Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Sunday, January 29, 2017

On Art as a Confidence Game

Today I sent the fourth Boss MacTavin mystery off for formatting. And I plan to launch it around March 1, to prepare for a radio interview scheduled for March 22. At the same, Hold Fast Press is preparing the first print edition of Southern Scotch...then The Alcatraz Correction...and on.

So, all in all, it would be natural for you to think that I'm dancing on Cloud 9.



Actually, though, I'm of two minds. Yes, I'm on that groovy cloud--and I'm also here:



All the old anxieties surface again as I prepare to begin the next book. Which of the several ideas in my head shall I go with this time? Is my mojo still in order? Do I have the energy for another grueling siege directly after the last one?

As always, the process begins with what I call a war book.

For weeks, or months, I'll fill my war book with assorted Q&A's about setting, themes, possible plot lines, characters, etc. In this particular instance, I'm considering a sort of spinoff on the MacTavin series--with one of his partners setting up a branch in Seattle, dealing with insurance scams and retail theft (the plot line in the last book).

Setting these occasional spinoffs in Seattle will spare me the need for location research. And finding a simpler style for the different narrator will allow me to write these more quickly. I hope.

The main thing is, it's question time. And there's stress but no failure at this point--except failing to ask enough questions. If the old process holds true, my confidence will begin to rise again.






One day like any other day I'll start to fiddle with opening lines, one of which seems right to me. And I'll soon feel an intolerable itch that compels me to start writing. Once I've started, there'll be no stopping, though I well know the murderous struggle ahead through draft after draft after draft.

No complaints. I love it all. The part of it, though, that's a confidence game is always a struggle for me. That said, let it begin again.

Yeah, let it begin today!



Sunday, January 22, 2017

Then and Now...Or, Helloooooo, 2017!

Three weeks into the new year, I can't believe the difference made by 29 months and a cross-country move. These two years, I believe, will always stand out in my mind:




and




2014: Charlotte, NCk
  • A has-been author whose career had gone up in flames
  • Arrived in EbookLandia under a cloud of defeat
  • No real presence on Social Media
  • Job: third shift for close to the minimum wage
  • Out of shape
  • Lived in a grade C apartment
  • Felt trapped  in a city that I'd come to hate
  • Daily commute: 2-3 hours a day




Somehow I found the guts, the wherewithal and faith to do what needed doing: namely, at a rather advanced age, to pull off one last cross-country move. This time, I'd go to a place I'd never been but which fascinated. And I'd move with limited cash, no definite job and no idea where I'd live. Best of all, I'd move by train.





Departure: September 2014

2017: Seattle, WA
  • Author of 12 ebooks, a thirteenth coming in March
  • A strong sense of having found my writing A Game
  • Arrangement with Hold Fast Press for print editions of my Boss MacTavin mysteries
  • Am booked for a March radio interview
  • 1900 Facebook friends and 60,000 Twitter followers
  • New job, M-F, with full benefits and a decent salary
  • Regular workouts and a healthy diet
  • Living in a decent studio in downtown Seattle
  • Next up: a 1-bedroom apartment in my ideal neighborhood
  • Daily commute: a half-hour each way to work


And, hey, the year has just begun!







Sunday, January 15, 2017

W.A.R.! First Monthly Acid Reflux Report




The foe I thought I'd vanquished in skirmishes over the years came back in full force with the new year. And I was left prostrate and groaning in misery. But why? I hadn't done anything different. And I'd made some real lifestyle improvements.
--I'd quit drinking and smoking.
--I'd completely given up coffee, even decaf.
--I drank no carbonated drinks.
--I ate little meat, mainly chicken or turkey. A hot dog or a burger once or twice a year.
--I'd pretty much given up dairy.
--I was in decent physical shape.
--I avoided extra-spicy foods.

And yet, here it came bigger than ever. And I still didn't know what to call it. Indigestion? Heartburn?  Gastritis? (God forbid anything worse.) I began with the three things I did know:
--The attacks were worst at night, starting as soon as I climbed into bed.
--Then, when I turned from side to side, I felt...well, something moving within me. Liquid? Gas? Acid?
--Acid made a lot of sense since I'd come to realize that I could eat grapes, melons, apples without any discomfort--but citrus fruits hit me hard.

So...where would Google lead me on a search of acid + indigestion?

            THE FOE DECLARES ITSELF







I was shocked to learn how many of the reported symptoms had my name.
--Violent attacks of hiccups.
--Combination hiccup-burps.
--Heartburn,
--Intolerance of high-fat and spicy as well as highly acidic foods (even those I loved the best: e.g. spaghetti, chicken parmesan...)
--Difficulty swallowing.
--Hoarseness.





