TWO WEEKS UNTIL I . . .

Yesterday, Tuesday the 17th of July, I did it. I submitted, per guidelines of the publisher, my query letter and first two chapters of my next book, Blood Will Have Blood. 

On their website it says if they are interested they will contact you within two weeks. So two weeks until I know if they are interested or not.

I will be happy either way. If they reject-and the odds are they will-I can publish the e-mystery on Amazon where my other books are. But it would be nice if they said “We want to read the final two chapters.” It would mean getting more feedback during the process of getting into ink print, rather than digital print.

I have had rejections from agents and publisher with other submissions, so rejection is not a problem. It happens to all of us. But every time you try, you have hope and now I have hope for two weeks.

But I will not be idle. I am making progress on my next mystery by researching painting styles and what artists may have been doing in the mid 1920’s, writing character profiles, expanding and editing the first chapter, and determining how many characters I should have, not wanting the reader to juggle too many. I also have short stories to write for another collection.

So I will not be staring at the phone waiting for the call, nor checking my inbox to see if they will use email to contact me. On the other hand, though it has been less than 24 hours since I submitted, I think they should have contacted me by now. After all, those were really good chapters. Can’t imagine what the hold up is.

Getting back to reality, I found the publisher through a free subscription to Authors publish Magazine. They provide lots of information on publishers, markets for all types of writing, and free downloads of information. It is a good place to get leads of who is accepting submissions, whether in print or online. I get no kickbacks for telling you about them, no hidden agenda. Just pointing to something that can provide help for  writers.

And now back to working on my next book-whether in ink or digital format.

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A WRITERS CIRCLE OF GUILT

As I write this sentence I feel guilty because I should be working on my next novel, creating character profiles and expanding chapter one.

But I know if I shift to that project I will feel guilty because I should be researching events of spring 1928 that occurred in and around Hood Canal as well as Washington State, and America as well.

But if I shift to researching I will feel guilty as I must edit two chapters before sending to a prospective publisher, rewrite my query letter, and sent my email to them.

But if I do that I will feel guilty as I should do more social media, blogging, tweeting, liking your blogs, uploading new photos to Instagram, going to Pinterest, as well as other undiscovered sites where I can increase my guilt.

But if I to that I will feel guilt for not pulling weeds. If I put on my gardening gloves, grab my clippers and pullers, I will feel guilt before I hit the backyard because I hate pulling weeds.

Sometimes guilt is welcome. See above paragraph. So I put down my tools, pull off my gloves, happy to feel guilt (for once) and start the process all over again. As I write this I am currently in the social media phase. It is going to be in the 90’s today so the weeds can flourish.

That means skipping weed pulling to work on my next novel. But this is Sunday and I only do that Monday thru Friday. So that is out until tomorrow. I could research, but I must send that email to a prospective publisher, so more important to edit the two chapters and query letter.

Or, since it will be in the 90’s I could head to the beach where I can feel guilty about everything. That is a plan. A writer’s life is not easy.

put down the book

 

WINNIE THE POOH’S 6 RULES FOR WRITING MYSTERIES

Full disclosure, the six rules of writing mysteries were set forth by A.A. Milne, who wrote Winnie the Pooh, but Milne does speak for Winnie, so there.

Milne also wrote a delightful mystery The Red House Mystery, that he dedicated to his father who was a big fan of mysteries.

So the six rules:

  1. The story should be written in good English

I thought that would be a given. After all, if you write bad English, you write a bad novel. So writing in good English should be obvious. I think this rule came from Winnie and Milne used to make Winnie happy.

2.  Love interest is undesirable.

Raymond Chandler also said the same thing. Of course there was Nick and Nora Charles, but being married their love is implicit. They sparred with wit and charm, with Nora being Watson to Nick’s Sherlock, although she was smarter than Watson.

