Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Power of PR

DAVID ICKE, the man who once sat in front of a talk show audience with viewers of millions and proclaimed in all seriousness, that he had been chosen to be the Son of God, is back.

The former TV sports presenter is now claiming that the British Royal Family are "bloodsucking alien lizards".

Icke, 53, goes on to claim the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are “shape-shifters who drink human blood to look like us”. He adds, “a race of half-human, half-alien creatures has infiltrated all the world's key power positions. George W Bush, and his father, the former president, George Bush, are both giant lizards who change into humans.” Apparently 9/11, the "murders" of Princess Diana and John F Kennedy are also down to little green men, too

This is not just the rant of your everyday anti-Monarchist – he actually believes it.

Such wild and ridiculous claims may be further proof that working for ITV can seriously damage your brain. But when you consider that Icke, since retiring from television in 1991 due to the public ridicule he endured after his “Son of God” claims, has gone on to publish 16 books and tours the world giving talks and speeches on his theories, one has to stand back and wonder about the PR behind the author, no matter how mad his books may sound. The truth in fact, is that David Icke has never been away.

Any fiction author worth his or her salt would love to be handed TV jobs to comment on their books, or the chance to tour the world talking about them or to be able to make DVD’s from their stories. With a 16 book publishing catalogue behind him, David Icke has done something right.

No matter how much involved in your stories or how much other people don’t believe, the one thing you can be sure about David Icke is the power of good marketing and PR is invaluable.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Crafting A Proposal

For non-fiction writers, the equivalent of the standard query letter to agents and editors, is the non-fiction "book proposal." Considered by some to be just as daunting at times as the query letter, Scott Mendel offers some on-point advice in his recent article: Writing a Non-Fiction Book Proposal: A Primer for the First-Time Nonfiction Book Writer

The basics for nailing the perfect proposal are clearly outlined, as well as easily explained by Mendel, a longtime literary agent and member of the Association of Authors' Representatives.

More importantly, you'll also find out how each phase of the process generally works, from your initial approach to an agent or editor, to the decision-making process between editors and other key publishing house officials. With an emphasis, of course, on the fact that from start to finish, the overall *strength* of your original proposal plays a major role in how smoothly each step along the way will proceed.

So check out his article whenever you can -- and good luck!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

I Wrote that HOW Many Times???

I read this recently and it was, to say the least, eye-opening. We as writers sometimes can be accused of getting a tad too "close" to our work, and my recent experience is proof.

I was reading that there are certain words that are basically "fluff" words writers overuse, and I thought to myself: "No, I would never do that!" So I put it to the test and did a search and find on one of my WIPs and lo and behold, I was embarrassed to discover that I too, was guilty of what I like to call "Fluff Word Overuse." Try it out on your own manuscripts. Some of the words are as follows: (Courtesy of Holt Uncensored)

"Actually, totally, absolutely, completely, continually, constantly, continuously, literally, really, unfortunately, ironically, incredibly, hopefully, finally

- these and others are words that promise emphasis, but too often they do the reverse. They suck the meaning out of every sentence. "

I am mortified to admit that I used the word "really" One hundred and seventy-five times. You can bet that I really hurried and omitted the really offensive repetitions of "really," really fast.


So go ahead, try it!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Too Much or Too Little?

Do I have too much to say or too little to say? That’s the question I wrestle with as I face this blank page and wonder what to say this Wednesday to the readers.

On the one hand, I could howl with rage on the state of any number of things in the world. On the other hand, I could praise new books coming out, and delight in my latest reading ramblings. Do I discuss someone else’s work or suggest a tip that helps a writer’s own? Quote a passage from a diary, on this, the birthday of Virginia Woolf and the famous Burns Night, or simply remain silent?

The more I stare at the page, the blanker, the whiter, it seems.

Hundreds of ideas are battling for supremacy in my head. Yet, I stare at the page and feel lethargic. Uninspired. Completely verbally dumb, in all senses of the word.

Several of the local newspapers and television shows pushed out a flurry of articles over the past few days, citing “scientific evidence” that January 23 is the most depressing day of the year. Am I part of a Universal Malaise?

I try to make the words march across the page, but they take alternate routes. I try to sit and read, but my mind wanders back to what I’m supposed to be writing. I’m simultaneously restless and lethargic. I don’t even want a day off from writing – it’s almost a sense of . . .anticipation.

Perhaps something brews under all this conflict. Perhaps the inner volcano of inspiration prepares to spew some literary lava.

