🇺🇸-born, 🇬🇧-based, novelist.📖 Writing, travel, culture and more. Always holding "auditions" – so be careful or you may end up a character in “1797”…and perhaps an evil one.🎭 (And why do I suspect some of you might like that latter in particular?)😂
I speak here only for myself. I share my authoring experiences, particularly in writing romantic/historical fiction. I don’t claim to have some especial authority (and certainly don’t mean to be harsh about anyone else), but aim only to address – based on my own journey, so to speak – various issues that may be common to anyone who gets involved in this insane challenging activity.
As you probably know, I have been gradually working on a new novel that I hope will follow 2017’s Conventions: The Garden At Paris. It will be a “stand alone” tale of a similar scope and length, and will include some carry over from that previous book. Three people who appear in “1840” in Conventions – its final chapter – are important fictional characters throughout, and unsurprisingly appear in this new tale; but for spoiler sakes, I’m not naming them here. Several story-vital deaths also occur, but I don’t want to reveal here either who they are. As to the ultimate fates of all of the others, that is meant to be unclear… so I may bring them back or not in this “sorta-sequel.”
I remember a singer – I don’t recall who it was, though – a few years ago saying he felt he always had to be at his “best” in a live performance because how he came across at that moment would make a lasting impression on a fan. He could not afford, he said, to have an “off” night. In comparison, a listener could play a CD and he would always sound “perfect” on that.
If you have been following me for what now amounts to a long time (in internet and blog terms), you may recall this post from September 25, 2015. Yesterday I shared it to Instagram. I did so because I’d had several visitors recently appear out of nowhere after finding it:
That it attracted those outside visitors also got me thinking – which as you know is “dangerous.” Within that 2015 post I included a photo of the first page of Chandler’s novel. Here it is once more:
A blog in this small way is like a live performance as well. It gets readers’ reactions nearly immediately; and if a reader clicks to your blog at what they consider an “indifferent” post, they may never look around at anything else on your site. There is no such thing as a “throwaway” blog post.
It has by now entered “everyday” English. Even if we have never read a single thing he wrote, we recognize that name. And anyone with a male – and perhaps “wayward” – writer in a family may fall back on it… sometimes humorously…
[Excerpt from Distances. On iPad for Kindle. Click to expand.]
…as my fictionalized mom and my aunt did there. To us my uncle was often – jokingly – “Hemingway.” Yesterday, I stumbled upon James Mellow’s 1992 biography of the actual Ernest Hemingway in a box full of old books:
[Photo by me, 2018.]
He was a literary giant for nearly four decades and has remained big since his 1961 death. To be honest, though, I find his life and his times more interesting reading than his books: hence the biography. Although I’ve been to his Key West, Florida house, the only one of his novels I’ve read cover to cover is – perhaps unsurprisingly – The Sun Also Rises.
How many film versions of it (I feel the 1973/74 version remains the best one) have we seen? But it’s one of those classics that SHOULD be read. I couldn’t post this photo until today because it was one of the birthday presents we got for my younger nephew (and godson), who turned 16 yesterday and has apparently entered his “musketeers phase.”
[Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers. Everyman’s Library hardcover. Photo by me, 2018.]
I remembered first reading it in my teens, too. I found this The Three Musketeers on Amazon.co.uk in an Everyman’s Library hardcover. It’s the sort of book you give as a real present.
It was written as primarily entertainment, not “highbrow” literature. Originally published in 1844 as a serial in a small circulation Paris paper, today it would’ve started life possibly as a cable TV or Netflix series. I have a paperback in the Catskills, and another version on my Kindle.
I saw this yesterday on Google+ (via Adele Archer and DL Keur). It’s a link to a Grimace and Giggle piece by author Russ Linton. He writes on Amazon’s “cracking down” on reviews written by those with a so-called “established relationship” with the author:
Screen capture of Google+.
A year and a half ago I noted how ugly I believed at times the “reviews” issue had become on Amazon. It’s a problem not unlike what we also encounter regularly on TripAdvisor – including (if we authors think we’ve got troubles) the dimwits who “rated” Auschwitz. Given Russ’s post, I thought I’d revisit a few of my thoughts here, and expand on them slightly.
That “Fun With New Zealand’s Flag” post – from the (northern hemisphere) summer of 2015 – has in the last few days brought in tons of Kiwi visitors. It continues to do so. Until it suddenly “reappeared” within my “top visits” post list, frankly I’d almost forgotten about it.
I am no “expert” on New Zealand. (I have been there once, 15 years ago, to Wellington and Rotorua, and did like the country a lot and would go back, but that’s about it.) I read now that the flag change referendum is due to start March 3. (Those in favor of keeping the current design are polling well out in front – for now at least.) I’m guessing amidst the approaching vote there, my modest post must have ended up sorta “highly-ranked” in Google or something:
Screen capture of my Top 5 visitor countries on Sunday.
