Bucket Listing

The phrase bucket list became rather famous – at least talked about, thanks mostly to a touching movie that starred Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. It became  not only a household phrase, but also part of household conversation. It became the topic of news articles, large and small get-togethers, and small talk between friends. Simply put, a bucket list includes those things you want to do or accomplish before you kick the bucket/ die.

Of course, you don’t have to be on death’s doorstep to start your bucket list,  it is a worthy endeavor for a lot of us. If we wait until the grim reaper is breathing down our backs, it’s probably too late, especially if  one of your wishes is to right a wrong from years gone by.

I’ll have to say, the idea of a so-called bucket list has proven to be a good thing for me. There was a time in my life when I was 9 years single after a divorce and dating nothing but throwbacks. My pond was ok-sometimes, but they just weren’t keepers. I took a sabbatical from dating and spent more quality time with family, friends, and myself. I decided to write a “be true to me” list. I realized that I had been letting others pick me, when it should be the other way around. That’s the natural way of mating if you know a little about most animals on earth. Male birds have to show their colors to prove themselves as an appropriate mate. So, when I changed my way of thinking, wrote my be true to me list, things started happening, more positive things. I put on paper what I wanted in man if he was going to be in my m life. And I listed all the things that I could imagine that I wanted to do, and places I wanted to go – it wasn’t all about putting someone in my life – it was about putting more life in my life.

I have, more so than ever in my life, been true to me. I have challenged myself in so many ways – returned to school for another degree and new career; I’ve enjoyed the heck out of white water rafting, at least 5 times; my first time on a zip-line was in Alaska; I took ballroom dance lessons…and met the perfect man for me.

I’ve kept my friends and spent many zany times with them. You know you are having a good time when you get a standing ovation upon leaving a restaurant, lol… or when a woman stops by your table and tells you how envious she is of the good time you’re having.

Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Italy (Rome, Venice, Pompeii, Capri, etc.), Grand Canyon, Niagra Falls, Vegas, beaches anywhere and everywhere, the mountain tops…I know I’ve left some places out, but that’s ok, I’m not finished yet.

And, of course, my long-time dream of actually writing a book, or three or more. I’m not finished with writing yet. I’ve written my first novel and first and second books of short stories, and currently working, slowly, on my first historical novel.

It’s sort of crazy that I have so many ideas about books I want to write, but I have to take time out occasionally for all my adorable grandchildren, and pickleball, and dancing, and making wine, and…

Okay. You get the idea. Get off your rump and live the life you want to live. Yes, you are in charge. Get busy, have fun, live and love the life you dream of. Only you can make it happen. Ladies and gentlemen, start your lists!

 

SoapyLessons….. I found this article below, by author and educator June Trop, to be creative and thought provoking. Sure I was hooked on at least one soap opera many years ago, but totally missed the obvious lesson potential for improving my writing. I expected the cliffhanger every Friday. I picked up on the potential for a murder coming up when a character made a bucketful of other characters angry. I just didn’t realize how darn creative these soap opera writers were, then. So, fellow writers, let’s look at shows that continually attract huge audiences, even if they don’t attract us. We can learn from so many genres… even if we, at first glance, do not appreciate their lessons. Brenda Drexler Unless you’ve been hooked, you can’t imagine how addicting a soap opera can be. When I was teaching in the local school, I could leave there at 3:20, just in time to make the beginning of a 30-minute soap, The Edge of Night. I didn’t run anybody over, but I broke the neighborhood speed limit. That’s for sure. Scriptwriters know how to keep their audience captivated. Their scenes are all action. (Don’t forget dialogue is action too). You can use dialogue the same way they do. You can lace it with foreshadows. The actor’s complaint of pain could mean he has a hangnail or a brain tumor. Or not. Foreshadowing will keep your readers captivated too. Is your character speaking sarcastically or mournfully? Instead of cluttering your dialogue with adverbs and adjectives, zoom in on what the soap actors are doing. Is their upper lip curling, their brow furrowing, or their cheek twitching? Use those fine-grained gestures rather than modifiers to communicate your own character’s feelings. When a new character is introduced in a soap, notice how the actors gossip about his or her past. You too can use dialogue instead of description and exposition to tell your readers whether the woman being brought home to Mama is a brazen hussy or motherly widow. And while you’re watching, observe the transitions. No lengthy explanations bridge the scenes. Trust your readers to navigate the same kind of shifts. Begin the next scene with action. Throw your characters into the center of a conflict. Then end the scene with a cliffhanger like the scriptwriters do every Friday. Finally, see how scriptwriters weave subplots into their story. Subplots add breadth, depth, and complexity to a story. Moreover, they can slow the pace of the main plot, throw obstacles in the protagonist’s path, and prolong suspense by interrupting the action of the main plot. So take an occasional break from writing to watch a soap opera and concentrate on how the scriptwriters use dialogue to foreshadow and reveal a character’s past and how they use fine-grained gestures to clarify a speaker’s meaning. Then focus on how they manage transitions and weave subplots into their story. AUTHOR: June Trop and her twin sister Gail wrote their first story, “The Steam Shavel [sic],” when they were six years old growing up in rural New Jersey. They sold it to their brother Everett for two cents.

Business for Writers

I’m posting this article from Chuck Wendig and it is chuck full of advice. Note that he is quite long-winded and a bit raunchy on occasion. So, read on if you will. Learn something helpful.

Brenda

It was a couple weeks back that authorial sorceress V.E. Schwab said that few writers offer good business advice, and she named me among some others like Kameron Hurley and John Scalzi, who do so. It’s been a while since I’ve offered anything remotely like business advice for writers, mostly because, nyeah, it’s boring? I’d rather talk about writing and storytelling (aka the act of hunting down unicorns for whatever salacious purpose you so possess), but just the same, having the occasional injection of business advice into your writerly bloodstream ain’t the worst idea.

So, here I am.

Below, a fairly basic scattering of writer-flavored business advice — mostly 101 stuff — that you are free to behold or ignore at your leisure. Do with this as thou wilt.

The Overarching Rule: Protect Your Ass

This is very non-specific but important nevertheless: always cover your ass.

Protect it.

Cover it with chainmail undies and asbestos trousers. Lock down the hole, the cheeks, the undercarriage, everything. Protect your ass. Don’t worry about protecting a publisher. Don’t worry about protecting an agent. They got theirs covered. You cover your own. Note: this does not mean to help yourself before you help others. It just means to protect yourself, because this is an industry that often inadvertently will step on your neck if you don’t know what’s up. Protecting yourself is about educating yourself and making sure there’s no avenue for you to accidentally — or willfully — get used and abused.

Keep As Many Rights As You’re Allowed

What you eventually learn is that publishing one book needn’t be the end of that book’s financial output. Yes, sure, you have royalties, but a lot of books don’t properly earn out, so what am I talking about? I’m talking about rights, baby. First up, you have foreign rights, which is to say, other publishers in other countries buy the rights to publish your book in that domain. Even selling rights to one other country is like — well, it’s like getting a comical bag of money, the kind with the dollar sign right on it, handed to you by a chummy, benevolent friend. To give you a sense of it, the first three Miriam books sold for roughly $8k a piece. But the foreign deals (Germany, Poland, China, Turkey, France, Spain, etc.) add up. Some of those deals were on par with the original offer — or, in the case of Turkey, considerably higher. (Why Turkey? No idea.) Plus, now I’m earning royalties not just from domestic sales, but foreign sales, too. The books continue to generate life. All of my books don’t do this, but many do, and it helps.

Problem is, some publishers want to keep the foreign rights — either trying to produce the books themselves in other countries, or being able to sell the rights directly, which depending on your deal either pays out to you directly or counts against your advance. Which is fine, but the publisher is not as hungry to sell those rights. They may be equipped to. They may not be. But they’re not hungry for it the way you and your agent can and should be.

Same goes for film and TV rights, or other ancillary rights like games, comics, whatever. Those, again, can be like magic money. No, nobody’s ever going to make your film or TV project, but they might option it. And you get paid for that. Point is, keep your rights. So that you can sell them. Erm. Which means, keep them to get rid of them? Yes! Don’t just give them all away to the first eager beaver, is what I’m saying. In fact, don’t give anything to a beaver. Beavers are notoriously irresponsible. A beaver last year borrowed my car and crashed in into a reservoir. Or maybe that was a gopher. Prairie dog? Marmot? Shit. Whatever, moving on.

