Saturday, July 24, 2021

Another Troglodyte Story

Once upon a few weeks ago, I was reading a paper copy of Our Sunday Visitor from sometime before that.  There was an article about books for the modern Catholic.  It included a variety of topics and at least one that I made a note to maybe get around to reading eventually.  I did notice, however, that there was no fiction on the list.

The next issue printed a letter to the editor lamenting the lack of fiction on the list.  I was a little more interested in the story once I knew I wasn’t the only one to notice.  But I cringed at what I knew was coming.  I’ve seen it too many times.  I watched the following letters, waiting for someone to suggest JRR Tolkien.  I kind of wanted to scream.

I need to pause here to state for the record that I believe Tolkien is a great writer worthy of mention.  I have in fact been working my way through The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the last eight months.  Why is it taking so long?  Because I’m reading it with my teenage daughter.  She does voices for all the characters.  We stop every few paragraphs to laugh at the latest indignant dwarf, to recount the many names of Aragorn, to trace the journey on a map, to take sides when Sam and Gollum argue, to discuss whether or not it’s historically realistic to have so many broken swords.  It’s many kinds of awesome.  I have nothing against Tolkien.

But he is not the only Catholic to write fiction.  And more importantly, no one needs that suggestion!  Ask around and let me know if you find the one person who hasn’t heard of Tolkien.  I’m curious about the size of the rock that person is living under.

The story doesn’t end here.  One of the editors kept it alive for me by writing a piece suggesting that maybe we need a Catholic literary revival.  She acknowledged that a few Catholics have written novels in the past.  Including Tolkien.  Cue scream.   

This was the first time in my life I was tempted to write to a newspaper.  I did not.  I cannot.  As a Catholic writer, I am not allowed to be part of the conversation on Catholic writers.  Anything I say can and will be used to accuse me of only trying to draw attention to my own books.

Well, now that I’m having a conversation with myself, I will list current authors.  To be clear, these are not personal recommendations.  I am familiar with only a few of these writers.  (I have a small budget for books, and some genres are just not my cup of tea.)  All of the following authors claim to be Catholic, have published at least one work of fiction in the last five years, and have multiple positive credible-looking reviews and/or have won at least one respectable award.  Since these are fairly objective criteria, I will include myself.  That’s right, I’m breaking all the rules here where I make the rules.

Carolyn Astfalk
Carrie Sue Barnes
Jacqueline Brown
Michelle Buckman
Davis Bunn
A.J. Cattapan
CJ Daily
Fiorella de Maria
Sophie de Mullenheim
Jean Schoonover-Egolf
A.K. Frailey
Ellen Gable
Amanda Hamm
Therese Heckenkamp
Lisa Hendey
Ruth Logan Hern
Joshua Hren
Myra Johnson
Patrick Augustin Jones
Antony Barone Kolenc
Dennis Lambert
Jane Lebak
Theresa Linden
Carmela Martino
Paul McCusker
Lynn F Monahan
Amy Schisler
Cynthia T. Toney
Fr. Lawrence Edward Tucker SOLT
Corinna Turner
Jacqueline Vick
Marian O'Shea Wernicke

Goodreads is my primary social media.  I check in there a few times a month.  I let newspapers pile up before I read them.  I am not exactly on the cutting edge of the information age.  And yet this is how many authors I came up with when I gave myself one hour to search.  Think how many more there must be.  Catholic writers of modern fiction are not hiding.  This is why it’s frustrating that I can be completely sure that the next time someone asks about Catholic novelists, the very next person will say something to the effect of, “There was this one guy seventy or so years ago.”

And then I will go bash my head against the wall.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Transparency and the Troglodyte

Once upon a time, I decided to try something new.  The time was June 29th.  The new was a different way to give away copies of one of my books.  I’m usually content to toil away in obscurity.  I love writing my books, and I have a few fans who enjoy reading them.  I don’t worry too much about trying to increase my readership.  Marketing is less fun than writing and past attempts have regularly led to more hassles than success.  

But with a new series, it seemed like a good time to try a simple promotion.  I generated a coupon code to make the new Nook edition of The Art of Introductions free from July 1 – 31.  I bought a tiny bit of ad space to let potential readers know.  Then I went on vacation.  This is the part of the story where me being old fashioned comes into play.

We went to an amusement park where I saw no point in downloading the recommended app.  At another site, we even used a paper coupon.  I didn’t check my personal email, let alone anything work-related.  It was a complete vacation.  After we returned, sometime the morning of July 7th, I wanted to see if the promotion was having any luck.  I found that over a hundred people had shown interest (i.e. clicked the ad).  How many of them redeemed the coupon?  Zero.

Yeah, that hurt.  It appeared quite a few people read the description of my book and still turned down a chance to get it for free.  My reaction changed when I got an email from Barnes & Noble later that afternoon informing me that the code had just been activated.  A week late.  I don’t know how many people actually tried to use the code before that or what sort of error message it generated.  I only know that it reflects poorly on me that I was, however unintentionally, advertising an invalid deal.  My ego shriveled against the annoyance and possible anger that might have been directed my way.

I’m not telling this story to disparage Barnes & Noble at all.  Bugs happen.  That’s life.  I’m being open about the details because I need to apologize, and this is the only way I know to do so.  I want those affected to recognize to whom it’s owed.  I’m sorry.

To try again, or for the first time, BNP100ART should now make the Nook version of The Art of Introductions free until July 31st.  If you utilize this code, please consider returning to rate or review the book.  I might not see it immediately, but I will eventually check in and notice.  The gratitude will have no delay.