Monday, October 25, 2010

Concept of Renewal

When something in your life gets stale, can you find a way to renew it? Over the past few days, I've learned something about renewal. I hesitate to tell you all how ancient I really am, but my body had been stiffening to the point I needed help to get to my feet. I thought I was staring eternity in the face. One of our two dogs has been having a similar problem and I assumed he was nearing his demise as well.
My wife had been looking for something to give the poor creature to ease his pain and, when she read that condroitin and glucosamine might ease his joint pain, got an idea about me. We found that human products were a fraction of the cost of the animal equilivant and only missing a proprietary ingredient the drug makers put in to make their product exclusive. She got it at a dollar store for less than most discount stores charge and I took my first dose, not expecting much of a change. The very next day I moved my limbs freely and pain free for the first time in a long time. Wow, what a difference!
It's been three days and I feel ten years younger. I did more yesterday than I could have done in a week before. Doggie had his first dose yesterday, and this morning jumped to his feet and came running. This is a eureka moment for the two of us. Don't know if fate has been put off a bit longer but I can enjoy what time there is left. I know, sounds a bit dour, but forget that. I'm ready to go for what's in front of me and not worry about my inevitable demise. Yeah, babe!
On another front, my writing had begun to slip into that stale category, too. I'm doing my pre-planning for NaNoWriMo and last week put down enough back story that I'm ready to begin writing, plot and character arcs well in hand. This has happened before, several times, but I manage to forget how I renew my writing verve, over and over again. It's back and I'm ready for it! That also makes me feel ten years younger.
How about you? Has your prose gotten weary on its feet and stiff in the joints? Sometimes a little pill called inspiration can get you jumping to your literary feet just as one of those things I'm taking got me jumping to my physical feet. My literary inspiration?? It will be revealed in due time. Stand by for a super story that will be born standing on its feet and ready to run!
Pat Dale

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Genealogy anybody?

One of my daughters is fervently involved in recreating our family ancestry. I've often wondered about certain members of my family but I always put off researching the subject. Now, though, I can see why she might be concerned.
Lecia is almost forty and starting to have some health issues. She's asked a lot of questions which I always try to answer as completely as possible. She is not willing to take enough for enough and has instituted a search into the past. It turns out, my maternal grandfather was cursed with atrial fibrilation and it was a contributing factor to his death at age sixty-six. That woke me up. You see, I've been troubled with the same heart condition for at least a decade. My father had the malady but it didn't contribute to his death. An accident during abdominal surgery caused the cancer in his bladder to spread rapidly.
So I've got this crazy jazz-like rhythm going on in my heart because of genetics. And all this time, I thought it stemmed from my love of the music I played for years. My answer is much more poetic, don't you think? But no, I got it coming and going; both sides of the family. We also share a blood idiiosyncrasy known as 'factor five'.
That explains in part why at least two of my daughters have had health issues related to that wayward factor. And why I should give a darn about genealogy. Turns out, it's fascinating. When I go online to research members of my family, I usually spend at least an hour and often more.
I've seen the death certificates of a number of ancestors; a bit chilling but also instructive to know that they could write and spell a century or two before I landed on the planet.
How many of you have developed your family tree? Any notable citizens turn out to be related to you? Any infamous ones?
Lots of questions here, and just maybe fodder for new storylines. Just what a writer needs, especially a fiction writer. As we all know, fiction is truer than fact in most cases. Well, we do, don't we?
TMWYT (tell me what you think)
Pat Dale

Monday, October 4, 2010

Are you happy with your writing?

Not as simple a question as it seems at first glance, is it? Actually, I'm less concerned with true happiness than with how my state of emotional well-being affects my creative output. On the one hand, I can't afford to be too pleased with my WIP if I expect it to achieve acclaim and acceptance. On the other, too much nit-picking and frustration lead to stagnation, and that ain't good either.
Let's break this thing down a bit. I have to admit it's nice to sit in a comfortable office, clacking away at my keyboard, immersed in all the trappings a successful author could hope for. Pleasant music in the background, temp and humidity optimal, a good meal in my tummy, and my dogs at my feet to field my outbursts of temper or elation. What could be better? If this does not make me happy, what will?
Maybe best seller status for my latest release? Maybe a three book contract sold on a mere sampling of the first two books? Perhaps, a national TV book tour, including all the major networks?
Would I be happy if I never sold a single book, but neither did I have a single rejection letter staring me in the face? When is a project truly finished? Finally, does it matter if my characters come to life in my head but never see the light of day?
Lots of questions and a myriad of answers, all correct and none false; at least not to the one who gives her answers to this forum. I'm truly curious--strike that; I'm ravenously anxious to hear what all of you have to say about what makes you happy in your writing.
I must close this post with an apology for the hiatus of the last two weeks due to illness; my own one week and my dog the next. I had a short term flu bug that made a most unwelcome return engagement week before last. Then last week, my one year old pup tried to eat an acorn. He'd swallowed linoleum, plastic, metal, shoes; you name it and he'd eat it. But not the little acorn he gobbled up while on a run in a local park. Darn dog nearly died on me. Can't have that happening; he's the inspiration for my NaNoWriMo output next month. Oh yeah, I'm doing it again. I just sold the book I wrote in that exercise two years ago, and I've got this idea for a truly funny story centered around a large dog who thinks he's people.
Let me know what you think about happiness in writing. Meanwhile, may the creative bug bite you in the, uh, spot that gets you slamming words into your chosen method of writing. Cheers, Pat Dale

