Politics and Stuff

The ceiling of the Pantheon of Rome Photo by Steve Fey
The ceiling of the Pantheon of Rome
Photo by Steve Fey 2015

And stuff. The stuff is what I’m writing about. You want the politics, turn on your, well, almost any device that receives information. You got it. But stuff? Well . . .

I have started using Twitter as my primary social media account. (Go on, read the advice for writers on using social media. You need a primary one, and one or more supporting ones.) I’ve been using Facebook for years, starting when I was a Realtor ™. (I’m not any more but I’m still using that ™. You’re welcome, NAR.) It works pretty well, but it got so I couldn’t log onto Facebook without seeing something upsetting. And I don’t mean just political positions that I disagree with, ’cause, Hell’s Bells, I tend to disagree with most everyone. But I mean dirty, personal, trolling in advance, obviously untrue, horrible things said about candidates. I don’t like Trump, okay? But I don’t badmouth the man. I just say flatly that most of what he says is made up, so I’m voting for Hilary, ’cause she only massages the truth like a politician tends to do. I don’t call him evil, I don’t talk about his, um, equipment, and I don’t think that those naked effigies are all that funny. Gadzooks, there’s enough ugly in the world, isn’t there?

So I moved over to Twitter. Of course, my Facebook account automatically tweets for me, and my Twitter account automatically posts to Facebook for me, so the net amount of stuff I’m putting up stays about the same. And, outside of the usual incredibly awful ads about every candidate, I don’t see a lot of politics beyond a couple of commentators whom I follow. It’s much easier.

I did try adjusting Facebook. It seems that it is possible, most of the time, to click on the little caret in the upper right-hand corner of a post and choose to block the original poster but not your friend. Not that I think much of my friends for posting shit, but they are my friends, and people are more important than politics, even dumb politics. But, alas, that doesn’t always work, and sludge keeps getting through anyway. On Twitter, though, not so much. I dunno, maybe I’ll get trolled once the assholes figure out that I’m there, but I don’t think so. Most of the trollery I see on Facebook is of the first-strike variety, which is pretty execrable in its own right, innit?

So, if you use social media to promote your writing, maybe you can try a trick like this to make your day less stressful. I know who I’m voting for, I try methods that have a chance to work to tell others why, and I don’t give a rats ass what anyone’s grandma thinks about Hilary or Donald.

I do, however, still like kittens. Gotta love them kittens . . .

I’m Leaning, uh, is it Left?

Looking into Death Valley from Zabriskie Point Photo by Steve Fey
Looking into Death Valley from Zabriskie Point
Photo by Steve Fey

I really don’t know, it could be right? Down? Up? Well, I confess, this isn’t a political post. Sorry if you thought it was. Check the tags next time.

I’m starting to lean more toward going Indie. Half of the best selling books right now are Indie. But, consider the overall costs:

Not just money, but time and effort. But, first, money. I’m a lousy graphic designer. I could show you some stuff, but, no, I’m not going to. It sucks worse than the stuff I wrote when I was 20, and that was so bad that it no longer exists. So first off, somebody else is going to have to come up with a winning cover design. So I have to pay them, right? Indeed, that is right.

Then the editing. Everybody needs an editor. Hell, JK Rowling needed an editor on a couple of those Harry Potter books, and no mistake. (Of course, who is going to tell her that? Me? Right.) Guess I have to pay an editor too, huh?

And marketing? I know some things about marketing, but not how to mount a campaign to sell books! I see that even Barnes & Noble is carrying indie stuff now, but how do I get them to carry mine? Elifino! (Say it out loud.) So I’m paying out more money right there.

And all of that has to be paid before the thing can even be formatted for publication!

Speaking of which,

Have you ever formatted a book? I have. I was once a typesetter/keyliner, so I actually do know something about making the book look like it should. (But, is there going to be any artwork in it? — More money.) There are programs that make it easier to format books, but the process isn’t instantaneous. There is quite a bit of time and attention required, in fact.

And there is time and effort at every other phase of the process as well.

But . . .

A traditional publisher might give you a total of about 10% of the sales revenue for the book, if they are extremely generous. Indie, you could clear at least five times that much, probably more. That could be a lot of money!

But . . .

There is no guarantee whatsoever that anyone will ever want to read the damned thing once it’s published, in spite of all the money and effort expended before it even comes out!

So, I’m thinking. I’m thinking. (Do I sound like Jack Benny there?)

Where Do You Go For Support?

Zion National Park 2015 Photo by Steve Fey
Zion National Park 2015
Photo by Steve Fey

Writing is a lonesome job. Even if you’re writing with a partner, you’re not both sitting there writing at the same time, in most cases. That might actually be a good idea, but I’ll save that for another day. My point is that you might, from time to time, like to talk with someone about what you’re doing, or learn something about how to write, or edit, or publish, or . . . you get the idea, I think. So I’m going to put up a short list of ideas for in-person and online collaboration, support, and skill building. Remember, though, that I’ve done everything with fiction except make money at it. You’ve been warned.

