 100 Objects series, which is still going strong, which are all available for free here on the website.

Fighting Discouragement: You Are New!

In an interview with Tinhouse’s J.C. Hallman, Walter Kirn refers to a common anxiety among writers:

J.C. Hallman: Do creative writers have an obligation to act as critics, to offer up alternatives to traditional critical methodologies and assumptions?

Walter Kirn: Creative writers have no obligation do anything, including their own creative work.  That’s what makes them “creative” in the first place, not merely productive.  That being said, a novel or a short story is an implicit piece of criticism.  It suggests that the job – some job; that of telling a story, say, or representing reality with language, or torturing reality with language – can be done better, or at least differently, than it has been done before.

Kirn’s right, of course – but at the same time, we all know how paralyzing this can be. There have been so many authors! Every story has been told! Everything’s been said! Blogging’s one thing, but who am I to presume that I can enter the world of writing a book that belongs on a bookshelf with all those authors I love and respect and admire?

Even the great Dr. Johnson suffered from a version of this internal narrative, giving up on writing poetry out of a belief that Alexander Pope had perfected the art, not to be surpassed.

Continue reading

The State of Publishing: The Sound of Ice Cracking

Yesterday I wrote about the possibility of small presses playing a key role in the publishing process – not as a filter deciding which books get published in the first place, but in their ability to make already published books more widely available.

IntoPrint is a good example of how this might work:

this small publishing house uses e-book and print-on-demand publishing to bring out-of-print books back into print. It was born of [their] realization that digital technology meant there’s no need for a book to stay out of print.

This small press handles digital conversion and e-book preparation. They also cover marketing. They give authors 50% (and higher) of the royalties and sign them to fixed-term contracts the authors can opt out of if things aren’t working well.

And they have no editorial staff.

Now presumably they can get by with no editors because the books have already been published. If they were looking at books that hadn’t been traditionally published, they’d likely require a layer of editing from the authors or build editing costs into the business model.

In any case this sounds like a great plan to me, in which authors and readers should both come out ahead, and IntoPrint gets paid for the value they’ve added rather than the gatekeeper function they’ve served. I expect to see hundreds and thousands of these little presses popping up, trying to find works that have been published (whether by a publishing house or an author) and could use some small press value-add to help the books reach a wider audience.

And in the meantime, might I suggest that the good people at IntoPrint take a look at the Great Brain Series by John D. Fitzgerald?

Image Credit: muqata.blogspot.com

A Self-Interview with the Author, Jacke Wilson

Today’s self-interview is with the author and sole proprietor of this blog, Jacke Wilson. Jacke’s novella The Race is available now at Amazon.com.

Q: Thank you for sitting down with me today.

A: It was no trouble at all.

Q: How long have you been writing fiction?

A: As a serious endeavor, approximately 18 years.

Q: Wow that’s a long time. How come no success?

A: Great question. I would give at least three reasons –

Q: I actually don’t think our readers will be interested in any of them.

A: Oh. Um… Do you still want me to answer?

Q: Listen, I’ll ask the questions, Jacke.

A: Right, got it.

Q: Your first book The Race was about politics in America. It uses the phrase “wayward pecker” to describe the body part of a Wisconsin governor who was caught up in a sex scandal and is now running for Congress. Did you ever think about calling the book Wayward Pecker?

A:  Yes.

Q: How about Wayward Peckerhead?

A: No, never.

Q: Governor Peckerhead

A: Is that a question?

Q: You missed a chance with peckerhead. It could have been a tribute to the Richard Pryor routine where he – 

A: I’ll check it out.

Q: How about Members of Congress? Get it? Get it?

A: You’re making me glad I stuck to my original title.

Q: Because you don’t like selling books?

A: Are we almost done?

Q: I said I’ll ask the questions!

A: Sorry.

Q: We’re done.

A: Thanks.

Q: You’re welcome.

Readers, check out Jacke’s book The Race: The Ballad of Governor Peckerhead at Amazon.com. Free samples available. Jacke also has free review copies available for distribution and is seeking beta readers for his work in progress The Promotion: Peckerhead Goes to Biglaw. Contact him at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by visiting this page.

The Race: A Novella

Available Now at Amazon.com