OUT OF THE BLUE….

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Okay the title doesn’t say much and neither will I. It’s time to buck up and buckle down. I’ve had a couple of lazy days so it’s back to work. This “dedication to task” can be tough but now it’s time to shut this computer down for the day. It’s far too easy to spend far too many hours playing around the net. My coffee, laptop, and sequel await….

Mike

CELEBRITY NAMES IN FICTION?

OldguitarI’ve just spent an hour or so researching the legality of using celebrity or famous names in a fiction novel and there seems to be many schools of thought on the subject. In “White Wolf Moon” I referred to many famous people but only as references to a specific conversation, much the same as if I mentioned to a friend that I’d just heard the new Maroon Five song on the radio. According to one article this is okay as it would come up naturally in a real-life conversation. Could these famous people object? Of course they could but unless you slander or tarnish their image, why would they? I can’t see Yoko coming after me because of my comments about John Lennon in WWM:

“So Lennon and Dylan influenced you?”

“They influenced everybody, more so John Lennon with me. He was the word-meister. He could play with the English language in a way that I’m not sure anyone else could in both his books and music.”

I have shown Lennon in a good, if not admiring light, so there could be no reason for her to object. Plus I imagine John is mentioned in countless writings every year so she probably wouldn’t have the time to pursue each one.

This subject came up because of my sequel. Part of it is more of a prequel as I refer back to Edmonton based rock groups, artists, and clubs of the Sixties:

Evan snapped the clips of the beaten case and arched his back. “Either of you heard the new Lords single?”

Danny nodded. “Yeah, “Blue”. Pretty cool track…sounds a little old though, not 1967.”

“That’s not the point…it’s on the radio…they’re on the radio and we’re on our asses waiting for those other two idiots to get here. The Nomads just put out a “Hits” album, Barry Allen’s on every bloody radio station, Willie and the Walkers just got signed to Capitol…and we’re on our asses waiting.”

Jack tapped the high-hat. “I think it sounds pretty new…almost has British feel to it. It’s nice to see local guys making it, y’know?”

Again I see no reason for objection. Everything I mention is real, musical history in fact, documented all over the web, and could reasonably be part of a real conversation.

If I say “Joe Celebrity was hooked with a DUI as he left a house of ill-repute” then sure, sue me…especially if it’s an unfounded statement. It’s slander, plain and simple, and everybody has the right to fight that one. But if I casually drop in the fact that “Joe Celebrity donated half his concert earnings to local charities” why would Joe object?

Celebrities are more of a “brand” now and perhaps this muddies the water because most “brands” generally don’t want you using their name without compensation. “Cola” is fine…“Coca-Cola” could get you in trouble (if they chose to pursue it).

The few court cases I’ve found lean toward the author citing that the celebrity is, by the nature of his/her career, a public figure and in fact seeks publicity. (These cases were regarding books, not checkout mags.)

I guess it really comes down to how would I feel if I opened a book and discovered I was referenced as part of the story. I don’t know. Depending on how I’m depicted I would have different reactions I suppose but honestly…I’d probably be flattered.

But then I’m not Joe Celebrity.

AUTHOR PHOTOGRAPH

For me one of the toughest things related to the publication of White Wolf Moon was the author photograph. In years past I had my own darkroom and studio and I still dabble in some experimental self-portraiture for the profile shots on my personal facebook page so I decided I should do my own shot for the book.

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My author photograph (above) ended up being a more typical presentation than I would normally accept as a portrait but everything I had done previously just didn’t feel right.

I believe an author shot should also tie in with the content of the book. As my lead character is an ex-folksinger/writer from the sixties, I felt that the author photo should reflect this in some way. A lot of it is simply pose, attitude or location. The photograph can still be studio-done but with a bit of a flair that conveys the leaning of the book it represents. Nora Roberts is a pretty good example. As Nora her author photos lean toward the romantic with soft tones and simple backgrounds but as J.D. Robb she’s dressed in detective black against a cityscape of train stations and the like.

The photograph below is the one that I favored as capturing more of the ‘feel’ of Evan Morris but it didn’t translate well to black & white and the smaller size.

