Uncategorized

What I did on my vacation.

Wasted a lot of time (watched/read a lot of news). Messed around with my plants. I’ve got two pots of asparagus sprouted way too early. Can I keep them going until I can move them outside? I kinda jumped the gun with them. Let’s see, what else? Oh yeah, I built a website.

We need to keep moving forward, in any way we can. To do otherwise is to give up. If I’m not moving forward on my story (I am, but slowly) I’m moving forward in other areas. Movement is essential for our mental health.

I’d meant to spend the week writing. I began fooling around on WordPress and never got to my next (new) chapter. I only have a title so far: The Crystal Visions. (John Dee thought he was able to talk to angels.)

My website is a big step for me. I have eight chapters of book three posted, and I’m pretty happy with them. I’ve got a format I like, for the most part. What I don’t like is how the type migrates. I’m trying to structure my headings so they don’t fall in danger zones and get separated from the body type they’re supposed to be allied with. It’s tricky. This is why I threw in the towel on Wix.

Wix is a nightmare for slippage. You have complete freedom, that’s the problem there. You can do fabulous things, lovely layouts that are a disaster when the page is resized. You have complete freedom to anthing you like, as long as you get out your ten tons of coal a day – who knows where that’s from?

I still have the illustration to create, and that’s scary. I’m working up to it, gathering reference material, cleaning off my drawing table that has been a junk catcher for months. Do I call that a step forward? I do. A tiny step forward. Yeah, I’m pathetic, and I know it.

I’m not going to announce the address of my site until I have three or four pieces of my own art up. At present I have images off Pinterest dummied in as placeholders and as an indication of what incidents I intend to focus on.

I allow myself to get excited about a big response when I finally get my PR effort underway. Reality hasn’t slapped me down yet. Just what the world needs, right? Another version of Puss in Boots?

I’m in a bittersweet mood. I’m proud of what I’ve done with the website. I think it looks damn good. I’m come a long way, but I have a long way to go.

I’ll feel better when I have a finished drawing of Dee in his loopy pharaoh costume, worn for his séances, pulled from a book on the Edwardian theater, ‘The Modern Stage of Today’, copyright 1910. Fabulous characterizations, fabulous costumes. James O’Neill is in there, and a somebody Arbuckle (the book’s downstairs) that I’ve always thought might be Fatty Arbuckle before he hit the silver screen. One of these days I’ll look it up.

Yeah, another silly post, but at least I’ve cranked something out and maybe given GD a break. He’s a trooper.

What about everybody else? What have you done lately that feels like a step forward?

1580caabcd4439c81a9409d4008b19f1.jpg

What can I say except – stay positive.

__________________________________________

Update: I have discovered that my template ‘cols’ is more flexible than I thought. There is, apparently, a way to isolate articles on a page. That would solve a lot of my problems. Thus, I could have more than one chapter per page. (They’re very short chapters.) There is also a plug-in for pull quotes. (Also on my wish list.)

 

Advertisements
Standard
Uncategorized

Medium – What Is It Good For?

I don’t know, I just don’t know. 

I thought Medium might be a place to post fiction. Fiction is one of their categories, after all. There are many ‘publications’ here that claim to host fiction. But most of them want what one member described as ‘snackable’ content. Poems, short stories, flash fiction, etc. Fiction is almost an afterthought on the site, tucked away. You have to go looking for it.

They have politics. Also current events/art/design, the whole range of topics you find on any general interest news/commentary site. But the big thing seems to be self-improvement.

There’s a lot of discussion about writing. Most of it, same-ol’-same-ol’ regurgitated. This type of post dominates the front page (you land on the front page by getting a lot of reads). The exposure encourages others to go the same route. Mind-numbing!

I’ve found very little useful in any of the following:

> Is This What It Takes To Become A Writer?

> Why You Are Losing Your Best ideas And How Not To

> Use These Three Tools To Overcome Your Scarcity Mindset

> 5 Quality Tips For Growing Your Medium Page

> What’s Stopping You From Writing?

> Writing Is Easy. Quality Writing Is Not.

‘Live Your Best Life’ is another big area. I’d better dig into this. Sly is eventually going to lecture the rats of Hameln on living their best lives. Any of the below could apply.

> You Make Or Break Your Life Between 5-7 AM

> If It Doesn’t Suck, It’s Not Worth Doing – YOUR SUCCESS MANTRA FOR 2018.

> Willpower Doesn’t Work. Here’s How to Actually Change Your Life.

> This Morning Routine will Save You 20+ Hours Per Week

> This Is How You Train Your Brain To Get What You Really Want

> UN-COMMIT Immediately to Everything You’re Not Definite About!!

> Tell Me What You Did Today, And I’ll Tell You Who You Are

I am amused by how many titles incorporate a number, as in snap-your-fingers-easy.

> This One Question Will Make Every Decision In Your Life Easier

> 3 Ways People Become Stuck, Undeveloped, and Unsuccessful

> The 2 Mental Shifts Highly Successful People Make

> 7 Ways To Make Immediate Success Your Only Option

> 8 Things Every Person Should Do Before 8 A.M.

