The Story of Lucy – Beautiful Thing

Every time I watch this Windex commercial, yes, it is a commercial, the best I’ve seen, because of the happy memory tears that flow every time. I’m not alone with my tearful reaction. After you watch The Story of Lucy, scroll down and read some of the comments.

The song and lyrics are from Grace VanderWall who wrote the song and first performed it on America’s Got Talent in 2016.  She was 12-years old.

For more about Grace, read my fan post at This is an Invitation to attend my favorite YouTube Concert.

The next video is an interview with Grace on 98.7 AMP Radio. This way you get to know a bit about who this 13-year old is who wrote the song used in that incredible Windex commercial.

The Grammy nominations will arrive near the end of 2017. I’ll be shocked if Grace doesn’t get nominated.

Thank you, Grace. May you always see the world through the same prism that you were using when you were twelve. Keep that glass clean so there are no distortions. Use Windex.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam combat veteran with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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An Author Interview with Lloyd Lofthouse at the HBS Author’s Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Lloyd Lofthouse. Lloyd is the award-winning, historical fiction author of the short story, “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

Congratulations on your book: My Splendid Concubine. What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with Lloyd Lofthouse continues on HBS Author’s Spotlight.

This is an Invitation to attend my favorite YouTube Concert

I am a Grace VanderWaal fan, and I have been attending a lot of her concerts sitting in front of my desktop with a stereo headset on. She was 12 when she won America’s Got Talent (AGT) in 2016. She’s now 13 and has a mini album out with her first-five original songs on it. After winning AGT, she was signed by Columbia records and her first mini album was “Perfectly Imperfect” and reached #9 on the national charts in the United States and #11 in Canada.  She also won the Radio Disney Music Award for Best New Artist and is pending for the Teen Choice Awards. She was nominated for Best Female Artist on the Acoustic Music Awards but didn’t win that one.

This YouTube concert starts with the first four songs Grace wrote and performed while competing on AGT. I don’t watch TV, so I never saw the original performances. I learned about Grace by accident a few weeks ago and have only watched her on YouTube.


28.17 minutes

The next video is her performance on stage in front of a huge audience. She sings her first original song, I Don’t Know My Name, and a new one called Moonlight.


8:46 minutes

Next, watch her first professional video where she sings her 5th original song, Moonlight.


about 3 minutes

Last, listen to her first album on VEVO’s You Tube channel


16:48 minutes

And if you want to use Google to find the original lyrics, they are available online. Once you read the lyrics of the songs Grace wrote when she was still 12 years old, I think it makes Grace’s YouTube concert experience even better. A friend of mine says Grace must have an old soul to have written those songs.

I have discovered that watching Grace perform and sing her own original songs is therapy for me.  She helps drive back the darkness being spread by #FakePresident Donald Trump and his extreme alt-right cabinet of professional haters. J. K Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, says Trump is worse than Voldemort.

UPDATE August 18, 2017


Grace returns to perform on America’s Got Talent almost one year after she won AGT in 2016. She is a superstar now, and this performance proves it.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam combat veteran with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

When the Muse Strikes and A-Cappella Hijacked the Next Novel

What does it mean to be first and last at the same time?

The four books I’ve published so far were not published in the order they were written. My first published novel was “My Splendid Concubine,” and about 100,000 readers have read this book since January 2008 when the first copy sold, but this book was not my first novel. The concubine was the last one I wrote. I started researching and writing this one in 1999.

“Running with the Enemy” and “The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova” were both written and finished out of UCLA’s extension writing program back in the 1980s, and “Running” started out as a memoir with a working title that I can’t remember. The professor convinced me to turn “Running” into fiction and ditch the memoir idea, and for two of the seven years I was in her workshop, I wrote and repeatedly revised that book.

The professor’s name at UCLA was Marjorie Miller. She’s gone now. Cancer got her. When any of the writers in her workshop was ready, according to Marjorie, she found agents for them, and she found one for “Running”.  That agent managed to get the interest of a senior editor at Random House who eventually rejected the novel but said he’d enjoyed reading it.  The reason for the rejection was readers were not buying books about the Vietnam War and the market was glutted with titles that were not selling.

That manuscript ended up on a shelf in my garage, and I went on to write the next one that turned out to be “The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova”. That novel also started out with a different title, one that Marjorie and the rest of the writers in that workshop didn’t like.

