Wednesday, April 27, 2011

5 Best Pieces of Editing Advice

As a writer, I find the editing process a royal pain in the you-know-what. My wish is to one day write perfect prose in the first draft. No need for spell check or the grammar tool in my Word doc. Just sheer perfection. Every word a gem.

Like that's ever gonna happen.

Actually, I've come to terms with this. After you've been rejected by superagents, editors, magazines, and ezines as many times as I have, you start to take away a few things from the experience. I've discovered a common thread in some rejections and have tried to use them to my advantage. Hopefully, this strengthens my writing. I have to admit I do find myself correcting things that in the past I might not have caught. Editing has become a bigger part of the writing process for me whether I like it or not.

Today, I received a request from an agent to look at a partial for my young adult novel, Bayou Myths. Two years ago, I would have been thrilled, excited, bouncing off the walls. I still feel that way, but I'm a little more contained about it. I know the pitfalls of being too wound up about this. Writing is incredibly subjective. We all know how easy it is for an agent to read a few pages and then pass on it altogether. Pessimistic or realistic--call me what you will. However, as I started to prep the partial request, I tried to remember the best writing advice I'd ever been given in the hopes I've applied it to my manuscript.

1. Economy of Words--less is more. Just say what you need to say. Hmm...sounds like a song or something.

2. Cut your ly words. You probably don't need them.

3. By page 100, the stakes should be clear. This advice came from a super agent, and I really try to abide by it.

4.  Its and It's--yeah, I finally figured this one out. I know, I know.

5. Leave out the back story or find a way to weave it in later. This gets your reader to ask questions, and hopefully stay with the book.

These are the things that really stick out for me.

What's the best piece of editing advice anyone's every given you?

Monday, April 25, 2011

CHOKE has arrived!

My free author copies arrived, so I looked online and there it was!

It is awesome to hold a book that is full of my words. I can't get over it. I'll come down eventually, but meanwhile this is a powerful, wonderful high.

If one were to want a copy, one could visit either BN or Amazon. Last time I looked, BN had a better price, but I know they fluctuate often. It should be available at Mainly Murder Press on May 1st also.

PS. This is a collector's copy until the typo on the back cover is corrected. Someone spelled Saltlick wrong. This is copy I did not proof, in my defense.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Take heart in your Rejection

This week marks my 20th year back from Desert Storm. Last week I wrote about how that also marked my first time to be published and receive royalties. That week twenty years ago also marked the rather abrupt end with my relationship with the right honorable Ms. Petula Palmer, who hopefully has Google Alert set up to tag her name which will lead her here to realize that she ranks high enough for a humorous opening paragraph, but now I'm moving on to the main body of the text...

Which happens to be about rejection. I am, I admit, one of those people who fantasize about wallpapering a bathroom one day with all my rejection letters after I've struck it rich and become a gazillionaire. I don’t want to give away too much, but I thought I’d share a rejection email from 1998, back when people were still figuring out the internet and how things like “CC” v. “BCC” worked. It is a film festival rejection, not one of the many rejections from agents and publishers, but whatever. A rejection is a rejection, and I thought this one would still work here. I’ve taken many rejections quietly, and with dignity, but a form letter cc’d to 50 people was just too much. I’ve included my reply as well.

Subj: Film Festival Notification
Date: 98-07-26 11:33:51 EDT
From: FlicksArt
To: About 50 email addresses (deleted)

Dear Film Festival Entrant:

Thank you for your submission to the Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF). It was a pleasure to hear from you. Your work displays promise, talent and potential.

RIIFF received 207 entries from 10 countries, 26 U.S. states, and 5 Canadian provinces. Titles to be screened between August 13-16 in the cities of Providence and Woonsocket, R.I., include 34 feature films and an additional 60 short subjects and videos.

