Salutations, April Fools 2022

Look how that little bee is enjoying my daffodils! Did you fall for my little April Fools? Yeah. I didn’t think so. Unless you really don’t know a daffy from a crocus. Like any other April Fools prank I’ve attempted, it was pretty lame, huh? I just can’t seem to pull off a good prank. Apparently, I lack the imagination to convey a convincing untruth, even in jest. Not the best trait for a fiction writer, I suppose. But…I guess I can live with it.

This last month has seen the loss of yet another of my dear friends. Sue and I worked together years ago – the kind of nutritionist who kept M&Ms in her desk drawer and welcomed her co-workers to indulge. The day my Dave died, Sue showed up at my door with a sweet bouquet of daffodils because ‘They’re so alive!’ They were on that bleak winter day, and they’ve come to represent life to me too. Just a small sampling of the many things I loved about Sue. We’ve not seen each other often after we both moved to other jobs. Lunch every few years, a funeral of another friend. In the last few years, she’d say she felt, ‘as good as could be expected’ as she dealt with a rare kind of leukemia. But that didn’t stop her from taking pleasure in a new hobby – cultivating of Monarch butterflies in her garden. So though I’ll miss knowing my friend is alive on this planet, I’ll be smiling and thinking of her anytime a bright flutter catches my eye, and when as the date of Sue’s birth approaches, bright daffies bloom life in my garden.

Writing Breakthrough! At long last, I figured out the climax in my upcoming novel. I even know how it ends – though my characters Lee and Matt seem reluctant to stop talking and let it happen. These two keep having so much to say! But after wallowing through some 114,000 words, I’m pretty psyched to get the next couple thousand done so I can proclaim the first draft is finally, finally done. And then I’ll need to scratch out some 30,000 words to clean up the detritus that I had to write but that none of you would ever care to read. Mere child’s play. Yeah, right. Revisions are a painful reality for a writer. I’m hoping I’ll find, as I have before that although the prospect of revisions is terrifying, I might actually – kind of – enjoy the process. Yet to be seen.

Last month, I reported how I’m attempting to use Amazon Ads, and how so far, money’s flowing out faster than it flows in. Alas, this is still the case, though I’m pleased to note that I’m not losing as much money or quite so fast as before. I am certainly seeing a lot more readers, especially on Kindle Unlimited, and it was so way cool to see Home Place in the Amazon Best Sellers Number 1 spot if ever so briefly. Now if only I could figure out how to tighten costs. Like so many other things Amazon, advertising there is a mystery!

On to reading: In a quest to solve the Amazon mystery, I’ve been reading books their algorithm has been matching up to mine. Amazon apparently sees these first three books as comparable to mine, so I’ve wanted to explore why.

Okay, I can sort of see a connection between this one and Home Place. Our heroine Stevie has a self-involved sister reminiscent of Paul. Feisty and fun Stevie sets up her own business in a small town and sets about keeping it despite opposition. There’s a pesky but lovable cat instead of dogs. And there’s romance. The sub-title on Amazon promises a ‘Laugh out loud romantic comedy,’ and while I found it fun and I did chuckle a few times, I’d call that overselling. I also assess it fluffier chick-lit than my novels, but count that as an admittedly biased opinion.

This Ashley Farley novella is one reason why my ad spend is so high. Home Place gets a lot of clicks from Muddy Bottom’s page, but I don’t see much resemblance between them – probably because I didn’t much like the style or substance I found here. Farley dives into deep topics – an embezzling deserting husband, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, a mother and daughter at odds – but she solves them all with an relative snap of the fingers. A week or two of de-tox and hey, we’re good to go. A walk on the beach and boom, the pregnant daughter starts to see the light. What got me most though was when all these loose ends were flapping in the wind and I glanced down to see I was already 80% through the book. Okay. It’s a novella. But really? It’s a lure to read the rest of her series. No thanks. Not even tempted. And feeling seriously cheated.

