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POV REARING ITS UGLY HEAD AGAIN

January 23, 2019

Not only does the subject of point of view (POV) come up a lot in the writer’s forums I participate in, but it’s always on my mind. This is especially true around the holidays, when I usually get a batch of icky bug books from Amazon.

As often happens, I have to resort to that huge you-know-who on-line retailer for my creature feature novels because the only game in town physical bookstore doesn’t carry them. As often as not, the big six rarely, if at all, publish icky bug. If they do, it’s the standard fare by Dean Koontz and Stephen King and a select few other authors. Granted, once in a while these guys and gals hit one out of the park, but not that often. Let me backtrack a bit. Koontz used to all the time, while to me, King never did until his latest one. That’s just me. Then again, I never considered their work that much creature feature except maybe Koontz’s earlier work.

There are plenty of other authors in the past that have snuck through in the big six, but nowadays, I have to slog through the science fiction/fantasy shelves only to waste most of my time and come away empty handed.

Hence, I can go on-line to you-know-who and have instant access.

The only drawback is that most of these tomes are self-published, or of self-published quality. That’s not a slam at self-publishing per se, but an indication that these authors don’t have to follow any rules. Not that the big six necessarily do, either, especially nowadays, but it’s a lot more blatant with self-publishing, especially with creature features.

WHAT I GET

I got a big box of Christmas presents, per my choosing, chock full of icky bug. Creature features galore! I read one that was outstanding. I personally know the author, and knew what I was getting. In this case, I wasn’t disappointed. Score one five star.

My next one was a killer shark feature. Uh…let me back up a bit.

I’ll tell you right up front. The very first thing I do is check the “Look inside” feature on each novel. I scan through it, just like I’d do in the bookstore. I check that it’s in third-person, past-tense. That’s my only requirement at the outset. I don’t go any deeper than that because I don’t want to spoil the potential surprises.

What that quick scan doesn’t tell me is how well the author handles POV. I get that once I dig deep onto the actual reading.

In the case of the first shark story (there were a few more), oh boy! This turned out to be everything I wanted in icky bug. Lots of monster (one each), and plenty of mayhem. The ending was redeemable as well. The problem was the horrid writing.

There was NO POV whatsoever! The author head-hopped all over the place, not only within chapters, but within scenes right down to within paragraphs and from sentence to sentence. There was no way to get invested in any character. The only thing that saved this story at all was the limited number of characters so that I was able to latch on to the two hero cops that were sort of the MCs. Unfortunately, one was so unlikable right until the very end that it was hard not to root for him to get eaten.

Not only that, but the grammar, syntax and typos were reeking of self-publishing quality. At least the cover was great.

The third one was an alien icky bug and just like the shark one, the POV was all over the place. The head-hopping wasn’t quite as bad, but it was still bad. There was no way to get emotionally involved in the characters because I couldn’t get inside their heads when all of a sudden, it shifted to another character, then back and then on to another character. To top it off, the ending was a bummer. Score another three star for that one.

The next one in this batch was marginally better, writing-wise, but the point of view was all over the place, just like the shark one. So goes the rest of the batch. There were a few gems mixed with the duds. I sort of enjoyed all of them, but the ones I really enjoyed had controlled point of view and survivors, not to mention decent editing.

This is really disappointing that the only way to get good creature feature stories is with the same old lousy omniscient and head-hopping point of view with no emotional investment in any of the characters.

It just plain sucks!

WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE FORUMS

There have been multiple discussions on the forums lately about point of view and their various forms. I get a lot of flack for my opinions.

The biggest one is “why limit yourself?”

Ah duh!

After 60+ years of reading, I’ve had plenty of time to experiment around and find out what works best and what doesn’t.

I know my limit for self-torture.

I suffer enough already just reading third-person omniscient. I’m certainly not going to suffer even more with first-person or anything present-tense.

Yet, I have all these authors pressing for first-person, and present-tense and what’s even worse, mixed POVs. I find that very annoying and jarring. I’ve seen that style used lately from the big six as well.

I can see a POV shift when it comes to maybe a diary entry if it’s kept short. However, entire chapters?

Sorry, that’s pushing things.

