Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Action Manifesters--Chapter 11 is coming next week!

Tuesday, 9/3, Chapter 11 of Reb MacRath, Action Manifester will start the two-part close-out of this phase of the journey.

You'll find new strategies and tools you can use. But I want to find a way to focus far more on results. And I want to follow a timeline: 1 year. The 12th chapter will take us to the end of my fourth month. So it's high time to bring some new footwork to bear.

After the 12th chapter, I'll post a review of what has been accomplished. And I'll outline my next immediate goals. A new format, still in the works, will allow readers to track me and decide if Action Manifesting really does the trick.

First things first: Chapter 11 will arrive on Tuesday.

Friday, August 30, 2013

And so it's over...and now rebegins

Many thanks to all who 'dropped by' for the Open House to download copies of my books.

Was the event successful? By my own standards, happily so. Thousands of copies of my six ebooks found their way to Kindle readers. And, to put this in perspective: in my first event, way back, I gave away 50 copies of The Vanishing Magic of Snow.

But talk about numbers is cheaper than cheap. I also learned some cool lessons, which I'll try out some time next year:
1) Twitter's a useful platform for any writer with more than, say, 10K-20K-plus followers. But we don't achieve results by ratcheting up the volume or the frequency of our promotional Tweets. For occasional special events, followers may tolerate our persistence. But too much will quickly turn into white noise.
2) The World Literary Cafe's Tweet Teams offer a strong alternative to endless streams of rank self-touts: on any given day, one can join a team of ten other writers--each one committed to RT'ing the other nine writers' Tweets. Numbers? If each writer has anywhere from 10,000-30,000 followers...Well, you do the math and you'll see the potential for reaching a huge base of readers.
3) Don't rely on Twitter exclusively. Other venues can help get the word about: free or bargain books. I'll publish a short list of such links soon.
4) Again and again, I have learned that readers have tried my books because they liked my Tweets--especially the pithy wit. They hoped to find the same thing in my books. They responded to my use of Twitter as a form of entertainment--vs. aggressive requests for their dough. Another way of putting this: use Twitter as a form of social engagement. And earn sales by winning hearts.
5) High on my agenda must be maintaining a far greater presence on at least a half-dozen forums: from Amazon Kindle to Goodreads...and on. 
6) Further develop this blog as a happening go-to place for useful information and pure entertainment. Not just talk of You, not MeMe.

I think that'll do it for lessons, for now. Six is enough to begin with.

Now the great adventure rebegins as I have at the second draft of my next Boss MacTavin mystery. Difficult but doable to write daily while working full-time and watering the garden of social media. But I'm in good company with other grizzled gladiators who do the same...and persevere...battling their way through the blues to the cheers.

Thanks for your support.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Event is On--and The Suiting is Here!

The switchboard is humming, as you can imagine, mainly with outgoing 'calls' to help get the online Open House event in gear.

Five books are free, as advertised--and the star of the show, The Suiting, has arrived at an introductory price of just $.99 from 8/26-8/29.

You'll find the Amazon link in the previous two posts. Here's one for the remastered, sleeker and quicker, The Suiting:

http://tiny.cc/cjkf2w

While you're (down)loading up on the freebies, consider giving this award-winning novel a try in a new streamlined edition.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What's wrong with a 3-day Event Beginning Monday, August 27th?

Nothing...except that Monday is August 26th--and interested readers expecting an event that ran from August 27-29 would be thwarted on both the first and last days. 

How did this happen? I see weeks as Sunday through Saturday. Amazon's scheduling calendars, though, run Monday through Sunday. Under pressure, I failed to check. No excuses--I messed up.

And I found myself in a serious jam, since I'd posted on this blog, Facebook and Goodreads--and had sent out hundreds of invitations. If I hadn't specified Monday through Wednesday, no problem: I'd have set the event back a day, using the dates I'd mistakenly picked. But I'd mentioned the days on Facebook and here, though not Goodreads.

Could this be corrected without confusing readers or ticking off hundreds of people with corrected invitations?

