Friday, September 30, 2011

The Hunt: My new novel (sort of)


I tweeted the tentative blurb for my first novel, my so-called back cover copy. (What will we call back-cover copy in the future, with e-books proliferating and back-covers no longer necessary? As I type that, I wonder and so have no answer ready. The blurb is still important for marketing, but not necessary for inclusion in the actual e-book. I imagine if I check JA Konrath's blog closely, he will have already discussed this. I'll research)

Any who, and further more....

The blurb and the heart of my outline:

1.Chased by authorities, four runaway boys hunt a bobcat and on the dark journey discover their fates.

This begins my three act story arc and is the one sentence overview of my novel. I might, when saying this to someone, say Four runaway boys, chased by authorities, hunt..., as in, My story is about-

2.The adventure turns ominous when a gun is stolen and a struggle for control of the group uncovers the true instability of one boy.

This is start of the true tension and the end of the first act.

3.Increasing violence culminates in a savage beating.

The danger increases and survival is more in doubt.

4.When finally cornered, one boy makes a choice and pays the ultimate price.

The end of act two.

5.In the aftermath of tragedy, a final confrontation between rivals determines the course of the rest of their lives.

The end. Act three is where two of the boys vie, in an ultimate confrontation, for justice and survival.

And from those five sentences, I will continue to build the rest of my outline and then, my first novel. Sometime in the spring of 2012.

Now, I just have to get my ass in gear. Work, work, work...

How about the rest of you?  

Thursday, September 29, 2011

#130orless: A New Hashtag for Micro Stories


One of the wonderful things I have discovered while on twitter is the forced shift in thinking it takes to deliver a message in a short space.
For example, the above sentence is two characters longer than twitter allows and for all the length, is not the most direct or insightful or powerful, message that I could write. 140 characters is not a limitation, but rather a daily boot camp on what it means to write efficient and targeted messages. It makes a writer concentrate on bloat and waste and to excise the fat so the meat of the message is on display.
I enjoy twitter, far more than I thought I would. I held off on joining because I couldn’t imagine what the point was of having so harsh a limitation on space. Now I understand.
With understanding, I have begun a new hashtag, #130orless. The purpose is to pack as much impact as I can into 130 characters or less to allow room for the 10 character hashtag.
Maybe the results aren’t stories, not in the accepted sense, but the micro stories are fun to craft and hopefully will be fun to read. I’ve done two thus far and have found them to be like little puzzles where words need to fit for both meaning and length.
Last night I spent 20 minutes crafting a micro and it helped to prepare my mind for other writing. It was a great exercise to prep me for other writing and rather than stare at a blank page, it allowed my mind to sort back into the writing process.
I would love to read creations from readers, if anyone is willing to share here or on twitter.
Have fun, write often and keep supporting your the indie writer community. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Be More Smarter


I found this and it is amazing.

I was using Stumbleupon when I happened onto this website, The Simpler Life and now I know what I will be doing for weeks and weeks. Maine writer, Maine, Maine, Maine, Maine
The article I found, 14 Links to Make You a More Intelligent Person, is both unbelievable due to the sheer volume of content that those fourteen links represent, but also the audacity of the title, the notion that static information can have any effect upon a person.

Will exploring Project Gutenberg, the first link on the list, make you intelligent, or just well-informed? Is there a difference between the two? I believe there has to be understanding, processing and an ability to apply knowledge gained, otherwise it is not intelligence but rather consumption with no true purpose. I suppose there is value an a place for unthinking consumption, but without directed purpose, what is the ultimate point?

Without a conscious purpose and measured intent, there is no difference between reading a book or staring at your navel. Neither activity alone, devoid of a destination achieved by intent, matters more than the other quantitatively as neither alters your previous intellectual condition.

I could ask the question of what intelligence is and maybe I will in a future post, but for now, I want to simply say, read the above article. What you get from it, that is up to you a reader, as a person. Just don't expect to suddenly become intelligent.

For that, you must want, you must work and you must value knowledge at more than a surface level. No passive gorging, people, no orgy of volume without substance. Seek with a purpose and I think you will enjoy the experience more and understand that limits are limited by the boundaries you set for yourself.

Set your boundaries wide.

Now, off with you, off with me. Time to learn.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

If Solitude is Good for Superman, Then it is Good For You Too


Sometimes there needs to be solitude. Maybe not an entire fortress of solitude, but a small ranch style home of solitude is nice every once in awhile. Sometimes solitude needs to be chosen by external forces, and forced upon a person.

I took my laptop to work Monday morning and forgot to bring it home with me that night. I never bring my laptop. That’s my rationale for forgetting, but forget I did and as a result, I was shut off from the internet world for an entire evening. No twitter, no facebook, no blogger, no distractions.

It was nice.

I am not naturally inclined to be plugged in all the time. Well, I say that, but then I think it would be better to qualify that with adding that if I do something, I tend to obsess a bit regardless of whether the activity is something I enjoy or not.

I was feeling obsessed and it wasn’t beneficial.

So I was forced into solitude. I had a nice spicy noodle soup, homemade by my beautiful wife and then we sat outside on the front steps and looked at the stars through clouds of cigar smoke. And we talked.

We used our voices and had some direct and meaningful conversation and as a result?

I feel more centered and calm and refreshed, even with just a short break, just an evening. My mind is clearer, I’m more focused and I feel better about my writing projects than I did for the past few days.

Solitude. Maybe that was the real key to Superman’s power. He could get away, regroup and recharge.

Writers need the same thing, even if we have to sometimes be forced to recognize that stepping away can be another way to step ahead, only in a different direction.

Monday, September 26, 2011

To Blog or Journal

What's the deal? Here I am, 76 posts into my blogging life and I am just naïve enough to believe that I am somehow ahead of the learn curve. Not by a little, but by a wide margin and why not? I've been reading about blogging and following blogs and hey, not toot my horn in an obnoxious manner, but I'm not stupid. When I see a deficiency, I try to correct my mistakes and generally am improving all the time.

Right?

