Archive for October, 2014

STRUGGLING TO GET IT PUBLISHED: ASSOCIATION OF AUTHORS’ REPRESENTATIVES

For those of you seeking a publisher, one of the first steps might entail finding an agent. For many publishers, the only way to approach them is through an agent. Agents are, to a great extent, the gatekeepers for publishers. They make their money from a percentage of the income generated by your book so an agent will not take on a book unless it has potential. If you don’t make money the agent doesn’t make money.

As in every profession, there are members who are less than honest. First, you should NEVER, NEVER, EVER, EVER pay for an agent to read your work. If the agent has a reading fee run like hell. Another more the nebulous con is that the agent agrees to represent your book but suggests that it needs edition. This could be a valid suggestion. However, the problem arises when the agent suggests and editor with which they have a prearranged agreement. With the suggestion of an editor, this could be an honest evaluation or a scam. I strongly suggest you do your homework. That’s where I hope to help the writer by a series of posts giving you sources where you can check on the reputation of agents and also publishers.

This initial post will introduce you to the Association of Authors’ Representatives (a.a.r.). This organization has a strict set of standards which their members must follow. One, of course, is not charging a reading fee. Use the link I have provided to explore the organization. You will find you can query by genre, agent’s name or agency. This is a useful tool in your search for an agent. Next: Predators & Editors.

http://www.aaronline.org/

October 29, 2014 at 8:09 pm Leave a comment

ISAAC’S STORM BY ERIK LARSON

I just completed reading Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson published in 1999. This was my second reading of this impressive and informative work on the great hurricane which devastated Galveston in 1900.

I wanted to revisit this book during hurricane season. Looking back, it would have been more enriching read done the year Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi coast or Sandy the New Jersey coast and surrounding area. More on Sandy and my Seaside Heights connection in an upcoming post.

This book will give you an appreciation of the current state of storm tracking and weather forecasting. I recommend you read it to compare today’s weather service with that of the late 1800’s when storms appeared from nowhere unannounced with prediction dependent on inflated egos and politics. Larson does an excellent job delving into the competition between the American weather bureau stationed in Cuba and the Cuban forecasters; how they were at odds on the future of the storm passing Cuba. The Cubans speculated that the storm would head into the Gulf of Mexico and impact Galveston and the Americans that it would veer north along the Atlantic coast discounting the accumulated experience of the Cubans. The competition between the two groups was such that the Cubans were forbidden to communicate their forecasts by telegram the Washington. At the same time, the Americans were forbidden to use the word hurricane in a forecast unless it was a certainty and Washington granted permission. The result of this egocentric approach was a storm of monumental proportions taking Galveston by surprise and claiming more than 6000 lives.

The title of the book is referring to the fact that the name of the head of the Galveston weather bureau was Isaac Cline. In addition to an observer to the storm he was also a victim losing his house and pregnant wife. Larson does an excellent job of following Cline and other Galveston residents through the horror and devastation. He also goes into great detail on the formation and development of a hurricane.

I am a huge fan of Erik Larson’s work, especially this gripping tale of death and destruction in Galveston in 1900.

October 28, 2014 at 3:22 am 1 comment

MY FARMER DAUGHTER: ANOTHER VIDEO

Bear with me as I play the role of ‘proud dad’, for I am.

Attached is another video about Lynn’s work on the farm.  I find it so interesting that this kid from Newark, New Jersey has raised a farmer.

http://nationswell.com/st-lukes-rodale-institute-farm-grows-produce-hospital/

I’ve also reposted a memoir piece of my childhood gardening experience.

You might say agriculture is in our roots. (Ha, Ha)

MEMOIR

 

 

GARDENING

I have always been amazed at the resilience of plants. There are those you can abuse and they come back stronger than ever. My small garden in Newark, New Jersey did not endure the harsh treatment I unknowingly subjected it to. But I enjoyed that patch of green and my small connection to nature.

