Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tip O'Day #414 - Save & Recycle

Guest blogger Linda Greene on the art of rewriting.

Returned to its source, the pulp from the rejected pages of my rewrites over the course of my writing career would constitute a woodland the rival of Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest. It wasn’t until I discovered that the master wordsmith himself, F. Scott Fitzgerald, considered the art of fiction to be the art of rewriting, that I stopped viewing it as a blot on my abilities and grew keen on the practice.

Actually, it is one of the tasks of writing that I enjoy the most, not only because of its value to the finished product, but also because I’ve discovered almost none of it goes to waste. Just as there was said to be “gold in them thar hills,” there is gold in those abandoned pages.

Developed through layers of evolution, sometimes my completed writing projects barely resemble the early drafts — but, oh, those early drafts have been priceless when adapted for other projects. My latest novel, Guardians and Other Angels, is an example of this fusion of independent pieces of writing, some of which I had thrown on the heap of the unfinished or uninspired that I considered of little or no further use to me; when pitched to the tuning fork of the new piece, they sang the praises of my story. My obsessive compulsive nature that makes me hoard every scrap I pen often pays off in the end.

My penchant toward collecting pages of personal writings is apparently inherited, for included in Guardians and Other Angels are my transcriptions of authentic private letters written by ancestors during the Great Depression and World War II. It is a preserved anthology remarkable in its recording of their thoughts and feelings, and of their day-to-day experiences, as well as in its powerful chronicling of the incomparable history of those times. Like my set-asides, those hundreds upon hundreds of pages written by my ancestors were thrown in an old chest and thought worthless; in fact, when once again shown the light of day, their share of my novel is golden.

Based on this one example alone, my advice is to rewrite until your work reflects the best of your capabilities, and value all of your written words. First, save them for your own future work; second, like me, one of your descendants might need your discards for the novel or biography he or she will eventually write about you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tip O'Day #413 - Three Bits of Advice

Guest blogger Lesley Ann Sharrock says you need to “be yourself, find your own voice, and write for yourself.”

What does it take to be published? Damned if I know, even though I have achieved that honor.

It seems to me that it’s a bit of a lottery.

When I finished my first novel, The Seventh Magpie, I tried going down the traditional route of finding an agent. No luck there, lots of “it’s not for us but another agent may feel differently.” They didn’t. We all know that the large publishers will only look at work that is submitted to them via an agent, so that door was firmly slammed in my face. I finally went directly to a smaller publishing house and they accepted it. Phew!

I have just finished my second novel, Truth Lies Buried, and am back on the old agent hunt because I feel that this one is far more commercial than the first as I have now shifted genres to crime thrillers. I may well be wrong, but only time will tell.

The advice I would give all writers is to be yourself, find your own voice, and write for yourself.

Not everyone will like your work, not even your nearest and dearest. Don’t be deterred. There will be lots of people out there who are just like you and who will tune in to your story, given half a chance. Have your final manuscript edited by a professional, experienced editor before submitting it. This is essential, no matter what route you decide to take, be it the traditional one of finding an agent for your work, submitting directly to small publishers or self-publishing. Make it as perfect as it can be.

You can view the book trailer for The Seventh Magpie here. Check out this author's website at http://lesleyannsharrock.com.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tip O'Day #412 - Diversity in the Wild West

Guest blogger Diana Harrison has a shocker for you.

People are rather surprised by the fact that a British woman writes Westerns, which is probably why I write as D M Harrison. After that comes their amazement that the Wild West genre is still alive and well.

I consider Westerns to be a combination of adventure, mystery and thriller with a sprinkle of romance or sauciness. The West attracted pioneering men and women, encouraged by a government that wanted to open up the continent. The books in the Western genre are set in the few years between 1849-1900. This short era has given us more characters than many other periods in history.

My knowledge of the Wild West came initially from films and TV series, followed by books I’ve read, Internet searches, and visits to the American West. Although used to films stars like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, I wasn't ready for the small buildings in the (now preserved) ghost towns.

As I researched the era further, I found the West was made up of a melting pot of races, colors and creeds. I have attempted to reflect its diverse make-up in my books. I depict the Native Americans as courageous Nomads who unfortunately did not survive the different culture of the Frontiersmen and women. The Native Americans thought there was enough land for everyone to share but the new people fenced it off. Sharing was not in their nature.

My books develop with an idea - a robbery, a kidnapping, a railroad coming through - and then I put it in a time and place. I see the main character and how he/she is involved in the situation. Then I build on that. I write the story from beginning to end, and then I write it over and over again until I've checked all my facts and I'm satisfied with it. After that I send it to a publisher and hope they like it.

My stories are as diverse as the Wild West itself. Robbery in Savage Page, published by Robert Hale Ltd, has a Chinese-American as its main protagonist. In The Buffalo Soldier, published by Solstice Publishing, the main character is an African-American. The Comanche's Revenge, published by Robert Hale, describes what life is like for a young boy kidnapped by the Comanche. Kato's Army, published by Robert Hale Ltd, tries to depict the strong role women played in the West, fighting alongside their men. Blood Brothers, published on Kindle, describes the paths chosen by three brothers, and asks whether blood is truly a strong bond.

