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Starting Out In The Middle

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There’s a manuscript I wrote a long time ago that starts out in the middle of the story. In fact the first paragraph is about why it makes as much sense to start telling a story in the middle as it is at either the beginning or the ending. I never submitted that manuscript for publication because it just never felt quite ready to go through that level of scrutiny. As I recall the story was mainly about living and though it had its moments of excitement and resolution it seemed to begin in the middle and after several hundred pages it was still in the middle. But, because of the experience of writing it I have always thought about the concept of starting out in the middle as a commentary on real life.

You know, of course, that we all start out in the middle of something else that is going on around us. For years we play catch-up, learning and absorbing from parents and other, more experienced, family members. Then, as we mature we have teachers, clergy and bosses – pretty much everyone we meet is in influence for whatever span that is determined as appropriate for being a human sponge. At some point, though, someone decides we have become competent. Perhaps it is a degree conferred or some other credential we earn. Maybe it is simply that we have mastered doing something and others decide we are suddenly expert. Whatever and however it happens we are an adult at that point. Maybe some of never reach that point. Who knows?

My thought here is that the beginning of each of our lives is an illusion as much as the endings arbitrarily attached to death. Between times we are immersed in the world and life is a matter of sinking and drowning or swimming and surviving. Living is all about being caught up in the experience. I believe that if a writer is to imitate life, he or she needs to understand being the midst of things. For a reader being in a book world should be similar enough to real life that disbelief is suspended as the author introduces a new, surrogate world. Mainly I deal with fantasy worlds but I think it applies to all fiction.

A writer must engage the reader instantly because entering a book’s contrived universe can and perhaps should be like being born. Spend the first few chapters staking out the territory and meeting the important people who will help or hinder the experience of living. Somewhere in that process you’ll learn about the conflicts from what the characters say or how they interact. Either way, as a reader, you’ll know early on where the story is headed but probably not where it is going.

A well written book always leaves the reader wondering what will happen next because, as with real life, it is filled with challenge and mystery. There are surprises that are both good and bad. There are horrendous failures to overcome and transcending experiences of joy and ecstasy. Some other characters prove necessary or even vital to the hero or heroine in their lives. Extreme difficulty and immense pressure await and a lot of dull detail can be skipped over or summarized because those are the parts of life that are mostly tedious and routine.

At the climax something important is learned. One climax may lead to another and another, or simply a single culmination may be enough to complete the story that you began telling on page one – which was picked up, of course, in the middle of the character’s life. In conclusion, with the major difficulty resolved, doesn’t that character’s life goes on sen though the voyeurs are gone? We as readers assume that it does even if all that is said about the future has a lot to do with magic, myth and happily ever after. As authors we may decide a sequel is in order but just as likely we may never get around to writing it.

Maybe the reason I write serials is because I start in the middle more often that I begin at either end. The universe inside of me that I share in my writing is as real to me as the outside one that the rest of humanity shares with me. Its as hard for me to walk away from my characters after typing The End as it is to simply pick up and move somewhere else in town or across the country. Maybe that’s how it needs to be for characters to exist in the minds of my readers as well.

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#writing #fiction #fantasy #author #characters #beginning #ending #climax

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Response To A Challenge: Review Of Fried Windows

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From time to time I review things. Novels, music, concerts, plays and a few off the wall experiences have been fair game in the past. But I have never officially, publicly reviewed any of my own work, until now. I’m doing this on a dare, in response to a personal challenge. I will not post this review of Fried Windows anywhere like Goodreads, Amazon or anywhere else for fear of someone assuming I’m more vain than perhaps I am. I humbly submit this only because I think it might be enlightening to hear the author’s thoughts.

Of course, I’ve read Fried Windows – so many times I’ve lost count, not that I was really trying to keep track. I dare say I have read it more than anyone else ever will. I’ve read previous versions no one else has seen save for a few beta readers. I know what was deleted during the final edits and where the skeletons are hidden. What was removed and replaced in prior revisions now exists only in my memory of the original story. Also, what  triggered the creative process that resulted in the original draft is part of the story of my recent life. I’ve shared some of these insights in the past, of how I left a bad situation that was killing me and on the way produced a novel. But I have never given the work a formal, critical review.

Here goes:

Fried Windows (In A Light White Sauce) by Elgon Williams is urban fantasy meshed with various other genres including mystery and science fiction. The result is entertaining though the plot, at times, becomes complicated and twisted as the storyteller fuses the various element together and have it make some modicum of sense. Then again, does fantasy need to make sense?

Strawb is the standout supporting character. Her eccentricities are the glue that binds the amalgam, giving necessary cohesion to the storyline. Without her presence Brent, the hero, would drift aimlessly through a fantasy world he barely recalls, bouncing from one experience to the next while trying to piece together the puzzle he made of Lucy’s life.

Lucy is as an innocent child at times. After all, she is disconnected from any real world underpinnings.  This allows her to be free but she also laments what she knows is no longer within her. Brent is as attracted to her as he ever was as a child when she was his imaginary friend. But within his Carlos persona, Brent finds the desire to stay with her in the Inworld nearly irresistible. In the course of remembering things from the past Brent/Carlos realizes he was at least complicit and possibly responsible for what changed  Lucy and why she is trapped in only one world. In the process he appreciates that what he did as well as what he did not do now exposes his real world children to fates similar to Lucy’s.

