Tuesday, September 20, 2016
As I work on The Girl Who Lived, the sequel to Spilled Milk, I’m acutely aware I’m a male writing from a female’s point of view. I have been both lauded and criticized for attempting to understand the female mind and portray a female POV in my novels. “How can a man possibly understand what it’s like to be a woman?” I’ve been asked. Here is my answer.
I love women. I’ve been married to three different women during this lifetime and I’m in an ongoing intimate relationship with another. I’ve lived with women all of my life. My mother was a woman. My grandmothers were women. My aunts were women. More than half of my cousins were women.
My daughter is a woman.
Most of my teachers have been women. Many of the writers I read regularly are women. Many of the students in classes I teach are women.
I am a trained observer of women. I learned to be an objective observer first in journalism classes and then in graduate-level psychotherapy classes at several universities. More than half of the faculty on my thesis and dissertation committees were women. Most of my therapy clients were woman when I was in active practice. I have had access to women’s innermost thoughts and feelings during hypnosis sessions.
I am a good listener. Women tell me they love to talk with me because I listen to them and show I’m actively listening to them by my responses to their statements.
And, lastly but not least, I am a human being. All human beings inherently have both male and female traits. I was likely a woman in at least one of my past lives. I was a female in the womb before testosterone kicked in and defined my anatomy and restructured my brain. Carl Gustav Jung said I have an anima as well as an animus. I believe Jung was right.
Yes, Virginia, I CAN write from a woman’s POV. And women CAN write from a man’s POV. Whether I write accurately or not is up to readers to decide.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
I’m supposed to be on my way to New Orleans, but I had to cancel my scheduled appearances at Bouchercon in New Orleans this week because of pending deadlines. I need to finish another novel before I attend the World Fantasy Convention in October. I also have planned signings at Rockford Public Library and Ida Public library between now and WFC. And I have a 6,000 word story due at another anthology before the end of October.
I guess there’s no rest for the wicked, is there? Heh heh.
Instead of driving south to meet and greet so many of my good friends who write mystery and suspense, I’m spending the day at home with fictitious friends from Spilled Milk and Darkness. They tell me their continuing stories and I dutifully record their utterances in words on paper. Like the newspaperman I once trained to be, I try to listen and observe without intruding myself into their lives unnecessarily. From time to time, I do ask pertinent questions. But the stories I write are their stories and not mine. I’m merely an interested bystander.
I can’t help but be reminded of the opening lines of T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”:
LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question….
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
Telling stories is like that for me. Let us be the silent observers who visit humanity in the best of times and the worst of times. Will you come with? I promise to show you things you have never seen before. Or, if you have, to offer you a new perspective.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Coming back from the dead is never easy.
I deliberately killed myself off twenty-five years ago. I stopped writing fiction to help my wife overcome chronic life-threating illness. Instead of writing fiction, I earned several masters degrees and worked on doctorates in educational psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I learned hypnotic techniques to help prolong human lives and improve the quality of life. I made a name for myself as a hypnosis instructor and author of journal articles.
But Paul Dale Anderson the author of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and thrillers was buried and forgotten.
When I returned to fiction writing in 2012, it took two long years for my novels and short stories to again appear in print. I’m still in the process of resurrecting my backlist, but new Paul Dale Anderson novels are now available as paperbacks and e-books.
I began making live personal appearances in 2014, and this year I’m doing the full convention circuit. I’m getting my face and name out there to show people I’m still alive.
I have been back in the fiction game for four consecutive years, and I am about to have a breakthrough. Breakthroughs come when an author publishes consistently for at least five years in one genre or related genres. Breakthroughs occur when name recognition and writing quality reach critical mass.
It takes at least five years before people in this industry take you seriously, five years of writing your heart out, five years of pitching and submitting manuscripts to agents and editors, five years of attending conventions and doing readings and book signings, five years of reaching for the golden ring, missing it by millimeters, before you can grab hold and hang on.
It takes five years for word to get around that your work is worth reading. Any writer worth his or her salt who sticks around for more than five years should notice a breakthrough at the five year mark.
It takes ten additional years to produce a bestselling book. Your writing improves with each book you write, so the more books you write, the better your writing becomes. Sales, also, are accumulative, and the more you write the more books you’ll sell. And the more you sell, the more readers will recognize your name. The more people who recognize your name, the more books you’ll sell. It’s a vicious circle. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Writing is a numbers game.
In order to play the writing game and have a chance at winning, you need:
1. Name recognition
2. Facial recognition
3. Genre recognition
4. Quality (Content) recognition
5. Peer recognition
People will want to buy your work only if other people buy your work. You must fist show that other people like and trust you. Humans are socially conditioned to do what they see other people doing. That’s why books have lots of blurbs from other bestselling authors and reviewers on their covers and in their front-matter.
That, my friends, is a hard truth most writers refuse to admit.
I now have a New York agent, one of the best in the business at a literary agency I respect. I have made new friends, many of them bestselling authors, who know my name and like my work. I help fledgling authors with reviews and blurbs. I have found heaven on earth and I am once again alive and well.
