Monthly Archives: November 2015

Book cover contest and sage perspective

I am three chapters into my new e-Novel, Head on a Grave. There is a contest by another blogger who will design a free book cover. One of the rules is to post a pitch of the book to be voted on by her followers. Deadline is December 31st. You can read more here.

So here is my pitch under 50 words:

While on vacation in 1927, Hollywood screenwriter Chet Koski and his wife Eveleen, both amateur sleuths, antagonize a divided small town, unravel a kidnapping, discover a timber scandal, and Chet fears his cousin may be a killer. These things happen when finding a head on a grave.

Done.

All of us Indie writers need to share wisdom and insight from others because we are in a community. Besides this contest that Ana is having she wrote in another blog about all the things we hear about, like ‘write a good book,’ and about pricing, and about social media. Like me, you may have discovered what Ana has to say. Good stuff. That blog is here.

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Why I give thanks and why I thank you

In a recent blog I bemoaned that I wrote over 1,700 words in chapter three of my new novel and apparently forgot to click ‘save.’ When I discovered what happened I wrote notes of what had transpired in the story and let it sit one week. I could not bring myself to redo  it. Agony. But finally knowing I had to proceed, I wrote 2,700 + words and it came out better with a great ending to chapter three.

So I am thankful that when something bad happens, whether to me or to you, steps can be taken to redeem one’s mistakes, laziness, and stupidity. Things can be fixed, so if you know you need to fix it, now is the time.

I also want to thank those who periodically read this blog and for those who have liked a post, and or commented. I enjoyed reading your blogs as well and am thankful to be in a nice community with all of you. So I wish you a happy Thanksgiving and I hope you enjoy the food and family time.

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A serendipitous discovery in writers research

I don’t outline a novel before I start. For some reason, if I worked everything out in advance, I would have trouble figuring it all out. I would get lost wondering about the whole thing. It also takes a lot of time and I would rather use the time to actually create something, and an outline is not creative to me. I find it far more fun-and inspiring to me-to have a beginning with my main characters, but not know what is going to happen, and in the case of my work in progress, not knowing who the murderer will be.

I don’t know where the murder takes place-not yet-but the head of a woman was found on a grave in a cemetery in a small town in southwest Washington in 1927. The cousin of my amateur detective works in a bank. I looked through the city directory of the time and found her a nice bank to work in. I also found that two lawyers worked in the same two story building and jotted down their names in case one of my suspects needed one.

And here is where my serendipitous research landed a wonderful surprise. I decided that the grave of Hugh Pemberton, on whose grave the head was found, was murdered by an unknown killer in 1926, and that he had been a World War one veteran. Eight years before in 1919 this small town had a large parade on the anniversary of the Armistice and this fictional Pemberton was in the parade. It became a national story when Wobblies opened fire on the veterans  and killed four young men, one of whom was an All-American football player at the University of Washington. And low and behold, he had the same last name of the lawyers that worked in the bank.

It turns out the murdered young man was the son of one of the lawyers, one that was the city attorney at the time, who said, despite his son being murdered by Wobblies, there was no legal reason to run the Wobblies out of town. A very brave stance to take in a town that was divided for decades by what happened.

It was a wonderful thread to weave into the story about the parade-I had a reason to write the scene when a barber talks about it to my lead character who is from Los Angeles-and about the son and father, and about what my fictional Hugh Pemberton did during the parade with another true character who met an unfortunate end.

This is the kind of discovery during research that drives the story forward and perhaps, if not creating a red herring, leads to a surprise twist at the end of the story. Of course I don’t know what that is or where everything is going.  But my characters and my research will provide more moments of serendipity, I am sure of it.

It is this type of lucky connection that spurs me on and that is why I don’t outline. I love discovery.

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How I saved my cat and my novel

What a wonderful thing Word.doc is. Before computers, writers had to use something called a typewriter, an instrument that, like a computer keyboard, had letters to click, but unlike typewriters, Word is easier to correct. What a wonderful word is ‘delete.’

But Word is terrible at grammar, as many of you writers already know. Working on my new novel I wrote ‘I’m too. . .

I must pause to tell you that the original title for this blog was Why Writers Can’t Trust Word. I was going to show the sentence I wrote and why the Word.doc grammar Nazi underlined ‘I’m’ and said it should be ‘I are.’

