The 1.6 Ton Concrete Stairway Procrastination Project

One challenge living in a house built on a steep hillside offers is erosion. From the street to the top of the property, I’ve estimated it’s about seven stories or seventy feet of elevation gain.

The erosion I’m talking about had washed enough dirt away from the southwest foundation of the house over the decades to expose the bottom of the concrete and allow the ivy to grow under the house in addition to letting rats move in too.

The erosion, ivy and rats led to this concrete stairway project on the southwest side of the house that I started on April 10, when I cleared away the thick ivy and ended almost four months later on August 1, 2015, with a 2nd coat of stucco in those areas where there were no steps or sidewalk. To show what I’m talking about, I’ve included nine photographs after the text of this post.

There is a double explanation for adding the word procrastination to the title. One reason is that I’ve known for several years that this job had to be done, and the second was that it was a great excuse to escape Twitter—my experience is that when you spend too much time on Twitter, it squeezes all the energy out of your brain until it refuses to function—and working on the rough draft of my next novel, The Last Sorcerer.  The next image is a working cover for the first book in a planned five-part series.

Book One on July 20 - 2015

In total, I worked on the concrete stairway project for nineteen days and 63 hours for an average of about 3.3 hours on each working day. When I started, I thought I’d be able to work the long 12 to 16 hours days of hard labor I worked when I was age 30 – 40, but I quickly learned that wasn’t going to be the case. At almost 70, when you work this hard, you quickly feel the damage age contributes.

The first damage was to my elbows from swinging a pick and sledge hammer to break up the hard packed clay—clay soil is difficult to work in dry or wet. I solved this later by using a heavy duty hammer drill and a wide chisel bit.

After that first and last 6-hour work day on April 14, I took a two-week break to let both elbows recover. The damage to the right elbow was worse than the left one. On April 15, I couldn’t move that arm or hold a pen to write, and it took the next fourteen days before I felt it was safe to continue working on the project.

Eventually, on May 22, I visited Big-5 and bought two, one-piece neoprene Pro Elbow Support sleeves that dramatically helped speed up the healing process and alleviated the pain so I could get back to work more often. I still don’t know why the elbow supports worked but they did.

By the time I finished the project, I had poured 19 bags of gravel that weighed a total of 950 pounds and mixed 41-bags of concrete (2,260 pounds based on dry weight). I have no idea how much that concrete weighed once it was wet, but I carried it up the hill in buckets from the mixing pan.

The receipts for the project reveal that I made thirteen supply runs, and I did not add in the hours spent driving to Home Depot to buy the material necessary to finish the work. If each supply run took 2.5 hours (a guestimate), then that added another 32.5 hours bringing the total to almost 96 hours.

Here are the nine photographs that show several stages of the project from near the beginning to the end, and writing this post gave me another excuse to avoid working on the last chapter in the first novel of The Last Sorcerer series.

Stairway Project One

Stairway Project Two

Stairway Project Three

Stairway Project Five

Stairway Project Six

Stairway Project Seven

Stairway Project Eight

Stairway Project Nine Stairway Project Ten

_______________________

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

IMAGE with Blurbs and Awards to use on Twitter

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.

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

Advertisements

Giving away a Concubine 38,892 times in 16 days—Was it worth it?

UPDATE on July 25, 2015

It’s been more than a month since the BookBub ad ran on June 11th when “My Splendid Concubine” had only 117 reader reviews. This morning there were 204 reader reviews on Amazon.com, and all but one of them was a verified purchase. Most of the new reviews have been 5-stars. The 1-star that was not a verified purchase alleged the book was kiddie porn after most of the review praised the writing and the story. Regardless of the alleged opinion of that one review that was not a verified purchase, the book is not kiddie porn. The reviewer based her claim on the fact that in 1855, Robert Hart, who was still 19 had sex with a concubine who was age 14—in a country with no laws that restricted sex with an adolescent female who had reached puberty under the age of 18. In fact, in the 19th century women in China (and even in the United States) of almost any age were considered the property of men to be bought and sold.That practice didn’t end until 1949 in China, but by then Robert Hart would have been dead for almost fifty years.

Do we condemn a man and the book that is based on his life in the mid 19th century for doing something every man could do legally based on today’s laws in the United States?

Paid purchases are up slightly compared to where they are on those months when I am not promoting the book running ads. Before the ad ran and the giveaway ended, the book was getting about one or two reviews a month. In July there have been days when eight reviews appeared in one day. Paid sales are not dramatic but they have increased and sales are up from almost nothing for my other three titles.

— Original Post —

This is about the almost 8-year long journey before I offered my Concubine FREE for 16 days in the United States, Canada, Australia, India and the United Kingdom (free copies were downloaded in all five countries) between May 29 – June 13, 2015, and it wasn’t an easy decision to make—to give away a novel that took more than a decade to research (with an emphasis on research), write, revise, edit, revise and edit again several times. A lot of time and work went into writing Robert Hart’s story set in 19th century China.

To be clear, My Splendid Concubine is not a woman, and this post is about what happened when the novel was offered for free for the first time in tandem with a BookBub advertisement. Concubine is a historical fiction novel based on the real life of an Irishman who went to China in 1854 when he was age 19.

