Tag Archives: writer

Word Of Mouth

How do you know that what you want to buy is any good?

If you’re buying something from a nearby brick-and-mortar store, you simply go there, take a look at it, heft it in your hands and get a feel for the object.

Then you go back home and do the same thing you’d do if you were buying the object, sight unseen, from a store on the internet: you look it up and start reading reviews.

I realize that there are some folks out there who are making a mockery of the review system, in that they are either hiring people to write glowing reviews of their product or scathing reviews of the competitor’s product, but I can’t think of a better system — when it’s not being gamed — for getting the unvarnished truth about a product.

Purchaser reviews are like talking over the backyard fence to your neighbor about her new lawn mower, or asking your cubicle-mate at work what he thought about that new Ethiopian restaurant downtown. You get to hear what each dude or dudette really thinks about the purchase or the food or the service.

You know that the person you asked isn’t being paid to speak only in glowing terms about the new nose-hair trimmer she just purchased. If you trust her, then you’ll trust her opinion of the nose-hair trimmer.

The internet, however, is a bit bigger than only your neighborhood. Odds are, you won’t know who the person recommending a product is, but you can be reasonably certain they are reviewing this under their own initiative, not because it’s their job to shill for Company X.

This came to mind last night, when I received a note from Amazon.Com that my review had helped another customer decide to purchase an item I got for Hyper Lad. It made me glad because, for a long while, I’d been reading reviews, but leaving hardly any.

That is just bad form.

See, you might recall that I’m a writer. (See A Dude’s Guide to Babies: The New Dad’s Playbook by Richard Jones and Barry Robert Ozer, on sale at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Powells.com and fine brick-and-mortar stores everywhere for proof.)

Since the book came out, I’ve been begging people to read it and then leave a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or anywhere they think others will see the review. The more reviews we get, the more people will see it, the more people will buy it, the better I’ll feel about the whole thing. (Which might not be all that important to you, but is oddly high on my list.)

I still don’t think we have enough reviews, but as I was brooding over that, I realized that I wasn’t holding up my end of the bargain. That is, I wanted reviews, but I wasn’t giving reviews.

Now, I understand there’s no big review toteboard up in the sky that ensures if you leave a review, you’ll get a review. But I thought maybe it was time to practice what I preached.

So I’ve been going back and leaving reviews for most of the items I’ve purchased from Amazon.com and other places. It’s taking a long, long, long, long, long (I like to buy things on the internet instead of searching for them IRL), long, long time. But I’m sticking with it.

And I think you should as well. I know you dudes and dudettes have read the reviews others have left, but have you left one in return? If folks don’t keep leaving reviews, the system breaks down and then we have to depend on the paid flacks for their not-so-honest answers.

No one wins when that happens.

Do your part, dudes. Buy a product? Write a review. Read a book? Write a review. Watch a movie? Write a review.

It only takes a couple of minutes. You’ll be glad you did.

You can always start here, reviewing A Dude’s Guide to Babies: The New Dad’s Playbook by Richard Jones and Barry Robert Ozer. Just a thought.

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In Need Of Some Spirit Glue

Well, that was a spirit breaker.

I don’t know if you dudes have noticed, but I’m a bit of a writer. (Perhaps you’ve heard of a little thing called A Dude’s Guide to Babies: The New Dad’s Playbook?)

Having worked as a newspaper reporter for the first part of my professional career, I equate writing with getting paid. I’m also a bit old so I’m a bit of a traditionalist. That means I want to sell my stories and books to an actual publisher (like Barry and I did with A Dude’s Guide to Babies: The New Dad’s Playbook) and get paid for it that way. I’m not all that into self publishing, although I do see it as a perfectly valid form of expression. It’s just not for me right now.

Because of that, I can’t just write something and toss it out to the public. I have to sell my work to someone in a publishing house, which means I face a lot of rejection. Seriously, dudes, I’m talking a lot of rejection.

Heck, compared to the writing career, my success with the ladies in high school and college was legen. . . . dary. That’s the level of rejection I and most writers tend to get from the traditional publishers.

Lately, however, I’ve been feeling pretty good. My critique group seems to like the book I’m working on with them. I managed to crank out a good-sized YA book in a couple of weeks and actually liked the result. I’m halfway through a middle grades book and also feeling good about it.

However, on Tuesday evening, I received an email from one of the larger publishers telling me, in essence, thanks but no thanks. What’s different about this one is that I was able to get my book directly into the hands of someone who works there, who, in turn, gave it to an editor.

Being rejected this time feels a bit more . . . solid.

In my brain, I understand this rejection is no different from any other. I know in my brain that not every story is for every person and I only need to find the right agent or publisher and they’ll love my work.

But, just for now, I’m feeling a bit like I’ve been wasting my time trying to write. That what I’ve just produced won’t be read by anyone but me. That I’m not going to succeed, by any definition of success that means anything.

