This blog is by Susan Berliner, author of the supernatural thrillers "DUST," "Peachwood Lake," "The Disappearance," "Corsonia," "After the Bubbles" and "Soldier Girl," and two short story collections: "The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales" and "George's Mother and Other Weird Stories." This blog contains entries from January 1- December 30, 2021.
Review report - December 30, 2021
When it rains, it pours. I just received two new positive reviews for my quirky memoir, Doing the Write Thing. The first (4 stars) was posted on Barnes & Noble but, unfortunately, I wasn't able to link it anywhere. Here's the review:
"An interesting review of someone's life, filled with the type of scenarios most of us go through, in one form or another...Overall, an enjoyable read."
The second review is even better: It's 5 stars, posted on Amazon, and the link works. So here's the review and link.
"I have read all of Susan Berliner's books - love them all - and it was really interesting to learn about her life and background. Growing up W was really interesting, the dating escapades, and looking behind the scenes of a reporter - particularly the sports reporting and what she had to go through. Can't wait for the next science fiction book or short story collection!"
Reviews on any book-related site are a tremendous help to authors, especially independent writers like myself. (All my books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Doing the Write Thing's ebook is free on Kindle Unlimited.) If you've read one of my novels or short story collections and enjoyed it, please post a short review. Thank you!
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Women's lib and me - December 24, 2021
"I am loving the Mets part," a person who knows me well emailed as she read my memoir, Doing the Write Thing. "I didn't know you stood up for women's rights like that."
Since she's the second reader who praised my long-ago Shea Stadium experience, I'm posting a version of the story, which I wrote before realizing the entire episode was included in my reporter's diary. So here's the recent version (and if you want the play-by-play description, read my memoir).
April 6th, 1971...
It was the New York Mets' opening day—and I was at Shea Stadium, reporting what people in the crowd were wearing for the men's wear trade publication, Daily News Record (DNR).
I was thrilled with the assignment for two reasons: I was a huge Mets' fan and I lived in Flushing, Queens, just minutes from Shea Stadium.
That April morning, I took a cab from my Greenwich Village office to the ballpark with two coworkers: Ki, a young woman reporter for Women's Wear Daily (WWD) and Sal, a Fairchild Publications photographer, who was taking pictures for both papers.
First we attended Mets' owner Joan Payson's private party so Sal could take photos of Beautiful People for Ki's WWD story. Then the three of us walked around the stadium so Sal could snap photos of the stalwart Opening Day attendees for my article.
Why "stalwart"? Here's my description of the fans from the two-page feature story that ran two days later in DNR: "A crowd of 26,062 paid for the privilege of shivering through four-and-one-half-innings of the rain-shortened game. Most dressed as if they were there to watch the Jets instead of the Mets. Army jackets, windbreakers and lined raincoats were the outfits of the day. More creative fans protected themselves against the elements with plastic bags and colorful golf umbrellas."
But when I attempted to accompany Sal to the field to take pictures of the players, things went awry. I was stopped and told that, even though I had an official press pass—signed by Mets management—I was not allowed on the baseball field. Why? Because I'm a woman.
Ironically, I was allowed in the dugout so I did get to meet the Mets—including coach Yogi Berra—and the photo of Yogi in DNR includes part of my face and rain hat behind him.
During the hour-long delay before the start of the game, I sat in the Mets' dugout drinking bouillon and helplessly watched Sal run around the field snapping photos of whomever he wanted—without any direction from me.
At that point, Ki had gone back to the office to write her story, but my article wasn't running until the day after and I had specific people I wanted Sal to photograph. The Mets' opponent that day was the Montreal Expos, whose roster included Ron Swoboda, one of the heroes of the 1969 Mets championship team and I wanted a picture of him returning to Shea in his new uniform. But in the pre-cellphone era, I had no way to relay that information to Sal.
However, mostly because of Mrs. Payson's party, Sal did take pictures of lots of well-known attendees. My story, titled "A sure sign of spring?" includes photos of announcer Howard Cosell; Mets manager Gil Hodges; Mets players Tom Seaver, Art Shamsky, and Gary Gentry; New York City Mayor John Lindsay, and the U.N. Ambassador who threw out the first pitch—and later became the 41st president: George H.W. Bush.
When the opening ceremonies finally began, I remained at ground level, forced to stand off the field by the gate. Then during the abbreviated game, I sat in the stands with local newspaper photographers.
When the game ended with the Mets (and pitcher Tom Seaver) winning by a score of 4-2, the team's first home opener win, the friendly photographers invited me to join them at a buffet in the Press room. But when I tried to enter, I was told women weren't allowed. By this point, I was furious with the gender discrimination—something I'd never encountered.
After writing my story the following day (I did get to go home early), I phoned the American Civil Liberties Union to ask about taking action against the Mets for their policy against women. But the ACLU said the matter was too minor for them to pursue.
The only satisfaction I got was from the following little blurb that ran in DNR:
"MALE CHAUVINISTS: Women reporters, it seems, aren't allowed on Shea Stadium's playing field before Met games, even with written official permission. Reason given: It's club rule. DNR reporter was told 'somebody goofed' in giving her permission to be on field, even though she had sat in Mets dugout earlier. She was required to stand on edge of field while other reporters moved around freely."
I eventually got an over-the-phone apology from the Mets and from the baseball commissioner's office, but I never got anything in writing. These days, when I see women reporters traipsing everywhere on ball fields and even interviewing players in locker rooms [pre-Covid], I remember my frustrating long-ago experience at Shea.
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Preserving memories - December 19, 2021
We all have memories of things that have happened to us during our lives. Some events are funny, others are sad, and a few are unusual. But because most people aren't writers, they may take photos, but they don't preserve episodes from their lives in words.
Until I compiled my quirky stories into a new memoir, Doing the Write Thing, I hadn't preserved my memories either. But I'm glad I finally did.
Abby Luby chronicled my latest writing adventure in a terrific article that appeared in the December 14th edition of the Northern Westchester Examiner. If you haven't yet read the story, here it is:
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Library book - December 14, 2021
Doing the Write Thing is about to grace the shelves of Queens College's Rosenthal Library. The school, a division of the City University of New York (CUNY) is my alma mater.
It's not a coincidence that the college requested a copy of my memoir. Upon reading a recent alumni magazine, I noticed that graduates (including several authors) had submitted updates on their careers and I realized that four of my memoir's quirky little stories ("Growing Up 'W,'" "Rides With Sherri," "Jodi Loves Alan?" and "When Susan Met Harriet") related to Queens College.
After I emailed the school about my book (and the Queens College connections), the alumni office requested an autographed copy for the library's Special Collections & Archives section. So although Doing the Write Thing won't be part of the main collection, the memoir will be in the library for students to read and hopefully, enjoy.
Writers write - December 9, 2021
For reasons beyond my control, this week I haven't had the time to work on my dystopian novel, The Resolve. Nevertheless, I'm still writing.
I'm tackling my mini freelance project, which involves creating story-starters for second- and third-graders—short descriptive prompts, work I can easily pick up and put down.
Although this assignment is completely different from penning a book, it's still writing. And that's what every writer has to do. Writers write.
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Skipping a scene - December 4, 2021
I almost always write a novel in order, one scene right after the other. However, on rare occasions, I will leave out a scene. This happened when I created the first draft of Peachwood Lake. At one point, I had no idea what was going to happen next so I left out that missing scene and continued writing. Then, about a week later, I figured out what was missing, went back, and inserted the text.
