Sea Goddess Released

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I’m pleased to announce that after fourteen months of intensive authoring, my first novel of about 56,600 words is released as a Kindle eBook. The paperback version is being formatted. It will be added when the formatting is completed.

Sea Goddess is an uncommon novel with a fresh theme that fits more than one genre. This series of vivid experiences is a tale of ocean adventure, saltwater fishing, desire, pursuit, and love fulfilled. It's outdoorsy, contemporary, nautically authentic, and even partly a seafood cookbook. It's memoir-like, a buddy novel, and shot through with a golden vein of tenderness.

Set in Southern California and the coastal Pacific, the period is mid-1980s to the early 1990s. The main characters are a couple in their mid-thirties; married, and childless by choice. Jess and Evan both love to fish in the ocean. They also love seafood. They enjoy cooking together and cruising the watery expanse with all of the sea's moods and surprises.

Jess and Evan would sit beside a marina near their home to enjoy shared dream-time while longing to own a boat and go fishing together. When Jess found a beautiful, restored, wooden trawler yacht for sale, they bought her, re-named her Tin Hau and took her fishing on their days off. At first, they made mistakes that led to adventures like being caught in fog; dealing with all the work the engine needed; and even the threats of running aground and being lost at sea. But the fishing exceeded the happy couple’s dreams. They weaved-in romance afloat as they cruised to surrounding islands to anchor overnight and fish on distant reefs.

The angling couple's relationship included preparing and enjoying seafood they caught. They teamed up in the kitchen to prepare a few favorite recipes; easy, yet healthful and delicious, seafood feasts.

Jess and Evan caught so much fish that they gave away more than they ate. Eventually, they ventured far offshore to find the most plentiful catches. Some of their sport fishing was notable enough to make the news.

Sea Goddess is the story of a couple who bonded as fishing buddies through their shared interest, skill-building, seamanship, perilous escapes, teamwork, and star-crossed, mutual attraction. Read the story to find out how it all went and if, in the end, their adventures paid off their investment of time, cash, effort, and all of the risks they faced.

Please access the book preview HERE and if you like this first bit, I predict you’ll enjoy the whole book. There’s a link to the Amazon sales page in the upper left corner of this preview’s first page.

The Amazon Details page is found HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07KVMYKJ5/

Another option: why not sign up for the free “Nonlinear Notions” newsletter in the footer of this website (scroll down) and gain access to some of my stories, also free, for a limited time only? Go to the bottom of this page and sign up. You’ll get access to some stories immediately, during the signup process.

Enjoy Your Reading,

Joseph Riden

How to Review A Book

Photo by  Aaron Burden  on  Unsplash

Readers’ book reviews truly matter. Book shoppers appreciate insightful comments about a title that they're considering because reader reviews help them decide if a book they are viewing will interest them. Reader feedback also helps authors to know more about how to please their customers.

Customer reviews can make or break any product's success but a useful book review doesn't have to be lengthy or intellectual. The goal of a review is to honestly share your experience of reading the book, in your own words. Your comments will help others to gauge their own potential interest in the book before they commit to reading it. Insightful reviews help other readers in their quest to find books they like as they also help authors thrive. 

It's best to post your review soon after you finish a book while your reading experience is still vivid to recall. An online review can be as short or as long as you like, even a single sentence plus the rating stars you select to match your summary reading experience. But more information can be even more useful.

On Amazon, when you finish reading a book go to the book's Details Page to share your thoughts. You'll be prompted to log in. To get started, find the Reviews section on the product details page and click the "Write a Customer Review" button. On other sites, do the equivalent to post your review.

Thoughtful, informative reviews are fair but honest. They should reflect a readers' real reading experience. They may contain praise or criticism for a book, or some of both. First, jot down the textual part of your review. You could simply say what you liked or disliked and give your reasons. Your review isn't being graded but book browsers do appreciate other readers' insights. You can go into as much depth as the website where you are posting allows.

Here are a few review-writing prompts if you can use some help. Pick and choose the ones that are relevant to your overall assessment:

How would you describe the book to a friend?

What other books and/or authors you’ve read are similar or different?

Did you finish the book? If not, why not?

Was the book well-formatted?

Or did you find a lot of typos or format glitches?

Did the cover interest you and draw you in?

Was the cover relevant to book’s genre and to the content?

Are you glad you read the book? Why and how? 

Or was reading that book a waste of time?

Did you have trouble with the reading process? What was the issue?

How about the content, the length, and the writing style?

Did the book draw you in and keep you interested? Was it relevant?

What were your favorite parts of the book?

What parts of it did not meet your expectations? 

Did you find specific writing faults? What were they?

If the book is fiction, or another type of narrative, comment about the story's pace, length, tension, story arc, and resolution. How about plot, characters, settings, and the author's narrative style, and voice? What about themes and the title?

If the book is nonfiction, was the content interesting, useful, and/or valuable? Was it clear and credible? Were the author's assertions backed by facts and thorough research? How was topic coverage? Did the book hold your interest until the end?

Was it easy to stay engaged throughout the book?

Is there anything else you want to say?

When your evaluation is done it’s time for your star rating. This naturally follows the textual section of your review because as you write, the text will clarify and justify the number of stars you pick to summarize your whole evaluation, showing the book's overall value and quality.

How strong was your summary feeling about this book? Five stars is best, one star is worst, three stars is neutral. Did you like it (4 stars) or love it (5 stars)? Did you dislike it (2 stars) or hate it (1 star)? Did the book leave you on the fence (3 stars)? Do you recommend this book (4 or 5 stars) to other readers? 

Each time you take five to fifteen minutes after reading a book to share your impressions, feelings, and thoughts with fellow readers, you're becoming more deeply vested in the worldwide community of book readers. That sets you up to receive contributions in like kind from other readers.

Everyone involved benefits from your online or offline book reviews. Thank you in advance for the reviews you post or have posted.

— JR

Joseph Riden Publishes Notable Novel-length Book

PRESS RELEASE  **FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** 

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Port Townsend WA, April 16 — Today, Joseph Riden, Author, published his first novel-in-stories, a fifty-six-thousand word collection in a dozen related episodes all involving the same main characters. The book Sea Goddess, subtitled "Love, Fishing, The Blue Pacific," was released in Kindle format on Amazon.com, as ASIN: B07KVMYKJ5.