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From a personal standpoint I still prefer this one but it’s not as “commercial” as the one I eventually used. Which one sells my character (or me) better? I don’t know. I have been strongly identified with Evan, most people saying that they see a lot of me in the character; that, in fact, I am Evan…but the character is based on someone else. Someone I knew in those days. Back then people used to say we were much alike. Neither of us could understand it but after writing (and especially reading) White Wolf Moon, I can now see the similarities. I also think he would have preferred the second photograph but he’d also acknowledge that the more commercial pose is still best for an author portrait, especially the first time around.

Like I said at the outset this was one of the toughest parts of the process but, based on the reaction and comments the photo has garnered, I’m almost sure I made the right decision.

Almost….

OLD NEWS BUT BEIBS AGAIN…FOR THE LAST TIME….

Here I am, off topic again…and flogging a horse I thought was deceased. There’s still an occasional suggestion (one just yesterday) that I was unfair with my comments about Justin Beiber a couple of months ago. Apparently I should support him and be proud that the top act in the world right now is Canadian.

Yeah…no.

First…congratulations Justin and more power to ya kid. Live this for what it’s worth. Seize all the opportunities that this life has brought you and don’t let the naysayers grind you down. But I’m still not a fan.

But for me it isn’t all about Beiber…it’s the current state of the pop music industry.

We’re being served mush pie right now and it must be an acquired taste because I don’t get it. Yes I appreciate that it really isn’t about the music anymore. It’s the show, the image…it’s all about the glitz, the dessert without the dinner. Manufactured stars are a dime a dozen, throw them a synthesizer and a neat little app called autotune and voila! I’m not a Gaga fan either but I did watch a television show a year or so ago that made me realize that this woman does have a lot of talent. She sat at a piano and just sang. It was real and back to basics… no glitz, no glam, no fire-towers…and I enjoyed it. Can you see the Beibs doing the same thing? A ballad (no voice effects) backed by acoustic guitar, real drums, and a piano? Dare to dream! On the other hand maybe he could. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt…he’s earned that much.

There are some pretty great acts out there right now. My favorite is GPN (Grace Potter and the Nocturnals). A younger person asked me if Grace was like Katy Perry. That would be another “Yeah…no.” Grace Potter goes old time without augmentation and all the gimmicks. She’s pure in-your-face rock with one of the greatest true voices I’ve ever heard. She can sing anything from classic standards like “Fly Me to the Moon” to blues and country. I watched her on the CMAs in a duet with Kenny Chesney and…no lip sync! Of course country music thankfully hasn’t embraced supportive technology the way pop has.

I’ve also found myself listening to a lot of indie music lately, not necessarily for the rock but for the pure simplicity of it whether folk, rock, or country. Yes a few of these artists dive into the effect pool but many of them refreshingly offer up the real thing.

Then there was the “You dare compare Justin Beiber to the Beatles!!” response. No, I didn’t compare Beibs to the Beatles. What I said was that the Beatles attracted much the same audience when they burst on the scene but musically they quickly grew and took their audience with them. I would hope that Beiber will do the same thing. If he has the talent both he and his music should mature and evolve to gain a more sophisticated and wider audience base but that’s up to him or, dare I say, his handlers. Speaking of handlers…let’s give these new young male pop stars something to hold onto other than their crotch? Microphone in one hand and…I don’t know…cash in the other?

Simply, Justin Beiber was wrong for Grey Cup. I’d have preferred to see Lightfoot for the whole half-time show…maybe Neil Young, Tom Cochrane, Randy Bachman, Chilliwack, Shania…I don’t know…almost anyone else. It’s still no reason to boo the kid. He’s found his niche (perhaps temporarily) and he’s taking advantage of it. More importantly he handled the Grey Cup fiasco with a certain amount of class and maturity which is more than I can say for those low brows that voiced their opinion so enthusiastically.

BAD SEEDS….

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They suffer a wrath due in part to environmental circumstance.

Bad seeds.

They call ’em weeds.

From my ‘photo-words’ file again…I’m really enjoying digging through this old stuff.

It was a pretty good day yesterday as well. I’m now at 11,300 words into the White Wolf Moon sequel draft…three more on-line sales (THANK-YOU!!!), two new WWM facebook ‘likes’ (THANK-YOU!!!), and three new blog followers (THANK-YOU!!!).

I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of this!

Mike.

The Next Big Thing

Okay…now this is really cool!