I am not happy with being static and I have a desire to make my blog the best destination for readers that I can, so when I read a post this afternoon that pointed out how arrogant and clueless I have been, well, it was a cold deluge that set me reeling.

Reeling a bit, and for a short time. It doesn't do to get too down or otherwise you will never get anywhere, so here I am, back at the grind.

The post was about writing to your audience- not for yourself.

Martyn Chamberlin writes on Daily Blog Tips:

Has it happened to you?
You start a blog and try to get people to read your stuff. You spend oodles of time customizing your               theme. You chew posts over your keyboard. You sit back and wait to be discovered. But instead of being               discovered, you discover something:

Nobody gives a rip who you are.

Folks are busy. They only care about themselves. The only way to get their attention is to cater to their needs. You have to deliver hand-tailored goods crafted for them.

You have to write on target.


I realized, Martyn Chamberlin is right and nobody does give a rip. He goes on to compare a writer who writes for themselves and ignore the needs and wants of the audience as journaling and not blogging.

I've been doing some journaling, but I have to ask, is it a big deal?

The answer is simple; it's important if I want to grow my blog. I'm not that interesting and not that funny. What do I do, then? I enjoy my daily posts, but without feedback, I don't know if anyone else does. The fact that I don't get feedback is my best clue, just as Chamberlin says, that people are not engaged.

I am faced with the fact that I know nothing. You know what, though? I am okay with that, at least at this point of my blogging career because I am having fun writing and I haven't stopped learning.

I think there is a way to combine love of writing, elements of journaling and fuse all that with an informative blog people want to read. Or maybe I'm full of shit and destined to be unloved, unread, and unremembered.

I'll take my chances, as long as I continue to have fun. But I continue to recognize my failings, which at the end of the day, that is was important. Then I can figure out how to make those deficiencies into advantages. I'd rather look at my situation that way, otherwise....

...I might as well quit.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

We Need Opposition to Improve


Sadly, I had my most page views today after writing a post about a guy engaging in simulated sex acts while literally in the act of pitching a tent. Crude, ironic, scarring, take your pick because to me, I am a bit non-plussed.

I'm a serious dude. Really.

Actually, what I wanted to write about was not a rehash of the days blog traffic (which, to be honest, still kind of blows), but rather the notion of choice.

No pulpit and no anger. I want to write and I think others want to do the same, but increasingly I find myself popping in and out of blogs that are either pro-tech or anti-tech. Some writers want to do away with print books and not look back and they want to do it yesterday because tomorrow just ain't soon enough. Then there are those who resist (actively or in a state of oblivion) any change.

Sure, there are those who ride around in the middle, but the forums where such discussions are held are decidedly one sided places.

I've been thinking about all this and at first annoyance was my primary feeling. It just seems stupid, another reason for people to fight about what amounts to a trivial matter that will be solved with time, no matter what anyone says or does. Progress wins out and old tech is consumed by new.

But right or wrong? I guess that's the heart of my rambling. Assigning blame, picking a side and then deriding the intentions and intelligence of the opposition is where the crux of my problem lies.

Unrestrained change is bad. There needs to be opposition. I've been thinking of it this way:

We adopt e-books instantly with no opposition, no push back. Everyone says hey, change is good, we need to adopt the new tech because that's where the industry is logically headed. So no more print and everyone is buying Kindles, Nooks, Ipads and the like. Sounds great. No needless debate and hey, eventually electronic formats will win out anyway, so why delay? You stick in the mud, old-tech lovers, you need to recognize and embrace the future. Stop being an anchor.

Ok. My thought is this. Isn't better to have this transition, this slow adoption and the opposition? Indie writers are finding power in the transition with better percentages than ever before and writers are able to shape and direct the market, at least more so than ever in history. There are opportunities.

Now, with quick and unopposed adoption, wouldn't that mean the traditional publishers retaining control. They wouldn't be holding onto the past. They would be just like everyone else and they would just transition with everyone else to e-books. That would give them the power, or allow them to retain the power they have currently. We need this slow transition in my opinion in order to have actual change that is meaningful.

Am I off base? Or do I got something?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

An Unfortunate Incident


Standing in a half-assembled forty by forty foot tent this past week for work, preparing for The Garlic Festival in Southwest Harbor, Maine, when I encountered a man who had a moment of what could only be described as inappropriate over share.

Imagine this folks as I try to be as succinct and accurate in my depiction of what I witnessed.

Four guys were setting up two tents for a rental company and somehow, myself and my fellow maintenance co-worker Jeff,found ourselves standing around in a field miles from work watching these four guys do they work. Slowly. It was the last job of the day and all they had, so they were milking the work for all it was worth. I don't blame them, not as I stood in the sunshine far from clogged toilets, demanding teachers and the oversight of anyone with authority.

Mostly I smiled as they took break after break, knowing that as much as they slacked off, I was stilll getting paid for doing less than them and over the course of a day, I take more breaks under greater scrutiny than they could ever dream taking out of the watchful eyes of their bosses.

So in a rare burst of energy, the four were ratcheting down the posts, squaring the tent and pulling the vinyl tight. Now Jeff, he gets bored, or maybe a wicked imp inside takes control of his mouth, but whatever the case, he says stuff that most might think, but they successfully keep to themselves. Jeff was joking with the guys and one guy in particular, as he had been doing for a couple hours. He asked if they were coming back tomorrow night after the event to take the tents down and pack everything away.

“So, you 're gonna coming back tomorrow at seven, huh? They pay you extra for weekend work?”

That's all it took for the driver, by far the oldest of the four rental guys, to respond.

He immediately yelled out to everyone, “Hell no! This is what I'm doing at seven tomorrow night.” Then he dropped to the ground, an amazing feat really for a man his age, and he began to vigorously-

-Okay. This might be graphic, so I give you now the chance to stop reading. You can probably guess what I'm going to relate, so, if you want, come back tomorrow. I might have a few writing related tips or whatnot to dispense, or maybe there is a neat article that I will find that you will find interesting. I don't want to offend.

