In Transition

The last week of February seemed to last a month, or is it just me? The whole seven days stretched out like a giant rubber band, and once stretched past its limits, lost the ability to bounce back to something approaching normal. For the shortest month of the year, February does linger on.

These rubber bands look in good shape. February - not so much.

So now it’s almost March, and what does this month hold? Unpredictability. First off, it can’t decide whether to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, or vice versa. One day the weather is gorgeous, the next, it’s raining like hell with the hail to go with it and if we’re REALLY fortunate, the tornado sirens may go off now and then. It’s something to look forward to, isn’t it?

Yes. I may eat you. Then again, I may not.

At any rate, Spring is decidedly on her way, and I will be mighty glad to see her.

****

In writing news, I’m hard at work completing a travel package of Australia. At first, I listed out all I had to do on one master list. Day after day I’d look at this master list and despair of ever getting it all accomplished. It was quite demoralizing, actually. So, I out-thought myself and broke it down in to much more manageable chunks. This has really helped me get a handle on it, and work is proceeding nicely.

I also completed some other smaller projects, to include a package on diamonds, hosting options and a really fun project of Top 5 lists. It was a very busy week, but I was also able to fit some fiction work in there. Athena’s Promise now has half of Chapter 23 done, and I’m very happy about that. I also adopted a kitty cat from the local shelter — her name is Athena, and with a name like that I just couldn’t resist her. She’s crazee, and fits in quite well. :)

Even better, a story I wrote based on the universe of Joshua Guess will appear in the publication “Living With the Dead – The Bitter Seasons” and I am beyond thrilled about this. (Links when it goes live on March 2nd!) If you haven’t picked up a copy of Living With the Dead: With the Spring Comes the Fall, you really should. It is my pick so far of the best I’ve read this year, and the great thing about it is if you don’t know if it will appeal to you, you can read it for free on the blog to test it out. I guarantee you, you’ll be hooked.

Because the week was so busy, I haven’t had a chance to finish my editing series, but I am working on it. However, others have been weighing in with their opinions, hints, tips and tricks, so my posts will probably be more generalized. I’m also planning on extolling the virtues of flash fiction and what goes into crafting a fine piece.

Short and sweet today — exactly how I like my Mondays. Hope you have a good one!

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

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Rant-O-Rama Follow Up

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?

Okay, maybe not so much. Believe it or not, that was probably as painful for me to write as it was for you to read. I’m not apologizing – I meant every word. Part of it was because although this subject has been spoken of on other blogs, it’s in hushed terms like the straight truth is going to break something. And really, I know I took a big risk letting it all hang out like that.

I’m about to take another one.

I know I shouldn't play with these but I just can't help it.

In conversations online and off; in comments, blog posts and private messages I’m hearing the same thing coming through loud and clear. People, meaning writers AND readers (sometimes one and the same), want to know what they can do to help promote their favorite writers and to cut down on the amount of crapola floating around out there. They’re sick of it, too. I’ve already covered things you can do to help your authors, but what if you run across one of the types I’ve mentioned in my last post?

Simple. Don’t buy their shit.

With a printed book, this is easy. You read the dust jacket, the author bio, hell, you can sit and read the whole thing if you want, right there in the bookstore (until they shut down, that is. RIP Borders. *sigh*) You can check a book out in a library, borrow it from a friend or pick it up at a discounted price in a used book store, if you can find one. You can buy on the cheap at garage sales or thrift stores, and you’re out nothing more than a quarter if it sucks. Or, you’ve seen the book reviewed in the newspaper or on TV.

You can stick to your favorite authors and never try a new one again. But that sucks. Reading is about EXPANDING your horizons, not limiting them.

For the growing e-reading population, it’s just as easy. Same principles apply. Check out the author’s website or Facebook page. Read reviews by people you trust. READ THE SAMPLES on Amazon or Smashwords. If they don’t let you read a sample, well then, you have to wonder why, don’t you?

I said we are Gatekeepers.

See those pointy things? They'll come in handy later.

Until now, the Big Publishing Machine has had control (a lot more than you think. But, that’s another subject). Now it is directly in your hands. Like Spiderman said, this is a lot of power, and with great power comes great responsibility. This is the hard part.

