Thursday, June 30, 2011

Playwrights Urged To Unite In Protest

Ninety-nine percent of theatres who consider original, scripts or who sponsor play contests, stipulate that submissions must be previously unproduced--- in that one requirement laying down an insurmountable barrier to play development.
These theatres claim to support emerging playwrights, but they, in fact, do not.
Most play publishing services will not consider a play unless it has been produced multiple times. Most nationally recognized theatres will not consider a new play for their season unless it has been produced several times.
This is not an unreasonable requirement. Publishers and prominent theatres are looking for plays that have had multiple trials by fire and have come through those trials with all dross burned away and only pure gold remaining.
A serious playwright's goal, therefore, is to have his or her play produced multiple times, hoping to advance from smaller venues to larger ones, each time making those adjustments that will clear the dross and polish the gold.
How can this happen when almost every theatre or contest limits submissions to only those that have never been produced? If a playwright achieves production in one contest, boom, he is done. Under current standards, by winning once, he has eliminated himself from further production elsewhere.
The time has come to send a unified voice of reason to theatres and contests. I recommend that whenever you encounter submission requirements that allow for only unproduced plays, you send this letter:

Dear Theatre,
For a new play to successfully achieve publication, professional production, and artistic prominence, it first must be produced in multiple venues until it gains perfection and recognition.
When theatres limit submissions to only unproduced plays, they prevent further development of a script, and fail in their support of emerging playwrights.
On behalf of all playwrights, may I respectfully urge you to change your submission requirements to allow previously produced plays? Perhaps your submission requirements could say that only plays "previously published, produced by a professional theatre, or produced within 100 miles of" your theatre, would be ineligible.
In that way you would be supporting the multiple production development of new plays while still insuring that your theatre presents hitherto unseen material in your audience area.

If play contests and theatres that accept new plays begin receiving this request from playwrights throughout the U.S., they will eventually effect a change in their submission requirements, and developing plays will not be dead in the water after one production.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

This Blog Is Going On Hiatus

Frankly, there is not much that I can say that would be fascinating to others. I suppose I could treat this blog as a journal, but my daily thoughts and feelings go into the actual "works" that I write and email conversations I have with my friends, which are somewhat privileged. My journal entries would be something pitiful, such as, "Rain today. Planted radishes." So many experts say one must have a blog in order to sell books. Believe me, what I have been blogging so far--to 14 people who never check the blog anyway--is nothing that would sell my books. Nor, do I intend to write over and over again how wonderful my books are. So, this blog is officially going on hiatus until such time as I have fascinating things to say on it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Frightened by my own inadequacies

Slowly over the past few months, I have written a narrative play titled SLEEPER. It wasn't as immediate as other projects, and so I picked it up and laid it down often, adding to it in random moments.

I finished it a week ago and laid it aside to let it gain a little distance. The manuscript sits in a neat pile, every day reminding me of its existence. I should read it now, and get to working on rewrites. Of course there will be rewrites and rewrites are always an improvement, but I am frightened of picking it up and reading what I have got on paper the first time around and discovering that it's no good.

I'm mostly a humorist. I usually write light, funny stuff. SLEEPER is not funny. Not only is it not funny, but I intended it to have an emotional build to a highly dramatic climax. Will my attempt to write something serious and dramatic proves to be inadequate? What if there isn't so much as a kernel of what I want it to be? Nothing there that even several rewrites could fix?

It sits there looking at me. I wonder if it's got any potential? I wonder when I'll get around to reading it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Defining Discourtesy

I posted on Facebook recently, "Courtesy trumps all." The post garnered a number of comments from people who agreed with me. Without exception then mentioned that "please" and "thank you" always were best for people to remember.

That's certainly true, but I find that many discourteous people hide behind a smoke screen of please and thank you and get credit for being polite people.

The discourtesy I dislike has to do with what people actually do--or don't do.

I think I wrote about this recently, and I'm repeating myself. I'll have to learn to deal with it. Is dealing with it simply ignoring discourtesy, telling a person they're being discourteous, or shunning the person in the future?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Courtesy trumps all.

I think many of my friends fool themselves into thinking their friends are good friends.

Take, for example, a person who never answers emails or returns phone calls. Let's call him John Doe. When I express the opinion that John does not think much of me because he does not give me the courtesy of responsiveness, these friends will say, "Oh, no, pay no attention to that. He's really a nice guy, he just isn't good about responding to anyone's emails." I beg to differ. John IS like that. He doesn't bother to answer emails; what's nice about that?

