Rita Mae Brown’s “Starting from Scratch”

Okay, first thing and before anything else, Get This Book!

I don’t care where you are in your writing career, Rita Mae Brown’s Starting from Scratch will give you a chuckle (several hundred, probably) and clarify things that were not only muddy, but had been pushed aside because they were just too damn hard to figure out.… Read the rest

Okay, first thing and before anything else, Get This Book!

I don’t care where you are in your writing career, Rita Mae Brown’s Starting from Scratch will give you a chuckle (several hundred, probably) and clarify things that were not only muddy, but had been pushed aside because they were just too damn hard to figure out.

Worry no more, Rita’s got you covered.

 
I didn’t know who Rita Mae Brown was until a friend suggested I give her a read. This was back in the early-mid 1980s. He thought she was brilliant and hilarious.

That didn’t tempt me.

Then he told me she could benchpress 225#.

Yes, I was that much of an assh?le (may still be) that that caught my interest.

But I didn’t pick up one of her books (that I remember) until my first go-round as a writer. That book being Starting from Scratch.

Reading the book recently, it’s obvious I had read it at least once before; there were highlights in it. There were highlights of concepts I remember, if not exact phrasings. Truth be told, I was probably unprepared for the book when I first read it (my copy was published in Feb 1988). I’m glad I kept it around.

Starting from Scratch is a mechanic’s manual of the English language. Brown explains the purpose of first v third person POV with duh! level examples and lots of them. Ditto subjunctive case (trust me, you need to read this section). Ditto strong v weak verbs (another must read). Imagine someone showing you a crescent wrench and a 9/16″ box-end, showing you they can do the same thing, then demonstrating why one works better on these types of nuts, the other works better on those types of nuts.

Her Exercises chapter…remember what I wrote above about being impressed by her bench? Here’s your cardio and resistance training in one incredible package.


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Con Notes Part 3 – Swag

The word swag has an interesting etymology; it’s a mafia term for stolen loot.

Do you offer swag at your author signings and such? Do you think of yourself as a fence for stolen goods?

I’m more familiar with the term tchotchkes than “swag”.… Read the rest

The word swag has an interesting etymology; it’s a mafia term for stolen loot.

Do you offer swag at your author signings and such? Do you think of yourself as a fence for stolen goods?

I’m more familiar with the term tchotchkes than “swag”. Swag may be a neologism or an industryism, and it’s all the same thing; trinkets to get people to your table. If you’ve ever gone to an industry (not book industry) show and heard somebody say, “You have to go to X’s booth. They have great…” then you’ve heard a comment about trinkets, tchotchkes, swag. The word “tchotchkes” is Yiddish and can mean “an attractive, unconventional woman” or “an inexpensive showy trinket”.

So why not just call them “trinkets”? Perhaps because of tchotchkes’s other, slang usage, often by eastern European grandmothers and to describe those incredible newborn poos in diapers. Cute, maybe once, but really you just want to get rid of it.

There was a woman who called herself “The Queen of Swag”. She was on a panel about self-marketing. I’d previously seen her table.

Yes, swag she had. Flyers, notebooks, coffee cups, pens, pencils, stickynotes, bookmarks, candy, spinners, tops, dolls, keychains, flashlights, shopping bags, tshirts, necklaces and the list goes on.

I have no idea what her book was or what it was about because I didn’t see it on her table. Maybe it was a book on swag?
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Con Notes Part 2 – Presentations, Talks, Lectures, and Help Sessions

I make it a habit to look up people who’ll be speaking before I attend their session. I may look at their bio and often don’t because I’ve had 20+ years in marketing, meaning I know that most bios are hype.… Read the rest

I make it a habit to look up people who’ll be speaking before I attend their session. I may look at their bio and often don’t because I’ve had 20+ years in marketing, meaning I know that most bios are hype. They are written to get you into the room, not to let you know what will be covered or how useful it will be. The bios may read as if they’re telling you what will be covered and how useful it will be (to a certain extent it has to or the presenter will get a rep for not-delivering on their promise) and their real purpose is to get you into their presentation.

So if your goal is to learn from the experts, first make sure they’re experts in more than name only.
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I made the mistake of responding to a question on Facebook

I know what you’re thinking; “That was stupid, Joseph.”

Yeah, well. Sometimes you just have to let the fool be slapped, you know?

I tend to not post on boards. I monitor them. I wouldn’t classify myself as a lurker. I don’t believe I have much worth sharing, don’t think of myself as interesting or noteworthy, don’t find the majority of comments worth a comment, so why get involved?… Read the rest

I know what you’re thinking; “That was stupid, Joseph.”

Yeah, well. Sometimes you just have to let the fool be slapped, you know?

I tend to not post on boards. I monitor them. I wouldn’t classify myself as a lurker. I don’t believe I have much worth sharing, don’t think of myself as interesting or noteworthy, don’t find the majority of comments worth a comment, so why get involved?

It’s tough being social when you self-define as “I’m boring and dull.”

 
But today someone asked “Would you read a novel about two boys forced to take psychiatric drugs and the battle to save them?”

That’s a marketing question. I spent twenty-five years developing tools to answer exactly such questions. One thing developing such tools taught me is there are more important questions to ask before asking that specific quotation.

But before I go further, how would you answer that question? I’d like to know. As a reality check. Perhaps my response is way off base and I’d really like to know.
Continue reading “I made the mistake of responding to a question on Facebook”

Con Notes Part 1 – Identifying Self-Pubs Made Easy

I’ve discovered an easy, works-every-time method for determining if someone is self-pubbed or not; Do they dress up like one of their characters or like something from their genre? Do they dress like an ax murderer if they write crime thrillers?… Read the rest

I’ve discovered an easy, works-every-time method for determining if someone is self-pubbed or not; Do they dress up like one of their characters or like something from their genre? Do they dress like an ax murderer if they write crime thrillers? Do they dress up like vampires if they write vampire stories? Do they dress up like Level 3 equestrians if they write about horses? Do they dress in camo if they write military thrillers?

How come nobody dresses up like a drunk vagrant if they’re writing about drunk vagrants? How come nobody dresses up like a degenerate child-molester if that’s their subject matter?

In equation form this is “author + in costumer at their signing table = self-pubbed”
Continue reading “Con Notes Part 1 – Identifying Self-Pubs Made Easy”