Still here? Alright.

This older gentleman, he was on the grassy field, in a family campground, wearing a white wife beater , tan corduroy pants, sporting a generous belly and he was humping the ground like it owed him money. No kidding and I wish I were lying. Then I could take a pill and maybe get my mental health situation taken care of. Better that than seeing that for real.

I mean, I don't know the guy so what do you do? He was really giving it a go, the acting out part. He just kept pumping and grinning. In the field. In the camp ground.

Then he flipped on his back because, I suppose, it was the full performance he was giving us and he wanted to show that he was virile. He was on his back pumping the sky with as much gusto as he had been giving to the lawn.

Still grinning. Still keeping it real.

And there I am, unable to look away, unable to do more than hope he would stop. No idea what to say.

I have to admit, and I do so sadly, that men can be nasty and crude. Sometimes though, I encounter levels I never suspected existed.

Such as this and may I never have the experience again.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Guest Bloggers and Nazgul: P73


Here is my dilemma. I am going away in two months, on Thanksgiving day actually, for a two week honeymoon to New Zealand. I am happier about this trip than any trip ever. Ever.

But with the happiness, there is trepidation because, well frankly, this blog. I have been doing very well for more than two months and by the time my wife and I leave for Auckland, I will have four solid months of daily writing (mostly, folks, mostly 'cause no one is perfect). Then comes seventeen days when I will have to go dark. I have no guarantee and, if honesty is valued, no true desire, to blog while on my honeymoon.

I will write. I will think of writing. Mostly, though, I will spend two weeks with my beautiful wife in a place I have always wanted to go. I may even see Hobbiton. Jealous? I know, right?

The land of Frodo will be our playground for two glorious, fun-filled weeks.

But do I go dark for two weeks? Shut everything down?

I have considered my options and tried to write a few extra posts but what I'm running into is the realization that seventeen days is a long time to not be topical. There are just so many general posts to write that will hold interest day after day. Or so I'm thinking.

What to do, then?

Guest bloggers. Well of course. But then, who?

I asked my nine year old niece tonight to write two posts for me. I am her fun uncle, maybe her favorite uncle even. And it would be great for her, to start a career at such a young age, get a chance to ride the old man's coattails.

She said no. Multiple times. Even a bit rudely. Certainly curt and definate.

I will continue to work on her. I'm sure I can wear her down. And then there is my mother. And my brother-in-law. And my wife and I guess any new friends I have made in the writing world.

We all will get through this dilemma, people. No worries. The captain will right the ship. As soon as I find the captain, I'll be sure to let him know how much is depending on him. (Bad joke? Yeah, I'm much funnier in person. It might be the nose, but I take any laugh I can get)

So, stocking up, planning and hoping that everything works out. If not, I'll be in New Zealand trekking glaciers and trying to avoid any Nazgul or such along the way. Unless I find a Nazgul with a flair for phrasing. Then....


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Writing an Outline: P72


How do you write an outline?

I never really did, just wrote and found the end wherever the ending was, more through feel and luck than any great skill. It never occurred to me to change because as is said in some circles:

“Born lazy, stay that way forever, cursing the go-getters in a half-assed way until the commercials are over and the football game comes back on.”

You heard that one before, right? Sure. All the kids are saying it. (I can hear my wife in my head right now by the way; Don't end a sentence with a preposition, bitch. She actually uses that exact phrase. Borderline abuse, says I, but I man up and stay silent in a sort of one-husband protest. I'm tough.)

So. I was looking into changing things up and decided, hey, you can take the opportunity you have at work to abuse company time and look up on the interweb different ways to write outlines. I was bored enough to give it go and went to work.

That's when I found Randy Ingermanson and his Snowflake ten step outline plan. I was drawn in even as I was intimidated by the level of commitment his plan meant. The end result, though, that was what intrigued me. Ingermanson claimed to cut the first draft writing time in half, even with the lengthy outline process. Half the time or better.
I'm not selling Ingermanson's Snowflake system, which I gather is basically a way to streamline his outline with pre-made forms or a ready to input outline. Not sure of the exact details of the system, but I did print off the article and I plan to make use of it, bit-

(Whoops, sorry. Almost slipped, there.)

Anyway. I am going to try the system and see where it takes me and whether I can write a book as quickly as Ingermanson claims.

In the indie world, speed is king so if I can streamline my process... I'm game. 


I'll let everyone know my progress.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Assess, Plan, Change: 71


This a beginning, not the beginning.

Reading yesterday something concerning beginnings and blogs. Do I have a beginning on mine, am I doing enough to make my blog comfortable for visitors, am I driving people away with how I have chosen to structure my posts and my pages?

Not sure of the answer to those questions and even if I knew, the solution, that still eludes me at the moment. Sometimes I will set a task for my sleeping brain. Do you ever do that, or I wonder if it just a quirk of mine? Before sleep, I think of what I want to accomplish and in the morning, I will have thoughts bouncing around.

The free floating thoughts, they are helpful if I consider their essence rather than the coherence of the whole. Meaning what? My sleeping mind is less constricted and thus able to make connections that are on the surface tenuous, but more creative. More rich in texture.

This morning, my mind was stubbornly direct and decidedly playing one note. I kept seeing a post title and at the end, a number. What does this solve? Do I think that numbering all my posts will give my blog the needed structure? I’m not sure but my sleeping brain is insistent that I try and there’s a tickle concerning pages attached to the blog and other, more vaporous wisps of thoughts that I can’t see the shape of, not now anyway.

So. What does that get me? What does that get you, if you’ve read this? Certainly vague, rather odd, but maybe there is something.

One important point, because I think there needs to be something of value so I don’t feel so much like I wasted everyone’s time:

Being static is not the path that brings success. You have to assess, plan, change, assess plan, change. Changes that are planned and needed and done with intelligence, they make a difference because this new writing dynamic, it demands adaptation.

Right now? I need to plan after assessing my blog and finding a deficiency. Then I can make changes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One Million Words- A Writer's Goal


I've seen the number one million on the web before, as in, a writer needs to write one million words to attain a level of competency in the field. I was recently reminded of this by Karen Woodward when she replied to a comment I made on her blog.