Have you ever stopped for a red light while driving and gazed over at the concrete median and there, against all odds, growing through a tiny flaw in the concrete is a plant? I am amazed to see how life persists even under the most adverse conditions. As a child in Newark I simulated those exact conditions, although I called it gardening.

The yard we had on Christie Street was actually quite large. Large enough to have kickball and baseball games, but then again, we were quite small. Once I was older, we would have barbecues on our charcoal grill, summer nights spent sitting on beach chairs on the hard-packed soil, enjoying burgers and hot dogs as we listening to the sound of the city as night closed the day.

Next to our house was the landlord’s house, which was a small two story one family dwelling with and alley running between the two houses. Behind the landlord’s house was a garden, fenced in. On the opposite side of this small house was a driveway, which was actually quite long, and when I was old enough to shovel snow, it seemed to become longer still.

Our yard was large enough to hold a couple of cars, with some scraggly patches of grass growing defiantly, despite the conditions. To the rear of the yard was a three-car garage, one of which my father rented, and this was the reason I was given the opportunity to shovel the driveway. Next to the garages, and beyond the area of the yard where we were permitted to play, was another fenced area where the residents were not allowed. An old glider swing back there, but nothing much more. At the edge of this restricted area was another small fenced space, about six feet by six feet, sheltering a small garden belonging to the old woman across the hall. She had mostly zinnias and marigolds and it was a great place to catch whatever butterflies found their way into our yard. I admired her garden. She was always out there tending her flowers, pulling weeds, tying up plants with wooden stake and old stockings, the traditional way of supporting tall plants back then.

One day the fence bordering the back of the yard came down and that area of the yard was no longer restricted. I’m not sure why the fence came down. The glider swing came down about the same time. Now a whole new area of the yard was available, an area perfect for a garden. With our landlady’s permission, my sisters and I started construction

The ground was as hard as concrete; there was a total lack of anything that resembled topsoil. So off we went in the old Chevy for some rich loam. We traveled a short distance to where my grandparents lived in Hillside. There was a little-used park along a stream not far from their house, and that is where we headed for our soil. We parked as close as we could and, armed with a shovel and several large containers, started digging up the bank of the stream.

Once our topsoil was obtained, my sisters and I framed out small areas. We each had an area about twenty to twenty-five square feet backing up to the fence separating our yard from the neighbor’s yard. We made a feeble attempt to turn the soil before adding the topsoil, but the product of our digging was only reddish soil and rock, so we dumped our topsoil on top of our little garden areas and started planting.

I was rather ambitious when I planted my garden. I bought tomato and pepper plants, planted carrot, beet and parsley seeds all in neat little rows. These poor plants and seeds did less than thrive. I grew everything in miniature. My beefsteak tomatoes were more like their cherry cousins, the plants barely needing any support at all. My peppers were the size of plums. And my carrots – I grew those tiny carrots that they feature in seed catalogs, ones as big as your pinky, but I in fact was going for the full-sized edition. Why I attempted to grow root crops in concrete-like soil is a mystery to me now. But I was proud of my little garden. When my sisters lost interest, the size of my garden grew. I watered and weeded the few limp weeds that dare take up residence amongst my crops and generally enjoyed the little area of green I had created out back.

Then one summer it happened, a true sign that I had truly established a growing zone in Newark, I was infested with insects. The leaves on my plants were full of holes. This phenomenon amazes me to this day. How you can grow a plant that is unknown to the area, yet an insect that specifically attacks that plant will find and destroy it. And so it went for my little plot in Newark. I purchased a powder that I thought might remedy the situation, and after a heavy dusting that left my plants white under the strong mid afternoon sun I read the directions. This pesticide was to be applied lightly and only during the cool of the evening, always avoiding exposing the plants to this killer during the heat of the afternoon. By nightfall, my whole garden was withered and dead. I eliminated my insect infestation and in the process eliminated my garden.

The next year I planted again with a new knowledge of pesticide use. I branched out to flowers, planting some morning glories in a corner of the yard near my garden, another small square of the yard taken over for horticulture.

