Hello. Let me introduce Debra R. Borys, a fellow author at New Libri Press.
She has written the Street Stories Suspense Novels; Painted Black and Bend Me, Shape Me.
In this guest post she gives interesting advice about writers groups.
We all want to meet our soul mate when we think of romance and our love life.
But shouldn’t we seek that same sort of connectedness when we envision
other aspects of our lives? When I decided I wanted to move to the big city and
volunteer with the homeless, I looked at the many agencies that offered services
before selecting one, The Night Ministry, which best fit my goals and views.
When the main character in my STREET STORIES suspense series
gets caught up in the life of a street kid, it’s because Jo sees something in
that person that calls out to who she is and reflects the fears that lie within
her own soul as well. I used that same instinct when I looked for a compatible writing group after I moved to Seattle.
I’d been lucky enough back in Illinois to meet a group of women at a
writer’s conference who just clicked in their goals and personalities.
We formed a monthly writing group that became instrumental in the success of my
first published novel, Painted Black.
I knew no one in Seattle when I first moved here, however, and soul mate-like
lightning does not apparently strike twice in one lifetime.
So I had to work at it. In a big city, there are many writers groups
to choose from and various places to find them. Local libraries and community
centers often have notices posted. Onlinesites like Craigslist.org and
Meetup.com post invitations to join various groups. There are,
in fact, too many options, making it difficult to choose. Even if you
narrow down the list to ones that specifically invite writers for your
particular genre and then select those that are within easy reach of you.
I attended several groups that sounded right based on those criteria, but there
really is no way to know if a writing group will meet your needs until you attend
one or two or their meetings.The main criteria for selecting a compatible
writing group should be based on genre, format, purpose and personality.
Selecting a group that includes writers who write in or at least familiar with
the genre you prefer is just common sense and is easiest to determine. If you
write poetry, chances are a group of people who read and write sci-fi novels is
not going to be much help. Groups composed of writers with cross-genre interests
can be helpful to just about anyone, but if you can find a group focused on the type of writing you prefer, you will get the most bang for your time-buck.
There are three meeting formats I’ve experienced:
1) send work to everyone ahead of time and bring your comments to
the meeting to duscuss; 2) read your work aloud while others only listen and
write notes before commenting; and 3) hand out copies of your work at the
meeting and read your work aloud. If you like structure there are other formats
that include things like lists of questions that need to be answered by
everyone. Likewise, lovers of chaos might prefer groups with a no-holds barred,
say what you want, when you want attitude.
For me, the third option was my favorite. I caught many problems
by hearing my work out loud, loved the discussion after I was finished,
and was glad for the corrections and comments people penciled in as they
followed along. My current group uses the end ahead method, which takes
more time, but provides opportunity for a more thoughtful, detailed critique.
Listening only and taking notes did not work for me at all.
When I’m critiquing, I need to see the words to take them in, not just
hear them, and the notes people handed to me after the discussion were
sometimes confusing to match to the text I’d just read to them.
The purpose of a writer’s group should match your needs. If you are tentative
about whether you can write well or not and shy about what people might think
of your words, you won’t want a group that is trying to help you make the work
publishable by offering blunt, honest criticism. Yet there is nothing more
frustrating than hearing “I love it, keep going, you’re a great writer” when you know
there is something not working in what you’ve just presented but no one to help you
figure out exactly what.
People are drawn to certain genres, formats and purpose based on their
personalities. A stable group that matches your criteria in these areas is almost
certainly going to be a match temperament-wise. If there is a person or two that
rubs you the wrong way, give it time. Usually that person ends up leaving anyway,
or you grow accustomed to the facets that annoy you or decide the benefits you
receive are worth the friction.
What was my writers group soul mate in Seattle?
I found a group writing commercial and literary fiction with an ultimate goal of
eventual publication. They are critical thinkers who aren’t afraid to express their
opinion but understand opinion is not the same thing as proven and irrefutable fact.
They appreciate a structure that allows each person to have their say yet
doesn’t freak out over an occasional freeform discussion.
The Seattle Fiction Writers has been as crucial to the excellence of my second
published novel, Bend Me, Shape Me, as my original group so many years ago.