The book was based on real-life experiences of the Author and his wife. It reads like a novel spread over a roughly five-year period during which Evan and Jess Landon, a fictional mid-thirties, married couple found and purchased a classic wooden Grand Banks trawler, then fished and cruised the waters around Southern California.

This uncommon and fresh tale-for-our-times is told by the man who lived it. The book collects a dozen stories inspired by a period of the author's life. Sea Goddess is the tale of how Evan and Jess made their heartfelt dreams come true in an atmosphere of mutual love, respect, equality, and lots of delicious seafood.

It begins with a fast-paced account of the author's lifetime-best, unbreakable-record catch, then goes on to gradually reveal how the Landons learned the skills and gained the experience and local knowledge to refurbish, and then safely cruise and fish their classic woody. A main theme is the enjoyment of our natural environments in responsible and respectful ways.

In an age grown numb to violence in media, this book demonstrates use of atmospheric tension rather than inter-human violence to sustain conflict and reader involvement in fiction narrative. Together, Jess and Evan navigate the joys, sorrows, perils and rewards they encounter in the Pacific Ocean around San Diego. Other characters include friends who cruise and fish with them. Tin Hau, their trawler, is like another character.

This vivid account will interest readers open to exciting, action-filled stories of an ocean cruising and fishing lifestyle. Jess and Evan intentionally chose their dual-income, no-kids marriage for the freedom and affluence it allowed. Readers who have interest in fishing, boating, ocean cruising, wooden boats, outdoor adventures, and/or relationships of gender equality, will all likely consider the time to read Sea Goddess well-spent.

This relevant, literary, and contemporary book doesn't feel stilted or dated; the language is readable, credible, imaginative, and at times lyrical. Although the book has autobiographical roots, the author says, "Some episodes include enhancements that technically make the work fiction although the story remains memoir-like in style and vividly true-to-life, in spirit."

Joseph Riden is available by phone or email for comment using the contact page HERE.

# # #

Moral Purpose, As In … Writing?

John Gardner, Novelist & Professor (2)

John Gardner, Novelist & Professor (2)

I sorely regret one thing about my education: that I was never able to take coursework under John Gardner, who taught in the University System where I earned my English degree (SUNY.) Had I learned what he taught earlier on, the course of my whole life may have run differently thereafter.

Here is a quote from Gardner that illuminates why I say this:

“Let me quote at some length Tolstoy’s closing argument in ‘What Is Art?’ for though we may not be as sure as Tolstoy that the Kingdom of God is nigh, the argument for moral art, and against so-called art that ridicules ideals, still seems to be correct, with or without its religious premise. Tolstoy writes:

The task of art is enormous. Through the influence of real art, aided by science, guided by religion, that peaceful cooperation of man which is now maintained by external means—by our law-courts, police, charitable institutions, factory inspection, and so forth—should be obtained by man’s free and joyous activity. Art should cause violence to be set aside.

And it is only art that can accomplish this.

All that now, independently of the fear of violence and punishment, makes the social life of man possible (and already this is an enormous part of the order of our lives)—all this has been brought about by art. If by art it has been inculcated on people how they should treat religious objects, their parents, their children, their wives, their relations, strangers, foreigners; how to conduct themselves towards their elders, their superiors, towards those who suffer, towards their enemies, and towards animals; and if this has been obeyed through generations by millions of people, not only unenforced by any violence but so that the force of such customs can be shaken in no way but by means of art: then by art also other customs more in accord with the religious perception of our time may be evoked. If art has been able to convey the sentiment of reverence for images, the Eucharist, and for the king’s person; of shame at betraying a comrade, devotion to a flag, the necessity of revenge for an insult, the need to sacrifice one’s labor for the erection and adornment of churches, the duty of defending one’s honor, or the glory of one’s native land—then that same art can also evoke reverence for the dignity of every man and for the life of every animal; can make men ashamed of luxury, of violence, of revenge, or of using for their own pleasure that of which others are in need; can compel people freely, gladly, and spontaneously, to sacrifice themselves in the service of man.

The task for art to accomplish is to make that feeling of brotherhood and love of one’s neighbor, now attained only by the best members of society, the customary feeling and the instinct of all men. By evoking under imaginary conditions the feeling of brotherhood and love, religious art will train men to experience those same feelings under similar circumstances in actual life; it will lay in the souls of men the rails along which the actions of those whom art thus educates will naturally pass.”(1)

All of that is why I am reading Gardner now and enjoying his works so much. I’m finally learning what I needed to know all along (the above only partially covers it) about writing books. If I’m going to go through the agony, I also want the ecstasy part of becoming a notable writer. That means nothing that really matters to Literature’s meaning and value can be left out of my own works.

I know why I write and that I do it for a truly worthy reason far surpassing monetary compensation or even acclaim. Not that money and acclaim wouldn’t be good, some day, even if I write works worthy to be called “literary.” Maybe, especially in spite of their literary character, it would be good. Even thrillers can be literary. Gardner’s The Sunlight Dialogs is a case in point. Ask me later about all of the other works of Gardner’s that I study. I have a hunch I’ll find mostly more of the same.

I find in John Gardner a writer whose fierce loyalties agreed with my own. If I could bring one teacher back from the dead, it would be this man who I never had the pleasure of meeting or studying under.

Such is the power of books, and of morality found in many of them. That goodness makes us yearn for more of the same, to seek it out and create more of it in our own lives.

Many, if not most, of Gardner’s works are available on Amazon.com. The triple-book collection of his didactic books is a treasure trove for aspiring writers. These three books are available as a set in Kindle for the cost of a cheap lunch.

— JR


1 Gardner, John, (quoting Tolstoy,) On Moral Fiction (p. 27). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.

2 Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28200076

Already Too Late?