I saw possibilities in this book. The characters seemed likable, there was a big change looming, a picturesque setting, and I was enjoying myself – until I again glanced down to see that 80% marker. What? She’s got to get the divorce, get the inn up and running again, heal enough to love again, and… No chance for that in the few remaining pages. Drat. Another teaser for a series. With no particular climax, no satisfying ending of its own. And no novella disclaimer on the cover. Again, I felt cheated. So I won’t be going back to Dolphin Bay for fear I’d only be cheated again.

By the way, the major connection I see between Home Place and these two cheats is that there’s a house on the covers. See what I mean about the mystery of Amazon?

And now for something completely different! My guy gave me these next two books for my birthday. He’s a crime reader, but he always aims for something intellectually challenging for me. And boy did he hit that mark!

Torrey Peters introduced me to a community and culture completely alien to my awareness of the world. Trans-women Reese and Amy (hormone treatment but no surgery) were in a relationship that ended badly. Amy, born James, stops taking hormones, becomes Ames and enters into a heterosexual relationship with Katrina. Ames thinks his previous hormone treatment made him sterile, but no. Katrina gets pregnant, and the only way Ames can imagine being a father is for Reese to co-mother with Katrina. Yeah. Are you with me so far? These lives are complicated! And so very difficult. If this is an accurate description of what trans-life is like, it’s clear to me that sexual orientation is not something anyone chooses. It just is. And the struggle is to live in one’s own skin no matter how we identify. My thinking is considerably broader because of this book, and the challenges of these characters and others like them will stick with me a long, long time!

And the intellectual challenge doesn’t stop there. As this one begins, we know that Klara and other AFs are drawn to the sun and seem to be for sale. We don’t learn for some time that AF stands for Artificial Friend, and while the artificial aspect implies that all AFs are alike, buyers seek out the one AF that has the look and personality they most want in a friend. Klara fits 14-year-old Josie’s fondest hopes, and what’s surprising is that Josie fits Klara’s too. The affection between the two is real – the kind that inspires self-sacrifice on Klara’s part, anything to keep Josie healthy. Even though Josie will need Klara less as her own world expands. I’m hoping someone in our book club chooses this to discuss because there’s so much we could talk about – and that would make an even bigger impression on me than Klara already has.

So there you go – fun, fluff, intellectual challenge, and a couple of time-stealers. Next month, I’ll report on a friend’s debut novel which I’m reading now. But maybe you don’t want to wait. Here’s a preview.

‘Years after high school, Christine, Crystal, Alice, and Lisa return to the Finger Lakes to perform again as Chrysalis, their schooldays quartet. They discover that what still binds them together is not only their music but having to deal with their problematic mothers. One wonders what her deceased mother was like as a person, not just the “mother figure” she knew. Another thinks her mother lives her life recklessly. The parent perceived as controlling is also struggling to hide her Parkinson’s from the outside world, and the fourth has burgeoning dementia.
While the adult daughters are rediscovering harmony in their singing and in their friendships, the mothers form bonds of their own—bonds made of secrets and new discoveries—and ultimately they find answers that bring the mothers and their daughters to a deeper understanding of themselves and their relationships to each other.’

Sounds fun, right? Get Maija’s book here.

And for fun, here’s a little gift I picked up from Jane Friedman’s newsletter. When you’ve read a book you loved and ache to find other authors who write similar kinds of books, plug the author’s name into Literature-map.com. For instance, if you loved Klara and the Sun and want more, plug in Kazuo Ishiguro, and a magical mind map like this appears. Cool, right? Alas, there’s a caveat. The tool recognizes well-known authors. So if you’ve a penchant for writers with less-than-household-names like me – and goodness, I hope you do – you’re on your own. But the search… It’s surely worth it. Right?

Till next month… Go gently, spread brave peaceful energy, and savor the sweetness of life at every opportunity!

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