I am going to miss them when I move next month back to small town
Illinois. But I’m hopeful that somewhere on the vast Midwestern prairie, I will find a
bolt of inspirational lightening to run toward, my next novel tightly clutched in my hand.
Debra R. Borys is the author of the STREET STORIES suspense novel series.
A freelance writer and editor, she spent four years volunteering with Emmaus
Ministries and the Night Ministry in Chicago, and eight years doing similar work at
Teen Feed, New Horizons and Street Links in Seattle. The STREET STORIES series
reflects the reality of throw away youth striving to survive. The first book in the series is Painted Black. Her publication credits include short fiction in Red Herring
Mystery Magazine, Downstate Story and City Slab.
Debra R. Borys
Author of the STREET STORIES Suspense Novels
Bend Me, Shape Me
Hello non-readers of this blog of the damned. Cathy Adams, my fellow writer
over at New Libri Press, tricked me into this writing meme, The
Next Big Thing, so here is some info on “Alex and Katija, High and Mighty”
Also, swing by Cathy and check out her book “This is What it Smells
What is the name of your book?
“Alex and Katija, High and Mighty”
What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?
Private investigators, Alex and Katija, are not that interested
in helping their clients – and why should they, when it is much
more profitable (and fun) to rob, blackmail or kill them?
What genre does your book fall under?
Adventure/Humor/Political incorrectness. Lad’s lit on steroids,
crack and LSD
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I started out with the idea of creating an evil version of
Sherlock Holmes. I did not think of it at the time, but looking back I realise
that other major influences are: James Bond – female henchmen, super villains
and the diverse gadgets they employ. Hunter S. Thompson – drugs, booze and
general debauchery. The comic masterpiece “Confederacy of Dunces” by John
Kennedy Toole – Alex’s insane ways. Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Black Adder (first
TV season) – Alex’s cowardly and sneaky personality.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I wrote on and off for years, pinballing between different books.
I really don’t know.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I felt like lashing back at the hysterical political correctness
in Sweden. Rebellion, I tell you!
Will your book be self-published or represented by an
Alex and Katija was published by New Libri Press in Seattle USA.
It is available as eBook on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes.
A paperback edition will follow in 2013.
What other works could you compare this to in your genre?
The brilliant Confederacy of Dunces is the closest I can think of.
What actors would you choose to play the characters’ parts in a
A twenty something Jonny Depp as Alex, as he does weirdos so
well. Katija is harder, hmm… Well, a foxy chick with a bit of muscle (but not
too much). Perhaps like Hillary Swank in “Million Dollar Baby” Quentin Tarantino
must direct and write screenplay.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
There is enough offensive material in the book that no reader
should feel excluded. Plenty of action in downtown Stockholm.
Ever read a book that changed your life?
I am sure that you have a well stocked bookcase filled
with your favorites, books that did and do mean a great
deal to you. But is there a single one that stands out?
That actually changed you, or the course of your life?
The book that I’d like to nominate would be “Lord of the Rings”
I guess that many will say the same. I read it at the age of
twelve, and up till that point I had read some books but was
not really into reading. But boy did that change after getting
introduced to middle earth.
I’ve been an avid reader ever since, and I definitely owe my hobby
of writing to the brilliant Mr. Tolkien.
I would be very interested in hearing your own nominations,
so please share.
So, the book is basically done and will soon go live.
Now it’s time to kick start the marketing/promoting machine. So without funds,
contacts and experience how the hell is one to go about it?
I will get some help from my publisher New Libri Press, but sadly, I’ll have
to do most of the promo work myself – damn …
Blog – check. Feels as dead as the pharos, but hell, I’ll keep at it.
Facebook – check. Same as above
Homepage - check. Same as above
Tell family/friends – check. Sadly I don’t know that many people.
So what more can I do to get the word out about my debut
“Alex and Katija, High and Mighty”?
Snooping round the Webb had yielded these tips:
1) Hang out at Kindle and eBook sites and comment on other author’s books.
2) Contact Kindle and eBook bloggers and politely ask for a review.
