The Complexity of Belief vs the Reality of Racism – a review of “Go Set A Watchman”

Do you know what a devil’s advocate is? If you don’t, here it is: One who argues against a cause or position, not as a committed opponent but simply for the sake of argument or to determine the validity of the cause or position.

That’s what I think Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” was, a devil’s advocate written to add some reality to the complexity of racism in the United States that has become too much of a black and white issue when in reality there are many shades of color at work.

When the sequel of “To Kill A Mockingbird” came out, the first thing I read was one or more of the politically correct mobs lashing out when they condemned the book because of an early scene in the novel that depicts Atticus Finch as a racist, but I didn’t let that stop me from buying an audio version of the book on six CDs at Costco, and I’m glad I did because the story in this novel offers a brutal reminder that hot-button issues like abortion, school reform and racism can’t be dealt with in a 14-second politically correct sound bite by one side or the other. Reality is more complex then simple and often ignorant thinking.

After listening to the novel, Atticus Finch turns out to be a complex individual and I don’t think he was the kind of racist that fits the stereotype that so many love to hate. He didn’t belong to the KKK. He was not a white supremacist. In fact, Atticus didn’t even own one of those white cloaks with hoods that have holes cut out for the eyes and mouth.

Instead, before the end of the novel, we learn that Atticus might believe in separate but equal, but he would also be the first one to put his body between a fire-breathing racist lynch mob and an African American the mob wants to hang from the nearest tree, because it’s obvious Atticus still believes in justice and equality for every person but maybe not everyone’s definition of what that means. Right or wrong, I don’t think Atticus deserves to be condemned. Reserve that anger for those who bomb black churches, murder minorities for just having a different shade of skin and/or block the right of minorities to vote.

I taught “To Kill a Mockingbird” in high school, and I’ve seen the film a number of times, so I was ready to read about the characters who were 20+ years older, and I was not disappointed. The audio book is read by Reese Witherspoon, and Jean Louise Finch—Scout—reminds us that she was a child once when she takes readers on journeys back in time to when she was a child and then an adolescent becoming a young woman. I think Witherspoon’s voice is exactly what we would want Scout to sound like as a young woman in her twenties.

Instead of jumping blindly on the politically correct bandwagon that defines what racism is, read this book and do what it was designed for: weigh all the factors and think for yourself. Then judge individuals like Atticus on an individual basis and not a blanket indictment written by an often angry and mindless mob.

_______________________

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

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal . His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.

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Is it wrong to pay an entry fee to a literary contest?

Back in April 2012, a critic wrote this comment for one of my blog posts: “It’s quite an accomplishment to boast of winning book contests that one pays to enter. It’s like bragging about charming a lady of the evening onto her back.”

My response—would it surprise you to discover that there is an entry fee for the two most prestigious literary awards in the United States: $50.00 for the The Pulitzer Prizes, and $135.00 for the National Book Awards? If you don’t believe that, click the links and read the evidence.

In addition, Poets & Writers Magazine lists many reputable literary contests that charge fees, and for decades I paid the fees and entered some of those contests often not placing, and the literary contests that I did place in are not listed on Winning Writers.com’s list of Contests and Services to Avoid.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

I have also entered Writer’s Digest’s literary contests several times and the fee is $100 each time.  I have never placed, but with that $100 fee comes a judge’s detailed commentary and score that authors may quote for promotional purposes—that is if the judge says anything nice about the book. There is no guarantee.

What counts is not the fee but if the contest is juried. There is nothing wrong with a literary contest that charges a fee that goes toward the costs of running the contest and a cash prize for the grand prize winners.

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Every literary contest does not have a foundation or grant to pay the costs of running a literary contest. In fact, Writer Beware says, “Is the contest free? If so, you probably have nothing to lose by entering—though be sure to read the fine print. If you’re a poet, be aware that a ‘free’ contest is one of the major warning signs of a vanity anthology scheme.”

Many legitimate contests charge a fee to cover processing expenses (which sometimes include an honorarium to readers) and to fund the prize.” Source: Writer Beware ® Blogs!

Poets and authors enter reputable contests to establish the fact that what they write might be worth reading.

For use on Twitter Created January 29 - 2015

And when poets and authors place in a reputable, unbiased literary contest, they should publicist it, because if they don’t, who will? Published authors and poets are responsible to promote their own work, and if they are traditionally published, the publisher still expects the writers to promote their own work and build an online author platform.

