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A Poem by Margaret Cavendish, who I adore.

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I discovered her by chance at work, in one of the thousands of books I’ve worked on there. That job is a goldmine for me.

You may or may not know that I draw heavily upon Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, called the first female scientist, as a role model for Sly’s scientific writing. She liked to publish her theories on natural philosophy in the form of poems and fantasy fiction. My cat does the same.

I have just stumbled on this light-hearted poem in one of those massive surveys of literature. Wow! Perfect for me. It will make it a preface to my novel, or a dedication, something up front, to set the tone of the story from the get-go.

I’m a fool for this woman, I love her to death. Yeah, I’m digging myself deeper into unreadability, I know it. All right, maybe I’ll keep this my private joke.

But, maybe not.

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Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673)

An Apology for Writing So Much upon This Book*

 

Condemn me not, I make so much ado

About this book; it is my child, you know.

Just like a bird, when her young are in the nest,

Goes in, and out, and hops, and takes no rest:

But when their young are fledg’d, their heads out-peep,

Lord! What a chirping does the old one keep!

So I, for fear my strengthless child should fall

Against a door, or stool, aloud I call;

Bid have a care of such a dangerous place:

Thus write I much, to hinder all disgrace.

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* This poem appeared at the beginning of all three editions of Cavendish’s Poems and Fancies, published during her lifetime in 1652, 1664, and 1668.

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I strongly recommend you read history. The fabulous things you find! (That you can twist to your heart’s content.)

I have another – naughty! – idea, lifted from another great book: The History of Perfume. My husband is horrified, forbids me to use it. I, naturally, think it’s hilarious.

OK, he doesn’t forbid me, he knows that’s useless. I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do. This is too sweet not to explore. He felt the same way about the priest and the Virgin-Mary-role-playing whore. I believe he’s on board with that now. Or, he sees he’s fighting a losing battle and has given up.

 

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Wise words from John Le Carré

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John Le Carré says: ‘You can’t actually make a character without putting something of yourself into each one. Smiley will always be that bit older and wiser than me.’

And: ‘I suppose what Smiley and I have in common is that we find it difficult to remember happiness. It’s not something that comes naturally to me, I have to work on it.’

What an interesting observation! I can use that thought somewhere in my own story. This will trigger something good.

I put a whole lot of myself into my characters, especially my neurotic tendencies. And, my dysfunctional family history. I have to laugh when I read about writers making up charts for their characters, likes and dislikes, hair color, all that. I know my guys as well as I know myself.

OK, the down side of this is, an editor told me, ‘Your characters all sound like each other, and they all sound like you.’ I’ve tried to correct that, but, here’s the thing: Almost all my characters are operators, con artists to one degree or another. They’re all up to something. And the ruffians all present a false front. Therefore, aside from the kids, I have some leeway with the kids, they are all well-spoken. I suppose they could lapse into their natural usage in private, but that would be even more confusing. I’m trying to make my voices more distinct. I refuse to resort to accents. Accents, if not well and sparingly done, are hokey as hell.

As for eye color, etc., I give little physical description in my story. I am more interested in who my fools are than in what they look like. I’m trying to add in more physical also. Perhaps describing my bake shop cutie as a moist little muffin isn’t quite enough.

Now, I get that some stories are plot-driven. Spy stories certainly fall into this category. But from Le Carré’s comment, I would guess that he has endowed his hero with more than usual (for a thriller) humanity, and I would also guess (haven’t read him) that this has played a large part in his magnificent success.

I believe in writing a character alive, then turning him loose. My people don’t dance to my tune, I dance to theirs. That gets tricky. It’s not an approach I recommend. But it’s the way I think. Non-linear, to an extreme.

At any rate, to find it difficult to remember happiness. There would be many-many reasons for that. I could build a whole book around that idea.

Maybe I already have.

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blogging, book promotion, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Camping In After Irma

+++the sublime delight in opening the front door and entering the eye of a hurricane

As the sun rose in a blue sky the day after, I lit the Coleman stove, perked a pot of coffee, fried some bacon and eggs and after breakfast, I set up the chess set. (Maybe an interested neighbor will wander by.) Then I started recording observations to pass on.

IRMA
I live in a condominium. The building’s solid construction allowed my lady and I to watch in safety as the winds struck a row of trees on the far side of the golf course behind us. The trees were lined up in a que towards the wind. The first tree was ripped out of the ground, roots up. That exposed the next tree in line to the same fate. And so on. A dozen large trees fell like dominoes. There were more fallen trees and flooding and a couple of downed power lines. The storm left us without electricity and made the roads impassable. We had no phones, Internet, social media, TV, refrigeration or air conditioning. Cut off from the larger, modern world, we did what people used to do. We went outside and met our neighbors.

NEIGHBORS
Amazing how people shareing a disaster drop all pretence. Whatever you need, if someone has extra they give it to you; whatever someone needs, if you have extra, you give it to them. It’s the only game in town.

ACTIVITIES & EVENTS
We shook off the shock and the stress. All the energy that had carried us through, the excitement of dashing outside to move our cars as the carport peeled away, the sublime delight in opening the front door and entering the eye of a hurricane, the surprising realization that it was over when it was over; all that energy, excitement and wonder drained. We were left to deal with the outcome.

We cleared away debris. And we made sure everyone was OKAY and had what they needed. Somebody set up a generator that powered three refrigerators. We plugged in a power-strip for people to use to charge their cell phones. 🙂 That inspired supplication of the cellular gods. For days, people walked haltingly about, arms outstretched to the sky, praying for a signal.

