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Archive for the ‘Wednesday Classroom’ Category

Layer the paint. Snap the images. Taste taste taste. Work your asses off.

It only seems I was relaxing one earlier summer – but the work is always there . . . I am most always working- see the unfinished manuscript? That was done and then another began . . . on it goes

I am an impatient person. Now that I have that out of the way, I will also tell you that despite that fact, I understand that I must often corral this impatience, especially when it comes to Goals and Dreams and Desires.

All y’allses, I would lay bet that most all of the time when you hear of “Over-night Successes” those successes were fashioned from much hard work. Take the musical group The Black Keys for example. They slogged along ten years before bursting out of the gate. It would seem they obtained their “fame” in a blazing flash of light, when instead, if you’ll excuse the cliche, they’d been burning that candle at both ends.

A photographer may take hundreds and hundreds of shots just to find that one perfect “money” shot. The photographer, unless very lucky at that moment, doesn’t sit and wait for the perfect shot and then *click* – there you go, la tee dah. No, the photographer hunts and looks and snaps and snaps and snaps that shutter countless times, over and over and over, and then within all those moments the photograph finds The One Great Moment that snatches up his/her breath and the world stops spinning until the breath is released. There. There. That’s it.

A painting may have layers upon layers of paint, as the artist searches for the image he/she has dreamed, desired, lost sleep/weight/friends and family over. The one that finally has the artist putting down the brush. And even then, the artist may eye the

I took shot after shot after shot of the Blue Moon and still couldn’t get what was in “my inner eye*

painting with imagination and doubt. But rarely will the artist slap some paint on the canvas and call it a day.

I used to think if I were a good cook, it would mean that my instincts would be so keen that I should be able to throw things in the pot and magically they would taste good. It wasn’t until years later I learned how the greatest of chefs actually TASTE their food – taste the ingredients, taste along the way, taste at completion. KABOING! Why, who knew? One must taste the elements, taste along the way, and then taste the finished product to make sure it turns out how it should be: Tasty.

Read the above and insert words to make it about writing. Yup, in my early writing life, I used to think that if I were a Great Writer, or even a Good One, whatever I slapped onto the page must be genius right then and there. That re-writes meant I was not a Good Writer. Rewrites and revisions meant I lacked. Oh dear lawd in the highest of clouds! How wrong wrong wrong that was, and is, and forevermore shall be! Rewrites and revisions are the heart of writing. I can’t tell you how many times I go through my novels, time after time, layering that paint, snapping image after image, tasting tasting tasting TASTING, until I have it as Right as I can right it.

Giving up? No. Not an option. However, there is the: maybe I need to try a different path; one that doesn’t take me to a *see sign*

Take all that above and insert words to make this about many goals: weight loss and/or becoming fit, that big promotion at work, the Dream you’ve been Dreaming. Sure, there are always exceptions to some of these, and some people find Luck propels them just where they wanted to be with the snap of a finger (though I’d wonder still how many years they’d spent working towards their goal before Luck slapped them upside their heads). But, y’allses, nothing comes without the hard work – or maybe I should say:

Nothing STAYS without the hard work

Enter the magical gate, walk the magical path – then work your ass off.

Layer the paint. Snap the images. Taste taste taste. Achieve.

Will all y’allses authors stand on your head wearing a book suit with a little book hat?

For months I kept an eye on a new hot dog and ice cream parlor. This new business tried just about everything to draw customers to it—new items gaily written on the menu board, wi-fi now available!, bright colors shouting out, huge signs proclaiming their awesomeness, and a woman dressed as a hot dog with a hot dog hat who stood outside and waved exuberantly while rubbing her tummy and beckoning everyone to “Come on in!”

Did it work? If the parking lot was any indication, not so much. However, just a few miles from this little hotdog stand is a hamburger and ice cream joint that always has a full parking lot. One could say it’s the difference between hot dog love and hamburger love. Still, I wondered: just what makes the customer choose one place over another?