Say you do your due diligence, and find something that looks appealing, but when you pay for it and download it, it’s not all that and a bag of chips. The formatting sucks. You can tell there’s no editing of any kind, or the whole package is unprofessional. The story REEKS. What do you do? What can you do?

If you’re a reader and not a writer, you pretty much have the freedom to do anything you wish. You can write a scathing review, send the writer a message, demand your money back, bitch about it on Facebook, your blog or your Twitter stream. Have at it. Whatever you feel like doing, go ahead. More power to you. And thank you.

For a writer in the business, it gets a lot trickier.

You will seldom see a writer trash another one in public, no matter how much they deserve it. It’s not professional courtesy — it’s fear. Yes, you heard me. FEAR.

“Why, Netta,” you may say. “I’m not scared of that silly face. I’m not scared of anything.” Bullshit. Yes you are. You’re scared that if you write an honest review and it’s negative, it’s going to impact your writing career. And you’re right to be scared. You think I wasn’t scared posting that last rant? Or this one? How easy is it to sabotage a writer’s work or really fuck them up in this day and age? If you haven’t thought about it, you should. It will explain a lot should your sales tank and people spit through their fingers when you walk by. (Which is disgusting, if you ask me.)

So for writers, you have to walk a fine line. As much as you would like to write a review along the lines of, “You suck like a Hoover and I’m initiating legislation making it a felony charge with the death penalty should you ever go near any writing implements ever again in this Universe,” you can’t say that. Not only is it rude and unprofessional, it’s probably career suicide.

Or maybe I’m overstating the situation, but I don’t think so.

I’m not telling you that you can’t say what you want. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I preach being kind, professional and…well, kind. I don’t see any reason to be cruel or nasty. That just doesn’t fly with me. And people will judge you, like it or not, on the whole way you approach this sticky situation. But I will give my honest opinion, oh yes I will.

You’ll notice I did not single out one person in my previous post, although I’m sure we can all think of examples and in fact, it was one person in particular that sent me over the edge into Rantville. I’m happy to report that even though said person was not targeted in any way, they fixed their problem. I have no idea if they saw my post or not, but I still call that a victory. Now, I like them.

This is for you, Anonymous Writer. I heart you!

When you write a review of someone’s work, you can get your point across without being an asshole. If it’s a book or novel you just cannot recommend, well, you have a choice. What you do is up to you. My mother used to say if I couldn’t say anything nice I should probably shut up, but she was THE most outspoken woman I have ever known, so I take that with a grain of salt.

Don’t click a “Like” button of any kind unless you genuinely like that author or their work. And please, please don’t ever recommend something that sucks. This does so much damage — if I trust you, and you recommend something to me, and it sucks, I WILL NEVER TRUST YOU AGAIN. See how that works? In addition, I will question everything you say, everything you write, and I most likely will not buy your book, your story, your anything. You’re killing yourself here.

If I don’t like the material you’ve recommended, that’s different. We all have different tastes and I say, “Yay for diversity!” But if you rave about something and it really and truly sucks, especially because of LAZINESS, you’re in big trouble. And so is your reputation.

One thing is for certain. If you ask me for my opinion, you will get an honest answer. That’s how I roll. But I’m not mean or cruel, and I won’t call you bad names like “coochieface” or “buttmunch”. Promise. And I won’t recommend crap. That’s also a promise.

It’s a fine line, but we must walk it. Now, take the pins out of the voodoo doll, please. My ass is killing me.

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

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Caveat Emptor vs. Caveat Venditor

WARNING: This is a true NettaRant. You might want to wear a helmet.

“I’m just feeling kind of truthsome right now. Life is too damn short for ifs and maybes.” ~ Capt. Mal Reynolds of the Serenity

Instead of your regularly scheduled programming in which I feature some form of Fabulous Fiction, I have instead decided to shake things up in more ways than one.

Yep, it's likely to get thick. And I'm pretty sure it's not going to bring any boys to the yard.

As you may well be aware, I am all for supporting the self-publishing wave, also known as the Indie Movement. (Although some contest the moniker, “indie”, as it really applies to a different aspect of the publishing business…still, I’m not one to split hairs.) I believe passionately in self-publishers coming in to their own without the stigma of “if you’re self-published, your work sucks hot rocks.” That being said, some self-publishers are making it VERY difficult to don the pom-poms and rah it up.

