Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I have a scene that I am starting to want to include in the Cider book in a big way.  I'm not sure it belongs.  I'm not sure it doesn't take me in a different direction.  I'm not even sure if it fits in before the story ends.  So I play it over and over in my mind, much like a kaleidoscope, turning it over and over to see how the pieces fit together.  Do I want to go there?  What does it give me in terms of character and drama?

Logic tells me that this scene muddies the waters.  It introduces an element that yes, exists as if not subtext at least as a suggestion within the story, but brings it forward forcing me/the characters to deal with it.  Do we want to deal with it?  It is too much of a complication?

I also had an idea of far less temptation but that solves more than it muddies.

The issue is the actual time-frame of the story which is weeks not months.  There is something to be said for tightness.  It's good to keep a rein on the story so it doesn't get away from you.  I once was talking to a writer who was in the middle of a book and he was telling me about a subplot (his B story--that is something he should understand) had taken over and that 150 pages later he was still wrestling with it.  "But you know how that is," he said to me with a smile.  I answered him truthfully "No, it's never happened to me."

Sweet Cider is not going to make that untrue.

The Stream That Floods

Monday, August 30, 2010

Just Like A Needle In A Haystack

Turner Classic Movies is running a Charlie Chase marathon today which, as uninteresting as that might be, is far superior to The Unit marathon over on Sleuth TV.  Not that I'm watching, it's just on, mostly to cover the wailing of coyotes or whatever so the girls don't keep barking and distracting me.  So I was in here in the office and I hear a familiar tune but when I go out to listen the words are all different.  It took about 3 hours to realize the tune is from a Fred Astaire movie and luckily I can provide you with the clip.

I will also point you to a very valuable but free book over Scott Nicholson's website,The Haunted Computer.   Write Good Or Die is about writing in the 21th century and contains articles by Joe Konrath, M.J. Rose and Harley Jane Kozak and many others.  You can download it in several formats, I took the PDF.  You can also find it at Smashwords.  A Kindle will cost you 99 cents (that situation won't last, amazon will not be underpriced, so they'll force Scott to raise his price, and he'll probably offer a 99 cent coupon so it's still free at Smashwords--just guessing here).

Now I'm going back to Sweet Cider.  I'm at a transitiony sort of chapter where groundwork is laid for future events but nothing so dramatic happens.  I left off at a real transition last night and had a huge shock at how the chapter ended.  Yes, I'm capable of shocking myself.

If you are stuck in the loop of kowtowing (yikes that sounds harsh) to tradpub, they want assurances, they want to know what they're buying, they don't trust you.  You are a dopey writer.  They are happiest if you come up with a detailed outline and stick with it until the book is completed.  I know some writers are comfortable working that way but I'm not.  I never have been.  I know where I'm going and I trust myself that somehow I'll get there.  That leaves all the room in the world for potential surprises and character uprisings or rebellions.  I want that vitality, I want to feel my way through a story in real time.

So say you want to work this way, the tradpubs are going to insist you write the whole book because they're nervous nellies and want to see it before they buy it.   You do that.  You spend 6 months or whatever, writing this book because they expressed a vague interest in it.  You hand it in.  It takes them 6 months to decide it's not for them.  Goodbye year!  And nowhere to turn.

Now I can write the book the way I want and publish it.  Readers are not guaranteed in either arena so on the whole, I'm better off.   I rise or fall on my own choices.

For those reading this blog at amazon which won't show vids from youtube, here's the link if you want to see Fred do his thing.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLfNusklXtI

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Naughty Bawdy Gaudy Sporty 42nd St

They weren't singing about this section though.  (Dubin and Warren wherever you are--suggestion:  Haughty not Sporty.)

I leave you with my favorite building in the world while I attend to Sweet Cider.
Yes, it was a B&W image, that no, I did not shoot, and yes I Photoshopped it blue.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wild Geranium

Yes, I shot the flower in the shadows because I like chiaroscuro--the interplay between dark and light

What is the allure of the dark and dirty when there is so much beauty and goodness in the world.
The French have a phrase for it and I wrote it down somewhere but can't find it now.  It's when someone purposefully immerses themselves in the gutter.  It seems this is an increasingly popular way to see life.

I don't.  You may have picked that up from reading the blog.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Last of the Cherries

This week at WalMart and $1.99 a pound.  What a deal.

I'm going to post something from Gerard Van Der Leun's blog.  He's so clever and such a good writer, don't hold the fact that he was an editor and agent against him.  ;-)  I can't imagine that anyone who comes here could care about a book proposal now.  Who of us is going to write a proposal and sent it to an agent or editor?  By the time they get back to us, the book could be completed and selling at Amazon.