Unfortunately, your submission was not selected by our judges for exhibition during this year’s festival. Our distinguished panel of judges includes Academy Award winner Tom Ohanian, senior editor, Avid Corp.; commercial producer Charlie Shaw of Sonalyst Studios (where interiors of “Amistad” were shot); independent filmmaker and performing artist Norm Beauregard; in addition to cinematographers, videographers, commercial sound engineers, university film faculty members, and communications professionals.

We encourage you to continue in your artistic development and filmmaking pursuits. And we hope an entry from you for next year’s festival will be chosen by our judges for exhibition in 1999.


George T. Name Changed,
Executive Director/Producer
Rhode Island International Film Festival
Flickers Arts Collaborative
Address, Email, and Phone Number (deleted)

{{Note that I kept the same 50 email addresses in my response}}

Subj: Re: Film Festival Notification
Date: 98-07-28 03:28:17 EDT
From: SMetze
To: About 50 email addresses (deleted)

Dear Film Festival Executive:

Thank you for your rejection notice from the Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF). It was a pleasure to hear from you. Your letter displays promise, talent and potential.

I have entered many hundreds of film festivals throughout the world, and I have received countless international rejection letters, all of which I have had painstakingly encased in plastic and kept in an aesthetically pleasing weather-proof file for viewing by my closest friends and family.

Unfortunately, your rejection letter was not selected by our judges for exhibition in this fine collection of hand-pressed stationery, desktop published notifications, and even form letters. Our distinguished panel of judges did not see fit to even print out your correspondence, because, following your example, we did not want to expend valuable paper and toner in this modern day world of resource management.

We encourage you to continue in your artistic development in the areas of fine literary works and formal communiqu├ęs. Next year, when you've learned how to do things like, not start sentences with a conjunction, or perhaps, when you graduate up to the wild wacky world of paper or even individually addressed notices, we hope a rejection letter from you for next year’s festival will be chosen by our judges for exhibition in 1999.

Until then, please tell your panel of judges, including Academy Award winner Tom Ohanian, commercial producer Charlie Shaw of Sonalyst Studios (like we care where interiors of “Amistad” were shot); independent filmmaker and performing artist Norm Beauregard, and all the cinematographers, videographers, commercial sound engineers, university film faculty members, and communications professionals, to kiss my rosy red butt.


Steven E. Metze
Complete Address, Email, and Phone Number printed in bold (deleted)

Not recommending this as a standard process, but at some point, the line must be drawn.

I got a call from an old film professor later that year who had moved from the University of Texas to some University in Florida. He said he recognized my name when he saw it in these two emails printed and framed on the wall of their film department.

All characters appearing in this blog are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead or even mostly dead, is purely coincidental.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New Look, New Day, Same Great Blog

Well, you might have noticed that the gang at All Things Writing has revamped the look of the blog. Orange is a great color, but spring is here, bringing in fresh ideas and voices. Never fear, gentle reader. We will still be providing great writing advice--just on a blue background! Oh, to be a fly on the wall as our group gathered around the computer, struggling with the background decisions. I'm still not sure why Steve wouldn't let me pick pink with white butterflies. Oh, well....

Our goal at All Things Writing is to make a connection with our readers, to assist them in some small way, and share ideas. We are a think tank on the prowl for self improvement, sometimes even shameless self promotion, but we are always willing to pass along what we've learned. Many of us have books coming out soon or have already published books, and have lots of tips on publishing both the traditional and self published way.

We are planning stellar blog posts this spring, but would like to have the occasional guest blogger, too. If you have a great idea, a need that should be addressed, drop any of our contributing authors an email. We'd love to hear from you! And let us know what you think about the new look, too!

Happy writing!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Turning It Off

I can't figure out how to do it. Oh, there's a switch. Several in fact. The "START" Microsoft button that means "OFF" (yay, MS!), the button on the front of the CPU, and the switch on the surge protector. But how can I do that when so much is happening everywhere?

There are my lists, facebook, twitter, the files I should be adding words to, blogging to do, a newsletter I'm trying to start, guest blogs I need to turn in to others, guest blogs I need to receive from others. And on and on. Even personal messages in there somewhere.