I have my own yard now, much larger than the yard of my youth. I enjoy my vegetable garden and the flowers planted around the property, but there are days when I think back to my little plot in Newark where I teased life from the concrete soil.

October 23, 2014 at 5:07 am Leave a comment

WHITE NOISE IN PUBLISHING

Continuing on my white noise theme in the publishing world, I feel self-publishing has, as most things do, some good and some not so good points.

Self-publishing gives a new slant to ‘freedom of speech’. Anyone and I mean anyone can publish what they want, the good the bad and the ugly, for perhaps little or no expense and sell it to the public. In future posts I will explore self-publishing options for my and my readers’ benefit. However, before I tackle that subject, I want to delve into the process of finding a publisher (I’ve already begun that task) and an agent.

Now, back to self-publishing and white noise.

I’m sure it’s my lack of confidence, or maybe my upbringing in the scientific world, but I need verification from someone knowledgeable in publishing that what I write is worthy of publication. That is the cross I bear, but I’m learning to throw-off this burden, at least to some extent.

You see, the problem I have with self-publishing is that there is no gatekeeper. With over 435,000 works self-published last year the white noise in publishing has become a deafening roar. I know, everyone has a book in them but let’s be honest, sometimes that’s where it should stay. Then again, who has the right to make that judgment? See the conundrum.

In the past, the only way to be published, other than by a recognized publisher, was by a vanity press. By using a vanity press, you could fill your garage or basement with copies of your work and come away from the experience hundreds or thousands of dollars poorer. For the most part, the vanity press is all but gone, but not totally. What it has done is morphed into companies advertising in writer’s magazines offering to publish your work for perhaps a few hundred dollars or so. They have traded the profits made by a few paying a great deal to a great number paying a lot less. In the future I want to explore how you can bypass them and publish on your own.

Now, here’s where I make some enemies, but isn’t that what life’s all about?

Of the 435,000 works published last year, how many would have found a home with a traditional publisher. I ask myself, when I look at my own work, is there anyone who would pay money to read this other than my family or friends. That should be your litmus test if you really want to become a writer. Publishing a book might stroke your ego, but will it contribute anything.

I met an author last year who told me she is now self-publishing. However, she first published with established publishers, built a reputation, and now publishes on her own. That path has merit, in my eyes.

Another interesting observation I saw in a writer’s magazine was how self-publishing may hurt those beginning a long-term career. A side note, I recently had a story accepted and after it was accepted I decided to read it one last time. I had written it sometime ago and, at times being a bonehead, failed to read it before sending it off. I found the writing ‘lacking’ and told the publisher they would receive an improve version. The point is, we improve with experience. That is the point made in the article. The reason the career-minded writer should be careful about self-publishing their early work is that if they take the next step and decide to seek out a traditional publisher and that publisher is interested in taking them on, they will consider the writer’s self-published an example of their skill. Do you get the point? Your name is attached to your work, your true name in most cases, and that work is how your writing will be judged.

Finally, if you do decide to self-publish, PLEASE! PLEASE! have someone other than your mother or closest friend read your work. Preferably someone who has read a great deal and will give you an honest opinion. This is where, if you are sincere about your craft, a good writers group comes into play. If there isn’t a group you can join, there are opportunities to get online critiques where you can exchange work with other writers. Another benefit of critiquing someone else’s work is the process tends to improve your own skills.

Hope I haven’t ruffled too many feathers, and that my comments will help turn the white noise in publishing into joyful music.

October 20, 2014 at 11:42 pm Leave a comment

WHITE NOISE IN LIFE AND WRITING

You, my readers, may be wondering what the title of this piece has to do with writing. So do I. Let’s see where it goes.