I CANNOT SPEAK FOR EVERYONE AND DON’T INTEND TO

There are plenty of you who do not see things my way and that’s fine. I will not buy your books. There are people who will maybe buy one of your books, and never again. There will be people who will become huge fans. That’s great.

I know I’m also not alone I my feelings.

I’m just presenting my side of things.

Third-person past-tense CONTROLLED POV is by far, at least to me, the easiest and best way to write.

You don’t have to agree, but after 60+ years of reading, I’ve found that when I read a book and it’s done right, I don’t feel like I’m reading at all. I feel like I’m escaping into another world, and the writing is not getting in the way of the story.

I’m not having to overcome the writing to get to the story.

It’s as simple as that.

It may not fit your paradigm and that’s fine.

I know for a fact it DOES fit for a lot of others.

Happy writing!

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SUPPORTING FELLOW AUTHORS

January 16, 2019

There’s nothing that makes me feel better than supporting fellow authors. I do it through mentoring and through my blog here at Fred Central. I do it by plugging them wherever I feel appropriate on social media and elsewhere.

I do it by also buying and reviewing their books.

However…

BUYING BOOKS

As much as I like to support my fellow authors, for practicality reasons, I have to be choosy about which books I buy. I can’t afford to buy every book by every author friend I know.

To be blunt, some books I know aren’t going to be very good. I’ve either heard or read parts of these books and know what they’re going to be like.

On the other hand, there are those that are in a genre or point of view I don’t read. Nothing against the person, but even though I support them, I won’t buy their book because it’s written in first-person, it’s heavily omniscient, it’s present-tense, or it’s a subject matter I’d never EVER read.

There’s just so much money I can afford to fork out for books.

Besides, I could not in good conscience give them a glowing review for something I clearly don’t like.

I WOULD EXPECT THE SAME FROM THEM

I expect the same from my fellow authors as well. I know most of them don’t read what I write. Besides, many of them have already heard my stories at the writer’s group meetings. Plus, certain of them I’ve given copies of my books as thank you’s for their support, knowing full well they’ll never actually read it.

On the other hand, I have lots of writer acquaintances and I don’t expect them to buy my book and review it just because I know them. I’m pretty sure they don’t expect the same from me either.

On the other hand, I DO support and plug my fellow authors whenever I’m out and about. It’s all part of networking.

When I hear from readers looking for a particular genre and I know of a fellow writer that has one in the can, I’m sure to mention their book before I cite the well-known authors. They can always look the big ones up on their own. It’s a lot harder to find those of us in the trenches!

WE’RE NOT IN THE BIG SIX

We’re not in the big six of the publishing world, so we need to support each other any way we can. I always try to do my part.

If you have a book with a subject I’m interested in, it’s written in solid third-person, past-tense, and is NOT omniscient, I may just buy it from you. If it has a good positive ending, I’ll probably give it a great review as well. If it’s bad, I’ll more than likely not review it at all. That doesn’t mean I won’t support you in other ways, though.

We’re all in this together and the worst part of this whole process is the marketing. We have to help market each other. Just by giving a good word or mentioning each other now and then does a world of good, even if we don’t read what you write, or particularly like your style.

SUMMARY

I buy books at the bookstore all the time. Granted, they’re usually from the big six. However, I’m supporting them as fellow authors as well, because even though they have a big machine behind them, they’re still just like us. If you happen to write something I’m interested in and it’s written in the style I read, I’ll certainly give it a try as well.

Happy writing!

 

 

WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE THE MUSE

January 9, 2019

I talked recently about the muse, and how one friend believes the muse is just a made up term, an excuse for not writing. It’s an excuse for writer’s block.

Whatever term you want to use, your inspiration has to come from somewhere.

The other day, I was on one of my forums and someone posted the question asking everyone for ideas on what to write about. They ran out of ideas, couldn’t think of where to start, or just wanted a fresh idea other than their own.

My answer was (in a nutshell) that if you had to ask, you either needed to give up for a while, or find another genre to write in.

Why?

If you’re so uninspired that you can’t think of a thing to write about, you shouldn’t be writing.

Period.

There’s no point struggling. Whatever you DO write will just be forced, and it will show.

FOR BETTER OR WORSE

The whole point of writing for pleasure is to write for pleasure. Unless you’re a professional, in which you’re given assignments and have goals and subjects, you’re doing this on your own.

