Professor and Indie Author, Gary McLouth talks about becoming a writer

Author Pics Gary Mc Louth

Welcome Gary.  When did you know you were a writer, and how did you develop your writing?

Tricky question, Joanne. From early childhood, I was drawn to stories told by my grandmother. She told stories about her youth, her music, her jobs, her family, her travels and her travails. She had a way of making drama out of the mundane. Her voice lilted in tones of suspension.  As I got older, my interest is listening grew into an interest in telling. Since the heavy-duty emphasis from my parents leaned on truth and honesty at all costs, I was forced to learn the ways of performance, projection, nuance.

I love to talk, and to entertain. Writing, however, is something else, and I’ve been challenged by it most of my life. How to tell a story on a page, when you, imagine the audience, hear the voice(s) fighting for a say, sit alone in a room and drum your fingers on the keyboard. It helps to take classes, attend workshops and conferences, read aloud to peers and read everything: newspapers, magazines, short story collections, novels, how-to manuals, bumper stickers and warning labels on prescription drug bottles. I appreciate the courses and workshops I’ve participated in, because they’ve provided what I need most. Focus and Deadlines.

Do you always write in the same genre?

I consider writing to be writing, so I write, and have written, in many genres. I guess poetry is my basic connection between my experience and imagination, and my writing. I don’t tend to think in sentences. Images, phrases, voices. I write a lot without the self-proclamation of “I’m writing.” Notes on student papers, poems, short stories, agendas for meetings, speeches for others as well as myself, and so on. But, yes, I have aspirations to write good literary fiction, and I do work that on paper and in my head. It’s ongoing.

Do you have a special time or place you like to write?

Now, that could lead to some pretty good story-telling! My favorite place to write: Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. My special time to write: Night Time.

Okay, the trouble with those conditions is time and place, and reality. I love being in the mountains, and I love staying up late. I have written a lot in those venues. The only problem is that the Adirondacks are a long way from wherever I might be, and late nights may stoke my memories but not much else. The solution, if that’s what takes, is adaptability and versatility. I practice writing any place, any time. I’ve trained myself to write scripts in my head as I walk. I remind myself that all time is usable, if I think it is.

I try to carry a few tools for writing at all times. You’d be surprised how many pieces of this and that swirl around us. Recycle litter into copy.

Why did you decide to become an Indie publisher, and would you recommend going the Indie route to other writers?

Hmm. Why, indeed. The traditional submission route worked for me when I had a full-time job that allowed me to hire a submission agency. The agency performed the market research and details of the copying, letter writing, mailing and archiving. All I had to do was supply the poems and stories. I started years ago, sending out poems and stories to magazines and journals that I wanted to appear in, and without any additional criteria, that made each submission a long shot. Now, I have no submission agent. I still have lots of manuscript copy lying around, and I feel even less desire to query editors and lick stamps than ever before. Get the drift here?

I studied/researched the self-publishing business for a long time before deciding to get involved. Founding West Main Productions, LLC, made me an official publisher, and I produced two collections of stories: Natural Causes (2008), and Do No Harm (2011). Working with The Troy Bookmakers of Troy, NY, I was able to make all production and marketing decisions for each book. The stories for the first book have been previously published in juried publications, as has one story in the second book. That assuages the “is this really acceptable work in the eyes of the gate keepers” worry.

Did I see that life was getting shorter, my publication time longer, and my dreams of literary stardom dimmer? Technology and confidence will lead you to Indie publishing.  Traditional publishing isn’t going away, but the Indie option is respected, and it’s really about the same thing as the traditional route: finding an audience for your work. Both avenues lead to the same place, and only a few of us pull up in front of the Pulitzer Prize stage, regardless of the route.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

A favorite author turns out to be one I trust to take me in and teach me, entertain me, show me light, swat me upside the head, nauseate me, love and respect me. A few favorites: William Kennedy, John Gardner, Denis Johnson, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich, Cormac McCarthy, Richard Ford, Ray Carver, Sue Miller, Philip Roth. Many poets—James Wright, Tony Hoagland, Anne Sexton, William Carlos Williams, Walt Whitman, June Jordan, Jim Gustafson, et al.

Why do you write?

A much tougher question than it first appears to be. It’s like ‘fooling around and falling in love’. The more I do, the more I do. As I’ve grown older, I’ve lost people, places, jobs, sports and things, but reading and writing, not. Instead of limiting my idea of myself as a writer by genre, I’ve continued an early tendency to try new writing challenges while maintaining solid connections with my secret sharer, my conscience. Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes help me stay the course. I need the help. Thank you, Joanne, for this opportunity to think about these things.

Thanks so much Gary.  Here is a little about his life as an author.

