Independent Writing from an Independent Mind

Open discussion about writing and reading

Tag Archives: Gary Dale Cearley

Why I recently left the Bangkok Writers Guild

It was with great sadness but also a bit of relief that last week I resigned from the Bangkok Writers Guild. I left because the group had recently seemed to have taken a sharp turn from being an opportunity for writers of various backgrounds to meet, socialize and help one another along. To me it seemed to have turned into something else. A writers’ seminar.

It was never my intention for the group to become a “writers’ seminar”, nor was it the intention of any of the other long time members of the group. It was only meant to be a time for writers to meet and share the joys and frustrations of writing as well as to help writers on an informal basis when people needed advice and expertise about getting writing work, editing, publishing, self-publishing, make friends with other writers, etc. I never, ever envisioned that this group would become some kind of workshop, doling out assignments to the members.

I was amazed at how fast this transformation took place. I missed one meeting last October when I was on a business trip to the Middle East and Europe. After I returned I attended the November meeting to see that this format was faît accompli, seemingly being “run” by a new member of the group I’d never even seen before.

 Anyway, I’m not in for it and I never was. If I wanted “assignments” I’d enrol in a course. When I need someone’s editorial advice, as I often do, then I seek it out. I have my own stable of contacts who help me as I help them when they ask.

 Had I known that the group would so quickly have morphed into this shape I would have never taken over the organization of it.

Part of the reason that I am of two minds about leaving the group is because writing is a big part of my life. I am a monthly columnist in a major business magazine. I publish two professional newsletters. Over the past years I have written features for magazines in Europe, Asia and North America. I maintain ten (yes, ten) blogs, both professionally and personally. And I have published two non-fiction books. On top of all of this I travel a substantial amount of time. The very last thing I want or need is for a new comers in the writers’ group to be giving me a reading and critique assignments. The whole point of the group has been missed. And to be quite honest I have too much on my slate to get into any kind of political struggle over the nature of the group. I chose to expend my energy on more positive activities.

My good friend, C.Y. Gopinath, who is an excellent writer, has taken over the helm of the group in the meantime. He volunteered himself right away. To me that is a very good thing because it was Gopi who founded the group in the first place.

It is sad that people would want to turn an opportunity for writers to network into a seminar – whether they want to run it or whether they want to be part of the critiquing. I don’t say this because a seminar is a bad thing. I say it because I recommend that anyone who would like to make such a group into a classroom for getting free critiquing will most likely not go anywhere with the craft anyway. I recommend them to actually start their own seminar or enroll in a school for that. I was involved because I believed that we writers all had something to offer one another and could work on building a support network. I guess with writers it wasn’t meant to be. And I also feel that this is why so many of them, including many of the better writers, remain unread!

In the meantime, I received one very nasty mail from a member who chose to use illogic and foul language because I resigned. The guy is a real winner in life for sure. He would epitomize what we call back home a “nine month abortion”. Over the few years I was involved in the group we had many people come and go. In fact, Gopi himself was originally running the group and resigned. Nobody used foul language or chased up after him. D.F. Thompson was the second person to run the group before I took over and he also resigned. I am sure no one came at him with foul language either. And I have a right to resign if I feel that the group has moved in different directions or if I do not have enough time to carry out my responsibilities. So this complaint will remain to me like water off a duck’s back.

I do have a message for any of the writers who feel like I do concerning the direction of the Bangkok Writers Guild: Any of you who would like to meet socially in the format that I originally proposed let me know. I am still keen for this. But a seminar format with reading assignments? Not interested in the very least.

Being busy can just flat out put a crimp in your writing…

I guess you have noticed but I have been a bit “lazier” in writing recently. Please consider this posting as a sort of place holder blog posting due to the fact that I have been preparing for an upcoming trip. I have been damned busy lately so I haven’t had enough time to keep up with the blogging that I need to.

I will correct this though.

Keep your eye on this blog space because it will be coming around. It isn’t dead. I just have not had much time to breathe, let alone write my blog.

Thanks for your understanding!

Self Publishing a Masterpiece?

