author C.C.Cole's blog

Saturday, March 31, 2012

On Adult Bullies

"9 to 5"

With bullying being such a hot topic these days, it’s rarely mentioned how this behavior extends beyond childhood.  But as adults, many of us recognize a bully when we see him/her.  People are out there that take pride in “pushing buttons” to make others embarrassed or uncomfortable, especially in public, abusive in places of high position in employment or societal settings, or family members that continue to hold a tight-fisted reign beyond the boundaries of grown children with families of their own.

Unlike my childhood bullying experience, I never came to a revelation on how to bring down adult bullies because the relationship is so different.  I had family members that seemed to enjoy belittling my siblings, my mother, and myself in public, and I could never say anything because it was family.  Playing the “fight the bully back” card was out of the question!  So what did I do?  Separate myself physically and emotionally from the bullies.  I moved away, almost never came home, and the bully relatives created a polite, successful, and indifferent child to be proud of.  The problem is, family bullies never seem to know the difference.

Professional bullies are tough as well.  As a woman in a field of 95% men, the expected yelp from me would be “sexual harassment!” or “unequal treatment!”  That’s not how it happens, at least, not with me.  Men I worked with early on knew better than to do any ridiculous breast pinching or behind slapping, or asking for dates.  The bullying was more of a exclusion; they guys were part of the group, included in educational activities, and I found myself carrying the workload during those days of “fellowship.”  How did I deal with those bullies?  Time and perseverance will erase the past.  After years of working, I can see an adult bully a mile away and predict what they will do and say, and go from there.  Nothing spoils an adult bully more than lack of intimidation.  As far as employers bullying, it happens, but with cellphones, laws, and witnesses, not so easy.  I’ve learned to tread lightly and be respectful, let them blow off steam (often that is the case), and some bosses want to see what you can take.  Handle it, and sometimes it disappears into a different relationship.  (Please, I understand this is not a fit for all).

People are around that love to make fun at the expense of others.  Nowadays, with casual threats, I say, “Are you threatening a person that writes books about an assassin?” (I'm kidding!) Amazing silence follows.  Another one is “Miss Manners would not approve.”  Nobody likes to be told they have bad manners.  As bad as childhood bullying is, it doesn’t end there, but adulthood brings freedom to recognize it for what it is and not to let it define who you are.

On Writing About the Dead

"The Changeling"

I watched a favorite old horror film recently, “The Changeling” starring George C. Scott, that to me brought together the unrests of ghosts and one of the best séances I’ve ever seen on television or film.  Obviously, I’m biased about anything starring George C. Scott, a longtime favorite actor.  When I first saw this film with my late sister, a huge horror fan whose favorite film was “Motel Hell,” she climbed behind me, finding the bloodless ghost more horrifying than the splatter-films.

With my typical pondering about anything and everything, what is it about the dead that reaches us fiction writers?  Think of the knee-jerk “dead” characters:  Ghosts.  Vampires.  Zombies.  Skeletons.  Mummies.  That’s just getting started, as one could move on to more sophisticated “dead” like spirits, banshees, or wraiths.  Moving away from dead creatures, think about places used:  Cemeteries.   Churches.  Graves.  Empty homes.  Basements.  Dark woods. 

The dead is full of clichés as well:  They return to get even.  They return to settle a score so they can be at rest.  They return to warn the living.  They return to see whom they love.  They return to eat people or drink their blood.  Amongst these clichés is usually someone in the land of the living, who must figure out who this “un-dead” person(s) is, and communicate and/or destroy it.

Why are we writers writing about the dead?  I believe that what happens after death remains a great fascination for many readers and writers and is so full of variations it makes for a useful tool in the creation of a story.  Clichés are not red flags as a negative, sometimes they add enough to bring interest to the reader, and it’s up to the writer to deviate away enough to keep the story unique.  Also, many of us grew up hearing scary ghost stories, and many readers like a good thrill; hence, the horror genre, and I’ll speak (write)  for myself on this one:  There are some great new talents out there that made me drop my kindle.

