Adrift in The Artist's Studio

Adrift in The Artist's Studio
"More Color! More Color!"

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


My first novel, The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue, will be published in July 2011 by PublishingWorks of Exeter, NH. Contracts have been signed, and soon the publicity machine will be underway. In fact, it already is, because blogging is one of the things authors must do today in order to get the word out there about their books.

I made the decision to go with an independent publisher, and I have no regrets. For those of you who’ve read my book, or parts of it, you know that it has something of the Indie about it, the sort of sharp edges and quirkiness you might find in an independent movie, for example. As for PublishingWorks, I have a lot of confidence, because according to Publishers Weekly, PublishingWorks brings big-city know-how to the world of independent publishing, and the company is growing by leaps and bounds.

As for myself, what can I say? I’m excited. Every writer wants to be published. Every writer wants to do book signings and give public readings (or should want to), and I’ll be doing those things. And of course every writer wants to be able to walk into his or her local bookstore and see their book for sale.

What to do, what to do? Author photo! A new suit! A haircut!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do laundry, because from now on I’ll be wearing clean socks wherever I go.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Power to Move Forward

Let's face it. When you're working on a writing project, it isn't all fun and games. Not all the time. True, there is often a tremendous rush involved: during my first draft, for instance, I was many times transported by my writing. There existed only the screen in front of me, the typing of my fingers, the music in my headphones. Why? Because I was so involved in the story. I lived, at least temporarily, in the respective minds of my characters. That is what makes writing so addictive, when it's so full of disappointments.

But it isn't always like that. Every writer must also weather the storm of naysayers, experts, doubters, haters and salespeople who swarm all over the business of writing like flies on fresh roadkill. Because that's what it is, folks. When you write and put yourself out there, you scent the air with your blood, and it swirls in the water. There are always bigger sharks than you.

Scary times. Sleepless nights. The roller-coaster ride we know so well, that takes us from delusions of grandeur to the pits of black despair, and back again. It makes me want more cotton candy every time.

Why? Deadlines, for those of us lucky enough to be hooked into agents, publishers and editors, and for those who sell their articles and have to keep to a tight schedule. That's one reason for the stress. Another? When you're nobody ... trying to be somebody. In such a case, the novelist is always writing on spec, in the hopes that the industry (which Kafka would have wet his pants over) might deign to give her or him a momentary glance of recognition.

Unfortunately, I have no answers. How could I? If I did, I could be one of those motivational speakers and make my living that way. One of the reasons I write these blog posts is to buck myself up: when it inspires some of you, that's great too, but it's gravy. I need this.

But if I did have an answer, it would be something along the lines of: Believe in Yourself. Follow Your Heart. You want to be a writer? You want to wake up, morning after morning, year after year, essentially alone with your need to create written works? If so, you have to find some way of believing in yourself, and I'm not just talking about belief in your abilities, formidable as they may be.

Nothing fancy here. It may be a simple mantra: "I can do this" or "Write Every Day"

But then you gotta do it. Don't get it right, get it written, as my old professor used to say. There comes a time when a writer has to show her or his stuff and sling the words down on the page. What separates the writers from the wannabes is this: the writers take what they've got, and rework it (or scrap it), and keep trying, and work on craft, and submit, and learn, and read (very important), and write some more, in a continuing process. The wannabes sit back and talk the talk, or else quit ... and often both.

So where does that leave you? Do you feel lost in this (as I often do), yet unwilling to give up? I'm not one of those motivational speakers, as I've said, because if I were I'd be raking in the cash doing that, instead of playing with imaginary fictional characters on paper, doing structural edits, soliciting feedback, and the like.

Look to your heart. Keep trying. Be true to yourself and your art, and don't try to second-guess a fickle marketplace that not even its careerists comprehend. Believe in yourself, do the legwork, and be tough. Stand tall and keep your pencil sharp.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Writer's Daily Nutrition Log

Is this thing on? taps microphone

No, looks like we're text-only. That's all right. I can work with that. No pictures, though ... wait, here's a picture!

