Sunday, July 8, 2012

Public Libraries and E-Books

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal carried a small snippet article regarding the availability of e-books through our public libraries. This is great - in theory.

The fact is that many publishing houses are pulling e-books from public libraries or are severely limiting the titles made available. Now, as an indie author this would be great news if the public libraries would consider making the works created by indie authors available to their patrons. They don't however.

The public library system has become as much politicized as any other taxpayer-funded entity. Moralists from every position imaginable weigh in on which titles should be included in their catalogs. It's a virtual book burning and not many Americans are willing to acknowledge that they have stood by in silent submission to the erosion of our rights. Consider, for a moment, the hard-fought battles of generations past in bringing us the right to pick up a Playboy magazine, for instance, or a magazine about firearms. Yet each group opposed to the other becomes louder and louder and the choice of the individual suffers.

What we read, eat, hear, or see should be considered a basic right in America. Our associations and freedoms are constitutionally guaranteed. Why, then, are we finding more and more laws written that control our behaviors? Be very careful what authority you grant to your government because some day that authority will become your overlord.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Frank Capra, the famous director, said, “A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.”

Hunches, for some people, are the bread and butter of their lives. Detectives, for instance, rely upon hunches more often than not in order to solve crimes. It’s that nagging feeling that claws at the back of your subconscious every time you close your eyes, or it’s the thought that buzzes around in your mind throughout your day. Successful investors rely upon those hunches far more often than they rely upon statistical data or spreadsheets. Any profitable hedge fund manager will tell you that instinct and “feel” will edge out reason and research 99.9% of the time. Yes, the research is there, but how often has a true start-up company been able to prove their worth to a shrewd investor?

As an independent author, I’ve come to rely upon the power of the hunch, and lately I’ve thrown my hat into the ring on a couple of doozies. I’m involved in a very risky project that is currently in the process of being completed. I went into it based upon the hunch that the story (a biography) needed telling. It’s hard for me to trust people; innately I suspect every person I meet of ulterior motives for seeking a close relationship with me. Two conversations with the gentleman at the center of this story convinced me that we’d be friends forever, and I’ve grown to love this man as I would my own siblings.

My second project involves a stranger who is helping me fine-tune my erotic writing in order to craft a manuscript meant for men to read. Again, take into account how hard it is for me to trust anyone. I’m leaping over deep chasms of doubt as I extend my creative soul – all based on a hunch.

Writers are solitary beings; well, most writers are. I am a socially gregarious creature, and I suppose this is why I spend time at the gym or chatting it up online when I really should be working more hours. The truth is that I glean so much inspiration from the outside world that I can’t resist the gravitational pull from humanity. Resistance is futile, people.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Are You a Rude E-Book Reader?

On a recent visit to the “big box” bookstore in town, I observed a rather disturbing aspect to the new E-book trend. Rude E-book readers.

Let me explain. Back in the day, a patron in a bookstore would have the opportunity to flip through pages of several books – quietly. The sound of an occasional throat clearing or of books being plopped back onto a shelf was just about the only thing heard. The smell of paper and leather were the most intoxicating scents in the building.

Today, the bookstore has become a social hub. Chairs and nooks now teem with patrons who use laptops and smart phones for their reading. Coffee and pastries, and candied treats are sipped and smacked with such abandon and wild finger licking that I fear touching anything. Conversations are no longer muted. Cell phone users seem ignorant of the fact that their conversation is NOT of great interest to anyone outside of their circle. They come in, spread out, and turn that little corner of former silence into their office.

I saw a young mother struggling with two toddlers and an infant in a stroller as she tried in vain to find a place to sit. She carried a stack of children’s picture books in one arm as she went from spot to spot in search of a peaceful moment to share with her family. Her face showed her torment, a look I knew well when I was raising my own family. Seeing her plight, I approached a group of nesting young adults who clearly disdained the concept of being polite, and I unleashed a menopausal fury upon them. I suppose that to them I looked like Medusa, because they soon vacated their dorm room, leaving their mess behind. The inner-mom in me wanted to make them come back and clean up their mess.

As I walked away, I watched as that young mother sat, placed her toddlers in her lap, and opened a book as she took a deep breath and relaxed. I was glad to help her find that rare moment in her day. Outside in the parking lot I began to wonder how many of my readers are rude E-book readers. Do you perch yourself in public places and sprawl out without regard of the feelings of others? Please, the next time you’re engrossed in a book, take a few moments to look around. The organic world still exists outside of our gadgets, after all.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Can Artist and Alpha Mix?

Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success. - Dale Carnegie

Some time ago (actually, in January 2012) I began taking the craft of writing seriously. I cast off several old habits in the process and made the conscious choice to dedicate my time to becoming the best writer I could be. I’ve had a few successes, but my failures have been more affecting of my personal drive and dedication than any success could be.