Despite the seriousness underlying everything, Fried Windows was always intended to be a lot of fun. What if someone offered you a special gift of reconnecting with childhood? It’s a fantasy that perhaps we have all permitted. In a world of mortgages, car payments, bills and responsibilities, what sane person hasn’t wanted to escape for a while? In the background, as Brent experiences being a kid again it alters him. A lot of what he does seems crazy – even to himself. As readers we are left to question what is real and what is not about this curios man and his strange story. What did the mysterious organization called The Program do to him? How much responsibility do they bear for Brent’s apparently tenuous grasp on reality?

At one level we might just as well accept that Brent is bonkers and leave it at that as we go along for the ride of a lifetime. But the possibility that he is not, that what he perceives is a veiled reality that the rest of us ignore, opens endless opportunities for us to explore. And as a writer, exploring unbridled imagination is a way to find artistic expression.

I won’t give any overall star rating to my own work. I find the awarding of stars counter productive, anyway. How can one equate the works of two different authors and determine that both being excellent deserve the same rating. Also, as a reader, there are stories I like better than others but that does not diminish the effort that went into creating the story. No doubt some will find areas that could be improved in Fried Windows. Each of us might write this story differently. But I feel the book does its job, establishing the foundation for what is yet to come as the real world learns more about Brent Woods and his multiple layered fantasy universe.

There, was that so hard? At the risk of seeming self-aggrandizing, I am posting this review. If it comes off as self-promotion, so be it. I would have never written Fried Windows if I did not intend for others to read it. Certainly, I would have never gone through the extended process of publishing it if I did not believe in the story. Whether you buy it as an eBook or paperback, rent it, borrow it or whatever, I hope you enjoy the experience of reading it. I also hope you learn not to assume things about the nature around you. What we believe in is a matter perspective and perception, after all.

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#FriedWindows #ElgonWilliams #author #NewReleaseBooks #MustReadBooks #Writing #BookReview

 

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Reblog: Steph Post’s Interview With Christine Gabriel

For those who don’t know much about her yet, Christine Gabriel is an YA/NA fantasy author whose debut novel, Crimson Forest, will be released very soon (August 30). Steph Post’s debut novel, A Tree Born Crooked, has been receiving a lot of critical attention and is due to release at the end of September. Both are Pandamoon Publishing authors and dear friends of mine. Also FYI, Christine is my publicist and I am Steph’s publicist.

The following interview originally appeared at:

http://stephpostauthor.blogspot.com/2014/08/christine-gabriel-author-ninja-panda.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+StephPost+%28Steph+Post%29

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Christine Gabriel: Author-Ninja-Panda-Rock-Star (An Interview)

Posted: 02 Aug 2014 06:51 AM PDT
Christine Gabriel is not only the author of the soon to be released fantasy novel Crimson Forest, she is also a high-energy ninja rock star with a heart of gold. When she’s not too busy writing, she also works as a publicist for Pandamoon Publishing and I was lucky to slow her down for a few minutes this week to catch up. Keep reading to find out more…

As the secrets begin to reveal themselves, Angelina learns that the mistakes made in the past could ultimately alter her future. She realizes she will have to risk everything, including her own soul in order to save the one man her heart can’t live without. It’s within the Crimson Forest that she’ll realize true love exists and fairy tales are real…

Steph Post: Crimson Forest’s debut is only a month away… How excited are you right about now?

Christine Gabriel: Oh man, excited is probably and understatement. I’m freaking scared to death!! I’m so darn nervous that I will probably hide under my comforter the day of its release haha.

SP: Crimson Forest is a new adult fantasy novel about an eighteen year old girl confronting the mystical inhabitants of a mysterious forest just outside of town. I was lucky enough to read an advanced copy and was struck by the imaginative characters and situations. What draws you to the fantasy genre and what is your process for creating characters that are ‘otherworldly’?

CG: I love the fantasy genre because I’m so curious about the things that are unknown and undiscovered in this great big ol’ world. I mean, why couldn’t some of these creatures exist, but they simply hide themselves from us because they fear what we would do or what they would have to do to us?

When it comes to creating my characters, I always base them on people that I know. Everything from their personality to the way they look goes into that character. I’ll even go so far as to use a similar name. I feel almost like it’s kind of an honor because once you’re put into a book, you can never die…so in some sense, they’ll get to live forever in the pages of something that many people will enjoy for years to come.

SP: Another point that struck me when reading Crimson Forest was the strength of the main character’s narration. How do you go about getting inside the head of an eighteen year old? Do you find writing from this point of view natural or challenging?

CG: It was very natural to be honest. I just put myself in her shoes and write how I believe I would’ve been back when I was 18 (man that just made me feel so old.)

SP: Crimson Forest is the first book in a fantasy series that will continue on with Crimson Moon. Do you have the entire series already planned out? When writing, are you continually looking ahead towards the scope of the series?

CG: I do! Crazy right?! Let’s just say that the future books will hopefully be just as amazing as the first one. I am presently in love with Crimson Moon. It has really turned out to be a fabulous read. When writing, I do continually look ahead towards the scope of the series. Right now, my biggest obstacle is deciding if I want to end it as a Trilogy or continue it on. Let’s just say I know how the series will end whether I continue on after book 3 or stop.

SP: In addition to being an author, you are also an author publicist. Any tips for authors on how to navigating the ever-challenging world of marketing and publicity?

CG: One thing an author must remember is that – Marketing is NOT scary and is a necessity in this ever changing market. There are millions of authors trying to get their work noticed and without marketing your work it will go nowhere. That’s why I adore my job as a Publicist because I get to help make dreams come true by getting their work noticed by thousands of people.

