Tag Archives: writer

Cream of the Crap by Jeffery J Micheals

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The following is an expression of opinions based on observations regarding the writing trade. They may be crappy opinions. They are my opinions and frankly, I may not even believe them completely myself. I try not to force my opinions on anyone.

There is a generally held belief that, in writing, or any creative endeavor, the cream of the crop rises to the top. It doesn’t matter that there is a plethora of content available to the buying public. It is commonly believed that things that are crap will sink.

As aspiring or even published authors, many creatives take comfort in this concept and work hard to perfect their craft, seeking to become known for their genius level skill set and integrity to the high road of ART. Many aspiring or even published authors are also working a day job whilst their less than artistically pure colleagues seem to be succeeding in spite of producing derivative garbage.

Surely the public wants higher forms of ART and they are merely unaware of your BRILLIANCE.

Perhaps not.

As a creative, you may have an entirely different, specific set of parameters by which you measure yourself. Different from whom? The paying public of course. And here is where we creatives get challenged in our perceptions. We think ART, but others think entertainment. The successful ones think, “Business savvy” and we keepers of the flame of integrity are sometimes left in the literary society dust.

In the writing game, the important thing to remember is that your perspective is not the one that matters. The masses chose the definition of “cream.” For example, Fifty Shades of Grey, Twilight, Sharknado, and Snakes on a Plane rose to the top. Arguably crap in terms of artistic merit, but in terms of the more valuable entertainment rating, they rock the world of the masses, those with disposable income. Perhaps those starving artist souls reading this might feel “flushable income” is the better term. But I bet most of you have read one of those books or seen at least one of those movies. You do not have to admit it out loud. I’ll join you in not admitting.

Understand that at the time of this writing Sharknado FIVE is released, for better or worse. Why? Money, of course.

Another way of describing this “cream of the crop” belief is to say, “If you build it, they will come.” Crap. If you believe this then the fickle public will certainly tread all over you in the rush to get access to whatever the newest highly promoted trend is that week. Now, I want to point out that this is one of those cynical moments where I make a statement that is harsh and dogmatic and later on try to retract or modify.

The fact is that sometimes, SOMETIMES, there is a moment when against all odds something gains momentum all of its own accord and proves to be an amazing artistic triumph that advances the causes of social liberty and human rights, motivating millions to take a new and unique action in their lives and adjust the world’s global karma. However, more often than not, it is something on the level of Angry Birds or Pokemon that attracts the audience.

In the not too distant past an author would sell their manuscript, receive a contract and soon an ad campaign director and a publisher would place a budget on a project, employ artists and copywriters to create a unique image or series of images to place in newspapers, magazines, on the side of buses, and often even billboards, alerting the public to the importance of your book. Well placed editorials and strategic marketing plans would create a place on Bestseller Lists or in “trending author” articles and you, the more-famous-by-the-moment-author and recipient of such attention, would get booked on PBS talking head shows, or perhaps if you were photogenic enough a spot on daytime talk shows like Dinah Shore or Merv Griffin. If you were witty and personable, Johnny Carson might even bring you on the Tonight Show (Yes, I am that old).

These days success is called Going Viral and relies heavily on algorithms called Bubble Sort and other interesting sounding titles (but really they are just counting hits) and placement of your brand and platform on the internet. It is all done by YOU unless you have a fair amount of money you wish to throw at this effort and can hire someone to do the work for you, results NOT guaranteed. It can all be exhausting. It can detract, discourage, and debilitate you into the status of permanent writer’s block. You can become sidetracked into this morass of externals and somehow never actually finish your books.

I know of at least two writer friends who excel at marketing. They have shiny websites that have won awards. They produce excellent blogs followed by thousands and display excellently reviewed sample chapters from their soon-to-come books. They garner rave comments from those who visit their website and read their blogs…but in over five years neither of them have moved a new word into their manuscript. Have they lost interest or just lost their creative way? Yet they have the appearance of success. They are keynote speakers at conferences, presenting their skills at marketing, social media, internet savviness, viralishness, and platform awareness stuff. They look real good, but there is no substance. At least to my perception.

To my way of thinking, if you wish to be called an author, you need to have written a book. All of the marketing gets to be important at some point, but…here is my opinion and it may be crap.

