Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Where did it come from?

[I posted this on my Amazon author page and thought, why not here, too?]

For a number of years, the idea of taking my set of knowledge into another time has intrigued me. How would I survive? What could I make?

 For example, I wondered, if I went back 500 years could I produce an automobile? I know generally how they work and are made. But what about things like the state of metallurgy in the 15th Century? Politics? Who would want to control the technology?
One evening I had an image of a modern person facing a king or other powerful person from an earlier era demanding this man’s secrets, and his dilemma whether to give them up. I knew I had my book.
Of course, it turns out, that isn’t really what the story is about, it’s only what happens. If that sounds confusing, just remember that most stories are about a character’s search to fulfill a need and the story gets them there.
You may wonder why this time period, and why Venice? I wanted my guy to meet a guy and Venice was where this fellow was going to be, so we headed to the city of love, canals, and cutthroat business, in a roundabout way. I hope you enjoy!

Thanks, Barnes and Noble

Announcement for July 30, 2011 Book Signing

Book signing July 30, 2011

After THE KING OF SILK was published in ebook form last February I contacted the customer service manager at the Lubbock, Texas Barnes and Noble. In lieu of a traditional book signing, I thought maybe a Nook promotion might be in order. Timing (mine) didn’t favor it, so I waited until the trade paperback version came out to call her back.

This lady was gracious and helpful, scheduling me in about a month so we would have time to get the marketing materials and such together. I sent her a PDF file she’s getting printed up for a poster they will put up in the window, along with a display of five books. They’ll notify the media and even send out a mailing if I supply the addresses. I also dealt with the CRM at the Amarillo store, who was helpful as well.

It’s nice to deal with folks like this. Thanks Barnes and Noble staff!

The fine art of showing up

The Payoff

How do you plan to be at the right place at the right time?

This past Friday and Saturday, my wife and I attended the Frontiers in Writing conference in Amarillo, our fifth consecutive. It’s a great event, where writers of all stripes gather to hear presentations, talk shop, and make connections. We encourage each other and generally recharge our batteries.

One feature of conferences like this is the “Meet an [agent, editor, author, other industry professional] appointment.” Typically you get ten minutes to make a pitch with an agent or editor, and you need a more or less finished product ready.

Since my book, THE KING OF SILK, released earlier this year and my next project is in early stages, I almost didn’t reserve a spot this year, but requested one at the last moment. Or maybe someone or (Someone?) pushed me.

When I took my turn, the agent stood and asked if I were Joe, and if _____________ were my cousin.

It turns out he and my cousin had lived next door to each other until sixth grade and recently got in touch again through Facebook. He mentioned the conference and she mentioned I was going. He already knew who I was before I arrived. Coincidence?

In spite of my barely-started work, we had a nice talk and chatted another time or two during the conference. Maybe something will come of it. I know my work will have to pass muster, but at least we have a connection. But what would have happened if I had not signed up for the spot–would he have tracked me down? I don’t know.

So, after that long introduction, here’s the thing: Fortune looks poorly on those who don’t prepare. Craft your work as well as you can and knock on as many doors as possible. Don’t wait for Opportunity to do the heavy lifting.

Book signing for The King of Silk!

I’ll be signing books this coming Saturday, June 18, in Lubbock, Texas at the Spoil Me Rotten Party House, 124 East Broadway (near the fairgrounds), from 10:00 to 4:00. It’s an arts and crafts show featuring china painting and, well, me of course. Refreshments served, all the usual and some unusual.

I’ll also be signing books at the Frontiers in Writing conference (Amarillo, Texas) June 24-25.

Come out to either or both–we’ll have a swell time!

An email mess cleaned up–maybe

At work (yes I have a day job), I check two email accounts. One is mine and one is the catch-all address for the company. Then at home I have four accounts. The first is an old one that I have too many contacts with to terminate. The other three are on my own domain–one for me, one for one of my characters, and an “info” account I use on my web site.

This works all right under normal circumstances. I use an email client named “Thunderbird” that does all I require. I can even check my home emails from work if I need to. But what about less-than-normal circumstances? Like when I am gone for almost two weeks and can’t check my work email.

I can access my personal email through a “webmail” client if I have access to the internet. But my work accounts are limited to 16 MB each, so if I let them stack up, emails start bouncing with undesirable results. My work computer dutifully scrapes them off the server so I can’t use webmail to see them.

Besides that, it’s unhandy having two systems to maintain. Why not just have one? That’s where Gmail comes in.

Yes, it’s yet another account to check, but Gmail is handy to have for other uses not germane to this discussion.

Under Gmail I can pull in email from all my other accounts and then separate them into various sections according to my uses of work and personal accounts. I can check work email at home or on the road and vice versa. Works great on my semi-smart phone, too.

Before you get all excited, though, I have a warning for you. The way Gmail organizes its files is fundamentally different than your POP3 or IMAP email client.

For one, it’s always on the server (there is a local option I haven’t tried). And then there’s the difference in folders and labels.

In Gmail there is only one copy of an email on the server, ever. There’s only one folder, and it’s call “All Mail.” There is no Sent folder or Inbox. No Trash, either. So how does that work? With Labels.

A message in your Inbox is really in the All Mail folder. It just has a label of Inbox attached to it. It can also have a label of Work or Vacation Stuff attached at the same time. This can be a hard thing to wrap your mind around if you’re used to storing things in folders, where if you want to store things in multiple folders you have to make copies. Remember, only one copy in Gmail.