Also, whether you’re an Indie Author or with a Publishing House, marketing begins and ends with you. What you put out is what you will receive. This is easily forgotten in the publishing world as some authors believe it is not their responsibility to market themselves. Building your brand is crucial. You want your readers to know you, not just your books.

SP: On a personal note, I have to ask- what’s the deal with earthworms? I get strange phobias (mine are probably stranger than yours), but I’ve never heard of a fear of earthworms….

CG: Yeah, it’s a pretty dumb fear honestly but holy cow…you should see what happens when I come face to face with this fear.

When I was younger, my babysitter let me watch the movie “Squirm.” Let’s just say it tainted my entire outlook on any kind of worm that exists. All I can think about is this squiggly, slimy worm burrowing itself into my skin. Yeah…I’m totally terrified of them.

SP: To wrap this up, let’s do speed favorites (first thing that pops into your head!) Ready? Go!

Favorite…

Sports Team: Ohio State Buckeyes of course!! Go Bucks! Oooo and The Cleveland Indians!

Ice Cream Flavor: Cookie Dough

Book You Read as a Child: Where the Red Fern Grows

Celebrity: Adam Sandler

Undomesticated Animal: A Squirrel!!!

Ride at a Theme Park: Millennium Force at America’s Roller Coast – Cedar Point

Sentence to Tell Your Kids When They’re Driving You Crazy: That’s it, I’m taking away your (insert electronic of choice.)

Want to know more about Christine?

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Christine Gabriel, a diehard Buckeye fan, grew up in the small farming community of Monroeville, Ohio where she spent much of her time writing imaginative stories. She has spent the last ten years managing a financial institution in Norwalk, Ohio in which she’s learned that compassion and love are her greatest gifts to give to others.

She has a small tribe of children who have become her biggest fans and most honest critics. She’s an avid animal lover and has been known to bring home a stray to cuddle with her while she writes. She’s also deathly afraid of earthworms and will cross the street in order to avoid one on the sidewalk. She loves vanilla coffee and can’t begin her morning without it, even knowing that doing so has consequential effects that could potentially cause a Zombie Apocalypse.

Christine’s most important view is that her readers are able to escape out of their realities and enjoy a little piece of her imagination. She holds each one of her readers close to her heart and loves them as if they were one her dearest friends. She currently resides in Norwalk, Ohio where she’s working on Crimson Moon, Book Two of The Crimson Chronicles series.

Connect with Christine at…

http://www.christinegabriel.net

http://www.facebook.com/AuthorChristineGabriel

http://www.twitter.com/ChristineGabriel

http://www.facebook.com/ChristineGabriel

http://pandamoonpublishing.com/pandamoon/christinegabriel.html

google..com/+ChristineGabriel

#ChristineGabriel #CrimsonMoon #Author #PandamoonPublishing #OhioAuthors

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Dreams Don’t Die Unless You Let Them

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It was an overreaction, I suppose. But first thing in the morning, a time when you might just be as optimistic as you will ever be for the entire day, I read a post on Facebook. All of it was fine, about the light of stars arriving when in fact the star died long ago. That’s the nature of the universe. But then, at the end the premise was made that like the stars I dreams die as well. I beg to differ.

Maybe dreamers die, or at least they appear to die. Their dreams live on. Dreams contain within them the means of achieving of immortality, if that’s what’s desired. You see people die. Like the universe and stars that is part of our nature. There is a brief span for each thing. Whether it is a few minutes, a few millennia or millions of years, nothing lasts except the  elemental matter from which all things are derived. Isn’t it odd that matter comes from the death of some stars? So without a star perishing somewhere in the cosmos billions of years ago all the stuff of which you and I consist would not exist. That’s science.

Me, I believe a lot of strange things but one of the enduring, beliefs is consistent with everything else regardless how strange it might seem to others. People are born to dream. Those who allow dreams to die within them make that choice. It is sad and unnecessary, but it is part of believing the illusions others set before us. We are expected at some point to cave in to the mounting pressures of practicality. We set aside our dreams promising, perhaps, to come back to them when we have the time. All too often time expires. The dream is still there, though, just unreeled. The dreamer dies but the dream never does.

Not everyone is radical in their perspective. I understand that. For thirty or more years I played the games others set before me. Participating int he practical life, enslaved to a clock, allowing others to tell me when to be somewhere and also what I needed to do in order to earn the pittance I’d agreed to work for. That is real life, right? I opted for that in lieu of chasing the dream of being a musician or a writer. And now that I’m on the backside of the adventure that has been my life, I see the error in that kind of thinking. It wasn’t an either/or choice. I should haven never set aside the dream. Look at all the time I wasted being practical when instead I could have pursued the dream.

Now, I hear you. You have obligations. You settle down, have a family and everything that goes with that. That’s what life is about – well, some of what life is about. But I propose that life is also about the adventure, learning, growing and dreaming. If that is not included in your adventure, then life becomes bankrupt as you die well before getting the chance to return to your dreams.

What prevents you from realizing your dreams is not your obligations to others or the necessity of survival. Sometimes it is as simples deciding to take a chance and just go for it.   Yes, you might fail. But you might succeed and I’ll bet the odds of success are better than the chance at winning the lottery – and it costs nothing except for making the choice and sticking to it until you reach your dream’s destination.

