Archive for the ‘storyteller’ Tag

Why Am I Doing This?   Leave a comment

Well hi there, brothers and sisters.

Since Aaron kick started me with the blog I did last week, I figured it might be a good idea if I got back to keeping up with my responsibilities’ around here. I mean there’s no sense in having a blog if you don’t blog, is there? The only problem is, I tend to run out of subjects to blather on about. But I’ll give it a shot and try to get at least one blog in a week… maybe two if I’m lucky.

Now you may suspect that the above title pertains to this blog, but it doesn’t. Instead the title is a paraphrased version of a question I have been asked a few times about my nearly finished novel, Wolfsong. It generally gets asked when the person posing the question discovers that I plan on giving away a novel that I’ve been working on and revising for the past three years.

Usually the actual question is, “You worked on this story for three years, and you’re going to give it away for free? For God’s sake why?” Or something along similar lines.

Putting aside the look on the questioner’s face at the moment, (The one that makes me suspect they have the local mental health clinic on speed dial and are thumbing the button.), it’s a legitimate question. Why am I basically working for free over the last three years? The truth is… I’m not.

Wolfsong actually began as something of an experiment, and a bet between my wife, Tammie, and myself. She had found a few short stories that I did ages ago and kept for sentimental reasons. She also discovered an online story I co-wrote on a renaissance festival site that encourages such things. Which prompted her to ask why I didn’t write anymore.

I went on to explain that writing was one damned hard profession to make a living at, and made certain to include all the negative things that I’d come up against back in the 80s. I might as well have been discussing advanced quantum mechanics with the Statue of Liberty. Not that she didn’t understand… she did. But, the poor dear has more faith in me than I have any right to expect.

So, just to prove my point, I went back to work and created Wolfsong. To be fair, I did my best at the time, and put every outdated thing I remembered about writing into it. Then, I tried to sabotage the whole mess by making the book a POD, (Print On Demand), and doing absolutely as little as I could to promote it. My evil plan was to be able to say, “See? I told you so.” It didn’t quite work out that way. The darn thing double crossed me and sold a few copies, (So, you see, I already did make a couple of bucks off the story.).

Ok. So she was right, and I was wrong. If I’d have known at the time such a thing would happen, I would have done a better job on the story. Now that I know, I am doing just that. I pulled the title, treating it as a rough draft, (And believe me, boys and girls… it IS a rough draft.), then set to work rewriting and revising the story. The difference now is, I want to attract some readers. To do that I need to put my A-game forward instead of just a half-hearted attempt to prove myself right and my poor wife wrong. I never win at that one, anyway. But I keep trying.

Now, I’m certainly not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I did realize that the story had some potential to attract that many readers with no promoting. A couple even left me nice reviews. So I decided to put my blood, sweat, and soul into the story and polish it to a flawless diamond shine. Or, as close as I could get it.

I found some beta readers, a few critique partners, and let them rip into my baby with both barrels. If you happen to be a writer who hasn’t done this yet with your story; you’ll soon understand why Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was a writer.

In the meanwhile, as I worked on the seemingly endless revisions, I got back into relearning the craft. My dear aforementioned wife presented my with a library of books on writing, and I began getting back into the swing of things.

All of this preamble aside; Why am I doing this? To improve my writing? Yes. In the hopes of gaining a larger readership? Yes. To have a chance of making a living? Honestly. Yes.

But most of all; I am doing this to provide what readers I can get with the best work I can possibly turn out at any given moment. I kind of think they deserve it, even if it is free. And win, lose, or draw, I will always believe that.

Later, Gang. 😉


Breaking New Ground   4 comments

It should come as no surprise that mega-author J.K. Rowling is taking her literary talents into a new direction. Particularly since it has been the buzz of the internet after she made the announcement just a couple of days ago. What is interesting is Ms. Rowling’s statement that the success of the Harry Potter series has given her the freedom to move into other areas of story telling, aka; writing an “adult” novel.

Now, as far as I knew, one of the appeals of Harry Potter happened to be that nearly as many adults read the books as children did. Probably just as many, if you could get the adults who read it in the broom closet to come out and say so. The reason for this cross-age phenomenon is pretty easy to see. Ms. Rowling is a very gifted storyteller, and writer. She knows how to put a story together and make it work, regardless of the age group it is target towards.