New authors, if writing about the “dead” or “un-dead” is your thing, go for it.  It’s tried, done, and not going away.  Whatever variation you can give to an old idea will be what you can show the reader by using your talent.  And don’t forget to tweet to us about it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

On the Book/Film Journey

"The Hunger Games" film poster

As new authors, we know the dream:  One day our book(s) will be discovered by a huge audience, critically-acclaimed, to be an underdog writer bursting into the big leagues with a major blockbuster film that takes already big sales into the halls of fame.  Our pen names are spoken in restaurants, parties, tweeted, and on other social sites by thousands we’ve never heard of.  Millions of copies sold in twelve languages, with controversial headlines to hype the curiosity.  Yes, we know the dream.

Instead of kicking the chair out from under new writers, why not embrace a dream for a change?  How does anyone accomplish anything without a dream or some point of focus?  Everyone starts at the beginning and the journey, not the destination, defines us.  Disagree?  Read back about what you find interesting about famous writers:  Ms. Rowling’s difficult beginnings as a single parent, Mr. King’s days as a teacher/unknown writer, Hemmingway’s life after he became famous.  The journey never ends. 

Moving on to the “Ultimate” dream of fiction writers having their work made into great films, only in speculation can we imagine what it must be like.  First, the big bucks!  OK, so money may take some of the “romanticism” out of writing, but most people I know prefer to have money than not.  Question is, once a writer makes the “big money,” what next?  Is it time for the permanent vacation home, or does one have to come up with the next big hit?  Thought so.  Following up a major hit cannot be easy.  But the publisher is certain you can do it, as a little advance is pushed in the right direction.  Even bad follow-ups sell at first.

How about the “Fame?”  The face of the writer on blogs, news, interviews, you name it, there’s your face!  Will you be recognized in a grocery store?  Will other famous people be inviting you on their talk shows?  What are you willing to tell others about your life?  Hey, the actors are expected to “sell” their privacy, come on Writer, how about you?  You’ve got fans and money; let’s see the love!

What about the film itself?  Do writers write the screenplays?  Sometimes.  Let’s say you’re allowed to do that.  Allowed?  Hey..wait..it’s my story!  A gentle reminder:  Unless you’re so rich you can fit the bill for your own blockbuster, you’re “allowed.”  Will you be allowed on the set?  Ask the director, and don’t waste their time.  Which actors?  Who exactly do you think you are, a David O. Selznick clone?  Dream on.  Movie rights?  Yes, writer, that means either the studio is given permission to use your story in the way seen fit or they pass for one they can use. 

Writers, whether we are known or unknown, we are part of this industry.  The higher we climb, the more money is involved and the more complex the entire situation gets.  Success is something to strive for and to be proud of once achieved.  But there’s responsibility as well, and the work of success I suspect part of the most difficult in the journey.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

On Bringing Down the Bullies

Eric and Wendy on "SouthPark"

As I tell my story below, I want to clarify that this is not a recommendation for others to deal with this problem.  I’ve seen many come forward with ideas in schools and social settings for kids in ways to combat this disturbing problem that makes childhood more difficult than it is already.  I commend these efforts for fighting bullying.  I was bullied in grade school and this is my story:

In a small rural school where I attended, the vast majority of the kids were lower middle class to poverty level.  Our parents knew each other’s parents, our brothers and sisters knew each other’s siblings, so when I began first grade I was already “known” to most of the kids and teachers by other family members in the small community.  Being the youngest of three, I was a loud, obnoxious kid.

I don’t recall the bullying to be a problem until I reached the third grade:  The day I walked in to the classroom wearing glasses.  Call me Piggy in “Lord of the Flies.”  “Four eyes” was used in place of my name.  By the sixth grade I was at the top of the class grade-wise.  As my reading level excelled, so did the teacher’s delight, and so escalated the bullying.  I had zero athletic ability so physical education made a favorite time for laughs at me jogging at the end of a line.

