Unravelling the mystery starts here.
I have been considering leaving WdC, and writing in general, for some time now, but it has been such a huge part of my life for so long that I haven't been able to pull the trigger yet. Until I do, this blog remains a chronicle of my evolving thoughts and feelings. Enjoy the blog, enjoy the music, enjoy life!|
Jack of Clubs
| "Writing is an escape from a world that crowds me. I like being alone in a room. It's almost a form of meditation — an investigation of my own life. It has nothing to do with, 'I've got to get another play.'"
~ NEIL SIMON
Good morning, friends, and I hope it finds you well. Here I am back on the right day to regale you with tales of what I've been up to over the weekend.
I have a good friend who I finally met in person when he came out to my city for the last Gaslight Gathering (now the Gaslight Steampunk Expo) before Covid. He is a professional astronomer at Kitt Peak who writes steampunk, weird west, and sci-fi, and who I have great respect and admiration for. So, imagine my trepidation when I was called to step into the pit for a bare knuckles brawl with him over what constitutes Fan Fiction (FanFic), whether a piece of FanFic, once written, can ever graduate to something higher, especially if that hand-scribbling fan should go on to become employed by the franchise he or she was writing about, and whether a piece that appeared in a FanZine is elevated if it is subsequently published in an anthology. Anybody here remember fanzines? Christ, I'm old!
That brawl ended well, with no loser, a virtual handshake, and a symbolic pint, but that isn't what I'm here about. I'm examining the possibility of inventing a term for a genre of writing that most if not all of us pursue: EnFic, short for Enthusiast Fiction. Last Sunday, I chronicled my journey from child writer to serious writer to whatever it is I am now. For thirty years, from about 1975 to 2005, I chased the dream in earnest. I rattled the cages of agents, editors, and publishers across the nation and around the western world. I had conversations with some who are household names today, and they taught me a few things I didn't know; not enough to actually get published, but, you know... My overarching achievement during this time was to collect enough rejection slips to wallpaper a small bedroom.
I'm not going to go into all the sordid details, but the basic facts outline the reason for me assembling this post today. When people try out for a sport and they don't come up to the mark, they might try out repeatedly, but eventually they come to terms with the fact that they don't have what it takes and move on to an alternative. Likewise, if your dream job is as a TV news anchor, you'll take the classes and offer your services to every station that lists an opening. But after a while, if you don't get hired, you move on. Maybe you end up as a dog catcher or a shift manager at Target, but you don't spend your free time pretending to be a news anchor. Doing so could be considered practice up to a point, after which it begins to resemble insanity.
Why, then, is what we do – what I do – different? Or is it? I set out to be a writer and spent thirty years figuratively pounding the pavement and knocking on doors before I faced the reality that I didn't have what it took. I've long since stopped approaching professionals, and have long since given up the dream, but yet I continue to write for this small group of friends and acquaintances who profess to enjoy my work. How is this conceptually different from turning down the sound on a televised baseball game and calling the play-by-play for an apartment full of friends? But somehow, because we're writers, it is.
And I lean into it hard. I don't submit anything to anyone, so it's a pretty good bet that I'm not going to find a publisher any time soon. So, what is it that I'm doing? If you write original stories about Star Trek or Harry Potter designed for no other purpose than to entertain yourself and a group of friends, then you are writing Fan Fiction. I have no interest in writing about Captain Kirk, Ron Weasley, James Bond, or anyone else that I didn't invent. I write about my own characters in their own worlds pursuing their own goals and agendas, and I write without any illusions about publication. It isn't FanFic, but it isn't a logical pursuit, either, so what is it? I imagine that many of you here can be described by the same sentence as well, and shouldn't we have our own word to cover our own original work?
I've nominated Enthusiast Fiction – EnFic for short. Anyone else have any suggestions?
Until next week, play nice, watch out for one another, and above all else, read well and write better!
| INTERVIEWER: "How many drafts of a story do you do?"
