Monthly Archives: October 2012

Numbers

I never meant to be a gambler, I’ve never understood the language of numbers. The best way I know to take care of money is not to spend it.

So what am I doing checking in at the race course several times a day, squinting to read the line-up?  Amazon, that’s my race track. Night Must Wait‘s my horse. When you publish a book and put it on Amazon they start immediately to tell you what its ranking in paid sales is, and my publisher tells me there are about two million books out there on the racetrack. How can you ever break out of a crowd like that?

Social media, build your base, build your profile, make it personal. Connect. All my fellow writers out there, do it. Learn Twitter and Linked-in, Facebook and web pages like languages. I’m watching my numbers. Clearly Amazon has some sliding scale where it plots your recency of publication against your current sales; so far my best number has been around 21,000 (the lower your number the better.) But the number bounces all over, depending on who sold what in the last minute. See why I feel like a gambler watching the horses, straining to spot where my colors are out in the field?

I thought I had a good start but I’m realizing now how much more I might do. Some of you may make faces at me for pushing Twitter, but just have a gander at books like my publisher Cheryl Tardiff’s on web marketing.http://tinyurl.com/a5j8e5g   Or all the uses of Facebook and Amazon outlined in Phyllis Zimbler Miller’s book. http://tinyurl.com/cfereyq The world of publishing is changing? Heard that before? I think we’re all behind the times. It changed, and we’re catching up.

Yes, I have had trouble figuring out the Twitterverse. Eric Van Lowe has some great discussions on his blog on that subject… http://evanlowe.com/

I’m finally beginning to understand Twitter, thanks to a lot of help from my friends. But do you know what the single best trick was that I played on myself to make it all sink in? I put Twitter on my bookmarks bar, so it’s up there every time I start up my internet connection, merely one click away. Simple but remarkably effective.

Feeling at some risk of re-tweeting too much I’m trying to make a point of taking a little time to add some personal words to anything political or informational that I tweet. So there’s hope for this Robin yet.

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An interesting weekend

So, it’s Sunday again. I spent more than half this weekend attending meetings and learning about the new collaborative efforts between the local Cottage Hospital system and the University of California at Santa Barbara. Fascinating that we can have something like this set up, an interface between research at a university without a medical school or any of the sometimes obstructive politics of those arrangements, and a hospital system. My mind is buzzing with the ideas they spread out for us, and I know there’s lots more coming down the pike. I hope to volunteer as one of their base line subjects and have an MRI taken of my brain to add to their database. I hear they’ll give me a CD with my pictures so I can visit one of my favorite places in a whole new way. Medical tourism with a destination in my own house at my own computer!

I came home to the astonishing news that my book was out as an e-book on Amazon. I thought Monday would be the earliest. Paperback to follow in a couple of weeks. Suddenly at the end of the process everything moved way faster than I anticipated. Here’s one of my tweets using a quote from the writer Jervey Tervalon:

“Equal parts harrowing and elegant” NIGHT MUST WAIT #thriller  #Africa  #ImajinBooks

if you look it upon Amazon, it’s NightMust Wait by Robin Winter…

I am amazed to see this all real already. But I have a funny one to share. I was setting up my Author’s Page on Amazon, it came up with the right cover image, title and all, and I approved it, then went to entering event information. (I’ll be on a panel November 4 at the Ventura County Writers’ Weekend.) All of a sudden the title attributed to my name was Railway on the Isle of Man. No matter what I did, my Night Must Wait was gone and I had a whole new book to my credit that I’d never written! I am still totally flummoxed how that happened. Did I mis-strike some command? Did the electronics burp at some critical point? I’m guessing this will be a mystery forever.

Amazon sent a nice note back in response to my explanation of the glitch and in twenty-four hours it should be fixed. I salute the other Robin Winter for his or her book on the Railway on the Isle of Man, and apologize for stealing his or her thunder!

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I have a book!

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this is Sunday so it must be

After I finished working with some images of my Nigerian paintings, of which the above is an example, I picked an armful of my Silver Queen corn tonight and we ate it with  chicken marinated in crushed onions and hot peppers and ginger with a splash of coconut milk and some salt and soy-sauce. Add in fresh tomatoes from the garden. Yes, you New Englanders, it’s mid October and we’re still plucking fat tomatoes from the Brandywine, Japanese Trilete and  Celebrity vines! Then let me point out that I next help myself to a slice of fresh apple pie composed of succulent apples from the garden. Granny Smith, Fuji and Pettingill.

Am I gloating? I fear so. What’s on my mind? Education, believe it or not. I am in the midst of these delectations occupied with thinking about my past and present education, Senior Staff School in Nigeria, Calvert Correspondence School, Stratham Memorial and Exeter Public High, Phillips Exeter Academy,  Wellesley College. You want motley? I haven’t stopped yet– going on to learn more and more of the world and history and language and all education’s strange and wonderful tendrils. I think of my breathless catch-up while tutoring kids, (a couple English as a Second Language students in the mix,) how I fought above all to learn the algebra I never mastered back in High School so I could make sense of it for the kids eating cookies during my Tuesday Homework Club.

