Saturday, March 28, 2015

Losing It--Sort of . . .



By Keith N Fisher

Do you ever type words with the letters in the wrong order? Like typing eithK, if you were typing my first name? I’ve caught myself doing that a lot lately. When I get into the zone, and rush to get the words down, as they come, before they’re gone, I go back and edit, discovering many misspelled words. It’s embarrassing. Spelling was always my best subject in elementary school.

I’ve also caught my mind misplacing numbers on the job, as I work at a cash register, and call out the total of a purchase. The cost could be $9.78 and I will say $8.79 or $7.98. There’s no rhyme, reason, or pattern to it, My mind just gets tired and takes over.
  
I think this annoyance, answers a question that came up years ago, though. As a kid, I had trouble in school. It was never diagnosed, (probably because it hadn’t been discovered yet), but I think I had dyslexia. I don’t actually remember anything specific, but I was in a reading comprehension project. Yeah, it was the dark ages.

As time went by and my brain compensated, I managed to overcome those problems. Later in life, and in college, I proved I had abilities, by getting high grades. I managed a 3.8 average, which was quite an accomplishment, considering the outlook of my teachers in high school. I did the GED in the 98 percentile.

So, why am I telling you all this personal stuff? Because, I reminisce a lot as I get older. Actually, I’m making a point, and who better to expose than me?

I don’t know if my mind is reverting, I suspect its just fatigue and laziness, but it reminds me of the many quirks we all overcome in our lives. In our day to day interaction, we get exposed to many joys and sorrows, especially on social media. In my own realm, I feel sorry for people who let a problem or quirk defeat them.

Like in a motocross race, our path is littered with the remains of the wrecks of individuals who tried, but failed to finish. It’s true that sometimes your machine just will not continue, but what happens next? Well in the aforementioned race, many riders prepare for every contingency. There is a reason they travel to events with huge trailers to carry one little machine. Spare parts and even spare machines help them to finish the race, even if they don’t win.

What kind of spare parts could you carry, in order to finish the writing race? If I can overcome whatever learning disability I had as a kid, you can certainly overcome writer’s block. To some of us, success seems to come easy. The rest of us must work harder. Sorry. It’s the way things are, but remember how it felt? That first time you worked to get that toy, instead having your parents get it for you? Achieving goals through hardship is like that, too.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

WRITING PROMPT WEDNESDAY


Write about a wedding from the viewpoints of the groom's cat, and the bride's parrot.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

You Want to Do, What?


By Keith N Fisher

 During a difficult time in my life, I signed up for an occupational rehabilitation program. Simply put, they promised to employee me while I found my direction. They also helped provide resources to achieve my goals. My part of the contract was to show up for work on time. Work hard, make goals, and get through the program as quick as possible.

Part of the program required me to meet with a counselor and a mentor periodically. We would discuss my goals and what I needed to do to accomplish them. To be honest, I had problems setting goals. What do you do when you reach middle age and your world is overturned?

Without going into the psychological, they basically, asked me what I want to do? What job did I want? Beyond retirement, (which was out of the question), I answered truthfully. I would love to make a living as a writer. Deep down, I wasn’t kidding, but before I could add, that I knew it wasn’t likely to happen, my counselors dismissed my suggestion like so much triviality.

They didn’t think I was being realistic, and in fact I was only half-serious. They didn’t give me a chance to talk about being displaced and how hard it was for a fifty-something year old man, to decide what he wants to be when he grows up.

I know we all have difficult times especially during these days, but the truth is I really did want to write for a living. I knew, however, it wouldn’t pay the bills for awhile. Before you think about my self-defeatist attitude, you should know, I agree with you.

We all live with our own demons. Things we went through in the past that shaped who we became, and how we deal with issues. What are yours? What is keeping you from realizing your dreams?

We build lives that interconnect with other lives, and every choice we make affects them in one way or another. My generation was taught to embrace responsibility, and there was a time to quit dreaming. BUT, I am a writer by nature and temperament, I’m an artist, chasing dreams.