Chandler, by the way, thought little of Milne’s mystery. He also trashed Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and virtually all British mystery novelists in the Golden Age of British mysteries, between the two world wars. Chandler was about realism, especially the writings of Dashiell Hammett. But Chandler missed elements of Red House Mystery, those being social satire, with a stab at comedy of manners. It is very witty with sharp dialogue.

3.  Both detective and villain should be amateurs.

Since the early 1920’s, when Milne was writing these rules, police procedural mysteries  have become a sub genre of their own. There were a few back then, but the genre has grown to the point that this rule does not apply. It is a matter of taste and preference and I prefer the amateur.

4.  Scientific detection is ‘too easy’.

I am not sure what Milne meant with this rule. But obviously nearly a century has passed and science is much bigger now in detecting clues and evidence. British mysteries in the golden age were more about puzzles, and figuring out who did it. Milne may have implied that the amateur detective should rely on getting clues, piecing them together to solve the puzzle.

5.   The reader must know as much as the detective.

This rule should apply to all mysteries of any era. The reader should have access to the information, not only to see if he can solve the murder before the end, but more important, not to trick the reader. You can not add information at the end when the killer is revealed that comes as a surprise to the reader. That is not playing fair and it pisses off the reader who has invested his time in the story.

6. There should be a Watson: it is better for the detective to Watsonize’ than soliloquize.

This is elementary. One could have a detective working alone and he can share his thoughts through the first person, such as “When I saw the gun on the floor it was too far away for it to be suicide, but then why was the gun ten feet away, perhaps because . . .”  In essence the reader could be the Watson. In my mysteries I use Chet and Eveleen, a married couple, who along with their flapper friend Clancy solve mysteries. I do this because I enjoy their interplay.

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This writers struggle to let go of his book

I thought it was just me.

But in The Golden Age of Murder, a book about British mystery writers between the two world wars it was said of Dorothy Sayers that  “. . . as  many authors do, that once she finished a book, she went through a phase of self doubt.”

I don’t know what went through her mind, but consider a writer creates a story, nurtures it, works to improve it, and when finished it is time to let go. Ah, it is the letting go that is the problem.

It is like raising a child and then letting it go out into the world. Your story, your work can be attacked by critics and readers, just as your child can be hated for reasons you can’t fathom. You love your child, you love your book and you hurt a bit when they are attacked. Each book, like each child, is on their own.

Self doubt, fear of letting go is real for many writers, myself included. I finished my latest e-novel months and months ago. I went through extended editing with grammar and punctuation and let it sit, coming to it with fresh eyes for another round of proofreading. How many times should one do this before letting go? I did it 3 or 4 times. Okay, maybe even more.

Now I am faced with creating a cover, or having someone else do it and I am also in the process of coming up with a new title. The original title was Head on a Grave, because the story begins with a woman’s head found on a grave. But I have two collections of horror stories, both with graves on the cover. I though another grave cover would be too much. I wanted more variety in my covers. Of course I could retain the title, but what image do I use on the cover?

I have two images from a town where some of the story takes place and I thought I would use that, but I still wanted another title. So I thought of Murder Bleeds out, or Blood will have Blood (from Macbeth), or Murderous Matters. Or perhaps Shadows in the Dark.

You see where I am going right.

I am still in a delay mode, while I ponder a new title, new cover, still having trouble letting go. It does not stop me from working on short stories or starting a new novel. The writing is easy, the letting go is hard.

But I have let go before, two collections of short stories and three e-novels on Amazon, so I can do it. I will get there. I just have to spank myself and get on with it.

Starting a Novel

In the beginning . . .

is the problem. The problem being how to begin. To outline or not to outline that is the question, whether it is more noble to create a roadmap and follow it through to the final destination at the outline’s end, or freelance and go where imagination (madness) takes you. In other words, take the road less traveled.

I opt, as usual, for madness. I like freelancing, making the story up as I go along. I have mentioned this before as I feel it gives the imagination free reign. I am also lazy and an outline is more work, and the less work the better. But in either case the opening is crucial. It must set the tone, it must draw the reader in to the story. It should introduce blah, blah, blah. Every writer has read all the advice about beginning  a story. And if you have read enough advice you have discovered conflicting ‘rules.’ So lets move on.

