Unforgettable Gets a Thumbs Up in St. Paul Pioneer Press

unforgettablecover153Mary Ann Grossmann, Books Editor at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, gave Unforgettable: Short Stories a nice boost in her “Readers and Writers” column in the Sunday, May 25, 2014 issue of the newspaper:

“Unforgettable” by Paulette Alden (Radiator Press, $4.99 ebook, $13.99 paperback, free at Amazon Prime)

Minnesotan Alden jokes that she went from “The Reluctant Self-Publisher” to “The Obnoxious Self-Promoter” when she self-published her book “The Answer to Your Question.” Now she’s hoping readers will look for her new — and wonderful — story collection.

These nine stories feature Miriam Batson, the author’s persona from her collection “Feeding the Eagles” (Graywolf Press). The first four stories, Alden says, are about experiences that had important emotional impacts for her. The last five, some of which are heartbreaking, are to be read in sequence because they follow Miriam’s journey as her mother ages.

Miriam is a middle-age college professor when the book begins. In the first story “The Student,” she has feelings for a young man but she isn’t sure what they are. Is he like a son? Is it a little sexual? The most riveting is “Enormously Valuable,” in which Miriam is passed over for a tenured position that’s given to a man, even though she has published as much as he has and has more teaching experience. A male faculty member she’s considered a sort-of friend tells her she’s “enormously valuable” to the department but the new guy is fresh and exciting. Miriam, who was raised in South Carolina, goes through many emotions as she tries to decide whether to sue for sex discrimination. This wasn’t supposed to happen to her, she thinks in her shock: WHY NOT? because, because, because. … Because she was nice! She didn’t ask for too much (only a temporary job), she was an excellent, overly conscientious worker, cheerful, gracious, modest, supportive, a team player, reasonable, didn’t make waves. … She knew how to be nice. Her whole upbringing had been about being nice.

Even after Miriam decides to sue, she asks her lawyer whether she’s being “ridiculous.” Her woman lawyer replies: You know, it’s sad that you have to ask that. Women get screwed all the time, and then they think that somehow it’s their fault. So no, you’re not crazy.

This reader cheered for Miriam when she realizes that she might have started out as a quivering mass of female insecurity but over the years something inside had solidified, gotten a grip. She could feel this mysterious part of herself as if it were a rod inside her, holding her up.

The stories about Miriam’s mother’s decline move from Miriam and her sister realizing their mom can no longer live alone in the big house in South Carolina to Miriam caring for her mother in Minnesota. At first their strong-minded mother is in assisted living, where she constantly calls Miriam to come and find her purse. There are times when exhausted Miriam hates what her mother has become. But there is laughter too when they are together. Slowly, Miriam begins to realize she must put her mother, who keeps falling, into a nursing home.

The small touches Alden writes about will resonate with everyone who’s cared for a parent: Miriam bending down to help her mother pull up her underpants and confronting her mom’s “big, white butt,” navigating her mother’s transition to the nursing home while putting on a good face and wanting to weep, a disastrous weekend at a resort where her mom is confused, doesn’t sleep and only wants to go back to her room.

Some fiction is so “real” you stop reading when a scene knocks you out with familiarity. “Yes,” you’ll say to yourself, “that’s exactly the way it was for my family.”

Would You Like a Free Copy of Unforgettable: Short Stories?

unforgettablecover153I’d like to send you a copy of my new book of short stories–either the paperback or a Mobi or epub file which you can “sideload” to your Kindle or Ipad.  Free. No strings attached.

Well, there is one small string.

I’m looking for readers and reviews.  So the catch is if you like the stories, you give me a review on Amazon, and maybe Goodreads. Why reviews? Because reviews–good ones, that is–bring more readers, who write more reviews, which bring more readers . . .