As a writer, I observe the world around me, comparing the present with what I have experienced in the past. And being a writer of science fiction, comparing the present and speculating on the future. We live in an age when the vast majority of us are constantly connected to the complex grid of modern-day communication essential to today’s way of life. We live in an age of tablets and smart phones, both smarter now than the computers of not so long ago. It’s predicted that soon we will live in ‘smart houses’ providing for our every need and perhaps reaching the point where the house will decide what is best for us. You know I’m of a story along those lines. This ‘smart house’ trend has already begun with locking and observing and adjusting temperatures from your phone. Here is where I will show my age. How much of life do we miss by being so consumed by devices that we no longer observe the life around us?

I remember a news report of a woman falling into water while using a phone, and we all know how dangerous it is to talk on a phone while driving, let alone texting, but so many of us are so plugged in that we tune out responsibilities which could have dire consequences. Of course, there are those who say that talking on the phone is no more dangerous than listening to the radio. I don’t know about you, but I don’t hold a conversation with my radio.

The point is: How does this electronic connection deprive us of appreciating the world around us? What do you think?

There is another point I want to make, as a writer, and may get me in trouble with some of my colleagues. But here goes. I feel self-publishing provides a great deal of white noise to the publishing industry. I recently read in Publishers Weekly that in 2013 there were a total of 458,564 self-published works to hit the market. I know each and every author thinks that their work is worthy of publication, but seriously. Who is to judge the value of each and every publication? That would be the public. But bombarded by such a massive amount to choose from, how do you separate the good from the bad and the ugly? The answer, that’s what the market place is all about. However, I feel the sheer volume is the white noise in publishing.

My next posting will further explore the white noise of self-publishing.

October 14, 2014 at 7:58 pm Leave a comment

MY CONSTANT COMPANION, MILLIE

After observing my writing endeavors, Millie seeks rest.

Jpeg

October 9, 2014 at 7:22 pm Leave a comment

A WELCOMED CHANGE IN TV PROGRAMING… CONTINUED

To continue my appreciation of the latest trend in TV programing. I’ve been thinking that this is really not brand new, for the approach has been used in the past. Remember Roots. Back then it was called a miniseries.

While thinking about Roots, I recalled an incident I experienced while living in West Los Angeles and working at UCLA during the late 1970s and early 80s. I was driving in Westwood when a small sports car caught my eye. I thought I recognized the driver, and when I saw his license plate, I knew I was right. The plate said KINTE and of course the driver was Alex Haley. I wonder if I should change my plate to README, but I digress.

Back on point. Another characteristic I find refreshing with this approach to TV programing other than the killing of characters is that they end, or at least being based on a novel, require an ending. With Under the Dome, I’m not so sure. The promise of an endpoint is refreshing when contrasted with the usual series fare which are endless cliff-hanger where you know the main character will survive, if not, what will they broadcast the following week? The endpoint, here, determined by ratings and not by storyline.

There is, of course, a parallel in the written word. As a reader, I tend to shy away from recurring characters in novels. For, as in a TV series, no matter how tight the situation may be, it will be resolved or else the author will lose the cash cow.

Yet, after stating the above, there are authors whose recurring characters I enjoy following. Here it’s the strong character rather than the story which draws my interest.

One character is Lee Child’s nomadic hero, Jack Reacher. Reacher’s lifestyle provides a fun read, although sometimes I wish he would stumble into a town where all hell doesn’t break lose. But, then again, why read such a story. I enjoy James Patterson’s Alex Cross stories. The character is so well developed, so full of strengths and weaknesses, that you can’t help loving the guy. Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden is also on my list of follows. Dresden, a modern-day Chicago wizard, breaks the mold of continuing characters for he has kind of ‘died’. Wizards provide much more flexibility than your average human.

These ruminations bring to mind one final example, but with a twist. For this author had a recurring character he wanted to kill, but his audience would not let him. The legendary author tried killing his illustrious character by having him plunge over a waterfall, but the public would not hear of it. Rather than meet his fate, the author was forced to have him survive and live on for more stories. The author – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and of course the character was Sherlock Holmes.

So there you have it, a long-winded appreciation of what I see as a new trend in TV programing, death and finality.

What do you think?

October 8, 2014 at 8:23 pm 1 comment

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