Monday, January 27, 2020

Rocks and Hard Places

You know what that saying means; I'm stuck between two unpleasant places and neither one is appealing. Here's the sitch:

I wrote an MG story based on a literary classic, which brings said classic into the contemporary world (no, no more Jane Austen, I promise). I wanted to stay true to the classic written by Robert Louis Stevenson (that's all the clue I'm going to give you). But when I presented it for a critique by an editor out of one of the large publishing houses, while she liked the concept, she said it 'enabled white male rage.' She made other points, most of which I thought valid and could easily incorporate into my manuscript. But how to address the social aspect of 'white male rage', i.e. a main character, yes, who's white because that's how the classic was written almost 200 years ago, who messes around with science which changes him and not for the better. The editor saw this as an excuse for his behavior- he can't help himself from being violent. Now I see she has a point; white male character goes on rampage but it's not his fault. However, while I have it that my character's a violent person, all through the story is woven that he must take responsibility for his actions. The parent explains it like this; it's like being left-handed in a right-handed world. Yes, my main character, a boy, is different than almost everyone, and his condition makes him struggle, but he, ultimately, has the control and responsibility of his condition. He has to adjust, not the world. (And changing the race would only get me labeled racist because I'm white, so don't even go there.)

I pondered her comments. I switched the gender of the main character to female, thus breaking away from the classic, but it was a new twist and that can be a good thing. But that change was problematic all through the story. Maybe it's my own prejudices, but a girl would react totally different in almost all the conflicts. I managed to address most of the issues, but it was a domino effect which made the twisty ending, which I loved, improbable and clunky.

It is no longer my story, but someone else's. And I didn't feel their love or connection to the story; it seemed more like a 'PC run amok' story.

Here's the rock: I don't like the new story, especially the weaker ending.

Here's the hard place: Based on the editor's comments, it seems everything has to go through a PC filter or it won't get pubbed.

Hollywood seems to be the only place where this story could thrive. But, if I can't get this story published, it will die a lonely death in my drawer.

And just like Wiley E. Coyote trying to catch the Roadrunner, here's the boulder that falls on top to completely squash me: it's part of a classics revitalization trilogy. While the connection to the next book wouldn't be too problematic, if I can't get editors past the first book, the other two are just cumbersome piles of paper to be recycled.

Friends and colleagues have weighed in and it comes down to this:
  • Write your story.
  • They probably wouldn't pub it as is, so make the changes.
  • You can make this work.
It all comes down to writing a story I don't love, which generally doesn't work out well for writer, agent, or editor. Talk about impossible barriers. Or, keeping the basic storyline with the other suggestions the editor gave me. Finally, just chucking the whole story and starting the trilogy with the next book, featuring a female protagonist. 

I'll have to mull this one over. It disheartens me because these stories are a bridge between the classics I love to a contemporary time and place. As an English major and a former substitute teacher, this kills me that my brainchild must be so bastardized that it can pass PC filters which leaves the story barely alive.

Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

What to do, what to do...


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Good Book is a Good Book- No Matter Who Publishes It

I've read a few Indie books that were just awful. Likewise, I've read some books that were traditionally published and I didn't get beyond several chapters; one I could read no more than a paragraph, yet a big name publisher spent millions to pub it. When all is said and done, it's not only that a book is well-written; it's about commercial, editorial, and market appeal. Before you (*looks at industry and rest of the world) turn your nose up at Indie publishers/books, here's a list of books that were self-pubbed:

Photo courtesy of Suzy Hazelwood, Pexels. 

Christopher Paolini. The creator of the Eragon dragon series was initially self-published by his parents. You know the rest of the story.

Richard Kiyosaki. Rich Dad, Poor Dad sales for this must-have personal finances have been astronomical.

Beatrix Potter. The Tale of Peter Rabbit is perhaps one of the top classic children's stories.

Richard Bolles. What Color is Your Parachute. A career and employment-seeking breakthrough work.

James Redfield. The Celestine Prophecy. This psychological and spiritual adventure made it from being sold out of his trunk to Hollywood screen.

