Tag Archives: inspiration

A foundation of stone

…musing on a place called home…

I live in a house that the ground is trying to suck into the footprint and return this old hilltop to what it once looked like 200 years ago. Yes, that’s right. I said 200 years. That’s how old my old house is – okay, in 2015 it’ll be 200, but honestly, it’s close enough to call it Really. Darn. Old. The ground is not winning.

It’s somewhat amusing in a ‘not sure if I should cry or laugh’ kind of way when I had the place appraised, and the guy was just astounded by the un-squareness of the building. I’m used to there not being a single plumb corner or a ceiling line that’s straight and true. They don’t exist in my world of plaster walls and lathe. The stairs lean off one way. The floor droops here and bows there. I took a picture of my kids in front of the Christmas tree and they were all nice and neatly sitting up tall and proper. The doorframe behind them is canked to the right at an alarming angle that shows up quite drastically. The appraiser made a point to mention in his report that he wasn’t a structural engineer, but it sure seemed to him like the place was going to fall down from all the leaning this way and that. 

Of course, he was wrong. That was years ago and well, the place is still standing. I’m not an engineer either, but I’ve lived here most of my life (-15 or so years elsewhere) and the angles haven’t changed. The four chimneys still lean and sometimes go one way for a few years before easing back the other. The ground moves around here and the house moves with it. Did the builders back then know somehow to leave a little swaying room?

 

The earthquake here took out the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral. My place sits between the epicenter and D.C. and not a single piece of plaster came off any ceiling or wall. I rushed home afraid I’d find all four chimneys in shattered pieces, or the whole place aflame because of the propane tanks directly under all those bricks, but no. It was all well and good, undamaged and sound, sitting on a foundation of stone, of bedrock and maybe some other kind of strength that came from those who built it the old fashioned way, felling the trees and pulling the stones out of the ground by hand. It was built by the same people who helped build and create this country – some historically tough folks who hacked their way through endless forests to carve out a place to take root and raise a family and a nation. Somehow, they imbued the wood and the rock with a potency that endures to this day.

It is a living, breathing thing, this strength, and for reasons I don’t understand imparts to me a sense of the same, a desire to never let go. Never give up. Endure, because it’s possible to do so with beauty and dignity and grace standing atop a hill, looking over this small corner of the world. Can an old wood house really have some sort of mystical sentience? Ask the generations who’ve padded through these halls and down the crooked stairs.

I hear them at times as willow-the-wisps floating by on a cool summer night, the mist on the meadow, saying yes. They tell me as they walk the stairs, yes, this home is made of strength and as long as you stand by it, it will weather any storm, any upheaval of the good earth, anything time has to throw its way. Care for me and I will protect you from the elements, always. Yes, I say. The ghosts know. Strength endures.

 

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Filed under Life as a writer

Book Marketing 101 – Don’t Write Crap!

The best way to sell your book…in three easy steps.

Write more books. 

Seriously. That’s the way to do it. Many experts say so. I didn’t believe them when I first read their advice, but turns out, they were right!

I’ve sold triple the number of books with two books published than I did with one, and this is BEFORE I put one of them for free to attract readers. Now – my sales figures aren’t anything to write home about, but I’m doing better than I was a few months ago. I think 3 books out will have the same effect and maybe a little snowball will form at the top of a hill.

Write more books. Sell more books. I advocate writing outside your series if you have one of those, short stories or a novella. Variety is the spice of life, and people like having choices and options. They may buy into the big series more readily if you have a short story out there that’s a good sample of your voice and style. Note I haven’t gotten around to following my own advice there, but I will soon.

Don’t write crap. 

I’m not suggesting you throw up just anything to increase the number of stories you have, because crap won’t sell the next book. In fact, it’ll have the opposite effect. Crap will get your name ruined. The buying public will see the crap, remember the crap, and will avoid it forever more. As well they should. With all the Indie publishing going on, and no quality control, the general public is having to sort through a lot of books. Fortunately, reviews are a reasonably accurate way to divide the wheat from the chaff. You need a few good reviews from readers you aren’t related to in any way to prove you haven’t written a load of it. Crap, that is.

Finish what you start. 

I despise writers who make me wait too long for the next book in a series. Hate them with a passion, I do. Okay, not really, but I did give up on George R. R. Martin for that very reason. I made a commitment to his story, knew it was going to be big, and then he made me wait years! for this last book, A Dance with Dragons. I was really looking forward to it. I went to the bookstore frequently and asked after this book pretty much the entirety of 2010, but then, finally,  I gave up. Sorry, I don’t have time for that kind of waiting game. Probably won’t go back to it, and definitely won’t until ALL the books are out. I may not go back to it ever, and that is something as a writer you probably want to avoid. Unless I’m at death’s door the way Stephen King was during the publication of the Dark Tower series, I will not be pulling that kind of years-long delay in pushing out the books of my series.

There are some important reasons why it’s a terrible idea, like forcing people to go back and reread the whole thing because it’s been so long since the last book came out. In the case of GRRM, his books are entirely too long for me to remember quite a few of the details. His books are too long to attempt re-reading. People are busy. Writers should respect that people are busy. Writers should not assume that people will remember every single detail from one book to the next, because guess what? They don’t. Making sure the series is published in a timely manner makes it easier for your readers to recall those details and they will be less likely to move on without you. If you have an awesome idea for a series and have the first few books written or planned out, make sure you can follow through to the end. The final words of my series – “Well,” she said. “Now it all makes sense.” Proof that the thing is actually written in a book called King and a promise that it will indeed come to an end in the not too distant future. I have a high level of confidence you’ll be able to remember the salient points from book #1 by the time you’re on the last story.

Follow through. Finish what you start. Write more. Don’t write crap. I’ll be able in a few short months to report on whether or not my theories are true after Telepath comes out. I hope I’m right, but if not, I’ll examine my three rules and make sure I’m not breaking them and keep at it. Oh, that’s the fourth rule.

Persist.

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Filed under Publishing, Reading habits, writing

Write for You

Out in the blogosphere, I’m constantly seeing tips on writing, tips for getting out of writer’s block, tips on grammar,

tips for this, that or the other thing regarding the artistic endeavor of writing the next best selling book. It’s too much! 

People are making these great and grand suggestions everywhere, and while I do appreciate the effort, it’s like drowning in a sea of how-tos. I think if I listen to all these writing tips, my own voice would be lost. There’s too much clutter. I can’t do them all.

This is going to sound somewhat egocentric, but honestly, I write for me.

I write because I have these images in my head, a nearly constantly running movie that I want to try and clearly transcribe to paper so the vision remains after I read it. And it’s not as if getting this stuff into written form makes the images go away. Far from it. Writing makes it worse! I can be walking through a museum or down a crowded street and get hit by an idea for a new story or a continuing one that should be set on that street corner or is inspired by the painting on the wall.

I write about things that are interesting to me, and because I’m fairly average in my likes and dislikes, it’s probable that other people may have the same tastes.

Most of us are more alike than not, so it’s probable that no matter what kind of story you’ve dreamed up, there will be an audience for it.

So my very easy writing tip of the day is to write for you. Write what you see in your head. Write what inspires you. Your writing voice will shine forward if you take the locks off. In short, write what you know, how you know it. Have faith. The rest will come.

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Filed under writing