I'm going to tell you a story. I'm going to tell you about what I learned about the problem with Muslims in this country and how it has affected me as a human and an American. I'm going to share with you what I learned about myself and the impact that this knowledge will have on me for the rest of my life.
The other day, I was counting software near the photo lab in the department store where I was working at the time. (For those who don't know, I work for a third-party vending company in major retail outlets in Northern Utah.) So, there I was, counting away, when I heard a happy commotion at the photo counter, about ten or so feet from where I was standing.
A beautiful young family was trying to get a passport photo of their baby. Dad was holding the baby, his longish dark hair falling into his eyes, forcing him to toss his head occasionally to remove it. The baby couldn't have been more than three or four months old. She was still at that stage where holding her upright turned her into an adorable, chubby little ball of preciousness. Big brother, about four years old, was pacing in a circle around mama, obviously bored and completely oblivious. Mom was holding up an off-white, fleece throw blanket as a backdrop for the passport photo. Her eyes smiled every time the store employee tried to get a clean shot of the baby's face. She giggled as he snapped his fingers more than the camera shutter, hoping to gain the baby's attention just long enough.
I don't know if she was smiling, although I assume she was based on her eyes and her laughter. I don't know because I couldn't see her nose or her mouth behind her veil. She wore a Niqab, which is a Muslim head scarf that covers the hair and exposes only the eyes of the face. She was not wearing an entire Burqa or Chador (the full body coverings), but a scarf that covered her face more than a Hijab, which only covers the hair. The garment was strikingly beautiful.
The family was strikingly beautiful.
That was my first thought when I saw them. That they were having such a good time trying to get a simply photograph of their new baby so they could take a trip "back home," perhaps to see family. They wanted, I'm sure, for Grandma and Grandpa to meet their newest grandchild, as any new family would.
My next thoughts were a bit more troublesome. No, I didn't immediately think that they were going home to plan some horrid attack or to radicalize their children. I simply wondered where they were going. Were they going to London where perhaps their extended families have settled? Or are they going to Pakistan or Iran or Iraq? Maybe they are from Afghanistan and came here as refugees to escape the horrible conditions they may have endured. Or maybe, not. Maybe they weren't "escaping" anything, and just happened to relocate here for work. Maybe they are living here temporarily and someday they plan to return home. Maybe, this is their new home.
Where were they going? I have no idea, but my final thoughts were the absolute worst. What if, because of where they are going, where they are from, they are prevented from coming back to their home here in the United States? If there is going to be deeper scrutiny of individuals who come from or have traveled to certain countries, what will happen to this family if they are from, or happen to visit one of these countries? What if their original vetting "doesn't hold up?"
All I could think about is this happy, young family whose entire life could be uprooted simply for introducing their new baby to their parents. I never assumed that they were going to cause harm, but I couldn't keep from thinking about how bigotry and hate, the same bigotry and hate espoused by the extremists, could exile this family and take away everything they'd worked so hard to achieve.
I have learned that it is possible to make a conscious choice to see the good in all people. I have learned that it is possible to dissuade hate and fear. I have learned that, on my path toward peace and serenity, that I have made the decision to choose love.
I hope that young family experiences all of the love they so obviously have within themselves to give.
Happy holidays and God bless us, everyone.
You know, I don't blog often, but when I do, I generally have something to say. And today, I have something to say about Kindle Unlimited.
I love this program! And since they made their Internet-shattering announcement 10 days ago, I love it even more. That's the short version. For the long version, keep reading. I'm about to dissect a rather misleading report on the subject that has raised more than a few eyebrows and plenty of ire in the Netosphere for the past week or so.
Here is the link to the article we'll be discussing:
The First Sentence
"If you are an author whose book fails to grip in the opening chapter, it could prove costly."
She says this like it's a bad thing. Like everyone who has ever published anything is entitled to earn money from it. As though simply gracing Amazon with the presence of your novel means they owe you a living. Really look at what she's saying here. She is saying that if you write a really bad books that people (that is: paying customers) don't find interesting, you could lose money.
And what, exactly, is wrong with that? Authors of books that fail to entertain shouldn't earn any money at all. Amazon doesn't owe them a living. The reader's don't owe them a living.
But until now, until these changes are/were implemented, authors whose stories "fail to grip in the opening chapter," but were read past the 10% mark earned as much in fund payouts as books that gripped so well they climbed the bestseller charts. Add to this the very real instances of people writing sub-par garbage on purpose purely to get folks to read a single page of a 10-page story (see what I did there? 1 page of 10 pages is 10% and the scam-author just got paid the same as I did for my 350 page best-seller.)
As a businesswoman, I can tell you that Amazon has realized they were being gamed and they have changed to rules to protect their millions upon millions of investment dollars.
The First Big L-Word
"Amazon is to begin paying royalties to writers based on the number of pages read by Kindle users, rather than the number of books downloaded. If a reader abandons the book a quarter of the way in, the author will get only a quarter of the money they would have earned if the reader stuck it out to the end."
There is just enough truth in this statement to make the author of the wannabe-expose innocent of lying. By omission, however, she has created an enormous panic among some authors. Let me be very, very, very clear about this:
IF AN AUTHOR IS ENROLLED IN KDP SELECT AND THEIR BOOK IS BORROWED VIA THE AMAZON PRIME OR KINDLE UNLIMITED PROGRAM, they will be paid based on the number of pages read vs. how many books are downloaded.
