There’s a new murder mystery author in town and I’m happy to be one of the first to introduce him to the reading world. Ron Wick began writing for others as a ten year old when his parents gave him a small rotary printing press with handset rubber type. Maybe not as old as this puppy…
…but not a new Mac computer either. It was good enough to allow him to “publish” The Golden Nugget News where he wrote about the latest neighborhood happenings for the next two years. I wonder if he had neighbors to write about like John and Ada Gillespie, who lived next door to my Dad and who let him, as a five year old, “drive” their draft horses,
Bob and Dick, while they moved steadily back and forth pulling a rope to haul hay up to the upper reaches of their barn.
But I digress as that’s a story for another time…
As Ron moved through life, he progressed from a ten year old journalist to being a teacher and administrator in Snohomish County, Washington where he influenced the younger generations for 30 years. As an educator he also worked with police and court authorities involving many criminal issues, ranging from juvenile delinquencies to suspected pedophiles. Also during his teaching tenure, he co-authored a collection of high contrast photographs and poetry centered on motorcycling which was published by Ellis Robinson Publishing. He is dedicated to improving the quality of life for all humanity and will donate 10% of his royalties from his new book, Gold Coast Murder, to Lions Clubs International Foundation, the charitable arm of the association of which he has been a member and officer for 35 years.
And now, let’s learn a little more about Ron, straight from the horses mouth, so to speak…
Milk in Bottles
Do you know that milk used to come in bottles? I remember those in my youth. When I was 5 years old a broken bottle of milk changed my life and taught a lesson in helping others, something I believe in and have done my entire life.
Dad and I were walking to the neighborhood grocery store, Mrs. Wickstrom’s, in Ballard. Another boy about my age was coming out the door with a bottle of milk in a paper bag. The bottom of the bag gave way, the bottle of milk hit the sidewalk, glass and milk went everywhere.
The boy jumped then began to cry. My dad went to him and asked if he was hurt.
“No,” he said. “My dad’s gonna beat me when I get home. We don’t got any more money.”
“Come with us,” dad said patting him on the head. “It’ll be alright.”
We went into the store. Dad got another bottle of milk for the boy and paid for it. Mrs. Wickstrom put it in double-bags and showed him how to carry it with one hand under the bottle.
“Thank you, mister he said going out the door and still trembling as he passed the man cleaning up the glass.
My dad was a commercial fisherman, halibut in the Gulf of Alaska. He always described the money he made as “…chicken today, feathers tomorrow.” That day we were in the “feathers” stage. Dad bought the milk and loaf of bread we came for. We didn’t get the ice cream.
That day I learned from example. Dad’s only comment was, “Sometimes you’ve got to help people. Sometimes others might help you.”
I didn’t know about kids getting beaten. I didn’t know some strangers would help you just because they could. What began that day carried into my life of writing, teaching, and serving my community through my 35 years as a member of the Lions Clubs International. My writing today reflects the observations and themes that began to form when I was a 10 year old writing and printing a neighborhood newspaper. Those themes and passions are shaped by life experiences, some wonderful and some brutal.
When I retired in 1997 I began expanding my love for poetry and short stories. The creation of the Santiago Mystery Series provided a vehicle to share fictional stories around fictional characters built around real life themes.
When the body of a young black woman is found in a bathtub at the Avenue Hotel in Seattle’s University District the victim is unidentified. The crime scene yields little evidence beyond a blue banquet ticket to a teacher conference from the night before, a possible semen sample on the bed sheets, bruising on the victim’s neck, and the torn tissue of her earlobes. The specifics of the crime are withheld from the media. The desk clerk identifies the room renter as John Smith; large, early thirties, married, wearing a big southwestern watch on the left wrist, and Caucasian.
Homicide detective Michelle “Mitch” Santiago is young, smart, sassy and sexy. She is a twenty-eight year old University of Washington graduate, Police Academy graduate; and member of the Seattle Police Department for four years including two on homicide. She is on the fast track to advancement; a gifted but independent investigator. Santiago and partner Chance Stewart are assigned the case. As the investigation proceeds Santiago is forced to deal with personal issues and a lifestyle that parallels the victim’s.
Using the limited clues Santiago and Stewart identify the victim as Hailey Cashland through a missing persons report filed by gay artist neighbor Terry Shaw. They discover Cashland led a double life with a sordid background beginning with a childhood of sexual abuse including rape, to college and the porn industry in Las Vegas, to the day of her death; successful teacher by day, many lovers by night. The case becomes high profile enough Santiago and Stewart’s other case, the killing of a hobo at Golden Garden’s is shifted to another team.