But, I digress. Her statement about literary freedom is what intrigued me the most. It implies that Ms. Rowling was feeling somewhat trapped, and a bit stereotyped by the genre which made her a household name. She isn’t the first author to feel this way, or to be saddled with typecasting. It has happened to numerous famous authors, and the only recourse in the past was to write under a pen name. Think Steven King and Richard Bachman. Isn’t it amazing that the Bachman books started climbing in sales once it was revealed that poor Richard was none other than Steve King?

Let’s face it, most of us are in this business with the desire to make a living doing something we love. Those of us still struggling for a bit of recognition know writing a story is anything but a “get-rich-quick” prospect. It’s hard work, both mentally and physically. (If you don’t believe that last part, you try sitting in the same position for hours on end, day after day, and tell me how your back feels in a month.) But, the prospect of paying our bills, feeding out families, and loving the job we earned to do it with keeps us going.

Most of us are also guilty of pigeonholing authors who have “made it” into neat little genres. We think of Isaac Asimov as a science fiction writer, we think of Steven King as a horror writer, (even after he has proven us wrong with such great stories as The Green Mile, and The Body/Stand By Me), we think of Louis L’Amour as a western writer. It seems to be a natural instinct of human kind to stick everyone, and everything, into little boxes and try to keep them there. A habit that has ruined more than one career in the entertainment world, although the symptom is more prevalent in Hollywood and television.

Fortunately, this is a habit that is beginning to show its age, and is slowly being out modded. Good actors are no longer being typecast as the persona that made them famous, and it appears that good authors are breaking out of their “molds’ as well. That is encouraging for those of us who haven’t broken into the business yet. While I adore Speculative Fiction, and can’t see writing anything else in the future, I would hate to think that I could end up chained to the title of fantasy author, and incapable of writing a good science fiction, or horror story.

Heck, I love Wild Berry Skittles, too, but I’m also certain that a diet of nothing else would soon have me despising them.

Old habits are hard to lay in their graves, and I’m fairly certain that it will be a long time before the art of typecasting will be ready for its own funeral. The symptoms of its, hopefully, terminal disease are beginning to show, and when it finally does expire I’ll be one of the first to lay flowers on the mound and bid it adieu.

Until then, our best wishes for Ms. Rowling, and our thanks for pounding another nail into typecasting’s coffin.

Later, Gang.

It Is All in The Delivery   Leave a comment

Ye Gods! Would you look at the state of this place. An inch of dust on everything, cobwebs that would make Lilly Munster jealous, and grease so thick in the kitchen you could write the first chapter of War and Peace in it. But I guess a few life set backs will do that. It’s going to take a Kirby, Rainbow, Rug Doctor, and a pressure washer to get this blog back in order.

Fortunately, I have help. My good friend, and fellow AQCer, Dean C. Rich.

Dean is a writer of Epic Fantasy, (Which is always a plus in my books.), and probably one of the best writer friends you should be lucky enough to meet. As his guest blog will prove, shortly. If you haven’t met a fellow wordsmith like Dean in your own particular writing community, you have my deepest sympathies. Keep looking.

So without further gilding the Lilly, (I’m betting I have him blushing right about now.), HEEEEER’S DEAN!


It Is All in The Delivery

I met Peter over at AQC the first month I became a member. He has a really cool story. We were participating in posting and critiquing each other’s chapters. He sent me the first five of his book. I gave him feedback, and he liked the feedback. He has given me ideas for my own work.

In the forums, chats, on blogs, and in articles one theme comes up again and again, the need for good beta readers and critique partners. The authors sing praises to their critique partners and beta readers for making their stories that much stronger.

There is a fine line between a good critique and being mean and petty. Yes, the critique needs to be honest.

I remember being in a seminar, (Okay it was sales) and there was a nice cake up front and two people were selected to have a piece of cake. The first volunteer watched as the server took out a silver knife and cut a nice piece of cake and then transferred the slice to a china plate. He then got a napkin and a silver fork and gave the slice to the honored recipient.

The next piece of cake was cut with a plastic knife. Since it was a small knife the host’s fingers dug into the cake. The plastic knife was making a mess of the slice so the host gave up on cutting the cake and just reached in and grabbed a chunk of cake and slapped it on a napkin and all but slung the cake at the next recipient.

Both guests were served cake, but what was the difference in their cakes? The delivery. One was served with grace, the other with, well, less grace.

