A Mostly True, Sorta Tale of Guyishness, Minus the Bullet Holes and Duct Tape

John Clark is unavailable today as he’s in Rapid City, SD at the Elmo Ermwood Institute for an annual spiritual oil change and alignment. He will return for his next regularly scheduled post. His favorite cousin, Pradesh ‘Bubba’ Letourneau is posting instead about John’s history with “Guy” mishaps.

I was sittin’ on the back porch swing when John stumbled around the corner, wincing visibly as his tailbone met the seat beside me. “Need a refresher, Boy?”

He nodded.

“The usual?”

“Yup.”

When I returned and handed him a can of diet cherry soda, he mumbled thanks, popped the top and killed half in one continuous gulp. “Thanks, I needed that. I been dragging so much the past couple weeks, I gotta stop and pull dandelions outta by backside before Ma will let me in the house.”

Some stuff got done despite the log attack, like the grapevine revamp.

Some stuff got done despite the log attack, like the grapevine revamp.

“Don’t tell me. You gone back to doin’ them dumb guy things again. I thought you outgrew them ’bout twenty years ago.”

“So did I, but when you’re a writer, sometimes you gotta experiment to get a handle on realism, ya know.”

“Do tell. Lemme see, then. Does that mean the Roto-Rooter man’s gotta go sewer pipe divin’ if he wants to get real good at his job?”

John winced. “Don’t make me laugh, that hurts almost as bad as sneezing right now. How else was I gonna learn that duct tape ain’t worth a damn when it comes to fixing bullet holes, but sterile tent caterpillar silk and super glue work slick as a smelt.”

We have plenty of extra Hosta as well as calendulas, if anyone is interested.

We have plenty of extra Hosta as well as Calendulas, if anyone is interested.

“Cripes, Bubby, you didn’t shoot yourself just to see how it felt did you? I could see doin’ some serious experimenting if you was writin’ them bodice rippers, but hands-on mayhem don’t seem particularly appealin’ to me.” Besides I’d think you’d have enough hands and body-on experience already to rely on.

“Lemme see, there’s the broken foot when you got it caught in the spokes on your bike, the near ruptured appendix and that sadistic nurse who came in every twenty minutes to make you laugh, the cat that darn near scratched your eye out, the tree ya dropped on the power line, the chip ya took in your eye when you was too stubborn to wear safety goggles.”

“You can stop any time now.” John was fighting a grin as I reeled off his lifetime of mishaps.

“Ain’t happening. I’m just getting’ to the good stuff like runnin’ into that elm tree on a borrowed motorcycle, then compounding injury and insult by showering with the cast still setting AND then trying to use a scythe to cut brush the next day up on Appleton Ridge. How about the cigarette that burned your finger down to the bone on our class trip? Dare I mention drivin’ your dinky station wagoninto Chickawaukee Lake while blitzed? I’ll grant that ya slowed down after coming to your senses, but there’s a couple real good chainsaw bites like the one on your kneecap and the time you tried bucksawin’ and talking at the same time. I bet that scar’s still visible unlike the stitches ya popped when tryin’ to plant trees the day after hernia surgery.”

My cousin had the grace to blush when I paused. Truth be told, if he wanted to, John coulda come up with almost as many guy-haps on my part if he wanted to. I decided I’d better finish the list quick. “Lemme see, what did I forget? Oh, yeah, the finger. Come to think of it, that might have been the best and last one I remember. It takes a real idiot to drop a three hundred pound rock on their pinkie, split it to the first joint and try to convince their RN wife that a bandage was gonna do the trick. How many stitches did it take?” I was rewarded by a two middle finger salute.

“So, Bubby, what happened this time?” I waited while John killed the rest of his soda.

