novels

Book or movie person?

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Are you a book person or a movie person? I don’t mean exclusively, most people enjoy both but in my experience we always enjoy one a little more than the other. The balance may be close, but it’s always there. Personally, movies take the lead for me.

I get more inspiration when I can see the action taking place than I can when I’m reading about it happening. A movie enables me to get absorbed into the environment and characters more fully than a book does. When watching a character interacting with his or her environment, I can instantly see whether his reactions could be made better in some way. A book cannot do this. If you’re not clued up on psychology, it’s easy to make your characters less than believable when you have only your mind with which to ‘see’ his interactions.

Watching a movie takes no more than a couple of hours and you can watch it over as often as you want and examine every nuance of each character’s behaviour. In this way, you can watch and learn about how people react in a given circumstance much easier than by reading it. If a movie character seems believable, examining his every move, right down to subtle facial movements will help you when writing your own characters. If characters seem wrong, more careful examination will help you identify why and how they’re wrong and you can avoid making the same mistake in your own writing.

Too often, movies are met with disdain by purist book lovers but I say take the time to watch them closely and you might just learn something valuable.

Are you a book person or a movie person?

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Answering questions and that maddening lack of understanding

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I’m having one of those, ‘WTF’ days.

What TF does it take to get my books noticed by the masses?

Where TF should I got to find the ‘perfect’ place to advertise/promo?

How TF am I supposed to get people willing to read my books?

Why TF am I and my work ignored?

and finally,

Why TF don’t I just stop cos I’m obviously wasting my time?

I find this last one is a common occurrence just after I release a novel. It’s a kind of post publishing syndrome I have to go through. There is so much that I see and experience that seems to be telling me to give up, I mean like every day something will happen that makes me realise, ‘yep, I’m wasting my time.’

I’ve seen other writers on facebook talking about their ‘Street Teams’ and what they’re doing for them and how useful and wonderful and incredible they are. Great idea, if you can find people willing to be on your street team. I can’t, of course. No one is interested in being on my Street Team. I tried to get one, I really did. No idea why the lack of interest.

I see people, not always writers, posting about this or that person’s book and how you really ought to read this fantastic book by this fantastic author because your life really won’t be worth living if you don’t. Nobody posts about my books like that. Nobody says that about me or my work. I have several hundred people connected to me on facebook and just shy of four thousand on Twitter, but I never get an embarrassingly sweet repost or mention. I do get one or two, (I really do mean one or two btw) people who repost my cover photo (thank you Theresa and Tiffani and Rebekkah) and I’m hugely grateful for that but it’s a bit like spitting into the wind really. I’ve no idea how to get people to crow unashamedly about me or my work. I’ve no idea how the other writers achieve this. Common sense tells me they pay for it, or the people are family members. I have neither family nor the money to pay people. I guess therefore that this will never happen.

I must interject here because I know people will be saying, “oh well dear,” (really, don’t call me dear, it just makes you look like a poisonous self righteous twat), “if your book is good enough people will shout about it.”

No dear, they won’t. They especially won’t if it is wonderful. If it can ever be considered a rival to their own shit, not only will they not crow about it, they will endeavour to keep it down by any means possible. People won’t read my books, so no one can say they are bad. In order to know whether a work is good or bad, you have to read it first. Just simply being technically brilliant won’t automatically bring readers like some magical force conjured up by a bearded and be-robed Gandalf lookylikey. As usual, you’re argument is totally invalid.

I’ve blogged about the lack of money to advertise several times, so I won’t go there again here.  Suffice it to say that I still have no money to pay for advertising, nor the qualifying number of reviews. I therefore continue to assume that this is not going to happen either.

As I do not know why all of the above is as it is, I have only conjecture on which to base an opinion. There are a couple of possible reasons.

Sheer bad luck.

A personal campaign.

Destiny.

I am willing to accept that much of the reason I spend my life smeared in shit is down to sheer bad luck. Scientists have done experiments about luck and they have found that some people actually ‘attract’ bad luck. I am that soldier, on steroids.