In the cafeteria, I’d get nudged while trying to carry something, and everyone had a laugh if I dropped something.  Kids took to making fun of my family, already troubled at home.  I wasn’t spoken to by my first name, it was my first and last always, like I was a stranger.  Girls sneaked behind me, untying bows in my hair and my dresses, and then pointing out to the boys for a snicker.  I was told that God didn’t love me and I was going to hell.  My situation wasn’t helped by my mother constantly telling me not to react to others for fear of me getting into fights. 

Then my life changed in the eighth grade:  My parents separated and I found out I was moving away for high school.  The time had come to bring down the bullies.

As expected, for one of my classes, one of the typical bullyboys jerked the desk away, snarling that I couldn’t sit there.  That was it.  I jerked the desk back and said something terrible.

I told him he was dumb.

The shock on the guy’s face shocked me.  So I kept on.  Out loud, where all was in earshot, I asked him why he was in the eighth grade and couldn’t read any better than he could.  He tried  “I can read as good as you,” then I whipped open my book, and he sat silent.  Another bully chimed in across the aisle to his defense, saying the same.  I pointed and called out his academic shortcomings as well.  Before the bell rang for class to start, everyone knew that I’d had enough of the bullies.

The snickers continued, but from a different group of students.  The teachers didn’t interfere.  The bullies were silenced forever.

At the end of the year, I got a certificate for the highest grade in Junior High.  Then we moved, and I wasn’t bullied again.  And I never told another person he/she was dumb.

I believe when a group of kids find insecurity in another, they find identity by ganging up on the isolated child.  Like other circumstances of abuse, it escalates, and in these days of social media the escalation can go much further than it did as described above.   I hope the efforts being made these days makes for a better childhood for so many that go through this sad experience.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Non-Spoiler Review of “Mockingjay (Final Book of The Hunger Games)” by Suzanne Collins

After another day of reading, I’m happy to stand victorious and done with the huge hit bestseller series “The Hunger Games.”  My only stump in reading them was the first couple of chapters of the first book; afterward, they moved fast and are smooth easy reads.

After winning two rounds of The Hunger Games for two different reasons, the heroine Katniss finds herself homeless, finding home and shelter in the reportedly devastated district 13.  Following the mass publicity she received in the prior months because of the games, she becomes a propaganda tool for an underground rebellion and for The Capitol.”  As time moves on, she finds herself in the midst something that is no longer a game, but an all out war that she doesn’t really have a grip on what’s happening until the ending.  After facing more tragedy, hardship of battle, the pain of betrayal, she learns that “two wrongs do not make a right,” and the overthrow of a totalitarian regime is much more than just a battle in an arena.  When all is said and done, she learns love is not who you need, it’s who you cannot live without.  By embracing newfound freedom, she grows into adulthood under different circumstances than her own childhood.  All around, three stars.

After reading some of the reviews of the third and final novel in this popular series, I noticed some readers thought it was unexpected, others found it logical, others found it bittersweet, and others found the story to fall flat.  Some analysis below:

In fairness to the author, I’d like to initiate the positives in this third novel, as a new writer who writes about child soldiers, I can relate on a small level (on my part) to the story.  It’s told from a teenage point of view, so survival is one thing, societal change is another.  Teenagers to me generally do not have an instinct regarding overthrowing entire governments.  Romance in teenagers tends spin about more as I think back (a long time ago) when I was that age; girls fall in and out of love rather quickly, so though the romance factor is tiresome, it’s not out-of-the-park inappropriate.  Though the ending was bittersweet, that’s how war ends, if one is fortunate.  In the big picture, Ms. Collins was fairly gentle to her readers.

