Tuesday, December 17, 2013

One Book Instead of Ten

There is a game floating around Facebook where you are supposed to name 10 books that have influenced your life in some way. Of course, the usual offenders are on most lists, Great Expectations, The Great Gatsby, Hemingway, Faulkner, C.S. Lewis, The Bronte sisters, anything from Ancient Greece, and some of those would be on my list as well. But, every time I see these 'lists' on Facebook, one book comes to mind.  It's not what you would expect.
Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi. 

Okay, stick with me here.  Yes, this is a true crime account of the Manson family, full of cults and blood and murder and crime. It even had pictures. It wasn't the 'eloquent prose' or the 'attention to detail' or the 'use of metaphor', using some of the wonderful reasons some have listed on their Facebook lists, that got me, though. It was much more than that.

I was ten years old, I was sick and had to stay home from school for a week by myself. I waited until my mother went to work and I dug through her romance novels and to my delight, there was a book, stuck in the bottom of her book drawer. Since it was at the bottom of the book drawer, I definitely wasn't supposed to see it. But I did. And I spent a week, after my mother went to work, reading about the horror that the Manson family rained on Southern California in the late sixties.

Great reading for a ten year old at home alone. But I was determined: my first real 'adult book' and 500 pages! I had to look a lot of the words up in a dictionary. I had nightmares for several weeks. I couldn't get the images out of my mind. Even during the day, I sometimes imagined myself at the crime scene and would become terrified.  My mother had no idea why I was suddenly afraid to sleep alone some nights, and of course I couldn't tell.

So why was it so 'special'?

It was after reading that book that I realized that words on paper, books, could actually teach you things, they could transport you to different places, the scenes, mixed with a healthy imagination, could, at times, seem more real than life. It was that book that got me interested in this 'other world'---the world of books. So yes, although I have, over the years, been on Long Island with Gatsby, went fishing with Hemingway, fought battles with Hektor and witnessed the love between Heathcliff and Catherine, it was through Helter Skelter, that I learned that I could go to those other places. It wasn't that the book itself was so wonderful or profound, but it taught me that books could be. 

It was the beginning of my 'new' life, my 'other' life---the life of a reader.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Short on Halloween! Two Sentence Stories and TRILLER: a Short Film/Video

My son had a great idea for Halloween week: the two sentence horror story. We put out the word and had a great response, so much so that I thought it was worthy of sharing. If you  like some of these, visit their website or their facebook page, please give a shout out in the comments, or add one of your own.

Me-The dull eyes of his severed head stared up at me from the water. "I didn't realize you would float," I said, "but they'll never find the other pieces."

Toby Neal She woke, hung over, and shuffled into the kitchen after discovering she was out of aspirin. She opened the coffee can, and it was empty.

Mark Newbold A sharp pain in her right eye roused her from sleep, tiny stiff fingers were pulling frantically at her eyelid. The Harlequin marionette normally dangling akimbo on her bed post was lying prone at her side.

Darren Rome Leo Michele Bachman is president. Palin is VP.

Theron Tatum Her bags where pack, her finger nails were still in his back. He had a black eye he won that fight, so much complaining, she had to die.

Jamie Bruno Grandmother snatched the trapdoor under the kitchen table, fixing me with a liquid eye as old boards screamed. "Little boys who can't keep their mouths shut will have plenty of time to bawl in here."

Ben Ditmars She drank blood from her favorite wine glass, looking at his body on the floor. It wasn't the best first date she could remember, but it was close.

Michelle Berthiaume Darkness like a cancer spread through the house peeling back the cracked plaster of the flesh-colored walls, exposing her breasts in the moonlight peering in through a crack in the heavy, red-linen drapes. Soundlessness filled the room where Kelly lay sprawled, as death crept silently into her dreams, pushing back the soft folds of consciousness with the edge of the blade used to peel open oysters from their sanctuary. Fyrecurl@wordpress.com

William Teague Just a routine colonoscopy. As I came out of the twilight sedation I looked up to find myself in the hands of two hideous creatures placing my insides on a crystal operating table.

Jo Ann Eby true events can sometimes make the best scary stories.... As the storm moved out of the area, she settled in for a good night"s sleep. There was nothing else to do. Lightening had knocked off the electricity/ After falling into a deep sleep, she was awakened by a blood curdling scream and a gun shot. Terrified, she lay very still in her bed trying to remember if she had locked the door. Then she realized the electric had come back on and the tv was on.

Jo Ann Eby It was getting dark so she chose to take the short cut through a grove of trees to get to her destination quicker. Being careful to not slip and fall and tumble down the hill to the highway below , she stepped carefully hearing every little noise along the way. Suddenly, a big shadow jumps out in front of her. She screams before realizing the shadow was her own.

Adam Zobel The strangely silent breakfast continued until finally my father lowered his newspaper and reached for his coffee. Adrenaline shot a burning taste into my mouth as I realized that my father was not my father, but a clown, and my mother as she finally turned, was not my mother.

