Skip to content

Month: August 2014

The Value of Critique

There are times as an author when you need to seek the opinion of other authors and readers. You might not even find all of those opinions valid, but you just might find gems in their opinions. Gems that can do nothing but make your work stronger.

There is one issue with critique though, and for many writers it’s a big one. Ready? You have to let your work go BEFORE it is ready, so others can help you get it ready. I’d repeat that, if I was teaching a class. But it’s written, so just read the sentence above one more time.

Letting go is uncomfortable. Let’s face it, some authors even struggle with letting go after their work has been edited, and is supposedly ready. But without feedback from readers before the work is released, the author really only has the opinion of one or two people. People who may be close to, and even vested in, the words on the page.

The reader, or critique group has no such investment or love for your turn of phrase. Likely they will see plot holes and places where disbelief has not been suspended adequately, and places where you, as the author, just stepped over the line a bit too far. It’s hard not to take at least a part of it personally, because it is, after all, your work. But discomfort leads to growth, and that has great value.

Not everyone is right. Look around the room. Wait. If you are an author and reading this at home, wait until you next visit a coffee shop or restaurant. Then look around. Likely, if it is still summer (you should try this outside stuff. The smells are amazing), there will be people with iced drinks topped with whipped cream sitting next to folks with hot coffee decorated with colorful straws. Some will have two straws of different color, some will have one. Cream, no cream, a different bean here or there… You get the idea. Now look at the menu.

Everyone likes different things. Your story and style will not appeal to everyone, so stop trying. Some people will misread what you are trying to write, while others will “get” it. Take the advice offered, and apply it to what you are trying to do. If you take every piece of advice, likely you don’t have enough confidence in your own ability.

Critique hurts, and isn’t always constructive. Writing is pain. Get used to it. Often our stories flow from a place of pain, and are very personal. Sometimes others who offer to critique your work are jealous for some reason, and lash out as a result of their own pain. Don’t judge them, or strike back. It’s pretty likely you do the same thing from time to time.

As much as writing is pain, it is also fraught with risk. Even when your work is as “done” as you can get it, well edited and proofed, putting out into the world is risky. There are those who will not like your work, and will tear it apart. Let them. Draw strength from it, and move on.

To make yourself the best you can be, you need to be able to take and apply criticism of all forms, constructive and otherwise. It’s frightening. It’s painful. It’s risky. But it’s worth it.

1 Comment

Just Another Manic Monday

typewriterkeysIf you stop and think about it, it will make you sick. All the talk surrounding Robin Williams and the topic of art, acting, music, and manic behavior over the last few weeks has gone to the extreme. So why add my two cents? Because I write from a place of pain, and this is just another stop along the way.

I’m Troy, and I am manic too. It may be no accident that my most recent book is titled Confession. Creatives in general tend to be a bit manic, or even bipolar, and often remain undiagnosed. After all, the excuse rules: “He’s a writer. They’re all like that.” My highs are high, and when I am in that place there is little you, or anyone else, can do to bring me down. But when I am low…

If you don’t know me well, you will think I am just being quiet. You might even see me being positive, especially in the realm of social media. In fact, you may never know I’m down at all, except I will seem a bit irritable.

Depression looks different than you think. When in that down place, I speak out of frustration and anger. Sometimes it appears justified, other times it doesn’t. But anger, frustration, and depression flow from the same emotional well. They all tell you something: my mind is not okay right now. It’s like a mental virus. It needs to run its course.

Not everyone needs medicine. Not everyone can cope without it. It’s a simple fact. Some episodes will just run through you, but other times you need fluids and other medication to fight off the illness. In short, you need help. And just like a virus, help will not always come in time, or be enough. Sometimes, despite the best medical efforts and most noble of intentions, people die.

Look around at those who surround you. The ones who always seem upbeat and high on life? They probably have the lowest lows, and deep pain you may never see. So don’t be afraid to reach out, but know sometimes we’re just too sick for you to help. It’s not that we don’t love you, but we’re just in pain, like an injured animal.

