POETRY AND THE GRAMMY AWARDS

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Poetry is more and more getting its due. Why is that? Could it be because poetry soothes the soul, and so many souls need soothing? Could it be because poetry is easy to read quickly, on your phone? What other thoughts do you have?

Dianne here, and I earned my MFA in poetry writing, and I am a fan of the stuff. We try, at DPP, to incorporate poetry into our anthologies, and certainly I love putting it in Instant Noodles. And I wish I could do more.

WATCH THIS SPACE (DEVIL’S PARTY PRESS).

We’re doing our best to hatch something poetic at DPP. So, stay tuned!

In the meantime, let me recommend a few poems for you:

THE BARBARIANS HAD ACTED REGRETTABLY – COLIN JAMES

SOMETIMES AN EGG – ALICE ROMANO

BLUE PERIOD #3 – R. GERRY FABIAN

SATURDAY – GREG HILL

NOTHING’S BETTER LEFT UNSAID – GABBY GILLIAM

TROUT FISHING – STEPHEN BARILE

CHRISTMAS DAY WALK ~ ALAN BERN

SUMMER ZUPPAI – ROBERT FLEMING

HOLY ILLUSIONS ~ VIRGINIA WATTS

STOLEN PLUMS – BENJAMIN B. WHITE

MOSS SOUP AND MANICOTTI – JOHN JOHNSON

ABOVE SNICKER’S GAP ~ MORGAN GOLLADAY

CHRISTMAS EVE FROM UNDER THE TRAIN TABLE – R. DAVID FULCHER

PARTY CRASHER SASHA ~ JANE FITZGERALD

MY HEART NOW – BUFFY AAKAASH

AN ADVICE COLUMN ON WRITING, FROM THE EDITOR IN ME TO THE AUTHOR IN YOU: Ahem… Ah- em. No. Just no.

This is a writing advice column. If you don’t want my unsolicited writing advice, do not, I implore you, read on. Fair warning. 😉

I belong to one or two Facebook groups, and recently, in one that is writing focused, another author and I discussed em dashes, which I do not like and she does, and all the kids are using them, and Jane Austin used them in Emma, so there. And she’s written a bucket of novels, so she is not a new writer.

“Yes,” I wanted to say but didn’t, “and I bet you have written them all in the last three to five years.” That is a new writer. Sorry.

And there is a group I belong to (a different group then the first one) called 20 to 50K that is all about writing as many books as you can as quickly as possible because that is how you (20 books) make a lot of money (50K) fast.

And that second group is great because it has a lot of good information given by generous people who have realized that lots of people want something very particular to read that scratches their particular itch (and I do recommend the group, and am not commenting on the fiction the members are writing, but rather their good advice on selling the fiction). The members have realized that if people want more, they don’t care about the quality of the product. If they loved “Beauty and the Beast,” and they want more monster love, with sex, and you give it to them, they don’t really care about plot holes or grammar. Just get the monster and the person both naked as quickly as possible, and do a boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl-boy-gets-girl-back-thing as quickly as you can, and on repeat, for them, as much as possible. Publish it yourself, and to hell with people like me. In fact, get AI to write it, or some guy in another country, seems to be Africa or India, slap your name on it, and mic drop!

Heavy sigh.

This is very difficult for me. All of us eat at McDonald’s sometimes, even if very rarely. As I have written previously, I am a person who has spent the better part of her life studying what makes writing not just entertaining, but good, like To Kill a Mockingbird good, which is different from Emma good, but can be the same as Good Omens good, or even When You Are Engulfed in Flames good. Emma, well, it’s not Austin’s best, IMHO, and even Austin is, really, a glorified and now dead romance novelist, as are the Bronte sisters. And while I adored Jane Eyre as a teen, I never liked Wuthering Heights, could not finish it actually, though I tried over and over, and that was back when I was finishing everything. And from there I never read another, because for me, ultimately, romance is boring and full of tropes. Austin has some good books for that genre, I prefer Persuasion, but she also quickly gets wrapped in her own tropes and bores me, and while I would love to take the time to read Tale of Two Cities again, which is in the same century as Austin, I’m not going to pick up Persuasion again in this lifetime. And Emma? Apologies ladies. Apologies.

