Ice Pick Soup

VeronaTake a time journey to legendary Verona. Meet the Intuinoobs, Bubblers, spies, poets and catacomb crawlers. Return via a premier stage play in Newfoundland and have dinner in Kansas. Briefly step into the night line life of Alexis Mandell.

Short story, fiction, 13K words. Free. PDF format.

Download it here: Ice Pick Soup

Back then it didn’t matter who you were. It only mattered what you wore and how much you could drink on a given Thursday. – Unknown Poet of the period.

The best things in life are short, including people. – Orion Smiley, from the home land.

If you must make a point, never make it so sharp as to puncture yourself. – Verse from a Vin Intuinoob drinking song.

The Ice Pick Soup Saga

Summary of the Collected Works

A Note

Gregor and I have been invited to spend some time in Sogni, near legendary Verona. We will be meeting with the Intuinoobs, Bubblers and a number of other local characters, including catacomb crawlers. We can be contacted at:

Digipoint Locator ID: 395864385109:AA1:4004

using the approved trade craft and beamer protocol. We will also forward updates to this location as appropriate. In the meantime, thank you very much for the past year of fun and friendship.

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.

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.

Soul Letters: Jourdon Anderson

Jourdon AndersonWriters are renown for their ability to construct moving, passionate letters. It’s a natural byproduct of the craft, usually garnered after decades of toil and trials. However, they are not alone when it comes to creating a unique style of missive, the soul letter, that faithfully holds its creator up to a mirror.

Soul letters speak to more than the recipient, touch upon more than the topic at hand. They provide us with a personal, faithful glimpse of the writer. These letters hold nothing back, regardless of the writer’s intent. They lay it all bare for us to ponder, each sentence in a white hot light. Although they will never be considered great literary endeavors, they are superb unto themselves. They are written from the heart and lay bare the soul. They are honest.

Jourdon Anderson was born in 1825, in Tennessee. By the age of 8, he was sold into slavery to General Paulding Anderson in the same State. Anderson’s son, Patrick, “inherited” Jourdon after the General’s death. Patrick and Jourdon had been playmates when they were children. Now, he was Patrick’s chattel.

During his servitude, Jourdon married and eventually became the father of 11 children. In 1864, at the height of the Civil War, Jourdon and his family were freed by Union soldiers who had camped on the Anderson plantation. Jourdon packed up his family and moved to Ohio where he found work and was able to support himself financially. He lived there until 1907, when he died at the age of 81.

A few months after the end of the War, Jourdon received a letter from his former “owner” pleading with him to come back to the plantation. In response, Jourdon wrote this amazing reply, filled with satire and poignancy at the same time. It is a revealing look at a man who never lost his dignity or sense of humor, regardless of the hardships he faced throughout his life.

Dayton, Ohio,

August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves” down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams’s Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson.

Publisher Trips On Own Ego, Saved By Le Guinn

Cover of "The Left Hand of Darkness"

Ursula Le Guin has long been an icon in the science fiction/fantasy genre. Her name and her work are immediately recognizable and universally praised. Well, almost universally.

Her novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, was much more than a bestseller. In 1970, it won the prestigious Hugo Award. A year earlier, in 1969, it was selected for the Nebula Award for Best Novel. It quickly became a classic and has remained so.

Le Guin went on to create a stunning collection of captivating literature, strong on themes that promoted meaningful, memorable female characters. She was a prolific writer, also creating poetry and essays that offered her unique style and voice. Le Guin gave birth to futuristic and fantasy worlds that are unparalleled in the genre.

However, like all writers, she suffered rejection early in her career. In Le Guin’s case, the publisher didn’t just miss the target but shot itself right in the creditability piehole and pocketbook.

Here is a classic example of a publisher stumbling over ego. True to the style of her life, Le Guin never allowed the name of the editor or publishing house to be identified when this rejection letter was finally released. It was written to her literary agent. She was certainly more generous and prescient than the author of this letter.

So, the next time you receive a rejection letter, just consider the source and motive. Publishers have a very long history of wrong-headed decisions.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Dear Miss Kidd, 

Ursula K. Le Guin writes extremely well, but I’m sorry to have to say that on the basis of that one highly distinguishing quality alone I cannot make you an offer for the novel. The book is so endlessly complicated by details of reference and information, the interim legends become so much of a nuisance despite their relevance, that the very action of the story seems to be to become hopelessly bogged down and the book, eventually, unreadable. The whole is so dry and airless, so lacking in pace, that whatever drama and excitement the novel might have had is entirely dissipated by what does seem, a great deal of the time, to be extraneous material. My thanks nonetheless for having thought of us. The manuscript of The Left Hand of Darkness returned herewith. Yours sincerely,

The Editor
21 June, 1968

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?