Category Archives: writing

I gave up Facebook, and I feel fine.

Yes, at first the habit of signing in and seeing what everyone I know (knew?) had been up to while I slept, made itself felt.  But I was spending far too much time there, so I stayed away.  After approximately two weeks I forgot about FB, except when something I’m interested in wants me to sign in through FB, or worse, my favorite local nursery’s website is a FB page.

Posting on FB had ups and downs.  Do I always post happy stuff I wondered.   I survived lectures about posting protest types of comments.  One was said with a little laughter at my expense, suggesting that I wasn’t enlightened enough.  A lot of my acquaintances were in the realm of woo-woo, which can be wonderful, until it isn’t.  Until they tell you the things they see in your aura without having been asked, and it’s never good.

Every time the news posted something about the lack of privacy on FB my inner Ron Swanson would go on high alert.

Do I care how many people “Like” a particular post?  Sometimes, and I questioned that and was not thrilled with my answer.  More frustrating was the lack of human responses beyond a “like” or an emoji.  I also don’t appreciate seeing other people’s food that doesn’t involve a professional food stylist.  Don’t they see that it looks like dry vomit or fresh road kill?  If it’s delicious, tell me about that, with words.

I’m happy to say I never developed an inner grammar police.  I’d see the typos or errors, stop, double check I understood the meaning and keep going.  Not everyone got an A in English.  Some folks speak several languages, but English wasn’t their first so naturally, there are mistakes.

Then there are the comments I didn’t post because, well, family.

It wasn’t just my family, it was his family too.

FB was useful for instant messaging, but then I found myself using that more than the main page.  Don’t I have a phone that can text?  Why yes I do.  And all the while FB is prodding me to update photos, to post a new comment.  It dawned on me that I had more acquaintances than friends.  I started a new job and life got busier.  My writing time dwindled.

Finally, someone shared that FB is keeping tabs on my account by having a “friend” hiding in the shadows.  One I could not delete.  It is, after all, their service, I’m just the squirrel trying to get a nut.

It’s been since the end of February.  I write more, I call or text friends, I read the newspaper when I want to know what’s going on in the world, and I feel fine.

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What could save a boring author photo

I’ve been pushing the idea of taking an author photo around in my head for some time.  Mostly I keep thinking of how boring it sounds, sitting around while someone takes pictures of me, hoping to get a good smile, both eyes open, and may it please the publisher, catching a spark of intelligence in my countenance.

When I look through books and see author photos I think, what does what they look like have to do with the stories they write?  Nothing.  But then I decided it could be a fun thing.  You know, add a cool hat, or a kids tiara, I even snapped a selfie the other day with a pencil up my nose.  (Yes I regressed to age ten, I blame FB)  My friends found it amusing, but I doubt a publisher would agree.

And then it hit me.  I can have a regular, everyday author photo, yawn, but in the background I want Jennifer Lawrence photobombing.  I like that she’s not only doing this to other actors and such, but at places where everyone is supposed to be proper and on their best behaviour.  I would choose Jennifer or Sir Ian McKellan.  I will be seen as the hard-working writer, but one who doesn’t take herself so seriously, that she’d release a photo of herself with ‘Richard III’ snarling in the background.

The elusive moment of feeling a written work is finished

I’ve talked with other writers, read their blogs, and many say that when it comes to editing their work, they’re never done.  I agree, I can’t ever seem to open a piece of my own work and not make some kind of change, until it happened.

I wrote a short story during the last ice age.  Since then it’s been sitting around, occasionally taken out, dusted off, and tinkered with, only to be put back.  I would always feel as if it wasn’t quite finished, that the voice of the character was not consistent from start to finish.  Or critiques showed readers were confused where I thought clarity reigned supreme.   At the beginning of summer I told myself to finish it once and for all and send it off.  You know, just do it.  I did make changes, and then, nothing.  I felt as if I’d read this story enough, too much even, and kept ignoring it on my list of recently worked titles.

