Know What Pisses Me Off?

Car ads! Hole – Lee – Shit, especially the ones for the “snooty” brands like Mercedes and Lexus. That quiet, condescending narration, the views of the product doing things that no courteous person would do, the price! The price! Well, come to think of it, only the “snooty” car brands use those techniques, because how else can they get you to spend fifty grand on something that you could actually get for twenty? Ah, marketing! In another life, I might have been a marketer. Seriously. Which is why those ads piss me off, because I can see what they’re doing. I think that most people can’t, so there they are, selling cars. Do the people who buy those machines act like the ads are telling the truth? (They aren’t telling the truth; they can not be.) Judge for yourself. Me, I drive a hamster mobile.

All of which is by way of introducing marketing as a topic. Writing is more than just swilling coffee in the morning and bourbon at night and sweating blood at the keyboard. There are quotes all over from famous authors about how to write, many quite clever (these guys were artists with words, after all,) and all irrelevant to selling the damned thing once it’s done. Selling the book is what you do, whether it’s to a publisher or as an indie on Kindle. And, once you sell it to the publisher, they won’t do much about marketing it either. It’ll be in their catalogue, maybe get a notice in Publisher’s Weekly, but that’s about it. What, you think they’re gonna book you on Fallon? Hah!

So, you have to learn how to market your own work. You’ll notice that I’m advertising my indie kid book here. That’s fine, but I don’t expect to sell a lot of them that way. In fact, I have other projects going at the same time (I could write a couple of posts on just that strategy) and the book for sale here is a part of a larger strategic effort which will, I hope, ultimately result in Messy and its two unpublished sequels getting into school libraries everywhere.

England would be great. I like England. I could visit schools there. You listening, England?

So, as you write, or maybe when you’re stuck for the day (it happens,) think about how you are going to promote and market your product (the book, fool) after it’s all finished.

You’ll be glad you did!

Ideas for New Books

*** Before I begin, if you haven’t been following my friends on their sail around the world, you’re missing out on some great stories and photography. Check them out at, or follow the links that I repost here. ***

Over the weekend I started notes for a new Young Adult novel. I’m not going to mention what it is, because frankly I have no idea if it will ever get written. It’s a good idea, though. One thing writers get asked is, “Where do you come up with your ideas?” Well, in some cases there isn’t really any choice: the idea smacks the writer in the face like the alien in Alien, and there it is. But for most of us that doesn’t happen very often.

One  technique that works for commercial fiction (I can’t help you if your an an artiste who is out to expose the world for what it truly is) is to steal plot ideas. I don’t mean entire plots, but the underlying dilemma that sets the plot off to the races. Shakespeare did that all the time, so I don’t feel even a little bit guilty about doing the same thing. In fact, lots of people grab plot ideas from old Will, and often they work fine. The trick is to not try to duplicate the original author’s storyline, or voice. Rather you take the original premise and run with it.

For instance, how about “Seventeen-year old’s father is murdered by his uncle and the kid finds out.” What happens next? You’re the author, you tell us, but for sure don’t make him a Prince of Denmark in Elsinore Castle. The world has perfectly adequate experience with medieval Danish princes, thank you very much. But you see, there is a plot starting point right there.

Remember, that’s just what Shakespeare would do. Now, if you can write as well as he did . . .

Writing Girls?

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle (several editions are available)
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle (several editions are available)

I hope that this works. I’m trying to write a strong, sympathetic heroine as a part of a YA. She has a boyfriend, who has been easier. So, in my usual style, I am reading about a strong, sympathetic heroine, as illustrated by the book pictured here. (I’ll review it on Amazon when I’m finished reading it.)

I’m about a third of the way through, and I believe that I have learned some things. I’ve never written from a high-school girl’s POV before, although I’ve known a bunch of them. I’ll post the results, if any, at the conclusion of the experiment. If it concludes, of course.


This is Just Not Funny!

And there’s a reason for that. Comedy, you see, involves a lot of writing. And I like to write! Heck, I’m writing even as I write this, right? But I have other stuff to write, too. Like a couple more middle grade readers to polish up, and a really nice YA romance, that I do believe will be a hit, which I’m still polishing up. And then there’s the house, which cleans not itself, and I have to do maintenance on the place inside and out, and, well, that leaves roughly zero time for writing funny bits. Which is too bad, because I really like doing funny bits. So that’s why this, and not much else I’ve published lately, just isn’t funny. Don’t laugh! It really isn’t!

But, here is a writing tip for you, one that works for me, at least. It can be quite funny, if you write funny stuff, so pay attention.

I use the Voice Recorder app that comes with Windows. Pretty much any version, if memory serves. For Windows 10 it has gotten simpler looking and more sophisticated. Here’s a thumbnail of how it looks when open:

The voice recorder as seen with Windows 10.
The voice recorder as seen with Windows 10.

You can see that it looks clean, and if you enlarge the picture by clicking on it you’ll see that it pretty much explains itself. If there are no recordings in the default location, the entire screen is white except for the microphone icon. Now, Windows isn’t the only program with such a feature. Heck, I have one on my Droid, and if Apple doesn’t provide one, you should flush that sucker and get a real computer, but of course they do. Have one, I mean.

What I’ve been doing is to read each chapter into the voice recorder, then listening to the recording the next day. Whilst doing both things I make changes, or if the change is large, making notes in the Word document that is my manuscript. I find that I frequently say things that I meant to write, but something, I don’t know what, made me type in a stiffer phrase. Seriously, this has been working great, and I commend the effort to your attention.

