Youngblood Blog

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December: Season of Gratitude and Merlot-Fruitcake Thoughts

Monthly IWSG Writers’ Block

Egyptian quinquireme,, restored on an Aegean shore, evokes 2ndC BC Salamis, Thermopylae sea battles

Egyptian quinquireme,, restored on an Aegean shore, evokes 2ndC BC Salamis, Thermopylae sea battles

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine
John Masefield [1876-1967]

When it comes to love and war, give me an Egyptian Quinquereme manned by five rows of oarsmen, capable of outracing Greeks, Macedonians, Persians and Carthaginians—with a mermaid locker at the bottom of the deep blue sea.

My way of saying I retreat, like a lot of us writerly introverts, I suspect, into inner — #IamWriting— worlds, when real world conflict raises its warrior head.

Aux_Egy_Archers_Five

The waters of the world begin in the dribble-drain down by the road and the tall ships, the galleons, the quinquiremes nudge on the hawthorn twig that goes swirling, seawards, there

Alighting on her prow

Alighting on her prow


Before she lost her arms, which have never been recovered, Nike’s right forearm is thought to have been raised, cupped around her mouth to revel in her shout of Victory. Her headless but otherwise ravishing beauty is considered to be the epitome of Hellenist art. She is flawless; inspired billions! Art historians are transfixed by her.

Her pose is symbolic of a place/moment where violent motion and sudden stillness collide. Her graceful balance and her figure’s draped garments ripple compellingly, as if in a strong sea breeze.

For me, she is true warrior goddess.

Wargames Ancient and Future
Ships ancient and modern have evoked images, ideals, dreams in the mind of Man since time immemorial. We are still better at dreaming victory in far-away lands by “imagining them distant” than in coming to terms with the reality of the killing fields.

Glorious Nike, ice-gray marble goddess of victory alighting on prow of victorious quinquereme 200BC stolen by Napoleon, pride of Louvre

Glorious Nike, ice-gray marble goddess of victory alighting on prow of victorious quinquereme 200BC stolen by Napoleon, pride of Louvre

It is not for me to bring politics into the festive season; nor, more importantly, into our small supportive group of Insecure Writers, led by our fearless space commodore, Alex J. Cavanaugh, whose initiative IWSG has ticked along nicely for three years: quite some time, now 🙂

It has not escaped our notice, however, that little by little our heart-centered family-and-community-oriented season of celebration may be marred by a reality check or two:
1. conflict in Ferguson, MO
2. conflict in Cradle of Civilization.

Neither conflict —in Ferguson, MO or Arabian Gulf—should have an immediate connection one with the other or each with us as individuals, I pray. But they are somebody’s sons and daughters out there, being told by a robot military machine to kill first, take prisoners second.

Not my idea of mellow fruitfulness.

My moan, therefore, Alex—forgive me—is less of a writerly struggle—more a prayer of gratitude: Thanks to you and our little community for holding each others’ hands thru close on forty months. We love you.

And——
May we all survive the commerciality of Christmas, the nuances of New Year’s, Jewish 5775, Nassim Haramein’s Non-Time, and arrive safely in 2015.
©2014 Marian Youngblood

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December 4, 2014 Posted by | calendar customs, culture, fiction, weather, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Granddaughter (8) wants to be an Insecure Writer

WiFi and Insecure Writers

Quadrantid meteor shower, first of 2012, peaks tonight and in the hours before dawn January 4th

First, may I wish all those reading this a happy, healthy and wholly miraculous New Year.

I have been on intermittent connection with the Ether since mid-December. My usual readers will please forgive me for sporadic internet connection, solstitial/Yuletide hibernation and Wifi-free preparation for a magical New Year.

So magical will 2012 be, I believe, though, that we won’t have any need to feel “insecure” any more; Alex Cavanaugh (just joking, Alex) will have done such a good job of getting us all to ‘spill the beans’—the raison d’être of his monthly Insecure Writers’ Support Group (IWSG)—that in the catharsis, we won’t feel insecure any more.

So far, Alex’s initiative to encourage writers into releasing their (writing) fears–as well as bloghopping every first Wednesday of each month, lets other writers feel not so shy of plunging in. Besides, it’s a lot of fun bouncing around other writers’ sites in the “wee hours” of the new year.

That little ditty aside, I have to admit that my 8-year-old granddaughter, Oriah, stole the show and has this month won the contest in subject matter for today’s contribution: she completely put all insecurities out of my head. Instead she is sharing the opening lines of her new story with me and with you, gentle Reader.

She wants to be an ‘Insecure Writer’, even though she doesn’t feel at all insecure.

Because she admits to not being scared of plunging in, her own fearlessness is itself a tonic. Her storyline, setting, atmosphere and mood are all set in a couple of sentences.

Would we all had started out this way!

She has decided her story will probably be a long one, and so it may have to come in instalments.

Oriah, author of "Time Stopped", aged 8, writing for this month's IWSG blog

So, thanks to Oriah, this is her first instalment:

The violets in the mountains had made sweet sweet music that time had stopped.
One little animal could
start time again but no-one could find her no-one at all.
But one little deer sad and
alone–she didn’t know

Oriah’s story continues …and the drama unfolds…

Oriah and I offer this blog-story-preview as our contribution to this month’s fodder for hopping readers. And we hope you enjoy its sweetness, its innocence, and the feeling it offers to all of us who once felt this way about putting words on the printed page.

