Cover Teaser

ToBeFirstWheels72dpiHere’s the amazing cover designed by artist Charlotte Holley for the next book to come out in the What Man Hath Wrought series. The book contains two stories: “To Be First” and “Wheels of Heaven” and will be published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing.

The image captures the essence of both stories and is aesthetically engaging. As for the stories themselves, I’ll post more info about them as we get closer to the book’s launch date, currently planned for July 1st.

Sorry to leave you in suspense about the stories, but I’m actually thinking of your welfare. Too much excitement and anticipation too early could be harmful to your psyche, so I’ll release information in stages to avoid such damage. No need to thank me; it’s all part of the services provided by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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Eating the Elephant

Eat ElephantIs it better to write a short story all at once or over a period of several days? Since each method has its advocates, the question is worth examining.

Everyone knows the adage about the proper way to eat an elephant—one bite at a time, meaning you should break down any major endeavor into manageable tasks and patiently accomplish the tasks. How does that apply to short stories? Let’s hear from both sides in this furious debate.

 

Mr. One-Sitting Writer:

Forget about elephants. A short story isn’t an elephant. The reasons you must write the first draft of your short story all at once are as follows:

1. You have to capture the mood of the inspiring moment. Enthusiasm is a fleeting thing. When you’re in the mood to write, when you’re consumed by the power of the idea, that’s the time to get it all down. That’s when you’re most likely to get in the zone when the words flow best. Tomorrow you won’t feel the same way. You’ll lose the moment forever.

2. Your readers expect consistency throughout your story. They want a constant tone or mood. The best way to achieve that is to write the first draft all at once. Readers will sense when you haven’t done that and it will lessen their enjoyment of the story and lessen your chance of future sales.

3. There’s a certain romance in staying up late at night and into the morning to type at the computer or scribble on paper. Didn’t all great writers do this? Aren’t all the best stories fueled by nocturnal spirits conjured from the wisps of steaming coffee cups? In that final surge of energy when you type “The End,” compose your e-mail, and hit Send with thirteen seconds to go before the deadline, you know you’re completely spent, and you are channeling the spirits of the best authors of all time.

Ms. Bite-at-a-Time Writer:

I notice Mr. One-Sitting Writer didn’t talk much about how he performed at his day job the next morning. Maybe writing is his day-job and he can afford to sleep late and rest up for his next bout of binge-writing.

Those of us in the real world have lives. We have responsibilities other than writing. We have jobs and families, appointments and duties. We love writing as much as he does, but we have to fit it into the nooks, squeeze it into the crannies of time we can spare.

He made three numbered points; I’ll do the same:

1. I agree it’s best to write a story when you’re wrapped up in the enthusiasm of the idea. If the story is short enough, and if your schedule allows enough time, by all means write the first draft in one sitting to preserve the tone and feel throughout the story.

2. If you can’t do that, then here are a couple of tricks to try:

a. Stop for the night in the middle of a sentence, a sentence for which you know how it should end. You’ll remember that tomorrow and be able to pick right up from there.

b. At the start of your allotted writing time for the day, review the last few pages you wrote. That will help you recapture the mood so you can continue in the same vein.

3. The romance of staying up late to write? Please. I did that a few times in college to finish assignments on time, but it was never my best work. Plus, I’m not as young as I was then.

As for me, Poseidon’s Scribe, I work like Ms. Bite-at-a-Time Writer, but wish I had the time to work like Mr. One-Sitting Writer.   You’ll have to take your pick based on your circumstances and what works for you. That’s today’s discussion on elephant-eating by—

                                                Poseidon’s Scribe

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Guess Who’s Author of the Week

Yours truly is the Author of the Week for Gypsy Shadow Publishing. For those of you who’ve been on the fence, somewhat undecided about purchasing one or more of my stories, this would be the week to buy one (or more). It’s a rare opportunity to purchase a book during the same period in which I’m Author of the Week. Very few people can say they’ve done that.

To celebrate the week, I am embarking on a world tour. Well, not physically, but virtually. For this whole week, I’m making this website available everywhere all over the world.

GSBannerBrdrFor this honor, I’d like to thank Gypsy Shadow Publishing, the company that has published a good number of my stories, all in the What Man Hath Wrought series. Among the company’s huge staff, CEO Charlotte Holley and Chief Editor Denise Bartlett deserve being singled out for special mention. Thanks to them, my rough manuscripts have become e-books of timeless prose with eye-seizing covers.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also express my gratitude to all those who’ve influenced me in one way or another, helping me achieve this level of accomplishment. This list includes my parents, my critique group, and my spouse. Thanks as well to you, my legions of eager readers. I couldn’t have done it without you.

