Junkyard Perseus — January 14, 2019

I was working on writing a poem about my hometown junkyard and the yard owner’s daughter – a beautiful girl. The only roadblock was meshing the two. Then, while watching a documentary on Greek mythology one evening, up pops the statue of Perseus and Medusa. Subsequently, up pops an idea: converting a junkyard character into Perseus and the owner’s daughter into a goddess. The only problem: how do I keep to the Perseus/Medusa myth and adapt the myth to a poem about a junkyard? The answer: spare parts.

Junkyard Perseus

Is the widow, Rosalee Tait,
Still selling her husband’s tired iron?
Rows and rows of iron
Side by side
Front to back
Stacked one on top of the other

Exteriors of blistered paint, rust, broken glass.
Interiors occupied by mother nature’s creatures.
Black snake, field mouse, and cricket
Seek shelter in stained, torn and battered upholstery.
Thistle, briar, and nettle fence in
Bumper, fender and door.

Tired iron holds treasure, also,
In the form of parts.
Rosalee has and sells these…
Used of course.
Her son, Ransom, is employed for
The search and taking of this treasure.

A call comes in.
Someone’s restoring a Buick.
A carburetor is needed for an old Roadmaster.
Taits have an aging Roadmaster – a ‘48
Ransom prepares for battle.
Tired iron does not surrender its treasure easily.

A greasy ‘Mets’ baseball cap
Is Ransom’s helmet.
His Tunic: a sweat-stained cotton undershirt
Footwear: cracked, black leather combat boots
Leggings: jungle camo fatigues
Breast Plate: a mechanic’s shop apron

Ransom girds his loins with a leather belt
And the tools of his trade.
Pliers, wrenches, screwdrivers,
Mallet, wire cutter, are but a few.
A can of WD-40 goes into his pocket.
A warrior ready to go forth.

He surveys the field before him:
A skirmish line of Plymouth and Dodge mask
A phalanx of Ford and Chevys
Protecting motor world’s royalty…
Cadillac, Lincoln, Chrysler and their princes
Buick, Mercury and DeSoto.

Ransom locates the ‘48’s position.
He strides forward,
Into the skirmish line,
Through the Ford and Chevy line of battle,
Pushing aside briar and thistle,
Until he stands before the Roadmaster.

He accepts the “waterfall” grille’s
Leering challenge.
Forces open the hood.
A Black snake races off the straight eight
Engine block and escapes through
A hole in the firewall.

A rusted-bent air intake
And filter assembly
Sit on top of an engine
What was once painted Buick blue.
Underneath lies the object
Of Ransom’s mission.

With a blow from his mallet
He dispatches the offending air assembly
Exposing the ‘48’s carburetor.
A generous application of the WD-40
Persuades rusted machine screws
To release their hold.

With his task completed,
Ransom emerges from under the hood.
His right hand hangs at his side
Holding a flat-blade screwdriver.
From his shoulder, his left arm and hand
Stretch out holding the carburetor
Still dripping WD-40.
Decapitation complete,
Ransom stands victorious.

Gary Williams, January 2019

 

Writing Children’s Picture Books — January 4, 2019

WRITING CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS

When I first started writing Children’s Picture Books, I thought it would be reasonably easy. After all, I had seven children and many a night I told them stories and kept them entertained before bed. Little did I know how wrong I was. It will take many hours, lots of hard work and a good imagination. I hope this blog will help you get started because the end product is well worth the effort. Just imagine the smile on a little five-year old’s face when you read the story to them, and show how they can be a hero and make people happy. With that in mind, I will now tell you how I constructed my stories for children.