Santiago and Stewart focus on four persons of interest. Jack Hartley, Superintendent of Gold Coast Academy, has known Hailey for years going back to their days in the Las Vegas skin industry. They are close and he has a unique and distant relationship with his wife. Moses Cruz is an infatuated student athlete stalker, a jealous and confused teenager. Terry Shaw is the angry gay artist neighbor who loves Hailey like a naughty sister, reported her missing, and tries to manipulate the investigation. Trevor Gunn is the mystery man in her life, known of by all her colleagues but not by name; a man with an alcoholic wife, two sons and unable to earn tenure at any of three community colleges where he has taught.
The investigation leads Santiago and Stewart back to the hobo killing, linking one of the suspects to both murders. The suspect runs. He’s traced to Port Angeles, Washington. Did he take the ferry to Victoria, British Columbia or go into hiding? Santiago discovers he once had a relative living in Forks. He is traced to La Push. The motel is staked out. .
When found the suspect is battered and bruised after meeting the enraged brother of a local Native American woman he had attempted to seduce. He is confused and disoriented as he fluctuates back and forth contemplating escape, starting over, suicide and murder. All the key players are present. At the close Santiago moves closer to resolving the personal issues revolving around her background as a stripper while in college, sexual harassment within the squad room, and whether to remain with SPD.
I’d like to welcome guest author, Jennifer Fulford, to my blog today. Her interview with Brian Felson, president of BookBaby, has some great insights concerning the self-pubishing business.
This post evolves from my curiosity about ebook self-publishing and how the trend can help or hurt the unsigned, unpublished author.
Very organically, meaning by a natural outgrowth, the ebook self-publishing business has gained legitimacy with writers who feel the need to take their work to the streets themselves in an increasingly dismal marketplace. Writers are faced with many options and some tough decisions nowadays. Slug out the traditional route, clawing for an ever-shrinking publishing hole, or hold your breath and jump with two feet into self-publishing?
I do believe the stigma associated with self-publishing is as distasteful as you want to make it. If you take yourself seriously as a writer, you logically will also take a serious look at your publishing options. For me, it’s been an evolution. First and foremost, there is the act of writing. There’s the self-education to get better. Then, there’s the coming to terms with feedback and criticism. Somewhere along the way, there is commitment. The last hurdle is the push for publication. For many writers, traditional publication basically means that their work is worthy. They’ve made it. The writing is obviously good. We think getting a book accepted by an agent or a publisher will validate our talent. I’m not so sure anymore about that last statement.
Brian Felsen, BookBaby President
My doubt increased after I spoke to Brian Felsen, the president of an e-publishing startup called BookBaby. Felsen let me hang out with him recently at the Portland, Ore., headquarters of BookBaby, CDBaby and HostBaby and unequivocally made the case for what he calls self-release. (Of course, we want release, in more ways than one!). In terms of economics and marketing, he sees self-publishing as the hands-down winner.
Granted, this is the nice man with the gun who suggested the bus to Cartagena. Disclosure statement: I took no gifts or gratuities to speak with him or to publish this post and the transcript of our interview. I’ll still have to pay the $99 to e-publish my book via BookBaby, if in fact I chose to do so. I simply went on a fact-finding trip, and he was nice enough to cooperate. Laid-back, no question. A man not afraid to use the word poopy in an interview. Sure, he’s running a multi-million dollar company that is breaking into a competitive market, but he was still a nice guy.
BookBaby is new among the electronic book publishers, competing with the likes of Smashwords and CreateSpace. It has released only about 4,000 titles in the last year of doing business. Its competitors have somewhat different models, though I won’t outline the pros and cons here. At BookBaby, you pay an upfront fee, a real person processes your manuscript by hand, and it gets distributed to all the major retailers. The writer keeps 100 percent of the profits after the retailers take their cut. BookBaby has the benefit of being a spinoff of the highly successful CDBaby, a 13-year-old company that is the largest distributor of independent music.
Felsen is an artist and businessman. He writes poetry (no kidding), composes music and used to play rock ‘n’ roll. The way he sees it, self-publishing cuts out a lot of headaches. “It doesn’t hurt you if you release your work now by e,” he said. “Either you can get it pulled down and then get traditional distribution later or still give up the e-rights to it later, if you want to. Or, it’s the calling card for you to get future works noticed, but you shouldn’t put your career on hold and spend tons of money trying to go traditional with awork that’s completed and drive yourself crazy if it’s not imminently happening.”
For e-rights, he says it’s silly to let a publisher take them from you, especially when so little of the revenue from ebooks goes back to the writer. “There’s no warehousing or distribution, there’s really nothing. It’s not rocket science. There’s nothing to it. The sort-of dirty little secret of publishing is that publishers don’t add a ton of value in terms of marketing your work to the readers. They market your work to book sellers. But so many famous authors still have to go to book conventions themselves. They still have to manage their social networking presence themselves, have a website and Twitter accounts and reach out to fans and have contests and do all this stuff that they do, but you’d have to that as an independent author anyway, so you might as well keep the money.”
