For Friends & Rivals

I’ve been doing a fair amount of research lately regarding book promotion and social media as my own book, Howling: Allen Ginsberg & the Trickster in “Howl” (working title), is scheduled to be published next fall (2013).

Here are just a few things I’ve learned so far and I’ll do my best to keep it brief as these kinds of things can sometimes feel more overwhelming than helpful (at least for me!).

Be a Giver

  • As my associate at Chrysalis Editorial, SC, would say: an author isn’t supposed to be advertising a product but spreading awareness of story that could bring people joy, insight, inspiration, etc. In other words, don’t think about your book as a set of knives to hock through email blasts or “Buy Me” Tweets. Think of your book as something you want to make people aware of, something that you just want to put on their radar. After all, I don’t tend to pick up books just because of a television or Twitter ad I saw for them – I tend to buy books that proffer ideas that crawl into my mind and lay little eggs of interest; books that my friends are talking about; books that speak to something I want to learn more about or that speak of a cause I’m passionate about.
  • Beyond this, don’t spend every one of your social media resources looking at your own reflection with unending love and affection – make certain to spotlight the works of others; congratulate other writers for their successes; comment meaningfully and without advertisement on others’ blogs and Facebook’s.

Be Constant

  • Remember that people – whether they are reading blogs, checking Twitter, updating their LinkedIn page or their Facebook page, rating things on GoodReads, reading the latest from Writer’s Relief, or starting up a profile on GuruTapas – have about eight million (bajillion kazillion!) other people all vying for their attention. So, why should they pause to pay attention to you? To listen to you? To read your work? By being constantly “out there,” by being constantly present, reactive, attentive, and giving through your social media, you will begin to earn a readership.
  • Be prepared for marketing to become your second (third, fourth, fifth?) job, in other words.

Be a Diligent Researcher

  • There is a LOT of information swirling around out in the ether these days and a significant portion of it is piss-poor at best, willfully prevaricating at worst. There are “literary agents” out there who are only interested in victimizing novice writers by promising future representation if the author will first hire them as editors. This is not to say that there aren’t plenty of reputable literary agents out there – top notch ones – who do not also work with authors to edit their work or even work as freelance editors on the side, but how do we tell the difference? How can authors safeguard themselves from bad information? How can we spread the word? How do we balance our time between sharing this sort of helpful information to our readers/followers with sharing information about our writing and upcoming events? – Keep yourself abreast of as many elements of this beast as possible, of new developments in the publishing industry, of new social media outlets, of new risks, and opportunities.

Of course, it is also important to remember that, in the end, every writer is a rival to all other writers as much as they may also be colleagues, supporters, friends, and loved ones.

Rhetoric We Live By, Rhetoric We Bleed By

It’s that special time again! I have another wonderful guest post from the piercing, honest voice of essayist, Michael Brewer. “IF WE WERE A CHRISTIAN NATION” is written in a striking, declarative style and, I believe, with a conviction that does not detract from a well-reasoned argument. I continue to grow more and more interested in this cross-section of creative writing and non-fiction writing, opinion and fact, memoir and truth; where do these styles blur and where do they border?

This article, I feel, gets to the heart of some of these questions as it is not only a work of nonfiction in and of itself but it is a work that also seeks to challenge through its content a variety of “creative” interpretations and rewrites that we all take to our otherwise presumably nonfiction histories. For example, isn’t it interesting that as we near presidential elections, America’s “Christian culture” tends to become enhanced in certain ways, perhaps more polarizing and, certainly, more prominent and political? How do these political aspirations and social biases impact the doctrines of a religion? How does the religion impact the “facts” of current events in political and in those mythic non-political arenas? And how often do we utilize certain tidbits of truth or fact or doctrine in order to support whole new branches of thought and action, whole new bigotries and wars?

Especially considering the recent movie theatre shooting in Colorado and the even more recent shooting at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, we must begin to reexamine not only gun laws but also the writing and rhetoric that surround these events. After all, the way the news portrays events often dictates the way most viewers believe them to have occurred when, in fact, a simple clip of the video or odd word choice can change the entire picture.

In Richard H. Robbins’ Cultural Anthropology: A Problem-Based Approach, he discusses the many ways that war pervades American culture through American rhetoric. Consider, for example, the types of rhetoric we utilize when discussing football and cancer. We are going to “defeat” the other team. We will “battle” cancer. The way we speak and write directly impact the ways that we interact with and interpret our world.