_______________________

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

 ON SALE - Cover with Blurbs

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Forty-Five thousand U.S. Businesses are Built on a Foundation of Legal Seduction and Sex

The legal seduction and sex industry in the United States is built on a foundation of alcohol, food, music and consensual sex, and it earns more than the $14.6 billion that goes to illegal prostitution or the $10 – $12 billion spent annually on pornography – NBC News; Business Pundit.com

For a comparison, McDonald’s is the second largest fast food chain in the U.S. and it only has 14,267 outlets. Number one, Subway, has 24,722, and Starbucks 10,821. And the largest retail chain in the U.S. is Wal-Mart with 4,177 stores.

But the $20 billion annual legal seduction and sex industry beats them all with 45,000 locations. Even box office revenue in North America is less than $11 billion annually. – Statista.com

The legal seduction and sex industry in the U.S. is also an industry where global corporations seem to keep their distance even if their CEO’s, board members, managers and employees are patrons. Instead, it is mostly operated by individual entrepreneurs.

What’s interesting is that we seldom if ever hear about the legal seduction and sex industry in the US media.

Why is that—maybe because most Americans only want to think of the U.S. as a pure, righteous Christian country—a fake role model for the world? After all, the Pew Forum.org reports that almost 80% of adults in the United States are Christians. In addition, the Hartford Institute estimates there are roughly 350,000 religious congregations in the United States. This estimate relies on the RCMS 2010 religious congregations’ census. Of those, about 314,000 are Protestant and other Christian churches, and 24,000 are Catholic and Orthodox churches.  Non-Christian religious congregations are estimated at about 12,000. There are about 56 million weekly worshipers who go to church—less than 18% of the total population..

Does this make the United States a Jekyll and Hyde culture—on one side we have religion and on the opposite side legal seduction and sex that’s mostly ignored by the media to satisfy what devout (the less than 18%) religious Americans don’t want to hear?

In the early 1980’s I was the maître d’ for a few years for a nightclub, restaurant combination that was part of a small chain in Southern California called The Red Onion. The Red Onion where I worked had three bars on one side of the building and three dining rooms on the other side—one with a glass ceiling with full-sized palm trees inside. The lobby joined the two but the kitchen served both.

The nightclub was capable of holding several hundred lusty dancers and drinkers, and it had a DJ’s booth along with a large stage for live entertainment. The dance floor was between the DJ and the stage.

“While the dance floor in a nightclub of this size is the central arena of seduction, actual sex usually takes place in bathroom stalls, exit stairwells, and so on. In other cases the disco became a kind of ‘main course’ in a hedonist’s menu for a night out.” – Disco American Heritage Magazine by Peter Braunstein, Vol, 50, No. 7, November 1999

This world where I worked nights and weekends for several years was the inspiration for my next novel, a lusty murder mystery, The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova—that mixes seduction, sex and religion.

_______________________

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

His fourth novel is The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

Book Cover and Blurb to use in promotions

Lloyd Lofthouse also worked as a maître d’ in a nightclub called the Red Onion for a few years. A romantic at heart, in his award winning novels, he tests true love in difficult situations and the challenges of keeping that love alive. My Splendid Concubine, his first novel, is an epic love story that teaches acceptance and respect for other people and their cultures. Running with the Enemy, his second novel is a love story that will either cost the characters their lives or will complete each other’s hearts. Lloyd Lofthouse lives with his family in California’s San Francisco Bay area.

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A Book Cover Must Make a Promise, and the story must Deliver it

How important is a book’s cover? Well, for an answer, The Midwest Book Review rejects books submitted for review if the cover doesn’t measure up to traditional industry standards. Midwest reviewers do not bother to open those books. They go in the recycle bin.

On Saturday, January 10, 2015, I attended the January meeting of the Diablo Branch of the California Writers Club to hear a presentation by Jim Azevedo, the Marketing Director of Smashwords. The title of his presentation was “The Secrets to Ebook Self-Publishing Success”. With a Power Point Presentation that had 72 screen shots, he focused on ten secrets, and the one that grabbed my attention was #2, Creating a SUPBERB cover image.