Oh, not on purpose, I’m sure. Pretty sure. Right now it seems like it’s the “American Idol” of publishing, and like American Idol, some people are just not right for the stage, and that’s my nice way of expressing it. It’s a buyer beware world out there — I’m not saying it hasn’t always been that way, but at least with the Big 6 as gatekeepers you had some assurance of quality. (You can argue about their control issues another time. I’m on to something else right now.) In this Wild West Frontier of self-publishing, as a reader you have to do your own due diligence as far as sniffing out quality material to read.

Okay. Now that I’ve laid the groundwork, I need to vent. Consider this your wake-up call.

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S GOOD AND HOLY, PEOPLE, GET YOUR SHIZ-NIZ TOGETHER!

It’s not just a “let the buyer beware” world out there, it’s a “let the seller beware” world! Wake up! I understand you want to jump on the bandwagon and present your work to the world, but have some patience! Is it your best work? Could it be better? Have you EDITED your piece? Have you hired a professional editor or just let your sister who has a degree in liberal arts have a whack at it? Did you put it away for a few weeks to look at it with fresh eyes, or did you mindlessly throw it up on Smashwords or Amazon so fresh off the word processor it’s bleeding from a thousand knife wounds? You guys are KILLING ME.

And while I’m at it, let’s take a look at formatting. Is it formatted properly? Is it consistent, or do you have flawed formatting throughout the entire novel? You know, like it starts off with indents, then goes to block, then back to indents? Are there proper spaces between paragraphs? ARE THERE EGREGIOUS TYPOS?? Did you even bother to put it through a simple spell or grammar check?

Am I perfect? Oh, hell no, and I’ll be the first one to tell you that. It’s not perfection you’re going for here, but at least aim in the general vicinity!

Oh my GAWD, you make me stabby, cranky and want to spank you so hard you can’t sit down at your word processor for a YEAR.

Don't make me get out the whip. Because I WILL do it!

I have seen so much potential absolutely RUINED by LAZINESS and that makes me NUTZ and quite frankly, it pisses me off. As a self-publisher myself, every one of you that is too damned lazy to make sure you’re putting out a quality product is adding to the very stigma you’re trying so hard to dispel! I know you’re in a hurry, I understand why you’re in a hurry, but slow the hell down! Will it really kill you to take an extra few weeks to make sure your work is polished, professional and ready to fly?

If it’s not, you run a real risk of wrecking any chance you might have of a successful launch, and instead you’ll be thinking oh, this self-publishing stuff is bullshit, just like you think the Big 6 is “The Man” and keeping you down, when in fact it’s your own fault! If this is any example of the kind of material you have sent to “traditional” publishers, it’s no wonder they kicked you out on your ass. And if your baby is NOT ready, then roll up your damned sleeves and DO THE WORK.

You’re doing even more damage than that. You are tearing down the credibility of every single writer out there in the self-publishing process who actually works their ass off to make sure what they produce is as good as anything from the Big 6. It’s aggravating, defeating and embarrassing.

I realize this post is not going to make me popular at parties, but someone had to say it. Go ahead, make your voodoo dolls and stick pins in me, but in your heart of hearts you know I’m right or you wouldn’t be so annoyed at reading this.

Go ahead. It wouldn't be the first time.

I am really frustrated (no, Netta, really??) by starting off reading a book by an indie and being unable to continue because of the above-mentioned flaws. I am frustrated because many of these pieces have great potential, but have sadly fallen victim to the author being in a big fat hurry or just not caring. And if YOU don’t care, why should I? That’s right, I don’t. I’m not liking your damned page, I’m not liking your damned book, I’m not re-posting, re-twittering or re-anythinging your work if you can’t actually give a rat’s ass about what you’re putting out there. I’m sorry. I just can’t do it. If that makes you hate me, oh well. I’m over it.

Self-publishing is not the easy way — NEWSFLASH — there is no easy way! Unless you realize that you’re not going to be successful and you’re just clogging up the works like a hairball in the drain.

Hire out what you can’t handle, such as formatting, book covers or editing and if you can’t afford to hire it out (and BELIEVE ME, I am so in touch with that!) then impose on good friends who do know how or learn it yourself. Stop pimping writers who aren’t ready. And for the sake of all of us out here, buyers and sellers alike, have enough respect for yourself, the profession and the potential fans to take your time to put out the very best you can.

Otherwise, get the fuck off the stage.

