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Welcome to the blog and site of Iowa Author Buzz Malone. I always enjoy hearing from readers. Please leave comments and send me emails to let me know what you think. Your opinions matter more than you might think. Your words inspire me more than you could ever know. To find out more about my writing and books, please click above on the book titles or email me at buzzdmalone@gmail.com

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Monday, April 29, 2013

My Editing Diary: An Author's Journey

June 16, 2011
Dear Diary,
Today I finished the first draft of my novel. I wasn't sure if I'd ever finish it, but I finally did it! I am so elated. This is a great work and I can imagine it being read in high school and college literature classes one day. What an accomplishment. I could die tomorrow knowing that I would live on somehow, through my words. I'm on top of the world and I can't wait to see it in print. This is going to be a classic. It only took me a few months to write it. At this pace I could write three or four books every year!

June 19, 2011
Dear Diary,
I know I should give it more time, but I couldn't wait to get started editing my manuscript. I started proof reading it today and it's even better than I remembered it! I'm so excited. People are going to love this book. My proof read made it through two chapters today (that's 8% of the entire book!!). If I can keep this pace up, it will be ready to go to print in two weeks. I've only found a couple of typos! God, I'm good.

June 21, 2011
Dear Diary,
Editing is going well. I have a long way to go, but I feel like I'm really going to get through this. It's not as hard as I've heard people say it is. I'm even finding some quirky uses of the English language in my style. There are a lot of linking words in my sentences like "although" and "finally" and "just then" that seem to give the overall work a warm, classic feeling. I'm discovering that I write just like I talk and I think people are really going to respond to that. The book is over 25% edited today!

June 24, 2011
Dear Diary,
Just for fun, I used my word search feature to see how many times I used the word "although" in the manuscript. It popped up 287 times. That seemed a little bit excessive, but there are a lot of words in a manuscript so it might not be so bad. Spent the day clicking down the list of them and reading the sentences they're in. I made it about 1/3 of the way through the list.

August 18, 2011
Dear Diary,
I've spent the last two months performing word searches and then editing my overused terms. Here is a list I discovered from the first draft and how many times they appeared:
Although   287 times
Because   884 times
And Then   917 times
Finally   471 times
It Seemed   558 times
Still   1,176 times
Who uses "it seemed" 558 times in their entire life, let alone within the confines of a single 75,000 word document? That's just crazy. Each time I performed a new search on a word, my heart sank and my stomach turned. It turns out my "style" isn't quirky at all. It was just bad grammar. At least now I can finally get back to editing. Shit. I just used the word "finally" again.

November 21, 2011
Dear Diary,
I made it half way through a chapter when I noticed that for some reason I had an entire paragraph with everything using apostrophes that looked like this:
     "He'd found that he couldn't live without her, but she'd never know it."
While the next paragraph wouldn't have any:
     "He had found that he could not live without her, but she would never know it."

Spent the last three months performing searches of variations of words and adding apostrophes. My list of possible searches has grown to over 100 variations. Did not, will not, would not, they are, we are, you are, we had, might have, and the list goes on and on and on. Who would've ever imagined that I'd need to add 2,857 apostrophes? I feel like such an idiot. Thought about throwing my laptop off the roof today. Good thing I don't live in the city where there are tall buildings.

December 15, 2011
Dear Diary,
I took some time off of editing to reflect upon commas today. They've ceased to make any sense to me at all. I spent a week rereading all of their rules of usage, but each new sentence I read becomes more confusing than the last. I started over on the edit and seemed to remove almost every comma in the first chapter, while adding several hundred that weren't there to begin with. Am I losing my mind?I must be the stupidest bastard alive. My ten year old kid can use a comma correctly. I am, a f@cking idiot.

June 21, 2012
Dear Diary,
It took me more proof reads than I could count and an entire year, but I finally did it. The manuscript was polished to perfection and today I received a box of my own paperback books in the mail. I'm going to take them to the local coffee shop and sell some. There are so many people who are excited to read it. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning opening the box. Perfecting the book was so much harder than I thought it would be, but it's so rewarding to know that it's finally polished and perfect. It's beautiful!