How do you balance?

Recently, I mentioned my new resolve. I’m moving forward with my dream. Through all the difficulties in my life during the past few years, I had my writing. Even when I thought I might die, there was my writing. When my garden turned to weeds, I still had my writing. Through several careers, I had my writing.

I’m a writer, see me fly.

Good luck with your writing—See you next week.



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword Part 1

I think it's a strange coincidence that one of the biggest headlines in ten years has to do with racism, and hit the airwaves at exactly the time I am in the middle of reading Uncle Tom's Cabin. (If you are one of the blessed few who aren't aware of what I'm talking about, Google 'Univerity of Oklahoma'.)

But my post here has more to do with the book than with the news.

Uncle Tom's Cabin, written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, was, for it's time, an incendiary work of half-fiction. First published in 1852, seven years before the start of the Civil War, it paints a stark, imposing picture of what slavery really was.  In no uncertain terms, Ms. Stowe debunks every argument that was ever used to make slavery seem acceptable.

I could go into a long diatribe about slavery, racism, abolition and justice for all, but I'm not going to. I'm writing about my thème de la force, the writing itself.

First, let's have a look at Ms. Stowe, herself, so we have an idea about the person whom we are discussing.


First let me say that Harriet Beecher Stowe has just become one of my greatest heroes of all time. That being said, let's turn to her book.

Uncle Tom's Cabin is not a work of perfection, far from it. The author breaks the fourth wall, to insert her own narrative and invectives into the story. The time frame between two separate plots going on at supposedly the same time, do not add up and would be impossible to relate to each other the way they do. It changes from past to present to future tense randomly for no apparent reason. The southern dialect was written so strongly that it was almost non-understandable in places, but then again, anyone whose been to the Deep South knows that this particular point isn't far from true. I swear they don't speak English down there sometimes.

But somehow, none of that mattered, because the strong points were so overbearingly good. So let's see what we can glean from it, as writers.

1. A fearless approach to the subject matter!  Ms. Stowe did not pull punches - ever!  At times, her own heartfelt emotion got the better of her and she launched into a no-holds-barred lecture on the evil and heartlessness of the topic. There was ugliness, but also great moments of beauty.

When the book wasn't condemning slavery, it was encouraging Christianity. And in this topic, there was beauty, but also great moments of ugliness.

All through the book were little paragraphs, each suited to it's own situation, to jab at the conscience of the reader. They did their job well.

If it had been only a Hungarian youth, now bravely defending in some mountain fastness the retreat of fugitives escaping from Austria into America, this would have been sublime heroism; but as it was a youth of African descent, defending the retreat of fugitives through America into Canada, of course we are too well instructed and patriotic to see any heroism in it; and if any of our readers do, they must do it on their own private responsibility. When despairing Hungarian fugitives make their way, against all the search-warrants and authorities of their lawful government, to America, press and political cabinet ring with applause and welcome. When despairing African fugitives do the same thing, - it is - what is it?


These two are to be sold tomorrow, in the same lot with the St. Clare servants; and the gentleman to whom they belong, and to whom the money for their sale is to be transmitted, is a member of a Christian church in New York, who will receive the money, and go thereafter to the sacrament of his Lord and theirs, and think no more of it.


2. Unflinchingly imperfect characters:  She never once needed to put in her own sermons, the characters in the story did it for her. She portrayed them as flawed human beings, even as they sought a better life. The characters in the story range from righteous and enduring Uncle Tom, the the hideous, filthy, lecherous Simon Legree, to an apathetic Master who would have freed his slaves but was too lazy to get around to it, to a loving and hopeful wife Chloe who was willing to work for years if that's what it took to buy her husband back.  A senator, who broke the law he had argued to pass when he was faced with a woman who needed his help. There was Cassy, a fine lady who had lost everything to slavery, including her mind, and Eliza, who ran across an entire river filled with pieces of ice to save her child. Some, including Eliza, are based on facts and are stronger for it.