I’ve let it become known around my household that being the GSP Author of the Week comes with certain privileges, certain reasonable expectations of being catered to. These expectations include freedom from common drudgery work, absolute quiet while writing, the appearance before me of the beverage of my asking within moments of my asking, the use of respectful forms of address (such as Your Most Illustrious Highness, Author of the Week), and a polite bow or curtsey when approaching my presence.

To my amazement, my announcements of these sensible forms of deference have been met with very little interest, and even less obedience. This I find curious, and I’m sure you do too. Ah, well, I suppose greatness comes with the responsibility to educate the less deserving, to increase their understanding of the grandeur and glory of me.  It’s true that genius often goes unappreciated in its own week.

And, yes, to answer the question uppermost in your mind, it is wonderful for all of us to be alive during the very time that I’m the GSP Author of the Week. Someday your grandchildren will sit in reverential awe while you relate the sheer excitement of it.

Now that I think about it, being Author of the Week is the sort of honor that could go to one’s head. During weeks when it’s bestowed on lesser authors, that might well be a concern. But my unsurpassed humility and matchless modesty combine to keep me from becoming, in the slightest degree, egotistical.

No, fear not. I’ll go on, unaffected by the focused adoration of the Earth’s billions. To all of you, I’ll be the same old, unassuming—

                     Poseidon’s Scribe, Gypsy Shadow Publishing’s Author of the Week

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Refuse Your Muse

Is your brain in a rut? If so, you’re not alone. Today I’ll examine this tendency and suggest what you can do about it.

For all its desirable features, the human brain suffers from a love of the familiar and a fear of the unknown. This served as a good survival trait for our ancestors in their world, but it’s no advantage for a writer today.

Dont refuse museThis hard-wired preference probably prevents many people from becoming writers in the first place, since that can be a scary unknown. Even for those of you who’ve chosen to writers, this unfortunate brain feature keeps you using the same vocabulary words, writing about the same topics in the same genres, writing stories with the same themes and using very similar characters. It thwarts your creative urge, putting you at war with your muse.

As I’ve said before, your muse gets bored with the familiar and seeks the new and fresh. She grabs your arm and pulls you away from the safe and the known, beckoning you to explore the untrodden path. Her brain is wired in a different way.

Perhaps you disagree, thinking you don’t suffer from the malady I’ve described. You deny being a creature of habit who rushes to the familiar and avoids the unknown. Fine. Here’s your test. Tonight, before going to bed, hide your toothbrush. Let’s see how Mr. or Ms. Creativity handles things the next morning. Good luck!

For a great illustration of the problem, I encourage you to read “The Calf Path” by Sam Walter Foss. This poem paints an amusing metaphor of how our brains work.

Advertising Director Gina Sclafani wrote about dealing with the phenomenon. I find it interesting how she thought at first the task would be easy, since she prided herself on being open-minded. Then she well describes the difficulty, the inner resistance, to any steps outside the mind’s comfort zone. In the end, she’s glad she did, because the rewards are great, but she warns it is a journey pitting one part of your mind against a powerful counteracting part.

Here’s a three-step method you could try as a writer to push yourself out of your comfort zone. I’ll illustrate it with story genres, but it could also work with characters, themes, settings, style, or any aspect of story-writing in which you’re stuck.

1. Make a list of story genres you’d never consider writing about. Include the ones you find stupid, abhorrent, unseemly, etc. It’s no big deal, right? After all, you’re never going to write in any of these genres.

2. Spend five to ten minutes thinking through each genre on your list. Think about each one as follows: “I’ll never write in this genre, of course, but if I were to do so, here’s the story I’d write…”   You needn’t write down any of these ideas, just think through them.

3. Now let some time pass. A few days, weeks, or even months. This allows your muse to do her thing. You might well find she’s yanking on your arm and leading you down an unfamiliar path toward writing in one of those unwanted genres.

A similar thing happened to me. I knew I’d never write in the horror genre. Then I noticed a publisher seeking stories for an anthology to be called Dead Bait. I dismissed it, but my muse didn’t. She worked on the idea for a story she made me write called “Blood in the River.” I’m still not a horror story writer, but it felt good to get out of the comfort zone.

One final thought. At one point in their lives, each of history’s greatest contributors (think of da Vinci, Shakespeare, Bach, Edison, Einstein, etc.) had to leave a comfort zone in order to develop his or her eventual talents. Imagine the loss to mankind if one of them hadn’t taken that step? What if you could become a popular, successful, or timeless writer if only you stretch your mind in a direction it doesn’t want to go?

You’ll have to excuse me. This calf-path I’m walking along is nice, but some woman wearing a chiton is tugging at my sleeve. “What’s that? Where? But that’s off the path and looks terrifying to—

                                                                   Poseidon’s Scribe”

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Just Your (Writing) Style

Style is one of the five fundamental elements of fiction, along with character, plot, setting, and theme.  It’s also the most difficult of the five to explain or understand.