I published Unforgettable: Short Stories in February. Unlike The Answer to Your Question, it’s hard to promote.  I reached lots of readers and reviewers for Answer by giving away thousands of free eBooks via ads and promotions on places like Bookbub and Kindle Nation Daily.  That worked well because Answer was pegged as a “suspense” book, and a lot of the subscribers to the free giveaway sites go for genre books–mysteries, thrillers, suspense, romance, fantasy. Unforgettable is the opposite of a genre book.

Nor is Unforgettable a single narrative, like a novel, which would make it a little easier to synopsize and describe. Nor does it have a specific subject, such as a memoir does.

Unforgettable is nine autobiographical short stories, all built around a single protagonist, Miriam Batson. There’s one story about a college student of Miriam’s who tries to commit suicide, which mixes erotic and maternal feelings with teacherly concern; there’s another about a job rejection that possibly resulted from sex discrimination, or perhaps adjunct discrimination, “the galley slave problem,” as Miriam’s husband puts it; there another about the death of a beloved maid from Miriam’s Southern girlhood; and another about her father’s sudden death from a heart attack.

The final five stories track Miriam’s efforts to keep her mother afloat as she is pulled under by Alzheimer’s. I’ve tried to take what were nine difficult years and shape the experiences into what art does: specifying the particular while capturing the universal.

I think Unforgettable is a good book, worthwhile reading for some readers–if only I can reach them. The way I found readers for Answer won’t work for Unforgettable. So I’ve decided to try giving it away myself via my blog and FB.

Don’t be shy about asking! Don’t feel embarrassed by thinking you really should buy the book! I don’t care! My goal is to get the book into more hands, including yours.

If Unforgettable sounds like something you might like to try (or if you know of someone else who might), email me at pbalden@aol.com or on my website contact form. Tell me if you’d like the Mobi, epub file or the paperback. For the paperback, give me your mailing address. (Sorry, I can only send in the US because of mailing costs.)  It costs me about $7.00 per paperback, so I figure I can give away up to about 50 copies. I’d rather spend my promotion money this way than by buying ads directed to the wrong audience.

What are you waiting for?  The price is right!



 Unforgettable: Short Story Quotes from Amazon Readers’ Reviews (They’re unforgettable to me):

“Each one of these stories is a gem, drawn from the author’s own experiences. They are written with such clarity, such marvelous dialogue, and such sensibility that you feel you’re right in there with her struggles: her concern over a deeply troubled student,
her anger at being passed over for a teaching position, and finally – and most especially – the awful frustrations of caring for an ailing mother whom she loves with all her heart even as she wrestles with the often overwhelming burden this kind of care involves. Despite the many sorrows in these stories, there is much joy, much humor, and the lucky decision to write it all down for our reading pleasure.”

“Finally, a collection of short stories beautifully rendered and filled with universal truths about the human experience. I am enthralled with this collection. It is the first short fiction collection I have read in a long, long time where I felt transported, consumed and moved by each story.”

“Having just gone through three excruciating years dealing with my mother-in-law’s decline into dementia, I found Paulette Alden’s UNFORGETTABLE to be a guidebook of how to comprehend grief and loss, how to understand transitions, how to make meaning and sense of our human condition. Deft and direct, this is a book that sneaks up on you. On the surface, everything seems so simple, so ordinary–dare I say it?–so human. You know the feeling: “this could be my story. How does she know my life so well?” But beneath the surface is great depth and dimension and ultimately the deep wisdom that comes with self acceptance.”

“This collection reflects the periods of certainty, vulnerability, compassion, and wonderment that have passed through the lives of so many baby boomer woman. The prose is never cloying or predictable. A collection that will stay on my shelf for rereading through the years.”

“I read this book almost in one sitting. This author has a way of immediately engaging the reader. These stories come from the heart, and I was totally absorbed by each one.”

“I once heard an editor say he most admired writers “with no hands showing.” He meant, of course, writers whose prose was so lucid, direct, and powerful that it didn’t call attention to the great skill of the writer but simply pulled you irresistibly into the story itself. That is how I felt about these stories.”

