Wednesday, May 27, 2015

My Guest: Ken Grace

My Guest this week tackles a thorny subject all writers face: analysis of your own work! Welcome to the Dark Side! Ladies and Gentlemen...

Ken Grace

The Word According
to Jekyll and Hyde

When you’re faced with the daunting task of considering the quality of your own work, how can you possibly rise above the terrors of the subjective judgement? I mean, whose opinion really matters the most in this dank and murky world of writing? Once I might have said that my own opinion was truly the only one that really mattered, but come on, self-confidence doesn’t guarantee quality and is so regularly associated with self-deception that it’s hardly a reliable source of judgement. In fact, some of the grandest statements of self-promotion are often uttered by the more impoverished examples of the archetypical starving author.

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Then there’s the high level of unqualified opinion found in the vast majority of the general public to consider; people who don’t always seem that sympathetic when it comes to the sweat of your labours or the brilliance of your work. You can add to this, the positive views and obvious genius of your fan base, and even the potentially career crushing opinions delivered by your agent. That’s a lot of subjective judgement already, yet there’s still the views of the learned intellectuals, critics and literary assassins that seem to have the right to tear you to pieces that we also need to include in the mix. 

These views are often the educated, self-interested kind, or the type that are determined out of personal perceptions without the need to ever qualify these in any way. Haven’t we all been at that party or gathering, discussing the latest hit movie, when a particularly unlearned person states that the lead in the show ‘just can’t act’, even though that actor may have won many awards and carried many a multi-million dollar production through years of wonderful performances. 

I find it strange that outside of the literary world, there are so many people in the above group, both educated or otherwise that often believe they would have no trouble writing a novel, usually an autobiography. These same folk nearly always regard the business of literature, including the writing of said novel, to be easy. This seems to be a general consensus. Just put pen to paper and the incredible story of a life in the suburbs becomes a hit, without any need for further education. Maybe I can give up writing and develop manned spacecraft that can be sent to another galaxy; all out of the spare parts in my shed.

The act of writing must be easy; all an intended author needs to consider at any one moment throughout the writing process is little things, like, whether or not they’ve developed a unique protagonist and a likewise list of spectacular characters, who act and perform precisely out of the writer’s development of their core beliefs and colourful attitudes. Also there’s character growth born out of the conflicts you must create and the rising tensions that lead the reader on, enthralled to that knock’em-down climax. Then of course, there’s the sentence construction that just happens to determine the sound and style, and of course there’s the clever comparisons, as well as the correct word usage, the poignancy and subtlety that tweaks the emotions, the creation of perfectly balanced pacing and progression, the maintaining of focus, the experience of showing consequence and deeply felt ramifications through the actions of the characters, the adherence to genre, the perfect viewpoint and type of narrator, the tone, the development of breath taking settings, the creation of believability through the suspension of un-believability, the unique voice for your unique characters, the thrilling chapter hooks, the relevance in every word and sentence and paragraph of your story, the handling of backfill, the brilliant dialogue, the balance, the overall structure, the informative and colourful prose … all the while avoiding the ordinary, the commonplace and the cliché, whilst judging and determining the complexity of your story to fit with the needs of your intended readership … and so much more.
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Seriously easy hey? Yet such uniformed assumptions and even your own learnedness, may not be enough of a valuable guide to determine the quality of your hard work.

What then, if you have none of the wanted opinions we’ve covered and still achieve record book sales, or win major literary awards? Surely one of these achievements is enough to stamp ‘good’ on your work? Yet, these inquiries almost always manifests another all-encompassing question. Do sales figures and awards, or any of the above opinions, definitively qualify your creations?

Just about every writer in the universe has suffered the dualistic confusion found in the Jekyll and Hyde of opinion. After all, massive books sales don’t always guarantee positive critiques. Likewise, winning major literary awards provides no assurances of book sales.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all suffered some anger, or jealousy over the sub-standard publications that seem to magically ‘hit the target’ or ‘find that niche’ and sell a ridiculous amount of books right across the globe, despite their lack of technical accomplishment. Everybody tells you its absolute rubbish and not worth a read, yet even your grandmother bought a copy.

Perhaps the answer to each of the questions we’ve asked is the same one. Art and storytelling are as old as man and even back then sitting by the fire in our caves, each artist and story teller pursued their gifts for their own reasons, expectations and aspirations. And, maybe that’s just how it is, quite apart from the rules of technical application and evaluation, the quality of your work may always have to live within the Jekyll and Hyde of the subjective, because we are all different and lucky enough in most cases to be able to voice our opinion, no matter its validity.

A Warning from the Author:

(written by Ken)

As an author, Ken Grace can only be described as a God-like figure, born with the physical attributes gifted to such a deity. His amazing characteristics could be accredited thusly:

He is sensationally short, brilliantly bald … lucky in that his hair has migrated from his head to other areas of his person such as his back and massive buttocks. He is also fabulously flabby, ridiculously rude, verbally incontinent and weird in that he stares at you in a creepy and superior way for no earthly apparent reason.

There is also his disdain of cleanliness, his ability to produce wind in the most inappropriate of circumstances and his knack of seeing the negative in every situation, to take into account.

