Write, Print, Publish, Promote by Kyle Burbank

Write, Print, Publish, Promote
The complete guide to writing and publishing a book by Kyle Burbank

Write, Print, Publish, Promote

The complete guide to writing and publishing a book by Kyle Burbank

There are a million different do-it-yourself guides to publishing an e-book, and Kyle Burbank’s Write, Print, Publish, Promote is as good as any at introducing authors to the basics of digital publishing.

Burbank published a successful niche book —The E-Ticket Life, about his adventures at Disney theme parks— and Write, Print, Publish, Promote has more of a nonfiction slant than some of the other DIY publishing guides out there. Still, the principles Burbank outlines apply to fiction and nonfiction ooksalike.

Some of the advice is laughably broad stroke, like “learn Photoshop,“ and “learn Adobe Indesign.“ Good advice, akin to “master chess,“ or “learn how to drive a forklift.“ Great skills to have, though some take a lifetime to grasp.

Burbank excels at giving advice on selling print copies of your book at conventions and various distribution models for your work including audiobooks. There’s good advice here at a practical price. In a world of how-to guides, Write, Print, Publish, Promote, The complete guide to writing and publishing a book by Kyle Burbank sticks out for its honesty and feel-good approach to digital publishing.

A Widow’s Story: A Memoir by Joyce Carol Oates

A Widow's Story: A Memoir by Joyce Carol Oates
A Widow’s Story: A Memoir by Joyce Carol Oates

“Give sorrow words,” William Shakespeare says. “The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.”

Joyce Carol Oates gives her sorrow words in A Widow’s Story: A Memoir, which chronicles the death of her longtime husband, Ontario Review editor, Ray Smith, and the first year of Oates’ widowhood.

“Widowhood is the punishment for having been a wife,” Oates writes in this powerful and poignant memoir.

If life were fair, couples that have been married for decades (Oates and Smith were together for 47 years and 25 days, Oates frequently points out) should be allowed to die together.

But life is anything but fair, and it’s the job of survivors to carry on after the loss of a loved one, no mater how impossible that may seem, as Oates observes:

   “Losing a spouse of 47 years is like losing a part of yourself— the most valuable part. What is left behind seems so depleted, broken … But this determination to manage—to cope—to do as much unassisted as possible— is the widow’s prerogative.”

Losing a spouse can drain life of flavor and meaning, leaving the survivor a shell of themselves, as Oates notes:

   “As a widow I will be reduced to a world of things. And these things retain but the faintest glimmer of their original identity and meaning as in a dead and desiccated husk of something once organic there might be discerned a glimmer of its original identity and meaning.”

Oates also examines the frailty of life and the delicate balance of bio-chemistry that makes us human:

Harrowing to think that our identities— the selves people believe they recognize in us: our “personalities”— are a matter of oxygen, water and food and sleep— deprived of just one of these our physical beings begin to alter almost immediately— soon, to others we are no longer “ourselves”— and yet, who else are we?

It’s impossible not to compare Oates’ A Widow’s Story to Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. Both women are literary powerhouses examining the depths of grief following the death of their husbands. Oates subtlety references Didion’s work, and her own “magical thinking” during her husband’s short illness and death. Oates and Didion both imagine their husbands “just coming home,” putting an end to the endless nightmare of widowhood. Magical thinking is a nice way of saying delusional or wishful thinking.

Widowhood forces a kind of exile, an otherness, as the widow moves through day-to-day life like a ghost.

   “I could be a paraplegic observing dancers— it isn’t even envy I feel for them, almost a kind of disbelief, they are so utterly different from me, and so oblivious.”

And a life devoid of meaning, isn’t really a life at all, Oates says:

“To be human is to live with meaning. To live without meaning is to live sub-humanly.”

“Giving sorrow words” is both painful and healing, and perhaps the only way back to the “land of the living” for a writer, as Oates notes in a letter to a fellow author.

   “It’s difficult to write when there’s no joy. (I haven’t gotten started again, myself.) Yet it’s our only way out. Isn’t it?”

Though deeply steeped in sorrow, The Widow’s Story: A Memoir is ultimately a story of survival and rebirth. Oates knows whom to thank for helping her through the early days of widowhood.

   “The blunt truth is: I would (very likely) not be alive except for my friends.”

She also finds recovery and reconnection by embracing her late husband’s favorite hobby: gardening:

   “A gardener is one for whom the prospect of the future is not threatening but happy.”

In the end, Oates finds the strength to carry on, even if it’s a “half-life” frequently filled with sorrow and loss.

   “This is my life now. Absurd, but unpredictable. Not absurd because unpredictable but unpredictable because absurd. If I have lost the meaning of my life, and the love of my life, I might still find small treasured things amid the spilled and pilfered trash.”

We can all appreciate the world forged from Oates’ personal pain, a world where life is simultaneously absurd, unpredictable and incredibility precious.

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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

War is hell, and perhaps there is no more fiendish quality to armed conflict than the loss of humanity that comes with being a wartime soldier.

Life is simultaneously priceless and cheap. There are a million ways to die during a war and Louis Zamparini manages to avoid all of them in Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand.

Hillenbrand is a long way from the bucolic meadows and stinky stables she brought to life in her bestselling book, Seabiscuit. Here the backdrop is World War II, and her impeccably researched book spans the world from the California homefront, to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, to the POW camps of Japan.

Hillenbrand’s deepest travels are into the mind and spirit of Louis Zamparini, a California bad-boy-turned-track-star who went from shaking Hitler’s hand at the 1936 Olympics to seeing some of WWII’s harshest fighting.

Zamparini’s plane crashed while searching for another downed crew, and he survived in a raft for 47 days, and then endured another two years in a Japanese POW camp under the harshest conditions imaginable. Unbroken is a tale of the resilience of the human spirit, and the ability to maintain hope in the face of hopelessness.

Hillenbrand’s prose is lean and clean, and she paints word pictures with a reporter’s eye and a poet’s tongue. She writes about Zamparini’s time lost at sea:

   “It was not a great presence but a great absence, a geometric ocean of darkness that seemed to swallow heaven itself.”

Perhaps Zamparini’s biggest obstacle is overcoming the posttraumatic stress of his POW camp ordeal, and learning the healing power of forgiveness.

   “This self-respect and sense of self-worth, the innermost armament of the soul, lies at the heart of humanness; to be deprived of it is to be dehumanized, to be cleaved from, and cast below, mankind.”

Zamparini’s example is inspiring and nearly superhuman.

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