Thursday, August 25, 2016

BRAINSTORMING AND WRITING TRUTHS


by Jackie King


 Brainstorming for plot points is another of those writing conundrums: I love plotting—I hate plotting.

Friends sometimes help.  In an email to a colleague, I mentioned I was struggling over which type of book to write next, suspense or cozy. This writer/lawyer called me that afternoon and said, “An idea for your next book just came to me, and it's about Grace.” (The protagonist in my cozy series.) My heart sank a bit, because I'd almost decided on writing a suspense novel. 
Then my writing-pal outlined his thoughts. I liked them, but still wasn't sure if that was the route I wanted to take. He added, “Don’t think I’ll feel bad if you don’t use this idea. It just came to me and I wanted to pass it on.”


I don't write religious/inspirational books, but I do believe in prayer and in listening to guidance from God. For this reason, I carefully considered my friend’s suggestion. As he and I talked on the phone, the story began to grow arms and legs, and when I mentioned these. He agreed they were good.

The next morning, when I was my busiest, plot points began coming in a way that doesn’t usually happen to me. Most often I have to struggle, and with much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Great plot ideas, scenes, twists and turns, seem to come at the most inconvenient time for me. (I think this is because my body is busy, and my mind relaxed.) I had just showered and needed to dress, then tidy up my apartment for the cleaner who could come at any minute. If something is cluttered, i.e. the bathroom counter, the kitchen sink counter, areas that need dusting, etc., she won’t clean that spot. House rules.

I’d already spent more time writing than I had available, and the duties of daily living beckoned. So I had the following argument with myself:

“These ideas are so vivid, they’ll stay right here in my head until I tidy up. This apartment must be cleaned if I'm to stay on schedule!” Thus I lectured myself as I finished drying my feet. 

Then a still voice from somewhere deep inside said, "That won't happen. It never does for you." Whether this was my better self, or a higher power, I don't know. But I did know that it would be wise to follow the advice.

So, wearing only my towel, I went to the computer and began to type. (Luckily that was only six steps. I live in one of those apartment complexes for Independent Seniors, and have learned to love simplicity.) I keyed in all of the essentials necessary to capture on paper the ideas that flowed inside my head.


I'm so glad that I listened! I have enough plot points for at least three chapters, and a good start on the new novel.

I’m leaving you with two writing truths:

The law of creativity demands immediate obedience. When ideas come, write them down immediately, or you'll lose them.      

A blank page can only be fixed with words. 
·  When there’s no inspiration, sit down at your computer, put your fingers on the keys, and write anyway. No matter how bad your work seems to you at the time, any prose can be edited and improved.
 
My latest novel set in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Due out soon!


Cheers!


Thursday, August 11, 2016

GUEST AUTHOR DEBORAH CAMP ON WHY WE READ

WHY DO WE READ?


