Many thanks to new subscribers

Written by Brendan O’Meara

Philanderer’s Corner. #madmen

A photo posted by Brendan O’Meara (@brendanomeara) on

I want to thank all the new subscribers who submitted their emails. I hope you choose to stay aboard the bus, but it is your right to unsubscribe if you feel you’re getting no value or entertainment from anything I post.

I am officially out of hardcover copies of Six Weeks in Saratoga. The final two copies went fast. I’ve reached out to you already if you “won” a copy.

Thanks again and stay tuned for what I hope to be weekly releases of the Hashtag #CNF podcast, book reviews, and other links to my work and the work of others I admire.

Keep thriving!

Artist Gary Panter on Drawing…and Writing

Hey folks, I’m giving away signed first editions of Six Weeks in Saratoga. I only have a few left, so if you want one, I need you to sign up for the email list. Then I’ll reach out to you for contact information and how you want the book inscribed.

Written by Brendan O’Meara

I came across a great quote. Actually, the quote came across me. I subscribe to the great Austin Kleon’s weekly newsletter. He shares great stuff he stumbles upon every week. Here’s a quote he found from the artist Gary Panter:

You might want to draw more realistically or in perspective or so it it looks slick—that is possible and there are tricks and procedures for drawing with more realism if you desire it. But drawing very realistically with great finesse can sometimes produce dead uninteresting drawings—relative, that is, to a drawing with heart and charm and effort but no great finesse.

Many writers are technically sound, but their writing is flat. Their grammar and vocabulary are nice, but there’s no energy behind their words. They’re not having fun. They’re trying to show you how sharp their sentence structure is.

Only writers will care about this. Even then, not many will give a damn. 

For me, I want to see that the writer is having fun writing a book or essay (Within reason. There is a matter of tone. You don’t want to be seen as having fun when profiling a murdered man or woman).

The problem, sometimes called the MFA Voice, comes from a writer full of skill, but lacking soul and energy.

My suggestion? Just turn it loose. Go waaaaaaay to one side. Overcompensate. Be so uncomfortably something else. Then, when the pendulum swings back, you may find a voice.

 

Want a Free Book Signed by Me? Written by Me?

Written by Brendan O’Meara

Sooooo, as you can you see from the picture above, my cool, little book Six Weeks in Saratoga is prominently displayed at my favorite bookstore (Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs).

I’ve got 11 books just sitting in a box downstairs and I want to them to land in the hands of someone willing to read them. Here’s my plan: I’m going to GIVE THEM AWAY FOR FREE*!

Say what!?

All you have to do is sign up for my email posse (over there in the right margin). Whenever I write a blog post, you get a notification every Tuesday (just once a week). If I write none, you get no email. If I write ten posts, you get one email with the links to all the posts. It’s less intrusive that way.

Here’s what you do:

1. Enter your email and sign up for the newsletter

2. Wait for me to email you (It will be from brendan@brendanomeara.com)

3. I will ask you how you want your book inscribed and ask for your mailing address

4. I will ship your book to you media rate (Hey, you’re getting a hardcover book for free, don’t complain about shipping!) along with a snappy bookmark

5. Here’s the one little catch, if you can call it a catch: All I ask is that you review the book (honestly) on Amazon or Goodreads or both (use the same review for both).

That’s it. It’s a free, hardcover, personalized book. Let’s be friends!

*Limit one per email

Got something to say? Email me at brendan@brendanomeara.com.

What the NFL Draft Can Teach Writers

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Written by Brendan O’Meara

 

The rejection feeling.
The rejection feeling.

Yes, the NFL Draft, the annual meat market where football coaches and general managers look to project a human being’s value, has come and gone. The lessons of the Draft are so valuable to the writer. Take Geno Smith.

Smith was the quarterback for the West Virginia Mountaineers. He was projected to be a slam-dunk first-round pick. But his name was never called. He dropped and dropped. At last he went early in the second round. At least he wasn’t Tom Brady who didn’t get drafted until the sixth round as the 199th overall selection.

Think about that for a moment. Tom Brady, Super Bowl hero, super model marrying, Ugg-endorsing playboy was deemed the 199th best player in the 2000 draft. In writing terms, he was rejected 198 times. He then saw owner Bob Kraft and told him he was the best decision he ever made.

