Dog Ear
Resolutions (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 03 January 2013 00:00

We're looking at yet another new year (seeing how the Mayan's prophecies were typically misconstrued by a population eager for a taste of apocalypse). Nope, just another year of same-ol-same-ol.

I'm not going to make resolutions, not solid ones anyway. The doc told me to lose 10 lbs so I'm working on that. As for everything else, I pretty much hold to my life as I should - it feels right and works for me.

But then there is the writing angle. I suppose it's time to post out some more cover letters.

I've got a system with those big books of writing (including the section on agents). Since I won't be using them again (and most of them have a shelf life of about a year or two), what I do is leaf through the available (and likely unreceptive) agents and pick the ones I'll post. Then I'll review what they want, and get those packets set up. When I'm ready for cover letters and mailers, I'll do several things...

1) I'll place a circle (yeah, written right in the book) next to their name.

2) I'll jot down the date I posted them on.

3) I'll mark the page with a paper clip (small side on the page to remember) so I can find then again (and see, at a glance, how many submissions I'm running).

As my SASEs come home to roost, I'll mark an X in the box to show it's come back and remove the clip. It's a system I've used for years.

Usually I run three clips. Because I was in a Dale Carnegie course and need to accomplish something, I sent out another five. Looks like I'm down to five clips. A look at the date shows some from July and some from September.

Time to post three more out.

A perfect resolution.

And Happy New Year to you all!


Last Updated on Sunday, 30 December 2012 19:17
Leading the horse (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 27 December 2012 00:00

At my brother's house recently, I started talking books with my younger niece. "Have you read this?" "Oh yeah!" "And this?" "Certainly!" What was funny was a young girl looking at her 54-year old uncle, with three books to his credit, thousands read on his shelf, and even more in boxes, this whole incredulous bit when she found a book I haven't read. Yes, there are some.

Like Frankenstein.

I've read another of Shelley's works, The Last Man, and really liked it. And I thought I knew about the story of Frankenstein. But I hadn't , not really. She gave me her copy and begged me to peruse it (old books get me writing in bygone styles. Gotta shake it with contractions. Shouldn't. Couldn't. Don't...)

The thing was, her copy was really, really marked up. Four colors of highlighter and ink notes all over the place. After a while, I got to the point where I didn't notice them (yes, the story gripped me). But eventually it even got so I'd read an interesting passage and then check her notes to see what she thought.

The monster warns: "It is well. I go; but remember, I shall be with you on your wedding-night"

And the niece inks: "Oh no, the wedding!"

Where the monster seeks justification for what it's done follows the sarcastic comment "yeah, it was your fault" When Frankenstein, in a moment of tormented anguish, falls senseless on the ground, my young reader notes "passed out again" with a trace of smiling weariness.

Still, I got that she liked it. Really liked it. In fact, I know that she's giving it to her mom for the Raymond Christmas Book Exchange (this goes online after Christmas, so I'm not spoiling).

But there was something else - yes, she liked it, but because she was assigned this book, she felt the need to mark it up, focusing on words and foreshadowing and such, rather than simply enjoying it. Would she have enjoyed it more if she'd just been given the chance to read it rather than dissect it? But if she hadn't been forced into it at scholastic gunpoint, would she have touched this classic at all?

I'm really not sure here. I know that plenty of kids read Harry Potter and that's fine (in a numb sort of way). But in pursing Frankenstein, she got a look at something more than a boy wizard and his plucky friends. He saw a man torn between duty to self and duty to race, a man struggling (literally) with his own personal demon. She saw the world through the eyes of a horrible twisted creature, considered its justifications and found them wanting.

So should books be assigned and highlighted and tested? Or should they be chosen with the reader's own tastes in mind? Will forcing a reader into as strange classic fire them towards greater heights, or extinguish their passions forever?

I don't know. I do know that we had a great chat talking about That Scottish Play* and laughing at the main character's doom when he realized a forest had shown up outside his walls.

And if you know the reference, then maybe your reading was sparked, too.


* Macbeth


Last Updated on Friday, 28 December 2012 22:30
Killing them softly (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 20 December 2012 00:00

Flutter, flutter, went the flag, first to the right, then to the left.

This was a childhood awakening moment for me, the point in true literature (not kiddy literature, aka whatever passed for Harry Potter back then) when I leaned that people could die in books. Quick. Fast. Unexpectedly.