I started writing this novel in 1999 when I was dating Anchee. We dated for several months and were married December 1999. When we were dating, before we got married, she was working on her fifth novel, “Empress Orchid”, and she mentioned an Irishman named Robert Hart, who had worked for the Qing Dynasty until 1908—for about 50 years.

The first edition of “My Splendid Concubine” (December 2007) was followed by the sequel, “Our Hart”, in 2010.  Then in April 2013, I combined the prequel and sequel in the 3rd edition of “My Splendid Concubine” and stopped publishing the first two. By then, all of the editions had sold a combined 12,000 copies.

  • 221 in 2008
  • 341 in 2009
  • 2,375 in 2010
  • 4,641 in 2011
  • 4,158 in 2012
  • 5,044 in 2013
  • 4,192 in 2014, and about 300 copies sold over the first five months of 2015

In early 2013, sales started to slip after the 3rd edition came out, so I submitted My Splendid Concubine to BookBub, and the historical fiction novel was accepted for a $0.99 sale that ran on June 16, 2013. By the time that first ever $0.99 sale came to an end, about 2,900 copies had been sold—at the time that represented 22% of total sales since the 1st edition had been published in 12-2007.

Concubine was submitted to Book Bub again in 2014 and was accepted for another $0.99 sale in June of that year. This time, Concubine sold more than 3,000 copies at the reduced price, and the novel picked up a review from:

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

In 2015, I submitted Concubine to BookBub for another $0.99 sale, and they rejected it. I submitted another one of my books for a $0.99 sale, and they rejected that one too.

In April, I ran the $0.99 sale for Concubine anyway and advertised through several sites instead of BookBub: The Fussy Librarian, The Choosy Bookworm, and eReaderNewsToday — 177 copies sold, and that represented about 46% of the total sales of all four of my titles for the first five months of 2015.

Then I resubmitted Concubine a 2nd time to BookBub in early May, but set the offer for FREE, and BookBub said yes and scheduled the date for their ad to run on June 11.

This was the first time I’d offer one of my books FREE, and it isn’t as if I didn’t know that this was a viable method to market books and reach more readers.  I’ve read about the success other authors have had offering at least one of their titles for free, and I understand that it works best for the first book in a series, but I didn’t have a series (I #AmWriting a five-book series now, and I plan to publish the first one in about a year and maybe sooner).

The idea behind offering a book for free is to generate word-of-mouth for an author’s work, but, as long as my work was selling several thousand copies annually, I was reluctant to make that decision—until the sales fell off a cliff from a four-year (2011-2014) monthly average of 385 copies a month to an average of 81 a month for the first half of 2015.

When I heard back from BookBub that Concubine had been accepted for a free ad, I let a group of authors that I belong to at Historical Fiction eBooks know—we share information and support each other—and I was advised to start lowering the price immediately, because Amazon doesn’t make it easy to set a price to FREE. I was told that Concubine would have to appear FREE on Barnes & Noble and iTunes before Amazon would match the price.

I logged on to my Draft2Digital account and submitted the price changes the same day, and Draft2Digital submitted the changes to: B&N, iTunes, Kobo, Scribd, and inktera, and it took about three days for all the prices to change.  That was when I logged in to my Amazon kdp account, scrolled down to Contact and left a request for a price match with links to B&N and iTunes.

Once Amazon dropped the price to free on 5-30, I attached the following image to a Tweet and penned it to the top of my Twitter page. During the next 16 days, I swapped that Tweet out and penned a fresh one several times a day for my more than 12k Twitter followers to Retweet. I have no idea how many times that Tweet appeared on Twitter, but I think it was probably hundreds and maybe even thousands of times.

FREE FOR A LIMITED TIME

I also paid eBookBooster $35 to submit Concubine to 45+ sites that advertised free books for free. I only know of five that announced the free offer: FreeBooksAndMore.com on June 5; bestebooksfree.com on June 7; Top 100 Best Free Kindle Books on June 9; Booklover’s Heaven on June 10; and eBookDaily on June 12.

On May 30, the first day after Concubine was listed free on Amazon and the other virtual retail book stores, 1,038 copies were downloaded. Another 1,151 were downloaded on May 31 followed by 291 on June 1st. Then the number of downloads started to drop—77 on June 3 – fifty-nine on June 4 – forty-three on June 5 – thirty-four on June 6 – thirty-two on June 7 – twenty-six on June 8 – Forty-Five on June 9 ( the day Top 100 Best Free Kindle Books ran its free ad), and nineteen on June 10.

Amazon Sales Chart on June 11

Then on June 11th, the BookBub ad appeared early in the morning, and 21,791 copies were downloaded for free on Amazon that day. On June 12, another 3,813 were downloaded followed by 1,412 on June 13.  An additional 7,573 copies were downloaded through Draft2Digital, but there may be more to come (D2D has to wait on the retailers to report sales. For instance, 4,730 free downloads were not reported until June 18 and those were only from iTunes and Barnes & Noble so there may be more to come when the remaining retailers report in.).