As the rejections mount for your book, or your essay, or your love life, just think every no is one step closer to a yes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve let the ‘no’ devalue my worth. One ‘no’ ended my baseball career. I can’t begin to tell you how many rejections I’ve received for the three books I’ve written. My first, unpublished, has probably 20 rejections. My second book, Six Weeks in Saratoga, was rejected 15 times or so, and The Last Championship is, let’s say, getting up there, a career-high even.

One agent went so far as to bash the writing. Let’s excerpt that for comedic effect:

Thank you for the chance to read your proposal for The Last Championship: A Memoir of My Father and Baseball, and please accept my apologies for the time it has taken me to get back to you. The father-son relationship at the heart of this story is appealing, but, ultimately, I didn’t find the characters or the scenes as engaging as I’d hoped. Without the necessary enthusiasm for the writing, I’m just not confident that I’d be able to sell the book effectively. I’m sorry that this wasn’t a match, but I’m grateful to you for the opportunity to consider your work and wish you luck in finding representation.

Trust me, I was licking my wounds after this one. I came close to hitting the EJECT button on the cockpit of my career using a promising love of donuts as my parachute. Usually agents don’t go so far as to say they don’t like your writing. I appreciate the time he took to write this and to address that it was a total bomb.

What did Tom Brady do when 198 players went before him? He out-worked everyone, took advantage of Drew Bledsoe getting injured, and took his team on a 13-year run the NFL has never seen.

The diamonds are the ones who slip through the cracks. Your job, my job, is to make all those people who said no wish they hadn’t.

That then begs the questions: When might it be time to give up/retire? But that’s for another blog post altogether.

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Good times for readers and writers

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Put up your ducks, I mean dukes.
Put up your ducks, I mean dukes.

Written by Brendan O’Meara

I’m not prone to fun. I don’t like crowds. I have broad shoulders so I tend to bump into people. I’m not very social. I like to watch movies on my somewhat undersized TV and read books. My wife doesn’t like me^1^. If there’s wet blankets, I’m like the smallpox-infected blankets Jeffery Amherst gave to Native Americans.

But I have fun when I listen to Book Fight: Tough Love for Literature. It’s a podcast for writer’s, though serious readers would dig it too. It’s a podcast about books, but a podcast recorded as if it were cool to talk about books at your favorite bar. It’s profane^2^, curmudgeonly, and just good company.

Tom McCallister, co-host of Book Fight and author of Bury Me in My Jersey: A Memoir of My Father, Football, and Philly, is a friend of sorts, though we’ve never met. 51flccWHfVL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_We “met” through email when I gave his memoir a 2-star review on Goodreads. He wrote to me about it and I gave him my reasons. He does a great thing in his memoir that has to be applauded: he writes an unflattering picture of himself, which is a lesson unto itself in memoir. I gave it 2 stars because I wanted more of his father in the story and I don’t like footnotes^3^. He’s a great writer, an unpretentious product of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, which says something in and of itself. All in all, if you’re writing memoir, you should read his. His book has 45 ratings on Goodreads, which is a ton (I have 12) and most are 5 stars. Overall it’s a 3.84 stars out of 45 reviews. That gives you an idea that it’s a great book.

Since that first email a few years ago, we’ve kept in touch about sports and writing. Then he started the Book Fight podcast with Mike Ingram, fiction editor at Barrelhouse. It’s a fun listen. I’m listening right now.  Naturally, if you’re a geek for the mechanics of prose, subscribe to it on iTunes.

Footnotes

1. Not entirely true. She likes the occasional social interaction where I’d rather stay home and read.
2. Not overly so, tastefully profane, like talking sports at a bar. But not a Philly, New York, or Boston bar. Maybe like a Seattle bar, or an Asheville, NC bar.
3. I have since come around to footnotes. I found them so disruptive to the narrative that I usually can’t continue reading. It’s like reading with the TV on or something. They make for funny tributaries that don’t belong in the main river.

The offer still stands, for a time, that should you subscribe to this website, I’ll send you a personalized copy of Six Weeks in Saratoga. Subscribe, I’ll reach out to you. My thanks to you. If you factor in shipping, that’s a $30-value, if you’re into value plays.

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The Best Book on Writing You’ve Never Read

images-1Written by Brendan O’Meara
Word Count: 518

I’ve tried to build a following by writing infrequently, say once a week. Hasn’t worked too well. Now, I’m going to try and write several times a week and see if the spaghetti sticks. Maybe a little bit of blogging will help warm me up before hit the “real” writing. Who knows? I stress about platform building way too much. Or do I ???

