Dramatis Personae

A number of unexpected characters have inexplicably waddled through this blog over its time. For those of you who are visually-inclined, here is the Cast of Characters in abbreviated form. Some were memorable, some not so much. Some were just fodder.

Enjoy, please.
Gregor

Gregor

Gregor's Lawnmower

 Gregor’s Lawnmower

Gregor's BackyardGregor’s Back Yard

ButomewButomew

AlbartomewAlbartomew

BufordBuford

Jack the YakJack the Yak

SartomewSartomew

Comrade PussComrade Puss

AmarcordThe Author as a Young Man

Mr. BillMr. Bill

The MerovingianThe Muse

PopePapa

NixonPlumber in Chief

PublisherOur Beloved Publishers

Chupacabra Myth courtest of NatGeoThe History Channel

INTJ Holiday House Rules

HolidaysA few house rules for the holiday season. This house, at least. It’s an annual tradition around these parts.

If you’re an introvert, especially of the INTJ variety, you might want to give it some thought.

No drama under any circumstances. If you must have drama, save it for some other holiday or, better still, your birthday.

Animals are welcome.

Gifts are for kids. No, you’re not a kid. If you want to give him or her a gift, do it on a day when they’re not expecting to receive one. At first, you’ll be considered a curmudgeon, but it will pass.

Be with the people you love, not the people who are obligatory holiday visitors.

Family is how you define it.

If you don’t eat too much, you’re probably not having a good time. If you drink too much, you’ll soon have a rough time.

If you bring an attitude you get the back door. Scrooge is always watching.

Try to listen rather than talk. There are already enough talkers and they really roll it all out on holidays.

If you have a boss, avoid him or her on the holiday. The results of these holiday encounters are rarely beneficial to either party.

If you don’t have a boss, don’t be one on this holiday.

Remember the cook. Visit the kitchen, briefly. It’s the heart of the home.

No platitudes, please.

If you play a game, make sure that no one loses. There must always be a reward for last place.

Did I mention animals? They enjoy the holidays and bring us all cheer.

To all of you who have visited, have a wonderful, happy and safe holiday season.

Writers and Their Rejections

Rejection Therapy logo

Most of the writers I’ve known over the decades had one goal in mind – publication. They reached for the gold standard of traditional publishing. Most of them never got there. It usually had little to do with their talent.

Many of these writers deserved better. They should have been published. Their work was excellent, polished and moving. But, somewhere along the line, they gave up. They reached an impenetrable bulwark that sidetracked their work and talent. It was the wall of rejection and, for some very talented writers, it was too much to overcome.

Rejection is a tough issue for anyone. In the world of writing, it’s inevitable. For those writers who set the gold standard of publication for themselves, it sometimes became the breaking point. Understandable, right?. However, for those writers who eventually made it through the desert of rejection, there was a potent reward waiting.

The question is one of perspective, self-confidence and experience. It all boils down to how you value rejection. Here’s one way to look at the issue.

Agent rejection. Agents live on the work and talent of writers. That’s the nature of their business. Good agents are looking for long-term relationships with their writers. There’s a reason for this. Once that first book has been published, the chances of future publishing opportunities increase exponentially. Beyond that, getting published opens up doors of opportunity in related areas. Good agents understand this kind of critical mass. It’s why the best of them thrive on long-term relationships.

The bad news is that top notch agents are rare. Most are only interested in signing a writer whose work can be quickly published. For these agents, it’s a numbers game. So, you’re just a number if you sign up.

Now, ask yourself this: Do you really care about being rejected by an agent who doesn’t care about you? The answer should be obvious. Their rejection is, after all, just the opinion of an individual who has no vested interest in your writing career. That kind of rejection is a blessing.

Take a look at Online Publishing and E-Hyphens and E-Agents for a bit more.

Disney Rejection Letter, 1938 (detail)

Publisher rejection. Rejection by other than a recognized publishing house is just as meaningless as rejection by the disinterested agent. Online publishers are everywhere. If the house is not established, not recognized by readers and writers, their rejection means nothing. It’s just another opinion from yet another person who has little or no interest in your writing career.

Even rejection from a major publishing house means little. There are countless examples of publishers rejecting famous authors. The publishing industry is littered with this wreckage and misdirection. If you spend some time reading about the careers of famous authors you’ll quickly see the kinds of monumental mistakes often made by major publishing houses. These stories are legendary and common.

