You You, You

Dateline, downton Phoenix, AZ:
Just saw a lady walking down the street in the 110° heat talking out loud to herself. No one seemed too concernered, although she was engaged in a pretty hefty argument.

You’re a writer, you know how it goes. You work out your character’s dialog, say things the way they would say them. Sometimes you find a catchy little phrase – spesk quickly, my time is not my own – that you want to hold on to, because it’s exactly what your guy Hector would say.

Sound of skidmarks. I start sweating, and it isn’t the heat.

Me, spinning through the conversations I plan to write. Crazy lady having phantom conversations.

Does she know she looks crazy? Does she know the other person isn’t there? Would she believe you if you told her? If you showed her a picture, would she not see the other person?

Are the conversations I quietly work out in my head during my walks not quiet at all? Do I simply not see people staring at me as I pass?  If you showed me a video of my solo, out loud, rambling conversations, would I even believe it?

It’s totally creeping me out, because there’s no way to tell if you couldn’t tell. Maybe we’re all sitting in cardboard boxes…

You know, writing is a lonely business. When you purposefully enter a world of your own creation, you walk a thin line between realities. Before you step in, make sure you believe what you believe. Maybe that’s what makes it such a cool art form.

Did I say that out loud?

Character Hijackery

Imagine setting up something really, really complex, like an Ocean’s 11 style casino robbery, or maybe a game of Sorry – okay, maybe not that one – but something really complex, that you’ve puzzled over for months until now, now, this very minute, you’re ready to go. To pull the trigger, dial the phone, hit Execute, or RUN, or whatever it is that sets your plan in motion. Good for you.

You’re a writer, you know how it is. You slave away over your work, because you love it, and it’s good for you, and because you have something that needs to be said.

I’m working on Novel Number 3, tentatively called The Terrible – it’s a joke that plays out in the… rats, I’ve given it away. Well, forget that part.

So, it may seem like I’m rambling, but I’m giving you crumbs. Clues, if you will. Because you’re smart, and you’ll piece it all together.

Did you get anything yet?

Sigh. Okay, here it is. I’ll use little words: I’ve started a third novel. My first, MARIGOLD’S END, is under revision, my second, DROPPINGTON PLACE, is self-published, and I can’t sit here on my hands and just die, can I? I mean, can you?

This third novel is carefully laid out, with four strong central characters. Well, it was four, but, just yesterday, I needed a transition piece, a moment that both gives us time and place and setting, but that also starts the storytelling ball rolling.

So I created this simple fellow – not much more than a name, really – to carry the news of the French ambassador’s arrival. Not so bad, huh? Except that he needed a little background, and a little definition, a little purpose…

And then the son of a biscuit stole my whole story! He’s none of the four dried up, dowdy guys I’d so carefully designed. He’s young, he’s brave, and he’s innocent.   Suddenly, the four guys are bit players to this kid’s story. What the heck? It’s like Ensign Checkov taking over the Enterprise! R2D2 piloting the Millennium Falcon. Wait, what?

All seriousness aside, I’ve been thinking about this story for a while now. My first novel was a labor of love – and very, very hard to write, rewrite, and… I think I’m on the seventh version. The second novel was just plain fun – I wanted to explore Elizabethan words, and magic, and make a young adult story that was positive and generous.

This new one, tentatively called The Terrible (I think I mentioned this already – please try to keep up), is my story. It’s my… my way of giving back. It’s set on the French/Spanish border in the year 1657. No, it’s not the Three Musketeers, but that book has always been my go-to for inspiration and grounding.

So, The Terrible is the story I was created to tell. It’s the novel that I became a writer to write. It’s the story – I think. I know you have a story like that – it’s why you write.

If it turns out bad, I’ll come up with some clever way to dismiss it. But, it won’t be bad, because this is the story. This is my story.

But, and here’s the part that is just crazy, this new guy’s story isn’t mine. I’m somewhere in this book, but I haven’t found out where. You know the guy has power, because he took over my whole dang life story just by getting named!

More to follow…

 

 

What Tiggers do Best

You’re a writer. You know how it is. You eat, sleep, and dream with other people’s minds. What would it be like to an inch tall, you muse, or in command of a shoe? For a writer, the world is full of little what-ifs and I-wonders.

But what happens when all your questions are answered for you?  When your quest to sort the world out is brought to an end.

My best friend, whom I subsequently married, and I used to puzzle over who was happier: man in his quest for answers, or the cow in the field who has no questions?

She thought that perhaps the questionless state might be a form of heaven. I argued that it seemed more likely a form of hell.

Heaven or hell, it recently presented itself to me in the form of the ultimate job. For a moment I hung up my writer’s spurs and thought I might settle in for the long haul, might hitch my horse to this wagon instead of my own.

It is hell. Might just as well shovel dirt onto my face, because there’s nothing deader than a creative that doesn’t create. Take these pencils from my hands – I don’t need them anymore.