Let let me tell you about my new project because it has a bearing on how I start my new novel.

It is a murder mystery set in the spring of 1928 and is a follow up to my soon to be published e-mystery Head on a Grave. That story took place in the Pacific Northwest during November of 1927 when my lead Chet Koski having dispatched of a killer earlier in the year in Silent Murder, is given a vacation by his boss at Paramount Pictures, so he goes to visit his cousin in Centralia, Washington.

While the killer was caught, one person, who may or may not have been involved has proved elusive. Chet who lost his screenwriting job chasing the killer and not returning to work is going to stay in Washington to work on a novel.

That is the background to set up the next novel.

Research is important and during this time there was an artists colony on Hood Canal, which, by the way, is not a canal, but a fjord. It is a long story, feel free to click the link. So Chet, who is a writer, or at least he thinks he is, decides to go the Canal and find the artists who are painters, and blend in with the art colony. So that is the setting.

But we must begin the story with something exciting. Like the body of a dead woman washing ashore on the canal.  The opening paragraph is written in the omniscient point of view.

And then, as in Head on the Grave, I break the rules and change to 1st person as Chet gets out of bed and kills, or tries to, kill a black ant. This leads to a conversation with his actress wife and partner in solving murders, Eveleen.

So what have I accomplished so far. I have let you know I am working on a new novel, let you know a novel is soon to be published and given you a link to another novel, one I like a great deal and hope you read it if you have a Kindle or Kindle app, and given a link to the origin of Hood Canal.

I have done this because I am stuck on what happens next in my novel and was hoping to free up my creativity by writing a blog. That’s my story anyway and I am sticking to it.

And sense it is baseball season here is a link to the below e-novel based on a  true story you can read for 99 cents and help me feed my cat. Thanks for reading my blog.

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THE DAY I MET A 1911 BASEBALL STAR

You know you are getting old when you can tell people you met a pitching star whose rookie season was 1911. That was over a century ago.

 
I’m not a time traveler, I did not meet him in 1911; but at my age when reflecting on early parts of my life it sometimes seems I am traveling through time. The present is a totally different world from the late 1950’s.

 
I was probably in grade school. My father had been a pitcher in his youth, playing in an industrial league where I grew up. He gave that up when he decided to marry and have a family.

 
One of the umpires in the industrial league was a former major league pitcher who had an eatery in downtown Hoquiam, Washington, where I grew up. He told my dad-this is dad’s story- that this umpire told him he was good enough to pitch in the Pacific Coast League.

 
Who Knows?

 
But my dad took me to the eatery and introduced me to Vean Gregg, a pitcher who had a Hall of Fame start to his career until his arm went bad. In his rookie year of 1911 with the Cleveland Indians he was 23-7 with a league leading 1.80 ERA. Had there been a Rookie of the Year award he would have won.

 
The next two years he was 20-13 both seasons with ERA’s of 2.59 and 2.54. Then arm woes. He was 9-3 in 1914 before being traded to the Red Sox where he went 4-4. He was with Boston through 1916, then the Philadelphia A’s in 1918 and a final fling with Washington in 1925. His career record was 92-63 with a 2.70 ERA.

 
I remember sitting on a lunch counter stool and looking at Gregg as my father introduced me. I recall Gregg had nice smile and I have this image of the three of us going to a back room where I got to see some memorabilia.

 
He played on the same team as Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the great hitters of the game. He was also a teammate of Hall of Famer Napoleon Lajoie. Gregg also played with the only player to be killed by a pitched ball, Ray Chapman.

 
And oh, yes, when he was traded to Boston he was on the same staff with a 19 year old pitcher named Babe Ruth. I wish I could recall every word of the conversation. Did I ask him what it was like to pitch to Ty Cobb? I remember images, not the words of the conversation. Knowing what I now know of baseball history I wish I could have that conversation again.