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Who Are You Wednesday

You guys rock! The first marketing experiment was a resounding success, and I thank you so much! For your next mission, should you choose to accept it, if you’re on Facebook simply go to the left of my page here, where you’ll see a Facebook box. If you’d like to become a fan, just click on the “Like” button. That’s it! You’re done! On the fan page, you’ll receive occasional bits and pieces and breaking news on the writing front. If you don’t mind, please share the page on your Facebook page to spread the word. And thank you, thank you so much! :)

I have met a lot of new people in the last few weeks, and I know some of them have stopped by here to get to know me better. Hell, I’d like to get to know me better, but that’s probably a topic for another post.

I’ll give you the short version, and you can extrapolate the rest.

I was born in California many moons ago (I’m not telling you how many, so don’t even bother asking).

Let's just say it's a lot more than one. A LOT more.

My parents divorced, and my mother, me and my siblings moved to central New York where I lived for most of my life. We moved a lot; I attended seven different schools in seven years. I was the oldest of five. I have been reading voraciously from the time I was three years old. (I was quite precocious, and learned while I was in the hospital with a bout of croup that almost killed me.)

I married, bore three fabulous children, and divorced. That wasn’t a whole lot of fun, but you have to take the good with the bad, right? It was after the divorce I was able to pursue my dream of becoming a self-sustaining writer. At first, my focus was on fiction, namely flash fiction, but it evolved to writing non-fiction in the form of web copy, mostly because it paid better.

I left New York and moved to Kentucky for a few years, then further west to the St. Louis area where I am very comfortable for the first time since I can remember. I returned to Kentucky when my mother was in the end stages of terminal breast cancer; you can read about some of that here or here. Shortly after she passed, my daughter presented me with my first grandbaby, nicknamed “Muffin”.

But eventually, I returned to my beloved Lou.

In my life I’ve completed an LPN program in high school; worked as a dancing hamburger; worked as a shift supervisor in the restaurant business; was employed by a major health insurance company; worked in a urologist’s office where I saw more penises than any woman has a right to see, and served as a reservations manager in a hotel. It has been a very interesting ride.

Yeah. Kinda like this.

My first love is flash fiction. I have released my first collection, titled “Not Nice and Other Understatements” and I self-published for many reasons. I am currently at work on “Athena’s Promise”, an urban fantasy about a hotel run on the edge of Zombie Town (“Z-Town” to the locals) by a demi-goddess and a Gorgon. In the meantime, I write stellar web copy for several private clients, edit novels and craft books, and generally try to cause as much mayhem as I can.

Relax. This is not mayhem. This is just hay.

In pursuing my fondest desire of writing for a living, I have learned and done so many things I never dreamed I would. I learned a lot about marketing, constructing a website, SEO, and social networking. I’ve learned much about myself, as well – that I can be disciplined, I have Mad Research Skillz, and I’m stronger and smarter than I ever thought possible. I’ve worked hard to hone any skill I may have at this writing business because I. Love. It. I never want to do anything else.

Best of all, I have met some absolutely fabulous people along the way, and this has enriched my life immensely.

So, that’s a little bit about me. Welcome to the strange planet inside my head — tell me a little bit about you!

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A Marketing Experiment Without Sharp Implements

Monday again. Oh, the joy. What is it about Mondays that make me think of mud wrestling? Is it just me? Ah, well.

I’ve spoken many times about the importance of supporting your indie artists and how you can do that, even before I had my own book floating in the ether. There are many things you can do as a reader or a fellow writer, but it can be overwhelming. Some articles will go on for DAYS about clicking this button or on that website until all you want to do is turn the computer off or throw it out the window. So, I’ve decided to conduct a little experiment. Will you be my guinea pigs?

Notice the red eyes. I'm a little frightened.

Don’t worry, there are no needles or any other kinds of sharp implements involved, and I won’t make you drink any noxious concoctions. At least, not this time. Heh.

I don't blame you. I wouldn't drink this either.

No, my experiment is completely painless, easy and takes about a hot minute.

I post about three times a week. From here on out, at the top of each post (not this one, the next one, pay attention) I will give you a little somethin’ somethin’ to do that will help out the sales of “Not Nice and Other Understatements”. There’s no obligation, you sure don’t have to, but I would really appreciate it. Come on, it’s not like I’m asking you to eat broccoli or something.