Scare you off yet? It’s not really that hard, only a different way of thinking.

“But,” you interject, “I need my folders. I set up filters to arrange my incoming mails so I can organize the chaos.” You can do that with labels, it’s just a little challenging until you get your mind right.

When you check an account from gmail, you can attach a label in addition to Inbox. For my character’s email, I attach a label of “Michael,” so it shows up under Inbox and under Michael.

Then it gets a little hairy. My main email receives regular correspondence, plus postings from several groups. I don’t want the considerable traffic from these groups clogging up my Joe box. So I go through several gyrations to pick out and label the groups and send everything else to my regular spot.

When assigning filters remember they work on incoming mails. But what about outgoing emails? Note: all messages (including Sent) go to All Mail. Messages you receive and messages you send are ALL incoming! So filter with care.

Gmail also defaults to grouping sent messages and replies to the same messages in “conversations” so you see them in context. New messages send the whole conversation to the top of the list.

You also will want to set up all your accounts in a “send from” list. You can mark the email to send from any of these accounts and reply to emails sent to them.

Still think you have what it takes to make your mail more manageable? If you can visualize how the system works, it’s not that bad. But it will take time to set up. There is plenty of information on the Gmail forums and on the web. And I only charge $795 per 30 minutes of assistance. Only kidding. Really, I’m no help at all.

The good thing is, you can tell Gmail to leave your mail on the server and use both systems until you’re comfortable with it. Give it a try!

Write what you know?

How many times have you heard this piece of advice, and what the heck does it mean, anyway?

How could anyone write science fiction or fantasy, or describe love as an old/young/man/woman/girl/boy and write what they know?

I’ve heard that John Grisham writes mostly lawyer stories because he knows lawyering. Maybe he does. Maybe that’s what people expect. I don’t know, but my favorite JG book is “A Painted House,” told by a young boy on an 1950s Arkansas cotton farm. What did he know about that?

I recently read an article by Michael Farrington on this subject. He states that we usually interpret “what we know” as what we know about the subject. Anybody ask Frank Herbert how he knew about the planet “Dune?” No, Farrington says, write what you know about the story.

When we embark on a story writing journey, we usually don’t foresee each twist, turn, stop, and start. Rather, we start with a kernel of an idea. A “what if”, or “why,” or an image comes to us and we expand on it.

I narrowly avoided running down a rabbit recently when it dashed through the glare of my headlights. “Why do they do that?” I asked. That was the kernel, and the story grew from there.

From that point, though, you do need to know some things. Like how relationships work, how people struggle, how they overcome or fail, and why those things interest us.

What do you know about your story?

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On the road to Pyramid: Day 11/12

February 27, 2011 1 comment

Headed Home

Agitated Pyramid Lake

The wind still howled as we left for home, and the lake, placid when we arrived, roiled under its assault. Across the surface of the water, water spray danced instead of dust devils, and real dust devils met the water’s edge and slowly disappeared over the whitecaps.

Looking back toward Sutcliffe

But the beauty still captures our hearts and at 7:00 AM local time, we snapped this picture from the road, back toward Sutcliffe, our home for the previous five days.

Reluctant to leave, but ready to get home, we set out on the road. Just in time, we later discovered. Cold, snow, and power outages made life uncomfortable for the next week.

Traveling generally southward, we aimed for Beatty, Nevada to stop, refuel and eat lunch. Not far from Beatty, we saw a pair of brothels, legal in parts of Nevada. I don’t know about the insides, but the outsides are not as nice as one might imagine.

The Ensada Grill, Beatty, Nevada

At Beatty, we bypassed the local casino buffet and stopped at the Ensanada Grill for lunch, where we’ve eaten a couple of times before.

I had the chicken enchiladas and Rhonda chose (you may detect a trend here) the chiles rellenos. Again, two thumbs up for Ensanada Grill.

After a side trip to a stand selling honey (many varieties), pistachios, jerky, and sundry items, we took off again.

It was mid-afternoon when we hit Las Vegas, and we slipped on through without losing any money. Although we were on a beeline home, we had to stop at Hoover Dam.

On our last trip, all traffic went across the dam while a bypass was under construction. Now, though, you have to take an exit or before you know it, you’re in Arizona and have to turn around. Not that we would know that first hand, of course.

It’s still a wonder. Here are some shots:

The new Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge

Water intake towers at Hoover Dam

The Colorado escaping Hoover Dam

Intake tower

Then we were off again. Our goal was to get past Flagstaff, Arizona and its tendency for snow, maybe to Winslow, before stopping for the night. At Flagstaff, we refueled at a convenience store/truck stop and figured to get a bite, but the grill was closed so we snacked up and were off again.

We had traded time driving and sleeping and were feeling okay after 16 hours, so we kept going, and going…

At Gallup, New Mexico we hit the Denny’s about 2:00 AM (Texas time) for a refreshing breakfast and coffee. In Santa Rosa, we stopped for gas and noticed a hint of sunrise in the east. And at 10:45 AM we rolled into our driveway, 25 and 3/4 hours after we began our trek home. It was time, finally, for a nap.

So there you are, a trip from Texas through New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, and back in a dozen or so  easy steps. Thanks for tagging along.

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