“Well, a couple weeks ago, I got real ambitious about pruning apple trees, seeing as how I’m retired and have time to really get on top of projects. Since that damn ethanol dissolved the fuel line in my chainsaw and I sorta haven’t gotten around to hauling it up to Harmony to get it fixed, I used my hand pruning saw to do the job. However, that left some hellaciously big limbs to buck up and doing so with the pruning saw gets old real quick, so one Sunday I strung all my extension cords together and started cutting the four big limbs into stuff that Sara and Russ can burn in their stove. I was using my electric pruning saw which, by the way is one of my best buys ever. The biggest limb was Y-shaped and about 12 feet long. I’d just sawed through a chunk that was about head high, when the rest of it jumped forward. The cut end smacked me square in the chest and I swear, I knew how Sonny Liston must have felt when Cassius Clay hit him in the Lewiston Fight. It was instant numbness, followed by the thought that maybe my heart might stop and then serious hurt. Of course real guys don’t stop to assess damage, they finish the job, so I kept cutting, then stacked everything before daring to lift my t-shirt and see how bad it was. Sure enough, there was a big red half circle of ugly and lots of unhappy ribs.

Put 'em together and whatta ya got? A real rib killer.

Put ’em together and whatta ya got? A real rib killer.

“That was what led to my dragging. Still doing so and my ribs aren’t in a very forgiving mood.” John gave me a pained grin. “That stuff about the duct tape, bullet hole and caterpillar silk packing was all thrown in for effect, but I bet I could do a half decent job of using them in a story down the road.”

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Letters from the Civil War

Hi. Barb here.

When I realized my posting day was Memorial Day, I was a bit flummoxed. There are several people here on the blog who are better equipped to remark on this day than I am.

My father served in Korea, and my grandfather in World War I, and preparing to write this post sent me on a mad scramble to find a photo of either of them in uniform. I didn’t find any, and neither of them were the type to speak about their service. (And since my grandfather was a stockbroker, which meant he made his living on the phone, which meant he would talk your ear off about pretty much anything, the silence speaks volumes.)

But while I was looking, I did find something I hadn’t examined in ages, decades certainly–my great-great-grandfather’s letters from the Civil War.

Adoniram Judson Dickison (My brother has the sword)

my great-great grandfather, Adoniram Judson Dickison (My brother has the sword)

I was almost afraid to look at them. I thought they might have crumbled to dust, but all but two are fairly well preserved. There are seven in all, written between January 19, 1864 and February 17, 1865 to a niece, Francis Alice Rozelle, back in Oswego, New York. Ancestry.com helpfully tells me that Alice would have been thirteen and fourteen at the time (though I haven’t yet figured out quite how they were related). A. Judson, as he is always called, repeatedly tells Alice that her handwriting is excellent and to stay in school as long as she can. Her side of the correspondence does not survive.

Civilwar4January 19th, 1864, Culpepper, VA

“Yesterday was a very nasty day, and to help along with, we had to move our train to the upper part of the town. Mud knee deep and raining quite hard, we had an awful time of it. I felt sorry for the men. No chance to get any shelter until they got their “shantys” up. I wish I could describe to you the way the soldiers live down here and how patiently they stand all manner of hardships and privations. I think it has improved me in some respects to come down here. I have learned to have a good deal of patience and forbearance. It requires a good deal to be on the march, for insistence, when it is raining as hard as it can pour down, and perhaps have to stand for hours without any shelter, wet to the skin, and not a murmur. I have often wished that people at home could know what a soldier has to go through with. If they did know, they would be apt to show them more respect.”

Civilwar2

November 6th, 1864, Yellow House, VA

[The part at the top about his wife Sarah having bought a baby girl threw me for a bit of a loop, until I realized from other letters when his last leave had been. I don’t know if he is shielding a young girl from the realities of conception and birth, or if he is joking. The baby would have been my grandfather’s beloved Aunt Clara. She and her husband–childless themselves–paid for my grandfather to go to Columbia University after he came home from World War I.]

