5 September 2009 - 17:30Updating Wordpress

To the few of you who follow this blog, I’m going to be doing some emergency updates.  I may actually wipe out and restart this blog.  I don’t expect to use it a lot for a while, though.  See ya in the funny papers….

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6 August 2009 - 16:17Blake Snyder - Rest in Peace

I was really shocked to hear that Blake Snyder died a couple of days ago of cardiac arrest.

If you don’t know who he is, he wrote a ground-breaking screenwriting book called “Save the Cat”.  That book is the most important writing book (not just screenwriting) that I ever read, because even though it gives you a lot of formulas for plot and how to write a logline and choosing a story structure, it transcends genre as no other screenwriting book ever has. (And I’m including “Story” here.)

What Snyder did was look at story with the kind of perspective you see in psychologists and anthropologists who study folk tale.  Genre, for him, is not about whether the first murder or first kiss appears on page 8, but rather on what kind of hero you have and what’s his journey about.  Genre isn’t just marketing category, and it sure isn’t formula - but it does provide insight into the audience for both the writer and the marketing department to understand.

I’m so sorry to hear he’s gone.

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1 August 2009 - 10:34Another Summer Update - A Happy, If Confused, Writer

I’m getting sloppy.  But it’s a happy sloppy.

I’ve been writing my eyes out all summer, which makes me deliriously happy.  (Sometimes quite literally so, as I find myself working until very very late.)  I haven’t written as much fiction as I would like, but I have been working on lots of articles, blogs and whatnot.

Web publishing is bringing together all the things I’ve loved in my life: design, illustration, food, cats, fiction and movies, and answering questions.  (”Answering questions” is more or less what I do in my day job all day long.)  I’ve been recreating my childhood - writing stories, illustrating them, creating cool layouts.

But I’ve also spread myself pretty thin among many many different efforts.  Which is why I’m getting sloppy.  So I ask you to be indulgent if you take a quick peek at some of my newest efforts:

Mick and Casey Mystery Stories is going to be my first foray into online publishing.  Right now I’ve got the basic design, a rambling blog post, and a couple of reprint stories up.  I figure the actual go live date will be September 1, but people seem to be finding it already, so I might as well mention it here.  I have an interesting business plan for this site, but it will take a long time to roll it out, so I’ll probably post about all of that here.

Catnip Time is just a silly page for my cats.  They have always been the most popular part of my personal website, so I decided to give them their own commercial “microsite”.  I am undecided as to whether I should let them have a blog.  (They can be obnoxious, and they make me do the actual typing, so it takes a lot of time.)

Dim Sum Primer.  What can I say?  I’m a food geek.  This is actually my THIRD food blog, but I get so many hits from all over the world on the dim sum primer posts on my local restaurant blog that I figure I need to set this one up for the good of human kind.  Plus I figure one day I’ll sell flashcards or something, probably in conjunction with my Reading Chinese Menus blog.

There are other projects, too. (Did I mention I was spreading myself too thin?)  My goal is to get all this stuff set up so that in the fall I will be relaxed and ready to shift more seriously to fiction and screenplays, and maybe do more work on illustration.  (The day job has gotten significantly better, and actually will work WITH many of my efforts now rather than against them.)

No Comments | Tags: marketing, productivity

27 July 2009 - 15:09Irony Impaired?

New York Times published a story about the fuss that was made when Amazon erased purchased copies of “1984″ that had been sold by an unlicensed book dealer.

Much of the article is about how people are disturbed by the, um, “Big Brother” like control Amazon keeps over its customers through Kindle’s DRM.

But they never actually use the term “big brother” nor do they seem to get that the book involved was … 1984!

(That link is to the paperback edition.  I think the irony level would have been too high if I’d linked to the Kindle edition.)

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17 June 2009 - 9:46The Self-funded Fellowship Update

I was at last able to decompress to the point where I was able to get some coherent thinking in, and I realized what I desperately wanted to do with my time this summer was write fiction.

One of the reasons I had stopped writing fiction was because the market dried up. That is, lots of books were being published, but the brick and mortar bookstores were still calling the shots and they basically treated the mid-list as canon fodder.  (The midlist, for those of you who don’t know, was the bread and butter of the industry - things like genre and mystery series that had a smaller audience than the best sellers, but it was an incredibly LOYAL audience and therefore pretty much guaranteed a steady income to publishers and writers.)

The big bookstores took to churning the midlist.  If an author didn’t make it to a best seller status after two or three books, they stopped carrying the author.  Many people had to keep their careers going by changing their name every three books.

But people were working their asses off for almost no pay.  And then they’d be blacklisted.  I knew Amazon and other online retailers and publishers would be the savior in all this but it just wasn’t happening ten years ago.

But now it IS happening.  Now that Amazon offers used books, every book can still have an audience, authors can keep their careers alive.  And the market for online reading is growing, as people switch to reading from their computers, netbooks, Kindles, iPhones and other handheld devices.

John August has experimentally published a short story online as a mini-ebook.  He seems to be having great success - certainly much greater return than you’d get for most entertaining genre short stories these days.  And as it happened, I had planned in August, at the end of my fellowship, to set up a website for my cozy mystery western series - publish reprints and new short fiction.

Some how that whole August thing seems like kismet.  Stay tuned….

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4 March 2009 - 11:09Feedback Addiction

Feedback is one of those powerful things that can be motivating or debilitating.  You don’t always want actual judgement or criticism, but just some kind of marker, some kind of progress….