The criticism to me lands mostly in the higher-level thinking involved in overthrowing and changing an entire government and societal structure.  The author stood firm in staying in the point of view of the lead character, but it made the read more laborious because as a reader, I knew much more intrigue was involved with the rebellion that surfaced as generalities in the end.  Though the “yes, Kid, let the adults take it from here,” standpoint is understandable, as entertainment it didn’t hold the strength that the inner instinct of arena survival did.

Readers, I do recommend checking out “The Hunger Games” and making up your own mind.  I’m looking forward to the upcoming film and a compare/contrast analysis regarding the movie industry.  The controversies amongst some have been more than anticipated to me, because I’ve been hearing about this series for years.  Either way, the readers decide, and they certainly voiced their opinion with this series.  Good for you, Ms. Collins.  Thank you for teaching we new authors.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Non-Spoiler Review of “Catching Fire (The Second Book of The Hunger Games)” by Suzanne Collins

I joined by first “read-along” this weekend with the rude awakening that I really have no clue what goes on in this part of social networking.  But, in all the fun, I gobbled up Suzanne Collins’ second book of the acclaimed bestselling “Hunger Games” trilogy in short order with my typical T-Rex method of reading.

“Catching Fire” picks up shortly following the end of the original “Hunger Games.”  The heroine Katniss finds herself as victor now on tour for all to see, the winner, brushed and shined up to be beautiful enough for reality TV, along with her fellow victor and protagonist, cute guy Peeta. It doesn’t take long for her to realize that the methods she and Peeta used to beat the Games makes for political awkwardness in this totalitarian state, as she sees districts beyond that of her own and gets too close for comfort in the ways law and order is enforced.

Back at home, she’s able to provide a better home for her family, and sees her other almost-love-interest, Gale.  Between some dreaming of running away and dreaming of an uprising, the world of Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and mentor Haymitch evolve into a nightmare.  Katniss and Peeta find themselves where they started; playing the Hunger Games again, but this time, with other victors.

While the Games itself is harrowing, the backdrop nightmare of food shortages as punishment from “The Capitol” for suspicious uprising of the people make for the larger tragedy.  The teenage-level “love, but not in-love” Katniss feels between the fellows willing to throw down their lives for her is a reminder of “Twilight,” for good or not.

When all is said and done, “Catching Fire” is entertaining, easy to read, a little faster moving than the original “Hunger Games.”  It’s a story of bravery, sacrifice, and love; with a bit of “me against the world” thrown in.  Four stars!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Review of “Gray Justice” by Alan McDermott

“Gray “Justice” is a fast, fun read that I knocked out in a day. It takes the life of Tom Gray, who sees the limits of the criminal justice system after family tragedies and makes his own way toward justice on his terms with hopes for improvements in the system of his home country.  The accelerated action moves quickly into worldwide dangerous opportunity seekers that add an element of modern current events.  While this is very entertaining, the over-the-top tactics add fuel the fire.  My recommendation to readers is to enjoy this action-packed story Very good work, Four stars!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review of “The Doppelganger Experiment” by Margaret Millmore

I finished “The Doppelganger Experiment” by Margaret Millmore recently, and thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Told in first-person, it chronicles the story of a young woman named Jane, who awakens after an accident to find her life changed; a husband she didn’t know, former friends that over time weren’t the same, and gradually finds out an ugly truth that uncovers nothing is what it seems.  With Orwellian undertones, this is an entertaining read with a gradual, steady, pull on the intrigue that is enough to keep the reader interested without a thrown-in dull moments or pushed dialogue.   I highly recommend this novel to readers that enjoy a return to science fiction and the use of “doppelganger” in a non-fantasy setting.  Five stars!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Interview with the Klingon

Jeffrey Hollar
I met new fellow writer Jeffrey Hollar on Twitter, tweeting that I’m a Tribble and that he’s a Klingon.  While I’ve tweeted him as “Intestine-head,” he’s tweeted me that we Tribbles can be squeezed into Tribble paste like peanut butter. Hey, it’s all in good fun.  For those that have seen my Tribble tweets, it began with my TweetDeck, my husband said the sound was obnoxious and sounded like a Tribble, so I took it from there.
Jeffrey’s been clear with his unusual pedigree many times.  He’s a Ferengi (see below) and his stepmom is a Klingon.  Well, sympathy there, none of us can pick our relatives. 
As a follow up my article to toast author Anne Rice, Jeffrey has been kind enough to grant me an interview:
Jeffrey, we see that you're a writer.  Have you written any books?  Tell us about them.