> 13 Things That Will Happen When You “Level-Up” As A Person

> 21 Behaviors That Will Make You Brilliant At Creativity & Relationships

> 14 Strategies To Accelerate Your Personal Growth By 1,000%

> 50 Ways To Live On Your Own Terms

> 31 Things That Will Happen When You Finally Decide To Live Your Dreams

How and Why are (apparently) big attention-grabbers:

> Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life

> Why Even Ambitious People Rarely Become Successful

> How to Become the Best in the World at What You Do

> How to Increase the Volume of Your Brain and Make Optimal Decisions

> How to Create the “Moments” that Change Your Life

> How To Go From Successful To Very Successful (and why most people can’t do it)

> How to 1) Get Into Peak States, 2) Make Bold Decisions, 3) Invest In Yourself, 4) …

Here’s a How and a Why. Give this guy a cigar. 

> How to Consistently Act From Your Deepest “Why”

This begins to sound like the ‘We Can Help You Publish Your Book’ / ‘We Can Help You Market Your Invention’ spots I hear driving home from work at 1am.

I’m not ready to give up on Medium.

The best advice I’ve gotten so far is to publish a short excerpt from my book and link it to a web site. Like I didn’t know that already. Duh! 

They have a category called ‘series’. I thought that perfect for me, but was told that ‘series’ is for short pieces. I looked at two and each has only three or four pages, with a few paragraphs and a graphic. The term series is misleading. This is a special format that only takes a certain number of words per page. There may be a limit on number of pages as well. And the pages are the size of a largish cell phone.

If I publish under my own name I can do anything I want to. But the advice is, if you post within a publication you will get more exposure and more reads.

Maybe I’ll just lie, pull a chapter from Sly, call it a short story (like I’ve done with the anthology) and try to slip it past the gatekeepers at The Mad River. “Where Weird Waters Flow” is their subhead. I think I’d fit right in there.

This is like eating potato chips. I can’t stop. I just read a piece – The Brutal Solution To Writer’s Block: You do not have writer’s block. You are lazy.

Excuse me. When I have a problem to solve, I wait for an answer to strike me, an answer that makes real, emotional sense. If I push, it will be a bullshit answer. I’ll know it’s bullshit and my reader will know it’s bullshit. I work on another chapter until I have a eureka! moment.

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Bookends.

shopping-1.jpg

My Pied Piper episode is coming in fits and starts, but it’s coming. Finally. It’s half, maybe more than half written, and when it’s done, book three of Sly will be about three quarters done. (I actually had the remainder all written but my thinking has changed radically in the last fifteen years.)

And so, with my novella essentially complete, book three near to it, I have a pair of bookends to a four volume series.

Who here considers himself to be a disciplined writer? Do you put in a set number of hours a day? Someone (someone famous) said his method of writing was: apply butt to chair and write. That may work for you, it doesn’t work for me. I’d be writing crap.

My style is – I think we all know it – style heavy. And I surf from one sentence or thought to the next. I’m not getting events down, to be cleaned up later. I do that sort of thing in fragments below the finished text. I drop down and plunder my notes as the spirit moves me. My file presently contains 95 pages, three quarters of which are my haphazard notes, and research material copied from around the web – in this book heavy on John Dee – waiting to be rummaged through. This mish-mash is as close as I come to an outline.

Bookends: I am going to publish my novella first, and immediately thereafter, to publish book three, the wrap-up. I will tack a synopsis of books one and two onto the novella.

I am moved to go this route partly by the announcement of the demise of Bookkus, all those high hopes! Heartbreaking! And partly by seeing the difficulty everyone is having gaining traction in the marketplace road race. I am ready to throw caution (and, probably, good sense) to the winds.

My attitude now is, to coin a phrase: Just Do It. The faults in my book are baked into it. No amount of polishing is going to change that; they are the essence of my storytelling. Every one of us has to stake a claim to a piece of literary real estate, and my flag is planted on ‘Whatever’.

A friend (not a writer) is reading my new material as I go, and says, and says, and says: you sure have a lot of story here. She means it in a positive way. She loves it. Others will say the same thing and it will be a criticism.

I do have a lot of story. One idea leads to the next. I expand and expand. A question occurs to me and I want to know the answer. If it turns out to be counterproductive to my goal I dump it, but frankly, this rarely happen. I almost always see value, for the next chapter, or fifteen chapters on, or way back in book one. Nothing goes to waste. My abundant hypotheses find themselves a home in some way, shape or form. Sooner or later. For better or worse. For richer or poorer/my bet is poorer. Till death do us part. I’m married to my monster. I’ll be adding to my silliness on the day I die.

How does the song go? Old friends, old friends, sat on their park bench like bookends. This story and me, we are old friends.

On one end of my park bench sits my novella. On the other end, book three, the wrap-up of my essentially endless adventure. Can’t recall the exact title right now, isn’t that terrible? I’m losing my grip. (Maybe I lost it long ago.)

I’m in the middle. Here I am on the bench, on the Group W Bench (W for Wacky/love Arlo, will love him forever) . . . back to S&G:

. . . old men (in this case an old woman) waiting for the sun . . . The sounds of the city sifting through trees settles like dust on the shoulders of the old friends.