Solution: I've added one day to the event to accommodate all readers expecting a Monday through Wednesday event--and also readers expecting free books on the 29th.

The Open House now runs as follows:

Monday, August 26 -Thursday, August 29.

Otherwise, the Open House will run as announced: five books for free and The Suiting: 25th Anny Edition at an introductory price of $.99.

Sorry, folks. Me slip up but fix real pretty, I hope you'll agree.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Coming Monday: It's Open House at Reb's Place!

To celebrate the launch of The Suiting next week, I'd like to do something better than offer you digital whistles and bells.

For three days I'm putting my work up for grabs:
1) The five existing ebooks will be free from Monday, August 27 through Wednesday, August 29. There's something here for everyone: from hardboiled mayhem to romantic suspense, from magic to hot, sexy angels. If you've enjoyed my Tweets or blogs, have a free look at what I can do in a longer form.
2) The Suiting is the Stoker Award-winning novel I wrote as Kelley Wilde. I've rewritten it extensively for this 25th Anny Edition. If you enjoy horror, then I want you to have this at an Open House special low price: The Suiting will be priced at $.99 for the same three days.

That's five for not one penny....and one for less than a buck. That's how an Open House is run at what I call MacRathWorld.

You'll find the first five books all listed here, along with the newest: The Suiting.

http://tiny.cc/yj171w

Reb MacRath, Action Manifester! Chapter Ten

My self-imposed two week darkness penalty will end tomorrow. And I thought about waiting until the lights were on again to sum up the adventure. On second thought, though, today makes more sense--as I stand here...

ON THE EDGE OF LIGHT
OR:
HOW I LEARNED TO REALLY SEE BY LIVING MORE FULLY IN DARKNESS

The heart of the adventure lay in making the most of the easiest parts: those days when I was working nights. After all: I worked from 10 p.m.-7:30, so I went home, slept and left to write for a few hours before work again--all in daylight. I'd learned to bathe/shampoo in darkness and could easily shave by the sunlight that streamed through the living room window. I'd learned to time icy shampooing so that my hair dried naturally by the time my shift began. The only hardships I suffered on work days were the loss of a little Prison Break before bed and my favorite oatmeal. No sweat.

Now, the 7 days off work posed the predictable problems: finding anything I'd failed to sensibly lay out at night. Those days, the adventure rocked.

But on the seven 'easy days'? I had to keep them honest too. So I turned to my Moleskine to keep me on track. I'd already used a good number of spins on my 5 basic questions. I'd played cards with Julius Caesar...I'd asked myself where and how I was still being a pussy...etc. Now I needed a fresh and appropriate tack. So...

How, I asked myself each day, can I use my new friend Darkness to ace (the question of the day)?

I began to think, think hard, of where else I still lived in Darkness: where I needed the help of more Light: employment, success on Amazon, strategizing for the upcoming move in 2014, etc.

Conclusion:
Two weeks without power can either be nothing--or the start of something big. For me, the past 14 days have been one of the greatest adventures in an adventuresome life. Not something I can talk about with many new people I meet...but there's a difference in the walk and talk of a man who has wrestled with Darkness.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Horror of It All!

My four-month 'remix' of my first Kelley Wilde horror novel, The Suiting, took an unexpected toll. Now that the book's been formatted and is about to be launched, I can better understand why the ordeal was so rough. It's a short story, but one that may help you if you consider reworking something you wrote long ago. My little tale may help you even more if your book's a horror novel.

Here were the things I'd prepared for as I set out to tackle my 25th Anny Edition:
--I needed to retype the complete novel, since I'd written it years before I got my first computer. Though I might have had the published copy scanned and converted into a Word Doc, I wanted to compel myself to pay attention to each word.
--I'd had stylistic quirks back than--especially an over-reliance on ellipses (or leader dots). I was very proud of mine and thought they made me unique. But I knew now they had to go...and that meant the slaughter of thousands of dots. I also needed to address my excessive use of different type fonts rather than making the words do the work.
--Though my style was quick, it was often unclear and, damn it, too circular: I'd start a strong scene, wander off on a couple of tangents, then come back to the narrative point. But over the past 25 years I'd learned to write more clearly and in a more linear fashion. And I wanted to bring these new skills to my book.

