Reader Response

Some authors are unhappy when readers see something in their story, novel, or poem that was not intended.

I subscribe to the theory of reader response. Our work is going to touch different people in different ways; readers are going to get out of it something related to what they bring to it, so if they don’t see what we originally intended, they are not wrong, nor did they read it wrong, they are merely giving the writer an insight.front-cover-small

I, personally, am thrilled when readers see something I hadn’t intended. For my novella, West End, one reader said the melancholy of the main character haunted her. Other readers believed some of the characters might have actually been spirits or ghosts. One of the characters, I left open. His questionable appearances deepened the story and the effects on the main character who is dealing with depression.

However, when another reader felt that the son might have been a ghost – it made me go back and reread my own work!

Once the story, novel, or poem is out there, readers are going to take away or put into it whatever is in their own toolbox and we can not control it. We may not like it – I had one person mistake me for one of my characters – but we do have to accept it. I usually thank the reader for their insights, regardless of what I feel about the response.

All readings are good readings!

If you’re interested in reading West End – it’ll be on sale Saturday and Sunday. And – then let me know what you think!

A Tribute to Poe on his Birthday

January 19th, is the 210th anniversary of Poe’s Birth.

poe4Although many people are content with the reason of Poe’s continued relevance in our society is the stereotypical tortured artist.  There is no doubt he was tortured, and for reasons of which we are all familiar; he was an orphan who lost every women he ever loved.

His battles with alcohol, I believe, are highly exaggerated. But it makes for a good story. I’m not saying he never drank – he drank to excess plenty of times, he may have officially been an alcoholic as we understand the word today; however, it was not a constant. There were many years through his marriage to Virginia that he did not drink or drink to excess. Before his death in 1849, he’d joined the Sons of Temperance Movement – to get people to stop drinking.

The reason Poe has remained relevant throughout the years is his work touchespoe our deepest fears and deepest desires. He has continued to inspire other writers

 

 

 

 

 

poe2and artists of all types.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He wrote far more than what we, today, consider horror. He wrote essays, literary analysis, investigative pieces. He wrote about street paving, Stonehenge, and he was inspired by what he read in newspapers.  Berenice and others were inspired by stories of grave robbers in local papers.

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The famed portrait of Edgar Allan Poe was taken three days after his suicide attempt in 1848.

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And, Eddy, my imaginative fiction, was inspired by that suicide attempt. He bought two bottles of laudanum on a cold winter night meaning to do himself in. He’d lost Virginia and felt he had no one. (Laudanum contained opium and derivatives of morphine and codeine.)

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For Poe’s Birthday, I offer an excerpt from the novella:

   He stumbles from the pub, slips, and falls on the iced over bricks of Boston’s November streets. Save for the muddled voices beyond the closed door, the street is quiet as his body thuds to the ground. His breath billows in front of him as he gasps and grumbles and struggles to his knees, then his feet, to regain his drunken balance.

   The gaslamp on the corner offers a wavering yellow glow for the struggling figure on the lonely winter night. Thin strands of hair blow in the chilled breeze; he runs his hands over his head, straightens himself before he pulls at the sagging overcoat and tugs it closed.

     Remembering the tinctures of laudanum pried from the chary pharmacist, he hurriedly shoves his hands in his pockets, retrieves the bottles.

   His heavy breath mounds in front of him and, for a moment, he can’t see; then the luminous cloud of brandy scented air dissipates. The medicines are intact. Relieved, he stuffs them back in his pocket and buttons his jacket.

   “Edgar,” someone calls from the corner; the noise from the pub trails the swarthy figure out until the door slams to a close behind him. “You alright?”

   Edgar waves him off without turning around.

   The thick shadow chuckles as he staggers in the opposite direction.

   The winter is freezing cold, but the snow hasn’t endured. Small white crystals pile in corners and fill the air. The icy rain soaks him before he reaches his chamber on the second floor of the boarding house. The room is small, impersonal, but warmer than the street. An unlit lantern shimmies on the desk as he unsteadily seats himself, glances out the window.

   A barely discernable outline disquiets the otherwise muted darkness on the corner of the street below. He knows it’s the black dog that’s stalked him his whole life. Suddenly angered, he shoves himself forward, pushes the unlit lamp aside and topples the ink jar.

   “Get outta here, you wretched creature.” The incensed command lost in the night.

