I don’t have a problem with Amazon. Not really.

This weekend a friend tagged me in a post on Facebook. It was an article by Adam Stern in The Chicago Tribune entitled “Independent Bookstores are More Than Stores”.

This article gave me a lot of feels.

First, as a reader, I totally agree with him. I remember as a kid haunting local bookstores. I would sometimes spend hours browsing bookstore shelves. That’s how I discovered Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony and even Jane Austen. We had a used bookstore in our town called The Book Nook. I would often trade books in there. I’d bring in a stack of dog-eared novels and leave with another. I believe that’s where I first made the acquaintance of Stephen King. There is absolutely nothing like browsing a bookstore’s shelves and taking home a new book by a new author you might never have tried before.

And yes, this experience is slowly dying off.

Second, as an author, I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. They make it easy for me to publish my books. It costs me nothing but time to put my book up for sale on Amazon. BUT they make it easy for anyone to publish their books. Forgive me for sounding a little uppity here, but when I decide to publish something, it’s gone through intensive editing. I self-edit, but I am an editor, so I can do it. My books are not the stream-of-consciousness, unedited, full-of-typos books that have given independent/self-publishing a bad name. In fact, I would venture to say that my books are better edited than some bestsellers. But it’s difficult for readers to trust self-published books because anyone can self-publish. Hence, the love/hate relationship.

I cannot hate on Amazon when they provide essential tools for me, though.

Third, as a bookstore owner. Okay, I should hate Amazon, right? Again, there’s mixed feelings here. My store serves a different purpose than Amazon. You will not find the latest Oprah pick (does she still do that?), the newest best seller, the trendiest hot read on my shelves. I have well-loved classics, dog-eared novels, a decent selection of nonfiction, and LOCAL, INDEPENDENTLY-PUBLISHED AUTHORS. So as far as that goes, I don’t have a problem with Amazon. When someone comes in and asks for Nicholas Sparks’s latest or the new book by Barack Obama, I cheerfully refer them to Books-A-Million or Amazon. “But I want to keep my money local and help you,” they say. “So browse the shelves and find something you like from what I have,” I reply.

That’s my problem (and, I guess, Stern’s) with Amazon. But it’s not just Amazon. It’s big publishing in general. And people like Oprah who presume to know what other people should read. They have the influence and resources to push the same authors over and over again. The same ideas get consumed over and over. Just because I can publish my well-edited, pretty damn readable book doesn’t mean it’s going to be discovered by readers who have been conditioned to want to read the latest bestseller, the latest trendy nonfiction, the latest thing Oprah said was good.

So, to those who call me up and ask for the book they heard about on Good Morning America this morning, I say, “If you truly want to help your community and keep your money local, have a look at our local author section. There’s some good stuff in there that you will never know about if you don’t give it a try.”

My independently published graphic novel.

Four Days to Becoming Magic: What do I hope to accomplish?

close up of heart shape

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Yesterday I uploaded my files to Createspace, KDP and Smashwords. A few tiny bumps in the process gave me plenty of time to reflect.

What do I hope to accomplish with this book?

It reminded me of the best writing advice I’ve ever been given: Make sure you have a clear goal for each and every scene you write. How does that scene or chapter help move your story along? Before I got that advice, I’d taken as gospel the “just write” theology of writing. Well, just writing can get you into literary holes and take you down paths you never intended. You’ll end up backtracking and deleting a good bit of whatever you “just write”. (I know a lot of plotters are out there shaking their heads at my “pantsing” attitude, but it’s the way I write.) If you have a clear idea of what your scene will accomplish, you’ll stay on track much better.

So what does that have to do with what I hope to accomplish with this book? Well, I think of each and every book I put out there as a chapter in my life. So many chapters of you life are not within your control. But some are. And each book I put out is something I control. What is my goal with this one?

I’ve given up on the getting famous thing. Not every writer is Stephen King. I’ve given up on getting rich. Not every writer is Nicholas Sparks. I doubt I’m writing blockbuster movies here because I’m not J.K. Rowling. I’m not a literary pioneer like Jack Kerouac. And yet, I can’t give up on the hope that my writing has a place out there. Somewhere.

This year is a year of change for me. My oldest graduated and starts college in the fall. I’ll go from being in charge of most of his life to having only the influence of a (hopefully) trusted advisor—though in truth I’ve been making that transition for a couple of years now. We’re in the process of transforming our home into something we actually enjoy living in. My office is nearly at the point of being my dream space now.

And my writing changed.

In the past, I’ve often followed the formulaic manly hero/submissive heroine (not always, but my characters usually had some of those characteristics). I’m proud to say I fought that tendency in Becoming Magic. I want to see a change in the romance genre. I feel like we’ve swung too far the other way of things by accepting casual references to marginal practices into our genre. In today’s world, romance heroines need to take charge of their lives and loves. This is, after all, what our daughters may read.

So yeah. That’s what I’m hoping to accomplish with my writing and this particular book. In my own little corner of my genre, I hope I will make a difference. In a way, Becoming Magic marks my emergence from a chrysalis of sorts. Though only time will tell if I’m a butterfly or just a stunted caterpillar.