Good Stuff

on March 31, 2014 in Misc

mark_twain sitting

This week I’ve got one old piece of good stuff for you and one new piece.  First the old….

This last week I came across a fact about Mark Twain that made me feel good.  Did you know Twain had trouble becoming a full-time, professional writer?  He’d been slogging away as a reporter in San Francisco and Hawaii (okay, Hawaii was a blast for him), but his writing gigs still didn’t pay enough and he was poor and in debt.   That’s when he wondered if he should go on the lecture circuit.  What he had in mind was to give a humorous presentation about his experiences in Hawaii.  His writer friends were dead set against this and insisted it would ruin his literary reputation.  His former newspaper boss asked him, “Which do you need most at present, money or literary reputation?”  Twain answered “Money!”

So Twain went on the stage and became a kind of traveling nineteenth century stand-up comic.  And thus a great American writer was born.  Not with a lucrative publishing deal or a bestseller, but with personal appearances that gave him enough fame and money to launch his book career.  In other words, he established a platform first, a very distinct public persona, and THEN he wrote his books.

Maybe this isn’t good new for me after all.  All these years I’ve been concentrating on just writing.  Ah, dang!



The other good–no, WONDERFUL–piece of news is that Hart Johnson’s newest cozy mystery KEEPING MUM is out.  Having read her first two books in this series, I can tell you that I’m eager to read the latest adventure of Cam Harris and her pals as they rush to solve another brain-teasing murder.  There will be drama.  There will be humor.  There will be lots of colorful characters with suspicious behavior….

See, Roanoke, Virginia, may seem civilized and lovely, but underneath the flowery surface lurks lust and jealousy and anger and greed, and all kinds of other motivations that make bad people off other people.  KEEPING MUM is written under Hart’s pen name Alyse Carlson, and it’s available everywhere.  I bought it at my local bookstore, ’cause I’m an old fashioned woman who loves my indie shops.

And of course stop by to say hi to Hart at her always entertaining blog, Confessions of a Watery Tart.  (Sorry I can’t make the link work.  I’m still trying figure out my latest version of Word Press.)

Have any good news yourself this last week, or coming up?  I’d love to hear about it.


10 Responses to “Good Stuff”

  1. Platform first. That is interesting.
    Hart’s an awesome writer. She has snark down to a science.

  2. Helena says:

    Alex – I bet publishers and agents would applaud the platform first approach.

  3. Nice factoid about Mark Twain. I’ve enjoyed at least three or four of his stories and he sure could write dialogue well. That just shows you how good of a writer he was. I imagine his comedy was pretty funny. Humor is very contextual, and it takes a keen wit to pull that out. He had both context and wit so he was probably the Jerry Seinfeld of his day.

  4. Helena says:

    Michael – Jerry Seinfeld is a good comparison. Maybe it was the reporting background, but Twain really knew how to listen to people, hence the great dialogue.

  5. Nas says:

    Great post. And true. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Helena says:

    Nas – Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Platform first may sound a bit like cart-before-horse. But then again, that’s how the celebrities get their book deals, right?

  8. Helena says:

    Milo – The more I see the kind of advice publishers and agents are giving, the more it has to do with platforms. And I am LOUSY at any platform!

  9. Yes, Mark was one of the first to propose Platform first! Check out my next two posts for facets of Mark Twain — including a terrible attack on his reputation!

    Lightning strikes where it will — platform helps but timing is even more important — and we have no control of that! Sigh

  10. Helena says:

    Roland – Mark Twain really was a literary giant, wasn’t he? And in that white suit he became famous for, he was kind of like the first Steve Martin of stand-ups. I’m looking forward to your posts.