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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The Goatmen of Aguirra Serialized on Piker Press

Sand Pilarski, the genius Managing Editor of The Piker Press, is serializing The Goatmen of Aguirra starting as this week’s cover story and running for the next seven.

I am thrilled, and thanks to Sand and The Piker Press for accepting this novella.… Read the rest

Sand Pilarski, the genius Managing Editor of The Piker Press, is serializing The Goatmen of Aguirra starting as this week’s cover story and running for the next seven.

I am thrilled, and thanks to Sand and The Piker Press for accepting this novella.

 
For those unfamiliar with the story…
The Goatmen of Aguirra is based on my experiences as a cultural anthropologist working with aboriginal societies. I wrote it side by side with The Augmented Man back in the early 1990s. I sent it to a few markets. One editor requested several edits and finally rejected it with “I think I’ve done more damage with my suggestions than helped it.”

Yeah. Well. Thanks.

In the end, nobody bought it so I shelved it.

In 2015 I gave up a business I grew from my basement to having offices in the US, Canada, and the EU. Susan (wife/partner/Princess) said, “I’ve never seen you happier than when you’re writing your fiction, so I want you to do that for the rest of your life.”

It’s wonderful when the one true love of your life knows what you love in your life, isn’t it?

I included The Goatmen of Aguirra in my self-published anthology, Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires, which’s received good reviews so far.

I decided to send The Goatmen of Aguirra around again. But now it had a blackmark – “previously published.”

I saw The Piker Press and thought, sure, why not. But I started with an email entitled “Querying before submitting” and gave a two paragraph synopsis. Sand wrote back

Yes, I’d like to see it very much. Please send it along, and give me a couple days to read through.

I sent it. She wrote back

What a captivating and thought-provoking story! Once I sarted reading, I couldn’t stop. Every interruption seemed like a catastrophe.

And The Goatmen of Aguirra saw print in a recognized market earlier this week.

Remember what I wrote in 30 Years to Publication?

Yeah, I’m feeling good.

Take a read. Let Sand and me know what you think. ‘Preciate it.

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?
Continue reading “Con Notes Part 3 – Swag”

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.
Continue reading “Con Notes Part 2 – Presentations, Talks, Lectures, and Help Sessions”

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”