July 17, 2012
Dear Diary,
My middle school English teacher called me last night. She said she'd read the book and thought it was pretty good. She also said that she had trouble following the story at times because the perspective was confusing, and I'd used the term "donned on him" instead of the correct "dawned on him" twice. She said that I probably already knew that the girl introduced in Chapter 17 was a brunette on one page and then turned into a "black haired beauty" on the very next page. Then, she mumbled something about a lack of character development before I inexplicably dropped the phone. I spent the rest of the night curled into a fetal position on the kitchen floor. My phone was beeping. I didn't notice it for six hours.

May 22, 2042
I think I've finally completed the polishing of the 34th revised edition of my first book. It's some of the worst swill that I've ever read, but at least it's finally finished. I pray that when I'm dead and gone that nobody ever reads this crap and I wish to hell that I could get back the first two thousand copies I've sold in the last 30 years. They are crap. At least now I can finally begin work on my second novel...

Thanks for reading!


Friday, April 26, 2013

That F-king Hemingway

After another marathon editing session, I wandered into a conversation about curses in writing. One guy said he did it all the time for effect. Another guy said he did it, but only during gratuitous sex scenes. Another still said that he had never cursed in his life and therefore would never use it in his writing. I told them that they were all f-king stupid bastards and left to write this blog about it.

I spent the first twenty years of my adult life in the construction industry. There are few places where you'll hear the 'F' word used more frequently (outside of prison or old time sailing vessels, I'd presume). It was a noun, adjective, verb and every other part of a proper sentence structure whose name I have long since forgotten from my third grade English class. In time, it becomes second nature and seems like the other men won't 'hear' you unless your sentence sounds like this:

You f-king guys need to get that f-king sh-t picked up over there. That whole side of the job is f-ked. It looks like f-k.

Everything might have been perfect that day were it not for the horrible wireless connection in the bush.
You become not only immune to the usage of the word, but immune to the fact that it might not be appropriate in every situation. Or, as Hemingway said in Death in the Afternoon...

"...all our words from loose using have lost their edge."

Castro getting a contact rum buzz.
I was cognizant of the fact that peppering my written language with curses probably wasn't ideal, but for effect (and/or affect), I used them frequently in the pages of my first manuscript. When my better (and smarter, and more beautiful) half, Lorri, read it, she said, "um, no. You're not leaving those words in there. Take them out."

"But I use them all the time," I insisted.

"That doesn't mean that I want to hear it, and I certainly don't care to read them. Take them out," she replied.

Unmoved, I referred to a quote from Hemingway himself, knowing that the words of the master would cause her to relent.  Here is the quote that I used...

"I've tried to reduce profanity in The Sun Also Rises, but I reduced so much profanity... that I'm afraid not much could come out. Perhaps we will have to consider it simply a profane book and hope the next book will be less profane or perhaps more sacred."

Maybe, I argued...mine is a profane book as well, and the Gods have preordained it as such.

"Hmmmm," she seemed to consider my arguments. "No. Take them out."

So, while admittedly not being the writer that Hemingway was, I also had to admit to not being the fighter that he was either. I took them out. In most places, I found that it didn't cause any injury whatsoever to the story or the flow or the mood. In other instances, I was forced to be more creative to form the same intensity and really show the feelings that were being portrayed.

Hemingway had to make similar concessions in his work...like when he was publishing The Green Hills of Africa in England...

"I took out 7 bloodies, one son of a bitch and 4 or five shits voluntarily to see what difference it would make, to please them..."

Hemingway asking the locals for pocket change to feed the parking meter. Sadly, the little guy only has pennies.
Several months later, I overheard some people talking in the local coffee shop (their intention, I imagine) that a certain scene in one of my books had struck their senses as being profane, and why did every author have to write profane things these days? Mind you, there were no sex scenes, no curse words, nothing that most Americans would hesitate to let their children read, and less suggestive even than most things that children do read. I had quite accidentally stumbled upon the weekly meeting of the  super-religious old judgmental biddy club, and while unharmed by their words (because they were ludicrous), I was flattered that they had all taken the time to buy and read my books, and talk about them in the coffee shop...because ANY publicity is ALWAYS good publicity.