To date, I have not written any books, per se.  In December, 2011, I participated in a blog hop called Twelve Days of Creepfest . It was suggested that participants offer giveaways as part of the hop. To that end, my wife, Lisa, tossed together a collection of my dark fiction for me to give out that COULD be called a book in the loosest sense of the word. A true book is on my list of goals for this year and we shall see how that works out.
What inspires you for your blog posts?
The bulk of my blog posts tend to be short or flash fiction pieces based on prompts provided by those who sponsor various daily challenges.  I do write a fair amount of stuff that comes from somewhere within the deep recesses of my somewhat disturbed mind. From whence those ideas come, I try not to think.

I saw on your blog, no favorite book "too many to mention." I agree with that.  What's your favorite genre?

 If I had to pick a favorite genre, I suppose that would have to be fantasy. The Hobbit was the first book I borrowed when I got my “adult” library card. I must admit to a deep and abiding love of the hack-and-slash barbarian stuff of Robert Howard and other such writers.

So in cyberspace, you have unusual parents.  Tell us about them.  You're a Ferengi and your stepmom is a Klingon?  You have my sympathy.  How did that get started?

The popular version of events is that Dad won Mom in a high-stakes game of dabo and she spent the rest of her life making him regret his lucky streak that night. My parents really DID fit those roles long before I ever even heard of Klingons and Ferengis. Please indulge me as I provide you REAL  examples from my childhood:
Dad the Ferengi:  When I was about nine, my older brother and I complained we didn’t have bicycles like the other neighborhood kids. My dad’s solution was to buy one bicycle for the two of us to share. He was of the belief, and fairly rightly so, that neither of us was in good enough physical shape to ride the bike long enough to significantly inconvenience the other. 

Mom the Klingon: We lived right across the street from our grade school and, since it was so close, got to go home for lunch. I came in one day, throwing coat, mittens, etc everywhere and could NOT find them when it was time to go back to school after lunch. I said something smart to Mom and she replied by taking a swat at my butt. I tried, most unsuccessfully, to avoid that and somehow got a big red hand print square in the middle of my face. She got me bundled up and headed back to school in no time. When I asked her what I should tell my teacher regarding the hand print, she told me to let her know it was none of her business but that if she chose to make it so, then Mom had plenty of that waiting at home for her too. Case closed. 

Are you an old Trekkie fan, a new Trekkie fan (Next Generation), a DS-9 Trekkie fan, or the totally new Trekkie fan (recent film)?

That question is a tough one to answer. I will always be a fan of old Trek simply because it was so influential in making fictional science into real-life stuff. Next Gen was the return of Star Trek after a very long spell away and so gets my admiration. DS-9 for the ongoing displays of Ferenginocity and a host of other really great characters, of course has my love. Regarding the recent film, I will try to tone down my opinion and say only that it rightly qualifies as one of the greatest abominations ever conceived in the medium of film.

Any other notable sci-fi that you're a fan of?  (Dr. Who, etc).  Any new sic-fi we should be looking for?

Dr. Who back in the day was a favorite. I was a RABID fan of all things Stargate and I greatly miss some iteration of it. As regards new sci-fi , there seems to be little on the small screen to choose. A quick note to say I mourn the death of Terra Nova. I liked that series but knew it was doomed when the producers turned it in to Dawson’s Creek with dinos. Bastards!