That evening, we set up a BBQ Grill and cooked everything we knew would spoil if we didn’t eat it. The grand event of the day after was a pig-out.

REPURPOSING
We drug a bathtub out onto the golf course to use as a watering trough for the cattle, oh. Wait. That’s from my novel, The Phoenix Diary. nm.

LIFE CHANGES
Want to know what your day will be like? Look at the sky. Concerned how someone close to you is doing? Walk over to them and ask. Bored? Go do something useful for someone else. Tired? Take a nap. Feeling sociable? Look for someone who’s bored.
Think camping out with other people. That’s life at our house.

BACK TO THE FUTURE
The power just came back on, Sunday evening, a full week after the hurricane.  So, I’m posting this as Monday’s blog for the Writers Co-op. As for the emergency crews who work  in sweltering heat to restore power, well, what can you say? They are incredible men and women, a cut above the rest of us and we are very lucky to have them.

INFORMATION AIN’T ENOUGH
Note: The decision to ride out a major storm isn’t made based on information alone. The decision requires independent judgement. That’s what we have to do when too many unknowns remain after the facts are considered, make a judgement call. Too bad judgement is not taught in schools. But then, that would teach kids to be independent and people would become hard to control. Can’t have that.

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book promotion, book reviews, publishing

Strategy update

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I’ve been busy. Still am, but starting to see the end of the tunnel as regards my marketing strategy. The first tunnel anyway – there are lots more to come. Here’s what I’ve done so far.

Using Draft2Digital, I’ve made One Green Bottle free on Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. It was up there already but shifting no copies, so it’s not much of a change. Now I need to write to Amazon to ask them to match that price, i.e. have it permafree. They’re under no obligation to do that, so I don’t know how they’ll respond. But they’re well aware that many authors do this as part of their marketing.

I’ve written Making a Murder, six essays about the writing of One Green Bottle, which I’m offering free to anyone who signs up to my newsletter. The offer is at the front and back of One Green Bottle, so anyone downloading it has an incentive to sign up and I get their email address, which obviously I can’t get directly from Amazon. I don’t know if Making a Murder will appeal – it’s not fiction, and the essays are humorous, so it’s a gamble. It would probably be better to stay in the same genre, which is what I intended, but my novella, which was to serve that purpose, needs more work.

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to my mailing list. I had around 700 subscribers after doing a joint promotion and a giveaway (many more from the first than the second) and I then sent different messages according to whether they opened my first email or not. I offered Perfume Island free, prior to its release in November, and removed over 200 subscribers who didn’t open that email. Of those that did, 112 signed up to receive the book.

That’s a lot of giving away of two books that have taken me five years to complete. Not so long ago I’d have thrown up my arms in horror at the very idea. Now? I’m quite relaxed – 112 reading the sequel is 3 or 4 times more than read the first. Not all will like it and of those that do, only a few will write reviews, but I’m still at a stage when I need to reach out to those few.

The worst part of all this work? Converting Making a Murder to epub and mobi formats, which I have to do if I’m sending it out myself. Converting a text is fine – Calibre handles that easily. But getting a text with pictures just right is a challenge. Or a nightmare, depending on your mood.

From time to time, I step out of my marketing bubble and see that the world continues to turn and hurricanes to blow. I’m working on a third book in the series, which I hope to bring out before the Apocalypse.

 

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About Writers, blogging, Research, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Hurricane Irma, Muse of the Moment

Well, my lady and I survived the pre-hurricane madness, long gas lines, depleted grocery stores, near-apoplectic news readers 🙂
Now, we’re hunkering down in Naples, Florida amidst enough supplies to restart civilization, got good books for when the power goes out & we have friendly, helpful neighbors. We may be better off now than before Irma appeared.

We’ll huddle in a candle-lit interior room away from windows with the cat & inevitable litter box while Irma blows past Sunday. Later, there’ll be no power. (Been here, done it) That’s when the neighbors will come out because without A/C, why not? People sharing a disaster are not shy. We all know exactly what’s on the other’s mind. “Good to see you. Are you OK? Need anything? Wow, look at this mess.”

Now is a time to observe human nature. The place will get cleaned up, people will return to their individual lives. But for the moment, we can relate to our neighbors, family and friends on a level of shared concern. It’s a teaching moment for writers.

In your own life, what event has been a teaching moment?

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About Writers, blogging, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Eternal Themes

Especially in a world where forces pit group against group, universal themes appeal because we all share certain experiences: Birth and death, certainly; hopefully love, probably sex, maybe crime & revenge and possibly war. We also share basic needs and common feelings. These are universal for all people in all cultures and allow a story to appeal to a wider audience.

Common themes also help a writer to better understand what they’re writing about, even things lost to historical obscurity. I remember researching Enheduanna, the first named author, and learning that she was known as the Goddess of the Reeds. This made sense for a Sumerian goddess. Reeds in the Euphrates Valley had to be as culturally important as reeds in the Nile Valley and thus a god dedicated to them was understandable. But wait, no, further research revealed the lady earned her title in a most common way. It seems the reeds were a natural trysting place for young lovers in her time & yup, Enheduanna had earned that title long before Sargon The Great elevated her to chief priestess. Interestingly, a line from one of Enheduanna poems is, “How she carried beauty like the rising moonlight.” Compare that line to Byron’s, “She walked in beauty like the night.” Common themes are timeless.

Writers don’t need to be told what these truths mean for our characters – it’s our job to create that meaning. But we may differ on what themes are eternal and which are important to us.

What eternal themes occur in your writing?

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