By doing it on your own, it’s supposed to be fun, to be inspired, to be something you WANT to do.

If you have to ask others for ideas, it’s not you. You’re now writing for everyone else, not yourself. Your inspiration isn’t you anymore.

For better or worse, you’re no longer doing it for pleasure, you’re doing it because you think you have to. Or, you’re taking the mercenary approach.

HOW DID WE ALL START?

Some of us started with a specific goal in mind. Granted, this goal might not have been the most inspired of intentions. Say, to write a memoir.

Rather than dictate it to someone else, say…a stranger, you decided to take up writing and do it yourself. It’s like a one-time project. One-and-done.

Then there are those of us who love to read and are inspired to tell our own stories. We take up the task of learning to write so we can get our stories out there.

There are every variety of extremes in-between as well.

When we take up writing, go through the trouble/work/hassle of learning to write, then don’t have any more ideas, what then?

Why bother?

NEVER OUT OF IDEAS

While this individual asking the question the other day is far from alone, I cringe every time I hear questions like that. I actually hear that type of question more than you might imagine. Since I participate in several writing forums, questions on “what should I write about?” pop up all the time.

Most of the time I don’t respond, but once in a while I feel compelled to say something. I don’t mean it in a malicious way, but if you’re a writer, why?

I’ve been at this for twenty plus years, and there’s no way in my lifetime I’m ever going to be able to complete the novels and/or short stories for all the ideas I have, all the plot lines I’ve mapped out in my head, all the inspirations (muses) I’ve bounced around. It’s all a matter of harnessing the best ones and the ones I can recall when it’s time to sit down and commit to one.

I sincerely feel for those writers that have to get on line and ask the writing community to give them ideas of what to write about. If they’re that uninspired or that lacking in ideas, they need to seriously re-think why they’re a writer at all. Maybe they just need a mental kick in the pants. Maybe they’re brimming with ideas but they’re so disorganized, it’ll take something to bring them to the surface. Maybe there’s stress in their life that’s blocking those ideas.

Or, maybe they just picked the wrong passion to pursue. Maybe they need to take up woodworking, sewing, bike riding, or tennis?

SUMMARY

Writing isn’t for everyone. To be a writer, you have to have something to write. If you’re just a blank slate and have to ask everyone else what to write about, maybe you could succeed as a technical writer, albeit, an uninspired one. As a fiction writer, you probably need to find another passion.

Happy “inspired” writing!

GRAMMAR LESSON SEVEN

January 1, 2019

We’re back with another set of similar sounding words with entirely different meanings.

Our illustrious former Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente, Linda Webber, has been presenting grammar lessons each week on the back of our meeting agendas. The gist of them are the improper use of words.

As a reminder, I’ll add the standard intro below before I get into the word list.

BACK IN THE DAY

I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn, a famous musician. During our correspondence, I once told him I was waiting with “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath. He’s never let me live that one down.

The proper use of words is something a lot of (especially) new writers don’t always get. So, for your reading pleasure, below is a list of words and how to use them properly.

The list is not near complete, so that’s why this is called Grammar Lesson Seven.

Once again, my many thanks to Linda Webber, who has gone through the trouble to compile these words all in one place for me to steal and present to you here at Fred Central.

These are common words that are often used out of context. They can be a quandary for a writer, and a quick trip to a dictionary, or on line.

COMMON SIMILAR SOUNDING WORDS (WITH ENTIRELY DIFFERENT MEANINGS)

Loath                          Reluctant, unwilling

She was loath to eat the burger.

Loathe                        To hate

I loathed getting a haircut.

Loose                          To unfasten: To set free

She let the squirrel loose and it scampered off

Lose                            To be deprived of, to be unable to find

If you don’t put your wallet back in your pocket, you’re going to lose it.

Meter                          A measuring device

The gas meter showed a large consumption the past month.

Metre                          A metric unit, rhythm in verse

Carl tried to get the metre of the chorus so he could keep up with the song.

Militate                       To be a powerful factor against

The two parties’ views militate against a common core of reference.

Mitigate                      To make less severe

Because he gave them the location of the loot, that mitigated his sentence to six months instead of a year.