If you try listening to your own dictation, I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at what you learn about your own writing. I know I sure do!


What’s In Your Writing?

I mean, what sort of lessons do we learn by reading your stories? And is your (meaning you, the author) point of view explicit, or just there because you are who you are? Let’s consider that.

Some authors put an explicit point of view in their stories. Sometimes they can get downright preachy. Or, in a more Latinized term, pedantic. An easy example of this sort of writing is Ayn Rand’s opus. When I read The Fountainhead, I came away with the impression: “Howard Roark: Man!” I don’t think Ms. Rand intended to, but she actually founded a school of philosophy by writing those books. Her devotees love her.

Mark Twain (my favorite,) in Huckleberry Finn  is espousing a very definite point of view. But he never gets pedantic. He shows us Huck as he travels and grows and comes to love Jim. My favorite moment is when Huck tears up the letter and declares that he’ll go to Hell rather than betray his friend.

There’s one pedant and one storyteller. And as a result, only Ayn Rand’s followers seem to care much about her books. Everybody loves Huck Finn. Even black people. It’s controversial because it uses the word “nigger” a lot.* But it remains a classic anyway.

My point being that “show, don’t tell” is a very valuable thing to remember. Pedantry is another word for “telling.” I think you’ll do better if you avoid that.


*One of the worst travesties I’ve read about is those wanting to replace that word with “servant” or some other euphemism. Just ’cause we’re Americans doesn’t mean that we’ve always been nice to each other. Twain wants to show us something, and we should respect that. By leaving his words alone, at least.

Writer’s Block

I don’t get it. Writer’s block, that is. I understand not knowing what to write next on a given project. Sometimes things just need to gestate in some back corner of the mind for a while. That’s okay. But what’s this about you can’t write anything? Seriously?

I have three things in various stages of completion right now. I switch from one to the other. I have yet to be unable to come up with at least something for at least one of them on any given day. Writer’s block? You kid, no?

But, if you feel that you are blocked, here is what to do.

  1. Produce a clean piece of whatever it is you write with or on. A new Word document, a blank sheet of paper, a blank screenplay in Final Draft, whatever it is, create a new one.
  2. Write something on that thing you just created, or got out, or whatever. It doesn’t have to be anything good, much less profound, or even worth showing to your mom. Nobody ever has to see it. You don’t even have to read it. But write it. Whatever it is.

If you’re a writer, you like to write, no? So what’s this I hear about some bogus “writer’s block?”

Coping With It

The Donald won the Nevada primary yesterday. That is, the results came out at two o’clock this morning. And those guys want to run the country?

Well, that’s not my theme today. Today I’m writing about writing. You know, if you’ve gotten far enough as a writer, that most of fiction writing consists of rewriting. Editing, that is. That’s what I’ve been doing lately. I did the first draft of my current project for Nanowrimo 2014. I put it aside until last month, then started revising. I’m working on my second pass of revisions. (It’s getting closer to what I envision.) This harks back to the Trump phenomenon.

Trump appeals to people who “Want My Country Back!” I see what they mean. They remember, or believe that they remember, a country where the basic set of assumptions they were raised with carried the day. There were regular folks, just people, you know? Americans! And there were the Negroes, and a few Mexicans, and nobody who wasn’t at least a nominal Christian had any real influence, so far as was apparent at any rate. Those were the days, huh?

Now I live in a majority minority county. (Clark, Nevada.) We are a tremendously ethnically diverse community. We are, if you will, undergoing revision. One way to look at history is as a series of revisions. Sometimes, as in Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, maybe you throw away your project and start over virtually from scratch. Sometimes you just need to keep doing periodic revisions. That’s us in the United States.

I feel badly about the disappointment that the Trump supporters must feel in the world today. It just doesn’t add up, judged by the lights of the mid-twentieth century.

Yep, time for another pass at that manuscript.

Time to Re-Cover?

Look down the sidebar and you’ll see my ad for my book Messy Meisner. Maybe you’ve seen it, but never with its new cover. Yes, a cover that better covers what’s inside. What a concept, huh? That lady in the background? Heck, she could be Miss Hernandez. I don’t know. But she doesn’t look like a McIlhenny, does she?

I also updated the text inside once, just the font, because I didn’t realize that CreateSpace doesn’t adjust the font for readability the way Kindle Digital Publishing does. So, hey, it’s a whole new book, right?

And, know what? You don’t have to look at the sidebar. Here’s what the new cover looks like:

New cover, new font. Same XLNT story!
New cover, new font. Same XLNT story!

(It may not look different on Amazon right away. Sometimes it can take several days for a change to show up.)



I look on Amazon every so often to see how sales are going (or not, right?) Today I noticed that there were Eight new copies of Messy Meisner available , plus one used! Sales to date total zero, which is about what I was expecting. Which leads me to wonder how in heck anybody got ahold of a used copy? They’re good, is what. I guess.

What it is, is a service from Amazon, they call it Wordery, that sells your books in the UK amongst other things. That is fantastic, but I still wonder how they can claim to have a used copy. Let’s see, they printed one out, passed it around a third-grade classroom for a month, then put it up for sale? Huh. You tell me.

(Okay, it’s a marketing ploy. They’re selling the first one at a discount.)

And that is this weeks WTF special. Thanks for reading.