Isn't that nice? I'm selling that for $10,000, and please don't waste my time with counter-offers, nor should you approach me (the artist) without a licensed art broker. I don't talk to just anyone.

Anyway, getting back to the subject of this blog post: the Nutritional Needs of the Modern Author. Let's see. Today, after getting out of bed at 2PM, I struggled against ennui, made it to the communal kitchen here at the homeless shelter, and after directing Davey away from the blazing flames of the gas range (Davey has a full beard, looks like a deranged Santa, doesn't smell good on fire), I poured myself a cup of black concentrated stale leftover coffee--with a caffeine concentration that makes amphetamines look like OTC--shoved it in the microwave, then while it was heating up I ate two freckled, speckled yellow-black bananas. Not quite soft, just starting to fill the homeless shelter with the tropical liquor of their putrefaction.

So: coffee, two bananas ... oh yes, a cup of grape juice (Davey yelled at me for finishing it, but Fortune favors the brave) ... and back in my rack, my cubbyhole, on my just-sprayed mattress, I unlocked my broken footlocker and took out my secret stash: premium-quality vitamins. That's right! That's the key. You can write a novel IN A MONTH if you have the right vitamins, and in my case I have MegaMen vitamins from GNC [this is not a paid advertisement], as well as high-potency sustained release Vitamin C (to ward off the effects of scurvy, from when I was a sailor, and we got lost in the Azores, or was it the Bermuda Triangle, but in any event we ran out of fresh fruit, and it left several of us snaggle-toothed, if not dead).

You see, anyone can go to her/his local grocery store and steal cheap store-brand vitamins. Or buy them. But if you're serious about this writing kick, which many of us are (way too many)...partly because many if not most of us are unfit for any other need the good stuff. In my case, I'm a strappingly handsome man in my (ahem) early 30s, with big pecs (chest muscles) and arms, few if any tattoos, the kind of dude for whom high-performance vitamins are made. The women thank me for it, believe me. But that's a whole nother barrel of monkeys.

In all seriousness, though. Your body needs the stuff, all the vitamins and minerals...but so does your brain. It's all part of the same package. And writers (at least in theory) need full use of their brains. For many of us, this process of rough-sketching and early drafting and outlining and first drafts and structural edits and revisions, and draft after draft thereafter, require vitamins like the B-complex group, E, etc. It helps you think, and helps keep you stable.

Now, usually, I don't start off my day with just coffee and two rotten bananas. Around 5AM, for example, I ate a two-egg omelette with low-fat cheese and a bran muffin (yes really). You have to keep the nutrition coming in. But vitamins, particularly B-complex, help you think, help your body metabolize energy, and keep your heart ticking as it should.

Garbage in, garbage out. Think you're up for the competition on a diet of soft drinks and chips? Think again. Chances are your fiction sucks even worse than your diet.

In this world, you MUST take care of yourself, and Wielders of the Pen are no exception. So pour in the good stuff, and good stuff comes out. At least you'll have more energy to work on it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Courage to Write

You wouldn’t necessarily think courage has much to do with writing, would you? Seems like writing has more to do with intellect, introspection, imagination and storytelling. All true… but what about courage?

Courage, and its opposite discouragement, are two ends of a continuum that is very much a part of the writing process. In fact the argument could be made that courage is the engine that drives the writing process, as the heartbeat drives the heart and makes the blood flow. Personally, I’d have to agree with such an argument, and not only because I’m the guy who’s making it right now.

Courage, simply put, can mean the difference between getting words down on paper… and not.

How? you may ask. Don’t you just hold a pen, or sit at the computer, and write? Yes… and no. Sometimes we writers sit and stare at a blank page, or the blinking cursor, and we are afraid of what will come out. We might fear that it will sound too stupid, or clumsy, or self-revealing. We may be afraid of writing badly.

The whole point here is that discouragement and fear can prevent us from putting words on the page. Fear may disguise itself as procrastination.

My solution: just slap something down on paper. As my old Physiology prof used to say, “Don’t get it right, get it written.” That is one of the most profound lessons I took away from the university. It’s one well worth remembering, as a mantra against fear.