“You ask me what I think of this War. I think it is pretty near its end. We all think here in the Army that the Rebs are pretty well used up and there are very few but what think that the re-election of Lincoln will go a long way to closing up the War than anything that can be done just at present. All they are holding out now for is the hope that McClellan may be elected by which they hope to get better terms for Peace. But I think Lincoln’s re-election almost as certain as that the sun will rise to-morrow morning. How anyone who is not a traitor to their country could cast their vote for McClellan and the Chicago Platforms, I can not see.”

Civilwar3

February 17th, 1865

“Our Campaign lasted six days, and suffice to say, we had a very nasty time of it. We got into a fight, and our Corps lost 100 killed and 900 wounded and about as many more missing and taken prisoners.”

The letters are fascinating and alternate between the harrowing (he casually mentions he has been taken prisoner “again” and has escaped “again.”) and the homely. He pines for letters from his wife, worries about money (his wife has had to borrow from relatives while he tries to sell a piece of property and waits to be paid) and writes frequently about the weather both where he is and at home in New York.

I do remember my grandfather, in his eighties, lamenting that he’d never asked his grandfather more about the Civil War. A boy of the 1890s, he was far more interested in cowboys and ranches. And here I am lamenting never talking to my father or grandfather about their service. Which goes to show something, I guess. Perhaps that people never change.

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Weekend Update: May 28-29, 2016

fallsbooks1Next week at Maine Crime Writers there will be posts by Barb Ross (Monday), John Clark (Tuesday), Dick Cass (Wednesday), Maureen Milliken (Thursday), and Lea Wait (Friday).

Keep your comments coming this weekend. Another bag of Maine books and goodies will go to one lucky person who reads and reacts to our May blog posts.

In the news department, here’s what’s happening with some of us who blog regularly at Maine Crime Writers:

from Kaitlyn Dunnett: I’m doing a Goodreads giveaway of ten advance reading copies of the tenth Liss MacCrimmon mystery, Kilt at the Highland Games. Here’s the link: Goodreads giveaway but you’ll have to wait until Monday, May 30, to enter. The giveaway will remain open until Friday, June 17.

from Bruce Robert Coffin: Sisters in Crime presents: Breaking into Crime Fiction, Thursday, June 2nd at 7 pm at the Public Library in Leominster, Massachusetts. I’ll be joined by literary agent Paula Munier from Talcott Notch Literary and author C. Michele Dorsey, as we discuss the road to publication. Books will be available for purchase and signing. We’d love to see you there!

from Lea Wait: Writers love libraries! Saturday, June 4, I’ll be one of the authors celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Waldoboro Library, in Waldoboro, Maine. I’ll be signing my books there from 12:30 until 3:30.

from Kate Flora: My co-writer, Roger Guay, and I will (and possibly a clever K9) will be at the Bridgton Library, 1 Church Street in Bridgton, at 2:00 on Tuesday, June 7th, to talk about A Good Man with a Dog.

from Barb Ross: Friday, June 3, 2016, 11:30 am to 3:00 pm, I’ll be speaking and signing at the Wolfeboro N.H. Friends of the Library Book and Author Luncheon at the Bald Peak Colony Club inMoultonborough, NH. Tickets must be purchased in advance.

An invitation to readers of this blog: Do you have news relating to Maine, Crime, or Writing? We’d love to hear from you. Just comment below to share.

And a reminder: If your library, school, or organization is looking for a speaker, we are often available to talk about the writing process, research, where we get our ideas, and other mysteries of the business. Contact Kate Flora: mailto: kateflora@gmail.com

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Freelance Editing for Fun and/or Profit

Jen Blood here on a gorgeous May day, taking a break from the daily grind to write this. As a freelance editor, I get asked fairly frequently how I got started, and how I recommend others get their footing if they think editing is the career for them. Usually when I get that question, I grimace internally, consider the fifteen years I was virtually penniless while I learned what it actually meant to be a freelance editor, and file the email away somewhere to answer later. And then, inevitably, I forget about it.

Today, after getting another email from a would-be editor trying to figure out how to get her foot in the door, I decided I would actually try to provide a real answer.

First, though, a little about what I do.