I like numbers. I decided to avoid calculus in high school my senior year and take a third study hall- kind of ended my desire to pursue higher mathematics at that point for aimless wandering and directionless drifting, but, I still like numbers.

One million words, that's a big number and nothing complex about breaking that down. No idea how many words I've scribbled and cobbled and tossed out over the years. I have no desire to try to piece that information together at this point, either. Quarter million seems fair, but of those, only ten percent wouldn't leave me mortified to have people read at this point.

I guess that might be the point. The first million are practice, the red coals that torture us in the fiery furnace that we writers use to pound shape into what we hope to become; tools our minds utilize to create something greater than the source material.

All that to say, I'm probably far off at this stage of my life and writing a blog, one post at a time, that is a slow road to one million, friends. If I average four hundred words per post and don't miss any days?

Over five years. Non-stop blogging for more than five years. That assumes, of course, that I don't write anything but my blog, which is not the case, and yet, it illustrates an important point:

There is nothing casual about this business of writing. No shortcuts. There is nothing but the grind.

Thanks to Karen Woodward for reminding me of this fact as I did the math after her post and realized where, roughly, I stood and more important, where I want to stand.

Where do you want to stand?

Because really, one million may get you competent, but how many words do you need for greatness?

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Writing World Seems to Have me Beat


As a writer, you should be out and about, friending and following and writing comments and reading blogs and buying books and stories and the general writing from the writers you enjoy. You do this as a way to support your fellow writers who will in turn support you.

It may take time. You need to find your niche, but eventually, you will find like-minded folks and gain followers and people will notice and you and you will be amazed by the support you find. There are great people out there. I found them.

So will you.

Now, the happy-happy, joy-joy portion of the day is over with because we have important matters that are in need of discussing.

If you look around at your fellow writers, you will notice that a few (or more than a few), are better than you. They are more eloquent, elegant, efficient and damn! that only covers the letter E- and not a comprehensive list, either!

Don’t despair. If you notice deficiencies in your writing in comparison to other writing you encounter, and you are being objective and not hyper-critical, then that is a good thing.

Objectivity is lacking, people. Too many grocery lists to be found out there, and not enough self-awareness as to the true quality of work that is being published.

You can do better.

If you have taken the step to recognize that you aren’t quite up to snuff, you have a choice; two broad choices really, as far as I see.

You can become discouraged and mope and be a negative downer who no one wants to associate with. (Hint, this is not the choice that 4 out 5 writer’s recommend). The second choice (pay attention) is to Do Something About Your Writing!

Got that? Be positive and then work. No excuses, no easy outs, just work. Why do you think other writing, other blogs, other writers in general, are better than you? You can come up with a real list and you should, but at the heart of the matter is that writers who write all the time, who sit down and produce words, they are the ones who often have the most positive results.

Do you have a quality problem? If so, how do you plan to fix that problem?


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Little Marky Deering and the Ice Cream Escapade

I wrote this as a way to tweak the nose of one of my friends who I work with. He is a really nice guy in actuality and a great sport, which is fortunate for me because he is twice my size and could probably break me.

It was my intention to write a series of these stories about my co-workers, because hey, I was working the overnight shift at a residential treatment center for troubled youth and I usually had most nights alone with my thoughts as my kids slept through the night. I never did finish, but I thought I would trot this out, just for fun. It's the weekend and I'm feeling nostalgic...




Little Marky Deering
and the
Ice Cream Escapade


Ah, it is such a lovely day! Birds singing, gentle breezes blowing, and the easy pleasure of being in the company of all of you, my dear Readers. My dear friends! Indeed, I can think of nothing better than to take your hands in my own and lead you about my fair city of Lake Shore, Me.- population one hundred percent smiles and delight. The sights, the sounds, the people- each a singular pleasure.

So, come along Reading Gallery, because I believe you are in for a treat. Follow me now, your poor Omniscient Narrator, for our first denizen of Lake Shore approaches, a worthy lad you will soon see. You observe the one I mean? Yes. Down there, just turning the corner of Lake and Main, the tall lad. We will wait for him. It won’t be but a moment.

See? A moment, indeed. Here he is now, Little Marky Deering, shambling a bit in the way that he does. You note how large he is, I see. He is a large boy for his age and some people- rather cruel individuals, indeed- have compared him with a bear who lacks in wits. It is true the boy has an unfortunate amount of thick black hair that seems to grow everywhere- arms, legs back and even on his face, though he isn’t all that old. And yes, admittedly, he tends to respond slowly to any type of mental challenge, but certainly, to compare him with a feeble-brained bear, that isn’t entirely justified.

But let us not dwell upon his shortcomings or get too involved in descriptive particulars, especially not today, on your very first visit to Lake Shore. Instead, watch with me as Little Marky shambles nearer. Notice the innocent grin and the way his eyes sparkle as they happen upon the store sign just to his left. See him stop? He leans forward now to read what wonders the store has to offer. Perhaps we could lean closer as well to read for ourselves what has so captivated Little Marky on his downtown trek.

ICE CREAM!
COME INSIDE AND
TRY OUR DELICIOUS
32 FLAVORS!

Perhaps the delicious part makes poor Little Marky Deering squint so terribly. Step closer with me. His lips move…

“De… de… de-lick-I-oh-us… del-ick-I-oh-us?”

Oh, don’t be too harsh on him, will you? It is a difficult word, after all, and he is making such an effort. We can forgive him this small struggle. Ah, no matter. He is on the move. The picture that accompanies the words seems to have overcome his difficulties, or perhaps it is the inviting counter laden with treats beyond the window that has drawn Little Marky through the front door. No matter, no matter. Let’s hurry along inside, as well. No good standing out here on the sidewalk when Mrs. O’Fahey’s Ice Cream and Other Edibles presents such an inviting respite from the sun. And an ice cream sounds nice anyway, so why delay further?