Or take the lady who is habitually late for meeting with her friends, sometimes as much as 45 minutes. When I remark that she is not very polite and apparently has a low regard for her friends, I get, "Oh, no, Jane isn't like that, she's an extremely polite person; she just has trouble getting places on time." I beg to differ. Jane IS like that. She has no problem making friends cool their heels and wait for her. What's polite about that?

People like that get away with being discourteous because they have friends who insist they "aren't like that." Why are these friends fooling themselves? What people do is what they're like.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Who is the better man?

This puzzles me: Take two brothers, Pierre and Alphonse, both artists.

Pierre painted charming pictures of his picturesque seaside village, and sold hundreds of them a year for a goodly price to tourists. His charming paintings sold so well that over the years he and his wife lived in comfort in a nice home. Their children grew up and married and Pierre knew the satisfaction of using his painting income to help give them a start. Pierre finally retired to a comfortable leisure of fishing and taking his grandchildren to the beach.

Alphonse, on the other hand, refused to paint "charming" pictures for the tourists. He had a vision and he followed it on canvas after canvas--all unappreciated for their lack of prettiness and meaning. Undaunted, Alphonse painted his vision with a frenzy. He never married, never worked at gainful employment. When he was close to starvation, he crawled to Pierre's door, was taken in, fed, clothed and brought back to health, whereupon he would leave the stultifying bourgeoise atmosphere of Pierre's house to continue painting his vision.

They are both dead now. Pierre's grandchildren are prosperous, well-settled, and have fond memories of the old gentleman, whose charming paintings may still be found in second-hand stores. Alphonse has no grandchildren, but he has been discovered by the art world, and art dealers are making huge amounts of money selling his paintings. He is famous. Books are written about him.

Who is the better man? Are we judged by the life we live while we are alive? Or if our life was miserable, can all of our poor choices be disregarded if we leave a legacy? And what legacy? Pigment on canvas or loving descendants?

Now this is the true Joan thinking: Why can't the Alphonse's of life paint charming pictures half the day and "visionary" images the other half? Should a writer who writes advertising copy during the day and "the great American novel" at night, loathe the work that gives him heat, food and security to write at night?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What's help worth?

I was reading something today that reminded me of an opinion I have long held (also reminded me of a "what if?" situation for a novel plot) for some time.

You know when there's a death in the family or someone's been in an accident or in the hospital or some such, and everyone calls and says, "What can I do to help?" If things are not too bad and you can cope, of course you would rather do things yourself. But if you're really strung out, you grab for kind offers.

So you say, "Yes! Thank you, Helma, you can help! If I shoot you a list of telephone numbers, can you call all these people right away and tell them Uncle Henry died and when the funeral is? We have only two days until the funeral so they have to be notified right away. And can you ask Jim and Hank if they will be pall bearers? Thank you sooooo much!"

The next morning, after spending the night helping Aunt Minerva select a suit and take it to the funeral home and visit the pastor and reserve the church, you call Helma and ask if she had any trouble contacting anyone, and she says, "Oh, you know, I had to drive the girls to their ballet lesson and Herman got home late from work so supper was late and by then it was 9:30 and I thought that was too late to call, but I'll get on it right away this morning."

So at noon you call Helma (between ordering flowers, finding soloists, and contacting the Church Circle for lunch) and you ask her how it went, and Helma says, "Oh, my, I'm sorry, you hit me at such a busy time. I'm on it right now, though; I've set aside time."

You tell her forget it, you'll do it. Your voice is grim. And five will get you ten she is offended and says something like, "Well! That's the last time I offer to help!"

Something like this has happened to me several times and I've learned my lesson. Let people view me as someone who won't accept help from her friends; from now on I'm only accepting help from what? overachievers? true friends? non-morons?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Organization is Tough

I, who value organization above many other things, have an organization problem. It's the reverse of what many writers deal with. My muse hands me inspiration and fantastic ideas for novels, short stories, plays, columns, every time I turn around. I can't seem to stop thinking "what if" when I drive past a lady standing on a boulevard with too many packages, or see ladies in the grocery store intent on displaying their canteloupes, or watch two feisty robins chase a hawk, or see a squirrel cross the driveway, or..... Yes, of course, I jot them all down. I have masses of jottings and mini outlines. But they pile up. And sometimes I feel as though I am spending too much time jotting when I should be writing. Worse, when I select a jotting to be fleshed out, I am torn by all the other jottings that are just as interesting and I sometimes start to work on two of them--an hour on one an hour on the other. What I really want is to be locked in my nice warm cave with my computer with no interruptions, no cats, no need to clean myself, and a little conveyer that sends in food every once in a while.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What's the play about?