Remember how this feels, I tell myself. Remember the physical sensations, the over-caffeinated jitteriness, the inability to focus, the desire to pace and nap simultaneously. Someday, it will be useful. Someday, it will be a way to orientate a reader into a character’s landscape.

Today, however, living it, is merely uncomfortable.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Thought for the Week

Good old Bono! Everyone loves him; rock star lifestyle, good looks, great voice, sexy Irish accent and of course his deep and committed passion for helping the poor, the starving and the less fortunate.

Not only is he the lead singer for one of the world’s most famous bands, and has been for over 20 years, but he is an icon in the world struggle against poverty. Why, only last year he campaigned vociferously alongside Bob Geldof, the British PM and the US President.

His campaigning has nothing to do with ego – he can assure you of that. He genuinely cares about the poor.

This week tickets went on sale for the Brazilian leg of U2’s latest world tour, Vertigo. They are due to play the Morumbi football stadium, home to World Club champions, Sao Paulo, on February 20th.

The price for these tickets? $88 (£50 UK) - two-thirds the average monthly wage for the country.

Nice one Bono.

Want to comment on this? colin@thescruffydogreview.com

Note: These are personal comments and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone else connecetd with The Scruffy Dog Review.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Don't Forget to Play

We all need a little playtime to keep us fresh. One of my favorite games doesn't have a name but it uses words from Writer's Remedy. I shake out four or five words then use them in a maximum of two sentences. I've come up with some hilarious sentences playing this game. For those who want to play along, here are the five words I shook out before starting this blog entry:


Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Members Of The Round Table

No doubt, there are a vast number of great writer kinships and associations these days, both in the real and cyber worlds. Still, many will agree that it was the legendary Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel here in New York City in the early 1900s, that clearly set the standard for literary "style" and wit long beyond its duration, and well into this very day.

After World War I, magazine writers Robert Benchley and Robert E. Sherwood lunched regularly at the hotel, located at that time just a few doors down from Vanity Fair, where they both worked. Throughout the 1920s, Algonquin owner, Frank Case, generously treated the talented but low paid writers to free celery and popover snacks and provided them with their own table and waiter. Thereby, guaranteeing their daily return visits. The group eventually expanded to a core membership that included writers such as Edna Ferber, Peggy Wood, Franklin P. Adams, George S. Kaufman, Heywood Broun, and Marc Connelly.

Also among these great notables of the day was Dorothy Parker (1893-1967), whose poems and short stories will always be characterized for their biting humor and sardonic flair. Born in West End, New Jersey, Parker was a drama and literary critic for Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines until striking out on her own as a freelance writer. Her writings dealt with, for the most part, the frustrations and contradictions of modern everyday living. Her books of verse in the 1930s included Death And Taxes and Not So Deep As A Well. She also wrote the short story collections Laments For The Living and After Such Pleasures. Her book titled Constant Reader (posthumously published, 1970) is a compilation of book reviews she wrote for the New Yorker Magazine from 1927 to 1933 under the pseudonym "Constant Reader."

Most of the Round Table members were staunch critics to say the least, and as they lunched, they exchanged ideas and gossip that managed to influence writers from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway. Another interesting note, is that Harold Ross, editor and friend of the Round Table, created the well-known New Yorker Magazine and secured funding for it at the Algonquin just prior to the magazine's debut in February of 1925.

This would also explain why, today, each Algonquin Hotel room guest still receives -- a complimentary copy of the magazine.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

How To Burn Bridges, Lose Contacts, and Generally Not Get Published

A few months ago, I read submissions for a project. There was some lovely work by an author. It was accepted. It also seemed said author would be suited for another project on which I was working, and actively looking for material. I contacted the author with information about the other project and invited the author to submit. I got back a promise that I would receive the material in “a couple of weeks.”

That was in November.

Now, I get quite a few submissions for the various sites each day. When I invite a writer to submit, I, as do most professionals, expect a reasonably short response time. “A couple of weeks” to me, means two, perhaps three. Weeks, not months. Or, at least, contact if the author cannot submit or decides not to submit.

The best response would have been to receive the requested submission via return email. Or within forty-eight hours.

And no, I am not going to send a follow-up. It is the writer’s job to keep track of requests and submissions. It is my job to keep track of the submissions I actually receive, read them, make a decision, and let the writer know in a reasonable amount of time so that the writer can be happy about an acceptance, or can get the piece out again on submission if it’s rejected. I don’t want to tie up a writer’s work indefinitely. If it’s not right for me, it’ll be right for someone else and should go out in search of that someone else.