“Painful – beautiful – and an uplifting testament to family loyalty and the human spirit. If you have a parent facing the ravages of old age, do yourself a favor: read Unforgettable.”

Announcing UNFORGETTABLE: Paulette’s New Collection of (Old) Short Stories

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00025]I’m happy to tell you that Unforgettable: Short Stories,  my new collection of (old) short stories, is now available for purchase as an ebook and print-on-demand paperback on Amazon.

To the best of my memory, I wrote these nine stories between maybe 1990, when my father died, and 2005, when my mother died. They’re autobiographical Miriam Batson stories again, my persona from the earlier stories in Feeding the Eagles.  They follow Miriam into middle age, as she navigates the decline and death of loved ones, her own aging, and once again, the inevitable losses of life.

I didn’t try too hard to get the collection published back when I finished the stories.  I sent it to Graywolf, which had published Feeding the Eagles, but when they weren’t interested, I saw the writing on the wall.  I could not have imagined, back then, that self-publishing would be an option one day, or that I would ever partake of it.  But once I got the hang of it with The Answer to Your Question, I thought about these stories. I had always liked them, they meant quite a lot to me, and I wondered if others might find something in them to enjoy and relate to.  I decided to publish them myself. So with a little tinkering from the present, here they are.

The first four stories are about experiences that had important emotional impacts on me.  The last five are about my taking on the care of my mother, moving her from South Carolina to Minneapolis in 1997, when it became clear that she could no longer manage on her own.  I moved her first to a senior building, then to assisted living, and finally to a nursing home, where she died of Alzheimer’s.  It was a long, difficult journey that we traveled together.  The stories are a memorial to her and our time together.  The final five stories are meant to be read in sequence.

Those of you who follow this blog know that I morphed from The Reluctant Self-Publisher into The Obnoxious Self-Promoter when I self-published The Answer to Your Question.  This is where you come in.  It’s very difficult to get publicity for self-published books.  The regular media won’t review them, so about the only way of promoting an “indie” book, as they’re called, is via word of mouth–mainly reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as people recommending the book to their friends and book clubs.

If you enjoy Unforgettable, please do me the big favor of posting a short review on Amazon (and if you don’t enjoy it, please keep it to yourself!).  A review is not too hard to do.  On the Amazon product page for the book (where, here’s hoping, you will actually purchase it . . .), you scan down and click on the “Write a customer review”  link. You will be introduced to some blank stars which you click on according to how you rank the book, and a space to write a review.  A couple of sentences will do. You can even use a handle, Big Daddy, if you don’t care of use your real name.

To leave a review at Goodreads, you need to become a member by signing up with your email and a password, or just sign in if you’re already a member.  Navigate to the page for Unforgettable: Short Stories by putting in the title.  Underneath the book’s cover picture on the top left, first rate the book using the stars.  The “want to read” button will automatically be replaced with a “write a review” link. Click that link.  Write your review in the review box and save.

Sorry to beg, but every positive review helps, since that’s the way most readers have of judging an unknown book (plus last time I looked–five minutes ago–Unforgettable had ZERO reviews and was ranked 1,048,470 in books.  Help!).  Thank you if you’re able to go the extra mile(s) of writing a short review.  If you search for the book, be sure and use Unforgettable: Short Stories.  There are a lot of “Unforgettables” in the naked Amazon city, a number of which are bodice-rippers, which mine, unfortunately, is not.

If you have any ideas of places where I can promote the stories, especially the ones about caretaking an aging parent, nursing home placement, Alzheimer’s–(sexy, riveting stuff, huh!)–please let me know. I figure there are plenty of boomers out there who have had similar experiences, but reaching them is another matter.

Several of these stories reference the act of writing.  Giving shape and meaning  to experiences that were often painful by writing about them has been deeply rewarding for me.  Writing is so amazing. Through writing these stories, I have experienced my own life and indeed life itself more fully, understood my own experiences beyond merely living through them, and hopefully expressed some situations and feelings that will resonate with you.

I hope you’ll enjoy them!