 
But at least I have the memory of meeting Vean Gregg, a star pitcher for three great seasons. That is what baseball can do. Give you memories that link to a bygone era. Sort of like being a time traveler.

 

And this memoir about Vean Gregg is what led me to be a writer. In researching and studying the 1911 baseball season I remembered the story of Charlie Faust and in researching Charlie I decided to write a fictional account of his brief time with the New York Giants. And because I liked two fictional characters I created for the Faust story I continued with them in two more novels with another finished, waiting publication, and another in the early stages of writing.

 

Every writer has a journey. This is how mine began.

 

Charlie’s story and the continuing adventures of Chat and Eveleen are e-books that are on Amazon.

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The dilemma of telling people you’re a writer

A few days ago I received my online newsletter from Authors Publish.  It contains two leads for publishing houses, but what caught my interest was a short piece about what happens when you tell people you are a writer.

Number one of the five is the imposter syndrome. I have always been hesitant telling people I am a writer. The reactions I have gotten have not been positive, leaving me at times, feeling like an imposter. To this point, other than a brief memoir in a book published in 2012 and two short stories published locally in an annual book, I have published three e-novels and two short-story collections on Amazon. I also wrote film reviews for a newspaper for eleven years and did a few freelance stories. I received positive feedback during that period.

Yet I still hesitate.

I told a woman the other day about my short story published in an edition of the locally published book and she told me she wrote a piece for them a few years ago-and then made sure she deflated me my saying -“They publish anything sent to them.” I don’t know why she blew it off, and I question whether everything send is published.

Another woman said she only reads ‘real books’ and e-books are not real. Perhaps she fears the digital world. Then there are relatives. My closest cousins don’t read much, if at all, and though one wanted one of the annuals where my short story was published, he has never read, to my knowledge, the story. He had said he would tell me how he liked it, but that was about seven months ago. No phone call, no email, no smoke signals, not a wisp of contact. My other cousin said she still has not read the story. She never reads.

Is there any doubt why I sometimes feel like an imposter and any doubt why I hesitate to tell people I am a writer.

My best experience was reading my latest short story at the kickoff for the last annual collection of local writers. One woman said she read the story three times, and the man who puts the writings together for publication told the group how much he liked the story, why he liked it, and pushed me to read the opening page of my short story.

Though I hesitate, I am getting better at it. I have learned that detractors often have insecurities as I noted about the woman who said they publish anything. Like the Taylor Swift line ” haters are going to hate” so stay away from the haters and the negative nellies. They are not worth your time. I have found a positive group of local writers to share writing and experiences with, so am moving forward.

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the great make you feel, that you too, can become great.-Mark Twain.

I am coming out of  the “I am a writer” closet.

I am a writer, like it or not, take it or leave it.

John Calvin and His Book that Bombed

John Calvin (1509-1564) is best known as a religious reformer. He, like Luther and many others, broke from the Catholic Church when the Church become too corrupted with rampant scandals.

But I am not religious and I am here to talk about his first book,  Commentary on Lucius Anneas Seneca’s Two Books on Clemency, and not religious historyHe was 23 at the time and like any scholar with ambition eager to make his name known. He had to pay for the publication himself and like any author sat back to see what happened.

Nothing happened. As in zero book sales. Now you might look at the title and wonder why anyone would buy the book in the first place. But it was an age of ideas and change and literate people and other scholars relished argument, debate, and ideas. Except the Inquisition party-poopers of course. Besides there was no Stephen King books. Fiction? What was that?

Timing is everything and Calvin’s timing was off. His book was not to condemn the catholic Church, but an inoffensive argument, not a bad one to be sure, but not one the public was eager for. They had been, but now were very anti-pope and wanted an attack not something conciliatory and mild.

