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7. Feb, 2017

Over the past months, I am seeing more and more discontented social media users. The main complaint being … it’s not very social anymore. And not a truer statement has been said.

So … how do I know this?

I was advised by my first publisher to get myself online and register with Facebook as a means to promote my book/books, so thinking I had a ready market I did so. Now this was my first foray into the net as I had been avoiding it like the plague, fearing that it would put the kybosh on the rest of my live, entrapping me and keeping me away from my writing, my reading time and other more meaningful pursuits.

How right I was, for not only was the whole thing with gathering buyers for my baby a myth but the social part of the experience was not very social. But it was too late to escape … I was caught up.

At first it was all very pleasant, I made a few friends, I spammed the buggery out of my book, not knowing that was a no-no, and read and liked posts like there was no tomorrow. Then, after a while, I started seeing how it was all a waste of time as far as the impact on my book sales, and that most people were caught up in their own lives, dramas and promotions. Which is all well and good and perfectly allowable but things started to change. Verbal punch ups became rife, scams were/and are the norm so no-one knows what to believe any more (but I suppose that is a media thing) and so-called friends were/and are abusing each other, blocking each other, slagging each other and generally being not-very-nice. And I’m not the only one noticing this.

Not so long ago I posted something different … nothing nasty … I just put out a rant. The response was quite incredible as everyone had words of sympathy and general well wishes and a few not-so-gentile suggestions as to how to handle the said – real - issue in question. (I will admit here some suggestions were quite ingenuous and funny)

I then stopped liking or commenting for two weeks. I did this because I was getting little if no response to my posts and I wanted to see what the outcome would be if I responded in kind. It made no difference.

I wanted some reaction so I posted a plea. This was wonderful as it brought many kind comments. In fact, it was probably the most recognised post I’d ever put out on social media.

And all this was placed in between American political posts, hate posts, some rather nasty and cruel animal posts and just general stuff that is not acceptable in my mind.

So, when did we, as a race … the human race … become so hurtful and jaded towards life and others?

And … what about me … someone cried.

Sadly, I cannot make things better for anyone else. But I can say this. Do yourself a favour (said Molly Meldrum) Take back control - even if it is the TV remote. Don’t take life too seriously because at the end of it all we go to the same place, and that’s six feet under. Life is way too short to waste it on plastic screens, media BS, rudeness, control freaks and nastiness in a not-so-real reality. I’m sure everyone wants to look back on their life with a smile instead of a frown. By all means, don’t neglect those wonderful friends you have secured on social media, the ones you joke with, who chat with you in the middle of the night, who repost for you, share and like and general put you in a happy place again. Just ignore all the other crap and hopefully it will go away.

(C) Margaret R Blake 07-02-2017

 

25. Jan, 2017

It seems that George RR Martin is having a hard time of it. As a writer, he has created some masterpieces, one of which is the world-wide phenomena, Game of Thrones, though … he is yet to finish book 6, Winter Is Coming. And I’ve seen that his fans are not happy.

I have read his series so far and, I too, would love to read the last book, but I don’t put much thought into it. Like tomorrow, it will come. In the meantime, I plug away at my own musings. I have a series on the go also, one for middle-graders and upwards, but I don’t have fans bashing on my door wanting to know where book number three is. (This could have something to do with the fact that I don’t have my film contract yet.) However, this is irrelevant.  

What is relevant is that writing is a lonely event. It requires hours of dedication, thought, plotting, planning and downright hard work. It’s not just a matter of throwing some words together, everything needs to make sense, the characters must remain true, the story must be engaging/scary/emotional/easy to read and, heaven forbid, you forget where you left one of your people like I did once.  It’s hard yakka at times, especially when one needs to read and re-read, change edit, and edit some more. And that is before you are anywhere near the submission stage.

Ask yourself this … how well would you cope with this commitment? It’s a big ask. Especially since GRR Martin is only human. He has a life … another life that is not about writing. It’s about family, friends, other interests and simply wanting to just take a break away from it all. So, I guess, the answer to my original question is … no. (Neil Gaiman said it first, by the way) Those good people who plug away at word processors day after day for your entertainment owe you nothing. Instead of harrassing them, cut them a bit of slack. Go look for something else to fill in the emptiness you’re feeling, because you might actually discover something else just as good. And think on all this next time you become impatient about your favourite book series, TV programs or movie franchises. Life is an adventure, not a habit.

