Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch
After the Fall 2016

Monday, December 26, 2016

So Long to Surviving Christmas

It was another blue Christmas this year. But I smiled the instant I chose to not surrender: not to the blues and not to the sense that I had nothing to do.



Now, those who enjoy frolicking Yules, surrounded by their loved ones, might say my decision was easy. After all, I have plenty to do on any day of the week--so it's silly to get depressed on this wondrous, fundrous holiday because the movies tell me I should be having a heartwarming Hallmark occasion. And just one more 'after all', it's not as if I or anyone else is any more alone this day.

And yet it's not quite that simple. I have plenty to do--such as writing a book--but virtually nowhere to do it. You see, I belong to the creative species, Cafe Literatura. 

\\

I write in cafes, always have, always will. Born this way, as Gaga sang. But on Christmas Day, pretty much everything's closed...except for a couple of Starbucks. I found two branches open: one completely filled with vagrants, not a table to be had...the other with drug dealers occupying both long counters, counting their money. 

I felt inconsolably blue, not because I was alone but because I couldn't do my thing in peace, the thing that makes me happiest. Worse, you must remember: 'Christmas' isn't just one day, it's actually three for Cafe Literatura. Cafes close early Chistmas Eve and some stay closed on the 26th. 

But, lo, what's this new state of mind?


I decided to go a movie, one in an upbeat location. The ritzy Pacific Place sounded good. But I still had three hours till show time. No sweat. I brought along my tea from the drug dealing Starbucks, along with a bottle of water, and marched to Pacific Place. Voila! On the mall's ground floor, outside the closed cafe, I found a slew of tables, surrounded by gurgling water and plants.

Before and after the movie, I worked......and had a productive, enjoyable Christmas. 

BUT for 2017...

I'll take what I learned this year and perfect my Christmas game. Strategy: a train trip beginning on the 24th and returning on the 26th, with a night's stop somewhere cool. Not just any train, either. I envision trips north and south on one of the best remaining trains:





Each Christmas will be adventure for me. So long to surviving the season.

Happy New Year to you all!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Down and Dirty: The Ultimate Round Table Joust: Part 2


Dedicated to: Pam Stack


Welcome back.

Four knights. One theme, of interest to writers and readers alike: the pros and cons of ebook and traditional publishing. The four knights, in alphabetical order:


Claude Bouchard
CB officially leaped into the writing world in 2009 and his Vigilante Series now boasts a dozen installments with more to come. In addition, he has penned Nasty in Nice, as part of the JET Kindle World, and ASYLUM, a standalone novel .

Leverett Butts
The author of Emily's Stitches: The Confessions of Thomas Calloway and Other Stories, and of Guns of the Waste Land, a series of novellas retelling the King Arthur legends as an American Western.  He lives in Temple, Georgia, with his wife and son.

Bill Kirton
Ex actor, director, voice-over artist, playwright, teacher, university lecturer. Now wood carver and writer of crime, historical, romance, satire, humour, non-fiction books for students. Also a gardener and lover of sport, sailing, good food and better wines.

David North-Martino
The author of Wolves of Vengeance and an ardent martial artist. His short stories have appeared in numerous fiction venues including: Epitaphs: The Journal of the New England Horror Writers, Wicked Tales: TJOTNEHW Vol.2 and Dark Recesses Press. 


                                                                       *****

6) Can you envision a scenario in which a traditional publisher handles some of your books which are easier to sell--while you write the books you choose to writes and publish some independently--as both ebooks and indie print editions?

BOUCHARD
Sure, why not? There have already been indie authors who have gone trad with the print versions of their work while retaining digital writes as well as trad authors who have decided to self-pub some of their works. Anything is possible if involved parties agree.

BUTTS
I think this situation would be ideal. If done well, both the traditionally and independently published books would feed off each other’s audience. It seems like a win-win for me.

KIRTON
Yes, the present context gives us that sort of freedom. On the other hand, I don’t go along with the assumption implicit in the question. When I write, I try to follow specific criteria. I want it to be a high quality, mistake-free product which entertains, absorbs, holds readers’ attention, makes them laugh and/or think and/or believe in my characters. If I succeed, all the books should be equally easy to sell. The element that brings quality and profit together is luck.

NORTH-MARTINO
Absolutely. I consider myself a hybrid writer. I’ve self-published a short supernatural thriller in ebook form, and sent a 90k crime thriller to a contest at Minotaur books. I’m also writing a military horror thriller for a small press publisher on spec, and a sword and sorcery novella on spec for a Big 5 publisher. Hopefully I can finish these manuscripts before the open calls end. If not, self-publishing is always available, and I would never take it off the table. Also, I’m exploring the possibility of having a small press take over my self-published ebook and selling them the print rights. Probably a long shot, but worth checking into.

For those not in the know, the small press is a middle ground between indie and the Big 5. All publishing is fraught with peril, and you can get burned just as easily in the small press where there’s not much in the way of an advance, and the publisher is running on a shoestring budget. I’ve heard horror stories of writers getting their rights tied up in bankruptcy proceedings, but on the positive side, small press publishers handle editing, covers, assist with reviews, and there are some that have decent distribution to bookstores and libraries. There’s probably more opportunity in science fiction and horror, but it’s something to consider if you’d like to have a publisher invest in your novel but can’t land a Big 5 deal, want a lower bar for entry, or just more creative control.


