First Impressions

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” – Someone.

Evidently, this is another of those bits of wisdom that has no clear origin. The quote is often attributed or misattributed to the usual suspects for witty one-liners: Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Oscar Wilde, etc. Another claim is made that a Madison Avenue ad agency came up with it as part of a campaign for Brooks Brothers suits.

Authorship aside, this quip has worked its way into axiomatic status. People accept the wisdom of the words without question. On superficial examination (which is the most scrutiny the majority of people are willing to give) it just makes sense. It’s sort of like There is no “I” in TEAM.

As authors, we are admonished to make certain we have done all we can do to make our work shine before hitting the big red PUBLISH button. After all, if your book is deficient, you’ll be making a bad first impression. Your reputation will forever bear the stain of this disgrace and people will forever associate your name with an inferior product. Continue reading “First Impressions”

Pseudonyms: A “Casual” Case Study

Who woulda thunk it would be J.K. Rowling, of all people, to test the power of the pseudonym?

Rowling, of course, is the gazillion-selling author of the Harry Potter series. Upon hearing that she’d bought herself a Scottish castle, I wondered whether we would ever hear from her again. Hadn’t she already hoovered up all the loose change in the publishing world? Couldn’t she retire from writing and, I don’t know, administer charities or something?

Apparently not. Last fall, amid much fanfare (although lacking the squealing tweens and the giveaways of round-framed glasses that greeted the launch of the later Harry Potter books), Rowling released her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, to tepid reviews. Right now, it’s got a 3-star average from some 3,600 reviews on Amazon; one called-out review says the book is “like a bad movie that you just want to end so you can say you know how it ends.”

But if you thought Rowling’s literary career was over, you’d be wrong. Continue reading “Pseudonyms: A “Casual” Case Study”

Nuking the Newbies

Authors tend to be sensitive types. Perhaps thin-skinned is more accurate. After all, it’s not that writers are sensitive to you, but as a group, we tend to bruise easily, react strongly and bear longstanding grudges with a modicum of effort.

Whatever the reason, when you get a bunch of these daisies together in a forum of any kind, conflict is likely to occur.

Writers are people whose daily craft lies in the orderly application of carefully chosen words and phrases. To see them engage each other in a manner befitting a playground quarrel is both baffling and horrifying.  It’s bad enough to see veterans going after each other hammer and tong, but when I see a newbie getting a beat-down, it really bothers me. Continue reading “Nuking the Newbies”

Fear and Loathing No More

Long before the interwebs dubbed them “epic fails”, I used to collect such stories in the dimly-lit, ironic laugh-a-thon I call my “mind”. Like the bank robber who wrote his holdup note on the back of an envelope that not only displayed his own name and address clearly and almost heartbreakingly, but also that of his parole officer, upper left corner, return address. Then… he left the envelope. Or a different guy—surely related via some spectacular yet hitherto undiscovered boneheadedness gene—who held up the teller with a rifle… but left the cork plugged proudly and prominently in the end of his painfully-obvious-to-everyone toy firearm.

Anyway, that’s a trip down Fail Boulevard. And highly amusing as that journey undoubtedly is, I want to explore another part of town: Success Street. Success. Even the word itself sounds like it tastes good (cf: succinct, succumb, succour, succulent). Yeah. Did I ever mention how much I love words? So much so I want to eat them. With bacon. And chocolate-dipped seahorse roe.

But I digress.

Look, without further ado, here are seven awesome ways to totally guarantee your writing success. Continue reading “Fear and Loathing No More”

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