Mark Twain self published Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain self published Huckleberry Finn

So you haven’t gotten offered a publishing contract after the umpteenth try.  Maybe you haven’t even been able to score a good literary agent.  All that effort wasted and still you just know that you have something valuable to say.  You know in your heart that the world needs to know you, the world simply must know your work, and now you are nearly convinced that the only way that you can see this getting your masterpiece out is by you self publishing your work.

I got ya…  But you are at a severe disadvantage, you know?

First of all you won’t have the resources of a major publishing house to properly design your book cover and edit your material. You won’t have major distributors out there selling your books in book stores around the globe. You won’t have public relations companies, book marketing firms and ad agencies at your beck and call.  But I didn’t have to tell you that, did I?

So without all of these resources and help from where will this masterpiece spring on to the waiting public? The same places all masterpieces spring from. From your own brilliance and perseverance.

If you are looking for some special key I just want to let you know now that this post is not going to offer you any magic formula.  I want it to be a bit more of a pep talk.  I have been reviewing books for BookPleasures for some time now and have read a good many books by first time authors and otherwise unknown authors.  Personally some of the best books that I have read in the past few years have been self published or authors who have published with small publishing houses for whatever reason. So you can believe me when I tell you that when I have read a good book I do my best to make sure that the world knows this is a good book. That is why I have committed myself to reviewing these books.  I promote the authors in every way that I can.

Ernest Hemingway originally self published under the pen name "Peter Jackson"

Ernest Hemingway originally self published under the pen name "Peter Jackson"

You see 99.9999% of all famous authors, whether fiction or non-fiction started very, very small.  They were unknowns who got their fame through their persistent work. Their bodies of work had meaning and they endured. And nowadays we have advantages that the authors who published before didn’t have.  For instance we more tools and resources at our fingertips than ever before.  These resources allow anyone working alone can promote themselves to a broader audience.   We have social media, videos, websites, blogs.  It isn’t just the press releases, reviews and book signings anymore.  We have much more control over our own destinies than any other time in history.  The fact that you are reading this blog written by me is proof of that.

I am certain that some of the people who I have reviewed already will be discovered by more and more people because they use their creativity to find their audience.   A good example of one I expect to reach this summit is my friend (who I have posted about before) who goes by the nom de plume “Maclean J Storer“.   Word gets out.  In the old days we called this “word of mouth” but nowadays we bottle it and relable it as “viral marketing”.  A great example of the word getting out is that I have a German friend who read Maclean J Storer’s Forward O Peasant and he sent an e-mail to 300 of his friends and family telling them to find this book and read it.   And twice within the past month I have been asked by people where they can buy this same novel.  My friend is gaining a following slowly but surely.   And so will you if your work is good and you stick to it.  Almost every writer who gained a large following started small with immediate friends and family – but success in writing is almost never bagging the big one.  It is more like farming.

Just remember what Vince Lombardi used to say: “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” It is not only true for sport but for everything in life. Write.  Publish.  Then get out there and promote yourself but most of all, stay at it!

Writing the Humorous Novel: Q & A with Maclean J Storer

Warning!: This introduction will sound like I am plugging the next author and his book.  Well, in a way I am.  I believe in singing praises when they are due.  But the real purpose of this interview is to give insight into what is behind writing a good humorous novel.  So let’s get started…

Forward O Peasant by Maclean J Storer

Forward O Peasant by Maclean J Storer

I know of very few people who have completed one work and can be called a master at anything.  J.D. Salinger, possibly?  Nonetheless, Maclean J Storer’s debut Forward O Peasant will definitely be a cult classic and underground favorite for years to come.  The book has been getting great reviews in the expatriate community.  But better than that, Forward O Peasant has been receiving tons of word or mouth notice from expatriates residing in Asia, but especially in Southeast Asia, many of whom have been smuggling the book into Vietnam for friends or buying pirated copies in the backpacker areas of Saigon and Bangkok.  I was one of the first to have read this book (or at least I would like to think so) and have been singing its praises to all who want to listen.  That having been said, I know of one German in Cambodia who e-mailed over three hundred of his acquaintances telling them to get hold of Forward O Peasant and read it cover to cover.  As I have personally known the author since 1994 and since I have also tried my hand at writing humor (though in a much different format) I thought it might be good to ask him about what goes into writing humorous fiction.

And here is our conversation:

Gary Dale Cearley: How do you know when what you have written is funny? Where does the feeling come from?