If you are in a low place, and need help, get it, or ask for it. If you think someone you are close to may need help, offer. The worst they can say is no. But at least they will know you cared when they were in the middle of another manic Monday.

Comments closed

Photo Shoot of “The Seven”

old-idaho-penitentiary-9_400Last night at the Old Penitentiary, I expected a typical author shoot. A few head shots with different poses, then a group shot for a collaborative group of authors launching soon, The Seven. (Follow #TheSeven for more details coming soon on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). In my experience, these things usually take maybe half an hour, a little more. You get some really solid shots, and even I look good. But it couldn’t be that spectacular, could it?

Enter Don Johnson of Arrowrock Photography, and a crew (did I say crew? Yes I did) of photographers, cameras, helpers, armed with reflectors, sun blocker thingamajigs, and all kinds of creative ideas. We write. He expresses creativity through images.

Not only did he shoot the shots we needed, he added even more, including some great shots of myself and Marlie Harris, my photogenic co-author on the recent release, Into the Darkness, fist in the Ridge Falls series. (Like us on Facebook here)

The experience was a pleasure, but so much more. Obsessed with getting “the shot,” and far exceeding our expectations, we got way more than I expected, or I think any of us did. Thanks to Noreen Brisson,Rochelle CunninghamLoni TownsendCathy Behm ValentiMarlie Harris, and Sherry Briscoe for being a part of this amazing group! Can’t wait to see photos?

Too bad. And by the way, what’s The Seven, and what are we up to?

Well, I’m not telling you that either. Not yet. Stay tuned.

1 Comment

The “Easy “ Life

laptopThere are times when I understand why authors used to, years ago, simply retreat from the world to do what they loved most: write. The publicity, the marketing, even the personal appearances went away once they reached a certain level of success. I’m on a different path: if anything I feel too visible at times. Everyone knows I am an author, nearly everywhere I go. Much of the time I deliberately reach out, in groups, by organizing conferences, and even holding author events like potluck BBQ’s with no agenda other than easing the journey we are all on, and steering others to avoid the many mistakes I have made along the way.

As writers, it often helps us to realize we are not alone. Kristen Lamb has built an entire model based on the principle: WANA, with an annual on line conference and thousands of followers. But sometimes to be effective at what we do, we need to be alone. In fact, there are times when I am sitting in a room with you, talking writing, sharing stories, while at the same time dreaming of being alone on an island, with nothing but me and my computer, and occasional but limited bursts of Wi-Fi.

The public eye is scary. Yes, it is great to feel a sense of community. But people can be cruel and petty. Jealous of each other’s success, and under the odd impression that everyone has it better than they do. And then there are those who simply do not like your work, or you as a person. There’s not a thing you can do about it, and no matter how good or nice you are, those people will exist.

Anyone can tell you they don’t take those things personally, but more often than not, those who say so are lying. The insults and cruelty, even indifference, hurt. And sometimes for writers, who often have large but rather fragile egos, it would be much easier to hide out and just be alone.

Creative people are often rebels. We are told, and rightly so, that to sell books we must be in the public eye. And we must, to one extent or another. On line, in person, or both. But when you tell a creative like a writer they have to do something, often the tendency is to do the opposite just to prove we don’t have to do anything “they” tell us. As necessary as it is, fighting that instinct is hard for us to do. It takes effort, and that kind of effort actually makes you tired.

Even a conversation, when I would rather be writing, or my muse is knocking at the back of my head with ideas can be not only exhausting, but infuriating. But there is no socially acceptable way to respond, especially if you don’t want to alienate fans and even your family. So I often smile and nod, while the whole time placing the person addressing me into a gruesome scene in my next novel.

We are busier than you think. Working at home as an author is far from easy. Not only do we have the responsibility everyone else has, but you must keep writing, every day. We must market the work we have already written. Most of us do other things to make money, like editing. We must study our craft, get better at what we do. We need to meet with other writers. Some of us must source cover designers and editors, maintain websites and blogs, and interact with you, our fans, on social media.