I know and will admit, that there are people within the so called, ‘writer’s community,’ (community? What fucking community?) who hate me, personally and with a passion. I know this is true. You can’t please everyone all of the time. There are some people who will just automatically hate you the moment they set eyes on you. There are people on facebook who I  have pissed off because I tell the truth and don’t subscribe to their imaginary world where they are the best thing since soft loo roll and the bringer of all that is right and good with the world.  I don’t and will never suck your dick or lick your arse unless I genuinely feel you deserve it. Just so we’re clear, I’m 53 and so far nobody has deserved it so the chances of you deserving it are slim in the extreme. Don’t hold your breath love. People hate this about me and hate the truth even more. I can say with complete honesty that I’ve been ‘deleted’ by a lot of facebook folks. They talk to other facebook folks. They pass on their opinions. This goes on. I know it, I’m not stupid.

Even those who seem to be accepting soon prove themselves to be like the rest. They make overtures of help, advice, constructive criticism and when you venture a little further, you hit their brick wall of indifference. For instance, I joined a facebook group where everyone writes little shorts and crits each others work. I have found over the time I’ve been a member that I only ever get a couple of comments, whereas everyone else gets twenty to thirty. I have assumed this is down to some crazy kind of hazing rights of passage probationary shoolyard mindset thing and have put up with it with a smile and gushings of praise to everyone else even when they don’t deserve it (and shit, that has been painful, believe me.) I did however, take the few crits very seriously and re-wrote one of my shorts, after being assured that ‘they’ would “love to see what you’ve done with it,” and compare it with the first version.

Yep, you’ve guessed right (give that person a five pound note and a packet of cornflakes), it has been totally ignored. I mean totally. Not one single like, not a comment, not a ‘fuck you asshole. Nothing, nada, zip.

This kind of thing happens, not only to me but to many other autistic people. It’s the kind of ‘ism we live with every day.

I have a firm belief in destiny and of all three possible reasons, this is the one that has the loudest ring of truth. The universe might just have it in for me. There may be nothing I can do to get my name out of that little black book of ‘people to fuck with for shits and giggles.’ Yes, even the powers that run the universe have their own twisted sense of humour and they have a list of souls whom they use as ‘fuckabout fodder.’ I think I’m at the top of that list.

In all probability, it’s most likely to be a mix of all three. I can do nothing about any of them. I have control of neither luck nor destiny and people will be what they wish to be. If they wish to have a campaign, they will do and I can do nought to change that. I still refuse to buy reviews. I still refuse to bribe people with money and gifts. Don’t wait around here for the chance to win a free kindle honey, you’re wasting your time.

The only thing I can control is what I do and it comes down to one thing in the end.

Do I enjoy what I do?

I enjoy writing. The process of creation gives me much that is and has always been, missing from my life. As an abused child and an autistic adult, my imaginary world makes me feel better and more powerful than this one of yours ever has done and ever will.

I don’t enjoy publishing. I don’t enjoy it because it has proved to be unsuccessful and therefore, a waste of time. People are choosing not to read my books, for whatever reason and this is unlikely to change all the time I refuse to pay them to do so.

The sensible thing to do would be to do what I enjoy and stop doing what I don’t enjoy.

How one reader buys her books

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I have a good friend with whom spend a couple of hours every Friday morning. She knows I write science fiction novels but has never read any of them. She is a reader, although she admits to being a very slow reader. Last Friday, she asked me how my writing was going and I told her I had begun editing my next release. There followed a little back and forth, with her asking questions about the process and me answering. She seemed genuinely interested. She’s an intelligent woman with a very well paid job and lives in a large house in the countryside. She’s successful and has the kind of lifestyle I dream about and envy. I’m telling you this so you can get a true picture of her. She’s educated, respected in her field, worldly wise, and wealthy. She’s not some ill educated untermensch.

At some point during the conversation, she asked me, “how are they selling?” I was truthful and told her, “they’re not.” We then discussed the problem of trying to get our brand ‘out there,’ in an over saturated market and I asked her a very important question. I said, “as a reader, how do you approach buying a book when you want to read?”

She told me that she tends to stick to authors she knows she likes, or she’ll listen to recommendations from friends, then she reads reviews. She admitted that she is so overwhelmed with choice and said that she finds searching on sites like Amazon, difficult and time consuming, so she tends not to bother. She said she is so busy that she doesn’t have the time to spend searching online for books she doesn’t know whether she will enjoy. It is much easier and quicker for her to stick to what she knows, or walk into a book shop and browse the shelves.