It was soon obvious to me that a book’s cover was probably one of the most important steps to publishing success after writing a riveting story that is professionally edited, because more than 26% of the presentation focused on the importance of an attention grabbing book cover that makes promises about the story.

Azevedo provided a case study of one cover that went through four changes. During the metamorphosis of this book’s cover from dull to boring, then interesting to sexy and hot, it was barely selling.

It wasn’t until the sexy and hot fourth cover in the sixth month that the novel took off and became an Apple iBoostore #5 bestseller, and today the book has been a New York Times Best Seller and is still selling well on Amazon—when I checked while writing this post, it was ranked #466 in competition with more than 12-million titles on Amazon.

The book I’m talking about is Playing for Keeps by R. L. Mathewson, and on Amazon it currently has a 4.5 average from 1,128 customer reviews. If you check out the paperback, you’ll discover cover number three (there were two clovers before #3 that are not worth seeing).

What does that #466 rank mean? The one-time “My Splendid Concubine” hit #56 on Amazon, it sold more than 2,000 copies in 24 hours. On January 13, Tuesday, the same novel sold three copies and was ranked #114,722.

Anyway, Smashwords’ Jim Azevedo got me thinking. The cover of my second novel, Running with the Enemy, wasn’t promising what readers would find in the story compared to the winning book covers that I saw in the presentation.

Now I have generated several choices to replace the current second e-book cover of “Running with the Enemy” (the paperback still has the first cover), and anyone who leaves a comment and votes helping me select the best cover will be entered in a drawing for a free e-book copy of the novel (or a paperback if the winner prefers one and lives in the United States). If the winner already read it, that’s okay. I’ll send the winner of the drawing a copy of my next novel when it comes out in a few months—“The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova”. It’s with the copy editor as I’m writing this Blog post and the cover is pretty much a done deal—I hope. And if the winner doesn’t want to read these two novels because they offer the theme or genre the winner prefers to read, then I will offer an Amazon “Give as a Gift” equal to the full price of the e-book.

If you decide to take part in helping me select a better cover for “Running with the Enemy”, there are four choices. Please indicate your choice in a comment. Thank you. To help you make a choice, I’ve copied after the five new cover choices the most helpful review on Amazon in addition to what a Writer’s Digest Judge said about the novel. In addition, if none of them work better than the current e-book cover, then I will return to the Adobe Elements editor and get back to work. The drawing for the winner will be held on February 1, 2015.

FIRST ROUND OF CHOICES

Resized and Low Res 4  Covers for Voting on 1-17

“Lloyd Lofthouse describes his book Running with the Enemy as a memoir that evolved into fiction. As a Vietnam veteran who had seen and experienced enough to leave him with post-traumatic stress disorder, he wrote this book it seems to come to terms with all he experienced in Vietnam. The book became fiction, an action novel with a strong romance component.

“Overall it rings true of war and what it was like to serve in Vietnam. Much of the book details the fighting, the casualties and the heartbreak and the trauma experienced by the soldiers. The book also takes you on a dizzying journey when the lovers Tuyen and Ethan flee to other countries in Southeast Asia – Laos, Cambodia, Bangkok, Thailand ,and Burma (Myanmar).

“For those who would like to get a sense of what combat was really like, this is an excellent book, which began as a memoir of Vietnam.” – A Novel of Combat by Harvee L.

“Obviously drawn from the author’s first-hand experiences as a Marine serving in Vietnam, Running with the Enemy is a rough but occasionally heartfelt war story. … The book is sometimes too obviously drawn from his experience. But ultimately that’s a small complaint about a book that, on the whole, is quite good and has a lot to say about the nature of the conflict .”  – 21st Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards commentary from an anonymous judge

Note: This novel—awarded Honorable Mentions in four literary contests and a genre Runner-Up in a fifth literary contest—was targeted by a flock of Goodreads trolls at the time of its publication. Here is the review from one of the Trolls, that I linked to the group of Goodreads bullies, who  never bought or read the novel and gave it one-star on Amazon in an attempt to sabotage its sales and my reputation.

“Lofthouse’s attempt at a 60’s-era thriller is cliched, trite and rather boring. If you’re looking for a good read, check out Graham Greene’s Quiet American instead.” – Miss M

SECOND ROUND OF CHOICES on 1-22-2015

Thanks to comments and suggestions the choice has narrowed down to two covers. They look similar but both have different images on the top third of each cover—which one works best?