It isn’t always about the quality and taste of the food or the spiffy look of the establishment. Maybe the food isn’t as good, or isn’t any better, in the crowded

Good food, okay food, exceptional food . . . atmosphere, word of mouth . . . what draws you in to a restaurant?

restaurant, but the atmosphere brings in the customers, or how long it’s been around, or people talk about it and spread the word, or or or . . . .

There are the places that are always full, seats hard to find, and while the food may be consistently good, or even hit or miss, there’s just something about the restaurant that pulls in a good loyal crowd.

There are the iconic restaurants, and the ones who garner five-stars who employ chefs with a pedigree. The food is good, the atmosphere stunning, the prices astronomical.

Well, isn’t there good food and wonderful atmosphere in the little tiny diners across America? —why yes, and they’ve only to find that One Thing, or Some Thing to call the customer to them, and once that happens, off they’ll go! Right? Right? Well. Maybe. Maybe not.

I’ve tried to study the whys of how some restaurants are packed and popular and others, though they have good quality food and sincere staff/owners, are barely hanging on. I have come to the conclusion that sometimes there simply isn’t a why. Sometimes there is only a How It Is. Sometimes it’s just luck. Timing. And luck. And Lots of Luck. And some Something that can’t be defined no matter how much we try, no matter how many blogs and updates and twitter feeds we read about “How To.” Sometimes it just is.

So. Our books. Yeah. Our readers. Our love. Our Life.

We can try to call people to us with contests or give aways or pointing out the good reviews

finding the silver lining . . .

we have or wear a funny book suit with a book hat on our heads while exuberantly rubbing our bellies—et cetera et cetera et cetera—but, in the end, sometimes our books may never become iconic or popular—we may never make a million bucks, and be lucky to make some thousands of bucks, or some may be lucky to sell but a few books at all.

While there are those savvy people who know how to market effectively, most of us are standing around with deer in the headlights eyes, flinging out sticky shit one side to the other in the hopes something sticks.

See, I’m thinking — I have to wake up with myself every day. I have to look in

No, really, I am a NICE person – I wouldn’t push my brother over the edge.

the mirror and like what I see. I have to feel comfortable with myself. I have to write the best book I know how and then hope a lot of hope. It is not in my nature to stand outside in a funny suit, rubbing my stomach, and wildly beckoning y’all to come inside. It’s in my nature to give you my words with love and hard work and sincerity and do the best I know how while remaining the person I am. To try my best without being a big pain in the ass to the social networking airwaves.

Would I love to see my books back in the Number 1 spot at Kindle? Hells to the yeahs, but will I hop on my head while reciting the complete works of Shakespeare to get your attention? Nope! Because what would you think of me? What would I think of myself? Lawd!

Keep it flowing and flowing and flowing and flowing . . .

Readers: what you can do to help your favorite author is to pass along the word – tell others about the author/book(s), and further if you are so inclined, review it on Amazon, B&N, etc., or talk about it on your blog/facebook/twitter: give us your love for it will be appreciated. Writers, what you can do is support other writers – someone else’s success does not take away from our own potential or real successes! We also can be more appreciative of what we have and where we are, for there is always someone else who’d love to be in our position. We should write the best books we can, and present them as beautifully and as “perfectly” as possible (note: in other words, don’t be in such a hurry to throw out your words just to say “I’m published”).

By the way: that hotdog stand went out of business. Just sayin.

Tell me: what’s up with y’all? My laptop is still in the laptop hospital and this little mini-netbook is terrible. lawd. I hope this post turns out presentable. Lawdy be in a bucket of worms.

Wednesday Classroom: Do your research to gain trust with your reader, yawwwwl

Morning Y’allses! Guess where I am while you are reading this? In Oregon! Lawdy but I’m far away from my little log house. GMR and the dawgs and the ghost dawg have the house and cove all to themselves and I bet they miss my pea-headed s’ef.  So, for this post, I’m a’trying to post ahead of time. Just think, as I’m typing this I’m in the little log house, but as you read it, I’m in Oregon. Wheeee ain’t technology grand?

Folkses, as you all may be able to tell from reading my posts on writing, I can be strict about some thangs. I try to have things Right. I want to convince my audience, and you should, too!