The same is true on how we give critiques. “That was the worst piece of trash I’ve ever read, you call yourself a writer?” vs, “The premise is fascinating, and I was absorbed with the story. However, you lost me with such and such. You may consider this or that.”

It is all delivery. If your crit group makes you feel like a low life, get out and find a better group. We all put a lot of ourselves into our writing. When you get your critique you should feel inspired to do better, not feel like a heal.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Look for partners that give different views, plot and grammar. Details and general view. There is a lot that goes into writing, but you need to find your voice, your style, and a group of people to help you shine.

Thanks for letting me come over Peter.


Thanks for helping me clean the place up a bit, Dean. You can just set the couch down anywhere. 😉

Dean can be found as DC Rich at Agentquery Connect

@deancrich on twitter

And of course you can read his time management/motivation blog entries and author interviews and other things of interest to writers at The Write Time.

Have a good one, Gang!


A Whole New Set of Lies.   4 comments

Well, more, or less.

Being that I am something of a storyteller, I have a bad habit of mixing truth with lies and leaving it up to you to figure out which is which.

Since my dear friend, Dawn, of Write Away fame, has gotten me embroiled in another meme… hang on to your BS meters, kiddies… here we go again!

Are you a rutabaga?

No. I am a meat Popsicle.

When was the last time you ate lion meat?

A gentleman never tells. Suffice to say our high school mascot was the lions. (I know… TMI… but, I’m feelin’ ornery today.)

Upload a heartwarming picture of something that makes you smile.

Damnit… I’m on dial up you sadists! But, here goes. I’ll be back in an hour, or so.

Sorry… didn’t work. It was a pic of my wife, but Facebook won’t let the thing get linked to.

If you could go back in time and kick the crap out of someone, who would it be?

The idiot who invented legal theft… I mean taxes.

Name one habit that makes other people plot your demise.

Being a total smartass… but, it’s better than being a dumb one. 😉

What song would you like to be playing while you are kicking the crap out of someone?

Nickleback: Next Contestant. (Probably for the same reason. LOL! BTW. To the person who started this meme… violent sucker, ain’t ya?)

Where da muffin top at?

Innuendo is one thing, but the censors won’t let me answer this one outright. Maybe on a porn site, but not here. 😛

How many goats, stacked atop one another like Yertle’s Turtles, would it take to reach the moon?

Damned if I know… I didn’t read Dr. Seuss as a kid. (Didn’t watch Mr. Rogers, either. Both of those kiddie icons gave me the willies.)

Describe yourself using obscure Latin words.

Instictuas authorius wantabeus.

That has to be pretty obscure, since I made it all up, like the pseudo Latin they used in the roadrunner cartoons.

Why does evil exist?

So the Gods won’t get bored. (Hey, would you actually like eternity in Care Bear land?) **shudder**

What the fuck are you thinking right now?

What the fuck am I doing this for?

If you could decide whose face should go on the money, who would you pick?

No one. I’d prefer pictures of bare rear ends on the money. Mostly because in a complete economic collapse that’s about the only thing that worthless paper will be good for. (See Germany’s collapse before Hitler if you don’t believe me.)

If you had to pick between a pet squirrel and a pet iguana, which would you choose?

Honestly neither. I prefer boa constrictors like Alice Cooper. But if I had to choose… the iguana. No fleas to infest the whole house.

Tag blogger some friends, whatever random number that suits you. (My random number is 2.) Ha! You can’t say “no tagbacks” because I just made up new rules! BOO YAH. Make up your own rules or be enslaved by another blogger’s.(<–these are actually Michelle Simkin’s rules, but I like them as well, so they still apply. besides, I'm a lazy cuss and I've been copy/pasting these suckers.) 😛

1. Dean C. Rich

2. Riley Redgate

Pick a funny nickname for number 1.

Ellie May Clampett’s new critter! 😉 😀

Number 2 dreams about…

Reaching the age of 21, so she can get plastered whenever she wants to.

Number 3 looks like…

Claude Reins…since there isn’t a number three. Boo Yah!

Since this is the only meme I got tagged with… Th-th-th- that’s all folks!

(Now can I plot revenge on Dawn? Huh, can I, huh? Can I, can I, can I?) 😀 ( Ya know I luv ya, Sweetie.) 😉


Posted July 20, 2011 by Peter Burton in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

What Red Flag?   12 comments

A strange malady that seems to infect aspiring authors is a form of color blindness. In particular a blindness to the color red. Often when a red flag shows up in their story they have an immediate tendency to turn it into a transparency. This usually manifests itself as having to explain/defend large parts of the story.