So much is happening! How can I bear to miss it?

If only there were a way to sit for thirteen hours without getting bleary-eyed, hunched, malnutritioned, and a headache. That's what we need in the way of evolution--a way to keep keyboarding and not ruin hands and wrists. A way to stare at a flickering screen without eyestrain.

I wonder if people of the future will be able to do these things.

This person, now, can't. I mean, I do, but I shouldn't.

Step away from the machine.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Take heart from your taxes

Tax Day. By now, hopefully many of you have hit the ‘send’ button on some sort of e-file software and bid your 2010 taxes a fond farewell or a “See you in hell,” whichever works for you. I stayed up until 2am trying to decipher the cryptic intricacies of secret codes and regulations related to stock sales, a small side business, and goodwill donations while my wife kept IMing me words of encouragement from upstairs like, “how many times have you called your dad?” and “bet you wish you started earlier huh?”

Maybe it was the 32 oz Mountain Dew somewhere around midnight, or maybe it was the fifteenth time I had to redo the numbers on my “home office” to make it least likely to attract a swarm of auditors, I’m not sure, but at some point, my relaxing evening of tax preparation turned to self-reflection.

The year was 1991, a full two decades ago, and I was just five days away from leaving the desolate wastes of Kuwait and returning to Sunny Fort Hood. Skipping the re acclimation to flushing toilets and heated food that didn’t come in ten-pound cans or rubber bags, that year was going to be different both for my future, and for my taxes. I’d spent a good portion of my time in the desert training and sweating and all those other manly things young soldiers do, but in the evenings, I wrote. I wrote a letter to a gaming company, Hero Games as they are known now. In that letter I outlined a gaming scenario for their superhero role-playing-game called Champions. They turned me down. So I revised the proposal, suggested something bigger and better, and they agreed.

From that point, every night in my floorless tent sitting on my dust and dead fly cover cot, I filled page after page of notebook paper by the light of an OD green flashlight. I sent these papers home in my dingy envelopes with “no postage necessary” scrawled in the corner, my dad typed each page up as I’d written it, and eventually we mailed the printed copy off to the gaming company. All 124 pages of Champions Sourcebook #437, Pyramid in the Sky, came out later that year and sold over a whole handful of copies around two or three gaming stores everywhere. But more to the point, and I did have one, was that year, my taxes had an entry labeled “royalties.”

It netted me less than I make in a weekend of National Guard now, but I didn’t care. The point was, I wrote something, and I made Royalties. Probably the most majestically accurate word ever created. Say it to yourself. Royal-ties.

Anyway, there weren’t any more for a while after that first year, but a few summers later, I published something else, and my taxes swelled with pride again. I think I might have even tried to screw up my tax return in hopes I might actually attract an auditor so we could talk about my royalties.

“Oh sure, of course I realize I can’t claim my new nuclear bomb shelter as ‘preventative medical expenses,’ but have you seen what I put in line 17?”

I’ve never made enough in royalties to quit my day job, or even my part time job or that hobby job I do on the side, but every time I get to put a dollar amount, any dollar amount, in the royalties line, it makes my heart soar like a hawk. I still have the first dollar from that first game book pressed between its pages on my shelf.

So go out there and get some royalties. One dollar, a hundred dollars, it doesn’t matter. Write something every year that makes you some royalties, and preparing your taxes will become a joyous event to behold, even at two in the morning…

Thursday, April 14, 2011

5 Things A Psychic Medium Taught Me About Writing

This past weekend I went to a lecture that Chip Coffey, psychic medium and generally entertaining guy, presented in Austin. Mr. Coffey is well known for his participation on the show Paranormal State and Psychic Kids. Of course, those are probably the only two paranormal shows on TV that I don't watch. (Shame on me, I know.) I'd never been to a psychic before though I've watched enough of them on TV. As a writer who dabbles in urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and horror, researching those who claim to be in touch with the other side seems like a no brainer. So for $53, I joined the General Admission group and prepared to be inspired.

