Friday, September 30, 2016

Writing is Hard

After seventeen years, fifteen published books, three unpublished manuscripts (languishing on my hard drive), you'd think I'd know that writing is hard. The thing that no one tells you is it never actually gets any easier.

Writing is HARD.

Today, I hope to finish my POS first draft for the seventh book in my Cold Justice Series. I'm pretty sure Nora Roberts coined the POS phrase (Piece of $h#t) along with her famous line about not being able to edit a blank page. It's a useful reminder of what a first draft should be like--but not what I usually produce. By the time I get to the end of my first draft the story is generally in pretty good shape because I constantly edit as I go along (which also slows me down).

I've had rough time this year, writing wise. I've been forced so far out of my comfort zone I'm sitting naked and cold on a railway platform at rush hour. That' OK. It's good to have yourself shaken up once in a while. I'm hoping that it will translate in being more productive when I get back into my comfort zone.

Right now I'm grateful that I'm my own boss and don't have a deadline looming over me that I have to meet or forfeit my contract. My readers generally know I'm a pretty slow writer, and I would rather give them something worthy of their attention and money, than rush out the next book. ("Rush" being a relative term :))

The current WIP has major plot holes, characters that need to be added, loose ends that are veering toward a frayed hem, and an uncertain ending. I'm not just writing this blog post to whine (although I'm good at it). I want to tell other writers, maybe those with less experience, but also those with more, that WRITING IS HARD and sometimes the words or story won't come. Life gets in the way and sometimes you need to divert your attention in a way that destroys your ability to concentrate on your story. Don't judge yourself against others who seem able to produce through any circumstance. We can't live other people's lives. They can't live yours.

Just don't let the fact writing is hard be a reason to quit.

I grew up in a working class family, and there was a certain amount of guilt attached (did I mention "Catholic" working class? :)) to the fact I earn a living by sitting at a desk and making up stories. But knowing the mental and physical effort I put into every story, I don't feel that guilt anymore. Authors work hard because WRITING IS HARD. Not everyone sees that--they see the potential for success and riches, not the hard grind and hours honing a paragraph only to delete the whole thing and start again.

Writing is also my greatest joy. My mental escape. The brain puzzle that keeps me ticking over. So, I'm going to finish this POS draft today, and then go back and fix the plot holes, add the characters, snip the loose ends, and figure out an ending that works.

Wish me luck :)

PS: One book I've found helpful recently is, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. 
I haven't done all the exercises, but I have found it easier to block out some of the daily distractions without any associated guilt. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Which Banana’s What, and Other Tragedies of Modern Communication

by Janis Patterson

All right, I admit it. I spend far too much time on Facebook – partially to keep up with friends/family, partially to see what’s going on in the world and what other people think about it (rightly or not), and partially with a sick curiosity to see how some people have mangled the language. The latter I watch with a horrified fascination, as one would an inevitable train wreck.

I don’t think of myself as a particularly well-educated person. I don’t have a college degree. High school was little more than an unpleasant endurance contest. There are literary and cultural references that go right over my head. Math – well, we just won’t talk about that. But – compared to some of the people on FB, people whom you think would know better, I find myself to be a most learned person even if I couldn’t tell you what a past progressive or a pluperfect anything is if one bit me on the ankle.

I know everyone makes an occasional typo, especially when writing in the grip of some strong emotion. However - ! The odd ‘wierd’ for ‘weird’ or even ‘wired’ or something like that is hardly remarkable or even especially noticeable. Some of the words, however, are so egregiously misspelt that even sounding them out doesn’t give any clue as to their meaning, which may or may not be interpreted by context.

Sadly this phenomenon is growing through the popular world rather than decreasing, which is shameful. We make education available – at no charge to them – to every child, kindergarten to high school. There are educational shows on educational/public broadcasting that deal with all kinds of studies. Almost any information is available on the internet. There are libraries, for Heaven’s sake, just chock full of books on the English language. Community colleges and even universities now have to have remedial English courses – both continuing education and for credit. There is absolutely no reason in the world for people to be so bad in their usage of English.