The first thing I needed to do was determine the age bracket for which I wanted to make my stories. That was not easy. Do you write for the age bracket of 1 to 4 which would be Alphabet books, Animal books, books about babies, etc. Or, do you pick an age group of 4 to 8 or older. This age group is more interested in having their heroes go on adventures, learn about the world and explore not only the world around them, but also the world of your imagination. I chose the age group 4 to 8. Once I had picked this group, I had to choose a hero for my stories. In my first book, I decided to make my hero a young boy in the same age group as the group I was writing for. I also had to decide what he would look like. I visited book stores and libraries and looked through many books to see what other authors had done when picking their heroes. After many hours and many trips, to the stores and libraries, I determined that I wanted my hero to look as realistic as possible. Now, since I am not an illustrator/artist, I had to find a person who would illustrate my books and also who was affordable. So, I went to the Internet. I looked up illustrators. I found quite a few, but all were too expensive. Then I heard about a website called “www.fiverr.com”. I looked up illustrators and graphic artists and found page after page of samples of their work. I spent weeks going through this site and after looking at almost 1000 illustrators’ drawings, I finally found one I thought could do the job I wanted. My illustrator is located in the Philippines.

I then had to explain to him what I wanted my hero to look like and also give my hero a name. Prior to all of this work, I had already written my story. I now had to determine what I wanted my cover to look like and what my hero should look like. Since I have 22 grandchildren, I thought it would be a good idea to have my hero look like one of them. I looked through some old pictures and found several, of my oldest grandson when he was between the age of 3 and 5. I chose several pictures of him and sent them to my illustrator. My grandson’s name is Sam. Thus, the name of my hero became Sam. When I sent my illustrator the pictures, I also indicated what I would like on the cover (the title, Sam walking down a path, etc.). My illustrator was a little different in that he did not want to see my story before he did any of the illustrations. All he needed was a list of illustrations and what I wanted on them. In another blog, I will give some samples of what I sent him. Below you will see the results of how the illustrator interpreted the photos and the final results of the cover. I was very pleased with the cover.

Grandson Sam

Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can go into a lot more detail about what I had to do to negotiate price for each illustration, but I will leave that for another blog. Just let me say it was interesting and beneficial for both the illustrator and me. After I got all of the illustrations completed, I had to lay the book out and send it to the publishing company. I will cover what it took to layout the book and get it published in my next blog. It was a very interesting experience since the publishing company I chose did not have a template for children’s picture books. I now have one for all of the books I have produced. Because of the problems my wife and I have encountered in getting our books published, we have created a Publishing Company (COT Publishing.com) to help other authors get their books formatted and printed. I hope this blog has helped you aspiring authors of children’s picture books in looking at and thinking about what it takes to put a book together. It’s a lot of work but the end result is always well worth it. I have enjoyed my story time with the little kids and as I said in the beginning of this blog, “There is nothing like the smile on a little five-year old child’s face as you read them your story.”

One last thing. In February, we are having a Writers Conference called “Pathways to Independent Publishing.” We hope you can attend. Please go to our website, coastalauthorsnetwork.com and sign up for a great time and fantastic education.

Publishing with Pictures — December 8, 2018

One picture is worth a thousand words. If that is the case, my book has grown in size considerably. It is a short book but each chapter is preceded by a picture. The idea was presented to me by a friend and she was very wise. The book is about a place, my home. Word choice and good descriptions are key to writing, but readers like a little help with their imaginations. Pictures can do that. It is important to note that cost factor differs between color and black and white. Color is more expensive.

Cover for I Shared With Them My Sunsets

I had many photos of my home, so selecting the cover photo was easy. Since the title of my book is I Shared with Them My Sunsets, it was not difficult choosing my favorite sunset picture. It became more difficult when I needed a photo for Chapter 1 of 1940’s Brooklyn. My publishers solved that by locating a photo from a royalty-free image company. It was a minimal cost and it worked.

Photo for Chapter 1, A Green World

For Chapter 2, the publishers and I started our journey around the lake where I live and did photo-shoots. It was a delight to share my beautiful surroundings taking photos. But first, I rummaged through old photos that I had. We had taken many pictures of our views. When there were no old pictures, or opportunities to take some, the publishers again went to image companies for purchase.

There is a chapter in my book about our fire. In 1978, our house burned down. Our neighbor took intense color slides of the house ablaze. I knew I had it somewhere and was amazed when I actually found it. When I say a picture is worth a thousand words that statement proved very true when my daughter opened the book to that page and burst into tears. Old repressed emotions were evoked from that image.

The feedback I have received on my book has cemented my feeling that the pictures were key to the essence of the story.

