Monday, April 30, 2012
First off, I would like to thank everyone who visited my site for the A-Z Challenge. I really had a great time posting and reading other posts-some very funny, some thoughtful, some…just out there. I regret I had to fade at the end, but the real job beckoned. Kudos to everyone who participated, and a hardy THUMBS UP to those who made it to the end.I have been busy writing a few things. I recently started my major re-do of my web site (Haven’t touched it in years). It’s starting to take shape. One of the major issues I’m dealing with is linking all of my networking sites together. I’ve hired a promotion service to help me out with this. I’ll let you know how it goes. You can visit my website at: jamesrtate.com
I’m also very happy to say that I’ve finally broken the proverbial ice and began writing the sequel to BLOOD BIAS. The working title is BLOOD VISION. There might be a pattern here. The book will feature Reese Glockman—the Chief of Police of Ferguson Texas—and quite a few other characters from the first book. While I’m on the subject, the early reviews of BLOOD BIAS have been GREAT! But I urge everyone who reads it to go to Amazon and post a review. I’m still looking for that review from a total stranger. I’ll be keeping a running word count on this blog. I’ll also be throwing out lines from different parts of each chapter. Just enough to keep you guessing, and coming back I hope.My plans for the future of this blog are coming together. I read somewhere “If you can’t say something useful in your blog, don’t say anything”. I took it to mean that if you want to keep readers coming back, don’t just chat about trivial things. You have to have relevant content. I understand and want to do that.
I’ve been to several conferences and writers groups—enjoyed every one—but often found myself wishing the speaker would give a visual representation of the point they were trying to make. So, I’m going to dig up some of my conference material and see if can spread a little light on the world of writing, and perhaps speed up the learning curve for my fellow authors.So raise your glass and let’s toast to it. You promise to keep coming back, and I promise to provide something useful and hopefully entertaining for your week.
“Clink, Clink, Clink, Clink!”BLOOD VISION wd count: 1600
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
I’ve really enjoyed visiting with the other Bloggers from the A-Z challenge. I’ve met a few kind fellows and fellowettes (is that even a word?), but have yet to write a SINGLE word for my BLOOD BIAS sequel, working titled; BLOOD VISION. Until last night! Wohoo! The prologue is off the ground. So instead of writing useless babble on my blog and not getting anywhere with the novel, I’m going to convert the useless babble into updates and teasers for the book. I don’t know what my fellow bloggers will think about it, but at least I’ll feel better at the end of the day.
So here goes.
Today is the letter U. Here is a sentence from last night’s work.
“The guy holding the gun didn’t answer, just stared blankly under the shadow of the street lamp, the whites of his eyes bright and piercing against the blackened backdrop of his chiseled face.”
I know the letter U is buried in the sentence, but hey, I’m working with this the best I can. Now here’s the kicker for tomorrow; the letter V must be used from NEW work from the night before! I’m looking forward to the challenge. See you tomorrow.
Current word count for BLOOD VISION: 265
Saturday, April 21, 2012
S is for Saturday
I know! That was too easy, but hey, it’s been a busy week. Saturday is the day we get to catch up, to do the things we haven’t had time or the energy during the week to do. Sometimes we even get to do things we want to do. I know! What a brilliant idea! A very good friend of mine is having a crawfish boil today. Realizing that this may be read by people from other states or perhaps other countries, I feel the need to explain what a crawfish boil is, and why we eat these small crustaceans that burrow into the mud (also called mudbugs).
It’s actually a Cajun tradition. Us Texans, especially the ones living close to the Louisiana border, are smart to catch on to a good thing. So, what we do is get a couple of sacks of these live ‘critters’, a few sacks of red taters, maybe a few onjons’, as the Cajuns say, and definitely a passel of corn-on-the-cob.
First thing to do is get a BIG pot of water boiling over a propane burner. Add at least a large bag of spicy seasonings. As the water boils, it will dissolve the pepper and spices to create a powerful elixir for the crawfish, one that will darn near have the little buggers dancing on your plate! Okay, I’m embellishing here. The point is, it’s how much of this pepper-spice mix you put on your crawfish that determines how Cajun you really are. Me personally, I like them middle of the road, with just a good kick to-em. I know plenty of people who like em so spicy, their sweat turns red! Honest!
