As Promised

As I promised in my last post, I’m going to talk about negative comments; actually, I’m only going to talk about one negative comment. It was about my blog and blogging style, and interestingly, it didn’t even come from one of my fellow bloggers.

One thing is for sure, we writers have to grow a pretty thick skin. In my opinion, a thick skin is crucial to maturing as a writer. How else can someone you trust, tell you what you need to know, and do it without scarring you for life?

On September 22, 2014, a handful of hours after I received and read my first comments at Davyd’s Blog, someone I trust asked me how my day was going. I was still stoked about getting my first positive comments, a bunch more likes, and even a few more followers. BTW, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I was getting a little anxious about the lack of comments . . . and this individual was well aware of the fact.

I thought to myself, rather than tell her outright how my day was going, it would be cool if she went to Davyd’s Blog and read the new comments for herself. I was still pretty happy and I thought she would be too.

To my disappointment, she only elected to read the comments, not the posts, and then advised me that if I wanted to get more traffic, I needed to shorten my post. She said nothing about content regardless of whether or not a post generated comments, just that my posts were and are, way too long. She didn’t even pass judgment on the comments themselves, good, bad, or indifferent. The only thing she said was that when a reader sees an 800-word post, they run the other away.

Is this true? Do my bloviations repel? My ears are open, my skin is thick, and this post is done. What do you think?


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The Day After Yesterday

Today is the day after yesterday, which turned out to be a very significant day for me. Why? Because three very important things happened to me. One has nothing to do with writing and so I’ll leave it for another time. The other two . . . we can talk about.

It’s been almost a month since I published “Positives & Negatives, Tricycles & Pancakes” and early signs are looking—I don’t want to jinx it. However marketing, which is something writers have to do, not want to do, isn’t easy and it takes a lot of work. As part of my marketing plan, I’ve become active in social media. I know. In social media marketing you never admit that you’re doing it, marketing that is, it’s a cardinal sin. But the truth be told, for a one-man show like me, marketing is a part of my life and if I didn’t talk about it, I wouldn’t be honest. I’m not perfect, but I try to be honest. At least my social media marketing isn’t as gratuitous as say, Doubleday or Penguin. They and others like them all have active Facebook/Twitter campaigns. But honestly, who among us really thinks they care a hill of beans about what our children brought home from school today? Unless of course, it was one of their books.

This blog, to a much smaller extent than other social media, is still a part of my overall introduction to the world and therefore, helps with marketing. But in the scheme of things, it differs from Facebook and Twitter in some important ways because here, it’s all about me. I say what I want, for as long as I want, and it’s up to you whether or not someone reads it. Just like book sales. If I write a book and publish it, you, the reading public are the ones who decide if anyone will actually buy it. No one is holding a gun to your head.

As a writer/publisher (I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this blog then you are one of the tribe or thinking about it), you know people who have read your work, or better yet, purchased and read your work. Of these, you’ve probably asked them at one time or another, what they thought. Maybe they liked it, maybe not, and maybe they had some constructive criticism; we’ll stay away from the jealous destructive criticism. You ask, they tell, and some of it is helpful and a lot of it is not. But there’s a fundamental problem with the entire process. The people critiquing your work know you and their underlying agenda is usually not to hurt your feelings, so they lie. No, that’s too harsh—they soften the truth.

That’s why social media marketing has some problems. Most of the people you contact in the beginning and for a long time after, know you in some way. If I put on my publisher’s hat and start to think like a businessman, then I have to ask an important question. Sure, you can sell a copy of your book to your coworker’s soon to be ex-boyfriend, but can you sell a book to Jane Doe living in Phoenix, AZ who doesn’t know you, your coworker, or her soon to be ex-boyfriend? The answer is. Who knows? Maybe.

I’m new at publishing and I’m new at blogging, though to me it seems entirely plausible that if you can get people to take time out of their busy day to read a post on your blog, you probably can get them to consider buying a book. But if you can motivate someone to not only read your blog, but afterward, leave you a positive comment, you might actually be on your way to finding something better than a sale—you might have a fan.

With that in mind, my blog has only been up for a short time but I was beginning to get concerned about the lack of comments. I had plenty of likes and my follower list was growing thanks to all of you, but comments, there weren’t any.

