30 March 2010

Get to Stirring the Waters, or Learn to Live with Mosquitoes

We're having visitors from Russia this summer. They're spending about two-and-one-half weeks with us.

Nadya and I are now planning what to do with them during their stay with us. After all, we're not only their friends, but we're their guides to the great American Southwest while they are here.

So, Nadya says to me, "I don't want you spending all your time back in your writing room with the door closed all day while they're here."

After all, I don't have much to do this summer: teach three college classes and prepare for SCBWI-Los Angeles and finish two novel projects. Not much at all!

In my witty, quippy manner I responded, "I'll leave my door opened."
Nadya gave one of those wifey looks that told me that retort was not the response she wanted to hear.

I then said, "If I had to got to work at an office with set hours, would you tell me not to go to work?"

She compromised. "Don't stay in your writing room all day."

"I won't. You know I'm up early (4:30 AM) , so I'll get my writing done by 10 or 11, and then I'll be the perfect host and guide."

She just looked at me with that wifey "I'll believe it when I see it" look.

When people meet me at conferences or workshops they exclaim how they could never get up so early to write. They ask me what time I go to bed. Usually between 9 and 12 PM, I respond.

I spent many years playing at being a writer. I'd use all the excuses one uses not to write, the same ones many writers I meet at conferences and workshops use to tell me why they cant' get up at 4:30 AM or tell me why they haven't written in a couple of days or a couple of weeks or a couple of months. Egad.

I wasted much, much time.

And now, I'm older. Much, much older than when I sold my first novel.

I don't feel I've moved forward much, though.

So, I'm up at 4:30 AM to write. Not to make up for what I consider lost time, but to put in the time I have left to move forward in my writing career.

Still waters may run deep but they also attract mosquitoes and other unwanted pests.

Time is a blood sucking pest the writer must learn to control and discipline, or get used to the pesty insect.
Three years ago I had a decision to make: Stir the waters, or learn to live with Mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes--what a marvelous metaphor for those pesky little guilty reminders that I'm not writing when I should be writing, I'm doing what I should be doing!

Writing requires a rigorous, disciplined schedule.

Inspiration is fine as a catalyst, but inspiration, like all bright flames burns out all too quickly.

The "inspired" writer throws everything he has into his "present"project--until the inspiration burns out.

Then he's left all alone wondering, "What now? I'm no longer inspired. This is becoming work. Hard work."

And the writing stops. The waters become still. Mosquitoes appear. A sense of lostness and failure swarm the writer, sucking the writer's blood from his soul.

The vast majority of successful writers have a set time to write, have a set number of pages/words/hours to produce per day/week/month, and who treat writing much as  their jobs, their businesses:
---being on time
---consistent schedule
---not missing days of writing because of "moodiness" or the drama of our daily lives
---ignoring the small demons of distraction (email, cells, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo Groups, chat rooms, et cetera)
---working hard during the shift to produce a quality (and even quantity of) product
---and leaving satisfied at having put in a highly productive day.

And because they have been so productive and successful, they are able to concentrate on other activities other than work (writing) : family, friends, hobbies, networking, et cetera.

Am I slow burning, a-light-by-night oil or am I blinding-flash-gone-in-seconds gasoline?

Isn't writing, after all, first a job, a business, a profession?

I've sold 14 books for children and young adults, and I did it by not being inspired but by working hard and disciplining myself to work on those days when I didn't want to work at all, especially after a trying day of teaching, a bit of tiff with the wife, mowing the yard, cleaning dog poop from the grass, and getting a bill I hadn't expected to be as large as it was.

By getting up at 4:30 AM.

The success of writing is nothing more than blood, sweat, and tears, the hardest job you'll ever love.

Debbie Macomber
Debbie Macomber
Just ask Debbie Macomber, who spent twelve years failing, almost losing the love of her life, toeing at the precipice of quitting more than once, sending her children to school in unfashionable clothes, and eating a lot of bologna.

Debbie didn't go from Zero books published in Oklahoma to 60 million books published world-wide by relying on her adrenaline alone: writing was the job she was born to do, and to do anything else would be to defy nature and God.

The glamor of the business of writing is in doing the job of writing itself--persistent writing that will pay off one way or another.


See you on the bookshelves.
Larry Mike Garmon

29 March 2010

The Hardy Boys and the Case of the First Sale

Three months. I had waited long enough. How long does it take to read a one-page query and two sample chapters? I'm not an impatient fellow, but THREE MONTHS? I could have written the whole book and started another in that amount of time.

The Hardy Boys
The Hardy Boys could have solved this mystery in two seconds.
I called information in New York City for the phone number of Mega-Books, Inc., the packager who was responsible for publishing the new Hardy Boys Casefiles mass market paperbacks.

A woman with an accent distinctively not Oklahoman but otherwise cheery answered the phone, and after I explained my concern, she put me on hold. A few moments later, a man who identified himself as Mark asked if he could help me. His accent also was distinctively not Oklahoman but his tone was sleepy or perhaps indifferent or perhaps overwrought.

I told Mark I had sent a query with two sample chapters about a Hardy Boys Casefile in which the Boys bust an international drug ring run by a mysterious character called The Colonel, and I was concerned because I hadn't heard a reply concerning my idea in three months. 

I was nervous but determined and hoped I sounded assertive and professional and not like some desperate psycho writer.

I heard a shuffling of papers through the earpiece. A few moments later he said, "Oh, the drug story. We can't use it."

A pause. A pregnant pause. A pregnant pause from which no birth was forthcoming!

Running on Empty
First novel: Hardy Boys Casefiles: Running on Empty
I was hoping I hadn't audibly gasped at the news that my great idea was rejected, and if I had gasped, I was hoping he hadn't heard my breathed disappointment. A thousand questions went through my mind, the foremost of which was, "Why?"

So I asked it.

"We stay away from certain topics: sex, drugs, you know, adult themes."

Wait. I had done my homework on the new Hardy Boys Casefiles series. Before sending off my proposal, I had bought the first three in the series (only five had been published at the time of my phone call three months later), and I had read and re-read, noted and denoted, underlined, highlighted, and scribbled marginalia in, about, and for each one. I had inscribed upon pages and pages of yellow paper analysis of characters, settings, sentence structure, themes, plot devices, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I had done enough research to complete a Hardy Boys Casefiles master's degree . The series had been started to keep high school boys interested in the franchise. I knew that. The series was a bit more serious than the middle reader series. I knew that. In the new series, the Hardy brothers used guns, fist-fought evildoers, flew jets, had credit cards, and used rougher language. I knew that. Frank and Joe actually kissed girls in the Casefiles series. I knew all of that.