Rejection by critics. OK, you’re published. Here come the critics, frothing and foaming at the mouth. Maybe you get panned. Is that rejection? Of course not. It’s nothing more than an opinion, typically written to please the critic’s readers. It’s wise to remember that critics are not writers. Many are frustrated, unsuccessful writers. They are hawking opinions designed to please their own readers. That’s their job. They are nothing more than opinion sellers, and you know the old warning about opinions, right?

To see the critic review game at its most ugly, take a peek at Paid Reviews Rock Your Pocket.

Rejection by readers. Yep, this is the one that really matters, if publication is your primary goal. It must be measured in only one way – book sales. The “review comments” below each book title mean little. They may make you feel good, angry, frustrated, whatever. But, in the final analysis, these comments are frosting, bitter or sweet. What counts is whether or not your book is selling. At the end of the day, it’s the reader that counts, and his or her opinion is expressed in terms of books sold.

There is only one exception to the rejection game – you. Yep, you count. Your opinions matter. The reason you write is important. Your goals are important. If you’re a writer, there’s a good reason, and it’s always personal, always important.

Forget rejection. Don’t obsess about opinions. Devalue the importance of acceptance. Find out why you write, what it means to you, where it fits in the symphony of your life. Rejection will always be at your doorstep. Just step over it and move ahead. It’s not always the best writer who reaches the finish line. It’s often the most tenacious.

Finally, here are a few articles that may be helpful. Keep in mind that publishers, agents and critics would have no purpose without writers.

The Undiscovered Writer

The Established Writer

Writer vs Author

The 27 Club

Robert Johnson, first member of The 27 Club

You don’t want to belong to The 27 Club. It’s very exclusive and its members are all dead. They all died at the age of 27, usually from unnatural causes, most from drug or alcohol abuse.

The club is much larger than the members mentioned in this article. However, these are arguably its most famous associates. Each was a master of his or her art, and each achieved a good measure of fame while alive. After death, fame became legend.

It’s something to think about if you’re not yet 27 and searching for those 15 minutes of fame. If you made it past 27, take a deep breath and be thankful.

Our short list is in date order, beginning in 1938, and just looks at musical artists.

Robert Johnson died on August 16, 1938, a master of the blues guitar. He was poisoned. Johnson is generally considered the first member of The 27 Club.

Nat Jaffe, one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time, died on August 5, 1945, from complications of high blood pressure. His was one of the few “natural deaths” in The 27 Club.

Jesse Belvin was an R&B vocalist, songwriter and pianist. He died on February 6, 1960, in an auto accident.

Rudy Lewis, vocalist for The Drifters, died on May 20, 1964, from a drug overdose.

Brian Jones, a founder of the Rolling Stones and guitarist, died from drowning on July 3, 1969. He had been pushed out of the band the previous month.

Alan Wilson was the lead singer and songwriter for Canned Heat. He died on September 3, 1970, of an overdose.

English: Jimi Hendrix at the amusement park Gr...

Jimi Hendrix, possibly the greatest guitarist in history, died on September 18, 1970. He succumbed to a combination of too much wine and sleeping pills.

Janis Joplin, one of the greatest blues singers of all time, died of heroin poisoning on October 4, 1970.

Jim Morrison was the lead singer and songwriter for The Doors. He died on July 3, 1971, from a heart attack, probably brought on by a lifetime of alcohol and drug use.

Pigpen McKernan, one of the founders of the Grateful Dead, died of complications from alcohol poisoning on March 8, 1973.

Dave Alexander was the bass player for The Stooges. He died on February 10, 1975, from complications after a lifetime of alcohol abuse.

Pete Ham played keyboards and guitar for Badfinger. He hung himself on April 24, 1975.

Chris Bell was the founder of Big Star and its chief songwriter. He died in an automobile crash on December 27, 1978.

D. Boon was a leader in the punk rock movement, singer, and guitarist for the Minutemen. He died in a car crash on December 22, 1985.

Jean-Michel Basquiat was a cohort of Andy Warhol and the founder of Gray. He died of a heroin overdose on August 12, 1988.

Kurt Cobain (front) and Krist Novoselic (left)...

Kurt Cobain, singer and songwriter for Nirvana, died by an apparent suicide on April 5, 1994.

Kristen Pfaff was one of the few female bass players to achieve individual fame. She played with Hole and died from an overdose on June 16, 1994.

Richey Edwards, a founder of the Manic Street Preachers and songwriter, died on February 1, 1995. It was thought to be a suicide.

Bryan Ottoson was guitarist for American Head Charge. He died from an overdose on April 19, 2005.

