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Showing posts from May, 2019

Writer School?

Here's something from my mailbag. "Dear Michael, do you need to do good in school if you want to be a writer? I stink at school and all my friends laugh at me when I tell them I want to write, but I'm serious." Followed by a sentence or two of "I need your words to encourage me" or some such nonsense. Fortunately, a writing sample is rarely attached. If it is, either it's excellent or it stinks like rancid yak butter. Do you have to be good in school? Given what's passing for English in some places, I'd certainly like to see more effort given to school. If you're a student reading this, please try to learn something while you can. If you aspire to be an author and you did poorly in school, or if you're just plain uneducated, don't let it stop you. What we do as authors isn't taught in school. They teach grammar, and bless them. I can't teach that subject. If you're very fortunate, you'll stumble across some te

Writers Gotta Read, Right? (May it never be too late)

The month of May has a plethora of holidays, some somber, such as Memorial Day, which is always the last Monday of the month, and some wacky, such as National Hamburger Day, which is today (May 28). You can find a list of May holidays here (thanks for the link, Dani). This list is fun reading in and of itself. While I'm not certain how many books feature National Hamburger Day or International Tuba Day, here are some lists for some of the more prominent holidays. I have no reading lists for National Tuba Day (first Friday in May), sorry. artist unknown; tuba is by Besson [Public domain] May Day. Let's start at the very beginning! Mystery Fanfare, always on the job, has suggested mystery books for your perusal . The website Books Tell You Why has some classics . Leaning left, here is Listopia's Verso May Day list . Mother's Day. As you might expect, Mother's Day is well represented in reading lists, including the following. Cozy Mystery List, H

The Writer’s Conundrum: How Much Online Time is Too Much?

Recent studies tell us most Americans are spending too much time with their computers, smartphones, and other devices. At the beginning, writers tended to follow the advice of agents and editors who felt that platform was all important, and platform had to include a website, blog, and a strong social media presence. That was the trap no one anticipated. Do the sites help authors and their publishers sell books? I’m guessing not too many. At least, not enough to warrant spending more than a few minutes a day updating, reading, and/or tweeting/retweeting. Image via Pixabay Facebook , more than Twitter , is also a hotbed of bandwagons, started by goodness knows who and jumped on by everyone who can’t resist being part of the latest groupthink, hivemind, lemmings-jumping-off-the-cliff fad. I don't believe that sells books either. The part of my online activities that keeps me in touch with family and friends is not all bad. Believing that being online more than a few minutes

The tragic life of May Boatwright and other tidbits from The Secret Life of Bees

At night, the bees circle Lily Owen's room like airplanes in a holding pattern above a busy airport, their wings shiny bits of glitter in the darkness. During the day, she hears them tunnel endlessly inside her bedroom walls. Fascinated by their industriousness and behavior, she watches and listens with both fascination and delight. So begins The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. The story goes on when 14-year-old Lily runs away from her abusive father. She's accompanied by her black nanny Rosaleen, who has just been assaulted by racist white men incensed by the escalating Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Looking for work and lodging, they ultimately arrive at the home of the Boatwright sisters, well-to-do beekeepers who operate a successful honey business despite being African Americans in the South.  This book, the author's first novel, introduces us to both memorable characters and the strengths and frailties of human behavior, as do many other stories

What You Can Learn Listening to Audio Books

During April and May, I’ve been doing a lot of driving. I rented audio books from the library by authors I like. I got two at a time for the two round trips in case I didn’t like one or the other. Book number one, written in first person, droned on about the main characters inner feelings. Now don’t get me wrong, I like digging deep into a character. It’s a way for the reader to get inside his head (the character was male) and feel what he’s thinking. It’s also a way for a writer to become that character and express more precisely how he thinks about a situation. One of the problems with that process is when the introspection goes on so long that the character seems self-absorbed. Lordy, lordy, I couldn’t get through the second disc. This was from a very popular author, male, and it reminded me why I stopped reading him years ago. I always felt he was writing for women by pushing the sensitive side of the characters. Now again, don’t get me wrong, I like sensitive as long as the se

New Book Blooms in May

As we are well into spring in most parts of the United States and Canada, our thoughts turn to gardens and lawns and flowers that bloom in May. I remember early May was the time for me to plant pansies for my mother as a Mother's Day present. Photo by Maryann Miller She loved those little "people" flowers with the smile she always saw in them. The smile that would elicit one from her, even during the most difficult times of our lives. And there were plenty of difficult times. It was an annual event - this gifting of pansies - and the flower soon became a binding force between us and my sister. Today, as we look ahead to Mother's Day - our 5th without her - my sister and I will think of pansies and cardinals - the two things from nature that Mother most loved - and that will bring us comfort. For many years, I wanted to write a book about my mother, who came out of a horrible childhood and challenging adulthood to become one of the strongest women I've eve

The Cut and Paste Thief and What To Do If You've Been Plagiarized

As Maryann Miller detailed in her March post , recently a hack named Cristiane Serruya came up with what she thought was a clever scheme. She trimmed paragraphs from multiple books, quilted them together, then published them as her own work. She changed the titles, character names, and a word here or there. The results were a bit like Frankenstein's monster, but she got away with it, for a while. A fan of romance writer Courtney Milan's books noticed something odd when reading Ms. Serruya's book. The passages seemed a little too familiar to Milan's The Duchess War . She put the pieces together and sent an email to Ms. Milan. When contacted, the thief at first denied then deflected, blaming "ghostwriters" she hired for the crime. The battle went viral on Twitter with the hashtag #CopyPasteCris. Once the scam was revealed, a deeper dive showed Ms. Serruya had stolen from over forty authors, including Romance legend Nora Roberts. The affected authors might