Low Res January 22 - two choices

 THIRD ROUND OF CHOICES ON 1-24-15

These two choices are based on the majority of comments from both Twitter and this post.

Jan 24 Low Def Final two choices of New Cover

FOURTH ROUND on 1-25-15

This may be the final cover. There were two more suggestions after I posted the choices for the third round. One suggestion was for a compromise between A & B, and the second suggestion was to take the kissing couple and make them partially opaque/transparent. I used the burn tool on Adobe Elements to take away some of the brightness in the stars and scanned the couple with the Eraser set at 5% Opacity. I started at 20% Opacity and worked down to 5% in several stages, and discovered that anything more than 5% and the lovers started to vanish into the starry sky. This cover revision is still open for suggestions until February 1, 2015, and I thank everyone who is taking part in the process.

Low Res Final  Cover on Jan 25

The Winner of the Drawing for February 1, 2015 was:

Poetic Justice
@ http://poeticjusticect.com/

The details of the giveaway were:

“anyone who leaves a comment and votes helping me select the best cover will be entered in a drawing for a free e-book copy of the novel (or a paperback if the winner prefers one and lives in the United States). If the winner already read it, that’s okay. I’ll send the winner of the drawing a copy of my next novel when it comes out in a few months—“The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova”. It’s with the copy editor as I’m writing this Blog post and the cover is pretty much a done deal—I hope. And if the winner doesn’t want to read these two novels because they don’t offer the theme or genre the winner prefers to read, then I will offer an Amazon “Give as a Gift” equal to the full price of the e-book.”

_______________________

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

His fourth novel is The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

Book Cover and Blurb to use in promotions

Lloyd Lofthouse also worked as a maître d’ in a nightclub called the Red Onion for a few years. A romantic at heart, in his award winning novels, he tests true love in difficult situations and the challenges of keeping that love alive. My Splendid Concubine, his first novel, is an epic love story that teaches acceptance and respect for other people and their cultures. Running with the Enemy, his second novel is a love story that will either cost the characters their lives or will complete each other’s hearts. Lloyd Lofthouse lives with his family in California’s San Francisco Bay area.

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Predicting our Future from current Science Fiction

PC Magazine reported on 10 Sci-Fi predictions that came true. For instance, when Aldous Huxley (1894 – 1963) wrote Brave New World in 1921, he was reacting to the novels of H.G. Wells (1866 – 1946), and Huxley predicted hallucinogens and psychoactive drugs—years before LSD was synthesized by Albert Hoffman.

In addition, famed sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke (1917 – 2008) predicted communications satellites in 1945. In 1965, twenty years later, that prediction became a reality.

George Orwell (1903 – 1950) in his novel 1984 (published in 1949) predicted government surveillance—then in 2013, sixty-four years later, there was the NSA spying scandal when we learned that the US government was spying on millions of American citizens without their knowledge.

What are science fiction authors writing about today that might come true in the near future?

In The Passage, a novel by Justin Cronin, manipulating the DNA of humans almost destroys mankind when U.S. government scientists secretly create a strain of human vampires.  Does this mean that one day, it might be required that children arrive with tattooed labels that indicate that are GMO free, and how close are we to children who are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s)? I think the answers may shock you. In May 2000, the Center for Genetics and Society said scientists were on the verge of manipulating human DNA.

Then in February 2014, The New York Times reported on Genetically Modified Babies and said, “The F.D.A. calls them mitochondrial manipulation technologies. The procedures involve removing the nuclear material either from the egg or embryo of a woman with inheritable mitochondrial disease and inserting it into a healthy egg or embryo of a donor whose own nuclear material has been discarded. Any offspring would carry genetic material from three people — the nuclear DNA of the mother and father, and the mitochondrial DNA of the donor.”

And the Daily Mail reported that “The world’s first (30) genetically modified humans have been created … Writing in the journal Human Reproduction, the researchers, led by fertility pioneer Professor Jacques Cohen, say that this ‘is the first case of human germline genetic modification resulting in normal healthy children’.”

It doesn’t take much of a leap to imagine the CIA or NSA creating human vampires as weapons that are GMO’s and can only survive on non-GMO human blood.

The same time that I was reading The Passage by Justin Cronin, I also watched Snowpiercer, a film directed by Joon-ho Bong. Snowpiercer is set in a future where a failed climate-change experiment kills all life on the planet except for a lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe and never stops.