Yesterday, I finished what I was writing early because I got an earlier than normal start. With the extra time, I decided to work on my blog and when I signed in, lo and behold, there they were, my first comments. And to top it off, all three were positive. Thank you all very much. Yes, I know three comments aren’t thirty-three and hell, I may not get anymore. But the way I see it, it’s a start, and a sorely needed pat on the back. It’s lonely out here . . . all by my lonesome.

Needless to say, for anyone who might want to put in his or her two cents, don’t be shy. I’m not. I tell you what I think; it’s only fair that I hear what you think. Good or bad. By the way, you may have noticed that we only talked about one of the two writing related things that happened to me yesterday. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the other, negative comments.

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Right or Rewrite, is that the question?

When I first started out as a writer, I never thought I’d be a rewriter. In fact, twenty years ago if you had told me that I’d be a writer of anything except business letters or the occasional thank-you note, I would have laughed at you. And I’d have good reason, I was in construction, I worked with my hands, I built things, real things. I didn’t sit around writing all day.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that my experience as a contractor would be invaluable to me as a writer, check that, a rewriter. I know. On the surface, it doesn’t make sense and I’ll tell you honestly, I didn’t put the pieces together for years. It wasn’t until a friend of mine who was critiquing my work, happened to mention offhanded, that I write in layers. We were talking about writing styles and she said that mine was like layers of an onion. And then she asked me how I did it. I was truly lost for an answer because I had no idea what she was talking about—and I told her so.

At first, I think she thought I was being evasive, but the topic came up often and my answer was always the same. She wasn’t being pushy about it or anything, but her inquiries got me thinking, maybe too much. I really didn’t have an answer and . . . I don’t know if this is going to make sense to anyone, but I didn’t care that I didn’t have an answer. That’s the thing that bothered me the most, and it caused me to think even more.

You see, I’m the type of person who needs to understand how the things in my life work. The phrase “it just is” drives me up the wall; I need to know why it just is, except when it comes to my writing. Eventually, my friend got tired of asking and concluded for herself, that my style was purely an organic process. Again, a statement like that about anything else except my writing would drive me crazy. But in this case, it served as the perfect answer. To this day, I still use it and people accept it as gospel. Personally, I wouldn’t if I was the one asking about someone’s style or process, and maybe that’s why I’m writing this blog. By the way, for those who don’t know, style and process are two different things.

So, here it is for anyone who’s interested. First, I’m going to address process because it’s the easiest, the mechanics behind my style. I get up in the morning and go into my office, sit down in front of my computer, and start writing. I do this every morning. That means seven days a week. Excuses are for other things, writing in the morning comes first. Everyone who knows me knows not to try and contact me until after lunch. If they call before that, they get my voicemail. You want an example of organic? That’s it. And guess what? It’s fun.

If you write the way I do, it doesn’t take long before you have a whole bunch of shit that most people wouldn’t pay a penny to read. Think of it as a huge construction site so completely littered that you can’t take a single step without walking on something. Many of those things are hazardous, like a 2×4 with random nails sticking out of it. Ouch! Then, there’s OSHA, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Believe you me, if you let your construction site get as bad as I describe and OSHA hasn’t already written a citation, they will, and you’ll get a visitor or two, and it won’t be cheap.

So how does this all relate? Here’s a simple illustration. In construction, you go ahead and put in place policies and procedures to address the problem, and then assign people to carry them out. For our little scenario, three to five laborers and a hand full of dumpsters should suffice, when the clutter builds up, they get rid of it. Cleaning (putting refuse in the dumpster) and organizing (making sure that tools and machinery are properly secured), is what the last half hour of every workday is used for, and one of the best ways to keep OSHA at bay.

In writing, it’s the same thing, only I’m the laborer, the dumpster is my delete key, and rewriting is my procedure. It’s what has to happen before I make things right, and that’s when my writing style, the style of layers, begins to take shape. I suppose that in order to complete the analogy, I need an OSHA equivalent but fortunately for us writers of fiction, censorship is still limited. Let’s hope it stays that way.

I used to dread the thought of having to rewrite everything I already spent days, weeks, and even months writing. Now, I not only rewrite, I do it all the time. I don’t dread it; I look forward to it—making it right is fun too.

