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09/14/2017

In “Slaughterhouse Five,” Kurt Vonnegut describes the hell of surviving the firebombing of Dresden (In Slaughterhouse Number 5. Sorry if that’s a spoiler), then emerging the next morning. Billy Pilgrim is surrounded by manmade destruction on a nearly incomprehensible scale. In the middle of this hellscape…

…a bird starts singing.

In the middle of death and devastation, life reasserts itself.

I live in South Florida and Hurricane Irma came through last weekend. The winds picked up on Saturday, getting stronger through the day and the main event lasted most of Sunday. I could hear hollow booms from time to time. I knew my home was well-positioned for winds coming from ESE (home is in a condo building on the WNW side) and the household had taken steps to prepare.

Before the storm hit, as we were clearing the porch, I was watching the Muscovy ducks and white ibis that hang out in the canal behind the house. The water level had been lowered in anticipation of heavy rain and the birds were probing for worms and bugs. I wondered where they’d go for shelter, whether they’d be able to survive a Category 4 hurricane.

Once the wind started, I put up a pretty good show of being cool and brave for those around me. And for myself. In the wisdom of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Whistle a Happy Tune, putting on the performance convinced me, too. It seemed like the winds wouldn’t stop increasing, that the water level in the canal behind the house wouldn’t stop rising, one more good gust hitting a palm tree would bring it down.

Let me tell you, it was a long damn weekend. And the nights were worse. No quietly whirring fans to block the noise of the wind. The dark seemed even darker. But I could see the silhouettes of trees under assault from 80 mile an hour gusts. I could hear thunder. Lightning flashed. With no power, I was keeping my phone off to save battery. We had been getting tornado warnings, flash flood warnings, lightning strike warnings, but with the phone off, I wouldn’t hear or see them. Sleep was fitful.

I had had a chorus of people on social media telling me to evacuate, and when it became clear that I wouldn’t,  telling me to check in and be safe. Every few hours, I’d turn on the phone and post, starting with “I’m still okay,” describing the conditions, and finishing with “I still have gummy bears.” (I’d started a running joke about gummy bears being among necessary hurricane supplies. More than a few people agreed). One of the last posts, when the winds really did start to ease, I reported that the gummy bears were gone. There were expressions of sympathy.

The winds died down. The rains stopped. We still didn’t have power, and it was cooler outside than in. My roommate and I ventured out to see the damage. Huge trees had fallen into some of the other buildings in the neighborhood, crashing through porches, landing on roofs. Here was the source of those booms I’d heard.  These buildings faced directly into the storm and many units had tattered or missing screens. No golfers were out on the course; too much debris.

We were lucky. Our electricity was out for 36 hours. The internet was fully functional a day later. I wouldn’t call it PTSD, but as I’ve been working, I’ve heard a deep “thrum” and checked the trees to see if the winds have returned. They haven’t; it’s the fan. I know they haven’t, but I still check the trees to be sure.

Tonight, 3 days later, I went to the store to pick up a few things and I stood in the parking lot for a moment. It was a normal September night, warm, humid, pink and orange sunset. The frantic energy was gone. It was quiet. But for the leaf litter and branches on the ground, you wouldn’t know what had gone on.

The morning after the storm, I looked at the canal. And had my own Slaughterhouse Five moment. Amid the downed branches on the other side of the canal, there were the Muscovy ducks and white ibis.

Life reasserts itself.

Good Bones

Still need readers/reviewers. Contact me if you want a free bracelet. Approx $50 value.

I’m good at writing. (Should be a bit better at self-editing, but…) I have an BS in Secondary Education with a teaching minor in English (and one in Social Studies) from the University of Vermont College of Education and Social Services Class of 1983. I took courses in Creative Writing and Expository writing and got top grades. I’ve had pieces published in the Vermont Cynic (UVM student newspaper), Boca Raton News, on NPR (they read one of my letters on the air), the Miami Herald, and was supposed to have a short humorous essay published in the Boston Globe – on September 12, 2001. I’ve written comedy sketches that were performed, short pieces on Dog News Team and two filmed sketches on there, too.

https://youtu.be/qNs1WzQsybg

https://youtu.be/gZWlZsh_dzY

(I just watched them again, and I still think they’re funny)

I’ve also rewritten resumes, edited term papers, edited letters (Yes. People who want to chew out someone else and get results. They come to me. I just sent a nastygram to the Florida Division of Corporations based on the actions of one of their lower level functionaries. And I freakin’ won. 12 years of customer service experience paired with 3 years of legal writing education – I get results).