His logic is this: The publishers and agents are already looking for plug-n-play writers. Why play their game? Do it yourself. “Now, will traditional publishers look at you different? Well, traditional publishers are going to tell you they’re going to look at you differently because you are out there eating their lunch. So, you know, I talk to people, to traditional publishers, many of whom I’ve interviewed on camera for the BookBaby blog, and they would, they’ll say, ‘Yeah, there’s a stigma to self-publishing.’ Well, of course, ‘cause they’re taking an unreasonable cut with unreasonable overhead, and they’re going out of business, so of course they’re going to say that. But if you’re self-released, and you’re one of the top sellers, or if you win awards, they’re gonna want to sign you so badly and so fast, they’re not going to say, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s just writing, a family memoirist.’ No, not at all.”
I still believe publishers are looking for high quality. But I also agree that their model of selling to book sellers is dying. They already know that. Where does that leave us whimpering newbies? The outlook, according to Felsen, isn’t all that rosy in traditional publishing. “As bookstores are going away, as the publishing houses are consolidating, the mid-tail author is becoming more and more abandoned. It’s like the shrinking middle class. The mid-tier author is not getting the advances that they were. They’re not getting the publicity that they were; there’s not the outlets that there used to be; advances that are doled out are doled out over three years in quarterly installments, and it’s still not really—the pot at the end of the rainbow is a very small one nowadays, and it’s not for everybody.”
The interview with Felsen is more indepth and worth a read. For every new author (and some of the old ones), every option is on the table. It may mean I’ll need an attitude adjustment to worry less about how my work ends up with readers and to focus more on the real goal: satisfied readers. And those readers will let me know whether or not they’re satisfied, regardless of how I publish.
I would like to welcome guest blogger Andrea Danforth. Andrea is a small business owner, a mother of four, a lifelong learner and an observer of life. She has lived all across the country, from Maine to Hawaii and believes the United States is one of the greatest countries on earth. We had a very enlightening conversation on her observation of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and I asked her to write a blog discussing the variety of issues affecting the United States today.
The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Movement believes that corporations place their interests above all else and have taken over our government and political process. This has been proven by the corporate-owned media’s coverage of the Occupy protests. The top 1% owns the corporate media and it is in their best interest to slant their reporting in order to maintain the status quo. The strategically different viewpoints reported from the corporate news media and the alternate independent media both showcase how much influence and control the largest corporations wield over this country and pinpoint how democratic discourse in the media is limited by those same self serving corporate interests.
Corporate media’s response to the threat of OWS’ message mirrored Gandhi’s Law-“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Even though the issues that the Occupy movement is protesting have existed for a good while, they haven’t been in the news as a part of public discourse. This is one of the reasons OWS took to the streets.
First they ignore you. There were no early reports of the movement’s protests. “Waiting for two weeks to begin reporting on these protests was all out censorship and it was inexcusable.” (Los Angeles Times) As people started talking and word got out on social media sites, this changed. The reporting moved into the then they laugh at you phase of Gandhi’s winning strategy of non-violent activism. The LA Times reported on the movement by quoting the Wall Street Journal, “The pundit class has largely ignored, dismissed or mocked the Occupy Wall Street protest.” The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page calls the protesters “a collection of ne’er-do-wells raging against Wall Street, or something.” (Los Angeles Times) They went on to say “We too find it hard to get especially worked up over a series of small demonstrations in a handful of cities, including Los Angeles, involving mostly disaffected people who have trouble expressing what it is they’re against.”
(Los Angeles Times) MSNBC headlines read, “Wall Street Protesters Spread Murky Message”.
For the first month and a half, thousands of protesters, attempting to organize and spread the word about the occupation, found that Yahoo blocked hundreds of thousands of emails. Hundreds received emails from Yahoo claiming “Suspicious Activity suspected. Email not sent. To protect account please contact Customer Care.” Twitter hash-tag trend maps have until recently shown that Occupy Wall Street tweets have been surging everywhere in the world except within the United States, meaning a corporate media block out. (Flores)
The alternative media, however, had no trouble reporting on the Occupy movement—who they were, what they were protesting, and why. Their view of the “disaffected” was entirely different. “It’s not just Johnny, unemployed college grad who is out there occupying Wall Street, it’s his dad who was laid off, and his grandmother, who knows the difference between right and wrong, and she’s fed up with it too”. The alternative media actually reported on the movement’s message as well, “The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.” (Payne)
I went to the OWS march on Times Square on October 15, 2011. I saw clear messages on the signs the protestors were carrying. “Big Money Out Of Politics”, “Wall Street Should Buy Stocks Not Politicians”, “I’ll Believe That Corporations Are People When Texas Executes One”, “New York Teacher, We Are the 99%” and “End The Fed”. One sign said, “We have clear goals” and then listed 7 of them. The National Nurses Association had signs saying “Tax Wall Street Transactions Heal America”. Many people, young and old, held signs saying, “Dissent is Patriotic”. The OWS message was clear to me. I also saw a wide variety of people there; teachers, nurses, students, young, old, black, white and in between, lesbians and straights. They were clean and well kept as well as polite and friendly. After my experience at the protest in New York, I decided to dig a little further into corporate media ownership.