Late this week as I wrote a scene in my dystopian novel, The Resolve, I realized my heroes were going to meet some new survivors and the story between them kept playing out in my head. Although I had been alternating scenes between my heroes and the villain, I needed to write the next scene with these new people before returning to the villain.
So here's what I did: After writing "scene to come," I transcribed the scene that appeared in my mind. Tomorrow, I'll go back and insert the villain's scene.
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Signing suggestion - November 29, 2021
Lately Facebook has been listing "memories" of posts I made on the same November day in past years. Since this is the holiday season, many of my old messages were photos of book-signing events, which makes me sad since all events were cancelled last year due to Covid. And this year hasn't been much better; I participated in just one holiday fair.
But the photos did remind me that signed books make wonderful—and unique—holiday gifts. Although I can't sign books in person this year, I can still autograph print copies of my novels, short story collections, and memoir.
Here's how: Purchase one of my paperbacks and then contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will send you a label, inscribed to the person of your choice, and you can paste that label on a front page of your copy. Voila! A great gift!
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Spreading the word - November 24, 2021
It's been tough work publicizing my new memoir, Doing the Write Thing. Since I participated in just one signing event this holiday season due to Covid, I'm unable to connect in person with potential readers to promote my books. And Doing the Write Thing is different from my supernatural thrillers and weird short stories; it's quirky nonfiction.
But now I'm getting some help. Today I was interviewed about the memoir by an excellent reporter from my local weekly, The Northern Westchester Examiner. I'm looking forward to reading her article in the newspaper and when it's published, I will post it here.
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Sex change surgery - November 19, 2021
A novelist is like a god with words, having the power to write whatever he or she wants. Writers can even be surgeons.
When I reread the first part of The Resolve, my post-coronovirus dystopian novel, I realized I had too many women characters. So what did I do? I performed sex change surgery, transforming Phyllis into Phil.
I did this type of surgery once before with my novel Peachwood Lake, changing my heroine's mother, Eva, to her father, Edgar. That was difficult work.
This sex change was easier because Phil appears in just two chapters and didn't require major rewrites. Mostly, I altered pronouns: "she" to "he" and "her" to "his." I wish the rest of the editing process for The Resolve could be this simple.
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Scam buster - November 14, 2021
I get inundated with book-marketing scams. Here's why:
When I wrote DUST, I knew nothing about creating a novel so I hired a company to help design, format, and publish the book. The company, now called Author Solutions, isn't a scam. However, it is overly expensive. After DUST, I found it better and more cost-effective to hire my own designers and formatters than to pay for services I didn't need, like editing and blurb-writing.
Most of Author Solutions' customer service reps were located in the Philippines and some employees got hold of (or stole) the company's database. These folks now create numerous phony companies and their reps call and email authors with a variety of book-promoting schemes.
This week I got two emails (both form letters with follow-up phone calls), from these scammers. One email was headed "The Universal Breakthrough: Auction Your Book," didn't mention my name or the title of any of my books, and linked its company to ICM Partners Literary, an agency that handles many top-selling authors like Patricia Cornwell and Carl Hiaasen. The email was signed by "Janine Hack." (They always use English-sounding names and I like the apt phony last name.)
The other email, titled: "Are you ready to submit your screenplay?," asked for a screenplay for my novel, Corsonia, written by a "reputable screenwriter" that they'd be happy to supply. The email was from "Chloe Young," who claimed to be from Imprint Entertainment, a well-known company that has produced The Twilight Saga movies.
Here's what I did: I found the legitimate emails for both companies the scammers mentioned (not easy to do because those people don't want solicitations) and forwarded them the emails I received.
I received an immediate "thank you" from the head of Imprint Entertainment, saying, "We will shut it down now."
Although that comment made me feel good, I'm sure another phony book marketer will contact me next week with a new scam.
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Testing the waters - November 9, 2021
I had a book signing event last Saturday, probably the only one this holiday season, since most fairs have been cancelled again this year because of Covid. Fortunately, the Holy Rosary Church Craft Fair in Hawthorne, NY is one of my favorite events. I even say so in my memoir, Doing the Write Thing. And this year's fair didn't disappoint.
I sold copies of all my books except one and my most intriguing sale was to Alex (below) who purchased Peachwood Lake.
"The main character is a 13-year-old girl," I told him.
"I want the book," he insisted.
Since this has happened before, perhaps Peachwood Lake isn't just a "girls" novel. After all, it is a gory tale that one reviewer called, "a marvelous coming of age horror story."
So this holiday season I'm testing the waters (pun intended) by advertising Peachwood Lake. Will readers bite? Fingers are crossed...
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Letting it sit - November 4, 2021
About six months ago, I wrote a short story titled, "Retriever." Although I liked the tale, the protagonist had a hammer that I wanted to use, but couldn't figure out how to do it. I kept remembering Chekhov's gun quote. If you mention a detail in your fiction, either use it or leave it out.
I kept revisiting "Retriever," but couldn't think of a good way to include the hammer in the action. I tried omitting it, but that didn't work. So I put the story aside and concentrated on other projects.
This week, two months after I last tackled the story, I had an idea for incorporating the hammer. I inserted the text and it worked. After some research, I also added a bit of dialogue to explain an important mystery. Now "Retriever" is much improved. If you have a problem with your writing, let the story sit. Eventually, you'll probably come up with a solution.
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More muse musings - October 30, 2021
Recently, when I was trying to sleep, my muse gave me great suggestions for the ending of "Soul Mates," which I was able to incorporate into the story. (See October 20 post.)
Earlier this week, my muse pitched in again. When I woke up early in the morning of a vacation day, she gave me two snippets of dialogue to include in the story. Neither piece was long, but both were important since they were questions the protagonist would likely ask.
So what did I do? I wrote both dialogue questions and answers on scraps of paper, brought them home, and the next day added the new sentences. During next two days, I reread and edited "Soul Mates" and now this short story is in basically finished.
Thanks again, Muse!
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Author's decision - October 25, 2021
When writing my memoir, Doing the Write Thing, I had to decide which incidents from my life to include. I didn't want to mention every little thing because although all the happenings in my life are, of course, interesting to me, not every incident will be exciting to others. I wanted mostly to include quirky fun stories that would entertain even people who don't know me.
After reading my book, one friend is upset that she's not included. But I didn't write this memoir as a 'thank you" to friends for doing me favors. I name some friends, but not others, depending on the events I chose.
As the author, the decision of what to include is entirely up to me. And that's the way it has to be. After all, it's my book.
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Muse musings - October 20, 2021
My muse doesn't usually show up at the most convenient times. This week, she arrived during the night as I was trying (unsuccessfully) to fall asleep.
The muse gave me ideas for scenes leading up to the ending of "Soul Mates," the story I'm currently writing. But after transcribing the suggestions, I discovered they didn't make as much sense as they did when I was half-asleep. So now, it's a puzzlement: How do I fit these good ideas into my story?
As a result, I've got more questions about how this story will end. I've written down the questions and have to figure them out, this time without any help from the muse.
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Word count - October 15, 2021
"Still writing my 'Soul Mates' short story, which isn't so short (4,000 words and counting)."
When I posted the above update on my Facebook page, I received several responses from fellow authors. "You still have 6,000 words...before it jumps into the novelette arena," wrote one.