      Recovering the secreted bottles of opium from his coat pocket, he sets them side by side in front of him. Unsteadily he tugs the lid from one and snorts in a single gulp.

For More Posts on Poe – click this link.

To get the book at 3.99 – this weekend only – click this link.

To get the ebook at .99 – today only – click this link.

 

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Much love and luck.

 

Writer Wednesday: Can the Can’t!

cantI don’t like the word “can’t.”

I don’t like people telling me I can’t do something. I’ve experienced some person  or another throughout my whole life telling me I can’t do this or I can’t do that. For too many years, I believed them.

Now, it just annoys me.

I made a goal to write six short stories in a month. Someone, another writer, said, “You can’t do that.” Their point: writing must organically develop from inspiration, forcing it unnaturally would create work which was unpublishable.

Three of those six stories have already been published. Can’t? HA!cant2

I spend time on photography, just because I like it. Unasked, another person inserted their opinion: “You can’t do that!” They had the idea that a person can only be good at one creative pursuit and I shouldn’t waste my time on another. I took up photography for the pure joy of capturing visual beauty, but I’ve had a number of photographs published now too!

Why are people so wrapped up in “can’t”?

Some people judge themselves based on how they know you. When you change or move forward or do something they never thought you would or could, it changes how they see you and, therefore, how they see themselves.

cant1Others have limited views of what they can accomplish and, therefore, what anyone can accomplish, so they believe their guiding you away from an upcoming failure.

Whatever their reasons, never let anyone keep you from spreading your wings, doing what you want, need, must do to achieve what you want.

Writers must be brave. Depart from the naysayers and live your fullest life. Travel. Love. Experience. Write. Try something new.

Do not listen to the “can’t”!

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Writer Wednesday: Ode to Professor King

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“Most of what writers write about their work is ill-informed bullshit.”

 

 

 

You gotta love Stephen King, if not for his fiction, for the way he sets things straight and to the point.

This is the line that begins King’s rewrite for his novel The Gunslingerking4, originally released in 1970, rewritten and rereleased in 2003.

He rewrote and released the novel – only Stephen King could do that.

In any case, I found his forward notably valuable. His words are not only ever for his readers, but for writers as well.

His approach to revision he says, “hasn’t changed much,” and it is “to plunge in and go as fast as I can, keeping the edge of my narrative blade as sharp as possible through constant use…. Looking back,” he says, “prompts too many questions.”

I agree. I’m one to power through and not consider edits until I’m completely finished. This way I don’t get hung up wondering if this is right, if that flows, should I change this word here? Nothing is finished until the end is on paper, then comes the time for change; however, King puts his work away for a time. I, personally, give it an edit or two or ten. I give it to my friends, I reread, fawn over every word, sentence and…. it still has errors I don’t catch for six months or a year.

king2For the original writing of The Gunslinger, King has this to say about his younger self, “too many writing seminars, and had grown used to the idea those writing seminars promulgate: that one is writing for other people rather than oneself; that language is more important than story; that ambiguity is preferred over clarity and simplicity…”

I was once in one of those very seminars when someone brought up Stephen King, “don’t worry,” the professor announced, “he’ll never be remembered in the annals of history.”

The same professor, the same class, a few sessions later, eyed me after my story had been workshopped and discussed. “I’m still trying to figure out the reason for writing the story.”

“I think,” braved another student, “she wrote it for pleasure, for publication.”

The Professor’s eyes narrowed, her lips thinned, and she sat forward in the old wooden desk, “we don’t do that in this class,” she hissed.

My nervous smile slipped away as silence rose from our feet up. No one moved. No one breathed. One girl had already run out crying, perhaps they were waiting for me. I didn’t want to cry, nor run out, but I’d felt everything I’d done up til that point undeniably wrong.

I learned to write, over the next few year, the way of the MFA, ambiguous, language king5heavy, story slipping under the covers of darkness of words and rhythm.

Stephen King, I thought then and now, by sheer volume and honesty of craft, will not be forgotten. And I’m not sure he cares one way or the other.

I think we can all learn a thing or two from Professor King.

Writing Wednesday – STRESS!

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One of the worst types of writer’s block is caused by stress.

I like to roll out of bed and get straight to writing before any other distraction or activity comes up. I find that I work better and longer if I push everything else away until a manageable time. However, I find stress takes me completely out of my writing brain.

Where I can stop for breakfast, talk to friends or family, or even keep an appointment and get back to writing, when I’m stopped by a stressful event or activity I find it extremely difficult to do any work.