Hardy Boys' Running on Empty
Hardy Boys Casefiles: Running on Empty--Was "run" gonig to be in all the titles?
My first proposal was to make the series even edgier. After all, in the very first Casefiles novel a car bomb planted by terrorists had blown up Joe's long-time girlfriend (since the 1930's!). So why not have the brothers destroy a drug cartel that had infiltrated Bayport?

"We stay away from certain topics: drugs, sex, you know, adult themes."

My mind raced with and then erased completely all the ideas and dreams I had of being a published writer, or being able one day to tell others I had gotten my start ghostwriting Hardy Boys mysteries.

I was opening my mouth to talk the editor into reconsidering his decision when he blurted out, "If you'll send me another idea, one we can use, I'll consider it."
There was hope.

Hardy Boys Flesh and Blood
Originally called "City of Fear", the only time I have been asked to change a title and come up with a different title in my 14 novels.
I wrote another query, wrote two chapters for the proposal, and sent it all off within ten days. This time, I had the editor's name and addressed everything to him with a reminder about and a thank you for our conversation.

Another three months! Egad and golly gee! Frank and Joe could have defeated all the world's terrorists, cleaned up the environment, and brought The Beatles back together by that time!

So, I called again and asked for Mark personally.

I again heard the shuffling of papers through the earpiece.

"We can't use it. It doesn't fit our needs."

Two personal rejections. I was hurt, and then I was mad. With both queries and sample chapters, I had sent the prerequisite SASE return envelope and had not received the perfunctory rejection form letter. Instead, I had been rejected verbally—twice.

I was set to tell Mark that I didn't appreciate NOT getting my rejection form letters when he said, "You know, we can't use your ideas, but you write well. I'll tell you what, I'll give you an idea, you write up a précis, an outline, and the first four chapters, and I'm sure we'll use you."

He threw out an idea, and I said, "Okay" and then "Thank you", and got to work.

Hardy Boys: Strategic Moves
This was fun. It came out just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and everyone thought I was a genius prognosticator!
One month later, I returned home from teaching and heard the following message on my answering machine, "Mike, I've sent your précis and sample chapters to Simon and Schuster. Give me a call so we can discuss the story in detail. There're some things about it we want you to be sure to include. You should be receiving the bible in a few days and a contract."

First sale. Case closed.

One year and four more sales later, I was in New York City, having been invited by Bonnie, the new editor of the Hardy Boys Casefiles series. I had only worked with Mark on that first book, and he had since changed roles within Mega-Books. During that one year, I had sold Mega-Books more Hardy Boys Casefiles stories than any of their other ghostwriters, and Bonnie wanted to meet me.

I arrived in New York City in the afternoon and Bonnie took me to dinner. Mark came along also.

Hardy Boys' Foul Play
Foul Play was inspired by my nephew's baseball card collection.
Feeling confident, I told Mark of my anxiety and disappointment about the rejection of the first two ideas and how upset I had been and how my SASEs were never used. I then thanked Mark for giving me the idea for the first book and having confidence in me as a writer.

Bonnie laughed and said, "Mark was just trying to get rid of you."

I was stunned. I looked at Mark. He turned a bit red.

"He thought you were just some nut because you kept calling him and pestering him. No one does that in this business unless he's crazy. He thought if he humored you long enough, you'd give up."

I was flabbergasted and couldn't say anything.

Hardy Boy's Fire in the Sky
I became ill while writing this and couldn't finish it. I wrote about half and another writer finished it.
"What Mark didn't realize is that you are crazy, but you're persistent. And it doesn't hurt that you're a good writer."

I didn't know at the time it was against the rules to hound an editor with phone calls. I didn't know there were any rules at all. The Internet wasn't around then, and so no websites putting forth do's and don't's of submissions and follow ups.

I wouldn't do that now. I know better. And I'm wiser. And I'm more confident and not as anxious. I have plenty to keep me busy while waiting for the editor or agent to get back to me.

Whether you get your foot in the door, slide in through the basement window, sneak in the backdoor, or climb the ivy to the second floor window, it doesn't matter. Just get yourself into the House whatever way you can!

See you on the bookshelves.

Larry Mike Garmon

26 March 2010

The Agent-Writer: A Conflict of Interest? The Dick Cheney of Publishing?

Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney was hired to choose the best vice-presidential candidate to run along side George Bush, and who did he find was the most qualified? Himself! Was anyone really surprised?

When I read recently that an unknown author received a six-figure contract for a YA dystopia series, I was quite excited for the young lady.

"Way to go!" I said to her through the virtual landscape.

Then as I read the article a bit more deeply, I became somewhat concerned and even frowned.

This young lady is not only a YA author, she's been working as an agent as well.

I've noticed in the past couple of years the trendy "Agent-Writer" label being attached to many of the younger agents.

And I have to wonder:

1. Where does the priority of the "Agent-Writer" lie?

2. If the "Agent-Writer" gets wind of a house looking for something in particular, does the "Agent-Writer" immediately think of his/her clients, or does the "Writer" persona kick in, and he/she takes advantage of the inside information for him/herself?

3. How much time does an "Agent-Writer" spend representing his/her clients, and how much time does the "Agent-Writer" spend representing him/herself?

This is a highly competitive business, this writing business, and the last thing I want is an agent who is also a potential competitor.

Agents have an inside track that is not readily available to the writer.

Agents who use their publishing contacts to further their writing careers are like those Wall Street insiders who know about mergers and sell outs and can cash in big time before the regular investor has a clue as to what the heck is going on.

I don't begrudge anybody using any means to advance his/her career in this business.

I just don't want him/her to advance him/herself at the expense of my career.

This business is hard enough without now having to worry about just how much time the "Agent-Writer" is putting into my career and how much time into his/her career.

It's like when the second George Bush hired Dick Cheney to interview and vet several candidates to take the vice-presidential slot on the 2000 Republican ticket.

After several weeks of candidate interviews, who did Dick Cheney find as the most qualified person to run as George Bush's running mate?


I've sold 14 novels without an agent, but I'm on the hunt for one now. I'm tire of doing all the heavy lifting by myself and want someone with the expertise and time to help me, to share some of the responsibility.

I don't need or want a Dick Cheney for my agent.

I want my agent to be an agent who is first concerned about advancing my career.

See you on the bookshelves.

Larry Mike Garmon

24 March 2010

My Name is Larry Mike, and I’m a Writer: Writing is Like an Addiction Step Program

Me angry young man!
Many years ago, in another life, I attended counseling sessions to help me through a particular rough time. I attended both personal and group counseling.

