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Showing posts from November, 2016

Writing as Therapy

One of our themes this of this month’s blog is gratitude. It’s been a tough month for some of us, maybe all of us. The contentious election of 2016 put friends against friends, and family members against each other. It has been one of my biggest distractions for the last year, and now that it’s over, I’ve decided to stop watching TV news. I haven’t since November 8th. The vacancy it left got me back to reading, binge watching TV series like Poldark , which I’m loving, and writing. It also made me think of why I started to write in the first place. It was during a difficult time in my life. I was stressed and upset, over what doesn’t matter. We’ve all had those times; they keep popping up like a summer cold. I read a suspense novel that I thought was rather poorly written, both in execution and plot. I’m no great writing critic, but I know what I like, what keeps me riveted. This book left me thinking, for some ungodly reason, that I could do better. I’d never written anything other t

#FridayReads The ComPanion by S.K. Randolph

My introduction to “otherworldly” entertainment came in the form of a western science fiction serial in the mid-1940s. The Phantom Empire , filmed in the 30s and starring Gene Autry, played Saturday afternoons at our local theater. Then Star Trek premiered in the fall of 1966. During the 20-year lapse between Autry and Captain Kirk and for decades thereafter, however, I never stepped over the line into the exciting world of fantasy. That changed a few years ago when I began reading S.K. Randolph’s novel, The DiMensioner’s Revenge . This first book of The Unfolding Trilogy gripped my attention by the end of the prologue and held it all the way to the last page. Volumes 2 and 3— The ConDra’s Fire and The MasTer’s Reach —continued the adventure, and tension mounted as good and evil battled across the galaxy. The ending of the third volume—stunning as it was—left me hoping that, somehow and in some form, the series would continue. Then I received an advance copy of The ComPanion . My

Grateful for Great Courses

In a month of gratitude, I want to put a shout out to all those who help other writers become better at their craft so they can continue to feed my book addiction. My motto has always been: Life is Too Short for Bad Fiction. You can see my own contributions (the Story Building Blocks  series) to this effort on my website . I love looking through the Great Courses Catalog that comes through the mail. A long string of classes on DVDs and books line our shelves. You can learn everything from history, mathematics, and science to the humanities all in the comfort of your living room, office, or car, via DVD player or downloads onto your PC. Years ago I found the course Building Great Sentences   by Brooks Landon . It changed my writing forever. I vaguely remembered diagramming sentences in high school, but this course turned language into building blocks that are as colorful and versatile as L EGO®s . As if reading my mind that writers needed more master classes in writing, a

#FridayReads Author In Progress

It was quite a delight to win one of the ARCs for Author In Progress by Therese Walsh, Editor & the Writer Unboxed Community. If you are not familiar with the Writer Unboxed Blog , you might want to hop over there, when you are finished here, and spend some time reading the wonderful posts. I found that community a number of years ago when one of my writing friends had written a guest post there. While I was at the site,  I read a few of the other posts, and immediately subscribed to the blog. Every day there is a new bit of writing advice and wisdom and inspiration, and the writers who share so freely on the blog have contributed to the book. The book is organized in such a way as to take a writer from the very beginning of a journey of words through to the end. Part One is Prepare, with an opening essay by Barbara O'Neal, Why We Write . She says, "Story is why writers exist, and story is why you are driven to the page. In a world so overwhelmed with everyday trivial

Taking Sides

Good morning, duckies! As we know, one of the important aspects of style is movement ; the drape, line, and flow of a particular piece. The term also has more serious connotations. It conjures up visions of heated debates, yard signs, and letters to officials. There is such a movement underway now. It has staunch supporters and ardent opposition, and has inspired many people to duck their heads and wait for it to blow over. I am speaking, of course, about the Oxford comma. In the writing and editing world, the Oxford, or serial, comma is a polarizing agent. Clever memes and profanity-laced dismissals abound on both sides of the argument. As with the topic of mixing polka dots with plaid, one must tread lightly. Adherents for or against are rarely swayed by shouting and insults. Indeed, even logic fails to prevail at times. The CMOS states plainly that, “When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more, a comma … should appear before the co

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

Photo by Paul Downey , via Flickr This is the month of thank yous, the season of gratitude. Even though a writer’s life is not an easy one, we still have plenty to be grateful for. At the top of my list are books, writing communities, and publishers. A visiting magazine editor once told a room full of writers at a panel on publishing that in order to succeed a writer needs do three things besides write. We all sat up straighter and strained our ears to hear. The magic ingredients, she told us, were 1) to read many, many great books, especially in the genre we were writing, 2) to join and participate in writing communities such as the conference we were all attending, and 3) to send out our work to contests, editors, and agents, in the hopes they would help us get published. It sounded like a lot of work, but it was nice to have a formula for “success,” whatever that was, so I took it to heart. I got busy and added to my writing practice as much reading, workshopping, and submit

Gratitude and Writing—Is There a Connection?

November and gratitude go together, given the traditional Thanksgiving celebration in the U.S. However, let’s look beyond the turkey dinner, visits with relatives, and reflections on the year’s blessings and consider this month’s writing prompt— NaNoWriMo . Now pounding away daily on the keyboard to meet the 50,000-word requirement by month’s end may intimidate some, so let’s explore the inspiration of gratitude when facing a writing deadline. I recently read that gratitude helps generate happiness. What does happiness have to do writing? Mood can affect both ability and desire to write. Maybe it doesn’t in your case; in mine, it does. What affects my mood? Weather? Sometimes. The moods of people around me? To a degree. Life in general? Uh huh. Negative thinking? Always. And the list goes on. Still, I fancy myself a writer and want to finish those stories I’ve already started. It’s been said that a routine of daily writing makes huge sense. (Remember NaNoWriMo.) Unfor

Questionable Decisions

Choosing hydrogen as the gas to inflate an airship. Introducing rabbits to Australia. They had no natural predator on the continent and rabbits breed like…well, you know.  Rejecting the first Harry Potter book. You have to wonder if those 12 publishing firms have gotten over it yet. You also have to wonder if the acquisitions editor responsible at all the firms is still employed.  Ireland. After conquering England, a Norman stood on a west coast cliff, saw a distant shadow of land and thought, "Close enough. Let's have it too."  Deciding the aesthetics of uninterrupted deck space was of greater importance to its first class passengers than the number of lifeboats on the Titanic. Invading Russia. For some reason, armies tend to forget that it's a big country and winter is coming. Russian winter. Vietnam. Enough said, really. Deciding to follow George Donner and James Reed and abandon a well-known wagon train route known as the California Trail in favour of a

#NaNoWriMo Tips Round-Up

NaNoWriMo 2016 is off and running. In between typing your fingers to the bone and ignoring your family, you might want to unwind by reading up on how to improve your chances of NaNo success. Here is the round-up of this week's best NaNo tips, tricks, hacks, and general great advice: Want to GO PRO? 10 Ways to Own NaNo (And the Other 11 Months, Too) by Kristen Lamb, who says, Get used to this pace - anything less is for amateurs. 5 NaNoWriMo Hacks To Keep Words Flowing by Angela Ackerman - You need a plan, Stan. 5 Types of NaNoWriMo Participants and the Tools You Need by The Magic Violinist - Are you a solitary or competitive NaNo-er? First draft writing: 7 tips for simpler, easier drafting , at Now Novel. Have you tried Pomodoro yet? 38 Tips for Kicking NaNoWriMo in the Butt This Year , at Reedsy, who coaxed dozens of authors and editors to share their single best piece of advice for NaNo-ers. And if that wasn't enough to inspire you, here is more Advice From Auth