7) Do you see ebook publishing as a stepping stone toward the Yellow Brick Road (superstar agent, humongous advances, etc.)...or, getting back to our first question, do you value things about it you'd reluctant to lose completely? E.g.: the power and the freedom of running your own business...the power that enables Russell (Titan) Blake to produce numerous best-selling thrillers a year?

BOUCHARD
I do see the possibility of indie publishing being a stepping stone to bigger things though it is not my specific goal. If approached with a lucrative deal, I would certainly consider it and, if it was viable, I would have no problem letting go some control. To illustrate, consider the following completely fictitious scenario:
 
Big Honcho Publishing House: Mr. Bouchard, we’re offering you twenty million dollars per title you have written plus a thirty percent royalty on all subsequent sales plus fifty percent of any revenues subsequently generated by television and/or film production.

BUTTS
Why not both? I do hope that my sales of indie-published books will one day open doors for me in the larger houses, but even if they don’t, I am happy with what success I have had so far. I certainly like having the freedom to try new forms such as the multiple narrators and points of view in Guns of the Waste Land and the interconnected stories making a single novel in the first part of Emily’s Stitches. I don’t think a traditional publisher would be comfortable with those experiments without proof they’d sell.

KIRTON
Stepping stone to fame?. No. Except insofar as, if any of my books is going to get me the goodies you brandish, it’ll probably be ‘discovered’ in ebook form, so they can clearly contribute. I hate ‘running my own business’, which I guess is what I’m doing, and I’d gladly hand all that over to someone who knows how to do it. Because I don’t.

NORTH-MARTINO
I love the freedom that indie publishing provides, at least I like the idea of the freedom that it provides. I’m a very independent person, but I don’t enjoy going it alone when it comes to publishing. I would rather have a publisher, small or large, handle my work, buying it because they believe in it, instead of trying to do this all on my own. That’s something I wouldn’t have learned about myself if I hadn’t initially gone the independent route.

While I do look at indie publishing as a stepping-stone to bigger things, I also see it as a complement to a larger career. I’m very open to being a hybrid. I have no problem selling some books to the big 5, some to the small press, while putting out others independently. Let’s not forget that breakout books not only happen to the traditionally published, but also to independent authors. Just look at Andy Weir’s The Martian as an example.


8) Aside from your writing/editing/proofreading skills, what other skills do you regard as absolutely essential? And: are these skill sets really completely different from those required of traditionally published authors? (The days, for instance, are long past when any author can say, as one actually did: 'The hell with editing and proofing--that crap's for my agent and editor!')

BOUCHARD
A number of the skills which follow could be purchased from suppliers though it never hurts to have some understanding and knowledge in these areas even if contracting out. Formatting skills in order to transform a manuscript into both a print and digital final product; Artistic/graphic skills in terms of envisioning and/or creating appealing book covers; Social and communication skills to exchange with one’s potential and established audience; Marketing skills to let the masses know one’s work is available. Based on hearsay, I understand many trad authors must now put in more effort with the social/communication/marketing aspects than in the past.

BUTTS
Since self-publishing (and to a lesser degree small press publishing) requires you to wear many hats, you also need skills in self-promotion to help advertise and promote your work. A working knowledge of image editing software is not a bad idea, too, to help you design your covers. This last, if done well, can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars in design fees since you won’t have to commission a cover designer.

KIRTON
The basic essentials – writing, editing, proofing – are skills which are very distinct from one another, but nonetheless in the same ball park, depending on sensitivity to language, rhythm, etc. Promoting and marketing, on the other hand, call for a totally different mindset.

NORTH-MARTINO
You have to be able to manage a project with multiple contractors in your employ. You might have to have formatting skills in multiple formats unless you’re going to hire someone to do it. You might need to have the ability to create your own covers, unless you want to pay to have them commissioned. You’re going to have to have confidence to reach out to other writers and reviewers without having a publishing house behind you. You might not get much in the way of publicity from a traditional publisher, depending on how much for resources they’ve devoted to you, but as an indie you have to either be your own publicist, and do everything yourself, or hire one.



9) Whatever your long-term goals, what are the greatest kicks you get from producing both ebook and print editions?

BOUCHARD
The beauty of the ebook is its immediacy and range of distribution.. Anyone, almost anywhere on the planet can download it and boom, it’s there waiting to be read. As an author, holding an actual print copy, flipping through the pages and knowing I produced it, is pretty cool. As mentioned earlier, the effort required to create a print version is so minimal that it would be silly to not do so, even if it’s to satisfy a small number of readers. True story, a fan who only reads print recently inquired about the next installment in my series, mentioning she had already reserved a spot in her display case. That’s a kick.

BUTTS
The flexibility of having a choice. I find myself preferring to read hard copy at home and electronic versions on the road. I assume most people who are open to e-books feel the same.