Author Casey Voight nominated me in The Next Big Thing blog hop and I’m flattered. I also want to thank her for forcing me to extend my learning curve when it comes to blogging.

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The Next Big Thing is part interview and part award, consisting of a series of questions about a writer’s latest work and how it came to be. I’ve referred back to “White Wolf Moon” for some of the answers as the sequel is only 10,000 words completed (with a further 9,000 in my working folder) and the main thrust is similar in content to the first book. Now the questions:

What is the working title of your book?

White Wolf Moon Two? How original! That’s how it’s saved on my laptop but I shall come up with something else later. Due to some of the content which follows the central characters on promo tours, camping, and the like “On the Road” would be a really good title but some guy already used it a while back so….

What genre does your book fall under?

White Wolf Moon has been labeled so many different ways including romance but, like the sequel, it is really humorous general fiction with a pinch of biographical reality.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

One sentence?? Well…(takes deep breath)…picking up two weeks after White Wolf Moon left off Evan and Danny take a road trip and busk for s’mores and beers at campgrounds in the surrounding area all the time rekindling their life-long bond and reminiscing about the old tours they did as rockers and folkies in the Sixties while their patient and understanding wives stay home to appreciate the quiet and to debate the questionable merits of keeping them around until being called upon to entertain Evan’s ex-girlfriend Claire, her husband, and daughter Jenn, ’til the boys are back in town and Evan comes face-to-face with Devon (Claire’s husband) for the first time, creating an atmosphere of…I don’t know I haven’t written that scene yet (whew!!).

Where did you get the idea for your book?

The idea for the original book had nothing to do with publishing. It was intended as a diary of sorts, a collection of factual stories about my past that I could give to my kids. It occurred to me that they really didn’t know much about my life before they came along and a short-run memoir-style book would introduce them to who I was “back then”. As I am fortunate to have two of the people from those days as current facebook friends (who are also the basis for characters in the book) I sent them a copy to get their opinion. They both thought it should be published (secretly so did I) so with a lot of re-writing and some name-changing White Wolf Moon was born.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The inspiration for the sequel has come mostly through the reaction of people that have read White Wolf Moon. They provided me with some interesting questions and really great comments both pro and con. You can only hear “When’s the next one coming out?” so many times before you realize there should be a next one.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The original White Wolf Moon took two years to get to draft completion then approximately another year of tweaking/re-writing but I hadn’t intended on publishing it so it wasn’t a daily exercise. This time around I’m more dedicated to completing that first draft and I believe it will be done within six months.

What other books would you compare this story with in your genre?

This is a tough question. When I did the market research prior to publishing White Wolf Moon I found no other books exactly like it. Not to say there aren’t any (surely there must be) but I could only find titles that were comparable to specific elements of the story. One reader described White Wolf Moon as “The Big Chill meets Tom Robbins” which is about the best description I’ve heard. The sequel features the same characters and is currently leaning more toward the relationships and histories of the central characters.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh wow…the dream team. Some of these actors are those that I pictured while working on the original book.

EVAN MORRIS:  Jeff Bridges. Evan is a blend of “The Dude” and “Bad” and having been a Jeff Bridges fan forever there is really no other choice.

MARIE MORRIS: Lindsay Wagner. Evan even refers to Marie as “Jaime” in one scene.

CLAIRE MacAVOY: Diane Keaton…no question.

JENNIFER MacAVOY: The tough one here. Jenn is a got-it-all-together twenty year-old, perky, Kaley Cuoco type of girl. Even at twenty-seven Kaley could easily carry it off.

DANNY MANN: Dennis Hopper although now he has passed, I’m not sure. Any suggestions?

GINN (the white wolf-cross): There’s a Samoyed down the street….

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will probably drive the self-publishing road again. It has been (and still is) an incredible learning experience and it just makes sense to use the knowledge I’ve gained over the past year this time around. From the writing and publishing process, book-signings, media coverage, setting up a WWM facebook page, doing my own trailer and of course this blog…it has been an unbelievable adventure.

What else about your book might pique your reader’s interest?

As with White Wolf Moon the sequel will contain references to pop culture of the Sixties. I used them in place of dialogue to set a scene or describe an emotion. Movies, television programs, singers and their songs are dropped in throughout providing a little inter-activity for the reader if they choose to figure out the reference.