Gary McLouth has published short stories in The Red Rock Review, The Cimarron Review, ELM, Studio One, Limestone, Minnetonka Review, The Baltimore Review and others. Poetry has appeared in Adirondack Life, Blueline, Emerson of Harvard, The International Poetry Review, Buckle &, and others.

http://www.amazon.com/Gary-McLouth/e/B00JGC7AII/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3?qid=1427644836&sr=1-3

Do No Harm book cover  Natural Causes

Natural Causes and other stories published by West Main Productions, and Gary’s second collection of short fiction, Do No Harm are available on Amazon.com in standard print or eBook format. Gary has co-authored Men and Abortion with Arthur B. Shostak, edited A Man Named Nebraska, Guilty Without Trial, and a number of other book-length manuscripts. TV scripts supporting shows on Culture TV, “Media Matters” on the Ion TV network. Gary co-founded Todays Authors, a studio talk show recorded for broadcast on its own You Tube channel as well as TV aired as a public affairs offering in Albany, Syracuse and Buffalo, NY.

Gary is the President of the Gulf Coast Writers Association, a member of the Sanibel Writers Group #3, a participant in the Poetry Alliance, a featured poet in the Art Poems Project and a reader in programs sponsored by Big Arts on Sanibel Island. Other associations have included: The New York State Writers Institute; The Foundation for Mental Health; Poets & Writers; the Association of (college) Writing Programs.

Gary earned a Doctor of Arts in English at SUNY Albany where he won the President’s Distinguished Dissertation Award for Death and Other Frustrations. A Professor Emeritus at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. He has been an adjunct English professor at Florida Southwestern State College (formerly Edison State College) in Fort Myers since January, 2011.

Professional experience as an arts administrator, college administrator, speech writer, MC for non-profits, writing consultant and independent video producer contribute to Gary’s ability to serve the various needs of potential clients.

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Micki Suzanne talks about writing and selling vintage jewelry

Micki Suzanne

Please help me welcome Micki Suzanne to Writing Under Fire’s Author Interview Friday.   Micki, was there a particular inspiration to start writing?

As a kid I was obligated to write for church and school assignments. I didn’t enjoy the topics, but I’ve always loved wordplay.

In the sixties my high school English teacher told my mother I had talent and urged her to send me to college; she just didn’t have the money.

In the 80s I worked my way up from secretary to event planner for a Detroit-area marketing company. The guys in the creative department enjoyed passing informal essay contests around via email. Themes ranged from “what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done on a date” to “what’s the most humiliating thing you’ve ever done for money.” My contributions garnered guffaws, so they decided I should be hired in as a writer.

The creative director – an f-bombing bear of a man – took me under his wing and taught me the ways. That generous act changed my life. I’ve been writing professionally ever since.

Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

In the 90s I studied non-fiction with William X. Kienzle (author of The Rosary Murders and other best-sellers). His wife Javan was his editor, and they taught as a team. We became friends, met for lunch and discussed possible scenarios for his latest book “Til Death.” It came out in 2000; he passed the following year.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_X._Kienzle

 What brought you from Michigan to Fort Myers?

A deer tick. In 2002 I had a writing career that paid so well I was able to open an antique shop on the side; then I got sick, lived with undiagnosed Lyme disease for two years and never fully recovered. I lost my job and my health, but I still had the antique shop. I was known for my estate jewelry, which I bought and sold online.

In 2006 eBay invited me out to join their Voices of the Community group. I returned inspired to write my first book, “Sick Mick’s Guide to Selling Antiques & Collectibles.” It was for people (like me) who were dealing with chronic illness.

When my boyfriend started wintering in Cape Coral, I closed my shop for the season and brought my estate jewelry down to sell online. I noticed I felt much better here!

When the relationship ended, I stayed and – to my surprise – managed to make it as a freelance marketing writer. That’s not easy at my age in a tourism-based economy.

This is my personal website/online portfolio: www.mickisuzanne.com

Are you a pantser or a planner?

Neither; I need to be inspired.
What inspired your new book?

When my freelance writing business slumped in 2012, I panicked and took two bags of my best jewelry to the gold buyers. I knew better, but I was teetering on the brink of financial disaster. Fortunately, I didn’t give them all of my gold. I walked away with some cash and the best of my stuff; which I promptly sold on eBay for substantial profit.
Once I calmed down, I was ENRAGED by the prices the gold buyers deemed “generous.” People needed to know how to sell their own jewelry online!  I thought I could just revise my previous book, but it was terribly out of date. I needed to write a whole new book – it is:

“How to Sell Vintage & Gold Jewelry Online”
http://www.amazon.com/Sell-Vintage-Gold-Jewelry-Online/dp/0978739329/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389483848&sr=8-1&keywords=how+to+sell+vintage+%26+gold+jewelry+online

It’s available on Kindle (or PC) for $4.99 and as paperback for $9.99

Vintage Jewelry

Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indie publisher to a colleague?