The group counseling was more of a lecture setting than a "Share with the group setting", which I enjoyed because I'm a copious note taker plus I hate "sharing with the group". Even as a high school student, I hated "working in groups"--either I ended up doing all the group work because I was placed with a bunch of slackers or I was placed in a group whose members were just as arrogant and know-it-all as I, and we all know that a nuclear reaction occurs  when a bunch of teen-age arrogant, know-it-alls are all grouped together.
Truth be told: I preferred the slacker-moron group to the know-it-all group.

But, I digress.

Fast forward like a TiVO to today.

Actually, last week.

During Spring Break, I spent much of my time cleaning my writing room and organizing my files. (You can  see pics of that adventure here.) I was going through old files and throwing trash formally labeled as "important stuff" away.

I re-filed and organized other "important stuff" I am still too attached to.

I came across one folder of papers that were yellowed and written with a hurried hand in pencil.

Seven Steps to Life, the Universe, and Everything
The same advice given to me during a counseling session to help me keep my life somewhat organized and sane are just as good for writing a story.
One particular leaf caught my attention. Here's what is written on it:
Step 1--describe the problem
Step 2--describe the results you want
Step 3-gather information
Step 4-think of alternative solutions
Step 5-choose the best solution
Step 6-implement the solution
Step 7-evaluate the results; make necessary changes

Reading these seven steps, I thought, What are my writing notes doing in with my counseling notes? I need to post these on my wall to glance at as I write when I reach those moments of indecision or so-called "writer's block".

I posted the note to my notes wall just to the side of my monitor and in my direct line of sight.

Seven Steps on the Wall
The Wall of Reminders
During the past week, I've been glancing at what I've now labeled "Seven Steps to Writing." The more I've glanced at it, the more I was puzzled about the note's origin.

I went through my files again and pulled out the folder in which I had found the note--the folder with my counseling notes. All the sheaves within the folder were the same yellowed and wrinkled sheets of three-holed notebook paper, and all the notes scribbled upon them were in the same hurried pencil scrawl.

Just like the now labeled Seven Steps to Writing.

Then I had one of those Holy Cow! epiphany moments.

These Seven Steps were written during a counseling session and provided by my counselor as a guide to help me to get my life together, organize myself, learn how to evaluate and overcome problems I'd be facing, and, generally, be as happy as possible and not stress out so much about every little thing.

And the reason why I thought the Seven Steps were misplaced from my writing notes file is because these Seven Steps apply to any Writing Life situation--whether fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or essay--as well as any living situation I might face.

I laughed--one of these I get it! laughs when a Life Truth tickles my soul--and my eyes saw Life, the Universe, & Everything a bit more clearly.

I don't live what I write but I write what I live.

I've chosen the Speculative Fiction field as my particular brand, and I'm sure many think I indeed live in a horrified futuristic fantasy world.

I don't live in a horrified futuristic fantasy world.

But, I do use my writing to try to understand, to fix, to  explain my World through the elements of horror, science speculation, and the mythical elements of the Human Experience.

And the best way for me to accomplish this as a Writer is to follow these Seven Steps, which I've been doing instinctively since that life-changing counseling session.

Happy Guy
Me so happy!
I just feel so happy having found concrete proof that I'm really okay with Life, the Universe, & Everything--which includes my Writing Life.

22 March 2010

Day I Met Famke Janssen

The State of Oklahoma sponsors a two-week summer arts institute each year at Quartz Mountain State Park, 18 miles north from Altus, where I live.

The Oklahoma Arts Institute is free to over 200 high school students and features some of the world's best artists who lead the students through two weeks of intensive study, training, practice, and production.
It's the only high school arts program in the United States that is absolutely free to all applicants.

In 2008, I volunteered to meet and greet that summer's students.

Famke Janssen
If given the chance to talk to a beautiful woman or play with her dog, which would you do?
Before the students arrived, I saw a tall attractive woman walking across the bridge from the state lodge to the performing arts center.

What caught my eyes besides her beauty was the short white filigree and lace dress she was wearing and the parasol she held above her head. 

I walked across the bridge marveling at the use of a parasol in the 21st Century.
Once inside, I met other volunteers and waited for the students. 

I saw the woman again, but this time I noticed a small dog carrying a Frisbee in its mouth.

My wife Nadya loves animals, especially cats and dogs. I knew if I came back with a picture of that dog walking around with a Frisbee in its mouth, I'd score some bonus points.

Famke Janssen
Famke at her most Hollywood beautiful
I asked someone, "Who is that woman with that dog?"

I thought I heard, "That's Fanta Johnson."

I thought to myself, Who would name their child after a soft drink?

I walked over to the woman and said, "Excuse me, ma'am."
She turned.

Famke Janssen
Famke Janssen--natural beauty
"May I take a picture--" a smile appeared on her face "--of your dog." Then her smile spread across her face.

"Yes, of course," she said.

She was tall. She was beautiful. Not just everyday beautiful. Not too-good-to-be-true beautiful. Down-to-earth model beautiful. Even without her make-up.

I told her my wife loves dogs and we had several and my wife would get a good laugh seeing a picture of her dog carrying the Frisbee in its mouth.

Fanta told me her dog was a Boston Terrier, then volunteered that it was neutered, that his name was Licorice, and that he carried his Frisbee around where ever they traveled.

"Think he'd want me to throw the Frisbee to him?"

"He loves to play with people." Her voice was as silky as her skin and as soft as her eyes.

She called Licorice. He trotted over to me. I took the Frisbee from his mouth. We played backstage at the arts institute for several minutes.

Fanta told me she was looking for a female companion for Licorice.
I thought, What's the point? He's neutered.

I told her I knew of some people who raised the same breed of dogs as Licorice, and they had several litters that summer.

I gave her directions and told her what time I'd be there.

Students began to arrive, and I went to help them check in. I thanked the woman for letting me play Frisbee with her dog. I patted Licorice on the head and thanked him, too.

While I was helping students check in, I kept thinking: I know Fanta from somewhere. Maybe she's a ballerina or an artist I've seen somewhere.

My thoughts were soon distracted by the hundreds of students.

About three hours later, I went to my friend's place and met Fanta there.

We talked some more. I met her traveling companion. She never introduced him as her "boyfriend"--just her "friend", and such a label is a relationship revealer in my part of the world.

He was pretty scuzzy looking. I though, Man. Why do such beautiful women hang out with such scuzzy looking guys?

She didn't buy one of my friend's Boston Terriers.

Fanta told me thanks for trying to help and then said, "Good-bye. Maybe I'll see you at the arts institute."
Whoa, baby!

I never made it back to the arts institute as they never called me back to help with anything.

A couple of days later, as I downloaded Licorice's picture into my computer, I keep thinking to myself, I know Fanta from somewhere. But where?

