Sunday, May 30, 2010

Garison Keilor declares publishing dead.

I read a very disturbing article by Garrison Keillor (of Minnesota fame) who has decided that the future of authors, those tortured souls that we are, will no longer be in the hands of agents, editors and publishers.

See: Garrison Keillor for his essay.

Apparently everything is going to Kindle, Amazon, and EPUB books.  Our children can no longer turn a paper page and only absorb literature through plasma screen radiation.  If the Chi'coms ever drop the big EMP (electromagnetic pulse for those in Loma Linda) and we lose the internet, our children will be immediately struck dumb.  May be too late for that, but don't get me started.

He cries about why a person would buy a $30 book, if it is free on the internet.  He bemoans the purity of the craft if anyone can self-publish without an editor to throw out the junk.  OMG, we even arrogantly blog!

Gotta tell ya, Garrison- you're right and you're wrong.

I buy books because I want to feel the paper in my fingers, fold over the corner and fall asleep on the couch with an open paperback on my chest.  I want to give that lump of sawdust to a friend to enjoy- I don't want to txt him.  I can't turn a page on my computer, nor do I want to read the spam and advertising that comes with free electronic books I have to spend hours surfing for.  I like walking through the book store, smelling the Starbooks coffee, and seeing who else killed the forest to make a book.  Trees regrow/recycle, mercury in circuit board kills.

Friends in one of my readers groups have self-published.  Their work is excellent and I've enjoyed reading the paper product.  I loaned their efforts to someone else- networking for the baby-boomer.   Maybe an agent or a publisher wouldn't have taken their manuscript, but that doesn't mean it's crap.  It means that in our economy we have limited resources to publish all of the millions of new authors- nor should we.

Self publishing is American enterprise.  Write a book.  Publish it.  Sell it.  Get rich and famous.  Or fail.  No company back-up, no bail-out, no guarantee.  You work, you sweat, you worry, you market, you sell, you push, you win.  Or fail.

You blog or self publish junk and I agree with Garrison- three sentences of nonsense and I'll change channels.  Excite me with you work and I'll sell for you.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Writers Group

Our group met yesterday and had a very positive experience.  We share a broad writing background- a re-write of a Young Adult historical essay, a very powerful personal memoir, and my action thriller.

Although I would not normally read some of the genre of our group, I learn from them about the basics of what does and doesn't work in a manuscript.

The group had excellent feedback on one of my action chapters.  What did and didn't work.

Enough blogging- back to writing.  Time to edit that chapter.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Class Night

Tonight we dove into the reality of social networking. Little did I know when decided to write a novel that I'd have to come out of the cave and network.

E-mail was wonderful until I reached 200 spams a day. I really don't need Viagra, a mortgage, Russian girlfriend, or money from that Nigerian Prince.

Now I'm "faced". Today that means being on Facebook. In my day it meant something entirely different. But I really don't want to know that someone I'm barely familiar with is now friends with a total dork I don't know and don't want to know.

Now I'm going to ping the world with this. WOW!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Dreaded Synopsis

I have been struggling for a long time writing a complete synopsis for my novel. The book cover blurb- I got, the elevator pitch- can do, the teaser- read it and you can't wait 'till I'm published.

But the synopsis of the complete story with ending and in 500 words or less- brick wall.

I've tried to "junk it out" several times and am not even close. At a coast retreat last month I wrote a short summary of each chapter. 23 pages later...

I've tried to distill that into 2-3 terse sentences per chapter. I've slashed every character that isn't (IMHO) critical to the plot from the synopsis and still it runs thousand's of words. I dropped two entire chapters that I realized weren't moving the plot forward- a positive result of this assignment.

Problem: I've written a complex mystery/thriller with several sub-plots that all come together at the end. There are three twists to the ending and each of those relies on a sub-plot. The manuscript, as with most thriller/ mysteries is all about the ending- surprise, revelation, gotcha's, and resolution.

A brief synopsis doesn't allow for even a cursory description of the sub-plots and twists that give the ending meaning.

Solution: Figure out what sub-plots can be minimized or deleted and still allow the ending to happen.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Extraterrestrial DNA

Life on our planet began billions of years ago. (I refuse to apologize to anyone who believes that an anthropomorphic, magical spirit 5000 years ago created all the variety of life I experience.)

Newton’s second law of thermodynamics requires the universe to transverse from high quality energy to low quality energy. Life accomplishes this by taking sunlight and converting it to heat. It has to happen to obey the law. That’s entropy. If you choose to believe in a creative force, entropy works.

On this speck of rock in the unimaginable vastness of the universe, life began as a single, simple cell. That cell reproduced and dissipated energy. It was alive. Simple and elegant.

Every cell on this planet evolved from this Ur cell. The information contained in this first cell passed to every cell thereafter. RNA and DNA provided the framework for the information that evolved. The question you must ask: how do I know there was a single cell that started it all.

