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

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Why Don’t Blogs Die?

Blog of the day once again

Not everything dies. Most things do, I guess. I suppose even a rock dies, although it might take some time. But, it seems to me that blogs never die. They go on forever, suspended in the timeless clutches of the infinite Internet. This troubles me, a bit. It just doesn’t seem natural, not in accordance with the ordained order of the universe.

It’s creepy.

Since I’ve been a writer my entire life, I’m naturally drawn to the blogs of other writers or blogs that discuss their work. For whatever reason, I was surfing with one thought in mind: Why are so many writers considered eccentric? A strange search, yes, but not so uncommon. It was something that caught my interest for the moment. I’ve been accused of eccentricity, often by my literary agent as well as family luminaries.

While drifting around the Internet, I stumbled across a post entitled, Are All Good Writers Eccentric? The title was enough to get me reading. However, what I read took me off in an entirely different direction. I was left wondering why blog posts don’t have a shelf-life, a discreet period of time after which they die and are forever forgotten. Where is the self-destruct button, just in case? Some posts, some blogs, just shouldn’t go on forever, despite our wonderful, powerful technology. They should succumb to the more natural course.

This post didn’t answer my original question about eccentric writers. Rather, it gave me yet another reason to really be sure about what I publish, in any form.

Here is the post, which is short. I’ve left it unedited:

I think that all real writers are eccentrics and loners even when they have familys. Not all bloggers are writers some fill there pages with pictures of there friends and family or places they have been. Some are clever with the graphics that melt out hearts to look at and make us want to go back to look again. I would like to combine graphic art and my poetry but at the moment this will have to do. But waiting in the wings is some one i know who does magical graphics who as told me when i am ready i can download some of her magic onto my pages and how proud i would be to do that hopefully in the near future. Thanks mary. To work together with some one like Mary to add the beauty that she creates to my pages of poetry would make for a magical site i would be proud of. 

To be a writer you need a good imagination you just have to look at jk Rowlings, pages full of exciting things nothing dull, always some thing new and exciting, C.S Lewis and Narnia another wonderful example of a great imagination with a spiritual lift to it. Catharine Cookson my favourite author of adult stories writes from real life, earthy deeply involved stories of life in the north of england.

So, you tell me. Are good writers eccentric?

Writers Workshop: Writer Vs Author

Washington Irving

This is an old bugaboo of mine, a personal burr in my saddle. The question: “What’s the difference between a writer and an author?” What an ancient, persistent and mostly useless hack!

Here are a few answers from around the web, plus a bonus. I’ve avoided the typical cliches and standard online definitions. Instead, I looked for a small cross-section of answers and a few different presentations. If nothing else, these should tickle your sides a bit. Don’t take them too seriously because, well, they’re not that meaningful in relation to cosmic events. However, they do tell you something about those who wrote the words.

My answer is at the bottom of the article, taking its rightful place as last. Perhaps you have a favorite definition? I’d love to hear about it.

A writer is a person who writes a book, article, or any literary piece, while an author is essentially the person who originates the idea, plot, or content of the work being written. (www.differencebetween.net)

Someone asked me the other day to describe the difference between an author and a writer. I tried giving a basic definition by saying most people are writers at some point in their lives—even if all they write is a grocery list—while authors focus on writing as a career. But this person didn’t like that answer and persisted. So here’s my attempt at a deeper response: An author has readers. A writer doesn’t. (www.jasonsanford.com)

An author is someone who has written anything published. Even someone who writes something in the high school paper is considered an author because their work was published. A writer, however, is anyone who writes. For example, I am a writer right now because I am writing. (www.wikianswers.com)

Writer’s Digest has a cool quote on the difference between writers and authors: Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”–Colette (www.slushpile.net)

A writer typically writes for a living, often freelance, or on the payroll of a company large enough to have its own copywriting or journalistic department. An author, however, is a special breed of writer. Don’t get me wrong, all writers are special! But authors see a larger vision. They see the world through the pages of books. Nonfiction, self-help, novels, children’s, fairy tales-you name it; they see it in book form. (www.ezinearticles.com)

Ego. (me)

And your favorite definition is . . .

Writers Workshop: Online Publishing

English: Logo of french publisher Léon Vanier

I’ve developed a nasty habit of referring to this subject as “tunas and sharks” when I discuss it with others. I suppose it’s applicable in some ways but it also has a ring of bias that I don’t appreciate in myself. So, please keep this in mind as you read on.

Online publishing is a boon to many writers. It’s a way to get their words in front of an audience, and do it with relative ease. Personally, I think good online publishers provide an important service to writers. And, there’s obviously a big market out there. It’s the future, and it’s here for all contemporary writers. Now, I’m writing about true online publishers here, not simply a POD (print on demand) service that leaves the entire process in your hands. That’s a different animal altogether, and a subject for some other time.