Jean Grey
Could Fanta and Jean Grey be the same person? Can't be Fanta--Fanta was brunette
Later that night as I drifting off to sleep, just at that twilight moment between reality and lucid dreams, the X-Men movie character Jean Grey popped into my head.

Fanta? That can't be Fanta. Fanta is brunette. Jean Grey is red-haired. Besides Jean Grey was played by Famke Janssen, not someone named Fanta Johnson.

Then it hit me: Damned Okie accents!

I had spent nearly an hour chatting it up with Famke Janssen NOT Fanta Johnson as my Okie-accented friend had said.

I've been a Famke Janssen fan since her first movie. I enjoyed her performance as Jean Grey in the X-Men.
However, she is quite a good dramatic actress, and that's the part of her movie career I admire the most.
Now I understood why she smiled so broadly when I asked to take a picture of dog. I'm sure she gets countless requests from fans to take her picture. 

Hell, if I had known who she was, I would have asked her if I could take her picture.

Jean Grey
Jean Grey/Phoenix
Double Hell--I would have found a box to stand on and had one of the other volunteers take a picture of Famke and me together!

(I'm 5'6" and Famke is a tall 5"10". I'm Bogart to her Bacall! Or Cruse to her Holmes for you young pups out there.) 

I've met a couple dozen celebrities in life, from movie stars to sports stars to singers/musicians to writers.
They really do look different up close and personal, especially without all the Hollywood make-up, and acting like "normal" people. At least some are. 

Like Famke. She is one of the most unassuming, down-to-earth Hollywood actresses than I have ever met.
And I hope to meet her again some day. 

Hopefully, a box will be nearby and handy.

And that's how I met Famke Janssen.

Here's the picture of Licorice and the Wikipedia.org entry

Licorice with his Frisbee at Quartz Mountain Summer Arts Institute
Famke Janssen's dog Licorice, a Boston Terrier photographed by Young Adult author Larry Mike Garmon (Universal Monsters, Feary Tales) at the Quartz Mountain Performing Arts Center, Quartz Mountain, Oklahoma, on Saturday, 14 June 2008. Famke was at the institute to give the opening address of the 31st annual Oklahoma Arts Institute student program. Garmon noticed the dog carrying his Frisbee, and he asked Famke if he could take a picture to show to his wife, and Famke replied, "Yes, he likes to have his picture taken." Garmon then spent time throwing the Frisbee to Licorice. Famke explained that Licorice carries the Frisbee every where hoping someone will play with him. Garmon said he found Licorice to be the friendliest and most likable of the celebrity pets he has met. He also found Famke to be quite personable and alluring as well.

20 March 2010

Fiendish Endeavors #1: Barmaglot & "Assassin"

The Mesoamerican feathered serpent god Quetzocoatyl is 1/3 of the inspiration for the Penteract trilogy

So, here's what's passing from my fevered mind to the letters at my fingertips on the keyboard and then jumping onto the screen sitting and smiling in front of me.

YA Fantasy Trilogy:

A Jabberwock of Penteract
    Book One: Barmaglot Book Two: Bandersnatch Book Three: Beamish Boy

The idea has been floating around for several years and started off as a middle school novel inspired by Lewis Carroll's poem "The Jabberwocky".

During National Novel Writing Month, I took the original story and another fantasy I had outline and wrote the first three chapters of but didn't like and combined the pair into this present incantation. I produced the first book and am now maddeningly revising it into something presentable.

I'm hoping to have the complete first book finished by the time SCBWI comes around in Los Angeles next August.

I've got several chapters revised and am sharing what I've gotten on paper with a couple of critique partners, my wife, and a teaching colleague, and they have all been quite helpful.

His Dark Materials Trilogy
I thoroughly enjoyed this series but I seriously disagree with his thesis.

Just this past week I had an epiphany as to what this story is about and, in a nutshell, it's simply "A Child's Guide to Good and Evil".

Although I enjoy His Dark Materials, I disagree with Phillip Pullman's world view, and A Jabberwock of Penteract is my answer to his thesis. 

I believe in the eternal soul of Humankind.

Quite a challenge, I know. But, dream big, or don't dream at all.

Along with the Mesoamerican feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl, I was also inspired by the Dracorex and Stygimoloch dinosaurs.
The Stygimoloch has a skull cap and a shorter snout. This is the model for the Jammerwoch.

The Dracorex is the model for the Jabberwock clan of the Draig species.

Penteract has several species of dragons in the same way Earth has several species of "Great Apes".

One species, the Draigs, is anthropomorphic and stand eight-feet tall. Over the millenniums, Draigs lost their wings, their fire-breathing, and their tales, but they gained intelligence and creativity.

Draigs are divided into two warrior clans that are battling for supremacy of Penteract: the Jabberwocki and the Jammerwochi.

The Jammerwochi are distinguished by a bone skull cap protruding through their skin. The Jabberwocki have no such skull cap.

In my outlining and note taking, I describe the Draig species of dragons as a cross between Klignons, Berserks, and Men of the West (Lord of the Rings).

Other dragons included are more traditional; fire dragons and ice dragons; lindwyrm.

I've also created a small dragon that is the size and looks similar to a large butterfly but is a dragon in every sense of the word except for its size, the colorful rainbow gossamer wings, and the fire that it spits out like a flamethrower. It's called a Dragonfly, of course.

Three children--a 16-year-old boy and his two nine-year-old fraternal cousins (boy and girl) are thrust into the world by an iPhone app called Penteract, which the teen thinks is a game but is really a portal to Enia, the world where the continent of Penteract is located.

The kids are caught in the middle of a great war and don't know which of the two clans--the Jabberwocki or the Jammerwochi--they should fight for.

In fact, both leaders of the two Draig clans--Barmaglot of the Jabberwocki and Frumious of the Jammerwochi--believe Ethan Swain (the teen) is the Beamish Boy prophesied in an ancient religious text to end the genocidal war and bring victory to one of the groups. The prophecy leaves open as to which group the Beamish Boy finally sides with and leads to victory.

As if that weren't enough, Ethan learns that his two bratty and obnoxious twin cousins are not who he thought they were and are part of the prophesy as well.

While Ethan is trying to keep from being killed by either of the Draig clans, he's got to fight off his cousins who are out to destroy him as well for their own murderous reasons.
"Assassin" -- a short story concerning Edimata Froths, a character from The Face Maker's Apprentice (see below).

At fourteen, Edimata is one of the best of the Sister Assassins.

The Sister Assassins are a quasi-religious group made up of girls from thirteen through nineteen. After nineteen, they leave the order to marry, become nuns, or stay on as adjunct teachers.