3) Partake of internet discussions and comment on blogs, and so slowly
worm your way into the community and discretely promote the book.
4) Paid advertizing on Kindle and eBook sites.
Not so pricey. 50-100 bucks here and there. Some you pay by the click.
5) Virtual book tour. A bit more pricey. 300-600 bucks for promo and blogs etc.
My own ideas:
1) Contact Collage bloggers in S, UK and USA.
Perfect target audience, and where better to start a buzz than at a campus
filled with nosy youths?
2) Post advertizing in notice boards in collages/libraries.
3) Print out a few thousand promo business cards leave in books in libraries/bookstores.
Hey, sorry I just forgot my bookmark … in a few hundred of your books?
4) Hand out flyers outside the main library in Stockholm.
Hand out a thousand and perhaps 10-20 will buy it, and they will
tell 10-20 about it … and they will etc etc.
5) Buy a dozen copies and sneak them in the shelves of the main libraries.
6) Shoot someone famous and leave the book in the cold grasp of the corpse.
Any other ideas?
I was moaning to my editor the other day that I was going to go insane
if I had read my book one more time. He responded “well nobody said it was easy
being a writer.”
I was then struck by the similarities between authorship and
You begin with the conception (the fun part), then the 9 months of
pregnancy (querying), followed by marriage (signing with a publishing company),
then the grueling labor (editing). Then, exhausted, you just want to scream and
puuuuush...Then you have to educate and raise it (promotion), and finally marry
it off (selling the movie rights). Then start working on a sibling
Greetings. A few weeks ago I was at my local bookstore and was pleasantly surprised
to find a copy of Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth.” I had heard great things about
the book and wanted to read it for years. Like a clueless rube I bought it and looked
forward to losing myself in the massive tome.
However, I did not find it ejoyable and struggled to finish it.
Now this Sisyphean task has finally come to an end, and my analysis can be
condensed to: What a load of horseshit!!!
What’s this? Why attack a book that has been voted one of the most beloved in
the UK, sold millions, got great reviews, and been featured on Oprah Winfrey's
book club (remind me not to join)? Why not live and let live, if so many love it?
1) The modest and sensible author does not need to lash out at others
- A distasteful and cowardly concept.
All creators of inferior material must feel the lash, and twice the serving to
those who dare praise such pigswill.
2) On the front cover it actually says: “The classic masterpiece”
What gall! If an author/publishing company puts that on the cover they
should deliver just that: A flawless work of excellent quality, a tome
of prefect prose, plot, setting, character development etc etc.
If this isn’t a case for the Better Business Bureau, I don’t know what is.
3) If it was an average book of inferior craftsmanship I wouldn’t
have bothered reading/commenting on it. But as I was taken in
by all the hype and wasted my time and money on this 1080
pager, I do think it needs to be knocked of its pedestal.
4) The sheer mystery of it. How can it be so loved and get good reviews?
In all honesty – I want to like Pillars. I love history, the Middle Ages,
English culture and cathedral architecture etc.
The basic idea is great. But I found the book to be badly written and mediocre
at best. I don’t like to criticize another author’s work and was uncertain if I
should post this or not.
Hey, I am an unpublished author and will probably need to write for
years/decades before/if I become good at my hobby. So who am I to
criticize Mr. Follett? I don’t have anything against him or the book,
and I wish him nothing but continued success for the rest of
his writing career. But I do think that praise should be warranted, especially
when there are so many great books that seem to slip into oblivion.
I wanted to get to the bottom of this “mass psychosis” or “Emperor’s New Clothes”
scenario. I can understand if people like, or even love this book - tastes differ.
But anyone who claims that Pillars is a well written book or a masterpiece needs
to get their head examined – annually for the rest of their lives.
Spoiler alert!!! Well, not really, as I don’t think it’s worth reading.
Why this “masterpiece”should be downgraded to the status of toilet roll:
1) Simplistic Writing.
“Tom opened the door. Tom sat down. Tom ate some porridge.
Tom took a shit” What happened to - show, don’t tell?
The book often repeats itself or makes things overly clear.
“Tom took of his jacket because it was hot. Then wiped his brow because
he was warm.”