What you, as an author, need to focus on is creating the best product YOU can produce. Once you have that in hand, polished and finished, professionally edited and with a well-designed cover, then and only then is it time to focus upon making people aware of your best product. For the artistic individual, a person who is more than likely to be rather undisciplined or introverted, this gets tricky. You find yourself shifting from creativity to business acumen and often the two are polar opposites in terms of skill set.

The path to being a successful author is not one that can be completely defined and success can be a relative term. But there are two stages and it is important that creative souls face the reality early on that at some point they will find it necessary to get their work out there and sell their art. It is easier if the book, film, or any other creative endeavor fits an existing and recognizable-to-the-public genre. Selling a mystery series is easier than selling literary fiction, no matter how elegant your prose. People like mysteries (because good triumphs) and they like the same thing but different. Or maybe not so different. But they do like a well written, well-crafted mystery or romance or horror novel. And in that case, the cream really does rise to the top.

I sometimes think I am a snob when I look at the state of the creative business today. But at heart, I still recall the pure enjoyment of reading the old pulp novels from the thirties and forties (Reprints. I am not that old!). I admit, I have seen Sharknado (In my defense it was the Riff Trax version) and enjoyed the crude silliness of the dumb, stupid movie. But I have also seen My Dinner with Andre and Citizen Kane multiple times and even own the BluRay versions of each. I will watch those again and may even see another Sharknado film. I read higher quality these days than in my youth. Why? Am I such a better person for it? No. What I am is more experienced and less able to tolerate what is now, to me, predictable storylines. I want more from a book or movie. Most of the time anyway.

And when I write, I refuse to write downward.

I believe that a writer or creative of any kind can and should seek to show the audience the world in a better light or at least show that there is a path out of dark days of fear and the daily crap that occurs. And sometimes, at the end of the day, when the world is just heavy and the news is perpetually about confrontation and loss, I believe that a writer should entertain and brighten the audiences’ lives. A little well-written nonsense may be just the thing. And if you can make a buck or two while helping others rise out of the crap? Well, maybe I should just get off my high horse and keep my opinions to myself! I do have an idea for a funny zombie story…

jeffreyjmichaels4wendy2Jeffrey J. Michaels is a Gemini. As such he is deeply involved in whatever interests him at the moment. He describes his book “A Day at the Beach and Other Brief Diversions” as “metaphyictional,” combining fantasy and humor with metaphysical elements.

He is currently polishing a sweeping fantasy series of interconnected tales collectively known as “The Mystical Histories.” It is varied enough that he says he may even finish most of the stories.

In his real life he is a well-respected creative and spiritual consultant.
He does not like to talk about his award-winning horror story.

a-day-at-the-beach-book-cover“A Day At the Beach and Other Brief Diversions”

What if… …your perfect day never ended? …your life were to pass before your eyes, one person at a time? …the genie in the lamp had a wish? …you heard the perfect last words? Versatile author Jeffrey J. Michaels invites you to explore new ways of looking at your world and worlds beyond in this selection of metaphyictional short stories.

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

Welcome back to another Monday of writer’s links. This time, I have several great articles that help your writing research and on character development in addition to the usual general writing tips. I am trying to stick with fantasy and science fiction themes, but the tips work for any genre you choose to write. Relax and enjoy!

A Basic Guide to Getting Permissions + Sample Permissions Letter

ON CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

Iconic Cover Art

10 TIPS FOR SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS

How to Write with a Co-author

One Neat Trick to Get Your Name on an SFF Award

Matching Horses to Use, Climate, and Characters in Fiction

5 Tips for Writing a Likable “Righteous” Character

Wonder Woman vs. Atomic Blonde–What Truly Makes a Powerful Female Character?

One Simple Technique to Improve Your Writing in 10 Minutes a Day

Author Interview: Rebekah Dodson

A word weaver, a crafter of worlds, and a deviser of plots, are terms that can describe Author Rebekah Dodson, but she prefers the title of writer. Why? Writers craft the symbols of the alphabet into a communication of beauty and ideas.  Please welcome Rebekah to No Wasted Ink.

author-rebekah-dodsonHello, my name is Rebekah Dodson, and I hail from the very Southern tip of Oregon, in the wild, wild west. I moved to a small town here because I needed out of the big city. I love living in Oregon, especially out where everyone knows my name. My husband of 16 years is a disabled veteran and stay at home dad to two teenagers, who often require more work than toddlers. I have three dogs: a German Shepherd named Max, a heeler named Coulson, and a Chihuahua named Princess. She’s kinda the boss of the whole troop and gets her brothers into trouble all the time. I am a professor at a local college, teaching writing, English, and college survival strategies. In my spare time, I play the piano, read fantasy novels, play Dungeons and Dragons, and of course, write!