Although they are a legal organization, they are sometimes hunted down after they leave the order and are killed by revenge-seeking relatives and friends of those they have killed--which is also perfectly legal.

Killing a Sister Assassin is easier after she has left the order because they are forbidden by law and my sacred oath to use their acquired assassin's skills after they "retire".

This is why the Sister Assassins are heavily disguised and go by pseudonyms while they are a part of the order.

Mata Hari
Mata Hari--Femme Fatale of World War I

The Sister Assassins are based on the Kunoichi . My visual image of a Sister Assassin is a combination of Mata Hari as played by the actress Famke Janssen.

Famke Janssen
Famke Janssen--Whom I've met. Check out her Wikipedia.org blurb and you'll find a picture I took of her dog Licorice

The Sister Assassins live by a strict moral code, the most important of which is "No contract is left unfilled." Although rare, a Sister Assassin may be contracted to kill a fellow Sister Assassin.

Edimata's latest client, a captain of the royal guards in the capital city of Gorod, is murdered. The telltale clues indicate the captain was killed by a master Assassin--or did Edimata kill her employer for some reason?

Female Ninja

Edemata and her sister Assassins are modeled on the Kunoichi, Mata Hari, and Famke Janssen

Edimata must find the true Assassin as the Gorod royal guard, using the strength of its force, hunts her down to kill her without prejudice.

One of my objectives in writing "Assassin" is to combine fantasy with hardboil detective archetypes and motifs.

I began writing the short story to help me with setting, characters, and world view of The Face Maker's Apprentice. When finished and polished, "Assassin" will begin its journey of submissions through the world of fantasy magazines, both hardcopy and virtual, until it finds a home.

The Face Maker's Apprentice is another YA fantasy series taking place on the mythical world of Enia but on a different continent, Aisha.

The story concerns a young girl named Aydan from the time she is sold into slavery at ten by her parents until she finds her place in the world when she's twenty.

Edimata appears in this series, and I might find a place for her "Assassin" story somewhere. If not, I've got plenty for her to do as she hunts down Aydan, whom she's been hired to assassinate because Aydan is a threat to the ruling family of Gorod.

I'm working on the characters, settings, plots, and outlines for the three books the will be The Face Maker's Apprentice as I finish up Barmaglot.

I'll be blogging about my journey through Barmaglot--I have already--as well as post sections of "Assassin" for anyone who likes fantasy and hardboiled detective fiction.

Let me know what you think about either, and I'll reciprocate with anything you're writing.

See you on the bookshelves.

Take care,

Larry Mike Garmon

19 March 2010

Description or Scenework: The Paradox of Story Telling

Description vs. Scenework. Hmmm . . . .

I've been told since day one of the first creative writing class I took and I pay many dollars a year to attend (and I've been paid many dollars to present at) conferences where I am reminded (and I remind others) ad naseum to write in

Perhaps if I wrote my scenes the way artists painted Good Girl Art covers for those steamy potboiler pulp novels of the 1950s, I'd be able to quit my day job, eh?

When I write a scene, do I view the scene as though I am writing a textbook or putting on a stage play?

Some tales I've read lately go into great protracted descriptive verbiage as though we, the readers, were sitting in our comfy chairs in our parlors in the 19th Century with no other distractions other than the occasional whippoorwill outside our collective windows and little more to do with our time except read long-winded descriptions of the setting, the characters, the time, et cetera.

I know. I wrote such a scene in my WIP YA fantasy tale “Barmaglot”. Worse yet, it was the opening nine pages!

My eagle-eyed critique partner pointed that out to me. I had written fine protracted purple prose. I was quite proud of my wordmanship and expertise with broadsword sentences and extravagant razor-sharp adjectives.

I should have used a dagger instead—quick, simple, efficient, to the point, and much more deadly, as well as (often) unseen until it’s too late.

I thought I had learned my lesson.

In a WIP short story I’m slicing out now, I had what I thought was a strong, well-written paragraph, but something about it bothered me. I showed it to my teaching partner at school, and she was frustrated with the long paragraph, actually a single 60-word sentence broken up by a serious of commas.

All the commas were used properly and sitting in their proper places.

But the scene was exhausting to read.

“Break it up,” she said.

“You don’t like it? I think it conveys the idea nicely.”

“Well, obviously you think something is wrong with it, or you wouldn’t have shown it to me.”

She was right, of course, as usual.

I went back and broke up the long single 60-word sentence into several short, choppy sentences, and the scene tightened up immediately. It gave the reader a sense of hurried walking, which is what I was trying to do with the elongated sentence.

I love the theatre and acting and plays. I’ve written a couple of one-act dramas and still envision a play I’ve written being performed in regional theatre and then on off-off Broadway and then off Broadway and, finally, on Broadway! (Dream big or don’t dream at all.)

After the experiences of my critique partner and my teaching partner, I realized I needed to approach a scene in my novels and short stories the way I would approach a scene in a stage play—action and dialogue to move the story forward and avoid long rambling description, prolonged narrative, and extensive character exposition.

If the scene doesn't play out on stage, it doesn't play out on paper.

Description is necessary in telling a story in written form as a reader only views the setting, characters, and actions through the written word, unlike a stage play or movie.

However, the 19th and early 20th Centuries are long gone and buried with them are the multitude of paragraphs and proliferation of pages of protracted descriptive prose.

Today’s readers just won’t sit through such verbiage. Unless they are being held hostage on the tarmac of a shut-down airport or spending a very long two-day weekend with in-laws they prefer to see as victims of a major crime.

I’ve striving to achieve a happy medium: description with an emphasis on scenework rather than description apart from scenework. The two must be imbued as much as possible if the story is to move along and keep the reader engrossed and entertained and turning those pages and buying my next Great American Novel.

From now on, I'm using a dagger when I write my scenes rather than a broadsword. Using a dagger rather than a broadsword when writing scenes allows me to sneak in the bladed information before my victim (my reader) knows what has happened.

See you on the bookshelves.

Take care,
Larry Mike Garmon

18 March 2010

"Alright" is Always "Alwrong"

If you don't write "alwrong" for "all wrong", then why do you write "alright" for "all right"?


As an English teacher and an avid reader, my Inner Editor rarely shuts down.

Sometimes, I'm reading something and Inner Editor will shout out, "Oh, that's just so wrong!" I.E. has the words out of my mouth before my Inner Self-Control can stop them, and then others around me look at me in strange and condemning ways.

Sometimes, I.E. is operating at full capacity, as when I'm grading essays and research papers, readying another writer's draft, or scrounging through my own writing.