Publishingland Versus Hollywoodtown: A Brief Explanation

I’ve said this before, but here is, for me, the key difference between NYC Publishing World and Hollywood Filmteeveeopolis: in publishing, everything is no before it is yes. In Hollywood, everything is yes before it is no.

To explain, it means that in publishing, getting a book published is a series of locked doors and obstacles. And you pick those locks and clamber over obstacles, all while keeping a Damn Fine Book gripped tightly in your teeth. And then, if you survive, they say, “Congrats, this Damn Fine Book will be published.” And, generally speaking, they mean it. It’ll happen. You’re in.

Out on the Left Coast, you step into a room, and you are immediately showered in love and adoration. They tell you how much they love you. They love the book. They want to see it on screen. It is a magical fairy promise made by gilded, golden lords and ladies, and most of it is ephemeral — it is whimsy and candy-floss that breaks apart as soon as it hits your fingers or your tongue. It’s why Hollywood streets are paved in broken dreams. And that’s not their fault. That’s just the industry. In Hollywood, most working screenwriters get paid writing movies and shows that never actually get made. (I cannot imagine this in publishing. Developing books with publishers and editors and agents, only to have them be shelved again and again. It would be heartbreaking. Then again, the money is better there, so…nyeah, maybe I get it.)

Just be advised how it works. Do not be seduced by the promise of that place. Have your expectations sealed in nice and tight. Enjoy the ride, just don’t fall in love with it.

Money Spent Means Money Spent

Simple rule, generally true: the more someone spends on your work, the more they will continue to spend on it. Meaning, they will protect their investment more robustly — that might translate to more marketing dollars, a better shot at film/TV production, more visibility, a magical golden sheep who poops out special coins, whatever. I say this because some writers will be inundated with lowball offers, and sometimes, there is sense in taking them — a dollar film option, or no advance for your book. But generally, that means your window for success is far, far narrower than you would prefer. Camel through the eye of the needle.

You Are Not A Marketing Plan

I say this, because this is A Thing inside publishing, but you are not a marketing plan. Some publishers want you to be. Or they claim you should be. But you’re not.

What I mean is this: I think when social media became such a big damn deal that some people inside publishing were quietly cheering — first, because it genuinely provides a new axis of access for book discovery, but second because the writer can shoulder the burden. We can each become the darling epicenter of a glorious online CULT OF PERSONALITY, and we can command our hypnotized followers into buying copies of our books, the end.

Except, that bubble popped.

Maybe you don’t know that it popped. But it fucking popped.

You can maybe, as an author, sell 10s, even 100s of copies on social media. And you can do this semi-regularly. Problem is, for your book to make real money — the kind of money publishers need you to make! — you need to sell 1000s of copies, maybe more. A publisher who pretends you’re their only marketing plan is a publisher who isn’t spending money on your book, and your book will succeed more by happenstance and luck than by any engineered effort on their part. (Also, if they’re acting like you’re their marketing plan, might I suggest billing them for marketing hours, because that’s very seriously supposed to be their job, part and parcel of the relationship you enter by signing with a publisher in the first goddamn place.) Some publishers just wanna cover you in Velcro and fling you at a wall in the hopes you stick, but that doesn’t always work, either. It’s best to demand that they actually have some plan in place, and ask to see that plan. You can even ask before you sign the contract. And you should.

So Wait, What Marketing Should You Do?

Note: I’m not saying you won’t do marketing and self-promo on your own. You will. You will shimmy and you will shake. You will dance that dance and sway that tail, sexy author monkey.

First, because selling those 10s to 100s books still has value — every book is a pebble thrown, and a pebble can create ripples. One reader likes it, and they tell their friends, and now you’ve sold more books. Or, at least, you’re now on a collective radar: maybe those friends don’t buy this book, but they take a chance on your next one. Pebbles and ripples, pebbles and ripples.

Also, your publisher can and should create marketing opportunities for you — but that still requires work on your part. They get you interviews, or article opportunities, or panels at cons — so, you go do them. More pebbles, more ripples. (One thing I’m a bit dubious about: blog tours. As the value of blogs wanes, I’m not sold on the efficacy of blog tours. Especially when the blogs are a smattering of no-name never-heard-of entrants.) And you can drum up those opportunities for yourself, too. You don’t need to rely on the publisher. But if you’re the only one drumming up those opportunities and the publisher is simply cheering you on: they’re not doing their job, because you’re doing it.

The Bestseller Machine

There exists a common myth in publishing that publishers can make a book a bestseller “if they want to,” just by spending money on it. It’s nonsense. Provably false. Some books just don’t hit — not because the books aren’t good, not because the publishers didn’t support them, but because, ha ha, who fucking knows? The stars didn’t align! Mercury in retrograde! You were cursed by an old wizard! You angered the gods with your breakfast choice! Shit happens. Life is weird. *puts in Ian Malcolm sunglasses and affects a Jeff Goldblum mumble* CHAOS THEORY.

That said, a publisher spending money means you’re not just an author throwing pebbles — they’re joining you in that act. In fact, they are a catapult flinging a fusillade of pebbles. Lot more ripples. Meaning, a far greater chance at achieving success. And note, too, it’s not just about spending money, but about smart marketing strategy, which is why you again should always ask for their strategy in marketing your book.

Beware: Failure As Proof Of Failure

Here’s a thing that sometimes happens: a publisher will agree to publish Your Book, not support it, and then when it comes time to support the next book or sign you up for more, they say, “But your last one didn’t sell.” So, your next book gets fewer marketing effort or they make a reduced offer. I think this happens less than it used to, as I hear (anecdotally) about it less often, but just the same, it’s crap. It’s like shooting out your tires in a race and then saying next time, “I won’t bet on you, because you lost that race.” “But you shot out my tires!” “Excuses, excuses.” Bookstores can do this, too — a big bookstore chain might say, your book didn’t sell well last time, so why carry your next one?

Beware Non-Competes, First-Looks, Etc.

Since we’re all OOH BEWARE right now, also beware contracts that want to lock you down with too many non-competes and first-look-deals and exclusives — y’know, just narrow your eyes at these. Does the contract prevent you from doing your job? Does it prevent you from earning a real living? Then get worried. Now, there are some caveats to this. The publisher has some skin in this game, and some of these clauses are not automatically demonic — after all, if they’re publishing your brand new BDSM EPIC FANTASY PICTURE BOOK AIMED AT READERS AGES 33-36, then you shouldn’t also be able to go and immediately sell a similar book to a different publisher. Bookstores only have so much finite shelf space, and you do not want to compete with yourself or your publisher. At the same time, if the publisher also wants to stop you from publishing non-fiction or young adult or unrelated work, then that’s a concern.

Now, if the publisher wants to pay you well to be a kept author, so be it. You pay me enough, I’ll be your fucking cabana boy. I will exfoliate you tenderly with my beard-loofa.

But you gotta pay to play, suckas.

Also Beware The Sinister, Mustache-Twirling Rights Grab

More beware: rights grabs. I covered that a bit above, where publishers want to lock up rights that don’t really belong to them, but there are other ways — they want the book in perpetuity, they want you to pay them for various privileges, etc. You can check out a site like Writer Beware, run by Victoria Strauss, to get an understanding of some such rights grabs.

Beware The Small Press

Controversial assessment: beware a lot of small presses. I know, I know. They often mean well. They’re often quite earnest. They’re not often malevolent. But I’ll tell you: most of the times I’ve seen writers have real struggles with publishers, its been small presses. Because small presses, however earnest and well-meaning, don’t always know what they’re doing.