It actually looks quite tasty, but where's all the butter?

If it makes you feel better, you can pretend you’re a secret double agent on a mission that can affect the life or death of our Fearless Heroine. I know, things aren’t that dire, but one little click of your mouse button can actually make a big difference. You’ll get a warm, fuzzy feeling and build up Good Karma Points. And I’ll be thinking very hard about an appropriate reward.

Maybe a gold star.

At any rate, anything you can do to help will earn my eternal thanks plus the ability to continue writing fiction in my “spare” time. Which translates in to more stories for you.

Today’s Experiment: Click on my Amazon author’s page here and at the top of my photo, click on the little button that says, “Like”. That’s it! You’re done! Thank you!!

The great thing about this is you can do it for all your favorite authors if they have author pages. By clicking “Like”, you help nudge your author up in to the search engines, making it easier for other people to find them. So, you’re not only helping out your author friend (in this case, me) but all the potential readers out there.

I appreciate the support more than I can tell you. Now, I have to buzz off and think about rewards, write some more words and wrestle Monday to the ground and pinch it until it yells “Uncle”.

Thanks again :)

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

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Fabulous Fiction Friday Round-up

You might have been expecting this kind of round-up.

Yeeehaw! Okay, it’s not that kind of round-up. There are no cows or bulls, no ropes and no manure (although that might be a matter of opinion). What I thought I’d do is re-introduce you to some of the Fabulous Fiction Peeps I’ve had the honor to host on this blog.

First, you may have heard of this guy. He’s the best-selling author of The Warded Man and The Desert Spear, along with The Great Bazaar and Other Stories and Brayan’s Gold. His name is Peter V. Brett, and you can find my interview with him from 2009 here. I find his comments about publishing especially interesting.

Next up is an interview with Jeremy C. Shipp. I think he had the best answer I’ve ever heard about the future of publishing. Although I haven’t done a review of “Cursed” yet, it is on my list. Which is about as long as my left leg, right now. *sigh*

My next victim…uh, I mean my next GUEST…was a badass chick by the name of Susan Helene Gottfried, author of Trevor’s Song, Shapeshifter: The Demo Tapes – Year 1 and ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes – Year 2. She inhabits the world of rock and roll, kicking asses and taking names.

Of course, I have a soft spot for editors, and I have two I’ve interviewed here. First is the “Goddess of Flash”, Esther Schrader, the Editor-in-Chief for Flashshot. Second is the Mad Aussie, aka Matthew Glenn Ward. In addition to his editor duties (although Skive has been regretfully retired) he found time to compose his novel, John F. Kennedy Lives in the Future! and is one of my favorite people.

Podcasting is a fast-growing portion of the fiction market, and to that end I wanted a word or two with Kate Sherrod who also composes some brilliant sonnets in her spare time. Besides the podcast point of view, Kate is A Very Interesting Person, and you can read the fascinating interview here.

MeiLin Miranda is probably one of the most innovative and hard-working indie authors I know. She’s recently won the Preditors and Editors Best Erotic Novel for 2010 as voted by the readers. You can find “Lovers and Beloveds” in a wide variety of formats, and you can find my interview with her here.

Last, but far from least, if you haven’t met him, now’s your chance. Yes, it’s Joseph Paul Haines, author of Ten With a Flag and Other Playthings. He’s got a lot to say, and pay attention. He knows what he’s talking about.

Quite a stellar line-up, if I do say so myself. Every one of these artists are hardworking, dedicated, twisted, demented and brilliantly talented. The have all inspired me in different ways to become better at my chosen career, they have offered hope that it can be done and lead by example. These guys don’t just talk the talk, people, they walk the walk. Every one has marched to their own beat and represents a different aspect of the writing journey. I hope you enjoy the interviews as much as I did conducting them.

Find your own drum. This one's mine.

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Second Tuesday – Writer’s Block and the Tooth Fairy

This blog post is courtesy of a blogfest initiated by the lovely and talented Patti Larsen known as “Second Tuesday”. This month’s topic is “Writer’s Block”, and I encourage you to visit the blogs located at the end of this post to see what other writers think about this subject. Thanks also to Gary Varner for saving us this time around with some nifty coding skillz.

I’ve covered “writer’s block” more than once on this site, but it really seems to be a recurring topic of conversation among my writer friends, and I can sympathize even though I believe in writer’s block about as much as I believe in the Tooth Fairy.