"My short stories range from 5,000 to 8,000 words on average," wrote another. When I told her my stories are generally 2,000 to 5,000 words, she answered, "I need to learn your trick to shortening without taking away from the story."
"No trick," I replied. "Each story (or novel) you write has its own length—so if you need more words to tell the tale, so be it."
Even though my stories are usually short, George's Mother and Other Weird Stories includes two that are nearly novelette-size: "The Imposters" (the first entry) and "The Key" (the last).
"Soul Mates" is now 4,600 words, with the ending not yet in sight. I'm guessing the final story will be at least 7,000 words.
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Time-travel television - October 10, 2021
I love everything time travel—movies, TV, books. In fact, I've published time travel short stories as well as a novel, The Disappearance. Therefore, when a time travel-themed series debuts on TV, I watch it.
I've seen the first two episodes of "La Brea" and although many viewers have panned the show, I liked it. With time travel, you have to suspend disbelief. If you insist, "this can never happen," you won't enjoy the story. Of course it can't happen, but who cares?
Here's the plot: A giant sinkhole opens in Los Angeles, at the site of the La Brea tar pits. A bunch of people stuck in a traffic jam fall into the deep hole and disappear. But they're not dead. Somehow they land in the same place in LA, but at a much earlier time: about 10,000 years ago.
I accepted that premise. (The fact that nearly everyone who tumbled into the sinkhole lands gently on the prehistoric grass without getting hurt was tougher to swallow.) So there are two stories: the people down below, trying to survive among extinct animals like saber-tooth tigers and the families of the missing people who have to deal with government forces managing the crisis.
I never watched "Lost," so to me the sinkhole survivor part of the show is more like "Land of the Lost" or Journey to the Center of the Earth. The modern-day plot focuses on the secretive Homeland Security honchos, who seem to be this series' evil government agency.
Yes, there are lots of stereotypical characters. But the show promises to be lots of fun—especially for people like me who enjoy time travel stories.
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Bending the ending - October 5, 2021
As I posted here on September 25, I'm rereading the short stories I wrote earlier this year. Although many are okay, a few have issues.
"The New Neighbors" is one of the tales that needs work. I like the concept of the story: Strange people move into the house across the street from my snoopy main character. But the ending has always bothered me because it's flat and abrupt.
How do I change it? After reading the story again today, I thought of an alternate ending. Now I have to write it and then see if it works. Fingers crossed!
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No one believed... - September 30, 2021
I look at writing-related help wanted ads just to see what's out there. Today, I saw a terrific-sounding job: A New Jersey school district needed a fiction writer, working remotely, to create serialized stories for students in grades 6 - 8.
In addition to a resumé, the district required applicants to create an original scene (up to 500 words) using one of several story-starters. Although I write fiction for teens, I'm not applying for the job (because it's full-time). But I loved the opening sentence choices so I wrote a scene using "No one believed..."
Here's my creation, which is a bit like "Behind the Fence," a story in The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales:
No one believed Eduardo. First he told his sister what he saw.
"Next you'll be telling me about little green men," she said, laughing. "You got some imagination, kid."
He hated when Lourdes called him "kid," especially since she was just fourteen, only a year older than him.
After dinner, he tried telling his mother.
"You saw a weird light in the sky?" she asked, as she loaded plates into the dishwasher. "What's so weird about a light?"
"It had blue and green wavy lines," Eduardo explained.
"Lights don't have colored lines."
"Well, this one did."
His mother looked up and studied him. "Have you been smoking something?" she asked.
Eduardo returned to his room and stared up at the dark sky. He'd seen where the colored light fell. It was off to the right, somewhere near the park, walking distance. After school tomorrow he'd search for the strange light and when he found it, they'd all finally believe him. They'd know he wasn't making things up.
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Story time - September 25, 2021
After writing a scene in my latest short story, "Soul Mates," I decided to reread some of the other tales that will comprise my next short story collection. I haven't looked at any of them for several months, said to be a good thing. Letting tales "rest" supposedly gives the writer a new perspective.
I read four of the stories. Although I changed a few words, I didn't make any major changes because the tales were in good shape. But I chose those stories because I already knew they were okay. However, I've written three other unpublished tales—one that I've revised numerous times—and each of those stories has issues.
Maybe (or maybe not) I'll tackle the problem tales next week.
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Posting problems - September 20, 2021
If you follow this blog, you know I continuously ask/beg readers who enjoy my books to review them on Amazon because those little write-ups really help sales. Lately however, I've had an additional problem: Amazon doesn't always post the reviews.
One reader who purchased Doing the Write Thing, my new memoir, notified me that she had written a review. But after nearly a week, the review was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, this reader was persistent: She contacted Amazon and the next day her write-up finally showed up.
Then another reader emailed me that she had also enjoyed the book and posted a write-up. I was about to beg her to contact Amazon when that review appeared, four days later.
So now, in addition to asking readers to buy my books and then begging them for reviews, I now have to worry about the reviews not appearing. Being an author is tough work! Please click here to see the reviews for Doing the Write Thing.
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Showtime! - September 15, 2021
It's been a long time.
My last book signing was in December of 2019. But on Saturday, September 18—unless it rains—I'll be signing books again at a Fall Flea Market on the lawn of the United Methodist Church, 300 East Main Street from 10 am to 4 pm in Mount Kisco, NY.
I'm really looking forward to again having in-person conversations with readers. Since my last event, I've published two books: Doing the Write Thing: A Memoir and George's Mother and Other Weird Stories. I can't wait to show them off!
On September 18, I'll be sharing a table with fellow YIKES! & TYKES & YUKS authors Linda Griffin (Adopting Ginger, Demetrio Says "No," and My Child Won't Listen...and other early childhood problems) and Larry Berliner, author of the award-winning humor book You Can't Be Serious: An inner-city teacher a-muses about school and life.
If you're in the Mount Kisco area, please visit our table on Saturday. We'd love to see you!
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Contest call - September 10, 2021
I've got a fun and easy new contest on the website. It relates to the first tale in George's Mother and Other Weird Stories, "The Imposters," which is about a girl who discovers that her parents are imposters. Although they look the same, everything else about them is different.
For the contest, you must pretend you are also writing a story called "The Imposters" and determine who your imposters are. Be creative—and you can win a $25 Amazon gift card or a choice of any one of my books. To enter, click here. Good luck!
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Writing is writing - September 5, 2021
It's short and simple, but the above two-word phrase is my favorite writing quote. A writer has to write—and he or she should try to write every day. But sometimes we're not always able to do the kind of writing we prefer. In my case, that's fiction.
This weekend I've had to write items for my freelance standardized testing project: creating simple sentences for Texas ELL students in Grades 6-7. It's nothing like writing short stories. But it is writing and it counts.
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Bookmark matter - August 30, 2021
My paperback copies of Doing the Write Thing aren't here yet. (The pandemic is slowing production time in many industries, including book printing.) However, late last week I received the bookmarks for the memoir.
The bookmarks look great, although they're a slightly different shade of yellow than the book cover.
Now I need a place to give out books and bookmarks. Hopefully, I'll get the paperbacks before my September 18th event—the first since the start of Covid. As long as it doesn't rain, I'll be signing books (with YIKES! & TYKES & YUKS fellow authors, Linda Griffin and Larry Berliner) at the United Methodist Church of Mount Kisco's Fall Flea Market at 300 East Main Street. Hope to see local friends there.
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Review number one - August 25, 2021
Doing the Write Thing (ebook version) was published last week and a few readers have purchased it. Now I anxiously await the early reviews to find out if people are enjoying the memoir.