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We Earth-dwellers are developing a growing fascination with climate change as the paramount issue affecting our species’ future. This awareness began around the release of the film An Inconvenient Truth. Many of us have recognized the extreme importance of stopping and reversing uncontrolled climate change, and rightly so. Those who deny the truth of climate change to serve their petty greed have become the greatest fools in all of history and everyone knows that. Their only argument is denial of facts that are clear, obvious, well-known and generally accepted. Climate change denial is the current folly that’s equivalent to flat-earth theory.

Climate change itself is not as primal as we may assume, despite all of the media attention it receives, because it's not actually the root cause of our worst issue. Contrary to that breakout climate film’s title, it’s subject matter is ironically, too convenient and a clearly obvious secondary issue. Environmental degradation is a consequence of a deeper root cause. Something else more primal, immediate, and threatening matters far more than our degrading climate.

It's past time for us to think again and refocus on the root cause of climate change: Planet Earth's accelerating human overpopulation. We can’t fix climate change in isolation because overpopulation keeps on driving it. We ask how we could ever reverse our rush into oblivion. That’s actually quite obvious but unfortunately, it’s also quite a threatening issue to even admit, much less to tackle for resolution. It seems impossible to correct but the stakes are clear:

Wake up or go extinct.

It has been proposed that the Earth's maximum carrying capacity for human life limits-out somewhere around one billion people, worldwide. Right now, in January of 2019, world population is estimated above seven billion resource consumers. If the Earth's accelerating degradation is to be stopped, we have to focus on reversing the wasteful resource consumption that human overpopulation causes. We must not only reverse over-consumption but also re-balance distribution of resources (meaning wealth) more fairly at a level that gives real, practical meaning to the concept of "sustainable."

Then future generations will have a fighting chance to achieve survival and lasting prosperity for everyone. The rugged individual that built America is not the right hero type for our reality survival show. The type of characters we need to champion a sustainable future are socially aware, self-limiting, responsible, informed, empathetic and altruistic.

Too many of us simply don't care what happens to our life's former setting after we die. We leave this earth like actors leaving the stage after a final performance but all the effects of how we lived continue. Our justification is, "if I won't suffer consequences, why should I care?" This is the ultimate tragedy of our creeping, materialistic, mass narcissism. To survive as a species we must evolve further. We have to transcend narrow self-fascination in favor of a common purpose to achieve long-term safety and wellbeing for our descendants.

We have a responsibility to others who follow us even if we’ll never procreate children. It's something like leaving a picnic area cleaner and more natural than you find it but on a far more telling plane of meaning. It's simply the decent thing to do. Knowing yourself as a caring and aware person, at least part of the time, brings a special, rich satisfaction to your self-image regardless of what others think. But usually, decency and sensitivity are noticed and respected, even admired. These traits spread virtue and invite a response-in-kind which tends to encourage emotions and behaviors that support our mass survival. These are good practices and we can strive to live by them despite any personal imperfections.

Achieving a functional balance between planetary birth rate and global death rate must become the most important concern and goal of all time. Failing in that, we will continue mass over-consumption that keeps accelerating planetary destruction until our present spaceship, the Earth, becomes a burned-out shell and at best, the human race regresses to a stone age life-quality. Worst case, we will go the way of the dinosaurs. This weighs on our minds unconsciously. It’s why our media are colored by darkness and pessimism. We’re trying unconsciously to work through our fear of what’s coming. Just tally up the dystopian novels and movies that are circulating these days. How many bright, positive visions of mankind’s future can you find?

Some say it's quite possibly already too late for us to wake up, to smell the smog and see the oceans rising and the seas awash with spilled crude oil with much of the human race suffering; too late to do all of the right things at every level of human organization, on a planetary scale. Truly responsible world leaders would take up this cause and help shepherd us to achieve the only goal that really matters in this day and age: zero population growth followed by population decline to a sustainable level.

We can reverse the problems that overpopulation causes by backing out of it opposite the way we got into it. Let’s consider spending that five trillion dollars on solving overpopulation instead of a bizarrely ridiculous wall at the US southern border that we don’t need, shouldn’t want, and that will not achieve the stated purpose. The border-wall proposal is emotionally driven, unwise and a desperate stab at fixing a symptom rather than a cause and doing that in the wrong way. It’s not really about general wellbeing. It’s an attempted distraction from what it’s really about — making a tiny, rich minority even richer. Being super-wealthy has never made anyone truly happy but it has made many who thought it might bring happiness, quite miserable.

The answer is clearly not to keep doing the same old thing by finding some new planet to colonize and rape like space conquistadors. Forget Mars. Forget space travel except for the journey through space that we are already taking as Earth passengers.

The real need is right here, right now, and could not be more imperative to recognize and to resolve. Planetary homeostasis is the grand challenge of the ages and the most urgent imperative that the human race has ever faced. World wars, major conquests, moon launches, plagues, self-driving cars — other human involvements are insignificant by comparison. Some sort of balance will reset life no matter what we do with policy but the key to human long-term prosperity is to do what it takes to sustain our kind, still thriving on the face of the Earth. Or the new homeostasis could well happen without humans around.

How will we ever manage to throttle human reproduction enough that we'll survive accelerating overpopulation and achieve a satisfying and sustainable quality of life for everyone? By providing everyone with both the means and the motives.

We are called upon to stop ourselves from destroying our environment and consequently our lives by achieving a net balance between what we take from the earth and what we give back, and all without damaging the environment. This will require greater awareness and self-restraint, deeper understanding, and a general re-thinking of our life-purposes during this century. Is life really just about ruthless money-grubbing, owning stuff, and social competition? Or is life’s meaning about something higher, gentler, grander, perhaps more noble? We could achieve peace based on sufficiency for everyone, genuine equality, social justice, and harmony between peoples and nations.

We are compelled to make the longer term more important than the short term; to redefine what makes us happy; even to realize, for the first time, on a mass scale, what a healthy happiness comprises and how it’s practiced. When we get clear on how to feel deeply fulfilled and also be safe at the same time and for the long haul, we'll become able to avoid the demise we're inevitably facing as a species. In other words, we must stop thinking and acting like immature, failed attempts at becoming empathetic, self-managing adults. Without right values, we humans simply become a plague upon the Earth.