This is my concept of the Tooth Fairy. I'm not scared.

Even though I don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy…uh, I mean WRITER’S BLOCK, I do believe in writer’s constipation. There are a lot of good suggestions in that post and in the comments to help try to shake you out of the rut. But actually, all the advice you will read about “writer’s block” boils down to one important concept:

SIT YOUR BUTT DOWN AND WRITE.

There could be a lot of things stopping you. The stress and wear and tear of “regular” life is enormous for most of us. Many of us work a “real” job in addition to slinging words around, some of us are depending on a significant other or spouse to support us while we get our writing legs underneath us. A lot of us have families in addition to our other job, some of us only have ourselves on which to depend. Add all that up and what you have is a lot of pressure to perform, to produce. Instead of opening the floodgate, this can actually paralyze a writer into looking at a blank page and breaking out in hives and other embarrassing skin eruptions.

Bee hives. Not the same as the skin problem.

Like the bee hives in the photo, you have to get busy. Sure, a blank page is intimidating. All those wonderful ideas you had last night while you were falling asleep have faded in the dawn, and your mind feels as blank as the page. Despair eats at your guts, and you wonder if you have it in you to write so much as a grocery list, not to mention a full-length novel, a scintillating short story or the article due tomorrow.

I used to think I had writer’s block every time I sat down to the computer and I’d start to panic. Before I even wrote a word. I’d break out in a sweat and start thinking, “Oh my GAWD, what am I going to write? I can’t think of a thing. I’m a failure. I suck. I suck so bad they’re gonna call me the Queen of Suckage. I’m tapped out. I got nothin’. I’ve told all the stories I have to tell. The well has done dried up, there’s nothing left. I’m done.” Then I’d start contemplating ways to fall on my sword so no one would catch on that I wasn’t writing anything anymore.

This is the scary part about writing. It’s rather like jumping off a high building.

This is the view when you hit the sidewalk. You don't want to do this.

Will you hit the sidewalk in a splat of guts and blood? Will you float down gently and land like a petal on the wind? Well, that’s the challenge, isn’t it?

You know what broke me out of that kind of mind-set? Writing non-fiction for a living. Clients don’t care about your bullshit angst, they care about whether or not you’re hitting the deadline. Of course quality counts, but you’d better hit that deadline and produce what’s been paid for. Otherwise, you have compromised your reputation and the very bread on the table. Believe me, that’s a powerful motivation. I try to carry that over into fiction, with some success. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I struggle too! Every damned day! But here’s one thing I do every day that a lot of people don’t…

I SIT MY BUTT DOWN AND WRITE.

Just start. One word at a time. Will it be crap? Doesn’t matter. Will it be grand? Doesn’t matter. Will it make sense, flow like a river, soar like an eagle or bomb like a fart in church? Doesn’t matter. What matters is getting the words on the paper. If you can’t face a short story, write a blog post. If you feel you can’t write a blog post, write a letter to someone, living or dead. If you can’t do that, grab a yellow legal pad and just write whatever comes in your head, even if it’s I CAN DO THIS I CAN DO THIS over and over. Not every “cure” for writer’s “block” (picture me doing the little quotey thing with my fingers as you read that as a visual aid – you’re welcome) is going to work for you, but chances are there’s something that will help you over the hump.

The fear can be paralyzing. The only way through it is through it. Don’t let the fears of inadequacy, the pressures of life or the self-doubts all writers wrestle with stop you.

SIT YOUR BUTT DOWN AND WRITE.

Butt, meet Chair. Chair, this is Butt. You shall be good friends.

It’s as simple and as difficult as that. Power through it. Make it happen. Put all the stress, doubts and bullshit excuses in a trunk, lock it and stick the key in a flowerpot.

That ain’t the Tooth Fairy and that ain’t writer’s block.