The teacher’s memoir I wrote, “Crazy is Normal, a classroom expose,” started life in the 1995 – 96 school year as a daily journal that turned into a book almost two decades later. The journal was not the memoir. It was the source of the memoir that I wrote after I published “Concubine”.

I see it as ironic that one Amazon reviewer accused me of being too “Rambo-ish” in “Running with the Enemy” and rated the book with a 2-star review. Rich T. wrote, “It started out OK, then became a bit to much unbelievable. The hero is to (Rambo-ish). Nothing can stop him. Jumping out of a plane at night with a bum leg. Sorry … Not my cup of tea.”


“It’s what Recon is all about – Pain! … Semper Fi, Do or Die!

Jumping out of a plane with a bum leg is not Rambo-ish. This is what Marines do if the situation called for it. I should know, I am a former Marine.

When I was still in boot camp at MCRD, voices and a clattering noise woke me once at three in the morning. I left my bunk and looked outside the Quonset hut to discover a squad of Marines with white-plaster casts on arms and legs. Those Marines were playing football on a rack of pipes about twelve feet off the ground.  As I recall, each pipe looked like it had a four-inch diameter. The polls that held them up were thicker.

I found out later that those crazy Marines were all from Force Recon and were back from Vietnam recuperating at the base hospital before they returned to combat. They weren’t supposed to be out of their beds. They weren’t supposed to be playing football twelve feet off the ground balanced precariously on a set of pipes.

A few weeks later, when my right leg was broken during hand-to-hand combat practice, I was offered the choice to heal at the base hospital when I’d be allowed to join another platoon to finish boot camp.

The DI made it clear that if I stayed with the platoon, I had to do almost everything the rest of the recruits were doing in training, and I did. The bone had a vertical fracture running its length and a cast wouldn’t help it heal or protect it. The doctor’s advice was to stay off the leg as much as possible. I didn’t. The pain was intense but I hid the pain out of fear that I might end up in that hospital bed. I wanted to graduate from boot camp with my platoon. That was 1965; I was 20.

I turned 21 in Vietnam where I’d hold a grenade with the pin pulled to make sure if I fell asleep while on watch, the blast would wake the others. The idea of me falling asleep and the Vietcong getting into the bunker and killing my fellow Marines wasn’t something I was willing to risk. Whenever I was that tired, I’d slip out of the bunker to a nearby foxhole and then pull the pin on that grenade that was meant to become an alarm clock if I fell asleep and my hand relaxed. I kept the pin in a top pocket so I could reinsert it at the end of my watch.

The first Rambo film came out in 1982 and was set in the United States after Vietnam Vet John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) returned to the states. Rambo was having a difficult time adjusting to civilian life. The first film in the series did not take place in Vietnam or Southeast Asia.

Rambo: First Blood Part II came out in 1985. By then I’d finished writing the novel that was alleged to be too “Rambo-ish”.  The 3rd Rambo film was released in 1988, and the 4th film came out in 2008. The plot of the novel that I published decades after I wrote it wasn’t changed from the original.

My next novel is one I’ve been thinking about since I was in grade school.

By the age of 10, I was an avid reader obsessed with the King Arthur Merlin myth. I read science fiction and fantasy novels sometimes two a day. I’d daydream stories of who Merlin was. Almost sixty years later, I started writing “Becoming Merlin”, and the paperback ARC copies are with my BETA readers now.

The real Merlin from the myth was a sorcerer; an immortal shapeshifter and no one knew where he came from or where he went after Arthur died.  In the ancient myths, Arthur lived around the 6th century, and at the end of the TV series Merlin broadcast by the BBC starting in 2009, in the last scene for the last season, we see Merlin walking beside a highway about fourteen hundred years later in the United States with his thumb out hitchhiking long after Arthur’s time.

My Merlin has little to nothing in common with the Merlin of the myth or the BBC TV series, but I wonder if some reviewer that doesn’t like the story I wrote will find a way to make a connection.

The Merlin in my novel is an alien and he has been around for a long time. He is lonely and wants someone to love. His only friend has been his artificially intelligent spaceship that he calls A-Cappella, and they are hiding on an Earth threatened by climate change. My Merlin has the magical powers of a god, but he can’t use most of those powers because he’s being hunted by a brutal team of AI killing machines. Using his powers to heal Earth might reveal where he is hiding and end up causing the total destruction of Earth and all life on the planet.