The other day something different happened.  I opened up the document, swallowed my previous notions with a figurative vitamin C, for clarity, and made cuts.  After, I slipped into the character and wrote a little more.  The additions were small, maybe four lines total, but they were striking enough to send chills down my arms.  I rushed to save the piece, and closed it before I messed it up.  Less is more in my book, especially with a short story.  I hadn’t read it through, but I was certain if I changed one more thing I’d jinx it.  I considered the idea of a jinx to be a little over the top, so I swapped it out for one along the lines of the story needing to rest, like dough for yeast bread.  (Yes, I recognize that I need to get out more.)

Thursday I printed it out for writers group, still unread, arrived and promptly decided I wasn’t going to read it.  Thankfully it was an unusual evening, a new member read some striking poetry that kicked me into action.  If she can be brave and read poetry, which is so much more personal somehow, I think, then I can read this story for the umpteenth time.  I did, and it felt, right.  I used to get that feeling with college essays, that sweet, inner surety that clearly said, ‘this baby can be put to bed’.

I looked around the table at the others and their faces reflected the story.  I quieted the excited cheer rousing in my head, and waited for their words.  I’m happy to say the audience was moved, and today I’m going to the post office to mail it off to my favorite literary magazine.  My mind is changed, that moment of feeling a piece is finished can happen.  Excuse me while I kiss the sky.

the art of the review

The point of leaving a review is to inform a potential reader what you liked or did not like in a book.

I’ve hesitantly re-animated my Goodreads account to help me find books in specific genres.  It can be helpful to avoid stories that aren’t what I’m looking for.  My problem is reviews are hard to follow.  I understand.  Even a professional reviewer can turn into a troll.

When I first joined a writer’s group, I’d listen and think how awful the story sounded.  Yes, I’m aware they probably thought the same of my work.  It made reading my work, and hearing the work of others uncomfortable to say the least.  The guidelines we follow in that group have helped me immensely in seeing the great bits of writing in a piece, leaving feedback to writers across the table from me, and how to edit my own work based on critique.  One more,  it’s also helped me to find books I enjoy.

Point out the good stuff.  When a review tells me what the best parts of a story are, and there is almost always something good in a piece of writing, if I like that sort of thing, I might give the book a try.   For example; the sense of flow, dialogue, description, there might be a poetic sense to the writing here and there, etc.,.  It took some practice before I was able to locate these, but now that I can life is so much better.  Why you ask?  Because a writer wants to know, not just what didn’t work, but what did, and so does a potential reader.  The person reading a review might like the very thing I hate, or find they love the same stories.  Also, as a human, who creates and shares that work with others, the point is to encourage that writer to keep writing, chances are they will anyway, don’t you want them to consider a possible change for the better?

When something in the book doesn’t work for you as a reader, say why.  Please don’t cast aspersions on the writer’s intelligence, or leave it at, “It sucked, whatever”.  As a possible reader, I want to know if you felt the main character was believable, or did you feel the whole thing was bogged down in description.  This requires considering the parts and breaking a few of them down, rather than labeling the whole book a ‘hot mess’.  Please keep in mind, most writers have developed a rather thick skin.  But behind the inanimate book, stands a human being.

Which leads me to wondering who reads a book they think they’ll dislike?  I keep seeing this on reviews, “I thought I’d hate this and I did.”  If something isn’t your thing, accept that and read something else.  I give points to a reader for trying a new literary flavor, or giving a generally disliked genre another chance, those reviews may bring in other new readers.  That said, I do not understand why anyone would force themselves to read something they didn’t find any joy in, and then disgorge a nasty review.  That just sort of mucks things up.

I learned that I read some books for different reasons than others.  Some say they read for the romance of a story, even if it’s listed as fiction (enter sub category here), and not romance in particular.  Others might say they like the gory bits, or the creepy nightmares it gave them.  Something I like to avoid.  Shudders.  That bit of information can be useful to a potential reader as well as the writer.

