Authors and Cyber-bullying

23057698_sFor some time, I’ve heard and seen authors complaining on my various writing e-mail loops about negative reviews being handed out at the Amazondotcom site. It appears this has become even more of a problem over time. The other day, in walks an e-mail to my inbox, asking me to sign a Petition at Changedotorg in an attempt to force the online retail giant to – at the least – enforce its own guidelines. Editor Todd Barselow is the person behind this appeal, seemingly feed up with Amazon, the bullying, and harassment of all authors. In my research, I read some not so friendly comments with regard to Mr. Barselow, and his campaign, but that is not what this post will be about. Whatever bones there are to pick, dislikes, or what have you, with and about Mr. Barselow I’ll leave to the discontented.

For those of you who do not know, there had also been a war of sorts going on with regard to bad reviews and bashing taking place over at the Goodreads site. If you take a spin by Changedotorg you will find a Petition there as well, with a request for signatures. In a look at this problem I would, of course, like to remain unbiased, but as you can imagine as a writer I have a very strong sentiment with regard to this issue, which would make neutrality very difficult. In searching, it doesn’t appear that either Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, or Jon P. Fine, Director of Amazon has ever spent hours, days, weeks, months, or years pouring their blood, sweat and tears – bearing down through labor pains, giving birth to a work that’s then considered your baby. Yes, Mr. Bezos, as Founder, did suffer some type of adversity trying to get the business up and running; maybe. That being said, it should all make him even more sensitive to this new plight of the writer. I would hate to label it by saying, “He has his, why should he care” – but the facts are leaning in that direction. Goodreads, however, has made modifications to their user terms to prevent author bullying.

I think as a writer we may all have a story or two involving what is clearly – jealousy. But, you know, I’ve heard it said that if you’re not willing to put in the time, then one cannot complain, grumble, or criticize another’s success. I think, in this age of cyber-bullying, tighter rules must be set in place to protect us writers from the public-at-large. I mean, it’s bad enough to get a bad review from a professional reviewer, am I right? Most of us, the ones who have been in the business for any time, have developed a crusty exterior; we know what to take in as constructive and what to simply let go. But, how could someone develop a platform such as Amazon or Goodreads and not build that into the system – rules that do not allow any and everyone to leave whatever disparaging comment they like. Or, at least, put a team in place to enforce the codes. I may be coming up the rear with this story as it has been some time since this all began, but I too wanted to weigh in, and express my opinion.

If you talk to any writer they will most likely tell you, it is something they’ve done since childhood. Most of us have read, studied, took classes, joined organizations, went to meetings and spent an innumerable amount of hours in an attempt to perfect the craft. How then, can you produce a work – have it published, and then, get a portion of your backside chewed away by mere jealousy, or because someone has nothing better to do than upset a person’s life work. I do believe the simple remedy is – the bully has to turn the tide. Put themselves in the writer’s shoes. I believe our world is spinning faster and faster toward its end, which has ramped up many, many immoral and wicked acts. Even something as stupid as your twitter and/or facebook accounts getting hacked continually. I think we’ve moved way beyond breaking out the ruler and whacking someone on the knuckles. What do you think?

Information Goodreads, Change.org & STGRB (Stop The Goodreads Bullies)

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Random Ramblings

iStock_000013838440XSmall[1]Last week I had nothing to write about – funny right? Then the south got hit with the snow, which right on time provided writing material. However, I didn’t get that blog out until Friday. What have I been doing? I’ve been very engrossed in finishing a manuscript. If you’re a writer, you know it’s very difficult to think of what you’re doing with a bunch of characters, and a blog post at the same time. All of you that follow my blog know that I usually write about news items or things of life and lifestyles. You also know the postings having to do with writing are pretty far and few between. Last week, I actually went in search of a new group of blog buddies – who discuss topics on life and lifestyles. I’m sure you’ll understand when I say, that step made me want to post something on writing. I need to reiterate a comment I made last week – we humans are peculiar animals, aren’t we? Therefore, today I will talk about my craft – writing.

Let me begin by saying with this particular manuscript, I’m this far from finishing, (I have my first finger atop my thumb indicating a scant). I also do not want to mention how long I’ve been trying to complete this task….okay, you twisted it out of me. I began writing it in 2004 when we moved here to Virginia. I’d work on it, put it away, and move onto something else. I’d then, finish a short story, after which I’d have to spend weeks with my mother, taking me away from any writing whatsoever. After those bouts, I’d spend a month, or two trying to get my head back in the timeframe of the story – kind of like Ray Milland in the movie Lost Weekend, minus the alcohol, or J.D. Salinger working on Catcher in the Rye, which took him ten years to complete in case you didn’t know that little tidbit. Actually, at times, it worked like a cruel cycle, because just as I’d get my spirit back up to continue on, I’d have to run off to my mother again. But, eventually I’d pull it back out, and begin one more time. Now, understand I’ve finished many other works in all this time – there’s just something with this manuscript.

