“I Don’t Read!” and Other Nightmares

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Kathy Fronheiser and Christopher D. Ochs at 2021’s Great Allentown Fair

Recently, I and another author rented a booth at one of the major fairs in Pennsylvania. The rental fee was pricey, but I made a small amount over the outlay, so it was financially a positive. My host and cohort was most gracious and a wonderful conversationalist, so the dead time between interactions with readers was fun and flew by.

Once the doors to the public were flung open, I discovered a large fly in this fair-experience ointment. First, you must understand my usual venues for selling my brand and my books are book stores, book fairs, wineries and craft fairs. However, this day’s adventure in sole proprietorship took place in a less, shall we say… genteel environment. I slogged bravely on, and continued to use many of my tried-and-true catchphrases to attract potential customers’ attention. For example, “Have you heard of my award-winning book?” and “What do you like to read?”
Normally, my writing style tends to get wordy. Not this time. I’ll get right to the point.
I was surprised and dismayed by the number of people who responded,
“I don’t read.”
Even worse, a handful of people were indignant that I dared ask. A few even snarled.

Before you jump to any conclusions about these unfortunate people, let me say, “Please don’t.”

Equal numbers of adults and teens responded “I don’t read.”
Admittedly, the younger people often had there noses in their electronic devices.
There was no observable common behavior among the adults, other than a recurring excuse that they had no time to read.

Nor could I detect any prevalent political party affiliation. There was a booth across the walkway that peddled New Americana chotchkys — t-shirts with a collage of bullets in the form of the American flag, “Old Glory”s made of painted pallet wood, woodburning art that combined images of rifles and crosses, etc. I’ll bet you can correctly guess the party affiliation the majority of their customers were.
However, the people who told me “I don’t read” were equally drawn or repelled by that very busy booth’s merchandise.

Ladies & gents, we have a problem. People who, willingly or unwillingly, don’t read.
I’ll say here the same thing I remarked to my author friend that day — “This is why people take Ivermectin.”

On a somewhat different topic for a quick moment, one curious trend I noticed: the day’s most popular book was not my latest award-winning book My Friend Jackson, but my collection of “disturbed bedtime reading to inflict on naughty children,” If I Can’t Sleep, You Can’t Sleep. No complaints. A sale’s a sale!

Getting back to the original topic of willing illiteracy… I am disturbed to the point of needing to do something. But what? Sure, we can teach kids to love reading early. But how to teach to joy of books to grown and less malleable brains? I’ve ruminated about this for two weeks, and have nothing. How does a writer, whose major tool is the written word, get people to want to read? Any ideas, please comment.
Thanks, and stay healthy!

The Customer is Always Rife

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“You can have this for free, if you pretend to hold an invisible tray!”

There’s a meme that made the rounds, and one form or another of it still occasionally pops up in my social media input bins:

Oh, believe me — I have many more than just one.
But today, I’ll concentrate on one that is applicable to business, and especially to my current vocation of writing. That thrice-cursed phrase is:

The Customer Is Always Right!

No.
They are not.

If the subject is “What color sneakers should I buy?“, then yes, the customer is always right. The choice is essentially immaterial. Little to no additional labor, time, material resources, and/or expense is incurred.
However, there is a line, beyond which, a customer’s demand becomes unreasonable — and the customer is not “always right.” They are wrong, dead wrong, sometimes “please go away so I don’t kill you” dead wrong.
This is something I formulated when discussing this point with a supervisor (back in those salad days when I held down a 9-to-5 in the world of cutting edge microelectronics).
The customer is driven by understandable market forces, and wants to get the biggest bang for their buck. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all!
However, difficulty arises when the customer gets intolerably greedy. Their request is of the form, “I want EVERYTHING, I want it for FREE, and I want it NOW.”
Ridiculous, right? How can a producer of goods possibly make a living if everything has to be given away? Hold onto that thought.

So, how does one answer something so unreasonable?
I think the best answer was a graphic I spotted in another supervisor’s office.


You want GOOD and FAST?
It’s gonna cost you. And proportionally to “how fast” and “how good” you desire.
You want FAST and CHEAP?
We can slap any Rube Goldberg thingamabob together. Tada! But the end result might fall apart if you look at it funny.
You want CHEAP and GOOD?
It will take a long time to design and retool. So you ain’t getting it anytime soon. (And you’ll have to buy in bulk.)