Yesterday, I got the first Amazon review and so far, so good. Here's the 5-star review:
What a great read!
Just finished reading "Doing the Write Thing" by Susan Berliner and enjoyed it immensely! Berliner shares her real-life experiences in a way that makes you feel like part of the story. I especially loved "Growing Up 'W'" and "When Susan Met Harriet."
If you read and enjoy Doing the Write Thing (or any of my fiction), please post a short review on Amazon. It really helps all authors, especially indy writers like me.
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Doing the Write Thing is here! - August 20, 2021
At last, the ebook version is here and available on Kindle, free to Kindle Unlimited readers and priced at a low $3.99 for everyone else. I'm still waiting for a proof of the paperback, which I should get early next week.
Now I need people to read the book and hopefully, review it on Amazon. I'm also advertising the memoir on Amazon to attract additional readers. Will that strategy work? I'll let you know.
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Done—almost - August 15, 2021
The cover of Doing the Write Thing is done, for both the ebook and the paperback. Here's the ebook cover:
The formatting of the memoir's pages has been done for weeks. So the book is finished, right?
Wrong. Lightning Source, which prints my books, has a new system that I'm finding difficult to use. I've had three issues, only one of which was even slightly my fault. I'm now on the last step, setting up the proof of the paperback, and unfortunately, the rep who fixed my first two problems, can't solve this one.
So now I'm waiting for an email from the "next level of Customer Support," whoever that is. The first rep answered my questions quickly, but this "next level" will probably take longer. (Remember: Lightning Source no longer has no phone service.) I'm hoping to have the paperback available by late August, but now that may not be possible.
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Ya-hoo! New review - August 10, 2021
Getting my books reviewed is like pulling teeth. No matter how much I suggest, ask, or plead—readers, even those who love the book—rarely follow through and write a short Amazon review.
That's why I'm so excited whenever I get a new review, especially for a novel like Corsonia, which was published several years ago. Here's what the latest reviewer wrote:
"I literally couldn't put this book down...another great book by Susan Berliner...I kept turning the pages to see what was going to happen at the end."
When I checked the previous Amazon reviews for Corsonia, I discovered that four other readers also used the phrase "could not put this book down."
If my novel is a page-turner you can't put down, then I've done my job: I've written a thriller. Hopefully, you'll read—and review—it.
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Back cover comments - August 5, 2021
The first back cover for Doing the Write Thing was way better than the first front cover. Of course that wasn't difficult because the first three front covers were awful.
But the back cover still had many issues. I asked to have my publishing company's name (SRB Books) on the spine and the book's price on the bar code—and neither were included. The book's title was unnecessarily repeated (taking up a lot of room), the blurb text was too small and often hard to read, while the photo of me and the biography text were much too large.
In version two, the blurb text was bigger and better placed. However, the artist decided to head the bottom section, "About the Author," which filled most of the extra space and emphasized my biography, rather than my book.
I'm waiting for version three and hoping it's the final back cover.
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E-Cover completion - July 31, 2021
The ebook cover of Doing the Write Thing is done. It's a simple design: just a spiral notebook pad with the title, subtitle, my name, and a pen. Sounds easy, right? But it wasn't. It took the artist nine tries (and many emails with specific instructions) to figure out what I wanted (and do the right thing).
Now the artist has to do the paperback version, which includes the back cover and spine. In theory, placing the blurb, my photo, and brief biography on a page shouldn't be difficult. But after the front cover experience, I'm not hopeful that this task will be done quickly. My fingers are crossed—again.
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Cover critique - July 26, 2021
Today I received another cover design for my memoir, Doing the Write Thing. (See previous posts on this subject: July 10, 16 & 21.)
Actually I got two covers, #6 & #7, but Design 6 is just a rehash of 5, which I didn't like because it was too neat with everything centered. Cover 6 is a pale green (instead of a pale blue) and although the title and my name are off the lines a bit, it's still boring.
Design 7 is better. The title is written vertically, on four lines, on a yellow background, all of which I like. And the words are a bit off the lines. I like that too. My main problem is with the font: I don't like it. Although this font does resemble handwriting, it's too sloppy. I want something a bit nicer. (My handwriting should look better than that!)
But at least I can look forward to seeing Design 8.
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Cover corrections - July 21, 2021
The cover of Doing the Write Thing still isn't finished. I've blogged about my experience with the design process in my last two posts (July 10 & July 16). Today, I received the fifth mock-up and it's still not good.
Yes, the design looks like a notebook page and the text is in the font I chose. However, the words don't look like someone wrote them. Why? Everything is perfectly centered—the title, the subtitle, my name. Do you write like that? I certainly don't.
I asked the project manager (again) for the cover to look like a person wrote the words, not like an artist designed the page. I want quirkiness, not perfection. Now let's see what happens with version #6.
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Cover continuation - July 16, 2021
I've been writing about my experience with the new company I'm using to design the cover of Doing the Write Thing. (See July 10 post below.) The first two designs were awful; the third was a bit better, but not good. That one had the text thumbtacked (?) on a spiral notebook.
I received the fourth design this afternoon. At least this one is on the right track. It's very simple: a notebook page, with the book title and my name in the center. Unfortunately, the title is all lower case, which I don't like, in a font that doesn't resemble handwriting. The subtitle (A Memoir) is on a brown tag, which doesn't make any sense (a tag on a notebook page?).
I found a font I like and mailed it to the project manager, along with several specific suggestions for improving this design. I hope they'll pay attention.
* * *
Cover concern - July 10, 2021
I'm very disappointed. In my previous post (July 5), I blogged about looking forward to seeing the first cover design for Doing the Write Thing by the new company I hired.
Yesterday morning I saw two sample covers—and both were awful. I had asked for a spiral notebook and an italic font (to resemble handwriting). I got the notebook, but nothing else. The first cover had the ugliest italics I've ever seen, a dull light-brown background, and a sprig of droopy daisies on light blue wood siding.
The second cover was even worse. It resembled something Ben Franklin might have written, complete with quill pen on the bottom. The background was a dull brown, the title wasn't italicized—and the top featured an old-fashioned floral (again!) pattern. It looks like a textbook cover, a book no one would want to read.
I got the feeling the people on the "design team" never read my blurb, checked out the cover examples I liked, or had any clue (or interest) as to what I wanted. The project manager apologized, but I'm discouraged. I suggested assigning a new artist, someone with a more up-tempo, contemporary, and quirky style.
The only good thing is this company has to redo the cover until I approve it. But from what I've seen, that might take a very long time.
* * *
Cover comments - July 5, 2021
While I proofread the formatted version of Doing the Write Thing, I've also started working on the memoir's cover. This time, instead of hiring an individual artist, I'm using a company. Why? I like their sample covers and I got a package price that includes everything I need: ebook cover, paperback cover, bookmarks, poster, and web promos.
I also like the videos, narrated by the company's owner, that describe in detail how the cover process works.
I've just filled out a form and haven't seen any artwork yet. But if the design process (and of course, the cover) turns out as well as I hope, I'll provide more details about this company. But so far, so good.
* * *
Better blurb - June 30, 2021
I thought my blurb for Doing the Write Thing was done—until I watched a webinar on the subject and realized the blurb could be better.
Bryan Cohen runs free workshops for indy authors to entice them to pay for his writing services. However, Bryan's presentations are so informative that I don't see any reason to spend the money.