What will happen if, in six months, said author finally “gets around” to submitting?

Chances are, I’ll reject the work, unless it’s absolutely brilliant. Not because I’m being mean. But because the slot in which the work would have fit is now filled – hey, publication day is coming up and I couldn’t wait around.

Talking with other writers and also agents, they agreed. This goes back to earlier posts, where I encourage writers to “finish first” before submitting queries to agents or editors. If the agent or editor is interested, that professional expects the requested materials to come by return mail.

If you don’t, if you make excuses or ask for more time or tell them the material is not ready, no matter how polite said agent or editor is in response, most of the time, you’ve already made the “unreliable” list and blown the contact.

Remember: there are a limited number of agents and editors and slots for publication, in spite of the insatiable need for stories. There are also, literally, millions of writers. Agents and editors need writers who are not only good at the craft, but keep on top of deadlines and are reliable. Act like a professional and you’ll be treated like one. Part of that means sending out requested materials on time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Glasgow Poet Wins the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry

Congratulations to Scottish Poet, Carol Ann Duffy, who won the TS Eliot Prize for her latest collection of verse called Rapture.

Carol, 50, from Glasgow, beat such names like Polly Clark, David Harsent and Sinead Morrissey to the £10,000 prize.

She has previously won the Whitbread Poetry Award and Forward Poetry Prize for her 1993 collection Mean Time, and was made an OBE in 1995.

Duffy is also an acclaimed playwright, having written works such as Take My Husband, Loss and Little Women, Big Boys.

Judges described Rapture as "coherent and passionate" and named it the best collection of new poetry published in the UK and Ireland.

The award comes from the Poetry Book Society, and was presented by TS Eliot's widow Valerie at a London ceremony on Sunday evening. TS Eliot founded the PBS in 1953.

Related links:
The Poetry Book Society

Monday, January 16, 2006


In chapter 6 of her book Making A Literary Life, Carolyn See discusses the importance of hanging out with people who support your work. At a minimum she recommends steering clear of people who don't support your work. I've started to pull away from a few people in my life. Each person I've decided to distance myself from is a member of the criticism choir - a choir that has been loud and constant since my grandmother's death last month. My support network shrank noticeably when Grandma died because I realized some people who claimed to support me were core members of the criticism choir. Those people have to go. Is there someone in your life you need to pull away from?

Sunday, January 15, 2006


British writer Iris (Jean) Murdoch was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1919 and was yet another one of those literary giants whose work I strongly admire. Educated at the University of Oxford in England, later in 1948 she was appointed there as a fellow and tutor in philosophy.

She began her career as a successful fiction writer with Under the Net (1954). A decade later, with Murdoch’s adaptation of her own novel A Severed Head she also became a noted dramatist. And what I have always admired most is her complex style combining realism and the macabre, along with the familiar and the mystical. As such, she presents a cast of characters who struggle with the discovery that they are not truly free but loosely fettered, for the most part, by themselves, society, and sometimes, by natural forces.

Murdoch’s many novels include The Italian Girl (1964; play, written with James Saunders, 1967); A Fairly Honourable Defeat (1970); An Accidental Man (1972); The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974); The Sea, the Sea (1978), which won the Booker Prize; The Good Apprentice (1986); The Green Knight (1994), a story incorporating many elements of and references to the 14th-century anonymous romance poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; and Jackson’s Dilemma (1996), a story set in 20th-century Great Britain but loosely based on the play Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare. Another notable milestone in Murdoch's career was when she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1987.

Subsequent to her death on February 8, 1999, what can only be seen as a well-deserved addendum to the work she leaves behind, is the expert portrayal of her life and the bittersweet turmoil of her later years by actress Judi Dench in a biographical film made 2001.

So even if you never have the opportunity to read her work, I would also highly recommend seeing her recreated in the film simply titled, Iris.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Research Never Stops

A few days ago, a writing buddy and I swapped agent lists. We’ve each got a piece in relatively the same genre and we’re both querying agents. (Although I often deal directly with publishers, my gut instinct for this piece is that it would be in my best interest to have an agent for it).

So, my friend and I swapped lists, to see if one of us had come up with someone the other one missed.

The interesting thing is that, out of a list of 30 or so agents, we only had three crossovers.

At first, I thought, “Wow! This means I have 27 more options!”

