Friday, October 26, 2012

eMail Woes

I had an email problem back at the first of the year and lost some email. I thought I had put a redundancy in place to keep it from happening again but I was wrong. I just had a re-occurrence and the redundancy did not work correctly and I lost the last 30 days email.

If anyone has sent me email in the last 30 days, particularly a submission following the ACFW conference, and you have not received a response (more than an acknowledgement of receipt) it would be best if you re-sent.

Please accept my apology if this is the case. I am hopeful that I now have a system in place to prevent it from happening again.


Mr. Terry W. Burns, agent
Hartline Literary Agency

Association of Author Representatives (AAR) member

Saturday, October 20, 2012

See you at the conference?

Soon it will be time to head over to Marshall Texas to East Texas Baptist University for the East Texas Christian Writer's Conference. I've gone to this conference for a number of years and I love it.

Set on the shady, peaceful campus of ETBU it is an economical conference packed with lots of content and excellent presenters. The dates are October 26th and 27th, starting right after lunch on Friday and ending up about 5 pm on Saturday. The keynote speaker Friday evening will be James Watkins speaking on "I have a dream!"

I'm going to be talking about the difference in writing to reach the nonbeliever. Christian readers and nonbelievers look for different things in a book, Christians want a lot of faith content and they want it right from the get-go. But the very thing that they are looking for will cause a non-believer to put the book down. Many who say they are writing a 'crossover book' are actually writing a book that will not have enough faith content to satisfy the Christian publishers but with too much such content for the secular publishers. They end up in the 'no man's land' in between where neither want the book. A true crossover book is written for one market or the other but written in such a way that it manages to cross over to the other.

I'm also going to talk about how to develop a writer's persona. Many people are simply too shy to meet with editors and agents to pitch, or to do promotion or interviews, or the other activities a writer must do to be successful. There is a way to develop a writer's persona and pretty much hide behind it to do what we need to do. Others are about as shy as a chain saw but they are uncomfortable in such writing situations because they don't know how to present themselves as a writer. These are the totally opposite ends of the spectrum, but for both as well as all of the degrees in between, the answer is learning how to determine how we need to present ourselves as a writer and to project ourselves that way.

Finally, my third session will be a "look behind the curtain." I'll be talking about editor and agent pet peeves. Participants will hear a lot of things from a survey that Hartline agent Linda Glaz and I conducted, things that turn an agent or editor off. But there are also peeves that authors have about agents and editors as well, that sword cuts both ways. Those in the class will have the opportunity to unburden themselves with some of the things that bother them as well.

The conference is a short but content-packed event that people are sure to enjoy and sure to feel they really got their money's worth. Hope to see you there.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Profanity in writing - guest post by client Donn Taylor

Every writer must decide whether he needs to use words that are euphemistically described as "strong language"—"cusswords" and gutter language. These "four-letter words" so dominate fictional and video conversations today that these words often are the dialogue.

I guess I've heard them all. And I've put a good bit of thought into their place, if any, in my writing. So I've come to reject the most common justifications of using these words in fiction, drama, and film.

The usual justification is a claim of "realism." First, it’s claimed that because people actually talk that way, realistic fiction must accurately report their words. Second, it’s claimed that four-letter words bring us closer to “real life” than other words.

Neither claim can withstand examination.

The first confuses "realism" with literalism. Fiction is not real life: it’s an artifice creating the illusion of real life. So if the writer must report people's words literally, what excuses him from including all other elements of life? Must every fictional day begin with the hero shaving or the heroine applying eye shadow?

Thus, if "realism" does not justify literal inclusion of other elements in fiction, it does not justify literal inclusion of specific words.

Nor can the claim that four-letter words are closer to "reality" withstand questioning. Many uses of those words are, to put it mildly, figurative. Perhaps is once was amusing to attribute bisexual reproductive capability to inanimate objects. But if so, the idea is now so clichéd that it's no longer humorous.

And on representing reality, let's consider the so-called "f-word." The early English (probably Anglo-Saxon) from which it descends was a savage language appropriate to those savage times. Then, perhaps, the word may have accurately described physical relationships between men and women. But many cultural changes have altered that reality.

One change was the twelfth-century invention of romantic (courtly) love, popularized by Eleanor of Aquitaine and Chrétien de Troyes. And in the 1590s, Edmund Spenser synthesized various love traditions into an ideal combining the romance of courtly love with the intellectuality of Platonic love and a dash of physicality from Ovid—all justified by marriage, one of the seven sacraments of the church. Spenser's synthesis held general acceptance until about 1900, when it was eroded by naturalistic philosophy and Freudian psychology.

The point for "realistic" fiction is this: if the "f-word" today accurately describes the physical relationship between a man and woman, it does so only because the couple is immune to the cultural experience the past millennium.

So if customary justifications cannot withstand examination, the real reasons for using "strong language" must lie elsewhere. Conflict is basic to all good fiction. “Strong language” helps lazy writers gain the appearance of conflict without the hard work of creating genuine conflict, which is always generated by a story’s narrative structure. In other words, "strong language" substitutes for genuine creativity.

Profligate use of such language will always be chic, of course. But as screenwriter Morrie Ryskind put it, "The chic are always wrong."

© 2000, 2008, 2012, Donn Taylor
Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he completed a PhD degree at The University of Texas and taught English literature (especially Renaissance) at two liberal arts colleges. His novels The Lazarus File andRhapsody in Red have received excellent reviews, and he has also authored Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond. He is a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences such as Glorieta and Blue Ridge. He and his wife live near Houston, Texas, where he continues to write fiction, poetry, and articles on current topics.