Walt Whitman. One of the premiere and successful American poets, he published Leaves of Grass and its many subsequent revisions.

Irma S. Rombauer.  Still popular today, The Joy of Cooking was originally published by Irma herself.

Marcel Proust. Swann's Way was a part memoir, part fiction story told by two narrators. It has since become an institution.

Mark Twain. Who doesn't know The Adventures of Huck Finn. Both controversial and classic, this tale of the South was published by Twain and his nephew under their own publishing company.

Other books: Margaret Atwood. Yes, the author of The Handmaid's Tale and other phenomenal books self-published one of her books of poems. e.e.cummings. This great and innovative American poet self-published his third book of poems. Edgar Allen Poe. Now it's one of the rarest books (actually, a pamphlet and under a pseudonym) in American literature, Tamerlane and Other Poems. William Strunk, The Elements of Style, which is a must have for any writer, was originally written by Prof. Struck for his Cornell University students. After he died, E.B. White revised it for Macmillan.

So yes, there are successful Indie writers, some, like the above, which have moved over to traditional publishing, although these cases are extremely rare when one considers the total amount of books published each year. Not all Indie books are bad (hence, above) and not all traditional books are good (we can each cite a book we thought was horrendous and wondered why anyone would publish it). As a hybrid author having both traditionally and Indie published books, all we want is for readers (and agents and editors) to keep an open mind. Don't just automatically turn up your nose. Publishing is highly selective and personal to editors and agents, it doesn't mean that automatically an Indie book is bad and a traditional book is great. As Charles Dickens said,

There are books of which the backs and the covers are by far the best parts.  (Charles Dickens)

Try to be open-minded. 


Monday, January 13, 2020

Break Time!

Do you take a break between manuscripts? Don't you think your computer might like a little respite too?

Photo courtesy of Drew Williams, Pexels.

These are some of the things I like to do when I'm in between manuscripts:

1. Clean your screen and keyboard. If you're like me, sometimes when you get on a creative roll, you eat and drink at your desk (or in the coffee shop, or on the couch, or patio table, etc.) Eating means sticky or greasy fingers. Using lens cleaner or a dampened with water cloth (NO PAPER TOWELS- THEY CAN SCRATCH), clean both screen and keys.

2. Don't forget to clean INSIDE your computer: get rid of junk, old emails, copies of your kids' school papers, spam, anything you don't need. Then, do a defrag to clear out memory.

3. Now's the time to get anything fixed: replace worn out power cords, keys with no letters on them, make upgrades, etc.

4. Clean your workspace. Dust the desk, throw out papers, clean the clutter. I like to reorganize my workspace once it reaches critical: too many papers, projects, and 'stuff', like a tiny rubber shark from a book festival that just sits on my desk. Happy work space, happy worker.

5. Organize the notes and pages from the project you just finished. I keep each project in it's own cardboard box. Once the book is published and about 2 years old, I throw those notes out. I figure that's a safe period of time if anyone wants to sue me for plagiarism. I have the work product which shows my progress and that the novel is mine.

6. Since each project can span over a year (or two...) with revisions, and I'm working on several different projects, I spend a lot of time on my laptop. To help reduce eye fatigue, I enlarge the type to 125%. I can still see the entire page at this level.

7. Think about lighting. Is your space well lit? How about the background on your laptop or desktop. A little more light can also reduce eye strain.

8. Maybe you need to change the scenery a bit; add a plant, a new picture, whatever boosts your mood, and therefore, your productivity. Whatever the subject, I have a little something which relates to the work; a little figurine, a picture of a Hollywood movie star that I think my character looks like, or even a crystal or such. I put it on my desk and it can sometimes inspire me when I get stuck.

After a short rest and recharge, both you and your computer will be ready for the next project.

Happy writing!


Thursday, January 9, 2020

Give Me SPACE!

January. Time for resolutions most of us don't keep. But, I have at least one that I do.

Clearing out/streamlining.

This was my dresser drawer:

Too many shirts, all squished in. When I wanted a specific one, I had to dig through all the others (and you know the one I wanted seemed to always be on the bottom).