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How old are you-really?

Hi all. Here I am with my regular Sunday evening blog, right on time as usual. NOT! Sorry for the delay, but personal circumstances intervened.
Last week's topic seemed to strike a chord with a number of you. I really appreciated all the comments, which ranged from an affirmation of my own to some rather disparate views; all valid and succinct. Thank you all.
This week I'd picked a topic and Craig Buck's comment from last week affirmed it; the question of age. I'm going to put my own take on this right up front this time. My spiritual age (or, if you prefer, creative age) has nothing to do with the degree of degradation my physical body has endured. After saying that, let me hasten to say that I believe there are factors that do age one, creatively.
After ruining one perfectly good marriage, I jumped right into another, totally ignoring psychologists' advice. We're still together forty two years later. Not that there haven't been bumps along the way; there have. Some serious ones and some not so serious. Because I believe that the totality of my existence is what feeds my creative mind, I'm certain that the disparity in ages between my mate and myself accounts in some measure for my ability to still sound relevant after all the chronological years I've accumulated.
My wife is sixteen years younger than me. Yes, I was one of those dastardly college profs who married his student. It cost me a career and put my sweetheart at a distinct disadvantage for years, but out of it has come a romance that could well be a successful novel, and two bright beautiful daughters who continue to make us proud. Beyond that, I can still relate to younger people, though that is fading and I'm near the end of my creative value as a fiction writer. Well, maybe not, but the world is changing so fast it's hard to keep up any more.
So I'm a septogenarian with a creative drive that's late fifties and a spirit that knows no age limitation. When I was five, I looked up into the night sky at all the twinkling stars and thought, 'somewhere up there is my real father.' Don't get me wrong; I had wonderful parents that I loved and I knew I was their progeny, physically. But I had this 'knowing' inside that my inner being belonged somewhere beyond Earth's bounds; a heady thought for a five year old.
Do any of you recall having mature thoughts while you were still children? My guess is that you did, even if you don't remember it. Now I'd best get this posted before my aging body refuses to leave my comfy chair. So, how old are you?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Who is a professional writer?

In my college training to become a professional teacher, I was reminded by a professor that a true professional is something like a hired gun. Paid to bring understanding and edification to a group, a professional teacher, using his own skills, must teach what he's being paid to teach.
Using that standard, a professional writer would be paid to write what readers demand, would he not? Employing all the skills and devices at his command, the writer would write cozy mysteries if that was most in demand; or historical romance if that the hot button of the day.
Where then, does that leave the writer who knows what's in his head and his heart to write, regardless of whether it is popular or not? Assuming that writer uses equal skill and devices, would his work not be the equal of the other?
This is not rhetorical. I honestly do not know the answer. In fact, I was never able to blithely accept that professor's assertion at face value. When I was active in the field, I often found myself challenged by local citizens who wanted my band to play nothing but Sousa marches, or sports addicts who insisted my band play only pop tunes 'everybody' would appreciate. Where, I asked myself, did the musical education of my students enter that picture?
In much the same way, I find myself tempted now to fill a burgeoning market; one I've been assured will bring me more sales and spread my reputation as a fiction author. Therein lies the rub--that the reputation I want spread is that I have something significant to say to my reader. If I'm only a diversion, a few hours of distraction from the cares of the world, why should I care?
Chime in here. Tell me if you think I'm going wrong. I read and consider every comment that comes my way and I appreciate those of you who have shared your thoughts. I hope you'll continue to do so.
Pat Dale

Monday, August 30, 2010

Day Late and...