Among today's blurb-writing tips:
* Sentences should be short;
* Sentences and paragraphs should end dramatically;
* Even though I'm the author, the use of the third-person is fine;
* Bullets are recommended for nonfiction, but no more than five so readers can easily scan the copy.
* * *
I think it's done! - June 25, 2021
I just finished rereading Doing the Write Thing and making minor corrections. Since I didn't find anything major to change, I think the memoir is finished. Yes, I substituted synonyms for several repeated words, revised a few awkward sentences, and even unbolded a bolded period (how did that happen?). But I'm satisfied with the book.
What happens now? My husband, Larry, a former English teacher who serves as my editor, will read the manuscript again, looking for problems I may have missed. Hopefully, he won't find any—or if he finds small issues I can easily fix, I'll start the publishing process. That means sending the book the formatter and working with the cover designer.
If everything goes smoothly, I'm aiming to publish Doing the Write Thing in August.
* * *
Final read? - June 20, 2021
I've just started what I hope will be the final read-through of my memoir, Doing the Write Thing. Thus far I'm just replacing repeated words and synonyms with different and hopefully, better choices. And of course I continue to either add or remove commas, which I can do forever.
If these are the only types of corrections I make, then the memoir will be finished, I can send it to the formatter, and start working with the cover designer.
My fingers are crossed!
* * *
Review boo-hoo - June 15, 2021
Indy authors are at the mercy of Amazon because the mega-company treats reviews much like an autocratic ruler, creating unexplained policies that can't be challenged.
I check my Amazon listings periodically, hoping to see new positive reviews. However, this morning I discovered that most of my books had one less review. Why did Amazon remove the reviews? Who knows?
However, when I checked the reviews again in the afternoon, most of the deleted reviews had been restored. It reminded me of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, who arbitrarily orders, "Off with their heads!" Only with Amazon it's more like, "Off with the reviews!"
Authors need reviews because positive comments entice readers to buy our books. So if you've read one (or more) of my novels or short story collections and enjoyed it, please leave a short Amazon review (with the hope it won't be deleted).
Thank you— and here's the link to my Amazon page.
* * *
Almost done - June 10, 2021
I've just reread my memoir, Doing the Write Thing, again and it's getting there, meaning the book is almost finished.
When will it be done? That's the tough question. It's usually finished when I stop making meaningful changes to the manuscript and just make minor revisions--things like eliminating a comma or choosing a better synonym. Or it might be done when I can't stand the thought of reading the book any more.
I've made arrangements to send Doing the Write Thing to the formatter and I've got ideas for the cover designer. All I have to do is determine that the book is finished. Hopefully, it will be soon.
* * *
The name game - June 5, 2021
Like most novelists and short story writers, I use a variety of first names for my characters. Sometimes the names are common like Karen and Danny. But other times, the names are more unusual, like Merlynn and Tank.
Last week, I found two people who had the same names—and spellings—as two of my unusually named characters. The first was Kady, the 13-year-old heroine of my coming-of-age horror thriller, Peachwood Lake. I've never met anyone with that name, but walking around my block, I passed a sign congratulating Kady on her graduation (maybe from junior high school?).
Then I went to the dentist to have my teeth cleaned and met a new hygienist, whose name was Lisette. (I confirmed the spelling because that name can be spelled "Lizette.") Lisette is a key character in "The Sea Crystal," the title story in my short story collection, The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales.
Like I always say, weird things—or in this case, weird names—happen.
* * *
That's entertainment - May 31, 2021
In addition to perfecting the blurb for Doing the Write Thing, my collection of true stories, I'm writing "Retriever," a weird short story. What I love most about creating fanciful tales is not knowing where they're heading and how they will end.
That's the situation with "Retriever." I thought the story was going in one direction, but now it's moving another way so the ending I believed I was going to write, won't happen. I'm at a turning point and don't know what will take place in the next scene.
That's what makes writing fiction so much fun: the not knowing. I'm looking forward to discovering the ending of this story, hopefully soon.
* * *
Twitter twittiness - May 26, 2021
I've been on Twitter since 2015 when I was forced to join in order to post an excerpt of one of my novels on an author-friendly blog. I don't do much tweeting: I publicize my blog posts and retweet interesting writing quotes.
But I've never understood how (and why) many Twitter members decide to follow me. At first, other writers followed me and I followed them back. That made sense. Then many animal lovers followed me. Why? I don't know. Although I love animals, my books are mainly about people.
And now, I'm getting lots of similar weird followers. Nearly all of these members joined Twitter in late 2020, most have English-sounding names, no description about who they are or what they do, and have made just two tweets. Almost always, the tweets are well-known or trite sayings.
Here's an example: Wesley Phelps, joined Twitter in November, 2020, and his tweets are: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" and "If you are too careful, you are so occupied in being careful that you are sure to stumble over something."
Unless these followers haven't tweeted at all or have made negative or lewd comments, I follow them back. But I have no clue why these strange people (or robots?) are all following me.
* * *
Better blurb - May 21, 2021
I've just written the fourth version of a blurb for Doing the Right Thing, the collection of true stories from my life and I'm finding this blurb more difficult to write than the others. Why? Because it's not fiction--no plot, no made-up characters, just me.
Moreover, when I looked for books similar to mine so I could check other blurbs, the only one I found with a similar title (Capturing Memorable Moments: the write way), had a super serious blurb--not my style.
But I've got a long way to go before I'm satisfied with my blurb. I always write at least twenty versions.
* * *
Fiction fun - May 16, 2021
I'm multitasking again. For the first time in several months, in addition to writing true tales, I'm creating weird stories. This morning, I wrote the first scene of "Retriever," a story about a dog that brings various items to a solitary man.
I've enjoyed writing the true stories about my life and I'm now editing the Doing the Write Thing memoir. But it's good to get back to my strange stories (I've written six others thus far), which I hope to turn into another collection. And creative writing is more entertaining for me because I never quite know where the story is going until I sit down and start typing.
* * *
What's in a name? - May 11, 2021
I've added a story to Doing the Write Thing, my collection of true tales about my life. This story is so short that, to give everyone a taste of my book, I'm posting it here:
What's in a Name?
Wettenstein was a difficult surname for my father to deal with, but he had also had a problem with his first name. It was Josef and nearly everyone in the United States spelled it with a "ph," making it Joseph.
After years of correcting the spelling of his first name, my father finally gave up and had his name legally changed to Joseph.
Not long afterwards, I met Larry, whose father had been born in America. And what was Larry's father's name? It was Josef.
My father laughed about the ironic situation, especially when he read our printed wedding invitation: "Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Wettenstein and Mr. and Mrs. Josef Berliner are happy to announce the marriage of their children, Susan and Larry..."
* * *
Thank you, Google! - May 6, 2021
On Tuesday, something strange happened with my Amazon ads. Instead of getting my daily 2,000 - 2,500 impressions (the times these ads are shown to viewers), my ads appeared 18,448 times. And nearly all the impressions were from 2 of the 50 ads, both for the "short story" category: George's Mother and Other Weird Stories (12,375) and The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales (4,891).
To figure out what happened, I needed someone to buy a book. But with so many impressions, I got 10 clicks (many more than usual)—all for my short stories—and 1 sale. After printing a report, I was able to identify the buyer's search term. It was Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories. Revised and Updated with four new stories by the late Japanese-American author, Hisaye Yamamoto. Although the book was published in May of 2001, this expensive paperback ($28.95)—no e-book listed—was a "top-seller" on Tuesday, #425 of all Amazon books sold.
