Monday, January 30, 2012

What is keeping you?

I've met a lot of people along the writer's path who say they want to write but haven't. It seems I've met more of them since I got published.

Perhaps you're one of them. Maybe the urge to write that story or poetry or novel is still tickling the back of your brain, but you've never done it. Never tried putting words to paper (or screen, as the case may be). So let me ask you something:

What are you afraid of?

Okay, there I said it. Yep, good old fashioned fear has kept many a dreamer from achieving their dreams. Fear of trying, fear of failure, even fear of succeeding.

Why would I be afraid of success?

Because when you do write that story, that means you might get the urge to get it published. Face it, many people play music for the enjoyment of it without ever having to record it or get a contract with Epic Records. I love playing guitar and music has aways been an important part of my life but if I never sign a contract with Sony Records, I'm fine with that. I don't need a recording contract or to be on Idol to increase my joy and love of music.

Writing, though, that's different. Writers write for the enjoyment of it, true; but deep down we want to share it with the world. Maybe you work and get that story written and then it sits in your desk drawer and then what? No, you want to share it, get it read by others and that means you got submit it to someone. And that could be the cause of your underlying fear of starting it.
What if they hate it?

It happens. Has happened to me. Can't tell you how many rejection letters I've received, how many critiques I've gotten that surprised me because I thought I'd written the best prose since War and Peace only to find that, much to my chagrin, it wasn't. It makes you want to scream, argue, throw things and all of that, but guess what? It won't kill you. And the sun will rise tomorrow.

Every critical opinion I've received, every rejection letter, even every critique from my editor and publisher, has made me a better writer. No, I don't like it, and I wish I didn't have to hear it, but being a writer requires you have a thick skin and the willingness to face harsh reality. That story that I wrote that is setting in a drawer for three months that I thought was so great now reads stilted, the pacing horrible, and I can drive a truck through the plot holes.

Still, my world didn't end. My wife still loves me and the kids still think their dad is terrific (at least I hope they do). I simply apply buttocks to chair and start to fix it.

Remember, NO ONE GETS IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME. If you write something, if no one ever reads it, if you never make a dime off of it, but it says what you wanted to say, then you are a writer.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


I get asked this question a lot. HOW DO I GET PUBLISHED?

The answers are not as simple as 1-2-3 but let me try to break it down for you. Publishing a book as we normally think of it, has changed a lot with the advent of the Internet and e-books. Even mid level writers are leaving traditional publishers in droves as the ease of doing it yourself becomes easier and more profitable. Those who have name recognition and a loyal fan base are finding that not having a traditional publisher allows them more freedom and profit.

There are three ways to get yourself published:

1) Traditional: this involves sending your manuscript to a well established publisher who will take weeks or months (in one of my submissions, two years) to look at it and let you know. Most traditional publishers require that only literary agents submit manuscripts which means you won't even get read unless you can find a literary agent ready to go out and pound the streets to sell your book. Writer's Market is an invaluable tool to find publishers who publish your genre, their submission requirements (always follow them to the T or your manuscript will find their circular file), and any other info that you might need to know. This is how writers used to have to do it and I started by doing this. Rare is the writer who gets accepted by the first publisher or agent that they contact (J.K Rowling is the exception, not the rule). John Grisham was rejected by 20 different publishers before someone took a chance on A Time to Kill.

2) Vanity press: These are publishers who will print your book for a fee. No rejection, no critiqing of your manuscript (oh you can get it edited for an extra fee). Basically they charge you X amount of dollars to publish X amount of copies. You get the copies and you sell them for whatever price you choose. The more $$$$ you are willing to shell out, the more they will do for you. It is an expensive option and vanity publishing has a reputation of being low quality writing because the writer is not subject to quality standards. You pay the money, they'll publish any old tripe you write, no matter how god-awful it is.

3) Print on Demand. The Internet has changed how to get published. Sites like and others allow you, the author, to download your manuscript into a website and send it to a publisher who will print a copy of your book (or ebook) as orders come in. Overhead is lower and you're not stuck with a bunch of books that you can't sell. Even better, sites can just publish you in e-book form with even lower cost and you get to choose the pricing.
New independent publishers are going for a print on demand operation because it lowers their risks, especially for new untried authors. This approach has allowed many more writers' voices to be heard who might not have succeeded so swiftly under the traditional approach.
Whatever route you choose, there is good and bad. You need to decide what kind of approach would work better for you. For me, I didn't want to pay someone to print my stuff. I felt my time and effort that was put in was payment enough and if it was good enough, someone would want to print it. In the end I was right. Others don't want the hassle of trying to get "discovered" and lean toward vanity presses. Others possess the patience and skills to do it themselves using the Internet and technology now available.
Whatever you decide, good luck and happy writing!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thomas Jefferson by R. B. Bernstein

When I was in school, Thomas Jefferson was portrayed as a saint; a man who wrote the Declaration of Independence and helped frame the Constitution. Jefferson spoke of equal rights for all, liberty, justice, and that all men are created equal.

I usually don't read a lot of biographies because I find them too long and mixed with too many irrelevant opinions. Bernstein's bio of Jefferson, however, is concise and is an easy read.

In truth, Jefferson was much more complex than our teachers told us. He found his ideals of limited governmental powers a burden when he was a diplomat and as President trying to get things accomplished. He exercised more power as President that he had often espoused that a President should. He spoke of equality for all, yet he was a slaveowner who wanted the slaves freed, yet bore a hidden fear that if they were, they might revolt and take over. He also was aware of how much he depended upon slave labor to work his beloved Monticello.

The book also speaks of Sally Hemmings, the slave by which Jefferson supposedly had a relationship (this happens years after the death of Jefferson's wife, Martha, it should be noted). The book does not draw conclusions, only presents facts as best as history knows them.

In all, it was the best biography I've read in a long time and recommend it if you would like a new look at one of our most famous Americans.