And I was....

Just not the way most of the others were.

I came away with dozens of good story ideas! Lots of the other people left feeling like they'd just seen a rock star, or they'd had a chance to commune with their loved ones and gotten peace. I liked Mr. Coffey, he seemed personable but rock star? Well...and though I do have dead relatives I'd like to harass, I was really more interested in talking to my dog, Oliver. We had issues before he died, and I really need to know where he hid my favorite pair of panties.

What did I learn? How can I use this in my writing? Here's my top five:

1. Psychics are great story tellers. They have to be. Otherwise they'd never get anywhere! They also make great characters--odd, a little out there, and slightly out of touch with reality.

2. We were all someone else in a past life. True, this is not a new theory. Mr. Coffey says we basically get recycled after we die, and we keep coming back to earth until we've learned our lesson. We usually hang out with the same people we hung out with last time around, too. I see, a reincarnation story in my future.

3. We all have special numbers that mean something to us, lucky numbers if you will. His were 12, 21. Mine is 7. Maybe that's why I write stories about the seven deadly sins.

4. Angels are all around us. I've heard this too and firmly believe there is one always peering over my shoulder as I write. I kinda wish my writing Angel would use a breath mint.

5. Orbs are dust. He said this at least fifty times. Orbs are dust. Keep this in mind when you are writing about ghost hunters finding orbs and thinking this proves spirits are present. Orbs are dust. Maybe your character just has a dirty house.

Have you ever seen a psychic medium? What inspiration did you draw from it? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Indie--what does this even mean?

While standing in the shifting sands of today's publishing milieu, I can't help but notice the word "indie" being buffeted about. Indie press, indie author, indie publisher. What kind of independent are they all talking about?

Webster is silent on the subject. At least my Webster is. The word may be added to more recent versions, but it's not in mine.

Wiki is not silent, but doesn't completely clear this up:

The National Literary Awards defines Independent or "Indie" Literature as "books published outside of mainstream publishing."[1]

Wiki redirects "indie publisher" here:

Small press is a term often used to describe publishers with annual sales below a certain level. Commonly, in the United States, this is set at $50 million, after returns and discounts. Small presses are also defined as those that publish an average of fewer than 10 titles per year,[1] though there are a few who manage to do more.

The terms "small press", "indie publisher", and "independent press" are often used interchangeably, with "independent press" defined as publishers that are not part of large conglomerates or multinational corporations. Defined this way, these presses make up approximately half of the market share of the book publishing industry.[2] Many small presses rely on specialization in genre fiction, poetry, or limited-edition books or magazines, but there are also thousands that focus on niche non-fiction markets.

[end of Wiki]
Nothing on "indie author."
 (Indie films and indie music are way way way outside my scope.)

So let's explore!

First of all, is the term indie author just another way of saying self-published? This phrase does seem to encompass self-pubbing. I knew some self-published authors who like to make a distinction, though. Their preferred usage would be to say "indie" for a self-published author who has hired an independent editor (or two, or more) before putting out an e-book or a POD trade paperback. So, under this method, an indie author is a subset of self-published authors, one who has taken more care and hopes to have put out a better product than someone who writes a novel and puts it up for sale with no help.

Second of all, indie publishers have been around for awhile, another name for small press. The use of the word "indie" for small press is awfully confusing, because writers published by these presses are not self-published, in any sense of the words. And indie author is NOT one published by an indie press or indie publisher.

Just for the record, let's not get even further confused by the term Print On Demand (POD). This is not a pejorative label. It's a production process. Anyone can use it. And both major publishers and small ones do. Also self-publishers.

One more layer of confusion. Authors who have had a physical book published by either a major house or a small one are now, if they have the rights, sometimes opting to put this same book out as a digital e-book. They are, technically, self-publishing the book. But it wasn't a self-published book in paper.