I’ll tell you a story, with names redacted to protect the innocent, but –

I was at a con, and a writer came up and said, “I pitched my novel during the pitch session and I got a bunch of full requests,” meaning, publishers requested the full manuscript. Which is great. Except I knew of zero big publishers at this con. So, I said, who requested it? And this writer named off a bunch of publishers I had never heard of — which is not necessarily an indictment against them, as I have a brain like a sieve. Either way, I said, okay, that’s good — and I didn’t want to bust said writer’s bubble, but — maybe just maybe consider sending it elsewhere? If the book is good enough to warrant small press attention, maybe it’s good enough to warrant the attention of an agent or an editor at a bigger house. It’s worth the shot, at least — and if it doesn’t work, and only a small press is interested, well, okay. (Though there you gotta ask: if only small press is interested, it’s a Come To Book Jesus moment. Is your book actually good?)

Look, the tests for this are easy enough. Does the small press publish reputable authors? Have they been around for a lot of years? Do their books look professional and not like some dickbird with Microsoft Publisher 1998 sloppily slapped it together? Can they identify a marketing plan? Can they demonstrate being in bookstores? If not, nnnghyeah, then either aim for a bigger publisher, or self-publish that motherfucker.

Don’t publish with UNCLE DAVE’S BASEMENT PRESS, okay?

Yes, Self-Publishing Is Viable

I’m glad this part of the conversation is well-established, but self-publishing is a great path for those who are equipped to not just be writers, but also publishers. It’s particularly good with some genres — romance, space opera or military sci-fi, etc. — though it’s less good for middle grade and YA, because younger kids and teens aren’t shopping at Amazon as eagerly as we might have hoped. Still. It’s worth it. Try it. Fuck yeah, self-publishing.

Safety Through Diversification

You can protect your pooper by diversifying wildly. Write across: formats, genres, publishing models. E-book, physical, comic book, novel, self, traditional, hybrid, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, whatever. Do it all, if you want to, if you can. If one door closes, you’ve carved out other tunnels through which you may move. It’s like driving — stuck in traffic? Know your exits and your back roads. Something something eggs and baskets. Have multiple baskets. Have multiple eggs. I have chicken eggs, emu eggs, dragon eggs, elf eggs. That’s right. Elf eggs. I breed elves. Not just the cookie elves, either, but all kinds — haughty elves, trailer park elves, tiny elves, big elves, forest elves, city elves, sex elves ha ha what I did not say “sex elves,” you said sex elves. Pervert.

A Bad Agent Is Worse Than No Agent At All

You want an agent if you’re going traditional. Even if not, you may still want an agent because agents are good. I just sold rights to a self-pub book to a Russian publishing company.

But watch out for bad agents. A bad agent is like a bad critique group, except now the consequences are not just creative, they’re professional. A bad agent will lead you in the wrong direction, likely for a year or more, and it takes time to recover. Find an agent who gets what you write and who wants to curate your vision and your career, and not cram your gorgeous circle pegs into an uncomfortable square hole. That is not a sexual metaphor, by the way, so calm down. Also if you need sex elves, I know a guy. And I am that guy.

Make Sure Your Agent Is Equipped To Do All The Things You Need Them To Do

Again, your agent should not just be able to sell books domestically, but also foreign rights or film and TV rights. And if your agent can’t directly, the agency that supports you should have people. Or you should have access to sub-rights agents. Something. If those doors are closed to you, then your success and your financial world will be limited.

Sidenote: sometimes you need to fire your agent.

The Truth of the Trilogy

Small but necessary point: in genre fiction, publishers often buy trilogies or series. They scoop you up for a three-book deal, yay, hurrah, huzzah. And if your book is by necessity and design a trilogy or a series, go you. If it’s not… then maybe don’t force it.

Here’s the reality of selling to series: subsequent books in the series will never sell better than the first book. You’ll never sell 1000 of Book One, and 5000 of Book Two. So if Book One: Sword of the Sex-Elf, doesn’t do well, then Book Two: Song Of The Dragonfuckers, will do worse. And publishers… you know, I’ll be honest, publishers don’t always handle this part well. They pump money into the first book and expect it to carry the second. And it might. That can work. But if it doesn’t, then you need to pump more money into the second book and the first book to get people to buy into the series. And then the bummer part for you as an author is, suddenly you’re caught for three years writing into a series that isn’t selling well and you know won’t land well. It’s emotionally difficult, time-consuming, and not financially ideal.

Plus, I actually kinda miss standalone books.

When To Work For Free

Mostly, don’t. Don’t work for free. Rarely worth it. Exposure is something hikers die from, and authors can die from it, too. If you do work for free, know the concrete benefits, and be sure to control the work — as I am wont to say, if you’re going to be exposed, then goddamnit, expose yourself. Not like that. Put your pants back on. What are you, some kind of Sex Elf?

I’ll note here too that the FREE WORK request doesn’t always come from disreputable weirdos — sometimes, it comes from big publishers. “Oh, with your new book coming out, we think you should also write a short story and a novella that we will release alongside it for free.” Yeah, great, but you should be paid for those. I mean, YMMV, but the book is the book — the story and the novella won’t sell them, so you should see money for them.

You did the work. Get paid for the work.

What you do has value, so claim value for what you do.

Seriously, Get An Accountant

Yeah, do that. Get an accountant. Your taxes as a writer just got infinitely more fucked up, so you want someone to help you navigate this new labyrinth of pain. And it can help you, too, because as a writer, you can deduct all kinds of shit now. Also, if you make enough money, might be time to form a business — an LLC or something. I did it recently, because it was worth it to do so for the tax savings. At lower levels of yearly income, the value dissipates.

Have People You Can Trust Behind The Scenes — Embrace Community

The community is your friend. Other writers can tell you their experiences. Anecdotes are artisanal data, sure, but it can still help you traverse these tumultuous seas. And a note to editors, agents, publishing folk: writers talk. We know when you’ve been naughty, we know when you’ve been good. Publishing as an industry is often cloaked in robes of MYSTERY and MYSTICISM, but it doesn’t need to be. Talk to writers. Help ‘em. Let them help you. Onward.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job, Penmonkey

A lot of writers, I find, are eager to eject from their day jobs and leap into the writer career, naked and cackling. But the writing life — the career part — is a series of cliff mitigations. I am constantly aware of when the next cliff is coming — and it times out always with the end of my last contract. That’s when I drive over a cliff and die, so I have to pack in time and strategy to figure out how I’m going to make it over the next cliff — how I will leap that motherfucking chasm. That means writing this book but then also writing another or pitching another at opportune times to build a ramp or a bridge over the cliff.

You, too, have to worry about building that bridge or that ramp — and if you leave your day-job too soon, you will plummet into the void, not naked and cackling, but nude and screaming.

My advice for WHEN TO QUIT THE DAY JOB is plainly this:

Keep the day job until you cannot keep it any longer.

Keep it until you hit a crisis point: a point where you must sacrifice either the day job or the writing career. You are unable to do both, so you must do only one, and that is the time to ditch the day job because the writing job — meaning, one in which you are presently paid Actual Survival Money — cannot survive in the shadow of the day-to-day work.

It must become the day-to-day work.

And That’s It

Long post. I could keep talking, but I won’t.

I’m out.

*slings rifle over shoulder*

*goes to hunt unicorns*

It was a couple weeks back that authorial sorceress V.E. Schwab said that few writers offer good business advice, and she named me among some others like Kameron Hurley and John Scalzi, who do so. It’s been a while since I’ve offered anything remotely like business advice for writers, mostly because, nyeah, it’s boring? I’d rather talk about writing and storytelling (aka the act of hunting down unicorns for whatever salacious purpose you so possess), but just the same, having the occasional injection of business advice into your writerly bloodstream ain’t the worst idea.

So, here I am.

Below, a fairly basic scattering of writer-flavored business advice — mostly 101 stuff — that you are free to behold or ignore at your leisure. Do with this as thou wilt.

The Overarching Rule: Protect Your Ass

This is very non-specific but important nevertheless: always cover your ass.

Protect it.

Cover it with chainmail undies and asbestos trousers. Lock down the hole, the cheeks, the undercarriage, everything. Protect your ass. Don’t worry about protecting a publisher. Don’t worry about protecting an agent. They got theirs covered. You cover your own. Note: this does not mean to help yourself before you help others. It just means to protect yourself, because this is an industry that often inadvertently will step on your neck if you don’t know what’s up. Protecting yourself is about educating yourself and making sure there’s no avenue for you to accidentally — or willfully — get used and abused.