When some people suggested that my first book might be anti-Irish Catholic (hello, my name is Malone) because of how it portrayed the church in a 1900 community, the entire local congregation ran out to buy a copy, so they could read it and better condemn me. I'm still a little confused about it. I try at every turn to write books that everyone can read and enjoy. But, in the words of Henry Herbert Knibbs, "this lovely world is a hard old ball," and it's hard to write a compelling dramatic fiction without someone getting mad about something.

But that doesn't mean that you'd ought to say to hell with it and write for shock value either. Shock value is cheap. It doesn't last more than a second, whether in an idea or a storyline or a word. In fiction, the feeling is not from the sudden jolt of a thing, but the crescendo building up to the moment, or a malingering mood.

Hemingway said...

"My use of words which have been eliminated from writing but which persist in speech has nothing to do with the small boy chalking newly discovered words on fences...I always use them sparingly and never to give gratuitous shock."

Writing without abundant curses and gratuitous shock has improved my abilities. Anytime that you can focus on a scene and find multiple ways to create the same effect of feeling, you have advanced as a writer. Not to say that I am at all offended by curses. I'm not. And not to say that there aren't times to use them in books (or in blog titles to entice people to say WTF? and read the thing).     

Papa Hemingway wrote:

"Try and write straight English; never using slang (or expletives) except in dialogue and then only when unavoidable. Because all slang goes sour in a short time. I only use swear words, for example, that have lasted at least a thousand years for fear of getting stuff that will simply be timely and then go sour."

Is it just me, or does he look like he's thinking about knocking that cat off the table?
Invariably, when I write a blog post that mentions Hemingway I get messages saying that he makes for a poor subject for study because he was insane or selfish or a bad person or a bad writer or something. I believe that his imperfections are precisely the things that make him the perfect subject for study. His range of behavior and moods and writing styles intersect with all of us at some point. Not to mention, he hated cats and who can't relate to that? Am I right? (okay, not really...Hemingway loved cats...calm down people)

And not to say there isn't a time and a place for everything either. A few minutes after this photo was taken, I accidentally knocked this beer over reaching for the ashtray. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times...and the curses could be heard for miles around, the residual remnants of which still fill the atmosphere somewhere above San Antonio. Keep writing.

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On Writing...

Who doesn't just love a mime anyways?
Writing fiction is a very bipolar thing to do. What I mean is that your own words have a way of working on you over time. You start a book with this higher than high elation and somewhere in the middle, you begin to question your ability and the words and the story and the existence of the space time continuum. And you realize that your words are failing you, and that maybe it isn't even the words and maybe you're the failure.

You realize then, at that moment, that to save all of humanity from the spread of your diseased worthlessness that you must burn the pages, or delete the entire story, and gnaw off your own paws and digits so they'll never re-offend and write again.

If you're lucky (like I am) when that happens, your cheerleader (you really should have one if you write) will talk you down away from the ledge and then use a combination of gentle persuasion and threats of violence to get you to finish writing the thing.

Hopefully, you'll finish it, and when you do, you'll be elated that is complete and you'll be proud as a new parent. You'll show the kid to everybody and they'll all say that he's adorable (like the Beave) and you'll love it and care for it...until you start writing the next book, and then the next one.

In time, you'll come to see all of the warts and pimples on that book and then eventually when you look at it all you'll see is Eddie Haskell staring back at you and the mere sight of the book will leave you feeling empty and disgusted.The only thing you will see when you look at the cover will be the typos that you know are inside and the misused words and the mistakes...and you'll wonder why in the hell you didn't press the delete button when you had the chance...

And that's where I was not long ago. I was working on a new book and trying not to think about my old ones because whenever I did, it made me sad...like this baby. Well, okay, maybe not sad like this baby, but, you know, not as happy as a mime ought to be (if I was a mime and was okay with being a mime and therefore presumably happy)...

And then something amazing happened. My cheerleader (hi Lorri!) was lying in bed reading something while I worked away on the computer across the room. She started reading a passage from a book out loud to me and I said, "wow, honey, that's awesome. What are you reading?"