Palate                          The roof of the mouth

The pudding slid smooth against his palate.

Palette                         A board for mixing colors

She dabbed three colored paints together on the palette and created ochre.

Pedal                           A foot-operated lever

Randy had never used a clutch pedal before and when he tried, he stalled the truck.

Peddle                         To sell goods

Oscar peddled dry goods at the fair.

Council                       A group of people who manage or advise

The city council voted on the measure three to one.

Counsel                      Advice, or to advise

I really appreciated my dad’s counsel when I was growing up, though I didn’t show it much.

Cue                             A signal for action or a wooden rod

Stephanie took her cue from the director and hit the stage.

Queue                         A line of people or vehicles

The queue to get in to see the Tut exhibit was over a mile long.

Curb                           To keep something in check or a control or limit

I’ve been told to curb my enthusiasm by my pessimistic friend.

Kerb                           In British English it’s the stone edge of pavement

Sally tripped over the kerb when she crossed the street.

Currant                      A dried grape

My best friend loves currant pie, but I can’t stand it.

Current                      Happening now, or a flow of water, air or electricity

Jack eased the dingy out into the river where the current pushed it further downstream.

Defuse                        To make a situation less tense

The cops came in to defuse the situation, but their uniforms only added to the tension.

Diffuse                                    To spread over a wide area

The dandelion spread in a diffuse pattern over the lawn.

SUMMARY

Once again, thanks to Linda Webber for her hard work putting these original words together!

Happy writing!

DOES A BLOG REALLY DO ANY GOOD?

December 25, 2018

On one of the forums I participate in, someone asked the question about the value of a blog. Apparently, she’s not gained any spectacular results from hers. I’ve had Fred Central going since 2012, and I can attest to that in many ways. My results have been less that spectacular compared to some, and I don’t mind saying so.

You may wonder why I don’t just give up. Why do I spend the $26 a year to keep loading this site with more and more info that relatively few people ever bother to look at? Others seem to put little effort into their sites and get thousands of hits a day.

Several reasons.

I don’t give up easily.

I love to write.

I just don’t give a crap about the numbers.

I HAVE had some positive results in all this effort and that’s all that matters to me.

HAS ALL THIS HELPED SELL MY BOOKS?

The main purpose of a web site isn’t necessarily to sell your books as much as to be a central clearing house for information on you, your books and what’s going on. Maybe in the good old days the web site might’ve been the go-to place for the author. However, with the advent of social media, it seems like web sites have gone out of fashion. Sites like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram get much more media scrutiny, as well as other marketing tools.

I can’t swear that my web site has helped me sell any of my books. Not a one. Maybe, but you couldn’t put me on the stand and have me swear to it.

On the other hand, even though my marketing on Facebook seems to have, for the most part, been a dismal failure, I have at least verified some results from that. I’ve verified sales.

I have pages on my site for each of my books. To help market them, I post a weekly snippet about each one, leaving a link on their Facebook page drawing them here. Maybe people read them, maybe not. My stats don’t show either way, at least so far.

SO, WHY DO I DO IT?

Way back when, the technology and the media was different. Every author was encouraged to develop a web site and a blog. That still holds today, but the emphasis on their use might’ve shifted a bit. Some authors don’t have web sites anymore, and just have social media. Others are old school, have no social media at all, and go for a blog. Others have no internet presence at all, and seem to do just fine.

Me, being of the relatively late fledgling internet crowd, as I call it, developed my Word Press web site, and decided to make it multi-purpose. I wanted something I could use for all my different genre books, and also use for my other interests. It would be a central location for my hobbies as well.

A funny thing happened along the way. Over the years, I’ve found my hits on the web site have varied from specific articles on my blog, to my hobby pages.

Yup, sometimes, certain blog articles got all the hits, while at other times, my hobby pages overwhelmed my blog articles.

Go figure.

In any case, my hits are nothing to brag about, but nothing to quit over. I can say it’s nothing in the thousands, like some people I know.

A steady trickle that varies from day to day, week to week, month to month.

I have a steady group of followers. I also follow back a lot of them.

That’s enough to encourage me to keep going. Plus, I have received feedback and results.

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

Numbers that would discourage most, have no effect on me.

Why?

Results.