Draft2Digital Sales Chart

By the time I submitted the price change for “My Splendid Concubine” from FREE back to $3.99 early in the morning on June 14, 33,703 copies had been downloaded for free for a book that in almost 8 years had only sold 20,895 copies. Concubine also made it to #5 free in the Kindle store for the Top 100 List.

Number 5 in Top 100

Since June 11—the day the BookBub ad ran early in the morning—to June 18th, Concubine picked up 8 new Amazon reviews marked as a Verified Purchase: seven 5-stars and one 4-star. Before the sale, Concubine was picking up about 1 or 2 reviews a month.

What about sales after the price returned to $3.99? Concubine has sold 22 copies, Crazy is Normal sold one, Running with the Enemy sold four, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova sold two. In May, all four books only sold 30 copies, but so far for June, forty-four have been sold with twelve days left before the end of the month.

Do you think giving away almost 40,000 FREE copies and paying more than $300 for the BookBub ad was worth it?

_______________________

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

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.

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

 

Dissecting the “Moral Duty” of a Reckless and False Review [Viewed as a Single Page]

A less than 1-star review of the 2nd edition of My Splendid Concubine that was posted on a Blog, Two Americans in China dot com [December 9, 2012], and on Amazon.com is the focus of this post. This review ran for 1,145 words. It took me a few months to decide to write a response, because it meant digging through thousands of pages of research—most of it from primary source material, Robert Hart’s journals and letters.

In addition, it also meant attracting the wrath of mostly anonymous Internet vigilantes (cyber bullies) that allegedly think they have a moral duty to attack any author that responds to a review of his or her own work no matter how misleading that review might be.

I have no problem with a negative review—even if it is 1-star—that is honest and does not resort to reckless and false claims to influence readers, but Amanda Roberts’s review of My Splendid Concubine may be, in my opinion, a reckless review, and I want to take advantage of my 1st Amendment rights as an American and have my say regardless of the mostly anonymous-cyber bullies who would probably vote “NO” in an attempt to bury this if I were to post it on Amazon.com.


Note: This post originally appeared as a six-part series on
iLook China.net starting May 13, 2013 in Dissecting the “Moral Duty” of a Reckless and False Review: Part 1

Roberts says, “Writing a book is hard. As a writer, I know how difficult it is to put the pen to paper and put what you have to say out there for the world to see and then be ripped apart. I try to be fair in my reviews and, even when they aren’t very good, look for the positive and leave the choice of whether or not to read the book up to my readers. My reviews are my opinion – nothing more.

“But sometimes, you come across a book that is so bad that it becomes a moral duty to spare others the pain of reading it. I really hate to go that far in a review, but this book is so bad I even feel bad for Lofthouse’s wife. Let me explain …”

After we remove all of the reckless, false claims, what’s left is Roberts’s brief and honest opinion: “The book is extremely soft-core pornish, and it is my moral duty to spare others the pain of reading it.”

My question is: Does that “moral duty” give Amanda Roberts (or anyone for that matter) the right to write a reckless and false review?

If Roberts had read “Entering China’s Service: Robert Hart’s Journals, 1854—1863”—as I did using a highlighter and tagging pages—before writing her review or after reading the 112,538 words of My Splendid Concubine’s 2nd edition, she would know how reckless and false the claims she made are that supports her ‘moral duty’.

Amanda Roberts’s first reckless and false statement: “As a customs officer in Ningpo, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou (known as Canton back then) from 1854-1908, Robert Hart spent his life trying to keep the faltering Qing dynasty from going bankrupt.”

This is far from accurate, because it would be years before Robert Hart went to work for the Chinese, and then several more years before he would have the authority and opportunity to dedicate himself to keeping the Qing Dynasty from going bankrupt.

On Page 1 of “Entering China’s Service”, it clearly says, “As head of the Maritime Customs from 1863 to 1908, Hart hired an international staff of hundreds (mainly British) as well as a subordinate Chinese staff of thousands to collect the revenue of foreign trade.”

And Customs only raised about a third of the Qing Dynasty’s revenues.  However, it would have been correct to say that while Hart was Inspector General the revenues from Customs were the only reliable source of money that the Qing Dynasty could depend on.

In addition, as a Custom’s official of China’s emperor, Hart never worked in Hong Kong, a British Crown colony. Instead, he spent a few days in Hong Kong after arriving in July 1854. While in Hong Kong, he struggled—for the first time—to learn Chinese before being posted to Ningpo via Shanghai.

In addition, Hart did not work as a Chinese Customs officer out of Ningpo. Hart first arrived in China not speaking one word of Mandarin and his job description was as an interpreter working for the British—not the Chinese, and for his first few years in China, he worked for the British consulate in Ningpo.

Then on March 20, 1858—while still working for the British as an interpreter—Hart was transferred to Canton three years and six months after he arrived in China.

Hart would not leave his job with the British to work for the Chinese in Canton until June of 1859, and his title would be Deputy Commissioner of Customs—not Commissioner or Inspector General.

It wouldn’t be until November 1863—more than nine years after arriving in China—that Inspector General of Customs Horatio Lay, in Shanghai, would be dismissed (fired) and Hart would replace him.

