Monthly Archives: June 2015

Annoying Things Only #Writers Will Understand

It is said that writers are a different breed. Hopefully the word different isn’t used in place of a less ambiguous word…like warped.

I don’t know if writers can claim exclusive rights to such a label, but they definitely don’t fit neatly within most accepted classifications.

With that being said, I’d like to talk about some annoyances and problems only writers will understand, facepalm

because in many respects we are different—but not in a bad way. There are just some things that we deal with on an almost-daily basis that normal people would react to with a shrug and a “So?”

Here is a partial list of such things – but it’s NOT a Top Ten List

Temptations, Obligations and Favors:

If you’re like me, you have a full time job, and the majority of your writing is done on the weekends.

While your friends are firing up the grill, hitting the beach or taking the Harley out for a spin, you’re shuffling to your home office in your pajamas with a bagel and a cup of coffee thinking about your target word-count and hoping the muse hasn’t gone fishing.

We don’t complain about it – it’s the life we’ve chosen.

We voluntarily sacrifice our weekends to write because our day job prevents us from writing (much) during the week.

We intentionally avoid the extra cocktail on Friday night so we’ll have a (reasonably) clear head Saturday morning when we attack the keyboard.

Those two days of writing are precious to us and we’ll gladly become hermits in exchange for a few thousand words.

But…

Sometimes life happens.

It’s a struggle to resist the invitation from your (non-writer) best friend to go do that thing you love to do. I know, personally I’ve cursed myself many times for sitting on my Harley on a gorgeous Florida Sunday rather than sitting at my desk.

It doesn’t happen to me as often as it used to, but many of us, whether we like it or not, have families who don’t care how close you are to finishing the first draft of your Magnum Opus…you told them you’d do something and now it’s time to deliver on your promise.

Perhaps the most unfair trade of all…your best friend needs your help. moving

Maybe they’re moving, need a ride to the airport or they need a second set of hands while they shave the family ferret. Regardless of the magnitude of the request, you must weigh the potential production of your writing day against the chances you will need help painting the garage someday.

Phone calls, doorbells and other nuisance interruptions:

Here’s the way it usually happens…

You sit down at the computer to write. The dog has been walked, the cat is napping, the kids are in school (or maybe they’re napping with the cat), you have your beverage-of-choice, and your mind is primed for cranking out some serious words…

Soon the only sound in the house is the quietly hypnotizing click-click-click of your keyboard as the prose pours from the depths of your soul.

As you type, you subconsciously rehearse your acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize…it’s going that well.

That’s the moment it happens…

Without fail, as if the writing Gods are telling you “Not today, Shakespeare.”

The doorbell rings, your cell phone vibrates or a tornado hits.

phone call

The exact nature of the interruption doesn’t matter…it’s the fact that it happened during your groove, because by the time you go to the door to tell the intruder you aren’t interested in accepting Christ into your heart (although with the murderous thoughts stampeding through your head it might not be a bad idea to hedge your bets a little), then go to the bathroom (which you have been putting off for hours) and top off your beverage, then sit back down to continue with the magic…the magic has disappeared like a rabbit in a hat.

Try to tell a normal person about how something seemingly minor can be so disruptive and they look at you like you’re…different.

The Non-Sympathetic Spouse/Significant Other:

There is a fascinating metamorphosis which occurs in some (not all…some!) significant others.

When they meet you, the fact that you are a writer (seemingly) impresses the hell out of them. When they introduce you to their friends and family they always qualify it…“This is so-and-so…he/she is a writer.”

They are fascinated with the process. They ask all sorts of questions, offer assistance with critiquing, etc. and gush at the prospect of having a character named for them in your book.

The first time you have to cancel a date, or turn down an invitation to a couples’ night out because you’re writing they are understanding and sympathetic. The second and third time they are disappointed, but still respectful of your situation. Anything after the fifth time and you get the look.

If it becomes a regular occurrence your status in their social circle changes…

Where it used to be “my S.O. is a writer” (spoken with respect and adoration) it is now “they blew me off again because they’re still working on a stupid book which they’ll never finish but they think it’s this work of art, but they won’t let anybody read it until it’s finished…which will be the day after never!”

spouse

It’s amazing how quickly your writing can go from being a source of pride to a bone of contention.

