Doping up Baby

It’s often distressing to read 19th century advertisements.  Our great-great grandparents  were just as desperate (and gullible) when it comes to certain aspects of the human condition. Hair loss, for example.  

Weight-loss was just as big a topic back then as it is now, though body image was not quite so awful. 

Nobody likes a crying baby. Parents don’t like their kids to be in pain or distress, and strangers are often pretty intolerant. Do a google search and you’ll see that this is a perennial problem with no easy solution. Sometimes babies just cry. Sometimes babies get really sick, and they scream.  Sometimes overwrought caregivers are driven to extremes. There is no excuse for that, but it happens. It happened then, too.

What’s most disturbing about the 19th century is how unaware they were of the dangers of doping their children. Have a look at this handy dandy cure for the crying baby available at every drugstore.

Stickney & Poor-Paregoric
Stickney & Poor’s Paregoric

It’s a challenge to stay in the mindset of your characters when you’re writing historical fiction.  An intelligent, sensible person who truly believes that there’s nothing dangerous about smoking, or a little laudanum is just what the baby needs, that is sometimes hard to pull off.  I consider it a kind of anachronism to pretend a character understood something that was just not knowable at the time, but I struggle with it.

Of course there were quacks who knew very well that what they were selling would do nobody any good. For instance this cure for male weakness. Note the positioning.

 

 

I have great beta readers

This is the first feedback from one of my beta readers on the first 3/4 of Where the Light Enters

I think I will have to have it framed and hung right where I can see it when I look up from the screen.


If you put the space shuttle scene this early in the book, I’m not sure what Jack is going to do for the rest of the second act. Killing zombies is only going to hold the audience’s interest for ten or so pages at a go. I’ll have more observations as I get further in, but I will add that this is the best time travel scene I’ve ever read. A lot of authors have tried to describe the idea of a fourth dimensional space, but you nailed it here.

The truth about self publishing

Nicole Dieker has a post on Jane Friedman’s weblog that is essential reading for anybody who is thinking about self-publishing.  Here’s the reason you should read it if you fall into that category:

So I spent several months researching the self-publishing process and planning my own marketing and publication strategy. It turns out that there’s a lot of information on how to self-publish a book, and a lot of advice regarding marketing, social media, and so on—but there aren’t as many case studies showing how well these publication strategies work.

Which is why I’m giving you my own case study. Everything I’ve done so far, along with the costs and the results.

I’ll start with the most important statistic first: as of this writing, I’ve sold 167 ebooks and 118 paperbacks, and my royalties and earnings total $803.90.

Dieker has earned a total of $803.90 for her The Biographies of Ordinary People. She breaks down what she has paid for production, shipping, and marketing from multiple angles.  What she doesn’t include in her analysis: her time. The time it took to write the novel, and the many, many hours that went into organizing publication and marketing.  My guess is that if you could add all the time up she’d have earned something far below the minimum wage.

It was courageous of Dieker to self-publish, and in my opinion, even more courageous to write in such detail about the process. Certainly I’m thankful that she went to the trouble to actually analyzing how well the various (often highly priced) marketing strategies work.   

 

a romance by any other name

 
Here’s a cheesy, tacky,  pretentious turn of phrase that makes me shudder:
 
They shared a kiss. 
 
This phrase works for me like a red flag. It says that I am reading   a run-of-the-mill, no surprises, HEA romance.   Which is fine, if that’s what I’m looking for. 
 
But this morning I was looking for a summary of the latest political fuckery, when I caught sight of an unusual headline in The Washington Post:  “A ‘lost’ wallet leads to found love.”
 
Now, it’s no secret that I truly appreciate a good romance, so I read the article, and I’m both confused and irritated by it. It’s not fiction, it’s not a review, it’s not news, it’s … family newsletter material. A little story about how two young people met and fell in love, shared that kiss, and got married.
 
Nice enough people, boring story. If it were fleshed out to novel length and turned into fiction, it would not be anything exceptional and in fact might be crap, in accordance with  Sturgeon’s Law: 90 percent of genre x is crap, but then 90 percent of everything is crap.
 
[This] was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of SF is crud. Using the same standards that categorize 90% of science fiction as trash, crud, or crap, it can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. is crap. In other words, the claim (or fact) that 90% of science fiction is crap is ultimately uninformative, because science fiction conforms to the same trends of quality as all other artforms (Venture 49, 1957).
 
So I find this WaPo article to be surprising in its ordinariness and I wonder why it deserves column space.  I wonder if it could be rewritten into something interesting.  I wonder, but mostly I’m just irritated.  
 
The only upside:   I was reminded of an entertaining 2016 Guardian article  about genre and reactions to genre,  with emphasis on romance fiction.   That was worth reading again.