KIRTON
Feeling, every time I receive a proof copy of a paperback, as if the nurse has just handed me my beautiful new baby. That’s a sensation ebooks can’t replicate. There’s also the basic satisfaction of having overcome my laziness again and actually finished a book.

NORTH-MARTINO
I haven’t produced a print edition of my novel, but I did enjoy managing the ebook to completion. I’m just not sure I’d want to do it again.


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10) Rogue Question: What have I missed that's important to you?

BOUCHARD
You didn’t ask, “Boxers or briefs?”...and now you’ll never know.*
(Editor's note: Under serious pressure, Claude Bouchard agreed reluctantly to give an appropriate answer to the eternal question. You'll find it at the * below.)

BUTTS
What's the biggest draw to writing? 
For me it's the same thing that drew me to the craft in the first place: I generally write stories that I cannot find elsewhere, and I love being able to tell myself a story. I never cease finding it odd that even as the author, I’m never sure where the story is going, so it’s almost like I’m reading a new novel every time I write. Like the novel is there in the ether fully formed and waiting for someone (in this case, me) to catch and trap it on paper.

KIRTON
What's the letter or email I'd love most to get?
‘I’m thinking of investing several thousand dollars in promoting a friend’s books in the UK, USA, Canada, the Caribbean, South America, New Zealand, Australia, and parts of Africa and Asia. Would you like to be that friend?’

NORTH-MARTINO
What are the best and worst things when it comes to self-pubbing ebooks?
The worst thing about self-publishing ebooks is that your work gets lost in the vast sea that is Amazon. You have the best distribution on the planet, and yet, it can be very challenging to find an audience. Then again, the best thing: it will never go out of print and has an unlimited amount of time to find an audience.


                                                           
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*As promised, here's the answer Slyboots tried to keep from you. Really, was it too much to hope that Claude Bouchard might confess if he wears briefs or boxers?





Well, we're happy to give you the answer today from Claude Bouchard himself:

"If your readers have to know, the answer is simple enough:

I wear b----s."

*****
To learn more about these four authors and their books, just click on the following links: 

Claude Bouchard
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Claude-Bouchard/e/B002BLL3RK
Website: http://www.claudebouchardbooks.com       
Vigilante Series Box set - Books 1 to 6http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EPE926Y

Leverett Butts
Grand Central Review: http://www.grandcentralreview.com/
Author Facebook Pagehttps://www.facebook.com/LeverettButts/?fref=ts
My Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/leverettbutts


Bill Kirton 
Amazon Author Page
US: https://www.amazon.com/Bill-Kirton/e/B001KDNSLY
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bill-Kirton/e/B001KDNSLY
Website/blog: www.billkirton.com
Best intro to his work:  https://www.amazon.com/Darkness-Jack-Carston-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B008X8ZM8G

David North-Martino
Amazon Author Page:  http://amzn.to/1Ir7PWP
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/dnorthmartino


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Down and Dirty: The Ultimate Round Table Joust: 1


                                                            Dedicated to: Pam Stack

Four knights. One theme, of interest to writers and readers alike: the pros and cons of ebook and traditional publishing. The four knights, in alphabetical order:

Claude Bouchard
CB officially leaped into the writing world in 2009 and his Vigilante Series now boasts a dozen installments with more to come. In addition, he has penned Nasty in Nice, as part of the JET Kindle World, and ASYLUM, a standalone novel .

Leverett Butts
The author of Emily's Stitches: The Confessions of Thomas Calloway and Other Stories, and of Guns of the Waste Land, a series of novellas retelling the King Arthur legends as an American Western.  He lives in Temple, Georgia, with his wife and son.

Bill Kirton
Ex actor, director, voice-over artist, playwright, teacher, university lecturer. Now wood carver and writer of crime, historical, romance, satire, humour, non-fiction books for students. Also a gardener and lover of sport, sailing, good food and better wines.

David North-Martino
The author of Wolves of Vengeance and an ardent martial artist. His short stories have appeared in numerous fiction venues including: Epitaphs: The Journal of the New England Horror Writers, Wicked Tales: TJOTNEHW Vol.2 and Dark Recesses Press. 


                                                                        *****

1) Let's begin at the beginning: When did you first know you really were a writer, regardless of whether you'd published?

BOUCHARD
A bit of history to start. I wrote Vigilante in 1995, simply because I had a story I needed to get out of my head. Two sequels followed in 1996-97 and, although I did a bit of agent querying, it was more for fun than anything else. When I pulled out my dormant manuscripts in 2009, revised and published them and began writing the fourth installment of my series, I knew I was a writer.

BUTTS
I knew I wanted to be a writer as soon as I could read. I would read a book that I loved and then be depressed that there wasn’t more, so I started writing my own sequels, the the kids call fanfiction today. It was never very good, but it was what started me on my path to writing my own stories.

KIRTON
I’ve written since I was very young. But, in my twenties, I’d been sending radio plays to the BBC for a year or so; none had been accepted but they’d made nice remarks about them. Then a BBC producer mentioned to the late Tony Church, actor and director of the then new Northcott Theatre that I wrote drama. Tony invited me to look around the building and, whenever we met one of his crew, he said, ‘This is Bill Kirton. He’s a writer’. In my mind that validated it. I was a writer because someone else said I was.