I came across a playwright who could not respond to "What's the play about?"

"It's about traditions," she said.

The conversation did not get any better after that. She assumed my literary IQ was room temperature and went into a long artistically overblown song and dance about people who expect a plot. A plot! Good heavens no. I expect an arc. I expected her to have sufficient literary IQ to describe her play, plot or not. For instance: "Richard examines his toes for two hours and concludes that Amanda left him because they were ugly." Or how about this? "Three men reveal their empty lives while waiting for a fourth, who never shows." Or this? "Marianne goes slowly insane while locked in a pink room with nothing but memories of her failures."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Is My Book Worth It!

I'm on a humor discussion board at Amazon, and so many of the posts are self-promoting. Well... yeah... why not? However, the problem, in my estimation, is that we authors may say our book is hilarious, laugh-a-minute, the height of humor, totally enjoyable, and so forth. But is it? (Sure it is. I'm the author and I say so.)

My books have gone through a certain amount of editing and rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite, but are they good enough yet? This is e-publishing folks, and e-publishing is SELF-publishing. Many inexperienced and untutored writers write "the end" on their dashed-off novel and launch the puppy the next day, complete with all it's warts. How is a potential reader to know crap from pure cream?

Potential Reader has no way of knowing. So my solution is to put my ebooks up for sale at 99 cents. Surely I will get more readers that way, because I'm assuming a reader's attitude will be, "Well, shucks, it's only a buck; what have I got to lose?"

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Writing a Children's Play

I finished the second rewrite of THE MAGIC FLOUNDER this morning. It's a one-hour children's play based on the old tale about the magic fish.

An interesting stylistic decision comes with writing children's plays based on old tales--how archaic is the language going to be? The playwright can commit to very modern dialogue idiom, which makes for a jazzy play, but in some cases can destroy the original tone of the story. Or the playwright can commit to a certain "once upon a time" dialogue style, but in some cases that can make the characters seem artificial and unbelievable.

In THE MAGIC FLOUNDER, I kept to older style, but tweaked a few noticeably dull phrases closer to this century.

Monday, April 4, 2011


The web site 99designs is an absolutely wonderful place to solicit and receive all sorts of design submissions for a book cover project. I've used it twice now, and have been very satisfied with the results.

What an author does is pay money upfront (usually $295.00 for a decent contest) to 99designs. Then you describe what you want and your particular preferences and wait for the design submissions to roll in. It takes 2-3 days before you see much. After that, as designs are submitted, you may comment on them. Feeding off your comments, designers will often submit new versions of a design with changes as you suggested. At the end of seven days you declare a winner and the designer sends you the design in the format you need, and 99designs pays the designer. And no, you do not have to declare a winner. If you get nothing you like, 99 designs will give you a refund.

The only drawback, and this isn't really a drawback, is that some of the designers are not as connected as they could be. You could say, "this design is nice but it won't work because you have pictured an elegant slim lady and the book is about a fat sloppy lady." And so they put up a new design with some elements changed, but still an elegant slim lady. And you say..... and so it goes through many repeated fat sloppy comments and elegant slim re-submissions.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

When To Stop Writing

So many writing advice gurus advocate plugging away, getting words on paper, working through a "block." I wonder if that's totally the right thing to do? Doesn't it depend on what a person is writing? If one is writing a book on the life cycle of grub worms, then I can see value in plugging on. If one is writing comedy, well, maybe pushing it is okay. But if one is writing serious stuff where every word on paper matters and should have a gem-like quality, I wonder if the best course of action isn't to stop and put it away the minute mental fatigue sets in. Is something--anything--on paper good when next session you have to scrap and rewrite it?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Formatting & Writing

I finally finished formatting DEALER'S CHOICE for Kindle and CreateSpace. That's a tedious process. Worse, every time I go over the text, I find another few typos. Let's hope I finally got them all.