S.J. PERELMAN: "Thirty-seven. I once tried doing thirty-three, but something was lacking, a certain – how shall I say? – je ne sais quoi. On another occasion, I tried forty-two versions, but the final effect was too lapidary, you know what I mean?"
Good morning, my faithful, and I hope some newfound friends! I hope you're all enjoying great success in your writing careers, whatever it is you want them to be. With another entry percolating hard on the heels of this one, I'm here to offer as a Sunday bonus my vision of being a writer, and a confession about the Quill Awards.
I was turned on to writing to entertain others in 1958, the year I turned ten. I'm 73 now; the math is easy, so I'll let you do it. I was writing then to entertain my friends and acquaintances, the other kids in my fifth-grade class. The teacher would assign us to write a 1-2 page story based on one of several pictures she would line up around the blackboards, and while we were out at recess, she would pick a few of her favorites and read them aloud when we came back in without telling anyone who had written them, and ask us all to vote on our favorites. Mine always ranked high.
Somewhere in the early 70s, 10 to 15 years in I guess, I decided that I was going to be a Great Writer, make my living from millions of books sales, and be the darling of the late-night talk show circuit. Except... well, if you've ever shared that dream, you probably know how it ends. For around thirty years I scribbled and pandered, shopped, trawled, and pimped, always thinking that I was inches, moments away from my Big Breakthrough, and if I could just find the right agent, I'd be on my way.
That gets me to about 2005, which is when I finally faced up to the reality that I wasn't going to be the superstar of my dreams. I had written urban fantasy, classical fantasy, a police procedural ("Broken English" ), and some adventures featuring a reformed Irish terrorist now selling her skills as a paladin. And it was about three years after this that I discovered and took out my first membership (this is number three) in WdC. But I still had the dream. It was around this time that I started writing the Beyond the Rails series of steampunk adventures which I self-published, imagining at the back of my mind that once people discovered my obvious quality as a writer that I'd be on my way at last. Well, one month, my book royalties paid for my internet bill. But those books are still on Amazon, and the first story is available to read for free at "The Botanist" .
And here I am in the middle of 2022, and I've come full circle. I am now in a closed group writing for friends and acquaintances, and loving it. Not like I used to, I'll admit. The bloom is off the rose, and it's a bit more tedious than it was, but I'm still producing content at a somewhat reduced rate, and very much enjoy the feedback that I get. I've talked about the blogging and reviewing, and that, with the trickle of writing I still do, covers about all of my activities.
And my confession about the Quills? Several of my stories have been nominated for Quill Awards, and every time, I have gotten hold of the committee and respectfully requested that the nominated items be withdrawn. The reason behind that is that my items are constantly being changed, temporarily hidden, or even permanently deleted, and it doesn't seem fair to win this prestigious award with a story that might return an "Invalid Item" message a month later. Imagine how you'd feel if you lost to me, went to see what was good enough to beat you, and found nothing there. My deviously sinister mind also harbors a sneaking suspicion that the Quills are more a popularity contest than a judgment of one's writing skills. There must be a couple of hundred entries every year, and I suspect that it's a rare member indeed who reads them all and tries to make an informed choice about which is the best of the lot. People, I think, will vote for their friends, and I neither want to win nor lose like that. If I'm wrong, it's my shortcoming, but there you are.
The one Quill nomination I have allowed to stand is the one for reviewing. I know without any false modesty that I turn out a damned good review, and once I post one, it's there to stay, so what you saw five years ago will still be there now should you go looking. So, vote away, folks! That's one I'd be proud to display.