Our first step is to finish growing up, emotionally. Then we need to think with that emotional maturity, guided by humanistic values that support mass sustainability and place its value above all of the passing, and ultimately trivial amusements that distract us. Then build the balanced lives that we can achieve for ourselves and for generations to come.

Here are some sobering, data-driven insights to inform thinking about overpopulation and its consequences. Check out Consider the Population Issue, a FlipBoard compilation by Joseph Riden.

Care to Comment?

After about a year of composition, self-editing, beta reading, edits and rewrites, the Sea Goddess release is forthcoming soon. The image above is what I believe to be the final design for the ebook cover. The paperback cover will of course wrap around with a spine and back with all of the trimmings. But this post is about the art.

Ebook cover for the forthcoming novel. Print cover will be based on this.

Ebook cover for the forthcoming novel. Print cover will be based on this.

How does this look to you?

Please comment with your honest and tactful responses, especially about emotional tone. Does this cover give you an itch to pick up the physical book or to open the book’s preview and see if you’d want to read it? If not, why not?

The genre is literary and mainstream. The story is taken from life with my former wife who became a lifelong friend. Nancy was the inspiration for the character Jess in this book. It could have been a memoir except for that irresistible urge that drove me to enhance it slightly to create the most irresistible story I could tell.

Please use the comment function at the bottom of this blog post to offer any observations or suggestions about the cover. The icon is small so look carefully, on the left below the signature line.

Your constructive help is greatly appreciated. Does this cover pique your curiosity enough to give the book a chance?

Thanks in advance,

Joseph

Drunk Again

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Drunk on love

In autumn dawn

Soaked in pastel skies

Seduced by ground fog

Gray snakes find rivers

Water rejoins water again

Subtle loops in time

Hushed visions of peace

Bigleaf maples reach

Toward pastel dawn

Forging yet another ring

More wood before sleep

Then rapt in white chill

They exhale patience

Whispered promises again

Gray geese fly home

Above color festivals

I'm drunk again and

This time on love



I've Been Pregnant

Tin Hau  before her name change, just before we acquired her.

Tin Hau before her name change, just before we acquired her.

I've “been pregnant" for the last nine months. Of course that's out of the ordinary for a man. No, I don't have some special physiology. But the metaphor isn't far off the mark to compare "birthing" a first novel-length work to what a woman might go through to reach a blessed event. There are long gestation and then a final agony of release that fulfill one's power to create life. Leading up to that event comes the long, slow march of ideas that starts with a climax of insight, and builds ever so slowly to another, and then another. Moments of new vision are some of our sweetest pleasures.

A baby starts as a few cells and gradually repeats all the stages of human evolution as it develops into that eventual sheaf of beauty and promise of a bright future, a new baby. Gestation lasts nine months, give or take, and that's how long it took to grow this book. Those weeks of toil were powered by sheer joy and pain recalled from my happiest years, the middle of my life.

Like many writers who may be new to fiction, I began with short stories, those sprints that prepare and strengthen a writer for the marathon. One day, three of my stories aligned like distant, luminous bodies on the horizon. They clustered to suggest one entity. On close inspection, they had gaps between them and like so many events in writers' lives, they pointed the way through to new work that a lizard-brain was trying to suggest, a new entity.

"What this needs," I realized, "is more narrative to close the gaps and flesh out this story into something whole and viable that can survive, and stand alone, strong and beautiful.”

Then came more months of revision, finding issues, fixing them, adding, subtracting; until that moment when the whole being emerged, complete. It drew its first breath and screamed out to my world "I live!" And it was not merely a tiny, squirming product of my intents. It was separate, powerful, a goddess. A Sea Goddess born of three parents; my wife, myself, and that trackless, watery wilderness full of life, that blood of our planet that we call the sea. Suddenly, breaking water astonished me. I had actually written a novel, forty-four thousand words in twelve chapters.

Sea Goddess is with her nurses now. She’s being readied by two sensitive, wise midwives who are helping dress her in her baptismal raiment. But soon, she'll emerge into the world, full of portent and for me, consequence, and maybe even some wisdom.

The release is soon to be announced and all are invited to attend, to meet her and enjoy her lines. Like a proud father, I'll sit on the side and absorb everyone's responses, both positive and negative, and learn. Then, after a little rest, I'll turn around and do it all again, hopefully even better.

Sea Goddess, a first novel-length work, lives and soon I'll be able to say where to find her.

JR

Qualified Beta Readers Wanted

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These days, every indie author needs expert beta readers who are also great to work with. I'm looking for more than one beta reader. Professionalism matters. I'd like to find readers who can provide some support for their quality of service other than merely, "Oh, I read a lot of books." Watching the circus doesn't make someone a trapeze artist or even a clown.

Go beyond the book list, please. Let me know why I should use your services for a particular book or story. Provide some credentials that add up to a sense of verified qualification, such as your publications, positive writers' testimonials from your past reads, education, job experience, your website, expertise, and so on.

A resume is not required but would be very helpful. If you charge for beta reading, I need the cost. Please provide a list of your deliverables, a description of your process and what you might need from me in addition to the manuscript. I usually work in MS Word using the Review process. Google Docs (G Suite) will work. I also have Scrivener and that enables several formats for review.

These are the minimum requirements for my Beta Readers as of 10/20/2018:

1. Education - At least a two-year AA or AS certificate of completion from an accredited, two-year, community college. Preferred – a BA or BS degree from an accredited college or university, with a concentration in something relevant, preferably in literature, humanities, sciences, or social sciences. Equivalent life experience is considered if it's relevant and convincing.

2. Experience - A significant reading history that demonstrates diversity of focus in as many different genres as possible. Readers who focus exclusively on one popular genre such as romance, history or sci-fi, etc. may not grasp how other genres work or even that they may be interesting and worthy. Diverse life and work experience matters.

3. Fees - The quality of work matters more than cost but the fee must not exceed something affordable. Like many authors, I have a small budget.

4. Testimonials - At least two or three positive reports from different satisfied authors may secure the deal for you.

5. Life experience - The older you are, the better you will use language and the more diverse you are in life experience, the better you'll get characters and plots.