Watch for my breakthrough novel to appear from one of the Big Five publishers. I’m hard at work on a sequel and three stand-alones.
I’m scheduled to appear on panels at MidAmeiCon II, the World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City, in August. I’ll be at BoucherCon in New Orleans in September.
Life is good.
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda (Simon and Schuster, June 2016) is an intriguing mystery filled with psychological insights and captivatingly complicated characters. Nicolette Farrell thought she escaped Cooley Ridge, North Carolina, when she was eighteen, but her father and brother still live there so she has to return to help brother Daniel sell their father’s house. Patrick Farrell now resides in a nursing home because his memory comes and goes unexpectedly. Sometimes he recognizes Nic as his daughter. Sometimes he doesn’t. He lives in a world where time isn’t real and the people he loves are only pictures of the past.
Time plays a big part in this novel where the past still haunts the present. Author Miranda expertly manipulates past, present, and future until readers question what is real and what isn’t, makes readers wonder who the real monsters are, and keeps one reading until all of the loose ends are neatly tied up and truth is revealed. Tic toc, Nic. It’s truth or dare time.
This novel is full of insights into relationships. Everyone, including Nic, has secrets they try to keep hidden from outsiders, from friends and family, and even from themselves. Nic eventually comes face to face with all the skeletons in their closets, the monsters that hide in the woods behind her father’s house.
Everything changed ten years ago when Corinne Prescott, Nic’s best friend, disappeared. Now another girl is missing, and Nic and her family and friends are prime suspects. Were both girls murdered? By whom? This is, after all, a whodunit.
Tyler, Nic’s former boyfriend, could have done it. So could Jackson, Corinne’s former boyfriend. So could Daniel, Nic’s brother. So could Nic’s demented father. So could Bailey, friends with Nic and Corinne, whom Corinne had bullied. Nobody is above suspicion.
They say you can’t go home again. They say you can’t return to the past. Author Miranda proves the naysayers wrong.
If you like first-person mysteries with complicated characters, you’ll love All the Missing Girls. Highly recommended.
Thursday, June 2, 2016
The Devil Made Me Do It Again and Again
I love short stories. I grew up in the pulp era and read short stories and novellas in monthly magazines printed on pulp paper. I haunted newsstands weekly and bought arm loads of pulp magazines to devour at home. I graduated to buying and reading paperback collections of short stories, then to hardbounds borrowed from the library. I have fond memories of reading Grof Conklin’s sf reprint anthologies filled with stories from the pulps, and original anthologies of stories that contained stories by my favorite pulp authors. Periodically, I reread some of those stories. Each time I reread a story I discover something new I missed the first time around.
The Devil Made Me Do It Again and Again (Crossroad Press, May 2016) is a collection of ten of my own stories that appeared in magazines or original anthologies over the past forty years, plus three new stories never seen before in print. I wrote a brief introduction to each story, and Irwin Chapman wrote a revealing Introduction to my Foreword. I included some of my hard-learned secrets of writing in an Afterword.
Crossroad Press published a nice reprint of my earlier The Devil Made Me Do It (Miskatonic University Press, 1985) as an e-book in 2014, and The Devil Made Me Do It is currently available for Kindle or Nook at https://www.amazon.com/Devil-Made-Me-Do-ebook/dp/B00RFYVSPK/ or http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-devil-made-me-do-it-paul-dale-anderson/1120966454?ean=2940150201781. It’s also available from Kobo. The paperback is out of print.
It seemed natural to offer the latest collection of my short stories to Crossroad Press, and I’m very happy with their editing and cover art. You can order copies for your Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/Devil-Made-Me-Do-Again-ebook/dp/B01G4RQRUE/ or for your Nook at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-devil-made-me-do-it-again-and-again-paul-dale-anderson/1123845806?ean=2940158189791.
Monday, May 16, 2016
Advice to new writers who want to become professional authors or the trials and tribulations of all fiction writers
It’s time to share some of the things I’ve learned during more than fifty years of professional writing. I thought about calling this “advice to young writers,” but many writers are no longer young when they turn pro. So this is probably good advice for all writers, young and old alike, professional or aspiring, myself included. Take it for what it’s worth. My advice is usually free. I charge for my stories (smile). If you like what you read here, perhaps you’ll buy one of my novels or short story collections at Amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.com/Paul-Dale-Anderson/e/B00A9XFLBQ/ or BarnesandNoble.comhttp://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/paul+dale+anderson?_requestid=514797. I’ll eventually get royalties. Every penny helps.
You’re a writer if you write. You’re a real writer if you write regularly. You become a professional writer after you sell your first story for cash money paid at professional rates, and the story is actually published and available for public sale.
Very few professional writers earn their living entirely from writing fiction. Most pros have to supplement their royalties by writing non-fiction, and/or teaching creative writing classes, or working a full or part-time day job. Short stories and novels may pay the rent and put a little food on the table, but you have to be really prolific (as well as good) to also pay for health insurance, social security (self-employment tax), and income taxes solely from fiction sales. And, if you expect to save money for retirement, you need to start saving now and put something away from each monthly or semi-annual royalty check. Royalty income tends to diminish with time, and you can’t count on receiving big royalty checks forever. You’re only as popular as your next novel. Backlist books don’t usually sell well unless you’re Stephen King or James Patterson.