And I believe that if you have written a novel in a year, you are some kind of miracle. If you have written over ten, and not used AI or that person across the ocean, you have stamina beyond my ken. (If you used AI or that person across the ocean, I make no bones about scraping you off the bottom of my shoe, having accidentally stepped in you.) I celebrate your hard work, and your dedication to your writing, and your making money at it, and all the wonderful things.

I now I wonder if I can, as in my previous post, promise you, that the number of books that will be written that change all conventional rules (or just the ones that particular author doesn’t like or understand) and do well out of it will be small. Because if all the newly minted folks start mass-producing the same genre of book over and over, written to a niche, but rabid, group of readers, and they fill them with clumsy em dashes because they think they make their work look more important, or Austin used them, or whatever, then em dashes instead of commas are going to become a thing, whether I like it or not.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. But the rest of us could end up stuck with it as convention because that is how language works.

You have to be especially educated about the rules to break them and do it well, in an effective way. Yes. But you just have to be part of a huge onslaught of people doing the same thing to change the rules, and run them right the heck out of town.

Can I be annoyingly prescriptive here for a moment? I want to tell you that you have one job: to tell a good story.

All that other stuff that may seem super important to you is fluff to your audience, and could stop them from loving your story. It will stop me. If I drive down a road full of potholes, and I have any other alternative, I will not drive down it again. If I drive behind shopping center that has a long straight run of asphalt that the owner of the shopping center has dropped speed bumps all over to force me to slow down, I am going to curse myself and not do it more than once.

When you have a thought to convey, and you feel the need to interrupt it and stick in an extra bit of information, you can use em dashes to emphasize it, but commas work for that, and are less intrusive to the reader’s eye.

When you have a thought to convey- and you feel the need to interrupt it and stick in an extra bit of information- you can use em dashes to emphasize it- but commas work for that- and are less intrusive to the reader’s eye.

Em dashes are doing this:

How many times do you think an author who is putting words together in a clever, meaningful, or irresistible way is going to need to drop in a giant pointing finger?

I am a well-trained reader and a decent and slightly clever author, so my advice to you is that you should endeavor to find a way to write your sentences so that you’re not constantly interrupting them to stick in information, whether you do it with commas or em dashes. Jane Austin is always trying to pump up her scenes and get her readers very invested in the little romances and petty slights of people who are often rich or privileged enough to sit around doing needlework all day. These are boring people with nothing going on. She is throwing anything she can at it to inflate the lack of drama, and for all we know she genuinely felt the drama. Maybe to her it was tremendously exciting. Maybe she was hot and bored and stuck in a stiff dress that did not lend itself to walking or having fun and this was how she made it through. Maybe every word she wrote was “stop and look” worthy to her. Still, dash away, dash away, dash away all, I’m not interested.

As I get to know the world that is writing and publishing today I find myself sometimes feeling a bit like Inspector Morse. He likes poetry and the classics and classical music and all those around him do not and make fun of him for it. He is a principled dinosaur.

My daughter says my arms are short and calls me a T-rex. Maybe I am a principled dinosaur too.

And my best advice is to also think about the life your story will have without you- when someone is reading your book- and you are not in the room with that person to answer a question or explain. Will the life your book has- without you in that new home- be a good and celebrated one- or a sad and relegated one- or somewhere on the spectrum in between? I would truly like to see us all reach our writing dreams- and- therefore- my advice is because I care- and not because I am competitive with you or want to stop you- or fence you in. And I have to- again- give you the same piece of advice- you have to tread a line between what you want from your book- and what your reader will want.

Same paragraphs as last time-with all dashes. What do you think of the dinosaur’s advice?

AN ADVICE COLUMN ON WRITING, FROM THE EDITOR IN ME TO THE AUTHOR IN YOU: K.I.S.S.