Amy Winehouse, singer and songwriter, died on July 23, 2011, from alcohol poisoning.

Bene et Opportune Exitum

Mystery

Even the seemingly unsolvable mystery offers an answer, somewhere, somehow.

Thank you for doing what was once believed to be impossible.

Wrongly so.

For your persistence, with boundless effort and not a small encounter with obsession. For the cross-eyed view of routine that always clears the vision. It’s a gift and a power well used.

For keeping away from the obvious, the nay-sayers and the meaningless babble.

Together, your quiet wisdom and careful steps made it work out so well, so completely. I believe your rewards will be wonderful and lasting, and certainly deserved.

For all those who have been in contact over the years, accept a special thanks. You have done so much to keep the ship afloat and with a true rudder.

And those careful readers I have not met but wish I had the opportunity. Someday, perhaps.

It’s good to know the answers are now in the hands of others, each worthy and wise. I look forward to your words.

Even the final phrase has meaning.

Now, go ahead and have some fun. No mysteries, just the good times:

Visit GingerFightBack for visual puns, nice words and a good message.

Visit Ned’s Blog for fine word-art and side-bending laughs. Buy his book (soon).

Modern Writers Rock!

Modern & Futurism

I’m completely in awe of the modern writer.

When I began my writing career dinosaurs were still roaming the earth. This was well before the age of computers. Longhand was the preferred way of drafting, typewriters were the critical tool. Manuscripts were sent back and forth by mail. My agent and I would talk by telephone or the occasional letter. Later, we both mastered email and thought we were very modern. Publisher meetings were face-to-face. Now, all of this feels so archaic, so yesterday. Those days may seem romantic to some, but they are so used up. It’s good to move ahead.

Back then, writing was a solo business. I worked alone, out of contact with others when I was writing novels. For nonfiction, I beat the streets and the telephone. My contacts were limited to interviews, mostly. There was no need for much social interaction, except for the occasional conversation with a fellow writer. Today, everything is different. The modern writing life demands more dimension, greater diversity, and involves more skills. Today, the recluse writer cannot make it in the business.

I like the changes. I think today’s writers are more rounded, more complete in working their way through the perils and pleasures of writing. They are involved in the real world, not just the closed universe of writing. They are members of a large and vibrant community that stays in constant contact. The writing life is no longer a static landscape. It’s alive.

It’s also obvious that social networking is critical to modern writers. This is a big change from the old days, and I think it’s a major step forward. Writers are now expected to crawl out of their dens and interact with the real world. Communicating with others is critical to successful writing. Gone are the days of the unsocial writer. This is great for both writers and their readers.

Today’s writers need to understand more about the publishing end of the business than my generation ever considered. That’s also a plus. Publishing used to be quite a secret society, penetrated only by successful writers who had good contacts in the business. Now, publishing is an arm of writing, a part of the process that modern writers need to work through and accommodate. It means that good writers also need to get a grip on important business aspects of their careers. Another step forward. Modern writers play a critical role in their own success. Yesterday, they were rarely more than bystanders.

Back in the day, marketing was mostly the purview of the publicist and the publishing company. Today, it’s the shared responsibility of the writer. So, the modern writer is closer to his or her market, more familiar with how book visibility can make or break a career. This means that writers can directly impact their sales in a positive way. That couldn’t happen back when. Us dinosaurs waited around to see what happened, for better or worse.

Today, there is a demand for many important skills necessary to succeed. The modern writer has new tools of the trade, powerful ways to network, insanely easy software to help at each step along the way. These tools are critical to a writing career and the modern writer knows how to use each of them. In the dinosaur days, these tools didn’t exist. We all fumbled around, trying this and that until we hit the right combination. The power that these modern tools bring to today’s writers wasn’t even on the radar yesterday. Back then, our skills were much more limited and our eyes never turned to the power of networking.

The list is a long one but the point is simple.

Our modern writers have tools and opportunities that weren’t even in dreams back then. Of course, this also means more work for the writer, more competition and much more involvement. All of this is a good thing, I believe. Today’s writers are more well-rounded, more outward-looking, and have much more business sense than my fellow dinosaurs. In other words, they are more complete individuals.

So, I’m in awe of today’s writers. They bring much more to the table than the ability to sling words together in a pleasing way. They bring completeness to the process. These writers seem more whole, less cloistered, from the geezer-writer point of view. As individuals, they seem more balanced, involved and approachable than my fellow dinosaurs. I like it.