Laptop, cellphone and other business objects on workplace

In addition to being a writer myself, I work as a freelance copy and content editor for traditional and independently published authors, and also offer beta reading services and some marketing and publishing consultation for self-published authors. I’m paid by individual writers rather than companies, and I offer my services through my own business (Adian Editing). My focus is on plot-driven fiction because that’s what I’m most well-versed in and most passionate about, but I’ll occasionally do nonfiction if it’s a topic that grabs me or an author I’ve worked with in the past on other projects. My specialties include mystery, thriller, romantic suspense, fantasy, YA (young adult), and occasionally romance, erotica, or science fiction. Last week, I did a content edit on a spy thriller, a copy edit on a supernatural mystery, and beta read a contemporary romance. This week, I’m content editing an action/romance and copy editing a horror/zombie apocalypse thriller. Next week, I’ll be copy editing a YA dystopian thriller, beta reading an erotic short story, and content editing a YA fantasy.

So, those are my days. I work anywhere from 9 a.m. until midnight to 9 a.m. till noon, depending on deadlines and what’s on my roster. At this point, I don’t generally need to worry about drumming up business — I’ve been doing this long enough and word of mouth is happily good enough, that I can pick and choose my clients and am typically booked for at least the next six to eight weeks. I could book farther out, but for my own sanity try to keep it limited to the next two months. I have a stellar client list of hardworking authors I love and respect, and we generally have a great back-and-forth when it comes to the writing craft, the growth and development of their characters, and what their next steps are in order to achieve their writing and publishing goals. I don’t have an assistant (though I should probably get one at this point), but I do occasionally hire subcontractors to do proofreading for me once the actual editing is done, just to have another pair of eyes on a project.

I still ultimately aspire to work full-time as a novelist, but this is a pretty great way to pay the bills in the meantime. I’ve been able to hone my own craft on the job, and I love the fact that I can choose work that I’m genuinely excited about by writers who are serious about both the craft and the business of being authors.

So, that’s me. Now let’s get to you. How do you become an editor — working from home, making your own hours, helping authors get better at a craft you both love?

As I mentioned before, it took me fifteen years to get here. It was long and circuitous and not terribly profitable during that time, but I’ll be the first to admit that my methods were hardly the most efficient. Here’s what I recommend instead.

If you’re truly just getting started, and have no college degree (or no college degree related to the field in which you hope to work), consider taking a certificate course online through a reputable college or organization. I took one in 2014 that was actually quite helpful, though for the life of me I can’t remember what the website was. I will say up front, however, that having undergraduate and graduate degrees in Creative Writing has made a big difference in the amount I’m able to charge and the way clients receive my feedback — not to mention the fact that so many of the skills I use on the job were honed in school.

Volunteer or get an internship. You don’t have to be nineteen to work for free — regardless of your station in life, if you have no practical experience as an editor, check in with your local newspaper or contact a professional editor to find out if they have any openings for interns hoping to learn the business.

Cultivate your communication and customer service skills. Freelance editing, particularly the kind where you’re working directly with the author, is not just about understanding what makes a novel work. It’s about being able to communicate that clearly to your client in a way that conveys what needs to be changed without making them quit writing and go jump off a cliff. Writers are sensitive sorts, so this isn’t as easy as you might think. I use a lot of humor, am liberal with my praise for anything that even remotely works in a manuscript, and then I pull no punches. Because, ultimately, you’re getting paid to be a critic, not a mom.

If you already have a college degree in an English or writing-related field and you have hands-on, demonstrable experience as an editor, here’s what I recommend.

infographics_10076131-1115-allint-1 [Converted]

(1) Specialize.

As an undergrad, I printed brochures offering my services as an editor. And a copywriter. And a graphic designer. And an office cleaner. And your BFF who’ll pick up coffee and write nice cards to you when you’re feeling blue. Okay, the last one wasn’t on there, but it was definitely implied. I went to a copywriter with an advertising firm in Portland and gave him the brochure. His response? “I don’t know what you do.” I pointed at the brochure. “I do anything — whatever you need.”