Are you working on a book now?
As alluded to earlier, yes and no. The end of April will mark the first anniversary of my blog. I think I have come a long way towards refining my skills in that year and may be ready to graduate from the kids’ table, so to speak. I would say you can definitely expect to see, at least, one novella from me in the not-so-distant future
Any book recommendations?
Sadly, nothing that is exactly new-release stuff. Circumstances haven’t really favored me getting much reading done lately. If you like paranormal suspense thrillers (I am credited with creating that particular sub-genre title), I would recommend Mark Stone’s books. For epic fantasy, I would have to give nods to Michelle Franklin and her Hantaa books….great stuff.  

Do you do all of your work on a smart phone?  That's impressive. 

Until very recently, my only means to post to my blog was a 3G Sanyo not-so-smart smartphone. No knocks on the phone because it was never intended for the type of usage I subjected it to. It was quite brutal at times. Holding one particular key too long while trying to backspace tended to erase the entire entry. I lost several thousands of words that way, but I simply refused to abandon my writing and persevered. Now, we’ve got the Internet back up at home and our own individual laptops, so the phone posts are mostly a thing of the past. That being said, I’ll have to finish up a 200-word blog challenge post from my phone later today thanks to work. It’s a Blackberry, so light years better. Bottom line is, I WILL use whatever tech I have available to get the voices out of my head…Bwuahahaha.

I want to thank Jeffrey for taking the time to share with us, and I highly recommend his site:


Friday, March 9, 2012

On the Machiavellian Character


While I hope to one day get my brain geared up to compare and contrast the two famous widely read novellas “The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli and “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu my latest interest has been the former, having read “The Prince” most recently. 

I’ve been hearing the term “Machiavellian” to describe people I know and people in the news all of my life, but never really caught hold of what it meant until adulthood.  It doesn’t mean stupid, reckless, or incompetent.  Actually, it’s just the opposite:  Intelligent, cautious, and competent, to say the least.  Such characters do as what’s written in “The Prince” (and please, I’m not a Machiavellian expert), meaning, the ends justify the means.  Such people of leadership may be part of a republic, but for them, it’s their own little dictatorship, comparative speaking (writing).

These characters are not insecure, but they are flawed.  They may feel comfortable about their own skills but not comfortable enough with their underlings, leading to excessive paranoia.  Also they tend to go beyond the law because they believe it is their right to do so, society answers to them, but the converse is not true, the laws of the land do not apply to them. 

What do these characters have to do with the new author?  The Machiavellian philosophy didn’t start with “The Prince.”  Leaders have behaved in this manner a very long time.  For stories, depending on the character you want to develop, can be very effective, certainly as an antagonist or as a protagonist, with/without either facing a downfall.  When a fiction writer creates a world, most human societies have hierarchies; it’s in these layers that these traits can be used to develop characters. 

So new authors go forth and write something awesome.  Like I’ve written before, it’s hard to have an effective good guy (or girl) without an effective bad guy (or girl).  With Machiavellian characters, I recommend picking up “The Prince” and read what Niccolo was trying to tell us:  the ends justify the means using any method deemed appropriate.  We know some actually believe that.  And look how well it turned out for Cesare Borgia in history.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

On a Celebrated Dark Fantasy Author

"Interview With the Vampire"

Before “Twilight,” before “Trueblood,” before “Underworld, “and after “Dark Shadows” we had another very popular collection of vampire stories:  "The Vampire Chronicles” by Anne Rice.  I went through my Anne Rice obsession in the early to mid nineties.   Once again, I’m addressing the work of Anne Rice, not the person Anne Rice; I believe in drawing this line and make no exception here.

How did I find out about Anne Rice?  This will sound stupid, but it’s also called “word of mouth” in a women’s bathroom.  A girl classmate of mine complained of not having time to read “The Vampire Chronicles.”  Hmm…that sounded interesting.  As a newlywed, my husband had already read them but passed the books on to his friends before we met, so I picked up the set.  Later, in a interview for an academic position, I was asked “What’s your favorite book?”  I said, “Dune, I guess.”  (The short-list, anyway).  He asked, “What are you reading now?”  I said “Anne Rice.”  I was offered the job.