This is a writing advice column. If you don’t want my unsolicited writing advice, do not, I implore you, read on. Fair warning. 😉

I belong to one or two Facebook groups, and recently, in one that is writing focused, someone asked whether a character’s thoughts always had to be in italics.

“Yes,” I responded, “that is standard.”

And then another member jumped up my butt to tell me how all kinds of “world-building” is happening now and people can do whatever they want!

Both are true.

But, listen, Author, even as you create new, far-out worlds, and that is so much fun for you, you have to judge a few things: Is it fun for your editor, your publisher, your agent, and your (hopefully) eventual readers? One piece of advice I might give you is that you have to tread a line between what you want from your book, and what your reader will want.

“I’ll publish myself!” you might yell back.

And yes, you could, and that is what is absolutely happening: lots and lots of people are publishing whatever they want with no feedback from anyone else, and publishing it anywhere they want, and I (me, personally) can just go scratch.

True, until nobody buys your book, or people buy it in a Kindle (or other) online format and you see by their page views that they don’t finish it, or it gets bought in paperback and never read, or they buy it, read at least some of it, and leave you a crap review.

I can promise you, the number of books that will be written that change all conventional rules (or just the ones that particular author doesn’t like or understand) and do well out of it will be small.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

You have to be especially educated about the rules to break them and do it well, in an effective way. And you need some of them anyway, because your reader (if you self-publish and don’t care about the editors and etc.) will need some rock to put his/her/their feet on, or they have no place to stand with the book. Yes, you could drug me, and wake me up in a foreign country with zero information, language, or money, and, depending very much on which country, I might make it out alive with an interesting experience that I enjoy discussing with friends, but few of us would choose that experience, and choose it multiple times.

Can I be annoyingly prescriptive here for a moment? I want to tell you that you have one job: to tell a good story.

All that other stuff that may seem super important to you is fluff to your audience, and could stop them from loving your story.

Another fair warning, this paragraph is about me, exclusively, my qualifications and my ability to be prescriptive in this way, and you can skip this if you don’t give a hoot:
I was lucky that I read every freaking thing I could get my hands on when I was a kid. If you read an earlier post about my Kindle Vella I mentioned that I read The Godfather, by Mario Puzo, when I was under ten years old, by which I mean nine, because we were in our old house. I was not a genius, but I was a precocious reader. I also read my way through The Bible quite a few times while I was bored in church. I preferred the Old Testament. I read The Stranger (Camus) in sixth grade, and it was very upsetting, and I became really overwhelmed by existential dread until I got a new Encyclopedia Brown. I also tried to write a book report on The Stranger, and my teacher admonished me and said my parents should be monitoring what I read. My parents did not monitor what I read, and my middle school had annual used book sale where kids collected books from their neighbors and gave them to the school for the high used book sale, and I bought a book of S&M pornography there in seventh grade because my parents did not monitor what I read, and the school did not monitor what I bought, and, to this day, I think both were the best thing, the not being monitored, not the porn book, which was a parody of A Tale of Two Citiesand about Marie Antoinette, I remember. I also remember buying complete collections of comic strips like Battle Bailey and The Lockhorns, and novels like M*A*S*H, and The Wide Sargasso Sea. For $20 bucks, which my parents would give me, I could get around 20 books, and I was done them in a few weeks. When I got to high school I was in advanced English, where we really took apart the books we read, and in college I majored in English literature, where we did so much more of that, and then, when I went to my MA writing program, my two teachers, Luann Smith for fiction and Chris Buckley for poetry, taught us how to write by making us read and analyze the writing of other well-respected really good authors like T.C. Boyle, Tim O’Brien, Philip Levin, Czesław Miłosz, Diane Wakowski, and Amy Hemple, among many others. I am long-time trained, by my educational experience and my own varied and precocious reading habits, to be very good at spotting what makes work work, and what makes it flop. This is one of the things that concerns me when I see a person on FB say, “Hey folks, I’ve decided to be an editor. I’ll do your book cheap because I’m just getting started!” And people hire them, because they’re cheap. Okay. You get what you pay for, but you may never know what you’re not getting. This is just to say that I am well-prepared, and probably have advice that is not fluff or uninformed. And “This Is Just to Say,” interestingly enough, is one of my all-time favorite poems.

