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Showing posts from April, 2019

Learning How To Write

As a student of Spanish, my goal was to think in Spanish. Skip the word-by-word translation so I'd have the necessary speed to speak and listen. I know words in Spanish that I'd be hard pressed to translate. Usually profanity, I confess. Chingow! Back when I taught English in China, my students studied grammar for years, and knew it better than you or I. They read. They wrote. But speaking involves moving faster than that. In conversation, we don't have time to write it first and make sure it's all grammatically flawless, then read it aloud, perhaps after a bit of rehearsal. So, I tried to give them a chance to practice putting words together on the fly, rules be damned. The rules they'd internalized would kick in and keep them comprehensible, which would build their confidence in their ability to keep creating conversation that way. This is not unlike what we go through as authors. First we study rulebooks, perhaps take some classes, and conclude just about

Writers Gotta Read, Right? (No foolin'!)

The many faces of April, from April Fool's Day to Easter to "April showers bring May flowers." Claude Shafer   (The Tacoma Times), Public Domain   As we close in on the end of April, I figure we can't turn our backs on the month without a quick look at what books might be out there with an April Fool's theme. Let's start with mysteries. (After all, mysteries are basically designed to mess with readers' minds, and then jump out, shouting "Fooled you!" at the end.) We have this handful from the Cozy Mystery List . Hurray for Janet Rudolph, whose Mystery Fanfare blog always comes through for holiday/special day reads. April's Fool's is no exception .  Moving away from murder and mayhem... The blog Borrow.Read.Repeat. offers " Laugh-out-loud reads " for April Fool's Day. Listopia has Hoover Library's Insatiable Reads' April Fools (It's Always Good to Laugh) list, including Howl: A collection of the

My Foolish Self

April is the month of fooling people. It makes me think back to a time long ago when I was young, foolish, daring, and maybe a bit irresponsible. I’ll keep it chronological, so I’ll start in the fifth grade. I always wanted to be foreign and speak another language. Even when I was in grade school, I was fascinated with anyone from another country. In the fifth grade, my home room teacher was Greek, so when two sisters newly arrived from Greece were placed in her class without regard for their ages just because Miss Thanaglou spoke Greek, I was right there making friends. I was invited to their house and served a bowl of Greek tomato soup with lots of lemon. An older sister came in and whisked the bowl away thinking I wouldn't like it, but I did. I learned how to write in Greek, really translating from English to Greek letters. I still remember how to count in Greek, say stand up and sit down; hello, how are you, fine thank you, and you? Recipe: Domata Soupa - Épices de Cru

Foolish characters make for great stories

Not all stories have a traditional good guy and bad guy, nor should they. Readers love compelling characters, and they love conflict that propels a story forward. However, no requirement dictates those characters must wear either black or white hats. Many shades of gray reflect personality, decision processes, lifestyles, character traits, and the list goes on. One option that steps away from the black hat/white hat scenario is a foolish character that unwittingly (or not) upends the lives of a spouse, friends, family, workmates, etc. How can such unwise characters keep readers turning pages? Let's consider a story possibility where foolish choices rule the roost and drive the story to a costly conclusion. Tears coursed down Marisa's cheeks and fell onto the clothes she was throwing into the large suitcase. She brushed them away, but they persisted. The last thing she wanted to do was leave Tom, but reality was a stern teacher, an unforgiving taskmaster, a destroyer of

Crafting The Con Man

In the month of April Fools' Day, it seems like a good time to look at one of the characters we love to hate: The Con Man. He can appear in any genre. He can be the hero or the villain. The Con Man plot is most often used in Mystery or Thriller, but can be used in other genres. Cons can be conducted in person or via mail or the internet these days. There are successful swindlers and not so successful ones. Whether Dick is good at the game or laughable depends on your plot. Cons have been gaining people’s confidence since the population grew large enough to support snake oil salesmen. Let’s take an in-depth look at what makes a con tick. Dick the scammer is selfish and greedy. He isn’t lazy. Conning people takes a lot of energy and he is constantly in danger of getting caught. Traveling light and avoiding relationships is a good idea. Dick can be a charming predator. The most deadly scammer is a true sociopath. If you want to humanize him, give Dick a smidgen of conscience.

Have You Hugged a Librarian Today?

Next to running in the park with my two best friends, spending time at the small library on the corner of my street was my favorite thing to do in the summer when I was growing up. My girlfriends and I would go there almost every other day to get a pile of books to read at some comfortable place, often a park about a mile away. We were into bike riding, too. Fast-forward a lot of years to when I started my writing career as a journalist. Then I wasn’t just going to the library to get books to read for myself or for my kids. This was a time when I relied heavily on libraries, and the wonderful reference librarians, to help me when I needed facts and figures for articles and my nonfiction books. (Kudos to the librarians at the Plano Public Library. They saved my bacon more than once.) During that time I wrote nine books for  Rosen Publishing that included Coping With Weapons and Violence in School and on your Streets, and the librarians proved invaluable in steering me toward bo

How to Enjoy Using Twitter (No Foolin')

Yes, it’s possible to enjoy using Twitter instead of getting stressed, frustrated, and downright angry. How? I have four main suggestions for those who truly want to use Twitter to make connections around the world without tearing their hair out along the way.This post assumes a reader already has knowledge of how Twitter works and how frustrating it can be. However, if you’ve never tried out the site because of all the bad stuff you’ve heard, I can assure you there are ways to keep the monster under control and have fun. Connect with people who share your interests. If you're on Twitter because you want to see and engage in vicious political discussions, it will be easy to find followers who are willing to agree, fight, stalk, and threaten. But if you want to avoid that kind of community and instead search for those who are more interested in knitting, cats, books, mountain climbing, etc., begin by posting tweets, liking, and retweeting the things you see that fit

How NOT to Sell a Book

As an editor, I occasionally run across writers who are not nice people. They're angry, difficult to work with, believe their words are chiseled in stone on the tablet Moses carried down from Mount Sinai, and worst of all, they're condescending and think they know better than everyone about everything. Despite all these charming qualities, a few of them do manage to get published eventually, but their writing careers are often short-lived. When I had just started editing for a major genre publishing house, an acquisitions editor sent me a manuscript. Normally a lovely person, on this occasion she was edgy and irritable. She wanted a fast read and I gave her one. The author had a long publishing history and won a couple of awards, but she regarded him warily. I soon discovered why. He had an ugly temper and didn’t have much use for women. Apparently, this guy also didn't know how to write, so how had he been published so often? The book I read was not only shot throu