Oh, there were lots of other things I knew I could do to improve that first book and bring it into a new era. You'd be right, though, if you said: Hey, man, that's rewriting--it goes with the job. But for two reasons the rewrite still tore me apart:
1) The remix entailed time travel to my life in 1986, when I first began the book, and the two years that led its publication. A time of enormous confusion and pain. Nor was this a casual trip to the past--no, I lived there for four months, dealing daily with old ghosts and memories of miserable moments of shame. Enough said. Prepare for this: you don't just get to tidy up a book this old...you get to go through hell again.
2) Horror shouldn't be a cakewalk. And I don't want mine trendy or written to make easy bucks. It should be grounded in real fear and pain. So don't expect your friends to find you a barrel of laughs while you suffer old nightmares for months on end.

End note: The original plan had been to reissue each of the remaining Kelley Wilde novels on its own 25th anny. I'll have to give that a little more thought. No more retyping from scratch, that's for sure!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Diane Rapp's New Mystery Has Just Arrived

Diane Rapp has treated me to two terrific cruises in the twin previous entries in her High Seas mystery series.

Beat the August heat wave now with a cool Arctic cruise, a cast that's even cooler and a mystery guaranteed to serve up some premium chills: Characterization, setting, pacing...this author's got 'em all.

http://tiny.cc/wk8q1w

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Eat at Reb's--Revisited

The other day I got a nudge from a friend I trust: I'd started slipping on Twitter and Facebook into rank hyperbole: The new ending will knock your socks off...Here's cutting edge horror with a vengeance...etc.

The advice stung for a moment or two--not because I can't take criticism but because I generally favor understatement in my writing. Moreover, I admire ads that get the job done quietly. And economically. 

I work hard not to strain for the high notes. And yet...There may be something about the speed involved in Tweeting. Or the need to stand out in the dizzying rush of the daily Tweet stream. I don't know. I do know that my friend was right: the louder the rest scream for attention, the more effective it will be to send fewer, more commanding Tweets.

I'd drifted from the path I set when I set up my old website: 

At this stage I need an eyecatching billboard on the information speedway:  one that says, in effect, Eat at Reb's...outlines the menu and prices...and, vitally important, suggests the sizzle that goes with the steaks.  

That was good advice then and it's good advice now. Especially with the website down, I need to bring the spirit of Eat at Reb's to my Tweets and my posts. Take this blog, for instance. There's nothing fancy about its format. I don't have bells and whistles. Hell, I haven't learned yet how to set up archives for readers, arranging the posts into themes. But we take pride in what we serve here at good ole Reb's. We smile when we serve it and hope to leave you smiling too.

In the future I'll also be guided by a great cartoon from Playboy, many years ago. The illustration shows 5 pizza joints on a single block: 
Best Pizza in New York City
Best Pizza in New York State
Best Pizza in the USA
Best Pizza in the World

And...
Best Pizza on the Block

I'm sure you'll have no trouble guessing which of the 5 had the line at its door.

So, come on in and eat at Reb's. If the posts here whet your appetite, our new headwaiter Litotes will serve you a rich but nonfatenning dessert: Today's specials are: 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Reb MacRath, Action Manifester! Chapter Nine

DARKNESS FALLS
OR: WHY I'VE CHOSEN TO LIVE LIKE A WILD ANIMAL
FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS

I decided the day that I started this blog to be candid about my computer shortcomings and share the best pratfalls I took on the way. I kept that vow. More recently, when I began to Action Manifest, I pledged to be equally candid. And the time has come to keep that pledge. Like anyone else, I enjoy sharing moments of success. But we need to keep this real--and that's what I'm about to do.

Listen:

My power's been shut off.