6. Attitude - You understand and accept that the author is in charge and you act accordingly but you're strong enough to rationally defend your position. You're someone who won't feel intimidated or overwhelmed by reasonable objections; someone who takes deadlines seriously and will make firm commitments and go to lengths to honor them. You think independently, not locked into alignment with groups.

7. Communication style - We both act with continual respect for each other. We stay on the same page using frequent-enough communication via email or even possibly voice contact. If an issue comes up, we discuss it and settle it. Kindness is a practice that makes relationships of all kinds work better.

8. Security - You will *NOT reveal* any part of my manuscripts to any other person, at any time, without my specific permission. Nor will you save or archive any working copies other than a single backup, locally saved on your end. At completion of our task, when I have received all of the results, you will eradicate any copies you have under your control.

A perfect candidate would be someone like this: an articulate, college-educated, mature or retired person with job experience in teaching or tech (something cerebral) who works on a sliding scale or offers an affordable fee and has at least a couple of satisfied author-clients. Sometimes exceptional, younger readers also reach a level of mental/emotional maturity that will work. If you're published with a book-length work, that's a plus.

My current beta-reading task is novel-length, about 44,7xx words. A synopsis is available. The genre tends toward contemporary, literary, and memoir but the book is unique. It defies precise categorization.

I can provide candidates the synopsis. After you check that out, if you'd please answer with firm start and end dates to bookend a schedule that you will keep, we can go from there. If you need to deviate later, you'll discuss this with me.

I'm a professional writer who will need betas going forward. I believe in loyalty and ongoing work relationships. I make a point of providing accurate feedback and being professional and very good to work with. If we can learn from each other, then we may become colleagues.

Please respond via email (from my Contact Page) not through Goodreads onsite messaging which is inadequate for a business engagement, except for the initial contact. I’m a Goodreads Author.

Thank you for your interest in beta reading for me as I write and publish more books. Please review this website, especially the About page, to become familiar with who you’d be working with.

Joseph Riden, Author

The Best Beta Reader

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When writers and beta readers work together, the goal is to elevate the written work through linguistic purification. Beta reading coupled with ensuing revision ideally removes all manner of errata. It distills the final work into it's purest possible existence. And there's a second goal, too; for the writer and reader to become ever closer as professionals, in trusting interdependence.

Think about writing. It's a powerful force whether you're trying to express love for a desired person, or intending to birth a new nation; whether you're calling for an end to a shocking injustice, presenting an astonishing new theory, or anything in between. Some of us presume to make this writing thing that supposedly anyone can do, a life's work. It's best for us to take the work seriously but not take ourselves too seriously in the process. For the truth is, not everyone can do it well and even those of us who have some measure of genius must work at it with earnest sincerity and untiring energy. It's no wonder that we benefit so much from the sincere assistance of our editors and others who contribute to the effort. We rely heavily on our helpmates to uphold our work and become midwives of our creation.

Now think about reading and especially this thing called beta reading these days. Beta reading's the maiden flight of a work that requires outpouring of a writer's mind, and often their soul as well. There's no mystery in why we run variously amok from typos to tantrums, to successive approximations, and from rewrites to triumphs in the end, hopefully. It's damned difficult work at times, and our very beings are poured into our works, which become like children we birth and raise to be pure, proud and powerful. Any writer worthy of the name wants their work to be read and appreciated in some way, in the end.

Trusted readers willing to participate with us in the final stages of publication can smooth our paths or kill our motivation to continue, even in the very profession of writing. You betas penetrate our blindness to our own errors and suggest alternate routes to glory. We trust you with our most prized and precious things, our manuscripts. We want to know your thoughts, and at the same time, we cringe at the prospect of receiving them. Every writer wants their work to be understood and valued, even those whose primary motive is money. And even if the valuing is really about an as-yet unattained perfection.

We know we need honest reports from our beta readers and at the same time, we risk a lot emotionally in all stages of the writing process. For me, the stakes rise higher and higher at every step of the process from the seed idea to the final book before our eyes. We deeply need to look upon it and think, This was worth the effort, if we are to keep on writing.

At the same time, we need to find and correct any sort of flaw that has crept into our creation as we built it and this is why we collaborate with betas, for no other reason, and especially not to receive praise. We need cold facts about the manuscript so that we can distill the work into a purer state. Because we also fear what we need and want, and because we are universally our own most brutal critics, we need you to be kind as well as honest.

Now think about satisfaction for both writers and their beta readers. Like writers, betas seek specific goals though most of those objectives differ from the ones valued by their writers. Remember always that the writer chooses the beta reader, not the other way around and this alone sets the nature of this creative partnership. Betas work for writers and of course for themselves as well, but the main flow of benefits is from the beta to the writer and believe me, sane writers are deeply grateful for a good beta's contribution, without which it's likely some flaws may survive and pass into the publication. We turn to you only after doing all we can possibly do to make the work perfect, knowing we can't get there alone. We need you, and somehow you need us. Now, therefore, let us work as partners, both accurately and respectfully.

I'll try to be honest; in my work, at the beta stage, it's still easy to find flaws. Here's a typo, there lies a cliché, no matter how sincerely I may stretch toward perfection. Even egregious missteps can be found; the dreaded, tedious repetition or just a plain old boring passage or slightly purple-ish chunk of prose. The beta I need and want sees all of this and yet doesn't lose faith in me and my ability to make it right once I can see the issue with their help.

My ideal beta doesn't even dream of praise because it's wasted effort in a serious business yet they express appreciation in another form. They communicate neutrally as a caring professional always does. And the writer returns that respect, in kind. Think of a doctor you respect who is charged with telling you what malady you have and delivers even devastating news both accurately and compassionately.

I can't speak for other writers, but as for me, I want accuracy and truth but packaged in kindness. I strongly suspect this "tough love" nonsense that has crept into beta reading circles is a poison that diminishes demand for a beta's services except from masochists. Love is always strong but never tough, and I want betas who love what they do because it strengthens relationships. Think of that doctor again and how his revelations are delivered so tactfully.