What I found was an interconnected web of corporate ownership and directorship across many types of corporations. Three media giants own all of the cable news networks. Comcast and AOL Time Warner serve 40 percent of cable households. (Common Cause) Disney owns 10 television stations, 50 radio stations, ESPN, A&E, the History Channel, Discover magazine, Hyperion publishing, Touchstone Pictures, and Miramax Film Corp. Viacom owns 39 television stations, 184 radio stations, The Movie Channel, BET, Nickelodeon, TV Land, MTV, VH1, Simon & Schuster publishing, Scribner, and Paramount Pictures. General Electric owns 13 television stations, CNBC, MSNBC, and Bravo. News Corp. owns 26 television stations, FX, Fox News Channel, TV Guide, the Weekly Standard, New York Post, DirecTV, the publisher HarperCollins, film production company Twentieth Century Fox and the social networking website MySpace (Common Cause)
I recognized why the corporations would be threatened by OWS’ message and why they felt they needed to move into Gandhi’s 3rd stage: Then they fight you. Corporate media fought by complaining, focusing and reporting mostly on troubles at the Occupy sites: drug use, assaults, homelessness, cleanliness and infighting between protesters. They are effectively able to control the type of news focused on and therefore reported to the public. While it is true that sometimes the news media attacks corporations, they never mention, let alone advocate, the bottom line issues and reforms that could bring about positive change for the majority of the United States population. Some issues, such as meaningful penalties for white-collar crime, revocation of corporate charters and public, instead of corporate, financing of elections, have never seen the light of day. Election reform is probably one of the top concerns for the average American because all of us are aware of the massive amounts of money that it takes to get involved in national politics.
These are the issues that the Occupy movement is bringing to light. With corporate media’s enormous profit from paid political advertisements and the corporate owner’s interests in opposition to what is fair for the 99%, these issues have not gotten the public coverage and discourse that is wanted and needed by the majority of the people. Until the corporations no longer control the major news outlets, movements like Occupy Wall Street will never receive accurate representation in the mainstream media. As more and more of society becomes aware of the degree to which our news and information is controlled by corporate interests, I believe they will stand up with Occupy Wall Street against this control and its resultant takeover of our government and political process.
After all, our government is supposed to be “Of the people, by the people, for the people.”
This is what needs to happen before the fourth stage of Gandhi’s Law- then you win.
Common Cause. “Facts on Media in America: Did You Know?” 01 01 2010. commoncause.org. 22 02 2012.
Flores, Whidden. “Fight Against Media Censorship of Occupy Wall Street.” 03 11 2011. Force Change. 21 02 2012.
Los Angeles Times. “Occupy Wall Street: The left’s answer to the ‘tea party’?-Los Angeges Times.” 04 10 2011. The Los Angeles Times. 22 02 2012.
Payne, Ed. “Wall Street protests enter 11th day.” 27 09 2011. cnn.com. 21 02 2011.
Report, Chase Kyla Hunter and Alternative News. “Early Web Censorship of Occupy Wall Street.” 30 11 2011. Alternative News Report. 23 02 2012.
Schoen, John W. “Familiar refrain: Wall Street protest lacks leaders, clear message.” 27 09 2011. The Bottom Line on MSNBC.com. 23 02 2012.
Today I’d like to welcome fellow author Heidi Noroozy who has written a wonderful blog post describing how she chooses names for the Iranian characters who populate her mystery novels which are set in Iran and the Persian diaspora.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
First, let me thank you, Alison, for inviting me to be part of your wonderful blog today. I’m delighted to be here!
Several months ago, I received a tweet from a follower on Twitter with an intriguing proposition. He asked that, should I consider putting him in one of my mystery novels, would I please not make him the villain? He bravely offered to die in the first pages if I found it necessary.
I was enchanted.
Usually, I try to avoid using the names of family, friends, and acquaintances in my books for fear that these people will think I am plunking them down in my books, personality quirks intact. And here was someone who actually wanted his name in my book!