“My Reading Life” by Pat Conroy–December 1, 2018

I have never written a blog before this attempt. My writing skills-if I have any-are due to my crazy college English professor, the adult education classes I took at Coastal Carolina’s OLLI courses, and the Coastal Authors Network, a writers group to which I belong.

Before I cite some facts about a famous southern author, I would like to list one thing I have learned that helped me in this creative process.

A quote from Leonardo da Vinci: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” For me as a writer that means when I go back to edit my stories, I need to leave some spaces on the page for additional information and corrections.

My goal as a new writer is to emulate as much as possible a southern writer many admired. For this blog, I will attempt to summarize an article Pat Conroy wrote entitled “My Reading Life”.

The famous author completed more than ten bestselling novels and a number of nonfiction works.

His article about the reading and writing process begins by Pat admitting he didn’t record the world as it is. Rather, how he transformed it by making it pass through the prism of the fabulous stories he had heard throughout his life. These stories became the vessels he used to interpret the world for himself. For Conroy, good writing is the hardest form of thinking. . . by attempting to turn profoundly difficult thoughts into understandable words. He took joy in the artistic loveliness of the English language.

Conroy always wrote with the help of his well-used dictionaries and thesauri, using words gleaned from his long-winded ancestors.

Pat credited his Georgia-born mother for getting him to fall in love with the sound of words. He wrote his stories in longhand starting in the early morning, bathing in the sunlight of the language of Shakespeare, Milton, Austen, and Churchill. Conroy built his sentences slowly. . . hearing his mother’s voice. She made her son into a wordsmith.

His novels were battlefields filled with smoke, noise, and cratered fields. They reflected absurdity and exorbitance. For him, all writers are prisoners of their childhood. Pat always heard his mother’s voice and felt his father’s fist. His early life became the basis of his art.

The women in Conroy’s books were always mysterious. He constantly sought to understand them and in turn his Mom. She had created an insatiable reader in her son- he read at least 200 pages a day for most of his life. Pat always sought to find the author’s heart in the books he read. He enjoyed tales filled with story and character and a thirst to know what happens next.

Finding a book he really enjoyed, Pat would ask himself: Can I match this depth? Can I incorporate his ideas into my thinking? What can this author achieve that I can’t? And, can I steal the author’s ideas and make them my own?

Pat wrote scenes with the wonders of living things he named, with characters who spoke their minds, with the horrors he had experienced growing up. Pat took infinite care in how his sentences sounded to himself. He rose out of the oral tradition of the American South. Conroy tried to express something simply and well.

His novels attempted to stir the readers blood. He seemed to be born to write.

An article in the Sunday Post and Courier by the Washington Post columnist, Kathleen Parker from November 4, 2018 talked about Pat Conroy and his untimely death in 2016. She wrote, “he had so many words tumbling around his head that he had to put them down on paper-literally and in longhand-to tell his stories. The result was a library of best-sellers, some of which became blockbuster movies, including ‘The Water is Wide,’ ‘The Great Santini’ and ‘The Prince of Tides’.”

Pat had fallen “in love with the marshes and waterways of the moss-draped, antebellum town” of Beaufort, South Carolina. His writings were influenced by his parents, his English teacher, as well as a wide cast of characters and creatures he encountered. Parker too grew up seeing, smelling, and tasting the same enchanted landscape of pluff mud, ospreys, and oysters.

A Lowcountry Heart by Pat Conroy

 

Ideas that Inspire — November 24, 2018

Ideas that Inspire

I enjoy writing poetry. I will confess, however, I’ve never been published except for those poems included in the anthologies published by the university in my old home town.

I get my ideas from the experiences I’ve shared with the people in my life. Observing them. Listening to them and, yes, even touching them. Music is another source for ideas. The music from the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s contains themes that can be expanded upon…and the lyrics rhyme for Pete’s sake. Why is rhyming poetry a thing of the past?

I also get ideas from reading poetry written by published authors. Since I’m originally from the Northeast, Robert Frost takes me back home with his descriptions of mother nature. And now, living in the Southeast, I’ve discovered edgy southern poets and their “Grit Lit”. the book Hard Lines: Rought South Poetry is a great read into the back door of southern culture.