Actually, I'm only eighteen hours late. Sorry, but it's football season and I got caught up watching one of my old favorites beat the stuffing out of one of my old unfavorites.
Well, I'm a man. Don't you expect me to go bannanas over football? My wife does; been bracing herself for this since last month. Didn't help. But she was able to comandeer the TV for an hour to watch the new design star Emily on HGTV. I think Emily's going to be a hit.
I have a question for you, an eggs in the basket kind of question. Is it better for an author to pick one publisher and stay with that one through thick and thin? Or would you spread your goodies around to several publishers? These are not trick questions and I don't have the answer. I really want to know what you think, either way.
I have three books with one publisher but, when my editor there decided to start up her own company, I knew I wanted to follow her and now have three more books in process there. In the meantime, I'd submitted several other books to various publishers and have one about to go into editing with one of them. Also, I have my first print book, out since last month, and another submitted to that publisher.
It looks like I've chosen the 'don't keep the eggs in one basket' camp. I haven't; at least not yet. In the publishing world of today, I'm not sure about much of anything except the fact that the day of nice advances on genre books is coming to an end. Since I see no way to gain sufficient notoriety to secure those top-end contracts, I want to choose publishers I think will not go under before my books have a chance to find an audience.
If you don't agree, tell me where I'm going wrong. Meanwhile, happy writing!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hurry up and wait!

Years ago when I was in the military, hurry up and wait was a phrase in common use. It was the military way to do things. Now I find myself hurrying and waiting as my writing career develops.
First, I want to report on our friend, Sharon Donovan. All I really know at this moment is that she is recovering from heart surgery and is scheduled to enter rehab this week. I'll share more as I learn it. Let's all continue to keep her in our prayers.
Now, as for this week's theme, I've hurried edits and then waited months as my 'baby' glaciers its way to publication. I've met 'hurry up' deadlines to get a manuscript into the hands of editors and then I wait months to learn whether it will be accepted or rejected. There are several steps in the publication process where the author feels hurried but fears upsetting the powers that be.
It happens. That, I can accept. I also realize that there are times when nothing can be done about it. I can accept that, too. What I have a hard time accepting is when the other party seems not to care that I'm on pins and needles as I wait, in the dark and worrying that I've done something wrong, or that a simple message keeping me in the loop takes little time or effort but would mean a lot to me.
How do you feel about the times you're left in that 'no communication window' similar to what NASA experienced as a shuttle re-enters Earth's atmosphere?
What do you do while you wait? Wait! I know! Keep writing, right? That's the conventional wisdom anyway. Once I got used to the accordioning that goes on in the writing world, I began to work on multiple manuscripts, doing preliminary work on a future project, hammering away the final passages of my WIP, and editing finished projects.
Once in a while, I have a story that gets under my skin, representing some truth or value that has personal meaning for me. Those are the ones where I die a thousand deaths as I wait. And those are the ones that become a nightmare for my writing muse. I've been on the planet too long for it to affect me this way, and yet it does.
Of course, all those supposedly knotty problems work out in their own good time. Afterward, I can look back and laugh at my insecurity. Having lived this cycle several times, one might think I could remember the outcome and not worry about it. Ha!
Am I the only one who is like this?
Let me know your thoughts and feelings on this or any other subject. Your writing pal,

Sunday, August 15, 2010

When Fate Calls

I had planned to sound off about another aspect of writing, but something happened to a dear friend this week. Since Sharon Donovan had her heart attack and subsequent heart surgery, I've been contemplating the capricious nature of life on this planet. We're all train wrecks happening in slow motion. We know we're going to crash one day and we can do nothing about it other than try to live safe and healthy. Sometimes even that isn't enough.
One of my favorite authors, Robert B. Parker, died earlier this summer. I didn't know him but loved his books and assumed from his photos that he was pretty healthy. One day, he just died. His illustrious career was over; his race run. Was he in the middle of his next Jesse Stone mystery? If he was, will anybody step up to finish the work on it? Could anybody do that in a way that doesn't seem artificial?
And there's my dilemma. It's not Sharon's writing I worry about at this point, nor is it Robert's. I have four novels sitting on my desktop, waiting for me to offer them to a publisher. All they need is a contract and an editor's help in bringing them to fruition. In addition, I have three more in progress but not complete. If that conductor in the sky janks my chain and I come crashing into the curve and off life's track, who will finish them for me? Can anybody do justice to them?
About now, some cynic in our midst is asking, "Who cares?" Actually, that's a very good question. What does it matter if a composer hasn't finished his last symphony, or an artist his latest canvas? Or an author, his next blockbuster novel? Why should any of it matter?
What I have come away from all this introspection with, is that creative artists in any medium are sharing a part of themselves with the world. Unlike most people, we are willing to bare our souls in public. But we usually do it in code. I'm convinced that we can read any good author's work and deduce who that author is at her/his heart. I know I let my hair down in my books. I could tell you what to look for and you'd have no trouble finding me in the pages and the 'hearts' of my characters. That, however, would not be fair and so, if you want to know what matters most to me, you'll have to read my work and discover my codes.
Just a little something to tease you with, my theme is constant and it's pretty simple at its heart. If my readers come away with that theme, my work has succeeded whether I'm still around or not. And whether my last book is finished or not. When the great archangel sounds his trumpet and I answer the call from eternity, my work here will be done. I find great solace in that.
Till next time, your friend and author.
Pat Dale