There he is, Little Marky, standing in front of the counter. Could anyone possibly look happier than he does at this moment? So many choices, though- this might take Little Marky awhile. Maybe we can catch the attention of Mrs. O’Fahey while Little Marky makes his selection. We can have a bit of ice cream ourselves while we wait.

Yes, Mrs. O’Fahey was perhaps a bit snappish and a touch rude, but a plain vanilla cone does suit me quite well, thank you. Mrs. O’Fahey is a nice woman- indeed, despite rough edges- but sometimes her comments can be... overly harsh and without tact. Oh, my voice? Don’t worry, she can’t hear us if we keep our voices low. Her hearing is touchy at best. Some say that her hearing is actually fine, that she simply does not like to listen to other people. It gives her more opportunity to criticize if she isn’t worried about listening- no interruptions, you see? I would never say such a thing. I believe she is a nice woman. Just remember to nod in the correct places and you’ll get along famously with Mrs. O’Fahey.

Good, Little Marky has made his choice. Yes, I know, it is quite unfortunate. It hardly seems safe for him to get three scoops. Perhaps Mrs. O’Fahey will show him reason in this matter. Let’s listen, now, alright? Three scoops! Dangerously high as all can obviously see for someone like Little Marky. It can only end badly. Oh, of course- we are supposed to be listening. I’m sorry…

“Mama says I’m just big boned.”

“I guess maybe you should let out a notch on your belt, then, because your belly sure does have some big bones inside. Looks to be about the size of a small cow, in fact.”

Oh… well, like I said, Readers, Mrs. O’Fahey can be overly harsh, sometimes. All is well, though, in Little Marky’s world. As you see, his eyes are filled with the triple scoop and all he does is nod in agreement. At least his eyes are bright, my friends.

No, of course not. I did not intend to impugn his intelligence. Well, perhaps. It might have seemed as if had. If so, I apologize, but let us go on and see how Little Marky fares. He is already outside. We will wave to Mrs. O’Fahey… ah, yes, well… no it is not customary to use one finger when waving here in Lake Shore. Perhaps her hearing… no matter, no matter.

Now, where did the lad get off to? Where? It looks like he’s headed for the park. Now, isn’t that a piece of sweet Americana- a boy eating ice cream in the park. We will have to stretch our legs a bit to catch up, dear Readers.

The band stand. A perfect choice, overlooking the fair blue waters of our Lake Shore. We can rest ourselves on this bench while Little Marky attends to his prodigious lactose endeavor. We can watch both him and catch the breeze from the lake that plays so gently with the sails on the boats out on the lovely Lake Shore. You see, it truly is a wonderful day in a truly wonderful city. With wonderful people, as well, like Little Marky Deering over there-

“Little Marky Deering,
we caught you peering-
up your momma’s dress-
oh what a mess!”
 
Well, yes, every city must have… a bad element. Those hooligans singing that crude song- just terrible. Monstrous bullies they are. Bad elements, as I said.

“Hey Little Marky Deering, what color underwear was your mother wearin’ today?” That one, she’s the worst of the lot. Name of Minnie Mora, though everyone just calls here Meanie Mora. A true ruffian.

“Careful Meanie or he might be needin’ to go home and change hiz own underwear. Get him all excited like you doin’.” And that one, she’s nearly as bad. They call her Hurricane, on account of her mouth, which never stops moving.

“You gettin’ excited Little Marky?” Ah, disgusting! That Meanie should not be allowed to say such things. Making poor Little Marky cry- monstrous, monstrous, indeed!

“Little Marky cry.” The third of the Three Terrors, the one that speaks so softly? Normally HellsBells –not her real name but aptly suited to the girl you might agree!- just hits instead of talking. With Hurricane around- well, no one usually has much opportunity to talk-

My dear! There it goes! Triple scoop- indeed, a dangerous thing for the poor boy.

“Hey Meanie, Little Marky dropped his ice cream! How sad.”

“Good thing for him he dropped it on his own. I didn’t want to kick his big butt-“

“Kick his butt, kick his butt! Yeah Meanie kick it, kick the blubber, whale-blubber, big ol’ fat butt, kick, kick, kick, yeah, yeah-!”

“Yeah, yeah, Hurricane. I-“

“-kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, yeah, yeah, kick, yeah, whale-blubber, yeah, yeah-“

“Breathe.”

“Yeah, Hurricane, like HellsBells said, breathe.”

“-kick blubber, bounce, bounce, kick, kick-“
“My momma-“

“-has a fat ass. Shut up blubber-brains!”

Oh dear, how terrible. Perhaps it would be best if we intervene. Yes, perhaps that would be best. What do you say? Why aren’t I moving? Yes, Little Marky is indeed twice as large as those three girls- Scared? That is only prudent. Those three are monstrous, I tell you. Very prudent to keep our distance. No telling what they might do. They are capable-

They are moving away. Thank goodness! But poor Little Marky. His triple scoop is lying on the ground on top of, oh my, it is, dog droppings. A bad end, indeed. Two scoops he might have managed, but three? No, that was asking too much. And now it is ruined and…

Oh.
Well… um… maybe the lad… yes, dog feces… and… oh…

Yes perhaps we should turn away, now. No, I am quite sorry. I had no idea he would pick it up, but then it was a triple scoop and he did wipe-

Ants? No I did not see that there were ants, as well. That is disturbing, I agree, but my assertions about the boy still stand. He is-

“Ahhhhhh!”

What? Yes, he does run well for such a large boy. Why- an ant bit him on the lip? Dreadful!

Please, don’t go! I’m certain the remainder of the day can be salvaged. It is such a lovely day, after all and- what? Where? The three terrors are coming this way? Well, yes, perhaps it would be best, dear Readers, not to be caught for sport by those three- Reading Gallery? Wait, wait. Don’t leave me here alone…


Saturday, September 17, 2011

What Genre Are You?


There are moments when the challenge is too great. You know what I mean? You are faced with a situation and you have no ready response, no action that is appropriate nor adequate.

Defeat is assured with no word to aid, no succor possible.