Correction: My power was shut off the very day I called to pay it. And I'd had no clue that the account was in the red. Correction: not that badly in the red.

When I called the power company, I went into shock. And I heard myself making excuses: I'm a writer, you see...I haven't been to the post office in a month to check my mail...I never got a warning call...When I got to the point where I started to say 'I'm irresponsible, I admit, but...' I shut up. This had always been my perception of Me: the wildly talented guy who 'forgets' to do some things. Sometimes some pretty basic things.

I shut up, I say. And I shut up long enough, thinking about that poor sorry old self, for the clerk to say: "Sir, would you like to pay that amount now by credit or by debit card? That would be the full past due amount, plus a reconnect fee of $70."  I said, ever so quietly, "No, son. No thanks. I'll pay it on the 23rd." This nice young guy began to plea, "Sir, you can't go without power for two weeks! Do you have the past due amount?" I said, "Yes, but that's okay." The answer freaked him even more. "Sir, please, let me get a supervisor! We can't waive the reconnect fee, but sometimes we can set it up on installments. Or I can give you some numbers of social services agencies." That should have worked, I suppose...and yet it did not. Not after starring in eight chapters of Action Manifesting. I simply could not be the schlub who'd been too irresponsible to pay his bill on time and now had to beg like a loser. I heard these words come from my mouth:

"Right now, more than help, I need to make the darkness my best friend."

I hung up. Life, I'd learned, is an outpicturing of our inner pictures. And I'd manifested darkness because I'd focused too long and hard on Not Wanting to be such a screw-up. I'd manifested darkness because I need, and need right now, to focus on the Do Want: becoming the go-to, responsible guy. To do this, I decided, I had to do more than accept the consequence of my nonpayment. I had to welcome the darkness into my life.

And so begins the two-week Blackout. Here are the rules, with no cheating allowed:
1) No lighting accessories allowed. No flashlights, no Coleman lanterns, no batteries for my clock/alarm. No candles. I have only the darkness to guide me and the moonlight, at night, through my windows. My cell phone will have to serve as my temporary alarm clock.
2) No store-bought relief from the heat: e.g., a new battery-operated fan.
3) No siphoning of power from the electrical outlet in the outside vestibule. A previous upstairs neighbor had run extension cords from it to his unit and enjoyed the full use of TV, fan, lamps, etc., after his own disconnect. No, this is my correction, one that I need, and I will not steal.
4) No use of the outside vestibule light to help me make my way.
5) No help from anybody. I pay my own bills and, from here on, I fix my own bleep.

So, how's it going, you wonder.
Yesterday, to steel myself, I cleaned the fridge out of all food and drink. I organized my clothes for this morning and set them in the living room, so I'd be able to see them even in the early light. I packed the things I knew I'd need: razor, shampoo, hair dryer, cologne. At 5 a.m., when I woke, I did 600 crunches and sponge-bathed in absolute darkness (so far, the water still runs hot!). Then I walked to Starbucks to roll the dice on Hygiene, Part 2: they have a private mensroom, which I was able to use at that hour to wash my hair and shave. During the week, I can use the gym shower at the church.

End note, for now:
Everything hinges on mindset and daily preparation. And complete success, for me, depends on no one that I meet knowing what I'm going through. I needed a lesson I chose to accept. I'm on the road today--clean-shaven shampooed and fresh. Tonight I'll return, around 11 p.m., to a dark apartment and need to get up by 5.a.m. tomorrow. No pity sought or accepted.  I'm in the zone with my new friend, darkness. I'm grateful for the chance to get this lesson in my blood and bones. After all, I can hardly be an Action Manifester and a pussy both at once. I screwed up and now cheerfully pay.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen, Here's...Leverett Butts!