Picking the right name for a character is not a decision authors make lightly. Think of the memorable characters in fiction whose names seem to reflect and support the character. For me, Atticus Finch, the hero of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, is a name perfectly suited to the character. What could be more inspired than to take the name of an ancient Greek philosopher and apply it to a man who would sacrifice everything for his convictions? Atticus is a noble name for a man with noble aspirations.
My stories are set in Iran and the Persian diaspora, a culture that is not my own, yet I have come to know it well through my Iranian-born husband, his family, and Persian friends. But because I write for an English-speaking readership and cannot assume that my readers will be able to get their tongues around the foreign names populating my books, I put a lot of thought into picking names that not only fit the character but are not too difficult to pronounce or remember.
Take the protagonist of my Persian P.I. series: I named her Leila because it would be somewhat familiar to English speakers. Arabic in origin, the name may not be the most common one in the West, but it’s short and clearly feminine (gender is not always obvious in foreign names).
For her last name, I chose Shirazi because I liked the rhythm it created when paired with Leila. And it’s derived from one of Iran’s loveliest cities—Shiraz—a place famed for its hospitality, beautiful gardens, and famous poets.
In Leila’s case the name came first, and the character grew to embrace it. Leila is a private investigator, who can be tough and driven when the situation calls for it. But she has a softer side as well and can stop and smell the roses of Shiraz, as it were.
Iranian names are fun to play with when it comes to pairing them with characters, since many of them have very specific (and sometimes quite ordinary) meanings. This goes for both female first names—Mozhgan (eyelashes), Arezou (wish), Roya (dream)—and for male ones: Atash (fire), Omid (hope), Kamyar (success).
In my novel, Bad Hejab, I have a character who comes across as arrogant, always acting in his own interest and sparing little thought to others. I named him Amir (prince). Over the course of several drafts, I realized this man’s arrogance was a cover for a sense of inadequacy. His family never expected him to amount to much, and as a man operating mainly on the wrong side of the law, he knows he has fully lived up to their expectations. I began to appreciate the irony of the name for a man whose actions were often self-serving yet who felt less than noble in his heart. This dichotomy seemed very Iranian to me, for Persian culture is one where appearances can be deceiving and a person’s true nature or purpose is not easily discerned.
Iranian last names pose a different problem. They are usually less difficult to remember or pronounce, but most end in the letter “i”: Molavi, Tavakoli, Esfandiari. Such names can get repetitive in a novel that has many characters. This tendency has historical reasons. Until the early 20th century, Iranians did not have last names, but were often referred to by their place of origin: Tehrani, Gilani (Gilan is a province in northern Iran), or Shirazi. Consequently, I am always on the lookout for names that end in a consonant: Amanpour, Daneshvar, Zand.
So where do I find names, seeing how reluctant I am to plunder the names of family and friends? (And I can’t always rely on Twitter buddies to volunteer theirs.) By necessity, I have become a collector of names.
I read a lot—memoirs, books on Iranian history and contemporary society, news reports, blogs. And fiction, of course. I maintain three lists: for female, male and last names. When I come across an unusual name, it goes into my list. If I can find the meaning associated with the name, that goes in the list as well.
Iran has a great deal of ethnic diversity. While Persians make up the dominant culture, many Iranians are Kurdish, Turkish-speaking Azeris, Christian Armenians, or members of nomadic tribes (Bakhtiaris, Qashqais, Lurs). Some names reflect these ethnicities. Naghshbandi is a typical Kurdish last name. A name ending in “ian” is usually Armenian.
In Bad Hejab, I have an Armenian policeman and when I needed a name for him, I turned to Google and searched for Armenian baby names – and ended up with 2 million hits! I chose Krikor from one of these lists and paired it with Goryan, a name the Armenian-American author, William Saroyan, once used as a pseudonym, although the famous author chose a different first name (Sirak). My reasons for picking Krikor Goryan as my detective’s name were not particularly profound. I liked the sound of Krikor and was intrigued by the fact that Saroyan had once used a pen name.
What about you? How do you feel about character names? If you are a reader, do you appreciate a good pairing between a name and its character? What are some of the most memorable fictional names you can think of? And if you are a writer, how do you go about picking names for your characters?
Heidi Noroozy writes multicultural fiction set in the Persian-American subculture and regularly travels to Iran for research and inspiration. In the Islamic Republic, she has pondered the ancient past amid the ruins of Persepolis, baked translucent flat bread with Kurdish women in the Zagros Mountains, dipped her toes in the azure waters of the Caspian Sea, and observed the dichotomy of a publicly religious yet privately modern society. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies, and she is seeking publication for her suspense novel, Bad Hejab, in which an Iranian-American P.I. pursues justice for the murder of her journalist cousin while navigating the bewildering, male-dominated society of Tehran. Heidi can be found at http://noveladventurers.blogspot.com/, where she writes about Persian culture on Mondays.