And in other news, already this month I have discovered a handful of stories in my travels that deserve some recognition and are very much worth your while. All have small flaws that will keep them out of "Talk of the Flight Deck" , but their authors are already moving in the right direction, and if some of my readers were to show them some love, I'll bet they'd deeply appreciate it. They are:
And that's my "Bonus Entry" for this beautiful Sunday. I hope I don't get voted off the island for my honesty, but if I don't deliver that and own up to all my warts and blemishes, then what good is this blog, really? As always, play nice, look out for one another, and above all else, read well and write better!
| "It was extraordinary but because all that time I was a failure, I knew it was a mistake. I should have gone out into the world of periodicals and journalism. Publish, publish whatever you can as early as possible. Not to be published as a novelist until you are 37 years old is devastating, a kind of living death. I'll never get over it. It has left me with almost an excess of gratitude for any attention I get."
~ CYNTHIA OZICK
I've been seeing a number of posts on blogs, groups, and forums by writers struggling to ply their trade, and I thought I might share my experience with the same issue here, both to reassure those poor unfortunates that they don't suffer alone, and in the hope that it might spark some relief for some discouraged scribbler... Maybe even me!
Those of you who have known me for some time will be aware of my frequent disinterest in the Craft, to the point of wanting to pack it in sometimes. I often put it down to the nadir of my six-week manic/depressive cycle, but of late it has become much more than that. I have a fair number of friends here who I talk with regularly, and who are supportive to a fault. I have a writing buddy with whom I share ideas, characters, and concepts for their use. He has been instrumental in driving my Shadows series forward in these last weeks, but I swear, lately it's become a chore akin to pushing a boulder up a hill made of loose sand.
Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday... I'm looking at my calendar, and those days say "Write." I see them coming up, I plan for them, I read my outlines – yes, I outline so thoroughly that other outliners consider me a freak – I drift off the night before thinking about the scene to come, and then the big day arrives... upon which I sit at the keyboard staring at my notes, thinking about all the other things I could be doing instead, things I want to do. Not even that; a couple of weeks ago I even opted for washing last night's dishes over writing. Case in point: As I prep this for next Wednesday, it's Friday the 6th, and GoG-dot-com (Good old Games) just sent me an ad for a sale on one of my favorite games of all time ... Okay, it's two hours later, and I'm back.
So, what happened to this enthusiastic writer who thought he was going to join Dean Koontz and Stephen King at the top of the literary heap? Reality? Impatience? A sense that I've accomplished what I set out to do? Hard to say, but I remember a 30-year old me who could hardly think about anything else because multiple stories were clawing at the back of my eyeballs in their need to get out and be told. Now they just lie in their recliners, dreading the day when I show up to try to make them perform. But they aren't alone in their lethargy; I'd just as soon let them rest most days.
So here I sit with two stories in progress, both with fans eager to read more, and not much happening. All I can do is beg for your indulgence. Some days I'm eager, and on those days I'll produce. That slow, steady pace will bring something to a conclusion eventually. I can only hope that a few fans will be left to read them when that happens. Meanwhile, bear up. I'm still reviewing, I'm still blogging, and I'm still being driven by a stubborn belief that next week is bound to be better! How about you? If you can believe that, you can overcome your "block," or whatever it is you call it; this, too, shall pass...
Read well and try to write better,
| "Characters are fiction!"
~ JACK TYLER
Struggling as I often do with a story that refuses to perform, but simply lies in a heap giving me sullen looks when I try to prod it to activity, I've found myself reduced to taking the components apart as one would a cantankerous engine to look for the piece that's broken. I expound "Tyler's Axiom" in every review I offer (see quote above) and so tend to begin my Quest for Quality there. The subject is characters, and one of the most effective techniques that writers can employ to make them compelling. And make no mistake, compelling characters are fiction. I cannot emphasize this belief strongly enough: If you, as a writer, get your characters right, they will take care of everything else.