Bottom line: I have credentials. I can walk the walk. Or write the writing, if you prefer.

I have a couple of tall stacks of books written by friends I’ve made in the indie author world. My intent is to read and review. The blurbs promise stories that should keep me turning pages. The concepts are great: these stories have good bones. (You’re saying to yourself, “I know there’s a ‘but’ in there somewhere” Well, here it comes) The execution…

…leaves a lot to be desired.

 

Image result for 1960s jaguar

This is a 1960 Jaguar convertible. It’s a beautiful car, a sexy car. You can see yourself flying down the Pacific Coast Highway in it (Or cruising A1A out here).

The truism about the Jag back then was you didn’t buy one, you bought two: one to drive and one for parts. If you watched “Mad Men,” you saw Lane Pryce try to commit suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide from his Jag’s exhaust.

He failed. He failed because the car wouldn’t start. And it was a new car.

You can have a great concept for a story, okay? You can dream up a riveting plot with intriguing characters that your audience wants to cheer for. However, you may not know how to effectively execute it. And that’s where you’ll lose readers like me. Bad mechanics, like poor grammar (unless  it’s in dialogue. That’s the only place to get a free pass), too many cliches, clumsy foreshadowing, not enough foreshadowing, continuity errors, anachronisms, or just plain being a rehash of someone else’s story that was a runaway bestseller but yours has enough details changed to avoid copyright lawsuits (Don’t get huffy. They exist).

“Well, what do you know?” You hardly sell any books and Gracie Twinkletoes just published her 25th Amazon #1 in Shapeshifter Science Fiction Military Romance! Why should I listen to you?” (Accompanied by a hair toss) It’s a fair cop. If I had to live on the proceeds of my book sales, I’d be dead before finishing this post. In fact, I would have been dead 4 years ago, but that’s beside the point.

Gracie Twinkletoes doesn’t know the difference among (and yes, that is correct because it’s more than two words) your, you’re, and yore. Or two, to, and too. Gracie talks about her characters “laying around” when it’s “lying around.” If you’re “laying around,” you’re putting down something, like pillows, candles, mousetraps, land mines, what have you.

Image result for dress shabbily

This adage is applicable to writing as well. Okay, let’s go with the clothing analogy because it’s easy to visualize. Let’s imagine we’re all in an office where the dress code is business casual (no jeans, flip flops, or tank tops). What stands out more in this environment: a guy in khakis and a polo shirt or the guy who wears a pressed suit and tie?

Image result for polo and khakis

 

 

Image result for suit and tie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, there’s nothing wrong with the casually-dressed guy, but in a world of casual dressers, the man who looks prepared to sit down with a CEO gets noticed. It’s why people study the works of Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, Herman Melville, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I cringe when I read misspelled and  ungrammatical Facebook posts by authors and writers (that includes lifestyle bloggers, too). I get angry backlash if I point out the errors, usually along the lines of “It’s only Facebook. So what?”

It’s taking concepts from your head and putting them into words. It’s writing. It’s your craft. It may not be a book, but it’s you practicing your craft. Too many misplaced “yours,” “tos,” “aparts,” or BTW, OMG, LOL become bad habits; bad habits that will creep into the works you want to offer in the market place.  Practice is about honing your craft. Practice is about unlearning the bad habits. When you call yourself a writer or an author, ANYTHING you put to paper (or computer screen) is your craft.

I am mediating a panel on “Punctuation and Grammar and Why They Matter” at Indie Book Fest’s Industry Day on September 29th.

Okay, think of it this way: you get only one chance to make a first impression. Why not strive to present the best version of yourself even if it’s just a quick Facebook post about something crazy that happened at the grocery store? You never know who’s reading (like a top editor or literary agent that has entree into the major publishing houses. The ones that offer big advances).

As I’ve tried to read some of the stories in those two tall stacks of books, I’ve wanted to get a red pencil and edit the hell out of them. I’ve wanted to sit down with the writers (outside of a review) and say, “Look, this has the potential to be fantastic, but…,” or “instead of saying this here, say this instead,” or “don’t focus so much on the details unless they’re important later on.” Some of these folks are dear to me, and I don’t know if having a discussion like this will hurt their feelings. Some are selling more books than I am, and to a few, that’s all that matters. Fine.