Me and this old friend of mine, we’re going down together.

Standard
Uncategorized

Watch This Space.

DARKER

I’ve been on vacation this past week. But I’ve not really been on vacation. I’ve been busy working on something. (And driving myself crazy.)

My moods swing from hopeful, to discouraged, to downright depressed. I’m finally attempting a finished illustration for Sly, rather than my usual screw-around preliminaries. What I have so far may do double duty as cover art and as a future paper doll. My big problem: I’d always envisioned something cleaner, more designed for the cover. My illustration is the visual equivalent of my writing – elaborate, packed with detail. No matter how I try to push/drag my style in another direction, it always weasels its way back to . . . well, you’ll see.

In my to-come image Sly, having finally been baptized, thus eligible, has been awarded Haute-Navarre’s highest honor. He has been admitted to an exclusive society, the Order of the Golden Ram, and he wears the order’s avatar on a chain around his neck. He holds one glove in his left hand, a convention of portraiture, a symbol of authority. It’s is not actually a glove, it is a fingerless gauntlet. In Italy (so I read) fingerless gloves were the hot new accessory. (Sly was always in the forefront of fashion.)

Sly determined to head north, King Jakome has had this formal portrait painted as a consolation. He’s lived with the animal for ten years and will miss him sorely. And I get to reinsert some of the nonsense I removed years ago depicting the cat’s interactions with a self-important portraitist and his (the cat’s) musings on his philosophy of art. This entire novella, without the baptism debacle, without the staged Virgin Mary visitation, with the Minister of the Treasury playing only a cameo role, once occupied three or four chapters, then we plunged immediately into the pirate episode. It’s all Book Country’s fault, scolding me for too much world-building, not enough action.

I am much taken with the cover of The Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish: Reason and Fancy During the Scientific Revolution. It features a detailed period engraving. I am halfway inclined to mimic that serious-stuff-here look – an extenuation of my faux-historic slant – and to sub-title my story: Half-Baked Reason And Full-Tilt Fancy At The Dawn Of The Scientific Revolution.

I am going to take the drawing into work Monday night and scan it on our 11×17 bed scanner, darker and lighter grey-scale, at various sizes, to see how it reduces/reads. At present I view it as no more than a foundational drawing, to be digitally enhanced. Tuesday morning I will replace the current graphic with the scanned (but not yet doctored) image. I plan to experiment with digital color washes, etc.

This stage has always been my stumbling block, and the reason I quit an illustration major in art school. I have never felt that my natural drawing style was a viable illustration style. I felt it was too tentative. I’m working on that. I’m trying to punch it up. The pain I’ve suffered this week, the insecurity, the self-doubt, harken back to my anxiety-ridden schooldays. But I’ve got to develop a methodology that works for me. It’s now or never.

I’m still not happy with a cascade of sash slung across Sly’s trunk, copied from a seventeenth-century bronze bust of a bug-eyed, big-mustachioed Swedish nobleman. I don’t make stuff up if I can help it. But my cats are not going to pose for me draped in an appropriately-sized shawl. When you transfer an article of clothing from a human to a cat, the anatomy very different, the arms, for instance, erupting from a different area of the body altogether, you have to invent a bit.

Keep calm, girl. You’ll get it eventually.

Standard
book promotion, Literary Agents, publishing

The Heart of the Matter.

images-2.jpg

A piece on Scribophile asks an important question:

_________________________________

Yesterday, I went to my first ever writer’s conference. It gave me my first exposure to meeting an agent face-to-face in a “speed date” of 10 minutes. I delivered my pitch. She cut me down to a stump with one question:

“Okay, so I get that you have _____, and you have _____, but, like, what’s your one thing that’s going to make me want to read this book?”

I stared at her stupefied for a moment. I wasn’t able to give the agent an answer that made her go, “Oh, wow. Yes! Please send me that book. I have to find out about that.”

She asked a simple, direct question that cut to the quick: this is a woman with not enough time for anyone, and yet she’s contemplating — maybe — adding a person to her client list, if she thinks the burden is worth it. She already puts in intensive hours working for her existing clients and poring over hundreds of other submissions. What makes me the needle in the haystack? Why am I so goddamn special?

_________________________________

This is the question I have for the hoards of books touted on Facebook. There are a thousand paranormal romances out there. There are a thousand of everything. And I already have stacks – hell, mountains – of books waiting to be read. Why should I devote my time to yours?

The answer, as far as my own thing is concerned, would be: for super-imaginative fun delivered with merry wise-ass style.

Were I to encapsulate the many joys of the renowned series of naval adventures by Patrick O’Brian (that currently enthrall me), I would say, A beguiling interplay of complex characterization, adventure with a touch of mystery, and a mind-blowing knowledge of the sea. I am mesmerized!

What about you? What would be your Heart-of-the-Matter response?

 

Standard
Uncategorized

A Poem by Margaret Cavendish, who I adore.

images.jpg

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.

____________________________________________

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.

____________________________________________

* 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.

____________________________________________

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.

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Wise words from John Le Carré

51aYJxFzCBL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

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.

Standard