(Photo by Bruce Mars)
Our currently featured books, “Ghosty Boo,” by Kate Litterer, “Marion Hatley,” by Beth Castrodale and “Time Flash: Another Me,” by Lana Ayers, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.
What is success, in a writing sense? Certainly, one could point to John Grisham or James Patterson or Danielle Steel or Steven King as avatars of that term. But what about the rest of the writing universe?
This may sound counterintuitive, but I would take the amount of copies sold out of the equation for the moment and bring it down to a writer-by-writer level. After all, we have very little control over how many people buy our books.
Of course, if an author simply places his or her work on an Amazon page and into a few bookstores without any further marketing, chances are the financial rewards won’t be great. On the other hand, sometimes even books that are ferociously marketed fail to catch on.
So perhaps it makes sense to borrow a line or two from Ricky Nelson’s iconic 1970s ballad “Garden Party”:
“Well, it’s alright now; I learned my lesson well.
You know you can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.”
Most writers take high expectations into a project — what they want their book to say, how they want it said. If the book fulfills these goals, I think it’s fair to call it a success.
I got to thinking about this because one of our featured Snowflakes books this week is titled “Success: Stories,” by David Taylor. He writes: “These stories came together over a decade when I worked various jobs in different cities, and came up often against people’s (and my own) ideas of what it meant to succeed. The stories are not about ambition exactly — few of the characters are ambitious — but their expectations reveal a lot.”
Also featured is a novel by Laury Egan, “The Outcast Oracle.” You may or may not have heard of her, but my guess is that Laury considers herself a success.
“Although I’ve worked in publishing all my adult life,” she says, “it was only during the last twenty years that I have seriously returned to my childhood passion, writing. I now have the great fortune to be able to write full-time. My first novel was a psychological suspense, Jenny Kidd, set in Venice and written in the tradition of Patricia Highsmith. A collection, Fog and Other Stories, came next and contained mostly work that had been published in literary journals. The Outcast Oracle followed, with a comedy, Fabulous! An Opera Buffa, released in September 2018, and a literary suspense, Wave in D Minor, contracted for 2019. Interspersed with the fiction are four limited-edition poetry collections: Snow, Shadows, a Stranger; Beneath the Lion’s Paw; The Sea & Beyond; and Presence & Absence (available through my website).
Finally, this week offers a monthly bonus, as we revisit six books profiled earlier.
UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, NOV. 6-12.
“SUCCESS: STORIES,” BY DAVID TAYLOR.
The stories give drama and perspective on the idea of success and how we view it in people’s lives. In the words of Publishers Weekly, the “14 lively tales…uncover gentle irony in the commonly held notion of a successful life.” StorySouth called the collection “Superbly-crafted tales…that explore the most vital crises of existence, when human emotions–desire and isolation, suspicion and jealousy–boil over… blooms in complexity every time the reader revisits it.”
“THE OUTCAST ORACLE,” BY LAURY EGAN.
Set in 1959 on the shores of New York’s Lake Ontario, fourteen-year-old Charlene Beth Whitestone has been deserted by her parents, leaving her in the custody of her grandfather, C.B. Although he loves Charlie, he is a charming con artist, moonshiner, and religious fraud who inducts her into his various enterprises yet also encourages her dreams of becoming a writer. When C.B. suddenly dies, Charlie is left alone and must use her wits and resourcefulness to take charge of her life, all the while wrestling with the morality of continuing her grandfather’s schemes. When a handsome cowboy-stranger, Blake, arrives, he insinuates himself into C.B.’s religion business and into Charlie’s heart. Despite her resistance, Blake mounts a lucrative PR campaign, touting Charlie as an “oracle” and arranging for her to perform miracles.
The story is recounted by Charlie with wry humor and a keen awareness of human foibles. A smart and independent girl, she battles abandonment, social rejection, sexual pressure, her family’s alcoholism and amorality, finally discovering her strengths and identity. Similar in tone to books by Mark Twain, The Outcast Oracle pokes fun at organized religion and people’s gullibility.
FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY
This month, we will revisit “Electric Love,” by Philip Palios, “Star Catching,” by Dawn LaJeunesse, “Mosh It Up,” by Mindela Ruby, “Drunk on Salt,” by James Nolan, “Metaphysical Voyages,” by Jenny Haynes, and “Juggling Kittens,” by Matt Coleman.