Being a writer is one of the greatest things you can do with your life. But it is far from the easy life some picture it to be. I’m not complaining, mind you. I often work really long hours many days in a row. But if you could see me when the words are flowing, when the stories stir within me, you would see I cannot contain my joy.

So in that way, at least, being a writer is the “easy” life.

1 Comment

Idaho Author Guest Post: Jane Munro

Today, a fellow Idaho Author, Jane Munro, tells us why she is a mystery writer. See her bio and more about her books below. Read and review to support local Idaho authors!

BookCoverImageWhy am I a Mystery Writer?

Anybody who’s already a writer knows the answer to that question. There are probably as many answers as there are writers. As for the genre…I write what I love to read.

I’ve always loved mysteries, starting with Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and the Hardy Boys. Then I graduated to Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Dorothy Sayers. I know, I’m dating myself here. Now there’s Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Kathy Reichs, Patricia Cornwell.

People always compare me to that other pathologist who writes, now what’s her name? I say I don’t know, because I don’t know of any other mystery series written by a pathologist. But I know they’re thinking of Patricia Cornwell, who isn’t a pathologist, but a reporter.  I suspect that Kay Scarpetta is based on Marcella Fierro, the real chief medical examiner in Richmond VA.

What I want is for those people to be thinking of me when they ask that question.book cover

But I digress.

I can’t say exactly when I started wanting to write. I imagine I thought it would be something to keep me busy after I retired. Doctors have a way of working well into their seventies, and then when they retire they die. I don’t want to work into my seventies, and I don’t want to die, either.
I didn’t actually start writing until my husband gave me a word processor in 1992. I started writing Murder Under the Microscope then. I finished it in 2002, and sent it to an agent I had met at Murder in the Grove in Boise that year. She liked it, but said she couldn’t sell it. She said it needed a subplot. So I put in a subplot (Robbie) and sent it back. No dice. She chewed me out for making Toni such a wimp. So I fixed that and sent it back. Still no dice. I gave up.

bookcover Too Much BloodIn 2007, I had been divorced for 3 years and was introduced to a gentleman with whom I’m still keeping company today. He nagged me unmercifully until I went online, picked a publisher by the close-your-eyes -and-point method, and sent them Murder Under the Microscope.

And here we are. There are now 3 Toni Day mysteries out there, one more in the final stages of publication, and a 5th one in the works. I’m addicted. I never travel without my laptop. I look at every adventure as a possible plot for a mystery. The sixth Toni Day mystery may very well take place on a cruise ship.

Friends are always giving me suggestions for plots. My 4th book is called Death by Autopsy because my BFF said I had to write a book with that title, and I had to come up with a plot that fits it. It was a challenge, but I did it. Then I had to edit it, and that completely changed the second half of the book. I’m hoping to have it out in about a month.

Now I’m going through the same struggle with the next book. I have an idea for a story. I know who’s going to get murdered, but not who the murderer will be. That will become clear as I write. I hope.

Exciting, isn’t it?

And that’s why I write mysteries.

munjan015_4x5 300 dpi0002Jane Bennett Munro, M.D., is a hospital based pathologist who has been involved in forensic cases during the course of her thirty-five year career. She also spent 8 years on the Idaho State Board of Medicine and was chairman 1997-1999. Now semi-retired, she lives in Twin Falls, Idaho, where she enjoys music, gardening, scuba diving, and skiing. She is the author of Murder Under the Microscope, winner of an IPPY Award, and Too Much Blood.

 

TOO MUCH BLOOD

Pathologist Toni Day returns in this gory tale of a sleazy lawyer and his scam involving the doctors at Perrine Memorial Hospital, in which their earnings go directly into his hedge fund via an offshore leasing company, avoiding taxation. That is, until the economy takes its worst dive since 1929, and Jay Braithwaite Burke’s hedge fund is revealed as a Ponzi scheme. The Feds move in. Jay declares bankruptcy and disappears, only to reappear two months later, dead in his car in the middle of the snowy interstate.