Sometimes, I.E. is at half capacity, as when I'm reading a published book or article and come across poor grammar, bad spelling, confused words, et cetera.

Sometimes, I.E. is shut down way low, as when I'm reading my local newspaper's articles, emails from my principal or friends, or notes from parents. The newspaper articles, emails, and notes are so poorly constructed, spelled, and lacking strong word choice that I've learned to ignore the lack of proper writing skills and just try to decode message hidden among the bad grammar, misspellings, poor word choices contained within the newspaper articles, emails, or notes for a bit of understanding.

Once while traveling by plane, I had brought along a book that came highly recommended by another writer because I had a couple of hours between flights. Once in the terminal, I parked my arse on the hard plastic chair, opened the book, and began reading earnestly.

I.E. began screaming "all most" from the first sentence. I don't remember the book (I tend to repress bad memories), but I do remember the terrible editing.

Not remembering the story, plot, characters, setting, and themes of a work but remembering the terrible editing tells you what kind of impression this novel, this story, made on me. Actually, I was cursing first the writer who wrote the errors and then double cursing the editor who let the errors slip past his red pen.

What I remember most about the book (which I stopped reading after page 32) is the use of the word "alright".

Not once was this phrase used correctly in this supposedly well-written book. Not in dialogue, not in inner thought, not in narrative. Not once.

"All right" was used "alwrong" throughout the pages I read.

As with "alot", "alright" doesn't exist in the English language except in student essays, principal's emails, parents' notes, and our local newspapers' articles, as well as stories poorly edited by so-called editors who should know better.

So how did all right become alright?

Alright as a one-word spelling of the phrase all right probably arose by analogy with such words as already and altogether. Although alright is a common spelling in written dialogue and in other types of informal writing, all right is used in more formal, edited writing.

And story stories, non-fiction articles, and novels are supposed to be "formal, edited writing".

The problem is that we have writers and editors who were never taught that "alright" is all wrong and were allowed to get away with such poor writing skills in elementary school, high school, college, and grad school and are ignorant of their blundering.

So, poorly edited books are thrust upon a reading public with such words as "alright" replete throughout the story.

In "alhonesty", the vast majority of the reading public probably doesn't know the difference any way, so why should writers and editors care?

I don't know the difference between the chemical make-up of aspirin and cyanide, but I certainly hope the manufacturer who does know the difference doesn't get lazy or tired or distracted one day and confuse the two, alright?.

If we don't write "alwrong" for "all wrong", then why do we write "alright" for "all right"?

Because we're lazy, we're ignorant of the error, and we've got editors who don't know any better and, like those errant teachers of our school days, allow us to get away with poor writing.

Do a manuscript word find. How many "alright" errors are highlighted, including dialogue? (Exclude the dialectal "awright").

Although, "alright" will almost certainly slip past the young editor right out of college or grad school where he wasn't corrected on his poor writing skills, that doesn't mean the writer, the true wordsmith and craftsman, must tolerate poor writing skill.s

See you on the bookshelves.

Larry Mike Garmon

17 March 2010

Curdling Up to a Prologue

The Prologue—ah, yes, the writer’s device by which he can begin his story twice within the span of several pages.

The Prologue is often employed because the writer believes his real beginning, that ubiquitous Chapter One, is all too weak to fully grasp the reader by the eyeballs and pull him into an engrossing story.

The solution to a weak Chapter One? Add the life-saving Prologue to sex up the story, provide teasers, tantalize the reader, interest that agent or editor.

For my present project, “Barmaglot”, a YA fantasy, I actually wrote two Prologues.

The first was a rambling fluff prose scene from the middle of the novel. The scene is repeated word-for-word at a crucial point of the story about 2/3s of the way into the tale.

I submitted this first Prologue for critiquing at a conference, and while my editor liked my story concept, she told me to get rid of the Prologue and just start with the story itself. I had never before heard that advice (or I wasn’t listening closely enough).

I got rid of the first Prologue but wrote a second as I didn’t feel Chapter One was exciting enough to begin the tale.

The second Prologue for “Barmaglot” was a literary trailer of sorts, a scene that didn’t appear anywhere in the story but only provided an interesting set of background events to lure the reader into reading further. This second Prologue had nothing to do with the actual beginning of the story, but I wrote it because I thought, “Ah, ha! This will get the reader interested enough to hook him into the story and, therefore, by the time he gets to Chapter One, he’ll be sufficiently hooked as to want to read the rest of the tale.”

My novel "Return of Evil" (Scholastic, ISBN-13: 978-0439208468) actually had three different beginnings--a two-part Prologue and then a Chapter one.

The first half of the Prologue was set at night.

The second half of the Prologue jumped back in the past some 24 hours.

The third beginning started at the present time of the story as Chapter one.

My editor told me it was a difficult way to start a novel but that it made sense, so she left it alone.

I don't advise beginning a novel in such away, and I wouldn't write the beginning of "Return of Evil" in the same way.

Instead, today I'd begin "Return of Evil" as Anna Myers begins her "Time of the Witches" (Walker Books, ISBN-13: 978-0802798206).

Anna begins "Time of the Witches" with Chapter One but hides a bit of a prologue in the beginning of the chapter as the narrator explains the difficult circumstances of her birth. This "prologue" is expanded upon later in the novel when the narrator is told the difficult circumstances of her birth by the midwife who birthed her years earlier.

Spoiled Milk

I’ve tossed both Prologues to “Barmaglot” like a person spits out soured milk when he drinks it not realizing the milk has curdled.

Also, one of my novels being shopped around now (“The Calamari Code”) originally had an exciting Prologue, one I liked very much. I originally put the novel on the market with the Prologue firmly and snuggly attached to the beginning. The scene in the Prologue is repeated much later in the novel, but in a shortened form, and I was relying on my reader to remember the exciting events of the Prologue some 150 pages earlier.

What was I thinking?

When I sent out the query and the first ten pages of “The Calamari Code” on its third round of agents and editors, I tossed the Prologue with all the enthusiasm of ending a bad relationship.

And, ta-da! Surprise: Less than two weeks later, I got two requests for the entire novel within hours of each other.

To Prologue or Not to Prologue, that is the question.

A Prologue is often background material, a set-up of the past to foreshadow future events or a setting that will appear somewhere in the story at a later period whereby the reader now fully understands the significance of the Prologue itself.

It’s a matter of preference and there are no hard and set rules; however, if the reader can get right to the story without wading through a Prologue, wading through background, the story moves more quickly.

If the Prologue is a scene repeated later in the story, the reader may skip over the repeated scene not realizing additional information may be contained within the re-minted scene, and the last thing a reader wants is a reader skipping through his story.