Amanda Roberts’s second reckless and false statement: “What the book is actually about, though, is the one year of Robert’s life in China when he had two concubines – sisters.”

Actually, My Splendid Concubine covers a span of two-years and four months, and Hart meets Ayaou for the first time during the summer of 1855 near the end of Chapter 3 on page 59—19,665 words into the novel. It isn’t until Chapter 12 at about 50,000 words that Hart, Ayaou and Shao-mei come together as a family of sorts. By then we are 44% of the way into the novel.

Roberts’s third reckless, false statement: “The overall structure of the book is also severely lacking. The book opens with Hart, in his 80s, going to see the Dowager Empress Cixi.”

In fact, when Robert Hart meets with the Dowager Empress in 1908, he’s seventy-three—not 80, and he will die by age seventy-six in 1911.

Roberts’s fourth reckless false statement: “Almost every single page describes Hart’s erection in some manner. Only a quarter of a way through the book I knew far more about Robert Hart’s erections than any woman should, even his concubine(s).”

In fact, a quarter of the way into the first 112,538 words is about 88 pages, and the word “erection” appears five times or on 5.7% of the first 88 pages. It is a reckless false statement to claim that “almost every single page describes Hart’s erection in some manner” when more than 94% of the first 88 pages do not refer to his erection.

In fact, the word “erection” is used only nine times on six pages in the entire novel. In addition, Ayaou calls his erection a “sun instrument” and that word is used six times. Together, “erection” and “sun instrument” appear 15 times or 0.013% of the time.

I think it is safe to say that Roberts was very uncomfortable with the sexual themes of this novel for her to exaggerate nine of 112,538 words into “almost every page describing Hart’s erection in some manner.”

Amanda Roberts’s fifth reckless false statement: “The perverted, selfish, idiotic representation in this book is the most unfair characterization of this influential man imaginable.”

Robert Hart would not be influential in China until he became Inspector General in 1863. The 2nd edition of My Splendid Concubine focuses on Hart in China when he was learning about China and how to speak Mandarin while giving in to the same temptations that led him astray while he was attending college in Belfast.

If Roberts had read the same primary source material that I used while researching Hart’s life, she would know—for example—that on page eight of Entering China’s Service that “anyone who reads the journals through knows that his mental struggles about women were not soon or lightly won; whether the relapse was to daydreams or to a Chinese mistress, it caused him ambivalence and anguish.”

On Sunday, August 27, 1854, Hart writes: “Bad company led me away from the path of duty; my punishment was not merely spiritual loss but bodily suffering. … I have made resolution upon resolution, broken almost as soon as made. I am almost led to despair … the Almighty is disobeyed, and my soul’s in danger of death Eternal! What a miserable state am I am in!”

On Thursday, October 19, 1854, Hart writes, “A couple of China Women have been peeping in through my windows. I hope I may be able to control myself properly here. Many temptations surround me …”

On Sunday, October 29, 1854, Hart writes, “Now some of the China women are very good looking; you can make one your absolute possession for from 50 to 100 dollars (not British pounds) and support her at a cost of 2 or 3 dollars per month … I too often think of love and its pleasures … It is sinful to think of forbidden pleasures–to cherish such thoughts and yet fear to carry them into execution makes a person very unhappy, quite miserable in fact: So if I think to continue in the habit of such imaginings, I might as well carry them into execution.”

On Sunday, November 5, 1854, Hart writes, “One moment resolving on good: the same moment a temptation comes—it is yielded to—and then one moralizes on the matter.”

Those few examples only touch on Hart’s battle with his libido and temptation. In fact, shortly before his death, Hart burned his journals covering about seven of the first ten years he lived in China starting with May 1855 when he went to spend the summer at the home of Captain Dan Patridge (real name), who was the principal agent of Jardine and Matheson, the largest opium merchant in China.

What did Robert Hart do that motivated him to burn what he wrote that covered those years? What do you think an opium dealer would provide in the way of pleasure?

The answer may be found on page 151: “His rebellion and sinfulness … evidently led him to women of easy virtue and some kind of (retributive) illness thereafter, had been his one fall from grace by age 19. Almost immediately he had come to China, just at the age when the woman question arose most persistently and bedeviled his solitude. … He became strongly conscious of his need for someone to love.”

On page 152, it says, “As this ineradicable craving for affectionate companionship builds up in this young man of age 20, working away in solitude in his lodging in the Ningpo Consulate, we cannot help looking ahead … How does this image of an I.G., who at the height of his worldly power was least inclined to worldly love, square with the young man we see in a struggle of conscience at Ningpo in 1855. And how does the Robert Hart of July 1855 compare with the same man three years later at Canton?”

On page 153, “Whatever may have been his bittersweet struggles with his Wesleyan conscience, the fact remains that God enters less frequently into his journal hereafter. Gone is the thought of being a missionary; there is less attitude of prayer and seeking divine help. Love of woman seems to anchor Hart permanently in this world with no need for keeping lines out to the hereafter.