There is normal and then, a blink perhaps, and there it is, the challenge, the ugly black thing you have no weapon to fight against.

Not to make this sound dramatic or life-threatening, because that isn't at all what I mean. The challenge can be a small, almost innocent, wee sort of thing. A hiccup that disrupts the briefest of time, causes the smallest ripple. Or it can be the end. The challenge can be that final, that overwhelming.

My challenge came today, was a small challenge on the scale of such things, as far as challenges go. I was asked what genre I wrote.

Ah. And blank. Sweat under the the arms, the crease in the brow, the knowledge that no answer would come. A genre. Like asking, what color brown do you like better, as if there is a difference. Brown is brown, right?

I write. What genre, though? How to answer, how to proceed?

I accept defeat in this and as is my normal response, the challenge is tucked away and mostly ignore as I drive on, trying recapture my balance.

I have no idea what my genre is or have any clear mind as to what it should be in the future. Maybe I will settle, some shape will form around my writing career.

I hope not though because the feeling and thought of boundlessness, a writer with no borders and no expectations, that appeals to me. My fifty book quest is predicated on the notion that I don't have to choose, I can explore every genre and be just a writer.

Independents are fortunate in that way, in this time, in the new writing dynamic that is emerging. We can slide and bend and be- we can be writers. We can write fiction and fantasy and horror and humor and non fiction and true crime and we can take photographs and we can just revel in unfettered wonder at what imagination can be when not locked away under the key held by traditional publishes who need writers to conform, to identify as a genre.

Or maybe I'm full of orotund bullshit that resonates but ultimately signifies nothing.

Friday, September 16, 2011

No Laser Focus, Just a Weekly Review


I have never been accused of possessing a laser focus, so knowing that, I try hard not to make long and convoluted plans of actions that I actually will stick with. I am more go with the flow than do A, do B, do C, etc.

I like making lists, would do that all day some days and on occasion, I have done that, made lists and was happy. Anyway. This long preamble is leading up to a non-resolution and a non-commitment to a thought I had when I woke this morning. I’m thinking a weekly wrap up.

Saying that I would like to do a wrap up, I will now proceed to the wrap up phase Version 1 for September 16, 2011.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank Karen Woodward (who I have been reading and enjoying for awhile now), Hektor Karl (who discovered me recently and I was lucky enough in turn to discover him and his blog) and A.M. Supinger (who I have just this morning met). All three have followed my blog Fifty Book Quest this week and I want to say how grateful I am for the support they have shown me, especially when I was beginning to wonder if I was blogging in a bubble.

My most popular pin courtesy Mojomechanics
Elsewhere in my world, I have found time to develop a burgeoning addiction to the site Pinterest, a photo tagging site that my wife so callously hooked me on. As if I don’t have enough to do, I search the web, looking for interesting pictures to astound other Pinterest folks with, in hopes that they will want to ‘repin’ one of my finds.

Yesterday I found Wanderfly. It is run by Orbitz. Not sure where this helps me with writing, but it is fun to randomly search the site for new locales to visit and write about.

I have begun the nitty-gritty with a photo book that I am planning to have finished this spring. Doing the structural planning and hopefully, because this will be a collaboration, I can get all the pieces in place in quick order. Tentative Title; Flander’s Pond, Maine: On the Quiet Side.

Most important this week, for me, is I continue to learn and I think it is finally getting easier, the more settle into this blogging thing. There is always next week, to correct the things I got wrong this week. I’m sure I screwed up a lot but hey, I’m still a rookie, right?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

5 Essentials for Every Writer


The following are 5 essentials* that every writer should know, else wise they will forever be ignorant and unloved to their maximum potential. So says an eminently wise person who presumably was a hugger and greatly appreciated by everyone around. 


1. Write. I would elaborate, even if only as a way to illustrate my point, but really, this super essential and so basic, I think you got it handled. If not, grab an ice cream, turn on Sponge Bob Square Pants, and never mind. Life is good. And then you can proceed (those not living under the sea) to essential number two, which is…


2. …write more better…er. Or whatnot. Writing is what we do as children, what we do as a hobby. Writing for the serious sort should be about craft and that means, yup, you have to write. Step one? That was just, hey, I have a notebook and I sit on a park bench and I mostly dream a bit, but sometimes, sometimes I really pour my heart onto the page and I swear I see a reflection of my soul. Essential two is about writing with a purpose, writing with an eye toward publishing, and that my friends means a daily commitment.** Committed, you can…


3. …recognize that you really know nothing, and what you've done to this point is vanity and likely crap. Not everyone achieves this essential step. Many published authors never reach this level. If you are one of the lucky ones, then welcome to the land of Writing World (I wanted to call it Zippity Do Da, We All Love Writing Land, but time and space constraint issues noted by the editor in my head nixed that idea. He can be a bit of a party pooper, who, by the way, hates the word pooper and all related derivations).

Knowing nothing isn’t a bad thing, though it can be a depressing realization when it occurs, which might be why authors will tend to view ‘GETTING PUBLISHED’ as a reason to only peak in the direction of essential number three and quickly revert to number two. Getting published is a goal, not an end. We gotta be progressive sharks people, on the move constantly and in the direction of improvement. To improve, we need to…

4. …focus… and write like we mean business. This means free time is about writing, folks, and sitting on the couch zoning, that has to end- for lots of reasons, but writing should be chief among those reasons, because hey, we’re at essential number four and we’re starting to get serious.

Getting some focus means, in a nutshell, that not everything you write is wonderful, so deal with that. You have some clunkers and now you recognize that you have clunkers and you have some idea what to do to fix the problems. You can smell bad writing and it isn’t acceptable. You’ve churned books and you know what works and what doesn’t. You know your audience. You are a success to fans, small children, total strangers, but really all that matters at this stage is that you are a success to yourself. You can stay at this level if you want, or, you can…

5. …go forth, write, be zen, challenge what you think you know. You get to this level, you learn this essential of writing, you look around and you think to yourself as the surroundings seem so eerily familiar… shit! I knew I had been here before. There is screaming, internally and externally. There are the normal steps of denial and then, with courage, you resign yourself and- you feeling yet, where this is headed?