PS – In case anyone’s interested … I have a life too. And it doesn’t involve disturbing the dust bunnies multiplying happily under my bed, or evicting those web-making villains that are planning their next housing project.  It involves … Hello … is anybody there? Helloooo …

(C) Margaret R Blake 25-01-2017

 

9. Jan, 2017

The length of a written article varies as much as the genre these days and there are times when even I’m puzzled when a challenge is put to me. The latest was writing drabbles. I’d never heard of them and had to do some research to find out what exactly these mysterious things were. It turned out that the name itself indicated the sum of words that made up the completed story; in this case 100 (or 101) words depending on who you’re talking to.

So … to put some of us out of our misery I have put together this short list of writing/book descriptions with word counts and what they mean.

DRABBLE – 100 (or 101) words. These little tit bits are marvellous. In fact, I love the challenge of them … to write an entire story, complete with beginning, middle and end with only a specific number of words is harder than you think. I know; I’ve tried! But it’s a great exercise.

FLASH FICTION – Around 1,000 words. These are the stories that magazines love – the five-minute reads for lunch-time perusal. The editors who accept them like these tales to have an unexpected twist or sting in the end.

SHORT STORIES – Between 1,000 and 7,500 words. There is a lot more room to manoeuvre in these writings. Several characters can be used, along with several twists and turns.

NOVELETTE – 7,500 to 15,000 words. This was another new one on me, mainly because the word is rarely used. It’s a bit like a mini-me novella. All the same rules apply, as they should with all writing but the scope is wider.

NOVELLA – 15,000 to 40,000 words. This length seems to be very popular these days, mainly because it is no mean feat to write this many words … even for a writer with experience.

NOVEL – 40,000 to 100,000 words. As far as I’m concerned this is like climbing a mountain. Unless you are one talented writer this can take considerable time to achieve.

EPIC – 200,000 words and upwards. There are not many authors these days who write epics. They were common in the days of Virgil, Lord Byron and Harold Robbins, but they take years to put together. And these guys didn’t have the internet.

There you have it. Don’t let this restrict you; just use it as a guide when you tally up those words you so lovingly put together.

(C) Margaret R Blake 09-01-2017

3. Jan, 2017

Just recently I joined two conversations on Facebook, which were about the same Huffington Post article. The author of the piece had put forward a rather scathing opinion of Indie (self-published) authors, that upset a lot of people. She later went on to apologise (after receiving some nasty emails and even some death threats, which I find a bit much) to one said group, saying that the Post had cut the article and with it had changed the original tone of it. Then she added that she would be buying -and reading - some Indie books as she was now convinced that the industry was not just a mere whim of someone who strung a few words together.

While this is all well and good, being both a ‘traditionally’ published and self-published author myself, I don’t think this is good enough. Sure … there is a lot of rubbish out there (my opinion) but many people tend to either forget, or are not aware that self-publishing is where it all started. The big houses have only made their entrance onto the scene in recent years. For example, Random House was founded in 1927, Allen and Unwin in 1914, and Penguin in 1935. Recorded samples of ‘published’ works go back to the year 808, so one must wonder why there is such a stigma on self-publishing when it has been around for hundreds of years.

All writers want to be up there with the big names, selling books and getting lots of dollars for their hard work, but there are downfalls to traditional publishing houses. Once signed up they have no control over their book until the contract has run its course. They don’t get many perks either unless they can bring in millions of sales like Dan Brown, Stephen King or James Patterson. They still have to do their own marketing and promos until they can make enough money to pay for someone to do it for them. Also, they have to pay for their own extras. And did you know they don’t get any royalties – which, by the way, is only 3% of book profits - until their advance is paid off.

There is also the additional thing of getting accepted by one of the big 5 in the first place. Have you ever read a sales catalogue recently and seen a new name? I know I haven’t.

In conclusion, I will say that Indie authors just want to get out there. Whether it’s for fame, fortune or recognition it doesn’t matter. What does matter is, they don’t deserve to be ridiculed. They don’t deserve to be made to feel bad about what they’re doing. And they sure as hell don’t need to read shitty stuff about their achievements, that is put out to the world for all and sundry to see.  They have succeeded in completing a long and sometimes tedious journey, and for that, they should feel proud.

(C) Margaret R Blake 03-01-2017