Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Read about the inspiration for One Wolf Howls and follow Jenny Alexander's suggestions for bringing your own dreams to life! 

Monday, September 12, 2011

When We Was Fab

Okay, I totally stole the title of this blog post from a song written by George Harrison and Jeff Lynne. However, you can't copyright a song title, so I can use it without fear of reprisal. But why would I? I'm glad you asked.

First of all, George was arguably my favorite Beatle. I say arguably because Ringo was my first fave, but as I learned more about the group, I switched to John, and eventually I settled on George. Paul wasn't in the running because he was "the cute Beatle" and all the girls liked him, so I figured I wouldn't bother.

Second, the phrase "When We Was Fab" could just as easily refer to my friends, my brother, and me back in the day -- let's say 1965-1969.  We was so fab, we appeared in a collection of roughly 20 excruciatingly long stories that also featured ... wait for it ... John, George, Paul, and Ringo!

Egads. Who would come up with such an idiotic idea as writing a bunch of stories starring The Beatles, my friends, my brother, and me? As John Lennon would say, "You Might Well Arsk." (Naturally, I have a copy of "You Might Well Arsk." Here are a couple of my favorite lines: "Why did Harrassed MacMillion go golphing mit Bob Hobe? You might well arsk. Why did Priceless Margarine unt Bony armstrove give Jamaika away?")

Way back in those oh-so-fab days, I was a writing machine. I wrote poetry, stories, novels, songs. . . and "The Scotti Stories." I don't know what possessed me to start writing them, but I remember reading the first paragraph of the first one to my brother, and I remember him laughing. Apparently that was all the encouragement I needed. I sat at my parents' Underwood typewriter day after day and tap-tap-tapped my way into the hearts and minds of . . . um. . . my best friends and maybe my brother.

So, without further ado, here is the now-famous (or not) opening paragraph for the work of art titled "Springfield Marks the Spot" (I was born and raised in Springfield, Illinois, in case you're wondering).

by Scotti
circa 1965
"Paul McCartney started to lay out another hand of solitaire that quiet Sunday afternoon and then stopped short. Gathering up the cards, he lay them neatly on the hotel desk. After all, he reasoned, there must be something better to do. He glanced out the window and at once retracted the thought, for before him, the streets of Springfield, Illinois, appeared to have passed away long ago. Sure, there were cars and pedestrians merging about, but otherwise. . . Paul wrinkled his nose in disgust. What a place!"
During the course of the story, Paul and the other Beatles encounter my character (Scotti), my brother's character (Robert), and characters representing several of my closest friends (Carole Lynne, Patience -- you know who you are). Mishaps and mayhem are the order of the day, especially when Scotti's Uncle Gerald (not his real name... Come to think of it, he was totally fictional. . . I think) cranks up a remarkable invention called the Speedier Than Alka-Seltzer Machine (STAM). Finally everyone arrives at the last paragraph, much the worse for wear:
"Paul McCartney shuffled the deck of cards that still lay on the desk and dealt out a hand of solitaire. Perhaps, he thought, he could make believe it all hadn't happened..."
The best thing about "The Scotti Stories" is that I didn't have to explain or defend them or convince an editor to publish them. It was the Sixties. WE WAS FAB. That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. (Oh, be quiet, John Keats, your stuff is in the public domain.)

If I ever become famous, these stories may very well sell on eBay for a small fortune. I could give you a really good deal on them now, before that happens. Just let me know if you're interested.

Oh, and by the way, I was so fab in 1968 that I went to England with my family, where I literally ran into Paul McCartney. Click HERE to see the proof.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The *Other* Writing World

I just came across an article that everyone who is considering self-publishing their work should read: Cory Doctorow: Why Should Anyone Care? 

As you can probably tell from the title of the article, Doctorow wants us to understand that if you are a self-published author, your main job (once the book is in its final form) is to convince potential readers and sellers that they should *care* about your book -- care enough to buy it, to stock it, to tell others about it.

Granted, authors published by traditional, mainstream publishers also carry some of the responsibility for *convincing people to care.* 
One Wolf Howls Book Launch

My two children's picture books -- One Wolf Howls and Big Cat, Little Kitty -- are not self-published. They are published by Sylvan Dell, a small, relatively young publishing house. When you sign with a small publishing house you quickly discover that you need to assume as much of the salesman's role as you possibly can. Small publishers do not have the staff to run about proclaiming the wonders of your book, pushing it at book sellers across the country (world), and splashing it across the pages of major magazines and newspapers. 