Yeah. It sucks. There’s no other recourse, though. You have to go back, back to the beginning. Essential five gets you to the point where you have to…

…write.



* As determined by me, really, the author, this morning as I sit at work not doing general work-type stuff. Take it as you will with that full disclosure in mind.

** No slackers. Writing is practice and volume and it takes time. So write. If you want to complain about this point, write to me. I won’t listen, but at least you will get some writing in today. Every bit helps.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writing Quality and Writing Frequency


Explore. That’s what writers do isn’t it? Whether it is research and we explore the Internet, or less often now, the local library, or we explore our minds for inspiration and those little stories that want so bad to be written that sometimes we can’t sleep.

That is what I do, each day. Some days are easier, some more frustrating, but in my early days of blogging daily, I can say one thing is certain; no matter the day, I am always learning.

I read two things recently that have coalesced into a half-thought. I still need to explore on this issue, but then, I believe this is an issue all writers have to explore.

Writing volume.

There is this graph on Problogger.net. The author, Dan Zarrella, through some extensive research of his own, illustrates the fact that multiple daily posts gain more traffic to your blog.

That sounds good, right? More content , more traffic, better for the writer.

Except, how does one do that, provide a constant stream of quality content while starting out? I have a full-time job, as does most indie writers and bloggers. I also need to save some time for my other writing projects and that means I have a time problem.

The second item I read, about quality versus value, highlighted the point of the need for quality content. The author in that piece, Patti Stafford, suggests that value is as important for new writers as is content, though from other reading, I would say that she is in the minority on this point.

With the two thoughts in my head, I wonder how to reconcile them. I suppose I could choose the idea of value and never mind quality while pumping content onto my blog. That just doesn’t seem appealing. I enjoy writing my blog and though I haven’t yet achieved the quality I want, quality is what I strive for.

There is a third way that I have decided is best for me now and maybe will work for most people, those relatively new to blogging anyway. I want to be happy. I want to explore my blogging skills.

I want to write and find out who I am.

Perhaps that finds me followers and readers an maybe I will just write to an empty room. I’m fine with that now, partly out of necessity as my page views remain low, but mostly because I feel that if I enjoy what I do, then others will enjoy that feeling that shows up in my writing.

What thought says you, the silent majority?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Football and Patriotism


Watching the New England Patriots on Monday night football and thinking about a lot of things, topmost is the realization that I may be the only blogger not to mention 9/11. It seems that everyone has an opinion and it is sad that a day that should be about reflection on those who died has turned partisan.

But then, what isn't partisan these days?

I don't want to jump into the discussion, though I feel that the great writers amongst us should have meaningful discourse. I had planned to talk about my experience in 2011, how it helped me to decide while in college that I wanted to write, that it was okay to want to write, to be a writer. I wanted to say that mortality was on my mind and thoughts of legacy and happiness and living my life.

Maybe I still can reflect on who I was and what I became and what I still want to accomplish.

I'm tired of bickering. Tired of pettiness. Tired of every opportunity seen as a chance to divide, blame and get an advantage.

I think 9/11 made me a better person, though I wish that there had been any other way to achieve that change within myself.

Ten years later, when we should be strong, we instead have two political towers in America that are burning and on the verge of collapse. We worry about blame. We should worry about the future. Who takes the high road?

Photo by Axel Foley
I think, as I watch the Patriots play football, that I just don't give a damn about any of them, the politicians, the journalists, the insiders and the outsiders; the whole damn bunch.

So I have decide to watch football, stay out of politics and blog little frivolous blog posts that make me happy, that make me remember the reasons why I write.

I am officially disenfranchised, but, you know, it doesn't really matter because the Patriots are still winning the game and right now in my life, that is the extent of my ability to care.


Monday, September 12, 2011

CreateSpace, Lulu, Kindle oh My


I haven't said much about my personal writing projects of late. Mostly because my writing projects have revolved around trying to establish my blogs. This may be backward in some eyes, but to me, it makes sense. Blogging gets me in a mindset of writing each day, planning and thinking of projects long -term.

That doesn’t mean my other writing has been completely neglected, just scaled back.

I have been looking into my options in regards to the preliminary book planning I am doing currently. No real specifics yet, except to say that the book is a collaboration that will feature photos, though color or black and white, paper back or hard cover still remains a question.

I have been studying the website CreateSpace.com, an Amazon.com affiliate and the ease on the sales side is a definite bonus, as is the price. Also with CreateSpace, I would be able to have the book in kindle format and deal with publishing through a single source which being new might be my best option and so far is the direction I'm leaning.

I will say that Lulu.com seems to have the better quality books, especially for full color and they do hard cover.

I believe in electronic publishing and though I like the books on Lulu better, I have to think of functionality and the future of publishing. Is there a market for the coffee table book and if so, is there room in the market to tweak the traditional form of the book?

I'm not sure people will want a paper book with photos that isn't hard cover. If I go that route, however, print a paper cover book, I can offer that book for significantly less money.

Thankfully, I am still in the content creation mode. That means I have time to decide on the ultimate format. The one thing I am certain of, though, is that it needs to be on the kindle, the nook, the ipad and any other e-book device.

I'm looking at a publish date in the spring. I know that is slow in the e-book world, but this is a special project and it needs to be as perfect as I can produce.

Any feedback on CreateSpace or Lulu from those who have used those services?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I am Fake!


So what, I read the New York Times Fashion & Style section- proudly and unashamed.

Of course, one could argue that by making the above statement, I am admitting to, in part at least, a level of shame. There is trepidation in my words of denial, shining through the cracks of my publicly constructed persona.

And I am constructed.

The exact point being made in the article Authentic? Get Real.

I am not authentic, complete and whole in my on line incarnation of MT Nickerson. My name is Michael, but that is shockingly common when combined with my surname (Nickerson's are prolific child producers it seems, and we like the name Michael). A fair amount of online real estate is taken up by Michael Nickerson. That left me with a few options, and by few, I really mean, hardly any.