“We can also infer that experience with Ayaou anchors him permanently in China (page 154). … The Robert Hart whom we meet almost three years later in the next remaining installment of his journal is a different person—self-confident, clear as to his own interest, and easily in touch with the Chinese he is dealing with. Hart’s years of liaison with Ayaou gave him his fill of romance, including both its satisfaction and its limitation.”

In addition, Sterling Seagrave, the author of Dragon Lady (nonfiction–ISBN: 0-679-73369-8), wrote on page 148 of his book, “Robert was raised a strict Wesleyan when this meant twice-daily readings of Scriptures. Money was to be saved, not frittered away. Life was all work and pleasure was sinful.”

Further down the page, Seagrave says, “The appointment to China rescued him (Hart) from an embarrassing situation. College had liberated him from small-town scrutiny, and he had enjoyed a series of infatuations with middle-class young ladies intent upon marriage. What they could not provide, Hart and his chums found among the professional ladies in Belfast pubs, one of whom gave him something [historical evidence suggests syphilis] to remember her by.”

Near the end of Roberts’s review she says, “It makes me want to write my own narrative of Hart’s life just so salvage his reputation. I think I’ll add that to my list of possible books to work on.”

She may want to read this passage on page 231 from Entering China’s Service first: “Relations of love and sex between Asians and Westerners are properly considered in the category of trans-cultural contact. What the double standard of Victorian England would in Hart’s day have called wild oats and swept under the rug, biographers of the late twentieth century are expected to scrutinize as meaningful experience. We can only regret that the moral standards and practical necessity of an early day deprived us of Hart’s record of his coming of age as a resident of China during his service in the [British] Canton consulate in early 1959 and his first years in Customs from mid-1859 to mid-1863.”

Amanda Roberts’s says, “There is a sequel, Our Hart: Elegy for a Concubine, but I really can’t take any more of Lofthouse’s writing.”

Too bad, because in the 117,000 word sequel, the word “erection” never appears, because Hart—as his own surviving journals show—has matured and is a changed man from the one who arrived in China struggling with his Wesleyan, Victorian, British guilt because in 1854, he was as horny as a room full of adolescent boys and a few years before his death, he did his best to sweep those years under the rug by burning seven years of his journals that cover his first decade in China.

The reason we know about Ayoau is because they had three children together, and in 1865 Robert arrives unexpectedly in Northern Ireland with Anna, Herbert and Arthur Hart, and without Ayoau.

Some historians believe Ayaou died in child birth (the theory that I prefer), but others claim there is a letter that proves he sold—or gave with a dowry—Ayaou to another man in an attempt to whitewash his reputation.

We know that he took the children to Ireland where he found them a foster home, and Hart never sees those children again.

If it had not been for those three children, I’m sure that Ayaou would have been banished from Hart’s edited and revised history too.

How would you describe a man that may have sold the mother of his first-three children to another man and then takes those children halfway around the world from China to Ireland so their mother never sees them again? If this theory is true, what does that say about Robert Hart?

There is one last reckless and false claim by Roberts that I want to clarify: “I really didn’t know how this book was published until I realized that the forward was written by Anchee Min,

Lofthouse’s wife. Anchee Min is one of the most important writers of English Chinese literature today. I have several books written by her and have enjoyed her writing. I can only guess that Lofthouse was able to get his book published by riding his wife’s coattails and I can just imagine poor Min having to grit through her teeth as she had to smile and say, ‘yeah, Lloyd, this book is great.’ Poor woman.”

In fact, my wife had nothing to do with the publication of this book, because I am an indie author. She also did not tell me ‘this book is great’. I did not use her agent or her publisher. And my wife had nothing to do with the recognition this book has earned from other reputable unbiased sources. You see, not everyone agrees with Amanda Roberts’s “moral duty to spare others the pain of reading it.”

Amanda Roberts, most people think for themselves. They don’t need someone on an alleged evangelical crusade willing to claim anything to achieve what she may see as a moral duty.

I’ve also written about this subject in My Mother would have Burned this Book (March 2011), because there have been other reviews similar to yours but much shorter that may have also had a burning “moral duty to spare others the pain of reading it.”

Another word for this is censorship, and there is a long history of censorship linked to a moral duty to censor books dealing with graphic sexual topics.

Maybe the truth is that Amanda Roberts is an alleged throw back to the Victorian era and would rather sweep the truth under the carpet that this historical fiction novel reveals and hide it—the same thing that Robert Hart attempted when he burned those journals.

LowRes_e-book-and-paperback-cover-together
e-book cover                                paperback cover

Ms. Amanda Roberts, as valid as your opinion is (for you), there are other opinions of this book that are just as valid.