After owning a Kindle for six weeks, I finally decided to use it to download a couple interesting books--and found that it doesn't work! There's a flaw in the screen; only a little corner of it responds. I did the suggested resets, but nothing worked, and now I have to call in and talk to a real person. What I like about that service is that when you click that you want a response by phone, your phone is ringing. Right. Now.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Writers' Festivals

A writers' festival in my town, which was to happen in ten days, has been cancelled by the sponsors due to low registration. First of all, what a terrible thing for them to be forced to do, after all their planning and organizing which must have been going on for close to a year. No doubt there's some financial loss there, too. And then there's the effect that a cancellation will have on future plans by the group. Most alarming of all, however, is why? Why would a festival with fulsome reservations for two years running have next to no reservations for the third year? Timing of the festival? Appeal of the presenters? Choice of seminar topics? Promotion of the festival? Registration difficulties? Cost of attendance? Venue? Murphy's Law? As an area writer, I am concerned for finding the why. The answer could point to a problem that is affecting our entire writing community or it could be a learning situation for us all. Opinions from my watchers or my Amazon friends are invited.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


While working on my notes for my presentation at the Rochester Writer's Festival I find that almost every point I make brings a flood of inspiration for more things I could write. The title of the presentation is "Write The Children's Play That Theatres Are Looking For." I don't stop and write down every zinger of inspiration, but I have stopped and written out two detailed outlines for children's plays.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


This thought is entirely out of the range of writing, but.... We've dealt with a significant number of contractors in the past ten months--tree removal, fence replacement, shingle replacement, new concrete driveway, floor sanding--and we do decide which one to deal with based on estimate, experience and all that, but it's interesting that both my husband and I will immediately reject any contractor bidding for a job if he or she interrupts us when talking about the project. A lot of it has to do with good manners, but there's also the fear that if a contractor can't hear our questions out when making an estimate, how much will he or she listen to us come the time to actually do the work?

Monday, March 28, 2011

MWA Newsletter

The Minnesota Writers' Alliance newsletter for April is going to be a great issue. Many people have contributed an opinion on how to find the time to write, and the variety of suggestions is especially worthwhile.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Book-selling Dilemma

I'll be going to an indoor flea market within the hour, where many dealer friends and acquaintances will have seen the front-page article in "The Old Times" about my book, NICE GIRLS DON'T BITE. I was thinking of taking along a small number of copies of the book in case anyone wanted to buy one, but.... As I said, these are fellow antiques friends and acquaintances; do I have the nerve to say, "Sure I can get you a copy, that'll be $7.00 please." Besides, is it correct to sell a product at an event where one has not registered and paid the vendor fee? So I've decided not to take any books along.

I will, however, register and pay the fee to sell NICE GIRLS DON'T BITE and DEALER'S CHOICE at the big humongous indoor/outdoor flea market in August. If I'm sitting at a table with signage and prices prominently displayed, I won't have any compunctions about saying, "That'll be $7.00 please."

Friday, March 25, 2011


As I'm working on my notes for the 2011 Rochester Writer's Festival, in which I am presenting a seminar titled, "Write the Children's Play that Theatres are Looking For," I keep getting flashes of inspiration. In fact, twice now, while I was refining what I would say about where to find inspiration, inspiration itself zapped me, and I had to sit down and write a quick outline for a children's play. Twice.

The good news, under the heading of be careful what you wish for, is that I now have four plays, two novels, a collection of humor columns, and a collection of short stories all on the burner in outline form and the decision of which to get to first. This isn't because I can't finish a project, but rather because new ideas keep rolling in and to keep them from disappearing in my memory, I must write an outline.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Good Plays & Bad Plays

I find myself being critical of certain types of plays, and it makes me wonder. For instance, I have a low opinion of schlocky "high school" plays full of sophomoric humor and I have a serious antipathy for plays that are derivative spoofs on another form of theatre. Okay, that's a flat statement. Now, what gets odd is that I tolerate, even appreciate, the same thing in skits. For instance, if I saw a six-minute take-off on "Saturday Night Live" of "The Good Wife," I would probably enjoy it. A full-length 1 1/2- to 2-hour play that was a take-off on TGW, however, I would not sit still for. I wonder if it's a case of a joke should be brief, or a case of how dare you charge money and my time for such a low-class offering? And to take this discussion one step odder, I write farces, so is it a case of the pot calling the kettle black? I hope not. My defense is that only some of the jokes or sight gags in farces are cheap shots, and they don't owe their existence to being a monkey on the back of a better creative work.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Promoting My Book

Yesterday I started promoting my book, NICE GIRLS DON'T BITE. I was waiting until the printed version was available on Amazon, and until we were close to the release date for the April issue of The Old Times.