Look out for Diana’s next book with Solstice Publishing, Going to see the Elephant, describing the hardships and the wonders of a 3,000 mile overland trip to Oregon and California from a female POV. Her website is dmharrison.com and her Amazon.UK page is amazon.co.uk/D.-M.-Harrison

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sayings for Writers #142 - Critics

A Few Quotes which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

"A critic is a legless man who teaches running." -- Unknown

"Criticism is something you can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing and being nothing." -- Aristotle

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that, before developing his talent, he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” -- Harper Lee

A few days ago, Montana photog Susan Haugan took this pic of a skull with a fresh layer of snow.

Dixon says: Mean-spirited reviews have been part of publishing since the first caveman scratched a doodle on a cave wall, and then the second caveman came along and corrected a misplaced hyena. All writers claim to welcome constructive criticism, and most of us lie on our tax returns as well. The first unfair and unflattering review always hurts the most, except for all the others.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tip O'Day #411 - Where's the NF Horror?

Guest blogger Anthony Servante visits from the Servante of Darkness blog to discuss “The Flowering Roots of Horror: Criticism and Creativity."

Ann Radcliffe was the first to argue that horror was not the object of the gothic novel (she wrote six of them and is considered the Mother of the Gothic form), that terror was the dutiful aim of such literature. When the gothic stories became gruesome and sensational (circa early 1800s), Radcliffe dropped out of the writing scene and her work “On the Supernatural in Poetry” was her last published critique of the romanticization of her beloved story form. To find any other literary criticism of horror, we’d have to look back as far as the Ancient Greeks, who argued that “horror vacui” was “a fear of empty spaces.” Thus artwork of the grotesque crowds every single space of the canvas with images, from the works of Dadd to Bosch to Crumb (and even Mad Magazine movie parodies where each caption is filled to capacity with absurd and sometimes horrific pictures and characters that backdrop the main characters of the movie being ridiculed).

Today, however, there is no longer any criticism of horror as art or literature. What I have been trying to do for the past few years under the pseudonym Anthony Servante (especially under the Servante of Darkness moniker) is to revive this critical spotlight on works of horror that meet the criterion established by critics of old and guide readers to new critiques of art, whether in horror, science fiction, fantasy, noir, or gothic forms.

While most writers veer toward fiction and fame, very few choose nonfiction in a field rich such genres as the supernatural, mystery, suspense, thrillers and, of course, gothics. As an academician, I specialize in works of the grotesque in art and literature, concentrating on German and English Romanticism. My interest extends to the Victorian Age because it spawned many a great monster (Dracula, Invisible Man, War of the Worlds, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dorian Gray). As a reader, I peruse the monsters of today from new and old talents in film, art, and books. One day I decided to bring my academic writing to bear on my current readings. I decided to review today’s books the same way I critique the old literature. The only difference is that I don the Servante of Darkness garb for my reviews, but the result is still the same. I’ve had a hoot since I’ve been writing about the new wave in the grotesque.

I have followed the current trend in the Zombie Apocalypse and have interviewed authors on their views on the longevity of the genre. I have followed “cybernocturalism,” the self-publishing avalanche of horror eBooks. Some books are instant classics, while others are just plain bad, and the chasm between the two grows with no end in sight. The literature of Noir is being kept alive in the creative mind of Trent Zelazny. The Southern Gothic is alive and well with Ray Garton. Historic horror maestro Mark Rainey adds a dash of education to his works. Literature of the Absurd is modernized in the works of Gina Ranalli. The Weird Western, a new but important form of horror, has sustained new life with authors such as Ed Erdelac and Ian Rogers.

G.N. Braun has taken horror in a new direction with his work “Hammered” and my review of his book remains one of the top five read articles on my blog. The top three pieces in the Servante of Darkness are interviews with three rock legends: Roger Hodgson, the voice of Supertramp; Dave Lambert, guitarist and vocalist of Strawbs; and Tom Toomey, guitarist for The Zombies. That’s saying a lot about the staying power of Braun’s nonfictional biographic work.

Which brings us back to the lack of nonfiction writers in the field of horror and its neighboring genres. You don’t need to be a professor of literature to write a review or to point out a new trend. You simply need an opinion and a voice. There are plenty of avenues to get your opinion read: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, and so on.

Radcliffe would be proud that her view of terror is still being written about and critiqued, and that the gothic form lives on today in literature and even music and cinema. Even the horror vacui continues in the work of Park Cooper and Barbara-Lien Cooper. It’s a brave new world for horror. And it’s a braver new world for those who write about its branches and growth. I am proud to be amongst them.

Check out this writer at Servante of Darkness blog found at http://servanteofdarkness.blogspot.com/

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tip O'Day #410 - NaFiYoDaNoMo

Guest blogger Laura Roberts presents an open letter to NaNoWriMo (which stands for National Novel Writing Month). You might not think it’s necessary to explain that abbreviation on a blog intended for book lovers, in which case you would be wrong.

Dear NaNoWriMo,

You are wonderful. We have been great friends, and I have enjoyed our many years together. What fond memories of participating in word-blasts and world-building, character development and plot thickening… You are a wonderful tool for kickstarting creativity. Every year I look forward to being reunited with you for a month of writing with no excuses.