At the Carolina Authors Network conference, coming in February 2019, I will be reading a few of my poems incorporating some of the ideas I’ve expressed above. Some serious. Some humorous. Some free verse. Some rhyming.

Hope to see you there.

Book Parts — November 17, 2018

Book Parts
So now you’ve finished your book. It’s been edited and you’ve decided to go with independent publishing OR a traditional publisher has accepted your manuscript. Hold on a minute. You aren’t finished yet. What else is needed?

• Write a blurb for the back of your book. It needs to be short and attention grabbing. It can be one of the hardest things you’ll ever write! At least I find it so. Keep in mind many people make their book selections reading this short description.

Sample of Book Back Cover

• Planning to dedicate your book to someone special? Then write a Dedication Page. It can be short and sweet or long and poetic.
• Acknowledgements keep you in good graces with the people who helped you along the way. Thank anyone who had aided you with your writing by mentioning them on the Acknowledgement’s Page. Your editor is always due a big thank you. Did you have a critique group? Beta readers? Your college English professor who encouraged you? A professional you contacted to be sure you correctly wrote procedures or techniques like a police officer or an accountant? All these people deserve recognition.
• Did you want to tell your readers the reason you wrote the novel? Or perhaps it is based on a true story. Author’s Notes is a good place to explain such details.
• The copyright page is a must. It contains more than the actual copyright information. This is where you identify people who created your book cover and if needed, the photographer who provided the cover shot. Also be sure to write the disclaimer of character names, places, and incidents as either fictional or that you have permission, if required, for factual events. Include the ISBN numbers on this page. Check out other books for various formats and information. If you are traditionally published they will handle this detail.

Sample of Copyright page

• Do you have other books? If so, consider creating a page containing the names of your other manuscripts. If readers love your writing then they’ll want to find out what else you’ve published.
• Have you received accolades on your current or previous project? Put those quotes on a Praise Page where readers can see for themselves they chose a fabulous book.
• And last, but certainly not least, the About the Author page. A photo of the author frequently accompanies this paragraph although it is not required. Make it short and informative. Does your book contain an Army Ranger as the protagonist? Then let them know you are an Army veteran. Some detail that ties-in with your book. Don’t use the same information with each book – change it up to provide your readers a glimpse into your life.

What’s Next??? Nov 10, 2018

WHAT’S NEXT?????

After you’ve written your third or fourth draft with the input of your writers’ group…received comments from your beta readers and added their suggestions… listened to the advice of your editor and made the necessary changes…then what??

Some people think the next step is to create a query and send it off to potential agents or publishers. Others enter chapters of their manuscripts in contests promising to showcase winners in their magazines. Maybe even fly them to a conference in New York.

I’ve met several writers who attend conferences and submit their words to slush fests, only to hear why the agent or editor would stop reading after the third sentence. Rhino skin is hard to develop.

At my first writers conference, I was asked by an agent to submit my memoir to her agency. Her excitement about my topic was encouraging. I left the hotel feeling my work might be worthy of publication. Her phone call, a few days later, confirmed my feelings. She wanted my manuscript as soon as possible so she could issue a contract before the holidays. I was going to be published.

Six months later, after hearing my agent ask for more sex in my memoir, I decided to independently publish. The decision to submit my manuscript, using a self-publishing website, took me on a technical ride I thought I was prepared to handle. However, I quickly discovered the process was nearly as time-consuming and challenging as writing the memoir itself. How far to indent my margins, which headers on odd pages, where to place page numbers, gutters, fonts, format, template sizes, cover designs, and bleed. They all needed consideration. Did I have a picture of my own to upload for a cover? What do I want to write on the back cover? I quickly learned about royalty free images. The only problem was scrolling through thousands of possibilities and securing the rights.

After uploading the final material and reviewing the formatted version, I pressed submit to order the proof. Six days later, I opened the brown package and held my own book in my hand.

Since then, I have published two murder mysteries using the same process. I can’t say it’s quite like riding a bike, but it does get easier each time.

If you are at the “what next” stage in your writing, maybe someone at our Writers Conference will give you that extra nudge in order to hold your book with pride.