Monday, July 25, 2016

Writing Advice

I used to read a lot of blogs by writers. Not so much, these days. Because eventually most writers just don't have that much to say about the actual work of writing. Nor do they generally have anything truly interesting to say about writing as an art form. Most of the how-to stuff I see in modern times is actually material informing you how to be a salesman and not an artist or a craftsman.

However, when it comes to the best advice about writing, the basics that I learned from just about every writer I asked were these things: read a lot, and write a lot. That's basically it. By reading you learn the basic mechanics of putting an idea into words. Yeah, you can play with those mechanics, but once you see how it's done you can alter or moderate or create based on that bedrock. And if you are going to pursue writing--as a craftsman or as an artist--then you have to buckle down and by god do it. Don't hesitate. Don't be lazy. Produce the work.

That about does it. Navel-gazing isn't going to do you much good in the long run. So any crap about the inner workings of creativity you already know going in. You don't need a how-to in figuring out your own dreams.

Beyond that I have found that the bulk of writers blogs are massive displays of ego. "I did this. I did that. I'm so great. Thank you, very much. Yes, I'm the best." It gets very tiring very quickly. I don't look at them very often anymore.

So, if you settled here on me ol' blog for writing advice: read as much as you can, and write as much as you can--every damned day if you can possibly spare even just half an hour for it. Set a daily goal. Thousands of words, or just a few lines. As long as you're pushing forward.

As for that sales stuff? I generally avoid the company of shills and thieves. A pyramid scheme is still a pyramid scheme. Avoid those gonifs.

An artist. A craftsman. Not a bullshitter.
Try to be like Ray.

Friday, July 22, 2016

On Self-Publishing.

Several of my old writer friends have taken advantage of the self-publishing game to reprint their back list. These are novels that were published by way of the old system of traditional publishers. Books for which they were paid an advance and which earned them royalties. Later, as the years passed, ownership reverted to them once the boilerplate contracts ended.

So they took the old traditionally-published books that had been honed and edited to a fine point and which had good track records for quality and professionalism. And they self-published them. This has been one of the good sides of self-publishing.

When my novel THE FLOCK first came out I hit a few regional science-fiction and fantasy and comic conventions to promote my work. After a while I began to meet some writers who were self-publishing via Amazon. I didn't know much about the scene at that point and had no opinion on it and listened with interest as these folk told me of the freedom that it allowed them and I reacted with further interest as they boasted about how much money they were making. Some of these folk had subsequently quit their day jobs to write full time. Cool.

A few years later I bumped into several of these guys at another local convention (ConCarolinas). I sat and mainly listened as they spoke, since I was not a self-publisher. They were engaged in shop-talk and, as always, I was keen to listen. One of the guys who had told me that he had quit his day job a couple of years ealier to write full-time...he was not doing so well. His sales had plummeted. As soon as he admitted this fact, all of them coughed up the truth. All of their sales had plummeted. The market was glutted with self-published books. Worse, it was glutted with shitty self-published books. (Of course none of their books were crappy. Oh, no.) One fellow who had walked away from a good job was now desperately seeking minimum-wage employment. Somewhere. Anywhere.

Of course I feel sorry for them. Seriously. I'm not being sarcastic. I can understand the allure of what is touted as instant money. One sees the bragging of a self-published jackass claiming how he or she is a USA Today #1 best selling author, or how he or she is an overnight success or how he or she has hundreds of thousands of fans. It's tempting to try to follow them along. But the fact is that it's a real roll of the dice. And whether your dice are carved of pure ivory or of wormy wood makes no difference.

It is still just a roll of that mean ol' die. Only that die has a million-plus sides, and it has to come up with your number on it. Tough odds.

The good old stuff.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Undue Influence

I think because due to the influence of my current writing projects I had a really weird dream last night. In it, Santa Claus and Rudolph (the reindeer) were instead named "Superman" and "Kevin". And Kevin was green, but still had a red nose.

Carry on.


Monday, July 18, 2016

You Have to Go High.

Here in Charlotte it just doesn't snow that often. Fewer and fewer snow days down here in the Piedmont as the effects of human-caused global warming become more pronounced each year.

Carole and I enjoy the snow. We're big kids at hear and we like to experience a good snowfall from time to time. We like to play in it like all of the other children. There are a couple of sleds in the barn out back.

