Tuesday, November 18, 2014

You're Not Perfect, And You never Will Be

Practice makes perfect ... or so claims the common refrain. But it seems to me that perfection is a an arbitrary assessment at best. Sure you can score 10 out of 10 on a test. Maybe even a 100 out of a 100 but does that mean you have perfect knowledge of a subject. Not really. It means you knew as much as the test taker expected you to know.

I say perfection is an mythological concept. Bring you arguments if you have one but I say it is an illusion, a label no different than the genre classifications we slap on the books we read, the music we listen too, the movies we watch. It makes us content to say this fits here. this is the best I can do therefore I did a perfect job.

It's bullshit.

Most will say a baseball pitcher threw a perfect game if he gave up no hits and no walks. The more stringent might say perfection is 81 pitches or 3 strikes to three hitters in each of nine innings. But I say even that is not perfection because those strikes rely upon an umpire deciding those pitches were strikes.

But I digress thereby proving this post (or any of my others) isn't perfect either.

Now in some occupations such as medicine and law there is not even the claim of perfection. It is widely accepted for a doctor to have a medical practice. Same for lawyers. Their best effort is considered good enough. Odd considering the gravity of their actions.

Authors however are not usually afforded this same leniency. Not from many readers. And certainly not from themselves.

I'm fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to sit and talk with dozens if not hundreds of authors over the years. Most have at some point mentioned the funny letters or emails they get from readers pointing out the missing comma from paragraph 3 on page 189. Or the one time the word hear appeared instead of the correct version here in Chapter 18. Don't get me wrong it is always nice to here (see what I did there?) from readers and it is nice that they care enough to take time out of their day to not only read but comment. However, isn't it odd that people will choose a handful of erroneous words to point out rather than the 98,000 words the author got right?

By the way of you missed 2 or all the way up to 494 answers on a 98,000 word test and still finish with a 99.5% which would be rounded to a 100 thereby scoring the illusionary mark of academic perfection.

But again I digress. 

There are lots of pressures to be perfect for writers. From audiences wanting that perfect ending to a series. To editors wanting your books produced on a perfect marketing schedule. Agents wanting that perfect premise that will make the book easy to sell.

But those are simply the pressures of the business and authors would love to achieve those things themselves. They are motivation. Drive. The very heart of our ambition and love of writing.

However ambition has a dark side. And for me as well as a lot of authors the pursuit of perfection can be a steep impediment to progress. I can't sit down and write until I think of that perfect premise that will make my agent squeal with glee. Or finally land me that agent or book deal.

Then the roadblock grows taller.I can;t really get started until I come up with that perfect first sentence that will grab a reader by the throat.

And wow I finally got started. I have a couple of damn good chapters but this manuscript needs a title. I can't possible write another word until I think of the perfect title.

You got your title and now you are 8 chapters in but that beautiful scene in Chapter 2 that you though was perfect no longer works because the character you thought was going to be a bartender is now the director of East Tawakoni's MADD chapter.

 Hours ... days ... weeks go by and you still are trying to figure out a perfect way to save Chapter 2 when you decide she used to be a bartender but then she served too many Rum and Cokes to an out of work accountant who plowed into a minivan full of kids on his way home.

Your character escaped prosecution, but not her own guilt and now she is a crusader for the cause. Yeah it's perfect.

Wait no it's not. Your swarthy 2nd generation Cuban American hero inherited his wealth from the family's rum business.

No wait it is perfect. Star crossed lovers at odds over their pasts.

No it will never work because if she falls for him and his blood money your central protagonist is nothing but a hypocrite

That's when the dark thoughts creep in .... This whole book is crap. I am a hack. I can't do this.

I think all writers hit this point on nearly every lengthy project. Maybe even on the short ones. The key is to accept these thoughts as part of the natural process. To maintain your faith in yourself even when things are not perfect. Writing is an art that must be practiced, but even then it will never be perfect.  
  

 


  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Socializing


I'm still trying to get me bloggin' legs b'neath me. Yeah I know it's not Talk Like a Pirate Day, but what the hell, might as well have some fun anyway.