In the real world, the BBC reported recently on the results of a climate change experiment. Fortunately the quarter-of-a-million people who took part in this Oxford University study only did it through computers compiling the most comprehensive prediction yet for the Earth’s climate up to 2080.

But in July 2013, ABC News revealed that the CIA spent $630,000 on a climate control experiment. ABC said, “The project, which is being run by the National Academy of Sciences, will spend just short of two years looking into how much humans can control weather patterns and seeing how much manipulating the atmosphere impacts climate change … scientists involved in the project will look into different types of geoengineering and weigh the risks and advantages of executing them.”

In addition, The Forbidden Knowledge.com reported that United States Secretary of Defense William Cohen apparently stated in a press briefing, while commenting on new technological threats possibly held by terrorist organizations: “Others are engaging in an eco-type of terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, (and) volcanoes remotely, using the use of electromagnetic waves.”

Are today’s science fiction authors the canaries in the coal mine, and should we pay closer attention to what they are writing about the future—or is it already too late?

_______________________

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

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Crazy-is-Normal-a-classroom-expose-200x300

Honorable Mention in Biography/Autobiography at 2014 Southern California Book Festival

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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The Realty of Honest Reviews and Book Blog Tours

Last Saturday, March 1, 2014, I received an e-mail from the publicist who arranged the March Book Blog Tour for my novel, Running with the Enemy. She was writing to let me know that one of the tour hosts who’d agreed to read my book and review it on her blog wasn’t going to read it and there wasn’t going to be a review posted on that Blog (I’ve removed the blog’s name and it’s host’s name from this post).

Here’s the reason for the change: “I wanted to let you know that (the book Blog host) handed the book off to one of her other readers who requested it. She never told me that it was for one of her reviewers and not herself.  That reader found it too violent and couldn’t finish it. (The blog host) won’t be posting a review but will be posting a spotlight of the book instead.  I really have to wonder if there are people who think you soldiers were out in the field eating bonbons, rather than shedding blood for your country!  I thought I made it crystal clear in the invitation that this was not a feel good, romanticized fluff novel.”

Here’s my response to the publicist who arranged the tour:

It’s understandable that many readers in North America and Europe might be repulsed by the violence in the novel, because more than 93% of Americans, for instance, have never served in the military and even fewer have fought in a war.

There are more than 316 million Americans today, but only 1.8 million served in the Korean War; 2.7 million in the Vietnam War, and 2.3 million in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

That means that in the United States, less than 2% (this number is probably much smaller due to the deaths of veterans over time) of the population has been exposed to the violence of war. Only a combat veteran understands what it’s like and we’re an often misunderstood minority most Americans would rather sweep under the carpet.

Low Res e-book and paperback covers joined December 13

e-book cover                                     paperback cover

In fact, the only exposure to war most North Americans experience is the romanticized, sanitized, Hollywoodized versions of war that is one of the reasons I joined the US Marines in 1965 thinking of glory and not gore. Over the years, I’ve only seen a couple of films that came close to real combat. Most films are fantasies that glorify boozing, violence and sex, and the few scenes of violence are usually edited (sanitized). This may explain why the big money makers from Hollywood are usually fantasies or cartoons like the recent Lego film that a neighbor said was silly.

It was in the summer of 1965 in MCRD (Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego) that I started to wake up to a reality often not found in films. That summer of training was harsh and demanding where fear coursed through our blood daily as the drill instructors pushed us to the physical and mental brink of collapse and sometimes beyond to strip us of our ignorant innocence and convert us into killing machines willing to die on command.

Then right out of boot camp, we were shipped to Vietnam, where my childhood dreams of glory and heroism from watching John Wayne movies (and other films) evaporated and never returned.  Instead, I came home in 1966 a heavy drinker with a heavy dose of PTSD and night flashbacks so vivid that I often awoke in a cold sweat in a semi nightmare state where I was back in the battlefield being hunted by the Vietcong.

Even to this day, I feel helpless if I don’t have a weapon within easy reach—a knife or a firearm. I still sleep with a .38 caliber pistol. If I lock that weapon up in the gun safe, I can’t sleep. I lay awake all night listening to every sound wondering how long it would take me to open the safe if someone broke in the house.