And then, I decided to do my own research on them. Yes, I spent time on each of those twenty-seven names, checking them out with Predators and Editors or asking other friends in the genre if they knew of them, surfing web sites and interviews, to get a better sense of how we’d work as dance partners.

Four of them seemed a worthwhile match.

Now, I knew that my friend previously researched the legitimacy of the list, so I wasn’t worried about that. But, simply because we both had pieces that loosely fit the same overall genre, I was not convinced that her list would fit my book. And I was right.

It took a long time, but it was worth it. I’ve honed my query letter to individualize it for each of these four. And, I admit, there are one or two separate from the quartet who I think are a stretch, but I’m going to try for them anyway. But the rest of them aren’t going to get a query because I don’t think we’re a good match.

The more research you do yourself into each agency, the more you familiarize yourself with the individual point of view, mission and list, the more you can decide if and how you’d fit. The better your information and individualization, the better chance you’ll get for an enthusiastic response to read your work instead of a form rejection.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 - 1930)

Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on 22nd May 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was born at Picardy Place in the city centre and a statue commemorating his life stands there to this day in recognition of one of Scotland’s most famous authors.

Doyle came from a large and rich family of Irish-Catholic descent. He was one of ten children but only one of seven who survived to adulthood. His father, Charles, was a civil servant and chronic alcoholic. His mother, Mary, was a well-educated and dominant woman with a deep interest in literature.

Shortly after he turned nine, some of the wealthier members of the Doyle family offered to pay for Arthur’s studies. To his horror, he was enrolled at a Jesuit boarding school in England. Doyle rejected Catholicism and became an agnostic.

On his return he embarked on a medical career at the University of Edinburgh. While there he came into contact with upcoming authors James Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson before graduating with a Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery degree.

In August of 1885, he married a young woman called Louisa Hawkins and a year later wrote a novel, A Tangled Skein. The novel had two main characters called Sheridan Hope and Ormond Sacker, and when it was published two years later in Beeton's Christmas Annual under the title A Study in Scarlet, readers had been unwittingly introduced to the immortal Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

In August of 1889 Doyle had dinner with Oscar Wilde, and as a result of this meeting he was commissioned to write a short novel. The Sign of Four was published in England and the US in February of 1890 and was instrumental in establishing Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle in the annals of literary history.

In 1892 Louisa gave birth to a son, who they named Kingsley. A year later, in spite of everyone's pleas, Doyle decided to get rid of Holmes and Moriarty. His decision was made while on a trip to Switzerland, and in The Final Problem, he sent them plunging to their deaths at The Reichenbach Falls. As a result, twenty thousand readers cancelled their subscriptions to The Strand Magazine.

Now free of his medical career and from a fictional character who overshadowed what he considered his finer work, Doyle immersed himself in other writing activities but failed to notice the serious deterioration of his wife's health. By the time he did, Louisa was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and was given only a few months more to live. His father’s death soon after, sent Doyle into a depression, which caused him to become more and more fascinated by Spiritualism and the occult. It was around this time he started an affair with a young woman called Jean Leckie.

When the Boer War started, Doyle declared to his horrified family his intention to enlist. His weight and age prevented him, so he volunteered as a medical doctor and sailed to Africa in February of 1900.

When he returned to England, Doyle threw himself into politics and ran for a Central Edinburgh seat. Having been raised by Jesuits though, he was unfairly accused of being a Catholic bigot and lost the election by a narrow margin

A year later, King Edward VII knighted Doyle for services rendered to the Crown during the Boer War. Rumours suggest the King was an avid Holmes fan and that Doyle’s honour was given to encourage him to write new stories.

Louisa died in his arms on the 4th of July 1906 and Doyle slipped into a debilitating state of depression. When he came out of it he married Jean Leckie on September 18th 1907. They went on to have one child, a daughter Jean, who was born in 1912.

When World War 1 broke out, Doyle, then fifty-five, offered to enlist again. He was denied once more but when the navy lost more than a thousand men in one day, Doyle suggested to the War Office that "inflatable rubber belts and lifeboats" and "body armour" might help to protect the soldiers. Most officials found him irritating, though Winston Churchill wrote to thank him for his ideas.

The toll of the war was cruel on Doyle. He lost his son, Kingsley, his brother, two brothers-in-law and two nephews and with financial problems building once more, he published The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes in 1928.

In the autumn of 1929, and in spite of being diagnosed with Angina Pectoris, Doyle toured northern Europe. When he returned, he was so ill he was bedridden. One cold spring day in 1930 he went unseen into the garden and suffered a heart attack. When he was found on the ground, he was lying with one hand clutching his heart and the other holding a single white snowdrop.