With fiction, bring in truths to ground the reader—and whatever those truths are will be  up to the writer to convey them. The amount of danged old research we do will have much to do with the place/time we create. My worlds have been and are in South Louisiana, West Virginia, and here in these western North Carolina mountains. My time has been from the 50′s to the present. My research will deal with that time and place.

If I’m writing about a real town, I need to be accurate about that town to honor its people and sense of Place–I wouldn’t have New Orleans as the capital of Louisiana–lawd!–because it is Baton Rouge; I wouldn’t have Maggie Valley with a McDonald’s because we do not have fast food joints in Maggie (except for one lonely Subway, and who knows how it managed to find its way here). If I’m writing about a fictional town based on a real town, I have a little more flexibility, but I still need to be mindful. Most of my books do not mention specific towns, but my readers can often guess where I am talking about, or place my characters in a specific area that they can relate to.

If you’ses have yourse’f a world that’s all made up, like “Madeupland,” you still must ground the reader in some reality, yawwwl, right? riigghhht! So there will be some research even if it’s minor. Mainly, if you have a “Madeupland” you best be consistent–I tell you what!

All you’ses wunnerfuls out there have seen me write this before: Convince your audience and you’ve done your job, no matter how, what, where, when, who you write. Throw all the danged ole rules out the window for all I care—just convince me, or you lose me as your reader.

Sometimes you may think you have something correct, but you do not! oopsies! It doesn’t hurt to double-check those things you “remember” or “think you know.” I had Tang in a Tender Graces scene–later, it began to bug me, when was Tang invented? I looked it up and Lawd!, it wasn’t released to the general public until sometime after my scene–the astronauts had it first.

Whenever I mentioned a movie or a television show or a football game, I made sure I had it Right. Folkses, you don’t EVEN want to go messing with South Louisiana and have their LSU Tigers game days, or anything else, wrong–lawd! I can’t have my South Louisiana town’s team playing  Old Miss in September when they didn’t play until later in the season, or have them playing in town when it was an out of town game. I can’t have the movie Rocky coming out in March of 1976 (in Secret Graces), because it didn’t release until December 1976. Look It Up and double check–our memories are wankity.

You can play around with research to enhance your books. Was there a significant weather event that would change something with my characters or their Place? Or make something fun/interesting? (Like the South Louisiana Hurricane mention in TG when Mee Maw comes to visit—category five Grandmother.) Or, if in the holler in West Virginia there was a bad snow storm, Katie Ivene wouldn’t be flying to town in her Rambler with the windows open yelling “wheeee!” I found sites that show historical weather. I love those little details even if only I know that on April 13, 1976, it really was 82 degrees and foggy in a town in South Louisiana (I use weather more as a mood or as Place or whatever, not that I go around quoting weather).

Little details help the reader to “Be There” with the character, to ground them in a place or time or mood, maybe even to have them say, “I know that place/event/area!” “Hey, I remember that!”

Don’t rely on only one source. I do the best I can to make sure I have everything as accurate as possible—because you are worth my time and care, you being the reader. Often, I double and triple check my sources.

Will someone find an error if they go through my books with a fine-toothed eye? I don’t know, but it won’t be for lack of me working hard and doing my job best I can. I don’t respect lazy writing and I know it when I read it.

When and how you do your research is up to you. Do what works.

Don’t cheat. Don’t be lazy. It’s worth it to build trust with your readers. Do you want your reader to stop and say, “Hey, wait a minute! This ain’t right . . .” and bump them from your world, your story? Naw! And more important to me: I want my reader to trust me and to forget about me and only focus on the narrator and the story.

Do you make sure you have things Right and build trust? Does your work require extensive research, or just a bit?

See all y’allses wunnerfuls later!

Don’t forget: I changed my blog posting schedule for my Classroom series & I am your Personal Trainer series, etc, to the first and third Wednesdays of the month, with Friday open to photos/art/video: no words. So there will only be posts twice a month, and on most Fridays, photos/video/art with no words.

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