If you are published by a major publishing house, you have more people working on your book's behalf. However, unless your book is *high on their list* you're still not going to be able to spend your days sitting quietly at your desk creating your next masterpiece. You're going to be *out there* convincing people to care.

Unfortunately, as Doctorow points out in his article, not many writers are extroverted social butterflies who love nothing better than to schmooze and meet and greet and sell sell sell. 
Big Cat, Little Kitty Book Launch

After doing several signings at bookstores I realized that unless you are already famous, you can't sit at your table and expect people to come up to you. You can post large signs about who you are and what you're doing there, but they will walk right by you. They might smile or nod, but very few will actually come over and talk to you. No, you have to get up and approach people, book in hand, and convince them to care.

I was on my high school debate team, I acted in high school and college theater productions, and I have performed music before an audience on many occasions. I don't shrink from public contact. But the thought of trying to convince someone to buy what I'm selling quite frankly leaves me cold. I don't like it when people try to sell me things. It follows that I would not want to be the person doing the selling. However. . .

My thinking right now is this: If you love to write, then please write. Write, revise, learn, and immerse yourself in the writing world. Share your work with friends and other writers. Get all those great ideas on paper. I have lived in that particular *writing world* most of my life. But if you hope to share your work with large numbers of people and make money at it, you're going to have to enter a different writing world: a world ruled by personality, promotion, and pizzazz. 

I suppose it's possible that you could be *discovered* while sitting quietly at your desk, and rise to great fame without effort. You could also win the lottery. The odds are about the same.

Now, let me tell you which of my books would be perfect for you...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Today I'm taking a moment to invite all of you to check out my (relatively) new blog/website:

Banner Design by Christina Wald
Like many writers, I have a number of manuscripts that I have submitted to all the publishers and agents I can find, without receiving an acceptance. The reasons for rejection are seldom spelled out or even expressed in any terms at all.

During the submission process for my chapter book Wordsworth and the Dragon, a few editors did request a "full" based on the first three chapters. One editor hung onto the whole manuscript for almost two years (as I continued to submit it elsewhere). She loved Wordsworth, but her publishing company was in the process of "changing direction" and she was eventually laid off. One agent I contacted also loved Wordsworth -- until she found out I had already sent it around to a bunch of publishers. She immediately lost interest.

I did some research on self-publishing and decided I wanted to take that route with Wordsworth and the Dragon.  My enthusiasm for the project increased tenfold a few months ago when illustrator Christina Wald offered to do some illustrations for the book. There will be a cover illustration and probably one illustration per chapter.

My web site Wordsworth and the Dragon offers an opportunity for children and adults to witness a chapter book in the making. Christina is providing preliminary sketches, and I am posting chapters from the book, one at a time, with discussion questions. Several educators have expressed interest in having their students follow along, and I hope to start hearing from them soon.

I hope you'll join us on this publishing adventure!  (And yes, I have already started on a sequel!)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Are You Under-Stressed?

Dear Readers,

I came across this marvelous article that I thought many of you might find interesting: 19 Ways to Get More Readers for Your Author Blog

When I saw #4 on this list, I perked right up: "Do something different."

What follows may not be what those folks meant, but I already had it ready to post today, so I retro-fitted it to match their list. (What?)

It's a quiz that I crafted many years ago. I guarantee that it's every bit as useful now as it was then. Leave a comment and let us know your score!

Are You Under-Stressed?
The Quiz

Studies have shown that many people in our society today are under-stressed; that is, they do not receive enough stress in their day-to-day lives. Such a condition can render a person incapable of dealing with emergency situations when they arise. In fact, the under-stressed person may not even recognize a real emergency when he or she sees one! To determine whether you undergo sufficient stress in your life, take the following simple multiple-choice quiz.

(1) Awakening in the middle of the night, you think you hear a burglar in the house. You fumble for the phone. Intending to press 9-1-1, you accidentally press the keys you programmed as a shortcut to your Great Aunt Harriet's number. When Great Aunt Harriet answers, you:

(a) Tell her to bring the squad car around the back.
(b) Reply, "Sorry, I have the wrong number," hang up, and scream loudly to frighten the intruder away.
(c) Ask Great Aunt Harriet how much the china hutch she gave you weighs and how long she thinks it would take one or two men to carry it outside in the dark.
(d) Inquire after Great Uncle Mortrud's lumbago and promise to visit them when you are finished going over details of the theft with your insurance company.