What is this book I’m referring to, the best book on writing you’ve never read? It’s The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics. Yep, a book on how to write comic books. It’s 122 pages of wonderful tips. My great mentor Thomas French, author of Zoo Story among others, assigned this to us and it was one of those against-the-grain teaching tools that makes him so brilliant.

Part one of the book is the most valuable as it pertains to the basic fundamentals.

Story Structure
Creating Drama
Subplots
Characterization

One pointer author Dennis O’Neil touches upon early is this

Telling you story as clearly as possible

How easy and how difficult is that? You have all these flourishes of language, maybe even a couple of wonderful sentences, but are they driving the story forward? Respect the reader’s time might be another way of saying what O’Neil said.

Here are some other things I highlighted:

Know the end of the story before you write the beginning (I call this the Lighthouse Effect. You’re stranded out at sea. You don’t know where to go. But what’s that? A light! You start swimming toward it. This way you know that all your words are in service of that ending. You can’t do this all the time, but I feel you should be thinking of an ending before you reach the end. It might come to you 500 words into your story or 5,000 or 50,000. But once you figure it out you’re writing downhill, baby.)

People are interested in people, not things (the exception is the Ring of Power and maybe the Elder Wand. This is especially important if you’re dealing in story where not a whole lot happens, those narratives of revelation. If readers love the characters enough, they’ll go along for about any ride.)

Put your hero out on the end of a limb and start sawing.

Show only what’s important. So start the scene as late as possible and once the dramatic point is made, end it.

Heroic failure is the stuff of great drama.

Never write a scene, or a single panel, that does not contribute directly to your plot. … that every word should contribute to the emotion you’re trying to engender in the reader.

Tell you what. I’m going to stop there. I think there’s enough nuggets there to either talk about or think about. If nothing else, writers across all genres need to find inspiration and tips from other creative media. That’s why DVD commentary is so valuable, especially, when available, DVD commentary on deleted scenes (If you own Ratatouille, listen to director Brad Bird talk about why he deleted scenes).

Bonus question: Who’s the best orphan? Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker, or Harry Potter?

I’m still doing this pretty slick giveaway. If you subscribe to my website, I’ll send you a personalized copy of Six Weeks in Saratoga.

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Breaking from Research

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Written by Brendan O’Meara
Word Count: 347

Read Time: 2 minutes

I need to step away for a moment. Going from one form of writing to another, but eff it, I’m doing it. This is my life and who asked you anyway? I kid, I kid.

Well, what’s new? What can I share? What will make this post of any value to YOU. It is Valentine’s Day, so I could wish you a happy Valentine’s Day. So … Happy Valentine’s Day. Here’s a poem inside the wrapper of some pretty kick ass chocolate the wife gave me today:

Awww. We must be in love, or something.
Awww. We must be in love, or something.

Ever feel like you’re being watched?

Quoth the Raven???
Quoth the Raven???

Naturally, being totally skeeved out by my smallest dog, I went out for a few minutes to get a cup of coffee.

Grande Pike, splash of Half and Half, tablespoon of brown sugar, you nosy reader.
Grande Pike, splash of Half and Half, tablespoon of brown sugar, you nosy reader.

When I came back, I set up my camera rig. Yeah, it’s down and dirty, how I like it. Gonna start doing some cool video marketing that I hope to parlay into other ventures for authors.

Jealous? Little bit ...
Jealous? Little bit …

Oh, and this arrived today, which is always one of the high lights of my quarter.

IMG_1238
These hips don’t lie.

So I’ve been averaging three pages a day as I look to finish my baseball memoir. Been reading Danielle Trussoni’s Falling Through the Earth. The structure is similar to mine. A live thread and a discovery thread. Good stuff. Hers. Not mine. Maybe mine. Too early to tell.

I guess I have to get back to work here. Oh, one more thing. I’ll leave you with one of those annoyingly cute dog pictures.

Jack loves to be under covers and by a space heater. Don't feed him after midnight or get him wet. He turns into a gremlin.
Jack loves to be under covers and by a space heater. Don’t feed him after midnight or get him wet. He turns into a gremlin.

Why don’t you subscribe to my blog/website/future email newsletter? I want to fully nauseate you on as many platforms as possible.

And if you subscribe, I’ll include a free signed copy of Six Weeks in Saratoga—a $30 value after shipping—for you, oh loyal follower.

