Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Blogging and Writing -- reblogged

I'm nothing if not thrifty. I posted this on the amwriting site, and reblogged it on my own blog, and now I'm sharing it here. I think it bears repeating.

Blogging and Writing

Blogging and writing -- As far as I'm concerned, that phrase is repetitive, redundant, and duplicates what are essentially two versions of the same word. And it does it twice.

Blogging IS writing.

Ah, but is it fiction writing?

Well, yes.

You see, I have a saying. Well, I have many sayings, including, "To hell with anything unrefined" and "Never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a chump", but the one appropriate to this post is, "Everything is about writing."

Which brings me to the questions writers who are thinking about blogging ask most often:
  • Wouldn't blogging take time away from my writing?
  • How often should I blog?
  • What would I blog about?
  • Who would care about anything I have to say?
I'll answer these one at a time.

Wouldn't blogging take time away from my writing?

See above. Blogging IS writing. Think of it as a writing exercise, and let it energize you.

How often should I blog?

How often do you want to blog? Some people say once a month, some say once a week, some say three times a week, some say many times a day. I blog once a day, every day. That's what feels good to me.

What would I blog about?

What interests you? What are you up to? What is your life like, as a person and as a writer? You can focus on one thing, like Medieval Weaponry or Macrame, or you can have certain days for certain subjects. I have writers and writing on Monday, food on Wednesday, and (writing) Sample Sunday. Some Sundays, I post excerpts from my books or stories; some Sundays, I post an entire short-short story or a poem. The other days, I write about tattoos I've seen, our pets, restaurants, things that irritate me, things that give me joy, books, movies, life in my small town or out in the country. You know -- the kinds of details that enrich the fabric of fiction.

People who live in the American Midwest find everyday details of life in, say, The Netherlands, exotic. People in The Netherlands find the American Midwest exotic -- or, at least, different. The general outline of your life, work, family, may be quite ordinary, but the details are specific. Nobody experiences life exactly the way you do, and it's that unique point of view that makes each person's fiction fresh and will make each person's blog fresh. Getting in touch with the specificity of your particular life is good training for creating a specificity for your characters and your settings.

Who would care about anything I have to say?

Say something and see.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A New Book, A New Speaking Engagement

As an introvert who prefers listening to speaking, I’ve never found it natural to stand up and talk about myself in front of a group of people. But I learned some time ago that if I wanted to be a real, honest-to-goodness professional writer, I’d better learn how. To my surprise and relief, I’ve come to find the experience really enjoyable.

One of my first public events occurred from an invitation to take part on a panel of short fiction writers at the large, fan-based mystery convention, Bouchercon in Las Vegas back in 2003. This wasn’t the most easy-going venue to begin my public speaking life, but the woman who’d invited me was a lively extrovert who would keep things going. It turned out to be great fun, and a delightful surprise when mystery writer extraordinaire, Val McDermid, joined us to take part in the Q & A discussion.

Except for the occasional glitch, other panel discussions over the years went reasonably well. Although I still wasn’t comfortable facing people who were probably hoping that I'd say something insightful, I kept trying. With the launch of my first couple of mysteries, I also became a soloist. It’s still a little scary to stand before a group of people, even though some are colleagues and friends, and talk about myself. But I recently came across a saying which stated that if you’re not scaring yourself all the time by trying something new then you’re not really living. I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

I’m going to be living front and center Tuesday, Oct. 21st, when I speak at the Golden Ears Writers event, at The ACT Maple Ridge, from 7 to 9 p.m. My topic is blending fact with fiction in mystery writing. Happily, I know something about that. You can find more on Facebook, either by clicking on the link I provided or typing in Golden Ears Writers on FB.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Downside to Self-Publishing: Capitalizing on a Crisis

We all know that finding reliable information on the Net can be challenging. Look up a topic and you’ll find thousands of hits but only a fraction of them will contain solid information. The same has been true in the self-publishing world for a while now. The Ebola crisis, for example, has prompted far too many fear-mongering, so-called experts without medical or related scientific backgrounds to make big bucks by giving horrible advice to readers, advice that could prove deadly.

According to a recent Washington Post article, no less than 84 books on Ebola have been self-published in the last three months, and it appears that most of those people have no credentials. One of the top-selling books apparently opens with a quote from the Bible, indicating that the end of the world is coming. One bestselling survival guide maintains that 4.1 billion people could die over the next two years. Another author states that Ebola can be prevented with vitamins. Unfortunately, many people believe this nonsense.