We already know it’s hot for fucks sake!!! Everybody makes mistakes
like this, and it’s the editor’s job to point them out.
But in pillars it is on every other page. A post online said
that this is what happens when an author gets too famous/powerful to listen to
his editor, if he had one, and I agree.
The use of adjectives is another thing. Everything is Terrifyingly, joyously,
priestly, churchly, overwhelmingly etc etc – the use of one word to express
what is going on is just lazy.
Sometimes I thought that I was reading a children’s story. And maybe it is?
Call me old fashioned, but if this is the case, I’m not sure that all the
graphic sex and rape scenes are appropriate.
2) Unrealistic plot.
Ex.a) Tom’s wife dies in the middle of winter. He has no problem in digging
her grave in the frozen ground, and then has sex with a woman who just chooses
this moment to show up out of the woods, naked but for a cape(in winter).
Both their children are mysteriously absent or asleep.
b) Tom the humble mason
singlehandedly designs a cathedral.
c) The naked lady, nowclothed, publicly pisses on a bible, runs off in the woods,
is forgiven after a year and then comes back. Later she interrupts a wedding
by cutting off the head of a hen and curses the wedding, now she lives in the
woods for many years butis kind of forgiven in the end.
Come on!! This is supposed to be the Middle Ages where people could get their
tongues pulled out, eyes put out and gettheir noses or ears clipped for the
d) A woman leaves England with her baby and travels (alone in the middle ages)
all over France and Spain to find her lost lover. Naturally they find each other
and on the way back they stumble (by chance) upon his grandparents in a
random village, an event that conveniently solves one of the great mysteries of
e) A guy is imprisoned in a cell, but of course there is a lose stone
in the floor, so he immediately escapes.
It just goes on and on. Ridiculous plot turns and quick fixes.
3) Unrealistic/unconvincing dialogue
This is supposed to be the Middle Ages, and I can’t help but cringe
every time he uses modern slang or modern sayings in dialogue or narrative.
4) One-dimensional characters
Either they are very good or very bad, often with no real explanation.
And there is virtually no character development, save a few bad guys who
repent at the end and turn super good.
5) Historical inaccuracies
6) Graphic sex and rape scenes
I’m usually all for sleaze. But the graphic sex and rape scenes in this book
seem out of place, and is used to sensationalize, more than being convincing
parts of the story. Especially during the explicit rape scenes I get the feeling
that Ken is typing with is left hand and pulling himself off with the right.
Some of the above quotes are made up to illustrate my point
On amazon.com - kindle, a whopping 67% of the readers gave it a five star.
“Beautifully written, historically rich”
“Utterly mesmerized by every page”
“Possibly the best book I have ever read”
“My Favorite All-time Book”
Are these people on crack, or simply glue?
Or perhaps they are from a parallel universe where Pillars is actually good?
I am usually against censorship, but as I neared the end of this 1080page practical joke
I began longing for a “Fahrenheit 451” society.
And for those who still think it’s good – you’re wrong!!!
And that goes for you as well - mum.
I’d love to hear your views. So come on, shoot !!!
A friend of mine asked: “why compromise” as a reply on facebook and it gave me the idea for this long overdue entry.
Well it’s not all about compromising.
All authors benefit from having an editor comment upon their work – noob or pro.
Sure we might not agree on all things, but you can’t expect a publishing house
to spend both their time and money on a novice writer and not have a say. There
is also the reader to think of, they must find the book interesting and easy to
read. If I would only think about myself then why try to get published? Then I
might as well write for my own amusement and let the manuscript collect dust. As
a writing noob I’ve learned tons these last few months. It very easy to become
blind to certain flaws errors in the text – until someone points them out, and
you go: “What a dummy I’ve been, I can’t believe I missed that” ;)
A book can contain thousands of lines and hundreds of jokes, and if and editor what to cut a few, it really isn’t a big deal. Ok - honestly? Sometime it is ;)
“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” –William Faulkner.
In my experience, however, you have to rape and mutilate your darlings. Killing is the easy part.
I am halfway through Ken Follett’s 1080 page “Pillars of the Earth”and I have to agree
with what a guy wrote online:
“This is what happens when an author gets too famous/influential to listen to his editor – if he even had one.”