Off to the side are vanity presses. These are publishers who charge a writer for printing their book. Most people agree they shouldn't be labeled indie at all.

(Nathan Bransford recently got 141 comments on his take of the term.)

I'm going to stick with the old definitions of "indie publisher" and "indie press" and go with "indie author" as an enhanced self-published author.

Photo of Roycroft printing press by Dave Pape is public domain

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Literary Underground Wiki

One of the on line publications crazy enough to publish my work is Red Fez Press. I love this quirky little press for its ability to embrace all things to the left of center. Awhile back they published my short story, Bayou Scars, and now they are going to include my story Stealing Jesus (a tale of white trash mayhem at Christmas time) in their first anthology, Red Reader #1, due out August 2011.

As I sent in my updated author information, Michele McDannold, the editor of Red Fez, asked that I create a page at the Literary Underground Wiki. I hadn't heard of it before, but like any author trying to get as much publicity out there about themselves as possible, I checked it out.

Cool...really cool.

Created by Michele McDannold, the Literary Underground Wiki is a knowledge base used to compile info on the underground press. Set up in a Wikipedia format, authors can enter the site and create a page describing their accomplishments and author information. You can also enter or edit articles when you start up a free account.

I think this is a really brillant resource not only for writers but for readers, too. Author blurbs on books only tell you so much. The Literary Underground Wiki lets you supply a lot more information to the reader, giving them a glimpse into who you are as a person. Just like with Wikipedia, it also allows a place for you to post your links to your personal website or blog. This is another good promotional resource for authors struggling to build a platform and connect with readers.

So check it out! You can learn all about moi, Mary Ann Loesch, at my page there! Or you can create you own author page. If you do so, let me know so I can drop by and check it out!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Giving Blessings

I thought about using the title "Giving and Blessings" but opted for brevity.

First a word about giving. The writing community, I've found, is the givingest bunch of people. I can speak especially to mystery writers and, so far, horror writers. The most experienced are willing to take time out and lend a hand to new writers. In fact, there's a wealth of information that writers have posted on their blogs. Some examples are Alexandria Sokoloff's Three Act lessons, Beth Anderson's synopsis writing lesson, and Michael Bracken will even tell you how to write for the "trues" if that's your inclination. If you Google properly, you can find tons more lessons given for free from those who know how to do it.

On to giving blessings, which was my original idea for this post. I went to Santa Fe last week for Left Coast Crime, and mystery fan convention that moves around west of the Mississippi and will be held in Sacramento next year. I met with many of those generous mystery writers, and some fun fans and librarians, the treasures of the literary world.

This site,, says Santa Fe, New Mexico is the oldest capital city in North America and also the oldest European city west of the Mississippi. All of New Mexico is, with Florida, the oldest areas settled by Europeans in this country. The Spaniards (along with the Jewish people who were expelled from Spain the same day Columbus sailed) made their way to New Mexico, settled the area, and have been there ever since. They, of course, settled in land already settled by the Pueblo Indians. The history was not one of peaceful coexistence, and the Europeans eventually defeated the Pueblos and took possession of Santa Fe. The Indians today live in ancient pueblos, some very near Santa Fe, and produce artistic pottery, jewelry, rugs, and other arts and crafts. I can't go to Santa Fe without buying jewelry and have some pottery from there, too.

With the violent history, you'd think the Indians in the area would be bitter and resentful. Instead, they join in the tourism industry of the area and one tribe even welcomed the Left Coast Crime convention to Santa Fe. The Ohkey Owingey Pueblo performed a Buffalo Dance for us, permitted pictures, as a blessing on our gathering. I was so touched that tears streamed down my face as I snapped picture after picture of the serious, dedicated dancers, ages one and a half (although she didn't dance) to, I think, sixteen.
I posted all my pictures on facebook, but I've put a few here if you don't have the time or inclination to click over there.

This link is available to you even if you're not signed up for facebook.