Keep As Many Rights As You’re Allowed

What you eventually learn is that publishing one book needn’t be the end of that book’s financial output. Yes, sure, you have royalties, but a lot of books don’t properly earn out, so what am I talking about? I’m talking about rights, baby. First up, you have foreign rights, which is to say, other publishers in other countries buy the rights to publish your book in that domain. Even selling rights to one other country is like — well, it’s like getting a comical bag of money, the kind with the dollar sign right on it, handed to you by a chummy, benevolent friend. To give you a sense of it, the first three Miriam books sold for roughly $8k a piece. But the foreign deals (Germany, Poland, China, Turkey, France, Spain, etc.) add up. Some of those deals were on par with the original offer — or, in the case of Turkey, considerably higher. (Why Turkey? No idea.) Plus, now I’m earning royalties not just from domestic sales, but foreign sales, too. The books continue to generate life. All of my books don’t do this, but many do, and it helps.

Problem is, some publishers want to keep the foreign rights — either trying to produce the books themselves in other countries, or being able to sell the rights directly, which depending on your deal either pays out to you directly or counts against your advance. Which is fine, but the publisher is not as hungry to sell those rights. They may be equipped to. They may not be. But they’re not hungry for it the way you and your agent can and should be.

Same goes for film and TV rights, or other ancillary rights like games, comics, whatever. Those, again, can be like magic money. No, nobody’s ever going to make your film or TV project, but they might option it. And you get paid for that. Point is, keep your rights. So that you can sell them. Erm. Which means, keep them to get rid of them? Yes! Don’t just give them all away to the first eager beaver, is what I’m saying. In fact, don’t give anything to a beaver. Beavers are notoriously irresponsible. A beaver last year borrowed my car and crashed in into a reservoir. Or maybe that was a gopher. Prairie dog? Marmot? Shit. Whatever, moving on.

Publishingland Versus Hollywoodtown: A Brief Explanation

I’ve said this before, but here is, for me, the key difference between NYC Publishing World and Hollywood Filmteeveeopolis: in publishing, everything is no before it is yes. In Hollywood, everything is yes before it is no.

To explain, it means that in publishing, getting a book published is a series of locked doors and obstacles. And you pick those locks and clamber over obstacles, all while keeping a Damn Fine Book gripped tightly in your teeth. And then, if you survive, they say, “Congrats, this Damn Fine Book will be published.” And, generally speaking, they mean it. It’ll happen. You’re in.

Out on the Left Coast, you step into a room, and you are immediately showered in love and adoration. They tell you how much they love you. They love the book. They want to see it on screen. It is a magical fairy promise made by gilded, golden lords and ladies, and most of it is ephemeral — it is whimsy and candy-floss that breaks apart as soon as it hits your fingers or your tongue. It’s why Hollywood streets are paved in broken dreams. And that’s not their fault. That’s just the industry. In Hollywood, most working screenwriters get paid writing movies and shows that never actually get made. (I cannot imagine this in publishing. Developing books with publishers and editors and agents, only to have them be shelved again and again. It would be heartbreaking. Then again, the money is better there, so…nyeah, maybe I get it.)

Just be advised how it works. Do not be seduced by the promise of that place. Have your expectations sealed in nice and tight. Enjoy the ride, just don’t fall in love with it.

Money Spent Means Money Spent

Simple rule, generally true: the more someone spends on your work, the more they will continue to spend on it. Meaning, they will protect their investment more robustly — that might translate to more marketing dollars, a better shot at film/TV production, more visibility, a magical golden sheep who poops out special coins, whatever. I say this because some writers will be inundated with lowball offers, and sometimes, there is sense in taking them — a dollar film option, or no advance for your book. But generally, that means your window for success is far, far narrower than you would prefer. Camel through the eye of the needle.

You Are Not A Marketing Plan

I say this, because this is A Thing inside publishing, but you are not a marketing plan. Some publishers want you to be. Or they claim you should be. But you’re not.

What I mean is this: I think when social media became such a big damn deal that some people inside publishing were quietly cheering — first, because it genuinely provides a new axis of access for book discovery, but second because the writer can shoulder the burden. We can each become the darling epicenter of a glorious online CULT OF PERSONALITY, and we can command our hypnotized followers into buying copies of our books, the end.

Except, that bubble popped.

Maybe you don’t know that it popped. But it fucking popped.

You can maybe, as an author, sell 10s, even 100s of copies on social media. And you can do this semi-regularly. Problem is, for your book to make real money — the kind of money publishers need you to make! — you need to sell 1000s of copies, maybe more. A publisher who pretends you’re their only marketing plan is a publisher who isn’t spending money on your book, and your book will succeed more by happenstance and luck than by any engineered effort on their part. (Also, if they’re acting like you’re their marketing plan, might I suggest billing them for marketing hours, because that’s very seriously supposed to be their job, part and parcel of the relationship you enter by signing with a publisher in the first goddamn place.) Some publishers just wanna cover you in Velcro and fling you at a wall in the hopes you stick, but that doesn’t always work, either. It’s best to demand that they actually have some plan in place, and ask to see that plan. You can even ask before you sign the contract. And you should.

So Wait, What Marketing Should You Do?

Note: I’m not saying you won’t do marketing and self-promo on your own. You will. You will shimmy and you will shake. You will dance that dance and sway that tail, sexy author monkey.

First, because selling those 10s to 100s books still has value — every book is a pebble thrown, and a pebble can create ripples. One reader likes it, and they tell their friends, and now you’ve sold more books. Or, at least, you’re now on a collective radar: maybe those friends don’t buy this book, but they take a chance on your next one. Pebbles and ripples, pebbles and ripples.

Also, your publisher can and should create marketing opportunities for you — but that still requires work on your part. They get you interviews, or article opportunities, or panels at cons — so, you go do them. More pebbles, more ripples. (One thing I’m a bit dubious about: blog tours. As the value of blogs wanes, I’m not sold on the efficacy of blog tours. Especially when the blogs are a smattering of no-name never-heard-of entrants.) And you can drum up those opportunities for yourself, too. You don’t need to rely on the publisher. But if you’re the only one drumming up those opportunities and the publisher is simply cheering you on: they’re not doing their job, because you’re doing it.

The Bestseller Machine

There exists a common myth in publishing that publishers can make a book a bestseller “if they want to,” just by spending money on it. It’s nonsense. Provably false. Some books just don’t hit — not because the books aren’t good, not because the publishers didn’t support them, but because, ha ha, who fucking knows? The stars didn’t align! Mercury in retrograde! You were cursed by an old wizard! You angered the gods with your breakfast choice! Shit happens. Life is weird. *puts in Ian Malcolm sunglasses and affects a Jeff Goldblum mumble* CHAOS THEORY.

That said, a publisher spending money means you’re not just an author throwing pebbles — they’re joining you in that act. In fact, they are a catapult flinging a fusillade of pebbles. Lot more ripples. Meaning, a far greater chance at achieving success. And note, too, it’s not just about spending money, but about smart marketing strategy, which is why you again should always ask for their strategy in marketing your book.

Beware: Failure As Proof Of Failure

Here’s a thing that sometimes happens: a publisher will agree to publish Your Book, not support it, and then when it comes time to support the next book or sign you up for more, they say, “But your last one didn’t sell.” So, your next book gets fewer marketing effort or they make a reduced offer. I think this happens less than it used to, as I hear (anecdotally) about it less often, but just the same, it’s crap. It’s like shooting out your tires in a race and then saying next time, “I won’t bet on you, because you lost that race.” “But you shot out my tires!” “Excuses, excuses.” Bookstores can do this, too — a big bookstore chain might say, your book didn’t sell well last time, so why carry your next one?

Beware Non-Competes, First-Looks, Etc.

Since we’re all OOH BEWARE right now, also beware contracts that want to lock you down with too many non-competes and first-look-deals and exclusives — y’know, just narrow your eyes at these. Does the contract prevent you from doing your job? Does it prevent you from earning a real living? Then get worried. Now, there are some caveats to this. The publisher has some skin in this game, and some of these clauses are not automatically demonic — after all, if they’re publishing your brand new BDSM EPIC FANTASY PICTURE BOOK AIMED AT READERS AGES 33-36, then you shouldn’t also be able to go and immediately sell a similar book to a different publisher. Bookstores only have so much finite shelf space, and you do not want to compete with yourself or your publisher. At the same time, if the publisher also wants to stop you from publishing non-fiction or young adult or unrelated work, then that’s a concern.

