Monday, December 31, 2007

advice to writers 2008

1.Shooting yourself in the fucking head is a quicker and easier way for you to get lots and lots of attention, if that's what you're after. Personally, I have a deep fear of attention... so I am keeping a gun handy.

2.Read the posts on WritersNet. There is some good advice on that site, and plenty of people post samples of their writing there, which is bound to make you feel really good about yourself... especially because the worst of them just never seem to give up and shoot themselves in the head. (Smith NEVER posts samples of his work on the web... well, except for those couple lines on Ghost Medicine ... and blogs don't count as writing.) Lots of playground-like genital comparison goes on at that site, too (yawn), which is why I've only answered questions a handful of times there. Also, Flogging the Quill is a great site to get a decent idea of what grabs -- and irks -- an editor. Better writing samples there, too.

3.Get a coach. I have three of them: my agent, my editor, and my great friend Kel. I picked my agent (she was #1 on my list) from Jeff Herman's guidebook. I picked her based on her reputation, her background in literature, the agency she is associated with, and the genres she likes to rep. Since I knew she would be right for me, I valued her advice and suggestions. She worked with me for a LONG time in cleaning and tightening up my manuscript, which showed me that she believed in me, and, together, we put out a piece of property that caught the eye of several editors. My editor is hands-down one of the coolest and most talented people I know. Even a nose piercing or Maori facial tattoo couldn't make her cooler. And, next to her, everything I'd ever heard about editors is WRONG. She never cut anything out of my book... she kept asking me to add things I had cut from earlier drafts. She never told me to change anything... she just asked if I thought her ideas worked. And of course I did... she's brilliant... even though her ideas were little more than word substitutions. Oh, and she hates the word "flinch," which I used several times in my original manuscript. I don't think it's in the final version at all... I'll have to do a word scan and see. And, finally, my best friend Kel has been involved in writing ever since we were in high school together and worked on the newspaper, a Stalinist propaganda vehicle to promote uniformity and loyalty among the student masses.

When I decided to send one of my novels out into the world to get published, it was Kel who supported and advised me, and who frequently told me when my shit was shitty, and writers need someone like that at all times.

Happy 2008 (the year of Ghost Medicine).

Sunday, December 30, 2007

let's be honest

OK. So I'm not really the whiskey-soaked sourpuss I make myself out to be on the blogs. But that's as honest as I'll get.

My mother-in-law gave me a tee shirt that says, "Careful, or you'll end up in my novel." And my uncle gave me a bottle of whiskey (seriously).

I have to say that nobody I know ended up in any of my novels. Most of the people I know are far too boring for that.

Except for Rose. Rose is a character in Ghost Medicine modeled after a woman who used to own horse property next to us. And pretty much everything that Rose says and does in Ghost Medicine actually happened... but that was a very long time ago, and "Rose" has passed away.

And I did use one funny quote that Josh, a friend of mine who lives in China, once said to me in conversation... but, other than that, nothing. It's all damned lies. And I'm really hoping that Josh remembers saying it to me and finds the quote.

I take all the pictures I post on the blogs here. One of my favorites is the picture on the December 23 post. And I like the Flatiron Building photo, too. I took that one in New York when I was visiting my publisher (their offices are at the top of the building).

Sunday, December 23, 2007

i guess 'tis

OK... so I'm wondering if there are actually any new male authors out there. Seems like there's nothing but women writers everywhere; ones that hide behind gender-neutral initials. So, if you're a man and a new author, chime in. I'd like to hear from you. We can talk about sports and pain, or the hotness factor of certain women writers.

I read other writers' blogs. Of course, I can only find blogs from women writers. Maybe blogging is kind of metro, I don't know. One of them I recently read offered holiday recipes. So I thought I'd put a holiday recipe on here, too.

Here we go... I call this one "A Bottle of Whiskey"

A Bottle of Whiskey
1 medium to large bottle of whiskey


You're done.

No fucking candy thermometer needed.