So today, I'm going to discuss a trait that may be hindering my efforts to get Dutchman's Flat back on track, and maybe it's hindering your efforts as well. In your endeavors to make your characters compelling, don't overlook the value of wounds. No, not knife and gunshot wounds, but the kind we all suffer in our daily lives, from unthinking parents and uncaring bosses to thoughtless friends and tactless acquaintances. We all carry baggage from the time we were old enough to understand body language; after we begin to understand spoken language, they get deeper. I was made to feel utterly inadequate as a child, and that I would never amount to anything. Long-time acquaintances are familiar with my periods of depression, and the oft-voiced belief that I have no business doing this.
Thanks for that, grandmas. Without any grounds for thinking it, I am at least partially convinced that the reason I write is to show the long-dead parents, teachers, and peers who so often called me stupid that I'm not.
But I'm not here to do an exposé on my less-than-stellar childhood. Everyone has these ghosts, these inexorable spirits that haunt them, no matter how they try to banish them. They engender false beliefs about themselves and the world around them that hinder and handicap every effort they make to advance themselves in a task, or in life in general. These beliefs are almost never true, but they always make perfect sense to the person who holds them. In literary terms, these false beliefs are "character flaws," and every memorable character has them.
Perfect characters are uniformly dull and uninteresting. This is where planning really comes into its own. The character that is allowed to randomly assemble herself as the narrative unfolds can't hold the coat of one that was designed from scratch with a range of well-thought-out flaws that were carefully assembled to come from a reasonable source. This is hard to explain, but an example may suffice: A hatchet-wielding Temperance Union matron is likely to have come from a strict religious background, and maybe (probably?) a home with a father that used to get drunk and beat up the wife and kids on a daily basis. But a fun-loving flapper who routinely drinks as part of her social life is most unlikely to be numbered among the stiff-shirts of the no-fun crowd, whether at home, work, or play. Yet each considers the other to be flawed. Think about where these characteristics and ingrained traits had rise, and don't give a character too many. One big one and one or two smaller ones should be plenty. For a main character, an added treat is if you can give him a secret that he would kill or die to prevent coming to light. This is more closely associated with a villain, but a hero can certainly have one, and once you the writer know what that is, it will inform everything the character does, and he will fairly leap off the page with intensity.
Once the underlying flaw or secret is identified, give it full rein. The story goal, especially for the protagonist, must conflict with his beliefs arising from that flaw, and he must overcome it and resolve it in order to resolve the needs of the story. To see this in action, look no further than Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, its final scene on the bell tower being one of the most powerful in cinema. Imagine the utter banality of that scene had Jimmy Stewart's character not been terrified of heights. A paralyzing fear of some event with a good chance of occurring in a character's daily life is a good secret to be hiding, and that's only one example. Secrets about relationships, personal pleasures, especially fetishes, a germ phobia, the list is endless, can both make a character vulnerable and ratchet up the tension of a story. Hint it to the readers and put the character in a place where a life or death situation depends on her overcoming it before help arrives, and you have your compelling character in spades. Put her on the page, allow her to fight to overcome her flaws, then bask in the epic reviews as she takes your story and your reputation as a writer to heights you never dreamed of.
How's that, does it suggest anything of value to you? Now if you'll excuse me, I'm feeling a sudden need to revisit Dutchman's Flat. See you next week!
Jack of Clubs
| "You don't choose writing. Writing chooses you."
~ JACK TYLER
Good day, my friends, and welcome to May. May. Seven months until Christmas, and I haven't lost my holiday weight from last year yet. Oh, well, time flies when you're having fun, they say, so let's have some more today. I've cut my reviewing back to eight or nine per month these days, and last month I did eight. Out of those eight, three earned the coveted five star rating. Some people didn't see fit to type "thank you" in the comment box after I'd spent in the vicinity of two hours reading their stories and writing a review, so those were removed from consideration for the award. What we were left with, then were these honorable mentions:
Fine stories to be sure, but this month's winner of my exclusive Merit Badge and the AwardIcon was
All of these are worthy of a reading, and I strongly hope that some of you take the time to pay them a much-deserved visit. I should also point out that the monthly contest for "The Dreamweaver Lounge" will be going up momentarily, so if you're looking for a good prompt contest, pay us a visit and consider joining; that's the only requirement to enter.