StyleI like to start my blog posts by defining terms, but this time I’ll let the definition of style emerge as we go.  For now, I’ll say that every author writes differently, with certain identifying characteristics.  In theory, if we took a sufficient random sample of any single author’s writing, we could identify the author by the style.

According to Wikipedia, the components of style include:  Fiction-writing modes, Narrator, Point of View, Allegory, Symbolism, Tone, Imagery, Punctuation, Word choice, Grammar, Imagination, Cohesion, Suspension of disbelief, and Voice.

Each item on that long list does contribute to style, but some are more important than others, and some are more characteristic of a particular story than of the author’s general manner of writing.

To me, the major characteristics of style are Tone, Word choice, and Grammar:

  • Tone is the attitude displayed by the writer toward the subject matter of the story.
  • Word choice, or diction, relates to the author’s vocabulary.  Does the author stay with simple, understandable words or employ arcane words?  Does the author embellish with adjectives and adverbs, or let the nouns and verbs do the work?
  • Grammar is all about the structure and logic of sentences.  What sentence patterns and lengths does the author prefer?

Although your style may change as you mature in your writing, readers like it better when authors maintain a consistent style.  Style can set you apart from all other writers; it can be the factor that keeps readers buying more of your books.

If you’re wondering how to go about creating your own style, I recommend you read the list created by author David Hood in this blog post.  His eleven-item list can seem intimidating, so just focus on items 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7.  I think if you learn the rules of writing, expand your vocabulary, read a great deal, experiment with different styles, and learn about literary techniques, your own style will emerge naturally.

What’s more, you shouldn’t have to work too hard to continue using your newly discovered style.  It should flow from you in a natural way.  Unlike your stories, which are overt acts of creative effort, your style is something that should emerge.  In a sense, you’re unleashing it, not creating it.  Even if it does require a little effort at first, in time it will get easier.

Perhaps you’ve gotten a better understanding of style now, that signature or fingerprint that identifies you and separates you from other writers.  With any luck, readers will love your style.  For now, I’ll sign off in the usual style of—

                                                         Poseidon’s Scribe

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Dreaming of Success

Do you fantasize about being a best-selling author?  If so, what form does your daydreaming take?  Are you being interviewed by a famous talk-show host?  Receiving a call from someone in Hollywood who wants to turn your story into a movie?  Throwing a huge book launch party?  Swimming through money in your mansion’s vault?

Dreaming of SuccessToday’s ramblings are about whether your Walter Mitty-type  flights of fancy are helpful or harmful.

First of all, I think such dreaming is normal.  It’s typical when a person embarks on any new endeavor.  It’s natural to wonder, “What if I turn out to be really, really good at this?”  My guess is that everyone considers this question whether they’re throwing a football, playing a piano, or writing a story.  After all, someone has to be the world’s greatest, and maybe it could be you.

Further, some experts see the practice of visualizing future success as useful, even necessary.  Sports trainers often urge players to imagine succeeding on the field or court.  However, I believe the focus of such training is on actual moves or plays while engaged in the sport; the players are not encouraged to dream about lofting trophies high in the air while confetti rains down.

If you’re a beginning writer who envisions instantly skyrocketing to the New York Times bestseller list, it’s important to understand that such stratospheric success is a low-probability thing.  The overwhelming majority of authors get nowhere near that.

However, I’ll be the first to admit that such literary victories, however rare, are possible.  In my view, though, if you do become a famous writer, it won’t be because you daydreamed about it first.

Here’s my list of ways you can know if your dreams of success have become harmful to you as a writer:

  • The fantasies take time away from writing.
  • You begin to see your visions as the measure of your success.
  • Fame or fortune becomes your sole goal, rather than becoming the best writer you can, or creating the best stories you can.
  • You become disappointed or frustrated when you can’t achieve the exact scene foretold in your dreams.
  • The dreams become a fixation, a dominant part of your life.

On the positive side, here’s my list of ways you’ll know that such dreaming is okay, or even helpful:

  • Your flights of fancy are occasional.
  • You see your daydreams as motivational and inspiring.
  • After your visualizations, you feel like writing.
  • You understand that your visions represent unlikely events, and you regard them as fanciful, innocent fun.

When the glittering fame and fortune of your imagination collides with the dreary reality of long, solitary hours spent writing followed by numerous initial rejections, it’s important that you learn certain things:

1.  You can enjoy writing for its own sake.  The goal is a well-crafted story, not any accolades that might ensue.

2.  Two of the prime factors determining whether you’ll be a well-known author are skill and luck.  You can work to improve your skill.  You can’t control luck.

So dream your dreams, novice writer, but keep a bit of perspective about the whole endeavor.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to try on my tux and practice my acceptance speech for the big award dinner.  Or perhaps that’s all in the mind of—

                                                    Poseidon’s Scribe

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