– PRAISE FOR –

1st edition of My Splendid Concubine:
2007 iUniverse Editor’s Choice
2007 iUniverse Publisher’s Choice
2008 iUniverse Reader’s Choice

Honorable Mention in General Fiction
2008 London Book Festival

“Packed cover to cover with intriguing characters and plot, a must read for history fans and a fine addition to any collection on the genre.” – Midwest Book Review, May 8, 2008

“A stunning work that enmeshes imperialism, modernity, miscegenation and plain old desire in a sweaty matrix of destruction and painful birth.” – City Weekend Magazine, May 8, 2008

“Those who are interested in unconventional romances with an out-of-the ordinary setting will find plenty to enjoy.” – Historical Novel Society, May 2008

2nd edition of My Splendid Concubine

“A powerful novel whose beauty exceeds that of the book’s cover.”
Writer’s Digest judge’s commentary, April 2009 

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2009 San Francisco Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival

Our Hart, Elegy for a Concubine, the sequel to
2nd edition of My Splendid Concubine

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2009 Nashville Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 London Book Festival
2009 DIY Book Festival

Our Hart is a unique and entertaining read, recommended.” – Midwest Book Review, April 2010

“Fine and tightly controlled Novel” – Historical Fiction Society, May 2010

“Political intrigue and matters of the heart are both fully explored. … readers who enjoy vicariously experiencing other times and cultures will find Our Hart a fascinating journey.” – Commentary of a Writer’s Digest judge, April 2011

Finalist in Fiction & Literature: Historical Fiction:
The National “Best Books 2010” Awards, December 2010

3rd edition of My Splendid Concubine: April 2013
(formerly titled
The Concubine Saga)

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival

“Drawing on heavily researched passages with great dramatization, The Concubine Saga is a strong pick for historical fiction collections, highly recommended.” – The Midwest Book Review, July 2012

Disclaimer: No money was paid to bribe another person to write a positive review of this book or to honor it with a literary award of any kind, and I’m sure if we go to court with a judge, lawyers and a jury, that fact would be easy to prove. There was no guarantee of a response from any of these sources or what that response might be.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. 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.

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

Who’s behaving badly? A culture of arrogance

Rape—experts say—is a crime of power and control more than sex. Underlying it all is a sense of arrogance, and on sites such as Amazon, we often have no idea who we are talking to or where they live because they are mostly hiding behind an anonymous, false identity.

The following list summarizes how I was treated starting several weeks after I posted a comment for a brief and poorly written review left by an anonymous Amazon book reviewer for another author’s book. What I wrote was not a review. What I wrote was a comment expressing my opinion of a review. I have since deleted that comment on Amazon and left another comment in its place in addition to explaining why I did it (six customers–guess who they might be—don’t think this post adds to the discussion and it was hidden—-click on “show post anyway” to read it).

1. You should consider therapy. (Anna Karenina is the second anonymous speaker. The first anonymous speaker, KarLynP, has since deleted his or her comment).

2. You cannot debate on a rational topic. (Anna Karenina)

3. You are told that before one can debate, there must be a person worthy of debating and that you do not quality.  (Anna Karenina)

4. Your comments are labeled as “ludicrous nonsense”. (Anna Karenina)

5. Some of what you wrote is called “nincompoopery”. (Anna Karenina)

6. You are accused of calling yourself a troll. (Rmahala Burlingame—this may be a real name)

7. You are accused of not using your brain. (Anna Karenina)

5. You are accused of being a somewhat privileged white male that fits the description of the average troll. (Rmahala Burlingame)

6. It is inferred that you are an “egotistical narcissist”, because during an Internet search of your name, one of the anonymous speakers discovers your Blogs, Websites, book reviews and comments that is your author’s platform, which is a modern-day necessity for any writer that wants to find an audience for his or her work. Building a complex Internet platform is part of the writing business today. (Old Rockem)

7. You are described as a “bloviating person”. (Rmahala Burlingame)

8. You are called a snob. (Rmahala Burlingame)

9. One of the anonymous speakers says that he or she is much more famous than you could ever dream of being and that you would never be as smart as him or her. (Anna Karenina)

10. You are told that your reading skills are so poor that you could not get into 1st grade. (Anna Karenina)

11. You are accused of being a stalker, because after one of the anonymous speakers, Anna Karenina (AK), left a comment on your Blog along with two IP addresses, you wanted to know who he or she was and searched for the location of both IP addresses, and one of them may have been AK’s place of employment, so you call but still don’t know who AK is because he or she was using an anonymous name and the place of employment says they have no way to trace who sent what. (genmar rienee)

12.  After all that, you start getting e-mails advising you to apologize to everyone involved inferring if you don’t, the situation will get worse.

13. After you refuse to apologize to this alleged mob of anonymous Internet stalkers and bullies, it gets worse.

14. On Goodreads, four people give your new book a one-star rating and on Amazon a one-star review appears written by an anonymous person—allegedly a SockPuppet—that could not have bought or read your book. In fact, when the four Goodreads one-star ratings appear, that book has only sold three copies worldwide and all from Amazon Kindle.  In addition, there are two, five-star Goodreads ratings. So three books have sold by the time there are six ratings and one Amazon review.

15.  Then all the one-and-two star reviews for your books sold through Amazon receive a large block of YES votes, and the four-and-five star reviews get many NO votes.

16. Then the sale of your work—novels that have been selling steadily for years—slips almost 40%.

Note: This is not the complete list. There is more, and this isn’t over.

If the definition of rape is correct, then my work and my reputation as an author has been raped by a mob of allegedly arrogant and mostly anonymous Internet bullies who may troll the Internet looking for ways to recklessly spread false and libelous statements.

