Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fear! What REALLY scares you?

I know that sounds trite but I need some input.  Everybody has a phobia, a fear of something.  I need your help - What scares you? Really, really scares you?

I don't want to write a book about zombies, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, etc.  What I want are real, tangible fears... like drowning, snakes, rats, falling, etc.

When you respond I'd like you to be as specific as possible.  I'm not looking for vague responses of "I fear water and drowning."  What I want you to tell me is your fear "I fear drowning in water. Screaming for help and only water filling my lungs. No air. Struggling."  I want you to give me emotions or the best you can so I can feel the angst and sheer fear of the moment.

As a youth, part of a hazing I endured was being held down and assorted bugs, leeches, snails, worms, and a snake being put on my naked body.  A couple of worms were placed on my ears and I could feel them slowly inch their way into my ear canal. Being held down by six or seven other boys, I could do nothing but scream -- a muffled scream until the gag was in place. I felt the snake slither across my chest, stomach and once down around my groin. It was a baby garter snake, but still..

To this day I have my issues.  I love to fish and only in the last year have I been able to overcome my aversion to a worm enough to actually touch one, pick it up and put it on a hook.  A shiver courses down my spine even as I think about it.  Yes, it has taken over 50 years to come to terms with that day.

I do not hold the boys responsible, it was a passage I had to endure.  Sure, they thought I was going to squeal and tell one of the adult leaders but I didn't.  I wanted to, trust me, I so wanted to but I didn't and in their eyes, I gained a lot of admiration.  I was one of the gang.  I only remember one more hazing after I joined that elite group.  I didn't participate and almost was ex-communicated but wasn't and the group continued.  Some of those boys and I are friends yet today.

But my fear of bugs was the easiest to put away. Roly-polies, ants, spiders, beetles, and other creepy-crawlies are too numerous to sweat about. Snails never really bothered me until I was faced with escargot -- but that is a whole different story.

The leech was sheer terror.  My mind raced with horror as I considered it attaching to my skin and start sucking blood out of me.  Fortunately, they only let it on my body for a few moments. Just long enough for me to feel it slime me then they'd pick it up and move it. One suggestion had my adrenaline pulsing but nobody acted on it and my nude groin area was safe, sort of.

Now snakes, on the other hand! I still have an aversion to them but then again, I wasn't a big fan of snakes prior to the incident. The worms were the biggest fear.  Have about twenty of them wriggling over your bare chest and stomach. If you think having a worm crawl around your ear is cool, try it.  BUT, you can't pull it away when it starts down the ear canal.  You have to let it stretch its wriggling, searching head into that small orifice as it looks for a dark escape route.

Now, share your fear with me. Make my skin crawl.

Until next I ramble on...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


We've all heard the adage -- If given lemons, make lemonade. Yeah, right. But what if that lemon truck keeps visiting you on a regular basis?  Oh, sure, you've learned to do variations - add strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, orange juice, tea, and whatever else strikes your fancy.  Still, the bottom line is there. You're getting lemons!

First and foremost.  Quit making lemonade.  Find another use for lemons.

I've been beating my head against a wall trying to find an agent.  Yes, I know it seems a bit old-fashioned to be looking for an agent these days since it is so easy to self-publish.  Oh, wait a minute!  I did self-publish and the money has just been rolling in -- NOT!

The number of new books put out as self-published each day will stagger your imagination.  I released one at   Smashwords.com and startled to discover in a mere hour it was down on the list of new releases by over 30 other books. By the end of the day it was something close to 200+ and moving quickly into oblivion.

Don't get too smug about Amazon being better.  New releases there fare about the same.  Now add to the fact that you're an unknown and your sales will be abysmal, at best, unless you have extremely savvy marketing skills or a fantastic fan base -- which defeats the concept of "unknown" as we know it.

But I digress.  Back to my search for an agent.  (Are you going to believe that the last 2 paragraph diatribe will come back to relate?)

I discovered a secret.  This secret is going to be so simple it will make you sick.  Marketing.  Bet you didn't see that one coming.

Marketing yourself is just as important as marketing your book.  If your query letter is a dry, lifeless piece of droll, the agent or publisher is going to move on.  From the synopsis to the bio, everything has to shine like highly polished military brass to pass inspection.  In other words, if you can't see yourself in the words you place to the paper, then it is useless.

Can you describe your book in one sentence of no more than 4 or 5 words?  I mean, can you tell me what it is about?  Think of any book you've read -- what is the story?  We've all read Huckleberry Finn -- what is the story about?  Think it over.  How about - Boys rafting on a river?

There are several themes within the story - racism, slavery, Christianity, love, drunkenness, friendship and more. But, those are themes, not what the story is about.

To market yourself, your book, whatever - you need to know your product.

I realized that all the rejections were coming from me not knowing my product -- me, and my book.  I kept making lemonade, changing the ingredients to the lemonade but not changing the concept of the  recipe.