Crawfish really are good on a Saturday afternoon, chased down with a cold beer, with a bunch of friends trying to forget the work week. By the way, I have a friend who does large crawfish boils for large groups, companies and plant workers or corporate big guys. He usually does THOUSANDS of pounds at a time. Bon’ appetit.
Friday, April 20, 2012
R is for Riveting
There are no sweeter words to the ears of a writer than “I couldn’t put it down”. All those long hours of writing, editing, second guessing, and self doubt are washed away in a single phrase from one of our readers. In a word, they found the story Riveting. As I worked through what I might say in this blog, I tried to remember the last story I read that was riveting; an “I can’t put it down story”. I’ve come up with a few suggestions. But before I get to those, I am blessed to be able to say that the early reviews of my book are all about the “I can’t put it down” phrase. They say, no matter what your personality is, that you have to learn to toot your own horn if you want to sell your books. So I’m blaring the horn as loud as I can. It is a very good feeling to know that people are reading my work and are putting off other important things to see what happens next. Thanks to everyone, so far. Keep spreading the word.
All right! Here are a few books I found to be so fascinating in one shape or form that I couldn’t put it down. Forgive me if Stephen King steals the show.
1) The Drawing of the Three—the second book in the Dark Tower series by S. King. Before there was Being John Malcovitch, King did the Drawing of the Three.
2) Gone Baby Gone—Dennis Lehane. Writer of Mystic River. Super drama in these investigative mysteries delving into human frailties.
3) The Long Walk--A short by Stephen King for kindle readers. Teenage boys sign up to walk till they drop-or are shot by the government. Last one walking, wins--but have already lost.
4) Any book by Robert Crais—His Elvis Cole detective series is outstanding, fast paced with a smart-ass attitude.
If you notice, these are not deep intellectual readers, they are fast-paced fun books to read. Stephen King fast paced? Yes. Not all of his books are 700 pages. And he engrosses you in the character.
Any recommendations on your end of the world?
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Q is for Questions
I’ve decided, with
this blog about the letter Q, to poll my viewing audience. I know you weren’t
expecting a quiz, but I promise this one will be easy. If you come across a
question that is too difficult, just glance over the shoulder of the person
sitting next to you. There really is no right or wrong answer. So why take the
test? Just admit that now you’re curious about what I’m going to ask and let’s
Have you written a book or novella you are trying to sell? See, this is easy.
Did you self publish?
How long has it been available and how are sales? Not trying to get personal
here. A simple-Lousy or Super or anything in between will do.
What has been your best marketing tool so far?
What would you have done differently if you had a time machine? (concerning
your publishing, not who you married or whether you would have put down that
five thousand dollar bet at the craps table)
And finally: If
you are not published, do you have something in the works and what genre is it?
Thanks for Playing.
The most creative comment will win a free copy of my murder/Mystery BLOOD BIAS
if you’re interested.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
P is for Persuasion
I have discovered the secret to getting return bloggers! Leave them hanging! Sorry for the delay. Something about trying to make a living got in the way. This writing thing isn’t paying very well. YET! I’ve already sold thirty copies of BLOOD BIAS and it’s in its infancy! Wohooo!
So, back to the story. I’m in NYC. I’ve got my pitch tweaked and re-tweaked, my speech all rehearsed, and confidence in my approach.
The first agent, we pitched as a group. I thought mine went very well. Our job here was to Persuade (hence the letter P) this royalty of the writing world sitting at the head of the table to ask us for a copy of our manuscript based on our pitch. It’s like delivering a query letter face to face. Can you picture it? Day one; no sale! I spend the evening re-tweaking my tweaked pitch, Say that three times fast! Never mind. Focus here people.
Day two, editor one says no. Okay, I can do this! Second editor says YES!!! I’m ecstatic. At the meet and greet with fellow authors that night, I’m in very good spirits. An editor from a well known publishing company has requested my full manuscript! Day three results in another no. Well, at least I have ONE. All in all, I’d call it a success.