No Seriously…How Much Do You Make?:

Probably the question that annoys independent authors more than any other is the dreaded…“So are you making any money selling your books?”

Using myself as an example…Many of my friends and family were aware of my first novel’s (Living the Dream) pending release, and within a week of the big day began badgering me about any new income I might be enjoying. It was more than a little demoralizing telling people that my first royalty check was for a whopping $2.01. It was more demoralizing when a few of them snickered at my attempt to hit the big time.

Many times I had to restrain myself from asking them “How many books have you sold?”

Now that I have ten books under my belt, and I have a semi-regular (if not huge) income, it’s a little easier to hear the question…but just as my success has changed over the years, so too has the question.

money

It starts off the same, but upon hearing that I am actually making, what I call, gas money – the questioner then proceeds to the dreaded follow up“Really? After all those books, that’s it?”

These people have no idea how narrowly they escape hospitalization.

My concern is the day somebody hits me with follow up #2 –“Don’t you think it’s time to quit?”

If and when that happens I may need bail money…just sayin’.

Fish or Cut Bait:

There is a tenet in the writing world that says “…in order to be a good writer you first have to read – a lot.”

Back in the day, before I started writing I read everything I could get my hands on (with some shameful exceptions). I would read during my lunch break, I would read after work, before bed, and it wasn’t unusual to see me reading in line at the DMV or the Post Office.

My favorite bookstore (The New England Mobile Book Fair – Newton Mass) probably closed early on the days I visited. Okay – that’s a slight exaggeration, but I don’t remember ever leaving there without spending several hours and at least a couple of hundred dollars. Going there was like a pilgrimage for me – for which I would save up the way most people save for vacations or new cars.

Once I started writing, my reading time gradually diminished as the amount of time I devoted to writing, and other writing related tasks (which we’ll discuss in a minute), took control of my spare time.

Trying to split time between writing and reading is like a fisherman who must decide between fishing and cutting bait.

cut bait

In order to catch fish you have to throw your hook in the water, but a hook without bait is just a hook, no self-respecting fish would be fooled! So that means you need to bait the hook. Many fishermen where I’m from use frozen bait—shrimp, squid, or some other bait-fish—which needs to be cut before being put on the hook, so cutting bait is a necessary chore, like reading.

I don’t know if this problem plagues other writers as badly as it does me, but one thing I do know…I miss cutting bait!

The (necessary) Evil that Writers Do:

Writing has become my drug of choice in the past six years.

It started as a way to pass time, but quickly evolved into the thing I don’t have enough time for (see above).

Ironically, the reason I don’t have enough time for writing is all of the peripheral duties which are part and parcel to the job, but do not contribute to the precious word count.

There are many such tasks, but they can all be placed into one category…Marketing.

That’s right…the M-word.

I’ve always said (well, not always – but for several years now) that writing the book is the easy part. Selling it is where the real work starts.

If you are independently wealthy marketing is simply something you pay others to do, but, as I stated somewhere above, my income from writing is donated to Big Oil every month. This means I am not only the head of the marketing department for Blindogg Books, I am also the graphic artist, the copy writer, the secretary and the gopher (I go for this and I go for that).

My job description includes, but is not limited to, the following;

  • Maintaining a presence on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest
  • Promoting myself locally by attending social gatherings, networking events, open mic events and book signings
  • Designing marketing materials – e.g. bookmarks, posters for events, banners, tee shirts, etc
  • Attending book signings of other authors, whenever possible (quid pro quo)
  • Monitoring sales and adjusting marketing efforts accordingly
  • Researching new marketing techniques and how to make the best use of my time (yeah, right!)
  • Promoting other authors as much as possible (again – quid pro quo)
  • Maintaining a blog as well as monitoring the blogs of other authors for useful information on writing and (yeah, you guessed it) marketing

hats

These tasks are hardly things I would complain to my union rep about, but they are time consuming. I conservatively estimate that for every hour I spend writing I devote at least three to the above responsibilities. I would rather be writing, but if I didn’t do the leg work writing would be nothing more than a hobby—and I am not ashamed to admit (as I describe here) that, while I definitely enjoy writing, it surpassed hobby status during the third re-write of Living the Dream.