I must say, lately I’ve begun to think, maybe it’s because I’m simply to close to the story. I do believe, however, the reason does have a lot to do with my mother, since she assisted with many of the early facts in the story. I also need to add this little detail. You know what it’s like when you’re reading, and deep in a good book – you live it, and breathe it? When you blink, the characters present themselves. It doesn’t matter where you go; work, play, across the street to a neighbors –  you’re so caught up in the story, you couldn’t blast it out of your head with a stick of dynamite. That is exactly what this story has done to me, I think I even dreamt of it one night last week.

Nevertheless, and suddenly a sense of urgency hit; I don’t know where it came from, but it plunged me back in the story. Mind you, I’m still in the “need to finish” mode, because as of last week I announced I had about two chapters left. Well, I still have those two chapters – you see, I’ve had to go back to the beginning, and re-read to make certain all the plot holes in the storyline are closed. Take heart though, none of this has discouraged me. Which by the way, has also been an obstacle holding me down like concrete boots. Why do we writers do this to ourselves? I remember a line from Under the Tuscan Sun, when Diane Lane’s character talks about the fact she couldn’t write until the loathing began. How true is that? At any given time, I would pull out the material, notes, drafts, dictionary, and open my laptop. Then, go to the kitchen for a glass, or cup of whatever. I’d turn right around, walk back in the direction of my stuff, but never actually sit down. Before, I could stop myself, I’d be upstairs sitting at the desktop sending tweets, or searching Pinterest.

Monday when I came home from work, I thought a case of the flu had me for sure. I suffered from an extreme case of nausea, I had a headache, and I could not, for the life of me, get warm. I thought for sure by five o’clock, I’d be bed-ridden. To my own surprise, at six there I sat at the laptop, reading through one more chapter. So, I am very pleased to announce that when I’m done typing this, I will be moving onto chapter eight – four more to read, then I’ll be headed for the finish line. I’ve completed four novels, and countless short stories, but none of them have been as important. Actually, writing this blog post has helped me grasp why this manuscript is so important – this one has my mother throughout all the pages, and it definitely will be a work dedicated solely to her. Now, even though this post has been about writing I have this sneaky suspicion I drifted off, at times, in to random ramblings. Maybe, it’s been one of those weeks. But hey, thanks anyway for listening.

Info courtesy IMDB.COM and Amazon

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A Writer Writes – Always

After years of working as a Paralegal, meeting deadlines, dealing with difficult personalities and whatever else that comes along with employment in a law firm, I’ve finally reached a point where I’m now working part-time.  Yes, I still deal with some factors of the law, but my duties have become less urgent.  Don’t get me wrong, some attorneys will always be difficult, but maybe it’s my years in the field that have enabled me to take it all with a grain of salt.  So, I said all of that to say, my desk faces toward the outside – I have a very nice view of everything going on in my little corner of the Corporate Center.  The other day I took a breather – actually the entire day evolved as one needing deep thought.  Did you ever have one of those?  From the time I woke up everything I did needed questioning.  Especially, this putting words to paper thing some of us like to do.  At one point in my life I feared I had slipped away from my faith, but after thinking about it for a couple of days, I realized how far from the truth that had been.  Why?  Because the more I turned it over in my mind, the more I understood – I spent all my time thinking about just that faith.  Yes, it consumed my thoughts, which let me know I had not veered off the path.

As I sat back in my chair, I kind of had the same urgency about my writing.  Am I dedicated enough to keep the fire going, particularly with Facebook, Twitter and this blog?  I spend a lot of time on all three, and then wind up kicking myself, because I’ve lost more time to doing everything but write.  But, like the belief issue, every waking hour; every extra minute, all I do is think about my stories.  Now, I know thinking about them is not the same as getting them written, but I believe that’s just me.  We all have a process to how we approach a project.  At that same instant, I knew that if for some reason I couldn’t write anymore, what a blow that would bring.  However, keep in mind I don’t say that to idolize the gift.  I bring it up mainly, because I am consumed with concocting new stories, and am so very thankful for the ability.  We all – each of us were given a specific gift.  I read that whatever you are passionate about is usually where your specialty lies.  And take it from me, if you are on the young side of forty, you still don’t know.  Oh sure, a person comes out of high school, picks a major, goes into college and comes out, hopefully to a career.  But, I say those professions are 50% of the time chosen by the head, and not the heart.  Many of us need to arrive on the opposite side of that magical number of forty to finally figure out what it is we desire out of life.

