book promotion, writing technique

Add clutter. Vamp a while. Thanks, Atthys.


John Dee, Elizabeth’s Royal Astrologer, said by some scholars of the period to have been one of Francis Walsingham’s undercover operatives. (He is, in my book.) See that globe there? On my website (still in progress) I am going to replace it with a period engraving of a cat’s head. A very special relationship has a confirmation in the historical record!


Well explored territory here, but my Sly-addled brain isn’t kicking in right now.

I’m hammering away at a very difficult chapter. I’m trying to organize it into a logical progression of conversation, A leading to B leading to C, making sense of a stack of sticky notes, my low-tech method of story-building.

So, how goes it with your work? We haven’t talked about that for a while, have we? What have you written new? What are you pleased with? What are you bummed about?

I am optimistic about my latest nonsense, but also saying to myself, Crap, girl! You’re digging another hole for yourself. I see a place to insert some astrology, way prior to the point at which I thought I’d need to start reading my huge, historical (first published in the eighteenth century, I believe) definitive work. I’ve flipped through that monster, it’s dense, it’s a bit like reading Chaucer, trying to figure out what’s being said. But all I need for now is a good line or two that I can run with.

Also: after my husband’s stroke, our budget must reconfigure. I had planned to buy a full line edit of Sly. I’m having second thoughts on that now. Here’s what I’m going to do:

I work at a place lousy with editors. I’m going to post a help wanted sign in the break room, find someone to give me a line edit, piecemeal, of areas I am concerned about. I already spent nine hundred dollars on a developmental edit. At this point, all I can bring myself to pay for is general guidance that I can absorb and carry on with myself.

I look forward to Kris’ post on promotion. My big strategy is still the bumper stickers, and related stick-em-up materials. My sister in Tallahassee volunteers at a community theater, she can put up a poster there. A guy from my group house in Boston still lives up there. Maybe I can get him to roam the subway system, plastering stickers around. I have a brother with connections, he’s a well known figure in Asheville NC. I myself will tackle NYC, I’m an hour north.


A grinning cat head has to get a lot of attention. (This isn’t Sly. This is R. Crumb)

Whether anyone reads after the first page, que será, será.


22 thoughts on “Add clutter. Vamp a while. Thanks, Atthys.

  1. Sorry to hear about your husbands stroke. I’ve been writing a new piece but my computer cord to power my laptop is dead so I’ve been writing on my phone which sucks. I want this book to be good but of course I doubt myself a lot! I need to stop that. On my last release I got 7 reviews on Amazon all 5 stars but I’m greedy and wish I had more , plus more sales. I’ve slacked a lot in the promotion department I just can’t bring myself to promote. Any ideas ? What are your promoting strategies or ways to get people to read and review?

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Perry Palin says:


    I’ve read again A Moveable Feast. Hemingway was poor when living and writing in Paris in the 1920’s. In the chapter “Hunger Was Good Discipline”, Hemingway writes how hunger sharpened his senses, let him experience his surroundings more intensely, and led to better writing. I read that chapter just after a lunch of beef vegetable soup, crackers and rich sheep cheese, fresh strawberries, an apple, and a pot of hot tea. Foiled again.

    My weeks are jammed with volunteer assignments for four local not-for-profits, landscaping and gardening work, barn chores, and trout fishing. The horse training has suffered. I saddled up the two mares after a long layoff and found I had one good riding horse between them. The Arab didn’t want to go, and the Tennessee Walking Horse wouldn’t stop. With all of my diversions, my writing has suffered.

    Each month I write a short story for my writers’ group. I know the people and I can read something they will like. I had an article appear in a newsletter this month, and several people called to praise the story. Another short story was published in the literary magazine, “Lost Lake Folk Opera”. A couple more are out there, on publishers’ office floors. This isn’t the road to fortune or to fame.

    I took a phone call last week from someone two states over, who said he had read my two books of short stories. He wanted to know when my next book was coming out. I was flattered to have at least one fan who remembers me. My first novel languishes in the inbox of a regional publisher. It’s been there for a while. How long should I wait for a reply?

    Meanwhile, I too am looking forward to Kris’ posts on promotion. My big problem is motivation. I’m having fun in other areas, and I need to make more time for this.