The Old Times says they're planning to do a cover spread of me. It will be distributed March 29. So I sent all the information they had plus some extra biographical material to the Post-Bulletin, the Daily Herald, and KTTC. For the P-B I made sure to mention that I had written their humor column "Bittersweet" for some years. For the Daily Herald I mentioned that I had directed theatre a lot in Austin and also wrote Austin's Bicentennial play. For KTTC, I think fellow writer Tom Overlie will look out for me. If Tom ever does an interview of me, I think he may be pleasantly surprised to discover that I am a voluble subject.

Just yesterday Shari Brandhoy, a long-time theatre friend, did my first review on Amazon. Yaaaayyy.

At any rate, all this should hit between March 23 and 30. During that time I will have to construct a direct email release. Busy girl.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Pitchfork Behind the Throne

"I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition," Shakespeare had Macbeth say. I feel a kinship with that. I have the vaulting ambition, speaking of publication and promotion, and I'm working on it, I'm working on it. And it is fortunate or unfortunate that I actually have the pricking spur, in the form of my Sweetie. He wields the dread Pitchfork of Reminder. "Shouldn't you be contacting newspapers by now?" "Shouldn't you have your book on Nook by now?" "Have you finished the mail list for...?" "Should you call so-and-so and ask him to write a review?" Actually, he's okay. I'm okay. It's Mother Nature who isn't okay. I seriously need 36-hour days!

Friday, March 18, 2011


The heavy carton full of NICE GIRLS DON'T BITE arrived yesterday. The book will be on sale at the April 9 Rochester Writer's Festival.

Funny, the arrival seemed almost anticlimactic and I have yet to open the carton. I've already moved on to hoping for other things to happen. Not that I'm not excited about this, just that it was a sure thing.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Standing in Front

I timed my children's theatre presentation for the April 9 Rochester Writer's Festival and it was too long. I'll have to take a mean pen to some of my topics.

I'm my own worst enemy as far as timing. I am so comfortable talking in front of people that I spread myself out and give fun examples, further illustrations, comments on the main points.... don't forget I work at being charming as all get-out. I'm just a stage pig. I should go back to teaching; no one fell asleep in my classes.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Newsletter Responses

Opinions on how to find the time to write are coming in to the Minnesota Writers' Alliance newsletter, and they're really great inspirations/helpful hints!

This response is mind-blowing for me, because..... In the past, for several months running I asked a selection of three writers to give their opinion on a particular subject, and got little to no response--often not even the courtesy of a response with an excuse. So then I upped my odds and asked six people for an opinion--got one response, begged for more and got one more. The others? Mostly blew me off with no communication. So this time I sent the request to everyone---all 250+ writers on the MWA net, and am getting a nice handful of really relevant responses. Yaaayyyy!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Power of the Written Word

March 15. Every year when that date comes around, my brain shouts, "Caesar, beware the Ides of March." A line that was written by a playwright over 400 years ago. And Shakespeare is probably the most quoted person in all of history. Now that's the power of the written word. Of course he had good plots and recognizable characters, but he sure got it right when he put it on paper.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Looking Ahead

Busy yesterday. Proofing SOUTHERN SURRENDER, signing a contract for MURDER BY ACCIDENT, working on notes for the April 9 Writer's Festival here in Rochester.

Funny, isn't it, no matter how busy we are, we spend our lives anticipating what's next? Looking forward to good things coming? I'm eagerly anticipating a new radio in my car, a play I'll be seeing tonight, when my two plays will actually be offered to the public, when my web site will get those last little decorative tweeks, when a new design for DEALER'S CHOICE will arrive, and WHEN I can quit all this anticipating and get down to writing again!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Proof Copy

Got the proof copy of NICE GIRLS DON'T BITE Wednesday. Looks pretty good. There are a few small things I could have corrected, but they were all my short-sightedness and I didn't feel like holding up availability while I uploaded a corrected version.

Small things such as I should have used one more or one less page in the prefacing material to make the text start on a right-hand page. Such as a chapter end mark that just went over and wasted a whole page. Such as an indented quote that went to odd line layout when I re-formatted to a 6x9 page size. Nothing that will wreck the whole book.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Photos for newspapers

I spent a lot of yesterday getting photos of me for a newspaper article about NICE GIRLS DON'T BITE. I probably dashed my hopes for becoming a model by having one taken of me in rollers and bathrobe, sitting at the computer, eating potato chips while I write. (No, I don't really eat chips, but I do write in rollers.)