What we might have here is an alleged culture of arrogance that has created a group mindset that anonymously trolls the Internet to damage the reputations of others—especially authors.

This alleged anonymous mob found me guilty without a trial, without a lawyer, and without a judge or jury. And because I dared to express my opinion about this issue on my Blogs, there was retaliation.

And it all started when I left a comment for one 2-star review of “Tough Cookie” by mystery author M. Ruth Myers. On March 19, “Tough Cooke” had eighty-six 5-star reviews, fifty-nine 4-star reviews, twelve 3-star reviews, one 2-star review (in the next paragraph, and one 1-star review. I also left a comment for the 1-star review posted by an Eileen DeMarco—her only Amazon review, and there is no way to tell who he or she is.

This is the one 2-star review of Myers’s ‘Tough Cookie’: “Too soft and expected situations with the most probable endings, could be written by the reader himself if they had read three novels.” – nancy d. mendez

My comment—my first opinion of the mendez review—was posted on January 20, 2013 the same day the mendez review appeared, and it said, “This isn’t a review. Learn how to write a proper review and then maybe someone that is literate will pay attention to you. I give this sorry excuse for a review one-star or an F-.”

In conclusion, if you are reading this and think of yourself as an open minded, fair person, you may want to read all the posts on this topic and click on the links to the originals before you pass judgment. The first comment from KarLynP, an anonymous speaker, appeared on February 16, 2013, and KarLynP never leaves another comment (and has deleted that comment), and I never did hear from nancy d. mendez, the person that wrote the review.

Anna Karenina (AK), the second anonymous speaker, left his or her first comment on February 22, 2013. AK seems to have left the most comments.

Old Rockem’s 1st comment, from the third anonymous speaker, appeared on February 24. Then number four, Rmahala Burlingame—I understand that this is a real name—left her first comment about ten minutes later.

The following links will take you to the posts I have written about this issue:

2-26-2013: Dealing with Internet Bullies

3-8-2012: The Internet is not a safe haven for being anonymous and behaving badly

3-13-2013: Taking it Global: Online Freedom of Speech versus the 6th Amendment

3-15-2013: Is this an example of defamation? — not protected by the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

3-31-2013: Ginmar: Alleged Cyber Bully, Troll and Stalker?

Note: When I contacted Amazon on this issue, I was basically told they would do nothing because what was happening was acceptable according to their guidelines, and that I should use similar methods to support my work. For example, get more people to vote “YES” for the good reviews and “NO” for the bad reviews—just like the alleged vigilantes were doing—and then have more people write good reviews.

But I don’t have an organized posse to help defend against this alleged mob of vigilantes that are mostly anonymous. Most authors are loners, introverts, and spend their time in front of a computer screen writing, editing, promoting, publishing, etc. And if I did what the alleged vigilantes are doing, they would criticize me for doing the same thing that they do and say it is another example of an author behaving badly.

Besides rape, libel, and defamation, isn’t this also discrimination?

Discover more here: Found Guilty because of Reckless and False Speech – based on true events

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. 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.

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

Ten-Thousand Dreams

My youthful dreams of 1968 eventually materialized into written goals and I never gave up.  To me, giving up means failure.

In fact, every journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. For example, no one has reached the top of Mt. Everest in one leap. They climbed one step at a time—some fail, some die, but many have made it to the top.

On July 10, 2012, the book sales of The Concubine Saga (both novels) reached 10,000 copies (combined sales of hardcover, paperback, and e-books). In the publishing industry, “Fiction is considered successful if it sells 5,000 copies. … A nonfiction book is deemed successful when it reaches 7,500 copies sold.” Source: Self-Publishing Resources.com

That is why I’m writing this post. I’m tooting my own horn. However, it wasn’t a slam dunk.

In December 2007 when I self-published the first-edition of my first novel with iUniverse, I had two goals—sell 500 copies by the end of December 2008, then keep promoting my work until reaching 3,000 copies sold with no time limit to achieve the second goal.

By the end of 2008 (my first year as an indie author), My Splendid Concubine had sold 221 copies so I FAILED to reach my first goal by 279 books that no one bought. It would take another year to reach 500.

In 2009, I left iUniverse and went independent with the 2nd edition of my first novel. By New Year’s Day of 2010, it had sold another 341 copies for a total of 562.

We seldom if ever hear about the reality of success in publishing from the media, which usually trumpets only the biggest success stories as if there are no failures and ignores the horde of authors that never make it.

To give an idea of how tough the publishing industry is, How Publishing Really Works.com says, “According to a 2004 article in Publishers Weekly, only 83 of more than 18,000 iUniverse titles published during that year sold at least 500 copies (that is less than one-half of one percent). … According to a Wall Street Journal article, 85% of its (Xlibris, another self-publishing company) books had sold fewer than 200 copies, and only around 3%—or 352 in all—had sold more than 500 copies.”

Then in 2009, Words of Every Type.com reported, “288,355 books traditionally published; 764,448 books self-published.” (in 2009)

If we use the half percent from iUniverse, that means more than 760,000 self-published books sold less than 500 copies. If we use the 3% from Xlibris, that number is 741,515.56 titles.