This was very interesting information and confirmed what I’ve always said. The good stuff is buried under a mountain of trash so huge that readers are put off trying to wade through it to find the good stuff to read. Unless you have a lot of money to spend on advertising experts who can get your name ‘out there,’ you’re wasting your time trying to make money from writing novels.

We talked about the impossibility of getting reviews and I told her about sites like Bookbub, where you can pay a large amount of money to have your book advertised, so long as it has a large number of reviews at 4 star or higher. I asked her, “as a reader who is just looking for a book to read, have you ever heard of Bookbub or similar online sites?”

No, she’s never heard of it, nor any other similar site and I suspect the vast majority of ordinary people haven’t either. This part of the conversation confirmed something else I’ve always believed, that much of what is considered by authors as ‘the right thing to do,’ is done to impress other authors and not readers. Attracting other authors and attracting readers are two totally different worlds and some people get too caught up in the wrong one.

The salient points are that she is a busy working woman with a family, a successful business to run, and a large home to keep. She has neither the time nor the inclination to wade through a mountain of trash to try to find something she might enjoy reading. She is  not aware of advertising tricks, and uses past experience and reviews to influence what she reads.

Another important thing to consider here is that modern life is different to how it was a few decades ago. We don’t read as much now as we did when I was a child. I used to clean houses for a living and of all the homes I went into, no more than 2 out of 10 had any books at all, let alone the shelves of books I remember everyone having in their homes when I was young. People might take a book on holiday to occupy them on the flight or while sitting by the pool, but those two weeks per year are probably the only time they will read anything other than a newspaper, a magazine article about a celebrity scandal, or a facebook meme.

So where does this leave us, as authors?

Truthfully? I think the time of the traditional length novel is dying fast. I think the way forward is 25-35 thousand word novellas, short story collections, 10 thousand word novelettes perhaps. Modern humans don’t have the capacity to stick with an 80 thousand word novel any more. They need instant gratification that they can grab, consume, and discard in a couple of hours. Everything about our modern life is instant, freeze dried, reconstituted, pre packaged, and disposable. From the clothes that fill our closets, the food in our superfast microwave ovens, to the ultra short bland porridge on their digital e-readers.

Those of us who write full length novels with twisting plots, group dynamics, and twists at the end are catering for a dying market. The new breed of weirdo geeky nerds who live in the dark and read science fiction epics of 80 thousand words and more are our customers now. They are few, they are the new ethnic minority, and they are a dying breed.

Write for Readers – Don’t Write for Writers

Readers and writers are two very different animals.  I know, I’ve been both, and am now just a writer.

What I mean is, as an author, you need to constantly remind yourself who you are writing for.  Hopefully, unless you’re writing ‘how to write’ books, you are writing primarily for people who love to read.  Yes, I know writers also read books, but this blog is about the difference in perception from those who write but also read, from those who read but don’t write.

The vast majority of those who read books, don’t write them, and the way they will engage with, and react to your work, is very different from the way another writer will engage with and react to it.  Your job as an author is to please those who read, not those who write.  Remember that.

Give a writer and a non writer a copy of the same book and ask them to review it.  You will get two totally different approaches.

The writer will comment on your grammar, spelling, the depth (or lack thereof) of your characters, your narrative being too wordy (or not wordy enough), plot holes and continuity errors, lack of attention to detail etc etc etc.  Whilst all this is useful to know so that you can improve your writing in the future, it’s not the be all and end all.

Those who read but don’t write will give you different feedback.  They will say how much they enjoyed it (or didn’t), whether they liked the characters or not, whether the story engaged them or bored them.  They might say how keen they are to read your next book, and they might also point out a few spelling/grammar errors if they’re obvious ones.

See the difference?

An important point to remember is that another writer will always have their editing head on, and will always notice the errors first.  As far as most authors are concerned, simply liking the story or characters is not important.  They are the ones who will say spelling and grammatical errors are deal breakers when it comes to buying a book.  Those who just read and don’t write, tend not to regard the odd spelling mistake or grammar faux pas as the end of the world, enjoying the story is paramount for them.

