I began uploading my novels to kindle direct publishing (kdp) four years ago this coming November. I recently posted the fifth and last novel of a series called “Witnesses” to kdp, a great satisfaction for me, since I’ve been working on this series since the mid-1980’s.
Basically, “Witnesses” is about ordinary people coping with crises like warfare and its aftermath. I include stories about American wars in the 17th, 19th, and 20th centuries and a battle against a destructive cult in the present day. Each novel contains short stories and novellas having to do with the wars in question.
The second novel, called “The Angel of Recovery” has concerned me because it has seemed more remote than the other four, in particular a novella that’s interspersed with other stories throughout the narrative. This novella takes place in the 1880’s and consists of letters from Agnes Butterfield to her sister, an actress based across the continent in San Francisco.
Agnes writes about her experiences as she recovers from the deaths of four family members, two as a result of war injuries, and strives valiantly to rejoin her community. As much as I liked Agnes, I sensed that I had made her letters stilted and wooden. I started to read the novel, prepared to overhaul her part at least. When I got to the first letter, however, I thought it was okay, not suitable to every taste, but some readers will appreciate it . There are different styles in the “Witnesses” collection. Agnes’s letters can represent one way of telling a story. I haven’t changed any of her part. Here’s the start of the first letter:
Whitneyville, July 7, 1881
I was pleased to hear from you last week. No, I’m not upset that we haven’t been in touch for a long time. I knew you were busy and building a new life with Anthony. As I thought about your questions, impressions came to me in a disorderly rush that took me a few days to sort out. You asked about Alfred in particular – I remember how close you and he were when we were growing up – and so I’ve put in a lot about him.
First, I want you to know that my spirits are slowly reviving. I had company for dinner last evening – the first time since Mother’s funeral a year ago.
Priscilla Prince was here and her friend Thomas Buffum, a manager at the woolen mill and superintendent of the Sunday school at St. John’s on Cedar St. Adoniram Birdwell, my lawyer, another bachelor, also came. He can play various musical instruments and boasts that he’s done many useful things with his life, though I say it’s simply that he can’t sit still. Besides his law practice and the music he loves, he’s been a balloonist, an explorer, and has business interests. He says, though, that he feels at loose ends. I say it’s because he hasn’t had a family life since his wife passed on. He claims that a feeling of being at sea is common for many people nowadays, but we help ourselves if we keep busy. He has ideas, he said, that he hopes to carry out soon.
His comments didn’t please Mr. Buffum, who replied that the mark of maturity is not to rely on oneself, but on the divine power, on whom he leans quite a bit these days, he says, because his sister Maude is gravely ill.
Some of the neighbors hint that my seclusion after the deaths of Daniel and Alfred and Mother went on for an unhealthily long time, so they look surprised and pleased and skeptical when I tell them that I’ll do something useful in the years ahead, as if they think I’m too sensitive to make a sustained effort, but Adoniram’s example lingers in my thoughts. The sensitive ought to bestir themselves, for their own good and others. No one has a right to idleness.
That’s the introduction to my friend Agnes. I don’t mind it now.
I’ve been making some changes, though, to beef up my marketing campaign:.
I’ve added a few blogposts about the art of writing to my website and poems to Author’s Den, which I subscribe to.
I’ve turned the “Work in Progress” page of my site into a semi-diary, mostly detailing progress I’m making on a new novel, tentatively called “Prophets”, which starts with another fictional friend:
Ardele had the afternoon off. She left the suburban dress shop where she worked and took a bus to downtown San Diego. Looking out the window, she thought about a comment her mother had made at breakfast – that she’d probably have big news later in the day. Ardele supposed it had something to do with her stepfather Larry who loved to talk about getting new this and new that and maybe had finally moved beyond the chat-about-it stage
Ardele had lunch with a friend, finished her shopping, and strolled to the library on Park Boulevard. On the way, pain from a childhood injury returned and she walked with a limp that she hadn’t completely got used to.
The resurgence of the familiar ache reminded her that although she wasn’t yet twenty, her movements would be limited for the rest of her life – unless medical researchers developed a procedure that would cure her, good news she didn’t expect to hear. Still, she wasn’t disabled and she knew how to hope – for work, a husband, children. Her first challenge was to find an occupation that suited her abilities and wasn’t beyond the range of a high school graduate.
And here are three other changes:
I’ve added a sign-up form on my website where visitors can sign up for an email letter I’ve been putting out twice a month.
I’ve joined a few new promotion sites to build up my marketing efforts.
A few people have downloaded my work in the past four years, a small number compared with what some writers of romance, thrillers, and erotica boast about. Never mind that. I press on. I’ve started preparations to make my novels — 13 now plus one collection of prose sketches — available as paperbacks, by print on demand through Amazon’s CreateSpace. I hope to have the first one ready later this month.
One thing I’ve learned about self-publishing and marketing is that it’s a continuing process. One doesn’t easily reach a point where he or she can say: this is it, I’ve come to my goal, I can rest now. New things to try always turn up. Of course, I should have expected that at the beginning. After all, the author of the Old Testament book Ecclesiastes wrote: “Of making many books there is no end…”