One thing a reader/reviewer should be aware of is the following.  The writer has already gone through a multitude of feedback, edits, and so on.  I’m not saying every published, self published, and indie published book is perfect.  I’m saying, it’s a finished product.  And I’m not talking about typos and punctuation.  I’m talking about content.  You won’t see George R.R. Martin hesitating to kill a Stark.  Sure you can leave a review saying you hated to see Ned get the ax, it certainly shocked the heck out of me, but don’t write it with the attitude of someone who knows better.  (And don’t tell/order/beg him to not kill Arya.  There are more books coming)  Ehem.  The reader is a guest to the party.  Yes, a writer can glean information here and there, but most don’t write to make readers happy, they write the story they are moved to tell.

Lastly, reviewing books in this way has helped me become a bit more discerning and broadened my reading horizons.  Although I still can’t get past the first chapter of Neal Stephenson’s, Anathem.  I suspect I lack the grey matter for it, but I bet people who see math in colors, and what have you, love it.  It’s exciting to find new books I enjoy, and how much faster I can spot what I don’t like, so I can get lost in a story I do like.  And you thought the Hokey Pokey was what it was all about.  There are a TON of stories out there, it’s a bit like the mother of all treasure hunts, so what are you waiting for?  Grab a book and bon voyage!

Making a most-excellent devious character

I have been slipping into the head and heart of one of my character’s, the one I think of as, ‘the evil doctor’.  What stops me lately is the need to stop and look into his past, as most of us often do in our daily lives.  I’ve been wondering how much of his origins, weaknesses and humanity to reveal.  Yes, the story needs to move forward, but he has to be fleshed out.

I’ve considered the classic bad characters I love, and my favorites are the ones where I’ve been shown some, albeit tiny, sliver of humanity.  A wavering in that last step to killing everyone and dominating the world, as it were.  Even if they aren’t my favorite characters up until then, their last actions stay with me long after the story is over.

In books, writers tend to hide the human side of a bad guy a bit more, and instead, offer up a less evil character as a sidekick of sorts.  Often it’s an underling, not just a scapegoat, but someone who’s got a hand in the pie as well.  For example, I never find myself rooting for or wanting to know more of Bob Ewell, who knowingly accuses an innocent man of rape, in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.  It’s crystal clear he isn’t going to be anything but a lying coward.  However, I do feel sympathy for his daughter, Mayella.  Why should I?  Because she grows flowers in her dismal corner of the world in search of some beauty?  Because she’s young?  Because she’s also the victim of her father?  Yes, yes, and yes.  If the first two don’t get you, the last one just might.  In the end though, she doesn’t have the courage to do the right thing, and she remains on the dark side.

If I want to look at a truly nasty piece of work, there’s old Bob Ewell. Why don’t I give a fig for Bob?  Because I’m only shown what amounts to felony child rape, perjury and bigotry for his part.  Someone to despise, pure and simple.  When the writer takes an unflinching look at a truly evil character, that’s what makes it feel as if I’m behind their eyes, cringing, as evil deeds are done.

Does there need to be a truly horrific bad guy, and a slightly less evil character, to give the reader free rein with their hatred?  Would readers hate Joffrey, of George R.R. Martin’s, Game of Thrones less, if we didn’t have The Dog to demonstrate simple kindness once in a while to make Joff look worse?

Who are some of your favorite literary bad guys and gals and what makes you think of them after the story is over?  Do you root for them?  Or simply revel in the danger they create for the main characters?

The Next Big Thing

Author Linda Cassidy Lewis, tagged me to answer these questions about my work in progress. This author meme is called The Next Big Thing. Please read Linda’s responses about, An Illusion of Trust, her next big thing here,

http://lindacassidylewis.com/2013/03/15/the-next-big-thing/

What is the working title of your next book?  I’ve been calling this story, the first in a trilogy, Book of Rachel – Requiem Dreams.