I think of how science became a rote exercise in the hands of the public school. They lost the principle that real science doesn’t have answers in the back of the book. That’s the point of an experiment — it isn’t supposed to have a safe answer. That’s why we repeat the same experiment, tally the results, give the effort every chance to fail. It’s that testing of what we didn’t know before we started that makes it science, a way of group knowledge unlike so much else we teach.

How frustrated an ‘education’ can make you when it ties you down to the prerequisites. Binds you to safety. Let me enter a plea here and now for education with risk. We all need the freedom to fail. We need to stretch, not do a safe course, step by step guided and cushioned against misstep. There should be no answer in the back of the book. You who have kids, let them try what you think they cannot do. Sometimes the benefit reaches beyond what you would have projected they could accomplish, and the impact of a noble failure resonates far further than a simple and predictable success. With each failure the next try means more not less. We forget when we try to package knowledge, that science moves forward by disproving not by proving.

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October 22, 2012 · 4:39 am

when I left reality

This tale is overdue. I have a funny relationship with my first novel, Night Must Wait, to be published this late October, because it’s been with me for such a long time. I have a lot of other stories, all the rest came more simply, more directly, and the biggest job my editor/agent Toni Lopopolo had was cutting through all the accumulated barnacles of ideas back to the essential story line and letting it swim. Yep, very much like a boat laden down with the encrustations of other lives needing a good scraping and copper sheathing so it could fly across the waters under sail.

 

I began work on Night Must Wait in 1976. I had met a batch of wonderful brilliant women at Wellesley College who became my friends, and I felt keenly the disproportionate emphasis on male friendship in literature. Female friendships always seemed to fray under the stress of romantic involvements in the world of fiction. That wasn’t what I saw in reality. It pissed me off. The moment a good looking guy came on the scene, fictional women seemed to behave like gonad-driven men except they didn’t engage in the clean fighting of swords, but a sordid dishonest struggle for the man’s attention that revolted me.

 

I wanted a fresh fiction that let women be people, real people of power and action, the way I saw my friends. So I imagined what I could do with placing these characters into a world full of risk, and what more adventure-filled place than Nigeria, where I grew up? A country of new challenge and opportunity and bright difference?

 

Now the thing happened that always happens if you enter into writing fiction. You can pretend to yourself that you can take real people into your mind and have them stay what they were outside of it, but that is the biggest fiction of them all. No, they become you. You may give them a few attributes of their old real selves but it’s superficial dressing. They begin to talk and act in the ways that those powers within your own character demand. And what happened to my ‘musketeers’, my women musketeers? The next thing I knew they had deserted my happy plot and were trying to kill each other.

 

Most disturbing of all, they didn’t need a single man for motive. A man has never been the most important thing in any of my female characters’ lives. All they needed was the information that my own character provided. So I tried for a bit to bring them around to reason, but pretty soon I realized that it was one hell of a better story to let them run, and use the violence within to tell the tale they chose.

I meant to introduce a new set of musketeers that all happened to be women. Instead I let loose a batch of violent dreams and needs that played out a thriller. Hope you enjoy it.Image

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evening painting at site #13 after a hike

I watched a short video on why we spend time on Facebook. Here’s the link if you’re interested http://www.upworthy.com/the-real-reason-you-spend-so-much-time-on-facebook?g=2&c=ufb1.

I feel they mishandled the temporal discounting. I’m one of the folk who says 10% interest for waiting a month to get my $100 is a no-brainer, so when they offer the same deal for waiting a year it makes me cross, not compliant.

But aside from that, Facebook and Twitter and all those little dopamine bursts we get from manipulation and affecting our environment in these tiny keyboarding ways reminds me of something else. I find myself thinking we’re wired for these little ‘social’ gestures, even if on the internet it’s all virtual. Isn’t Facebooking an analog for mutual grooming? Twitter too?

For those of us who’ve worked in any type of office or as waiters or clerks in grocery stores (I can check those boxes!) remember the stuff you do every day? “How was your weekend Joe?” “Kids still crazy about Totoro?” “Did you get your car fixed, Kat?” I’ve always thought chit-chat was a monkey behavior– “Oho here’s a salt crystal in your undercoat!” “Hey, did you know you had fleas–tasty!””A tangle in your fur, let me sort it.”

It’s all mutual grooming, the low-level activity that keeps a troop associated. Not in lock-step, but reminded of who the others are and which ones will snap incisors in your face if you try to trim out that snag.

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October 4, 2012 · 4:58 pm