Another thing worth remembering is that other authors will always regard you as a rival for their customers, and many will enjoy pointing out every little mistake you made, in order to make their own work appear superior to yours, and their knowledge all the greater.  Of course I know not all are so calculating, but many are.  I see so many authors wanting the approval of other writers before they feel worthy of self publishing, and seldom do they realise or remember that it is readers they’re after, and most readers don’t write books.

Of course you should make sure your work is as free from errors as possible, that goes without saying, (or it should), but it’s not more important than creating a story and characters that people will enjoy.  Your first concern is what readers want and stuff other authors’ opinions.

I also see authors spending a lot of time networking on social media with other authors, and I must admit that the vast majority of my twitter followers are other authors.  I fail to understand why they think networking with me is going to help them sell their books, as I’ve no intention of buying 99.9% of them, but still they add me in droves every day.  It is getting difficult to find ordinary readers on social media now, and all of my attempts to find them on twitter have failed.  I have to assume that those who read but don’t write, aren’t on twitter.

It is not important that other authors like you or your work, other than the exchanging of information that does sometimes take place between writers.  Tips on formatting, marketing strategies, the best software for making video trailers and other nuts and bolts stuff is useful, but don’t waste time trying to impress them with your work.  They will never will impressed until you are famous for your writing and they are still trying to make it.  Then they’ll be all over you like a cheap suit.

I’m not trying to put authors against each other, but I am trying to explain perspective.  So many  authors (myself included) have become despondent because other authors don’t seem too impressed with their work, but it is not other authors who will buy it.  Authors will happily review your work, if you give them a free copy, but they don’t often buy it.  Again, I know there are a few who do, so no hate mail please.

99.9% of the population don’t write books and never will, and it is those people whose opinions matter most, those people you should aim to please and those whose affections you should be courting – if you can find them.

But that’s a whole other problem.

On the sofa with – Horrified Press

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Today I’m on the sofa with Nathan Rowark of Horrified Press, who recently took 1st and 2nd place in this year’s P&E Reader’s Poll.  Read about it on Horrified Press’s website here

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What exactly is Horrified Press, and what do you do

That’s a good question, Merita. What is Horrified Press and what do I do…

Horrified Press is a small press, lovely fun – all warm and cuddly – but what’s this? Arggghhhh… there’s monsters and zombies and undead harlots and gooey, sticky, gory stuff. That’s right, we’re a small horror press that release scary stories – anthologies mostly – to keep you up at night.

What do I do? I’m just like the ringleader. I make sure the monsters don’t eat the readers and the authors keep their ghastly creations on literal leashes.

When did Horrified Press come into being, and how did that happen? Was it a definite choice or did it just happen?

I’ve always loved horror – from movies, literature to video games. It’s in our culture – from the front page of the newspaper that you read over breakfast to the haunted mansion in your kids’ Atari game. Well, maybe we’ve moved on from Atari games now. I started Horrified Press as a label to release my own work to begin with. It went really well and I realised I could be doing this for others. There are many authors out there who would like free editing and advice going forward. After 4 years of proving my own metal I took it upon myself to help more authors do the same. Plus, we publish some great work from semi-pro and established writers too.

From where you are now, where would you like to take Horrified Press into the future? What are your dreams for it?

We’ve taken on some great guest editors and started a new imprint. My hope is that we can take it all the way.

What advice would you give to authors wishing to write horror? What makes a good horror story?

A good story – period. Grammar, style and substance can be learnt/discovered over time. If your stories suck then you could be the best writer in the world and still fail to impress an audience.

Who are your favourite authors, and why?

I enjoy Barker for his poetic verse and King for his sound writing style.

If you could oversee the making of a horror movie, with total control over the process, what would the storyline be?

I’d take a short story I wrote around 3 years ago and expand on its premise.

Do you think there are any areas that are taboo in horror writing, or are you an ‘anything goes’ person?

Anything goes. If you’re trying to scare people but worry about frightening them… it’s never going to work out.

I’ve heard people say that those who like horror must be strange or weird in some way. Do you agree with this?