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There is a sacred event that happens when an artist has produced a tangible artifact for posterity – in the case of a writer, something printed on pages. Holding an actual book in one’s hands, seeing one’s name on it, reading one’s own words in print that others, strangers even, will read is both sobering and humbling. It is the culmination of a process that at inception is a crazy idea that turns into a dream. And a few months or years later you can hold the evidence of the dream in your hands.

No, thats not why writers write. But it is a worthwhile experience that only writers can have the moment the writer feels like he or she is an author.

I never stopped writing, by the way. Really it was more that I doubted anyone would want to read my silly stories. Still, I continued to write them because, well… as every writer will tell you, you don’t have much of a choice. If you are a writer you will write. The reason I was in my mid 40’s before publishing my first book was a matter of deciding not to listen to everyone else. I knew how hard it is to become published. I went through the rejection. But at some point I figured out that when a publisher says ‘no’ really it means ‘not yet’. Either my timing was bad or the manuscript wasn’t ready Either way it wasn’t that the dream of publishing a book was wrong. It just wasn’t the right time.

Fried Windows is about dreams and never giving up on them. It is not my first publication and I’m determined that it won;t be my last. It is different than what came before it. What comes next will continue to be unique. It is a beginning point set int he middle of the main character’s life and there are many more stories about him and in which he participates as a supporting character.

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#writing #dreams #ambitions #author #writers #publishing #FriedWindows

Buy Fried Windows here: http://tinyurl.com/o4hd2kq

 

 

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What An Author Goes Through

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There are a lot of copies of Fried Windows In A Light White Sauce out there being read. I’m happy about that because that is the primary reason I write. I believe it is the only reason any author goes through the more difficult aspects of the writing and publishing process. The reward at the end of the struggle is reading a review from someone who read the book, enjoyed it and got the point of the story.

As many of you know, for the past few months I have been working on publicity for other authors. At times that has drawn me away from promoting my work. It has also, of necessity, forced me to schedule time to work on my upcoming books. A couple of months ago I started a job that also requires me to budget my time. Sometimes it seems like there are not enough hours in a day but usually there are if you look hard enough. Who need sleep, right?

The reason I write is because I enjoy doing it. I don’t consider creating stories as work. It’s not exactly playtime either. It is an escape into another world that i can control. Perhaps it’s a little like plying a video game except that I generate the scenes and the characters as I go.

Everything after writing the rough draft is the necessary evil of the publication process. The draft needs to be revisited. Once revised, it need to be edited prior to submission to the publisher. Even once it is accepted it need to be edited again, looking for substantive changes (sub-edits) in the story so that the detail coincide – like the main character drives a red Ford early on in the book but it suddenly becomes a blue Chevy in Chapter 11. That would be a substantive edit point..

Sub-edits require the reading of the entire story as any reader would do. Although minor editing points like typos and such may be pointed out in the process, that is not the focus. The purpose is to make a good story arc with the necessary elements of story development and conflict resolution. Sometimes it is determined that chapters need to be rewritten or other chapters added for the sake of building the story. At times entire sections are eliminated altogether – even whole chapters.

Next the book goes through content edits. This is when the typos are picked up. Also grammar, spelling and word choice are scrutinized sentence-by-sentence. Paragraph structure is adjusted. Redundancies are removed along with some sentences that just aren’t necessary for advancing the story. Some characters may disappear or be consolidated into other characters for the sake of eliminating confusion. Names of characters might be changed for the same reason. Entire sections may need to be rewritten. Before the manuscript can be called a book it must conform to accepted standards of style. There is some latitude for author’s voice allowable within he standards, but for the most part this experience is comparable to have an English composition teacher going over an assignment you turned in for credit.

Content editing is an exhaustive process that for the first time transforms a manuscript into a novel. The success of the process depends upon the working relationship between the editor and the author. A good editor improves the story without rewriting it. A good author has a thick enough skin to take the criticism as it is intended, with the purpose of making the book as good as it can be for the overall reading experience. After all a novel is designed for a reader’s appreciation not an author’s ego.

Somewhere between subediting and content editing the cover design process begins. This is a collaborative effort between several people including the artists, the author and a representative of the publisher. Usually the publisher has the final say on the book cover but it is always good if the author is onboard with the choice. Also the author can contribute his or her advice for what scene in the book might constitute a good subject for the cover.

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Part of the cover design is the inclusion of a brief blurb about the book. It tells something about what the story is about but it is also a promotional pitch directed to the potential reader. Although the author usually contributes to the writing of the blurb, it may or may not resemble what the author produced at the outset. It is edited, tweaked, revised and re-tweaked and becomes a marketing element for the book more than a brief statement of what the book is about.

When the cover design is completed it is revealed publicly as one of the initial steps in the promotions process. By then the edits are finished, ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) are produced and distributed for the purpose of book reviews to coincide with the launch. Each review is critical to the success of a book as most readers look at at least some reviews prior to deciding on a purchase – especially when buying a book from an online source.

Once a book has launched the author continues with promotional efforts, attending events, book signing, soliciting interviews and attempting to spread the word through many means in order to entice people to read the book. This is the point in the process with Fried Windows In A Light White Sauce where I am at the moment. Of the entire process, this is the most difficult point for an author. The writer inside wants to write something new. But what is the point of writing a new book if the present book isn’t selling well enough to attract attention to any new book?