You’re the author. Do whatever you want. And publishing it yourself is always an option.

And my best advice is to also think about the life your story will have without you, when someone is reading your book, and you are not in the room with that person to answer a question or explain. Will the life your book has, without you in that new home, be a good and celebrated one, or a sad and relegated one, or somewhere on the spectrum in between? I would truly like to see us all reach our writing dreams, and, therefore, my advice is because I care, and not because I am competitive with you or want to stop you, or fence you in. And I have to again give you the same piece of advice: you have to tread a line between what you want from your book, and what your reader will want.

Your story should be good, and, if it suits the story and the genre, maybe it should be complex. The mechanics, the things the reader has to do to reach that story, to get that ride or message or what-have-you, should not be the things that cause or add to the complexity.

K.I.S.S. It’s advice that serves me well, all the time, in all situations.

EPISODE (CHAPTER) 1: THE STOOP

The above image shows you what it looks like when you go into Kindle Vella (KV) to read. I read on my laptop or my phone. I don’t own a Kindle or an iPad or tablet.

In my opinion, it is a bit strange, because it is trying to mimic a book page, but it ends up being long and thin.

But, I love it. It’s fun getting it ready, posting it. I love creating my goofy polls, which, honestly, no one is taking, but I am trying to make them anyway, just in case, and, also, because they give you a little insight into me.

In many ways, this is not the kind of book me, today, would write. I had the idea, I sadly must admit, quite some time ago, but being an adjunct I never had time to finish it. And that is why I started saying, “Finish your damn novel!” because it is what I say to myself, inside my head, all the time.

This book, frankly, was inspired by the book, The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Bien, and not by The Godfather by Mario Puzo, though I read that too, as a kid, and loved it, but I was under the age of 10, and I haven’t read it since. LOL. No, this definitely was sparked by my O’Brien loyalty. I love that novel, and I taught that novel as often as colleges would allow me to, for over 20 years. O’Brien’s writing is some of the best. I would venture to say I have whole sections of the book memorized. And, of course, I’ve sold many copies of the book for the man.

(Small side story, I wanted to go to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, but I never applied, because my boyfriend begged me not to. My grad school poet friend applied and got in, and she told me that O’Brien came as a guest lecturer, and she and he were an item. I asked my friend to ask O’Brien to sign my book, but she refused. I don’t know whether or not her story was true, but I know that soon after our friendship fizzled because she would always make plans with me, and then cancel them because she brought some guy home from a bar. “Oh, Baby Di,” she would say, “I miss you, but I need to fuck Jake some more today. Can we exchange those theater tickets for next week?” More or less, she has what I really thought I wanted, a published book of poetry (or two) and a full-time creative writing gig. Her parents could not be persuaded to be interested in their children, and I think we shared that need for attention from some authority figure. In any case, I never got my book signed. I wonder if she got hers signed.)

This is not the kind of book I thought I would write, but have loved writing it and sharing it. It feels so different from me in topic and tone, but I do like my wordplay, and that definite feels like me to me.

I’m going to put in the first chapter here, in case venturing to KV is not your thing, and I’d love to know what you think. My biggest hope is that the book, though on a stereotype, the mafia novel, does not come across as “been there done that.” I hope I have freshened it up a bit.

Will releasing it on Kindle Vella first create any buzz for the eventual paperback? I don’t know, but I really am loving the process, and I hope Simona finds herself some readers.

To see the book on KV, click here.

Last week’s chapter/episode was called “Waking the Dead,” and it was the first chapter where Simona, the mother of Angel (who is, of course, Simona’s son) is alive, and we both see and hear her, the priest, Father Vuono, and Angel’s father, Remo. This week the chapter/episode is called “Waking the Living.” Can Angel get his shit together to do what his boss needs him to do? His Uncle Chickie is sure gonna try to get Angel to do just that.