I’m not saying that there won’t be a handful of people who don’t get it, you can’t please everyone. But when there are a significant number of folks getting stuck on the same thing. Something is wrong and explaining/defending it isn’t going to make it go away.

It should be obvious at this point that for your story to work, you are going to have to follow every copy around and explain the same points to every reader. Now, I’m not the smartest guy slogging through life, but I’m pretty sure that is not a viable option. I’d also be willing to bet that the average reader isn’t going to wait for you to show up to explain your genius to them. Their just going to dump the story, experience buyer’s remorse, and cross you off their reading list.

As I said, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but that just doesn’t seem like a sound business strategy to me. And make no mistake, dear readers, unless you are just writing to please yourself, this is a business. A business that depends as much on repeat customers as it does on new ones. Deliberately sacrificing repeat business for the sake of your ego is a sure trip to has-been land. If you ever make it out of never-was land in the first place.

There is a wonderful little business book by F.J. Lennon called; Every Mistake In The Book: A Business How Not To. (Yes, I read business books as well, because this IS the publishing business, and I want to succeed at it.) Mr. Lennon has made just about every business mistake you can think of, and a heck of a lot that you haven’t. So when he says to do, or not do something, I have to bow to his experience. After all, he has already paid the price for that mistake… damned if I want to pay it too!

Hear are just a few pearls of wisdom he learned the hard way, but they apply to the business of writing as well as any other. Ignore them at your own peril.

Give the people what they want, not what you think they should have.

In other words, if you are ignoring the red flags, explaining/defending every little point YOU want to keep in your magnum opus, you are giving the people what you think they should have, not what they want. Mr. Lennon lost his first company doing this, you’ll lose your career. If you ever get one in the first place doing this.

Make money, then art.

This goes right along with the above. Before you begin to make these fantastic art driven vehicles for your amazing prose, you better be a brand first. To do that you have to garner a reading public and hold onto them. Otherwise, consider a career writing fan fiction for free. (To be honest, I personally wouldn’t risk it then. Readers do not have to stay with you and there are literally millions of up and comers waiting to take your place.)

Above all else, don’t make crap.

This should be self explanatory, but I’ll bet that it isn’t. If you are just starting out, not a brand name author, turning out what you want, and shooting for high art that has to be explained/defended to more than one person… you ARE turning out crap. It’s that simple.

Readers want to be entertained. They do not want to have to scratch their heads, wonder WTF you mean by those new words you made up, or where in hell your going with this. They want you to guide them through your story as effortlessly as possible.

If you find yourself having to explain/defend large portions of your story, that is a big red flag. Pay it heed, or ignore it as you will. It’s your story, your career. Believe me, the big name authors won’t really care that much, because you won’t be taking any readers away from them any time soon.


Who’s Working For Who?   2 comments

Recently AgentQuery Connects own AQCrew, (Our version of The Dread Pirate Roberts.), posted an article from The Telegraph about author J.K. Rowling’s decision to dump her long time agent.

After reading said article, I had to take a few hours to cool off before blogging about it.

First, let me state beyond contention that I am the last person to diss having a good agent. In my own humble opinion, a good agent is nearly indispensable, and landing one is the whole point of AgentQuery Connect. However, this particular article had me as pissed off as a Hebrew man at a Neo-Nazi rally. And, for me, that’s saying a lot.

To read the article you would think that Ms. Rowling had done little more than write a NaniWriteMo piece, and her agent did all the work on the novel. That HE was the one who made Harry Potter the mega success it became. This speaks volumes for the illusion of the agent’s role in the literary world, and like it, or not, I’m about to shatter that illusion into teeny-tiny little fragments.

The agent’s job is to find a publisher willing to take a chance on your book, and negotiate the best deal they can get for the author. That is IT! The agent does NOT sweat over plot. They DO NOT stay awake at night searching for the right scene to make the novel something special. They DO NOT spend years polishing a manuscript until it shines enough to be accepted by another agent. They DO NOT bust their brain into Excedrin headache #1,426 coming up with unique plot twists to entertain the reading public.

To imply that the agent is the person who made a writer’s career a success is not only insulting beyond belief, it is akin to saying that Leonardo Dicaprio’s agent did all his acting FOR him.