Fast forward to the world of writing.
Thanks to the great god Internet, the reader (and sometimes even the publisher) has come to expect all three of the unholy trinity of Good, Fast, Cheap. I won’t wax eloquent anymore on how ignorant and selfish this is, regardless of how prevalent it is.
But I WILL plant my flag in the ground here. I ain’t giving my writing away for free anymore. I expect SOMETHING in return for my blood, sweat and tears. The bait and switch of “you’ll get exposure” doesn’t cut it anymore — for me, at least.
OK, I’m stepping off my soapbox now…

Anyway, my social media advisors tell me I must have a call to action at the end of my blog entries. Trouble is, I have no clue how to transition from a crabby lecture to a pleasing unicorns & rainbows sales pitch. So here it is, pure and unadulterated.

BUY MY BOOKS! Have a nice day!

FINALIST in Indies Today’s BEST Books of 2020

Stranger in Strange Blog

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There is NOT enough coffee!

Hey there, readers!
Apologies for not blogging for a while, but I’ve been so busy with so many events! Both good and not-so-good.
The bad first:
Life rolled a small crate of lemons my family’s way in October with the passing of my Dad. I’ve also been caregiver for my 15-yr old adopted puppy, who has turned diabetic and blind. But everyone is content and at peace.

The good news:
Health – I’m alive; I got my vaccinations; I can walk again! Though I could stand to lose the mass tonnage gained during the knee operations and Covid19.
Home – Let the remodeling begin! Stage 1 is gonna be a challenge for my patience and my wallet. But at the end, I’ll have a whole new basement, an extra bedroom and 1/2 bath, and a new home office.
Work“My Friend Jackson” was published! It was a Finalist in Indies Today’s Best Books of 2020. I’m still waiting to hear if it makes its mark in three other competitions; Two more of my short stories were published in new anthologies – “Writes of Passage” by GLVWG, and my first paying gig in Firebringer Press’s “Meanwhile in the Middle of Eternity.”
I have several short stories trying to wheedle their way into the hearts of several magazines and anthologies;
Juggling amongst all that, I’m also working on two sci-fi/horror novels “Sentry of Eternity” and “No Place Like Home”;
All of which you can keep track of on my website.

Click to Visit My Website!

When Five Equals One?

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My Friend Jackson
Christopher D. Ochs
Pre-Order 9/15/20
Available 10/1/20

Last week, a good friend and I discussed my upcoming book, My Friend Jackson, and the reviews it has garnered. So far, it’s all good news…
Early reviews are in and they’re all ★★★★★!

However, I’ve sent out 50+ requests to book bloggers and professional reviewer services, so there’s no guarantee that my winning streak will continue. Here’s hoping… and what a segue!

My friend — who prefers being identified as “Kikuchiyo” — and I share the same wicked sense of punnery. So it was no surprise that when we locked onto the subject of reviews that “damn with faint praise,” and use phrases that are jam-packed with double entendre, we kept ourselves entertained for at least ten minutes. Here are the ones I can remember, with minimal explanation. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

  • “I can’t say enough about this book!” — ( … all of it bad! )
  • “Everyone needs to know about this book!” — ( … so they don’t buy it! )
  • “In a category by itself!” — ( … you get the idea by now … )
  • “Words fail me” — (Because I can’t find a socially acceptable way to say ‘@#$%’.)
  • “Critics are raving” — (Ahh, so that’s why they always say this for terrible movies!)
  • “I can’t give this book enough stars!” — (Because there’s no such thing as negative stars.)
  • “I can’t put this book down!” — (If I do, the author’s lawyers will serve me with a libel summons.)
  • “The author is at the top of his form!” — (Because it’s only upward from rock bottom!)
  • “His magnum opus – a monumental effort” — (It’s the literary version of ‘piled higher and deeper.’)

So “go out in a buying frenzy (–Michael Nesmith)” and read My Friend Jackson. And don’t forget to post a review!

I Detest “Your Favorite Things”

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love-hate-relationshipApologies if the above statement raises your hackles, but I do not intend to say that I detest your favorite things, or that I loathe the Sound of Music. It means I dislike being asked “What’s your favorite {anything}?”

My tastes are beyond eclectic. My hobbies are widespread. I have held professional positions in the fields of electronics, physics, math, computer programming, music, graphic arts, computer animation, and of course, writing.

