Tuesday, June 21, 2011


 My friend Andre reminds me that  in the history of mankind,  stories were originally  scratched in dirt and on walls,  then etched  on the skins of animals.  The Incas told stories by knotting strings. Ancient Chinese scrolled calligraphy on cliffs.  The origin of paper is up for grabs, there are many variations.   But not till the  15th century were books printed on paper.  Mass-produced books only came into existence in the 19th century.  Then,  think of it!  whole flocks of epics erupted from the pages for the common man. And now we're in a new and massive sea-change:  electronic books.

(If I sound like I'm in catch-up mode, I am. I only began writing and uploading ebooks  6 months ago.
As you can see, this blogsite is new. I still don't know how to 'network' effectively.  I can Twitter but  get totally  teched-out  on my  Facebook page.  I try to log in to Kindleboards,  and end up in a beer hall in Munich.)

Now,  as mentioned in an earlier blog,  my friend Andre is albino.  His albinism has affected his vision so he's nearly blind in one eye.  He has always been a lover of printed books,  transported by  the smell and feel of them.  But in the past two years he has begun  to rely on audio-books to save his eyes,  and on ebooks where one can -  with a click -  enlarge the fonts.  Since he's an  insatiable reader  Andre is becoming a  ebook addict.   He finds  the far-reaching  and  unending realm of ebook offerings  a never-never land where  the socially maladroit elusive-reclusive  can drift and dream and pick and choose,  and  never show his face.  

Andre  works at home,  his hours are his own.  Sometimes for entire days he  hits the Internet, sleuthing  through myriad  bookstores and platforms,  the mind-blowing warehouse of Amazon,   as he tries to grasp the enormity of this digital funhouse the whole  world now inhabits.  He unearths  fascinating facts,  outlandish  claims,  apocalyptic  schemes and offerings.  He has become  my  book detective,  my media  P.I.   He calls himself  my  Bibliodick.

Of course,  in this age of oversharing,  Andre  has become addicted to  Facebook and Wikileaks where great masses of  previously  private data are now  thrown out as public.  As a Russian ( born in a  rusty bathtub in Valdivostock)   he is fascinated with the West,  and the rest of the 'free'  world,  as we  rush headlong into an  all-consuming  'outting'  of  our personal, cultural, and political lives.  How will we exist  without privacy? He asks.   How long can we stand it?   I wonder this myself,  as I discover  my home-address posted on Facebook without my  knowledge or permission, while Mark Zuckerberg   swans  around mouthing pro-privacy bromides.

"We're  in warp-speed metamorphosis,"  Andre says.  "Its out of control.  Much too late."

Like Andre,  against my better judgement, I have  become addicted to  certain blogsites.  One thing we both agree on:  nine  out of ten  sites are devoted to HOW TO MAKE MONEY ON YOUR EBOOKS.   How to increase sales.  When to drop prices,  when to increase them.    When to blog-tour, when to not.  What I want to know is...WHERE ARE THE SITES DEVOTED TO  EXCELLENT WRITING?   Old-fashioned,  hardcore discussions dedicated to The Craft.  If you know, please tell me.   Guide me there.

Appropos of The Craft,  here  are some basic  questions  adult writing-students have  recently asked:

1)  Q) Do I  make Outlines when starting a book?   A)  YES!  I didn't in first novel,  and constantly got  characters confused,  time confused,  locations confused.  Its like going on a long trip without a map.   MAKE AN OUTLINE.  You don't have to stick to it,  but it gives you something tangible to follow until you know where you're going.  Change it as you progress.

2)  Q)  Why am I told by everyone to date pages, or at least chapters?   A)   SO YOU DON'T LOSE YOUR MIND.   Have you ever revised a chapter 5, 7, 10 times, and then got the revisions all  mixed up?  Date, date, date every page,  when possible.
3)  Q)  This is my third published novel.  I consider myself a pro.  So why does my agent say to keep everything? I'm dying to throw the bad stuff out.  A)  Because you don't know where your brain will be in two years.  Old stuff today might seem new stuff then.  In one  god-awful draft,  there might be one brilliant sentence.  I have a tradition called CANNIBALIZING.  I keep old drafts of  novels and stories,  and constantly steal  the best phrases and sentences from them when working on something new.  When that draft is completely exhausted of good stuff,  my friends and I give it a burial,  even a little headstone.  "Here Lies A Draft Who Gave Her All."

4)  Q)  How do I keep my cast of characters straight.    A)  No-brainer.  Make a FILE for each character just like a living person.  Date of Birth,  name,  color hair, eyes, etc.  When you see something in a mag-azine, a profile, a photo,  throw it in the file.  As it expands your character does too.

5)  Q)  Is it still plagiarism if the author is dead?   A)  (Hard to believe this is a real question from an  educated human being. )  IT IS PLAGIARISM!  Whether the author is a prophet from the Upanishads  or a two-year old infant who's been published.  Its true there's nothing new under the sun,  but try to express yourself in words that come from YOU, your experiences,  your DNA,  your  unique spin on this thing we call life.   Read!  Read! The more you read the more you'll gain confidence and a voice.  Brilliant  writing doesn't  come from  borrowed feelings.