Sometimes it is difficult for an author to appreciate that publishing is a business. It provides readers with a product and, hopefully, the author with royalties. But there are many, many steps between the author’s inspiration to write a story and the point at which a reader opens a book and starts to read the story.

I always knew there was a lot of coordination of effort involved in the production and distribution of a book, even before my first trip around the publishing track. But each time I go through the process I am profoundly humbled. Several people worked very hard to produce the quality of product that now bears my name. To think that all this effort came from a somewhat silly idea I came up with a couple of years ago in the quiet corner of my apartment in central Florida.
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#writing #author #editing #publishing #promotions #newreleasebooks

 

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How to Become An Author – Or at Least a Better Writer

WARNING – this is not a ‘how to’. It merely contains thoughts and observations from direct experience.

If you’re like me you have wanted to be a writer for all your life. You have let a lot of other things get in the way – like life, for example, but always the inclination to write has been there.

There was a time in the early 1980’s when I tried to run away from being a writer. I threw away all my accumulated drafts and journals – a journal is a diary by another name because no self respecting writer will admit to keeping a diary – and I dedicated my time and energies to doing something practical for once in my life. It came with the territory, I suppose. I was studying business administration at the time.

The reason I gave up (or at least deferred) my dream was actually a pretty good one. I give myself kudos for deciding that I needed more experience at living before I could really write about it in a meaningful way. It was absolute bullshit, but it is exactly the sort of crap that other people, those who don’t write, could understand. For my parents, family and cadre of friends who were worried about me before, my choosing not to write  even showed a remarkable level of maturity that I had never before exhibited.

Up to that point in my life I thought I had a handle on my overall direction. I studied mass communication, particularly radio and TV production, broadcast journalism, public relations and advertising. Then I studied marketing with the intention of becoming a professional media consultant or advertising copywriter. hat seems to be the best way to focus my creativity in a potentially productive way. I even dallied ay bit into taking some literature and creative writing courses as electives. By the way, if you want to write better, avoid creative writing classes, especially those that would be authors teach. You will suffer through each and ever instance of your instructor’s rejections.

What I learned very quickly was that just deciding not to write anymore and suddenly becoming practical was not the real answer to lifelong success and happiness. You see, writers really do not have much of a choice about being who and what we are. We may delay the inevitable but eventually we will write.

Now, I’m not saying everyone who professes to be a writer is a writer or even that most of those who are making valiant attempts at writing should be writing. After all, who am I to judge what is and what is not art? Right? I fully believe that a number of us – whatever that number is – were born with the inclination to be creative. Whether we become painters, sculptors, architects, police sketch artists, rock stars or Pulitzer prize winning authors, there are some people who are born to be different. They are gifted in some socially acceptable way. Also, I believe there is a little artistic ability in almost everyone but in most cases it really is suppressed early on in life and by the time one becomes an adult it is negligible if apparent at all.

The simple truth is that if you are destined to be artistic you figure that out sometime between pre-school and reaching puberty. Making the crucial decision of what to study or pursue as one’s life’s ambition may or may not be related to an honest self-appraisal. After all, around the time you are expected to make such decisions you are a bundle or nerves powered by unstable hormones and uncontrollable emotions. You are more concerned about that cyclops zit in the middle of your forehead and whether it will heal up in time for the school dance on Friday night. Considering a life-long calling when you’re a teen is, at best premature. However, I believe every artist has a inkling of what is ahead and those who are wise try like hell to avoid it if, in fact, they want to take the easier course.

Being artistic is painful more often than it is rewarding. . You see, artistic types are  born a little more sensitive than so-called normal people. In fact most artists would consider being called normal a personal affront. Normal is like being average. Who in the hell wants to be average? I know I never did.

Still, at some point someone somewhere is going to figure out that sometimes you are able to see the world in an interesting way. If you are inclined to write, they see it in the way you construct a sentence and the words you chose in that memo that was sent to everyone in the department. The mere fact that  your sentences have subjects verbs and objects along with appropriately positioned adjectives, adverbs and various other parts of speech is a dead giveaway. If they are really observant it is patent that your paragraphs are structured as well. It will come as a revelation to everyone else around the office. Instantly, you are labeled ‘a writer’ and become the de facto go-to person for proof reading anything important before it is sent out. Don’t expect any extra pay, though. After all, we all know – or at least those of us who have accepted our lots in life as writers – that being a writer is generally not a lucrative enterprise. Your ability to write will haunt your ass until finally you submit to the reality of your birth and write something with the intention of publishing it.

Now, that you have a better understanding of the avoidance mechanism and the futility of not writing for a writer you may wonder how do you become a better writer? How can you be good enough at the craft to be published?

First and foremost, how well you write has no direct correlation to wether you will be published. There are countless examples in evidence. If you are a celebrity for any other reason than your skill at writing you can and usually will have a book published, sooner or later. You don’t have to write it. If you are a journalist with a major newspaper, magazine or appear on one of the news networks, at some point,  you may be expected to write a book. It helps establish your credentials as a subject expert. It will sell well enough because of your notoriety. That’s why publishers will take on such projects.

If you write fiction and happen upon a storyline that attracts attention in the prevailing pop culture, your book may be published regardless of how much professional plastic surgery, a.k.a. editing, must be performed in advance of printing. And you will become a celebrity because of the popularity of your book, not the quality of the material you write. At that point it becomes irrelevant whether anything you write is good or not. For a while anything with your name on it will sell. You will have established a brand and as long as there is demand in the marketplace you will be successful.