And that's all I've got right now. Play nice, watch out for one another, and above all else, read well and write better!
Jack of Clubs
| "You don't choose writing. Writing chooses you."
~ JACK TYLER
Good day, my friends, and I hope it finds you well. I have nothing in particular that needs to be said today, so I'm just going to offer a collection of items that have crossed my sightline in the past week. I'll begin with an update on my writing activities. I finished "Serpens Alatus" about a week ago and put it up to read. Leaving it up to entertain who it might, I returned to "The Legend of Dutchman's Flat" for another story. As you probably know, I don't do any planning for Dutchman's Flat. I just seize on an idea and let 'er rip. A strong (I think) opening paragraph came to me which I wrote down as soon as it struck, and have not yet changed. I repeat it here:
There are those who say that women have mystical powers, and I'm not inclined to disagree. I mean, just consider; a woman can build a new human being inside her body and bring it forth into the world, and that's mystical enough for me. But I don't think that's what they're talking about. Take the singular case of one Miss Elizabeth Foote.
This was followed up by a couple more paragraphs to set the scene, but I immediately saw the weakness in them, and have no confidence they will lead anywhere. So I put that on hiatus for now. While I was conducting this process, I received a review for Serpens that I found unusual. It gave five stars, but suggested that the story felt rushed and more like an anecdote than a story. I'd knock a whole star off a story for a fault like that, but you're free to write your own reviews any way you want them here, so... thanks!
But the only two projects I actively work on anymore are Dutchman's Flat and "Shadows" , and my confidence in both has been shaken. I'm going to work on one or the other, but I don't know which. Maybe by next week I'll be able to tell you.
In other news is a Writer to Watch. I reviewed a story last week that had no author bio attached to it. I chided said author for that, pointing out that he or she would receive much more tailored reviews if we knew something of their background. The story had a few technical problems that kept it from receiving a 5-star rating, which means that it won't be in the running for my "Talk of the Flight Deck" Award, but it needs to be championed on the site because it is exceptional in its portrayal of the anguish that would drive a young teen out into a storm in nothing but a nightgown. The story is:
In the conversation following my review, I learned that the writer is a 13-year old seventh grader. Bookmark this young lady; she has all the chops, and can only get better!
I also want to highlight a new published work by our own CW Hawes , Death Wears a Red Hat, the first installment in the Magnolia Bluff Series. The uniqueness of this series is that multiple authors – nine to date – share a town and characters through a series of mysteries. He speaks of it at length on his off-site blog:
And finally, yesterday morning I received a cryptic email from a new member who actually joined yesterday morning. They go by the name of GigglesZZ , and I have no idea who they are, whether it's someone I know from somewhere else, or what they might want. The email is a sentence of nonsense phrases divided by ellipses, and I don't know whether I'm supposed to solve it like a puzzle, if it's some sort of veiled threat, or if it's a "wrong number," and meant for someone else. Anyway, I have things to do that might actually, you know, lead to something, so my response at this time is to ignore it just as I do ads for Jeremiah Peabody's Miracle Hair-Growing Cream. I'll let you know if it develops into anything real.
And that's 30 for today. Play nice, watch out for one another, and above all else, read well and write better!
Jack of Clubs
| "Most writers enjoy two periods of happiness — when a glorious idea comes to mind and, secondly, when a last page has been written and you haven't had time to know how much better it ought to be."
~ J.B. PRIESTLEY
Good day, fellow travelers. How goes the journey? Today I offer a special feature. It has been requested that, as probably the king of the outliners, an outlier among outliners as one might say, that I offer a short course in my process. This I am happy to do, though I probably shouldn't give away trade secrets, and in any case, I can't imagine this being a method that anyone in their right mind would want to follow. Nonetheless, my mission here is to please, so let me organize my thoughts, and we'll get started.