I spotted this pen the other day for a joint called SHEMEN Dental Group. I don't even know where this group is located and I'm sure they provide fine dental care but the name made me think of big-knuckled dentists, clad in red leather high heels telling me to run and spit as they rubbed their five-o'clock shadow.



 While I have been a quiet blogger I am still a pretty active Tweeter. Here is a pic I posted over there of a shoddy headline I spotted in my local paper a while back.




 And what would Twitter be without the occasional selfie?




And then there is Instagram. I am a sporadic Instagramer.  After all, I don't even own a cat and I'm not a big believer of  posting pictures of every meal I eat. But When we have had some spectacular sunsets here in Amarillo as of late and sometimes things are just to visibly beautiful not to share.

A photo posted by Travis Erwin (@traviswriter) on


A photo posted by Travis Erwin (@traviswriter) on


On the beer front this one pretty much speaks for itself.




The obligatory book reference for this post ...


Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Killer B's

I changed the name of this blog last year because I'd reached the goal spelled out in the old one and well because Bacon, Beer, and Books are three of my favorite things. However as I reflect on the months that have passed since the name change I realize it hasn't been a great year for two of the three.


Bacon has become some sort of fried glistening gold and as much as I like the crunchy strips my tightwad side just can't pony up 6 buck a pound when I can still get steak for that.



I guess I should have named this sucker Beef, Beer, and Books.

As for the latter I haven't had a great writing or reading year. I want to blame time but maybe time is what you make it and I haven't done a great job. Nevertheless, here are a few of my favorites I've read lately.

Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond



I got this one free as part of Amazon's Kindle First program. Now this YA Mystery sales for $4.99 but still a bargain at that price. It is the tale of old magic in a new world -- circus lore, old vendettas, and young love and a great read.

Anatomy of a Spy by Stephen Parrish



Anatomy of a Spy is a brief sketch of the quintessential American spy. The author draws on his experience serving under Clyde Lee Conrad, one of the most notorious turncoats in American history. Written primarily to help authors of espionage fiction, Anatomy of a Spy will also enlighten readers of the genre, as well as anyone interested in the little-known facts and often bizarre reality of the world’s second oldest profession.

As a long time fan of the noble Stephen Parrish I had to read these even though I have no plans to ever write a spy novel. The how-to element aside, this book is just flat out entertaining, enlightening, and engaging. Parrish delivers a wryly witty look at spy culture while sharing his brush with spooks during his tenure as a serviceman on foreign soil.

The Memory Child by Steena Holmes



A woman’s dark past collides head-on with her mysterious present in this surreal and gripping family drama.

A haunting tale marvelously crafted. I wanted to say more about the way this novel is written but I can't without potentially spoiling the reading experience.  

I will try to chime in with my thoughts on my reads more often but now lets get to the one subject I did have a great year in ... beer.

I gotta say the craft beer revolution is a glorious thing. If your idea of beer is still associated with Bob Uecker, claims of Rocky Mountain Spring Water, or talking frogs then you my friend need to wake up your taste buds and experience the glorious side of beer. Here are my top three beers of late ...

3) Devastator from Wasatch Brewery in Utah

A strong, amber lager (8% abv) with a nice malt aroma and flavor. Double Bocks date back over a century when Monastic brewers knew it as "liquid bread." Made all the better when drinking in the great outdoors.

2) TurboDog from Abita Brewing in Louisiana

From Abita Brewing ...
A dark brown ale brewed with pale, caramel, and chocolate malts and Willamette hops. This combination gives Turbodog® its rich body and color and a sweet chocolate, toffee-like flavor. Turbodog® began as a specialty ale, but has gained a huge, loyal following and has become one of our flagship brews.

This ale pairs well with most meats and is great served with hamburgers or sausages. It is a good match with smoked fish and can even stand up to wild-game dishes. Turbodog® is also great for marinating and braising meats and cooking such things as cabbage and greens. Colby, Gloucester, Cheddar and blue cheeses go nicely with Turbodog®. It’s perfect with spicy Louisiana jambalaya or Spanish paella. Some even like it paired with chocolate!

1) Ola Dubh 12 Year Special Reserve by Harviestoun Brewery in Scotland


No doubt the best beer to ever touch my lips.