Totally disagree. It’s the people that seemingly appear normal on the outside that are cutting up their neighbors behind closed doors.

Have you ever had an horrific experience, like any of the stories you’ve published? 

Yeah actually. I had an experience with a ghost (or something). There was a witness present and I had a convo with ‘the thing’. Never did find out why it was there. It will forever bug me to its actual identity and/or purpose.

You often take submissions for anthologies and ezines, how would you advise authors who may wish to submit, to proceed?

Lead with your heart and soul. A piece that I feel will speak to our audience is good enough for me. I’m very liberal in my personal tastes and ask that an author merely respects their public by honing their skills before submitting to the markets.

Do you act as publishers for those who write horror novels, or do you only work with short stories/anthologies?

We publish anthology collections, solo collections and novels.

How can people get in touch with you? Are you on facebook and twitter? Do you have a website? 

We do – have a facebook. You can submit to us by visiting our site: horrifiedpress.wordpress.com

Details of all the works published by Horrified Press, and submission guidelines for up coming works can be found at their website.

No rest for the wicked (or the writer)

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Christmas is a busy time of year for most people.  The rush of present buying, food preparing, house decorating and relative visiting is enough to wear anyone out.  It’s the same for  me, though on a smaller scale.  Mother is coming to stay this year and I’ve already got her presents bought and wrapped.  I’ve got presents bought and sent to my friend in Florida and have just one more present to buy.  Food shopping will be done online once mother arrives and I never bother with decorations.  Yes I’m a bit of a humbug, sue me.

Christmas is busy for me this year for another reason, I’m an author.  I’ve been bent, nose to grindstone during November, writing a novel for Nanowrimo.  This was finished yesterday, yippee.  I’ve also been editing, formatting and publishing an anthology of my horror stories, which came out a few days ago, double yippee.  Now I have to set to work on proofing and editing the next novel, which I wrote during this summer’s camp Nano and which I hope to release in March.  I will also have a book to format and cover design for an author friend over Christmas.  I also have a part time job to hold down.  Phew, I thought the holiday season meant you got a rest.

Nano 2013 update, Promotion decision, and other stuff

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How’s everyone getting on with nano?  I’ve passed the 50k and feel justly proud of myself.  The third volume in The Sinclair V-Logs is taking shape nicely and I estimate that I’m three quarters the way through.  Doing nano is great for self discipline, and it’s wonderful to see how creative you can be, even when you’re forcing yourself.  This book will, I hope, be published in early Summer 2014.

Promotion, sorry for swearing, is a dirty word for indie authors.  It’s worse than fuck, whore, balls and cunt combined and I wince every time I read it, hear it or have to write it.  I’m not a natural saleswoman and don’t pretend to be.  I find selling myself, my brand and my books, very hard indeed.  I have tried though but being financially destitute has prevented me from taking advantage of most internet promotion options.

For a while  now, I’ve welcomed other authors to this blog for tours, spotlights and releases, but until recently, I’d never done one myself.  A few weeks ago, I decided to try my first blog tour to promote my last release, Bygora Vandos and advertised for hosts all over my social media.  I even did a blog here asking for hosts or help.

Here are the results.

I wanted to do the tour for fourteen days, with a different blog on each day, as has become the norm for such tours.  I had two weeks notice before the start date and up until the first day, just five (5) people offered to host me.  Of those five, only two offered me the link to the piece voluntarily; all of the others didn’t bother and I had to go searching for the post.  Another person of the five didn’t bother to do the post at all, and only one further person updated me with blog stats (number of visits etc) and promised to promote the post on other social media.  One of the people who did the post, didn’t bother to put up the post until late afternoon, leaving me with just a couple of hours to find it and then post the link on my own social media.  All but one, didn’t bother to promote the post on their other social media.  None of the people I have ever hosted were among the five mentioned above who offered to host me.

The blog I posted here asking for help got no response at all.  Thanks for nothing..!

To put it mildly, I was extremely disappointed in the lack of interest and help by other authors, and this experience has led me to make two decisions.

I shall never host another author on my blog, ever again.

I shall no longer bother trying to promote my own work.