So, if you're a pantser, and you're good at it, you probably won't get much out of this post, but you can read along if you like. But if you find yourself struggling with plotlines, subplots, and timing climactic events, this might be for you. What I write most these days are novellas, and that's what this post will be about. And credit where it's due here: I learned to use a "grid" from Evan Marshall's book, The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing published in 1998. Over the ensuing 24 years, I've modified, customized, and personalized it to the point where he probably wouldn't recognize what I'm doing if you showed it to him, but he was the genesis.
I shall assume for the purpose of this post that you want to write a novella. Masterclass.com defines a novella as a work of between 10- and 40,000 words. My "sweet spot" is 15- to 20,000. I have found that to be much more manageable than a full-on novel, but still of sufficient length to introduce a complication or two, a layer of intrigue the short story utterly lacks due to the size restraint.
"So, what's this grid thingie you're talking about?"
It's merely a term, pure semantics, nothing else. Observe: I'm aiming for 20,000 words, give or take, so I take a page in my notebook and number the lines from 1 to 21. The reasons for 21 are first, this gives you seven scenes in each "Part." Second, that gives you the first and last scenes, the first to set up the story, and the last to wrap up the plot and set up a sequel. Then you need to assign numerals to the characters. Number 1 is your protagonist, and if you have a "co-star," about one-third of the 1s will be from the viewpoint of the sidekick. Number 2 is the primary villain. Number 3 is a subordinate character who is going to impact the action. This can be a henchman, the mastermind, or even a "civilian" who assists or complicates the hero's efforts to prevail.
Now take your notebook in hand. Line 1 is the scene that gets the story started. Pencil in whichever character is necessary to the action. A crime is committed, a car crashes, a woman finds a love note in her husband's pocket, whatever. This is what's called the "initiating action." Now on the remaining twenty lines, scatter more or less evenly twelve "1"s, four "2"s, and four "3"s, making sure that the last line is viewpoint 1. Write them in pencil so you'll be free to switch them around as the story develops. The 1s will become scenes told from the viewpoint of the hero, the 2s will become scenes featuring the villain, and the 3s will be told around that odd character.
Now that you know who will appear in each scene, write a sentence or two about what will be in each scene. For example, you're telling a story about two detectives investigating a crime, and on line twelve of your notebook, you have written, Owens and Stratton follow their lead to Frank's Tavern, a rough waterfront bar. Once you have told your story in a series of single sentences, you have your basic outline. Most planners would use this simple outline to write their story from, but I take the insanity a step further.
Now that I have 21 sentences, give or take, that describe a story, I expand each one into a paragraph. When I have five paragraphs written, I open a static item and write the first scene in full, using that first paragraph as a guideline. Then I write the next paragraph, the details building off the completed scene I just wrote. Then I write the second scene, and so on. And even after you've written these paragraphs and started your story, nothing is ever set in stone until you think it's perfect!
The paragraph for Scene twelve's sentence, for example, might be,
Stratton & Owens visit Frank's looking for Clarence. It's noonish, and even though they've dressed ratty, the place is packed with the lunchtime crowd and they're studied by multiple eyes as they enter. They move to the bar where the bartender approaches. "We're looking for Clarence." — "So are a lot of people. What's it to me?" Stratton lays a pre-folded $10 note on the bar. "The question is, what's it to me? There's a twenty to go with that if you put us in touch." Bartender pockets the 10. "I'll check." He consults with a man in a customized black suit, collar open, cuffs turned back, who's lounging at the end of the bar. The man slips out through a door behind him, and returns in a few moments. He confers with the bartender, then disappears into the crowd. Bartender returns, hand out for the $20, then tells them, "Through that door, up the stairs. First room on the right." They follow his instructions, and on entering the room, a big man steps through a curtain leveling a shotgun on them. "You must be Clarence."