The line comes from HG Wells’ War of the Worlds. The flag is a white flag of truce. The people holding it aloft are scientists and peace-seekers. And the beings on the other end of the leveled heat ray? Martians, with intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic. A moment later, they turn the flag-wavers to cinders and then sweep the commons, frying dozens of onlookers.

That was the first time I’d seen death dealt so casually. And that characters I knew (i.e. Oglivy the Astronomer) died. Until then, the most dangerous things I’d read were when the criminals tied the Hardy boys up in the back of the shack.

Death, and not just mook-death but character-death, is an important tool. Without it you end up with nothing more than Star Trek, where the same tired group faces empty dangers week-after-week, until it ceases to register (and don’t get me started on that do-ever where Spock dies and comes back). With death, the story is harder, more realistic. There is also a change as characters fill in around those absent, their relationships altering. In its most basic sense, death of a character is the most honest thing a writer can do.

I mentioned in my review of Game of Throneshow taken I was by the author’s ability to kill of major characters with blunt practicality. No heroic measures, no martyrdom, just a guy tossed across a block and getting his noggin whacked off. Shit happens, and death is the ultimate shit.

In my upcoming book Indigo, I took this strongly to heart. In the final dogfight between massive formations of crows (at night, in a hurricane) I killed off pretty much every main character I had. I wanted epic, EPIC, not “well, that was exciting.” And when characters face death and fall before it, your perils are all the more real. After this, your readers will be off-balance, exactly where you want them to be. They won’t know what to expect from you and will keep reading.

Think about killing off characters. All the great literary figures did it. Few of the popular ones do.

Your book will be the better for it (but not your cast).


Last Updated on Monday, 17 December 2012 22:26
One year later (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 13 December 2012 00:00

Hard to imagine, but its been a year.

I was sorting through the knotted Christmas lights, wondering when they'd last been untangled. What, a year? No, wait. Last Christmas, we took a break from all that, spending the Christmas week in London. It was the year before.

But as I teetered on the edge of the ladder, stringing the now-untangled lights, my thoughts went back to that last year. No, Christmas wasn't a worry, nor the trip (we've done bunches of those). No, it was getting Early Retyrement between covers, as they say.

If you'd have told be way back in, what, July (just went back and checked my elance history) that it would have taken six months, I'd have thought you mad. My first effort, the cover, was perfect. Mike Metcalf, my artist, hammered out exactly what I wanted in two weeks. Each time he posted it was better than before. He even researched Persian foot-gear to get it right. How could it go wrong?

Then I got my editor - a disaster. We spent months (September through November) fussing with it. Everything was wrong - the icons didn't line up, the page numbers didn't line up, there were scripting commands imbedded in my work, problems, problems, problems. I remember feeling sick every time I got a new update from my contractor. I'd go through 400 pages of draft and find even more things wrong. Finally we parted unhappily (I had a scrambled manuscript and was out $400 so of course I was unhappy). And suddenly Christmas was fast approaching, gift time, book time, and what better time to release a book than this merchantalistic season (you think it was about the Christ child? No, it's about the gold, frankincense and myrrh).

I was already playing with the Kindle version myself (it was actually easier than I expected - over one Friday night I got further and was happier than I was with my former contractor) Further, I hired DedicatedBookServices to finish up the paper version. They did it in four attempts, which means four days. I was very happy with that. By now, it was going into December.

There was a little worry about the rights to the icon I used for the chapter headings. I tracked down where I'd gotten it on the web, only to be unable to get in touch with the creator. Given that it came off a carving, I had Mike Metcalf draw it out on the fly. The irony was that I was worried about a tiny graphic and missed the point some song lyrics would play after release. Oh well.

I still had three weeks to Christmas, two weeks before the trip, plenty of time, right? Then I submitted it into Createspace. And found at that it could take two weeks, even longer, to get approved. So I sat, and waited.

By now, it was a little too late to really blitz for Christmas. I might make some sales among friends, but really, I had no network in place. And so finally the trip came and it had to wait until I was overseas. I actually used my brother's laptop in the hotel lobby to click the final checkbox and release the book - and that was two days before Christmas.

If I learned anything, it's that writing a book is the easy part. Getting it produced (even self-published) is hard. Very hard. Think well, warriors, before you enter into this pact.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 December 2012 11:55

Page 76 of 85