I love you.

However, this month I need something a little bit different.

Instead of embarking on a new and exciting novelistic journey, I really need to sit my butt down at a keyboard and FINISH THE NOVEL I HAVE ALREADY STARTED. It’s a work in progress. It’s been this way for years. While the desire to start something new always tugs me in different directions, this year I really must finish what I started.

So no-no on a NaNo participant button for my site this year. In its place, I am putting up this button:

It is the NaFiYoDaNoMo button, which is short for National Finish Your Damn Novel Month. If you want to shorten it further, consider YoDaNoMo, which sounds vaguely Star Wars-esque and is therefore sure to placate the true geeks reading this. (Especially in this dark time of woe, what with Disney’s purchase of all things Jedi.)

While I wish all you NaNo novelists great success this November, I shall be over here, in my own little corner, finishing my damn novel at last.

See you in December!

Love, Laura

P.S. Feel free to use my button on your own site, if you also have a novel to finish this month!

Laura Roberts is the author of several humorous and erotic eBooks, including The Montreal Guide to Sex and The Vixen Files: Naughty Notes from a Montreal Sex Columnist. She is finishing her longstanding WIP, Naked Montreal, during the month of November and hopes to have it ready for sale in time for the XXXmas holidays. You can read more of her dirty words online at http://nakedmontreal.net

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Saying for Writers #141 - R.L. Stine

A Quote which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.” — R.L. Stine

Sunrise on a quiet morning - the Swan Mountain Range in northwest Montana. Another foot or so of snow is predicted for tonight.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tip O'Day #409 - A Literary Slut

Guest blogger Patrick Whittaker has a dark secret.

I’m a slut. That is to say, I am happy to bestow my favours for free upon anyone who asks.

You see, I wrote this science-fiction novel called Sybernika which is set in the near future and explores – amongst other things – the impact that faster and cheaper computers will have on society. It is an edgy work, in that it has much that certain people might find offensive – sex, violence, swearing and other fun stuff. Little wonder then that publishers who were keen to publish the book (three of them) also demanded I make changes to ‘tone things down’ as it were. This I felt I could not do without damaging the integrity of my work. (Precious, I know, but it’s not my fault that I care.)

I was beginning to despair of finding a publisher for my baby when I stumbled upon Philistine Press, a truly remarkable outfit. What makes them different from most publishers is that they give it away.

Yep. You heard. They give it away. Now why the heck would they want to do that?

To quote from their website: ‘We’re here to publish material that wouldn’t ordinarily be published by mainstream presses, or accepted by the literary establishment.’

Frank Burton, Philistine’s founder and head honcho, thinks giving it away is a great idea. His reasoning being that very, very few books make a worthwhile amount of money and it’s better to give away a thousand books than to sell a half dozen for a couple of quid each.

You can see his point, can’t you? With the profit motive out of the way, there’s no need to pander to the market place. So you don’t have to follow trends and (more importantly) you don’t have to impose censorship on your authors.

I realised at once that Philistine was the perfect home for Sybernika.

Thankfully, Philistine agreed and now Sybernika is out there - untamed, uncensored and willing to go with anyone who asks.

The book was (kinda) launched last March at the Not the Oxford Literary Festival fringe event held in the fabulous Albion Beatnik book shop in Oxford. After Frank gave a speech detailing Philistine’s activities and rationale, I gave a short reading from Sybernika. Also present was Banana the Poet whose Endaxi Press publishes poetry. She was quite adamant that Endaxi would never contemplate selling its books for nothing. Part of her reasoning was that if you give it away, nobody appreciates it.

The lady has a point.

I suspect Sybernika has ‘outsold’ any of Endaxi’s books by a factor of 100. But how many of the people who’ve downloaded Sybernika will actually read it? Very few. Each Endaxi book, however, will be read at least once and probably several times by several people.

So why go down the free route? In the case of Sybernika, I had two prime motives. The first I’ve already mentioned: I did not want my baby butchered to suit somebody else’s middle class sensibilities.

My second motive was, of course, exposure. With everybody and their brother inflicting their work on the Internet, it’s very hard to get noticed. Quite frankly, I’m not sure of the best way to go about it and I seriously doubt anyone else does. And there’s no point studying the journey of the best sellers – 50 Shades of Gray etc…- because they make it more by luck than judgement. What works for one person doesn’t for thousands of others and may never work again for the person for whom it did work in the first place.

So what’s a boy to do?

I’ve gone for a scatter-gun approach. With every new book I put out there, I try something different. So I have books that are self-published, books that are published through publishing houses such as Philistine and Musa, free books, cheap books, not so cheap books, eBooks, paperbacks, books on Smashwords and books on Kindle Direct. On top of that, I have a (woefully neglected) blog and I whore myself on Facebook where I have over 1,000 ‘friends.'

Now all I can do is hope for that elusive breakthrough where some sort of dark alchemy kicks in and word-of-mouth creates a buzz for me and my work. In the meantime, I’m more than happy to give it away for free. At least some of the time.