I began writing when I was four. I turned pro when I turned seventeen. I won a state-wide writing contest for high school students. My short work (less than 2000 words) was published in multiple places and I was paid for each publication. I earned $175.00 from that initial sale ($25 for winning the contest, $150.00 for first serial rights and subsequent publications; I considered that big money back in 1962). I put all that big money in the bank and it helped feed me my first year at the University of Illinois. Eventually, I earned a BA in English with a minor in journalism from Loyola University, and I sold a bunch of non-fiction pieces to newspapers and magazines and worked briefly as a magazine and a book editor.
I wrote my first novel while in high school, my second, third, and fourth novels while in college. Those novels were valuable learning experiences for me, but the novels never sold. I still have dog-eared copies tucked away in trunks somewhere. From time to time I think of revising them and trying again to sell them. Someday, perhaps, I will.
I sold only four short stories between 1966 and 1977. I sold three work-for-hire down-and-dirty novels (one western and three erotic/porn novels) between 1977 and 1984. Although I did consider myself a professional writer, I wrote only part-time and worked full-time day jobs while serving my country, managing businesses, raising a family, and learning a lot about living. None of the four science fiction novels I wrote during that time period sold. They are also buried in a trunk somewhere; rightfully so, I suspect.
I became a full-time pro writer in 1984 with the publication of multiple short stories and three novels bearing my Paul Dale Anderson by-line. I also taught writing classes for the University of Illinois and Writers Digest Schools, and I wrote articles on writing for which I was sometimes paid and that were published in national and small press publications. I joined SFWA, HWA, and MWA. I served as a vice president and trustee of HWA. I remained a full-time writer until 1990. In 1990, when my wife first became ill and we needed insurance, I took a day job at the local public library and remained working full-time for libraries until 2011. I earned a masters in Library and information studies from the University of Wisconsin and retired as an honest-to-goodness reference librarian. I worked for both public and academic libraries and taught classes during that twenty-year time period, and I earned both a meager state university retirement and a public employee retirement. I also earned a masters in educational psychology and worked on a doctorate. I did research and wrote journal articles and a University-published thesis and dissertation, but I wrote no new fiction from 1993 until 2013.
When Gretta died in 2012, I decided to return to writing fiction to save my sanity. I retired from academia and closed up my successful hypnosis practice in 2013. I didn’t write full-time until 2014, but I did begin to attend sf conventions and reactivated my memberships in SFWA, HWA, and MWA. I joined ITW and The Authors Guild. I dropped my memberships in National Guild of Hypnotists, American Psychological Association, and Association for Psychological Science. I sent out novel proposals to editors and agents, and I sent new short stories to editors. It was like starting over again. Most of the editors I had worked with had died, as had Barbara Puechner, my literary agent. Few people in the industry recognized my name in 2014. I used multiple pen names when I was a prolific writer working in multiple genres, and that didn’t help. Nor did being best-known as a horror writer, because my new works were more fantasies and thrillers or crossed genres.
It took me two years to get rights back to my previously-published novels and find new publishers to reprint them. I began selling regularly to the small press. Eldritch Press, Damnation Books, and Crossroad Press bought new novels and Weirdbook and The Horror Zine bought short stories. Within a year after publishing my novel, Eldritch Press went out of business. Damnation Books sold out to another publisher before they published my book. I immediately sold both titles to Crossroad Press.
I only recently acquired a new agent.
So here is my advice: write every day. Write what you want to write and like to read. Writing should be fun and you should be so absorbed in the story itself that you can’t wait to find out what happens to your characters next. Before you finish one novel, start on your next novel. Write a short story a month. Keep writing. Take a break from one project to work on another, if you need a break. Have lots of fun because you deserve it.
Although writing should be fun, revision and editing should be, and will be, hard work. So, you will find, is marketing hard and time consuming work. You write for the love of telling a good story. You edit and sell your writing to make a living.
Never hire an editor to edit your manuscript. Editors offer to pay a professional writer (you) in advance for the privilege of editing your manuscripts. Editors pay you. You don’t pay them. Period. End of sentence.
Editors today expect a manuscript to be almost perfect before they first see it, so the real editing work is your responsibility. It’s not the responsibility of an editor you hire. Nor the acquisitions editor. Nor your agent’s. The responsibility for editing your work is yours and yours alone. Your editor may assign a copy editor to check continuity and facts, a line editor to check spelling and punctuation, and a proofreader to catch typos. If you are a true professional, their job will be easy and minimal. They’ll remember you and thank you for it.
Before you can write, you must read. Read everything, including the ingredients listed on a cereal box. Read everything you can get your hands on.
Before you can edit, read Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style and The Chicago Manual of Style. I’ve memorized The Little Book (Strunk and White), and you should, too.
Next Up: The business of writing