The good thing is that it takes a lot to get me to that level of stress; however, that’s not so Stressed-Brainfor many writers. Besides the littlest distractions causing problems for many writers, any stress weighing on a writer can keep them from being productive. One of the elements of stress is the inability to focus on anything else – it is the most distracting distraction a writer can face. Stress causes us to avoid things – things like writing!

If you’re experiencing something like this and can’t get on track with your writing, you need to ask yourself what is happening in the background of your life. It depends on each individual’s ability to handle stress, but it could be a small thing like a car problem or a large thing like a family problem. These things wreak havoc with our ability to be productive.

Again, my cure for this is to focus first on my writing and, second, on anything else. Cures for others might be similar. Block out the stress and focus on the writing – this could be a way of de-stressing. Creating a time to worry about problems is an age old recommendation. Years ago, someone told me “plan ten minutes before bedtime to worry.” I, personally, prefer before sleep and after waking to be the least stressful times. But it could still work – schedule your worry time like we all should schedule our writing time. Or, give yourself time to solve that problem, and realize if it’s something you can not solve and let it go.

stress2Let it go! If it is a stress we have no power over that is the only answer. It will pass. Focus on the writing, that you can control!

I like the quote “you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” That’s what we have to remember. We can choose to stress about problems that we can’t immediately solve, or we can choose to use our writing as a distraction from that stress.

If you’ve found anything that’s worked for you, please post it in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Next week – decision making and writing.

Writer Wednesday: Say Yes to the Edit….

When I’ve mentioned, within a writer’s group, an editor asked for changes the room heats with disagreement.

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“You’re not going to do it, are you?”

“Why would you sell yourself like that?”

“How dare they?!”

 

They dare because they are willing to publish my work; and while it does matter what they ask, I’m willing to listen and consider their ideas and advice. Usually, it is merely for clarifications or changes in simple sentence structure or the like.

My story, $1.00 Stories, was originally published by the Chicano Tribune’s Printers Row Journal. When that editor called me and hesitantly said, “we’re requesting changes;” I think he was quite surprised with my, “certainly.” The only requested was a few clarifications between the character’s name, Chris, and his nickname, C.C.

writerblog3It would be foolhardy and, even, unprofessional for me to say no without hearing them out.

While I suppose many writers believe the editor might ask for major changes in ideas or plot, I haven’t had any ask me for such things. As writers, we need to be open to consider what is said.

By request, I critiqued another writer’s work. I offered my point of view, and they became offended, tried to explain what they meant in this scene or that narration. My response, “there are all great ideas, but they are not in there.” The young person huffed off, I believe, without hearing me. Writers, we cannot be that sensitive.

We are not perfect human beings. We make errors. Some things are clear to us, but not to others. We can improve our work for the better by listening to others’ opinions. Of course, not all are worth considering. But an editor’s opinion, one who is willing to publish your work, is valuable.

 

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Eddy – Win a Copy

Eddy, my new novella, will be out next month. I’ve eddycoverfinalbeen invited to read and speak at the Poe Museum’s Birthday celebration upon its release.

However, you can win a free copy before it’s released!

This is a fictional account of an actual event in Edgar Allan Poe’s Life. In 1848, whether accidental or purposeful, Edgar took an overdose of Laudanum, which was an opiate based medicine available on the open market. It was sold in pharmacies as well as pubs!

Poe nearly died as a result. This is a fictional imagining of that experience.

Poe reimagines the life and death of each of the women he loved. The story begins and ends in the Boston rooming house in which Poe found himself in November 1848 right after he’s bought the Laudanum. His overdose rouses images of his mother backstage at the theater in Richmond during her last performance  and continues on to Virginia in their Philadelphia home while she played the piano for their guests. The story doesn’t neglect his other loves.

Debbie the events coordinator from the Poe Museum said she was “blown away” and couldn’t wait to share it with her colleagues.

Eddy won’t be available until January 6th. But you can WIN a advanced copy by entering your email address.  You don’t need to enter more than once, your email address is your entry. A single one will be randomly selected by a generator, and the winner will be notified by email on or about January 5th.

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If you need more to whet your appetite, take a look at my interview with Super News Live on their Dark Mysteries Show about The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe.

I’m excited about releasing this as Poe’s work and life has been such an inspiration, not only to me but to many. His work will continue to inspire writers, artists, and film makers for many years to come.

 

EnJOY!