Product Details
INFECTIOUS READING
by Deborah Camp
I recently read an interesting article by the ever-interesting novelist Neil Gaiman about the importance of reading. Often, I see posts on Facebook and other places wherein people fret about the younger generations not appreciating reading and preferring to play video games. This fretting flies in the face of huge sales of Harry Potter books and many other adventure novels aimed at children and teens.
I'm of a mind that there will always be avid readers, just as surely as there will always be those who can't bring themselves to read more than a caption under a photograph or instructions on how to play a new game.
Gaiman quotes Rebecca Solnit, who asserted that "a book is a heart that beats in the chest of another." That's so very true, and it's why many people not only enjoy books, but also films, TV, and video games. A book, however, gives you a wholly different journey because, when done well, it allows you to know someone else's mind, feelings, and experiences. You don't just "watch." You live and breathe with a character or characters.
As Gaiman puts it, "books are the way we communicate with the dead. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth..."
He cautioned against preaching and writing what you wouldn't be that interested in reading. Difficult tasks. That might surprise some, but writers know it's true. The need to "preach" hinders us all. We have beliefs and truths we want to present in every novel, but if we hammer home these "lessons," we risk alienating our readers. Likewise, every writer has written "fluff" to fill out a book. Fluff is usually scenes that go on too long and serve no real purpose other than to add pages, relating information the writer has recently learned and feels compelled to share even it's boring to others, or fascinating facts that end up stopping the book's narrative. To take the editing pen and strike out paragraphs and whole pages takes courage, but is necessary. Like cutting out a cancerous growth.
Lessons or ideas should be sprinkled in, rather than poured into book pages. Otherwise, you will over-season and ruin your original, good recipe for a well-told tale.
In my new novel. SOLITARY HORSEMAN, I dealt with three "lessons." With so many, it was a delicate mission to keep them under rein so they didn't trample my story. Throughout, I had to remind myself why we read -- to immerse ourselves in another place, time, and body, so that we emerge different than when we entered that fictive world. Also, and this is no small thing, to entertain and delight. When I write, I craft scenes that I hope will compel readers to keep turning the pages, but also to elicit smiles, frowns, and maybe even a giggle or longing sigh. This happens when readers "become" the characters; when they forget where they are and what they're doing and take breath for breath with the character in the book.
I recall when I read THE STAND by Stephen King. In it, a deadly disease was killing off most of the population and symptoms started off with people coughing. I had been reading the book during my break at work. When I went back to work, a co-worker walked past me and coughed. My heart froze and my gaze snapped to the person as a sickly fear slithered through my mind with the thought, He's infected! Of course, in the next instant I was back in my own world and laughing at myself even as I marveled at Mr. King's ability to wrap me up so tightly in his fictive world.
That my friends, is talent. And that is also why we read.

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Deborah Camp's Newest:

Product Details



Series below features psychic detectives Levi Wolfe and Trudy Tucker:

Mind's Eye (3 Book Series) by  Deborah Camp


From Book 1: Someone is stalking women and murdering them in Key West. 

Psychic Detectives Levi Wolfe and Trudy Tucker join forces to help identify the murderer and stop him. Levi can channel the deceased victims and Trudy can tap into the mind of the killer. As a psychic detective team, they’re formidable. As lovers, they discover that they’re insatiable. 


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Thursday, July 28, 2016

DIALOGUE AND CHARACTERIZATION FROM REAL LIFE

by Jackie King
Realistic dialogue with clear attributions makes the characters in your story come alive. Natural sounding dialogue helps distinguish one character from another. 

The death knell for a writer:
Have you ever been reading, and suddenly wondered which character is speaking? I have, and the experience frustrates me. I'm forced to stop reading and count quotation marks backward to the last attribution, then count forward to learn who’s talking. I’m annoyed right out of the story. I want to throw the book across the room. If I haven’t bonded with the characters in a special way, I might quit and move to another book in my TBR (to be read) stack.

Solution to the problem:
Dialogue confusion occurs when attributions aren’t given or when characters all sound alike. Realistic dialogue makes the people in a story come alive. Natural sounding dialogue can help distinguish one character from another even without names. If there's any doubt about the reader knowing who is speaking, use the simple attribution, said The word, "said," is almost invisible to American readers. Don't be afraid to use it .

 How do we keep the reader turning pages?
Try the following exercise to hone this skill:

Write a scene with three people without using names of characters.

I did this in a class once, and it was so much fun! I chose a high school principal’s office as the setting. The three characters were a teenage boy, his father and the principal. I worked all afternoon on this project, and finally achieved the goal to my satisfaction. I used body language and conversation only. No names.

My challenge:
The boy needed to sound young, and inexperienced. He's embarrassed, and intimidated  by the situation, but trying not to show his feelings to the grownups.

The father channeled a middle aged businessman, highly annoyed and embarrassed by his son’s bad behavior. He snapped at his son, was tersely polite with the principal, and he looked at his watch every couple of minutes.

The principal was professional, but obviously most interested in solving his problem and getting on with running the school. The premise of the scene was to portray a student getting little real guidance from either adult

A stealthy technique:
Good dialogue is not easy to write. Some people seem to have a natural flare for this, and others have to work hard and rewrite a number of times. Both writers create successful novels, and entertain readers.