Unless, that is, they don’t want to change, and really don’t care about how ignorant and low-rent they appear to the world. Unfortunately, this disregard of proper usage is spreading, not shrinking, and has now infected the literary world. I realize that the Typo Gremlin is alive and well and appears at least one or two times in just about every book published. One would have to be a complete tartar to find that unacceptable. (Which it should be, but hey – this is reality we’re dealing with!) What really is unacceptable is when a plethora of typos, misspellings and other egregious mistakes run rampant through a book, sometimes several to a page. There used to be a belief that these errors were solely the province of self-published books (some people say ‘trash’), but in my own and others’ experience traditionally-published books are running almost neck and neck if not outstripping many self-published books in errors accrued.

It affects our real lives, too. I have taken to carrying a big black Sharpie with me to correct the egregious misuse of apostrophes, and even began a semi-humorous group called the American Association Against Apostrophe Abuse. What is painful is when you find someone creating an error (such as Banana’s – 50 cents a pound) and ask them which banana’s what only to have them stare at you without having the slightest clue as to what you’re talking about. I have been known to cry in such situations.

So how does this affect writers? I know that even if they do know proper grammar, spelling and syntax, most people don’t speak in perfect English using only complete, diagramable sentences. So – how can we make our people sound real while still staying within nodding distance of correct grammar?

Like my betters, I will take refuge in ambivalence. I believe the prose part of your book should be as grammatically correct as possible, but if the words go between quote marks (or as a first-person direct thought) they can be anything as long as they fit the character. The last is the most important part – you can’t have a dowager duchess talking like a field hand, or a street-wise ghetto kid talking like an English professor. At least, not without a plain and viable plot reason!

In real life… I don’t know. I hate to see the language degrading almost before our eyes. But languages change, some people say. Nothing remains static. I agree with that – to a point. Change is evolution, a process over time – not immediate conscienceless mangling.


One final thought - perhaps if we really got serious about wanting to have people look through grammar books, maybe we should hide a Pokémon in some of them.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Lady is a Plot Device

I like B movies. I grew up on the hyper-colored and noisy sci-fi, action, and fantasy films of the ‘80s, then discovered the depth of the post-war noir B movies that made so much mood with so little. Eventually, I worked as a crew member on films ranging from studio funded to micro-budget.

That career is long behind me, but when seeking out an evening movie to watch, my first impulse is to reach for a B movie that probably went straight to video in the first place. Most of these are action films of some variety with ninjas or cyborgs or rogue cops seeking vengeance. And here’s where the problem starts. Usually, this quest for justice is prompted by violence toward a woman who is close to the hero’s heart.

Skimming through the streaming options, looking at the plot synopses of these films highlights how much the woman is in peril (or dead), setting the man off on his journey. Paraphrasing: “Leader of a biker gang vows revenge after a rival gang kills his wife…” “When officer Joe Jones’s wife is kidnapped by cartel members…” and on and on. I know I’m not the first to point this out and others have done much more extensive analytical work in this area (Susan Sontag and Laura Mulvey come to mind).

I’m not fond of seeing women in this kind of danger, or harmed physically merely for the sake of the man’s motivation, and I try to avoid these films. But sometimes it sneaks up on you. Just the other night, my brother and I settled on a modern ninja film after passing on a lot of other typical storylines, only to find ourselves back in the standard revenge plot. When the hero’s loving wife announced to him early in Act I, “I’m pregnant,” my brother and I both groaned with despair, knowing she would be sacrificed to the sake of the man’s plot and lust for revenge. We were right - she didn’t make it past the next five minutes.

And that’s why I love romantic suspense. The woman is important. She’s 50% of the main characters. Yes, she can be imperiled and yes, the hero can come to her aid, but she’s not just a function of the plot. Her wants and needs are just as important as the man’s. Chef Hayley, the heroine of Countdown to Zero Hour, isn’t a soldier, but also isn’t completely helpless when it comes to standing up to the danger. The heroine of One Minute to Midnight, “Bolt Action” Mary, has a special ops background and rescues the hero more than once.

I don’t know if this plot device in action/adventure films will ever change, but I plan on staying as far away as possible. Reading and writing women who are participants in their story is so much more satisfying.

What about you? Can you watch these films without the plot device bothering you?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

HYBRID AUTHORS – WHY THE INCREASING TREND?

You’ve all heard of a ‘hybrid author’, right? Authors who publish via both the traditional and indie routes? After months of debating whether it would be the right decision for me, I have jumped on the bandwagon of the ever increasing number of hybrid authors.

Let me tell you why…

My debut series, Vengeful Love, was published by Harlequin’s Carina Press earlier this year. I loved the experience. From getting the deal and starting up a relationship with my editor, to seeing the finished product. But, as a debut author, I didn’t have my next deal lined up before the series was released. I found myself in a dilemma—readers were calling for my next book and, though I had a complete manuscript, the traditional process meant it would likely be 12 to 18 months before my next novel would be released (although some digital only imprints will publish on shorter timescales).

Therein lies the main motivation behind me becoming a hybrid author. TIMING. If I put out an indie title, I can choose my own timeline. I can give readers what they are asking for, and keep momentum between traditional deals. Timing is a huge positive associated with indie (or self-published) releases. But it was not the only thing I had to think about.

My greatest reservation was that I would not be handed a readymade TEAM of editors, designers and marketeers. I would have to find my own team and how would I know if they were any good? Actually, it was not as difficult as I thought. I asked my indie author friends for recommendations. Most editors will provide a free sample of work and designers have a catalogue of covers you can use to help you make the right decision. It is actually great to be able to FREELY MAKE DECISIONS about your book.

Perhaps my biggest concern, is that responsibility for marketing now rests solely with me. Whereas traditional publishing houses have a loyal following of readers willing to take a chance on their books, indie authors must work very hard to build their own BRAND. (That said, even with traditional publishing, authors these days are required to market themselves heavily through social media and other channels.)

PRICING and ROYALTIES. I am grouping these two together because I consider them related. In terms of pricing FLEXIBILITY, the traditional route leaves an author with little or no influence over the retail price of a book. The reverse is true of self-publishing. Indie authors can set their own prices and utilise mechanisms such a price PROMOTIONS and Kindle Unlimited (i.e. free to subscribers of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited library in return for royalties). Royalty percentages are also significantly higher for self-published authors. However, indie books are commonly priced lower than traditional books. This, together with more regular price promotions, tends to mean the average retail price of a book is less for indie authors.

Related to pricing and important to remember, is that an author choosing to self-publish will have initial EXPENDITURE for covers, editors etc. whereas a traditional publishing house would generally assume these costs.

Another consideration is access to PLATFORMS. While most platforms (e.g. Barnes and Noble, Amazon) and formats (ebook, print, audio) are available to indie authors just as they are to traditional publishers, there is significantly more work for one author to spread him/herself across multiple platforms, whereas traditional publishing houses are already set up to do this. Also, while physical stores may sometimes pick up self-published authors, they are much more likely to acquire traditionally published paperback books.

Finally, let us consider READERSHIP. While traditional publishing has loyal followers, these days there is a huge indie-supportive readership out there, a community traditional authors may not find themselves part of.

Let us put all this together in a visual and see which route scores best.

Category

Traditional Publishing
Indie
Publishing
Time from writing to publishing

X
Building a team
X

Choice of covers, artwork and marketing strategy


X
Ease of establishing a brand following
X

Ability to set prices and flexibility to utilise price promotions


X
Royalties

X
Initial expenditure
X

Ease of access to multiple platforms
X

Readership – brand loyalty / indie-supportive community
X
X

In summary, you can see both the traditional and ‘new-age’ routes have positives and negatives. Looking at this table, it may not be difficult to see why many authors are choosing to combine the benefits of both routes and become hybrid. Perhaps the greatest benefit is that there are two tranches of readers, those loyal to traditional publishers and those supportive of indie authors. Even acknowledging some crossover, being hybrid affords authors access to a much greater readership by combining both.

My first indie title and standalone novel, Scarred by You, releases on 24 October 2016. For more details, follow me here:



Monday, September 19, 2016

To Series or Not to Series...by Kathy Ivan


Sometimes as a writer, I’ll get an idea for a story, and immediately want to write it.  (Fitting it into my hectic schedule is a whole other ballgame.)  There’s enough of a story for it to be what’s known as a standalone book, meaning there will only be the one book which doesn’t connect with any other books that author has written.  No other books will come from this story idea.  And that is perfectly fine. 
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But other times, I will get a kernel of a story.  When I start thinking about it, and begin writing, there’s so much going on, not only with the main characters (the hero and heroine), but with the secondary characters, I feel the need to tell their stories too.  Some of them have stories that are equally as interesting as the people you are writing about—so much so they almost steal the story away from your hero and heroine. 

When that happens, it almost becomes imperative to write an ongoing series.  Writing a series can be done in many ways, but the two most common are:

1.  The hero and/or heroine will have multiple books about them.  This individual’s story arc will carry across from one book to the next (a perfect example is Julie Moffett’s Lexi Carmichael series).  These books revolve around the main character, i.e., Lexi, and her many adventures, including solving a mystery in each book, as well as surviving the ups and downs of maintaining a romantic relationship.  This works extremely well for cozy mystery series.

2.  Another example would be the series where there are cross-over characters, but each book has a different hero and heroine (or hero/hero, heroine/heroine depending on the genre).  An example of this would be my New Orleans Connection Series.  Each book can be read as a standalone book—meaning you don’t have to have read any of the other books in the series in order to read and hopefully enjoy any single book.  The characters will cross over into other books in the series, and readers seem to love when that happens.  It’s like catching up with old friends you came to care about in other books. 


These are just two examples of writing series versus standalones.  Neither one is right or wrong, or better or worse than the other.  It’s all up to the writer, and ultimately the reader, to decide their reading preference.  And that’s part of what I love about writing (and reading).  There’s a vast amount of choices out there—all you have to do is pick one and dive in. 

Happy Reading! 

Kathy is busy writing her New Orleans Connection Series, a romantic suspense series, set in and around New Orleans.  Her latest release, Deadly Justice, is available now.  Her next book, Wicked Obsession, releases in September 2016.  For more information on Kathy’s books, click on:  www.kathyivan.com/books.html  


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Let Me Tell You A Story

   In the past weeks there have been posts on the Not Your Usual Suspect blog about bucket lists, finding the joy in writing again, fears and business plans. All of these resonated deeply with me because they have been my struggles. This past year I found my writing joy, enthusiastically attacked my writing bucket list and OMG, made a business plan. Overcoming, I can’t count how many, fears. The greatest being to get over my doubts and gather the courage to publish this book of short stories.
  I can tell you fear and self-doubt are like an unhappy skunk trapped in your house. Not good. Chasing that skunk away isn’t easy and sometimes, even after you’ve thrown it out the door, you catch the odor.
  That all said, the skunk has been evicted and fears overcome, the book is done and will be live next week.  I LOVE the stories in this book. I hope everyone loves reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.
  And here is the cover.  



  My newsletter subscribers will get a free read of one of the stories and be eligible for a portable cell phone charger. To sign up go to my web page  Rita Henuber
             Thanks, 
                           Rita

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Serial Killer: On Ending a Series


 

It’s been a long time since I wrapped up a series--2011’s The Dark Tide, to be precise--but I’m currently writing the final book in the All’s Fair series and I’m daily reminded of just how tricky it is to pen that final chapter.

Part of the challenge in writing a series is remembering everything that came before. Not just the obvious stuff like the protagonist’s age and eye color and job title and best friend’s name (I think most writers remember to note that stuff down). Not only the more complicated stuff like every single character dynamic, every single character’s evolving relationship with the main character. Oh, and all the legal stuff (wait, how long did I sentence him to prison for…?!) No, the real challenge is keeping track of the main character’s arc through each part of the series, making sure that the growth of the previous books is not lost or forgotten in the next episode. Making sure that when the final chapter comes, the reader feels satisfied and content to arrive at journey’s end.

Of course, some readers don’t care about the character arc--they don’t want the adventure to ever end, period. And, as much as we love those readers, we have to ignore them because every story ultimately comes to an end. It’s better to end on a high note than a death bed (be it ours or the characters’).

But delivering that emotional payoff depends on the particular character and their unique journey.

In Fair Game, the first book of the trilogy, Elliot Mills is a former FBI agent who has been sidelined by a serious injury.

A crippling knee injury forced Elliot Mills to trade in his FBI badge for dusty chalkboards and bored college students. Now a history professor at Puget Sound University, the former agent has put his old life behind him -- but it seems his old life isn't finished with him.

A young man has gone missing from campus -- and as a favor to a family friend, Elliot agrees to do a little sniffing around. His investigations bring him face-to-face with his former lover, Tucker Lance, the special agent handling the case.  

At the end of the book, Elliot has made peace with his choices and settled down to a life in academia and a new relationship with Tucker. That should not come as a surprise to anyone, this being genre fiction.

However, it’s a series so…Elliot has to believably get involved in another investigation without reversing the progress achieved in the first book. And because these books are M/M romance, there has to be believable conflict and strain between Elliot and Tucker--again without manufacturing some artificial drama that will only irritate readers.

This is where that extended cast of characters every series needs becomes invaluable.

Setting up house with his new lover was tricky before arson landed his former radical father in the guest bedroom. Now ex-FBI agent Elliot Mills has to figure out who is willing to kill to keep Roland's memoirs from being published.

All’s well that ends well in Fair Play. Or close enough. Elliot and Tucker are still alive and still in love.

But now we come to the third and final installment and all the loose threads of the first two books have to be woven into this final tapestry. The story needs to come full circle--without actually going in circles. That means shaking up some expectations. Maybe even my own!

The basic premise of Fair Chance:

In an effort to bring closure to grieving families and loved ones, former FBI agent Elliot Mills allows himself to be drawn into a final game of cat and mouse with the dangerous psychopath known as the Sculptor. But when the lead agent on the case, Elliot’s partner Tucker, suddenly disappears without a trace, the only person with the answers is Elliot’s most dangerous enemy.

This is the book where every choice Elliot has previously made comes up for reevaluation and where everything he holds dears is on the line. This book has to be the payoff book for fans of the series--while still being involving and interesting to those readers coming in on the final installment (it’s surprising how many readers jump in any old where in a series).

While I know what I think readers will be looking for in this final book, I’m always surprised to hear the little things readers are hoping to find. That’s where the pressure comes in. This is it. If I fail to deliver, there’s no do-over in the next book. Elliot’s life will go on (OR WILL IT??!!) but we will not be peeking through that particular keyhole anymore.

So while I'd love to hear from my fellow writers on the challenges of winding up a series, I think I’ll throw this post open to readers of the series as well.

If you’re a reader of the All’s Fair series, what are you hoping to find in this final book?

Monday, September 12, 2016

What About A Book Signing?

Do you remember the good old days when a famous author came to town and people lined the street to get their book(s) signed? Now, I realize that in some cases that still holds true, because of course, mega famous authors are going to be a huge draw.

I look at the RWA literacy signing and think about the excitement all the readers have at not just seeing one favorite author, but potentially a dozen of them. It doesn't get much better than that. But what about smaller conferences or library events? Do authors sell as many books at smaller events?

It seems as if a new trend is happening. Book signings are giving way to author events. What's the difference? Well, apparently the competition is so stiff these days, that authors are being put in the position of buying their readers. And surprisingly or not surprisingly, many are lining up at the chance to participate... Authors and readers alike.

It's almost not enough to write a good book. I mean, sure, it's great to write a good book, but getting it into readers' hands is the tricky part. I guess it always has been. But now, authors are wining and dining their readers, plying them with gifts in hopes of keeping them and attracting new readers in the process. Sure, authors have done contests and giveaways and I'm sure those will always be around, but this next level of seducing readers is... I don't know... I'll let you supply the adjective.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not condemning these events. I'm just wondering how far an author has to go these days. Is this going to be the new thing? Is the book we slave over not enough any more?

So where else can authors go to sell books? I guess it depends on their target audience. I'm going to the San Diego Women's Expo September 17 & 18. I figure if my target audience is women from 18-118 then I may as well give it a shot. I'll be there with my friend and designer, Grace Grant, who's started up her own clothing line called Fill4Style. Since I love her designs and she loves my books, we decided to combine forces. Women's Expos are held all over the country, so it will be interesting to see how it goes.


What about you? What are your thoughts on book signings vs. author events? Have you been to any out of the box places where you've either had a book signed or signed one yourself? 


Friday, September 9, 2016

Phobias

I’m always fascinated to hear writers talking about their craft. Of course, what works for one writer won’t work for another but I firmly believe we’re always learning and any tips are gratefully received.

What caught my interest this time was a writer discussing characterisation and, in particular, characters’ phobias. This particular writer insisted that every person has a phobia of some sort. My first reaction was: “Actually, I don’t have any phobias…” I don’t. Truly. 

Unless you count…

Birds!

My office looks out at the tree in the garden when the bird feeders hang and I spend hours watching sparrows, starlings, blue tits, pigeons, magpies, and even a spotted woodpecker now and again. Birds give me great pleasure - so long as they’re in their space and I’m in mine. The problems start when they invade my space.  A couple of weeks ago, a swallow flew into the house. I raced outside in a blind panic and we ended up with a stand off. The swallow was sitting on the kitchen window sill looking out at me and I was outside looking at him. I did the only thing I could and phoned hubby who was in a meeting 20 miles away. I had to wait for his meeting to finish and him to drive home and rescue me. He calmly walked into the bathroom where said swallow had taken up residence and opened the window. It took him about 10 seconds to release the bird and it took me days to recover from the trauma of it all.

The genius that was Alfred Hitchcock might have made a certain film for me. Birds taking over the planet is my nightmare come true.



As for peacocks, the thought of them brings me out in a cold sweat.



Ambulances!

The rational part of me knows that an ambulance is merely a vehicle that takes someone to hospital if a taxi isn’t viable but the sight of them banishes all rational thought. I think this stems from walking down our street with my mother when I was three or four years old and seeing an elderly neighbour being carried on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance. My mother, naturally enough, told me that he was being taken to hospital to be made better. Hmm. I never saw the neighbour again and decided that, if you ventured inside an ambulance, you vanished into thin air. 

Truthfully, I’m not good with anything medical - needles, drips, blood. The whole medical thing gives me the creeps but ambulances really freak me out.
Thunderstorms!

Easy. If there’s a hint of thunder, I don’t go outside. I close blinds so I can’t see those awful flashes of lightning. 



As for everything else, I’m fine. If you need a spider removing, I’m your woman. I don’t like them, but I’m happy to deal with them. 



I’m not keen on snakes, but there aren’t any to worry about in Lancashire, thank goodness.

I’m okay with heights, open spaces, enclosed spaces, flying… Really, I’m perfectly normal. ;o)


What about you? Do you have any irrational fears? (If so, I may have put them in my next book!)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Wild Florida


September is hot in north Florida, but at least there's the promise of cooler weather around the corner. Today's high was a mere 87 °F and last night the temp actually dipped below 70! Soon, it will be hiking weather and one of my favorite spots in Gainesville is Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

Sweetwater Wetlands Park
SWP borders Paynes Prairie. In the 1930s ranchers drained part of the expansive Prairie to expand grazing areas. Along with the  dehydration of more than 1,300 acres of prairie wetlands, the Alachua Sink filled with an excess of nitrogen and was eventually put on a list of impaired bodies of water. In 2009, the Paynes Prairie Sheetflow Restoration Project began as a way to reduce pollution to the Alachua Sink by restoring the prairie's natural sheetflow and creating a wetland habitat. The final goal was to create an environmentally friendly park, filled with plants and animals.

I think they succeeded.

On the day I visited, this fine specimen of Alligator mississippiensis was taking in some rays--isn't he beautiful?

Are you lookin' at me?
There is much to admire in the alligator.
Females are devoted mothers. She remains near the nest, protecting her unborn throughout the 65-day incubation period. Prior to hatching, the baby gators make high-pitched noises from inside their eggs, causing Mom to start digging them out of the nest and carrying them down to the water in her jaws.

Did you know that gators have two kinds of walk?   They have a “high walk” and a “low walk.” The low walk is sprawling, while in the high walk the alligator lifts its belly off the ground. This little guy below is high-stepping it across the road.
So why does the gator the road?
Alligator courtship resembles middle-school romances. During the spring breeding season, males bellow to attract females. Other rituals include head-slapping, snout and back rubbing, and blowing bubbles.
Can I get an amen from the congregation?

Did you know that a group of alligators is called a congregation? 


The park is also a paradise for birds. If hope is the thing with feathers, than SWP is a very hopeful place.

On my last visit, one of the first birds I sighted was the noble osprey. These raptors mate for life, returning to the same nest over the generations. In a mating pair's first season, the nest is relatively small, but in time, a nest might be large enough for a person to sit in. SWP is home to several nesting pairs.
"I think he'll be to Rome as is the osprey to the fish,
who takes it by sovereignty of nature
"  Shakespeare

Sushi!

I'm not sure what kind of ducks these are, but they're an orderly sort.
At last, I've got all my ducks in a row!

The shadow of the anhinga.

The graceful anhinga is easily identified by its habit of stretching its wings to dry.

It's sometimes called the snake bird for its habit of swimming with its long head and neck sticking out, as you see here.

There's definitely a reptilian vibe going on, don't you think? If  you squint, there's a definite resemblance to Nessie of Loch Ness!
Along with the sights, the park is a symphony of bird song. This limpet has a piercing cry that's hard to forget. 


After eating, the wood stork likes to stand around, as if in deep contemplation, which is why it's sometimes called a preacher bird. 

I fish,therefore I am.

Somewhat ungainly on land, in the air, the wood stork soars and glides, riding the thermal air currents as a surfer rides the big waves at Banzai Pipeline.


I hope you enjoyed this look at a small piece of wild Florida that's been reclaimed through science and planning. Jules Reynard wrote: 

On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it. 


Sweetwater Wetlands Park is my piece of heaven here in Gainesville.

What's yours?



.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Strictly Come Murder!


Strictly Come Dancing is back!
That might not have much to do with suspense, but I’m working on a murder committed during a TV reality show, so I’ve been watching more than a few. However, I’ve always watched Strictly. In the US, it’s Dancing With The Stars. I’ve seen both, and while DWTS is enjoyable, Strictly is my jam.
It has two of the same judges, who commute between continents when the program is on. Len and Bruno are common to both, which makes comparisons even more interesting.
Finally, I worked out why. Yesterday’s opening episode of Strictly started with a totally ridiculous and over-the-top video, then a pro dance. It’s much cleverer than it seems.
DWTS probably has a larger budget, and it’s as flashy as a program about ballroom dancing should be. Strictly must have a pretty lavish budget, too, but there is an edge of tackiness too, of make-do and throwing things together. They could easily get rid of that, but they’re clever not to.
Strictly Come Dancing, the title, is a combination of Come Dancing, the venerable ballroom dance competition that ran for decades, very staid and proper, and Strictly Ballroom, the deliciously irreverent comedy by Baz Luhrmann, which showed how ballroom dancing could change lives if it was a living entity instead of frozen in time.
Strictly Come Dancing is a good mixture of the two. The contestants and professionals take their dances seriously, but it’s something else that makes it such a great hit, something its American counterpart lacks.
While DWTS has fun, it is primarily a show about dancing and people striving for it. It takes itself seriously. Whereas, with the more tongue-in-cheek Strictly, there’s a huge dollop of irony.
From the video last night to the end of the show, it was even more prominent than it used to be in the days of Brucie. He had that corny humour, and that wink that gave you the show’s message.
That message?
The show is saying, “You know you’re better than this, but admit it, you love it. And we love it too. Let’s mutually let out our inner tackiness and admit that bad taste is fun.” It’s the kitsch show, but we all know it is, so that’s okay. Irony. Brucie (Bruce Forsyth) made a living out of live TV shows. He could handle anything, could Brucie, and he has exactly the right mixture of knowingness and don’t-care to push the show past the X-Factor and into National Treasure territory.
X-Factor takes itself seriously. It promises fame and fortune, and sometimes delivers. But the whole process is so damned dreary, and downright cruel. It’s okay if there’s nothing else on, but when Strictly starts, X-Factor loses, because Strictly is sheer Saturday night fun. There’s no pressure, no anxiety, except wondering if your favourite has survived another week. But even if they haven’t, they’ll be okay. That’s why they can hook celebrities.
And talking of celebrities, they are strictly not A list. A-listers don’t have 6 weeks or more to devote to one project, and Strictly demands constant practice until you’re voted out. It’s also why the can’t-dance candidates succeed for so long. It’s the boring ones that get eliminated first.
So what if that frothy, sequinned bundle of fun that is Strictly is disrupted by a murder?
It would burst the bubble, spoil the fun. It would have to be handled carefully, maybe treated with the same tongue-in-cheek as the program, or maybe the opposite, a black, horrible crime that tears the premise of the program wide open. A murder in the X-Factor would be more straightforward to write about. The jealousy and life-or-death stakes they promote would work for that. In the Big Brother house? A country house mystery brought up to date.
Can I get that across in a story? I don’t know, but I’m going to have fun trying!
What reality show would you pick?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

LITERARY ESTATE MANAGEMENT


The following information concerning intellectual property was originally posted by mystery author Nancy Cohen to my local RWA chapter. As Nancy states below in her introductory remarks, it deals with an aspect of writing most authors pay scant attention to—our literary legacy:

LITERARY ESTATE MANAGEMENT

If you’re a writer, have you given thought to creating a literary estate? What does this mean exactly? Or maybe you’ve only written a few books and you feel you’re a nobody, so why should you care?

What will happen when someone wants to option one of your books for film rights after you’re dead? Or what if a publisher would like to reissue your entire series? Dream on, right? But have you made provisions for these instances? Who will control your copyrights, collect your royalties, and distribute your physical materials after you die? Do you really want your kids or heirs to throw your research notes and printed manuscripts in the trash?

I’d collected information on this topic from Ninc and the Author’s Guild and perhaps other sources and used them (with credit given, if I could remember the particular source) to create the following template. Consider whether to add in provisions for new or upcoming technologies if you don’t feel they’re covered here. And kindly let me know if I am missing anything or if you would word something here differently.

This is such an important topic for published authors but one that’s not often discussed. So take yourself seriously for a change and make arrangements while you can.

Literary Estate of [insert name]

(As per Revocable Trust Agreement executed [date])

A. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Trust, the Trustee shall not distribute any part of Settlor’s literary estate, but instead shall transfer all of the creative property into a “Creative Property Trust”. The special trustees named in this Trust shall hold this trust in perpetuity. The creative property includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Books, manuscripts, novels, scripts, treatments, stories, book videos, blogs, poetry, dramas, journals, characters and plot lines, series ideas, or any other fiction or nonfiction, whether published or unpublished, created in whole or in part by the Settlor (collectively “Writings”),

2. Copyrights,

3. Rights to collect the proceeds from any Writings,

4. Contracts for the publication, exploitation, licensing, or sale of any Writings, and any derivative or secondary rights in or to the Writings or derived from the Writings,

5. Rights to any performances, recordings, readings, interviews, or dramatizations by Settlor,

6. Use of Settlor’s name and likeness,

7. Rights of publicity, including use and maintenance of Settlor’s website(s), blogs, other Internet activities, and technologies not currently in use, for the purpose of author promotion.

B. Notwithstanding any other designation of the trustee or trustees in this Trust, after Settlor’s death, [insert names] shall serve as special trustees of the Creative Property Trust. If any of them fails to qualify or ceases to act as a special trustee, the remaining trustees shall continue to serve in his or her place. The last remaining trustee shall appoint a successor trustee. These special trustees shall serve without remuneration.

C. The special trustees shall, in addition to those powers now or hereafter conferred by law or by

the other terms of this Trust, solely and exclusively have the following powers with respect to the Creative Property:

1. To negotiate contracts and to publish, exploit, license, and sell, in the special trustees' sole discretion, any Writings;

2. To refrain from publishing, exploiting, licensing, or selling any Writings for as long as the special trustees deem appropriate, at the risk of the trust estate, at the special trustees' discretion;

3. To exploit, license, and sell, in the special trustees' sole discretion, any secondary or subrights to the Writings;

4. To secure reversion of rights for published works;

5. To register and renew copyrights (Note that copyrights are currently for the life of the author plus 70 years.);

6. To collect proceeds, i.e. advances and royalties, and any other revenue resulting from Settlor’s literary estate;

7. To pay the appropriate taxes for the trust;

8. To hire an accountant, literary agent, or literary attorney when deemed necessary for the benefit of the trust.

D. All income and principal of the Creative Property Trust shall be distributed immediately upon receipt to [insert beneficiary]. If [beneficiary name] is not then living, then the proceeds shall be distributed in equal portions to [secondary beneficiaries]. If either [insert name] or [insert name] is not then living, then such deceased child’s share shall pass in equal portions to his or her then living descendants, per stirpes.

E. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Trust, the trustee shall not distribute any part of Settlor’s literary estate that consists of physical materials, but instead shall transfer these materials to the special trustees of the Creative Property Trust.

F. Physical Materials shall consist of, but are not limited to, the following:

Manuscripts: originals, revised drafts, copy edits, and page proofs; copies of published books and articles, notebooks, files, computer disks, research materials, professional correspondence, book related photographs, fan mail, reviews, news profiles, interviews, promotional materials, souvenirs, and awards.

G. The special trustees shall donate any Physical Materials belonging to the Creative Property Trust, that Settlor’s heirs do not wish to keep for personal reasons, to the [insert library fiction collection of your choice].

1. Items should be labeled with [Manuscript Collection Number xxx or however your site labels their collections].

2. Contact info:

3. Mail to: [insert address]

Executed at ________________________, on __________________.

SIGNED:

WITNESSED:

How many of you published authors out there have already addressed this issue? Would you change or add anything in the above provisions?