That’s like a person watching a movie and using the fast forward button to skip through the slower and, often, more boring parts of a film.

I watched the movie “Vantage Point” and about the umpteenth time the assassination scene was shown from another character’s point of view, I had had enough and kept saying, “Just get the Hell on with the story all ready! I get your point. Geez!” Three quarters of the movie is pure Prologue.

The actual story in “Vantage Point” makes up about 25 minutes of the movie. The other 65 minutes is Prologue repeated ad nauseam from different vantage points of various characters. After the third vantage point, I was bored.

Prologues are used on three occasions. Adding a Prologue to a story depends on “when” the Prologue takes place.

1. If the Prologue’s an event in the past that has ramifications on the present events of the story, why not just call it “Chapter One”, give it date, and then segue into “Chapter Two—The Present”?

2. If the Prologue is used as a teaser for something that will happen later in the story, then it slows down the action of the story’s real beginning.

3. If the Prologue is a past event used to give clues to the story in its present setting, then you can just add that information where it comes into play in the story and eliminate the Prologue and “Just get on with it”, as Monty Python would say.

Essentially, what a writer is doing when he places a Prologue in his story is writing Two Beginnings—he’s working twice as hard to hook the reader. If the story is not hook-ish enough with one beginning, Two Beginnings ain’t gonna make it any more interesting.

The three Prologues I wrote for my two novels did help me to understand my story and establish setting, characters, and voice. The three Prologues served a purpose, but they served my purpose and not necessarily the purpose of the reader.

The three Prologues were actually short stories without the resolution of conflict—which is not a bad thing, but why not just get on with telling the tale?

Prologues are like a musical’s Overtures—a brief interlude to allow the audience to seat itself, to quiet itself, to get itself ready to enjoy an intriguing tale told in song and dance. The Overture gives snippets of the musical pieces to come, but the Overture is not the musical story and is unnecessary to the overall plot of the musical tale itself.

If the orchestra never played the Overture, the story would still be judged and stand on its own merits. No lover of stage musicals or critics ever commented on or like/disliked the musical based upon the Overture, only on the over all story itself.

Prologues like Overtures are unnecessary, overused, and abused.

To repeat Monty Python: “Let’s get on with it!”

So, where do I begin my story?

“The Sound of Music” answers that question:

Let's start at the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read you begin with

Child (Gretyl):

12 March 2010

The Naked Writer 02: Goosing the Reader

Why are you reading this particular blog?

Was it the title?

Perhaps this blog is just one of many on your list, and you're looking for a few blogs about writing that appeal to you as a fledgling author or an experienced author like me who likes to be juiced every now and then.

Perhaps you were exploring the blog-o-sphere and came across the title The Naked Writer, giggled a little as you imagined a writer sitting butt-naked in front of his or her computer (hopefully not in a leather chair!), and then decided to read the blog for perhaps a titillating description of the aforementioned naked writer, imagining him to be Brad Pitt or her to be Angelina Jolie.

Who does like a little goose every now and then, eh?

Well, I goosed ya! I've given you a big goose pinch on the arse side of your salacious intellect and, so far, I haven't gotten my face slapped across the blog-o-sphere.

The Goosed Ya Factor is at the heart of all good writing because the end result of all good writing is to be read by readers.

And the Goosed Ya Factor begins with the first word of the first sentence of the first paragraph of the first page of the first chapter. It's emotionally and intellectually goosing the reader into saying, "Oh!" in a silent, mental shrill.

Goosed Ya begins when the reader has forgotten about the author and has begun concentrating on the story from the opening sentence.

From the time we are children, we are told, "Look don't touch."

We can't help touching, though. We're tactile beings. We're attracted to something, and we want to touch it. Even people. Such touching, however, will get us into trouble at the mall, on the bus, or in the subway.

Writers like readers. Readers help us to make a living. But, we've got to get their attention from the beginning, to leave a good impression with the reader so the reader reads on.

As writers, we don't do anything normally. Instead of walking up to our readers and saying, "Hi, I'm So-and-So," we goose them with words—images evoking emotions—and hope they will like the pleasant conversation (story) that follows.

The following are the opening sentences to both newer and older works. Each of these has the Goosed Ya opening, the sentence that immediately causes the reader to want to read the next sentence and the next sentence after that. Can you name the stories that have the following Goosed Ya openings?

1. "Where's papa going with that ax?"
2. "It was a dark and stormy night."
3. "On the whole of dull dark and soundless day in the autumn of the year when the clouds hung oppressively low . . . ."
4. "Call me Ishmael."
5. "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."
6. "Get your hand off my breast!"
7. "The first time I met him?"
8. “Something was about to happen. Nona, Archangel of Nth, could feel it in her bones. She sat on the edge of the cloud strumming her lute and wondering what the day would bring.”
9. "It was a pleasure to burn."

You'll notice that quotes 1, 4, 6, and 8 begin with an action.

Quotes 2 and 7 tell us immediately we're going to be reminiscing. Also, quote 2 is a writer's joke and any writer who has study his craft will recognize the jest Madeleine L'Engle is making.

Quotes 3, 5, and 9 present a specific and interesting scene or person or thought.

Quote 4 not only begins with the action word "Call" but also introduces the main character as well as the entire theme of the work to follow in three words by using a Biblical allusion!

Quote 7 is a question in response to previous question: from whom? The reader, an unknown friend?

Also, quote 8 is an invitation. For whom is the invitation? The reader or a character in the story?


1. Charlotte's Web, E.B. White
2. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle
3. "The Fall of the House of Usher", Edgar A. Poe
4. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling
6. See the end of this blog for the answer to this one.
7. The Greatest Miracle in the World, Og Mandino
8. See the end of this blog for the answer to this one also.
9. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I must admit: as I wrote this blog entry, I couldn't remember the answer to Quote 7. I thought and thought and thought; still, the answer wouldn't come to me.

I remembered the story in its entirety: The opening, the middle, and the end. I have the image of a red rose against a snowy background. An old man teaches a younger man. I remembered the story left me a little sad but wiser and helped to fill a void in my life at that time. I remembered the author's name, did a web search, and then perused the various reviews of his best selling books until I hit upon the book that reminded me of the title to which that particular quote, "The first time I met him?", belonged.

That's the Goosed Ya Factor. I had been so impressed with the opening and then the entire story that I had remembered the story and had forgotten the book and the author.

That's good writing.

The Goosed Ya Factor focuses immediately on the characters and the story to follow not the author and his worldview.

Look at your opening: do you have that Goosed Ya Factor in whatever you're working on now?