That said,  these are the kind of thoughts serious writers should always have in their minds whether they're aiming at tradpub or digital.

The 330 Word Book Proposal Schematic in 5 Parts
1) What the Book is About (1 -2 Pages)
Start with the title and subtitle. Make these two elements as attention grabbing as possible. They will be the "handle" the editor uses for pitching the book to the acquisition committee.
Single-spaced, this section sets out the condensed form of the book. Think of it as expanded jacket copy.
What's it about? What's its point of view. What is the arc and shape of the book? What patterns will it reveal? How will it educate, illuminate, amuse or inspire? Why is the book important now?
Function: This section gives the acquiring editor reasons for recommending the book for publication.
2) Chapter by Chapter Outline of the Book
Each chapter is given a title and then one or two paragraphs that set out what will be covered in the chapter when written.
Function: The allows the editor understand the structure of the book.
3) Sample Chapter
Pick one chapter from the outline and write it start to finish.
Function: This allows the editor to know how the author will write the book and, indeed, if the author can in fact write.
4) Core Market for the Book (1 Page)
Who is going to buy the book?
Who are the people who will be interested in the book?
Be fairly specific here. It's not a "There are 300 million people in the United States and they all eat, therefore my cook book...." argument. Editors want to have some idea of the "hard-core" market of buyers' the people who have to have it.
Indicate other similar and/or complimentary books and influential magazine / web articles on the subject.
Function: Helps the editor identify and quantify the possible market for the book.
5) Why the Author is Qualified to Write This Book. (1 Page)
Why you? What are the author's particular qualifications for writing this book? Include degrees, writing experience, web credentials, background.
Function: Allows the editor to know that the author has the expertise to write the book.

Let me say that I don't specifically write for the market.  I have in the past.  I wrote for television, what's more market than that?  If I wrote for the market, based on what I read at Joe Konrath's blog, I'd be writing police procedurals, I wouldn't be in the middle of Sweet Cider a novel that has to be considered young adult which is a category that hasn't come alive.  Yet.

This is a good time to remember what the terrific (I mean it, go to Amazon or the library and get one of his novels this week) author Mordecai Richler talked about in a New York Times Book Review years ago.  Apparently while on a book tour, his itinerary matched that of some romance writers.  He wasn't specific who, maybe it was Judy Krantz or Danielle Steele.  He wasn't dismissive of them or their work in the least.  What he was saying was that they believed it.  That's what made it work for them and their readers.  These women weren't faking, they weren't phoning it in.  A writer needs to believe in their bones what they're writing or it never rings true.

I don't believe vampires.  I don't grok police procedurals.  That's where the money is.  So what.

Whatever you write, believe in it.  If you were going to die when you wrote the last word of this project, is this what you want to be remembered for?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Real Art Costs Big Dough

An artist, a jolly good one!, gave me an estimate today for what it would cost to do up a simple image for a book cover and lease the thing for a year.  $1000.  (That's not a typo).  I'll try to do it myself and see how it turns out.
See--that Intuous Pad is going to come in handy.  I have an idea for the sketch.  It has to be simple enough for me to do it, of course.

These are the kind of problems authopreneurs will have well into the future.  Do you try to buy stock photos or vector art and make it work, or get very lucky and find something that fits what the book is about?  It seems to me that someone could make a very nice supplementary income  providing cover ready artwork to indie authors.

PS.  New day, new art.  I'm working on it.

Monday, August 23, 2010


It's raining.  Again.  Something I like but I'm sure my tomatoes won't.

Real life doesn't make good fiction. Discuss.

The editor who found my first novel in the slush pile years ago said that to me and I've taken it to heart.  Real life to be  readable has to be dramatized, massaged, structured because it's formless.  Even if it is interesting to you because it's a personal experience, the reader probably isn't going to get it.  I had a friend who kept writing books where the characters threw pie crusts instead of relating her own experiences which were incredible.  So incredible I turned one into a treatment for a TV movie and Dick Clark optioned it.  Fiction isn't your personal documentary.

I'm thinking about that Sweet Cider book which has roots in several personal experiences.  It becomes a process not of telling a story but of deciding what I'm trying to say.  Why are these incidents interesting to me?  What do they say about how life is lived?  What are the choices people make?  What is the concatenation of events and decisions?

See.  If I was writing about vampires, I wouldn't be asking these questions.  What a blessing for a storyteller-- to have nothing to say.

