Monday, December 23, 2013

Why Neil Gaiman Made Me Cry (in the best possible way)

Earlier this month my son's school hosted "Movie Night." The best thing about Movie Night is my kids get to spend hours at school eating pizza, watching movies in their jammies and having pillow fights and from 6 until 9:30 pm my husband and I have the night off. This year we decided to go out to dinner. So how does Neil Gaiman figure into all of this, do you ask?

The restaurant doesn't take reservations. So when Matt left to drop the kids off at school and I went to get a table. While waiting for Matt to join me I was reading The Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: 2013 edited by Paula Guran and The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury by, you guessed it, Neil Gaiman. The story's main character is forgetting things and words, and people. He decides it is his task to remember one thing so God doesn't have to and if he fails in his task the thing vanishes. Ray Bradbury is his task. He says:

And I fear that I am going mad, for I cannot just be growing old. If I have failed in this one task, oh God, then only let me do this thing, that you may give the stories back to the world.
We get dementia stories, on average one or two a month, over the transom at Flash Fiction. Generally, these are told from the perspective of the caregiver. The few stories that tackle the tale from the victim's standpoint are often a mess.

Why did this story make me cry those slow silent tears that creep down your face when the pain's too pure and true for sobbing? The ones you don't know have escaped until they drip onto the table?

Let's give praise where it's due. Neil Gaiman is a masterful storyteller. He manages to keep the necessary rambling when the character's mind drifts off point relevant and beautiful. But there was more to the why of being moved to tears.

Take it as a given that the story has lovely and heart breaking imagery. Take it for granted that you can hear Neil Gaiman's voice as you read the words. Take it for granted that the story didn't make the disease progression trite and treated the main character with dignity. Why did this this beautifully written story provoke such a visceral response from me?

Two reasons.

Neil Gaiman is good friends with Sir Terry Pratchett. Neil Gaiman was late to the 2013 World Fantasy Convention signing he's pictured in above because he had been out to dinner with Terry Pratchett. In 2006, Terry Pratchett announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. The literary community, heck, the world, reeled.  After all. if Terry Pratchett, who used his mind to create amazing worlds, could fall victim to Alzheimer's no one was safe. Because I know that the two men are close I felt like this one had been more than just a story to Neil Gaiman, that The Man Who Forgot was as much about losing Ray Bradbury in 2012 as it was about Terry Pratchett. Whether or not it was is irrelevant. I added an emotional layer to the story because of my supposition about the writer's motives. I'd also just seen Terry Pratchett and attended his interview at World Fantasy. I watched him struggle to find the words. And it broke my heart. And then I added another emotional layer to my reading experience.

My father suffers from Lewy Body Dementia. He was diagnosed in 2011 after my mother and I took him to a movement specialist. Unfortunately, my folks live in Florida so I can help out with his care as much as I would like. Still, in reading The Man Who Forgot I could see my father in the main character. Could see his struggles in the character's attempt to remember a word by coming at it sideways - thinking of book titles that contain the word to see if it will drop into place. Unfortunately, my Dad's dementia is progressing quickly.

The best stories, and this is one of them, touch our soul. We take more from them than the bare words. They give us a chance to address problems in our own lives through the thin veneer of fiction.

And that's why Neil Gaiman made me cry. And why I'm thankful to him for it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Santa Author

by Sam Cheever
Some authors like to give stuff away and some don’t. I personally know one author who refuses to give away copies of her books and just gives bookmarks and trading cards away at conferences. No bling for her. She’s not alone.

Promotional items cost money, giving away books takes sales out of an author’s pocket. But what about the old business adage, you have to spend money to make it? Does it apply to creative businesses as much as traditional ones?

I think it does.

Nobody can chart a direct affect from a promotional item to a book sale. It isn’t possible to identify a monetary result, because it’s not a direct transaction. It really isn’t even monetary. It’s emotional.

People love getting free stuff. They especially love getting clever and useful free stuff. And when they get something they really like they generally remember the person who gave it to them. That’s why I love fun promotional items.

When I start researching a new item to take to conferences or give out to new fans in their goodie boxes, my first goal is to find something nobody else has thought of. I rarely give out bookmarks anymore. I have boxes and boxes of them in my closet as proof!

When I give away a print book I include a Romance Trading Card because those are collectors’ items and they’re more fun. I load heart-shaped memory sticks with free reads, book trailers, and first chapters and give those away. They’re useful, they bear my website and tagline on their shiny red surface, and they contain lots of fun reading and viewing that will hopefully inspire someone to buy one of my books. It’s a win-win!

For my Declan Sands books (MM romance) I found a tiny tool kit with four screwdrivers and a tape measure. Again, useful, and bearing my website and tagline in case someone decides he/she needs a great book to read while repairing their computer with the toolset. I have knit caps with my website on them, book lights with twisty stems, mouse pad planners that double as notepads, and lots of other fun stuff.

Call me Author Santa.

Yeah, the stuff costs and I have no way of knowing if I’ll recoup my investment in book sales. But when people receive a goodie box or promo item from me they remember it and hopefully they’ll remember me. In fact, people often come up to me at conferences and exclaim, “Oh, you’re the one with the great promo stuff!” I just grin and offer them something else from my red velvet bag. ‘Cause I’m selling fun and smiles…hopefully I’ll even sell some books!

Happy Reading Everybody!

Bitten by Paranormal Romance gives Cupid a 4 – A Pack Howl!

"This is a delightful and sexy story of competition not only in the office, but between a cupid and a demon." Long and Short Reviews: "Cupid Only Rings Twice was a very cute story that was short but entertaining.”

This Valentine’s Day, Rori’s gonna meet an honest to god Cupid. And he’ll use more than arrows to win her love.

Rori Foster is too beautiful to find love. Men just can’t seem to look past her exterior to recognize the human being inside. Unfortunately he’ll have to save her from the bad intentions of a cocky Love Demon first. But Damios is determined to protect her. Even if he loses her in the process.

To read more or purchase Cupid Only Rings Twice please click the vendor's name. Musa Publishing | Nook | Kobo | Sony | ARe | Kindle | |

Sam Cheever writes mainstream romantic suspense and fantasy, all heat levels; and Declan Sands for M/M romantic suspense and fantasy. Her books are fast paced and fun loving. Not one of them will solve a single world problem, but you definitely won’t be bored while reading them! Sam’s published work includes 40+ works of young adult, romantic suspense, and fantasy/paranormal. Her books have won the Dream Realm Award for fantasy, been nominated and/or won several CAPAs, were nominated for Best of 2010 with LRC and The Romance Reviews, and won eCataromance’s Reviewer’s Choice award.

She is published with Ellora’s Cave, both Romantica and Blush; Changeling Press; Electric Prose Publications (her own imprint), Musa Publishing, and Red Rose Publishing. She lives on a hobby farm in Indiana with 11 dogs, 2 horses, and one husband.

Learn more about Sam Cheever on her blog Eclectic Insights. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter. You can also find Sam on Goodreads.