Now, if the publisher wants to pay you well to be a kept author, so be it. You pay me enough, I’ll be your fucking cabana boy. I will exfoliate you tenderly with my beard-loofa.

But you gotta pay to play, suckas.

Also Beware The Sinister, Mustache-Twirling Rights Grab

More beware: rights grabs. I covered that a bit above, where publishers want to lock up rights that don’t really belong to them, but there are other ways — they want the book in perpetuity, they want you to pay them for various privileges, etc. You can check out a site like Writer Beware, run by Victoria Strauss, to get an understanding of some such rights grabs.

Beware The Small Press

Controversial assessment: beware a lot of small presses. I know, I know. They often mean well. They’re often quite earnest. They’re not often malevolent. But I’ll tell you: most of the times I’ve seen writers have real struggles with publishers, its been small presses. Because small presses, however earnest and well-meaning, don’t always know what they’re doing.

I’ll tell you a story, with names redacted to protect the innocent, but –

I was at a con, and a writer came up and said, “I pitched my novel during the pitch session and I got a bunch of full requests,” meaning, publishers requested the full manuscript. Which is great. Except I knew of zero big publishers at this con. So, I said, who requested it? And this writer named off a bunch of publishers I had never heard of — which is not necessarily an indictment against them, as I have a brain like a sieve. Either way, I said, okay, that’s good — and I didn’t want to bust said writer’s bubble, but — maybe just maybe consider sending it elsewhere? If the book is good enough to warrant small press attention, maybe it’s good enough to warrant the attention of an agent or an editor at a bigger house. It’s worth the shot, at least — and if it doesn’t work, and only a small press is interested, well, okay. (Though there you gotta ask: if only small press is interested, it’s a Come To Book Jesus moment. Is your book actually good?)

Look, the tests for this are easy enough. Does the small press publish reputable authors? Have they been around for a lot of years? Do their books look professional and not like some dickbird with Microsoft Publisher 1998 sloppily slapped it together? Can they identify a marketing plan? Can they demonstrate being in bookstores? If not, nnnghyeah, then either aim for a bigger publisher, or self-publish that motherfucker.

Don’t publish with UNCLE DAVE’S BASEMENT PRESS, okay?

Yes, Self-Publishing Is Viable

I’m glad this part of the conversation is well-established, but self-publishing is a great path for those who are equipped to not just be writers, but also publishers. It’s particularly good with some genres — romance, space opera or military sci-fi, etc. — though it’s less good for middle grade and YA, because younger kids and teens aren’t shopping at Amazon as eagerly as we might have hoped. Still. It’s worth it. Try it. Fuck yeah, self-publishing.

Safety Through Diversification

You can protect your pooper by diversifying wildly. Write across: formats, genres, publishing models. E-book, physical, comic book, novel, self, traditional, hybrid, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, whatever. Do it all, if you want to, if you can. If one door closes, you’ve carved out other tunnels through which you may move. It’s like driving — stuck in traffic? Know your exits and your back roads. Something something eggs and baskets. Have multiple baskets. Have multiple eggs. I have chicken eggs, emu eggs, dragon eggs, elf eggs. That’s right. Elf eggs. I breed elves. Not just the cookie elves, either, but all kinds — haughty elves, trailer park elves, tiny elves, big elves, forest elves, city elves, sex elves ha ha what I did not say “sex elves,” you said sex elves. Pervert.

A Bad Agent Is Worse Than No Agent At All

You want an agent if you’re going traditional. Even if not, you may still want an agent because agents are good. I just sold rights to a self-pub book to a Russian publishing company.

But watch out for bad agents. A bad agent is like a bad critique group, except now the consequences are not just creative, they’re professional. A bad agent will lead you in the wrong direction, likely for a year or more, and it takes time to recover. Find an agent who gets what you write and who wants to curate your vision and your career, and not cram your gorgeous circle pegs into an uncomfortable square hole. That is not a sexual metaphor, by the way, so calm down. Also if you need sex elves, I know a guy. And I am that guy.

Make Sure Your Agent Is Equipped To Do All The Things You Need Them To Do

Again, your agent should not just be able to sell books domestically, but also foreign rights or film and TV rights. And if your agent can’t directly, the agency that supports you should have people. Or you should have access to sub-rights agents. Something. If those doors are closed to you, then your success and your financial world will be limited.

Sidenote: sometimes you need to fire your agent.

The Truth of the Trilogy

Small but necessary point: in genre fiction, publishers often buy trilogies or series. They scoop you up for a three-book deal, yay, hurrah, huzzah. And if your book is by necessity and design a trilogy or a series, go you. If it’s not… then maybe don’t force it.

Here’s the reality of selling to series: subsequent books in the series will never sell better than the first book. You’ll never sell 1000 of Book One, and 5000 of Book Two. So if Book One: Sword of the Sex-Elf, doesn’t do well, then Book Two: Song Of The Dragonfuckers, will do worse. And publishers… you know, I’ll be honest, publishers don’t always handle this part well. They pump money into the first book and expect it to carry the second. And it might. That can work. But if it doesn’t, then you need to pump more money into the second book and the first book to get people to buy into the series. And then the bummer part for you as an author is, suddenly you’re caught for three years writing into a series that isn’t selling well and you know won’t land well. It’s emotionally difficult, time-consuming, and not financially ideal.

Plus, I actually kinda miss standalone books.

When To Work For Free

Mostly, don’t. Don’t work for free. Rarely worth it. Exposure is something hikers die from, and authors can die from it, too. If you do work for free, know the concrete benefits, and be sure to control the work — as I am wont to say, if you’re going to be exposed, then goddamnit, expose yourself. Not like that. Put your pants back on. What are you, some kind of Sex Elf?

I’ll note here too that the FREE WORK request doesn’t always come from disreputable weirdos — sometimes, it comes from big publishers. “Oh, with your new book coming out, we think you should also write a short story and a novella that we will release alongside it for free.” Yeah, great, but you should be paid for those. I mean, YMMV, but the book is the book — the story and the novella won’t sell them, so you should see money for them.

You did the work. Get paid for the work.

What you do has value, so claim value for what you do.

Seriously, Get An Accountant

Yeah, do that. Get an accountant. Your taxes as a writer just got infinitely more fucked up, so you want someone to help you navigate this new labyrinth of pain. And it can help you, too, because as a writer, you can deduct all kinds of shit now. Also, if you make enough money, might be time to form a business — an LLC or something. I did it recently, because it was worth it to do so for the tax savings. At lower levels of yearly income, the value dissipates.

Have People You Can Trust Behind The Scenes — Embrace Community

The community is your friend. Other writers can tell you their experiences. Anecdotes are artisanal data, sure, but it can still help you traverse these tumultuous seas. And a note to editors, agents, publishing folk: writers talk. We know when you’ve been naughty, we know when you’ve been good. Publishing as an industry is often cloaked in robes of MYSTERY and MYSTICISM, but it doesn’t need to be. Talk to writers. Help ‘em. Let them help you. Onward.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job, Penmonkey

A lot of writers, I find, are eager to eject from their day jobs and leap into the writer career, naked and cackling. But the writing life — the career part — is a series of cliff mitigations. I am constantly aware of when the next cliff is coming — and it times out always with the end of my last contract. That’s when I drive over a cliff and die, so I have to pack in time and strategy to figure out how I’m going to make it over the next cliff — how I will leap that motherfucking chasm. That means writing this book but then also writing another or pitching another at opportune times to build a ramp or a bridge over the cliff.

You, too, have to worry about building that bridge or that ramp — and if you leave your day-job too soon, you will plummet into the void, not naked and cackling, but nude and screaming.

My advice for WHEN TO QUIT THE DAY JOB is plainly this:

Keep the day job until you cannot keep it any longer.

Keep it until you hit a crisis point: a point where you must sacrifice either the day job or the writing career. You are unable to do both, so you must do only one, and that is the time to ditch the day job because the writing job — meaning, one in which you are presently paid Actual Survival Money — cannot survive in the shadow of the day-to-day work.

