I was recently interviewed in the Doylestown Intelligencer newspaper about my "Rose Of Skibbereen" ebook series. They posted an excerpt of the interview at their Web site. In this clip I'm talking about the genealogy research that gave me the idea to write the novel. You can find it here.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
St. Patrick's Day is coming, and every year around this time I start to think about the people I based my "Rose Of Skibbereen" series on. They are people from my family, my ancestors, and I learned about them through the meticulous genealogy research my mother did. She told me often about her old Irish grandmother, who died in the 1940s, and how she came over to Philadelphia as a young girl and worked as a servant in the houses of rich families. She had three sisters who moved here also, but she left a brother and a sister back in Ireland with her parents, and she never saw any of them again.
It was a hard thing the Irish did, the same as all immigrants do. They left their native land because of poverty, and they traveled thousands of miles to a new country, and often had to start out at the bottom rung of society, scrabbling to make a living the best they could. Many of them never had the money to buy a steamship ticket back to their homeland even for a brief visit, so they never saw their parents or the world they grew up in again.
I think of that often when I think of my great grandmother, who is the person Rose is based on. She grew up in a rural part of Ireland in the 19th century, a place where there was no electricity, and none of the modern conveniences. I'm sure the first city she ever saw was Cobh, which was the town in Ireland where she boarded the ship to take her to America. Philadelphia, where she disembarked in the 1880s, must have seemed overwhelming, with all its traffic and people and sights and sounds. To make that transition, not only from one country to another, rural to urban, but also to live, like she did, for 60 more years and see all the changes that the 20th century brought, must have been a bewildering experience. When she died the world had been through two world wars, cars and airplanes had been invented, the telephone was a part of daily life, and there were a thousand other changes that must have made the world of her childhood seem like a dream. It's something I can hardly imagine, to see all that change in one lifetime, and even though I've seen some wonderful things in my life I haven't seen that rate of change.
So, this year on St. Patrick's Day I'll lift a glass and toast my grandmother, and all the other immigrants who lived through so much. Because, through it all, they endured.
I hope they found peace at their journey's end.
Sunday, January 18, 2015
This is going to be a controversial post, I think. The reason is that for people like me, who’ve been in the creative fields for a lot of years, the Internet has not always been a good thing. There was a time before the Internet when freelance writers could make a princely sum for their work. You gained experience, put your articles (called clips) in a portfolio and showed them to clients, and the clients gave you work commensurate with your ability and experience. It was a great system, right?
And then the Internet came along. The Internet allowed clients to vastly expand their pool of freelancers. Anyone with a computer and a modem could call themselves a writer, and the clients could make all these millions of freelance “writers” compete against each other to offer the lowest bid for the job. That’s why you have writers making $5 or less for a blog post.
For awhile, I held my nose up like a lot of other experienced writers, and I said, “There’s no way I’m going to stoop to those kind of rates. I’m too good for that!”
But, you know what? I’ve seen the light. I’ve realized that the Internet is like a mighty river, and it’s better to swim with the current than against it.
I joined Fiverr. Fiverr is a site where people advertise that they’ll do all sorts of odd jobs for five bucks. Really, you can find someone there who’ll do just about anything.
It’s outrageous, right? Why would a person who’s got decades of experience writing for companies and publications, who has a Master’s in English and is a published novelist, why would he sell his services for five bucks?
Here are five reasons why I’ve done it.
. If you price the job right you can make decent money. People aren’t giving away the store for five bucks. You can structure your offer so that your time invested is equal to the payment you receive. The ones I’ve posted, “I’ll brainstorm 12 ideas for $5,” and “I’ll write a 250 word blog post for $5” are things I’ve decided I can do profitably. Sure, it’s not top dollar, but it can lead to bigger and better things (see below for more about that).
. You get paid without a hassle. In my career I’ve had to wait months to get paid, and sometimes I got stiffed for my fee, when a magazine or business went bankrupt. With Fiverr, you get paid within a matter of days after completing the job. Every time.
. You get lots of work. If you have a good offer, you’ll get work. Tons of it. Your email inbox will be filled every day with people buying your gig.
. You get bigger jobs in time. When you move up the ranks of Fiverr sellers, you can multiply your income. If someone wants a thousand word article, I can tell them to order more gigs, so that I’m not writing all those words for five bucks.