I got as far as I mentioned because I went to the document that has the manuscript for my novel in progress. I wrote 1,600 words yesterday in chapter three, words that would throw a big wrench into the murder mystery, taking the story in a new direction with many questions to be pondered. I was immensely proud of the output and what I had written. So I wanted to find the sentence that began ‘I’m too. . . ‘ and show why Word knows little about grammar. He can’t be trusted. I had other examples I had written down as evidence. But when I scrolled down to chapter three, yesterday’s work was gone. It wasn’t there; it was gone, as in gone. That means it wasn’t there. 1,600 words disappeared.

What happened? My first thought was to go to system restore to retrieve my work, but according to my system the safe place was four days ago. Then I thought that I had failed to click ‘save’ when I logged out yesterday. That had to be the reason.

I think Word knew I was going to trash him in a blog and sabotaged my work. No Matter. I saved the beginning of this blog, went back to chapter three and the only thing to do was write down the structure of what I had written. I wrote down the essentials, a summary if you will ,of the scene. I was not going to rewrite until I recalled everything that went on as that would make the writing easier. But. . .

You may not believe this, but just as I finished the summary that contained everything I needed, the power flashed off, radio, lights, computer-(the lights just flickered again as I am writing this-I am in a big rain storm with high winds in the Pacific Northwest, thus the outage.) So now my summary was lost, just as I had finished it.  So I started a second time while it was all fresh in my mind. I told myself if the power goes out again I am going to grab a bottle of gin, kick the cat out the window, crawl into my bed, curse the world, and read a book.

Luckily for the cat the power did not go off, but as I am typing this the lights still flicker. In fact I just saved this draft, honest. I am not going through this another time.

I saved my work so I can finish chapter three, but I will not work on it today. I must grieve first. And since the power did not go off forcing me to kick the cat out the window, I saved her life. So if you are a writer remember to look at ‘save’ before you click. Make sure you save your work. Your cat will thank you. Now I am going to bed and read. I don’t care if it is just after noon.

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why e-book errors are here to stay

The sentence below is an excerpt from a best selling author’s e-book. I will not, of course, out of respect, list his name. The scene has a woman in a car and a male approaching the car who has exposed himself, thus the term yanking.

“It seemed so absurd that she started to laugh, but she thought better of it as he strode up the door other car and began yanking in her direction.”

An obvious mistake here. Does the author mean the ‘other car door’ or does he mean ‘door of her car.’ It makes a bit more sense that ‘other’ should be ‘of her’ but of course that is my thinking.

I do not know if the author did the formatting, or his agent, or an agent’s assistant, or if it came from the publisher. No matter, because a proofreader missed it, and the author should have proofread. For all I know he may have and missed it. I found another error, but it is not my intent to point out everything I may find, but to indicate that errors are going to be found in e-books. And we must live with them.

Proofreading, especially by the author, is far more time consuming than the actual writing. In my case with my latest novel,  “Silent Murder” which is by no means an exception, I proofread in Word.doc six times, then sent the file to my formatter and once it was converted to Amazon friendly Kindle, I checked through my Kindle app and found more errors; usually a missing period or quotation mark, or ‘ instead of ” and so on. In the Kindle I went through another six readings, finding errors I never saw before. What? Where did this come from? How did I not notice?

It is brutal. There are digital gremlins. I am sure of it.

The point being in one of my reviews of an earlier book the reviewer mentioned a few grammatical errors, but they did not interfere with his or her enjoyment of the story. It still bothers me that the book has a few errors. But the author reaches the point when he/she has gone through the readings so many times, with time off in between to clear your mind, that one must let it go to keep what sanity you have left.

So I apologize to anyone who finds a mistake along the way. I did my best, but we live in a new world of story telling, and if best selling authors can publish e-books with mistakes and grammatical errors, then we must forgive. I wish we could all write perfect books, but readers and proofreaders who read a book before publication, along with the author, and those insidious digital gremlins, will miss something.

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Are you inspired by these inspirational quotes

Believe that you will succeed, and you will.”

The above quote came from Dale Carnegie who wrote the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” His techniques worked for him as he got rich with the book and his training program. Though he died in 1955 his training program his still going strong. He is still influencing others from the grave.