And that’s why blogging can be addictive.  If you put a hit counter on a blog, you can see every time somebody hits your blog.  You can often see what pages get hit and sometimes the referring link.  You make a post, and you see your hits go up.  So you think “oh, cool!” and you make another post, and check your stats again.

And this is why my eHow experiment seems to be working for me.  I see hits come in, I see pennies add up, and I feel good and I write more.  Nothing succeeds like success.

I used to feel the same way about rejection slips.  I’d get a rejection slip, and I’d feel like I’d made a point toward publication. (Among fiction writers, it is commonly held that you need to acquire 100 rejections to get published.)  When a story comes back from an editor, you have something to do toward getting published… you pop it in another envelope and sent it right back out. And if you want to mail more manuscripts, you have to write more.  When you get a story accepted, well, you need to replace it in the rotation. Write more!

I guess with screenwriting, you get that a little with phone calls made, email queries sent out.  But longer works, such as screenplays and novels don’t have that direct connect with the feedback, the way short stories and blog posts do.  There is no tit-for-tat feedback on each few pages written.

But I got a lot of long works written while I was writing short stories, so I think that maybe it’s a good thing to write short stuff for feedback to keep you going on the longer works.  (I have found some old novels waking up as I write these articles for eHow.  Old LONG novels.  What’s up with that?)

So here’s hoping for both funding AND creativity for the summer’s fellowship from my current article writing.

A few writer-oriented eHow articles:

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13 February 2009 - 20:26Wisdom from the Pen

A few months ago I was listening to NPR, and they were doing a story on some brilliant and powerful Latino gang in Los Angeles.  The thing that they singled out as a major factor in this gang’s success is that the leaders were lifers — in prison for life, but also dedicated “careerists” who devoted themselves to the gang.

One thing they did was when in solitary confinement, they had to come up with 1000, that’s ONE THOUSAND, ideas a day.  Every day.

Talk about your mental discipline! These guys have turned prison into a top think tank.

Of course, a writer I know who has a family to take care of said something like “Oh, yeah, well that’s easy when you don’t have to change diapers and clean house and run to the day job, and fill out taxes…”

Maybe we need to put ourselves in solitary once in a while.  And I don’t mean like the self-funded fellowship I’m saving up for. I don’t mean for writing.  I mean for THINKING.  For brainstorming.   That’s one of the bits of wisdom world leaders were overheard giving to Obama when he travelled overseas before the election.  “Schedule time just to think.”

Fortunately, that’s something that’s a part of the job when doing something like writing the tiny articles I’ve been doing.  It’s also one of the things that those pulp writers learned, having churn out story after story.  Donald Westlake was ingenious because he had trained his brain to stretch the limits on new ideas.

A few more of my eHow articles:

No Comments | Tags: Craft, productivity

7 February 2009 - 11:19Starting Again

As I may have mentioned, my life went to hell for a while.  Life does that.  If you are a working writer whose survival depends on writing, things like this can sometimes shift you into a higher gear.  But when everything is on spec, and you are just building your contacts and your portfolio of work, it can stop you dead.  Because when life goes to hell, especially if the situation is even vaguely threatening, your brain is hard-wired to concentrate on SURVIVAL.

But now I’ve got a big distraction out of my way, and I’m working on the restart.  I’ve decided that I really am going to start over.  I’m going to take some courses at the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program, among other things.

But first I’ve got to fund my own fellowship.  So my concentration for spring is going to be money money money.  I also need something that I missed in learning my craft the first time around.  Pulp.

My first writing hero, Donald Westlake, died recently.  I remember reading interviews with him in which he talked about sweating over a typewriter at half penny a word, writing for the pulps to support his family.  And the same turned out to be true for many of my favorite writers, over and over again. They started in journalism, they started in pulps.  Sometimes those first writing jobs had very little to do with what they were later great at — but the crappy writing job gave them strengths and skills that you can’t get any other way.  Other than sweating it out for a half penny here and half penny there.

So for the next few months, my spare energy is going to go into writing little how to articles for eHow.com.   I don’t expect to get much money out of it, but I do expect to revive my concentration and discipline.  And what money I do get can help fund my fellowship.

More about what I expect to get out of writing articles next time.  For now I’ll just post a link to a couple of my first eHow articles:

See ya in the funny papers…..

No Comments | Tags: money, productivity

4 February 2009 - 10:26Feed Change Accomplished

The migration of the account did indeed disrupt the feed (and I’m sorry — I screwed up — but then that’s why I warned you). However, we are now back up and running.  You will probably need to delete your old feed and click on the subscribe button to get it back.

I’m going to try to post more in the next couple weeks (starting Friday).  However, since my goal is paying for my own “fellowship”, I’ll probably write more about money than about writing.  Still, I think money is an issue of interest to all writers.

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2 February 2009 - 22:13Changes to RSS Feeds

Feedburner, the service which has handled my RSS feeds up to now, is merging with Google.  This blog’s feed, unfortunately, is a bit tangled with another account.  At this point, I am thinking that the best way to straighten this out would be to delete this feed, and restart it in a clean new Google account.

It’s not quite clear what Feedburner and Google are swapping around, so this may not even cause a disruption to your feed.

I’m going to make these changes this week.  I will post again on Friday when they are done.  You can check your feed reader on Saturday, Feb 7, to see if the subscription survived.

In the meantime, I suggest you bookmark this blog, or send me an email at pitchlady@pitchlady.com for a notice of when I’m done.  Just in case things go wrong.

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