And lastly, think what tact comprises. It's "adroitness and sensitivity in dealing with others or with difficult issues.” Synonyms include "sensitivity, diplomacy, thoughtfulness, consideration, and discretion." Tact is the loving, artful delivery of your findings, beta readers. It's a communication that merely conveys the findings and without judgment or shaming or any other tone that may discourage your client writer from gratefully incorporating your insights into their work. If you don't have this capacity in you, please get out of beta reading.

And so, beta readers, be perceptive and dedicated but never forget that tact is of the essence because it protects your relationship with your creative partner from dark forces that lurk in pejorative terms and comparative judgments and self-referencing statements.

Remember always the real goal is to to purify the work, not the writer.

Five Stars Feel Damned Good

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Not to brag, because this happens to so many writers, but to acknowledge a shared experience: I received a five-star review for one of my stories.

It feels so wonderful to see a reader really “getting” one of my stories and being excited enough to generate top honors. Now I wonder if anyone else will feel good enough about it to care and say something. Whatever. I’ll be fine but now we’ll see if that starts something good that expands and continues. Something I can build on as an obscure writer, late in life, short on backlist but long on skills, patience and the insight of experience.

I celebrated by revising the cover to add the five-star medallion. And Amazon actually got it right. They posted the new cover on the book’s listing and my Amazon Author Page.

There must be some reason Alinka Rutkowska, the book marketing expert and coach, prefers books to have medallioned covers so much. We’ll see if this gets some attention and action. There’s plenty more of the same where it came from.

Do find it, and please read the editorial review I posted and be ready to be challenged and/or edified, if you get the book. It’s strong-flavored narrative with a potentially controversial ending — for some readers but I couldn’t resist after how my whole family has suffered from the overzealous doctrines and self-serving practices of a powerful but still-medieval christian church that I once thought I could be part of.

Okay, you spiritual bullies, take that!

JR

Story Publication, "The Marlin"

This is the first story in my forthcoming, 12-chapter novel-in-stories that's all about ocean fishing and cruising over a five-year period with my wife of that time. It's a great intro to this series of tales that are all true stories. From dreaming about having a boat to acquiring it, dealing with the inevitable issues and having a fabulous experience in spite of them, this is that saga.

"The Marlin" is a true story set in the mid-1980's. Some names are changed but the rest is completely factual. It's about a couple in their thirties who loved to fish and cruise in the Pacific Ocean on their Grand Banks, a classic, thirty-two-foot, trawler-style, wooden yacht. They lived in Southern California, where surrounding waters of the blue Pacific offered them great satisfaction in their leisure interests. They would fish year-round and enjoy cruising to surrounding, offshore islands and coastal towns.

As the summer months unfurled each year, Evan and Jess spent most of their time on their boat, Tin Hau, fishing and cruising the coastal region near San Diego, when they weren't working their jobs or doing maintenance that the boat required. On the particular day of "The Marlin" story, they encountered an astonishing surprise; one that challenged them to the limit but would prove quite rewarding if they could prevail with Fate's summons. Odds were against them all the way.

This is the story of how that day unfurled as they took the challenge, stood up to the difficulties and dangers, and fought to win with all the strength and wit they could muster. It was high adventure on the high seas. Read the story now to find out how it went and how it turned out, given all the problems they faced.

If you like this story, you will probably love the novel-in-stories.

Please enjoy it and leave a review on Amazon.

Story Publication, "The Rocket"

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"The Rocket" is the story of a middle-school lad named Harley who was frustrated about his family situation. The story takes place in the late 1950's in the US Deep South. Harley never got the time and attention that he longed for from his Father. His younger brother looked a lot like his Dad. This annoyed Harley because he wanted to be just like his Father but he knew he never could. The two boys and their Mom and Dad lived a comfortable life in a pleasant place, and they all had everything they needed and a lot that they wanted. But Harley suffered discontent continually, until the day when he started making progress with his new project, a model rocket inspired by the launch of Sputnik One, the first earth satellite, launched by the Russians in 1957. Harley's space-crazy project progressed until he started testing his rocket fuel, then things got complicated. 
     Read the story now to follow Jordy's adventures and discover how it all went.

     Please enjoy the story and leave a review on Amazon.

Story Publication: "The Prodigy"

"The Prodigy" is a short story of around 7,000 words. Set in the postwar, mid-1950s era, it's the story of a boy named Jordy who faced frustrating challenges, especially at school, because he was gifted with "prodigious" intelligence and intense curiosity. These qualities often made Jordy feel, look, and act differently from other kids. That attracted unwanted attention, sometimes in ways that caused trouble.

     All Jordy wanted was to learn and write about the things that fascinated him in the world. Along the way, he faced physical dangers, temptations, difficult people, helpful people, and some satisfaction.

     But would he ever find his rightful place in the world? Read the story now to follow Jordy's adventures and discover how it all went.

     Please enjoy the story and leave a review comment on Amazon.

Dilemmas

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I've had people say to me, "What . . . pay for writing? Don't be ridiculous. It's only words."

A compelling story enthralls you and it hangs on. The characters, situations, and feelings stay in your mind long after you finish it. There's a moral, a lesson, or takeaway. You forget about all else for a while. Artful story crafting makes you keep reading to the end. Then you feel hungry for another story from that author.

It takes a worthy concept followed with excellent drafting and revising to make a story gel. A threatening situation that interesting characters have to face and resolve. Trouble along the trail to resolution. Things get worse before they get better. Threats of personal destruction and a "death" of some kind but not simply "la petite mort."

What more does a great story need? Add resourceful thinking and action. More than one failure before the breakthrough that finally solves the issues. And then a threat of new, worse terrors even before the characters have a chance to enjoy their hard-won resolution.

But those characters, especially the protagonist, change into new, different, and sometimes better, people. Sometimes worse. That kind of structure fits a large number of scenarios. 

Understanding all this is just the beginning for the writer. Fleshing it out in a succession of dramatic scenes—that's when the pudding sets. Or when it turns into a gooey, sticky mess that's not worth serving. No wonder it's so easy to fall into using violence to make a story work. Add an author's commitment to gentle peacefulness and compassion and that surely makes the trail harder to hike. This is a fiction writer's dilemma.

When a writer has the innate ability to make a story like this and keeps going through attempt after attempt until they get a grip on the handles and then learn how to make it happen repeatedly, well, that's when you get a Stephen King or Barbara Kingsolver.