NORTH-MARTINO
Back in 8th grade I wrote a short story and read it to my class. Everyone, including the teacher, really liked it. After that, I was referred to as “the writer.” Before that I had wanted to be a comic book illustrator, and was always envious of the student in my school who was thought of as “the artist.”''


2) Traditionally published authors, as well as many readers, regard ebook writers as failures. Yet it's said that over 95% of traditionally published books are commercial failures. What are your thoughts on writing success and failure? Would you be happier if you'd sold 80,000 ebooks, Amazon bestsellers, or if you'd published a wonderfully reviewed hardcover book that sold 100 copies?

BOUCHARD
To clarify your wording, I’ll assume ‘ebook writers’ actually means self-published writers. What also needs to be determined is the unit used to measure a writer’s success or failure. Any writer who manages to hold the interest of an audience with his or her work is successful. If the number of trad deals or units sold or dollars earned are deemed to be the measuring stick by some, good for them. I’ve been paying my bills so, good for me.

BUTTS
If you measure the success or failure of writing based only on sales, you are dooming your self to be sorely disappointed. The fact is most writers do not get traditionally published, and most of those who do don’t get published by the major houses. If your book is self-published or published by a smaller, independent press, you simply will not make the number of sales that others by larger houses achieve.

It’s nice if you can be a best-seller, but I think a more effective measure of a work’s success is the feedback you get from other readers either in person or in the form of reviews. This feedback can tell you where you need to improve your writing and what is working well. Sales really only affect your pocketbook; they don’t tell you why your writing is selling well or poorly.

KIRTON
You’ve got two different sorts of ‘failure’ there. The first is a value judgement, equates to ‘loser’, and therefore has limited validity. The second is more legitimate since it’s based on the facts of balance sheets. Okay, the quality filters on ebooks are non-existent, but equally, there are many beautiful books which traditional publishers have missed. It would be nice if quality automatically brought tangible profits but |I’m a realist.

NORTH-MARTINO
The ability to complete a novel, to finish what you start, to me, is a success unto itself. Traditionally published authors, who are fortunate enough to be working writers, are heavily invested in legacy publishing. Some of them hold their noses at indie writers, but writers who do work-for-hire get the same treatment, and literary writers and academia look down at genre and popular fiction writers. The readers are the only ones who count.


3) 'Ten years to mastery', they say, in any craft or profession. After that, many writers spend years hunting for agent, shopping for a sale, then waiting for publication. Is the immediacy of ebook publishing a major draw for you?

BOUCHARD
Once again, I assume ‘ebook publishing’ means self-publishing. The immediacy is certainly an advantage in that, once I have a work which is ready for the public, it is made available (in both digital and print formats) without delay. I much prefer having a book out there and selling than sitting and waiting for eventual publishing, maybe…

BUTTS
It is. This past summer my two volumes of Guns of the Waste Land were picked up by Venture Press, a British publishing house that only does ebooks, to be published in a single, electronic volume. I was surprised how quickly their turnaround was when they were able to get the book on the shelves in weeks instead of months. Self-publishing paper backs also has a quick turnaround, though, which can be a draw when trying to decide if to seek an agent and traditionally publish or not. For myself, I self-published my first book, a collection of short stories titled Emily’s Stitches: The Confessions of Thomas Calloway and Other Stories, and the first volume of Guns of the Waste Land, in order to test the waters and prove that the books could sell. I believe this helped Venture decide to take me on.

KIRTON
Yes. I’ve been published traditionally by publishers in the UK and USA but the process takes so long that I’m glad I can now get my books to readers in weeks rather than months or years. The drawback, of course, is that I have to be skilled in promotion and marketing, and I’m not. I haven’t yet tried any of these companies that claim to specialise in promoting authors, but that may be my next step.

NORTH-MARTINO
It’s been ten years since I made my first short story sale. I’m sure I haven’t mastered the craft yet, but I hope that I’m at least on the cusp of writing at a professional level. I’ve been able to sell short fiction consistently to the small press, and have had interest from professional magazines. I do think the immediacy of ebook publishing, of publishing what I want, and when, was a major draw for me when I put out my first short novel.

4) Let's be contrary. The grating debate goes on and on: print publishing OR ebooking? But what if we replaced that one word OR with AND? We may never convert rabid anti-ebook readers. How do you feel, though about offering print versions of your work to offer readers more options--and to better your chances of getting reviews?

BOUCHARD
All my books are available in both print AND ebook with the exception of box sets and one title in Russell Blake’s JET Kindle World. Though ebooks make up the bulk of my sales, making the books available in print via POD is certainly worth the minimal effort in order to satisfy those who insist on a paper copy.

BUTTS
I like offering both. As a reader, I will always prefer the feel and smell of a hardcopy book in my hands, but I also find the convenience of carrying multiple books on a single device to be very useful, especially when I am reading multiple texts simultaneously. While we are on the subject of altering versions, I am even considering using CreateSpace to do audio versions of my books. This will make it convenient for those with long commutes, or who do a lot of running, or whatever, to listen to a book. I feel like the more formats a book can be put in, the better.