Eavesdropping is a good tool for improving dialogue. When you’re at a restaurant, listen to the conversations nearby. This works even better, if you can’t see the people who are talking. Picture their appearance, age, color of hair, level of education, and apply that method to your own characters. Is one person from a different part of the country? How does his speech pattern and lingo differ from locals?

Moving on.

None of us, writers and readers alike, graduate from the school of life. We experience either joy or vexation, both through books and in life. We learn continually, and writers record this fine journey. 

Remember:
Everything that’s going on in our seemingly mundane lives, will one day be considered history.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Writing Mistakes

by Jean Henry Mead

It’s often difficult for novices to break the writing habits they've learned in school. Perfect grammar, especially when writing dialogue, is one of the worst mistakes a writer can make. I was in an online critique group a dozen years ago, comprised mainly of unpublished writers. I’ll never forget a critique that said, “You need to clean up your characters’ grammar.” The characters were uneducated farmers.

Author William Noble once said, “The grammar rules we learned in eighth grade should never be followed absolutely. At best they are one choice among several, and at worst, they will dampen our creative instincts.”

The use of clichés is another fledgling blunder. The rule of thumb is: if it sounds familiar, don’t use it. If you can’t come up with something original and your muse is tugging you on, type in a row of Xs and write it later during the second draft. But if you must use a cliché, add the word proverbial as in "as profitable as the proverbial golden goose."

Of course there are rules that must be followed, such as adding commas for clarity and periods at the end of sentences. Some writers have felt that innovative sentence structure signals creativity, but the practice is only acceptable now in poetry. In Ulysses, for example, James Joyce’s last chapter begins with:

Yes, because he never did a thing like that before as ask to get his breakfast in bed with a couple of eggs since the City Arms hotel when he used to be pretending to be laid up with a sick voice doing his highness to make himself interesting to that old faggot Mrs. Riordan that he thought he had a great leg of and she never left us a farthing all for the masses for herself and her soul greatest miser ever. . .

Joyce’s stream of conscience continues for forty pages without a single period. I wonder how many people actually read it to the end. Creative and innovative? In my opinion, anything that slows the reader for even a few words may cause him to abandon the book.

On the opposite end of the sentence spectrum, Hemingway taught novices to write declarative sentences: “The day had been hot.” “The rifle was long and cold and strange.” “She wore black shoes, a red cape and a white tunic. . .” However, short, choppy sentences must be interspersed with longer ones to make them read well. A good practice for beginning writers is to read one’s work aloud to avoid clumsy phrasing. If words don’t flow well together and your reader stumbles over them, you’ve lost her.

Reading the classics doesn't prepare anyone well to write for today’s market. I’ve judged writing contest entries that contain the most formal language I’ve seen since reading War and Peace. Some fledglings avoid contractions entirely, even when writing dialogue. The result is stilted language.

Studying the bestsellers for style, content, description and characterization helps the beginner gain a handhold in the current market. Some writing teachers advise copying your favorite author’s work, as artists have done with the masters—as long as it’s only practice and doesn't result in plagiarism.
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Thursday, July 14, 2016

BOOKS CHANGED MY LIFE

by Jackie King

People have asked if there's a specific book that changed my life, and that question always stumps me. Many books have influenced me but what transformed my life was discovering books in general.

I remember the first time that I fell into the pages of a book all by myself. I can still recall the awe of it all. Between my hands I held the promise of a lifetime filled with adventure and pleasure and comfort. I was overcome by the wonder of it all, and, much like Dorothy in The Wonderful   Wizard of Oz, my world turned Technicolor.

My mother had read books to me, and I had loved that. But hearing those stories was limited by Mother having time available, and she was a busy woman.