When and why did you begin writing?

I originally started writing when I was 12. I was homeschooled and my co-op teacher gave me the option of writing a short story instead of an essay for a history assignment. She told me to write 5,000 words and I did it in a day! My short story, a romance based in the Civil War time period. Lilly Love and Billy Dove, was eventually published with the 4H Clubs of America and went on to win several awards. I put that aside for a long time to pursue my college education in psychology. My true writing career, however, didn’t happen until 2014. I met a man in college who was also a “secret writer” and we started swapping fantasy stories. He really inspired me to keep weaving stories and telling tall tales. It’s been 8 years since we meet, and we are now both teachers and writers.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

The first day I considered myself a writer was when I published my novel series, Postcards from Paris, with Deckard Publishing, on March 3rd, 2014. A friend in my graduate program encouraged me to keep writing no matter what and raved over my work. He designed my covers, edited, and published me. But more importantly, he never stopped encouraging me to share my work with the world. When I saw my first book go live, that was the day I knew I could do this forever.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Although most of my novels are romance, I’ve finally released a sci-fi fantasy novel, Mirrors: The Curse of Lanval Book 1. This time-travel story is reach in medieval scenery, and features a main character who is a snarky, witty paramedic and college student. He’s full of himself and thinks he’s God’s gift to women – until he meets his match in a medieval queen.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always been obsessed with history since a young age. I started this story about a year ago, when I began to wonder what would happen if a college student – with their often lofty, preconceived notions about how the world works – would fare in the past. Most of the inspiration came from observing my students. The story truly came to life when I met my teaching assistant in Sept 2016, a paramedic and college student himself. He started feeding me ideas and specific medical information. In frenzy, the story was finished and polished in about three months.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My specific writing style involves scenery and dialogue. In grad school, Hemingway’s abstract dialogue inspired me to craft characters that share witty conversations that tend to “dance” around issues. Like the hidden agenda in “Hills like White Elephants” my dialogue usually doesn’t address issues specifically, but plays more of a word game. I’m also very into describing weather, scenes, rooms, and buildings. I want to immerse my readers in locale as much as possible.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

My main characters, Gill and his sister Jules, touch a magic mirror they find in a chapel in France, when they travel there for their dear Uncle’s funeral. Much more than an artifact, it’s a running theme throughout the series: Gill looks in the mirror often, because of his prideful nature. A spell caster in the series uses Mirror Image to confuse their foes. Finally, Gill realizes that the mirror is turned on him, when he sees himself for who he truly is.

The series is also called The Curse of Lanval, based on the medieval author, Marie de France, who wrote a lais (poem) in the 12th century called Lanval. This story is about a knight that King Arthur forgot, and even though he seems cursed and bad things happen to him, he is eventually rewarded for being honest, true, and devoted. For this reason I gave Gill the surname of Lanval, because he’s a lot like this knight: not what he seems, but good of heart in the end.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Absolutely! Don’t ever judge a person by how they act. They might seem arrogant and foolish, but underneath they are usually insecure and frightened to show the world their weaknesses. All the characters in this series are a bit two-faced at times, but they don’t mean to. In the real world, we all have our public face and the one we show those close to us. Just because you see someone’s public face in the mirror, doesn’t mean that’s who they really are.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Some of Gill’s college experiences are based on mine, and observations from where I teach. For example, when Gill trips in the hallway and meets a girl he’s attracted to, this actually happened to me in college. I married the man 18 months later.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

The main author to inspire me is the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. I read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series from a young age, and I always wanted to create a world like he did. I’m still working on it, but I do enjoy the adventures that he painted that will stick with me for a lifetime. I also enjoy Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. The dynamics of adventure, fantasy, and romance between Richard and Khalan kept me reading the entire series on the edge of my seat. I love his writing style!