Once in a while, I get feedback. Sometimes it’s direct notes to my web site. Most of the time though, it’s private e-mails or off-had comments face-to-face through people I meet.

Someone read one of these articles here and got something useful out of it.

That, folks, is the reason I’m here.

Plus, some of these articles are re-posted on the newsletter Writer’s Tricks Of The Trade, the quarterly put out by my friend Morgan St. James.

This all means that somehow, somewhere, my blathering about writing is doing some good, having an impact.

That, my friends, is what I’m here for. That, is why I haven’t given up since starting this blog in 2012. That, is why I keep writing about writing.

Happy writing!

EVOLVING INTO HUMDRUM – RUNNING A SERIES DRY

December 19, 2018

I originally posted this article in 2015 when Fred Central was only three years old. I was about to publish my first book, Treasure Of The Umbrunna and I received a lot of questions about whether it was going to be a trilogy. Why? Because it was a fantasy and because of Lord Of The Rings, everyone assumed I’d follow that pattern. Nope. Just like with my Gold series and Lusitania Gold, which saw publication in 2017, trilogy has never entered the picture.

This brings up the thought of a series, how long it should be and how to keep it going. The best writers can keep them going (it seems like) forever, while others burn out relatively fast.

Why burn out?

The characters evolve too far.

Below is the original article, tweaked with my latest thoughts, especially since I now have three books under my belt with no sign of stopping.

ORIGNAL INTRO

I think back to when I first joined the Air Force. I was a terrible Airman as far as military bearing. However, I loved being a mechanic, especially when it came to electrical stuff. In fact, I was good enough that my bosses tended to overlook my personal foibles with my wrinkled uniform and ratty hair because I got things fixed. The other side of the coin was that because I got things fixed, and because I had a natural ability with multiple choice tests, I worked myself right out of what I loved doing. In one respect, I shot myself in the foot. On the other hand, I did my body a world of good and though I’m paying for it now with plenty of health issues, it could’ve been worse. The point is that I evolved. That made me think of characters in series that evolve. The intent is well-meaning, but the end result can ruin a good thing.

BANDS

I think about some of my favorite rock bands. I often loved their first few albums, but then the musicians got bored, or decided to evolve their sound to become more commercial. They changed into something I didn’t like as much. I look at the huge album shelf next to me, as I type this, and see bands with one or two (out of five or more) albums that are great, while the rest are just meh. The thing is, those meh albums are usually their biggest sellers. Go figure. Then again, after those big sellers, the bands faded as musical tastes changed and the groups broke up for various reasons.

TV SHOWS

TV shows usually have a much shorter shelf life. The first few episodes start with a bang. That’s the thing that attracts audiences to them in the first place. Then, the writers and the audience get bored. Pressure is on to “evolve” the characters, to keep the numbers up. Before long, the show either flops, or becomes way more popular. More often than not, it’ll not be the same animal it was in those first few shows. Once that evolution takes place, it’s make or break time to soar or fizzle out. Shows that stick to a formula seem to last longer. They take a lot of flack for sticking to said formula, but they gain dedicated viewers who stay with them.

BOOKS

I’ve fallen in love with a book series, only to have the characters evolve into something I don’t like anymore. The characters and plotting grow right out of what attracted me in the first place. They become something a far cry from what I read in book one.

The authors run the series dry and move on to something else. Fin. Done.

Maybe it was their plan all along. Maybe the author gets as bored as the audience. Maybe the story arc made the end inevitable, at least to the author.

What if you want the story to live on?

PROS AND CONS

Many readers love and expect characters to evolve. There are others that don’t. I think there’s room for both.

Some people think it’s mandatory to evolve, like there’s some cosmic rule that you have to evolve the characters, or what’s the point, and bla bla bla.

I say bull.

You don’t have to do anything. It’s your world.

Why not be like AC/DC and don’t fix something that isn’t broken?

I have no issue with the character evolving a little. Maybe put in small changes or details along the way, but nothing that requires or forces the character to change character. A natural progression is fine as long as you don’t fix something that isn’t broken – something that’ll kill the series.

There’s no reason a character has to start as A and end up being Z.

In this short attention span world, it’s almost expected characters have to change or the audience gets bored. If we all bend to that, we’re playing right into that mentality.