I published my first book through a respected self-publishing company; I was lucky if I received pennies on the dollar. In their hands, my first book is – and has always been – out of my control. I will be shutting it/them down this year.

If you have the smarts to write a book, you have the skills to manage the publishing process. I’m extremely happy with my results through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space; most important, I own and control my work!

Authors and publishers are always talking about finding your “Voice”. Exactly what does that mean to you and how did you find yours?

 My voice is my tone. We have a different tone with certain types of friends. I choose who I will write to. I see their faces and know their reactions.

Challenge brings sadness, so I attempt to soften hard truth with wry humor. This sample briefly explains how I acquired Lyme and what it felt like to part with my first heirloom.

“Weekends with Randy were my salvation. He had a hot tub, swimming pool and five acres of woods. One Sunday I should have been poolside catching late day rays, but no – I was cranked back in his bony blue La-Z-Boy watching Sex and the City.

Sassy ambled over, circled three times and curled up at my feet. She had been out back chasing deer. Her soft wavy fur carried the parasitic freeloader that would steal my health, my wealth and my man.

‘The thing’ I clawed from my thigh that day was a deer tick; but I didn’t know that. I wouldn’t know for a long time. It was round and hard as a bullet with my blood.

Years of crushing illness and brain fog passed without income or diagnosis. I literally kissed my house good-bye, ran a red light and cried all the way back to Randy’s.

It was time to rethink the spoils of failed relationships; the skating rink [3 carat diamond] was the first to go. I was freaked about putting something so valuable on eBay.

The day it sold, Emma was checking the pool filters for trapped frogs.

I vaguely remember putting the big pear cut diamond in her sticky little palm and apologizing that it should have been hers one day.

Then I cleaned it, insured it and shipped it to Texas. The new owner was ecstatic.

I was encouraged; I could do this.

So can you.”

What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?

Editing is the hardest part. I’ve gone in to tweak a sentence and wound up restructuring one chapter that affects five more.

It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?

As a marketing person, I know the importance of establishing online relationships. My favorite method is sharing my estate jewelry buying and selling experiences on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MickiSuzanneAuthor

 What advice would you give to new non-fiction writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Find a need and fill it.

Thank you Micki for being part of my blog today. Okay guys and girls, let’s run out and sell our vintage jewelry.   Joanne 

Real estate blog moved

Hello readers.

I know I said I was going to try to combine my writer/author blog with my real estate blog. Well, live and learn. It did not work very well. Therefore, for those of you that want my real estate tips and market updates, you will need to go to my new blog http://marcorealtor.wordpress.com.House For Sale Sign.  I will keep you up to date on mortgage information, trends in the market, local and national news.  Hope to see you there.

U.S. consumer confidence hits five-year high

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NEW YORK – May 28, 2013 – The Consumer Confidence Index is arguably the most important economic statistic released each month that most people ignore.

A positive index number means Americans are feeling secure in the economy and their ability to spend – and their spending feeds an increased rebound as they buy homes, furniture, cars and more. Upbeat attitudes are a precursor to other positive indicators, such as a rising home demand and selling prices.

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had improved in April, increased again in May. The Index now stands at 76.2 (1985=100), up from 69.0 in April. The Present Situation Index increased to 66.7 from 61.0. The Expectations Index, which gauges attitudes about the future six months from now, improved to 82.4 from 74.3.

“Consumer confidence posted another gain this month and is now at a five-year high,” says Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions was more positive, and they were considerably more upbeat about future economic and job prospects. Back-to-back monthly gains suggest that consumer confidence is on the mend and may be regaining the traction it lost due to the fiscal cliff, payroll-tax hike and sequester.”

May’s present-day conditions

Consumers saying business conditions are “good” increased to 18.8 percent from 17.5 percent, while those stating business conditions are “bad” decreased to 26.0 percent from 27.6 percent.

Consumers’ assessment of the labor market was also more positive. Those claiming jobs are “plentiful” increased to 10.8 percent from 9.7 percent, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” edged down to 36.1 percent from 36.9 percent.

Future expectations

Consumers were considerably more optimistic about the short-term outlook. Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 19.2 percent from 17.2 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen decreased to 12.1 percent from 14.8 percent.

Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was also more upbeat. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead improved to 16.8 percent from 14.3 percent, while those expecting fewer jobs decreased to 19.7 percent from 21.8 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting their incomes to increase dipped slightly to 16.6 percent from 16.8 percent, while those expecting a decrease edged down to 15.3 percent from 15.9 percent.

Nielsen, a global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch, conducts the monthly Consumer Confidence Survey based on a probability-design random sample. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was May 15.

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