Recently, one of my critique partners chided me—correctly, of course—for not having the Goosed Ya Factor in my present novel. In fact, she told me she had gotten to Page Nine before she even knew what the story was about. She was correct of course, and I am grateful for her insight and her patience in sticking with my story through eight pages of protracted purple prose.

I’ve tossed the first eight pages my novel and have rewritten the opening chapter, and I’m quite pleased with the result.

How does your story begin? Thusly?

"The sky was an angry gray that soon turned into a dark frown of rumbling thunder."

That's the author speaking, becoming visible and showing off his ability to type adjectives about the weather and not use his skill to evoke a tell-tale story.

I like storms. I like personification. I even like mixed metaphors when they are presented humorously.

However, I like people more than clouds and thunder and metaphors, and I'd rather read about the angry gray expression and dark frown of a person than get a weather report.

But, I hear you saying, “I’m establishing mood.”

Poe established mood with his weather opening of “The Fall of the House Usher”. Poe was quite popular. Poe will be studied long after we are dead and our scribblings forgotten. But, Poe wrote in the first half of the 19th Century for an audience who spent hours reading, and Poe didn’t compete against television, radio, the Internet, networking, video games, TiVO, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Even Shakespeare expends much stage energy discussing the weather in his plays, especially his tragedies.

However, if Poe and Shakespeare were alive today, they would be different writers—still great writers, but different from their 19th Century and 16th Century personas.

Indeed, they would begin their stories and plays much differently because both Poe and Shakespeare wrote to be read by giving their respective audience what it collectively wanted to read and see.

"Harley Simmons awoke with an angry gray scowl that turned into a dark frown as he turned over to find she was gone again."

The author has just goosed me. My "Ya Just Goosed Me!" curiosity is now aroused. I can imagine all sorts of scenarios to follow, and none are too pleasant, I might say.

Not only am I presented with an immediate conflict that will lead to a future confrontation, but I have been presented with past history as well with the simple addition of the adverb again.

And why is Harley awaking "with an angry gray scowl"? Did he go to bed angry? Did he have a bad dream? Did they have bad sex? Does he naturally wake up angry? Or, did he go to sleep the previous night expecting to wake up to find "her" gone and, therefore, not only has he awaken in a foul mood, we can assume he went to bed in a foul mood and slept in a foul mood and had foul dreams.

Uh-oh. Big trouble brewing.

To be honest, I don't know what happens next. I just made that up as an example of the difference between a meteorologist turned writer and writer who wants to be published by, first and foremost, attracting the attention of an agent or an editor.

Author's Note:

Quote 6: "Get your hand off my breast!" is from one of my short stories called "The Turning Away" and it refers to fried chicken.

Quote 8: “Something was about to happen. Nona, Archangel of Nth, could feel it in her bones. She sat on the edge of the cloud strumming her lute and wondering what the day would bring.”
is from my angel fantasy novel Exaltation.

I know what you're thinking: This guy must think he's really something to include himself among those great authors!

My only reply to your astonished indignation is, Hey, it's my blog!

Until next time: Keep writing.

See you on the bookshelves.

Larry Mike Garmon

09 March 2010

The Naked Writer 01: Show some Flesh for Maximum Exposure

And so, here we are. My story and I. Paolo and Francesca. Naked both in life and death. Aware, shamed, repentant in our sins but not in our live.

And Francesca whispers to me:

"Love, that can quickly seize the gentle heart,
took hold of him because of the fair body . . . .

Love, that releases no beloved from loving,
took hold of me so strongly that through his beauty
that, as you see, it has not left me yet."
--Canto V, 100-105, Dante's Inferno

Francesca & Paolo

Writing about truth and beauty and all those other themes with which writers are so concerned is as easy as taking off your clothes in front of your family, friends, neighbors, and the entire world and letting everyone explore your body without limits or without protest. Writing is making unbridled passionate love to your beloved in front of the whole world and not be being embarrassed. In order to expose the world, you've got to expose yourself as well.

In the movie American Beauty, Lester Burnham asks his two health-conscious Gay neighbors for tips on getting in shape.

"Are you looking to just lose weight, or are you looking to have increased strength and flexibility as well?" one asks him.

Burnham replies, "I wanna look good naked."

So, you're a "writer." Good for you. Are you looking to just exorcise yourself of the inner demons you feel have been possessing you all your life -- in other words, writing is just therapy for you -- or are you looking to have increased popularity and be your own boss as well?

Whatever your reasons for wanting to be a writer, you had better make sure you look good naked.

If you want to be a writer who desires more than dinner table and conference accolades from family and friends, be prepared to get naked psychologically, spiritually, morally, personally, and emotionally.

Now, here's the Catch-22 akin, here's the fine print on the contract with the Devil that we never know about until Old Scratch comes to claim our souls:

While you have to expose your inner most self, lay yourself bare on the world's examination table, you must also be invisible, to disappear so that your reader does not see you; instead, the reader sees the characters and the story, and that's all.

Even though this blog is called The Naked Writer, it is not about writers at all. It is about writing honestly and invisibly.

Og Mandino became a celebrity with his books The Greatest Secret in the World, The Greatest Salesman in the World, and then The Greatest Miracle in the World, but his work is so well written the writer virtually disappears in stories that expose human truth, human lies, human triumphs, human defeats, and human joy and sorrow.

Og Mandino exposed his soul in his books, but one never gets the impression the books are about Og Mandino. Rather, the books are about the human condition. The books are about us.

And such is the paradox of the writing profession in general and the paradox of this blog in particular. To be a good writer, one needs to expose himself personally, spiritually, morally, psychologically, and emotionally.

Yet, the writer must remain in the background, unseen and unheard and unobtrusive into the lives of the characters who live and breathe in their own particular worlds.

Of course, we have writers like Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, (the present-day) Tom Wolfe, H.P. Lovecraft, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and, yes, Dante--all were (are) successful and are still quite popular despite the fact that you cannot separate the writer from his characters.

They are just as honest and just as genuine as Mandino, but their stories are blatantly about themselves.

As a reader, I am selfish enough to want to read stories that include me as well, and I do not want to necessarily interact with the author but with characters with whom I can relate and debate.

The writer who is not able or capable of "getting naked" in front of a group of strangers without drawing attention to himself will fail to get beyond the dinner table and conference accolades of family and friends.

Writing naked (or, is it "nakedly") is not the "Emperor's New Clothes."

Writing naked is H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man. We wear the clothes but remain invisible ourselves.

Take away the clothes and we, the writers, are naked but still invisible because the clothes, the stories and characters, are what are important not who wears (writes) them.

See you on the bookshelves.

Larry Mike Garmon

The Naked Writer No. 2: The Goosed Ya Factor
The Naked Writer No. 3: Spanking the Monkey