Finally I have to nominate five writers and bloggers whose pages I frequent for motivation, education, and sometimes for the simple joy of reading them. A lot of the people I follow are not writers and have no book in the works (that I can see), some are photographers, artists, reviewers and a couple have already been nominated…still, it was tough to narrow it down to five….

Gemma Rolleman

Shannon Thompson

Cheryl Moore

J.P. McLean

Candace Knoebel

So that’s it. Thank you for taking the time to read this. It’s been an interesting project.

In the words of Evan Morris: Love & Understanding…

Mike

Paths….

Paths

Life’s journey.

Paths that lead to Evermore

Paths that twist and turn

Then not so surprisingly

Twist and turn some more.

The above photograph was taken in 2010 along the North Thompson River in Kamloops. This part of British Columbia was engulfed in forest fire smoke. The thick acrid blanket lay heavy everywhere but the light of the filtered morning sun created quite an ethereal scene. I didn’t think the little camera I take on my walks would be able to accurately capture the mood of the moment but it came pretty close. The air was warm and still, there was little noise, and the world was orange…it was like walking through an old master’s painting.

(Text from White Wolf Moon)  

http://www.facebook.com/mikegrantwwm?ref=stream

WHATEVER YOU WRITE CAN’T BE WRONG

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I learned a long time ago that those first words we write are the most valid. The first phrase or sentence we put down is the root of everything to come and whether it’s a novel, short story, song or poem it all starts with that first sentence. We take that idea and we try to make it go somewhere. We alter it, rebuild it, add to it, and sometimes we go back to it and start again. Sometimes we go back to it and realize that it’s fine just the way it is. Those first words are always the right words even if you don’t go back to them for they were the impetus that took you to where you wanted to be.

I have a “starter” folder of first words…some of them are multiple sentences and others are just words, not complete sentences. I also have a few that are longer, perhaps a page in length. I look back through them and I’m not sure where they came from. I wonder what kind of space I was in when I jotted them down. To me they seem to be more of an emotional release than anything else. I have some that I can sense the anger or frustration that prompted their creation but mostly they’re light and thoughtful.

Mood has everything to do with it.

My sequel to “White Wolf Moon” is moving smoothly along but I occasionally find myself in the same little ruts I experienced the first time around. Most of the storyline is wrapped up in the dialogue and the dialogue tends to be light and off-hand. There are days I flip open the laptop and I don’t feel light or off-hand. Most times I can simply re-read what I’ve already done and I’m back in the moment but sometimes it doesn’t work. There are a few heavier scenes in this one so I can go to them and play out whatever I’m feeling through the characters. A lot of the time I’ll open that folder and pick a starter sentence that will lead to different scenario in which my characters can express whatever I’m feeling. These scenes may not be used in the final manuscript but I’ve gotten it “out there” and I’m creating another side to my characters. I might use elements of these new scenes to round out or expand on already written portions or to show a bit more depth to a character but typically they end up back in my “starters” folder.

As for “White Wolf Moon”…I’m three copies away from recouping the original cost and it just got a 5 STARS on Goodreads.

No need to open the “starters” folder today.

COVER PHOTOGRAPHS

Years of working in a bookshop taught me a lot about books and book people. They’re a wonderful lot but sometimes a tad forgetful. They may not remember the author or the title of the book they’re looking for but most will remember the cover.

“It’s blue…with butterflies” or “It’s the Stephen King with the old school desks” or “There’s an old castle on the front…with a Viking helmet” or simply “It’s red and white with black letters”.

The cover therefore becomes the first-line sales tool. The cover usually indicates the genre immediately although romance novels have been treading on the western genre recently. It used to be that a cowboy on the cover meant horses, guns, and bad guys inside. Maybe it still does…I’ve never read a cowboy romance so I probably should refrain from further comment.

After I’d finished White Wolf Moon I asked for suggestions for the cover illustration and mostly I got the obvious. Wolf…moon…y’know. This wasn’t what I wanted. During my time at the bookshop I was subjected to covers of many kinds, from all genres. Mystery, romance, western, sci-fi…they all seem to have a format. When you see a book with a long-haired bare-chested male clutching a scantily clad buxom female against a six-pack it’s pretty clear we aren’t talking Captain Underpants. It’s instant genre identification and it works. General fiction is another story. I knew I had to come up with a cover for my book so I studied what the big publishers were doing. The ones that stood out for me were the simple presentations, a single photograph and minimal text. A lot of Canadian Vintage releases utilize this approach and I found myself reading the book description on the back just because the front cover had caught my eye.