Sunday, August 8, 2010

That was the week that was. Or TW3 redoux

Fifteen minutes of--what? Fame, that's what! Local fame, at least.
Yeah, I got the royal treatment from my local press last week. My international romantic suspense A GIRL'S BEST FRIEND came out in trade paperback last month so I told a nice reporter about it. Next thing I knew, she had me come in for an interview and a photographeer took my picture.
Forty eight hours later, guess what? My ugly mug and a very nice article appeared on the Saturday edition of the Sedalia Democrat. Front page, no less. Now I'm notorious. It won't last. Nothing around here lasts very long. But it was an ego boost when I needed one, and I had a number of people comment favorably on it.
I have a book signing at Sedalia Book and Toy on August 27th, and this will help that as well. Funny how you work for years among friends, family, and acquaintances with nary a mention of any special talents you might have. Then, something like this happens.
Well, enough of that. The fifteen minutes are up and I'm not sure I got my three wishes in. Oh wait, that's a different fable. Now that things are back to normal, I've been thinking more about the amazing changes rocking the publishing world. As I understand it, Dorchester is throwing in the towel on mass paperback traditional print publications. They want to 'pioneer' in the burgeoning electronic publication market. Pioneer? Where the heck have they been for the last decade and a half?
For those of us who still prefer a processed tree in our hands to a melted lump of plastic, print books are not going away any time soon. On the other hand, for anyone who wants to take her/his entire library along on a vacation without overloading the car or plane, e-books are the answer. I've waited a long time to see my creative efforts in a form I can hold in my hand, sign my autograph for those who want it, and point to on my book shelf. Now it's here and I can revel in it for awhile.
Really, though, the idea of having my book available for years at the touch of a button is just as intoxicating. Maybe more. POD makes that possible for print books. Electronic download makes all books available until they are withdrawn by publisher or author. Meanwhile, traditional print novels are available for a month to three months in most cases. Longer, if the author achieves a significant level of fame, though that is not guaranteed.
Nobody has a crystal clear handle on where all this will lead, but we can deduce a few facts that can act reliably as markers for the future. A quick analysis of sales figures and it doesn't take a genius to see that e-sales are up and typical print sales are down. The day of significant advances is drawing to a close, so now we write; we publish; and then, maybe, we're paid for our effort.
The maybe in that last sentence is like the proverbial back-breaking straw.
If we write for money, it's all a roll of the dice. If we write for that 'fifteen minutes', it's still a roll of the dice. If, as I do, we write fiction stories because we can't not write them. what does it matter?
I've always been an optomist, so why stop now? Write for the love of the story. Put unforgetable characters on the pages of your fiction and your readership will grow, whether they prefer to read your story from a piece of paper or the screen on a reader or computer. Put your heart into it and write like your fame depends on it. Because it does.
Cheers from hot mid-Missouri!
Pat Dale

Fifteen minutes of--what?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

He's Baaaaack!

Hi guys! For a pretty good writer, I'm just about the dumbest dodo on the planet when it comes to navigating blogs and websites. It took my genius wife (don't tell her I said this-please?) to sort all this out so I could get back on here to begin my regular blogs again.
Short hiatus--only seven months!
Today, I've been a guest on Sharon Donovan's blogspot, where she interviewed me for my new print release A GIRL'S BEST FRIEND. We had lots of visitors, many interesting questions. and it took me most of the day to be able to answer our commentors. Ah well, Rome wasn't built in a day. But neither was the internet, whatever that means. LOL
I'm going to make this one short because it was unplanned, and because my ten month old hundred pound Pyrenee/Malamute puppy is demanding my attention. Believe me, when he talks, people listen!
Seriously, I'll be on here from now on every Sunday evening with a weekly post. I've got lots to talk about, starting with MuseItUp Publishing. More about them and what they're up to Sunday.
Pat Dale