Please, understand I’m not looking for sympathy. I’ll probably get over it.

My issue right now is that I’m pretty open with my young dudes. They knew that I was submitting a book to this big publisher. I’m going to tell them I got rejected, but I also want them to see me taking it in stride.

I have to set the right kind of example. I need them to internalize the idea that one setback (or 12 setbacks) isn’t enough to make them quit. Will never make them quit. I need them to know that the only thing that can make them quit is inside them already and they have control over that.

But, right now. . . It’s hard to set that sort of example. Knowing you’re good enough to succeed is a bit easier than finding the folks who will agree with you and can help you achieve that.

So I think I’m going to take a bit of a breather, get myself together before telling them about this rejection. I need to get my head in the right place so they can see I remain hard at work, that I’m not going to let this minor roadblock stop me. That I fell, but only so that I could learn to get back up.

After all, Tempus sanat omnia vulnera.

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The Right To An Assist

My mom never asked me to kill her.

She would, she told me, spare me that. But, she also finished her thought with a reminder that should I find her dead by her own hand, it wasn’t an indictment of anyone, but merely because she wasn’t enjoying her life any more.

Mom, who died from complications of Multiple Sclerosis and meningitis in February 2011, had suffered from Multiple Sclerosis for almost as long as I can remember and she hated it. She hated the fact that she couldn’t chase after her grandchildren, or even lift them out of their cribs.

She walked with a cane and a brace, but really needed a walker there near the end. She had her friends and her house and her sports she loved to watch.

Still, no matter how happy she seemed, she made sure to tell me and my sister, Tia, that she always reserved the right to check out any time the MS got to be too much, took away too much of her enjoyment of life.

Maybe it was because I grew up with that idea hovering in the background, but I’ve always believed that people should be able to choose when to give up the fight. Folks should be able to exit the stage at their own discretion. Of course, I also believe that, in most cases, suicide is a stupidly permanent solution to a temporary problem.

But what if the problem isn’t temporary? What if it will be with you, hamper you, throughout the rest of your life?

That’s the difference, as I see it.

And I’m not alone.Dr. Stephen Hawking

Dr. Stephen Hawking, widely renowned as one of the most intelligent people in the world, recently talked to the media about the importance of being allowed to choose an assistant to help him take his own life. Not just him, Hawking said, but anyone who needs the help should have it and not worry that the helper will be pursued by the law for what they did.

Hawking, who has progressive motor neuron disease and has already lost the ability to move most of his body under his own power and can only speak through a computerized synthesizer, said assisting suicide should be legal, but there must be safeguards put in place to prevent any kind of abuse.

“There must be safeguards that the person concerned genuinely wants to end their life and they are not being pressurized into it or have it done without their knowledge or consent as would have been the case with me.”

Although Hawking at one point was put on a respirator and more severe life support machines, the off switch given to his wife, he has always maintained that, where there is life, there is hope. However, he recognizes that choosing to end a life filled with pain is a very personal decision and one that should only be made by the person in question.

Sir Terry PratchettIn addition to Hawking, Sir Terry Pratchett, a man I believe to be the greatest writer of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, is a firm believer in the right of a person with a terminal disease to take his or her own life. Pratchett, author of more than 50 books, suffers from an early-onset form of Alzheimer’s disease. He’s one of the most vocal campaigners in Britain for the right to choose when to die.

Pratchett recently released a second documentary chronicling his quest to make the right to die one found in Britain and other countries around the world.

He counts himself lucky, despite his diagnosis.

I have to tell you that I thought I’d be a lot worse than this by now. And so did my specialist. At the moment, it’s the fact that I’m well into my sixties [he is 64] that’s the problem. All the minor things that flesh is heir to. This knee is giving me a bit of gyp. That sort of thing. And I’m well into the time of life when a man knows he has a prostate. By the time you’ve reached your sixties you do know that one day you will die and knowing that is at least the beginning of wisdom.

Still, he says, no matter how well or how poorly he’s doing, he wants to be able to reserve the right to die when he believes it’s time. He will, he said, know when the pain in his life is too much to bear. When life becomes a burden to be endured, rather than a profound joy to experience.

(Pratchett) is dismayed that Tony Nicklinson, the severely disabled man (in England) who fought and last month lost an impassioned campaign to end his life, effectively had to starve himself to death. “I put his picture on the little lectern by my desk because I don’t want this guy forgotten. He was very clear about what he wanted and you cannot tell me that two doctors helping him to go to sleep [as in a Dignitas clinic in Switzerland], would constitute murder. It cannot be murder. The law says it’s murder so the law is most definitely wrong and needs to be changed. This poor guy was a prisoner of technology.”

It’s time, dudes. It’s time for us to find a way to let people like Pratchett, Hawking or my mom exit with dignity and on their own schedule. These are not people who are having a bad day, but rather begging to be allowed to make the ultimate decision as to whether their life is worth living.

My mom never asked me to kill her. But I would have.

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