PS – I rewrite twice as much as I write. Just kidding, it’s more like four times as much—okay, five . . .

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Ray Rice, the NFL and Stupid

This will be short.

If you, me, or pretty much anyone else who isn’t in the NFL, punches a woman in an elevator, we go to jail. As it should be.

If there is video tape of you, me, or anyone else sucker punching a woman in the face so hard that she passes out, we go to jail—no bail. As it should be.

If a man punches a woman in the face so hard that she passes out and has to be dragged from an elevator, after which, she marries him, then she shares culpability for the future. As it isn’t, but should be.

There is no cure for STUPID!

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The Here and Now, writing time

When I was a kid, I started working in construction as a laborer. It was hot and it was hard work, but I used to make twice as much money as my friends who had more traditional after-school jobs, so I kept at it. Still, I looked forward to the day when I could get up in the morning, head out to an air-conditioned office, and spend the day working in comfort.

Boy-oh-boy, how life has changed. Now, I sometimes go days without seeing the sun or taking a walk outside, mostly because I lose track of time. First, I start my day by writing, and then it’s lunchtime; after lunch I go back to finish one last thing, and then it’s dinner. The next day is the same, and so on. I know it sounds strange to lose big chunks of time like that, but if you write regularly, you probably know what I’m talking about.

The first time it happened to me, it was winter in Florida, which more closely resembles a cool summer anywhere else. We really only have two seasons, rainy hot summer, and not so rainy-not so hot summer. It was one of those Florida winter days that I woke up before the sun, got ready for work, and headed out the door for an early start. Yes, I used to get into the office early so I could get some writing done before the workday began. I almost never got to work early to get actual work done.

About forty-five minutes after settling in behind the keyboard, I felt some pretty strong hunger pangs, strong enough that it brought me out of my writing world. Back then, I was a one-man show and there weren’t many distractions; it was easy to get lost in the words. Phones, problems, customer complaints, all vanish unless they had a part to play in my writing world. It was a glorious way to start the day and the beginning of a habit I still enjoy today.

As for the hunger pangs, while not being a part of my writing world, somehow they got my attention. My grumbling gut was not to be denied. So I hit the save button and decided to go to Burger King for some breakfast. This was years ago when BK Lounge was better than McDonald’s (I think they both blow today). It was still dark and I figured that if I hurried, I might have enough time left to do some more writing before having to suffer another tedious workday.

To save time I went to the drive through. I was planning to order my usual, two sausage and cheese sandwiches (no egg, I hate eggs) and a large cup of coffee, then bring it back to the office. But the menu board wasn’t working so I had to drive up to the first window to place my order. The teenage girl slid the pass-through window open and asked me for my order and when I gave it to her . . . she just looked at me like I was from another planet. At first, I didn’t think much of it because, well, she was a teenager working a full shift at BK lounge. If she were one of the sharper tools in the shed, she’d be on her way to school, or at least waiting for a bus to take her there. After all, it was a school day. I figured she couldn’t cut it in high school and recognized her limitations early enough to start forging a career in cashiering, so I cut her some slack and repeated my order. She just kept staring at me like I was morphing into my true alien form right before her unimpressed and very condescending teenage eyes.

The next thing I knew, there was a twenty-something pimple faced guy standing next to her. His badge said, Assistant Manager Dave. Dave looked at me (Davyd), straight in the eye and said with as sincere a voice as a condescending twenty-something-assistant-manager could muster, “Sir, we aren’t serving breakfast anymore, it’s dinnertime.”

A moment or two later, both burger professionals realized that I was in the process of realizing what time of day it was, and when they did, they couldn’t help themselves, they started to laugh. I could hear two or three others behind the fry cooker laughing too. And yes, there were customers inside waiting to place orders and shaking their heads, wondering about the moron at the drive through. I could see them in the convex mirror behind the cash registers. I couldn’t see clear enough to tell if they were laughing but I think it’s safe to assume here.

Anyway, I finally boarded the here-and-now train with everyone else, ordered two whopper meals, and then pretended as if nothing happened. Why two meals? Simple. One to eat on the way back to my office and one to eat while I worked. I was starving and apparently, I hadn’t eaten anything all day—also, I still had a lot of writing to do.