Here’s the plot twist, if you will. I remember two authors getting requests from three out of four. Their pitch was GREAT! Their story Idea was well received and everyone thought their book was a guaranteed seller.
When I returned home, I contacted these authors about looking over the first few chapters, just to see what the fuss was all about. I was shocked! The writing was, to be kind, not very good. I could not believe what I was reading. So what is my point? SIMPLE.
Pitch conferences are useless—even though I had a wonderful time, and would do it again—what really matters is your writing. I don’t care how much your promotion budget is, who you know in the publishing business, or who you slept with to get a stellar review, the bottom line is: YOU MUST HAVE A GOOD BOOK! Sales will fizzle, your friends will avoid you, people will say nasty things about you on Facebook!. You have to have a good book!
And NO, I didn't get a publishing contract. These editors obviously don't know what the hell they're doing.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
O is for Overrated?
If you notice; I’ve put a question mark at the end of overrated. No, that’s not a typo missed by my word program. About a year and a half ago I went to New York City to attend a Pitch and Shop Conference. What is a P&S Conference? Glad you asked. This is a conference where you go to pitch your book idea to different agents and editors. For three days you brainstorm with a moderator in a group setting with other determined authors, and refine your pitch.
You’re getting the idea. You hone the two paragraph ‘Blurb’ that you would put in your query letter or any other medium used to get the attention of an editor or agent. I had researched conferences and had seen numerous posts about a Pitch and Shop conference, all of them very positive. So off I went.
Let me back up here a second and say that I had to submit some information and be selected for the conference. I don’t remember exactly what it was that I submitted, but I know it was not part of the book I was pitching. I think it might have been the synopsis and some information about myself. If I recall, the price of the conference was around $600, but it was in NYC, the publishing hub of the modern world—OK, maybe I’m getting carried away there.
Anyway, off I go, armed with an enthusiastic attitude and a list of pitches I’d been working on. I arrive at the conference in downtown Manhattan early and greet my fellow ‘pitchers’ as they arrive. The list was amazing. There were lawyers, grad students, psychologists, people who wrote for magazines, and there was me; a high school graduate with no background in writing, and the only degree I held was a ‘working man’s PHD’ from doing woodworking most of my adult life. Needless to say, I was in heaven. I was surrounded by other serious authors, about to go face to face with four editors and agents, armed with a finely tuned pitch, from what I believed to be, a very good book.
This is getting a little long, so I’ll finish this up with the letter P tomorrow.
Have you been to any conferences you would recommend?
Sunday, April 15, 2012
N is for Numb
I know this may seem like an odd word for a writing blog, but hang with me here. My wife and I just returned home from seeing the movie, The Hunger Games. I have read the book, she hasn’t had the opportunity. My thing from the beginning of reading the book, and something that carried through as I watched the movie, is whether we, as a future society, would sit back and allow such a “Show” to go on? I personally can’t believe--even in a post-apocalyptic environment--that we would allow ourselves to be subjected to such a spectacle and be forced to accept it as rule. Two things that struck me here; one being the fact that this was the 73rd or other Hunger Games. So this society has let their children kill each other year after year with no conscience. The other thing is, the central character, Katniss, at least in the book, never really seems more than mildly disturbed about the State of her people, or the inhumanity of the games until her sister is called out. She wants to survive but doesn’t seem real concerned with how wrong all of it is.
I know what you’re saying—“This is just a work of fiction”, which is very true, but with the popularity of the books and now the movie, I’m curious to know mankind’s viewpoint on the subject. My wife seems to think that we are headed for a society that would openly accept this kind of “game” in the future because people have become numb to death and the idea of killing another human being. Her point is evident in video games, the popularity of full contact fighting, and in YouTube videos being viewed by the thousands due to their violent content. Reality shows seem to make it a point to see how mean we can be to each other.
Maybe my wife is right, but I for one refuse to accept that there is no hope for a better future than the one we have now, and that our children and grandchildren are doomed to a world of hatred and cruelty. I know we see a lot of that on TV and on the internet, but there is also a lot of caring, and helping others, and forgiving. I refuse to be numb.