Now comes the problem. With the upcoming release of my book, My Friend Jackson, I will soon be across the internet on blogs, radio, podcasts — anywhere an independent author can crowbar open some space and market his work product. People who know me, will tell you even my personality is a mixed bag of introvert and extrovert. It’s tough to get me going, but once I start, I can easily fill almost any amount of broadcast time and/or print space.

But the question commonly asked in interviews — “What’s your favorite {XYZ}?” — trips me up every time. If I have the presence of mind, I might answer that question with “What time is it?”

My favorite on any topic will change with the month, the day, sometimes even the hour. Music is where I truly have eclectic tastes. One day, I will be listening to a Prokofiev symphony over and over, the next I might be OD-ing on Emerson Lake & Palmer, or any of King Crimson, Andreas Vollenveider, J.S.Bach, Tom Waits, Genesis, Stanley Clarke, Jan Hammer, G.F. Handel, Frank Zappa, Igor Stravinski, Bad Manners, Wendy Carlos, XTC, … well, you get the idea.

Of course, during book tours I’m more likely to be asked what my favorite book is. There I am truly lost. I have no such thing. I may have favorite authors — A.C.Clarke, H.P.Lovecraft and Kurt Vonnegut — but I still would be hard pressed to select one book. Looking across my desk, I fret that my reading pile is now three piles. So who knows if I find a fourth, fifth, etc., favorite author in the near future?
One thing’s for sure – I won’t be bored!

On the topic of new authors, keep your eyes peeled for My Friend Jackson. a YA urban fantasy/horror novel. The tag line?

An Ancient Guardian Has Chosen Her.
Neither the Guilty, the Innocent, nor she are safe.

Cover_5ebookBwa-ha-ha-haaa! Amazon pre-orders will start on September 15, and be available on October 1.
OR… you could get a signed copy for free! If you’ve read my previous books, Pindlebryth of Lenland and If I Can’t Sleep, You Can’t Sleep, then file a review for either of both of them on amazon.com. I will select a review at random from each book, and the lucky reviewers will win!

 

What I Did During my Novel Vacation

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Hello fellow Novel Covid19 huddlers! I hope you are all doing well. And to those who aren’t, I hope that you are doing as best you can, given the circumstances.

As for myself, I try to do the best I can, whenever I can. At least that’s the goal — I confess some days are less successful than others. But during this extended period of self-quarantining, I’ve outdone myself. Zowie!

Under my belt over the past four months are these sets of mini-milestones:

  • Health
    • Both knees replaced. I’m walking again! Stairs are no longer my nemesis! Woohoo! On the other hand, I lost my excuse to not mow the lawn. Awwww…
  • Writing
    • Learned Libre Office to replace my previous writing software.
    • Completed work with my diversity editor for my YA urban-fantasy/horror My Friend Jackson. I am still on target to release for late fall in 2020!
    • Completed edits for my short story Goats in the Machine, slated for the Bethlehem Writers Group’s next anthology Feathers, Fur & Scales.
The next anthology from the Bethlehem Writers Group
  • Music
    • Learned MidiEditor software
    • Learned LMMS (Linux MultiMedia Studio) software
    • Learned several VST (Virtual Studio Technology) instruments
    • Edited MIDI recordings from 1984 and 1996
    • Learned Finale and Musescore3 sheet music software

All this, to achieve the goal of submitting my compositions for piano and organ to the archives of the Moravian Music Foundation. Submission requires both a recording and sheet music. Software was my best path, as my penmanship becomes truly stercoraceous after the third line.
I am happy to report that both of my first two pieces have been accepted by the archives! I guess that means I am now officially a part of history?

  • Video
    • Learned Kdenlive, Olive, Openshot, and Shotcut video editors .(Hasta la Vista and good riddance Adobe Premiere!) I chose Kdenlive as it is the most versatile, and works on both Windows and Linux operating systems.

All this, to craft the first of many videos slated for my new YouTube channel. I hope to produce more videos of my music, and many, many videos of yours truly reading my own short fiction and performing my storytelling stints.

What’s next for the Author with Too Many Damn Interests? I need to purchase a new Linux workhorse PC to replace my poor dead Windows-XP monster machine. (At least it was a musclebound beast when I bought it in 2007. Thirteen years was an excellent run!)

Once that’s up and running, then I continue the progression of switching to Open Source versions of my software. Most notably, Blender will replace my beloved LightWave3D. Bon voyage and thanks for the memories old friend, but it’s on to bigger and better things. Why do I do this? Besides my animation work, I need a 3D modeling and rendering software to create my book covers. My Friend Jackson is coming this fall, remember?