“I release the novel today to celebrate and honor the end of the discriminatory and humiliating Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.” Kurt Brindley
I’d like to welcome guest author, Kurt Brindley. I struck up a friendship with Kurt through Twitter, and in him I discovered a man who is passionate about the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. His book, THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR, debuts today and I’m proud to host him on this auspicious day when the repeal of DADT officially goes into effect!
As a special bonus to one lucky reader, Kurt is giving away a signed copy of THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR. To enter the give away, simply leave a comment at the end of this post and your name will be entered in the drawing which will be held on September 27th, 2011. Good Luck!
WRITE TO PURGE by Kurt Brindley
To me, writing is hard.
And it sometimes hurts.
And rarely does it ever come easy.
But still, I cannot stop myself from writing.
I’m not exactly sure why.
I am sure that I am not one of those writers who passionately declare such things like, “I write to live,” or, “If I didn’t write, I would die.”
While I understand the reason for these types of sentiments from those types of passionate writers, I hardly believe them to be completely sincere.
Well, based upon my own sentiments toward writing, I find them hard to believe, anyway
But who am I to judge, right?
Who am I?
Why I’m the one doing the writing, that’s who. And since I’m the one doing the writing (and since Alison so kindly (foolishly?) posted my writing on her blog), it means that I am also the one who gets to do the judging around here for now.
Yeah…(sinister laugh)…here comes the judge.
There’s nothing quite like the rush I get from the mighty, nearly invincible, power of the pen/laptop, that’s for sure.
You should try it (“It” referring to both writing and judging. (A pretty versatile “it,” wouldn’t you agree?)) sometime.
But back to my point (Which, let’s face it, really isn’t the real point of this post. To give you a heads up, the real point of this post comes shortly after this somewhat pointless point that I am presently in the middle of pointing out.).
Anyway, we all know that these passionate writers who declare such things like they will die if they don’t write will not die if they don’t write. If they don’t write they’ll just continue on slugging it out with their sluggish day jobs and their sluggish lives just like the rest of us slugs.
See, my sentiments toward writing are more along the lines of if it were possible I would leave it rather than take it.
I would gladly leave it because, like I all ready said, to me, writing is hard.
And it sometimes hurts.
And rarely does it ever come easy.
I would leave it (“It” referring to my relationship with writing.) but, alas, it (“It” referring to my ability to leave my relationship with writing.) is not possible.
Though I’m not exactly sure why I cannot stop writing, I do know why I write.
I write, not to live, or, to keep from dying,
I write to purge.
I write to purge demons…
I write to purge depression…
I write to purge sorrow…
and hap– Yeah, yeah. Whatever.
You get my pathetic point (Which, still, is not the real point of this post.), I’m sure.
But mostly (And here we now have arrived at the real point of this post.) I write to try to purge my own ignorance.
And based upon the ignorant things I have written thus far in this pointy post, I bet you’re thinking that I have a lot of purging to do.
That I do, my friend. I certainly do.
I began writing a novel almost a decade ago in an effort to purge my own ignorance of the impact that the misguided Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy was having on the United States’ military.
What I found was that it was a rather extensive and harmful impact, one which required a considerable amount of purging on my part.
The nearly decade-long writing purge of mine culminates today, September 20, 2011, with the publication and release, or shall I say, the Coming Out!, of my novel THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR. (Okay. I confess. Informing you that my novel is now available for you to purchase is the for real point of this post.)
I release the novel today to celebrate and honor the end of the discriminatory and humiliating Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.
While today is a very proud day for me, in my view (remember, I’m the one with the judging power of the almighty pen/laptop), today is an even prouder day for the United States of America.
Today, the United States of America has purged itself of some seriously malignant and damaging ignorance.
And with this purging, today, the United States of America has been cleansed and shines anew.
Today, I congratulate all Americans for finally doing what is right and just.
Today, I especially congratulate those patriots who courageously sacrificed their identities, and in some cases, their lives, in order to proudly and honorably serve their nation while Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was national policy.
Thank you Patriots. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Kurt Brindley is a novelist, poet, and blogger who dreams of being a rock star. A retired sailor, he enjoyably spent a portion of his navy career as an Equal Opportunity Advisor. It was during his time as an EOA that the impetus behind THE SEA TRIALS OF AN UNFORTUNATE SAILOR began gathering. Kurt is a graduate from the United States Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute. He holds an undergraduate degree in English and a graduate degree in Human Relations.
I’m very pleased to welcome Brett Battles to my blog as a fellow writer and blogger. In this guest post, Brett discusses some of the background research for his book, Little Girl Gone.
rett was born and raised in southern California. His parents, avid readers, instilled the love of books in him early on.