Here's blog post I recommend.  It's what Seth Godin has to say about publishing.  His new book is the last he's tradpubbing

"A little background: For ten years or so, beginning in 1986, I was a book packager. Sort of like a movie producer, but for books. My team and I created 120 published books and pitched another 600 ideas, all of which were summarily rejected. Some of the published books were flops, others were huge bestsellers. It was a lot of fun. As a book packager, you wake up in the morning and say, "what sort of book can I invent/sell/organize/write/produce today?"
It took a year or so, but I finally figured out that my customer wasn't the reader or the book buyer, it was the publisher."

Or might I add--agent.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Apologies to Photoshop

It had to happen, didn't it?  I accused Photoshop...well of so many things and if the main one was fixed--ie some decent instructions, I wouldn't have to apologize later.  Remember (this is not a test, you will not be graded on this) when I said there should be a way to change the color in certain sections?

There is.  It's based on Adobe Logic, tho.    But simple!  You have to hand it to them, once you spend a couple months looking, it turns out to be a snap.  Be on a new layer.  You select with that quick selection tool.  Then make sure the color you want is the foreground color.  Go to edit>fill.  Click.  Done.

Obviously this is an old poster, stained and discolored.  I didn't spent vast amounts of time tweaking.  I'm going to use the image below for a vid I'm thinking of so I had to get rid of the text so I could put my own in.  It'll be visible for under 5 seconds so I don't think it requires the Vermeer treatment.  Perfect for my purpose.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nice Treat

This is for my old war horse,  Impossible Charlie/The So Impossible Horse, at amazon uk.

Charlie was a real horse.  I got him from a lovely young girl who was going off to college.  They had been a team, best friends and Charlie never cared about anyone else but Sindy.  It was a real love story.  Many of the adventures in the book were true-to-life and much like Jackie, I despaired of him and admired him at the same time.  One of the lessons I learned (among many) is that horses are often portrayed as more like vehicles with 4 legs than someone with emotions and needs and a will of their own.  Some horses can be cajoled (shall we say) into cooperating but Charlie could not.  He was always going to do exactly what he chose to do.  Later I knew another horse, Chick, who was ex--Army remuda, and just tough as nails.  His owner got him into international competition.  Or should I say Chick got Virginia there?  When I got my own horse, Spark, who couldn't be cajoled, I was ready for him.


#1 in  Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Home & Garden > Animal Care & Pets > Horses

Monday, August 16, 2010

Doggie Days of Summer

It's hot and sticky and I spent all afternoon researching for the Sweet Cider/Bad Apple book.   I should have a poll.  Which title do you prefer?

Kindle books have gone live in the UK now.  I felt that was a very positive step, especially since I've never been published in England.  France and Germany, yes, and no, never received any royalties from those sales--so much for being protected by your publisher.  I had my first sale at amazon uk with Impossible Charlie/The So Impossible Horse and look forward to a world-wide marketplace.

Here's Alison Krauss' terrific cover of what I used to consider a fairly dumb song.  I don't anymore.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Is there a future for it?
Not so much.
When a small group of people, call them elitists for the sake of this post, impose their will on the larger group of people without a dialog taking place, it doesn't end well for the elitists. Maybe they enjoy a good run at the expense of "the little guy" but it doesn't last forever because there's something in the human spirit, pushing in the heart, growing in the mind that wants to be free. The "little people", call them readers or writers, take what they can get and grumble. The grumbling grows but still the elitists don't hear. They don't want to hear. They have their cushy situation, they don't seek change, and they want to impose their tastes and rules on the rest of us. One day some new technology shows up. The Gutenberg printing press. Suddenly the proletariat had access to books. The elitists no longer had a monopoly on education. Now there's digital everything. And international conglomerates can see their hold on us crumbling.

What made me think of this? On a forum some newbie writers were wondering longingly about tradpub, waxing rhapsodic about how these companies would give them publicity and get their books into the stores. It doesn't happen for the vast numbers of books published each year. They're ignored and Stephen King gets the hoopla. Penguin couldn't get my knitting book into Barnes & Noble. That's a big company and they thought it was going to be a big book. They did nothing.

The black swan is not the norm. JK Rowling is not the norm. The tradpub trough is almost empty. My advice--look to the future and take care of yourself.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Blue Raja Freebie Wallpaper

I've had a number of requests for the Blue Raja cover image as desktop wallpaper so here it is for your use and enjoyment.  Click it to enlarge. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

William Powell Tribute and Color Readers

I've been saving up photos of William Powell for about 3 years and now here's the slide show.  The song is About A Quarter To Nine by Al Jolson (which means it'll probably be yanked in 150 countries by noon--but it's supposed to be in Public Domain, so we'll see).