. You do something different every day. I like the thrill of tackling different jobs every day. I’ve done brainstorming gigs for videographers, game designers, novelists, business owners, and much more. I never know what to expect when I log on each day, and I love it.
I’m not going to get rich working for Fiverr, and I know that. My main gig will still be writing fiction, and that’s the way I want it. But Fiverr has added some variety to my writing life, and it’s stimulated my brain cells in ways you wouldn’t imagine. Also, it’s a nice way to pick up some extra cash.
I guess I’m a traitor to the venerable freelance writing profession. Oh, well, it’s better to adapt than to become a dinosaur.
Monday, December 22, 2014
I love Christmas, and I always have. It’s a happy time of year, no matter what your religious beliefs are. I love the bright holiday lights, the comforting sameness of the music, the smiles on everyone’s faces, the smells (pine needles, hot chocolate), and the tastes (fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, roast turkey, pumpkin pies).
The other thing that makes this holiday special is that it’s the time when I published my first ebook. I published “The Christmas Gift” in 2009, a year when the experts said ebooks were just a passing fad, and that people would never pay to read something on a screen. “Ebooks are meant to be free,” I remember one expert said. “Authors can use them as giveaways to promote their print books, but no author is going to make money by selling ebooks.”
How things have changed, in only five years! Ebooks now account for over $5 billion in revenues in the U.S. alone. When I wrote my little book about a doll named Constance in Depression era America, I had no idea what types of ebooks I’d be publishing five years hence, let alone that “The Christmas Gift” would still be on the market. There are many traditionally published books that came out in 2009 and have long since disappeared from the shelves, but “The Christmas Gift” is still out there in cyberspace, ready to be downloaded. Each year I get a spike in sales around Christmas, and I am happy that my story continues to live on. I don’t really know how to categorize it -- “a children’s story for all ages”, is the best I can come up with. But it gladdens my heart at this time of year to realize that this little ebook is still around to spread its message.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
I’m doing a storytelling performance again at Bucks County Playhouse. This one is called “Tales Told In Winter” and it’s in the tradition of storytelling around the Christmas holiday.
In the British Isles and certain parts of Europe people used to get together and tell scary stories at Christmastime. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is just such a story, with a visit from some scary ghosts on Christmas Eve to rattle poor Scrooge and convince him to mend his ways.
I did my first storytelling performance last May, and I enjoyed it so much I signed up to do another. It’s great fun for the storytellers and the audience, and I’m looking forward to it.
These aren’t all scary stories, actually. There are funny stories, heart-wrenching ones, and stories that will amaze you with their twists and turns. I am in awe once again at the rich trove of stories everyday people have to tell. We all have our own unique dramas, it seems, and everyone has a tapestry of memories to turn into stories.
If you’re in the area, come out December 10 for a great evening of stories! For more information, click here.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Just in time for Thanksgiving, I have published the latest in my “Rose Of Skibbereen” family saga. This is Book Five in the series, and it takes the story through the 1980s and 90s right up to the dawn of the new millennium. The main character is Rosie Morley, granddaughter of Rose Sullivan Morley, the heroine of the first three books in the series. In this book Rosie moves to New Hope, Pennsylvania, and opens a bar and restaurant where she sings her beloved Big Band numbers. She also meets Jack Caldwell, a futurist, who captures her fancy with his optimism and his rugged good looks. Rosie’s son Pete gets into trouble in Northern Ireland, and for good measure there are some psychic overtones, some echoes of the spiritual music Rosie hears in her dreams.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Okay, so Halloween is almost here, and I decided I’d do a two day spooky giveaway of my “13 Horror Bundle” ebook of scary stories. I don’t usually do free giveaways like this, but, what the heck, it’s Halloween and I’m feeling a bit crazy today. Here’s how it works. Go to Smashwords, where you can click on “Buy” and when you get to the checkout screen, put in this code: JF82U
When you do that, you’ll be able to download the book for free. That’s a great deal, huh? Well, in return, you have to do something for me. Just write a review on Amazon, Smashwords, or Goodreads, and tell everyone what you thought of the book. I don’t care if you give me a one star or a five star rating, or if you love or hate the book, the review is the important thing. Reviews are very important in the ebook world, so I would appreciate one in return for giving you a free copy of my book. Okay? Good. By the way, the coupon is only good for 48 hours, so use it right away!