My medical provider is the Veterans Administration (VA), and on the door to the VA clinic I go to is a sign that says we have to leave any weapons in our cars—don’t bring them inside.

When I stopped swilling the booze back in the early 80s—after my first marriage ended—I started to manage the anger that comes with the PTSD so it wouldn’t consume me and destroy my life totally. The anger is always there like a simmering volcano that occasionally flares up. This may explain why I prefer the life of an introvert. Crowds make me nervous.

Running with the Enemy, although fiction, represents what I experienced in combat, and why I used that 1880 General William Tecumseh Sherman quote to open the book.

War, like rape, is hell. War does things to most of the troops who actually fight in combat. It’s also why I can’t condemn combat troops who end up committing atrocities like the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam or what happened in Abu Gharib prison in Iraq where there was torture and abuse. Those troops didn’t need to go to prison for what they did. They needed help to recover from the combat trauma that ruined their lives. Maybe a mental hospital/prison would have been a better place to end up with help to heal if healing was possible.

Many if not all of us who joined the military mostly do so out of patriotism—naive and innocent we went off to war singing patriotic songs, and then, like a Dr. Jekyll, many of us combat veterans came back as a Mr. Hyde changed for the worse. For us who manage our demons and stay mostly in control, we must always be on guard to control the dark stain on our souls that was birthed in combat.

Running with the Enemy, not for the faint of heart, is on sale for .99 cents through March (2014) and in April the price returns to $3.99. A few pull quotes from reviews might paint a more complete picture of the story.

A judge for the 21st Writers Digest Self-Published Awards said, “Quite good and has a lot to say about the nature of conflict.” Another reviewer said, “Well written with very graphic language and violent scenes, but a very good suspense book.” A third reviewer said, “I was sucked in by the nitty gritty feng shui of the book; then repelled by the sexual violence.”

The reality is that as authors—if we are honest—we have no control over how any reader will respond to our work.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran and English-journalism teacher.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy that started life as a memoir and then became a fictional suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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Watch out for Murphy’s Law when promoting a book

Murphy’s Law says, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

True, it happened to an advertisement of “My Splendid Concubine” scheduled to run Wednesday, September 25, 2013.

I’ll explain what happened later.

In this post, I want to share some examples of what I have done to promote my work—with results. Also more examples of Murphy’s Law.

“My Splendid Concubine” came out December 2007. But I started researching the main character—Sir Robert Hart—in 1999. The research; revisions and editing continued for more than a decade. Along the way, I researched China’s history and culture and made several trips to China with my wife and daughter. It also helped that my wife was born in China and is Anchee Min, the author of “Red Azalea”, a “New York Times Notable Book of the Year” (early 1990s) that also won the “Carl Sandburg Award”. My wife would go on to write six historical-fiction novels with China as her subject, and her last book—“The Cooked Seed”, a memoir—was published this year.

Anchee is my go-to person when I have questions about China’s history, art and culture.

This week I ran my third internet advertising campaign through the Authors Marketing Club.  The ad was supposed to run on March 25 listing a .99ȼ sale price— reduced from $3.99. Instead—this is where Murphy’s Law comes in—the ad ran on the free page and there were hardly any sales. No surprise there. Imagine someone expecting a free book discovering it selling for ninety-nine cents. I sent an e-mail to the Authors Marketing Club alerting them about the glitch, and I’ll update this post if I hear back from them.

Although I have offered free, review copies through Goodreads (10 paperback copies); Library Thing (25 paperback copies), and complementary copies for internet book-blog tours, I have never run a free giveaway for the “My Splendid Concubine” e-book, and I don’t think I ever will.  Ninety-nine cents is as cheap as it’s going to get.

Why?

Mainly because in 2008, a copyright pirate—without permission—offered the 1st edition of “My Splendid Concubine” as a free pirated download, and it hit #1 on the piracy download list that year.

Being the number-one most pirated book in 2008 isn’t exactly something to fall in love with.

I discovered the piracy while I was shopping one day, and a clerk at Fry’s [the electronics warehouse] recognized my name because he read about the novel breaking records being downloaded from pirated sites—it seems that there were tens of thousands of downloads. I think this is another example of Murphy’s Law.

Expecting the ad through the Author Marketing Club to run on Wednesday, I announced the sale through Twitter early Wednesday morning, and I think the following tweets resulted in maybe three or four sales that day.  But the sale will continue through October 1.