Yamamoto's award-winning stories deal with first- and second-generation Japanese-American conflicts, prejudice, and internment during World War II. Her tales have little in common with my weird, fanciful ones.
Nevertheless, George's Mother and Other Weird Stories was the first ad and The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales was the fifth ad on the Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories page.
But what drove all that traffic to this book? A twenty-year anniversary, perhaps? No. I couldn't find any special mention of the short stories anywhere.
Today, however, I googled the author's name and here's what I found: To celebrate the beginning of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, Google made Hisaye Yamamoto its Google Doodle on Tuesday. I had seen the drawing of her face on Google's home page, but hadn't realized who she was.
My Amazon impressions are back to their normal low numbers, Yamamoto's short story collection's "top seller" status is quickly fading, and both my ads no longer appear anywhere on her Amazon page. But I solved the mystery—and Tuesday was great fun.
* * *
Pet project - May 1, 2021
I thought I was finished writing autobiographical stories for Doing the Write Thing so I could concentrate on editing the book. However, last night I realized I had yet another tale to tell—about my pets. Although I've had no dogs or cats in my life, my family has owned parakeets, fish, and lots of rodents—guinea pigs and hamsters.
So this morning I wrote "Pet Project"—or "Pet Parade" (I'm not sure which title I like better) about the animals I've lived with. Then I talked to my daughter, who reminded me of the time one of her hamsters unraveled the sleeve of a shirt she planned to wear to school and turned it into a fluffy bed.
I hope I'm finally done with creating new stories so I can return to editing this book.
* * *
Revising again - April 26, 2021
It's disheartening. As I reread the stories comprising true events from my life, which I'm titling Doing the Write Thing, I keep finding more and more stuff that needs to be revised. Sometimes it's just a word. But more often it's a phrase, sentence, or entire paragraph that needs improvement.
Right now these 28 stories are separate files, but I really want to put them all together. That would be encouraging because the result would at least look like a book. But it's not happening yet. I still have to read all the stories again and again and again...
* * *
Doing the Write Thing - April 21, 2021
After reading through my autobiographical tales again, I'm still making many revisions. The good news is I haven't found new stories I need to write so maybe the first draft phase of this book is finished.
These short essays are different than my fiction writing and, unlike my husband Larry's funny memoir (You Can't Be Serious: An inner-city teacher a-muses about school and life), I'm trying to write truthful tales. However, I can't remember everything that happened and some of my memories have proved to be wrong. Nevertheless, I'm hopeful readers will enjoy Doing the Write Thing and for me, these stories are a way of preserving incidents from my life.
* * *
Switching gears again - April 16, 2021
I've put my dystopian novel, The Resolve, aside for now and I'm editing my true-life story collection, Doing the Write Thing.
I don't know if strangers will be interested in reading about events in my life, but I needed to write these stories because they kept popping up in my head. Also, transcribing these incidents was a way to make them permanent. Some of the stories are from events I recorded, like jury duty and my job as a reporter. Others are solely from memories so they're less precise.
It's a lot of material to edit and although I've read the stories numerous times, they're not ready for publication. But I'm persistent. I'll work on them until I feel they're done—however long it takes.
* * *
Reviewing the situation - April 11, 2021
I've almost finished rereading and editing the first 25,000 words of my post-Covid dystopian novel, The Resolve. I don't like to reread the first draft of a work in progress, but I'm having trouble figuring out where this book is going so I needed to review what I've done.
I'm still not sure what's happening with this novel. I like the concept and much of the story. However, the characters are moving too slowly. They have to travel cross-country and their trip is taking too long with not enough action. After I finish rereading, I hope I have some brilliant ideas.
If not, I'll put the novel aside for a time and continue to work on my true stories. There's always something to do.
* * *
False memories - April 6, 2021
This week, I wrote a little nonfiction story about my childhood acting "career." But when I finished, I realized I'd forgotten the names of many of the plays—and my roles—in them.
However, I knew I still had most of my play scripts. After looking through the papers on my desk and closet, I found lots of stuff, and even got rid of some. But I didn't find the plays. Finally I looked in the logical place: my file cabinet under "Plays," and there they were.
Although these papers are more than sixty years old and many pages are crumbling, I was able to find much of what I was looking for. I remembered one of my weirdest lines, as an elderly houseguest in a murder mystery, almost perfectly: "Poisoned the vichyssoise—how distressing!"
And I recalled my entrance word-for-word as the real Easter Bunny. I marched into the TV studio with a basket of eggs, saying, "Happy Easter, everybody!"
"Sorry," the receptionist says. "There's no call for rabbits today. The show has been cancelled."
"Cancelled?" I moan. "But that's impossible."
However, some things I didn't remember, like playing a fairy named Starlight. But I have that booklet with the part and lines circled.
And something I thought happened, never did. I purposely performed a lousy audition for a part I didn't want so I could be the princess in a play called The King's Creampuffs. I remembered not getting the part as a punishment and playing the lesser role of the queen. It was a lesson to me to always try my best.
But I did get the princess role. All these years I've fostered a false memory.
* * *
Weak tweak - April 1, 2021
As I edit the nonfiction stories about my life, which I hope to turn into a book, I'm finding that many of them have weak titles, weak beginnings, or weak endings. That's a lot of weakness!
As a result, I'm trying to tweak the stories to give them more pizzazz. I've fixed a few, but there's much more to be done. However, I do like my tentative title for the book: Doing the Write Thing.
* * *
Remembering a dear friend - March 27, 2021
As I write this post, there have been 545,273 deaths attributed to Covid-19. Although I know people who've gotten the virus, no one I knew had died from it. Until now.
On Wednesday, my close friend, Linda, succumbed to this horrible disease. She'd had one dose of the Moderna vaccine, but it wasn't enough to save her. Sadly, Linda's pre-existing conditions made her especially vulnerable.
I met Linda when we were both about twenty. I was a bridesmaid at her wedding and she attended mine. (I didn't have bridesmaids, but her husband was an usher.) We gave birth to our children at nearly the same time. Then, a few years later, we drifted apart.
After I published my first novel, DUST, Linda emailed me, saying how much she enjoyed the thriller and suggesting we get together again. So, after a 30-year hiatus, we reconnected.
Linda became one of my biggest fans, reading each of my books and offering encouraging words. A former college English professor and an excellent writer herself, she had been working on a memoir about her family.
For the past decade, I saw her often. Even during the pandemic, Larry and I got together virtually with Linda and her husband every other Saturday to play the word game Catch Phrase.
Rest in peace, Linda. I will miss you.
* * *
Freelance phase - March 22, 2021
I keep thinking of new nonfiction stories to write. My latest tale is about the years between full-time jobs when I freelanced both as a sales rep and as a writer.
I sold educational filmstrips, workbooks, and nursing videos for an entrepreneurial couple who operated a business from their home in nearby Amawalk. They were wonderful people to work for.
I also sold display ads for a Mount Kisco magazine publisher who was horrible to work for: His publications never came out on time—and he never had enough money to pay his employees.
As a writer, I wrote reading passages for standardized tests, created school activity guides, and later wrote teacher's guides for Reader's Digest. (I did the puzzles and vocabulary and my husband, Larry, wrote suggested questions for teachers.)