Woof. I need more coffee!

So dear reader… What tools do you like to use for writing, music, and graphic arts? Let me know in your comments. Especially if you’re a Linux believer!

Next installment of my blog – the Handicapper General Diana Moon Glampers comes after me. She is convinced that I am achieving too much.

Help! I Need A New Slogan!

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help_geraltIn 2014, I published my first novel, Pindlebryth of Lenland. When I flog this and all my other books, I tout Pindlebryth as:

Narnia meets The DaVinci Code meets Jason Bourne; All the characters are animals, but it’s not for children; Swords & sorcery, political intrigue and backstabbing aplenty!”

At that time, a wonderful marketing adviser who goes by the moniker SuzyQ, came up with my current slogan “Warm & Fuzzy Mayhem!” It accurately reflected the spirit of Pindlebryth, and the novels yet to come in our hero’s continuing saga.

Since then, I have branched out into almost every direction in the Speculative Fiction world: Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Strange Tales and even Fairie Tales. Suffice it to say my slogan needs an update.

But I’m stuck. Marketing has never been my strong point.
Here’s a few ideas that have popped into my head, but don’t quite hit the mark.

Don’t Let Your Skin Crawl Too Far Away
From Mirthful Macabre to Malevolent Mayhem
Wonders and Terrors that Delight and Astonish
Defy the Unknown

So here’s the deal.
This is an open call to come up with my next slogan/tagline. If I select your catchphrase, or if it inspires me to craft my own final result, I’ll award that person with a signed copy of the latest publication containing two of my short stories, the Bethlehem Writers Group‘s anthology of the Paranormal (and Finalist in Killer Nashville‘s Silver Falchion Award), “Untethered.”

Leave your suggestions as comments to this blog by Halloween (10/31/19), and best of luck to us both!
Ready, set… Write!BWG_Untethered_Front_Cover

 

The (Table) Games People Play – Episode 3

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Oh, I wish I had a game vault like this! But I am, however, thankful for my co-volunteers on OTAKON Staff, who are constantly turning me on to new table games. I would not be surprised if one or more of these friends have stashes larger than the one depicted here.

I’ve written before about my preference for games that are a step above the plain vanilla challenges like Risk or Monopoly, so I won’t bore you with that again. Instead, here’s my compendium of the table games I have played to date, with my ratings and comments. The new games added to the list are: Azul, Clank!, Galaxy Trucker, Gizmos, Kane Gawa, Onitama, Suburbia, and Terraforming Mars. I haven’t added any card games, so check out this post for those ratings.

As with any opinion, your mileage may vary. Play on!

gaming_wp_board4col

And when you’re finished. Top off a night of fun with one of my books! HINT HINT!my2books

Is Ignorance Bad?

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If someone calls us “ignorant,” our usual response is not kind. That’s because, in its typical modern use, the speaker intended it as an insult.

But is being ignorant, in of its own nature, bad? If one considers the actual meaning of the word, the answer is “No.”
I am ignorant of a ton of stuff.
So are you.
But are you or I flawed, inferior, or evil because of that status?

While being ignorant is certainly undesirable and possibly embarrassing in most situations, it is by no means evil, or a sign of a character flaw.
It simply means – “We don’t know.”

Consider the judge who declares “Ignorance of the law is no excuse,” during a proceeding. The judge is not handing down a reflection on that person’s intellect or moral character. What is being pointed out is that the person does not possess necessary knowledge, or is not properly prepared.

ignorance_sand

What is, however, an undeniably serious character flaw is “willful ignorance.”
It is hubris in its worst form.
It is the root of all blind allegiances to causes evil and stupid.

I often hear in my circle of acquaintances, “The more I learn, the less I know.”
That saying is attributed to Socrates, Einstein, and everybody in between. But it is absolutely true. As one discovers more about the world around us, it is the most self-evident of all truths. Falling into the false security that one is absolutely right is akin to reaching a mountaintop and screaming “I have done it all,” only to spot the next higher mountain range in the distance.

I certainly don’t claim to know everything.
And anyone who does, has pointed themselves out as a world-class idiot — though you will almost never hear someone so buffoonish to actually declare “I know everything!” It’s usually couched in such phrases as “I know more than…” or “You don’t know anything.”

I am ignorant. So are you.
But it is how we respond to the realization of ignorance that defines us.
Remain open to learning.
Remain teachable.