I loved these books.  For everyone?  No.  Action-packed?  No.  Sympathetic characters?  No.  Setting?  New Orleans, and that’s a home run for me, since I lived in the area in the mid-80’s and howled homesickness almost daily after moving.  I don’t consider these (or any of Rice’s book’s I’ve read, not read them all) for children, but they are fascinating.  In “The Vampire Chronicles” what’s interesting besides the setting is the topic:  1) Vampires.  Humans play no major role other than a food source.  2) Adding a child vampire was innovative at the time because imagine a young child who does not realize the consequences of evil and realizes she will never grow up.  (I’ve heard Claudia grew from a tragic inspiration, again, will leave that with the author) 3) The history is thoroughly researched, and from a reader-non-historian viewpoint, quite impressive.  She also excels at first-person POV.

So I ate those books in short order to move on to the series of the “Mayfair Witches.”  These more erotic, more-human involved books take the reader into a different level of New Orleans and its history going back to the Caribbean, France, and Scotland.  Like in most other Anne Rice books I’ve read when the bad guys go down, they go down in a simplistic, short, final way, after all the wonderful history he/she has seen and all the terrible things done for survival, none of it counts in the end.   The jerks die in the way they lived and with the same dignity they gave their victims.  (I haven’t read all of her books, so there may be exceptions).

In “The Witching Hour” Rice goes to great depth into the description of the Mayfair house in the Garden District in New Orleans.  On one of my trips there with my husband, we found out about an “Anne Rice Tour.”  There was no question of price, we were going, so what that it was 2pm in a cloudless sky in August?  Everyone knows how hot New Orleans is.  Well apparently not; as I approached the house on First street (which had a huge acrylic dog on the upper veranda, I loved it), I touched the gate, eyes wide-eyed with delight to finally see this house, and my name was called in the distance.  Another tourist was from Europe, dressed in heavy black clothes with a black velvet outer corset passed out from heat exhaustion.  My husband caught her from falling, I saw to her, and someone came out of Anne Rice’s house with a bottle of water.  And it wasn’t a vampire; he didn’t sparkle or burn.  I’m glad the young lady was all right, and we all enjoyed the tour.

I’m glad to hear Ms. Rice is writing again.  When I need inspiration to write first-person POV, one of her books is an arm reach away.

Monday, March 5, 2012

On Self-Publishing Hazards

"The Sting"

Yesterday I surfed the Internet about self-publishing companies for big names in the industry I used to see plastered everywhere when “Act of Redemption” was published in 2009 I don’t see anymore.  I changed publishers for “Children of Discord” and see that publisher often by my author colleagues, but now I wonder where did these big companies go?

It didn’t take long to answer my question.  The companies are still around, ready for business.  $10K and all of your dreams will come true; you will be the next J.K. Rowling.  Listings of some (not all) of these companies I found on cheerful sites like “Pissed customer” and “Scams.”  In cyberspace, anyone can type anything, it’s difficult to sort out truth, but in consistent networking, one can eventually sift the flour enough for the bad parts to remain in plain sight.

Some of the comments sounded like John Locke and myself when mentioning the price of “premium” marketing packages and costs of publishing paperbacks.  I’ve discussed this on an article about Ads and new authors.  When I look back at the money so casually asked for, they beat out the companies with the fake “extended vehicle warranties” that I fell for only once.  What was the cure for the bad vehicle warranties?  1) Don’t buy them; 2) buy a better car from a better dealer.  Similar can be said for self-publishing companies; some are better than others, and some are definitely cheaper than others.  Usually they do what they say, when all is said and done; you get a book of reasonable quality.  After paying thousands for edits, re-edits, covers, trailers, and who-knows-what they try to talk you into, especially purchasing your own books.  They know your books won’t sell from their site, so the only customer is the writer once publication has happened.