For the rest of us schlubs, writers in quest of the elusive prize winning, bestselling novel, it actually is important to become a better than mediocre writer. You need to develop a voice in your fiction, hone your skills as a storyteller and, moreover, learn how to entertain a reader with a piece of literature that will hold attention from start to finish. If you want to write that kind of book, the page-turner that produces spontaneous insomnia, you have to start by becoming an avid reader of fiction in whatever genre you enjoy. You see, if you like reading a particular sort of story chances are that’s the one you will be most comfortable in writing.

The secret to becoming a better writer is no secret at all. There is no right or wrong way about doing it or arriving at the end of a long, arduous journey. There is no certain level of experience required, just the ability to express what your senses provide, set in words that any reader can appreciate. If you can make a reader see with your eyes, hear, feel, touch and taste through your wiring, you will have mastered your craft. Does that mean you’ll be successful? No, but it means you will succeed at your objective, writing better. You will acquire a following because readers enjoy the experience of sharing fictional escapades that spare them the excruciating tedium of modern existence that is watching reality TV, or worse, 24/7/365 news babble.

If you are truly an artist who writes, having someone read what you have labored over and not only appreciate it but also enjoy the journey is all you want or expect. When you arrive at that point, you will be an author. Nothing else will matter, at least until this months bills arrive in the mailbox.

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#author #writer #writing #creative-writing #storyteller #artist

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Reflections on Yesterday

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Father’s Day always seems a little flat now that the kids have grown up and set out each in his or her own direction. They still contact me on the holiday, though. That’s nice and welcome. It’s good to be remembered. How could anyone forget me, right? It happens though, but not family.

I’ve spent a good bit of my life disappearing from the lives of people I knew whether it was in school, the military or work. The past few years I have made some reappearances and reconnections, welcomed or not.

Yesterday, I thought a lot about my dad. I was reading another author’s manuscript and part of it brought back some memories. I guess it was the setting – the midwest – and the characters’ reflections on their families. I always thought I had pretty good parents and, despite the quarreling, pretty good sisters. Maybe everyone thinks that until they get older, gain the perspective of seeing how other families function and all that. I mean in some way or another I’ll bet every family has a touch of dysfunction. There is always that oddball relative. And yes, for many in my family, I am that person. I got used to that when I decided to be a writer. It comes with the title and lifestyle.

Anyway, yesterday was a good day for me. My schedule had me in to work later on in the evening so I had the time to share a sit down dinner with the family where I am staying. It was nice of them to invite me. I was sort of in a rush toward the end to get to work, though. It would be nice if I made a living with the author/publicist gig alone. I could afford to be more social. But that will come in time, with more titles released and a larger following from those who, for now, are strangers.

The few fans I have garnered over the past years have been faithful enough. The other authors I’m in contact with, those under contract with my publisher and those who are not, have been supportive of my recent book launch. Some of that is quid pro quo as I have supported their book launches. But many have become friends for other reasons beyond sharing a craft. Authors are a curious lot and, like other artists, tend to understand one another fairly well in an intuitive sort of way. I wrote a piece a while back about how authors are really not in competition. I believe that.

Largely, I’ve given up on receiving direct or indirect support from anyone in my past who has not already stepped up and offered. And that’s fine. No hard feelings. Whatever your reasons, it’s okay. Don’t feel obligated to buy a book you don’t plan on reading.

Maybe some of you expected a free copy or something, just because we went to school together. I received a limited number of complimentary copies. I gave them out to people who helped me here and there along the way. They were the people I promised to give a free copy to because I needed to in consideration for what they did. Simply knowing me or hanging out with me for a while doesn’t qualify. Sorry about that.

That seems appropriate, doesn’t it? I gave away digital copies to people in exchange for reviews. Some of those were people who promised to read my book, write a review and be supportive. a few have responded. Others, well… I guess they’ll get around to reading the book eventually, won’t they?

That brings me to one of the things I recalled about my dad this Father’s Day: a conversation I had with him when he was in the hospital. It was a few months before he passed away. I had a book with a publisher then. He knew it was going to be out in print eventually. He told me how proud he was of me. But he also advised me not to quit my job. Dad was pragmatic like that. Also he really didn’t think of writing for a living as actually working. To him work required sweating and straining to make something or grow something. Writers do that but not in the same way that farmers do. Dad had trouble seeing things from my perspective as much as I had trouble seeing life through his eyes.

He asked me if I was going to be famous. I confessed that might happen but it wasn’t an immediate goal. It still isn’t. He told me something that struck me at the time and I recalled it yesterday as I was reading someone else’s book. “You know you’re famous when more people know you than you remember ever meeting in your whole life.” I chuckled when he told me that and I laughed at the memory yesterday. He had it right, of course. That’s how everything works in the world. Most people don’t care about all that many other people outside of family and a few close friends.

We know a lot of people – coworkers and the like. We know friends of our friends and some of their relatives. We may even brush against someone with some degree of celebrity whether local or wider from time to time. But no one cares about obscure acquaintances until they are, in some way, less obscure.

For example, who cares to notice a book from an obscure author until everyone else he or she knows says they should read it? Then they buy the book even if they never really intend to read it. They may see the movie and even claim to have read the book. The book is better than the movie, they will claim, whether it is true or not. Of course, since they know the author personally they will claim to have some unique insight. Maybe they will, but probably not because they didn’t pay all that much attention to that weird sonovabitch loner who was always claiming to be wrestling with the next great American novel.