This kind of writing is usually popular, genre fiction. That's a respectable destination to set as a goal. It's more than enough for most writers. Some of us are satisfied with simply being able to pay the bills. But then, others are satisfied only by doing Nobel Prize level work and we keep trying even when a reward never comes because the journey isn't over at the destination. It becomes its own reason to exist.

I want still more. Another kind of story is more satisfying. It does far more than entertain; it has the power to shape a reader's life. Such stories shaped mine and now I want to write those kinds of stories. This is my own dilemma.

WIll I ever realize my dream of writing literature that lives forever? By definition, I won't live long enough to know. One thing keeps me going; always, I want more, like the readers who I want to reach.

Fulfilling their thirst is becoming my own dilemma. It's a good kind of problem as long as I'm up to it.

Keep On Reading,

Joseph

 

Image by  Sara Richter

Image by Sara Richter

Make a Vision Board

Hi, Kenneth,

How to make a vision board?

Well, honestly, I didn’t know. But now I do! Thanks for pointing out something useful that I didn’t know exists.

I searched on “vision board” (without the quotes) and got an astonishing result. I just love Google to bits and when I have a question like yours, the first thing do is a web search.

https://www.google.com/search?q=...

It’s possible this link may not work so you may have to do the search yourself.

And here’s an even more interesting search:

The Reason Vision Boards Work and How to Make One

I think I’ll start my vision board today because I really do have a focused vision and want this dream to come true.

Use your search engine. We live in an age of high privileges that are available to everyone. Don’t let them go to waste.

You made my day!

Joseph

To Speak with Grace

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To speak with grace

let your mind lead slightly.

Split the moment

of understanding

between these two:

your thought is Fred Astaire

your lips are Ginger Rogers.

Speech becomes their dance. 

 

---------------------------

The spontaneity of her speech was interfering with it's formation and it seemed to be all about timing. She's a brilliant woman and the way she spoke was spoiling the picture she projected just as she was about to attend the most important interview of her recent life. So this was my suggestion. We'll see how it all plays out as life rolls onward.

Choosing the photo took some self-restraint. The photo's mission was to accompany and illustrate the idea in the verse yet my source served me volumes of astonishingly impressive dancers and couples. Not to mention so sexy. There was a danger that the wrong photo would upstage the ideas. But when I saw these feet, I recognized the path of ultimate perfection. Two or more years ago I would have done the wrong thing. The feet made my morning.

But there is this nagging fascination with why the woman's two feet seem to be impossible. She has two right feet and at an angle that is unattainable. But maybe that's to say the verse is showing the remedy for speaking with two left feet. Perfect!

Be glad when Love

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Be glad when love

knocks on your door

and all you have to do

is say "Yes" and let it flow

 

This tiny blank verse fell out of my brain and went "splat" onto my laptop's screen early this morning in a remote conversation with someone for whom I did a favor. She was trying to thank me for a strategic favor and I was trying to respond with something more meaningful than "You're welcome." 

This is the opposite of writer's block. Don't you get excited when this happens? I do.

 

Be glad when your muse

knocks on your brain 

and all you have to do

is say yes, start typing

trust it and let it flow

 

The photo collage was the favor.

 

Joseph

Genesis Revisited

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One ultimate goal determines my daily course, down to how I self-direct from moment to moment: how I think, what I care about, and how I burn time, that most precious of all limited commodities, the great leveler of all life's playing fields. Down to what I eat and drink, how I sleep, and who I seek out, my over-arching goal is to make a difference.

To make a difference, a writer becomes skilled and disciplined enough to accomplish three things: relevance, bold honesty, and becoming widely read.

A writer can tell the honest truth better in fiction than in nonfiction, simply because in fiction, the writer becomes the god of creation. A whole universe is theirs to imagine and describe, encompassing all that exists and happens between the covers of their books. Fiction storytelling techniques and tropes can forge a transformative reading experience tempered to the hardness of consensual reality, as undeniable as Damascus steel plunged through the heart.

Today, the most-read extant literature is creative nonfiction. In the forge of fiction-craft, a writer can heat the relevant facts of cold reality to white-hued, to near-combustion and with the hammer of imagination, they can shape their story on an anvil of eloquence, yet sustaining the perfect arc of actuality.

Creative nonfiction's formula can be learned and bent to purpose. It's not an esoteric plan or a dark, secret ritual. Jon Franklin extracted the process from his experiences in learning, writing and publication. He explicates it lucidly in "Writing for Story," one of the best books available on writing craft. His pure process derives from the pioneering that eventually won him two Pulitzers. Before he could write it out, he had to live it to learn it. Others, too, have replicated his kind of story-crafting.

Every day is a good day to pound out the true story that's worth telling. Today, may my heart be pure and my mind keen to see the lines of true story, well told, buried in the alloys and shapes before me. May my readers die a little to who they have been, by being reborn to altered perspective, to drive right action and new consequence for us all, for our world, and for all its creatures.

As I discover true story and tell it, may I also become its artifact: transformed, insightful, willing to become a better person.

-- Joseph Riden

Tribute to William Zinsser

I've longed for some time to have a writing venue where I could simply be myself, not so much in secret, as in a diary, but more publicly. This urge to be better known and understood and to thereby make a difference, seems natural even for an introvert like me. This is the main reason I write at all.

I long to become not only more visible than I ever was in the crowd of siblings where I grew up but also in the world at large. This writing medium is a window into my thinking and into who I am and how I relate to a world that's going mad. Written words are a framework in which I've longed to view and describe the world and even to expostulate for the good of my soul. I'm so grateful to have the help of so many writers who have gone before me, pursuing the same objective, using the same medium and who, by their example and insights, are providing me so much help.

The writer William Zinsser has been more than a hero to me, for going on 20 years now, a whole generation, although I never met him. Two decades seem an appropriate time-slice given my natural father might have lived to Zinsser's age, had Nature not reclaimed my Dad when he was thirty-nine and I was sixteen. I can only imagine what our relationship could have been, had he lived. I've sought to meet a stand-in since my Dad's death, a surrogate I could look up to, an imaginary father, perhaps. Few men have measured up to my ideal but Zinsser tops my shortlist of imaginary "found parents." It would have been an honor to know him.