That “top country” visitor breakdown is perfectly “normal” – except for New Zealand.
We can forget – or we choose maybe to try to overlook – how competitive writing can be. Given the nature of the craft, that isn’t surprising: some authors will invariably achieve more success than others. Clearly, though, as in other walks of life, chasing success can also bring out the worst in some people.
There used to be a time that when honor was deemed at stake gentlemen took to the dueling field with pistols to settle their scores. Today, we’ve moved on. In our more egalitarian world, we ALL can throw dirt at each other on social media.
In the writing realm, those in the same genre seem the most likely to go head to head. If you ever find yourself in the line of fire between feuding authors, the best thing to do is run. At the very least, try to take whatever cover you can find.
Free Stock Photo: Soldier in gas mask with cloud of smoke.
….and, from far away Newport, Rhode Island, U.S.A., messages from my uncle started appearing out of the blue yesterday afternoon. He does that. Unexpectedly, thoughts and advice disjointedly come flying my way.
I usually try to jump to and – if possible – answer him immediately. You may know he’s a HarperCollins published crime novelist. (His first book appeared in the early 1980s. And he, urr, also sorta resembles one of my characters.) We got involved in a back and forth about reading and my writing.
This starts the revealing bit: it opens with the end of my response to a reading suggestion he’d made:
Best-selling author Harlan Coben has accidentally ended up in hot water with…. Poland:
Screen capture of author Harlan Coben’s Facebook page.
The power, and danger, of words. An English e-book version of one of his novels had the phrase “Polish concentration camp,” which in English could easily be read as implying it was a concentration camp run by Poles or by the government of Poland. Coben writes in that Facebook post above that the error has been “corrected” to “concentration camp located in Poland,” but the old e-book version is still floating around out there and he’s trying to get it stamped out.
I saw a comment the other day from a new novelist that did not sit right with me at all. I won’t link to it because I don’t aim to stir up trouble for others here; that’s not what I’m about. Still I feel the general issue merits addressing head on.
She wrote she had taken up writing because she wanted to work for herself and be her own boss.
As I read that, I thought, hang on a minute; that misses the point. If you’re, say, keeping a diary no one but you will ever read, that’s one thing. But as a published author you are NOT working for yourself and you are NOT your own boss.
You may recall I posted recently about a Messenger exchange I’d had with my uncle in which he’d suggested to me that I could write “a cozy.” When he did, I almost split my sides laughing. I wouldn’t know where to begin with a crime novel of any sort.
I’ve always suspected he sees me as a gentle type, and could never imagine me producing, say, a “stalker, slasher, serial killer, blood everywhere, horror thriller,” or some such. And in that, he would be right. (Although I’ve got stuff in Frontiers which might surprise him! Hey, I can do “thrilling!”) Still, as a crime novelist, he sees the literary world first and foremost from his perch as a crime novelist.
Although they are “thoughtful” (perhaps even, uh, “gentle” in some ways), I suspect the novels I’ve written would stun him. (The romance and sex especially!) Yet I also suspect that, after he’d thought about it a bit, he wouldn’t be nearly as stunned. So even those who know us well (even a long-published novelist) can’t always give us decent writing advice.
It is worth bearing that in mind. Seeking out too much advice and too many critiques has its own pitfalls for any novelist. As the saying goes, too many cooks spoil the broth.
Free Stock Photo: Hispanic women preparing food By: Rhoda Baer acquired from National Cancer Institute
Because novels aren’t written by committee. Any five people out there will share their takes on your writing from their own five, entirely personal, perspectives. Other novelists chiming in are similarly biased, as my uncle demonstrated unwittingly to me. Indeed whenever I see authors “judging” and “helping” other authors, I can’t help also but recall my uncle’s bemoaning aspiring writers sending him manuscripts, and his noting he doesn’t really have time to read them (and I sense doesn’t even really want to): he is merely another writer, he says, struggling to get on with his own latest project. (Although, obviously, he’s a HarperCollins published one.)
Consider this too: if those “five” people have their varied opinions about your work, how do you think “100 readers” (likely mostly non-authors), or even 10,000 or more (should you be so lucky), will react to it? There are those who will open (or download) your novel and adore what you’ve produced. Others will roll their eyes that you haven’t quite nailed it. Still others will scoff that you write like you are still in high school and hate it.
Even Shakespeare had – and has – detractors. I had a laugh a few months ago on here also imagining Washington Irving having to cope with disparaging comments on Twitter. Bottom line: you will NEVER satisfy everyone, so don’t even try.
Above all, no one can write your book(s) for you. Yes, you may ask for the views of numerous others, and even a dozen other authors, but what you write is rooted ultimately in your unique background, your interests, your experiences, your outlook, and what you know. In the end, it’s all on you. 🙂
November 9 is getting here way too quickly. Now back to polishing off Frontiers. It is entirely mine. No one else is to blame for it! 😉
Have a good Monday, wherever in the world you are reading this!