I want people to read my book otherwise I would have never submitted it to a publisher and gone through a year of editing, revising and promoting it while waiting for it to be released. I need people to buy the book so I can afford to continue being a writer and stop doing other things that interfere with writing full time. Otherwise, I might be inclined to give the book away for free. It’s a good book and doesn’t deserve to be given away, though.

Friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances, past and present, should read it now, but if not now I promise you will eventually. Why? Because I will continue to write and my books will continue to be published. Sooner or later the weight and volume of stuff out there will compel at least a modicum of curiosity – especially if we met way back when no one expected I really meant it when I said I was writing a friggin’ book.

Genette at wedding reception with Joyce, Jay, Mom, Dad and Me

My family in the 1980’s. I’m the writer. You can tell, can’t you?

#fathersday #writing #newbook #author #quidproquo

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About Launching A Book

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What has happened with the recent launch of Fried Windows is fascinating to the publicist side of my nature. It is not entirely unexpected, but some things have been surprising.

Let’s be honest. The initial response to the launch of Fried Window has been, in a word, underwhelming. As much as an author would like to sell hundreds of books on the first day and reach best seller status for a few moments in the spotlight, those things happen because a lot of factors converge at once. It is a false indication of the book’s overall potential for success. A book is a success because of the connect it makes with the public, not because of how many friends and family member buy it on the first day. So it is dangerous to read too much into a launch day spike – or in my case the absence thereof.

The problem is almost never the book. Everyone who has read Fried Windows in advance has loved it. It has a great, attention-getting cover. Although some friends have told me it is startling and a little over the top the book is unusual. I think the graphic captures that.

FINAL Final Fried Windows Front Cover Only

The problem Fried Windows is having in the market place is the same as every other book from every one of the millions of obscure authors. It is a new book from what the public perceives as a new author. Readers are attracted to brand-name authors. They invest time as well as money in purchasing a new book to read.

My fan base response to Fried Windows has been lukewarm at best. That’s what is disappointing in that I have worked a lot on building relationships with others over the past few years. But I also understand that launching a new book without a lot of fanfare is like throwing a frozen burger patty into a skillet before it’s heated up. At first nothing happens. Heating things up a bit is all that’s necessary but it takes some time. Sounds simple, except it’s not quite as easy as turning a knob on a stove. As is true of nearly everything worth doing, there is a process involved and procedure to follow. The first step of that is finding out why promotional efforts in advance of the launch failed to produce the desired result – sales.

First of all, selling anything via social media alone – as was the case with this book – is difficult. People are online to be social, not transacting business. They tend to ignore direct pitches, especially since they are inundated with them. So despite FB’s claims that you can promote your page for a few dollars a day and gain all sorts of followers through likes, that in itself is not going to sell a book. Also, in the interest of bolstering their own business model, FB has altered their algorithm so that your messages reach perhaps only 7% of your friends. Unless you buy FB services what you post on your page will not reach all your followers. So out of the thousands of people who might have seen my message about a book launch, only a few actually received the message. Each social medium has its limitations. I’m picking on FB because they are the biggest and have most recently been playing games with their programming that counters whatever users may be doing to promote themselves in a social medium.

Let’s face it, people who will buy a book from a relatively unknown author have more than a passing acquaintance. And the mere fact that someone is a friend does not necessarily mean he or she will buy your book. For the moment, let’s set aside the real goal of an author, which is to have others read the book and sing its praises to others through written and posted reviews or spreading the word to their friends. It is a fan base problem.

Growing the number of fans is an evolutionary process. It cannot be rushed because attention and awareness must be cultivated and reinforced throughout your process, otherwise a fan will forget that he or she ever was a fan. The best connections are personalized through memorable events – like book signings or chatting online. Others may be people you know at your day job. They may purchase a book simply because they know you – even if you are not close friends – but usually co-workers will not buy your book unless they know you well. Why should they?

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Since most of my online friends are other authors, I have never expected a great number of sales from those associations. Why would I? Authors are busy hawking their own wares. Some have bought my book, though. Those tend to be people whose books I have read and reviewed and those with whom I have had repeated contact. Again, it is a matter of turning an acquaintance into an fan. With most authors, it comes down to quid pro quo and professional courtesy. I’ll buy your book if you buy mine. I’ll write a review for you if you’ll write a review for me. Sharing blogs with other authors exposes one author to another’s fan base. So it’s worth having other authors as friends as long as the relationship is cultivated beyond mere acquaintance.

What about all those people you knew in school or wherever else? Counting on the support of people you knew in the past is iffy. It will depend on how well you got along in the past and whether your relationship continued or recently resumed. Even then, simply having contact with someone you know doesn’t mean he or she will buy your book. However, if your book becomes popular and you become famous, that dynamic will change dramatically. People you never knew you knew will suddenly claim to have known you well.

The launch of Fried Windows has exceeded any of my previous work. That’s progress and it’s due to building my fan base. Once the interest in the book increases through other promotional efforts, the momentum will build as well. It may take months and the subsequent launches of my other books in order to stir the desired level of interest in Fried Windows but it will happen. The book is that good. Once someone reads it they understand that it is unique in many ways.

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What Are You Doing Here?

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It was a line from a Billy Joel song about a piano player in a bar. The line resonated with me each time someone asked me why I was where I was doing the sort of work I did. Whenever they asked me I felt embarrassed. Certainly, when I was a kid I’d never dreamed of growing up to be a retail store manager. It won’t that the job didn’t have its constant challenges. I dare anyone to say differently. It was just I never intended to be working sixteen-hour days for the sort of pay I was receiving.