You know, you’re bound to attract unfair envy. Here you are with your uncommon name…your uncommonly beautiful book, Emily’s Stitches…another project going on every other burner…and, oh yeah, that PhD. And yet I’m reminded of something I wrote: that the world is filled with wannabe Van Goghs…who are over-attached to their ears. What I mean is that envy is most often based on ignorance of the real price that’s been paid. Can you tell us a bit about Emily’s journey, from conception to completion, and the toll it took on you?
     Emily’s Stitches began as a writing exercise. I wanted to write an entire novel made up of self-contained short stories. When I first wrote it, I thought it had Pulitzer written all over it. When I dug it out last year for the first time in over a decade, I realized I may have overvalued it a bit. while not prize-winning material after all, it is still, however, an enjoyable story. It may not be the great American novel I thought it in my cock mid-twenties, but it is, I think, a pretty good novella.
     I don’t know that I’d say it took a toll on me, but there were definitely sections that were pretty hard to write. I’m thinking mostly of the sex scene in “The Primrose Path.” I wouldn't have even tried except that it was a matter of honor: My writing buddy, Will Blair, double-dog dared me to write a sex scene, and anyone who has seen A Christmas Story knows no self-respecting male can honorably retreat from such a challenge.
     I was house sitting for the mother of one of my childhood friends. She owned a nice house out in the country near a lake, and I had intended to spend the week walking in the woods, maybe fishing in the lake. This was my last year of graduate school before I got my Master's  degree, and I knew it was going to be the last summer I could, in good conscience do nothing, I had every intention of not hitting a lick at a snake all week. Instead, I struggled  with this scene the whole time.
     There is a balance that needs to be struck between describing the physical act of love: too much and you sound either mechanical (bad) or comical (worse). I spent every day pacing the floor reading the scene and re-reading the scene out loud. I would try to mentally see the scene as I read, and sometimes, I'm embarrassed to admit, I even tried to mimic the actions I was describing on the page to see if they made sense or were even physically possible. It is not an experience I hope to have again, but I hope I managed to write a piece that titillates, amuses, and (given the nature of the story and the context of the scene) revolts you just a little.

What about your own evolution, the sense of yourself as a writer? When did the magic come to you, the great Yeah …Baby Moment when you knew you really had the power to pull whatever you fancied?
     Well, I'm still  not sure I have the power to pull whatever I wanted, but I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I learned to read. I wanted to be the guy who put movies in your head just by the order in which he put 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks. I tried my hand at writing several things throughout my childhood, none of them really very good.
     I knew I had the ability to be a decent writer in 10th grade. I co-wrote a play for English class parodying Shakespeare's life. It was about as derivative as anything else I had written up to that point, heavily influenced by Monty Python and Douglas Adams. However, I got to see it put on stage when my co-writer, Jack Mayfield was allowed to stage it at his school. Watching other people, whom I had nnever met, laugh at my work (especially when I wanted them to laugh) gave me a feeling I cannot adequately describe, so I won't. It felt good though, I can say that much.
     Later that year, I wrote a short story for my drama class (yeah I know, a play for lit class, and a story for drama, I've never been one to bow to expectations if I can do it just as well differently). The teacher gave each of us a picture from Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Hearris Burdick. If you're unfamiliar with the book, it's a picture book that consists of hauntingly eerie black-and-white charcoal pictures with a single line of text. We were supposed to do something creative with our picture that incorporated both the title and the caption.
     My picture was titled "Captain Tory." It showed the back of an old man dressed in a heavy pea-coat and holding a lantern up over his head. Next to him stood a little boy. Both the old man and the boy were staring into a foggy river where a wooden boat was coming out of the mist. The caption read: "He swung the lantern three times, and slowly the schooner appeared."
     My story was a ghost story, written from the kid's point of view. He's had a fever for days, and one night his missing uncle, Captain Tory, shows up at his window and entices him to run away with him to a distant land. The kid follows him all  through the streets of 19th century London, and finally arrives at the Thames, where the uncle beckons his ghostly ship, and the kid loses his nerve. He wakes up on a park bench the next morning, his fever broken, and returns home to his worried mother.
     It's not the best story I've ever written, but it was at that point. It was the first thing I wrote that my dad genuinely liked. He still talks about it and asks if I'll ever publish it. Both my wife and my god-daughter love it, and even now, I find myself tinkering with it. Perhaps it'll show up in my next collection of stories.