If you are a writer, whether books, blogs, or essays (which is a blog post), I can help you become a better writer. If you listen to me, we can boost the quality of your work. I am offering my services as a copy editor and content editor. I don’t have a fee schedule yet, but if you submit a sample to me (there’s a contact form on this page. Use it), I will critique it for free. I know my stuff. You will learn something.

So, in  conclusion, bring your Jag convertible (or newest manuscript) to me. I can get that baby roaring down the road in no time.

 

 

An Offer

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Hi there! First of all, don’t be put off by the large picture of me in front of you. I’m not that much of an egomaniac, but I am a novice at Mail Chimp and don’t have a great logo. Yet. Remember “Murphy Brown”? She was never able to keep a secretary?  Same with logos and me. I lack the skill to design my own, but cannot get someone else to meet my needs (PS. If any of you are graphic designers, email me. We’ll talk).

I am freshly back from For Love of Books and Florida 2017, held at the OMG SERIOUSLY swank Ritz-Carlton of Sarasota. The For Love of Books and Alcohol blog put on the event and they did a bang-up job. If you see a “For Love of Books and ____” near you, go. Don’t hesitate, either as a reader or an author. The big blue blob in the picture below (on the left. You can’t miss me) is happy and smiling (and the boot is broken toe due to tripping over a dog toy).

I’m writing under two names, Susan Thatcher and Monique DeSoto. Susan writes more mainstream fiction. Monique writes humorous erotica, currently focusing on short stories.

I have been lackadaisical about marketing and engagement. I could blame my day job, but as I say to people who don’t follow up on promises (and I say it in a nasty tone), “If it was a priority, you would have found a way.” The truth of the matter is that I’d rather wave a magic wand and “Bippity boppity boo” a completed novel into existence than do the actual work (come to think of it, if I had a magic wand, I’d be freaking dangerous). Sloth is tied for Gluttony in the Favorite Sin category.

I want to write more, be read more, earn a living (or supplement income) through creative endeavors.

I’m asking a favor: I need reviews. On Goodreads, on Amazon, on other outlets like Barnes & Noble. Amazon may be the 800 lb. gorilla, but they’re not the only seller of books.

Let’s start with liking Facebook pages:

Here’s for Susan:

https://www.facebook.com/spthatcherauthor/

Here’s for Monique:

https://www.facebook.com/MoniqueDeSoto61/

Monique needs some love. Susan has over 1,000 followers, but Monique only has 55 (was 56 on Friday. I lost someone).

We’ll get to Twitter and Instagram later.

Okay, I need volunteers to read and review. “These Foolish Things” is a full novel. “Patti Goes to the Dungeon” is a short story under 6,000 words (take you about 20 minutes).

I make healing bracelets, matching gemstones up to particular needs. And they’re pretty, don’t you think?

So…

If you like both pages, read and review both books on a seller’s site (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, the big guys) and send me a link to it, I will draw a name and the winner will receive a custom-made bracelet in the size and color of the winner’s choosing. This is a $50 value.

Got to finish up because “Game of Thrones” came on, but I mean it: If you will help me out, I’ll give you freebies and first shots.

Have a good evening.

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For Love of Books and Florida, 2017

I had a blast. I had an assistant and let me tell you, that made a lot of difference. She could circulate and act as ambassador, chat up people who came to the table, help people one-click buy the e-books:

You can even shoot these codes on your computer screen!

The event planners, For the Love of Books and Alcohol, http://fortheloveofbooksandalcohol.com/    did an outstanding job with planning and execution. I would follow them anywhere and plan to do so (Boston in 2018 and Dublin 2019. Need to finish paying my table fees).

 

Let me share some pictures.

That’s me at the table

My banner. Goes up faster when 2 people work on it

I believe in truth in advertising.

 

In addition to the usual swag, the healing bracelet line I’m introducing, Wearable Magick, made its bow. One bracelet was pre-ordered and one was donated to a silent auction.

 

Contract me. I do special orders. ironrose1961@gmail.com

 

And I connected.

I’m the big blue blob on the left.

 

The QR codes from the previous post worked! I’ve gotten some more followers for both Susan and Monique.

 

I will be paying better attention to my readers (all 10 of you), newsletters, etc. The bottom line here is that it sparked my motivation. You will be hearing from me. And reading more stuff.