At autopsy, Toni discovers that Jay bled to death. Shortly thereafter, Jay’s partner also bleeds to death. Jay’s widow and four children are kept on the move by a series of house fires, and soon everybody ends up at Toni’s house. Toni’s life is already complicated enough; her work schedule is brutal, and she fears that her husband, Hal, is having an affair. In the meantime, a mysterious illness casts a bloody pall over the Christmas season. Toni must use all her pathological expertise to keep her loved ones from a similar fate, and in so doing nearly comes to a bloody end herself.

GRIEVOUS BODILY HARM

A new administrator is hired to ease the transition when overcrowded and landlocked Perrine Memorial Hospital is bought out by a behemoth hospital system that covers much of the Pacific Northwest and promises to build a new hospital in Twin Falls. But Marcus Manning, a good ole boy with roots in Twin Falls, far from making anything easier, manages to earn the enmity of medical staff and employees alike as he ruthlessly goes about eliminating anyone who might oppose him in his quest to become not only CEO of Perrine Memorial, but CEO of the entire system.

Unwisely, he starts his campaign with pathologist Toni Day, who blows the whistle on Marcus’s twisted campaign of lies, blackmail and sexual abuse until the medical staff finally considers firing him, but is saved the trouble by someone with a more permanent solution … of cyanide.

Toni, as one of the prime suspects, is forced to solve the mystery of Marcus’s murder to keep herself out of jail, and as she delves further into the private lives of those involved in Marcus’s life, finds herself forced to kill in order to save her life and finally learn the truth.

MURDER UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

“There was a dead body in my office. It wasn’t mine, and I didn’t put it there.”

Dr. Antoinette Day, a young and successful pathologist in a small rural hospital, had no idea what she was in for when a beautiful female general surgeon came to the hospital to fill in for a colleague recovering from a heart attack.

The newcomer makes Toni’s life a living hell while taking every opportunity to discredit her with her other medical colleagues. When the surgeon is conveniently murdered, Toni is the obvious suspect, especially since the body is found in her office.

Now Toni finds herself in the position of having to solve the murder to keep from being convicted of it herself. The last thing she needs is to have a former boyfriend show up and start stalking her and threatening her husband.

Stubbornly, Toni continues to delve into the mysteries surrounding the deceased and soon finds that it’s not just her freedom that’s at stake, but her life.

Comments closed

Hidden

theater-masks1There will be a million blog posts over the next few days about Robin Williams, his death and the tragedy it speaks of, so there isn’t one reason you should read mine rather than someone else’s. My take is no more valid. I didn’t know him, but I do know what it’s like to be the funniest guy in the room.

I also know what it’s like to be the saddest. I know what it’s like to pour your emotion, all of it, into a role. A story. To hear a song that expresses so well what you feel inside, and have even those closest to you give you that sideways glance. The one that lets you know they are not quite sure about your mental stability.

I know what it is like to be the one so few people “get.” Wanting to be accepted, but simply unable to be “normal.” To somehow, sometimes, just “act” like a rational human being. Did you read that? I said “act.”

Because that is what it is. An act. A farce. There are so few who dare to be real. Yet we keep people at arm’s length. Because those who do get close only hurt us deeper when they tell us they do not understand. When they try to tame us, and we shout, “I will not be tamed!”

Because I do not want what you want, or even what you want for me. My expression will not fit your boundaries. I cannot be counted on to act within convention. I am rarely aware there is a convention I should act within.

If you attack, I will retreat. I may strike back, in anger, but that, like humor hides my pain. When I become your friend, it is at first with caution. But when you have broken through the wall, I will do anything for you. Anything at all. Just not the way you would expect me to.

Do you see yet? The real me was for a long time hidden. Because the world feared the real me, and I used to fear the world’s reaction to who I truly am. So many of us stand at this impasse, but I made a decision a few years ago.