Wrong answer. If you’re doing everything, you’re not doing anything all that well. Figure out what you love and what you’re good at (hopefully, these are not mutually exclusive), and focus on that. If you love nonfiction, trust me — there are writers out there desperate for a good editor. Memoir, children’s books, science fiction, Christian fiction, mysteries penned by cats… Right now, you can’t swing one of those mystery-writing cats — dead or alive — without hitting an author or would-be author. They all need a good editor.

(2) Charge the Going Rate…and then some.

I started out offering my editing at rock-bottom prices because there were so many other editors out there offering their services at rock-bottom prices. The thing is, a lot of those editors had no experience and were terrible at their jobs — in fact, a fair number of the work I get now is re-editing the books they edited poorly the first time around. I did some market research, honestly evaluated how much time it took me to edit a manuscript from beginning to end, and considered how much I wanted to earn, and then I increased my prices. A lot. People pay for quality; if they see rock-bottom prices, they assume you can’t charge more because you’re not worth more. Charge what you’re worth, and stand by that.

(3) Know Where to Go for Work.

I got a lucky break just when my business was starting to really take off, when Joanna Penn — author of the award-winning blog and podcast The Creative Penn — was looking for a new editor and asked if I would do a sample edit. I already knew Joanna from a couple of interviews I’d done with her for my own blog and a guest post I’d written for hers, so the request didn’t come out of the blue. Still, I jumped at the chance, and it paid off. If you know authors who have a good following, ask them if they need an editor. If you’re reading a book by an author you think could be edited better, write to them. Nicely. 

Dear Jane Doe, I love your writing style and your mysteries invariably keep me up all night. I noticed on the last couple of books you’ve written, however, that there were some editing errors that detracted a bit from your narrative. I hope you don’t find it too forward of me, but if you would like a complimentary edit of your first chapter to get an idea of my expertise, I’d love the opportunity to work with you.

Be polite, but confident. Don’t talk about how you’re just getting started and are hoping to get a break in this cruel world — sometimes that works, but too often it comes off as groveling.

(4) Be professional.

Have a website. Make sure the writing is clear and concise, and there are no misspellings or grammatical errors. Have a contract. It doesn’t have to be lengthy, but it should cover the bases and clearly define things like price, deadlines, and what you’re promising the client. I also have a standard questionnaire I send out to prospective clients, which gives me an opportunity to learn a little more about who they are and what they’re hoping to achieve with their writing. Be courteous when responding to email inquiries, even if the person is writing from the Seventh Circle of Hell and wants you to edit a memoir about his tormented inner child – for free.

I know a lot of these seem like no-brainers, but it never hurts to mention them. And finally…

(5) Hone Your Craft.

Editing is hard work. It takes concentration, long hours, and an inherent understanding of how quality writing works. Read — a lot. Study great novels. Study terrible novels. Check out websites like Grammar Girl and Grammarly to get the skinny on the latest editorial debates. Network with writers and other editors. Take classes when they’re available. Teach classes when you have the opportunity. Become an expert.

So… That’s my advice for folks out there who’ve been dreaming of making a change and living a life devoted to the written word. I hope this is helpful. Best of luck!

Jen Blood is author of the bestselling Erin Solomon Mysteries, and owner of Adian Editing, providing expert editing of plot-driven fiction for independent and traditionally published authors around the world. For your free Editing A to Z Cheat Sheet, visit http://adianediting.com/

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The Part of Writing I have The Most Trouble With

My Book Box

My Book Box

My most recent novel, THE BLACK ORCHID, was released in mid-March and received a favorable review from Publisher’s Weekly: : “…Hardacker keeps the action flowing all the way to the violent climax.” I was also pleased to learn that My Book Box had selected it to be included in their April box (if you aren’t familiar with them check out: http://www.mybookbox.com). They are an up-and-coming book club. Each month they send a book box containing 2 books are included (one from each of the subscriber’s selected genres).  Most often the children’s books will be hardcover and adult books will be paperback. They are always new releases in the U.S. within the past 45 days.  Do not expect to receive the latest New York Times Bestseller, but do expect an amazing read from a talented author.  Each box will also include something special, usually some sort of token such as a book mark or even just a letter from one or both authors, and when available, exclusive content for the included book!