I came up against many of these questions while writing Howling as I was consistently faced with letters and journal entries in need of interpretation and analysis. When does analysis go too far? Can readers always tell when conjuncture is at play – if not, what are the ethics of analysis and interpretation for nonfiction and/or academic authors? Are these questions and concerns that all nonfiction writers must keep in mind or are there exceptions?

Other works to consider from this vein:

-Any works by the Beats, such as Kerouac’s On the Road or Burroughs’ Naked Lunch

Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood

James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces


By Michael Brewer

“If we were a Christian nation none of the “Great Wars” of our history would have been fought.

A Christian nation would never have annihilated the American Indian Nations.

A Christian nation would never consider stealing territory from Mexico.

The Civil War would not have occurred, because a Christian nation would never abide the practice of slavery.

World War I would not have occurred because a Christian nation would have joined with other nations who claimed to be Christian to forbid the nationalistic abuses that preceded it.

World War II would not have occurred for the same reasons.

The Cold War would not have occurred because a Christian nation would never have allied itself with a Soviet Union which slaughtered more of its own citizens than any previous nation in history.  Since a Christian nation would have stoutly opposed the crimes which lead to the second Great War, it would have never armed Stalin’s state and thereby created the monstrosity of inhumanity it remained for nearly half a century.

The Korean War would not have occurred in the absence of the Cold War.

A Christian nation would have been spared the bloodshed and agony of the Civil Rights Movement, as all persons would have been treated as fundamentally worthy without regard to race or nationality.

A Christian nation would not have sent its poor and middle class sons to Vietnam to die in a futile effort to win a Cold War that, of course, would not have occurred.

A Christian nation would have been spared the War on Poverty, because a Christian nation would not allow the richest country on earth to ignore the suffering of its most vulnerable citizens.

A Christian nation would have been spared the continuing suffering and waste caused by the futile War on Drugs. There would be scant market for the underground drug trade in a society that valued humanity above material gratification and the fantastic wealth and power it brings to so few, at the expense of so many.

If we were a Christian nation there would be no politics based upon racism, bigotry and hate.

If we were a Christian nation there would be no constant political war between the super-rich and the poor.

If we were a Christian nation there would be no Catholics, no Baptists, no Unitarians, no schisms, no denominational warfare, and no one would have ever heard of Westboro Baptist Church.”

–Michael Brewer, Essayist

Thank you, Michael! Your contributions are greatly enjoyed and appreciated as always!

If you are interested in contributing a guest post or in having one contributed to your blog, please contact me at: with this subject header: Guest Post Inquiry.

Fighting for the Reason

I have been spending a great deal of time lately discussing the nature of writing with my partner ever since he gave me this critique for my latest short story: get to know your character first; your protagonist needs to be in motion before I ever intercept them in the first sentence.

Since dropping this bomb on me, we have discussed the value of super-objectives and of giving characters 400 horse power engines even if they only ever reach 75 in the actual story itself.

Throughout all of this, I have come to realize that writing a novel is a lot like creating a character for a television show — although my audience won’t know the full character the way I, the author, do until the very end of the series, they need to understand where the character’s already been within the very first episode, they need to sense within the character a potential for rich, future seasons, a staying-power, if you will.

And this is where the truly useful element of the critique becomes clear: it isn’t that I need to know every action the character is going to take or that I need to map every action in direct accordance with a narrow road of “drive,” but that without this inner-drive, my characters will never be Larger than Life.

After all, we don’t write short stories or even full novels about the average, everyday of an average, everyday individual — we focus them on the most important and life-altering days of those individuals whose lives and days so captivate us that we seek to share them with everyone around us.

According to Writer’s Relief (one of my favorite online writing resources), all good short stories must come with larger than life characters stuffed into impossibly tight packages where the stakes are high and the settings are vivid — as if you could feel the character’s drive and charisma oozing out of the sidewalks and from the cracked siding on the houses.
Above all, make time to get to know these reasons within your characters — without these engrained reasons or drives, there is no purpose to your characters, there is no force propelling them forward, no teeth in their bite, and no conviction in their roaring.

Perhaps this is obvious to most people and perhaps it is cliché in many ways, but there was something about comparing it to the actor and the audience, about their need to know or at least to sense the largess of the character, that helped flip on that light switch in my mind.

What are your light switch moments? Have there ever been in writerly clichés that suddenly struck you in a way that surprised or helped or hindered?