I know I wrote somewhere that I played around with the art of writing all of my life.  But, I had to reach the other side of that above-mentioned figure to grasp, this particular art had been my calling.  At that point, I knew with certainty all the road signs had my name on them.  I only had to shine the light, and continue to put one foot before the other, even if I did teeter-totter with each step.  In the process of having this conversation with myself, I came up with even more ideas for other short stories.  This is what I mean, it’s a consuming process, and if I were – let’s say – placed in some form of isolation, it wouldn’t matter, as long as I could write.

Have you figured out what ignites your passion?  Since at my age I’m still aspiring, I have this nagging in my gut telling me God wants to use me as an example – sort of like saying that a person can still bear fruit, even at an older age. But really, do yourself a favor, find the passion – I think it’s imperative you find it early on, because life really is too short to go around day after day in mediocrity, and then, when you do, dive in head first.  However, either way you look at it, that’s what I’ve found about myself; what all writers  learn of themselves I think – they love to write. Although, the heading of this post is a favorite line from the movie “Throw Momma From The Train,” it should be a mantra for all writers.  When I think back on all the years I spent miserable in my job – thirty-five or over forty, I’m glad I decided to look into turning this one time hobby into something serious.  Now, if God would only listen when I say – “Hello, I’m ready.” At which point you would then hear from me, “Roger, go at throttle up.”

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Noise in my Head

When I began writing seriously, so many years ago, I used to laugh at myself, because I could hear my characters speaking to me.  Then, one day at lunch, after an NJRW (New Jersey Romance Writers) meeting, I heard a member discussing just that thing.  Someone asked if her characters spoke to her yet.  She smiled and answered: “All the time.”  I realized early on that my writing style, without doubt, put me in the panster category.  An idea would come to mind, I’d sit down at the computer, and away I’d go.  So, instead of charting, making notes and what have you, I’d just write – being led by the main character.  Who, by the way, when they needed a name, I’d grab the phone book and begin skimming.  He or she would always let me know, automatically, when I got to the right one. Today, nothing has changed.

Now, giving time to this thought, it all hit me as though I were crazy.  But, the minute I’d begin to write again, I could hear them rustling around, moving furniture, answering ringing telephones; all in my head.  I mean, it got so bad that when I went to bed, and got up – actually, just going about my daily chores, I’d have almost a sense of abandonment.  Let’s say I ended a scene with someone sitting in the kitchen at work discussing a problem.  Getting up the next day, I could only imagine them left there drumming their fingers on the table, sighing and looking around to maybe catch a glimpse of me, while complaining. “I just have to sit here.  I can’t do anything until she gets back.”  Like I said abandonment.  As I mentioned earlier, I do not stand alone.  Does that place us as writers in the disturbed section? I don’t think so, I’d like to call it being dedicated to your craft.  I do believe even musicians, while simply walking around, away from their work, are still working.  Musical notes continue to run through their brain – like a photographer who goes nowhere without his/her camera, always in the ready.

Of course, there are those characters who want to rule.  Let’s say you’re progressing nicely, but there is that one individual who continues to want to get his or her way.  From the instant they are introduced, they come on scene with this strong-arm attitude. On one occasion I allowed one of them to have their way.  What happened?  One-third of the way from the end of the book, nothing meshed.  Why?  Because I condoned it.  When you hear yourself saying, “My characters have taken over the story,” rephrase that to, “My characters hijacked my story.”  I say this, because even as a panster, you still have some general idea how you want the story to go.  Therefore, you’ll be able to pick out where the takeover took place.  You’ve got to back up – back track, and you’ll usually find it in one earlier scene or another.  I can guarantee you’ve approached a conflict from the wrong angle in one of those settings.

As writers, but as individuals first, we will all have a separate answer to the question – Do your characters speak to you?  Over time I’ve heard some wild responses:

  • Only when I’ve had too much Jack Daniels;
  • My characters talk to themselves, I just follow them around listening;
  • Yes, and they’re demanding, and funny;
  • Yes, and I find myself eavesdropping on them.