I mention this because other works of Calvin did sell and he made quite a name for himself with books, sermons, and letters. So if you write and self-publish, or write e-Books for the digital age, or even are a first time published writer, do not get discouraged if the book does not sell.

There are a few million book titles on Amazon. And with considerable competition growing daily it is easy to get the blues, become despondent and eat a freezer of ice cream and a semi of maple-leaf crème cookies. Yum!

Loonies in Hollywood sells better than my other books and it is my second e-Book. So write your second book, then your third. The future is bleak only when you give up.

Here are my five books at Amazon

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Falling Books Kill; e-Books Don’t-Alkan’s Mystery Death

Charles-Valentin Alkan, 1813-1888,  was a French-Jewish composer whose death was said to be caused by a falling bookcase. If you are an inveterate reader, is there a better death, than being buried under a bookcase and books? How sweet.

It was believed he was reaching on a high shelf for the Talmud when the bookcase fell on him. However, years later a letter from one of his students who wrote that Alkan died in his kitchen from a heavy coat-umbrella stand. His story goes that his concierge heard moaning and found him lying on the kitchen floor. He was taken to his bed where he died that night.

Well that kills my joy. But I ask, which story is better. Killed by an umbrella stand/coat rack or a bookcase?

It was further thought the bookcase story derived from the following legend about Aryeh Leib Asher Gunzberg, 1695-1785. I quote from Wiki.

“A legend exists of his death. During his studies a book-case fell on him, covering him with books. His students were able to rescue him after an hour or so and he related to them that he had been covered by the books of the authors with whom he had quarreled. He had asked forgiveness from all of them and they all complied save for one, Mordecai Yoffe (known as the Levush) who refused. He knew therefore that he was not long for this world, and pronounced the verse in Hebrew “Aryeh shoag mi loi yiroh”; i.e. that Aryeh (the lion, meaning himself) shoag (roars), but mi (an acronym of Mordecai Yoffeh, but can also mean ‘who’) loi yiroh (is not afraid).[2]

It is speculated that this legend is the source of the urban myth surrounding the death of the French-Jewish composer Charles-Valentin Alkan, whose family originated from Metz.[3]

Personally I will belive the myth of Alkan’s death. I find it inspiring.

Alkan’s grave.

The good thing about e-Books is your death will not result from a falling bookcase.

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Do You Agree With Pliny’s Quote about bad books?

“It is very rarely that a bad book does not contain some merit in the cultivated man.”- Pliny the Elder.

Writers will notice Pliny used the word ‘very’ and writers know to use that word, if at all, sparingly, very sparingly, but we must forgive the Roman Pliny for he lived from 26 AD to 79 AD and was unfamiliar with modern grammarians.

I admire Pliny for he loves to read, loves book, even bad ones, for he can find something of value where others can not.

But . .

Notice the phrase ‘cultivated man.’ The implication is that if you find nothing of merit in a bad book, something to take away from the book, you are not cultivated, therefore, or as Pliny would say ‘ergo’ you are unsophisticated, uncultured, unrefined, ignorant, perhaps outright stupid.   

Well who wants to be uncultured?

So we who want to be cultured, must of course, according to Pliny, find something in all books, no mater how bad, that we can learn from, or that brings up a pleasant memory, something we understand, that connects with us no matter how tangentially, anything at all.

I have tried. I have started books that had great reviews, or at least great blurbs on the back book jacket, and after twenty pages or so I am bored. I get what is going on. I just don’t care. Books talk to us. Each of respond differently to words, sentences, stories, just as we respond differently to food. Our taste buds are different. Sushi-never for me. Moby Dick-never for me.

Conversely, I have read books without any burbs whatsoever and found the story, the writing, everything about the book an absolute delight. Sometimes we are lucky and find these little treasures.

I do try to find something of merit Mr. Pliny, but I have many unread books, so I can set aside something that doesn’t taste quite right at the moment and try something else that looks more appetizing. But I do agree, every book does contain something for all of us, it is just a matter of connection.

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