Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 27: Editors are Idiots

We’ve all heard horror stories about editors. Complaints range from “She just doesn’t get it” to “He totally ruined the book” to anything and everything in between.
Some of those tales might be true. It’s unlikely that editors, on average, are more capable at their chosen craft than other folks are at theirs—so, odds are there are some idiot editors out there. On the other hand, it’s equally unlikely that the ratio of dumb editors exceeds the human average, either.
Most editors, in my experience, are smart folks. Perhaps I’ve been lucky. But none of the editors I’ve worked with has ever done anything other than help make a book (or article or story) better. And their “touch” has tended to be light, and deft. The same holds true with copy editors. Their assistance has been valuable and, on occasion, they’ve kept me from making a fool of myself.
On the other hand, I have heard a few editors at writers’ conferences say that once they’ve accepted your book it’s no longer “your” book, but “our” book, and you can expect wholesale changes to suit their fancy.  
As a writer, I’m afraid I would have to edit that attitude. Because, despite the important contributions editors can make, it’s still my book, not theirs.
And any editor who doesn’t recognize that basic fact is, at best, a frustrated writer. And, quite possibly, an idiot.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Antisocial media and me.

The make-believe book cover above came my way from another writer. I laughed when I saw it. But I cannot appreciate it fully as I haven’t had to walk away from Facebook. That’s because I’ve yet to walk in those social media boots.
Seldom does a week pass without a notice or three arriving in my e-mail inbox that says so-and-so would like to add me to this or that network or list or circle or ring or book or something.
I never respond.
Not that I don’t know, and even like, some of the people behind these requests (although a good many of them come from complete strangers).
The thing is, I don’t get it. I have no idea what I would be signing up for and what would result.
I have yet to find sufficient motivation to allay that ignorance. And I have yet to think it worth whatever time or attention, if any, might be required of me if I did get added or listed or circled or ringed or booked.
Between researching and writing books and magazine articles and sending out these little screeds, I already spend enough time staring at computer screens to blind myself.
So, if you invite me to join some online something and I don’t, don’t be offended. It’s nothing personal. I just want to avoid getting overpowered by pixels and gobbled up by bytes. 
It’s probably a losing battle. But so far, my metaphorical horse hasn’t been stolen by social media. 

Time is short to enroll for the Write Here in Ephraim Writer's Conference. See you there.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 26: Strive for Clarity and Closure

I was once taken to task by a reader when a short story I wrote wasn’t all wrapped up at the end and neatly tied up with a bow. He found it unsatisfactory that a story should end without answering all the questions, solving all the problems, and, if not with a happy ending, at least one with good triumphing over evil.
While “happy” or clearly resolved endings are the norm in literature, they are far from normal in real life. The world we live in is messy. Sometimes the bad guys win. Sometimes nobody wins. Things seldom turn out the way we want them to.
To my way of thinking, there’s a lot more ambiguity in life than clarity or closure. And that ought to be reflected in literature.
One of my favorite movies is The Mission. It’s set in a remote South American mission during the Spanish conquest. When it’s over, you’re left to wonder which of the two padres—who share the same fate but come to it from opposite directions—is the hero and which is the goat. Ambiguity at its best.
I think it is good to allow—even force—readers to participate in a story, and ambiguity can do that. And, if a writer leaves readers with questions rather than answers, a story can last long after the book is closed. 
Let’s close this book with a bit of wisdom from Stanley Kubrick: “Ambiguity is the end product of avoiding superficial, pat truths.”

If you are or aspire to be a writer, you can learn more lies—and truths—about writing at the Write Here in Ephraim Writers Conference, April 22-23.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A full Saddlebag.

A new issue of Saddlebag Dispatches is now available and you can access it online. Included is the conclusion, Part 3, of my long short story, “The Passing of Number 16.” It’s a modern-day rodeo mystery about the death of a prime bucking horse. Parts 1 and 2 are available in the magazine’s back issues if you need to catch up. Or, you can read the story in its entirety in my new collection of short fiction, The Death of Delgado and Other Stories, from Pen-L Publishing.

But, back to Saddlebag Dispatches. The magazine is an ambitious venture ramrodded by my friend, legendary writer Dusty Richards. The publication is all about the American West and includes short fiction, nonfiction, historical articles, photo essays, and more. There’s even a column they asked me to write. I call it “Best of the West” and it features what I think is some of the best in Western literature, art, and anything else Western. The first column featured the classic poet Charles Badger Clark. 
“Best of the West” in the new issue is all about sculptor Jeff Wolf, whose creations capture the heart and soul and spirit of the West in remarkable works of art. Featured in the magazine are photos of several of Jeff’s sculptures. Don’t miss this chance to see the West through an extraordinary artist’s eyes and hands.

Finally, a plug about the Write Here in Ephraim Writer’s Conference. If you have ambitions to be a writer or improve your writing, it’s the place to be April 22-23. I’ll be doing sessions on writing about the West and cowboys and poetry. See you there.