She held up a copy of one of the books that I had been trying to forget about. I knew then, at that moment, what she was trying to tell me (aside from how badly she needs some fresh reading material in the house). She was reminding me that my babies will always be my babies, and that no matter how far I may have come as a writer that a part of me at that time is in those pages and they are worthy of my continued love and devotion.

What's more, a lot of people (myself included) really enjoy those stories. So, I have resolved to make them all the best that they can be by editing and polishing them each one more time. That means I have put the final rewrite and edit of my latest works on hold until my first three novels are completed.

It also means that I'm going stir crazy with line editing instead of writing anything new. But, I have one down with the completion of SILENCE OF CENTERVILLE (now available in revised format on Kindle and Amazon!), and only two more to go. 

So, my next big thing NYTimes bestseller might not get done any time soon, and I may never make the big time at this pace and writing the kinds of stories that I write (no vampires or zombies or flying saucers or the like). But the thing is, and it's awful hard to get away from, is that people around here like my stories. They pay to read em' and they buy an extra to one to send to their folks back east (or wherever), and they're always asking me when the next one is coming out and where can they get it...

And it dawns on me that being a successful author isn't about how many copies you sell. It's about constantly honing your craft and striving toward unattainable perfection and more than that, it's about connecting with your readers, whether there are 10 or 10 million of them, and making them feel something, and giving them the best experience that you possibly can. 

And perhaps even more than any of those things, it's about that cheerleader, and trying to be just half the writer that they believe you are, and trying to make your work a tenth as wonderful as they think it is, and believing in yourself almost as much as they do.If you have that cheerleader, and if you have those readers (in any number), then, as an author...what else is there?

Success is relative. In a hundred years that snooty, rich SOB third cousin of yours (the one that all of the aunts always fawned over) will be dead and gone and his deadbeat kids will have blown their inheritance and probably overdosed on designer drugs. But your book will still be finished, and people might... just maybe... still be reading it. Or, they might be only starting to read it then and it will go on to become an international sensation. Now that's success.

Now leave me be. I have about 400,000 more words to edit. 

Thanks for reading,


Monday, April 22, 2013

Brand Spanking New (Sort Of) for 2013!

I am pleased to announce the release of my almost brand spanking new novel entitled SILENCE OF CENTERVILLE is finally upon us. Okay, so it isn't really brand spanking new, but it does have a new cover AND has been edited two (count em, two!) more times and revised to take out some of the more beloved parts, like where the deaf main character miraculously recovered his hearing long enough to "hear" something, or the time where a girl's hair color changed from one page to the next.

Not Actually Author, Dr. Timothy Hurley (he's much angrier in real life)
I would like to thank my author friend, Dr. Timothy Hurley, who took the time to read a previous version of SILENCE OF CENTERVILLE, and nit pick the minutest of details, thus shaming me into adding apostrophes and correcting my improper usage of the word 'there' to the correct form of 'their' in Chapter 23 (it ruined the entire story, I guess). While the story, in its' entirety has remained virtually unchanged, the newest version should serve the dual purpose of pleasing English majors and crotchety retired doctors, as well as enticing my mother and Aunt Minnie to purchase new copies due to the shiny new cover.

SILENCE is available on Amazon both in paperback and for the Kindle. Signed copies are available through the author (that's me) and will be priced individually based upon the financial well being of the purchaser (libraries or children = $8.00 each, retired doctors $554.95 each).

And now...back to work with me...editing more manuscripts. Thanks for reading!


Monday, April 15, 2013

Death and Taxes

In 1789, Benjamin Franklin said in a letter that "in this world nothing can be said to be to be certain, except death and taxes." Today is April 15, the great American tax deadline and the day that sends most Americans into a state of panic. It is the day when the procrastinating nature of artists and writers, and our general aloofness becomes hauntingly clear, and our failure to sell copies of our last book to anyone besides Mom and Aunt Minnie (thanks again, ladies) becomes a matter of public record.

Henry David Thoreau and the cutting edge hairstyle that inspired the term, "knot-head"

But, it is also a day when we remember that unpaid taxes is an American tradition of authors and artists that dates back to our earliest times, like when Henry David Thoreau wrote Civil Disobedience in a jail cell, where he sat for not paying his taxes to an unjust government that endorsed slavery...