Where did the idea come from for the book?  I had an incredibly vivid dream of the story and near the end of that dream, I saw myself at my desk with a woman standing over me telling me to, ‘write this story down’.  I’ve felt awkward about this fact until I read that Stephen King got the idea for Misery in a dream, and so I figured it probably happens fairly often.

What genre does your book fall under?  The genre for this story is Young Adult Fiction.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?  I’ve seen Maisie Williams playing Arya Stark in Game of Thrones, and she could breathe life into Rachel which, to me, is worth far more than finding a mirror image of the character I have in my mind.

I would also love to see Rachel Weiss play the mother,  Jane.  Jane grew up in Great Britain, she’s beautiful and she mistakes her unbending, over controlling behavior as concern for her daughter.  I haven’t seen everything Ms. Weiss has done, but she often plays a woman who is fiercely determined and kind, which Jane has under layers of ice as it were.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  Rachel Maclean hides the fact that she has precognitive nightmares in a desperate bid to avoid being sent back to where they started.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  My book is in the final polishing stages and I’m creating a query letter to send to potential agents.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?  I’d say it took about nine months to a year for me to write out a complete first draft.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  I’ve made a point to avoid reading stories that sound even remotely similar to my own.  The only exception is a newly released story called Pivot Point by Kasie West, where the main character has the ability to see two possible future outcomes and is able to choose one.  I read this story because Kasie and I were in the same writer’s group a few years back and I always enjoyed her work.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?  Life is a huge inspiration, but I also haven’t forgotten the woman in the dream telling me to write the story down.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?  There’s a bevy of things to enjoy in this story: an outspoken best friend, a sweet boyfriend, and a paranormal gift Rachel has had for as long as she can remember.  Add to that an unethical psychiatrist, and a worldwide pharmaceautical corporation who think they’ve created a drug that brings about precognition and will be worth billions.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading the work of the two authors I’ve tagged,

Mariam Kobras, author of The Distant Shore, and, Under The Same Sun.

http://mariamkobras.blogspot.com/

Sam Hilliard, author of The Last Track

http://www.samhilliard.com/wordpress/

Sex and females in YA fiction – II

I had a bunch of other things I was toying with blogging about, but what I really want to ask is, has anyone else noticed that when a teen girl in a YA  book has sex, the proclivity is for circumstances to punish her for it?

What I mean is this.  Is there a YA book out there where a teen girl has consensual sex and does not suffer some kind of physical or emotional fall-out from that act?  Specifically, no accidental pregnancy, no STD, no rape, no clinical depression or even suicide.

I’ve been reading a Lot of YA books, since I was a young adult and recently.  While I don’t want to name particular titles, I have to say if there’s a human female in there who is sexual, woe onto her.  I haven’t read every YA fiction that’s out there, not by a long shot, but so far nothing good comes to those who have sex.  Off the top of my head, there’s been a possible suicide, a definite suicide, rape, and so on and so forth.

There aren’t a lot of YA books dealing with this at all, and I understand the desire to avoid that topic, especially if it’s not a key part of the story.  But, there are so many girl crush books out there where the couple only kisses, maybe.  Which is fine, but they ring false in that they rarely deal with how hard it is for teenagers to fight their hormones.  Yes, a pushy boy is often mentioned, but, I’m just going to say it, girls have hormones too.

I’m not putting down the books that deal with rape and situations where it may arise, those things need to be written and talked about.  From where I’m standing though, it does look as if the field is uneven.  So much about the dangers and very little or nothing about what can go right.  Shouldn’t there be a contemporary story where the couple go over the risks, cover their bases and enjoy their first time together?

I’m not saying I advocate teens having sex.  I don’t.  That being said, I do stand firmly on the side of educating kids on ALL options because I understand nature is a tough cookie sometimes.  Expecting young adults to abstain out of fear doesn’t strike me as a good solution.

Is there a book out there where a teen girl, or even a boy, can have consensual sex without obviously suffering for it afterwards that has been published in the last ten years?