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Showing posts from 2009

Your Writing: Make It Real

by Chris Stewart

(Warning: Some of you are going to hate these ideas. Too bad for you!)

So, we all write because we love writing, and if we were never published, we'd still do it because we have to. We can't do without it. Right? Right? (Hint: the correct answer is ‘yes.’)

Even so, it’s hard not to feel like one is falling behind. Not doing enough. Not publishing enough poems or attending the right conference or keeping to the right writing practice. Sometimes half of your brain is focusing on your writing, the other half is focusing on this go-go-go, more-more-more, better-better-better idea.

The latter half can really stifle the good things coming It's draining, isn't it? As long as you allow it to, it pulls away a percentage of your consciousness and energy that are always at work (uselessly, most of the time, I might add) on this problem, and could be better used elsewhere. your writing?

We've all heard about how we need to live in the present, how t…

Novel May Be More Fact than Fiction

Anthony S. Policastro

I just received an email from Dirck Storm, who confirmed that journalist Vic Livingston from Philadelphia, has in fact been harassed by some of the technologies I mention in my novel, Dark End of the Spectrum.

What's intriguing about his email are the links at the end. One site has information I read about five years ago during the initial research for Dark End of the Spectrum about how the Russians turned a conventional microwave oven into a deadly weapon. I included this information in one of the chapters of the book where one of the main characters tells how his wife died of cancer caused by this heinous weapon.

While this information is eye opening, I used it in my book for dramatic purposes and sort of half believed it. Now, it appears it may have been true.

Here's Mr. Storm's email and make sure you read my earlier post about Vic Livingston and how he says he has lived and breathed the dark end of the electromagnetic spectrum.

"Dear Mr. Policas…

FanFic: Write an Episode for Your Favorite TV Show

By Chris Stewart

When I was an early teen, a girlfriend and I used to write episodes for our favorite TV show, Battlestar Galactica. The original, not the imposter (you can see what side I'm on you BG fans).

You remember: Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict, Lorne Greene. We loved it. And we wrote 200 page 'scripts' for the show (more TV movies than TV shows) for about a year. They probably weighed more on the side of romance than science fiction (I had a crush on Benedict; she had a crush on Hatch), but they were great practice at character development and sustaining a storyline.

I haven't done this in years, but have come across others doing it, which has been a nice surprise. Not many people know this, but I'm a mad Doctor Who fan from way back. I watched the show (now 'Classic Who') on PBS television for over 20 years, then switched to Netflix and YouTube when MPT pulled the show and the new series started (don't get me started on that).

I'm not a big …

What Makes a Good Memoir?

By Paula Margulies

As a publicist, I'm sent books of all genres by authors interested in my services, but lately I seem to be on the receiving end of a lot of memoirs. I've also spoken to a higher-than-usual number of memoir writers, who either telephone or approach me with questions at writer's conferences. The bulk of these conversations have to do with why their memoirs aren’t selling and what the authors can do to make them better.

My first suggestion for all memoir writers is to take a look at their market and identify the different types of people who would want to read their book. This is tricky, for while many memoir writers have done a good job of detailing certain aspects of their personal history, a number of them have not thought about who might be interested in reading what they've written.

A lot of memoirs I've seen recently are nothing more than personal recountings of an individual’s experiences – some of which are, indeed, memorable. But I've…

Building a Writing Life/Community After Your MFA

By Chris Stewart

I was recently asked to speak about this topic at the reunion of nonfiction MFAs at Goucher College in Baltimore and thought this information would be great to share here at The Writer's Edge, as well.

Once you recover from graduating from a MFA program and discover that you need to make your peace with the void it leaves, and that you are now your own keeper/disciplinarian, the big question hits you: What do I do now?

My philosophy on this has TWO POINTS:

1) Try everything you can handle in terms of your time and energy. Just give it a go, even if you're not sure it's for you (as long as it's not a big financial commitment like an expensive class or conference. You should really want to participate in those before plunking down the credit card). You'll stir things up. You'll meet people. You'll discover important strengths, weaknesses, passions. Other things will start to show up for you.

2) Based on what shows up - do what's in front of yo…

Never Judge a Book by its Genre

By Anthony S. Policastro

My newest book, Dark End of the Spectrum has received several reviews and they have caused me to nearly fall off my chair when I heard them.

When I finished writing the mystery/thriller, I thought it would appeal mainly to computer geeks, readers interested in technology, and people who knew their way around the Internet.