Forget the nostalgia of the recluse writer of yesterday. Give me the modern writer and I’ll show you someone real, involved and aware.

The Unselfish Writer

Selfishness

A while back, I came across a comment that posed the question of selfishness as it applies to writing and writers. It was a bit of a two-parter that morphed around the subject. The first part of the question asked whether or not an unselfish writer should give away his or her work for free. The second part wanted an answer to the bigger question of “what is a selfish reason to write?”

I think there was more to these questions than met the eye when I first read them. The comments were posed as a challenge more than an observation. Still, they were interesting enough. How does selfishness and writing come together? How does selfishness, or lack of it, play into chasing word art?

A few readers may need to don the crash helmet for what follows. It’s purely an opinion piece, so don’t get too worked up over it. Geezer-writers get to stretch their mouth muscles from time to time.

The first part of the question, whether or not a writer should be paid, is pretty simplistic and obvious. I’ve written a number of posts about this topic. Since I’ve been writing all my life, I also have pretty strong feelings about it. If you’re a worthy writer, you should be paid for your work, period. The only exception is when you choose to offer your work for free, for some personal reason that makes sense to you. There’s an entire section on this blog, along with several individual articles, that speak to the need for writers to be compensated for their work. It’s a no-brainer.

But getting paid for your words is a tough business. Few writers ever achieve that goal. As I’ve mentioned many times, some of the best writers I’ve known never made it in a financial sense. They were great word artists but they never had the chance to make their work pay. This is one of the reasons that I’m such a strong proponent of self-publishing, to level the playing field for writers who would otherwise sit it out on the sidelines for reasons that have nothing to do with their talent.

Pay as You Exit

Should you be paid for your work? You bet, so long as your work is worth the money. In the end, your readers should be allowed to make that decision, not publishers or alleged “publishing companies” that populate the Internet. It’s all between you and the reader. The only way to know if you can make writing work for you is to get your words out there and hear what readers have to say about it. Readers vote with their money, which is just the way it should be. Publishers have lost their importance through their own greed and immoderate behavior. Get your words out there, and do it on your own terms.

The second part of the question is a little strange. I’ve never been asked the question in the past but it’s worth a thought. What is a selfish reason to write?

I don’t find much selfishness among my fellow writers. However, they mostly write books, novels or nonfiction. A few of my writer-friends are journalists. I do see a good deal of selfishness among bloggers, though. I find lots of attention-seeking behavior out there.

Now, to some extent, attention-seeking behavior is inherent in anyone who writes seriously or as a career. We want to be noticed, one way or another. We may write for ourselves, at first, but we publish to be read. At some level, that’s attention-seeking. I doubt that any seasoned writer would argue against this relationship.

attention seeking

But it goes beyond that acceptable level with so many blogs. There are endless posts directed at only one purpose – driving readers to the blog. There are so many words that have this sole purpose that it’s a day’s work to just get through them to the true nuggets of good writing. This kind of behavior is so obvious and transparent that virtually all readers recognize it when they see it. It operates at a level of commercials on TV, except that every so often you run across a really funny, entertaining TV commercial. Not so often with most blogs.

This kind of writing is selfish. It is not intended to convey valuable information, entertain, enlighten, share or contribute to others. It is designed to point back at the writer and do nothing more. It’s a way of putting notches on a virtual blog-belt that says, “Hey, look at me! I now have 34,534 followers!” Well, if you’re into quantity as a writing goal, it surely serves some purpose. It just doesn’t work for me.

If the blog is commercial in nature, I get the point. However, if it’s intended to be a personal blog, and the whole point is to drive readers to the blog, it shows up in the posts and in the writing style. This kind of writer is not trying to share. He or she is trying to collect. In my view, that’s selfish.

So, are writers selfish? The good ones, those who work it out as a living, the journalists, the worthy novelists, and even the occasional strong blog writer are not selfish. They are sharing something of who they are, what they think, how they are feeling, what they’ve learned along the way. They are not selfish. They are writers, even if they remain undiscovered for a lifetime.

Asking if writers are selfish is like asking if a writer is any good at what he or she does with their art. The best writers move well beyond their selfishness and find reasons to create words that are genuine and tangible, meaningful in some way to their readers. Those who cannot get to this point simply don’t make it in the business. There’s too much competition from good, genuine writers for the purely selfish to survive the cut.

Writer-selfishness has nothing to do with money, with getting that advance and royalty check. It has everything to do with sharing that part of yourself that may touch your readers.

Anything else is selfish.