In addition, I was a freelance reporter, covering Yorktown's town board, planning board, and zoning board meetings for the North County News, a weekly paper owned by the PennySaver, which later hired me full-time. While that job ended my career as a sales rep, I continued to create (and still create) freelance educational material in addition to writing my books.
Makes me tired remembering all those jobs!
* * *
The dating game - March 17, 2021
In the last post (March 12), I wrote about my new short story called "When Susan Met Harriet," which is about how my husband, Larry, and I met. That story led to my latest true tale about our early dates.
The second and third times Larry and I went out together were memorable too. On our second date with one of Larry's best friends, I knew the guy's girlfriend. On our third date, with his "mature" friends, a married couple...I'll just say we never went back to that Bronx bowling alley.
* * *
"When Susan Met Harriet" - March 12, 2021
In the nonfiction stories I've written (or transcribed) about my life, I realized there's a gap: Although my husband is mentioned in many of the events, I never explained how we met.
So today I wrote that story, titling it, "When Susan Met Larry."
"Why didn't you call it, 'When Larry Met Susan'?" my husband asked.
"This is my story," I explained. "You can reverse the title for your book."
When my son heard my title, he said, "You should call it, 'When Susan Met Harriet.'"
He's right and I am changing the title. Why? To find out, you'll have to read the story.
* * *
Character assassination - March 7, 2021
Today I wrote a scene in my dystopian post-Covid novel, The Resolve, in which I killed three characters. Two of them were villains, but one was a good person I was sorry to lose.
Why did I do it? Because I can. That's the power of a novelist, the ability to play God and be able to write anything I want to. Just as I can create characters, I can also destroy them and this morning I felt the need to eliminate those three people.
I'll reread today's scene tomorrow and if it didn't work, I can always bring one or more of the characters back from the dead. But I don't think I will. Rest in peace...
* * *
Description decisions - March 2, 2021
I'm editing my reporter's journal, adding descriptions for people I worked with at the men's wear/textile trade publication, Daily News Record, (DNR), fifty years ago. But it's been difficult work.
Although I remember mostly everyone, I don't want to write insulting descriptions, especially for people who are no longer alive, which includes most of the senior editors. I also don't want to be repetitive. How many men can I describe as "tall and lanky" and how many women can I call "attractive blondes"?
Since I'm better at writing dialogue than I am at describing people, it's taking me a long time to get this right. But I'll keep working until I'm satisfied.
* * *
And the ideas keep coming - February 25, 2021
I keep thinking of more autobiographical stories and this week I've written two of them. The first tale, "Skating Adventure," happened when I was twelve or thirteen and went ice-skating with my cousin—without any of our parents. It was a fun day until I spent all my money and couldn't go home.
The second story, titled "My One-Year Teaching Career," describes my first job. It was a tough time in my life because I'd always wanted to be a teacher until that horrendous experience. However, after that year, I became a newspaper reporter, the beginning of my life-long writing career.
I don't know if I'm going to publish these true stories because they may not interest other people. But since they interest me, I'm going to keep writing them.
* * *
Acronym action - February 20, 2021
In transcribing my diary as a retail reporter for the men's wear and textile trade publication Daily News Record (DNR), I found many unexplained acronyms. Although I knew what the abbreviations stood for in 1971, it's now fifty years later and I've forgotten many of them.
And tracking down these acronyms wasn't easy because many of the organizations no longer exist. I remembered the most important ones like MRA (Menswear Retailers of America) and NRMA (National Retail Merchants Association) and I found a few others—Genesco's RAM division (Retail Apparel for Men) and MAC (Men's Apparel Club)—in my saved news clippings.
But some acronyms were almost impossible to decode. What was BAMA? All current references were linked to the University of Alabama, nicknamed "BAMA." However, through Internet sleuthing, I discovered a wedding announcement in the early 1970s in which the mother of the bride was described as a director of BAMA (Boys and Men's Apparel Association).
I uncovered yet another acronym's meaning through a donation by a member to the Smithsonian Institute: NAMSB = the National Association of Men's Sportswear Buyers.
It took time, but I, "Sherlock" Berliner, eventually figured out all the acronyms. Persistence pays.
* * *
The dreaded apostrophe – February 15, 2021
Each year at this time, I blog about the many misspelled headlines in holiday ads.
First a short history lesson: When I was a child, we celebrated the birthdays of two presidents: George Washington's (February 22) and Abraham Lincoln's (February 12), with a school vacation day for each birthday. However, in 1971, to create 3-day weekends, the government established a new holiday on the third Monday of February to honor Washington and, in most states, Lincoln.
This redesigned February holiday is called "Presidents' Day," with the apostrophe signifying that we're celebrating more than one president (not President's Day, which would honor just one leader). It's also not "Presidents Day," because it's a "Day for Presidents," which requires the possessive apostrophe.
This year, because of the Covid pandemic there are fewer ads, thus fewer misspellings. Nevertheless, some advertisers continue to use "President's Day." In New York, Atlantic Chevrolet/Millennium Chevrolet in Long Island offers "President's Day Weekend Savings!" and Abstract Security Systems promotes a "President's Day Special" for security camera installations.
More companies, including major ones, still omit the apostrophe in their headlines. Shame on repeat offender Dell Computers ("Presidents Day Sale In Honor of Your Business A-Game"), LaZyBoy ("Presidents Day Sale: Buy Direct and Save up to 50% Off"), and MattressFirm ("Presidents Day Sale").
Since this isn't a normal year, perhaps Presidents' Day headlines will improve in 2022. I'll be watching next February.
* * *
Central casting types - February 10, 2021
As I proofread my reporter's journal from 1971 (all 14,000+ words), I've been thinking of the many people I worked with fifty years ago and some of them seem like characters from central casting. Here are three examples:
* the crotchety old pipe-smoking editor who constantly criticizes everyone's work for tiny, unimportant details (like crossing out words and not indicating capital letters).
* the young female reporter whose every comment involves sex. Fortunately, this woman didn't work for my newspaper, Daily News Record (DNR); she worked for another Fairchild publication, Men's Wear magazine.
* the company snitch, who reports all happenings to the boss—and despite not working hard or well, is never criticized or fired.
Don't most large companies have these three types of people? I've got to find a way to use them in my fiction writing.
* * *
Smart subconscious - February 5, 2021
I love when I write something that doesn't make much sense at the time, but makes perfect sense later. Here's an example from earlier this week:
I wrote a scene in The Resolve, my post-Covid dystopian thriller, in which a character who is hiding, finds an apple, eats it, and puts the core in her pocket because she doesn't want the bad guys to see the fresh core. The incident seemed unimportant until I wrote another scene a few days later in which that character throws the core at one of the villains, hitting him in the eye.
So that's why I wrote about that apple core, I realized. This kind of self-entertainment is what makes writing fiction so much fun.
* * *
Decisions, decisions - January 31, 2021
I'm almost finished transcribing my 50-year-old journal, covering eight months as a young reporter for the men's wear and textile publication, Daily News Record (DNR), except for a few things I omitted because I thought they weren't important. However, as I typed, I realized incidents involving a new hire, a company snitch, and a crotchety older editor had more relevance than I'd remembered.
Other than adding those details, I have to decide whether or not to include some last names. Thus far, I've used first names (or first names and the first letter of a surname) to identify nearly everyone except well-known executives like John Fairchild, James Brady, and artist Van Smith (see January 11, 2020 post), who became semi-famous for designing makeup and costumes for John Waters' films.