True story. Has this, or something like it, ever happen to you?

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NFL—stay the hell out of it

In my last blog, I promised an explanation so here it is. In my opinion, the NFL really stepped in it. Trying to regulate morality is like trying to teach a dog not to sniff butts. Good luck. And if you need an example in human terms, Google “prohibition” laws. One word says it all. If you prohibit something, people will find away to do it. Now before you get your panties in a wade and say abuse is not the same as drinking, I understand that.

The point I’m trying to make is that if you are an abuser, making it illegal won’t stop you, and I have proof. Abuse is already illegal, and it still happens. Please keep in mind; I’m not saying that a spouse and/or child abuser should be given a free ride. What I’m saying is, this is the USA (at least for the time being), and a man or woman is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

In the past, the NFL had it right when it came to players running afoul of the law. I’m pretty sure the basic policy was to withhold comment until after the judicial system had its turn. This is a very important position to have, and for good reason. If I were an attorney and my client, a NFL player was losing his case, the first thing I would do is file for a mistrial, and base it on the fact that the national jury pool was poisoned by negative publicity. Even if this type of case only goes before a judge and there is no jury, the same principle applies. Judges have to get reelected and who in their right mind would risk their career on something as obscure as an impartial decision? Not many.

As I said before, I think the NFL has really stepped in it with both feet, and knee-high. By suspending a player prior to a judicial decision, they are presuming guilt, and then advertising it. Judge and jury, and it’s dangerous. Ask yourself, where does it stop?

What if an NFL player making big money playing football, wasn’t in the NFL, but instead, was an engineer, or a taxi driver, or a cook at the local pizza shop. The engineer might be able to keep himself afloat for a few months without a paycheck, but the other two are probably in bad shape after two weeks (or whenever the rent is due). Should they be suspended from their job or worse, fired, just because a whacky ex-wife or an angry girlfriend pressed charges? The answer is, maybe, but that’s for the courts to decide.

Political correctness has a price; let’s see if the NFL has to pay up.

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Peterson and Parenthood, and time gone by

It’s in the news; it’s on everyone’s mind, so I guess it’s on my mind too. Adrian Peterson whooped his kid with a switch and the country is in an uproar. Before I go any further, let me say this. Nothing appalls me more than a full-groan man beating up on a defenseless child. For me, that takes first place, followed closely by animal cruelty, but that’s for a different blog. I just wanted to frame the picture, set the bar, and give you a baseline for understanding the reason I’m writing about this subject.

Perspective. I have a perspective and anyone who has read my book Positives & Negatives, Tricycles & Pancakes (PNTP), knows this. That aside, I don’t usually comment about how I obtained my perspective, but for the purposes of this discussion, I will relate a personal experience.

I don’t remember what it was that I did. I was young, and in the grocery store with my mother. As a child, I knew that it was important, no matter what type of store we were in, to keep my hands in my pockets. If I didn’t have pockets, my hands were to be by my side. Under no circumstances was I supposed to touch anything unless I planned to buy it. Ask any merchant and they would probably agree, it’s a simple and polite rule parents should still teach. Anyway, since I was too young to have any money of my own, there was no reason for me to touch anything. My best guess is that I probably got caught touching something, something that didn’t belong to me.

Back then, parental discipline wasn’t administered in private the way it is now. It was for all intents and purposes, instantaneous—and public. Why? Because it was expected. As a parent, it was your responsibility to make sure that your children were well behaved. If they weren’t, corrective measures were in order and the sooner the better. A child needs to understand immediately after doing wrong, that it is wrong, otherwise the disciplinary connection is lost. I probably touched something that didn’t belong to me and I was spanked, and it was public.

Honestly, I don’t remember the actual spanking and as I said before, I don’t remember the true transgression. So how is it that I can relate this story? The answer is—I remember the embarrassment. There I was, in the middle of the grocery store getting spanked right in front of all the other kids, some of whom I knew. I remember the giggles, yes, the giggles, because back then we all got spanked, and giggling was like saying ha-ha, you got caught. I also remember the look my mother gave me. It was the look all moms had. It was the look that said, see, you got what you were asking for. My only salvation was that after I got the look, each mom turned to their child, or children, and gave them the same look. Only the translation was a little different, though never misunderstood. It said, see, you do what he did and you’re going to get it too, only I’ll do it harder.