I shall concentrate on writing books.  I shall publish them as I usually do on all the usual platforms, and I shall do a blog here announcing it, facebook and twitter.  Beyond that, I shall do no promotion at all.  There is no point in trying to get my voice heard above all the bored housewives with money who churn out trash erotica and romance by the bucket load, when other authors actively try to block my voice by boycotting me.  I shall put my energies into writing, and since I write books worth reading, a rarity in this compost heap that is the self published world, my total focus will be put to good use.

In short, what I want to say to other authors is, Fuck You..!

The third bit of news is that my horror story anthology will hopefully be released on Dec 6th.  I’m waiting for cover art at this very moment, everything else is done and finished.  I’m looking forward to this, it’s been a long time in the making and it has been done with the help of my facebook friends, many of whom star in the stories.  I dedicate this book to them, my murderers, psychos, weirdos, crazies and victims.

New webpage for my new release.

Just to announce that there is a new page here for my next release, Bygora Vandos.  Click here to read the blurb and excerpt from my brand new space opera.

This second volume in The Sinclair V-Logs series will be available to purchase during early October 2013.  The page will be updated as the release date approaches, so keep watching.

Going Camping?

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I’m going to be doing Camp Nano next month.  After successfully completed last November’s novel in twenty days, I’m fired up and ready for Camp.

I’ve had what I’ve called ‘my big quest’ novel in the wings for months now, and Camp Nano is the perfect time to devote my attention to it.  As I have, up to now anyway, done series’, stand alones have taken a back seat so the Nanos are the obvious times to do them.

This novel will be another space opera, of course, but it’s also a tale of global strife, inter galactic intrigue and all consuming love.

The Point of Giving Up

Today I realised something painful and distressing, something I don’t want to admit to but something I have to face sooner or later.  People don’t like my writing and they just aren’t interested in even taking a look.

This hurts me in many ways, which I won’t go into to save you thinking (as you naturally would) that this is a sob story.  Suffice to say that I feel deflated and disheartened to the point that I’m thinking of giving up writing altogether.

People just refuse to buy my books and they won’t even come here to the blog and read the free excerpts and free short stories I have here.  I check the stats and can see how many visit and click so I know what I’m saying is true.

What I don’t know is whether this is because the market is so over saturated with indie published books that there’s too much choice, or whether it just because my work is shit.  And, it’s no use asking you because you never read my stuff so how would you know if it’s shit or not?

The only thing I can say is that deep in my heart I didn’t start writing to make money.  I started writing in June 2011 because one night, as I sat at the computer, something overwhelmed me and I began to write.  8 hours later, at 4am I dragged myself away from the computer to bed and knew I had the beginnings of a whole book at last.  Having wanted to write a book since I was a kid, here I was approaching 50 and finally I was writing a book.  I write because my soul demands that I write.  I write because there is something or someone standing beside me, telling me their story and telling me that I’m the one they’ve chosen to tell it to the world.  I write because it’s the only way to get my voice heard and yes, I do have a voice that has been screaming to get out for fifty years.

So should I give up or continue?  I don’t know.  Maybe I should just write and save everything to a disc or a memory stick and ask for it to be buried with me when I die, or kill myself, whichever is sooner.  Maybe I should stop.  One thing is for sure, I’m not giving everything away for free.  If I’m not worthy of a few pennies of your money, you’re not worthy of weeks of my time and energy.  If I write and no one sees what I write, the universal consciousness will know I’ve written and my words will be a part of the flow of the universe, whether heard or unheard by these creatures who were, so recently, grunting apes.

I read someone the other week who was also contemplating giving up, for similar reasons, and one thing they said stuck in my mind.  They said “you disappoint me greatly, all of you.  You stand with hands open when in need but turn your backs when in plenty.  You are so consumed by greed that you cannot even open your mouth and offer genuine encouragement to someone who is doing something that you cannot.”  I don’t know whether I’d go quite that far, but he’s got a point..!

The book market is over saturated with books, thanks to the indie publishing revolution, and much of it is tripe.  Those works that are good get lost amongst the trash, not because they are not worthy but because they are buried in rubbish and people are tired of wading through the excrement of uneducated minds to find those words that inspire and set their imaginations aflame.

I’m hoping the market crashes, and soon.  Maybe then a few brave souls will find my work and read it.