Friday, September 19, 2014

What’s your biggest pet peeve as an author?

My guest today – Michael Mattson – lists common author’s woes: the inability to find a good proofreader and to get help advertising his book. Maybe I’d better let him put it in his own words.

What’s your biggest pet peeve as a writer? I wouldn’t call this a pet peeve but it is one thing that I think frustrates a lot of writers. With the many changes in the publishing industry, and the establishment of small publishing houses operating on limited resources, the help publishers used to traditionally offer authors has been limited by economic considerations. Many do not employ editors or proofreaders and many are ill-equipped to provide marketing assistance.  Unfortunately, this often leads to published works that could have been made better with the help of a good editor and could reach an expanded and more profitable audience.

JG’s comment: That’s why authors at Oak Tree Press do blog hops and work together to promote their work.

And now for info on Michael Mattson and his book The Dancing Boy.

Synopsis: The Dancing Boy is a mystery set in the Pacific Northwest. Treat Mikkelson lives on Drake Island in a small cabin by the water with his cat Ackerman. He's retired from a lifetime of studying and writing about crime, and keeps himself busy crabbing, fishing, and harvesting enough clams for dinner. This all changes when an elderly woman in a small, nearby tourist town is found at the foot of her stairs with a broken neck. Although the authorities are inclined to consider it an accident, a friend suspects foul play and asks Treat to investigate the matter.

How autobiographical is this work? Treat is an iconic, self-contained ex-Ranger with a penchant for garish Hawaiian shirts and a love for blues and Hawaiian music. After you read Michael’s bio, guess.

Bio: Michael Matson was born in Helena, Montana, and was immediately issued a 10-gallon Stetson and a pair of snakeskin boots. After formative years spent in New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, California, Hawaii and Japan, Michael earned a journalism degree from the University of Washington in Seattle. Following a brief military stint in Oklahoma, where he first encountered red, sticky mud, heavy rain and tarantulas, he returned to Seattle and worked as an advertising agency copywriter, creative director and video producer.
In 2007 he (regretfully) left Seattle for Mexico to have time to write and has since published The Diamond Tree, a fairytale for all ages;  Bareback Rider, an inspirational adventure for children; and Takeshi’s Choice, a mystery novel.  His second mystery novel:  The Dancing Boy, was released by Oak Tree Press in April 2014 and is available at

Friday, September 5, 2014

What do you do when have a writer’s block?

Don't nap with the dog when you get writer's block.
Watch TV. Take a nap. Eat. No, I mean, what do you do constructively to get you past the writer’s block?

First off assess the problem. For simplicity I’ve lumped reasons for writer’s block into four categories. I wouldn’t argue with you if you added categories or lumped two of my categories together.
1)   No idea. You have a class assignment or a blog due in three hours and can’t think of anything interesting.
2)    Skeleton ideas. The idea seemed good when you lay in bed procrastinating before you got up. You trotted to the computer and typed out a great paragraph. There’s nothing more.
3)   Dead ends. You’ve written two hundred pages and know how you want the novel to end but you can’t seem to create the next couple of scenes so that you can get logically to the conclusion.
4)   Search for the right words. You’ve completed a draft of the short story, and you’re now working on a boring but essential section.

Check your idea file. What’s that? Every writer should keep files on interesting events and discoveries they spot in newspapers, science journals, or on the web. I also have a character file. When I overhear or participate in a bizarre conversation or meet someone unusual, I record the occurrence and include my feelings (usually in incomplete sentences). It’s amazing how thumbing through such files helps me get an idea for an imminent deadline or gives me material to fill out that skeleton staring at me from my computer screen.

Read someone else’s work. While it’s often tough to discern mistakes in our own writing, most of us have less difficulty spotting gaffes in others’ writing. After dissecting someone else’s work, my own writing faults are clearer to me. At other times, I learn by example and use a ploy used by another author to get myself out of an awkward literary situation.

Work on another project. I always keep several projects going at once – blogs, a novel, several short stories. Often when I’m ‘blocked’ on one, I can write on another.

Admit you created a dead end and start revising earlier sections. But save the sections you’re pitching. They might be useful later.

Edit your writing for obvious weaknesses. Revise passive sentences. Replace linking verbs with actions verbs. Check for synonyms for overworked words. Often, these activities get me in the mood to write the next section.

Do these ideas always work? No. So what do you when you have a writer’s block?

When I didn't have a writer's block, I wrote medical thrillers and mysteries - Coming Flu, Ignore the Pain, Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, and Malignancy (due out in November).