I will not live in fear. The world will not tame me, and I will not hide. I have become an open book. Life is too short to live caged, hidden, cowering. I will not leave it by my own hand because despite all my talk of daring, I did not dare myself.

If you too feel this way, do not hesitate one more day. Do not live in fear. Dare. Be untamed. But for yourself, for the world, do not stay where you are now.

Hidden.

2 Comments

The Debate is the Distraction

In one of my seminars, I make the blanket statement that publishing is not changing. It has already changed. The new paradigm is still working itself out in many ways, so in that sense, many things are still changing. But many more have already, and will never go back to the way they were before. Did you read that? Read it again: will never go back to the way they were before.

The Hachette-Amazon debate is a great distraction from the real truth here. So let me present it here for you simply, in a few points:

  • Few traditional, Big 5 published authors are making a living. Perhaps the top 1% We are the 99%. Stop asking us to support your obsolete model because it works for a few of you.
  • Amazon Publishing and small presses have resurrected and begun the careers of several mid-list authors. Bookstores can afford to ignore them, because not selling those titles will do them little harm, at least for now. But they do so at their own peril. Where are the next bestselling authors coming from? Mid list. Do retailers think those authors will forget mistreatment, or will leave their lucrative deals with their current publishers for inferior traditional ones to get their books carried locally?
  • More authors are making a living today from small press and self-publishing than from traditional publishing. This is clearly illustrated by data recovered by authorearnings.com and released by Smashwords. This has turned the Author’s Guild on their heads, and left them wondering what their future role is.
  • Amazon Unlimited, Oyster, and Scribd have become, as some of us predicted, the next outlet for authors, like a Netflix for books. This is where we should be focusing our attention: on authors being treated fairly and assuring income from such services, rather than battling the single largest source of writer income (at least currently)

Hachette is right. Booksellers and publishers have every right to price their products (books) at whatever level they desire. Amazon is also right: booksellers and bookstores can choose to carry whatever books and products they like. They are under no obligation. In fact, many Indie and local bookstores boycott Amazon Published writers and self-pubbed titles printed by Create Space already. There’s no outcry over that inequity.

The debate is a distraction. Most readers don’t care any more who publishes a book or how, as long as the story or content is good. Writers and publishers are fighting for their literal lives and livelihood, many with no idea where the real battle is, raging and tilting at windmills.

Writers, it’s time to get back to work. Write more, not about the debate or the industry we all know has changed, but more books. Stories. The things your readers want.

Publishers, it’s time to adopt a new program. Many small presses have. Survival means you will follow suit. Pay reasonable royalties. Offer readers content at reasonable prices. And don’t snub, and ask authors to snub, the biggest retailer on the planet.

Comments closed

Guest Post: Laurie Boggs

A fellow Idaho author, and a friend, has a great story. I am happy to host her this week, and share her story and her work. Her non-fiction is outside the realm of my normal reading. But her story is so unusual, her words so poignant, that I just had to share. If you enjoyed “Heaven is For Real” you will love this book, Hitting Fear Head On.

HFHO Book Cover FinalStepping Stones Cover FinalA parent has no greater fear than the loss of a child. What if you knew with chilling certainty that your child was going to die, but did not know exactly how or when? What if you survived the accident that killed your child? These questions come to life on these pages.

“Laurie Boggs has been wounded by the darkness and redeemed by the light. What she has been through, and what she learned, is a message of inspiration and hope for everyone. She turned tragedy into its opposite — not just for herself, but for anyone who reads her story.”
– Marianne Williamson, #1 NY Times Bestselling Author

“Laurie Boggs’ survival of the tragic ordeal makes her a heroine in my eyes. Hitting Fear Head On is a true life account that is gripping and compelling. This book is a true testament to the power of love, courage, and fortitude. You will be touched.”
– Richard Paul Evans, #1 NY Times Bestselling Author

Laurie Moon Boggs has studied extensively in the fields of emotional healing and spiritual counseling. She is a Certified Vipassana Meditator, as well as a Certified Intuitive, Clairvoyant, Certificate of Ordination and Reiki Master. However, her most difficult lessons came through the ‘school of hard knocks’, including overcoming a family history of alcoholism, abuse, and finally infertility. Ironically, it comes full circle when alcoholism ultimately takes the life of her only miracle child and impairs her motor skills for life.