It must become the day-to-day work.

And That’s It

Long post. I could keep talking, but I won’t.

I’m out.

*slings rifle over shoulder*

*goes to hunt unicorns*

Author Interview

Hi everyone. Hope you’re having a great day. Sort of dreary and wet here in Southern Indiana. but, I do want to share with you my author questionnaire on Jen Selensky’s blog. It was fun to be asked questions that I don’t often think about. Anything to get the cobwebs out of my head, right? Here goes.

Author Questionnaire

How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Tough question. I was always an avid reader, wrote some poems, loved English class and enjoyed writing reports. My first official thought was when, as a senior in high school, I won a writing contest about the personal and political life of Thomas Jefferson. We had a brief time to study his life after signing up. Then I, with others, sat in a room in the library and wrote non-stop for several hours. To my surprise – I had pretty much forgotten about the essay contest – I heard my name called and went on stage during awards day to collect a certificate and…drum roll please…a check.

I wrote many poems of angst as a teen and poems and stories as an adult. I just never imagined that I could do anything with them. Now I want to write all the time, but life gets in the way a bit.

Who are your favorite authors?

Eudora Welty – I love her voice

Mark Twain – amazing

Shakespear, of course

Leo Buscaglia

Henry D. Thoreau – I wrote a major paper based on Walden’s Pond in college.

Jodi Picoult…and many more

 

What are your greatest sources of inspiration?

Everything, really. Pictures, nature, an interesting word, or something sad often inspire poems.

Real life with a twist or a twisted real life – the twist is usually what makes the story inspiring.

Historical figures and chaotic eras that make me want to read more. Just yesterday, a print about two people, hanging in a college gallery, has inspired a future book. No one and no thing is safe from becoming part of a story.

 What genre(s) do you write?

I don’t want to be stuck in a particular genre. I love humor, and cultures that elicit both humor and tragedy. But, I am currently working on an historical novel. And, I want to experiment without feeling held back in a slot.

 Do you have any current or future projects?

I am currently working on my first historical novel and have another in mind. My goal, someday, is to write a non-fiction on mental health/healthy living. I have starts on many stories, so the possibilities are endless if I can type fast enough.

Do you have an author website?

I guess I need to put up an official author website, but I hate technology, so that’s a bump in the road.I have a blog, Brendawriting.Wordpress.com where I write about anything that inspires me from crab poop to a favorite teacher, and I have an Author Page at amazon.com where you can find out more about me and my books. Please check it out.

 Where can people find your work? (to purchase or just to read)

My work can be found on Amazon. See my author page there. Also, I’m at many book fairs and author events around Southern Indiana and Louisville area selling books to all takers.

 If you could feature just one title, what would it be?

Gracie and Marge: Kicking the Bucket Together. My first novel.

I love these characters and the messes they get into. You’ll find lots of humor, but also a statement about older people who still have a lot of life to live and inspiration to share with others.

I’m also proud of my collection of short stories, Life in Its Own Frame of Reference, based on some truth, a lot of fiction and just some dark stuff floating around in the deep recesses of my mind.

Do you have any pseudonyms?

I am who I am…whoops, I might have one pseudonym…nuff said about that.

Do you have any other hobbies besides writing?

There is so much to enjoy in life. I think everyone should have one or more things they enjoy, aside from work or their main passion (writing). I love to dance, play pickle ball, make wine, work with glass, easy hiking, walking, biking (the kind with pedals), reading, karaoke, zip lining, time with friends and family and more.

Tell us something interesting about yourself.

I am not technologically inclined, but I do my best. I love to laugh at good humor, not usually associated with anything techie. I am a grandmother, mother and wife. I enjoy all those parts that have added to who I was before. I feel blessed every day in spite of some occasional stormy clouds.

 Is there anything else you would like to share?

Hmm. I retired as a psychotherapist but continue to teach in the field at a local community college.

I enjoy traveling and anything that has to do with the beach.

And, my words of advice for anyone interested in starting or improving their writing is to join a good writing group. Other writers will encourage you and help you grow as a writer.

Thanks. This has been fun.

Brenda Drexler

#ThursdayDoors Cervantes’ Home in Madrid

What beautiful doors and their history. When I visited churches and museums in Italy and Germany, and walked the brick streets and alleys that are all about history, I felt the presence of those that came long before. It’s eerie and humbling.

Rereading Jane Eyre

Thursday Doorsis a weekly feature, hosted byNorm 2.0allowing door lovers to come together to admire and sharetheir favorite door photos from around the world. Everyone is invited to join in on the fun by creating their own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing it,between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time), byusing the blue link-up button onNorm’s blog.

Today I’m going to show you another door or two which I walked through several times a week for five years, The Faculty Of Philosophy and Arts in Cordoba, Spain.

This is the main door of the Faculty of Philosophy and Arts, in Cordoba, where I read my doctoral thesis on language learning strategies, over ten years ago. It’s also the place where I worked as Associate Professor of English for five years.

I taught English language and linguistics as well as Medieval, Renaissance…

View original post 1,027 more words

Polly wanted my cracker

I love the beach- the ocean, the sand, sights, sounds, and those adorable birds who run back and forth with the waves to catch little nibbles of the ocean’s offerings for lunch.

You know the fowl of which I speak – Johnathan Livingston Seagull…cute little buggers.

They get real excited when people throw bread and other people-junk to them.

I’ve always  been interested in their sense of community. You’ve seen them, if you’ve ever been to the beach. They stand in a formation, all of them facing the same direction. and they communicate so well, you can practically hear them, but you really just see the results.

But…I have seen the dark side of those seemingly adorable creatures. They watch us. They watch our movements, especially if we indicate in any way that we have…FOOD.

So, I’m lounging on the beach, my toes in the sand, the sun warming my legs, the breeze …well anyway, I wanted a snack. I pull out my store-bought cheese and cracker package and apparently I made the magic noise. Seagulls know a Keebler wrapper by its sound.

One second I’m holding a cracker between my thumb and forefinger, and the next it is gone. I’m stunned. My fingers are still in position, as if they are holding a cracker, but it’s not there.

So let me give you the slo-mo version of what happened. I unwrapped the peanut butter and cheese cracker package and extracted one cracker. The cracker was slowly moving toward my mouth via my two fingers. Little did I know that my movements were being eyeballed by a sneaky seagull with a plan.

He suddenly whisked around the back of my friend, then took a slight left toward my face, whacked his hard wing against my cheek, thereby viciously distracting and stunning me. I truly didn’t know what happened for a few seconds. I was staring at my two fingers, still together as if they were safely holding a cracker. “Where’d it go?”

Wouldn’t you ask the same?

If I hadn’t closed my eyes, as we often tend to do when something flies toward our face – except for baseball players, and other ball related sports – I would have been looking that thief in his sneaky little eye.

Think about that…his right eye would have been ready to stare me down. He was a bold little fowl in more than one way. He is the same feathery fiend who returned to the scene of the crime to hover around for a long while, waiting for another cracker opportunity.

So, take my advice. When you are relaxing on the beach and those adorable seagulls are hanging around, remember  – “If Polly wants a darn cracker, and you have one, cup that thing in your hands and eat it whole.”

Have a great day

Brenda

amazon.com/author/brendadrexlerwriting

 

 

 

 

 

What’s in a name?

So, I was wondering

how about you?

Have you ever wondered about biblical names? Some parents proudly name their children Joseph, Mary, or David, Stephen, Anthony, etc. And, if you are a little Catholic boy or girl, you get an extra saint name when you go through your confirmation. So, if you parents were having a bad day when you were born and forgot to give you a saintly name, you get another chance to choose to be Theresa, or Angela, or Patrick, or whatever, as long as the church has made that person a saint. Gotta have some standards. Can’t just name a kid with religious potential just any old name, willy-nilly.

When I went through the Confirmation process, I chose the beautiful name of Saint Theresa. I knew why at the time, but I would have to do some research to tell you, so you’ll have to do it yourself. By the way, it was a long time before I realized that Theresa wasn’t part of my legal name. Very disappointing.