PUBLICATION OPPORTUNITY

Luanne was my teacher back in the day!


NOTES FROM LUANN:

Anthology looking for submissions. The deadline has been changed to January 15, 2023. Also, just so you know, Ana Castillo had to step away from editing. The other information on the flyer is correct.

I JUST WROTE THE INTRO

OMG, I just wrote the intro/preface/what-have-you for Solstice, and I am pumped!

First of all, it’s a great book. It has some seasoned writers in it who, if you read Devil’s Party Press’ publications at all, books, Instant Noodles, you’ve read them before. And it has two authors who are publishing their very first piece. It’s so exciting, beyond exciting actually, for me to give a writer his or her first publication. I wish I could do it every day.

Secondly, not to brag, but I think I wrote a good preface. Sometimes writing an intro is difficult, because it has to be all-encompassing, right? It has to find a way to include all the contents of the book, but, if you venture down the wormhole of mentioning individual authors, then it just becomes a droning list, as you try to get everyone mentioned, and say something that will inspire someone to read each piece. Honestly, with an anthology, the theme is the thing, and you’re either into it or you’re not. This theme is the winter solstice, and the authors did a freaking amazing job with it (but I didn’t say freaking amazing in the preface, because… but I can say it here!). So, if you like the theme, you’re gonna love this book. Melancholy, hope, loss, renewal, cold, food, family, nature, it’s all in there. And, as you can see from the teaser above, it is visually beautiful too.

I have a bit of melancholy about this preface too, because it may be the last one that I write. We’re going to try to get guest editors for all of our future anthologies so that we can broaden, a bit, what is chosen to be published, and give the authors who we hope to mentor the chance to work with different editors. And we want to give other authors the chance to curate a book too.

Would you like to be a guest editor for one of our anthologies?

We do 3 types, a horror anthology, Solstice, and a hard boiled detective anthology. Our biggest need now is for a hardboiled editor. It pays in…. authorship of the book. We give you the writing royalty for the book. You can add it to your list of books on Amazon, and hopefully we sell a lot of them, and you make the money.

To be an editor you have to have (typically) several books of your own, because we need to know both that you know how to write, and that you have experience being successful in the genre. So, horror and detective are genres, right? Solstice is not a genre, but the genre for that is literary writing, so it’s a good one for poets, essayists, and literary authors. And we also have a sci fi imprint, and I know Dave would love to do a sci fi anthology, so if you’re a sci fi person who could helm a book, pitch us.

Oh, my gosh, I’m so excited for this book.

And for this new year too, I must admit.

I have some wonderful authors I am working with, some for editing, some for coaching, and I really hope we’re able to fill at least one of our virtual workshops. It is invigorating to work with other authors, for me, and for them. I love helping people grow. It helps me grow. And, in the list of careers I have had in my life, it is most defiantly the one I am best at. I am a natural teacher, and I have a gift for helping writing. I don’t have a swelled head, honestly; I am crap at a lot of things. I remember when I was doing staff training for a facility for people with disabilities, and I always wanted to inspire the staff to feel that the people we worked for were humans, with desires and needs and passions just like any of us, and that we needed to be tuned into really feeling like family with them, feeling that, and just doing our work with love. But, for most folks, it was, and remained, just a job. It was so disheartening that I knew not how to be inspiring. And so, folks’ meds got missed, or diapers weren’t changed because a shift was ending in 20 minutes. So, at times in my careers, I’ve been crap at my job no matter the amount of effort. But this, helping writers write, this is the thing I can give. (And if you want to work with me, I’d love to work with you. It doesn’t have to break the bank to have a writing coach, or an editor. And I’m happy to give you an hour long free Zoom and/or a free edit to see if you think you might find it helpful.)

But this book, this book is the thing I am pumped about today. And you, you’re probably gonna buy something for somebody as gift over the next month or so. Why not make it this book? Especially if you know someone who has secretly always wanted to be an author. Tell them it can be done; tell them two folks are doing it for the first time, in this book, and buy them a copy!.