KIRTON
I’ll take your word for it that producing a print book increases the chances of getting reviewed. I still do enjoy (maybe even prefer) the whole familiar tactile experience of turning pages, feeling the weight of the object, the number of pages growing in one hand and decreasing in the other as you read, but I also appreciate the convenience of carrying a whole library in a small tablet. Both forms have their fans (as do audio versions), so yes, let’s keep books coming, however they’re delivered.

NORTH-MARTINO
I think having print versions of our work is essential. It certainly allows us more options when it comes to reviews. Most reviewers, whether on Goodreads or elsewhere, want something besides an ebook for their troubles, and it gives them more incentive to write a review. There are also opportunities to do signings with print books. I belong to a local writers association that hits every major convention. Having a print version of my novel would allow me the opportunity to get out and sell at those venues. Local libraries and independent books stores might also be willing to carry books from local indie writers.

5) Is reader resistance any less toward indie-published print books than toward ebooks? If not, how do you overcome resistance?        

BOUCHARD                                    
In the vast majority of cases,  print versus digital format has no bearing on reader resistance toward indie authors. Most print versions of indie works are available online only, not in brick and mortar stores across the planet. That said, readers are generally not faced with shelves filled with indie and trad print works and therefore resistance toward indie works in that context simply doesn’t exist.

BUTTS
I think the resistance comes from the “indie-published” descriptor than from any format. I feel that the best way to overcome that resistance is good word-of-mouth. Now if we could just figure out the magic formula for getting readers to review our books on Amazon once they’ve read them…

KIRTON
Is it really strong enough to be called ‘resistance’? Readers like books. If paper versions were banned, they’d still read them on their tablets, and vice versa. I see one difference, though. If a book turns out to be crap, you’re less likely to throw your tablet against the wall, whereas paperbacks…

NORTH-MARTINO
Readers typically can’t differentiate between traditionally and indie published books, as long as said books look professional and include both ebook and print formats. Ebook only screams indie, and I do feel that many readers believe that indie books aren't up to professional standards.

The best ways to overcome reader resistance is to have a print book as well as an ebook, to create your own imprint, to purchase professional looking covers, to have your books professionally edited, to write lots of books, to have lots of reviews, and to competitively price your books with those of traditionally published authors. Simple, right? Haha!



                                                                    *****





Take seven, as in seven days, to stretch and think about Part 1. We'll be back next weekend with the provocative conclusion. Among other things, you'll learn if Claude Bouchard wears boxers or briefs. And you'll hear high praise for Russell Blake. Arrive early for guaranteed seating.

                                             *****

To learn more about these four authors and their books, just click on the following links: 

Claude Bouchard
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Claude-Bouchard/e/B002BLL3RK
Website: http://www.claudebouchardbooks.com         
Vigilante Series Box set - Books 1 to 6http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EPE926Y

Leverett Butts
Grand Central Review: http://www.grandcentralreview.com/
Author Facebook Pagehttps://www.facebook.com/LeverettButts/?fref=ts
My Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/leverettbutts


Bill Kirton 
Amazon Author Page
US: https://www.amazon.com/Bill-Kirton/e/B001KDNSLY
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bill-Kirton/e/B001KDNSLY
Website/blog: www.billkirton.com
Best intro to his work:  https://www.amazon.com/Darkness-Jack-Carston-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B008X8ZM8G

David North-Martino
Amazon Author Page:  http://amzn.to/1Ir7PWP
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/dnorthmartino

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Your Pass to Party Between Drafts

After eight brutal weeks spent second-drafting my new mystery, I'm looking forward to a pass. What's the difference, you ask. Good question!

For most writers, the second draft--of a novel or story or play--is a brutal affair that looks something like this:



The process is seven times harder than digging a ditch with a spoon. It involves grappling with everything from typos to grammos to putrid turns of phrase to moronic plotting blunders. There's so much going on in the first draft that it would be unlikely for a second draft to involve any less. Think of it: in the first draft we're trying to get it all down--from plot line to pacing to characterization to setting to atmosphere to theme--and, as if all that weren't enough--we're trying those damned word things right too! When most writers face what they've got for a first draft, small wonder that their expressions turn out to be something like this:



And when they've finished the second draft, they're left feeling like this:


Still, if we don't have a passable reading copy yet, we will by the third or fourth draft. Now that most of the absolute garbage is gone, we can get down to the fine points of style. And the real magic can find its voice.

But much can be gained by taking a short working vacation which I call a 'pass'. In fact, much can be gained by taking quite a few of these, each with a different focus. After my own bloody second draft, I'm taking a pass, or a go-through, on the watch for blanks that I need to fill in or--well, anything that strikes my eye. The blanks may be things to be researched or settings requiring more details. And in this pass, I'll take care of as many as I cab. As for things that catch the eye, it's essential to relax, looking for things that stand out: inconsistencies, improbabilities, etc.

I'll also be mindful, in this pass, of the novel's proportions and pacing.

But I know the third draft will take its toll on me again. So I'll treat this first pass as a working vacation.