(2) Your son's soccer coach calls, telling you that you need to provide all refreshments for the end-of-the-season cookout (the team will reimburse you for your expenses, of course). The cookout is day after tomorrow. Your commitments for the week already include helping your daughter with her science project, tilling your mother's garden, working overtime at the office, and visiting eight shut-ins for your church. You tell the coach:

(a) @*%&#)(*@_&#$*(#
(b) "No problem. How about radishes and half a pot of day-old coffee?"
(c) "I would be delighted" -- chuckling to yourself over the fact that neither you nor the food will appear at the cookout. That'll fix 'em.
(d) "Excuse me... [click click click] ... I think we have a bad connection... [click click click]... Can you hear me? [FAKE STATIC] [LOUD BUZZ -- followed by yanking cord out of wall and leaving it out for three days].

(3) Your boss has written a letter to an important client. You feel sure the client's name has been misspelled, but your boss insists you are wrong and tells you to mail the letter. The client calls, complaining that his name was misspelled. You hear your boss blaming "my crazy assistant." You:

(a) Quickly reprint all your boss's rolodex cards, deliberately misspelling every name and/or changing one digit in each phone number.
(b) Order a commemorative plaque for Boss of the Year (at company expense) -- misspelling your boss's name.
(c) Immediately prepare your letter of resignation (misspelling your name), stick a flaming arrow through it, and shoot it into your boss's office.
(d) Laugh silently to yourself for the rest of the day because you actually are crazy and it's a relief to have it acknowledged by someone in authority.

(4) You have been awakened at least once every night for the past week by your neighbor's barking dogs. The dogs (German Shepherds) also bark continually while you mow your lawn or work in your garden. Since you own a Bassett Hound (who barks when disturbed but settles down quickly), you try to be tolerant. However, the police have just called to inform you that your neighbor has filed a complaint about your dog's barking. You:

(a) Make midnight phone calls to your neighbor, panting and whining pitifully when he answers.
(b) Contact your neighbor and attempt to make peace, explaining that you have just acquired three Great Danes trained to leap the fence and jump on top of your neighbor's Porsche whenever they hear a German Shepherd bark.
(c) Invite your neighbor to a backyard barbecue, smiling sinisterly when he expresses concern that his dogs have been missing all day.
(d) Sit down with the German Shepherds over a bowl of kibble and sauerkraut and discuss the situation with them, emphasizing their responsibility to their close acquaintances and society as a whole.

(5) You have ten minutes to drive across town to the technical college you attend twice a week. A test is being given and if you are late, you will receive an automatic "F". As you pull onto Murphy Street, you find yourself in the right-hand lane behind a car going two miles an hour. The driver sticks his arm out his window, motioning you to come around. Since cars are zooming steadily by in the left-hand lane at 45 miles per hour, this does not seem like a viable option to you. The traffic does not decrease. The car ahead of you does not speed up. You:

(a) Flip on the loudspeaker connected to your radio and imitate a siren, hoping the driver will pull over.
(b) Get on your cell and call your best friend, who readily agrees to impersonate you at the exam (the friend strongly resembles you, lives a block from the school, and took the same class last year).
(c) Take a sharp right into a parking lot, zip through the lot and out the other side, running over two little old ladies and a kid on a bike before arriving in the middle of a major intersection, whereupon your authority is disrespected by a tractor-trailer with faulty brakes.
(d) Turn your car radio to the station that plays heavy metal, turn up the volume, roll up your windows, light a cigarette, close your eyes, and go to sleep.


(a) 3 pts
(b) 1 pt
(c) 7 pts
(d) 5 pts

(a) 1 pt.
(b) 5 pts
(c) 7 pts
(d) 3 pts

(a) 3 pts
(b) 5 pts
(c) 1 pt
(d) 7 pts

(a) 3 pts
(b) 5 pts
(c) 1 pt
(d) 7pts

(a) 5 pts
(b) 7 pts
(c) 3 pts
(d) 1 pt


35 points: You are definitely too calm and collected. There's nowhere near enough stress in your life. It is imperative that you begin drinking more coffee and soft drinks, start smoking, increase your work hours, decrease your salary, and -- above all -- START WORRYING as much as possible. If necessary, send for our complete "THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT" list, a comprehensive aid for people suffering from your condition.

25-35 points: Not bad, but you still exhibit some dangerous symptoms of peace-of-mind. Refer to instructions above.

10-25 points: Normal

5-10 points: Maybe a little too stressed. Take a chill pill, okay?


P.S. I scored a 2 on this quiz. Not possible, you say? Are you calling me a liar? Would you like to settle this outside?