Readers are often puzzled by the orchestration strategies of successful writers. How the hell do they get so  prolific? Lawrence Sanders too came out of nowhere, at about the age of 50, with The Anderson Tapes…then the Deadly Sin and Commandment series…and  a slew of other titles it dizzies a man to consider.  But before achieving ‘overnight success’, he must have labored for decades and had a huge backlog to publish. Also, he alternated the time-consuming Sin books with the lighter Commandments, etc. So, how did you get so prolific—and how do you plan to remain so?
     It just kind of happened to me, actually. I've been working on my current fiction project, Guns of the Waste Land, which re-tells the Arthurian legends as a Western, for a couple  of years now, but before I started that, I wrote a short story "Misdirection" (which is collected in Stitches). In it, two hit men for the Norse god Loki debate the paths their lives have taken as they drive to their next assignment: to kill Baldur and begin Ragnarok. I really liked those two guys, so I also have been tinkering with another short-story novel retelling the Ragnarok myth as a hard-boiled mob/mystery story. I've been tinkering with this story, too, off-and-on.
     In my day job, I'm an English professor, and I've always wanted to teach a course using H. P. Lovecraft's work. If given the chance, I'd want to use a critical edition, where the primary text is accompanied by several ancillary materials to help explain the text and its thematic and historical contexts. However, there isn't one, so I decided to make my own.
     So one thing after another just kind of happened. I stay busy on them by using each one to procrastinate the other. I'll work on Guns if I feel like I should be working on the Lovecraft book, I'll work on the Ragnarok story (I was going to name it Twilight, but the vampire lady beat me to it) when I should be writing Guns, and I do most of my writing when I should be grading papers or otherwise preparing for class.
Somehow, though, everything gets done.

If everything does go according to plan, your catalog will consist of wildly disparate titles: a collection of hauntingly beautiful stories that tie together as a novella…a retelling of the King Arthur legends as a spaghetti Western…a critical edition of H. P. Lovecraft’s work…and another collection of interrelated stories—retelling the Norse Ragnarok myth as a hard-boiled detective story. Is there any common ground here? Anything that gives a reader the sense of a Leverett Butts book?
     I think the common ground is myth and archetype. I've always been fascinated by mythology, and it informs almost every aspect of my professional life. My master's thesis dealt with how Catch-22 redefines the hero archetype, my doctoral dissertation looked at how Robert Penn Warren employed different mythologies into his fiction  H.P. Lovecraft's allure for me is in the mythology that he creates and adheres to throughout almost all of his adult fiction, and my own fiction deals heavily with myth. Obviously, my two current projects deal overtly with myth as they literally retell Arthurian and Norse mythologies but in unfamiliar settings, but Stitches also employs myth, in this case the local myths that grow up around people and places who do not seem to fit the local mold.
     Most of the writers I admire (see below) also employ myth in some manner into their writing.
When I asked my wife this question, she pointed out that I seem to have a talent for telling grand stories through the eyes of the common man. She points to Emily's Stitches: told from the point of view of a janitor, "Misdirection": two hitmen, and Guns of the Waste Land: telling the King Arthur story through the eyes of illiterate and semi-literate cowboys.

Could we talk for just a bit about the nuts and bolts? Anything you’d care to share about your writing methods, routine, etc. My professional pride won’t allow me to ask—and yet I’m dying to know: if you outline first.
     I don’t remember if I outlined ever for Stitches; I know I had an idea in my head about how each story would fit into my overall story arc, but I don’t know that I ever wrote anything down. With my short fiction, I rarely outline. I have a situation in my mind, sometimes I know how it will end up, sometimes I don’t, but I put my characters in the situation and just start writing and see where they wind up. Kinda like God if you’re a deist.
     Guns has been a bit different, though. I didn't start out with an outline. I wrote the first section of Chapter 1 just like my short stories, but when I submitted it to Tag Publishing’s Great American Novel Contest in 2010 (where it placed second, incidentally), they required the first chapter and a synopsis of the rest of the novel, so I pretty much had to outline it then. I still use the synopsis as my basic skeleton of the story, though I do amend it when the story develops differently than I had planned. For instance, my plan had been to originally divide it up according to the sections of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which I remembered as having three sections. However, after having re-read it this summer to prepare for a world lit class, I realized it has four sections, so I now have to decide where in my synopsis I am going to split sections 2, 3, and 4. Also I decided to add a character based not on the original myths, but on a character from Richard Monaco’s Parsival series, so I have to decide where he’ll fit in to the overall plot and what he is going to do.