E Ink Holdings, the company behind the power-sipping screens contained within Amazon's Kindle and Sony's Readers, is keeping to its schedule for the biggest overhaul of its display technology yet. Color panels are reportedly now sampling out to device vendors and China-based Hanvon has already answered the call -- it promises to deliver color E Ink readers by the end of this year. Two varieties of touchscreens are also being prepared: the first is a capacitive panel to sate the kids' need to flick and swipe everywhere, while the second will include a pen-friendly digitizer that should make annotations a doddle (or should that be a doodle?). Better response times and reflectivity are also being touted, though the big question is obviously when this good stuff will make its way into mainstream devices like the Kindle. If you believe Jeff Bezos, that won't be any time soon.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Paige, Turning book trailer

For the moment it's up at youtube.  I've had so many program problems over the last two days, I need a vacation. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

You Tube or Sony or Corel Video Studio

I don't know which is irritating me more today.  Remember when the Disconnected vid was blocked only in Germany?  It's blocked here now.  You can see it in the Virgin Islands, tho.

So I went back to Video Studio to pull the Deep Purple track and for the 2nd time the program wouldn't allow me back in.  I paid for that program, I expect it to work.  I renounce it.   I'll delete it before I shut down and then I'll defrag.

I tried to convert Blue Raja into epub format today with Calibre and apparently it came out to 2000 pages with 2 sentences per page.  Luckily I didn't pay for that!  It's freeware and worth every penny.

This is not a good day for me and programs apparently.  Photoshop, don't fail me now!

George Gershwin by Carl Van Vechten

Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin
George Gershwin at the piano

Paul Whiteman Orchestra
arrangement by Ferdi Grofe

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Blue Raja

I just published Blue Raja and must say I'm somewhat ambivalent about it but we'll see how it goes.

I thought you might be interested in seeing what my first effort at cover art looked like.  I was quite excited by it and it probably would have worked had I taken the same time to tweak and use color.   Ultimately though, the reason I passed was the castle itself didn't look enough like Ymlyhk.

Read the book and tell me if you think I made the right decision.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Decision Made

I'm going to publish Blue Raja next.  I wrote it several years ago and for various reasons--mostly not having to do with the book itself--agents didn't want to handle it.

Agents are funny creatures.  Most of them have a perception of themselves which is expansive and inclusive but the reality tends to be far more narrow in scope.  If they handle nonfiction, they don't handle fiction.  If they handle adult fiction, they don't handle young adult.  If they handle young adult, then they don't do fantasy.  One would have thought after Harry Potter, they would have all embraced fantasy but no. 

Do I think Blue Raja is fantasy?  Not really.  There's no magic, no dragons, no vampires.  It's set 30 years in the future--I guess that makes it fantasy for them.

For those who have been with me since the inception of the blog, yeah, I can change colors and everything with Photoshop now.

This is the cover.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Looking Forward

I published Not Low Maintenance earlier this week and then Just Kate day later.  Amazon promptly contacted me curious/challenging me as to whether or not I had the rights to my book.  Somehow they detected that Just Kate had originally been published as In Real Life I'm Just Kate.  Fortunately I have all the paperwork from Simon & Schuster proving my ownership of the rights.  Several months back they were unable to detect anything about Impossible Charlie being Impossible Charlie or that Nicki  & Wynne (Summer Horse) having been published as Nicki& Wynne.  It's a mystery.

I have 2 completed books which can be published next.  I don't know which one it'll be but I'm starting to think about covers and Photoshop techniques to employ.  This is just a test.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Not Low Maintenance, Not Live

It was inevitable.  The wrong file got uploaded to Amazon but unlike Smashwords, it takes days before you can do anything about it.  But I figured there would be a problem so didn't really imagine the book would be available this week--hopefully this weekend.  They really do need a better system for "reviewing" books, whatever that means.

I changed the cover slightly, going from blue text to purple then removed the drop shadows and put the null sign under the text.  Again like with Disconnected, Maintenance is too long a word to design easily around when you're thinking thumbnail.  The simpler and bolder the "cover" the better.  Which means I suppose that both NLM and Kate will be redesigned sooner rather than later.

I added an illustration for each chapter and ended with Bel's recipe for Lemon Barcellos.  I can't make the book sing and dance, tho.

The new camera lens arrived and is a noticeable improvement in quality over the kit lens.  Now all I need are a couple apples to fool around with and I can work on the Sweet Cider art.