I write humor columns. NICE GIRLS DON'T BITE is a funny book. So, why should I rest on author dignity? What fan base I do have (readers of "The Old Times"), would expect nothing less than something goofy from me. So I gave them goofy--bare feet, big blue hair rollers and all.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Murder By Accident

I got the notice yesterday. My farce, MURDER BY ACCIDENT, will be published by Eldridge Plays & Musicals--look for it in the fall catalog. As an added bonus they suggested a very small change to the ending, which was an excellent suggestion, and which made the end of the play even funnier.

When I become wildly successful at playwriting (notice I said "when," not "if?"), like the second Neil Simon, I hope I never get to thinking I know everything there is to know. There are so many neat moments in my writing that are thanks entirely to someone's else's bright suggestion. I claim them all as my own inspiration, of course, Mama didn't raise no stupid daughters.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Defining Theatre

More work today on my children's theatre presentation. It's amazing how theatre has specific genres & styles, and we all recognize them. But try to define them for people not totally oriented in theatre, and you find there are more exceptions than definitions!.

Just for example, define children's theatre. Easy, theatre intended for children to enjoy. But then you have to explain those theatres who do shows with lots of kids in the cast (Annie, Oliver, The King and I, etc.), and call themselves children's theatres. Not really. And the Junior Series of musicals now offered by many of the publishing companies, wherein the roles of adult scripts (Fiddler on the Roof, Hello Dolly, Oklahoma!, etc.)are simplified for children to perform. And they call it children's theatre. Not really.

Theatre. You gotta love it!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Festival Presentation

Today I'll be doing some work on notes for my presentation at the Rochester Writer's Festival this April 9. I'll be teaching a seminar titled, "How To Write The Children's Play That Theatres Are Looking For."

I've been doing work on it bit-by-bit over the past month. My outline keeps growing. Just when I feel I have covered a subject well enough, I think of more information or more exceptions that should be noted. My game plan is to cover the necessary information in a concise fashion, leaving enough time at the end for questions. I may be my own worst enemy--I delight in giving examples of everything.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Web Site

I've been working on putting stuff into a revised web site that a writer friend of mine is helping me with. I'm having a great time fulminating about the software, learning, revising, having second thoughts, and generally making a mess. My poor friend is no doubt being driven crazy with emails ranging from panic to ire to total confusion.

I will eventually arrive at a good web site. Said friend will no doubt weather the storm, too. When things seem to be FUBAR, his reaction is, "Hmmm, how can we fix this?" My reaction is to explode straight up and come down spitting. I think we both get satisfaction from our reactions.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Publishing an ebook

Whew! I put a novel, NICE GIRLS DON'T BITE, up on Amazon as an ebook. It won't actually show on their site for 2-3 days.

Launching it was actually quite easy. That being said, it took me four tries to do it right, but it wasn't their fault. I misunderstood a few terms (contributor = author's name) and I accidentally clicked on the wrong thing in my directory and I thought I had completed the full KDP account information, but I hadn't. The third time, when I thought I had totally done it right, I hadn't, and finally resorted to the help line. I got an answer and the right help within half an hour! And the answer was written in English!

You know what I mean if you've ever received a help response that goes something like this: "Time happens 'Save' not be nice, return two times to option recipe and once time more execute empty cartons."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I'm outlining the sequen to NICE GIRLS DON'T BITE. Working title is NICE GIRLS ARE ANGELS, but that's a little passive, so it will surely change.

Outlining is rough going. You have to conceive the whole novel. No sooner do I get the events lined up with explanations of what's happening, than I go back and discover D has to happen before B or it won't make sense, and L is actually two different events, needing to be split, and M is actually the inciting incident and should be moved up, and then I have no seque between P and Q and will have to think up another scene between the two. And THEN, just when I think I'm done, I go back for one last perusal, putting a time sequence to events, and discover that things will have to be moved around again because K has to occur before Thanksgiving and R has to happen after Christmas.

And meanwhile, through the whole process there are moments when I say, "Wait, wait! The police can't rule this a suicide; they have to immediately suspect the son of murder if the plot makes sense." And back I go to rewrite and adjust.

When I get to actually writing, it will be soooo easy!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Getting A Play Published!

Good news! One of my plays, SOUTHERN SURRENDER, is going to be published by Eldridge Plays & Musicals. It will appear in their fall catalog. It's a one-hour farcical melodrama placed in Civil War times. The nice EP&M people said they fell over laughing.