Which writers do you most admire? And did you have to fight for freedom from any one of them?
     My top ten writers, in no particular order are: Richard Monaco, Neil Gaiman, Douglas Adams, John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Robert Penn Warren, William Faulkner, Stephen King, and H. P. Lovecraft. As I mentioned above most of these writers (Monaco, Gaiman, and Lovecraft especially) tend to employ, either overtly or subtly, a good deal of myth in their work.
     I’ve not really had to try too hard to avoid imitating their style, however. I’ll admit that their influence in my writing can be seen by the close reader, but I don’t think anyone would ever accuse me of sounding too much like them. If they did, however, I’d gladly buy them a beer in thanks.

What’s it like to be Lev Butts? If you view your life as a work in progress, where is it cooking and what needs more work?
     Robert Penn Warren once said that he never knew what it felt like to be a Southerner until he left the South. I suspect the same can be said about being Lev Butts. I won’t know what it’s like until I’m somebody else. I suspect it’s better than being some people, worse than being others, but mostly akin to being like most anybody.
     I think my writing is good (not great, but good), but it could always be better. My teaching is better than my writing I think, but it, too, could always use improvement.
     I think my best quality, the one that really sets me apart from many people, is my humility. I take an overabundance of pride in my humility; I can be humble better than anyone else I know.

Are there any historical figures you’d really love to have met?
     I’d like to meet Jefferson Davis. He’s a fascinating study of contradictions.  Here was a man who was the president of the Confederate States of America, who apparently supported slavery, but who ran his plantation as a kind of training ground for his slaves to train them for eventual freedom: establishing a slave justice system run and managed by his slaves and prohibiting any slave to be punished unless found guilty by a jury of peers or having exhausted any further appeals and training them in various trades and crafts and encouraging them to practice these vocations for their own gain. He even adopted an African-American boy, Jim Limber, as his son while he was president, and when he was taken away from him at the end of the war, allegedly spent the rest of his life looking for him.
     This, to me, sounds like an interesting guy.

What’s the boldest thing you've ever done?
     Probably answer that last question.

The one thing that no one expected?
     See above.

Answer one question I've missed here, one that offers a key to the real Leverett Butts.

     I think you've about covered it, actually. I will say, though, that Emily’s Stitches: The Confessions of Thomas Calloway and Other Stories was nominated for the 2013 Georgia Author of the Year Award and is available as both paperback and ebook on Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, and lulu.com; and that the first volume of Guns of the Waste Land, Departure, will be available as both paperback and ebook in September on lulu.com and as an ebook on Amazon. My plan is offer the subsequent parts one at a time every few months or so and then release an omnibus edition when the whole work is finished.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Reb MacRath, Action Manifester! Chapter Eight



The one thing we have to remember when we're plying the art of Intention is this: our desires sometimes come about in quite different ways than we'd pictured. Experts warn us to let go of our need to control the specifics.

Stephen King and others have written frightening tales of those who got what they prayed for--and soon came to regret it. But this isn't to say that we shouldn't intend...only that we can't control precisely how and when the processs works. I'm free to intend to have a million dollars come my way--but I'm better off not setting conditions: e.g., I must have the money by December 31, 2013...and I need to make the money through sales of my next ebook. It's better, and safer, to form an intention...take the necessary actions over and over again...and let life take care of the details.