Writing Challenge:  WRITER’S BLOCK
  1. Second Tuesday 2: Words Shy of Daylight – Alberta Ross
  2. 12 & a ½ Ways to Deal with Writer’s’Block – Ruchira Mandal
  3. Second Tuesday – Writer’s Block – Patti Larsen
  4. Iain the Cat opines on Writer’s Block – Jeannie
  5. Using Writer’s Block as an Excuse to not Write – Rebeca Schilller
  6. Writer’s Block – Gary Varner
  7. Second Tuesday – Writer’s Block and the Tooth Fairy – Annetta Ribken
  8. Writer’s Block or Writer’s Withdrawal – Eden Baylee
  9. Breaking Past Writer’s Block – Elise VanCise
This post is part of a monthly writing challenge known as “Second Tuesday,” written by members of the Fellow Writers’ Facebook group. Click on any link above to read another “Second Tuesday” post. Enjoy!

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

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What the Hell is Flash Fiction?

In Which Our Heroine Encounters an English Teacher

So, here I am at a social event — I know, hard to believe, isn’t it? (Yes, once in awhile you can find me out and about with real people. It happens.) A woman I hadn’t seen in a long time approached me and we started chatting about this and that, and she asks me if I’m still doing “my little writing thing”. (I may have gritted my teeth here.) I realize her interest because I know she’s an English teacher, although I don’t know the grade level she teaches or even if she actively teaches anymore. The rest of the conversation went something like this:

“So, are you still doing your little writing thing?”

“Why yes, indeed I am.”

“How nice. How’s that going?”

“Quite well, actually. I’ve just released my first collection of flash fiction.”

“Oh, really? You mean, like a book?”

“Yes. Exactly like a book.”

“What is flash fiction?”

Whaaaa?

This floored me. Granted, my school days are far behind me, and I can’t remember if we ever covered a unit on flash fiction, but that was a looooong time ago and I would think, with the resurgence of the popularity of flash fiction, an English teacher would have some clue about it. I explained as best I could, and then it occurred to me there may be a lot of people out there who were not quite sure about the definition of flash.

Flash fiction, as defined by Wikipedia, is “fiction of extreme brevity”, although the entry goes on to say there really is no “definitive” description of flash fiction. To further confuse things, flash is also known by a number of different monikers — postcard fiction, micro-fiction, sudden fiction, nouvelles, smoke-long, prosetry, short shorts (not to be confused with the “short shorts” fashion garment of the 70s) and minute fiction.

These are a different kind of short shorts.

Generally speaking, fiction of less than 1500 words is thought of as flash, although the word count can vary. I’ve seen flash in a little as six words — don’t make me quote Ernest Hemingway here, we’ve seen it a million times — and some flash fiction appears in 55 words, 100 words, etc.

What makes flash so unique is within the parameters of word count, the writer presents a complete story. There’s a beginning, middle and an end; a protagonist, conflict and resolution. However, flash fiction is limited by word count, so some of these elements are hinted at or left to the reader to contemplate rather than spelled out in detail.

Flash fiction pushes the boundaries in a number of ways. The word count forces both the writer and the reader to work a bit harder. The writer has to convey an idea, a situation, a story by choosing not just the right words, but the perfect words in order to properly communicate their tale. A reader has to do his/her part by paying close attention to not only the the word choice, but the concept and reason behind them and extrapolate from there. To me, it’s a much more intimate writer/reader relationship. It’s a matter of trust. I, the writer, am going to trust you, the reader, to the part of the story I’m not telling. You, the reader, are trusting me, the writer, to give you the words so you can do that.

Inconceivable! I don't think that word means what you think it means.

This concept applies to all flash fiction, even the esoteric type that reads more like poetry or stream-of-consciousness. Indeed, some flash fiction will resemble more poetry than prose. The lines are not definitive, remember, and so the writer has room to play.

This is what makes flash look easy when in fact, it is probably one of the most challenging disciplines in writing. You can hide nothing when it comes to writing flash. I have compared it to wearing spandex — every bump, lump and stray hair shows. You have to be clean, concise and brief. You don’t have the space or the time to dump backstory, explain character or detail a setting. You must tell your story in as few words as possible, and trust the reader to handle the rest.

Flash fiction is a great exercise for writers, because it will teach you the value of word choice and how to set a scene or tell a story by showing. Even within its strict parameters of word count, there is a world of creativity just waiting to be tapped. It seems easy, but it is not. However, it is a lot of fun to write, and a total rush when you pull it off successfully.

My answer to the English teacher? I sold her a copy of my book. :)

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

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A Call to Action

Fabulous Fiction Friday has been preempted by a story that caught my attention because of its frightening familiarity. Please read this post about a fellow writer — Melissa Mia Hill. I’ll wait.