Simply publishing using Kindle Direct Publishing does not enroll one's book into Kindle Select. Therefore, any authors who have not opted into KDP Select are not subject to pay-per-page payouts. They are paid their royalties of 35% for each sale just like they always have been.
Authors who are enrolled in the Select program will see differences in their payouts. I write novels. I also write shorter works. Readers read at different paces. Some prefer longer works. Some prefer shorter works.
If I earn 1 penny per page instead of the 1.35 (average) I've been earning per book, I will be getting a nice raise. If an author only writes 10 pagers? Well, they are going out of business, most likely.
Most of the article then goes on to talk about how big authors would find their incomes reduced under this type of arrangement. (Check out the referenced to Kobo readers in the article.) I don't believe that author would actually have noticed because her books were purchased. She got her royalty. Even if she were paid per page, chances are the 56% who did not read to the end did read further than page 50. At a penny per page, that's 50c per read and more than mainstream, trad published authors earn per copy anyway!
So, my short version advice here is to not panic. Write your stories well. Engage and entertain your readers. Let the pennies fall where they may.
There are so many genres and so little time! I find that I like to read a variety of books. The most recent book I've completed is A Rancher's Woman by E. Ayers. Can I say that it was really, really good! Like, it made me cry. Twice. That's a mark of a great book, in my opinion. I will say that E.'s writing style is different than mine, but what she does she does very well.
I enjoyed the fact that there wasn't a lot of steamy sex scenes for the sake of steamy sex scenes. I enjoyed that history she employed to make the book jump off the pages. (I had no idea that people had indoor plumbing and running water during the time her book is set. Maybe in the big cities, but she really dug into her research and taught me a thing or two.) I enjoyed the way the main character's played off each other, and I loved the true-to-life emotions, lack of emotions, fear of emotions and emotional volleying that each character exhibited - basically making them into "real people." (You can find A Rancher's Woman on Kindle here.) A Rancher's Woman is a historical fiction novel with a nice helping of romance, definitely on the sweeter side and well worth a read.
Prior to reading E. Ayer's novel, I read Language of Hoofbeats by Catherine Ryan Hyde (Pay it Forward.) This was not a romance (which is my go-to genre for the most part) but a literary fiction novel that centered around one-half of a lesbian couple and their neighbor across the street. Each of the women had some issues (one of them being the fact that a lesbian couple with kids just moved in across the street, oh my!) and each of them had crosses to bear. The author handled everything with grace and a literary talent I can only hope to grow into one day. I recommend this book, as well, and I found it in paperback in Wal-Mart very recently. If you prefer Kindle, you can find it here.
Both of these novels are mainstream fiction. I tend to write almost exclusively in the romance genre, but my current work-in-progress is more of a literary fiction endeavor. So, I'll be reading more litfic, and anything leslit I can find for the next few months. I'll keep ya'll posted here on Mainstream Mondays.
So what genre do you like to read? Do you have a favorite author I should check out? What defines a mainstream title for you?
A writer on a forum recently asked about whether she should be concerned about stealing other writers' ideas. She expressed concern over beta reading for others, or even watching programs on TV or movies because she might inadvertently steal an idea and run with it. She thought that would be terrible. I can remember a time when I thought the same way. So, the question is: Should we be worried about other writer's stealing our ideas, or should we squirrel ourselves away in a vacuum until we have no ideas left?
The truth of the matter is that ideas are not tangible. They are free flowing and ever evolving. This is why they cannot be copyrighted, in fact. Two writers (or even 100 writers) could sit down in a room and one person could say, "I have a great idea! What if the main character in my book is a space-traveling werewolf who crash lands in Scotland, Planet Earth in the middle ages and falls in love with the daughter of the local Laird?"
You can be sure that, if every writer in the room ran with that idea, you would wind up with 100 very different stories.
There are so many unanswered questions! Why was the werewolf/alien traveling through space? Was he or she going somewhere really important so that the rest of the book centers on getting off the planet with new-love-interest in tow? Was the alien/werewolf on the run and perhaps was shot down by a nefarious enemy so that the rest of the book centers on the alien/werewolf/hero saving the human race, and new-love-interest, from certain demise at the hands of an evil empire or space alien vampires? You can probably count on a percentage of the stories including an element of time travel; perhaps the alien/werewolf is an Earthling after all, and his or her ship was damaged going through a worm hole into the past.
The point is that from a single idea, many, many other ideas grow and evolve. So what if you're reading a book and you are suddenly inspired by the thought, "I would have done this differently." Good! Sit at your writing station and start doing it differently.
What you can't do is copy the plot points form beginning to end and simply change the wording. You'd have to ask an attorney if that would actually be copyright infringement (particularly with romance novels where there is a tried and true "formula" of two characters meeting, falling in love, facing conflicts that will tear them apart and then finding a happily-ever-after.) However, copying identical plot points and "re-working" someone else's story is just plain bad form, no matter who you are, regardless of copyright laws around the world.
If we don't read in our genre, if we are not surrounding ourselves with the elements of our craft and the telling of really great stories -- if we exist in that self-imposed vacuum -- then our own creativity will dry up. When that happens, no idea will be good enough whether we think of it ourselves or not.
Let your inspiration reign!
Amazon Best Selling Author Marjorie Jones is an accomplished romance novelist and professional writer. Born in Rhode Island to a Naval Aviator and a proud Homemaker, she currently resides in Utah with her wife, Becky, and the last of their shared seven children; the twins, Thing One and Thing Squared. The others have all flown the coop.