Writing is like that; we squish too many words in. And like my shirts, some of the words weren't worth keeping. Consider:

He'd keep on trying.


He'd keep trying.


He hoped that she would change her mind.


He hoped she would change her mind.

In both second examples, the missing words 'on' and 'that' aren't missed. In my mind, it sounds better and my word count will be better utilized. What words can you eliminate from your manuscript? I do a global word search for 'just.' For some reason, I overuse that word and almost every time it can be eliminated. Helping verbs, like have, had, have had, etc. can be removed and it makes the writing stronger, more active. Look:

She had run a mile in record time.


She ran a mile in record time.

Sometimes you need the helping verb, but most times you can toss them out.

Here's my drawer now:

 The shirts are compact and neat because I eliminated the unnecessary ones (did I really need 3 gray tee shirts? Or ones with stains or holes?).

After sorting through and organizing all my drawers, I had a pile of unwanted clothes that would be better somewhere else, like going to someone in need, or to the rag pile.

Now I'm off to finish the streamlining of my middle grade manuscript; Jac is impatient for her story to continue.

Happy organizing!


Monday, December 30, 2019

Go! And DON'T Come Back!

Last post of the year, looking back and forward, blah, blah. You know the drill. Here's my list of things and people that should stay in 2019 and never 'grace' us with their presence:

Photo courtesy of cottonbro, Pexels

1. Anything Kardashian. Seriously, we've ALL had enough. If you're going to law school Kim, hit the books and stay off TV and out of the media. And find something for the rest of your family to do.

2. Every. Single. Politician. We're tired (I'm speaking for a lot of people) of your bickering, backstabbing, lying, self-serving non-representation. All of you, out the door! We want fresh, new, unsoiled, eager representation (who won't bring half their family in to make money off ties with US gov). Clear both sides of the aisle.

3. Antonio Brown. You can't keep your hands to yourself or your mouth shut. (Disclosure: I am a very dedicated Patriots fan and he would have been great, but... ethics apply.) And, take all those other dirty players (and coaches, managers, etc., and I don't care if they are future Hall of Famers) with you. It's time the NFL cleaned house. There should be absolutely no room for players with assault and other criminal records. If they're cleared in court, fine. Until then, out! You are seriously angering female fans.

4. Twitter trolls. You know who you are. A person makes an observation, and you want to be angry, and butt hurt, so you jump all over them because your opinion is different. It's narcissistic and what I've read but can't remember the term, darn it, is the abuser blaming the victim. Hey, I think there are some real whacko opinions out there, but they are opinions and protected under the Constitution. Ok, you don't agree, you may even be horrified (I've been) but make your point and move on (unless there is a clear danger, like someone making a threat- different story). If you have to smear them, and continually harangue them, you need therapy. And another hobby.

5. Amazon screwing authors. Indie authors receive pennies for their books. Jeff Bezos, you have your billions (or is it trillions now? oops, forgot about the divorce...back to billions). Either way, your stranglehold on authors and the monies they don't get from Kindle Unlimited is cruel and soooo not fair. There should be no 'returning' an ebook after people have read it. A few pages to peruse, but if they buy it, they pay for it- no give backs. And the same thing goes for you, Audible. No returning audio books and then making the author pay. Seriously, I have some very bad words on my tongue...

6. Reality shows. Hint: they are scripted and therefore, that's false advertising. I'm glad Snookie and crew are gone, but take the housewives, the sister wives, and everything else fake back to oblivion.

7. Excess and unrecyclable plastics. Some things need to be plastic, like medical devices and car parts. But we don't need plastic straws every time we get a drink (what, are you 2?). Manufacturers, please don't wrap instruction booklets in plastic. It's ridiculous the amount of plastics used for silly things. Maybe plastics should be constrained (as much as possible, I understand chemicals and situations may call for something different) to only those which can be recycled. Lego bricks- why can't they be made from recycled plastics? And other toys? How about bricks which could be used for building houses? All public benches? We might be able to save trees if we can substitute recycled plastic products. It would be great if a brilliant scientist somewhere created a microbe that eats the stuff (I've heard rumors, is it a reality? If so, let's get on this and clear out landfills and the oceans...).