So, you’re probably asking “What’s to hate?” For me the answer is easy PROMOTION!!! I have never been an out-going person (as a matter of fact I kind of envied the North Pond Hermit–not the fact that he was a prolific burglar but the way he avoided encountering a member of the human race for twenty-seven years). My late wife was cut from the same mold. When we lived in New Hampshire a major winter storm hit the Nashua area where we lived. She and I nestled into our warm home and didn’t come out for three days (we only popped out then because a concerned neighbor knocked on our door to see if we were still alive…) completely content to ignore Mother Nature and her cruel sense of humor. However, I must clarify this somewhat: I am not afraid to do public appearances; in fact the opposite is true. I gladly agree to appear at any author event that is offered… There is the key the phrase: that is offered…

What I have a difficult time with is finding the venues. Living up here in the county doesn’t help either. The closest book store of any size is in Bangor, a three and a half hour drive) and attendance at the appearances I’ve done at local libraries has usually been two: me and the librarian. I have come to finally realize that people go to libraries to borrow books; not to buy books! There was one pleasant surprise however, last September I appeared at the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick and spoke to an audience of more than fifty readers. Even more surprising was that from their questions, it was evident that many of them had read my books!

The most success I’ve had in booking appearances (and I don’t mind traveling anywhere in the northeast) has come from our own Kate Flora. Kate knows me for the introvert I am and when we attended the 2015 Maine Literary Awards last year took me by the hand and introduced me to several other people there. She has also aided me in getting a number of appearances–the Curtis Library among them (terrific venue! Over fifty people in attendance and it was a great evening.

When THE BLACK ORCHID was released I made up my mind that I was going to aggressively promote the book and determined to construct a campaign that included a number of steps:

  1. I setup a Goodreads giveaway of five autographed copies of the book 1204 readers have requested it; another 643 readers added it to their “to Read” list. A word off caution here: If you have not done a Goodreads Giveaway and elect to do so, Be careful how you set it up. They offer a number of options one of which is what country(ies) would you like to run it. I wanted to do it in the US only (you are responsible for mailing the books to the winners) but hit the wrong selection and included Canada and the UK. Three of my five winners were from outside the US–two from Canada and one from Great Britain–the postage came to $60.00! Still cheap if you figure that if 1204 people registered to win that comes out to about five cents per registration, pretty cheap exposure. Still it was a bit of a shock when I saw the postal charges. Thank god all five weren’t in Great Britain. FYI, outside the US there is no media mail and you have to pay regular mail rates in my case $22.50 to Great Britain and $15.50 to both Nova Scotia and Ontario.
  2. I have emailed each of the major bookstores serving Maine and many of the indies. I have yet to hear from Books-a-Million or Barnes and Nobles. I was contacted by Sherman books who informed me that they were in the middle of inventory and for me to please get back to her in June. I am finding that BAM and B&N are pretty much an exercise in futility (if any of you has had success in booking an appearance at one or the other, please get in touch with me and tell me the secret).
  3.  I have booked several local venues to wit: commencing on June 2 Caribou will be starting their bi-weekly Thursdays on Sweden event (I blogged about it last summer) and on Wednesdays they will be having a weekly Farmer/Craft Market (No admission fee for either of these events. You do have to register for ToS–I have a table reserved for each Thursday so if you’re up this way touch bases with me I’ll gladly slide over and let you have a seat at my table (FYI last summer I sold over $500.00 of my books–I was one of three vendors selling books.)

The above schedule still leaves a lot of gaps on my calendar… If you should find yourself in need of someone to appear either with or for you, contact me. I decided to print up some business cards…they will read: HAVE BOOKS: WILL TRAVEL…

 

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