I may do five drafts of a novel, or six. But in between those drafts will be numerous quick passes: two or three for proofing...at least two to go over the timeline...two or three on the watch for any scene that needs more oomph...

It's your call for your own book. But try experimenting with a pass or two in between drafts. The results may float your boat. And also the boats of your reader.




Saturday, November 5, 2016

My Secret Birthday

Have you ever thrown a surprise birthday party for yourself? If not, then take my word: when you do get around to it, you'll wonder what took you so long.


This year my birthday, November 7, falls on a Monday. I arranged weeks ago to take the day off work. Though I hadn't planned anything special--certainly not a surprise party--I planned to relax, sleep in at least one of the three mornings, see Hacksaw Ridge, enjoy a rare restaurant meal...and spend happy hours on my Work in Progress.

But I remembered my little black book...though I couldn't recall where I'd put put it.


Years ago, in Charlotte, NC--one of the unhappiest times in my life--I listed in a black notebook like this a hundred things I wanted to do or felt I must accomplish. During that difficult time, I checked off a couple dozen goals. And, since the move to Seattle two years ago, I've checked off a few dozen more. Others will get their own checks in short time. But a small core of die-hards remained--things I keep telling myself I 'can't' do. As I reviewed the list now,in Seattle, I knew: they can't ever be accomplished unless I tackle the roughest, toughest of them all.

Pardon my vagueness. But being too specific here would be unfair to you. In this one instance, generality is good and necessary. I have my One Thing blocking me as it has for many years. But common sense tells me I'm not alone in this: we all have our own One Thing, the big bad mother of them all that mocks us and torments us and blocks us from our other goals. 

This year, remembering that black book of accomplished and neglected dreams, I swore to throw myself the best goddamn birthday party I have ever had, taking myself by surprise. I would do the very thing that's been spitting in my eye for years.

I'm on my way to Renton, Monday morning, to cross the blinkin' Rubicon.

If this works out, I expect to start throwing more surprise parties throughout the new year. And I hope you all do the same.





Sunday, October 30, 2016

How to Help Lightning Strike Twice

Once something magical happened to us--some incredible blessed-by-the-gods stroke of luck. And we spend our lives waiting for it to return. There's little that we wouldn't do to see it one more time. How we wait...and we wait...and we wait.



                                     1988

The time I've returned to again and again: 1988. A year of glory and heartache: I had a literary agent, my first book was in print--but I couldn't find it anywhere. My publisher, I learned, had failed to list it in their catalogue. I knew who would take the hit if I had zero sales. But lightning struck. I'd joined one writers' group and had their newest mailing list. I was widely read in my genre and started ticking off the names of those I would approach. Next, I and my agent worked on obtaining free copies of my novel from the publisher. They complied because they owed me. What next?

From there, the pieces all fell into place as I heeded both instincts and logic:
--I had a hardcover novel with a first-rate cover, a story of a stolen custom-tailored suit. Though the gift of a paperback book's no big thing, I thought my book might be well-received: a hardcover horror novel sent out to horror writers.
--Better yet, I could gift wrap each copy, including a personalized note.
--Also, I'd only approach writers who'd work I had read. And instead asking for favors, I'd the book as an expression of thanks for the pleasure their work had brought me.

Well, the gifts were well-received and the book was nominated for an award...which it went on to receive.

                                                                   *****

Now, here I am all these years later, wondering if lightning can strike twice.



                                   2016

Common sense tells me that it can't strike in the same way. I'm no longer a first-time novelist and won't pretend I am. For now I'm publishing original ebooks, which don't translate to my ancient strategy. And, sad to say, I've put on a few years. So looking back on the opening quote, the same place simply isn't here for lightning to strike twice in.

BUT...

If I turn my focus from blessings that I can't repeat to new blessings I possess, I see ways to encourage the return of that groovy old lightning. I'm doing better work today and I've built a considerable body of work since my traditional publishing luck headed south. Furthermore, if I can't repeat my strategy, I'm free to draw on the principles behind it:
--Have a gift I can send that is cool in itself--and totally appropriate to the book, or books, in mind.
--Make the packaging striking, memorable--and equally appropriate.
--There must be no strings attached--not the tiniest whiff of 'I'm sending you this in exchange for or with hopes of a review, an awards vote or a date your daughter or sister.
--The goal should be both pure and simple: introduce myself to those whose books or reviews or service I enjoy. Regardless of their reaction, I have high hopes that the gift is enjoyed.

SUMMARY
Now, I'm not giving the store away as far as far as the particulars of the gift this time around...or the ingenious packaging...or my mailing list. But in the end I've offered something far more valuables: a short list of working principles to try out in your own campaigns.

1) Don't ask for favors from strangers who are already under siege.
2) Let your introduction in itself be a memorable gift, without strings.
3) Ground your approach in your own reality. Once upon a time I had a hardcover novel...now I have a series of ebooks. Different hooks for different books.
4) Whatever else you do, project this aura: I'm looking at you.


This is my report.



Monday, October 24, 2016

Man Flu Blues Plus Teaser

Sorry, all. No post this week, since I've been down for three days with a cold.