...Or when Willie Nelson was supposed to pay his taxes and got high instead and held a benefit concert for himself later on to repay a small portion of the millions that he owed the IRS. And even though the IRS eventually did come and hold tax levy sales on most of his worldly possessions, it was Willie who ultimately emerged victorious when big brother failed to find his pot stash. 

But as artists, we remain undaunted. Like the mountain climber in the Price Is Right game, we push forward, unmoved by arbitrary dates like April 15, and unscathed by real world concepts like tax deadlines.  After all, we have editing to think about.

And what's the worst that could happen anyways? It's just a game, and even if the little bastard plunges off the cliff, there is always the spinning of the big wheel at the end, and the showcase showdown, and certainly, it will be of a high enough value and contain enough prizes that we could sell a few of them to pay off the back taxes and penalties.

So, why not put it off until later? You know, when the showcase showdown pays off, or the novel goes triple platinum and you get that huge movie deal, or those powerball numbers finally hit, etc., etc.

Carpe Diem
And you always have to remember to seize that day, because death could come at any moment so you had better finish that novel because nobody else will be able to, and anyone can file back tax forms for a corpse. That is how artists (and all human beings) should live their lives. Like there is no tomorrow. Like today is the last one and everything that we do must matter and count and be representative of a life that has been lived to its fullest. 

Because death can come calling at any time, and any moment. The end is always out there, looming upon the horizon and waiting with calling card in hand and on that card is your name, and mine. And we have but one chance at this, so we had better get it right.

Because this IS life, baby! Live it to the fullest, like there is no tomorrow! Smell those roses. Taste that forbidden fruit. Stop and see that world's largest ball of twine...because tomorrow might never come at all and if you're not careful, you could miss something really important.

But then again, it may also be worth mentioning that Benjamin Franklin had penned that famous line about death and taxes in a letter to a friend that he had written...in French. And it might just be possible that somewhere, something was lost or changed in the translation and that 'taxes' might just come before 'death,' and if that's the case, there's a good chance that I'm pretty screwed, and that maybe, just maybe, I ought to be carpe'ing a different diem...

And, oh shit, I've got to run. Does anyone know where I can get blank forms for 2011? Son of a...

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Something More Lucrative Than Writing

Lorri claims that I have a bad tendency of watching a television show and then formulating random, seemingly life-altering decisions based on what I have just watched. They are only "seemingly" life-altering decisions because I never actually follow through with any of them (or so she says). For instance, we recently watched an episode of  some restaurant makeover show, after which I proclaimed that I was going to open my own restaurant. Another show I watched was about hiking the Appalachian Trail, and I have since been obsessed with the notion, despite not actually enjoying the trek from the living room into the kitchen to fetch a snack.
Lorri has even begun to assign a number to them when I announce a new idea. I'll be like, "Honey, I've decided that I am going to canoe the entire length of the Mississippi!" After having enjoyed a show about a similar expedition.

"That's  number 874," she replies...but in a tone that suggests a certain amount of, shall we say, snooty condescending superiority, suggesting that I never actually follow through with any of my big ideas.

Also, I'd like to add here that her numbers started quite randomly in the six hundreds somewhere and therefore are both arbitrary and capricious on her part to begin with. I am reasonably certain that the real number is actually much lower and probably in fact remains well under 500.

Whatever the real number is, she was equally unmoved when I started watching the television shows about people who go out with metal detectors and dig for buried treasure and announced my intentions to do the same (way back in the 700's, so it isn't anything, you know, flighty, and has been around in my mind for a while at least).

My Hero
What she didn't know, was that ever since I was small boy, I have been obsessed with the idea of metal detecting and finding lost treasures. My hidden passion was further driven by seeing a guy while on vacation last year plucking coins and lost gold from a sandy beach. Seeing him, I felt inspired. He was really out there doing it, living the dream.

Naturally, I couldn't just run out and buy a metal detector though, what with so much negativity surrounding my hopes and dreams. So, I did the next best thing; the very thing that fathers have been doing since the beginning of time. I bought one for each of my adult sons for Christmas and waited for one of them to lose interest...or start working out of town long enough for me to borrow one of them.