Not only does it appeal to these audiences, it also appeals to women who are not so computer savvy, women who don’t really care about technology, but simply enjoy the story.

Here's what Sheila Deeth of Oregon said about it on Amazon:
"But the novel isn't just about technology gone wild. Dan has a wife and child and a home life too, and the up-down relationship of a marriage strained by work grounds the tale very realistically. The author writes convincing dialog, and Amelia's sudden anger as Dan leaves to help the CIA saddened me because of its plausibility."
What is even more interesting is that she obtained the ebook vers…


By Richard Curtis

Agents don't like to admit that there are events beyond their control, and I suspect that is why it's hard to write about such contractual matters as forces majeures—acts of God—and bankruptcy. Such events serve only to reaffirm our human frailty and fallibility, our total helplessness before the awful natural and business convulsions that occasionally devastate the microcosmic world of book publishing. How easy it is to deny that they could ever happen or that there is anything we could do about them anyway. I am able to rationalize my omission of these subjects by telling myself that in the course of my career in the book business, I have never seen a publisher invoke fire, flood, strike, hurricane, insurrection, or war as an excuse for delaying or screwing up a book.

Yet, anybody who works in this business long enough knows that sooner or later Murphy's law will clutch us by the throat, and whatever terrible things can happen will, perforce, happen. Thes…

What's in a (Big) Name?

By Richard Curtis

Behold the two books I place before you. Both are thrillers by authors whose names are unfamiliar to you. But attached to the one on your left is an endorsement by one of today's bestselling thriller writers. The other has no such recommendation. Which will you be inclined to purchase and read?

The obvious answer to that question formed the eye of a tempest that swept through the publishing industry some years ago, leaving in its path a shattered deal, damaged credibility, and a dazed author and his agent wandering through the rubble seeking something to salvage. The only good to come out of this event is the possibility that the rest of us may learn something from it.

We take for granted that a plug from a star can give an enormous boost to an obscure author or an undistinguished (or even distinguished) book. That is why publishers go to considerable lengths to solicit quotes - commonly called "blurbs" in the publishing industry - by big-name authors for …

Of Taxes and the Writer

By Richard Curtis

Early in April a few years ago I got a call from a client who was preparing his income tax. This author wrote erotic fiction and wanted to know whether he could legitimately claim as a deduction his pharmacological treatment for a little affliction he had contracted in the course of “researching” one of his novels.

I told him I imagined the treatment would probably fall under medical deductions rather than research expenses, but the story does illustrate that even the most untrammeled literary spirits have to pay their obeisance to Uncle Sam sooner or later. With more and more authors incorporating, purchasing expensive computer equipment, seeking shelters for their taxable income, and in general being more businesslike in their approaches to the art and craft of literature, the accountant is becoming as important as the literary agent in guiding the destinies of writers.

The chances of a writer being audited by the Internal Revenue Service are a little better than thos…

Collaborations Part 2

In this second part of our discussion of collaboration, we examine a collaboration agreement and discuss the salient terms:

The first thing is how the money is to be divided when the book is sold. There are countless ways to do this, depending on the project, the amount of money involved, the relative importance of the celebrity and co-author, and many other factors. Let me outline a few scenarios.

• A famous actress is offered a lot of money by a publisher to write her memoirs. Though her story, like any other, requires a certain degree of skill to tell, she and her publisher agree that just about any competent writer will get the job done. They go to a young journalist eager to get his name on a book and offer him a flat fee of $10,000, which to him is a lot of money. They also offer him a “with” or “and” byline on the book, but no participation in royalties, magazine rights, or foreign translation or any other subsidiary rights. He accepts the offer because it’s a good opportunity to…

Collaborations Part 1

One of the liabilities of being a professional writer is that you attract people who want to collaborate with you. What author has not been collared at a party by a drunk who wants him to write his life story or has this fantastic idea for a novel?

Few such propositions have any commercial value. But from time to time you may meet someone whose story is compelling enough to entice you into collaboration with him. Or your agent may offer you an opportunity to team up with a famous movie or sports star, doctor or astronaut, beauty expert or political figure. If that happens, do you know how collaborations work? How the proceeds are to be divided? Whose byline goes on the cover of the book? Who pays the expenses of flying to Washington or Los Angeles or Hawaii to interview this person or to do research? Whose name goes on the copyright?

As a writer who has collaborated on seven or eight works of fiction and nonfiction and as an agent who has welded together scores of collaborations for cli…