In person, there are two obvious ways to go, and many say that you should do both. They are not mutually exclusive, either, far from it.

Actually In Person Help

First, you might find a critique group. I know people who swear that they owe their success as an author to a supportive group that they joined when they were still figuring it all out. I’ve been in critique groups, but I’m not right now, and I do think that regular critique can be a wonderful thing. But, how to find/start one? Well, see point the second.

Second, join a writers’ group. I’m a tad biased because I am the organizer of one, but you can learn some excellent and specific craft secrets as well as business procedures that will help immensely in your work. Often these groups have subgroups that meet to critique each others’ work, and/or a coordinator of critique groups who can help you to join, or even to start your own, critique group.

Online Help

  • Writer’s Blogs! If you’ll scroll down the sidebar (to the left on a mainstream computer browser) you’ll see a list of writer’s blogs to which I subscribe. They can be inspirational, instructive, or at the least, entertaining. (And you’ll want to start one of your own, too.)
  • Online Instruction. And I don’t mean a virtual MFA program or anything like that. But, you can check out Fiction University, which is the name of a blog by Janice Hardy. (The link is to one post, but from there you can navigate the entire site, of course.) You can get writing related news at The Passive Voice, which digests stories that will interest writers.
  • Use Google (or Bing if that’s your thing) to search out “writers’ blogs,” or “blogs by writers,” or “how to write good,” even. You’ll find a bunch of stuff on your own. (Or, start by clicking some of the links on my sidebar if you wish.)

I could ramble on, but you’re not me, and you don’t need to know everything that I like. Go out and find your own sites! Seriously! And, also, join a writers’ group. You’ll be glad you did!

The Las Vegas Writers Group meets every 3rd Thursday of the month at the Tap House on West Charleston. Cost is $5. This month our speaker is Mercedes M Yardley, a successful alumna of the group, who will be letting us know the right way to query and submit manuscripts.

Another Year Older

Towster, England, December 26th, 2007. I was there!
Towster, England, December 26th, 2007. I was there!

A word about steeple chasing, first. If you look at the picture closely, you’ll see that the horses are just landing after a jump. There is a second rail about a meter behind the one you see here. The ground shakes as if there were a major earthquake coming. Damn, but that was fun!

When I took that photograph I was 58 years old, which means that the photo is almost 9 years old. That was our Boxing Day adventure in the UK. Frankly, I’d do that again. (Especially in England, where almost nothing is open on Boxing Day.) Last Saturday I had another birthday. No big deal, really, it was the 67th anniversary of my birth. After 66 prior birthdays, the whole idea is wearing thin, anyway. I gave up active real estate work at the beginning of this year. That means that, for practical purposes, I am retired. When I was a callow youth, I said, blithely, that writing would be my “retirement career.” Damn, one should be careful what one says in one’s youth! Because of course, that’s what I am, a writer. Heck, I’m writing as I write! (See what I did there? Heh heh!)

I wanted to be a writer in my youth. But it didn’t seem possible. Family wasn’t behind the idea, and, frankly, such writing as I did was awful. It sucked. It was bad. Even then, I couldn’t stand to read it. (And, fortunately, it’s all been lost. Go for it, literary historians of 2243!) But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, one thing that I’d tell my young self if I met him, it is that you always must be true to yourself! (Didn’t somebody write that once?) And, writing rule #1: Only write stuff you want to read! And one more rule, which I have heard repeated by virtually every successful writer I’ve ever heard speak (and I kid you not): Be Persistent! Why? Well, for one thing, if you persist, you’ll get better (at least most of us will.) And for another, the world will never discover you; you must present yourself to the world. So, the more stuff you have to present, the more likely somebody will really like at least some of it, and you’re off!

So, there’s the advice from this older man: follow your own heart, write what you like to read, and persist!

I doubt that there’s a single other rule for a creative writer that makes any significant difference.

Getting it Right

The Coliseum in Rome. Nothing to do with this topic, but a nice picture, huh? (Took it myself.)
The Coliseum in Rome. Nothing to do with this topic, but a nice picture, huh? (Took it myself.)

I have at least four books at once that I am reading, normally. Similarly, I don’t like having just one project to write at one time. That means that I can take a while to read a given book. Or to write a given book, in some cases. I do have the option of focusing on just one book, in or out (so to speak) if I am really interested. But usually I switch around. This works out well for writing (not always for reading because I forget where I was.) But when writing, sometimes working on another project for a while is just what I need to figure out, somewhere in the back of my mind I guess, what I need to change in a project I’m not feeling so good about.