Two books are in the pipeline for traditional publishing, the process still months away from completion. While I was ecstatic when I first received the news of their acceptance for publishing, this “high” wore off quickly. I suppose that’s the downside of being an Alpha-Type A personality. No amount of success is ever good enough and every failure is another opportunity to earn success on another day. A friend recently sent me a link to an article in Psychology Today regarding the Alpha Female. I had one of those “damn, that’s me” revelations as I read through the list of typical personality characteristics.

One thing about being an Alpha: it’s hard to do. To maintain that level of dominance in all areas of her life, an Alpha Female burns so hot that she pushes herself to extremes. In personal relationships, this is catastrophic. In business, this is exploitative. Finding the balance is essential and I regret to inform you that I’m still seeking that perfect chord of harmony between mind and body.

You see, to an Alpha like myself those small successes are like a shot of adrenaline. They jolt through the body and burn off quickly. Failures, however, are like a chronic illness. They’re constantly there...reminding us to work harder, smarter, longer. I engage in what some call an extreme sport, Crossfit. When I try to lift a weight and I fail I must, by intrinsic design, keep trying. The same rule applies when I write. When a publisher turns me down, I go through the manuscript I’ve submitted, often painstakingly, trying to find the one word that got the work chucked.

I sometimes wonder how many of the great artists were Alpha in nature. I think they were, and I’d like to think that I’m in good company.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Burning Down the House

Few things give a writer more joy that finding the spark of a story arc flashing through their mind! Quickly running to pen and paper, pencil and napkin, fingers and keyboard – the rush is on to scribble the synopsis quickly. We’re all building a rudimentary fire with two pieces of soft wood and intense physical exertion. The last thing we need to do is take a deep breath and blow out the slight spark and have to start all over again.

From concept to completion, we nurture our work – again, let me bring in the fire analogy. Without constant feeding and stirring, rearranging the logs and the slight embers, the fire will die and you’ll be out in the cold.

I’m an organic writer. Translation: I have at least three books going at all times. I’ve been curious how other writers find their rhythm. Do you awaken to coffee and classical music and dive into the pool head first or feet first? How about the dreaded belly flop? Ever had one of those? I have, literally and figuratively.

Right now, I have about fifteen irons in the fire, all of them being furiously jostled and jangled in an effort to keep the fire from going out. The motion is dizzying, the sparks are flying all around me, albeit often uncontrollably. Yet I keep the stirring the fire – somehow.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Creative Process

Face it. Artists are a strange bunch. We work on our craft for months, perhaps years, before we consider any particular project complete. Then, as if by design, we look back on it and thoughtfully declare that it could have been better.

I've read that Michelangelo was a tormented artist. He never felt that his work was good enough; never felt that his work was complete. Likewise for da Vinci, Rafael, and many of the other greats.

With this in mind, do we debase our work because we don't want to appear pompous? Or, contrarily, do we really feel that our work is always evolving? Pierre Bonnard said, "A painting that is well composed is half finished." This is true of all great works of art, I believe. Writers could go on page after page and never feel their manuscript complete. Let's be honest: there is a little Tolstoy in all of us. I've often wondered about the thoughts going on in his mind as he wrote 'War and Peace'.

They say that the first page is the hardest to write. I feel that the last page is the hardest to write.

What do you think?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Late Nights, Early Mornings

The hardest thing about writing for a living is....

This answer is different for every writer. I know my answer, and I'm not really in much of a mood to share it. At least not before I've had a cup of coffee. Or two.

I spent the weekend with a fantastic group of writers in Indianapolis. Listened to a marvelous presentation by a gifted teacher and mentor to thousands of artists of the written word. I came away from the event with a renewed sense of purpose and the desire to recommit to writing better work. I also came away realizing that most of us - writers - are loners.

Many writers spend countless hours locked behind doors honing their craft. I'm not really your typical artist. Sitting behind a keyboard ten hours a day isn't really my Muse, but when I'm on a streak it's not uncommon for me to go twenty hours without much else. I'm an extroverted person who needs (is addicted to) external stimuli. Be it a coffee date with a friend, or having an intimate conversation with someone that I care about, I really love the give and take of personal interaction.

So, now that I've had a cup of coffee, here's my answer to the first sentence: Not Knowing.

Writers face uncertainty every day of their lives. Is my work good enough? Will it be accepted or rejected? Has it been slushpiled into the deepest pit of cyberhell?

So, I say...chins up, fellow writers! Be of good cheer and keep doing what you do. Several of you inspired me this weekend and I am HONORED to be among you!