 

Why Didn’t I Write that Down?:

I’ve heard it said that the faintest ink is stronger than the best memory.

I don’t remember where I heard it, because I didn’t write it down, which brings me to my next annoyance…

As writers we never know where or when inspiration will strike.

I’ve had ideas come to me at the weirdest times – the idea for Eyewitness Blues came to me while I was playing softball.

Luckily there was a pen and some paper in the dugout so I was able to write down the thought, lest it be lost forever…like some of the other ideas I failed to document.

If you spend any time on Facebook you’ve seen the meme which says “The biggest lie I tell myself…I don’t need to write it down, I’ll remember it.”

Believe it.

I suspect it has happened to every writer at one time or another.

You’re driving along digging a song on the radio and an idea for a novel pops into your head. You tell yourself you’ll remember to write it down when you get to your destination, but by the time you get there the only thing you remember is the moron who cut you off in traffic, or some other such nonsense.

Sadly, there have probably been thousands of great novels lost this way, because no matter how good your memory is, you still forget stuff. I have a better than average memory and I know I’ve lost a few best sellers.

You would think that, as writers, we would write things down reflexively…but you’d be wrong.

remember

Each of us carries a device in our pocket that has the capability to record random thoughts with the push of a button (provided you have the app), but do we use it?…nah. Too much of a hassle, and if we do remember to record our inspiration, we forget to play the recording back…our cellular service contract expires, we get a new phone and *poof* – your idea for the next Great American Novel is Gone with the Wind…so to speak.

 

I’m sure there are many more annoyances that plague writers, but unfortunately, I don’t have time to research and document them…I need to get busy writing.

I’m on the first re-write of Full Circle and I’ve surpassed my allotted blogging time for the week.

time to write2

 

As always – thank you for reading

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A Horse is a Horse, but I Remember #Secretariat

I will never forget the look on my Uncle Frank’s face as he tossed the small piece of paper in the air and walked away in disgust.

In fact, as I stood there looking at the faces of the others in the pool, I didn’t understand why they were looking at me so strangely.

There were even a couple who looked angry.

The date was June 9, 1973, and I was four months shy of my thirteenth birthday.

There was a cookout at my father’s house and I, along with a few of my brothers and sisters were there.

It’s rare to be able to recall your exact whereabouts on a specific day forty-two years ago, unless that day was historically significant. John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the day the space shuttle Challenger exploded on take-off and the day the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years are some examples (that last one probably more so for me than most of you).

So what was so special about June 9, 1973 that allows me to remember a Saturday afternoon cookout at my father’s house?

It was the day of the 105th running of the Belmont Stakes.

belmont

It would be an understatement to say my father had an affinity for gambling. For those of you who have read my novels, the character of Ralph Donabedian is loosely based on my dad.

So with a big horse race happening, it goes without saying that there were some wagers being placed at the gathering.

sting2

There was also a pool—the gambling kind, not the swimming kind.

The entry fee for the pool was $10 per couple.

When it came time for the entrants to draw their horse from the torn pieces of paper in the “hat”, my father noted that they were one couple short. There were six horses and only five couples, so my Uncle Eddy pulled my cousin Debbie and me from the sidelines and told us he would pay our entry fee so we could round out the pack.

I think I was the third one to pull a name from the hat.

I had no idea what was going on, I was just following instructions.

I reached in and removed a slip of paper and tried to pronounce the weird name written on it…the best I could do was “Secretary”.

That’s when Uncle Frank tossed his slip of paper in the air and walked away in (mock) disgust.

I asked my father what was going on. He laughed and said “You just won the pool!”

Secretariat made it look easy.

secretariat

Even after he won by thirty-one lengths, Debbie and I weren’t 100% sure what all the fuss was about, but we accepted the payout with huge smiles.