Believe me, unlike Sandra Bullock in 28 Days, I don’t have to drink to write.  I shudder at that thought.  Can a person actually, concoct coherency under the influence.  But, in any event, in public or in private, those quirky, rude or angelic people just keep right on making noises in my head.  And, on that note I’ll leave you with a quote by an American author, E. L. Doctorow, “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”  I don’t think I’m psychotic, but when my people start chattering, I can’t shut them up until I begin writing.  Please answer the question – Do your characters speak to you?

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Twitter Attracting Readers

19502618_sTwo years ago when the opportunity to launch a website, and get my name out there as a writer presented itself, I thought half the battle had been won.  For someone aspiring like myself, yes, it is definitely beneficial to have an on-line presence.  Now understand, I will only speak of writers here, although I’m certain others may put together what I mean, and find it useful.  First, let me say, the more I look at the concept of Twitter, and writing, the more I’m left scratching my head.  What do I mean?  Think about this.  I want to draw your attention to your followers.  Of course, as writers, we follow other writers.  But, have you stopped to ask yourself why?  If you’re tweeting about your most recent book, wouldn’t it benefit the author to advertise to potential readers who – get this –  are probably not on Twitter.  I’m trying to understand how tweets to other writers, and  followers who also want to become known in their own right, will increase your readership.

Now, I realize having a Twitter account adds a bit of luster to your curriculum vitae (CV), but will it sell books to readers?  I fully understand there is a Big Brother/Big Sister somewhere keeping track, however, and when you’re in touch with an agent, or publisher the question surfaces – are you on Twitter?  But, has this in itself turned to a high-priced game of, oh I don’t know – chicken? (You know, if you’re not on Twitter, then you get hit by the car.)  This profession is a serious full-time job.  Now, add running a blog, working outside the home, and lastly marketing.  I would like to ask another question.  Do you write about everything, or only about craft?  If it is only on writing, why?  Don’t all these things eat away at your time as it is?  Who do you want reading your material; other writers, or everyone?  Maybe, once in a while to encourage, or to present a new issue, something you may have recently learned, but otherwise would  there be a need?

Wouldn’t you prefer to gather readers instead, allowing them a peek at your world versus what you know about writing?  How will that help the reader who is searching for, well….reading material.  Once you’ve grabbed their attention then, hopefully they’ll come again.  Trying to make one’s way through this world of publishing is a difficult task.  Thinking about this takes me back to square one – gather your readership before the contract is ever negotiated.  But, like I said, will you find them on Twitter?  Yes, there is the occasional reader/reviewer who signs on, and follows you, the writer.  Then, there are others who have subscribed to your blog.  Those are two categories of which you want more.

Lastly, I’d like to mention tweeting that book information.  Isn’t that like screaming in to a massive empty glass bubble?  Again, this doesn’t get the information out to potential readers.  Unlike owning a company where social medial can provide a channel of open dialogue between that company and the consumer, to name one thing.  But, this is a rule that does not apply to the writer.  I have never professed to know how, or which form of social media is best for this field, but I had to put the question out there.  I have heard authors talking of cutting their Twitter time way back, because they had not received the return they first thought.  What I’m getting at is, Twitter is a great platform for networking, but is anyone else out there with me when I say, it’s the person feverishly turning the pages who sky-rocket the numbers.  Isn’t putting your work in the hands of the “public at large” what you want versus it simply going to Wilhelmina Writer’s Twitter stream somewhere in Anywhereville, South Dakota.  To reiterate, for those who are aspiring, running a blog and tweeting that post is great advertisement, and will absolutely get you on the map.  But, a contract equals lock down time, which does not include Twitter.  For me, I guess I’ll hang on a bit longer, but once I sell something, I do believe my time will be cut way back as well on this planet called Twitter.  Please, give me your thoughts and/or change my opinion.

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Titling Your work

Vintage Printing Press

Vintage Printing Press

Over the last week or so I’ve been consumed with thoughts of book titles. I remember a Chapter meeting some time ago where we discussed changing the name of your protagonist or “killing your child.” If you’re a writer reading this, then you should be very familiar with that phrase. I don’t think, however, there is a term or phrase labeling the act of changing the name of your novel. Although, it is the same premise. Recently, I located an off the wall website called Titlescorer. What features are offered at this website? For one, it rates the title of any work by giving the percentage of chances it will publish with that current heading. I’m just mentioning this in passing, I haven’t been sold yet. Personally, I don’t know if I’ll ever be won over. In any event, I placed my first work there, “A Mother’s Prayers,” and got a score of 10.2% – meaning that is the chance of that book being published if I kept it that way. I then added my second work, “The Wrought Iron Bridge,” and got a score of 20.2 – somewhat better. Mind you, I stopped right there, and didn’t bother assessing anything else. I’m not one who’s sold on these type things.