What do you think?
Saturday, April 14, 2012
M is for Music
I’m going to veer off the highway of writing for a day and take a pit stop at a place known as Musicland. I love music, and have a wide variety of likes and dislikes. One of the newer artists I like? Adele. What a voice, and the songs she sings seem to touch a nerve. That’s what you want out of music. When I was growing up in the late seventies, the Bee-Gees were my guys. In high school, rock bands like Foreigner, and Styx, and the J-Giles band kept the speakers popin’. Kenny Rogers has always been on the top of my list. Who can forget the Gambler and Lady? I even had an album (that’s the big round black disc that made sound when you spun it under an amplified needle) of the soundtrack from The Empire Strikes Back. I used to sit and listen to the musicians build to a fantastic crescendo as I pictured Luke and Darth Vader battle it out. Movie producers aren’t dumb. They use music to manipulate our emotions during a movie. You think you would cry at a sad scene if not for the well timed music coming out of the fourteen speakers around you? Maybe—but maybe not. The thing is; music is important in our lives. We link memories in our lives to songs from the past. We even have a special song at our wedding.
My stepson is a very talented musician in college. I hope he works hard at his dream and is one day able to share his passion with others. I’ve always been envious (in a good way) of musicians and artists. But I think I have my own passion in writing and am already getting the rewards of sharing that with others.
What song brings back memories for you?
Thursday, April 12, 2012
L is for Laugh
Some days you just have to step back, take a deep breath, and laugh out loud. Try it sometime. Life is way too serious these days. What does my boss think of me? How many books have I sold this week? Does anyone like what I write? How am I going to pay the bills this month? Just relax, read a funny book, go see a comedy at the theatre, watch your two year old play in the grass. Whatever puts a smile on your face, DO IT!
My wife likes to make fun of my family sometimes when we go see a funny movie. It seems that I have a rambunctious laugh—and so does my sister—and so do both my sons. What can I say; when we laugh we don’t hold back. Try it some time. The truth is, with life being what it is these days, laughter doesn’t come around often enough.
I know you’ve seen someone break out in raucous laughter, haven’t you? What was your first reaction? You laughed too, didn’t you? At the very least, you broke out with a large smile.
If you can’t do anything else today, try to laugh a little, or at least smile. It’ll make people wonder what you’re up to.
K is for Kindness
I’m thinking to myself that a lot of people may use kindness for the letter K, but I might have a different take on it from the writer’s point of view. Not too long ago, I read where a well known reviewer said if they can’t give a book at least three stars, they won’t review it. Is this a good thing? Or is this overdoing kindness?
In today’s society, we are told to be “politically correct” in everything we do. Don’t say this, or don’t say that. But are we really doing ourselves justice? Would you rather have someone give you constructive criticism, or just not say a thing? Someone once told me when you critique someone’s work, say something positive first, then point out areas where you think they might improve. Also, if you’re going to give constructive advice, offer it as an opinion. Writing is a subjective thing. What one person loves, another may hate. So if you’re the one receiving the “advice”, you have to decide whether you want to use it or not. It is said that if one person doesn’t like something about your writing, you can probably let it go, but if several people comment on the same thing, you might want to consider it. Writers, by nature, are kind to each other, probably because we all know the difficulty in getting published and the rejections we endure. But if you choose to offer advice on someone’s pride and joy, be kind in your approach.
I recently wrote a post asking my readers to be brutally honest with me on my novel, BLOOD BIAS. I want to learn from the experience. I wonder if I did the right thing.
What do you think?
Anyway, be kind in everything you do.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
J is for JUST DO IT
I hate to borrow a well known slogan that’s been highly overused, but some sayings are just so darn accurate. Think about it for a moment. What is IT? Well, IT can be anything your heart desires, whether sports, or fishing, or jewelry making, or even writing. This slogan is so simple, it’s nearly brilliant. Of course, I seem to remember my mother using this term way before NIKE ever put it on the tube. If I asked why I had to clean my room during cartoons, she would point a stern finger in the direction of my bedroom and give me a heartfelt, “Just Do It!” If you had seen my room back then, you’d understand her firm approach.