You then expand this paragraph into a scene of about 1,000 words. Some will be longer, some will be shorter, but you'll land close enough to your word count to be well within the parameters. But even this can change in the telling. In the final scene, for example, the bartender might become an attractive woman who won't deal with them at all, and calls the bouncer. In order to see the man they came to see, who also might change from the outline, they have to identify themselves as law enforcement to the bouncer. Things, as you see, are fluid, yet disciplined as well. I need the discipline; it keeps me out of rabbit holes.
The advantages: During the initial writing of the sentences, which you can do in an hour if the story is really pulling you along, you'll discover whether the story has legs, or is just a will o' the wisp that would have robbed a month from you only to peter out in the homestretch. You're never blocked. The story is waiting in your notebook for your skill to transform it into someone's magic carpet. You may have days when you don't feel like writing, but you'll never be blocked. Finally, during the outlining, the story will have wormed its way into your heart. Your subconscious will work on it when you aren't even aware of it, comparing, discarding, and polishing to a high luster. If you're looking for a method of organizing your works in progress, give this a try, with or without the intermediate paragraphs. You may find that it focuses your attention with military precision just where you need it.
All of these principles can be viewed at work in a single writer by comparing my "Shadows" which is fully outlined as part of the prep, and "The Legend of Dutchman's Flat" which has no further preparation than, "Hold my beer, I'm going to try something." If you find the stories in Shadows to be tightly plotted, crisp, and moving from one clear plot point to another while those in the Dutchman's Flat series seem to be disjointed, rambling, and frankly not up to my usual standard (as I do), I offer my belief that the lack of planning is the reason. One of the first rules for taking a trip is to know where you're going.
As I said, this originally grew out of a method for outlining novels, and if anyone is interested in the specifics thereof, I could be persuaded to go into some detail on that, but not today! This is long enough already, and many other things are demanding my attention, so have a great day, and I'll talk with you again soon!
Jack of Clubs
| "Those who play with the devil's toys will be brought by degrees to wield his sword."
~ R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER
Good morning, all, and welcome back. Seems strange not to make a blimp reference here, but I'm getting used to it, and it's time. So, what's up with that quote?
Glad you asked. See, I finished "Serpens Alatus" , the second installment of my "Shadows" supernatural creature series, yesterday. For the first two stories, the investigators have been marching in lockstep, focused with single-minded determination on their common goal. No dissent, no minority opinions, no pushback, just as tightly interlocked as an American football offensive line. Beginning with the third story, I'll be looking to interject a bit of dissent into the ranks; at least that's what I'm going to try. I set it up at the end of the second one. We'll have to see how that works, but for the foreseeable future I'm going to be working on the next "The Legend of Dutchman's Flat" story or two, so that's where I'm at right now in the middle of April.
This was a short entry this week, which gives me plenty of time to tout the work of a couple of friends. First is CW Hawes whose Magnolia Bluff multi-author project I talked about last week. The release date for his book Death Wears a Crimson Hat is holding steady at April 21st, but he has chosen to release the first chapter as a teaser for the good things to be found within. Catch it on his off-site blog:
I was also able to entice an old literary friend, Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt, into WdC. She hasn't posted anything here yet, still getting her feet under her as it were, but she is writing the Pride's Children trilogy which can be found on Amazon (by the way, Alicia, the link on your blog is broken), and operates a spiffy off-site blog at:
She can be found on WdC at Liebja in case any of my friends would like to say hello and welcome her. I've found her a delight to talk with, and I'm sure many of you would, too.
Well, this is still pretty short, but that's good in its own way. There's not a lot of extraneous drivel to distract you from these few sharp bullet points: Stories by me, C.W., and Alicia. Dig in and enjoy! There should be something for everyone in this mixed bag, so have a good time. I'll see you back here next week, and until then, play nice, look out for one another, and above all, read well and write better!