It is pretty commonly known in the industry that a large publishing house will most assuredly change your original choice. But, a small house is more willing to let you hold onto it. I must say, for someone like myself who is aspiring, and have been for some time, that is a fairly scary thing. Meaning, what I already call my manuscripts have become like cement in my brain; changing them now would most assuredly bring on a tantrum. However, I made the firm decision to change that first manuscript, “A Mother’s Prayers.” Reason being – I already knew a movie existed with the same title. I didn’t know this though, until way after I had completed the work, and for so long I had a kind of stubbornness with regard to any alteration. Nevertheless, after some thought, and researching the issue I had a sort of epiphany, which gave me inspiration and the willingness to make changes. Subsequently, I actually became quite excited.

I’ve been thinking about Sidney Sheldon’s The Sky Is Falling and J. D. Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye. There really is no hard and fast rule when it comes to titling your book. Although, through the years I’ve learned it’s fairly common to use something from the language in the manuscript – be it dialogue or otherwise. If you’ve read the two books I noted here, then you’ll know these authors did just that. Personally, I like that process – that is, if you’re certain not to give away any clues on plots or the like. I’ve also realized you should put Google to the test, and then, make notes as to your results. This way, you can remember what you have to work with. Some time ago, when I googled that first manuscript – if I hadn’t entertained a new title, I’d deserve the sentence of working at that day job forever. But, how does one invest hour after hour – putting body and soul in a work, and then, have someone say, maybe callously even, this should be called whatever. On the other side of that coin, however, this is one profession that doesn’t fit with inflexibility.

So, after all of this, I refuse to walk around believing that a website can make a decision on my book publishing based on what I called it. Ten, twenty or ninety percent does not matter whatsoever to me. I’m one who believes you have to go with your instincts, and that holds true for book names, as well as genres and story ideas. I mean, if you’re going to bed and waking up with a specific idea in your head, and you know nothing has been done similar – go for it.  Now, since I like to share, tell me what method you like using when it comes to titling your work.

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To Become An Author

One of the publishing houses I follow on Twitter asked a very interesting question.  Name the first book that got you into reading?  (I’m paraphrasing of course).  I thought about it and frowned, thinking – whoo, it’s been so long there is no possible way I could remember.  However, I couldn’t resist the urge to respond.  What came to mind at the time – The Diary of Anne Frank.  In this post, I’d like to discuss writing, but I cannot do that without talking about the foundation – reading.  I know that I began reading very early, although, again it has become somewhat fuzzy, and many books did come along before that specific one.  What I can honestly recall takes me back to the last half of the second grade.  Now, I said all of that to put your brain into thought mode, and ask when you knew you wanted to write?

I think the desire probably comes at an early age, even if it doesn’t reveal itself. Doesn’t the want come about after hours and hours of reading – one by one, hand in hand, so to speak?  Has anyone ever stopped to think about the process of reading? I mean, as much as I love children, I have to reflect on my teachers.  I think about the time and energy they put into their craft.  What I’m saying is, although I have a great love for children it takes a special person to develop the ability or the desire to teach.  With that being said, I had journalism classes as early as my Sophomore year in high school, but I know I began to play around with the art of writing way before.  Very early on I composed poems in the dark –  I should say, behind closed doors.  Together with the loads of books being read, stacks of tablets existed as well.  Unfortunately, as I moved a couple of times as a child most of those early writings were lost or destroyed.

I know somewhere along the way, I have said this before, but I think all writers have stories clanging around in their heads.  With me, even though I dabbled all along, it didn’t really catch hold until later in life.  In 1999 I watched a Saturday night premier movie on Home Box Office, which will remain nameless.  I said to my husband, “I have a story in me that’s just as good as that, if not better.” At that instant I knew I had been playing with the desire, and procrastinating in getting started long enough.  The time had come for me to dig my determination out of the basement, dust it off, polish it to a high sheen, and hang it someplace where the shine would blind me each time I walked by.  But, as I said, I knew way before then that I wanted to write.  I’m even going to say, the desire struck me somewhere in my teenage years.  I don’t think reading or writing can ever be taken nonchalantly or for granted.  I’d like to bring to remembrance the bumper sticker that reads, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.”  Now, share with me when the aspiration hit you to become an author?

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