Though he still makes California his home, he has traveled extensively to such destinations as Ho Chi Minh City, Berlin, Singapore, London, Paris, and Bangkok, all of which play parts in his current and upcoming Jonathan Quinn thrillers.
THE SOUND OF THE DISTANT WHISTLE
The train pulls out of the station just as dusk settles over Bangkok. I sit on my bench seat, gazing out the window, and watching the city roll by. As always when I travel, I’m fascinated with everything—the little roadside restaurants, no more than carts and some plastic chairs; the motorcycles used like pickup trucks, piled high with God knows what; and the kids playing in the clearing between the tracks and the city, barely even acknowledging us as we pass.
I’m told the trip will last between twelve and fourteen hours, an overnighter from the Thai capital in the south to Chiang Mai in the northwest, near the border with Burma. I had initially hoped to get a first class cabin, which would have meant a private room, but I was too late in purchasing my ticket, so I have settled for second class.
Now, I’m glad it has worked out that way.
The second class cars are set up with set after set of two high back benches facing each other. There are rows of these on either side of the cabin. They create an aisle down the middle that is probably four feet across at best. Though every bench can comfortably fit two people, no more than one traveler is assigned to each.
Night takes over for day as we finally leave the city for the countryside. The only things cutting through the darkness are the lights of homes and cars and motorbikes.
I am never bored when I travel. I can sit at a sidewalk café watching the world go by for hours and I never be happier. I have a deep wonder and excitement for places I’ve never lived and cultures that are not my own, so I’m always taking everything in—listening and observing and learning. Though I know I can never be a native, I love to try to figure out how those that are making their way through and relate to the world. I like to watch how they interact, and try to understand their motivations for doing this or that or the other thing.
I think even if I weren’t a writer, I’d be doing this. But I am a writer, so everything I see is story.
At some point I wander down to the café car. It’s more than serviceable, with tables and a waitress and a snack bar if someone just wants to grab a bite and go. After grabbing a beer, I’m invited to join a group of other travelers. Saoirse, Barry and Brian are from Ireland, and on a month long trip of exploration before moving permanently to Australia for work, and Bernard, a German, is traveling the countryside alone, splitting time between beaches and temples—of course the ocean is its own kind of temple, I guess. For the next few hours, we laugh as we drink Thai beer (Singha for Bernard and I, Chang for our Irish friends), and tell stories of our travels.
“You have to put us in one of your books,” Saoirse says at one point. We’ve already discussed professions an hour ago.
“Absolutely,” I tell her. I pulled out my back moleskin notebook. “Write your names in here so I don’t forget them.” She does.
In many ways, I feel like I am a character in a 1940s movie—maybe Cary Grant or Joseph Cotton, in a suspense story that takes place entirely on a train traveling across the county. This feeling is reinforced when I returned to my assigned seat to find that the porter has turned all the benches into upper and lower sleeping berths. My cabin now truly looks like something out of one of those movies. Each bed even has baby blue curtains that pull across the aisle side for privacy.
As I finally lay down in my upper berth, the thoughts of this fictional 1940s film begin to change into ideas for a decidedly 21st century story. That is, after all, the main reason I am here—to look for story, to search for locations to help tell the tale I know I will eventually write. And as I fall asleep, scenes start to come to me. Nothing complete, just flashes—the kitchen car, the all but abandoned platforms we stop at late at night, the aisles, the porters, where best to hide a body, how a chase would look. I know these flashes will continue to develop and sharpen in my mind. I am never so at peace as I am when this is going on.
Ka-kunk-tcuk-tcuk. Ka-kunk-tcuk-tcuk. Ka-kunk-tcuk-tcuk.. This is the rhythm of my sleep. It is reassuring, peaceful, and satisfying.
Then again, when I’m out in the world exploring new places and new stories, everything is satisfying.
Find out how the night train to Chiang Mai worked into my fictional world in my novel LITTLE GIRL GONE. Saoirse, Barry and Brian make an appearance or two, also. Bernard hasn’t yet, but his day is coming. He and I do still connect often on Facebook.
For a limited time only, LITTLE GIRL GONE is available for Kindle or Nook for only 99¢! Kindle . Nook
I am pleased to welcome Guest Blogger Jude Johnson. Jude, the granddaughter of a curandera, a Mexican healer who uses herbs, psychology and a little bit of mysticism, incorporates a bit of family legend into her Dragon & Hawk series. Currently, Book One, Dragon & Hawk, is scheduled for ebook release by Champagne Books in April 2011, with print publication following. Rest assured, Books Two and Three are already written.