The snickering stopped.

My point is this. There isn’t a fine line between spanking your child with your hand (or even a switch if need be), and say, breaking an arm or dislocating a jaw. Welts rise, and fall, and then go away. Broken anything takes a lot longer to heal. The line isn’t fine—it’s distinct. It’s blaringly bright. It’s a line that is so obvious, it should be part of a parent-licensing test. Oh crap, I take that last one back; more government is the last thing we need. Shoosh! Okay, returning to my point—if that line is little more than a fine thread and difficult for you to discern, then it’s simple, you shouldn’t be a parent. No ifs, ands, or butts (get it).

Unfortunately for Adrian Peterson, more government in the form of law enforcement and the judiciary is exactly what he finds himself dealing with. Who knows how this quagmire is going to resolve itself. But has anyone considered what will happen if Mr. Peterson goes to jail? What kind of lasting damage does that do? How does a family recover from a spanking like that?

And what about the NFL? The NFL should stay the hell out of it. But that’s for another blog too.

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Indie-Author vs. Vanity Publishing

I’m not a historian and I don’t feel like doing detailed research to back this up, but I think we can all agree that the publishing industry is evolving. It used to be that as a fledgling writer, if you couldn’t get an agent, you couldn’t get a publisher. For decades (maybe even a century), that was how writers got their start. First, they had to be good enough to convince an agent to take them on, and then they had to be good enough for the agent to sell to a publishing house. Of course, if that didn’t happen, it was never the agents fault—poor writer.

If publishers needed a filter, then agents were the first sieve, after that, their internal review committee was the cheesecloth in the colander. If you made it through that straining challenge, you were rewarded with a contract that most likely had no advance, a ten to fifteen percent commission rate, and out of that, you had to give fifteen percent to your agent. And lest you thought you might out smart that agent by renegotiating the fee—guess again. Your check from the publisher didn’t come to you. In fact, it wasn’t even made out to you, it was usually a joint check made out to you and your agent, or just made out to your agent. They took their cut before you saw dollar one.

I think it was sometime in the mid-nineties, computers were commonplace and word processors made everybody an editor (yeah right). Anyway, mom and pop publishing houses were springing up faster than Dell could ship PC’s and printers. Soon, there were thousands of publishing options available to the would-be writer, and as time went on, demand and sophistication increased too. The big publishers had a real problem because while product quality was going up, competition was keeping prices affordable. How affordable? I wonder if anyone has ever surveyed people who say they’ve written a book, and asked them if they still have a garage full of unsold copies. That’s how affordable.

Sure, anybody who wanted to write a book and publish it, could, at their expense, but then what? Yep, the big New York publishers had a problem: it was called change. But they also had a huge safety line—distribution. Maybe it was then that the term vanity publisher was coined and the PR campaign was so expertly employed, that the term took on a negative connotation that still resonates today. It implies that you aren’t good enough for legitimate publishers, so you paid someone to put your words in a book.

In many cases, this was probably true but not all, yet none, at least none that I know of ever broke through. The sad thing is, we as readers are the ones who pay the price; we will never get the chance to read those garage classics, those backyard bestsellers that may have been. Why? Because there were a lack of distribution channels fostered by a negative image that shut the independent author out of the industry.

It was looking pretty bleak until the Literary Gods took pity and sprung forth from the internet, the eBook. Hallelujah. Thank you Amazon. The distribution problem evaporated, but wait, the stigma of being self-published did not.

Well, it took some time but the independent author, the one who never majored in English Literature or went to journalism school, finally has a means to distribute. Sure, there is plenty of vanity publishing going on but that gets weeded out fast, as it should, by the free market. But for those of us who take our craft seriously and put in the time, effort, and money to perfect our work, the independent author has a place to turn, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

Conventional publishers have the same problem they did before, and the PR campaigns are in gear. But the truth is, good writing is good writing, no matter where it’s published, and the truth is out.

I’ve never thought of myself as a Vanity Writer and I’ve never contracted with a Vanity Publisher. Today, my novel is published and I’m the writer/publisher. And you know what—I like it.

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