But back to my point. Sometimes we just have to shove aside the excuses and Just Do It. Jump in and get that story written. I have a book stuck at sixty pages. I know a lot of you can relate. Well, I resolve, right here and now, in front of thousands of people (You are out there, aren’t you?) that I will Just Do It and finish that book! Or at least get something on paper every opportunity I can. I won’t let the world dictate how much I can pursue my passion to write.
If you’re passionate about your goals, post a comment and we’ll pinky swear that we’ll do it together, just us, thousands of miles apart, but connected by an invisible beam of something, or a cheap-ass phone cord, striving towards a common goal; to JUST DO IT!
Monday, April 9, 2012
H is for HOW THE CRAP AM I SUPPOSED TO KEEP UP? Man, did I take on a mountain of obligation when I decided to do this A-Z challenge at the same time my book was released. Throw in the fact that I run my own business and you can see why I’m pulling my hair out. Book promotions, planning blog tours, trying to find a site for a release party, ordering copies to sell; you get the picture. Anyone else have this problem? I wish I could at least read ten blogs a day from the A-Z list, but that’s a pipe dream at this point. I think we all have too many irons in the fire. Can we just slowwwwww dowwwwn? Must everything be done today, right this minute? Oh! And just when am I supposed to get some writing done on my next book. Wait! I see an opening in my schedule between midnight and three AM.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
C is for Capture—as in someone’s imagination. What makes an artist different from another artist, a musician different from any other, a writer more interesting than the others? They have the ability to capture the attention of the viewer, listener, reader. Have you ever noticed, while browsing through a stack of paintings, one or two catches your eye? What is it about that particular painting that drew you in? What makes you buy one book and put another back on the shelf? You have to have something that captures the attention of the buyer. Ahh, but here’s the thing; people have different tastes and desires. What one person may see as beauty in art, another may not find it remotely attractive. So how do I build an audience, you may ask? Put your work out in as many places as you can. Increase your exposure. Find YOUR audience, and Capture their imagination.
Monday, April 2, 2012
Be whomever you want to be, and don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. I’ve spent the last thirty years being a cabinet maker, a very respectable and admired trade, but have recently come to realize that my real calling is to be a writer, to share my stories with whoever wants to read them, or if nothing else just to release them from captivity in my head. So often you hear a person mention how much they hate what they do but are afraid to make a change. Deep down inside they have a calling for something they may not even be aware of. Open your mind and soul to the world and you will find what it is your heart desires. But that’s only half the battle. Find the courage inside yourself to break out of the box that is your life and pursue your true passion.
My wife and I recently made the decision to move to New York City in the fall of 2013. For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve lived my entire life in the south, raised in Oklahoma, spent most of my adult life in Texas. Yes, that would be the state where they say, Ya’ll and Mornin’. Of the people I have told of our plans, half have offered encouragement—if not a little bit of envy that we can just pack up and leave without reservation to explore the world (or at least New York), but the other half have looked at me as though I’d grown a third eye, as if to say, “You’re going to do WHAT?”
I am excited about the opportunity and am counting the days. After all, the center of the publishing world is in NYC. By the way, I HAVE visited several times, and fell in love with it the first time. The art, the culture, the attitude; CAN’T WAIT!
A perfect way to get someone’s attention is to show some ATTITUDE. I don’t mean the self righteous, nose in the air, I’m better than you, attitude. What I’m talking about is a confident attitude. Just as a football player must carry somewhat of a chip on their shoulder, we as writers must do the same. Do not go quietly into the night. Research, study, look for every opportunity to acquire knowledge about the art of writing, then show some attitude when you write. What is your attitude? Everyone is different. I know what you’re thinking. “Aren’t you talking about voice?” The answer is no—and yes. Your voice is a distinctive feel evident in your writing. Every writer needs to develop this, given the stiff competition out there, or else suffer the drudgery of mediocrity. People need to know it’s you when you write. Think about your favorite authors, what it is that you like about them. If you give it serious consideration, you’ll discover a pattern in their writing; their voice. But you have to take the next step. Sit down and write and develop an attitude that says, “I can publish this. I will find a way!”