I took the lemons and decided to do something else other than lemonade.  Working from that 4 or 5 word sentence about my book, I was able to expand it slowly, adding to it and reviewing until I had a full page that told about the book, not necessarily the themes.  I now had something marketable. Even my bio changed from a dry listing of my credits to an exciting read about me and my credits.

My self-published book may slowly sink in the quagmire of newly released publications but now I have the secret weapon - a description of the book, not some gimmicky catch-phrase like all the rest of those on Amazon or Smashwords.

BTW, if you're tired of lemonade -- try this.  Melt 1 stick of butter in a skillet. Slice 1 or 2 lemons and place as a layer in the skillet on the butter. Toss raw shrimp in 1 T olive oil to coat. Put raw shrimp on top of the lemon slices. Salt and pepper to taste. Bake in oven at 350 for approximately 5-10 mins until pink and done. Serve shrimp over a pile couscous and drizzle the lemon butter sauce from the skillet over the shrimp and couscous.  Mmmm.

So, in the future, when you think you want to make lemonade, step back and evaluate. There are other ways to handle lemons.

Until next I ramble on...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bob, The Speaker

I don't know if I have ever mentioned the fact I enjoy doing speaking engagements. I mean, if you want me to come speak about some writing aspect or about one of my books, just ask and I will attempt to be there if financially feasible.

I started doing sessions for a small writing conference many years ago.  I wasn't sure the first time I stood up there but by the time the session was over, I was having a blast and my audience was too. I received an email from the mother of the youngest conference attendee, a thirteen year old girl.  She sent a wonderful thank you and how much her daughter enjoyed my session and felt she had learned.  I was humbled.

Since then I've several more conferences and workshops.  I even taught a seven week adult writing course at a local college.

Then it stopped.  Most of it, anyway.

It was like I dropped off the face of the earth.  I hadn't.  In reality, I'd pulled back to my rural roots and was living quietly in small-town America.  I was out of the hub-bub activity.  I did a small presentation for a local club.  For all practical purposes, as a speaker, I was dead.

Then I was asked to do a presentation for a small workshop and I agreed.  The workshop was cancelled at the last moment and I was very upset.  For me, the excitement, the memory of past conferences, rushed through my veins.  I wanted to speak, to present, to once more be the guy in the front which held the audience hanging on his every word.  It was then I decided to move forward... but I needed a plan.

A book release was the key.  It opened a few doors where I was interviewed on a few blogs and even got a chance to talk at a few writer chat rooms.  I was moving forward.

I just finished a blog talk radio presentation for Author's Corner and will be doing a presentation this coming fall for a one-day workshop.  I'm getting psyched.  I've tossed my hat into the ring for a couple of other conferences and I am now getting a few more interviews set up.

So, to help me in this endeavor, I am currently finalizing the cleanup of An Amish Voice for an agent and hopefully he will find a publisher and I will see the release of another book soon.  Of course, that would open more possibilities for me to do speaking engagements.

I can talk about almost any aspect of writing and I can definitely contour my current sessions to your needs.  If you're curious about what sessions I can provide, a small sampling is available at my website.  Check me out at http://www.bobnailor.com -- Click on The Speaker and when that page comes up, click on Sessions.

Until next I ramble on...

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A New Definition

I've been silent for the last few weeks as I mulled over a situation I've discovered.  What to do?  Rest assured it isn't going to go away and has been around for a long time but...

I read a poem. It was a very awkward poem and I could follow most of what the author was attempting to commit to paper.  BUT... There were a few lines which left me totally lost.  I didn't understand.  Even if in context or out of context, it didn't make sense.

He will come a rim.

Okay.  What does that mean?  A rim is an edge -- like a rim of a canyon, rim of a coffee can.  I looked it up in the dictionary.  An edge.

The word "rim" rhymed with another line but I have no idea what the image was being offered.

Later, I read a story. It was a really good story and I was into it when BAM!  I was slammed with a term I didn't recognize by the context being offered.  My first thought was I needed to look it up and see what other possible meanings were available.

A shoal of mermaids.

Ah, yeah. Exactly what is that.  My first thought, a misspelling but when it was used repeatedly in the story, I realized it was not a misspelling.  Every time I read "shoal" I was jerked out of the story.

For your information, there was another phrase which also jolted me and made me stop and think, huh?

Out of exasperation, I contacted the publisher of the story and explained I probably was a cranky old fart but I found the terms disconcerting and just plain wrong in their usage.

The publisher was kind enough to respond. (I really didn't expect a reply!)

He enjoyed the new definitions and imagery the terms brought to mind. He found an author who he felt wasn't locked into the ho-hum terms and created new slang.

Perhaps if the terms were used more by the general public before it was introduced into a story, it might not have been so bad.  That's cool.  I'm bad with a rad idea.  Those terms have been absorbed into the vernacular of our society.

Come a rim?  Shoal of mermaids?

Uh, not yet.  And they may never make it to acceptance and common usage.

My question -- Is this a good thing?  Are authors now empowered with the ability to create new definitions for words?  I know we can make them up to describe a new item... an aero-photon psionic distillinator.


Until next I ramble...