BRIEF EXAMPLE

I’ve always loved the Clive Cussler Dirk Pitt series. Over the decades, he’s written several dozen novels. My beef with Pitt is that the series has been going for so long, Mr. Cussler chose to age Pitt. Instead of keeping him young, and not letting time get in the way of a good story, he threw realism in and gave him age and baggage. Pitt started as the young, dashing hero. Now he has a dead wife, is semi-retired from adventuring, and promoted to director of his organization. His son and daughter do most of the heroics. That’s not exactly what attracted me to the series. I’ve aged right along with him, but though I still enjoy the series, it’s not quite the same. Yet, he still has his detractors who say it’s the same old thing, which is just a case of you can’t win.

On the other hand, the good old pulp stories of Doc Savage never had that issue. Though it’s been several decades since I last read them, I don’t remember Doc evolving all that much. Ken Robeson, AKA Lester Dent, didn’t fix something that wasn’t broke. He wrote 30+ great quick and dirty novels that gave me a great time.

I could list more examples but you get the point.

SUMMARY

It’s perfectly fine to evolve your characters if you want to. I do, to some extent, but not enough to limit the series if I want to write a hundred books. You don’t have to either. You don’t have to fix something that isn’t broken. You don’t have to ruin something good. You don’t have to bend to the will of the short attention span crowd. On the other hand, that does buck catering to a wider audience. Then again, there are authors out there cranking out what some call the same old stuff, and they’re doing just fine, like Stuart Woods, JD Robb, and ahem… Clive Cussler, according to his critics (yeah, go figure).

Happy writing!

THE THRILL OF A PUBLISHED BOOK

December 12, 2018

You spend months, maybe even years pouring your imagination and maybe even soul into writing the “great American novel.” I’d never EVER call anything I wrote that, but for some of you, so be it. To me, there’s no such thing. For another, the great American novel sounds not only pretentious, but literary, which to me, means boring. I’d rather say, the best latest and greatest. I say latest and greatest because as soon as you start on the next one, it will become your new latest and greatest.

All the effort on your current novel culminates into a book contract, or, if you’re so inclined, doing it all yourself and going the self-publishing route.

In either case, you go through the editing, proofing, book cover design, back cover blurbs, thank you’s, dedication, author bio, photograph, publicity packets and such. Before you know it, you’re doing publicity packets, which even if you’re self-publishing, you should do.

CRUNCH TIME

There’s a last-minute check of the galley, whether it be a printed copy or a .pdf, then it goes to the printer.

Someone is going to post it to all the usual spots on the internet like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and maybe even Wal-Mart.

Before you know it…

SHOWTIME

You’re a published author!

You can now go to Amazon, type in your name and maybe your book (or list of books) will come up. Depending on how you’re entered into the system, it might take some digging to find your book. Will it pop up under your name, or do you have to type in the title? Will 500 different things come up, even if you select the correct category (books)?

Is your book title unique enough that your novel will show right away?

Or, do you have to type in your name AND the title to get it to display?

Will this be the same deal with other sites?

Once you get the search, how easy will it be for others to find it?

THE THRILL

If this is your first book, how do you feel knowing you can go to whatever web site, and see your name in lights?

How does it feel to hold a physical copy of your book in your grubby little hands?

How does it feel to be able to tell other people you’re not just a writer, but an actual published author with a book (or more) under your belt?

For most of us, it feels pretty good!

Does the thrill wear off after a while?

For me, not even a little. It’s not like I hold the book in my hands, jump up and down and scream “I did it, I did it!” I’m just not that guy.

However, I still get a thrill every time I see my name up there with a new release. That means I accomplished something. That means my publisher believed in me enough to follow through with the effort to edit, design a cover and put out a book in MY name, written by ME. My creation (along with help and support of others to get it there, of course), all in the hopes of making a few bucks for both of us.

SUMMARY

My number one goal is to write for pleasure. My number two is to write the most enjoyable work I can, which means the writing shouldn’t get in the way of the story. My third is to sell as many books as I can. In a way, these goals are interchangeable.

I’d write whether I was publishing and selling books or not, and did for twenty years. However, the thrill of seeing all that effort out there for the world to enjoy is priceless.

How about you?

Happy writing!