People saw me working, breaking a sweat while wearing a dress shirt and dress slacks as was required. At least the company relented on having us wear neckties a couple of years earlier. Maybe I worked a little too hard, doing the manual stuff, lifting, toting and putting out freight. But I was never the sort to stand around and give orders, which was actually what the company expected me to do. Usually I could do something quicker myself than delegate and follow up to ensure it was done up to my expectations. Yeah, I get it that I was not really improving anyone else, training and developing my people to do the work for me but I had deadlines on my work lists that I could never achieve if I relied on others. So, as a manager, I was a hard worker but not really a goo deluder, I guess. That was the way my superiors reviewed me, anyway.

They told me I was the smartest guy in the district. What did that mean? There I was working with people who made more money than I did who were not working as hard as I was and they were telling me how smart I was by comparison. If you ask me I was pretty dumb. During one of my performance reviews when they told me how smart my response was that it was like telling me I was the tallest of the pygmies. I’m not sure they got my point.

Filtered through the perception and expectations based on what others learned about my background, the usual refrain was, “Wow, what are you doing working for…”

“I’m surviving,” was my answer.

A couple of years ago, I actually hit the bottom in terms of my self esteem and confidence. I never want to return to a situation like that. My job was killing me, literally and figuratively. My health was in rapid decline, overweight working a stressful job. The only thing I liked doing was writing for a few hours after I got home from work and on my days off. But my job was demanding more and more of my time. Whatever I did was never good enough. After working my ass off for twelve to sixteen hours a day my supervisors expected me to stay a couple of more hours doing this or that and called me in on my days off as well. I had no life. The only thing I took any pride in was that I’d won a couple of awards with my writing. To me that was progress.

Clearly I was in a hole, not a rut. In a rut there is still a chance for progress even within the same rut. Rapidly I was digging in deeper and the hole was collapsing around me. That’s how it felt they day I resigned. Suddenly I realized that no one had a gusto my head making me endure their abuse. It was the threat of losing my job, my income that they held over me. That was what kept me working. The day was Washington’s Birthday 2012. I quit because they pushed me too far. They infringed on my private imd for writing, the only thing I did that kept me sane.

I guess my problem all along was selling myself short. I’ve always done that to some extent. I was never quite good enough for this or that, always discounting the possibilities of being better than I was or others anticipated. Often I did what others wanted me to do. Like the watch on the Timex commercials of my youth, I took a licking but kept on ticking. No one who knew me would ever have called me a tough kid but I put up with a lot of stuff that maybe I shouldn’t have. Hey, it made me what I am, so in a strange, warped way, I might even be grateful.

Less than a month after quitting my last retail management job, a couple of days before St. Patrick’s Day, I was truly a writer – writing everyday, which was what I always wanted. And what I wrote in daily installments I posted to Fanstory. Otherwise I was unemployed.

Following the positive response to a poem with a childhood theme that I wrote and posted online, I sat down at my old Macbook Pro and wrote about a man dealing with some indecipherable directions to a house. I didn’t have a title for the piece as I wrote it. That came a few hours later when I misread a headline – I really should wear my glass when surfing the news feeds. Over the course of the ensuing month I wrote a number of related stories that became the kernel of Fried Windows (In A Light White Sauce), the book which will be launched on May 30, a couple of years later.

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Three Weeks Out

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I know what you’re thinking…well, maybe not – not exactly, but I can probably guess. What in the world is a guy like me doing writing a book? Yeah, seriously, right? A lot of people are surprised when I tell them I’ve been writing for a while now. Then next question is always, do you have anything published?

How is it that someone I know fairly well doesn’t know that essential nugget about me? Guess it never came up in conversation before. You see, I do a lot of other things besides writing books. What I do for fun, mostly, in my spare time is write. Family aside, that has been a fairly well kept secret, though. Some of my past co-workers and classmates know about ‘the books’, and a few have heard pieces of the plots or read some of the material I have written. But, for the most part, the people who read my books tend to be total strangers. And that’s okay. I mean, I get it – why people who know me don’t read my books. Really, I do.

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It’s sort of freaky knowing someone personally and then reading his or her book. You hear the voice, you know some of the background, so it is a little bit distracting when you’re reading because you’re almost always second guessing things, trying to piece together the connections between the person you know and the author you are reading. I don’t know, maybe that’s why writers have this sort of aloof, hermit reputation, like you can’t get to know anyone so well that they won’t be able to read a book and become immersed in its fantasy world – or something like that. But I think my stories are engaging enough the draw anyone into them, even those who know me well. Give it a shot.

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Some writers might tell you that it doesn’t matter whether anyone reads their books as long as they buy them, but that has never made sense to me. If that is truly the case then why write them at all? If the objective were to make money there are many easier ways to do that than writing books. I think a real, honest writer would tell you its the other way around. As long as someone reads the book it doesn’t matter as much if anyone actually buys it. The only problem with that is that a writer needs to make a living. And making a living is why aspiring writers have side jobs.

Everyone I know should at least sample Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce), my next book that is due out three weeks from today. If you do, I’m sure you’ll end up reading it the entire book. It’s that kind of story. Also, you’ll tell everyone you know to read it because that’s what people do when they enjoy a story. And I’ll continue writing; you’ll continue reading and things will work out as i planned when I set out on this adventure several years ago.

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