And while I'm on the subject of testosterone and the holiday season, let's talk about resolutions. Here are some resolutions I am considering pledging myself to in 2008:

1) Start cussing more frequently. Especially in front of children or members of the clergy.

2) Start chewing tobacco. Also, the same audience requirements as #1 would do nicely.

3) Stop bathing entirely. No more grooming of any kind. That would be cool. I already haven't shaved in over two weeks and I'm beginning to look like Rutherford B. Hayes.

But I'm just "toying" with those possibilities. My number one rule when adopting a resolution is make it enjoyable, attainable, and as personally inexpensive as possible. Hard to let yourself down that way.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

the great blackout

So I drive home at night with my son. My wife and daughter are at dance class. The power is out and every home around the lake is totally dark except for the people I hate who have generators. Even their outdoor Christmas lights are on, mocking my anti-disaster-preparedness-deficit-disorder with their winking oppressed-Chinese-child-labor brilliance.

Pitch blackness, and I have a yearning to play poker on line.

And everything we have runs on juice and there's no dinner either.

I sit in the darkness at my computer and imagine there must be some terrorist attack (probably from Iran... see? you were right all along like you always are George... I can call him by his first name since I am rapidly climbing towards conservatism and honorary Texanism).

My son breaks out a flashlight; the only one in the house and it's about as powerful as the argument for Saddam's WMD program.

He says, "Why don't you light a fire, Dad?"

It's how we heat the house anyway.

I get the fire started and he decides to read. Just like Abe Lincoln, that boy (God! Here I go singing the praises of another Republican). He's reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I explain that Harper Lee only wrote one book, and after that she decided never to write again. I tell him that if you win a Pulitzer and have an Oscar-winning movie made from your one book, you may as well hang up the skates anyway, and he says, "But you better not do that, Dad."

I tell him I can't. I've already written three and two of them have sold.

He breaks out the flashlight and shines it on the pages as he reclines on the couch by the fire.

Some Republican.

Hey! Tomorrow is KELLY'S BIRTHDAY!!

Happy Birthday Kelly!!!! She's my oldest friend (I mean that in a good, self-esteem-preserving way, old gal), and I love her forever.

Obviously, the power came back after a couple hours so I could post this. But we'll still find a way to believe you, Mr. Bush.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

seems like a long time

I've been busy. I found out about my cover art for Ghost Medicine and it is amazingly good news. I hope to be able to put a cover image here and on the website soon, and talk about the perfect-match artist who's doing the work.

Meanwhile, I've been revising Bird, the second book my agent sold to my editor, but I've been working slower than usual on it because I'm spending a lot of time restructuring it in my head.

All this takes such a long time. Everyone said that going in. I wrote Ghost Medicine in 2004, and got an agent right away for it. She and I worked on it for quite a while and it sold a year ago in 2006 at auction in a two-book deal that included Bird, which I wrote in 2005. In April, I flew out to New York to meet everyone at the publishing house and get to work with my editor. The edits weren't major, and we finished them in October. I'm really happy with what we did. Now I'm waiting for the rest of the stuff to happen... the stuff that I don't have much of a hand in.

And I kind of miss conversing with my editor now that the final version is complete. She helped me become a better writer, and through her work I learned to see things that I just didn't recognize before. And she always seemed to find the perfect word to place in the perfect spot that matched my style and what I was trying to say.

I hope she enjoys working with Bird , because it is so different from Ghost Medicine . Bird is a darker story, set in the 1880s (a lot of research went into this). It is also told in a first-person account, so the voice and idioms used have an 1880s "accent." One of the things I researched for Bird was news reporting in the 1880s, because I use some newspaper accounts and descriptions of actual events in the story. I had to trim down that style a bit, though, because news writing in the 1880s was so convoluted and drawn-out. You'll see. But I don't want to give away too much of the plot, except to say that Bird takes place in California and tells a story of revenge and murder, addiction and cruelty, and accounts for the cost of believing in lies.