Now, I don’t know if this blog is going to totally ruin my chances at landing an agent, or not. But I can, and will say; at this point I’m not sure I really care. The only time in my 50 some odd years on this planet that I have felt this insulted was when I was working as a graphic artist.

True Story:

Like all graphic artists I also held the dream of one day having my paintings hanging in a gallery somewhere. Of turning out art that would pay my bills, and maybe leave a legacy to make my small mark on the world. A long shot, I know, but one worth taking, at the time.

One day, while channel surfing, I was halted by a news report of a brand new artist who was commanding an average of $15,000.00 per painting. I had to stop. To know that there was hope for me. To applaud another artist who had made it. Until the story revealed the artist in question.

A raccoon!

It’s the closest I’ve ever come to kicking in the television screen. It also marked the downfall of my desire to be a gallery artist, and probably my career as a graphic artist as well. The life just drained out of the whole scene for me that day.

Giving an agent, no matter how talented, kudos for an author’s success with the public is dangerously close to the same thing. I don’t care how good an agent is, if the public isn’t buying the story they are not going to be able to change that. In fact they are not even going to try. They will simply move on to the next client, and the next commission.

I’m not saying this is bad, it’s just how the business works. If an agent doesn’t earn any commissions, they can’t feed their children. They are, for the most part, hard working, intelligent professionals. But, to give an agent this much credit for a writer’s hard work is unconscionable, and in damn poor taste.

The story lives, or dies by the writer who penned it, not by the will of the agent. The agent is a broker, not the product. And that is all there is to it. No more, no less.

Besides, without a writer’s manuscript to sell, I seriously doubt the agent would be in business.

So, let’s give credit where credit is due. It was J.K. Rowling’s considerable skill as a storyteller and writer that conjured up those millions for her, not her agent.


Marathon Motivation   9 comments

As I explained in my last post, there is a measure of nervousness that goes along with putting your work up for your fellow writers to review, and critique. This is especially true when you have such a great amount of time and work poured into the piece. That is merely a human reaction. The social need for acceptance is core deep in us all. And this is where the writing game gets tough.

All my usual bull-feather slinging aside, acceptance is not my main motivation for putting my story through Marathon. My main motivation is to discover what, and where my story needs improvement. To discover what will stick out in a reader’s mind, and where they might miss something that I needed them to notice. (The technical help doesn’t hurt, either. I can really butcher grammar and punctuation at times. 😉 )

Now, I will confess that many of the critiques touched on points that I thought I had sewed up. Imagine my surprise when I found out that I needed to fix some things I thought I had down pat. Yet, there they were and all I can say is, “Thank goodness someone noticed them, because I sure didn’t!

For many aspiring authors things like this can be devastating, and that is only natural. It’s human. But, stop and think for a moment. What might be perceived as rejection is not rejection at all. It is an opportunity. It is a chance to fix things before they really blow up in your face. Which is better? To have a few of your peers say, “You have a problem here that needs fixing?”, or to have the reading public believe you have all the talent of a mudpie?

I don’t know about anyone else, but I prefer the former to the latter. I need all the readers I can get, and to that effect I have to turn out the best product I can offer to them. Few people will take a second chance on a product that breaks the first time you use it. Storytelling is no different, and you rarely get a second chance to make a first impression.

I’m not saying that I wasn’t disappointed, or shocked to read some of the things that others noticed in my story. I was. But, only for the initial second, or two while my ego was trying to break out of its cage. Fortunately for me, my ego isn’t as large as my desire to be an author, and I saw what I was being given to me. Pearls. Again, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I need all of those I can lay my greedy little hands on as well.

It can be said that I’ve been lucky so far. After all, I’ve been given a passing vote by each reviewer, so far. Well, the week ain’t over yet, and who knows what the next reviewers might find? Either way, it will present another chance to make my story better for the reader. I refuse to see it in any other light than an opportunity for taking my storytelling to the next level.

See? All you Dr. Frankensteins in the Speculative Fiction Group are creating a monster. And, in this case, the monster is grateful for all your hard work.

Now, I have to get back to returning the favor.

I’ll try to keep the blog up to date, but my posting may be erratic for the summer. Marathon is far more important at the moment, and I have to do my part to try and help, if I can.

It’s a big debt to try and repay, but I’ll do my best.