From the official description ... Ola Dubh 12 pours black with a modest spattered head that reduces slowly, leaving behind textbook lacing. The aroma is delicious; smoky Worcestershire sauce, leather, iodine and grilled steak. Flavours of smoky-sweet malts, roasted peat, coffee beans and a well-bittered finish. Overall this is a rather exotic brew with a defined barrel influence. It’s refined rather than over the top and very delicious indeed.

I know it is a bit early for a year end best of post but it's been a rather crappy year blogging wise so I'm flushing the past with this entry and starting anew. Hope you enjoy a few of this picks.
 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Right Writers Rites

Days, weeks, months ... anymore they slip by like the phases of moon. Sure I notice and note the spectacular moments like a glowing full moon, birthdays, holidays, and such., but it seems like time passes quickly, yet unremarkably so.

Writing wise I have not been as busy as I'd like to be. I'm always working on one thing or three but the finish lines have been harder to find. Self-imposed deadlines are not as demanding and life is busier with two active boys so excuses to skip a night or three are easier to come by. I'm writing this as a prod to myself as much as anything. A reminder that I need to write more, push myself harder, strive for lofty heights even if I can't currently see the peak from my viewpoint.

Writing is a solitary task for the most part yet I have a need to surround myself and interact with fellow writers. Somehow my creativity feeds off of their energy. Not like some kind of soul sucking zombie that leaves me fellow authors comatose and incapable of anything more that a clumsy shuffle but for of a spirit bolstering camaraderie that stirs the neurons in all our brains. I do miss the days of critique group and even of a larger supportive blogging community, but time waxes on and the writing community takes on different shapes. We must adapt with those changes.

Which brings me to a fine organization of which I am proud to be an inaugural member.


The Women’s Fiction Writers Association is…
An inclusive organization of writers who create stories about a woman’s emotional journey.
We are a volunteer-run organization dedicated to providing a community for career-focused women’s fiction writers via networking, education, and continuing support in career growth.
Whether you are an aspiring, debut or multi-published author, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association offers resources to help you improve and succeed.

Member Info Can Be Found By Clicking Here 

The WFWA will be hosting a writers retreat in September of 2015. As one of the retreat coordinators I will certainly be there and I hope to see some of my longtime writing friends. There will be something for everyone regardless of what stage in the writing process you are. 


Annual Writers Retreat

Save the date!!

The first WFWA retreat will be held September 24-27, 2015 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The details of the agenda are still in progress but here’s a quick snapshot:

The retreat will kick-off on Thursday evening with a “putting a real face to the profile picture” meet-and-greet. Friday morning, instructor, agent and WFWA member Donald Maass will present a workshop geared for women’s fiction writers. 
 
The afternoon will be spent putting what you’ve learned from the workshop into use, attending the breakout sessions (details to come), or networking with fellow attendees. Saturday will include more writing and breakout sessions throughout the day and conclude with an awards dinner.  
 
Sunday we sadly say good-bye.
 The retreat committee is working hard on the agenda and we’ll be updating the website and sending out emails as things firm up
.
The WFWA retreat is a craft and networking event. There will be agents attending but we will not be offering pitch sessions. It’ll be a weekend to discuss women’s fiction and the publishing industry, to work on your WIPs, your query and your synopsis, to meet fellow WFWA members. We’ll write, we’ll brainstorm, we’ll network, we’ll learn, we’ll have fun. And to keep with the retreat feel, we’re limiting attendance to 100 members.

Early registration fee will be $325, closing four (4) months prior to the event, and $375 after that. Registration will be limited to WFWA members.

Hotel rooms will be $129 a night.
If you have questions or recommendations, please don’t hesitate to contact us at retreat@womensfictionwriters.org.

Orly Konig-Lopez, WFWA president and retreat chair
Travis Erwin, retreat coordinator
Cerrissa Kim, retreat coordinator


 

 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Abacadabra, Don't Make Me Stab Ya

I was recently talking to a non writing friend of mine (they need a cool muggle-like moniker so we writers can quickly establish things when speaking about our not writer friends) when they asked me why I spend so much time researching when I write fiction.