Today, Jude asks and answers the question: What Now, Brown Cow ~OR~ Where the &#$* Am I Gonna Sell My Books
Borders Books has declared bankruptcy and is closing more than 200 stores. Barnes & Noble is in such dire financial straits that they are not paying shareholder dividends and are actively seeking a corporate buyer. (Ref: TIPS for WRITERS by Jerry D. Simmons, February 24, 2011, www.WritersReaders.com.)
The publishing business is about as stable as the Middle East at the moment.
The accessibility window for small publishers and indy authors to chain bookstores is now as big as the wee door to Wonderland when Alice is ten feet tall. But we are talking print books here. A revolution has been slowly gathering momentum over the past five years, and it’s called ebook publishing. It has exploded online these past two years, and with the demise of Big Box Bookstores such as Borders and B&N, online publishing will accelerate to Mach Four. As with all revolutions, there will be convolutions, protests, and wailing at the winds of change. And as with many revolutions, there will be grievous loss. Remember Wherehouse and Sam Goody record stores? Remember Blockbuster video? Well, you’ll be remembering Borders and B&N in that category too, and within five years.
So where the &^*% are you going to sell your books? Amazon, of course, though they’re quite akin to doing business with Louie the Loan Shark. The saavy author is going to make sure they have an online presence and a local connection with independent bookstores. Yes, you read that right—indy bookstores have survived and will continue to as long as there are people who love the printed word. Go buy books there. Get to know the manager and workers, send friends there to shop. It’s a mutual relationship: the more business you send their way, the more reason they’ll have to carry your books.
Speaking of your book, make sure it is the best product you can put out there, whether you’re dealing with an established publisher or doing it yourself. ESPECIALLY if you’re doing it yourself. The easier it is to publish a book, the more crap is going to be out there. Don’t allow sloppy, shoddy work to be “good enough.” It isn’t, and it will brand your work as bad like a full-color tattoo—and be harder to erase. Hire an editor, and if you’re working with a publisher of any sort, go over your manuscript with a super-fine toothed comb for every typo, slipped comma, or missed quotation mark.
Be the cream of the crop, not common crud, and your reputation will slowly build into a fanbase.
This is how authors will survive the revolution. Quality rises, consistency builds, and consideration wins respect. Be kind to your local indy bookstore. Be positive and consistent with your online presence. If you have a blog, post regularly. If you’re on Facebook, have a fan page and let people know you’re alive and working on things. If you have local events, announce them and invite everyone to drop in, and if they don’t want to buy your book encourage them to buy something. Yes, it’s going to take a while, but isn’t staying power the point?
There’s more to life than big chains. Enjoy the local flavor and support your independents. We can all keep books flourishing if we work together.
Author of DRAGON & HAWK
due April 2011 from Champagne Books: www.champagnebooks.com
Harvey Stanbrough’s poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, The National Book Award, and the Inscriptions Magazine Engraver’s Award. He’s also one heck of a great editor. If you’re interested, visit his website, www.stonethread.com
What is your biggest pet peeve when editing?
Having to convince writers that someone else’s advice was bad. For example, some writing instructors tell writers to delete all instances of “had” from their writing, or to delete all “ing words” (gerunds) because they create passive voice. The truth is, past progressive and past participle are necessary in fiction. There are a lot of bad writing instructors out there passing out bogus information, and a lot of them are in college and university programs.
2. How many times should an author self edit a book before sending it to an editor?
The author should at least put it away for awhile, at least a week or two, and then re-read it with fresh eyes. Make any changes that jump out at you, then send it to an editor. I strongly recommend against writing by committee. You can employ readers to give you recommendations, but consider those recommendations and then apply the ones that you believe help the work and discard the rest. If you change the character, story, etc. each time someone says you should (especially if that someone is not a professional writer or editor), you’ll never get your work published.
3. Could you discuss your “leave the lady in the shower” technique?
Author C. J. Cherryh once said to avoid writers’ block, leave your character in the shower when you stop writing for the day. When you come back to writing, you’ll have to write the character out of the shower before you can do anything else, and that will get you back in the flow of your WIP.
4. If you could give writers only one suggestion, what would it be?
If any writing instructor (myself included) tells you something that he or she can’t explain to your satisfaction, don’t listen. For example, the writing instructor who says “show, don’t tell.” When a student asks what that means, the instructor says something like “Well, I can’t explain it but I know it when I see it.” No, he doesn’t. If he knew it when he saw it, he could explain it. And if I were invited to give writers a second suggestion, it would be this: Don’t allow your narrator to use the physical or emotional sense verbs (saw, could see; heard, could hear; etc). Instead, have the narrator describe the scene; then the reader can experience it right along with the character. The narrator’s only task is to describe the scene, period. This is also called “deep point of view (POV).”