The ability to read my very own hardcover book was a thrill that I’ll never forget.
~~~~~~~
I was seven years old and riding home on a school bus filled with high school kids who were Mother’s English students. Being a teacher's kid automatically made me a stationary target. All of the contempt these teens felt for being forced to write complete sentences without using double negatives found its way to me. The short ride to our small house in the country was usually an ordeal. But suddenly I had found a hiding place.


God smiled on me in the third grade when Miss Hinkle, an aging old maid whose life was teaching her students, put a book into my hands and encouraged me to read it as a way to entertain myself.

My earlier experience with reading books had featured the perfect world of Dick, Jane and Spot. While I admired these siblings and their pet, I didn’t have one thing in common with them.
Dick and Jane never got into trouble, and I did. Their parents agreed on most everything. Mine were divorced. Their mother stayed home with them, and mine had to work. While I admired such paragons of virtue, I couldn't identify with them.

In the book I read that day on the bus, the girl telling the story got into all kinds of trouble, and suddenly, magically, I was that girl!

The terrors of the bus didn’t disappear, but I had found a hiding place. Each time after that, when I opened the pages of a book, I found my life filled with excitement. That was the year I read my first mystery, one about the Bobbsey Twins. In another year or two came Nancy Drew. And when I was eighteen I discovered Agatha Christie and I was a goner.





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What I'm reading now:





If I’m able to give my readers even an ounce of the pleasure that I have received from other authors, then I will have made Miss Hinkle proud.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Technically Challenged

by June Shaw


This is for all of us who were born technically challenged. I mean, Bob tells my sons not to use mechanical equipment--like a wheel barrel.

When computers became the thing (okay, I have to admit the first one was in our local college, and it took up two walls and was kept in a cold, locked room--but we could see it through all the windows), I said whoever knew how to work that thing was certainly brilliant. (Hint: I should have known then it wasn't going to be me.)

Fast forward awhile, and computers changed. They grew smaller, did not need to be kept in really cold conditions, and a few businesses had them.

"I think it's great that my children will probably learn how to use one of those things when they're in college," I'd tell everyone, so glad I would never have to go through that immense learning curve. After all, I'd given birth to five children, completed a B.A. plus in college, and began teaching whatever from my school's textbooks. There was one computer, and it was in the office, and as a lowly English teacher, I certainly did not learn to use it. (Remember the wheel barrel?)

Okay, but I did want to become a writer. I wanted to write novels, and yes, I had paper and a typewriter that usually worked, but did not have much extra time.

Getting to the point: Yes, I learned the basics of using a computer, which is so much easier to work with than a typewriter (but not the paper and pen), and I'm thrilled that I know what I do. I've written a number of books--maybe nine or ten--and they all come out of a computer until they come out in print or as e-books.


So why can't I use this blog? I'm on it with a number of great mystery authors who post regularly when they're supposed to, but my posts? Sometimes I think I've gotten one written and scheduled to show, and a week later I discover nope, that didn't happen. Now I'm trying again. I hope you'll all cheer for things to work out for me this time because, okay, I am better than a wheel barrel (although I do not want to use one.)

Am I the only one technically challenged? Gosh, one of my sons teaches computer usage to a group of people who work with him and one of my grandsons writes programs.

Please tell me some other person like me is out there. Thank you.

www.juneshaw.com


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Don't blame the author!

by Carola

I'm in the middle of checking the galleys (known these days as First Pass Pages) for the third of my Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, Requiem for a Mezzo. It's going to be reissued with new artwork next January.
The process involves re-typesetting the text. I'm very glad I've been given a chance to go over it. You wouldn't believe how many fresh errors have crept in. There are letters missing from the middle of words; letters replaced with a different one; transpositions; and even one four-word phrase printed twice consecutively.

Last week I was checking the first pass pages of Buried in the Country, my fourth Cornish mystery, due out in December.

The manuscript went through my own final edit before sending it off, my editor's reading, the copyeditor's reading, my reading and editing of the copyeditor's corrections and suggestions, and then typesetting. The result was--not unexpectedly--considerably worse than Requiem's. Besides a few things all the editing eyes had missed, I found the horrid results of the typesetter's trying to make sense of my red-pencil changes to the copyeditor's brown-pencil changes. But as well as those, there were several introduced errors such as missing letters (as for was, offical for official), a name not capitalized, and oddest of all, scotch for splotch!

I hope I caught everything, but I wouldn't swear to it. Nor can I be certain that my corrections will make it correctly into print.


It's a complicated business going from a .doc file to a book. If the end result isn't perfect, don't blame the author!