This play was written close to 30 years ago. It was originally a full-length melodrama. I dug it out of the trunk recently and read it with eyes and a mind that had gotten 30 years more experienced in writing. I discovered that it still hung together and remained quite funny. It was, though, in the ways that melodramas can be, very wordy.

So I took a "mean pen" to it and re-wrote it to conform to an hour's production time, losing a lot of the melodrama, but keeping the farce. I feel it turned out well.

Back in the day, there were two productions of it that still stick fondly in my memory. Lyle High School's over-the-top delightfully funny Gardenia Galsworthy, and Pacelli High School's athletically comic Beauregard Burnside.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What am I? Chopped liver?

I'm disappointed by my theatre friends and acquaintances who ask to read copies of my plays and then--nothing. Several have done that to me. There's an investment of about $8.00 in materials and postage to send a script anywhere. That's just a fact, not a whine. The cost is nothing when compared to my desire to get the play known and my hope for maybe a helpful comment. But--nothing? Not a peep? People don't have to like my plays. In fact, if they don't and can express why, the comment is immeasurably more valuable than compliments. And from theatre people? Hoy, chihuahua, their opinions would be the best! But nothing? Even a responding email that said something like, "Sorry, I think it's pretty boring; there's no real conflict." Or maybe something like, "I think you need to sharpen up your dialogue skills." Those comments would be helpful. To my way of thinking, common courtesy demands some reponse, even a lie if that's the best a person can do. But nothing? So I'm left with... What am I? Chopped liver?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Job of a Book Cover

For my book cover contest for NICE GIRLS DON'T BITE on 99designs, I was focusing on a cover that had bright color contrast and could be easily read in a tiny Amazon icon. A writer friend of mine wrote that she thought none of the submissions said, "Pick me up and read me." Hmmmm. Food for thought. I was satisfied with a cover that was readable and reflected that the book was a hoot, not a horror. I was assuming my "compelling description" would say, "Pick me up and read me." Anyone have any thoughts on that subject?

Ebook Cover

I'm running a contest on 99 designs for a cover for my campy paranormal mystery, NICE GIRLS DON'T BITE. So far I have 50+ design submissions. There are some truly good ones and the decision will have to be carefully thought out. On the other hand, there are a large number that miss the boat---some even getting the title and/or my name, wrong. Mostly though, I wonder why, when I have explained over and over in the comments for all to see, that I'm looking for bold color contrast, big title, and a sense of fun, I don't get that. Don't give me dark and murky, I say, this book is funny. It's a hoot not a horror. But still I get serious, dark, murky and bloody submissions with titles that blend into the background. I assume that some designers think that despite what I think I want, when I see their out-of-the-box design I will be won over.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


After researching the differences between Kindles and Nooks, I bought a Kindle. Got it straight from Amazon as local stores didn't have the version with global reception. I look at it this way: I go through maybe six books a week--tossing aside three after 80 pages, reading three totally. I pay $2.50 each for those books at a second-hand paperback store. Assuming I buy cheap books on Kindle (I look for genre classics, not new bestsellers), I could hypothetically recoup the price of my Kindle in six months.

And actually, that isn't why I bought the Kindle. I bought it simply because I wanted to experience the new technology. A nice afterthought is that I could promote my friends' ebooks by reviewing them.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I was talking to a tech support guy yesterday who mentioned that his weather was uncomfortably hot. He was in Manila. I was in Minnesota, ten below. You know how it is when you're a writer? That immediately made me think of characters in a novel. If I write one character as being thus-and-so, how exciting it would be to make another character the total opposite--but neither one of them totally good or bad. Or both totally bad? Now there's a concept. What's the difference between a gang of violent muggers beating a prostitute to death and a gang of loving Christians stoning a whore to death?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Poetry Out Loud

---I judged a Minnesota State Arts Board Poetry Out Loud regional competition yesterday. Seeing the extraordinarily talented readings was wonderful. It's a tough challenge. Competitors must put full meaning in their selected poems, without sliding into dramatic interpretation. There are two rounds, the contestants delivering a different poem in each round. For the first time in my life I heard someone do Poe's "Annabel Lee" without being trapped by the poet's horrible doggerel and without making it sound like a total dirge. It wasn't all roses, however; one competitor missed the boat on Frost's "Mending Wall," seeing it as a very sad occasion as opposed to a wry observation on long-held customs.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Whoa! What's this?