"Just make something up," they said. "Why do you care if the neighborhood is right, you can see that bridge from the corner of that street, if a doctor would really prescribe that medication with those symptoms? It's all make believe anyway."

I nearly choked. I was downright incredulous on the inside but I smiled and racked my brain for a way to describe the magic of a fiction book to an obvious non-believer.

Then it hit me. Magic is the answer.

The really good authors truly are magicians. But we don't have smoke, mirrors, and scantily clad women in tight sequined dresses to fool the eye. we have clever words, emotions, and honest storytelling to deceive our readers.

I'm gonna go ahead and say it -- David Blaine, David Copperfield, Lance Burton. Y'all got nothing on Kent Haruf, JK Rowling, Barbara Kingsolver.

It's all an act, an illusion. The people who buy tickets or gather on the street to watch a magician and those who purchase novels all know they are being duped, tricked, bamboozled to believe in what is not real. And this is where the research comes in. So long as that audience or reader do not see up the sleeve, or spot the wires dangling they are perfectly willing to suspend their belief. A simple mistake ruins the whole thing whether it be a magician knocking over that mirror or me writing about Amarillo being overrun with Armadillo's. Armadillo's are a rare critter here in Amarillo, but can be found aplenty not far south of here.

I've read novels, otherwise good novels where the author made a simple or stupid mistake that jolted me out of the book. Once a readers pauses to think Uh-uh Buster, that ain't how it works, you've lost them.  And that my friends is a very non magical explanation of why I'm anal about the small things when researching my novels.

*********

Yeah it's been a while since I blogged but I've been in morning over the price of bacon. It's hard to sit down and right posts on a blog with Bacon right there in the title and not get a little choked up. Also I've been editing polishing and otherwise writing my butt off in the hope I can afford more bacon. Now on to the beer portion of this post ...

*********

If you are a discerning beer drinker and are not on www.untappd.com you my friend are missing out. Beer drinking social media that keeps track of the different beers you have consumed, offers recommendations based on your personal ratings and puts the social in social drinker. Look me up by name.

You can share pictures along with the reviews like this one of what might be the best beer I've ever tasted.





And here was my original Untappd review ...

Hell yeah! Puts hair on your chest and a smile on your face. Smells harsh but tastes smooth. Thick malty and robust.

That's it poured up in a glass. Nice and dark, like a good beer should be.      

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Hybrid Author

 I'm lucky to live in an area ripe with literary talent. Right from the start of this journey I had a wealth of knowledgeable and talent writers to draw inspiration, motivation, and education from. People like Dianne Sagan. Now the rest of the world can benefit as well. Because ...
The Hybrid Author, by Dianne G. Sagan, is now available on Amazon.com.
View The Hybrid Author book cover.jpg in slide showWith a publishing industry in constant change, authors find themselves trying to make decisions about whether or not to self-publish or traditionally publish. Mrs. Sagan’s book explains what a hybrid author is, what options are available, and how to decide what path to take in this ground breaking book. It includes interviews with C. J. Lyons, Joanna Penn, J. A. Konrath, Hugh C. Howey, Marie Force, Barbara Morgenroth, Jennifer Archer, and of course, Travis Erwin. 
Author of 21 books, ten ghostwritten (six of which were best sellers), Mrs. Sagan is a hybrid author with books published traditionally and self-published. She brings her experience and knowledge to writers in this timely book.
View Dianne 2.jpg in slide show
Reviewers are calling a treasure full of information valuable to all writers. You'll want to add it to you personal resources. You can find out more about Mrs. Sagan and follow her at http://thehybridauthor.com

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

And People Thought Ozzy Was Disrespectful

I'm a proud Texan.

I know my state history.

I have visited the Alamo.

So I have always enjoyed the famous Davy Crockett quote ...






And I do love keeping my beer cold, so when I spotted this can coolie in a little gift shop in Chillicoathe, Texas, I found it quite tempting.

After all what better way to honor a true Lone Star hero who died while fighting for Texas's independence against Santa Ana's army ...

a man who stood his ground despite being outnumbered nearly ten to one ...

than with a beer holder declaring his bravado?

I turned it over to check the price and what did I find?


The man killed him a bear when he was only three, but 178 years later ... the Mexicans are still getting the last word.