6)  Q)  How often can I use the "f" word in a novel?   A)  SELDOM.   The less you use it,  the more  effective  it is.  I  use it  sparingly, for  emphasis.  "That dog ate my f-cking shoe!"  Its really the dog the character is mad at,  but somehow the shoe gets "f-cked."  I can't explain it.  This is how people talk.  AGAIN,  I prefer to use the word for emphasis,  or  even humor.   But  NEVER, NEVER when describing   the act of love.  Otherwise it reduces the most intimate act between two people to  mere  fornication.  A glottal stop.  (Unless that's what your aiming for. But that's another kind of book. ) Again,  the less you use it,  the more of a  wallop "f" has.   But definitely  use it.  Its part of our vocabulary.     (More Q and A's in forthcoming blogs. )  

Just now,  Andre has emailed some interesting morsels he has gathered about ebooks.   What states have the highest  ebook readers per capita?   Alaska.  North and South Dakota. Utah.  Wyoming.   Surprising?  No.  These are rural states,  that don't attract free-standing bookstores.   Enterprising writers might think of  locating  their next books in...Anchorage? Sitka?  Fargo?  The more remote and rural,  the deeper a character can be.  Two many characters dilute a book.  Novels  set in  crowded,  metropolitan  centers,  generally make me  sleepy.   Except for Don deLillo's  UNDERWORLD.

A last morsel from Andre  who  hit on a blogsite  offering  a  no-fail  recipe for  "WRITING BEST-SELLING EBOOKS."   "...Your novel must be forward-moving.  Don't linger on language.  Extract data,  move on.  Don't forget most purchases are based on brief excerpts.  You need to hook readers right away.  No sappy intros,  no  operatic overtures.  There should be blood on the walls by the second paragraph.  By the end of the book,  all but one character should be dead.   Ebooks are the NEW FORM.  Used  in a pulpy kind of mode,  they're a way to say IMPORTANT THINGS."
             My favorite sentence:  "Don't linger on language."  lol

In a more serious vein: Anyone who loves books, writers, writing,  who loves the evolution of a genius writer's career,  please check out Ray Bradbury's  NBA AWARDS Acceptance Speech from 2000,  which I just discovered.  I think Bradbury is/was a genius and I always loved his work.  Even if you hate sci-fi, horror,  martians, zombies, etc.  please  read his speech.  He's the  godfather of the current Twilight/Blood Approves/Vampires/Werewolves trend,  but  his  acceptance speech is filled with love for the classics,  Melville, Tolstoy, Faulkner,  etc.  Its brilliant, hilarious, and humble.  EVERY WRITER SHOULD READ IT!   Google:  RayBradbury/ NBA /Acceptance Speech.com

Recommended Reading:  READING LIKE A WRITER,  A Guide for People Who Love Books and Want to Write Them.    By Francise Prose.

Also:  An oldie but goodie sure to blow your mind which I just discovered.
 DHALGREN. By Samuel R. Delany.  (A gay, African-American Sci-Fi genius.  Published in 1975, now revived.) An 800 page monster like MOBY DICK,  NAKED LUNCH,  and CHOCOLATE RAIN rolled into one.   Gorgeous, profound, rambling,visionary,  postapocalyptic,  sci-fi prose/poetry.  A vortex of pure textuality.  Now a cult classic,  Jonathan Lethem calls DHALGREN,  "The secret masterpiece,  the city-book labyrinth that swallows astonished readers alive!"
Alohas for now.




  1. Keep looking. There are definitely writers who blog about craft. The newness of ebooks has presented an unprecedented opportunity and a steep learning curve, and writers are obsessed with both at the moment. (And some entrepreneurial types have decided that writing ebooks may be the way to an easy buck.)

    My former mentor blogs and posts her writing exercises, as well. http://janetfitchwrites.wordpress.com/

    There's certainly an opportunity for more literary discussion. It seems that many writers that care deeply about craft are dedicating their energies to that craft rather than blogging.

    Thanks for the book recommendations.

  2. CAndace, thanx for responding. I grow weary and quasi-depressed from all these blogsites about sales ranks, sales charts, how to make a faster buck. I miss conversations where we used to get drunk on language and the discovery of a new book! Out here in the middle of the Pacific, it is hard to find such company. Everyone is 3-jobbing just to stay alive.

    I know Jane Fitch's work, and will check out her site asap. In truth, it was my print publisher Riverhead/Penguin who asked, in fact de-manded, that their writers set up Websites and blogsites. I'd much rather be working on next project. What about you, what are you working on? I'm going to check out Amazon for any of your books. Stay in touch! Alohas and thanks again. PS... Do you have any books you want to recommend?

  3. PS...Candace, I just found your wordpress site! All that good stuff about reading and writing. Yayyyy! Looks like luscious, thought-provoking postings.
    I look forward to reading all of them. Imua! Press on and thanx again. Kiana

  4. A site for making good writers awesome writers: http://hollylisle.com/
    And she does a lot for free. You can also try deviantArt (http://www.deviantart.com/) There are plenty of literature communities on dA that help people become better writers, and if you're involved in a lot of communities there are plenty of ways to advertise and get your writing out there for free - however, the problem is that it is a public site and is probably technically "publishing" your work if you post it up.

    Nice blogging, and good luck with the publisher law suit folks... bastards that they are.

    Kia kaha! (Maori for "be strong/keep at it")

  5. Yana, Mahalo, thanks! so much for your comments. Will check out the other sites you recommend. And thanks for good wishes on the legal thing.

    Maoris are our close cousins so I am sending you alohas (May you have everlasting breath!) and a big important word. IMUA! (Press on! Much like your Maori KI KAHA! ...keep in touch, cuz...Ki Orana! Kiana

  6. Find out how THOUSAND of people like YOU are working for a LIVING online and are living their dreams TODAY.

    Get daily ideas and methods for making THOUSAND OF DOLLARS per day ONLINE for FREE.