3. Eloquence. Some of the language in Uncle Tom's Cabin is now considered unacceptable in modern society. However, in this instance we have to consider the time and place of the setting. The often used "n-word" is rampant, because when this was written it was in every day use, even in polite company. That is something we, in our enlightened age, will just have to overlook and go on.

The entire book communicated it's message very clearly, without ever resorting to a lewd scene. We got a good look at Simon Legree, and exactly what he bought his female slave for, in a few, very succinct lines:

"Well, my little dear," said he, turning to Emmeline, and laying his hand on her shoulder, "we're almost home!"

When Legree scolded and stormed, Emmeline was terrified; but when he laid his hand on her, and spoke as he now did, she felt as if she had rather he would strike her. The expression of his eyes made her soul sick, and her flesh creep. Involuntarily, she clung closer to the mulatto woman by her side, as if she were her mother.

"You didn't ever wear earrings," he said, taking hold of her small ear with his course fingers.

"No, Mas'r!" said Emmeline, trembling and looking down.

"Well, I'll give you a pair, when we get home, if you're a good girl. You needn't be so frightened; I don't mean to make you work very hard. You'll have fine times with me, and live like a lady - only be a good girl."

This scene does it's job spectacularly.  There is not a woman alive that can't feel a little sick at the thought of having a filthy, drunk man have that conversation with her. Anyone who has enough experience with the world to understand it will do so, without anything further needing to be said. And anyone too tender to understand the meaning behind the scene can remain so.

***

There are so many passages in this book that are worth quoting! So many sentiments from character and narrator deserve reading and rereading, there's not room to list them here.  My very favorite quote of all:

So much has been said and sung of beautiful young girls, why don't somebody wake up to the beauty of old women?

The "classics" are classic for a reason. They, for whatever reason, have stood the test of time to be loved by generations.  As writers, if we want to write something that will stand that same test, and be loved by readers a hundred or two hundred years from now, we ought to learn what lessons we can from them about what makes a book worthwhile!





Saturday, March 14, 2015

Writer for Sale


By Keith N FisherA few years ago, at the beginning of the e-book revolution, I attended a presentation designed to teach me how to market my books on the Internet. The presenter said something like the writing doesn’t matter. This is how to sell your books. I turned to my friend and said something about selling hand soap.

The question I had was, if the writing doesn’t matter, then why would people keep buying your books? In the past on this blog, I’ve belabored the need for editing. It’s true. A poorly written book turns reader’s hearts away from that author’s next book.

Nevertheless, it must be possible to market books like hand soap, because I heard that particular author’s books were hard to read. Still, he is a successful seller of his books. I suspect that over time, he has learned a few things. I hope he became a better writer.

So if I bind a stack of blank papers and called it a best seller, how many people would buy it? Especially if I priced it next to free? Many of you from the nineteen seventies will remember “The Pet Rock”. Yes it really was a plain old rock somebody cleaned up, packaged, and sold to the public. The thing that amazed me was people bought them.

Have you ever read Elmer Gantry? The image of a salesman who could sell refrigerators to Eskimos also comes to mind. Promotion and sales feed the fire, but is it really possible to sell books without substance?

I want to write a book that makes nonreaders want to read. Many people have criticized JK Rowling, for her writing. She sold Harry Potter because it happened to be the right story at the right time. It’s true, but I wish I were so lucky. She wrote the story that got people reading again. She will be forever linked to a revolution. Many people now, read who never did before.

If I wrote the next Harry Potter, do you think I would need to sell it for ninety-nine cents on the Internet? Maybe, but it would be a tragedy. The market, is what it is, but I remember a time when writers wrote in seclusion. Marketing was for publishers. Either a book sold or it didn’t. In that prehistoric time, hand soap was mass marketed, books were cherished. Good books were treasured. They’re called classics now.