But I'll make it up to you next weekend with an extra-lively post on two promotional projects nearly thirty years apart. Can lightning strike again?

Stay tuned.



All the more reason to change the place, eh?



Sunday, October 16, 2016

Thug City

So, here I am in a place I adore, writing of it as Thug City.



Almost all of the new Boss MacTavin novel will be centered in the notorious part of town known as Third and Pike. Aka, The Scourge of Seattle. And the crime here is horrendous: drive-by shootings, stabbings, beatings with ball pein hammers, muggings, corner drug deals, rape....and theft, theft and still more theft.

My forced research on the area involved my working for six months in a retail store at Third and Pike. I saw it all in my six months: petty theft, grand larceny, rumbles at the entrance, bloodied women weeping that they'd just been raped, security guards beaten and thrown to the ground...And this was in our store alone. Over and over, armed cops would do one freelance security gig--and swear never to return. One very large veteran cop warned me: "Man, your job's more dangerous than mine is. Get out."






Get out I did, and as fast as I could. I'd transferred here from a store location in Charlotte. Now that I had a studio and had gotten on my feet, I vowed to write of what I'd learned and seen. I also swore to learn still more about retail theft. 

I have and I've got a strong book in the works, one based on real experience. It's something new and exciting, I think. At the same time, however, I feel an obligation to do right by the city. Doing right would entail finding something between two classic visions of New York:

Scorcese's hellish Taxi Driver vision:




And Woody Allen's romanticized Manhattan:





For a tight thriller, the challenge is daunting. The focus must be Third and Pike, the horrors I saw daily. The blood and degradation. Yet it's not enough to plunge our hero into this pocket of pus, pretending that it is the city. It's not. Undercover, Boss may grow more sickened with each chapter. But he must catch scattered glimpses of the beauty of Seattle. And at some point he must seek them out to counter the poison that's flooding his soul. 

I've no plans to hold back on Thug City. But if balance is all, then let's have it here too: the city as a character that's flawed but lovely nonetheless.

Yes, by all means let's get Boss to Capitol Hill!








Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Reb Van Winkling We Will Go

In the past couple of years I've done a lot of Reb Van Winkling. And I'm of two minds about it. Waking up to things you've missed over the course of your life can be sad:



My own Winkle-ization went something like this
-- A somewhat wild Canadian decade after college, with beer-drinking playing a prominent part. No interest in music at all through those years. No interest in anything except writing and the bar scene and getting back home to the States.
--My return to the States in 1980 and a bold move to San Francisco. There I stopped drinking and began working out and committed myself more seriously to writing as a career. I knuckled in, moving on to New York, determined to conquer the city. There I finally succeed in publishing my first novel, began the second...and married badly. Really badly. Crash. No time for anything now but writing and recovering from the divorce.
--Onward to Atlanta in 1988, with hopes to start over again. No music, no TV or workouts. Working, writing and recovering,
--From Atlanta to San Francisco again to Atlanta again and on to Portland, then on Charlotte for six miserable years. I yo-yo'd and ran and reacted, and did nothing but work and write, even after my career in traditional publishing had ended.

Whoa, dude--glum stuff!

I know, I know. And I wouldn't have started this blog post if there hadn't been a turn.

It's tough enough being Van Winkle. But the tougher part comes when you learn that you've slept--and realize the time that you've lost.


Two years ago my awakening came after summoning the courage for one last cross-country move: from Charlotte to a city where I'd never been. And Seattle has been both good to me and for me. The first truly great adventure since my positive moves to San Francisco and New York. Here old Reb Van Winkle awakened more each day. And while learning ruefully how much I'd missed, I learned to rejoice in my late in life discoveries. 

Allow me to share a few.

1) Last night I discovered--God's truth, I swear--a DVD I'd bought but forgotten: Wayne's World. From 1992! Yes, Reb Van Winkle 'discovered' this classic 24 freaking years after it's release.




2) I 'discovered' this great band approximately 46 years after it began:



3)  After working two job for most of my life--many of those years in retail--I cut back to one job...with a boost from Soc Security. Better yet, the job was clerical, M-F, weekends and holidays off. Time to write!



4) I graduated from a flip phone to a smart phone, no longer reliant on free Wi-Fi to access the Web or my emails.



5) I checked out and fell hard for Uber, decreasing my morning commute time at a reasonable price...and buying still more time for writing.




I've awakened in so many ways that my general facial expression is one of a wonderstruck kid. And while it's true that I wish I'd not slept for so long, it's also sweet in later life to take pleasure in daily discoveries.

And if any of you are Van Winkling:



Sunday, October 2, 2016

Business Cards: Make the Back the Livin' End

You haven't closed any sales with the eye-catching front of your two-sided card. You've compelled your card recipients to have a look at the back. And that's where the real magic can start to occur.



Now, that's not a card but it gives sound advice. No business card, even the greatest, will in itself close any sale. That can only be done by you writing, your art or your service. But how do you persuade folks to try you? By planting strong thoughts about wanting to have a relationship with you and that special thing you do.

And you've got 3.5 x 2 inches to do that. Has your jaw dropped yet? It should have, for the challenge is formidable. And the reverse sides of many cards prove it by looking too cluttered.