    Liked by 6 people

    • GD Deckard says:

      Good points 🙂 Perry.
      I’ve always suspected a profound difference between understanding and experience. Fasting can sharpen one’s senses and maybe increase understanding. But not knowing where the next meal is coming from seems a totally different experience. I’m no critic, but perhaps Hemingway’s writing endures because he has pared it down to real experience. Truth may exist in what one actually does.

      Liked by 3 people

    • mimispeike says:

      Perry, it’s good that we have other interests. Not only do we enjoy, in my case, gardening, we have a good way to procrastinate (uh, mull over), to escape the hard work of story building. You are doing very well with your efforts, compared to most of us.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Would everyone like me to skip the website tutorial and do the promotion stuff first? I can circle back to it after. I should – barring any toddlertastrophes or flares – finish the book cover post today.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. GD Deckard says:

    A song writer friend of mine advised me to “steep” now & then, Mimi. I think that’s a song writing technique and that he was referring to the pace of my story, but I also took it to mean that, like a good tea, my brain needs to steep awhile in thought now & then if I’m to let the most out of it.

    Take care of yourself, my friend. Relax a bit whenever you can. Your brain won’t turn off just because you don’t push it.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Here’s an update on my situation, Mimi (since you asked): I make barely enough at my new full-time peasant-pay CS job to keep gas in the car and the internet connected. (Nickie well knows the truth whereof I speak.) My landlord is selling the building where I get a significant break on rent, so I’m about to find myself out in the street w/o the money to move into a new place or get my possessions shifted into a new domicile. And my health, well: It ain’t gettin’ any better for this diagnosed diabetic whose ankle flesh retains the impression of my socks an hour after I strip them off–a heart-attack, stroke or diabetic coma is right around the corner; this is simple fact. My mortality is written in wrinkled flesh.

    Yet in the last few months I’ve finished four new short stories, revised ten older ones and returned to work on my reimagining of Huckleberry Finn as a Southern Gothic.

    Success? Survival? A modicum of recognition before annihilating oblivion?

    I just don’t give a fuck anymore. About any of that. My despair is exceeded only by the rage and monstrous grim humor that now fuels my writing; I compose with one eye fixed on the hourglass of my life whose grains are rapidly running out.

    And . . . I have never been more productive. (!!) This is a revelation/satisfaction of no small comfort.

    It looks like I’ll keep writing until I am physically or psychically unable to do so. And know this, haters and supporters alike: I’m getting better and better at this business. I’ve never been a stronger, more effective (by which I mean affecting) writer than I am right now, folks.

    Do you feel the same way, Mimi? I suspect you do. I hope you do. (I mean, of course, productivity- and focus-wise.)

    What did Hemingway say? (a baker’s-dozen quotes):

    “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”

    “Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it-don’t cheat with it.”

    “Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

    “Madame, all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.”

    “We are all broken—that’s how the light gets in.”

    “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

    “Work every day. No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail.”

    “Go all the way with it. Do not back off. For once, go all the goddamn way with what matters.”

    “You must be prepared to work always without applause.”

    “Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure only death can stop it.”

    “Fear of death increases in exact proportion to increase in wealth.”

    “You’re awfully dark, brother,” he said. “You don’t know how dark.”

    And finally:

    INTERVIEWER: “Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?”

    HEMINGWAY: “Getting the words right.”

    Liked by 6 people

    • mimispeike says:

      Carl, I don’t know if I’m getting better. All I know is, I’m getting more me. Letting loose with my fairly off-balance point of view, is that good? I don’t know.

      I used to think I was Sly. Now it becomes more and more obvious to me that I am my character Gustave d’Ollot, my shady, bitter Minister of the Treasury. I’m teasing things out of him, and they sound a lot like me.

      I am hurting for you, Carl. Like GD says, you’ve got a lot of stuff going on. Use it. Plow it into something. That’s what I do. What I write, there’s no need to make it up. I live it. (Except for the talking cat, of course.)

      Liked by 4 people

      • No, no, don’t hurt for me Mimi–we’re all headed in the same direction on this one-way journey, heh! My intention in recording with sober, honest, unflinching detail the truth of my personal situation was to inspire . . . UGH! No, that’s too gilt and gimcrack and manipulative and suspect a word; plus it’s BS. Let’s try that again. My intention in confessing my own poverty and failing health at a time when the writing is only now attaining the level of workmanlike craftsmanship I deem satisfactory was to examine my own bemusement and mixed feelings at a time of sustained crisis. Also: there is power in setting down the pitiless truth as directly and unvarnished and succinctly as you can. Staring the leaping tiger in the eye without flinching gives one a certain existential satisfaction. . . .