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Not really a mentor, but my writer friend (mentioned above from college days) is who I refer to as my muse. It doesn’t matter if I need help with romance or fantasy or even horror, I can call him and say “Help me!” and he will always answer. His answer is usually, “Did you add dragons?” He is the greatest assistant to my work and I wouldn’t be here today without him.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

C.L. Cannon at Fiction Atlas Author Services designed my cover. I actually selected her in the beginning because she had affordable services. She also edited Mirrors as well and is working on a book trailer for the series. I was so impressed with her enthusiasm to find what Gill really looked like, and she was great at seeing my vision. She also captured Marie, the character in book 2, perfectly. I’ve hired her permanently for the rest of the books in the series.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Everyone always says keep writing, but really, the key is to keep publishing. Go with a publishing house or self-publish, but don’t wait around! Get it out there! Even if you have to design your own cover and edit yourself, because you can’t afford either. DO NOT WAIT. I waited 2 years for my publisher to put out more of my books, thinking I couldn’t do it by myself, and in the meantime I wrote 25 novels (yes, you read that right!). I started self-publishing in October of 2016 and currently have 10 on the market and a huge fan base. Don’t ever wait around to take control of your destiny. Do it NOW.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Whether it’s my book or someone else’s, please value your indie/self-publish community by reading our books and leaving reviews. We work hard to give you best novel we can, and a little bit of our heart and soul is poured into each book. Show the love back whenever you can and pay it forward.

book-cover-mirrorsRebekah Dodson
Oregon

FACEBOOK
TWITTER
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

MIRRORS: The Curse of Lanval Book I

Cover Design: C.L. Cannon

AMAZON

Author Interview: Joshua Grasso

Joshua Grasso is a professor of English at East Central University and the author of three books on Amazon: The Winged Turban, The Astrologer’s Portrait, and The Count of the Living Death. He is also a fellow member of the Fantasy and Science Fiction Network.  Please welcome him here on No Wasted Ink.

author-joshua-grassoHello—my name is Joshua Grasso, and I’m currently an Associate Professor of English at East Central University, a small university in Oklahoma. My day job consists of teaching all those wonderful classes that are the genesis of every science fiction and fantasy book out there—British Literature, World Literature, Shakespeare, Gothic Literature, and every once in a while, a class on Superheroes as Lit. As a teacher, I try to do the same thing I do in my books: introduce students to a new, exciting world that has (seemingly) always existed, and invite them to start exploring themselves, using language, art, and logic as their guide. I think some of the greatest adventures in history actually started in the classroom, by a writer, or an explorer, or simply a dreamer who caught wind of something unique from a lecture, or a discussion, or a reading assignment. That’s where my journey began, anyway—as a first-year college student in a drafty classroom.

When and why did you begin writing?

As an English major in college, I was inspired by all the works I read, particularly the works set in ancient worlds and languages: Homer, Shakespeare, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, etc. These works seemed vitally alive to me, yet also quite incomplete; there were ‘holes’ and gaps in the narratives that seemed to invite a future writer to fill in. They provided the perfect introduction to my own world and ideas.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

In 1995, I entered a one-act play writing contest at my college and surprisingly won (I had never won anything writing-wise, and I haven’t won much since!). The grand prize was a full production of my little play, but as luck would have it, this occurred just weeks before the Oklahoma City bombing (April 1995). Since we were in Oklahoma, that became the focus of everyone’s life and the production became largely forgotten—and was finally just half-performed for one evening. Still, it was a starting point, though I quickly realized my talent did not lie in writing plays (I typically just stuck my characters in a room and set them arguing at each other; I learned that you should probably change scenes once in a while).

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My most recent book, The Winged Turban (2015), is a fantasy novel with a slight Gothic influence set in a Europe-that-never-was. A young woman is married into a strange family and packed away into an ancient estate, where she uncovers a strange old portrait that was never there before, and at least one person is fairly certain is a portrait of her (though it’s well over 200 years old).
What inspired you to write this book?

The cover of the book features a famous 15th century painting by Rogier Van der Weyden, The Woman with a Winged Turban. This is a painting I often use in my classes when teaching the late medieval period, and I’ve always been captivated by it: the painting and the woman. One day, while teaching, I began having a conversation with myself, wondering who she really was, and how I could build a story around it. Those rough ideas slowly blossomed into a full-fledged novel about a year later. The painting—slightly changed—is actually described in the book, so if you know it (or have memorized the cover) you’ll realize immediately what I’m talking about.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I think so, but that’s a dangerous thing to try to nail down. I used to be very verbose, flowery, and full of asides. I’ve tried to cut that down, but even today, I like sentences that flow from specific word use and sentence structures. I love long sentences, too, and I’m not afraid of using semicolons, colons, ellipses, or parenthesis (even though an agent once warned me that writers stopped using them ages ago!). I don’t like writing that is too obvious or clipped. I think writing should be like a ball of yarn: the more you read, the more tangled up you get in the narrative, and just when you think you’ve gotten loose—ah, another tangle! The writing should be clear and readable, but not easy or obvious. It should make you read, re-read, and think a little. That’s what I hope my style does—makes you re-read, not out of confusion (well, once or twice) but for the sheer enjoyment of a sentence or idea.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Ha, this one was easy: I just stole it from the title of the painting. I loved the phrase “winged turban.” It’s just a style of medieval fashion, but it sounds so mysterious, and most people have no ideas what a winged turban is, anyway. You have to read to find out. And then you’re like, “oh, it’s just her headgear.”