8. 'Designer' animals. With so many animals in shelters, waiting to be euthanized, I can't look at those designer dogs, which cost hundreds, if not thousands, and not think less of its owners as a person.

9. Idiotic prison systems. What good does it do anyone when prisoners are locked up with nothing to do? Let prisons run animal shelters. Teach prisoners how to train service animals. Just think of all the therapy and service animals that could come from overcrowded shelters and go to people in need of them. Prisoners would be busy performing a desperately needed service, and we all know animals reduce stress levels. Training a single dog could save thousands of dollars for people who need one, plus giving prisoners a real chance at a form of restitution. Think about it!

10.  I'm looking at you, Big Pharma. There is no justifiable or ethical reason why these companies get to charge Americans hundreds of dollars for insulin and other medications when Europeans get the same drug for pennies on the dollar. We are funding research, but don't gouge us! Same price for everyone. And shame on you- you have blood on your hands.

11. Those stupid Progressive, Geico, and Liberty Mutual commercials (to name a few). You've done them to death. We're sick of them. Goodbye Flo, Jaime, gecko, emu, etc.

12. Any more remakes of Spiderman, Batman, Superman, etc. Hollywood, there are mega tons of books out there- and don't forget the Indies- when you search for a new project. Not another Star is Born, or Tarzan, or even Dracula. I'm not saying don't do any movies based on those characters, or any which include the characters, but STOP remaking the original plot over and over and over.... If you're hard up, check out some books from the library. Talk to people. See what's a new trend.

Well, that's my list for now. More will come to mind as we wind down the last dregs of 2019. May 2020 be kinder to all of us- people, animals, Earth, and Fate.

See ya on the flip side....


Monday, December 23, 2019

it's That Time of Year...

The holidays are here. So....

Photo courtesy of Mohammed Reza Fathian, Pexels


I wish all peace, contentment, health and success. I will see you next year! 


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Beware the Hole!

I was relaxing, in my jammies, with a cup of tea and a cat on my lap, watching one of my favorite Hallmark movies. In the first 10 minutes.... Plot hole!

Photo courtesy of Anthony DeRosa, Pexels.

And it wasn't the only one. By the time I got to the end, there were 8 plot/situation holes. How did all of them get past:




copy/film editor



Here they are:

1- A minor character, a soldier, tells main character that he and girlfriend set wedding date. He immediately gets killed. Main character gives dog tags to 'widow.'

2- As the camera pans through the picturesque town, sometimes there is snow, sometimes not- and sometimes it's the same place, like a main character's home, on the same day. (not a plot hole, but a situational/filming hole. Still, someone missed it.)

3- Main female character's hair is perfect when she is in the office. She goes outside for a brief scene, hair gets wet from falling snow and looks droopy. Yet, walks into the office and wa-la! hair is perfect again!

4- A supporting character has a horse drawn sleigh, and mentions he wants to put wheels on it. Camera pans across sleigh, and... it has wheels.

5- It's a Christmas movie, so there shouldn't be little green buds on the trees....

6- This is more an acting thing, but director should have caught it- female lead doesn't close her eyes when kissing the hot male character, so I'm not convinced of the attraction. (I would have offered to take her place.)

7- People in the church are singing (really pretending) and their mouth movements don't match the words to the songs. At least the main characters seem to know the words. (The others have hymnals so they should have been able to fake it better....)

8- In the end scene, the main female character is chasing after the main male character, who's had a head start leaving town. And yet, she had time to run to a diner and get a chicken salad club with extra crispy curly fries to go, and bring it to him.

Don't get me wrong, I still love the movie, but careful editing is essential. I've read books where I stop and say, "Wait! That can't be!" It's even WORSE when it's my own book.

So Hallmark, call me, I'll be happy to watch and suggest edits. And, maybe, you could take a look at my manuscript....  ;)