Online publishers are a very mixed bag. Yes, a huge sea of tunas and sharks, often surrounded by thick layers of swamp gas. It takes very little to establish a web presence and self-define as a “publisher” without regard to what that term really means. So, for us writers, the trick is how to knock on the front door of that enormous and mostly-hidden castle without inhaling too much swamp gas.

First and foremost is history. Does the publisher have a history? Has the publisher been around for a while? Is the operation well-established or is it just another pretty web face? It doesn’t take much effort to investigate the publisher’s background. You should be doing this anyway. Get to know them before you make an approach. If they look like wet nightshade, move right on down the line.

Now, does this mean that new publishers should just be overlooked? Absolutely not! I went with one of the first online publishers many years ago and that house is still around, still active, still pumping out stuff. However, I was careful about going with this publisher. In fact, I insisted on a face-to-face meeting before I signed up. Now, I understand that this kind of anal-retentive behavior is not always necessary, or practical. In my case, though, I wanted to know much more about what was going on. In other words, I wanted to check out that swamp gas up close and personal. Today, I’m happy to have a relationship with this online publisher, pleased with what they have accomplished. They had an idea that worked and a dream they were willing to chase.

There’s a definite dark side to this business, though. Online publishing operations come and go like a fickle summer breeze. Here today, gone tomorrow. It’s up to you to chase the history down and make the appropriate decision. It’s easy to do in today’s vast online community.

No matter which publisher catches your eye, there are tasks you need to undertake for your own peace of mind and protection. Here are a few.

Check out their stable of authors. Look beyond their “featured authors” and track down a few of the other ones. Do they have a specialization in certain genres? Does this match your preferences or specialty? Contact the authors directly and ask them outright for an honest appraisal of how the publishing house performed. Most writers are quite willing to give you an honest answer if you ask them a direct, sincere question. This is a must. A good publisher wants to keep a good writer as happy as possible. After all, we provide the grist for their mills.

Check the website carefully. Do the names of the principals appear on the site? You’re not looking for ways to contact the principals but you are looking for their names. No names on the site? Cross them off your list. Titles like “editor” or “publisher” mean nothing. You want names. If they are proud of their work, if they want to make it in the business, they will put their names out there. Names count in the publishing business and seasoned authors know that.

Look at the submission guidelines and read them carefully. Then, ignore them for the moment. Everyone in the world makes submissions, and publishers have no reasonable way of dealing with the onslaught. Rather than sending off a submission, send off a brief (and I mean “brief”) email that introduces yourself and includes a sentence or two about your skills, qualifications, genres, interests, or something you believe may be of use or interest to the publisher. Now, I cannot overemphasize “brief” when you do this kind of communicating. If you don’t get their attention in two or three sentences, why should they go any further? Would you? They will give you ten or fifteen seconds, maybe. Make every second count.

A truly involved, interested publisher will not ignore a brief introduction that catches their eye and arouses their interest. Of course, they will all bemoan how many emails, letters, whatever they receive. And, this is largely true. However, it is also a convenient excuse for a lackluster publisher. It’s like the good old standby rejection letter that says, “Sorry, but your submission doesn’t fit our current publishing goals.” Sometimes this kind of answer is true; but, often, it’s just another way of letting you know that they never read anything you sent their way.

A good publisher is a hungry publisher. The right house, well-run and successful, is always on the lookout for something new and fresh, for that unique writer to add to their stable. A run-of-the-mill submission is almost always the least effective way to make that first contact. Unless, of course, you want to settle for a run-of-the-mill publisher. I don’t recommend that way of approaching your writing career.

Now, let’s assume you have that perfect, very short introduction composed and ready to go. Do not send it to a hundred publishers at the same time. If you do, you’re not being sincere so why should you expect them to act in any other way? Send it to one at a time and let them know that’s how you operate. Make your words tight, meaningful, direct and honest. Expect the same from the publisher. Wait a reasonable period of time for a reply, say a week or so. That’s enough time if they are interested.

What’s the outcome? In the vast majority of cases you will hear nothing back. Perhaps you’ll get some canned kind of response. You’re a writer so you’ll know hack phrases when you read them. All of this is just fine, and you should expect it. Just move on to the next publisher on your list. Silence is not just an answer, it also tells you what you need to know about the publisher.

At some point, you’ll get a publisher to respond. A personal response is what you are seeking, a way to open the door to real communication. When that day arrives, when you know you have someone’s attention, follow their instructions (assuming they are not the usual, “canned” type). You may be pleasantly surprised that publishers are also human. In the end, you and the publisher have many of the same goals in mind. The trick is finding that “right fit” with the right publisher.

Sharks or tunas, we all swim in the same ocean. Take a long-term view of your career and walk carefully. Publishers may come and go but good writers are forever.