 99ȼ -75% off@ http://goo.gl/gHVuVB City Weekend Magazine says “a stunning work”; Midwest Book Review said “highly recommended”

#OnSale 99ȼ@ #iTunes http://goo.gl/5iQpu #AwardWinning My Splendid Concubine-the #LoveStory Sir Robert Hart hid from the world until now

#OnSale 99ȼ @ #Kobo http://goo.gl/Au8gM9 #AwardWinning My Splendid Concubine-the #LoveStory Sir Robert Hart hid from the world until now

#OnSale 99ȼ @ #Nook http://goo.gl/OZytMX #AwardWinning My Splendid Concubine-the #LoveStory Sir Robert Hart hid from the world until now

“Probably the best book I have read since Lonesome Dove” is #OnSale @ #Amazon http://goo.gl/gHVuVB  MySplendidConcubine #LoveStory #awards

Kindle_LR_e-book_cover_MSC_July_25_2013e-book cover (the paperback has a different cover)

Promoting “My Splendid Concubine” has been an ongoing job that I started in 2008 with Internet book-blog tours in addition to author events at several local independent brick-and-mortar bookstores in the Bay area. I was also a guest on thirty traditional, broadcast-radio talk shows—a few of those interviews may still be around as podcasts. There is a link or two in the top bar on the book’s Website @ My Splendid Concubine.

Then in 2010, I took more than one workshop and learned how to Blog properly and launched several Blogs: iLook China.net; Crazy Normal; The Soulful Veteran, and Anything Goes @ Lloyd Lofthouse.org where this post appears.

For more than three years I relied on blogging to promote my work and the sales numbers indicate that the posts I was writing for my blogs worked. For example, iLookChina has had almost a half-million visits to the site.

And in 2008—without the blogs—“My Splendid Concubine” only sold 221 copies, and in 2009, 341 copies.

Judge for yourself if building a proper author-platform blog pays off—In 2010, Concubine sold  2,375 copies; in 2011, 4,641, and in 2012, 4,158.

In 2013, I decided to advertise on the internet, and my first ad ran on BookBub on June 17. I kept the price at .99ȼ for a week before changing it back to $3.99. That first ad campaign through BookBub resulted in the sale of almost 3,000 copies that month and the highest royalty check I’ve earned so far for one month’s sales.

The second ad campaign ran through eReader News Today (ENT) and that ad ran on September 1, and the sale stretched for one week @ 99ȼ.  Three-hundred-sixty-four copies sold while the price was discounted.

Total sales of Concubine have reached more than 16,000 since it was first published and continues to sell a few copies daily even when it isn’t on sale. For example, between the two September sales the book sold more than sixty copies at the full price of $3.99.

Over the years, the novel has placed in fifteen juried literature festivals where less than 5% of entries earn awards and it has been reviewed by the Midwest Book Review.

Although Midwest charges a reading fee to submit an e-book for a review, there is no fee to submit a paperback for a review, and I have only submitted paperbacks to this review site that was established in 1976 to serve academic library organizations in California, Wisconsin, and the upper Midwest. It selects about 450 books to review out of the 1,500 submitted each month.

The Midwest Book Review said “My Splendid Concubine” was a strong pick for historical fiction collections and was highly recommended.

Most authors who want to find readers and sell books must promote his or her work. In this post, I have briefly outlined what I have done to find readers for my work. This has been my experience and in no way guarantees a similar experience for other authors.

There is one more example of Murphy’s law interfering with a book launch. In March of this year a tribe of cyber-sociopaths attacked me and my second novel, “Running with the Enemy” as it was being launched, and this attack resulted in a number of 1-star ratings on Goodreads from anonymous bullies who never read the book, and the first review on Amazon—1-star from a troll called Miss M, who never bought or read the book. There is a comment thread for that 1-star review littered with attacks from cyber sociopaths all linked to the same Goodreads group—along with Miss M who is also a member of that tribe. The group calls itself Badly Behaving Authors and some of the members of that group are authors so the name fits.

But promote you must—if you want to find readers—and as I have discovered, the journey can sometimes be full of potholes as described by Murphy’s Law.

Discover Anchee’s Website

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran and English-journalism teacher.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy that started life as a memoir and then became a fictional suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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