Then, last week, it finally happened. My son, Jesse, was working out of town and had haphazardly left his metal detector in my dad's barn (apparently with the intention that I should borrow the thing while he was away). So, I did just that. Thanks, Jesse! Treasure was soon to be mine...

At the foot of a hill on my parent's farm is rumored to be the site of one of the oldest settlements in our county. I waited for Lorri to go to work one morning, smiled and nonchalantly waved good-bye, and then hurried to get my digging clothes on and get out there. Something incredible was just around the corner.

Immediately, I got a hit on the detector. I dug with a small spade to the depth of two feet and hit something. I dug until the hole was even larger and revealed a solid metal structure with a slightly rounded top on the end that flattened out as it went along. Fast forward two hours later and I had exposed the top of a six foot long piece of metal, two feet wide at the middle. There was a chunk of squared quarried rock above it. I knew then that it must be a metal casket. I was perplexed about what to do. Should I bury it back and forget about the body on the property? I decided that I should expose it and call someone. If it was a forgotten soul, then they should be better kept, I surmised.

Who knows what lurks beneath the metal lid? I cleared away the rest of the dirt from the edges and tried to pull it up with the shovel. It wouldn't budge. I had to step into the hole with it and grasp the thing with both hands. Scenes from a hundred bad movies played in my head and I lifted it up and peered inside...

There was nothing but dirt. The "coffin lid" as it turned out, was an old rusted water heater (circa 1950's) that had been cut in half the long way (probably for use as a feed trough for cows) and then flattened out in the middle until it was shaped...well, a lot like a casket lid. Filling the giant hole back in accounted for another hour and then it was time to hurry back home and do chores to create the appearance of having spent the day doing useful things before Lorri got back. 

That night, I watched in awe as a star from one of the metal detecting shows produced a chunk of gold from the earth. I quietly decided that metal detecting would be my route to riches and success and I didn't give her the satisfaction of saying it out loud so she could say, "number 875." No. She would find out soon enough when she came home to discover me counting out gold coins at the kitchen table.

The farm that we live on once was host to rodeos and there is still an arena behind the house. Prior to those days, the house was owned by a doctor in the 1920's. It is the perfect historical place where lots of people spent time to dig. So, I dug.

What I ultimately discovered was not necessarily the treasure that I was seeking, but a treasure of knowledge that archeologists might benefit from.

For instance, it might be useful to archeologists studying our civilization, to know that people who attend rodeos have a tendency to drink a lot of beer. They also apparently used to have an inclination to simply throw their cans on the ground. Also...and this is useful to know...the old cans had little tabs on them that could be pulled off and thrown onto the ground in a different direction.

***Note for fellow treasure hunters. Beer cans and beer can tabs are made of aluminum. Unless you spent $2,000 on your metal detector, it will make the exact same high pitched beeping sound for aluminum that it does for silver coins.

Here is my final tally:

37 beer cans
33 beer can tabs
17 pop bottle lids
11 chunks of aluminum foil
4 unidentifiable chunks of rusty metal
1 brass drawer pull handle that I had originally misidentified as a gold watch fob
1 hot wheel car from 1980 (missing two wheels)
1 top of an old wood cook stove
1 rusted horse hoof file
1 top of an old mason jar

High Value Items:

3 pennies dated between 1970 & 1974
1 dime dated 1974
1 Kennedy half dollar dated 1971, leading me to assume that the 1970's were a time when people had more money than they knew what to do with and were simply throwing it around in the air like confetti.
1 silver dime dated 1947 and valued at $4.00!

All said, my total profit was valued at $4.63, and all of that for just twenty hours of my time. That is more than twenty cents an hour, or about three times what I have earned (per hour) writing books in the past. So, writing may be finally behind me as I permanently move on to greener and more lucrative pastures.

And, when Lorri came home and got to see my newly discovered riches...you're probably wondering if she wasn't eating her words from before, or feeling bad about having poked so much fun at me in the past, right? Or maybe she would just be overwhelmed with joy for me?

Well, she wasn't. It was almost like she didn't even care at all about my time or my excitement or my discoveries. She was only complaining about something. I don't even remember what it was about. I think it was something about the yard...

Thanks for reading!