So it is with my lates YA. It’s a romance, but also a story of betrayal, dishonesty, thievery, fraud, and about anything else I can think to throw in it short of actual murder. I started it a lot like I started the one currently in the hands of my able-brained copy editor. It never seemed to get off the ground. I started by having the hero narrate, but that didn’t work so well, so I rewrote it as third-person, and that went better up to a point, then splat! But as I went back over my first YA, after beta reading, to get it ready for a final polish, I realized what was wrong with the latest, as yet unfinished, novel. It needed to be heroine narrated! And it is true! Suddenly it all seems to be working out, and I can see it going on long enough to be an interesting story for a few hundred pages. Woo-Hoo!

My point being that sometimes it really is all in the details, and I have to be sure to pay attention to said details if I want the project to succeed. And, it is sometimes necessary to start several times before it clicks into a coherent, doable, thing.

I don’t know if I could do it if I were having to hand write, or even type, all those drafts and revisions. I just love a word processor (I use Word, in case you were wondering.)

And they say that things are getting worse? Pshaw!

Create Memorable Characters: The Secret’s in the Details – Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

Breakfast_at_Tiffanys-215x300Create memorable characters using carefully chosen details by Ruth Harris   The 20th Century architect, Mies van der Rohe, designer of iconic contemporary buildings like Crown Hall in Chicago and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC, and classic chairs like the Barcelona and Brno, said: “God is in the details.” His […]

Source: Create Memorable Characters: The Secret’s in the Details – Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

Vacation Pictures and Posts About Writing

IMG_20150129_015821118_HDRFrom Zabriskie PointTowcester_3




IMG_20150913_080611563A note about my weekly posts on writing. (On Wednesday, you know.)

I like to put a picture on each post, although I never have been that thorough. But, starting with this Wednesday’s post, you’ll see a picture every week, at least on my Wednesday post. This week you’ll see a picture of the Coliseum in Rome, the Amphitheatrum Flavium to be proper with the name (Flavian Amphitheater.)

And each week unless something more in line with the current topic comes up, I’ll head the page with another vacation picture. I took the picture of the Coliseum in late January, 2015. A day later it snowed in Rome. Goes to show you something, huh?


Album Cover by Columbia Records
Album Cover by Columbia Records

I was just listening to satellite radio when “Mr. Tambourine Man” was played. The original, by the composer. You may remember him. I was struck, for the first time, by what a damn fine poem it is. See for yourself and click here for the lyrics from the official Bob Dylan website.

Back at Bowling Green State I knew a bunch of poets, and as I edited a literary annual (called Inkstone, if memory serves,) I saw a lot of poetry, though I was the prose editor. I didn’t understand a lot of it. I wondered why people liked poetry so much? I mean, if you can’t tell what it’s about, where’s the point, right? And I still agree with that assessment. Because, as it happens, those were terrible poems, or at least, most of them were.

But over time I came to understand how a poem is supposed to work, and to really enjoy good poetry. I learned about Imagism, for instance, which is what Bob Dylan writes. Bruce Springsteen, too. I can’t imagine some of my professors back then liking either Dylan or Springsteen, but I sure do.

Aside – I once helped two fellow students write a poem by drawing random stolen lines out of a hat. Their instructor particularly liked the line, “Holds you in his armchair so you can feel his disease.” That’s from Come Together by the Beatles.

I believe that fiction writers can learn a lot by studying poetry. Consider this famous poem, the absolute poster child of a poem for imagism, by William Carlos Williams.

The Red Wheelbarrow

So much depends upon
The red wheelbarrow
Glazed with rain water
Beside the white chickens.

It’s a single sentence, actually, but every time I read those lines I can see that wet wheelbarrow shining next to some white hens. There’s a chicken coop there too, of course, and other stuff not mentioned in the sentence. And that is my point!

If you can write a sentence like William Carlos Williams could, and pack so much meaning into it that the reader can see just what you’re describing, you pretty much have the secret of great writing. The poetry I follow is mostly song lyrics, but I have read the (supposedly) best: Eliot, Pound, Williams, Thomas, Whitman, etc. and found them to be excellent.

And the reason that they are excellent is that they are very, very, very clear in their meaning.

Like I said, I could learn a lot!

Traditional or Indie?

Image is in the Public Domain
Image is in the Public Domain

I’m not going to answer that question, because it’s something that I’m wondering about. I read an article posted to Facebook today saying that by 2030 there won’t be any actual traditional publishers left, just some folks using the same names that mainly cater to Indie publishers.

And it makes some good points. You can make the same money with one-tenth as many sales as an Indie publisher when compared to what you’d get from traditional publishing. That’s like, okay, $5k per year, or $50k per year, you know? Hmmm.

If you have any informed opinion (I mean informed, please, I’m doing enough speculating on my own) then please post a comment including said opinion below.

I’ve always expected the world to change constantly. And I’ve never been disappointed in that yet.