Something happened this past week that brought the lesson home. One evening I decided that one aspect of social media was more than I could handle. It involved a small handful of people I love: an ongoing series of 'rounds'--banter back and forth--that was flattering to me and my work...but which I couldn't keep up with. I decided to scale back somehow without seeming ungrateful.

Cut to the next day: one of my better Twitter friends had taken exception to my too quickly written Tweet. I'd thought I'd understood my friend--but, in fact, I hadn't. Apologies and explanations failed to satisfy...so far. Possibly, I've lost a friend. But, eerily, the Tweeting rounds stopped immediately.. I miss the rounds. I miss the jokes. I miss the sweet attention. But I work two jobs while writing and I do the best I can.

Lesson two: I need some reminding, like everyone else, to steer my attention from what I don't want to far safer ground: what I do want. Focusing only on the don't side, I may think excessively of my burning desire to escape from my job. And life may manifest my desire in a form that I don't like: a dreaded pink slip before I've lined up something else. I need to keep my focus on what I do want: a smooth and safe transition to a job that suits my talents better and offers an easier day schedule along with better pay.

Enough of theory. Applications!

1) I've made a bold new change to the Moleskine. Keeping with the new two-day per issue form, I've added a new 2-day Playbook for each: things that I need to accomplish to keep me on course: e.g.
--Final-proof 20 pages of The Suiting.
--Proof Lev Butts' responses in order to publish the interview on Saturday.
--Write new post for Authors Electric.
--Continue to fine-tune salads to reduce my body fat for photo shoot.
--Call photographer to set up first prelim shoot.
Etc.
2) One of my boldest moves has been to add a new penalty/rewards section: if I fail to accomplish the 2-day Playbook's objectives, I either penalty or reap a jim-dandy reward. No rewards so far, I fear.  But I've been steadily upping the number of crunches I do for the photo shoot!

These two new strategies have brought my game to higher ground. And this older gladiator really digs the difference.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Coming Soon: Reb MacReth, Action Manifester! Chapter 8

Don't miss out on this action-packed chapter that reveals a shocking secret only Reb MacRath would share:

How to punish yourself into heaven.

That's right: using penalties to get your game to higher ground.

Check back here on Thursday!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Velvet Fist and Five Frightening Words

Have you ever heard a tale so cool you couldn't help replaying it in your head over and over again? I know two and I was part of one. And tonight I'm in a mood. If you are too, then here they are.

In his memoir, publisher Michael Korda told the tale of Five Frightening Words. The tale starred a powerful agent, one of the most potent forces around. The agent was always soft-spoken...invariably polite...and hell on wheels at business. The thing was, he never blustered. He never, never lost his cool. He never threatened, never yelled. In fact, he never raised his voice. At a point, though, in any proceeding, the dreaded moment invariably came: this quiet man--who, by the way, also never bluffed--would say the five words his world trembled to hear: 'Is that your final offer?' At this point, you see, any games had to stop. The question meant he was ready to walk--and walk off with a property, the loss of which might well cause your sorry head to roll. No debate: accept that risk or meet the figure that he had in mind.

The man some called The Velvet Fist taught me another great lesson, this one more painfully learned. In the early 90s, when my horror career was still hot, I did some agent jumping with hopes of earning kaboodles of cash. I signed on with The Velvet Fist, though he insisted I knuckle down and finish my third novel before he took it to market. I needed an advance, though, to write it. TVF held fast, though: he'd make us kaboodles if I wrote it first. I started, then caught wind of a hot new agent who was looking for clients and selling books on spec. I needed money, damn it. So...I sent TVF a short letter, informing him that I'd found new representation. And TVF responded on one of the tiny note sheets that had become his trademark: 'I suppose you must follow your star. Best of luck.' Now, he may have been livid. But those were his words. And, time and again, through the years, I would wish that he had gone off on me, giving me some grounds for rancor. TVF went on to reject every new book that I pitched him for years. But all I could hear was his gracious 'I suppose you must follow your star.'

I admire both these men more and more each year. Salut!