DNA, as you know, makes a code based on a ribonucleic acid chain. A G C T; four simple molecules that combine to create the famous double helix.  Three pairings of these complimentary molecules combine with complimentary RNA molecules and pass the code. RNA’s job is to take that three letter code and attach an amino acid in a chain. Viola’, a protein is formed.

Here’s the catch. Those three letters carried by RNA always translate to the exact same amino acid in the chain.  Every time, in every cell. The translation table is universal, unaltered, and present in every cell on this planet. It has been the same translation table from the first Ur cell.
Jake’s issue in Kelly’s Reef is that he has found DNA that doesn’t translate properly. The virus contained in his “blue globes” uses a different translation table and creates abnormal, defective proteins.

Since all DNA/RNA uses the exact same translation table for life, as we know it on this planet, Jake has found proof of extraterrestrial reproduction. This is the basis for the science fiction in this science thriller.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Write Guys

One of my writer's groups met Wednesday evening and I had the opportunity to read a chapter to them.  As always the feedback was positive and constructive.  They see plot boo-boos I miss and appreciate scenes that are strong, point out the weak scene.

Time together has given the group a level of trust to allow honest feedback that transcends the ego.  I also find the challenge of critically reviewing someone's work helps my craft.

I am fortunate to belong to two readers groups and find the dynamics fascinating even when the feedback is diametrically opposed.  One groups is primarily male, the other predominately female.  Different view points, different advice.  But when both groups agree, I pay close attention.

Case in point:  In a scene at Kelly's World Famous Bar and Grill in Djibouti, a terrorist attack is foiled, but just before on of the bad guys dies, he spits blood into Kelly's face.  She wipes the smear with a finger and touches the tip to her tongue.  Both groups grimaced, but confirmed that it fits with Kelly's fearless, killer personality.

I had considered taking it out as too gruesome, but such a strong reaction from so many readers convinced me that it works.  I want the readers to react strongly to her character, and they did.

If you're a writer, join a group or form a group.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Junking it out

Kelly’s Reef, my first novel, is close to finished. After years of re-writing the first 50 pages, my Mentor, Linda Claire, told me to just “junk it out”⎯write the story, then worry about fixing it.

It took all my will power not to fall into the red-dashed underline trap and stop mid-thought to correct a typo. Every time Word screamed at me about what an idiot I am, I stopped, reversed, and compulsively fixed. Then I had to fire up the thought process again and struggle back into “the zone”.

Hint: For the new author, turn off the spell check and grammar check. Let your fingers fly and try to keep up with the story as your mind creates it. No time to polish. No time to fix. Open the gate and let the story flood.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Finding my old journal

As I ponder To Blog, or not To Blog, I found an old journal I kept while stationed on the USS Carl Vinson- a nuclear aircraft carrier where I practiced medicine.

Pop Quiz: What was there before Windows? Answer: Frameworks. This was the precursor to windows and I used it to keep a daily journal of my sea duty. Fortunately I printed it out, because the original data can't be retrieved from the black hole of programing obscurity.

Looking back, the journal was written for one reader- me. More a diary that a record, I explored the boredom, fear, astonishment and insanity of life aboard a carrier. I didn't consider myself a writer then, but now can see the progression of my ability to express emotions on paper.

I spent time in Somalia and Djibouti that I wrote about. The boondoggle I write about in Kelly's Reef is based on that journal.

Maybe this blog will be about this adventure, That's enough.


This is my homework assignment for The Business of Writing class I'm enrolled in. I write because I write. For me it's a joy and a challenge, but not enough. The writer in me seeks confirmation and ego stroking. I want my work published, read and adored by the public- every writer does.

This blog is a first step.

At a deep level I am a hermit. I don't get this social networking stuff. I don't see the social capital of having high numbers of Facebook friends, or having this blog read by every thinking human on the planet. I just don't get it.

But if it gets my manuscript to the printing press, so be it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The adventure begins

To layout and storyboard or not to layout and storyboard? Kelly’s Reef began as an obscure idea Dr. Alder Fuller taught in our biology of the cell class. How would we know if DNA came from outer space? Using my background in Obstetrics and reproductive biology I took the idea a step farther. What would an alien DNA do to a human pregnancy. My writing was freestyle- I knew the concept and started writing. I had no idea where the story was going to take me until I was half way through.

That’s where my writing mentor’s advice to “junk it out” made sense.  I had a vague idea of the ending ( which changed three times before I was finished ) and just kept writing until I got there.

A month in the life of an author

The process of writing a novel has been an incredible adventure.  From the ego telling me, "Hey, I should write a novel, get published, famous, and rich to reality has been eye-opening.  From idea, to story, to manuscript,  to marketing, to the pitch, to an agent, to a publisher- 'what a long, strange, trip it's been'.

Over the next month, I'll journal the adventure and what I'm doing to get to print.

Hang on Dorothy- this ain't Kansas anymore.