I did not know Melissa, but I know her story. I try not to get into politics on this blog, but the fact of the matter is this goes far beyond politics. If you think Melissa’s story cannot possibly apply to you, think again. Everyone is but one medical catastrophe away from disaster. This could happen to you or someone you love. Do you have health care now? Good. But what if you lose your day job? What if your spouse is downsized? What if you suffer from a financial downturn and can’t afford premiums? It has happened to millions. You’re not immune.

The case of Melissa Mia Hall is not only tragic, preventable and a national disgrace, it illustrates a scenario all too real to millions of Americans. Those without medical insurance because of the exorbitant costs are unfortunately very familiar with this kind of possibility — and live in terror every day that this could very well happen to them. In all actuality, it probably will unless something is done to change the health care system in this country. How do I know? I’m one of those millions, and while I did not have a heart attack and die, I did have a severe gall bladder attack that necessitated surgery. A simple outpatient procedure that should have taken one day ended up being a six day marathon. I still have a stent that was supposed to be removed 6 weeks post-surgery, but I was told until I could pay my bill (in excess of $50,000) I would not be getting the stent removed. Unlike Melissa, I don’t have a house to lose, and I was fortunate in that the hospital whose treatment I “enjoyed” was a charitable hospital and wrote off most of that debt, although the surgeons were not as understanding. However, like Melissa, I will have to be dead or dying before I call an ambulance again.

I watched the View today and listened while Barbara Walters emphasized how important it was for women to get EKGs and have regular checkups for their heart health. Who can afford that, even if you could find a physician who would take a self-pay patient? And the initial EKG isn’t the problem, anyway — what if they find something wrong? Something that needs surgery? If you can’t afford an EKG, you certainly won’t be able to afford treatment if indeed, something needs fixing.

Melissa Mia Hall would be alive today if she had access to affordable preventative health care. There are probably hundreds of thousands of people who are dead right now for the same reason. And millions more who are in the same boat. IN AMERICA. It’s shameful, it’s disgusting, it’s horrifying.

Please visit this website and write to your representative. This cannot be allowed to continue.
Write Your Representative

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Did I Say Too Much?

The other day, my friend Patti Larsen talked about a very interesting subject regarding watching your tongue as a writer. Go on and read it, especially the comments — I’ll wait.

Done already? Okay. I think we’re talking about a couple of different topics here, because there is a difference between ranting about something going on in your life and tearing up a writer in a review or exposing too much of yourself in a blog. The topic on Patti’s post seemed to gravitate more toward what an agent might think of you through book reviews on your blog and how a negative attitude may impact your chances of being signed to a contract.

As I said on Patti’s blog, I’ve critiqued and edited hundreds of stories for over a decade. I’ve edited novels and non-fiction work for clients. You don’t have to be the Simon Cowell of the writing world. Why be cruel? What’s the point? Some people do find that kind of thing funny, but to me it’s immature, unprofessional and unnecessary.

Yeah. Don't be like him.

I do reviews occasionally here on Word Webbing, usually on Fabulous Fiction Fridays. They will become more frequent, as I’m participating in the ABC Indie Reading Challenge this year and part of that is to provide an honest review. I fully suspect I will pull some stinkers, as a partial reason for this challenge is to act as a type of gatekeeper. As we all know, the indie/self-publishing ocean is full of fish, and they’re not all tasty. That means I will be honest — fair, but honest. It’s important to my own integrity as well as to those who follow me and value my opinion. But I won’t stoop to being cruel.

But for the sake of argument, say I was cruel (much different from “snarky”, in my opinion). Will that have an impact on my chances of being signed with an agent? I’m sure it can, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to speak with my own voice. I’m sure being cruel and mean-spirited would have an impact on the type of people who read me, the friends I have, on a whole lot of other aspects of my life.

I know there are bloggers I have stopped following because they have crossed the line — my line, mind you — and I just don’t buy into the negative mindset they’ve developed. If I see a blogger tearing up some hapless person who just happened to piss them off, I’m outta there. Who needs it? To me, it’s just another form of bullying and there’s too much of that going on as it is.

In essence, it all boils down to respect. Respect for yourself, respect for your readers, respect for anyone who has the balls to take on the career of writing in the first place. You can get your point across without calling someone names or attacking them personally. At least, that’s how I see it.

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

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