I think I digress…

Back to my thoughts on biblical names…I thought this idea started this morning while I still rested in bed, trying to comply with my own mandate that I sleep in today. As soon as I wake each morning, I start thinking some weird stuff, one thing after another, and then I wonder where it all started. You know what I mean, right? Right?

I realize, now, that this all started on Christmas day, during Mass. Honest, I was really listening to the sermon. That’s why I’m here, now, writing this.

So, the priest was up there reading from Matthew 1, about who begat who in the 14x14x14 line of begetting, up to the point where Jesus was born in the house of David. After that, it didn’t matter who begat who. The Savior was born, and that’s why we have Christmas day and Mass and the tree, etc.

Now, I want to give some credit to the other disciples who mentioned all the major characters in the Bible, but it seems that Matthew was more thorough in his genealogy research, and they all don’t agree on who begat who, anyway, so who’s to say, right?

Well, there I sat in church, trying to keep up with all the begetting when what I really wanted was to hear some joyful news as that is the day we celebrate the birth of our Lord. I expected to hear the priest say loudly at the beginning of the service, “Merry Christmas.” Wouldn’t you expect to hear that, really? Noooooooooo….

Then the Christmas service was over, and we had sang and prayed and the organist was sweating, and still no mention of Christmas from the priest. I began to wonder…were we being punished for even expecting him to say Merry Christmas? Was he depressed? Bad mood? Coal in his stocking?

All this left me with was to think about those almost unpronounceable names in Matthew 1. Have you heard them? Read them? Then, it dawned on me that the names we relate to, that we can pronounce are the boring names, like, David, Joseph, Anthony, Ann, John, etc.

Aha! I thought. These are all pivotal names. Names that signify big change. Was that all part of the big plan, or has someone been inking their own version of names in these holy writings. Now, I understand that mere humans wrote the Bible, so we know how we tend to favor certain names, and we writers know how one name works better than another, so I understand how they might have wanted to change some names around for the sake of understanding.

One funny thing about all this, some parts of what I am writing comes to me in the voice of George Carlin, crazy, weird comedian…just imagine him going through the list and stopping to pronounce DAVID in only the deep way he could…

 

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and his brothers, Perez and Zerah, Tamar, Hezron, Amminadab, Nahshon, Salmon, Boaz, Rahab, Obed, Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram,

Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah,Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

 After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Zerubbabel, Abihud, Eliakim,

Azor, Zadok, Akim, Elihud, Eleazar, Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob,

and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

So why don’t we hear of any little Christian children named Zadok, Elihud, Zerubbabel,  Uzziah, Shealtiel, Jehoshaphat ( is that jumping Jehoshaphat?).

Yep. I’d feel mighty sorry for the teacher and children in the kindergarten class when roll is called.

So, now I think I have my answer. We can’t pronounce or spell it, we don’t give it to our kids.

And, of course, we aren’t going to name our children, usually, for the bad guys in the old or new testament. Not too many Lucifers around these days. Cain isn’t a good choice, as his only fame is killing his brother, and helping to screw up the early years even more. However, Adam and Eve are well liked names; in spite of their mistake they are still seen as good folks.

I tell you, I am not trying to be sacrilegious or in any way defame anything biblical. It’s just that when my mind is not otherwise entertained or busy at work, it goes in strange directions. And, I notice the weirdest things and have to write or talk about them.

If this makes any impression on you, let it be to say, Merry Christmas when it is, and please don’t name your child Zerubbabel.

 

Have a great day

Brendawriting

Things Truly Successful People Never Do

Found this on a cool blog. Words to make you think about who you are. Am I being the person I really want to be? Are you?

Things Truly Successful People Never Do

This morning I found this article from Inc. about success.  The information is so good I have to share!

the universe will remove

“1. Successful people refuse to fit in a box.

“Thinking outside the box” is a business cliché writ large. But truly successful people do more than that–they live outside the box.

They don’t let other people define them, whether those other people are malicious or well-meaning. They don’t listen to the jealous boss who tells them that they’ll never be a leader. Perhaps more important, they don’t hedge their ambitions because a parent or a teacher told them that–for example–they’re “good with numbers” but not creative, or an excellent team player but not a leader. They don’t just develop their strengths. They define their strengths.

Challenge: What external expectation do you need to let go of?

2. Successful people don’t bear grudges.

It takes a lot of effort to win a battle. But when you bear grudges, it’s like you’re fighting a war that only one side even knows about.

Sure, if we bothered, most of us could probably dig deep into our pasts and find a time when we were wronged–almost unforgivably wronged. Even thinking about it, however, hands another victory to whoever wronged you. Direct your energy at something else–the things you truly care about.

Challenge: We all hold on to some things too long. What transgression do you need to forgive?

3. Successful people refuse to argue over “nothings.”

Again: wasted energy.

You’re not going to convince that diehard Trump/Hillary/Bernie supporter on Facebook to change his or her mind. Truly successful people spend their energy on things they can truly affect.

Challenge: What deeply held conviction holds you back? Are you prepared to let it go?

4. Successful people refuse to quit.

Successful people are often more successful simply because they work harder. And they work harder in part because the work they do doesn’t feel like work–at least, it doesn’t feel like drudgery. Their work is the kind of thing they’d do even if they weren’t paid for it (and sometimes, they aren’t!).

However, whether it’s rewarding or not, they don’t ignore the important work that needs to be done.

Challenge: You don’t have to say it aloud, but when was the last time you blew off something important and covered it with excuses? Are you planning to do it again anytime soon?

5. Successful people never betray their values.

At the end of everything, what else do you have besides your deeply held values?

Maybe you have a deep religious faith. Maybe you think it’s wrong to eat meat. Maybe you’d never root for an American League baseball team because you think the designated hitter ruined the sport. These are your values, not mine, my friend–and I’m sure they’re tested all the time. Truly successful people don’t have a lot of non-negotiables, but the ones they do have are sacrosanct.

Challenge: Can you articulate your core values? Even more important, are they obvious to others?

6. Successful people never betray friends or family.

Of course, this doesn’t mean letting yourself be rolled over. You have to stick up for yourself. However, truly successful people know that if your close family and true friends can’t trust you, why would anyone else?

Challenge: Um, when was the last time you called your folks?

7. Successful people never lose sight of their goals.

Identifying and pursuing your goals means the difference between spinning your wheels and actually getting somewhere. You’ll put in the same effort regardless of how well you focus on objectives, but if your aim is deficient, chances are that you’ll just be helping someone else achieve his or her goals.

Challenge: Can you articulate your three most important goals? What have you done today to make them come true?

8. Successful people combat self-doubt in all its forms.

Fear is normal, even healthy–but defeatism is a disease. I’m not sure where it comes from, but we all face it. Successful people refuse to give in, but what’s more, they make it part of their mission to help other people overcome self-doubt, too.

The easiest way to do that? Demonstrate respect for others in all that you do.

Challenge: Have you built up someone else’s ego today? If not, is it because you’re afraid that doing so will tear down your own self-worth? (Overcome that!)

9. Successful people refuse to betray their health.

Another non-negotiable. None of us lives forever, yet the temptation is always there to trade fitness, or sleep, or well-being for a pauper’s price–a few extra bucks, a little bit of esteem in a boss’s eyes. Truly successful people have no room for that in their lives. Their health is one of their top priorities.

Challenge: What’s the one thing you should do differently to ensure you have a better chance at living a long time–and well?

10. Successful people refuse to be dominated by others.

We all face bullies in our lives. Truly successful people don’t put up with them. They find ways to prevail. They don’t necessarily fight the other guy on his turf, but they find a way to win.

Beware that you don’t contradict the rule about not holding grudges with this one, but successful people find that standing up for themselves often means standing up to someone else.

Challenge: Who are the bullies you know? What have you done to offset their impact on others?

11. Successful people never give in to competition.

This is a multifaceted element. Successful people never run from competition–but they don’t let themselves be suckered into being measured by somebody else’s rules. They understand the wisdom of the reverse of that old lottery slogan: “You can’t lose if you refuse to play.”

At the same time, when they win, they can take a compliment. Truly successful people don’t gloat, but they also don’t minimize their contributions when other people are eager to offer them praise.