Seriously? Come on, now: how could recent hoarseness and the feeling of food being blocked in my throat possibly be linked to Reflux? 

Turns out the extra acid shooting back up the esophagus can splash the larynx and throat, damaging their tissues.

I had a choice to make and did not make it lightly. I could submit to a battery of ruinously expensive tests from a slew of specialists. Or I could declare W.A.R. (War Against Reflux), starting off with a stringent food elimination list.

At all costs I would avoid:

                 THE BADDEST BULLIES OF THEM ALL


Coffee--regular or decaf
Tea, except herbal...and taken very weak
Chocolate
Citrus
Acidic comfort foods: spaghetti, chicken parmesan
Processed foods
Any food after 5:00 p.m.



                        A Day in the New Life




As of 2:00 p.m. I've had:

1 cup of ginger tea


1 bowl of blueberry oatmeal


Two-thirds of a bottle of water:

 


And, just now while I write: Apple slices with wee dollops of almond butter.


At 3:00 I'll enjoy a small salad:


Then, finally, at 4:00, the last food I'll take for the day: a cup of Vegan, non-tomato-based soup:



Don't cry for me, Argentina--I plan to sleep like a baby!

This is my report.

       W.A.R. WILL RETURN IN FEBRUARY

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Phone Call That Changed My Life





You may have believed you had limits...that turned out to be not as you'd thought. Today I'll tell you of one that I dealt with  and how it opened a door to new worlds.:



Over the years I'd developed a powerful aversion to phones. Powerful? I avoided them at almost all costs, preferring to send and get emails, even from family and friends.



Let me add one major qualifier: The last three jobs I've won came about from successful first phone interviews, lasting up to half an hour. So in a pinch, I knew, I could do phone business, even sound relaxed. But that isn't what I felt at all. I felt a lot closer to this:



I had a few reasonable grounds for my fear:
1) I felt more confident and relaxed in the other person's presence, believing--sometimes wrongly--that I could 'read' them more clearly.
2) I'd learned that on the phone smooth-talking agents or writers could unfailingly get me to say things or reveal plans far better kept to myself. And, with nothing in writing, I had no recourse if they chose to run with an idea.
3) I'd worked in three call centers, subjected to daily abuse...and the humiliating awareness that others were 'making their by numbers' while my job was always in peril. I'd come to believe they had better personalities or phone skills--when they were simply more manipulative and ruthless.
4) Silence on the other end compelled me to nervously blather.

My feelings about phones were best summed up in my notorious quip:
I hate cell phones. I've never been able to use one without wanting to shower with someone I loathe.

But something incredible happened this year. I struck up a Facebook friendship with Pam Stack, a well-known radio talk show host for authors online. At some point Pam dropped by my jaw by suggesting that I appear on her show. Immediately, I grew frantic. I wanted to do but couldn't--I thought. As it happened, though, I had a cold and she was facing throat surgery. So we had no way of talking for at least a month or so.

Even so, I agreed to do the show and began to prepare for it. First off, I needed to finish the fourth Boss MacTavin mystery and to put on a bit more speed than I felt sure I could. This I began to do. And, oddly, while Pam healed and I wrote with new passion for far longer hours, my confidence began to grow.

Well, the time came when we had to talk. It would be at once a friendly chat and perhaps an informal audition. How did I handle myself on the phone? Was I all talk and no listen? Was I warm and outward-bound...or cold and self-involved?  Did I stutter? Did I ramble? Did I have a high, squeaky voice?

The day came for our talk. So I dialed...and learned:

.

We ended up talking for nearly an hour. By the end of that hour I found I'd overcome my Telephonophobia.
--I didn't need to see Pam Stack to know that she cared about writers, a class including me.
--Nor did I need to see Pam to feel a burgeoning interest in her.
--Pam had no problem when I asked if we could steer clear of one thing on the show. And this taught me that I might have spared myself much grief if I'd known how to ask years ago: If you've already rejected my nonfiction proposal, why do you want more details on the platform-building part ? Or: If I tell you my age, will you tell me how often you and your lover have sex?
--The conversation with Pam was an adventure in spontaneity and harmony. The less I thought about what I'd say next, or worried about what she'd ask me, the more fun I had doing Stackphone.


Now I love my Samsung Galaxy Note 4.



And for that I thank Pam Stack and our upcoming interview. Further details TBA.