Jack of Clubs
| Good morning, friends, and I hope it finds you well. The banner at the top of the Goodreads site informs me that this is Mystery Week, and I want to use that arbitrary calendar device to promote a talented and hard-working indie, CW Hawes
Mr. Hawes writes in a number of genres. He publishes often and promotes his work as best an indie can. His latest endeavor deserves to be recognized, and I'm here to help with that.
C.W. and eight of the indies in his writing group designed and populated a world in which to write mysteries. Release date of the first novel, Death Wears a Crimson Hat by C.W. himself, is set for April 21st. This will be followed in May by Caleb Pirtle III's Eulogy in Black and White, and in June by The Great Peanut Butter Conspiracy by Cindy Davis.
To be clear, these are mysteries by different authors that use the same characters in the same shared world. But C.W. himself can tell it best, so visit the relevant articles on his blog at https://www.cwhawes.com/magnolia-bluff-crime-chronicles-part-1/
Then prepare to be amazed!
| "Listen carefully to first criticisms of your work. Note just what it is about your work that the critics don't like—then cultivate it. That's the part of your work that's individual and worth keeping."
~ JEAN COCTEAU
Good morning, friends and followers, and welcome back to my humble soap box. I thought I'd talk about my experience with the fine and venerated art of reviewing this week, and a bit of backstory might be in order. I arrived on WdC on New Year's Day, 2017, which makes this, my third membership, just over five years old. In the course of that time I have given 639 reviews while receiving 143. That seems a bit unbalanced, but who's counting?
Anyway... The reviews I offer are thorough and detailed. I was nominated for a Quill Award for reviewing in 2021, and I'm pretty sure that thoroughness was behind it. More to the point for this post, they are honest, and that's what has gotten me into some difficulty in the past. I have my Review tab set to "I do not accept review requests." I generally find my review subjects on the Please Review and Read a Newbie forums, and one of the reasons that I don't accept requests is that I want to control what items I'm reviewing. Is that unreasonable? The main reason for that is that I don't want to squelch anybody's dreams, and let's face it, there are people on this site who shouldn't be writing anything more complex than a grocery list. Come on, you know you've seen them, and I don't want to be the person who tells you that you should quit wasting ink and find something you're good at. So I read the items I'm considering reviewing and if I don't feel I can give at least a three-star review with some encouraging remarks, I move on. The average rating of those 639 reviews is 4.47; I'm no one to be telling anyone they can't write, and all you need to do for proof is to look at my long string of best-sellers. Oh, you can't find them? Quite the coincidence; neither can I.
But if I accept a review request, I am bound by decency and my own sense of integrity to say what I believe, even if that isn't what the author might have wanted to hear. Case in point: I had a friend on this site that I had known for a couple of years. We shared stories, both static items and from real life. We talked and laughed and might not have been any closer were we next door neighbors. But then I wrote a review that he took exception to. I didn't think it was offensive; if I had, I wouldn't have posted it. But he did, and as I can't get in his head and see with his eyes, I'm not the one to say he was wrong. He unfanned me, the same as unfriending anywhere else, and may have blocked me given that I never see him on the newsfeed anymore.
I quit reviewing for a long time after that, but I still had to judge an ongoing contest, and that forced me to face it. I'm back to reviewing now, though nowhere near the pace I maintained before, and I still miss my friend — most poignantly, every time I click on that Leave a Review box. So, if you find me reluctant to review on request, this may go some way toward explaining it. I am flattered that my reviews are well-known around the site and are sought out by writers, but it terrifies me when I get that dreaded e-mail that begins, "I have a story that I'd like you to look at for me..." At the end of the day I'll probably do it, but be aware that the act of asking sends me into a cold sweat, and ask yourself if you really want your prospective reviewer to approach the task in that frame of mind.
And that's 30 for this week. Until next time, play nice, look out for one another, and above all else, read well and write better!
Semper audax esse,
Jack of Clubs