Only five horses ran in the race.

One of the six was scratched just before post-time, so we had to refund that couple’s money, and naturally we had to refund Uncle Eddy for staking us…

So we ended up splitting a forty-dollar pot.

A day of fun in the sun was great, but leaving with a twenty-dollar bill in my pocket made it a very memorable cookout indeed.

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A First Draft 27 Years in the Making #amwriting

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…

I finished the first draft of my latest novel.

Full Circle has, if you’ll pardon my turn-of-phrase, quite a storied history.

Cue the flashback music…

flashback

It all began in the summer of 1988.

Being a single parent with an eight-year-old son, I had very little in the way of a social life.

I also had very little in the way of money…so, I was on a constant quest to find new and creative ways to kill time.

One night, I don’t remember the exact moment, or what spurred the thought in me, I decided to write a book. It would be about Karma, more specifically, the old adage what goes around comes around. I actually had the title picked before I put pen to paper.

I’ve always been interested in the unexplained forces of the universe, probably as a result of watching The Twilight Zone during my formative years, so it seemed like a good theme for a book.

Twilight Zone

I dug out a spiral-bound five-subject notebook and a ball-point pen and started writing.

I had, what I thought, was a good concept, so I wrote about five chapters and gave them to my best friend’s wife ( an avid reader) and asked her to read it and tell me if I should keep going. She told me to continue, so I did.

Along around the fifteenth chapter I switched jobs and had to move, so the notebook went into a box and didn’t see the light of day for many, many months.

When I finally dug it out and decided to get back to it, my life was as hectic as a beehive in a tornado, so, needless to say, the notebook went back into the box.

You know how “life happens”?

Well, it kept happening to me for about eighteen years, at which time I found myself moving again…this time from Rhode Island to Florida…and the notebook was all but forgotten.

Six months after landing in the Sunshine State I had a dream which turned into my first novel, Living the Dream. Shortly after it was released, while writing Water Hazard, I remembered the book I had begun all those years ago and decided to make it my next project.

It was a good plan, but you know what they say about the best laid plans.

plans

After Water Hazard came Pump It Up, then No Good Deed, then Backseat to Justice and so on…

Last August, when Eyewitness Blues was released I decided it was time to finish what I had started.

I was in the process of getting Path of a Bullet ready for December release, so January 1, 2015 seemed like a good day to start the project.

I say start rather than finish for a few reasons:

  • My writing skills left a lot – A LOT – to be desired in 1988
  • The story was more than 20 years old, so it needed to be modernized
  • After reviewing what I had written I realized I had tried a little too hard to write an epic novel
  • While writing the original I had been afraid to think outside the box

So, as the new year began, so did my new incarnation of Full Circle (the title is the only thing that has remained from the original, aside from the central theme). By the end of January I had written a paltry 3,000 words and when Febrauary ended I had only doubled my output. March was a particularly bad month for me so when April began my word count hadn’t moved.

I began to wonder if somebody up there was trying to tell me something…

It would have been ironic, don’t you think, if some unknown force was trying to stop me from writing a novel about some unknown force that causes things to happen?

Perhaps, but I wasn’t going to accept that, so I imposed a moratorium on non-essential extra-curricular activities and spent every spare minute I had at the keyboard with the goal of finishing the first draft by June 1.

If I could do that, I could get it to my beta readers and hopefully get it back from them before July, which would allow me to get it to the editor before August so it could be released (hopefully) before November.

I’ll be honest…there were times when I thought I was asking a bit too much of myself.

Would I be able to, essentially, write an entire novel in two months?

Well…I missed my target date by one day.

writer's clock

I finished the first draft of Full Circle on June 2.

By the end of the day on June 3 it will be in the hands of my beta readers and the book I began writing in 1988 will be that much closer to completion.

I guess there are two ways to look at it…

You could say that, for all intents and purposes, I wrote Full Circle in two months—or—you could say it took me twenty-seven years.

finish

Either way – I’m extremely happy with the finished product and I hope you will be too!

Look for Full Circle in the late fall of 2015!

 

As always – thank you for reading

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