Challenge: What competitions are you engaging in that aren’t truly worthwhile?”

Riding the Big Woody

You know those things you get to do when you are entertaining kids, like take them to goofy movies, make flubber, put together giant farm puzzles, watch ants be so busy? I was recently thinking about some of those things – missing my grandchildren, I think. I said to myself, “I don’t have to have kids with me to be silly.” I’ve gone to the park to swing without little people. I’ve done lots of silly things as an adult. I’m lucky enough to have silly friends.

On a hike with adult friends at Clifty Falls we came across a playground with a swing-set. What did we do? Well, we did some swinging, of course. Anytime I get on a swing, I have the most vivid memories from my childhood of one of my favorite things to do-swing. I loved the sense of flying, the breeze in my long blonde hair as it nearly touched the ground when I would lean back and point my toes toward the sky.

I think the thing I enjoyed most was the wind in my face and hair. A sense of freedom, weightlessness, unconnected to the world around me. Many activities that I have enjoyed have been just like that – maybe challenging and adventurous, but the wind in my face and a sense of freedom – or even total control.

Well, today I am happy to say that the wind was in my face, and I felt free and in control, just for the fun of it. What did I do, you ask? I, and my husband – he just goes along with a lot of my ideas, bless his heart – went to The Track, in Gulf Shores, AL., and road the three story wood go-cart track. We were the only two people on the track, riding recklessly, as fast as we could get our carts to go. The attendants let us go extra rounds as they had nothing else to do. We raced each other, we cut close corners. We laughed and the wind blew in our faces. What a cool day.

If there is a moral to this, it is probably – don’t wait on anybody. Enjoy today! Follow your passion. Accept a challenge. Relive your childhood now and then. And keep making memories for tomorrow.

 

And Then There Was Crab POOP

A few thoughts that began as I pondered my feet in the sand.

And Then There Was Crab Poop

The waves crash against the shore one day and gently roll in and out the next. I watch the diamonds sparkling across the water, alive, moving, almost blinding in their brilliance as I stare at their beauty, their luster, created by the vibrant sun sparkling in the moving water.

I am enchanted, mesmerized, awe-struck by water in nature, especially the ocean. I people watch. People interacting with and drawn to the ocean, its sounds, power, salty smell and taste. There is something intrinsically biological in the way we are drawn toward the water. I’ve watched in the early hours of the morning as vacationers drift from their hotels or condos, still sleepy-eyed, to welcome the ocean as it awakes into the morning light.

I like to walk the pier, usually early evening, along with many others. We go to watch fishermen with their heavy-duty equipment, meant to make their wishes come true, to lure and catch the biggest and best the ocean has to offer. Sometimes it happens. But really, I think the others are there for the same reason I am there. We look over the rails into the inky blackness below, hoping to see something magical or exotic, maybe something that would scare us if we were in the water rather than safely leaning against railing that hold the last breath and smell of fish that were gutted and cleaned nearby.

 

Why? What is the lure (chuckle)? Why do some return to the beach year after year to spend their hard earned money to become one with the beauty, splendor and power of the waters? Others yearn to retire by a beach so that they can experience it daily, so they plan and save and hope.

I sit lazily in my beach chair today and watch children, and adults who play like children, and teenagers who are being a bit of both. The water is crystal clear today and gentle, as opposed to yesterday’s rough waves as the result of a hurricane that ravaged Florida’s east coast. Boogie boards and buckets and shovels and nets amuse me as I observe how we humans interact with something so powerful and dynamic, without thinking of it as anything more than a giant swimming hole.

That is, until it isn’t. The amount of water that covers our earth is breathtaking if you take the time to ponder the dimensions. The fact that it is almost alive, palpable, as it moves, ebbing and waning, not just today or yesterday but for all time, as we know it.

 

“I don’t want to go in. There are fish in there,” cried a young child in an adorable, pink-ruffled swimsuit.

 

Really? Fish? The ocean is their home. Whales and sharks, sting ray, jellyfish, blue marlin, tuna, ugly things and creatures of such majesty in their beauty they take your and my breath away, and I don’t want to forget, crabs of all kinds, they all live naturally in those great waters, living, surviving, procreating and – sorry about this delicate news – even pooping.

I have been lucky enough to experience some of the wonders the ocean has to offer. From various piers at different locations, I have seen giant sea turtles, beautiful, yet huge and scary jellyfish, and dolphins gracefully arching into the air, completing a dance long enjoyed by their species.

Last year I was just as excited as all the little children who gathered around a helmet crab that literally looked like an old army helmet with a large upside-down crab inside. The helmet crab was spotted close to shore by a young man who was swimming. He carefully caught the interesting creature in his shirt and brought it to shore to share its wonder with the children. My grandsons and others, including me, were mesmerized, seeing this strange creature of the sea that we will, most likely, never see again. I felt huge admiration for the young fellow who walked the helmet crab back into the ocean, and set it free, again.

This summer, I saw a sting ray swimming close to shore, and followed it down the beach a while (on a cruise I chose an excursion to swim with sting ray, and have never regretted the amazing experience as they glided around me, circled my legs and body, gentle, as curious as I was)– a nest of baby turtles – jellyfish – and crabs. I saw a lot of fish on my plate at a favorite eatery by the beach, but that’s another story.

Today, I saw something that created a memory that will never go away, that filled me with sadness. I walked with my wonderful husband down the beach, after too much lazing in the shade of our umbrella. A mid-size stingray washed up on the beach and no one seemed to notice. Or maybe they had and didn’t know what to do. I was shocked. I took advantage of a wave rushing in and splashed the poor thing to determine if it was alive. It didn’t move. Then I saw his ugly injury. His had no tail. It looked as if it had been ripped away from him. This doesn’t happen naturally. A propeller? I feel shame that this could be the result of a human action. If the sting ray had been alive, I would have helped him back into the water. Like others, I waited for the tide to take it home.

The ocean is vibrant and wondrous and doesn’t need us to be so. We are lucky to be able to enjoy it for all the reasons important to us. But, it is more than a place to swim and boat and ski. We will do well to respect it and the life it supports.

~.~

Back to the meaning of the title of this essay. I must say, I love experiencing and learning about the large and small wonders of the ocean blue. Have you ever walked along the beach enjoying the waves as they sweep over your feet? Do you enjoy seeing those tiny critters that get washed up by the waves, then stick their little bottoms up and swiftly dig into the sand? They are amusing, and I have to wonder how many times a day they have to repeat this action.

A couple years ago, while walking along the beach, I watched the drama repeated as the little critters were washed up by the waves, stuck their backsides in the air and, as usual, dug themselves into the sand. Now, if you’ve ever seen an ant hill, you will get this picture I’m about to describe.

As I walked along I realized they had added a new element to their process of digging in. Around the little holes they also left mounds of dirt, just like ants do.

“Wow,” I said. “Never seen this before.”

Later, I sat near the water, letting the waves wash up on my feet. I became suspicious. I watched the waves stir up what I thought was sand, but I didn’t like the looks of it. I moved back to the umbrella and pondered the situation.

Then an older couple were stepping into the water that had increased in its brownness. The woman was hesitant. She didn’t know what was discoloring the water, but her husband assured her it was sand stirred up by the waves.

I was skeptical. I had to know the truth. I walked down the beach to where a young lifeguard enjoyed the sun’s rays.

 

“Hello,” I called out. “Can you tell me what the brown stuff is in the water and on the sand?” I was afraid of the answer, but waited breathlessly.

 

He looked down at me and smiled, then said, like it’s something he says every day, “Crab poop.”

“Crab poop?”

“Yep. Crab poop.”

 

Well, I Googled this one. Had to. You would, too. Right? So, apparently those cute little critters are small crabs. An interesting phenomenon, according to my thinking, is that they save their poop until their shells are so full that they have explosive events. I can’t say they have bowel movements, but their poop just explodes out of their shells spontaneously. I thought this was very interesting, but could not find out why they all do it at once, on the same day, at the same beach. I mean, really? Thousands of them. I could not find the answer to this, but it just shows how amazing the creatures of the sea are and how in sync they are with their fellow crab.

 

The moral of the story is, if it looks like poop…