Justin Bogdanovitch Her fingernails raked across the chalkboard.
"Class, this is my detention," said Mrs. Appelbaum, who never met a child she couldn't make cry, and loved the challenge.

Rob Greene It was a dark and stormy night at the Tea Party headquarters. Suddenly, a thought rang out. www.rwwgreene.com

Joan Raymond Around midnight, only the flickering of the TV lit the room as the cat curled next to me on the couch. Scratching noises behind the mini blinds sent a chill down my spine when I realized I’d never be able to shut the window in time. http://joanraymondwriting.wordpress.com

Ann Wertz Garvin Bankruptcy. Pregnant.

Rob Greene I peered blearily up at the naked redneck, the mullet that had seemed so attractive at the bar now looking like a horse's beshitted tail. "Dang rubber broke," he said.
www. rwwgreene.com

Ted Flanagan The twin boys looked up at their father, and said: "Chuck E. Cheese, please."

  Michelle Berthiaume Didn't I just do this already, she thought. Then, suddenly Kelly said do it again. Oooiiiii. Fyrecurl@wordpress.com

Roxie Herman DEAD SILENCE The street was dark and empty, the blade so sharp she didn't feel it slice through her throat; but she watched, fascinated, as the blood spurted over her fingers. He waited until her eyes rolled back, then slowly walked around the corner shedding his jacket and gloves.

Jerry Ludlum The moon was full and the night was cool. I felt a presence then the boney hand touched my shoulder.

Jay Kendall Mcbee Jesus wept. Blood.

Sandy Keith I was throwing a lit cherry bomb out of my car into a group trick or treaters and forgot to roll down the glass.. Great balls of fire.
Cynthia Meyers-Hanson I went to bed after I bumped my head. Even though I was conscious that it was raining and pouring, I never fully woke, again. http://mchanson714.weebly.com/

But why stop at stories? Below is an original short film/music video by my good friend Sam King. Check it out then tweet him at @SK4mc and let him know you loved it!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Who Needs an Editor?

If I hear one more author claim they don't need an editor, I'm going to scream. No, I won't actually scream, but I will put their name on my 'list' of authors not to buy. Pretentious? Elitist? How about thrifty? Yes, thrifty. Books cost money, and I, for one, am not willing to download a million books to find that one author that 'doesn't need an editor'. Not even if the books are free.

I have an MFA and I don't think that qualifies me to edit my own work effectively. Sure, I do a great job on other peoples manuscripts, and a decent job on my own. But decent isn't good enough. I've never read a review for a New York Times bestseller that said, "It was decent." And I've never heard a New York Times bestselling author say, "my book would have been so much better without an editor."

Maybe, however, some authors don't have a desire to be a NYT bestseller. Maybe an Amazon ranking is enough for them. That's fine for them. But not for me, and I won't be one of those buying their books to get them that coveted Amazon award.

Don't get me wrong, I am not demeaning self published authors. I have several whose work I love and I wait patiently for their next novel.  But I guarantee you those are authors who understand the value of an editor and don't just slap their name on a book they wrote last night that their dog and their mother thinks is the Great American Novel. In fact, most of them will be the first to tell you that the unedited excrement that is published online is a detriment to the business of self publishing. And that is what it is: a business.

Maybe Amazon could have a system that tells a reader what books have been edited? Or maybe a section of 'hobbyist' authors, those that don't take it seriously as a business? Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Here are some of the reasons I've heard in the past week for not hiring an editor:
1. It costs too much- So does my landscaper, but I like my yard to look professionally done.
2. An editor is no more than a co-author and should be listed as such-If your book requires so much work that the editor becomes a 'co-author' then maybe you should consider listing them.
3. They change your work and it is no longer 'your book'-I think it's important for an author to have an editor that 'gets' their book. Editors make your book stronger, saleable and see the entire picture as well as the fine details. They didn't write it, so they can 'see' it from another perspective.
4. I have a BA in English. I don't need one-Great. You can spell and make a complete sentence. It takes more than that, really.
5. I have an MFA and can edit my own work-Getting my MFA was one of the best things I ever did for myself; as a writer and as a human being. But edit my own work and call it done? Not a chance.

They Call Me Crazy went through 10 critical readers, my agent and two editors. Ragtown has been through four mentors, 20 critical readers, my agent and two editors. Every one of these people brought something of value to my work. Do I consider them done? No. I am chomping at the bit for an editor from a publishing house to chime in. Are the two novels still my work? Most definitely, but they are a lot stronger than they were.

And lastly, why would I spend money, go through all the readers/mentors/editors, subject myself to the criticism and the time involved in edits? Because this IS a business to me. And because my goal IS the bestseller list. 
Lofty, I know, but I've never been satisfied with a participant ribbon. I'm in it to win it.