Monthly Archives: June 2012

When an Author Offends

The bane of the author who wishes to make a living from his work is offending the reader.

Writers, by nature, are rogues, as in “rascal” or “playfully mischevious”. We’re opinionated. Why else would we write? We’re a bit arrogant, too. We believe our opinion matters. We believe a reader should take time to read us.

But even the gnarliest author is a humanitarian. We are trying to make a positive difference in our world. I have yet to see a series of books on “How To Fail at. . . .”  The expose is meant to uncover that which is loatheful, harmful, dishonest or dangerous. The topic may be uncomfortable, but it exposes truth in order to benefit the reader.

I write to entertain. That’s what I tell myself. Yet when I review the topics I cover here, the majority are meant to help someone else.

However, there are times when I offend, even as I am trying to help. When I offend someone, they disappear as a reader.

I want to be a commercial writer.

I have considered writing under a pen name and producing formula books that endear, uplift, encourage, but never offend. To do so would be telling a half truth. There is a rosy side to life, but it is one facet of a many sided existence.

When I am true to my nature, I can’t do that. If I ignored other sides of life, I couldn’t drag myself out of bed to face another day of intellectual boredom and artifice.

That leaves me with the reality of a writer. If I write about things that I deem important or sane, but which can be ugly or brutal, then I am going to offend. Period. End of story.

I may stay broke, but I jump out of bed every morning.

Final Edit Before the Editor

Last night I slaved over my submissions to the anthology project by the local writers’ group. I am editing the pieces and trying to assemble the collection in an order that seems logical or easy to read.

I am fretting.

My genre for which I want to be known is the novel. Yet the pieces to be included in the anthology include haiku and short fiction.  The longest piece is about 500 words. There are a couple of 55-word micro-fiction stories. It’s a weird assortment. But then I am a weird writer. Or I write weird stuff. Or maybe all of the above.

I am fretting.

I want readers to like the material. I want the stories to introduce me to readers. I want those who read the stories to want to read more from me.

I am fretting.

Totally Obsessed

If you are a car aficionado as I am, then you may have caught Motor Trend’s review of a new hand-built sports car:

But that’s not what makes the Pagani Huayra special. What makes it special is that it’s the singular product of one man’s singular passion. “We are a design and research company based on the Renaissance theory of art and science working together,” says Argentine-born Horacio Pagani. “That’s not our idea — it’s 500 years old. We take our inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci.” Pagani has thought through every single detail of this car — his one-on-one walkthrough of the Huayra’s technical highlights lasted more than three hours. He is truly autodom’s Renaissance man (he named his first son Leonardo): part designer, part engineer, mostly self-taught, totally obsessed.

The last line of the paragraph defines the creator. I think I am going to claim something similar to it as my motto and get it printed on a T-shirt.

“part artist, part wordsmith, mostly self-taught, totally obsessed”

As a writer, it’s the only way I can be.

Sweet Tweets

Robert Stevenson is a former All-American athlete turned author and public speaker. His best-selling book How To Soar Like an Eagle in a World Full of Turkeys is a guide to being extraordinary and is widely acclaimed.

Stevenson recently wrote Pocketful of Tweets on Success, a collection of powerful principles written as tweets to be easily remembered and shared. He passes out bookmarks with a list of tweets he considers significant. A few are excerpted below:

  • I wake up every morning knowing my success for today will not be based on yesterday’s victories nor tomorrow’s dreams. I must deliver TODAY.
  • You can be beaten but not defeated, captured but not conquered, knocked down but not kept down. Success is a choice-attitude-mindset.
  • In the overall scheme of success, being self-disciplined is the most important trait you must possess.
  • The power of EXTRA –  EXTRA effort, EXTRA study, EXTRA preparation, EXTRA time. . .when you put EXTRA into everything you do, you will succeed.
  • If it is to be, it is up to me. Quit waiting for someone else to make your success happen.
  • Associate with those who have integrity, character, intelligence, discipline and drive –good things will happen.
  • Measure people by actions, not words, performance, not intentions, deeds, not wishes, and heart, not wealth.
  • Winners dream, decide, devise and do. There is nothing passive about success.

Research in Palm Beach

Isn’t it marvelous when a trip taken for one purpose can be made to fulfill another purpose at the same time?

My husband traveled recently for business purposes. I was able to tag along. While he attended meetings, I did research. His business meetings were conducted in a famous old hotel in one of the world’s playgrounds of the wealthy.

In the murder mystery I am writing, one of my characters is apprehended in a public place populated by the affluent. It turns out that the hotel in Palm Beach is the perfect location for the scene.