As you’ll recall, Tigger searched the Hundred Acre Wood trying to find “what Tiggers lke best.”

What I found is that a writer is a writer is a writer, and perhaps that’s what this Tigger does best. Tiddily pom.

Do that Thing that You Do

 

You. Put down those fish crackers, I’m talking to you. Serious – this is a serious talk. No goofing around about anything. Just drop the crackers.

So, what do you do? Me? I’m a writer. It’s what I do. Technical writing, a little marketing, a little blogging, a couple of novels, a couple of short stories. It’s what I do. Working on a screenplay right now.

In fact, thank you for asking, it’s a screenplay based on my own novel, Droppington Place. It’s a funny story… well, okay. You’re right. We’re being serious here.

Have you seen Kubo and the Two Strings? Lovely picture, although a tad sad. It was made by LAIKA, a film studio in Oregon that makes handcrafted, stunningly animated movies. What could be a better fit? What better film company to make a major motion picture out of Droppington Place?

As you know, I’m a proponent of Gorilla Marketing – do little, expect lots. In this mode, we ask ourselves why we must go through all the hassle of selling millions of books. Why could we not simply approach LAIKA directly, make the motion picture, and then sell the millions of books? You know, it’s not really putting the cart before the horse: it’s more like they’re side-by-side. Boom. Anything could happen.

So I set myself out to write a screenplay from the novel. Piece of cake. I know the book forwards and backwards. What if I simply move these scenes around to make it more, you know, cinematographically friendly?

Well, three things happened. Three. You were expecting two, but, hey, it was three. Sorry to disappoint.

First, in reordering the book for cinematographic friendliness, I found a much better flow to the story. Rats. Now the book needs a rewrite.

Second, in retelling the story for the large screen, I found some motivations for characters I hadn’t seen before. Rats. See above.

Third, I had a revelation. A very sad, very tawdry little revelatory affair that hurts to write about, but you’re a writer. You know how it is.

Shakespeare is quoted as having written, “to thine own self be true.”

I was on an airplane, struggling with the screenplay, when the words came to me. Poop, I thought. I don’t want to hear these words.

The words came as clearly to me as if I had written them myself, but I’m not this good. It was simple poetry, and it hurt to read. It said, “write what you want and it’ll be great.”

Write what you want and it’ll be great.

Stop plotting and planning and pushing and prodding. Stop massaging and manipulating and maneuvering and marketing. What’s in here (taps on chest) is what’s important.

“Your lungs?” I asked.

I have written what I hope will sell, and hope you will buy. I haven’t written the Great American Novel. I’ve written something clever and fun and creative, and that I think you’ll like. I like it.

But the calling is to write what’s inside, and I don’t think it’s about my lungs.

What is the story I was created to tell? What can I give to you that will be great enough to make you think, wow, my life is now better? What epic saga lies inside here (taps on chest)?

Poop.

So, compadre, we have to saddle up another horse. It’s a long ride ahead, and now there’s another wagon to pull. Please don’t put the saddle on the horse that’s supposed to pull the wagon – you’ll just confuse things.

Okay. You can go back to your fish crackers now.

Ah, Camp Stupid

You’re a writer, you know how it goes.  Every moment you draw a breath is a moment to promote your book.

Well, say, I have a moment with nothing to do, and my super-smart cell phone right here.  What if I take this moment to submit a query about my book, DROPPINGTON PLACE,  to a literary agent.

Wait, I don’t have the manuscript… it’s parked on my Google drive, but an agent only wants the first ten pages. Hmm, how to edit it…

Wait! I sent a query to a different agent… that was a perfect letter! Alls I gotta do is find that letter and change the names and stuff…

It didn’t take long to take out the refeeencea to my dog and stuff, and change the names. That agent, the first recipient, had sent me a nice autoreply of no, thanks. I edited out references to that, too. 

Just one eye in the flointment…you can’t send a letter you’ve already sent.  Hmmm… no biggy. I’ll just forward it…

Okay, everything looks good…push the send and hope for the best.

Say, here’s an autoresponse from the new agent.  Thank you for your submission, here’s what you sent…

And there, in the inbox of this agent, is my submission letter, followed by my submission letter to the previous agent, and then the rejection letter from the other agent!

OMG!  How stupid can you be?  If I don’t make it as a novelist, I can always be the mascot for Camp Stupid!

That’s No Moon

Luke looks at the small moon.

“I have a bad feeling about that,” he says.

“Cut!” George yells. “It’s this. I have a bad feeling about this, not that!”

“Not what?”

“What?”

“What are we talking about?”

But, I digress.

You’re a writer. You know how it goes. You wrote the darn thing, and now, if you wrote a book like mine, nobody will publish it. Except you. Or, in my case, me.