The book has been described as a modern masterpiece, sold millions,
and has been voted one of the most loved books in the UK. Personally I find it
awful, and will post a review when I’ve finished.
Yes, why do people write? Well, how the hell should I know? I can only speak for myself.
Below I have given the main reasons to why I write, ranked and ready.
1. Fun hobby
It really is a fun pastime. Sometimes it can take a while to get going, mainly due to: laziness, boredom, stress, distractions, fatigue, lack of time, the washing needs doing etc etc – the list of excuses are endless. It is similar to working out. If you don’t do it regularly/for a along time, you forget how rewarding it is, as soon as you push past the initial hill.
When I’m in the zone I forget about time, food, sleep, bathroom brakes, and all
reality outside the flow of imagination from my mind and into my hard drive.
It’s exciting as well, as you never know what will pop into your head. It can feel like someone else is making up the story for you, like automatic writing. And I have to admit that I often laugh out loud at my own jokes, the prerogative of the recluse.
2. The possibility of a new career
Oh yes, a close runner up for first position. How sweet it would be to never again have to debase yourself at an interview to get a dead-end job you never wanted. To be free to write at home, or on a beach balcony in Rio, drooling at the buxom beauties below. To use your creativity for your own benefit. To employ your wit, instead of wasting your life with some soul-destroying grind.
You often hear writers say: “Oh, I’ve been writing since my early childhood.” Not in my case. I began writing in my mid/late twenty’s and have been doing so on and off. But since I began reading books willingly (early teens) I have often been annoyed at all the rubbish thatgets into print. I’m sure you have had the same thought: “What is this shit? I can write better that that! Give me a ton of money, fame, and all the lovely sleaze that follows. It really is the mother of all paradoxes; How can it be so hard to get published, when so much excrement sees not only publication, but translation as well? My brother actually tore up a book once to save the next hapless reader a similar fate. The author will remain anonymous for now – I’ll save the shit slinging to when I’m rich and powerful.
I have a touch of OCD, and that might a factor when it comes to writing/note taking. I often wake in the middle on the night with a great idea for a book/chapter/story. So I turn on the light with the intention to just writing down a sentence or two. Two hours later I’ve got a dozen pages/any scribble-able surface covered with ink. It’s a real pain in the ass to decode and transfer it into my cpu the next day. Any idea that does not get recorded will likely cause the some apocalyptic event. I never get writers block, quite the opposite, I find it really hard to focus on one book/story at a time. At present I’ve got a dozen books in my head, jostling for creative supremacy.
5. Fame/a shot at immortality
What is fame? A lot of strangers having no idea of who you really are. Being superficially known by millions you will never meet.
Sure it would be nice to be famous in your lifetime, to get your work recognized. But something that gives me more of a tickle would be to create something that will endure past my lifetime. Like if someone would read one of my books in a 100 years from now and laugh, wonderingwho this funny weirdo Gordon was, who lived so long ago. True immortality will be tricky, amusing people 100 billion years from now, and beyond into infinity.
Yes, please. I love money, not for bragging, buying bling-bling ect etc. What I love about monetary wealth is the freedom it gives you. Freedom from worrying about bills, freedom from the horror of gainful employment, freedom to travel and live were you want. Naturally money does not equal happiness – but it never hurts ;)
(7. Changing the world)
This might go to the top, but I’ll save it for a few years, to a later edition of the list when I’m so corrupt/jaded it will likely be reversed.
As usual, tell me what you think. Preferably here at the forum or a wall post on facebook, so we can get a bit of a discussion going.
Hey you smelly drunkards. Here is a fun quiz to stimulate your last surviving brain cells.
No Goggling, you sneaky cheats!
20s per question, so think fast!
Questions answered right:
0-2 You must be either illiterate, blind, or a non-English speaker.
3-4 Ok, so you can read. But you’re not good for much else.
5-6 Not a complete dummy, more of a jackass.
7-8 Welcome to the human race.
9-10 Hey, aren’t you a clever one.
11-14 I said no Googling, you cheating creep.