The photograph I used on White Wolf Moon is a modification of a shot I took in 2008. I walked along the river behind my house experimenting with a new digital camera trying different settings, shutting off auto-balances and the like. When I loaded the images onto my computer one of them leapt off the screen.

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It was taken at around 10 in the morning and for whatever reason this one had just the right feel about it. I wish I could remember how I messed up the exposure because, by accident, I ended up with one of my favorite photographs.

When I was going through my files to see if I had any photographs that would be suitable for the cover I stumbled on this one again. I tried darkening it and superimposing a moon to replace the sun but that looked pretty bad so I played with the color balance, turned it blue and came up with the cover shot.

The cover has garnered so many great comments and, I believe, a few sales. I appreciate this approach won’t work for everyone but just because you’re writing in a particular genre doesn’t mean you should be restricted to the norm as far as a cover is concerned. It’s the old “think outside the box” philosophy…experiment a little, try a totally different approach and steer away from the obvious. This is the first thing the book-buyer notices and you need to grab their attention and make them pick it up for a closer look. Play with some radical ideas before it comes time to send it off to the printer…get some other opinions. Mostly go with your gut…if it feels right then do it. If it doesn’t feel right you can always go back to the more accepted approach but you have, at the very least, checked out some options, stirred your imagination, and tested your creativity.

PIRATES!

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An unaccustomed third blog in two days but this one poses some interesting questions. A friend of mine just sent me a link to a “pirate” site, one where downloadable books are free. I’m not going to post the link as I feel this would contribute to the problem although it isn’t all that hard to find. I was quite surprised to find “White Wolf Moon” listed on there and I must confess I’m not sure what to think.

My first thought was that this might explain why quite a few people have said they’ve downloaded it and have made such specific comments that verified they actually had read it all yet these downloads aren’t showing up in my “Royalties” folder. My next thought was how to get the title off this site but other than hiring a lawyer to provide a “Proof of Ownership” document to send to the owners of the site, at my expense of course, there’s really nothing I can do. It appears that copyright laws these days are non-existent.

I suppose it’s to be expected. Photographs are continually being stolen and used without the permission of the photographer so why not books? (The pirate flag above is a copyright free download) People are downloading free music from certain sites…movies too. The pirates running these sites ask for “donations” in exchange for the free products they provide. Apparently they’re doing it solely out of the kindness of their hearts. On this site they tell us that this is their way of making culture available to everyone, not just those who can afford it and that the donations just pay for the upkeep of their charitable organization. They’re affording the underprivileged, those with ereaders anyway, the same access to literature as the well-to-do experience.

As I said, I’m not sure what to think. If I were Stephen King perhaps I’d raise a little hell although his titles are there as well so maybe a few free downloads doesn’t affect his bottom line and it’s just not worth the bother.

I also look at it from the standpoint that if there weren’t people downloading free and occasionally “donating” to the cause then sites like this might not exist.

I think generally the ebook reader is up front and honest and doesn’t have a problem spending .99 or 4.99 for a title. It’s the same sort of mentality as when we closed the bookshop where I worked. Our regular customers were great people and very rarely mentioned price, the ones that came in for the closing out sale were pretty much all strangers and…well, not so great.

The market must be there for these pirate sites to exist…fostered by a segment of the population that wants everything for nothing with no thought to the people that spend their lives creating the art, photographs, music, or films that they enjoy. I wonder what any of them would say if we asked them to provide whatever they do free of charge? Joe the plumber who downloads free books…come and fix my toilet, free of course.

Maybe I’m over-reacting but I think of the thousands of hours learning and honing a craft…then more hours writing/editing that book…then (in some cases) the costs of self-publishing only to have it given away by someone who has no interest in the book, any book for that matter, in exchange for a donation that fits snugly into his own wallet and I get a little cranky. I won’t even touch on the numerous spelling mistakes on their site because, well…they wouldn’t understand. These are the critters at the bottom of the food chain. These are the leeches who are content to sit fat on their butts and live off the work of others simply because they don’t have the wherewithal to accomplish anything on their own.

Okay…off my soapbox now.