From publishing facts found at Dan Poynter’s ParaPublishing.com, we discover how difficult it is for any author, traditionally or indie published to achieve success in publishing.


My first and only book trailer – so far.

If the “the average book in America sells about 500 copies“, that means a few authors are selling many books while many authors are selling only a few. (Note: You may find more facts such as this one on Poynter’s site).

To promote my writing, starting in 2008, I was a guest on thirty-one radio talk shows, held several author events at brick and mortar bookstores, and have been on three virtual Internet book tours (the last one in June 2012). To achieve my promotional goals, I paid publicists to organize the major promotional campaigns. Then in 2010, I started to Blog and that was when my sales skyrocketed more than 1,000% selling more books a month than I did each of my first two years.

However, when I started in early 2008, I had no clue how my work would be received. Being a pessimist, I was ready for the worst. Then My Splendid Concubine earned honorable mentions in three literary contests; Our Hart earned recognition with five awards, and The Concubine Saga, where I combined the first two novels, has picked up another two honorable mentions.

In addition, the Midwest Book Review recently said, “The Concubine Saga is a strong pick for historical fiction collections, highly recommended.”

My work has also received a few short and mostly anonymous one-star reviews on Amazon. Here’s the first anonymous one that appeared May 2009: “As a great fan of Robert Hart’s, I was very eager to get my hands on this book. And what a huge disappointment it proved to be, for many reasons: 1. Robert Hart is portrayed as a man of limited intelligence. On page 32, in a conversation about his servant Guan-jiah, he is described as someone who “knew eunuchs were castrated men.” Yet a few sentences later he asks “Do you mean to tell me that Guan-jiah is a eunuch and without testicles?” – is there a eunuch with testicles? 2. Disregard of simple facts and sloppy editing – page 19, in a conversation taking place in Shanghai, prostitutes are said as having come from Kansu province, in the east. East of Shanghai, as a cursory glance on a map could attest, there is only sea. One of China’s most prominent dynasties, Tang dynasty, is spelt Tan. Almost every second sentence in the book starts with ‘Robert’. Vanity publishing at its best.” — by Voice of Reason

I’m going to frame that first one-star review and “hang” it.  If you are curious to discover all the reviews and awards covering years 2008 through July 2012, be my guest, visit The Concubine Saga and work your way through the years.

Maybe tomorrow readers will stop buying these novels. Maybe my next novel, Running with the Enemy, will flop and never come close to the average. However, no matter what happens, that will not stop this pessimist from setting new goals.

By 2020, I want to write and publish a total of nine more novels—that is my next goal and I have seven-and-a-half years or one novel every ten months to achieve it or get as close as possible.

In 1968, I completed my first book-length manuscript. Forty years later, I published my first novel.

If you want more examples of what it takes to set goals and work hard to make your dreams come true, read Michaela DePrince, dancing a dream and beating the odds and tell me if you do not get tears in your eyes.

Discover another role model for setting goals and achieving success by clicking on What do Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston and Jessica Sanchez have in common? For Jessica Sanchez to come in second on American Idol and land a recording contract, sixty-thousand other contestants had to lose.

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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

The Self-Annihilation of Credibility – Part 5/6

Tilly, in claim six, ever the historian as she says in her Readers Cafe review of The Concubine Saga, points out that the Santai Dynasty mentioned in chapter four was not the oldest known dynasty when in fact the oldest was the Xia.

She is correct but wrong at the same time.  The Xia (or “Hsia” as Lin Yutang (1895 – 1976) spells it in his book, My Country and My People) is the oldest known dynasty but was considered along with the Shang and Chou Dynasties as the “Santai” or “Three Dynasties” (2205 B.C. to 222 B.C.).  Lin Yutang mentions this on page 365 of the 1938 hardcover edition, and I have a copy of Lin Yutang’s book in front of me as I’m writing this post.

I suspect Lin Yutang knew more about Chinese history than Tilly or me.

You see, I did a lot of research between 1999 and 2008 using real books and magazines printed on paper in addition to Google searches.  If I mention a historical fact such as the Santai, you can bet that I was referring to one of my research sources—either a tree book or from the Internet.

However, since Tilly couldn’t find any mention of the Santai Dynasty with a quick Google search, I had to be wrong and the Santai Dynasty never existed.

At the time I was starting My Splendid Concubine, the first novel in The Concubine Saga, my wife was finishing the Empress Orchid that would go on to become a finalist for the British Book Awards, a national best seller in the US and the UK and end up translated into twenty-six languages.  The hardcover of Empress Orchid was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2004 and editors fact checked the novel.  The same sources my wife used regarding the average number of young boys that were castrated and became eunuchs and the methods of castration came from the same tree printed sources I used.

It has been eight years since the release of Empress Orchid and not one historian (Chinese or Western) has accused her of historical innacurracy as Tilly did in her review of my novel posted by the Readers Cafe.

This leads me to Tilly’s last claim of historical inaccuracy, number seven, that there was no way that Robert Hart did not know about the Taping Rebellion before the summer of 1855.

Continued on July 13, 2012 in The Self-Annihilation of Credibility – Part 6 or return to Part 4

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. 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.

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