Courage, fortitude, and the ability to connect with the spirit of her son have helped her to turn tragedy into blessings. She is a survivor who, together with her husband, uses their knowledge and experience to lobby for state and national legislation.

biff and Laurie pic for book 2Biff Boggs holds a degree in elementary education from Boise State University. He is currently a Certified Surgical Technician. Since 1990 Biff has triumphed though trials of multiple sclerosis. He has assisted Laurie with the writing of Hitting Fear Head On & 18 Stepping Stones to Transforming Grief. Laurie sustained a major brain injury from an auto accident that took the life of their miracle child. This process has been a source of great healing for the both of them. Courage, fortitude, and the ability to connect with the spirit of their son have helped them to turn tragedy into blessings. They’re survivors who, use their knowledge and experience to lobby for state and national legislation.

Learn more by visiting www.laurieboggs.com

Amazon Link to Hitting Fear Head On: http://www.amazon.com/Hitting-Fear-Head-Laurie-Boggs/dp/1494935910/ref=la_B00JARCNDQ_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1407171477&sr=1-1

18 Stepping Stones To Transforming Grief: http://www.amazon.com/Stepping-Stones-Transforming-Grief-Transform/dp/1495342204/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_y

Hyde Park Books: https://squareup.com/market/hyde-park-books-2  ( Please note…..I have asked Marti to change the jpeg files of my book covers. I am not sure where she got them, they are very blurry and hard to read. In addition 18 Stepping Stones to Transforming Grief is a companion book to Hitting Fear Head On. She has them under two different genres. They both are inspirational/self help

Comments closed

Collaboration

One of the greatest things you can do to improve your work is to share it with others before it is “done.” In fact, you could even allow someone else to contribute to it, or you could contribute to theirs. Even when the writing is done, and the dreaded edits have been completed, you could enlist the help of someone else, an expert perhaps, to help you with graphic design, marketing, any number of things. The process is called collaboration. Here are a few reasons you NEED it.

You are not as good at some things as you think you are. You are a writer. It’s a fair bet, then, that you are also creative. However, you may not also be a graphic designer, cover artist, formatter, etc. Even if you can make something passable, why settle for just okay? You’ve spent loads of time on your work, so it (and you) deserve the best collateral materials to go with it. The easiest way to get the best? Invest in your work, and pay someone else to create them for you.

SAM_3156When it’s all about you, it’s obvious. There is a certain pride in doing everything yourself. And sometimes, when you have little or no money to invest, you can do many things on your own. But you can’t do it forever. Because having someone else’s take on your work gives it broader appeal. It even helps you understand the perceptions of others. With the release of my latest novel, Confession, not only did I hire a cover designer, but Massive Happiness, a local marketing firm as well. The results? A great event, fantastic eye-catching banner and business cards better than anything I could have created on my own. I get compliments on them everywhere I go.

Your partners have a vested interest in your success. A joint effort gathers more support. The more people who have a direct interest in seeing you succeed, the more likely you are to do so. This means you could work with a cover artist, marketing firm, formatter, book trailer creator, and more, and all of them will have a shared interest in your work doing well.

This does not just relate to writing, but almost any endeavor. Ever have one of those times where someone else tells your kid the same thing you have been saying for years, and suddenly your child takes their advice, like it is new? Collaborative parenting. How about business? Someone else promotes your product, and you get a client you have been trying to get for years. I’m not sure how it works, but I simply know that it does. Collaborative work is exponentially better than if you try to do all the work yourself.

So don’t be afraid to reach out. Share your work before it is done, and share in the work of others. You might be surprised the skills those around you possess, and how much more you can do together rather than separately.

Comments closed