Here’s the first paragraph to “Becoming Merlin”, my next novel.

Chapter One

I regretted my part in one of the greatest tragic love stories in human history. It was that look in her eyes that did it, and I felt no guilt when I let myself be seduced by my friend’s future wife. She was fourteen the day Artur and I first saw her. That is when I knew that Guinevere was going to be trouble.  She had enchanting eyes, and men of all ages fell under their spell. She hypnotized me too, and I’m not even human.

###

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

Are you self-published? I am!

Most people I meet don’t ask me anything, because they are often too busy talking about their world, but if they do ask what I do, I tell them I’m an author and a retired teacher. I might also talk about serving in the U.S. Marines and fighting in the Vietnam War, an experience that’s embedded forever inside my head.

Once I mention I’m an author that sometimes leads to other questions. Then there are the few who ask the question that’s the title of this post.  Recently I stopped by a coffee house and had a conversation with an attractive young lady. You might not consider her young. She was 58, but I’m 71 and to me, she’s young.

By the way, I can start a conversation with anyone or anything if the mood’s there.  I can even talk to my computer screen, car or me, and sometimes I answer me. If you spend as much time as I do alone in front of my desktop computer writing like I’m doing now, it makes sense.

The lovely young 58 year old asked me if I was self-published.  When I told her yes, she changed the conversation and talked about her passion for acting and that she had an agent but never earned enough from acting to support her and her children, so she waited tables, and with a master’s degree eventually went into teaching the same subject I taught for several decades.  Teachers are underpaid, but they are paid better than waiting tables. I know because I’ve had jobs in restaurants, and I was also a public school teacher for thirty years.

I woke up the next morning after that conversation wondering what others might think success means for a self-published indie author compared to traditional authors, and I ended up writing this post.

The Guardian in Stop the press: half of self-published authors earn less than $500 reported “It shouldn’t have surprised me that 75% of the royalty pie is going to 10% of authors: that’s life in many industries”

In fact, according to How Much Do Writers Earn/ Less Than You Think from Publishing Perspective.com, 20 percent of self-published authors earn nothing, zero, zilch, and the next 60 percent earn less than $1,000. Traditional published authors do a little better but not enough to be impressive. About 18 percent earn nothing and another 35 percent earn less than $1,000 annually.

Study the chart following this paragraph and you’ll discover that not too many authors (1 to 3 percent) earn more than $100,000 annually, and it doesn’t matter if they’re an indie or traditional author.

annual-writing-income-by-author-type

There are also terms that rank authors. For instance, there are midlist authors and bestselling authors.  My former wife of 15 years is a bestselling author with 8 books published in more than thirty languages, and her work has sold more than a million copies in English alone. While we were married, I edited many of those books before they went to her publisher.

However, the vast majority of titles published are midlist books, and by definition, I’m a midlist author. My  books have sold more than 22,000 copies earning me about $40k since January 2008, and more than 43,000 have been downloaded  during free giveaways I paid hundreds of dollars to advertise though BookBub and eReader News Today.

Then there were the pirates. Back in 2008, I was told that my first title, “My Splendid Concubine”, was the #1 downloaded pirated book of the month or year. I have no idea how many of the pirated versions were downloaded, and it doesn’t bother me because I don’t think most readers that download pirated books to save a few dollars would spend money to buy books anyway, but maybe if the pirate liked the book, they’d tell a friend who actually buys books instead of stealing them.

In addition, according to Janet Reid, Literary Agent, you have to sell more than 20,000 copies to be noticed, and The Guardian reported that the median earnings of professional authors fall below the minimum wage. I’ve sold more than 20,000 copies, but no one seems to have noticed me yet. Does that man Janet Reid is wrong?

For the last seven years, I’ve earned an average of about $5,500 annually from my writing, and that’s about half of poverty wages if you have no other income. I have several other sources of income, because I worked for 45 years, fought for my country, invested, saved, and planned. Even though I’ve been writing books and learning the craft of writing since 1968, I didn’t hold my breath waiting for fame and fortune to walk in the door.

If you go back to the chart above, you’ll discover that even those poverty wages as an author put me in the top 10 percent of indie self-published authors and the 75 – 80 percent bracket for traditionally published authors. That means my work has sold more copies and earned more money than 75 percent of traditional published authors, but there are still critics out there that consider self-published indie authors losers and posers. I think the lovely young 58 year old I had a conversation with in that coffee house was one of them. She might have asked me other questions, but I don’t remember if she did.