Arthur Conan Doyle died on July 7th 1930, surrounded by his family. His last words before departing for "the greatest and most glorious adventure of all," were addressed to his wife, when he whispered, "You are wonderful."

Monday, January 09, 2006


A simple four-letter word is one of the most common pieces of advice given to new writers. Read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Read a lot. Pay attention to what works and what doesn't. For tips on being an observant reader, check out this article at Writer's Digest.

The only hard and fast rule for reading is you can't stop doing it. Some writers read only when they're letting a WIP rest. Others read daily and the rest fall somewhere in between. I've set aside one day each week as a reading day. What about you? How often do you read?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Let It Out

You know, those pesky story ideas that have been buzzing around in your head for a while now? The ones that just seem to be there, with no intentions of going anywhere, any time soon?

Yesterday, according to all the flyers that had been stuffed inside my mailbox during the week, it was obviously one of those Saturday-After-Christmas sale days promising the usual myriad of half-off price tags galore. But... my humblest apologies to you, local shopping malls.

Instead, I sat down and finally got a story idea nailed down to the max, and to my further satisfaction, fully first-drafted on paper. Good God, what a purging.

Anyway, it's all looking good thus far, and I'm sure that in the days ahead I'll have more to add to this darkly funny story about two women who are always finding themselves one step away from their creditors, and a half step away from the long arm of the law.

So while it sometimes only takes a few seconds (or two) to really *get going* once you've sat down in front of the computer screen, it's always best just to let those stories out of the back of your mind, allowing them to flow freely.

You'll be surprised at how they manage to transform, once they've been "brought out into the air to breathe."

Saturday, January 07, 2006

First Issue an Overwhelming Success

The editors at The Scruffy Dog Review would like to thank everyone who contributed their work and the readers who have made the debut issue of The Scruffy Dog Review a smashing success.

We couldn't have done it without you!

We are now accepting submissions for our March 2006 issue, featuring an interview with Martha O'Connor, Author of the award winning novel, The Bitch Posse.

All the best for 2006!


Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Virginia Woolf called it “wool-gathering”. I call it “percolation” time (among other things). An entire book was once written on The Art of Doing Nothing.

Of course, as writers, we never “do nothing”. Everything is material, all the time, whether we are consciously aware of it or not.

However, we need times of stillness. And, in the same way writing time will never simply appear but has to be carved out of the cliffs of our lives, quiet time also needs its niche.

Writing is an act that demands both physicality (the act of pen on paper or fingers on keyboard) and mental activity (imagination and cohesive rearrangement of words and images in order to communicate). In order for that to happen, the writer needs plenty of time to simply “be”.

To non-writers, this looks like doing nothing. It looks like staring into space. It looks like day dreaming.

Yet without this time to look inward – uninterrupted, unrushed, and unquarrelled, writers cannot refill the wells from which creativity springs.

The body may be still, the eyes staring at what seems like nothing. But inside, the imagination is busy.

Next time you see a writer in a moment of stillness, respect the stillness. And creep off to find your own moment of stillness.

You’ll be amazed what emerges.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A Writer's Tool Box

The Merriam Webster Dictionary has multiple definitions for the word tool. My favorite is something used in doing a job. At the most basic level, a writer needs words, something to write them with and something to write them on. A napkin and the mini-golf score card pencil serve the same functions as a leather journal and a $100 pen. Many writers today, myself included, prefer to write on the computer. I'd call the computer an optional tool while paper and pencils are required. I haven't asked the rest of the staff here at The Scruffy Dog Review but I'm willing to bet none of us go far without paper and a pen or pencil. I keep index cards and several pens in my purse, a notebook and two pens within reach of the bed, a notebook and pens in the kitchen and I have a clipboard to make outdoor writing easier. I'd look funny carrying a laptop around the grocery store. So far our writer's tool box has paper, pencils or pens, and an optional computer. Other optional but useful items to add include a dictionary, thesaurus, and library card. Writing guides and grammar handbooks make life easier, too so add some of those if you wish. Just a few more things and we'll be finished. You can't touch these things but, if you look, you'll probably find some in every successful writer's tool box. They are self-discipline and determination.

Happy New Year 2006

May it be the very best one yet for all our creative muses, juices, and endeavors.

A happy, healthy, and prosperous writing year to you from all of us.