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Tag Lines: How Netflix can improve yours

Written by Brendan O’Meara

Yes, tag lines. What are they and why are they important? First, it’s a one-sentence summary of your book. In about 30 words, can you successfully and succinctly sum up what your story is about? Second, in your marketing questionnaire, you’ll need to build one so it will fit nicely in a catalog. Or, if you’re lucky enough to be in the presence of an inquiring agent or publisher, you need to pop this sentence off and hook them in the ten seconds it takes you to recite it.

Now that I’ve defined it, how can Netflix help you out?

On the live stream, every show has a tag line below it. Here’s the one for my favorite show, Lost:

After their plane crashes on a deserted island, a diverse group of people must adapt to their new home and contend with the island’s enigmatic forces.

26 words. Quick and easy. It doesn’t mention the greater game at play between Jacob and the Man in Black. It doesn’t mention the Dharma Initiative or time travel. You know a plane crashes on a mysterious island. I’m hooked.

Another one of my favorite shows is Breaking Bad. Here’s the Netflix tag line:

A high school chemistry teacher dying of cancer teams up with a former student to manufacture and sell crystal meth to secure his family’s future.

No mention of escalating drug wars and gruesome grips for power. Perfect.

How about something a little lighter, say, from the movie Thor:

Powerful thunder god Thor is stripped of his power and banished by his father Odin, forced to live among humans on Earth to learn humility.

Here’s Walking Dead:

In the wake of a zombie apocalypse, survivors hold on to the hope of humanity by banding together to wage a fight for their own survival.

Bottom line we see what the stakes are and why we should be interested. You must be able to do this. It’s a good exercise in brevity, getting to the point, and using word economy to sell your work.

And another important matter, if you can’t sum it up in a tag line, you don’t know the what you’re book is about. If you don’t know what your book is about, you can’t distill its essence to a greater public. You won’t even reach that far. It won’t get to the public until you can reduce your 100,000-word tome to 25 words. It ain’t easy. So let’s play.

What’s your tag line for you project? Let’s workshop them in the comments. I’ll start with two of mine.

For Six Weeks in Saratoga:

Filly Rachel Alexandra caps off an undefeated season by beating the boys for a third time en route to being named Horse of the Year.

For The Last Championship:

A son watches his father play senior softball and learns to reconcile to the bitter end to his own baseball career by playing again.

Now it’s your turn!

The Purple Cow: On Being Remarkable in an Unremarkable Market

Written by Brendan O’Meara

As many of you know I’m big into marketing for writers. Authors need to be savvy at creating buzz around their work. Nobody else will.

Author Seth Godin is a marketing guru, and in the canon of his books, I’ve read “The Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable.” [Also reading “Meatball Sundae”, and I’ll have insights from that book as well.]

You’re driving down a nice country road in south Jersey and you look at all the pretty cows. Soon those pretty cows look homogenous, boring. Then you see a purple cow. Holy sh*T! Did you see that purple cow!? It stands out. It’s remarkable.

Sure, much of it revolves around businesses that provide a particular service or product, but many of the principles apply to writers. What’s key is NOT appealing to the masses. There is so much static and distraction: Internet, TV, iPad, iPhone, movies, kids, dogs, elections, the Tunguska Event. You name it. You need to get nichey with it.

Wait for it: here’s the question writers love to hear … Who’s your audience? Who’s going to buy your book? And once you figure that out, how will you stand out? How will you be remarkable?

There are four groups of people Godin describes and they fall into the typical bell-shaped curve. On the far left are the Innovators and Early Adopters (leaders looking to get a jump). The belly of the curve is the Early and Late Majority (followers). Laggards fill out the far right (slackers, people buying their first digital camera today.).

The key is to appeal to the far left: the innovators and early adopters. They are passionate consumers looking for the “in” thing. They like to be ahead of the masses so they can recommend cool products to their friends. These people somehow have the iPhone7, the one with the inter-planetary time warp. Essentially, these people are bloggers eager to review and share their insights. As writers in a tenuous publishing climate, we need to seek out these people. They will review your work and talk about it to their 500, 1,000, 2,000, 10,000 followers.

If you can reach several dozen bloggers and their collective readership is 100,000 people and 10% of those people buy your book, that’s 10,000 books. Not New York Times Best Seller stuff, but that’s a lot of books from a modest reach. What if you reached 1,000,000 people from 100 bloggers?