But since there is almost never an opportunity in the Charlotte metro-area to experience a good snowfall, we find that we have to head to the high country to find it. Fortunately, we have the highest mountains in the eastern USA not too far away, and so it's often just a matter of driving for a couple of hours to find the frozen precipitation and where we can look at the beauty of it, breath cold arctic air, and slide around on it like the overgrown children that we are.

When the north winds blow we see the clear, blue skies.

Let's hike in the snow!

At Carvers Gap on the NC/TN line.

On the Appalachian Trail at the summit of Round Bald, 5,826 feet above sea level.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Roadless Area

A few years ago I went on a hike in the Big Ivy Roadless Area in Pisgah National Forest. Roadless areas are just that...places in the forests that have no currently recognized and maintained roads. Man of them should be protected through Federal wilderness designation, but each time these are proposed there is always a battle against corporate interests who don't appreciate seeing new wilderness.

I posted about this hike before, but I've been recently gathering a lot of the moving pictures that I've shot over the past few years and packaging it all into short videos. Here, then, is one for the hike through Big Ivy in the Pisgah National Forest. It needs to be declared as wilderness and protected. Let's hope that happens.

You want waterfalls? We got waterfalls.

Wandering Around Big Ivy.

Big trees in Big Ivy!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Accidental Catholic

When I was a very, very young kid (six or seven years old) my two best pals were Catholic brothers of roughly the same age. One day they talked me in to putting red mud on my hands to join them in smearing tacky hand prints all over the doors of the Protestant church next door to their house. Why? Apparently it was to signify "the blood of Saint Paul". I didn't know what a saint was, much less one named "Paul". Also, I didn't even know what a church was since my parents had never taken me to one or had ever so much as mentioned religion to me.

Billy and Ernie took the fall for this and were made to wash off the red mud hand prints (remember...this was in Georgia where red clay is everywhere). One thing that impressed me was that they had not ratted me out, and I was as guilty as they were. I was never mentioned and was not punished. Which is a good thing because, unlike Billy and Ernie, I was never indoctrinated into their religion (or any other) and had been totally ignorant of things like sacrilege. But they did tell me how they had to clean up the church doors with soap and water and apologize to the pastor.

For their parents...shit. It suppose it was hard enough to be Catholic in a small Georgia town dominated by Baptists and Methodists and other such denominations. They certainly did not need the added pressure of their kids vandalizing the Protestant church right next door to their home.

Some years later, I found myself with my mom in Savannah. We must have been visiting my sister and her husband who lived there. And it would have been June 6, 1968, so I was ten years old, about to turn eleven three weeks later. My mom was upset and she was taking me into a big Catholic church near Savannah's downtown. I'd never been into a Catholic church. In fact, I don't think I'd ever been to any kind of church at that point in my life.

She took us in and my mom seemed to know what she was doing and was comfortable in the place, whereas I was nervous and a bit afraid. Bobby Kennedy had just been shot. At that point I don't know if my mom had heard that he'd died, but we did know that he'd been shot, much the same as his brother had been gunned down less than five years before. Maybe around the time my pals and I had been spreading red-clay hand prints all over the Protestant church door.

But being there...I found it all confusing--both the political situation and this sudden turn of events with my mom taking me into a Catholic church.

My mom was, as she used to say, half-Jewish. I could not recall her ever expressing any kind of support for Christian doctrine. But there we were, in a Catholic place of worship. And while I was confused about it all, I was still impressed with the building. It was very quiet inside, but there were a lot of people there. They were all praying. I watched my mom as she knelt. I recall that her head was covered that day. She was wearing a scarf tied over her hair. She turned to me and asked me to bow my head and close my eyes. I did so.

After a while we left the church. My mom was crying. I asked her why she had taken us to the Catholic church to pray.

"Because the Kennedy family is Catholic. And I came here today out of respect for the Kennedy family."

And Bobby Kennedy was dead. And that was that.

St. John the Baptist Cathedral, Savannah GA.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


The old subconscious works on us in our dreams, for sure.

I don't normally dream about the past, but I did last night.

I dreamed that I was back in high school again, in the midst of a football game. There I was on the field. Someone tipped the ball as the opposing quarterback threw a pass. The misdirected ball fell right into my hands. I hauled it in close to my body and began to run.

And then I suddenly realized that I didn't know which end of the field belonged to my team.

And so it goes...

I have to say...the old Gilmer High alma mater purple and white uniforms look cool, these days.