Maclean J Storer: I always had the feeling that to write something funny, I would have to surprise myself. So when I read back over a scene or a chapter and it appeared as though it had been written by a better writer than me, I felt I had probably got it right. I also make a practice of reading my work out loud to myself, and when you do that, there’s no escaping it when you’ve written something dull.

Gary Dale CearleyWhere does your inspiration for writing in this particular genre come from?

Maclean J Storer: This particular book was based on personal experience. All the actions in the book either happened in real life, almost happened, or I was told that they had happened, or I felt that they should have happened. My task as the author was to try to make the four types of action indistinguishable from one another.

Gary Dale CearleyWho is your favorite humorous writer out there today and why?

Maclean J Storer: I like absurdist humor, and I think most of the best practitioners of that art have pretty much hung up their pens — Alan Coren, David Nobbs, Clive James, and the cartoonists Bill Tidy and Glen Baxter. Garrison Keillor is a special favourite of mine, and a fascination — I’ve never read another humorist who can be so funny yet so gentle.

Gary Dale Cearley: Your first book was loosely based on your experiences in living in Vietnam where you lived for several years and I understand you are working on a sequel. After this sequel do you intend to continue writing humor about Vietnam or will you move on to other worlds?

Maclean J Storer: I think two books about Vietnam will probably be enough. There are so many other targets for satire in the modern age, I think it’s time I turned my attention to the wider world.

Gary Dale CearleyWhat have been your harshest criticisms about the book?

Maclean J Storer: I have been accused of political incorrectness and bias, which I take as compliments for a satirist.

Gary Dale CearleyAnd on the other hand, what has been your most positive feedback?

Maclean J Storer: Many people have said that they found the book extremely funny, which is the main thing, and several others said they found it true to life, to the extent that they knew people who were exactly like the characters I had created.

Gary Dale CearleyFrom publishing Forward O Peasant, which was your first novel, what advice can you give to other first timers out there who are looking publish their own first book, which might be a novel or otherwise?

Maclean J Storer: Make your book the best it can possibly be. And that includes mundane things such as thorough proofreading and editing, which in turn means having a third party look at your work, ideally a professional manuscript assessor. It costs a bit, but at least you will get some honest feedback and advice. When you venture forth into the world of agents and publishers, you should use every trick you know, exploit every personal contact, and twist every arm you can. And keep a handkerchief handy for crying into when things don’t work out, as will frequently happen.

Gary Dale Cearley:  What has writing this book taught you about yourself?

Maclean J Storer: That I can successfully complete a substantial and difficult task no matter how many obstacles my self-doubt puts in my way. As some self-development speaker said, “Feel the fear, and do it anyway.”

How many authors do you know who are characters in another author’s book?

I don’t know how many of you out there have not only written your own books but have been in a book by other authors as well.  Well, I have actually have been in other books by other authors, both fiction and non-fiction.  But in one of the new works that I have been churning away on I relate the humorous story of how an altercation that I had in Vietnam in 1994 turned into a scene in a Chrisopher G. Moore novel, Comfort Zone, which was released in 1995.  This story I am actually incorporating into an autobiographical humorous book.

How do you find yourself in another person’s book?  Actually, I guess simply by knowing the right people (authors) and I guess being in the right place at the right time.  Read between those lines:

Have an interesting story to tell.

I happen to know a few authors and have known them for a while.  This comes from the work that I have done, the travel that I have done, my interests and the places that I have lived.

I don’t know why this would be an aim of anyone in particular unless, of course, you get some kind of ego boost out of it.  I was just thinking about it today due to the fact that when I was writing the story about going with my friend, Stéphane Bulckaen, by cyclo to eat snails (or not to eat snails in my case) then having an altercation with the cyclo drivers.  It just so happened that after this event happened I went into the Q Bar in Saigon where the novelest Christopher G. Moore was having a drink.  Since I had met him before I relayed the story then some few years later a friend who read Moore’s book recognized me and this particular incident in his book.

I was not identified personally anywhere in the book and that is fine with me.  I think it is neat to be recognized in another author’s book by someone living in another country.  Now, let’s see if who can be the next reader to find me in another book!  Maybe you can get on Twitter and let me know!