I could be Michael T. Nickerson, another Michael Nickerson, M. Theodore Nickerson, Theodore Nickerson or M.T. Nickerson. There are other variations but they are even less appealling and I suppose I have bored everyone enough.

I chose M.T., even with obvious problem; it phonetically sounds like the word empty.

Hi, I am Empty Nickerson. Not super cool, but better the chuckle by some or many, than a long, cumbersome name that remains common and easily lost amongst all the others.

All of this to illustrate my inauthentic self. My first foray into the cyber world was what the NYT article above calls 'calculated authenticity'.

I read recently a post by author Nathan Bransford that dealt with branding, which discusses the idea of online authenticity. Bransford defends the opposite notion, arguing against branding and instead argues for authenticity.

I lean more toward the NYT article than I do with Bransford. We all make choices on what to write, and how to write what we do send out into the world. It is a choice made based on what we want our public image to be and may closely resemble our private selves, but can only ever be an approximation and therefore not wholly authentic.

Nothing wrong with manufactured identities and nothing unusual.

I think it is best as writers to make as close an approximation of our true selves as we can, but to remember that there is purpose behind what we do and so we have to construct and mold our online incarnations to best achieve our goals.

What are your goals?

Friday, September 9, 2011

For Nana

We are small and brief.

We are given a spark when born, and the greatest of us use that spark to light the lives of those around them; family and friends and those casually met.

We can only hope that we, the ones who have had our lives brightened by those special people, can hold true to the light given us and pass that light to others, to hold that light pure and always remember the joy and the happiness that light brings.

We are more and we are better and somehow, with strength and courage, we go on.

We love and we don't forget.

We thank you, the light-bringers, and we always carry the light you gave us so we can pass it to others, selflessly, as you showed us.

We are blessed.

Hyphenated Hell


The time-suck and the ill-formed comment response. My hyphenated hell today.

The great thing about comments, continuing from yesterday's post, is when you find yourself engaged. The bad thing is when you find yourself engaged in a slow motion discussion with someone who really has no desire to change their mind or entertain even, an opinion that does not closely coincide with their already formed opinion.

This is ass-kissery and obstinance combined in a deadly double whammy that is impenetrable and possibly, when you have other work to do, detrimental to productivity.

I was on a blog today and found myself entrenched and hopelessly sucked into a discussion that was less productive than it should have been. And I was trying to make my opinions coalesce as I was typing, which is never a good plan. Needless to say, it was an almost complete waste of time.

I should have known better.

Remember this, above all else; don't worry, there are a lot of blogs out there. You just need to find the right one, where you can discuss, and get a point across and not feel as if you are wasting your time. If you feel you have already said the same thing several comments in a row, pull back. There is no winning and you have better things to do.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Death of Comments: The Rise of Sycophants


Margaret Adams had an article recently on Daily Blog Tips that I found both reassuring and disheartening, depending on my seesaw viewpoint of glass half empty and glass half- well you know.

She asked the question, “Are blog comments dying?”

I was initially happy to read that those in the business have noticed a decline in commenting on their blogs, that the time was passing for comments. My happiness was a raction to the fact that I have a dismal commenting record of, well- two. Yes, two people have commented on my posts and one of them was my wife, who now says she will not post again for a reason I can't recall at the moment. She was polite and smiled a lot- sympathetically as wives do at times.

I suppose I should try to sugarcoat my numbers, pretend that my blog is actually popular so the few people who read what I write won't feel so keenly the stench of desperation and impending failure that emanates across the blogosphere form the direction of my keyboard.

But hey, blog commenting is dying so yeah! It might not be me, it might be a system-wide phenomenon and I am just unlucky to have started my blog amidst the death of commenting.

Then a bit of the positive happy liquid drained from glass as I was confronted with the thought of, “What the hell am I going to do if no one comments?” I enjoy interactions on the internet, the freedom of dipping into blogs and making a comment, talking to different people that I don't have friend or follow or, what is Google? Circles or something? Plus oneing?

I am tragic in my social ineptitude. It is only magnified on the internet where failure and awkwardness is magnified with multiple social platforms, all with their own quirks and secret handshakes.

No commenting means what?

I don't have an answer.

I do see a change in commenting, though and I can see what Margaret Adams sees. Commenting may be dying. She does not elaborate much on this point, but it has been bothering me with how sickening sweet people are on many threads. It is too much, “I love this article, it changed my life!”

Bullshit.

I call it when I spy it and I can't ignore the enormous piles I see at many blogs I frequent.

Ass-kissery doesn't sit well with me and I am seeing more of that rather than positive back and forth discussion. How to react to a comment that basically says, “[Insert Author's Name] you are the greatest and point number six is so right on! I'm going to go right a great novel now because of your post!”

I find lots of great information on the internet, on the blogs I frequent, but most are small points, little bits of advice that I use, but don't alter my existence or my outlook on life. Tips and advice people, not manna or anything.

Add the little bits together and get something greater, improve yourself over time, but the ridiculous notion that a single blog post changes your destiny as a writer is something I don't buy. It all selling, trying to get a follower, get in the good graces of known writers for the sake of promotion with mindless flattery. It sucks reading the same comment over and over about the wonders of a blogger, especially when it is the same comment by the same people on every blog post. If you have something to contribute, then say it. If you don't, if you just want a love fest followed by a link to your e-book or blog then do everyone a favor and-

Well. I was going to say something bad and likely inappropriate. I won't do that because it isn't any more productive than empty flattery.

If comments are dying then it us, the independent writers who are killing comments with sycophantic glee. It is a shame that the level of- well life I suppose- always comes down to the lowest common denominator. We don't want intelligence, we don't want insight, we want compliments, we want smoke blown up our collective butts and in the process we loose a chance to improve public discourse and consequently, we as writers become lost in a world that stagnates without a structure that challenges, or has the possibility to challenge.

If comments die, where does that leave us?