I got my last rejection letter today from an agency in Colorado – not even New York. They shot DROPPINGTON PLACE down in the twinkle of an eye – good, bad, or indifferent, it missed whatever target they had in mind.

So, I looked online at ways to get readers for my book. Gosh, there are a gazillion different people all saying the same thing: build a mailing list of readers, here’s how to use Facebook, here’s how to use Pinterest, Twitter your book to success… For just $25, I’ll send you my special program that shows you how to get readers…

A bell went off – it was either the bell of a real thought, or the timer telling me my chicken potpie was done. Let’s go with the thought.

Duh. Hello. Earth to moron.

If you wrote a best-selling novel, would you be online telling people how to sell their novel?

If you wrote a best-selling novel, would you be skimming 15% off of other authors to hawk their work to publishers?

If you were all that, wouldn’t you be doing all that, rather than sitting at home on your PC, trying to make a buck off of other writers.

Hello, McFly! There are easily a million books out there for FREE, each authored by someone just like you and me, or, well, maybe me, thinking that here’s the golden ticket. I’ll be a novelist, and smoke a pipe, and be unavailable for interviews because, frankly, I just don’t have it in me today. Perhaps next Thursday, after drinkies by the pool. Skip the day job – let’s make art our day job! Sorry, Arthur, not you. It’s not Art, just art.

But they don’t sell their books – they can’t sell their books, because they’re following the same advice: here’s how you sell you books online. Here’s what sells. Here’s a way to build readers.  THEY’RE ALL DOING THE SAME THING!

And, if everyone is doing the same thing, isn’t that tantamount to doing nothing?

Here’s one thing you’ll never, ever see: top dog marketers – really successful crack shots of the pitch – telling you their secrets. Not going to happen for two reasons: a) too busy making the wheels go around, and 2) sorry, that’s my secret.

The lesson for you, my authorial friend (again, not you, Arthur) is this: don’t believe the pitch. Don’t buy it. If it’s a free product, YOU are the product. If they offer some good advice with a wink and a nod, you can believe it’s a hoodwink, hoping you’ll nod off and buy their shtick.

The lesson for you, my marketing friend (yes, Mark, that’s you), and perhaps for me is this: we have to find what hasn’t been found. We, you and I, have to sail the marketing sea that hasn’t been crossed. We must pave the road for ourselves – because out there, in the brutal dog-eat-dog world of marketing – if you fall for somebody’s hook, that makes you a fish.

If you whisper “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” you’re right. That’s no moon. That’s some guy telling you it’s a moon so that you’ll linger on his web page and give him good stats that he can show to his advertisers to justify their payments to him.

Damn it, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a marketer.

Sorry – wrong franchise…

 

Going Responsive

Responsive websites? I always thought your website was responsive if you just answered your emails.

You’re a writer – you know how it is. You toil and slave over your book, you publish it yourself, you get your website, your Facebook page, your logo… and then, who knew, it’s useless if your website isn’t responsive. Useless. Who knew?

While, the standard, desktop, not-so-responsive website still has value if you’re a corporation that sells oodles of things that deserve their own big pictures and stuff, the little screen, however, is clearly the road ahead.

So, what does it mean to “go responsive?” It simply means that you scale your website to look good on mobile devices. That’s it.

Sort of. Once you scale your whole website down to that itty-bitty size, you realize that your whole outlook about your website changes. Gone are the stacked images, the carefully layered pages that had a certain snap to them. Gone are the cool, zoomy galleries of your favorite pictures.

Those big, splashy pages have been replaced with simple, easy-to-read, direct-to-the-point, cell-phone sized articles and galleries and images.

It’s great news if you’re a writer, which you are. All you have to do is write! You don’t have to be a web designer? You just write – that’s really what you and I do best anyway!

PhineasCaswell.com has been a desktop site for quite a while. I built it with Open Element software – free!!!   But, Open Element doesn’t support responsive websites yet. Rats.

For around $30 USD, I found Serif’s WebPlus – I’m running x7, whatever that means. It has a set of really simple templates for making a responsive website. It was seriously easy to make the conversion.

I’m trying to sell my novel, Droppington Place. It’s aimed at the young adult market, which is comprised mainly of mobile device users. Market? Meet website. Website. Market.

As you know, I’m a big proponent of Gorilla Marketing – do nothing and hope for the best. I did a little something by going responsive, and now I don’t have to do anything else. My site is ready for the world to beat a path to my door.

Ah, success.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention my other Gorilla Marketing project – you’ll like this. It’s called Soon to be a Major Motion Picture. All you have to do is download Droppington Place – do it for free, if you’d like. Encourage your friends to do the same. If your friends tell their friends, who tell their friends, who tell…you get the idea… why, we’ll be way over a gazillion reads, which is more than enough for any savvy movie studio or book publisher to jump on the bandwagon and make Droppington Place into a major motion picture. Brilliant!

So, download Droppington Place, and go tell all your friends.

This is gonna be great!