Anyway, while I organize chapters, deal with characters, and try to correctly punctuate, I’m happy in my element. Its what I love to do. Selling my books is the point. Selling the author is necessary, but I can’t sell refrigerators to Eskimos. I have to provide value, I couldn’t live with myself, otherwise.

Good Luck with your writing—see you next week.   


to sell your books. I turned to my friend and said something about selling hand soap.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

WRITING PROMPT WEDNESDAY


Your character finds a handwritten book with no title and no names. They begin to read, only to discover it's the story of their life. What do they do?

Monday, March 09, 2015

Bootstrap Writers--guest blog From Karen Hoover



It’s hard to believe how many years it’s been since we started the LDS Writers Blogck. None of us knew much about the writing world back then, and so many of us have gone on to publish and mentor other writers in this awesome craft. For me, it’s been an amazing journey, filled with a lot of ups, and some serious downs, but overall, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

My journey has taken me from a wannabe, know nothing writer, to an attendee of, first, LTUE, and then the LDStorymakers Conference. It was there I met my fellow Blogckers and the authors who would drag me into success. 

I began to enter the first chapter contest, taking first and second in Fantasy in 2007, first place in fantasy in 2008, and the grand prize in 2009. I was also offered a contract at that conference and my first book, The Sapphire Flute, was published the following year. But none of that would have happened without people like LDStorymaker members, Julie Wright, James Dashner, Jeff (J. Scott) Savage, Josi Kilpack, Candace Salima, and Tristi Pinkston.

In addition, so many members of Authors Incognito read and gave me feedback: Nichole Giles, Darvell Hunt, Rebecca Shelley, Danyelle Ferguson, Connie Hall, Ali Cross, Christine Bryant, Elizabeth Mueller, Kimberly Job, and Keith Fisher. I know there are a ton more people out there, and if I’ve forgotten your names, I apologize. You’re in my heart.

The point I’m trying to make here, is not to name drop (though that’s always kind of fun.) No, it’s about how important it is for us to stick together, support one another, lift each other, and always be looking for another way to pay it forward. One published author took my early manuscript, when I was sure I was going to die an “almost,” and showed me what I was doing wrong as well as what I was doing right. She taught me how to look at things differently so that I could write differently, and it was that next year I got my first contract. Another published author roomed with me at LTUE every year and was constantly kicking my butt and encouraging me, telling me how great I was, how much she believed in me, and reassured me that she was my friend just because she liked me, not because she felt sorry for me.

I have really tried to do the same thing, despite some serious family and health challenges. When I reach out to others and encourage writers who feel like they are in that “almost” stage, I feel better about my life, and love knowing it helps them. It’s also extremely rewarding to see them finally get published (YES, Shari Bird, I am talking to YOU!)

So, despite it being March, why don’t we make a New Year’s, better yet, a SPRING (a time of new beginnings) resolution to pull our fellow authors up and along? We all need it, published (indie or traditional or both) or unpublished. It doesn’t matter. We are all WRITERS. All it takes to gain that title is to WRITE, and I for one, intend to give back as much as I can. I even started a “business,” of doing just that. It’s called Tin Bird Publications and Author Services. Tin Bird is named for my sons, the publications part is for my indie works, but the Author Services is there to help others, whether they can afford it or not. If you need some help, even if you can’t afford it, know you can always reach out and ask, because, like I said, it’s all about paying it forward.

Give it a try. The best payment in the world is seeing the success and happiness it brings to others like yourself. No matter what level you’re at, there’s always someone who can benefit from what you know.

Come on. Do it. I dare you. :)

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Throwing Acid on the Brand


MIGHTY SHINE TARNISH REMOVER on Ebay
By Keith N Fisher

Last week I talked about a comment made by a presenter at LTUE and how it effected me. It goes deeper. I found myself second-guessing, not just my writing, but my life. Then, this week’s roller coaster added more rude awakenings. I was forced to examine my presence on Facebook.