Also, his vision is impaired, his hearing is almost non-existent, the air around him smells like sewerage and he can only taste sausage that has been left in the sun for several weeks. Yet, it’s his sense of touch that is possibly the most interesting, in that he has to hug everything he comes in contact with, from lamp posts to people, with the experience of his touch feeling something akin to sharp ice, only sticky, wet and greasy.

All in all, he has often been described as the perfect form with an intellect that is so special that it has so far never been detected. 

When Ken's not writing amusing Biographical material or sizzling SciFi novels, he can be found here:


Thanks, Ken, for revealing what to many readers is probably something they have never considered before: the writer's need to have feedback on their work. With this in mind, I entreat ALL READERS always to write reviews of the novels they finish - for those of us who sweat blood and tears during hundreds of long hours to bring you this timeless form of entertainment, it's our lifeblood!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

My Guest: Barb Taub

When I first read the post by this week's Guest, I had tears in my eyes... initially from laughing so hard, then through the realisation she had hit the nail on the head. Intrigued? Ladies and Gentlemen...

Barb Taub

The Write Biz

When Eric invited me to contribute a guest post, he had only two requests. It should be about writing, and it should be "awesome". Well, damn. I could think of a lot of awesome stuff, but if I tried to diagram the overlap with writing stuff, it would look like this:

Unfortunately, (although she is awesome), I don't think my dog is what Eric had in mind for this post. So with the other 99% of my topic ideas eliminated, I was saved at the last minute when a friend sent me (yet another) Very Serious Discussion about embracing the business side of our craft. One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is the way we writers undertake the business of writing. I wondered what it might look like if other professions marketed their product the way writers do.
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    ·     Gynecologist: The first ten people who 'like' me on Facebook get a free pelvic exam.
    ·         Lawyer: I'm not actually charging my clients because I'm building my reputation. Someday I'll be famous and they'll line up to pay.
    ·         CEO: It's okay if we don't show a profit. I've got some savings and my retirement—we can use that to keep going for a while.
    ·    Accountant: I could get better medical insurance if I worked for Starbucks, but I'm sticking with this because all my life I've dreamed of auditing tax returns.    

    ·      Surgeon: I'm giving away free
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appendectomies so more people can experience my art. I'm working two extra jobs to pay the bills, but it will be worth it when the reviews start rolling in.
     ·         Psychiatrist: I've spent over twelve years honing my skills, working a day job at Chez Mac's while exchanging free psychotherapy consults with my psychiatry group at night.
    ·       Dentist: I'm doing a blog tour, and you can enter my rafflecopter giveaway if you send a tweet, leave a comment, and add your email to my mailing list. Winner gets a free root canal.
    ·    Broker: I'm sending out free shares in hopes that people give them good reviews on Goodreads.
     ·        Chef: If I charge more than the food truck at Amazon, nobody will buy my next dish. Instead, I'll get a day job at Chez Mac's so I can keep giving my gourmet dishes away.
    ·       Banker: I think I'll just work from my dining table at home, alone, second-guessing all my decisions while I whine about getting lenders-block.
     ·      Human Resources: Instead of a salary, we'll pay people a small advance against future profits. Then they'll get paid in
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royalties. If they actually sell enough to pay back that advance, that is. And there will be at least a year's delay before the payments start, of course.
    ·        CIA: Even though you work for an evil empire, we want to keep your leaders on our side so we're going to give you everything you want. Besides, if we don't like what you do with it, we can always come back and kill you off in the sequel. [Oh...wait. The writer's business model is already the same as the CIA? Who knew?]
I know what you're going to say. It's not fair, especially when some of the best writers in the world are still asking, "And would you like fries with that?" at their day jobs. A writer I know was adding up all she spent on editing, proofing, formatting, and marketing her book. Her conclusion? "I could probably have done better if I spent it all on lottery tickets."
But here's the thing. If you buy every single ticket in a particular lottery, you are guaranteed to lose—because the prize is NEVER more than a fraction of the ticket sales. The trick is to be lucky enough and smart enough to buy just enough tickets. Every word we write is a lottery ticket that we pay for with our time, our imagination, our talent, and our luck. Most of those tickets won't bring home the big prize. But they can't bring anything at all if we don't buy them to start with. So here's the business model I'm going to work with:
“I write to give myself strength.
I write to be the characters that I am not.
I write to explore all the things I'm afraid of.”

That seems to be working for Joss Whedon. I'm guessing it will do for me.

But just in case — I've got this pile of free bookmarks if anyone's interested...


In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb Taub wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she's lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled Aussie Dog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them consulting with her occasional co-author/daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American. 

Just a word about her 'Null City' Series: Superpowers suck. If you just want to live a normal life, Null City is only a Metro ride away. After one day there, imps become baristas, and hellhounds become poodles. Demons settle down, become parents, join the PTA, and worry about their taxes. But outside of Null City, now that the century-long secret Nonwars between Gifts and Haven are over and the Accords Treaty is signed, an uneasy peace is policed by Wardens under the command of the Accords Agency. 

When Barb is not entertaining us with her keen wit or writing superb novels, she can be found here:

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Thank you, Barb, for such an incisive and humourous disection of one of the aspects of an Indie writer's life that often goes unnoticed by our readers.