Today I visited the website dedicated to William Zinsser's remembrance. It became a sacred pilgrimage if ever I've made one. His most popular book (On Writing Well) has gotten me through the past fifteen years of self-development and independent study, with innumerable detours, that led to my writer's emancipation: the decision to dedicate myself, at long last, to the work I've wanted to do since I was far too callow to do it and to assume the writer's identity that I have longed to fill for a lifetime, and am now continually busy fulfilling. This is what I was actually born to do.

At the start of my transformation from engineer to writer, Zinsser's beloved On Writing Well was a godsend to a godless man. Now, as I realize that I have evolved into what I have longed to become, I'm groping toward what comes next, with unending self-expostulation and revision of mind and soul as I develop my craft and psyche as far as they can go during the years I have left.

I discovered glittering gems once more in his work this morning. Several new rubies jumped into my pocket as I paid a visit to his online memorial, reading through excerpts from his books. Some standouts seem especially relatable. So I pass their deep resonance onward. Some of his words seem to define who I am in some ways, both a past me and the new man I am becoming as I live out my final life stage. My main regret is that I didn't start writing seriously much sooner.

From William Zinsser’s Commencement Speech at Wesleyan University, 1988

"The sportswriter Red Smith was one of my heroes. Not long before his own death he gave the eulogy at the funeral of another writer, and he said, “dying is no big deal. Living is the trick.” Living is the trick. That’s what we’re all given one chance to do well...

"When I was teaching at Yale, the poet Allen Ginsberg came to talk to my students, and one of them asked him: 'Was there a point at which you consciously decided to become a poet?' And Ginsberg said: ‘It wasn’t quite a choice; it was a realization. I was 28 and I had a job as a market researcher. One day I told my psychiatrist that what I really wanted to do was to quit my job and just write poetry. And the psychiatrist said, 'Why not?' And I said, 'Well, what would the American Psychoanalytic Association say?' And he said, 'There’s no party line.' So I did." We’ll never know how big a loss that was for the field of market research. But it was a big moment for American poetry.

"There’s no party line.

"Good advice.

"You can be your own party line. If living is the trick, what’s crucial for you is to do something that makes the best use of your own gifts and your own individuality. There’s only one you. Don’t ever let anyone persuade you that you’re somebody else...

"In those eleven years [of being a freelance writer] I never wrote anything that I didn’t want to write. I’d like you to remember that. You don’t have to do unfulfilling work, or work that diminishes you. You don’t have to work for people you don’t respect. You’re bright enough to figure out how to do work that you do want to do, and how to work for people you do want to work for."

All these lessons I recognize, having lived through them each as the plot of my life unfolded: finding out how to work to the tune of my own best gifts; insisting on being who I am and not what others wanted me to be; not doing work I didn't want or work that would diminish me; not working for, or with, people I don't respect. Like Ginsberg, for me "It [writing] wasn’t quite a choice; it was a realization." Given before I fully realized what a profound change I had unconsciously made, I had written my third non-fiction book and started another one and also a memoir, as well as several short stories.

#

From “Writing About Your Life”

"I think of intention as the writer’s soul. Writers can write to affirm and to celebrate, or they can write to debunk and destroy; the choice is ours. Editors may ask us to do destructive work for some purpose of their own, but nobody can make us write what we don’t want to write. We get to keep intention...

"I always write to affirm—or, if I start negatively, deploring some situation or trend that strikes me as injurious, my goal is to arrive at a constructive point. I choose to write about people whose values I respect and who do life-affirming work; my pleasure is to bear witness to their lives. Much of my writing has taken the form of a pilgrimage: to sacred places that represent the best of America, to musicians and other artists who represent the best of their art... 

"My mother came from a long line of devout Maine and Connecticut Yankees, and she thought it was a Christian obligation to be cheerful. It is because of her that I am cursed with optimism. The belief that I can somehow will things to go right more often than they go wrong—or to be an agent of God’s intention for them to go right—has brought many adjectives down on my head, none of them flattering: naive, credulous, simple-minded. All true. I plead guilty to positive thinking."

Though I relate things that are sad or even dreadful when that is the truth of the writing, on the other hand, I never post a basically negative review. Instead, when something is terminally dreadful, I simply won't write about it. Being positive in action is a main way for anyone to make a difference, to induce more sanity, peace, and truth into life. Affirming beauty affirms life itself.

Zinsser's last paragraph above echoes words I've spoken more than once, though without religious underpinnings. I refuse to posit deities because helping things go right more than they go wrong simply returns as a reward again and again. I, too, "plead guilty to positive thinking" because it re-creates what inspires it. I don't need a god to tell me this. It's patently obvious in the stream of existence when closely examined.

#

From “The Writer Who Stayed”

"Tips can make someone a better writer but not necessarily a good writer. That’s a larger package--a matter of character. Golfing is more than keeping the left arm straight. Every good golfer is a complex engine that runs on ability, ego, determination, discipline, patience, confidence, and other qualities that are self-taught. So it is with writers and all creative artists. If their values are solid their work is likely to be solid."

All I was looking for this morning was the title of Zinsser's book on writing craft (Writing to Learn) because, having been aging as wine ages in cool darkness while cradled in hardwood, it's now time to exit the oaken cask of the past two decades, to pour myself into what-is-now, as well as possible but not yet realized. On Writing Well is one of the most influential books I've read and keep periodically re-reading. I'm not alone in revering it; whole generations do. In it, Zinsser teaches a secret beyond all possible tips:

"The life-changing message of On Writing Well is: simplify your language and thereby find your humanity."

I'd be grateful to gain even half that much wisdom by reading my next Zinsser book. I plunge into the unknown, striving to become all I can imagine while reflecting upon his insights. In his writings I've found a great soul, kind heart and a kindred spirit, a father- surrogate to respect and emulate and the best writing coach I could want.

#

May I forever write to learn and keep learning to the end.

May I have the character of a good writer.

May my work be solid.

 

-- Joseph Riden