        Liked by 4 people

        • I guess we’re all at different points in terms of health, wealth, writing voice, ambitions, but yes, we’re all heading to the same place. “Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure only death can stop it.” And of course, no matter how much we’ve already got out there, it will stop it right in the middle of our best piece ever.

          Liked by 4 people

          • Heh! Exactly, Curtis! (Or let’s hope so, anyway. The day I reread an older piece and can find nothing to improve I’ll know I’ll never get any better at the craft. I’d like to think–barring some kind of catastrophic cognitive event–that I will improve, howsoever fitfully and incrementally, as time ticks on. . . .)

            Liked by 2 people

    • GD Deckard says:

      “Amazon’s third-party sellers have to offer new books, not used ones, but in many cases they don’t seem to have bought their books from publishers. No one is quite sure where their books come from, including, it seems, Amazon itself.”

      Th elephant in the room here is, they have to be selling pirated copies.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Fascinating stuff, Mimi! So glad you posted this link. I especially enjoyed this paragraph:

      So within these pages there’s a hint of recrimination, at times even bitterness. What’s clear is that Estrin, despite his gratitude for a publishing break, never seems to have considered Insect Dreams entirely his. He refers to it as “my book in Fred’s edit,” or “Fred’s Gregor,” the novel that’s been “fredited,” all the while keeping hold of the manuscript he calls “the original Gregor.” Ramey in turn sees Estrin’s decision to publish his original manuscript as, at least in part, a repudiation both of Ramey’s editorial work and the larger question of editing altogether. “At the end of the day,” he worries, “Kafka’s Roach will become and always be the real novel; Insect Dreams will be the artificial, tainted construct.” Comparisons are made to other large, difficult works: Infinite Jest, Gravity’s Rainbow, Doctor Faustus. Why did those succeed and Insect Dreams fail? Would it have succeeded if the larger, more ambitious novel saw the light of day? Who’s at fault for the lukewarm reception to Estrin’s masterpiece?

      I immediately thought of Atthys’ experience with an editor who tried her best to (I’ll refrain from putting quote marks around this next word; that wouldn’t be fair to her, who I have no doubt was doing her professional best to bring experience and perspective to the table )–help him develop the voice of the piece in the fashion she believed most effective and commercial. That having been said, however, I believe Atthys made the right choice: He pulled his work from that particular editor because he strongly disagreed with the proposed edits.

      I am always on the side of the writer. The only valid criticism he or she should accept is that he or she agrees with. Having said that, however, a good editor is worth their weight in gold. In your link above, for instance, I read the opening paragraph of the book the author wrote and compared it to the edited version presented. To my surprise I much prefer the editor’s version: smoother, more immediately intriguing and accessible, better rhythm and voice.

      So what’s the takeaway here? For me, it’s simply this: like everything else in life that offers a binary choice of right/wrong, the correct choice is a matter of the people and perspectives and circumstances involved. There is no “always correct” answer. As far as fiction goes, sometimes the writer is correct; sometimes the editor. In the best-of-all-possible-worlds both parties are talented tyros and consummate pros who will work together to develop the writer’s voice to its strongest, clearest, most effective pitch.

      PS. Max Perkins, acknowledged genius and mentor par excellence to The Greats, has recently had his editing of Thomas Wolfe’s writing called into question. Revisionary scholarship (hotly debated, to be sure–there is no clear consensus, as of yet) seems to indicate that in many instances Perkins cut a little too close to the bone, throwing out significant and substantive chunks of Wolfe’s writing, critical passages that would have deepened the narrative considerably. In Perkins’ defense, however: How the hell is one to effectively edit a 5000-page novel with unerring exactitude and sensitivity?! On a related note: There is talk in certain New York circles of releasing newer, more Wolfe-ian [sic] “writer’s cuts” versions of these books. I hope they do so. I’d like to judge Perkins’ edits for myself.

      BTW: there’s a very good movie coming re: Perkins & Wolfe:

      Liked by 4 people

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