But believing alone will not lead to success. I read a variation of this quote that said, “believe and act like you are a writer and you will be one.” What is not said is that a writer must write. And then if he is an indie writer he must learn to market, advertise, and become a businessman.

So no, acting like a writer by wearing a jacket with elbow patches, a scarf around your neck, a fashionable hat purchased at Wal-Mart atop your head, and sitting reading a small book of Renaissance poetry in Starbucks won’t work. A woman writer would be sitting at the same table, but I have no idea what she would be wearing, other than a colorful sweater, scarf (all writers must have one), flats-no heels, and holding a cat in her lap while surfing the net on her laptop. 

And great writers also have empty inspiration. Johan  Wolfgang Von Goethe, who wrote “Faust,” said, “Magic is believing in yourself. If you can do that, anything can happen.” I do believe that you must believe in yourself, but doing so will not create success, nor will there be magic. There Are millions of people who believe in themselves, yet face the fact that no matter what they do, no matter how hard they try, what they want will always be illusive.

There will always be waiters in Hollywood, who will end up as waiters, because they never get that good break. The same is true of those teaching here and there, writing everyday, but getting rejected by agents and publishers.

I admit to disliking inspirational quotes. I find them hollow. They are always said by those who have achieved, never by those who failed. I wonder why that is. Let’s be honest. There is something to be said about luck, about randomness, about, perhaps, being in the right time at the right place. But, and this is important, you must prepare for that moment, even if in times of darkness, you don’t think that moment will come.

As a writer you can listen to all the advice of those on the Internet who want to help you, all the while trying to sell you something so that they can make money as you chase your dream. Nothing against Writers Digest, a good magazine, but I got daily multiple emails from them, encouraging me to enroll in this course, to buy these books, to sign up for this webinar. I have also seen free webinars and registered for two, but of course they always have something to sell, don’t they. And it’s not cheap.

True success is not about believing, it is about circumnavigating all the traps set before you; the writer in the maze who smells the cheese and scrambles after it through the maze. I believe in writing and working, of having enough books on Amazon so that people who find my page will find much to chose from. I may never have success, but I will work, not from empty inspiration, but from the power of the word.

My new e-book is Silent Murder, a murder mystery set in 1927 where somebody is killing sound technicians, trying to prevent the demise of silent movies.

Also recently published is a collection of eight short horror stories, More Cemetery Tales and other Phantasms.

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The secret disease that compels writers to write

“Many suffer from the incurable disease of writing, and it becomes chronic in their sick minds.”

The above quote comes from Decimus Lunius Luvenalis, but we know him as Juvenal, a first-second century poet know for his satires that are considered a scathing indictment of Roman life and culture, not to mention politics. He may have been trying to be funny in the above quote, but it turns out he may be right.

There is a disease called hypergraphia. Fyodor Dostoyevsky suffered from it. He was a compulsive writer who suffered from epilepsy, a type of epilepsy in the brain that compelled him to write, write, and write, not just novels and novellas, but short stories,  journals, and of course, what writers frequently did in the days before email, write letters. He believed his best writing came when he was sick.

Writers of fiction write because they want to communicate. Consider the  narrator in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. He stops a young man on his way to a wedding. It was rude of him to waylay that young man, but he was compelled to tell his story and that man was going to be his audience, come hell or high water. As Joan Didion once wrote, ” In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, to see it my way, change your mind.”

Storytellers must tell their story and if said storyteller is an extroverted gregarious sort, he will not be a writer, but a big blowhard who never shuts up. But if the storyteller is an introvert with a sensate personality he tells his story in fiction. And how nice of him not to bother young men on the way to weddings. Though if he is clever, the writer will slip his book into the young man’s jacket pocket; the equivalent of an Amazon promotion where you give your book away for free for a limited time.

Most fiction writers are methodical,  keeping to a schedule, or trying to, but few of us have the mad disease that compels us to write, forsaking family, friends, and cats. Few of us are as sick as Dostoyevsky, but we writers must communicate, and because we write better than we speak, we put our words to paper-or digital algorithms.  We are introverts after all. We like to speak from a safe distance, the better to control our type of madness.

To learn more about hypergraphia there is a book by Alice Flaherty, who is both neurologist and writer. She writes from her experience with a postpartum mood disorder. The book is “Midnight Disease.”

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