Thank you, Oriah, for being brave enough to let Grandma put you in her blog; and for bringing such a youthful and fresh perspective into this group of writer-dreamers.*

And…thank you, Alex, for allowing me to bend the rules…a little 🙂

*Brief insight: My granddaughter’s name was inspired by the words of another Oriah–Mountain Dreamer–who wrote in 1999:

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

“It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

“It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

“I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

“It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

“I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day,and if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes!’

“It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

“It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

“It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

“I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.”
by 
Oriah Mountain Dreamer
 copyright ©1999

Thanks to the indulgence of Alex Cavanaugh and his intrepid January blog-hoppers.

IWSG January blog ©2012Marian Youngblood

January 4, 2012 Posted by | authors, blogging, fiction, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Insecure Writers: Self-publish Woes and Wows

Alex is at it again: another month, another post for his hugely supportive (and supported) Insecure Writers’ Support Group. And a bloghop –226 other blogs to visit, at time of writing!

I wanted to write about a couple more personal insecurities, but the idea got knocked sideways by a post from the prolific David Gaughran, a 34-year old Irish writer, living from time to time in Sweden, but spending a lot of his working life traveling the world, collecting stories, and writing about his adventures! How fortunate, you say. His advice behind the scenes comes with a punch, too. So it’s not all dancing in the tropical moonlight and storming into Valparaiso (although he does that).

His books are — like Amanda Hocking’s — all published in e-format. So he is an expert in the self-publish world.

While many of us continue to dream of being picked up by the ‘majors’, while we’re waiting, there is no harm whatsoever in self-publishing a few e-books.

Or is there?

CAVEAT EMPTOR

Book Country overhead costs do not amuse

There are pitfalls. And David (along with several other authors, like Joe Konrath, Katie Salidas, and Linda Welch), have picked up one of the real BAD GUYS. Ahem, yes, it’s Book Country — an arm of Penguin.

According to David, Penguin’s self-publish arm is ‘actively targeting inexperienced writers’. They say they are offering the lure, oops opportunity, for young writers to ‘make a name for themselves.’

Book Country began last April as a place for authors to post their work for critique. Then in the fall they announced a program to turn manuscripts posted on their website into e-books and paper books.

Warner Bros 'Happy Feet' penguins would not be happy

“A new kind of self-publishing that offers a more professional product and provides guidance that currently isn’t available to players.”

‘Our self-publishing process has been designed by a team of book industry professionals to make the experience as accessible, convenient, and affordable as possible’

Their ‘basic package’ is $99 for ‘user-formatted’ books. ‘User-formatted’ means you, the author do your own formatting.

But for $549 they will ‘help the writer’ format both e-book and print book, and then upload it to retailers.

Or for $299 they will let you do your own formatting, and then upload the book to retailers for you.

This is ‘affordable’????? Does it not sound a little like Vanity press?

Questions are now being asked about such huge fees; and about the massive royalty cut they take on top of that (after charges taken by retailers such as Amazon). If you are a newbie, it all sounds a bit much.

Let’s say you are a budding writer who has entered their site simply to share your new flow with other writers, to get some feedback, to know if what you thought you had written was good…and you saw their ‘suggestion’ to ‘share your work with a larger audience’; ‘signed in’ to their new offerings (small print: you have to agree to ALL their terms and conditions before entering — i.e. no backing out. It’s a contract.) It rather dents the newbie writerly ego a little to find that in the end, you have spent all that money and can be almost certain your royalties, if any, will be minimal.

There’s more. Penguin — because they have you ‘signed’ — keep 30% of your royalties. And although the beauty of royalties is that they keep on coming in when your book sells, in this ‘contract’ you keep on paying Penguin.

Here’s how it breaks down. For sales on the Book Country site itself, writers receive 70% royalties. This part, at least, is justifiable. Book Country are providing a retail platform, they are processing the sales, and dealing with the customers. And it’s a comparable percentage to the major retailers. Plus their name is a biggie.

However, through Book Country, you can also sell your book on those major retailers, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. This is where the real trouble starts.

On pages such as this one, they claim that writers will “earn 70% on your sales when priced at $2.99 or higher on all channels.” This is an extremely disingenuous claim, as it is not 70% of your cover price, but 70% of the money Book Country receive from retailers.

How do new writers figure this out without testing the waters themselves?

There is a simpler way.

It takes a little time and application to learn the format process, but I’ve done it with my aging braincells, so if I can do it, you can do it.

After formatting, you should upload your books to Createspace, Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords on your own (takes about an hour) for FREE and you’re done. You’re published. That’s all there is to it. There seems to be no added reason why — after you’ve learned how to format and done all that hard work — you should pay Penguin to upload it for you. Now, does there?

Helping others up the thorny ladder to publishing success: Marian Youngblood

All that said — thank you Alex for allowing a rather irritable insecurity to be voiced — I need to encourage all new/young writers at least to TRY the self-publish method.

I published my ‘Phantom’s Child’ (sidebar right) that way and its historical/suspense theme seems to be catching on. It is beginning to take off. Last week author Pat Bertram kindly interviewed me on the process.

She, like our Ninja host, is an author who holds out her hand to help others up this thorny ladder we’ve placed in front of ourselves.

In the daunting milieu of what the publishing world is becoming, every little bit helps.

So, as we wend our way into the depths of winter — shortest day is only two weeks away and then it’s all going to look better –solar flares, radiation storms, power blackouts notwithstanding (next blog down on this page)– we do have much to look forward to when the light returns: this publishing business is gradually, slowly, finally, starting to give a little back to the hard-working author… fingers crossed.
©2011 Marian Youngblood

December 7, 2011 Posted by | authors, blogging, fiction, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments