Spaghetti with Ketchup

edsmilea guest blog by EJ Eisman

I’m so frustrated, I could make spaghetti with ketchup.  Anyone that knows me that is like fighting words, vomit, or like finding out that McDonald’s is dropping the seasonal McRib sandwich again; there is anger, dismay,  a feeling of being out of control.  I’m all about the San Marzano tomatoes, a can of paste, and a cup of wine when I make spaghetti sauce.  Mangled pork, in any configuration, with plenty of barbeque sauce, onions, pickles, etc. should be on the menu all the time. The McRib is like the McDonald’s version of White Castle Hamburgers; I buy them by the sack!   Writing sometimes frustrates me to the point where I feel like I’m writing ‘spaghetti with ketchup’ instead of taking the time to make the good stuff.  It’s a challenge sitting at the computer, setting the focus of my mind, turning on the music, and go into another world for a while.  Writing is one of those things that can be described as agony and ecstasy. Guess what I’m feeling now?  It’s been a whole week since I’ve had the chance since I’ve put the preverbal ‘pen to paper’ but today I had some free time over lunch to go into my special world.  Most real writers have the cavalier attitude of ‘just do it’ and when I’m in that zone, I can crank out words as much as anyone.  Well, not anyone, but at least as good as average literate person.   I can spin a phrase or two and soon I’m looking at the bottom of the page ready to go on to the next.

I guess I’m a little concerned.  I’ve been revising my new novel Mariline, and I’ve been making some major changes.  Yes, it worked fine the way it was, but ‘fine’ is just not enough.  I want people to ask questions, wonder, want to rip off all their clothes, punch their neighbors, and scratch their head.  I threw out the last 10 chapters and rendered an entirely new ending.  I think it’s really come together.   I’ve cut scenes.  I’ve edited down others to make it streamline, accessible, and clean.   It gets right to the story, it doesn’t wait around for things to happen.  It has morphed from a scattered NANOWRIMO novel of three years ago, into some monster of a thing.   I think will make a statement, and that statement has an explanation point at the end of it, along with some choice verbs and nouns.   I have to say that because what kind of writer would I be without some braggadocio?

So between having to go the distance like a bloody and beaten prize fighter, and adding more pertinent scenes, I’m staring at a chapter trying to eke out some content. The flickering computer screen is filled with swirling words; some that make sense and others that are merely there as placeholders for others.  Like a sculptor or a painter, I see the medium before me, ready to get my fingernails dirty and my hands all full with slop, hoping not to pull or paint over the beauty and thus make it ugly, losing the meaning, the purpose, the value.

There is a tight rope a writer travels over when revising.  You need to keep fidelity to the story.  You need to keep it tight and clean.  But you also have to know when your poetic bullshit is too much, no matter how much you and the Gods have told you they love it.    Bring back McRIBS!!

EJ Eisman is the author of the novels Spoon Girl and Malaise, published by AuthorHouse. He resides in Reading, PA and is also a musician, artist, playwright, actor and filmmaker

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13 Steps to a Successful Self-Publishing Career

david Jones Guest blog by David Jones

You’ve probably heard notable self-published authors such as Hugh Howey and J.A. Konrath talk about how simple it is to get your book into the hands of potential readers by self-publishing. However, note that they use the word “simple,” not the word “easy.” Self-publishing isn’t easy – but you can make build a career doing it. Here’s how:

1. Write Your Book

This may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many times you hear about someone who wants to be an author but hasn’t bothered to write anything. It’s not about finding time, it’s about making time. Cut back on television, wake up earlier, drink more coffee and stay up later. Writers find the time to write.

2. Give It a Rest

After you’ve finished writing your book you’re going to need some time away. Ideally, the next time you pick up your book, you can look at it with fresh eyes – as if you’re not the person who wrote it. You need to have this objectivity in order to successfully complete the next step.

3. Rewrite Your Book 

Read through your book and make a list of all the issues that you see. Does the main character lack the proper motivation? Is the antagonist two-dimensional? Do you get bored during the middle? Once you’ve listed all of these issues, come up with solutions and implement them. If it helps, think of rewriting as painting a room – the paint only starts to look good after you’ve added a few coats.

4. Beta Readers

Find beta readers. Try to avoid using people who care too much about your feelings. The more they care, the less likely they are to be honest. You want beta readers that have an interest in your genre, know a little bit about writing, and can provide you with a completely honest assessment.

5. Rewrite Your Book

Your beta readers are going to point out several problems that you can’t believe you missed. That’s okay! Now it’s time for you to add that third layer of paint. You can usually ignore a problem that only one beta reader points out. However, if several beta readers point out the same problem, then it definitely needs to be fixed.

6. Hire a Developmental Editor

Think of your developmental editor as a super beta reader. They’re going to know your genre inside and out and they’re going to point out several areas that need fixing. It could be as minor as adding some background to a secondary character to flesh them out, or as major as rewriting the ending. If you’re not used to rewriting yet, you should get used to it, because your next step is to…

7. Rewrite Your Book… Again

Go through all of the problems your developmental editor listed and fix them one by one. You might be getting sick of your own work by now – if so, take a few weeks off so you can come back to it with fresh eyes.

8. Hire a Copy Editor

Your copy editor will go through your book and find misplaced modifiers, grammar issues, and spelling mistakes. Fix these.

9. Format and Finish Your Book!

Now that your text is perfect, you need to format your book. The formatting guidelines will change depending on where you choose to upload your book. You’ll want to download a copy of it after it’s been uploaded so you know what your readers are getting.

10. Hire a Cover Designer

Unless you’re a Photoshop wizard, you’ll want to hire a cover designer. The old cliché is to not judge a book by its cover, but when a potential reader is browsing through Amazon, that’s exactly what they’re doing. You need a great cover to stick out.

11. Upload Your Book

Upload your book to the websites you’ve chosen to sell it on.

12. Advertise

Tell your Twitter followers (but don’t spam them), do a blog tour, create a website – find a way to get your name out there. If no one can find you, no one will read you.

13. Start Your Next Book

If you want to build a career you need to have more than one book. Time to start the next one.

 

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6 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

kevin leeby guest blogger Kevin Lee
Kozzi-business-woman-working-on-laptop-1183 X 1774  As you stare at the blinking cursor on your screen, the rhythmic pattern has put you in a trance-like state. Suddenly, you come to and realize that you’re looking at a blank document. With this new-found information, your decide it’s time to start writing—however, you can’t think of what to type. Most writers are able to relate to this experience, as writer’s block is a common issue that creeps up from time to time. The way you decide to deal with it determines whether you’ll have a productive day, or will have to make up for loss time tomorrow. These six tips should help you conquer this irritating problem. You don’t have to follow each one, in fact, it’s best that you pick and choose the tips you feel will work for you.

Tip 1: Get Your Blood Flowing

Drop down and crank out some push-ups, do some jumping jacks, or go for a short jog. Not only is it healthy for you, but exercise has been shown to increase creativity. Taking yourself away from the computer and exercising is an excellent way to clear your mind and eliminate writer’s block.

Tip 2: Listen to Music or Read a Book

Listening to music or reading a book is another way to boost your creativity. The great thing about this tip is that you can combine it with the first tip. Grab your MP3 player, listen to your favorite band or audiobook, and go for a short walk or jog.

Tip 3: Create an Outline

Sometimes, you can experience writer’s block because you have too many ideas flowing in your head, and you can’t decide which to commit to. If this is the case, creating a simple outline detailing your topic and explaining how you plan to write about it can help. Make a list of all the ideas you have or topics that you need to discuss. Then, sort them in the order you see fit, and break it down further by writing bullet points describing how you plan to write about each topic.

Tip 4: Just Start Writing

This tip may seem silly in a list discussing writer’s block, but hear me out. As writers, we are often our biggest critic. One possible cause of writer’s block is self-doubt, and the longer you sit there critiquing your ideas, the more likely you are to find a reason to not put them on paper. Literally just start writing down the first things that come to your mind. Eventually, you’ll stumble upon something that you like, and from there you can branch off and develop on these new concepts.

Tip 5: Change Your Environment

A change in scenery can spark your imagination and enliven your work. Take a trip to the destination of your choice—go to the beach, drive to a park, or head to your local coffee shop. The new setting can energize you and lift your spirits. If you need to stay where you are, consider organizing your work area. For some people, a clean, orderly desk helps improve cognitive function.

Tip 6: Work Backwards

Usually, we write from start to finish, however, this doesn’t have to be the case. If you know what you want your conclusion to be, or have a great idea for a later chapter, jump ahead and start working on it. You can also come back later and finish the earlier parts. Chances are, your writer’s block will be gone and you’ll breeze through it.

 

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Writers Coffee House- Sunday, February 23.

barnsandnoblebooksellers

I spend yesterday at the Philadelphia Liar’s Writers Coffee House at the Barnes and Noble in Willow Grove, PA.  With the usual suspects, Kim and Alison, we sat though the two hours of knowledge and wisdom pressed on us from Kathryn Craft and others from the Liar’s Club.  The majority of the meeting was talking about what inspires us to write, and where do we write.  Some talked about writing in closets, on their couch in front of the TV, Dunkin Donuts stores, and others local coffee shops.  Writers brought in pictures of relatives, unicorns, Lego people, and other assorted action figures.  My inspirations were, blown up cover art from my novels, my first royalty check, and Mozart.  Over all it was, it was interesting to see what use for inspiration and where they do their work.  When writing sometimes you need something to push you, but as one observed, it all comes down to you and the blank piece of paper.  Keep writing!

large print- covers

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Writing Group

barnsandnoblebooksellers  I was at the writer’s group Coffee House in Willow Grove at the Barnes and Noble, back on January 25th.  One thing I took away was how one might deepen their character.  One suggestion was to think of your character as an object and use descriptions you would use for the object as you describe your character.  Ex.  A person could be cold and hard as rock.

She stood there motionless, cold, but with a jagged look in her eyes.

This Sunday is another meeting starting at 12 pm.

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Issues With Downloads Resolved

downloads  We were having some issues with the CM Download Manager plug-in, which supplied files for you to download from our site.  There was an update to the plug-in and it appears to be fixed now.

Click on Download and see what is available.

Thanks for your patience in this matter,

EJ

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Do You Have What You Need?

writing  As this website strives to make you a better writer, I will periodically ask the question, “Do you have what you need?”  Are you getting better?   Are you becoming more confident in writing with the tools we’ve provided?  What help can we provide?  I realize that you are writers among writers, some with great skill and others who might just be starting out.  Please ask if you have any questions, besides me, there are others willing to assist, encourage, and support.  We have knowledge on writing, editing, and publishing articles, poetry, and novels.  All you have to do is ask.

EJ Eisman is the author of the novels Spoon Girl and Malaise, published by AuthorHouse. He resides in Reading, PA and is also a musician, artist, playwright, actor and filmmaker.

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So You Wanna Write?

writing  That’s awesome!  Do you want to be published?  There are so many opportunities out there to become published, and with self-publishing now becoming one of the fastest route to infamy, step into the water, it’s feeling fine.  Having been published for over a year and a half now, and getting involved with several writing groups, I hear stories. I hear lots of great stories, if only people would sit down and get to business.  I think their number one concern is that it won’t be good enough.   If you used the same negative logic throughout life, where would you be?  As I used to say, to people that asked me how I could jump on the dance floor and be so good, “You only have to be better than the worst dancer on the floor to impress someone.  You just have to do it!”   If fear is the only thing stopping you from creating an epic novel, then get over yourself.  If I asked you to jump out of a plane, I can see the fear in your face already.  It’s OK.  Suck it up and move on.  No one is good enough on their first draft.  It is a learning process, and as you edit, things will start to make sense.

Another thing I hear from writers, is they don’t have time to write.  Look, if you are a writer then you will have time to do it.  If you are a television watcher, do you find time to do that?  Pick a time when to write, and stick with it.  I am fortunate to have time to write over lunch at work.  I’ve written three novels that way, with just an hour, every day during the work week.  Do I miss sometimes?  Sure.  Do I worry about missing the time?  No.  The horse is still there.  I’ll ride it when next time around.  In the meanwhile I’m thinking about my story, plotting to kill people, wringing the characters hands, and living their emotions while I put them through hell in my brain.  Writers spend a whole lot of time in their own brains, and I admit, sometimes it’s more comforting than real life, but it’s where you get some of your greatest ideas.  Whether you type, speak into a microphone that translates your words, or write in longhand, you can do.  So do!

The third thing I hear from writers is, “I’m afraid someone might read it.”  You could only hope!  The first draft should be written for you.  The drafts after that should be written for an audience.  So if Bob shows up and sounds a little too familiar to someone in your family, then you might want to make him a little less familiar.  There is no doubt that we pick and choose people we know as characters for the stories we write about.  If you are not writing an autobiography, where it might be important to keep them true to the person, in fiction the world is yours, do with it what you wish!  If they see a coincidence well,  it does happen.  Don’t invite them to the book signing party.

Don’t give up.  Life does take its toll on writers.  You have a vision, and you want others to see it to.  Some can cough up a novel in three months, others take years.  It’s your baby; you need to know when it is time to give it wings.   Everything is a learning lesson.   If you drop a stink bomb, move on to the next one, but learn.  There are plenty of books on writing out there, but I think people who write, have an internal sense, like someone that may want to be a quarterback, or a baseball pitcher.  There is something that drives you, whether you like it or not.  Hopefully you like it!   I feel driven to write because I can.  I’m published because I wanted to be and I can.  I can write another book, because I can.  If I can, so can you.  If you take anything from this, here is a mantra to repeat, “I WRITE.  I’ve  WRITEN.  I will (am) PUBLISH (ED)!”

EJ Eisman is the author of the novels Spoon Girl and Malaise, published by AuthorHouse. He resides in Reading, PA and is also a blogger, musician, artist, playwright, actor and filmmaker.

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On Writing

Mifflin Community LibraryTonight at 6:30 pm, writer Kimberli Michele is giving a presentation about Steven King’s novel On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft to the Mifflin Writer’s group at the Mifflin Community Library, 6 Philadelphia Ave, Shillington, PA. All are welcome!

http://www.berks.lib.pa.us/smi/about/index.php?id=htm&page=location

Presentation available for download at  http://ejeisman.com/OCW/cmdownloads/on-writing-presentation/

Kimberli Michele is a writer, working on her first novel. She lives in Reading, PA with her boyfriend and his grey, long-haired, psychotic cat, Audrey. She is the proud mother of one adult daughter who resides in NYC.

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A first sentence like any other, the book would wither and die…

mug-first linesKim was looking through her Facebook and found among the ads a mug for sale with famous first lines from novels.  It got us both thinking about how powerful some first lines in literature.  There are some great ones.  The American Book Review lists 100 of them and by reading them, you can feel drawn in.  Great stories start with great first lines, and as I write Mainline, I am thinking about changing my first line, yet again.  Just thinking about how long some novels and how their first lines have been around for so long….”best of times, worst of times…” I wonder what the novelists would think if they knew their first lines are still remembered, and now adorned on a mug.  I love the idea.  I’d like to think in the future, readers will remember and read the first line of one of my novels from a piece of fired clay.

Check out some of these other first lines from this link.

http://americanbookreview.org/100bestlines.asp

TOP TEN from the website

1. Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

3. A screaming comes across the sky. —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)

4. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)

5. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

6. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett)

7. riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. —James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)

8. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

9. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

10. I am an invisible man. —Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

 

EJ Eisman is the author of the novels Spoon Girl and Malaise, published by AuthorHouse. He resides in Reading, PA and is also a musician, artist, playwright, actor and filmmaker.

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