When I established my account in 2008, I wanted to promote my writing career. It was nice to find old friends from high school and relatives I don’t interact with, very often. As time went on, and my friends list grew, I discovered that many of my old friends had grown up with different points of view. That wasn’t a problem, but when some of them began re-posting political hatred and anarchy, I tried to be the voice of reason.

I’d seen it before and it scared me, so I tried to show the other point of view and I tried to cite the true events in history. What happens to a society when they re-write true events to suit their opinions? But I digress. The point is that the hatred offended my peace of mind. To see my old friends involved made me sad. So I tried to be the voice of reason. Usually, my friends would disagree and we were still friends.

As the years progressed, I tried to ignore the hate, but me, being me . . .

In my campaign to promote reason, I’ve been called many names, even coward. Many people assumed more about me than they will ever know. Most recently, however, the personal attack came from one of my oldest friends. Someone who should know me better. I’m still reeling.

When the character assassination reached a new low, I sat back, trying to examine my words. What did I write that would ignite that kind of anger? The term, anger begets anger, is true. Therefore, I will no longer try.

I’ve blocked political comments and some religious ones. Now I ask, How can we humans survive unless we’re willing to speak kind words to each other? Religion doesn’t excuse Intolerance, nor does the lack of it, excuse ignorance. You see? It’s hard to not feel vindictive.

My heart is heavy, now. My life is in flux, and I need to re-group. (That’s a pile of cliché’s, is it not?) Anyway, it’s time for me to get back to promoting my career.

As writers learning how to promote a career, we all discover the concept of a brand. Basically, our brand is the established parameters of who we are and what we write. Then we promote, using that brand as the product. If we were potato chips, we would spend our time making sure people like those chips and continue to purchase them. It would be counter productive to whisper negatives about the brand.

In one of the rude comments expressed on Facebook the other day, one of my good old friends lambasted my punctuation, saying, “I thought you claim to be some kind of writer”. In the heat of the moment, I had been typing fast and not paying attention to sentences. In trying to set the record straight, I didn’t just tarnish my brand I threw acid.

I hope you will learn from my indiscretion. Be careful with your brand.

Good luck with your writing—See you next week. 


Thursday, March 05, 2015

Shake it up

by C. Michelle Jefferies

I have a side job as a content and structure editor. I see a lot of work pass across my desk both as paid and volunteer work. In that work see a lot of errors that could cost you as an author a chance of getting out of the slush pile. I thought it might be a good idea to give you an idea of some of the things I see.

Today I want to talk about stereotype. Especially when it comes to character.

When I say the word "rebellious" in regards to character how many of you thought of leather jackets, piercings, tattoos, and the stuff that goes with that?

How many of you thought about something different?

How many of you want to take a guess the percentage of people that thought of the first description?

How about the straight laced, straight A student? Or the CEO of a internet start-up?

What do you see? Is it what everyone else sees? This could be a problem.

Why? Because we are so used to the "normal" stereotype of any character that we gloss over that character and that makes it difficult for us to identify with them. We all ready know exactly what that character is like and is going to do and say. We tune out because its all been done before.

What if I told a story of a young boy who was as rebellious as they come but instead of leather he wore dress slacks and a different colored vest to school each day? A respected doctor who has both arms sleeve tattooed? A private school instructor who wears black suits, narrow ties and drives a powder blue Vespa? The hard nosed leather jacket wearing kid at school who spends his weekends doing crafts with, and reading books to kids at the children's hospital. Because his sister is living there, or maybe he just wants to be there to help out.

Do these characters appeal to you? Do you want to know more? This is where your investment into your characters and their characterization can pay off for you as a writer. This is your chance to create a character that not only will your reader resonate with. It will get the attention of those who are expecting you to do more of the same. It makes you as a writer stand out and get noticed.

As a writer don't give us the standard. Break the mold and really impress those who matter. Take the time to create good characters and you will see the results of your effort.

Oh and by the way? The Dr. with the sleeve tattoos? He's real.

What will you create?