When I’m Not Writing

the-incredible-hulk-tv-best-episodesConjure images of the old David Banner/Incredible Hulk, “You won’t like me angry.” That’s the way I feel when I’m not writing. Not that I’m angry – I just feel, “you won’t like me when I’m not writing.”

When I’m not writing, I’m fidgety, distracted, and I don’t sleep well. There’s too much going on my head for me to relax.

Do other writers feel the same?

 

 

What makes good literature?

An extremely good conversation in my literature class about intelligence (Inspired by Ted Chiang’s The Great Silence). We talked about other species that fall under the definition of intelligence, which is “the ability to understand and apply knowledge.” parrot.jpgConsidering Alex the Parrot and Koko the Gorilla, and other species: crows are problem solvers and remember faces. We discussed dogs, cats, and others. Is love, as an abstract idea, understood and applied by animals? And then – is intelligence found in showing love?

This is what good literature should do. Teach, delight, and create wonder.

Read The Great Silence here

6 Reasons Self-Publishing Beats Traditional Houses and Agents – Guest Blog by John Grabowski

For most writers, getting a contract from a traditional publishing house is the golden biscuit, the grand reward after a struggle with run-on sentences, superfluous commas, and tired clichés. Many people will then spend years looking for an agent, and then have an agent try to place their work with a publishers, big or small.

But here’s reality: unless you’re J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, you’re almost certainly not going to receive the red carpet treatment you’re no doubt envisioning. Once upon a time, not a long time ago, self-publishing was considered the literary outback, the place for hacks. Now, in an ironic twist, we just may be witnessing the reversal of fortune. The Bix Six seem to be wallowing in their formulas. Meanwhile, much fresh thinking is coming from self-published authors who build their followings online. So rather than wait for your genius to be appreciated, here are six reasons you should consider being self-published:

 

  • You are your own editorial voice. While every self-published work should go past the eyes and red pen of an experienced editor, ultimately you can write and publish what you want. You don’t have to deal with an editor or agent who wants a happier ending, a younger protagonist, or the locale moved from Pittsburgh to Paris.

 

Your hired editor may suggest changes, and you should listen. But ultimately you stand or fall on the product. You won’t have to deal with the agent who refuses to read a manuscript because she never looks at anything that begins with dialogue, or one who says she won’t consider a novel written in the first person, or one who says the work cannot have a “Prologue” or an “Afterward.” Ask yourself if a reader ever put a book back on the bookstore shelf for any of those reasons and you’ll begin to see how silly and random the process can be.

 

  • You set pricing and distribution. Ever wonder why some really great book has not been reissued, forcing you to buy a beat-up second hand copy? The publisher decides distribution, pricing, and how long the title will be in the catalog. If they don’t want to keep it in their catalog, there’s nothing the author can do.

 

With self-publishing, your works can live on forever. Or, if later on your freshman effort embarrasses you, you can make it disappear with the click of a mouse.

 

  • You control the book’s cover design and artwork. This may be intimidating for some but it’s liberating to me. While some professional cover designs are great, others are simply terrible: a stock photo, the title centered above it, the author’s name beneath it. Not surprisingly, artwork like that tends to go to the lesser-known and novice authors.

 

If you’re unsure how to design a cover (and it involves a lot more than putting your title over a picture and your name on the bottom), google some freelance artists who do it. Study their work and contact the ones you like. If you don’t want to shell out the cash, and you have access to some design tools yourself, find covers of comparable works and study what you like, then try to imitate it as best you can.

 

  • You can fix mistakes. Even some very big, very famous novels have typos in them. Or formatting errors. When it’s your own work you can go back and fix the mistake, then re-upload the file. With traditional publishers, your mistakes remain, oftentimes even in second and subsequent editions.

 

  • You promote your work the way you want. Don’t think being published by a big house means jaunts to NPR interviews and author events at prestigious venues. Most houses do nothing to promote the majority of their authors. You have to do your own marketing and PR (an art in itself), so you might as well own and control what you’re working so hard to promote.

 

  • You can write the next novel you want. The curse of traditional publishing these days is even if you are a smash hit, they will want more of the same. If your goal is to write a second novel that’s different from your first, you may find doors shut to you. Despite claims on websites that agents and editors are looking for “fresh,” “new” voices, most are really chasing trends; that’s how they keep their jobs. Self-publishing is a wonderful opportunity for you to be you, and today’s self-published books look every bit as good as the product of the Big Boys. Rather than write your one-hundredth query letter, why not consider a faster, more streamlined way to reach readers?

 

John Grabowski worked in advertising, television news and public relations before daring to write his first novel. Entertaining Welsey Shaw was praised by Kirkus Reviews for being witty, fast-paced, and “filled with flirtatious banter.” A collection of his shorter fiction, Violet Rothko & Other Stories, will be published in September 2019.  authorjohngrabowski.com

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Thanks, John!

noreen

The Secret to Successful Short Stories

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I spent much of my time in grad school trying to please a certain teacher and understand the secret formula for a short story.

Up until that time, I’d only written novels (or novellas), longer pieces of work in which I developed the characters and followed a plot. These felt full and complete.

Writing one small selection vexed me.

So I read and read and researched and attempted one time after another to create a successful short piece.

I suppose there is no formula and  no one right answer, which is what I was looking for – the correct answer.

Of the things written in grad school, the one instructor I attempted to satisfy deemed them mostly unworthy.

It wasn’t until near the end of graduation that an instructor said “half of that story was the best he’d ever read.”

He didn’t tell me which half.

However, almost all those stories have been pulled out, dusted off, and accepted with few edits. Hence – dear teachers – they were good! I had learned something; I had accomplished something.  (I must be doing something right, over 30 published in the last few years!)

There may not be one right answer, and there’s no secret, nor is there a hidden formula. Short stories need to get to a point, need to have conflict, need to show a budding of growth – perhaps.

 

 

My Family Can’t Find Out!

woman-in-shadow-1280x853-1024x682Many posts in writers’ groups and questions in writerly gathering surrounds the fear of family or friends finding out what they are writing.

Surprisingly, some of these are fiction writers. Although many are memoirists, poets, fiction writers and essayists are also concerned with offending someone they know.

My response to this is: They’ll probably never recognize themselves! The truth is many people see themselves far differently than others do.

Furthermore, studies show that we remember events differently; to be more accurate, we remember different details of the same events, and our memories are not as reliable as we’d like to think.

Legally, in memoir, if names are changed, there is little a person can do if they do recognize themselves. One attorney told me: They’re welcome to write their own version of the events.

Fear stock-fearshould never hold a writer back. A small change in details or location can allow for some question if someone does think the story might include them.

Even if you think you’ll never publish it – write it. You’ll feel better!

 

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.