BUZZ BERNARD IS A TERRIBLE WRITER

The first time I received a negative review of one of my novels I felt as if I’d been gut-punched.

I tiny wave of nausea surged through me.  That was over six years and five novels ago.  Since then, I’ve learned to roll with the punches.  Thumbs-down evaluations of my works, I’ve come to understand, are part of the business.  As the cliché goes, they come with the territory.

BIG WORDS VS. LITTLE ONES

One of the beta-readers for my forthcoming novel, FIREWIND, took me to task (which is what I expect beta-readers to do) for using several “big” or “obscure” words when more common words would have sufficed.  He pointed out, correctly, that readers get annoyed if they have to constantly refer to a dictionary.  In truth, novelists are taught from the get-go to avoid complex words when simpler ones work.

HIRING A PUBLICIST–A GOOD OR BAD IDEA?

Here’s a link to a guest blog I wrote for Southern Writers Magazine discussing the pros and cons of hiring a book publicist.

PRESUMPTUOUS?

As I touted the Southeastern Writers Association annual workshop (June 16-20 on St. Simons Island, Georgia) to a fellow writer recently, he interrupted me by saying he thought it “presumptuous” to assume that a professional author could “teach” writing to someone.

That took me aback, but in way, I suppose he was correct.  I’ve listened to enough writers over the years to know that no single author has all the answers.  In the end, each of us who has become professionally published has learned the craft by “putting our butt in a chair and fingers on a keyboard”—to repeat what one of our 2017 workshop instructors, Debra Dixon, has often said.  Writing, for most of us, is a trade learned by doing.  And doing and doing.

I JUST KNEW SOMETHING BAD WAS GOING ON IN THERE

It’s kinda cool when someone remembers specific scenes from the books you’ve written . . . even if that someone is your brother.

My brother Rick and I were chatting a few weeks ago about novels and movies, and he brought up a particular scene he remembered from Plague.

“That building with no windows,” he said.  “I just knew something bad was going on in there, but I didn’t wanna know what.  I was sure it was gonna be something I didn’t wanna hear about.  But I kept reading.” 

COULDA BEEN WORSE

ss-161008-matthew-path-destruction-mbe-1146p_402276f383eddbfd2046e4afe8a2df5a-nbcnews-ux-1024-900As disruptive as Hurricane Matthew was for St. Simons Island, Georgia, my favorite spot on the Atlantic Coast, it was not a worst-case, Eyewall-type scenario.

Matthew, most importantly (and obviously) was not a Category 5 monster.  But there was also a bit of luck that factored into things not being worse: the hurricane jogged slightly to the right, farther away from the coast, as it churned past St. Simons and Brunswick.  It also swirled by the island near low tide, substantially mitigating the effects of storm surge flooding.  Once past the Golden Isles, Matthew jiggyed back toward South Carolina.  So, yes, there was a smidgen of luck that hovered over SSI.

LIVING ON THE FAULT LINE

image.vam.synacor.com.edgesuiteI believe there are two different ways Cascadia, my newest novel, is being read.  It’s dependent, I think, upon where the readers live.

When I do a presentation on Cascadia in the Southeast, where I reside, I’ve discovered I need to do a little extra.  I have to set the stage for the drama, because most people outside the Pacific Northwest don’t understand the existential threat this thing featured in the novel, the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ), poses.  They aren’t knowledgable about the acute danger that lurks in Washington and Oregon, as well as in southern British Columbia and northern California.

AN INDIAN VILLAGE, A BOOKSTORE, AND A SCENE FROM CASCADIA

ar12981428179091The opening scene in my newest novel, Cascadia, is set in a Clatsop Indian village on the Pacific Northwest coast over three hundred years ago.  Based on research, I placed the village on the present site of Seaside, Oregon.

I’m not entirely certain there was an Indian village there in 1700, the date of the scene, but I  do know there were several small Clatsop settlements in that area in 1805 when members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition arrived.  Thus, I assumed there was likely one there a century before that.

CASCADIA—CHICK LIT?

Clipart-Cartoon-Design-13As an author, you’re a public figure.  Whether you like or not, your works—your books—become a free-fire zone for public opinion.

I don’t disagree with that.  People spend their hard-earned money to buy your products and thus have every right to express their thoughts about them.

Your books will be both acclaimed and denigrated.  It’s part of the business.  I don’t particularly like getting a thumbs down in a book review—and I don’t often—but it comes with the territory.  Readers have different expectations and standards.  I get it.

WHY I DIDN’T ADDRESS “COUNTING THE DEAD” IN CASCADIA

earthquake-damage-1CASCADIA isn’t totally a novel.  By that I mean it’s not completely fiction.  The event the novel is set against, a massive earthquake and huge tsunami in the Pacific Northwest, is something that’s really going to happen.

In my previous novels, EYEWALL, SUPERCELL and BLIZZARD, I depicted major weather events that, while certainly possible, are not highly probable.  In other words, I stretched, maybe to the ripping point, the envelope of meteorological likelihood.  (In case you’re wondering, SUPERCELL was likely the least “stretchy” of my tales.)