I paid $45.00 for a one-year subscription to a writers' trade magazine. Although it looked slick and colorful on the web site, my first issue was 15 stapled pages of black print on white 8 1/2x11 paper. I'm hoping the material therein is solid gold. It may be, I say to myself. After all, I've been to all-day multi-session writers' festivals which were almost not worth my time.... except for that one little thing a presenter said that opened my mind to a world of possibilities. So... for a while I'm not going to judge the book by its cover... er, the magazine by its cheap, photocopied, unimpressive look.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Kindle covers

While going through NICE GIRLS DON'T BITE, tweaking out the little pieces of over-writing, I find a few word choices that aren't right. Isn't it amazing/wonderful that after leaving a work alone for a while, when you come back, the "wrong" words leap out and smack you in the face? "Whoa! Did I write that? Louise would never use that term!"

I'm shooting for a Kindle launch and just got word from my potential cover designer that the four weeks I calculated for his design services may be more like eight weeks. What to do about that? Patiently wait because he's very good? Or switch over to 99designs?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Another Farce

Finished my 2nd farce, ULTIMATE GLAMOUR. 5 women, 3 men. A hotel room, 2 ladies in the "personal entertainment industry," a bellhop in the pool, a Girl Scout leader, a disguised bakery investor, a philandering corporate exec. a suspicious wife, a mousy secretary with an eidetic memory, and a nice guy caught up in the middle. I'm looking for theatres to give it a shakedown performance. Spread the word.

Yes, I'm still working on the narrative play, SLEEPER, but that's on the back burner while I finish other projects---the Minnesota Writers' Alliance newsletter for one.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Always getting better.

I'm going through a novel I finished two years ago, NICE GIRLS DON'T BITE. Good news is that I've gotten better at writing and can immediately spot and kick out the over-writing. Bad news? Although it was re-written many times back then, it still has spots of over-writing. Really good news? It still hangs together as a campy funny story.

I ask myself what writer fault is the most certain indication of amateurishness. I don't think it's grammar, spelling and the like. Those are merely indications of lack of education. Over-writing is certainly one of the top nominees, including its twin sibling, data dump. Perhaps lack of variety in sentence structure. And, oh my aunt Tilly, let's not forget unnecessary dialogue tags!

Friday, January 28, 2011


All right! ---I probably sound like such a weinie at times, but... I just discovered that one could pay people to configure a book for Kindle, etc. Whew! I read the Amazon instructions and was boggled. AND.... pay a really good professional to design the cover. Life is good!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


We checked out Trader Joe's, the new "different" grocery store yesterday. Interesting reactions. My hubby saw nothing different than what we can get at the usual supermarket; I noticed many different choices. However, both of us agreed that much of the... um... ambiance... came from same old product but very different packaging. Which makes me think of what the experts say about having the "right" book cover.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fourth Tuesday

I had a good time at the writers' Fourth Tuesday meeting last night. Fourth Tuesday is an informal writers' meeting established by Michael Kalmbach, facilitator of the Rochester Library Writers Group. It meets in various coffee houses and is open to any writer. There is no structure, just whatever comes up. My husband is starting to call it, "Rochester's answer to the Algonquin Club." It's amazing how many fertile "word drops" (as one of our group says) can happen in what is ostensibly an informal conversation.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


More and more I am intrigued by e-book publishing. A friend is urging me to get with it and get NICE GIRLS DON'T BITE launched as an e-book. Well, I'm studying how to do it. Although Amazon's instructions are step-by-step clear, they are still sometimes daunting to a user. Hypothetical example: "Next, save your text in FLUB.dub format." And I'm sunk. What's a FLUB.dub format and how do I do it? I'm afraid of getting halfway through a launch, screwing up, and having a half-book out for people to laugh at.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Where I'm At

Hello, Blog.

I've been gone for some time. Maybe my first re-entry should be a clarification of where my writing has taken me.

NICE GIRLS DON'T BITE (campy paranormal mystery novel, has been making the rounds of begging for an agent.) DEATHBLOW (police procedural novel, has been making the rounds of begging for an agent.) MURDER BY ACCIDENT (farce play script, is looking for a few theatres to give a shakedown performance, four community theatres are reading it.) ULTIMATE GLAMOUR (farce play script, in process of its third polishing.) SLEEPER (a three-woman narrative horror play script, one-third written.)

I switched to writing plays a) because that's where my degrees and training are and b) I was getting grumpy about taking a year to write a novel and having no success getting an agent, let alone seeing it published. A play can be written in a much shorter time, and one deals directly with producing and publishing venues--not with an agent first.