However, I'm torn about using the full names of other real-life characters, especially older people who are no longer alive. While it would help my narrative, I don't want to be disrespectful.
* * *
Road not taken - January 26, 2021
The Resolve, my dystopian post-Covid thriller, is evolving into a road-trip story as my main characters travel from the East Coast to Utah.
Unlike many authors, I don't enjoy doing the necessary research for my books. Nevertheless, I have to figure out the secondary roads (not highways) my characters take on their lengthy journey. But I don't want to do it now. I'd rather write. As a result, I've got lots of lines that read like this: "Ange and Tyler took Route ? to Route ?"
When I complete the first draft, I'll have to consult a map—and watch videos of various roads—to replace my multitudes of question marks.
* * *
Missing the clues - January 21, 2021
As I transcribe my reporter's journal from 1971, I've reached Friday, April 23, an embarrassing time for me and the staff of my trade publication, Daily News Record (DNR). That's the day we discovered two of our coworkers, Kathie and Jerry, were getting married the following day.
We considered ourselves smart newspaper people who supposedly could sniff out stories in the men's wear and textile industries—and we were also major gossipers. Yet somehow we missed the many clues. When we finally started putting the pieces together, the bride was already on vacation and the groom was finishing his work and preparing to leave.
The first clue was from a woman who called to speak to the bride. When she was told Kathie was on vacation, the woman asked, "Isn't she getting married tomorrow?"
Our secretary then remembered getting a recent call for Kathie that an apartment was available and a reporter answered a call that the groom's International Driver's License photos were ready (even though Jerry claimed to have "nothing" planned for his vacation).
When we checked Kathie's calendar, we found this early April notation: "Dresses should be in" and three stars (* * *) covering the page for Saturday, April 24th.
Only one person in our office knew about the upcoming marriage: the associate editor. Since both reporters worked in the Apparel Department, he had to approve their four-week vacations being taken at the same time.
It's been nearly fifty years since Kathie and Jerry's "secret" wedding. I hope they're both still alive, still together, and planning a joyous April celebration.
* * *
Meeting the Mets - January 16, 2021
As I transcribe my 50-year-old reporter's journal, I'm up to April 6, 1971. That's the day I spent at Shea Stadium, covering what people were wearing at the Mets' season opener for the men's wear trade publication, Daily News Record (DNR).
I was thrilled with the assignment because I was (and still am) a huge Mets' fan and lived in Flushing, Queens, just minutes from the ballpark.
That morning, I took a cab from my Greenwich Village office to the ballpark with two coworkers: Ki, a young woman reporter for our "sister" paper, Women's Wear Daily (WWD) and Sal, the photographer who was taking pictures for both publications.
First we attended Mets' owner Joan Payson's private party so Sal could take photos of Beautiful People for Ki's WWD story. Then the three of us walked around the stadium so Sal could snap photos of the male Opening Day attendees for my feature article.
Unfortunately, the weather was cold and rainy so no one was well-dressed. Then as I attempted to accompany Sal to the field to take pictures of the players, I was stopped and told that, even though I had an official press pass—signed by Mets management—I was not allowed on the baseball field. Why? Because I'm a woman.
Ironically, I was allowed in the dugout so I did get to meet the Mets—including coach Yogi Berra—and the photo of Yogi in DNR includes part of my face behind him.
During the hour-long delay before the game started, I sat in the Mets' dugout helplessly watching Sal run around the field snapping photos of whomever he wanted—without any direction from me.
At that point, Ki had gone back to the office to write her story, but I stayed because my article wasn't running until the day after and I had specific people I wanted Sal to photograph, like Ron Swoboda, one of the heroes of the 1969 Mets championship team who now played for the Montreal Expos so I wanted a photo of him returning to Shea in his new uniform. But in that pre-cellphone era, I had no way to relay that information to Sal.
However, mostly because of Mrs. Payson's party, Sal did take pictures of lots of well-known attendees. My two-page story, titled "A sure sign of spring?" includes photos of announcer Howard Cosell; Mets manager Gil Hodges; Mets players Tom Seaver, Art Shamsky, and Gary Gentry; New York City Mayor John Lindsay, and the U.N. Ambassador who threw out the first pitch—and later became the 41st president: George H.W. Bush.
When the opening ceremonies finally began, I remained at ground level, forced to stand off the field by the gate. Then during the abbreviated game, because I wasn't allowed in the press area, I sat in the stands with newspaper photographers.
When the game ended after 4 1/2 innings with the Mets (and pitcher Tom Seaver) beating the Expos by a score of 4-2, the friendly photographers invited me to join them at a buffet in the Press Room. But when I tried to enter, I was told women weren't allowed. By this point, I was furious with the gender discrimination—something I'd never encountered.
After writing my story the following day (I did get to go home early), I phoned the American Civil Liberties Union to ask about taking action against the Mets for their policy against women. But the ACLU said the matter was too minor for them to pursue.
Although I eventually got an over-the-phone apology from the Mets, I never got anything in writing. These days, when I see women reporters traipsing everywhere on ball fields and even interviewing players in locker rooms, I remember my frustrating long-ago experience at Shea.
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Remembering (and not remembering) - January 11, 2020
As I transcribe incidents from my 50-year-old newspaper reporter's journal (see January 6 post), I remember most of the people I worked with at Daily News Record (DNR). But I don't remember everyone.
One of the people I don't remember is a kooky artist named Van Smith. According to my journal, Van was so weird that I'm surprised I've forgotten him. After rereading the things I wrote, I was curious to find out what happened to him so I googled his name—and discovered he became somewhat famous.
After leaving Fairchild Publications in 1971, Van worked as a costume designer and makeup artist for all of John Waters' films from 1972-2004 (including one of my favorites, Hairspray). During that time, he created the face of drag queen actor, Divine, whose makeup has been described as a cross between Jayne Mansfield and Clarabell the clown.
Sadly, Van passed away in 2006.
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Newspaper notes - January 6, 2020
I keep thinking of nonfiction stories to write and I've just rediscovered a major source. Fifty years ago, as a young retail reporter for the men's wear and textile publication, Daily News Record, (DNR), I kept a diary.
I thought I wrote this journal for only one-month, but when I reread the jottings, I discovered I had noted my daily work experiences for eight months. And, in my opinion, much of what I wrote is entertaining so I'm transcribing the best parts into a long story.
I remember some incidents and most of the people involved, but of course I've forgotten many things that happened. However, since I have a written record, I'm able to transcribe exactly what occurred. That's the great benefit of keeping a journal.
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Writing resolutions - January 1, 2021
Every year at this time I blog about my writing resolutions so here are my literary ambitions for 2021:
1. I resolve to finish writing The Resolve, my post-coronavirus dystopian thriller. I've written about 20,000 words (some of them good). But I've got no clue about how The Resolve will be resolved.
2. I resolve to keep writing nonfiction short stories. I recently found two 50-year-old diaries with lots of good stuff so suddenly I've got enough material for a book, which I may or may not publish. But I need to write the stories in order to evaluate them.
3. I resolve to write more strange tales and publish another collection. I've written six supernatural short stories since publishing George's Mother and Other Weird Stories. I need to write six to eight more.
4. I resolve to learn how to use Mailchimp so I can create a mailing list. Unfortunately, although I watched the company's training videos, the tech stuff is too difficult for me. I'm hoping to work with a tech maven when the pandemic ends, hopefully later this year.
Happy New Year—and happy writing!
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