The absolute essentials are:



1) Your real mojo manifested in only 4 or 5 words. Put this at the top or the middle or the bottom, depending your taste. As for me, I say the top. And this is one of the most difficult things you'll ever do in your life: nailing what's different about you or your work, what should take our breath away, in just handful. It can be done--and must be done--neatly placed on a 3.5 x 2 inch card.
    Examples:
    Award-Winning Author
    Graduate of (Famous Writing School)
2) A small photo taken by a pro
3) Name
4) Email address 
5) Professional links: Facebook/blog/Amazon Author Page

You may wish to add your address and/or phone number, depending on your business. In general, though, I'd avoid offering that till contact's been first made through email.

Remember: you aren't closing anything with your business card. You're planting seeds of wonder. And you want folks to wonder increasingly how cool it would be to enter a relationship with you: reading your books or using your service for many years to come.

Don't place the order for your cards until your mojo's smoking.

Image result for mojo images

Take the test today. Don't wait: how, in 4 or 5 words, can you stand apart from the pack?



 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Business Cards 3: Two-siders--Side A

A two-sided business card gives you the chance to make your case and to strut your stuff creatively. But you'd be wrong to think that the front and the back are two different affairs--or that the front is your carte blanche to say anything that gets attention. (As in Now that I've got your attention...)

I say see the front side as your opportunity to shine your light on the back.  Here are two examples that show what I'm getting at.

The wrong way:





If you Google, you'll see that there's nothing distinctive about this: there are scads of links to this same I'll shoot you style of card. And you don't really need to see the back to know that this common cop-out shock effect represents unoriginal work, lacking depth and confidence. Deleting the Don'rt worry line does nothing to improve it: clearly, what the photographer wants isn't to shock us but to get a hug. 

The right ways:

1) The design suggests the artist's style or spirit. 



This is distinctive, tasteful and classy. And if it represents the designer's work, then I know what I'm getting--and I already want it. I'm eager to turn the card over for further contact information or key selling points.



2) The front design is seriously clever.




We may in the past have been put off Yoga because we think of it as painful or boring. Yet we know it could be good for us. This card is far beyond cute in the 'I'll shoot you' way. This is seriously clever because it suggests that this place would be fun. Yoga made less painful and more the masses. I want to see their contact information so I can give them a call.

3) The front design gives us a sample.



This card takes us in a useful direction for writers. I scrolled hundreds of author business cards, most wasting precious space by listing the name as both 'author' and 'writer', with phone and other contact information, maybe a boilerplate image of a typewriter as well. Here the author has given the front side to his book cover, sure to appeal to fantasy readers. Another author might choose to show his cover and a very brief quote from the book. Still another might actually offer a short sample of his prose. In all cases, the back side is reserved for contact and author information, After you've captured our interest, that's stuff we might like to know. Only then.

We'll cover the back side next week. For now, in summary:

1) Two-sided cards are most useful for those who aren't quite There yet. 
2) If we aren't There, then our names and phone numbers don't mean a thing to anyone.
3) Avoid the cutesies at all cost and offer compelling instead.
4) Your card not about you, its's for us--and what can you offer that others cannot.
5) The front of the card exists to compel us to turn the card over,
6) The back of the card exists to convince us that you are the bomb. 
7) The two sides add up to one--as in you're the one for me. 



Sunday, September 18, 2016

Business Cards 2: The Front Side Only Sort

Only one side of a card is required if people actually want it. And they may want it for various reasons.

Your name and/or your position





All three of these are fine. I warm most to the attitude of the first and the simple gravitas of the third. But the cards provide the contact information that the recipients crave. We don't need to know the names of Arnold's movies. Of the three examples, more is only more with the cheeky attitude displayed in the first. That comes across as something like the soul of Facebook. And if Obama's card looks too cluttered, remember this: he was trying to convey complete accessibility.


Your service



Look closely and you'll see the perforated line down the center. Contact info on both halves. A tearable divorce lawyer card is more than simply clever. It tells us how this lawyer works. The steadfast, conventional lettering conveys professionalism and reliability. And the ingenious tear design tell us this lawyer knows how to think outside the box as well. 

Your experience

Your other major selling point may be the breadth of your experience:
--Twenty years' experience
--99% acquittal rate
--Formatter/editor of 700 books
--First agent of Lady Gaga

Whether you show at a courtroom or an accident site or a literary convention, your card will open many doors if you're a proven pro.

                                                                       *****

But what about the rest of us?

Sad to say, when we're just starting out next to no one really needs us. Or at least they don't know that they do yet. Our names are unknown. We lack movie star mugs. Half the seats in our new indie business are empty at all times. Or we find ourselves desperately struggling to stand out in a wilderness of signs.

If your card tries too hard or it's cluttered...you're toast.
If it fails to at least suggest a compelling Reason Why...you're toast.
If it lacks pizzazz and personality...you're toast.
If it fails to give contact info...you're similarly toast.

No need to despair, though. A two-sided card can help you reach the high plateau where only a one-sided card is required.

Consider this yoga studio card, whose contact info's on the back:




Till next week.

This is my report.