So while my husband is working, I poke around the hotel and take notes. I record descriptions, floor plans, names of bars, meeting rooms, et cetera. During what could have been mind-numbing hours of waiting for my husband, I do research.

The bonus is I will have the information saved in a file for future use in other stories. Knowing how fruitful my imagination is, I have no doubt that I will collect a few story ideas at the same time.

Twofers: two for the price of one.  I love it when one event can serve dual purposes.

Oh, I Hope Not!

Venus transited the face of the sun recently. Amateur astronomers gathered, where weather permitted, to watch the event. Other planet gazers, the astrologers, also fixated on the event. Even the ancient Mayans noted the event.

In fact, the Mayans believed that whatever was happening in world events at the moment of the Venus eclipse would foreshadow the events to occur in December, at the end of the Mayan calendar.

A cursory search of headlines is bleak. The European economy is in tatters. Leaders seem unable to solve the nations’ problems. The union of nations, which has cemented peaceful interrelations for decades, is disintegrating. The bank crisis in Europe threatens to spread beyond Europe. China, the world’s new sovereign lender, is battling its own economic slowdown. China, Russia and India are clandestinely ganging up against the US dollar as the world reserve currency.  The mideast is forming energy alliances with Russia, by-passing historical contracts with the United States. China, Russia and central Asia intervene and discuss plans to stabilize Afghanistan. Banks and financial institutions the world over appear to be gambling with stakeholder assets without evident consequences to those making the wagers. Rather the depositors and taxpayers appear to sustain all the loss. There are less and less safe and solvent investments for individuals to use to safeguard wealth accumulation. Hyperinflation or deflation–either one is destructive. The weather is bizarre and affecting food production negatively. Water resources are inadequate for global need. Radioactive accidents in one locale spread to affect food sources of other nations. No one trusts anyone.

Does this all sound like the book outline of an international thriller? It would be a fantastic read. Maybe that’s it–the world is creating a new novel, not an uncomfortable future reality.

Oops. There I go smoking hopium again.

1,000 Words Per Day Habit

Ray Bradbury, the author of classic Fahrenheit 451, died recently.  Stephen Miller, Wall Street Journal reporter writes of Bradbury:

“His view of books and libraries as cornerstones of civilization and communities inspired Fahrenheit 451, which Mr. Bradbury wrote on a rental typewriter in the basement of a University of California, Los Angeles library.”

Mr. Bradbury was unable to afford college, so he haunted libraries. He educated himself through reading. Over time, he developed skepticism toward technologies that could be turned against humanity. The dystopian consequence of nuclear war was explored in some works. Yet, he lauded what he viewed as positive technologies: he extolled space exploration.

By the time of his death at age 91, Bradbury’s body of work included science fiction, autobiography, film scripts, stories for television, short stories, magazine articles for the likes of Life magazine, children’s books, poetry and text for coffee table books.

According to his obituary on CBS News Sunday Morning, Bradbury developed the habit of writing one thousand words per day. It was this habit that enabled Bradbury’s productivity. He continued writing into the 2000’s.

Mr. Bradbury ordered his own tombstone. He summarized his identity simply:

“Author of Fahrenheit 451.”




On Horseback

The place I find center is on horseback. It’s where I do my best non-writing writing. It’s where I can clear my head and think.  It’s where I go to get away for a while.

Recently the pace of life has been overbearing. It’s growing season. We’ve had an exceptional amount of rain. My garden and yard are reverting to jungle. I can’t keep the weeds at bay. Insects are reproducing and foraging faster than my non-toxic pesticides can deplete them — especially given that each shower washes away the protective shield.

The hay fields go uncut because there is no weather window in which to work. I need four days of sunshine in a row. That’s not happening. My hay customers want hay. I can’t make any to sell them.

For six weeks, I have not ridden. There’s too much work to do.

Yesterday the weather was perfect. A cold front blew in and cleared the air of humidity. I worked outside till I ached. At lunch time, I planned  the afternoon’s labor as I chewed. Then the phone rang. It was my riding partner.

My riding partner  got a new job. For three days straight, she went to work in the afternoon and worked until 1 A.M. re-setting the floor of a large department store. Yesterday, after going to bed at 2 A.M., she had returned to work at 5 A.M. and would be getting off work after lunch. She wanted to know if I wanted to go riding.

Both of us, played out from our labors, sought sanctuary and renewal. Both of us knew where to find relief. On horseback.

As a creative person, you must have a source for recharging, a place or activity to draw from the wellspring and refresh.

Use it.

Otherwise, your batteries may be drained so thoroughly that they die.