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Messages are tricky: a good novel has more than one, and none of them are just bobbing on the surface. Though I would hate to spell any of them out (and there are probably some I’m not even aware of), I did want to stress the idea that the “villain” is rarely a true villain in the sense that we find in movies and old novels. A villain is often just the person who has different goals and desires than you, and is more driven in achieving them. The ‘villain’ in this book is not very evil at all, just desperate to do what she thinks is the ultimate right thing, even if some sacrifices need to be made. And most of the ‘heroes’ agree with her…up to a point.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

No, this is all from my own imagination, books I’ve read, and themes I enjoy reading about. That’s the beauty of writing for me: nothing is autobiographical (other than the ideas/aesthetics), and I can completely immerse myself in characters, worlds, and journeys that are a complete expansion or negation of my own. I don’t want to see myself anywhere in the book if I can help it!

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

The biggest influences on my writing are typically (with a few exceptions) British, very old, and usually mentioned as “classics”: Austen, Coleridge, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Wilde, Mary Shelley, Voltaire, Tolkein, White, and the extensive works of “Anonymous” (particularly Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, etc). For me, a great story has to be coupled with powerful and beautiful language, and the pre-20th century world seemed more at peace with this. After WWI, beauty in writing seemed somewhat naive or improper, so writers adopted a more clipped, terse style of writing which gets to the point but (often) without flair or beauty. I think writing should be beautiful, so that you can fall in love with a single sentence, and only later understand how that sentence fits into the puzzle of the entire piece. I also like works where the narrator is him/herself a character, and writers like Chaucer, Austen, and Wilde were masters at this. After all, if someone is talking, why make him/her anonymous? Give him/her life and a voice, even if the ultimate identity remains mysterious.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Since I’m also a professor, I learned the most from the writers I wrote about and ended up teaching, figures like Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, and Jane Austen. Analyzing their works as a scholar, and then figuring out how to teach them to (largely) bored undergraduates, really makes you appreciate how they work as writers and as books. That has to rub off on you as a writer yourself, and I picked up a lot of Austenisms in my writing, some of which I edited out, but others I kept as a badge of pride. No shame in sounding like one of the greatest masters of prose in the English language!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The only thing I’ve truly learned about writing is to be devoted to it. Don’t do it by halves. By that I mean make writing (not being a writer, or acting like a writer, but actually writing) your entire life. Write every day until it becomes second nature. Read every day without fail. Find the connections between different authors and try out their techniques. Set goals and come as close as you can to accomplishing them. But most of all, write. If you don’t like writing, there’s no reason to become a writer. And if you do, then get to it!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Remember that I’m poor and I can’t afford to pay fancy editors to go over my work. It’s just me and some friends and students. So if you find a typo, tell me about it before you post a 1-star review! I promise to fix it! You can’t believe how hard it is to find every single typo or missing word in a 90 thousand-word manuscript even after reading it five or six times in several different mediums. But other than that, I hope you enjoy the book!

book-cover-the-winged-turbanJoshua Grasso
Ada, OK

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GOODREADS
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

The Winged Turban

AMAZON

 

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

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Good Monday to you all!  This week’s writer’s links focus on general writing tips, science fiction books and a little about writing poetry.  Pour yourself your favorite beverage and have a seat.  Time for some interesting articles, at least in my opinion!

Immersive POV

Handwriting

2016 Locus Recommended Reading List

An Assignment from W.H. Auden’s 1956 Poetry Class

CRISPR-Cas: Editing Life in Science Fiction

How to Outline a Series of Bestselling Books

Unpacking the “Character-Driven” Story—How to Make Your Story Sizzle

Pacing and Momentum in Revision

The Joy of Writing Whatever the Heck You Want

How to Write With a Teen Voice