A few “Hey, stupid crybaby, get over yourself, find an agent and get published,” comments showed up also.  Hmm. Easy to write a book, easy to find an agent?  Maybe for some, but I read those books too and found that to be a dismal and unrewarding process.  Here we go, writers with self-inflicted carpal tunnel syndrome humbly, head down, hat in hand, sending that query letter complete with SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) knowing that we’re not worthy, but hoping some agent will have pity in his/her heart and take us in.  Note back to those commenters:  I’m not a crybaby and I’m not an earthworm. 

Anger can be useful, but is better reserved for the privacy of our homes and cars, like my previous article on profanity.  If there’s a person that’s lived their entire life without spending any money poorly, I applaud them.  Instead of griping or calling lawyers, I like to think of it as a “teachable moment” because legal maneuvers have a low chance to get your money back.  When a self-publishing company gobbled up my wallet faster than PacMan, I did the same thing I did with my car warranty.  One burn doesn’t mean I shouldn’t publish as I like, and I like self-publishing at this point in my journey.  Be cautious, new authors, check around everywhere.  I did my homework and still got hung out to dry.  But it all came out in the wash.   I’m still writing and those companies are still out there.  I just hope other new authors are finding out about them before making the same mistakes I did.

Friday, March 2, 2012

On the Prominence of Profanity


Like many kids, I heard foul language first by adults around me; with the typical paradox that if I did the same, the punishment was harsh and the assumption was that I learned it at school.  Schools that I attended didn’t tolerate the use of ugly words, and for a grade-driven kid like me, not worth the trouble.  (I've heard many good/bad stories about schools today, so I'm not going there).  I began reading novels during my pre-teen years, around eleven or twelve.  Some of the early books I read were bestsellers, like “Jaws,” “M*A*S*H,” and “Catch-22,” which contained a fair amount of profane words.  It’s embarrassing now to reflect as a child I could read something and not really understand it, which led to plenty of forgettable moments when I spouted out colorful words that I had no idea were “ugly.”  Though I cherish the early freedom of reading I was given, it clearly has two sides.

College opened up the rebellious part of me as happens with many students.  Within a couple of weeks my spoken language degenerated into something like the old James Whitmore play “Give ‘em Hell, Harry.”  Obviously, my mother was horrified when hearing me talk on the telephone with my friends when home on break.  But I knew better than to swear to her, or my grandparents, kept my grades up, and later won a scholarship, so potty-mouth and all, I made it through.  (I never said I was a classy student).

Years and maturity fortunately gave me restraint of public bad-mouth rants, keeping them in the privacy of my home or car for catharsis after a bad day with only occasional bad behavior my husband frowns at. 

I was reading a recent review of the series “Game of Thrones” with a reference to George R. R. Martin’s books that I reviewed last year, and mention was given to the profanity (and the sexual material) in the books and the show, and that it didn’t add anything to the story.  As I think about it, I agree, and it's an excellent epic.  As an adult, I don’t think much about it as I read it, but I don’t recommend it for kids. 

For writers, what role does profanity play in our stories?  My books have some profane words that help define “profane” characters.  Other writers I’ve seen have characters use profanity because it makes the dialogue sound real, meaning, if a character is on a helicopter in a gunfight, then some raw words may erupt in the moment.  But does profanity make or break a story?  I doubt that.  It does limit the genre, and it’s understandable to me that parents are concerned about what their kids read.  Like anything else in a novel, there’s no scale to weigh the integrity; there’s only reader preferences. 

I’ll continue to keep respectful restraint of words inappropriate for polite society.  If I had kids in my house, I’d want to set an example better than what I was in college.  Authors, write what you think is appropriate; many bestsellers have plenty of profanity and many do not.  The readers always decide.