What about all those indie and traditional authors that don’t sell well? How do we judge the quality of their writing when we don’t have the time to read that many books? After all, it takes time and effort to write a book. You don’t do it in the time it takes to stick a piece of gum in your mouth. It can take weeks, months, and years. It took me almost 10 years to write my first published novel, the one that’s earning me most of my money as an author.

Another way to judge the quality of an author’s work is reputable literary contests. Most charge an entry and/or reading fee, but that doesn’t guarantee an author’s work will pick up an award,

Predators and Editors strongly advise writers to enter only those contests without a fee. What do authors do when there are literally hundreds of writing contests but most of them charge reading and/or entry fees? I wrote about that in: Is it wrong to pay an entry fee to a literary contest?  Over the years, my work has picked up a number of awards from literary contests that charged fees where about 95 percent of the authors that submitted work and paid the same fees didn’t earn any mention of their books.

Then there are reader reviews. For instance, Amazon. The 3rd edition of my 1st book has a 4.2 average with 292 customer reviews. My second title has 3.9 with 19 reviews; the third title is a memoir and it has 29 reviews with a 4.4 average, and my last title only has 5 reviews with a 4.0 average. No matter how hard I try, it hasn’t been easy finding readers for my last novel. It doesn’t help that every time I write a book it’s in another genre. That means I have to hunt for another audience of readers that might want to read it. I’ve also written about Authors Finding Readers where I explain why it isn’t easy to find readers.

But last Friday when I was asked if I was a self-published author by that attractive young 58 year old, and I said yes, there was no follow up questions so I didn’t bother to tell her my work had sold more than 22,000 copies, more than most authors, indie or traditional, will ever sell.

How should authors be judged – by the quality of their work or the number of sales or maybe a mixture of both? What do you think?

___________________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

A1 on August 26 - 2016 Cover Image with BLurbs to promote novel_edited-1

Where to Buy

His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal. His 4th novel is the award winning The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

 

What reading level should you write for?

When I was earning my BA in journalism back in the 1970s, we were told to write at a 5th grade vocabulary/literacy level.

You might ask why? Well, if you write for PhD’s, how much of an audience will you reach? The answer is about 2.5 million Americans have a PhD, and that’s less than one percent of all Americans.

In addition, The Institute of Education Sciences reported in 2008 that roughly 15% of the population reads at a university undergraduate level, but the average American reads at a 7th or 8th grade level according to the Clear Language Group.com.

Because most fiction (I’m not talking about literature) is written for the most people, the average reader is not exposed to higher literacy level writing, and they do not improve beyond the level they are reading.

It has been estimated that there are more than 62.4 million avid readers in the U.S., according to Book Business Magazine, and 63 percent are women. I think it’s safe to say that PhD’s are a minority among avid readers, and discovering what women read is more important than using multi-syllable words to impress an insignificant number of over-educated people.

In fact, “We shouldn’t discount simple writing, but instead embrace it. People freak out that teenagers are reading 5th-grade-level books, but it turns out that’s not a bad sign. Of course, we want to teach teens to comprehend higher reading levels than Harry Potter, but just because we can doesn’t mean we should be forced to waste time slogging through Ph.D.-level papers when the Ph.D.’s could write more fluently. …

“The other lesson from this study is that we should aim to reduce complexity in our writing as much as possible. We won’t lose credibility by doing so. Our readers will comprehend and retain our ideas more reliably. And we’ll have a higher likelihood of reaching more people.” – Contently.com

On that note, did you know that Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author Ernest Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea has a 4th grade reading level – think about it?  And Donald Trump talks like a Third-Grader explaining how he won the Republican primary. Trump’s competition scored above the average literacy level.

LR for Cover for Book One on August 12 - 2016_edited-4

If you are a writer (author, journalist, writer, blogger, etc.) and you want to know what literacy level you write at, do what I just did and use Measure Text Readability through Readability Score.com.  For instance, I ran the first chapter – with 1,409 words – of my next novel, “Becoming Human” in the Last Sorcerer Series, and came up with an average reading grade level of 7.0. Not Hemingway, for sure, but also not above the reading level of the average American. Don’t forget, most readers don’t read books they can’t understand.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

A1 on August 26 - 2016 Cover Image with BLurbs to promote novel_edited-1

Where to Buy

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”