Of course you still need to write a great book. But let’s assume you already knew that. All of this is moot if your book isn’t fit to line bird cages.

What do a lot of [wannabe] writers do? Trust me, I’ve spoken to a lot. Many love this idea of holing up in a cabin and being the solitary writer. Steaming coffee. A fire. Snow in the mountains. This is unremarkable in terms of building a brand. Stephen King can do this. Suzanne Collins can do this. You can’t.

Sorry.

Things I do?

No. 1, and this might seem stupid, but I feel it’s gotten me this far, however far that is. I suit up. I always wear a suit when reporting and when I appear in public. I feel it’s how I got the access I got to the executive characters in Six Weeks. Especially as a sports writer, dressing nicely makes you remarkable, you stand out from the sheep. Plus it makes me feel good. First impressions, when you see a guy in a nicely tailored suit standing next to a guy in tattered khaki shorts, flip-flops, and a ball cap, who will garner a better first impression? Exactly.

No. 2 What I’m working on are videos and book trailers. Goofy mini-movies that sometimes touch upon writing and books. Sometimes they might just be a funny skit. What’s the point? Well, I don’t want to be “spammy” for one, but I also just want to entertain in a different form. If people are drawn to those videos, they’ll be more likely to sample my work. To quote Godin, “Don’t Be Boring,” and “Safe is Risky.”

Another idea that I’m going to employ? Giveaways. This isn’t completely novel, but I have a theory if you give away something, it will snowball into better publicity if the people signing up for the giveaway 1.) Like it. And 2.) Review it on Amazon and Goodreads and spread the news.

Again, Innovators and Early Adapters.

Which is why, if you’ve made it this far in this post, I will give away—for free!—a personalized copy of my book “Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Filly Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year.” All you have to do is subscribe to my blog using the email form at the end of this post. Or you can click on that “Follow” tab in the lower right-hand corner. Once you’re confirmed, I’ll contact you for your address and see how you want your book signed and I’ll mail it away Media Rate (7-10 days delivery time).

Books go to the first 30 subscribers, so I’d love to hear from you in the comments and I’d love for you to subscribe.

Go! Be Remarkable!

iQuery: The Query Letter, the writer’s fast ball

Written by Brendan O’Meara

Today’s post deals with the ever-important query letter. It is the fundamental document of any freelance writer looking to make a living. It irons out what your pitch is about and who you are and why editors/agents should take a chance on YOU.

Here’s what got me into Vegetarian Times’s Vegging Out blog:

I opt for very quick and easy to read letters. One, editors are short on time. Two, they’re reading on a computer screen and most people want to read short pieces on a screen.

First, I called Vegetarian Times and asked for the name of the editor I should pitch to. Next, my opening paragraph is the hook and why the story will be interesting to Vegetarian Times readers (important, not what’s important to ME, but what’s important to THEM. Sometimes you have to alter—as in cater—your voice. Nothing wrong with this.)

Then I jump into my credentials so the editor doesn’t think I’m some yahoo (which will be totally discredited when they see I wrote a book on horse racing, but that’s neither here nor there). I also tag a page on my website where the editor can click and find clips of my work. If they want hard copies, I’ll send them, but in two clicks, the editor will have a broad sample of my writing capability.

Ultimately, my approach comes down to two things:

1. Get in, get out
2. Take Your Time with the Query (this applies more to book queries)

The letter needs to be read quickly and have some semblance of voice and a tightness of language that will be indicative of a longer piece of work.

With the second point, it’s important not to rush when querying an agent or a publishing house because it’s a painfully long process and sitting on your query for an extra day or week won’t kill it. Rushing will make it sound rushed. Treat it like a piece of art. It needs time. The publishing process is long. I’m as guilty as an when it comes to a trigger finger when sending a query or email. But let the query breathe. Your book won’t be published for at least two years. Hanging out for a few more days will help, not hurt it. Here’s my query for Six Weeks in Saratoga that had a few agents biting and sold SUNY Press.

This is a tad long, but it grabbed the attention of enough people to be moderately effective.

Undoubtedly my queries will get better as I learn more about them. As I learn more and experiment with what works and what doesn’t, I’ll be sure to share that information and samples. I may even try to get a friend or two to write a guest post about the subject.

(This is a great query blog post by the ever-valuable Nathan Bransford. RSS his blog. Just do it.)

How have your query letters been received? Where do you need to improve?