Since Amazon doesn’t censor these types of books, it’s up to the public to determine their validity, and remember to take the reviews with a grain of salt. By learning facts from the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders, for instance, and using some common sense, it isn’t difficult to spot the garbage books. Critics despise self-published novels for terrible editing, etc., but the more dire problem is that bad information in nonfiction could cost lives.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

What If an Entire State Were Quarantined?

People are being quarantined in Texas, healthy people who simply hosted someone who was ill with Ebola. What if the disease spreads? What if more cases are found? What if a whole town or maybe a whole state were quarantined to prevent a pandemic?

ASHFbordersmThis is the premise of my novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire. The disease in the story is not Ebola, the avian flu, or any known disease, but a lab-created disease that had its origins in biological warfare experimentation. This fictional disease was created to be unstoppable, to wipe out entire populations. And it fell into the wrong hands.

Because the disease began in Colorado and that is where most of the victims lived — and died — the entire state is quarantined and martial law is put into effect. The seemingly inhuman measures that take place in the story to keep the non-sick under control are all probable since they are based on executive orders Clinton signed into law. The wonderful thing about writing such a book is that I didn’t have to imagine any of the horrors. Our own president did the work for me.

We are coming up on the supposed anniversary date of the publication of A Spark of Heavenly Fire. (I say supposed because although it wasn’t published until March 25, 2009, Amazon lists the publication date as November 23, 2008.) I hope you will check out this still relevant novel, thinking as you do so of the small quarantine in Texas (small in numbers, and perhaps even small in consequence, but huge to the people whose freedom is being denied). It happened to them. It could happen to you.

To celebrate this faux anniversary, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. Offer expires on November 23, 2014. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

The Deep End is Out!

I’m thrilled to announce that my 4th Casey Holland mystery, The Deep End is now available for sale! For e-book lovers, it’s also available through Kobo, Kindle, Nook, ibooks, and others that you can find on my publisher’s website (click on The Deep End). Of course, you can also find it through bookstores and amazon.

I remember when I wrote the first page. It was just over four years ago and I was working in campus security back then, patrolling the grounds on a sunny Sunday morning in July. At that time, nearly every building was closed, but we were supposed to patrol them anyway. Wandering through empty buildings was quite relaxing. The experience allowed my mind to wander and explore ideas. On my break, I took out a piece of scrap paper and began to write the first lines. At the end of that summer, I left the security business, with the first two chapters of a new book in my hand.

Four years might seem like a long time to finish and then publish a book, but the production process usually takes about a year. Also, between my blogs, book reviews, and other novels in progress, I always juggle several projects at once. Truthfully, I don’t know what it’s like to work on only one book.

This book made me reflect on my volunteer days at a youth detention center many years ago. Even back then, I was writing a journal, (although not planning to become a writer), and had the good sense not to throw the journals away. Reading entries from the late 70’s was an eye-opener in many ways. Above all, it made me glad that I wrote those experiences down.

I’m close to finishing book five now. Hopefully, this fall. And then we’ll see what the future brings.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

If You Think the Book Industry Has It Tough...

Nearly three weeks ago, I read a Digital Music News article about increasingly dismal sales for artists in the music industry. As I don’t know much about the music business, the article shocked me enough to still be thinking about it. The similarity with some of the problems in the book industry was disconcerting, to say the least.

The article maintains that the music industry is failing because artists are having more difficulty making money from audio releases. In fact, every new platform earns less money for the musician. Streaming earns less than downloads and downloads earn less than CDs. The article goes on to say, (and this is really disheartening) that music buyers place less value on music now more than ever. YouTube and piracy, for instance, don’t cost the listener anything which also means no income for the musician. People can now listen to music their entire lives without ever paying a cent for it. This is why the article also states that 99.9% of musicians survive on day jobs.

Here’s another point. The sheer volume of artists is so vast that it is become harder for an artist to get noticed. Music fans are flooded with music and videos and games and all sorts of things to keep them busy and distracted from sticking with an artist.

The article goes onto say that that traditional record stores have all but imploded and that major labels, who were once the source of  income and innovation for musicians, are but a fraction of their former selves. Is any of this sounding familiar to you book folks yet?

There are many more important points in the article, but my question is, are we in the book business doomed to suffer the same fate? Is it possible to avoid some of the mess that the music industry is in? Although books aren’t streamed the way music is, there are so many similar challenges that it feels like we’re falling into a twin rabbit hole. Who knows what will appear on the other side? As mentioned, I don’t know much about the music industry, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.