Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Eight Truths About Me

My good friend, Linda Yezak from 777 Peppermint Place, has bestowed upon me (and this humble blog) its second 'award'--the 'Honest Scrap'. It's a bit off the beaten path where this blog is concerned, since this blog is geared more towards writing than the writer, so I've been puzzling over this for a few days now, trying to decide A: who else to bestow this award to, and B: what to say, since I should reveal eight unknown or little known truths about me. I was planning a blog post somewhere down the line on my background as a writer, so I'll try to stick to that.

1. My earliest recollection of actually writing was attempting to write an episode of my favorite cartoon at the time, Disney's 'Rescue Rangers'. I was maybe 6 or 7 at the time, and visiting my grandma's house.

2. My first attempt to write a book was years later, when I was probably 13 or 14. I had become a voracious reader, and my main (read=only) source of entertainment was Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys. It was around this time I started out-pacing the rate at which they were being produced, so I decided to write my own story, and actually queried the publisher to see about becoming a ghostwriter! (They sent me a generic guidelines, no note.)

3. I began writing my own stories shortly after this, though they had a distinct 'Drew' feel to them, and the characters were based on me and my two best friends--even had their names, though not mine.

4. I didn't realize you had to rewrite, and began querying after finishing a very rough draft.

5. I received my first rejection letters around the age of 15.

6. Although I was seeking a degree in journalism when I met him, my now-husband didn't realize until several years after we married that I was actually a novelist.

7. I took a two to three year hiatus from active novel writing shortly before and after marrying.

8. Since picking up my novel writing again, I've written--and completed--at least four novels, and have started at least six more. Two of the completed ones are actively being edited/rewritten at this time and I personally feel they have a decent shot at publication.... one day.

Now, the challenge.

I'm going to challenge the following people to complete the same and receive this award.

They are:

1. Holly Heisey
2. Tommie Lyn
3. Tabitha Bird
4. K.M. Weiland
5. Lynn Mosher
6. Rita Betti
7. Maggie Woychik
8. MeganRebekah

Have fun with the challenge, ladies! I look forward to seeing who you nominate--and what you have to say!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Seven Steps on the Writer's Path

For my debut book review, I thought I'd go off the beaten path and review a book by a fellow Kansan. The book is: 'Seven Steps on the Writer's Path' by Nancy Pickard (as well as Lynn Lott).

I first met Nancy Pickard (and she graciously autographed this book for me at that time) October 11, 2006. For those who aren't familiar with Nancy, she is a bestselling mystery writer, and a co-founder of Sisters in Crime, an international organization whose goal is to advance women as published mystery authors. It's a good group, and I've been blessed to be able to either attend or be a member of three different groups in the last decade.

Anyway, Nancy and Lynn published this book about five years ago.

What I like about this book is that the information contained in it can be applied to a variety of life's situations, not just writing. Lynn is a licensed family therapist, so her background seemed key in writing this book. Nancy brought the experience of having gone through what they believe are the 'Seven Steps' that every writer goes through in the process of writing anything from a poem to an epic.

They've labeled the steps as follows: Unhappiness, Wanting, Commitment, Wavering, Letting Go, Immersion, and Fulfillment. Using examples from multiple authors, including themselves, they showcase what these steps look like and how you can figure out if you're on them. Having just finished the rough draft of my sci-fi, 'Cora's Song', this past weekend, I can look back at the past 20 months or so and pick out when I was on each of these steps, so I would have to say their perceptions are accurate. In fact, I probably went through these stages twice during the book, due, mostly, to the fact that I had a baby in the middle of writing the draft!

The book also contains a smattering of quotes from writers & non-writers (Sue Grafton to Thomas Edison) in the margins that are applicable to the particular stage. This is fun for me, and gives me little quotes to share with my hubby.

While I think this book is good, and the information contained within is valuable to writers and non-writers alike, what I don't like is that the authors got a little long-winded. While the chapters are the stages, and they're divided into smaller segments (say, sub-stages), I found that having page after page running 30 - 40 pages a little much. Personally, I think they could have cut the amount by at least 1/3 and been good.

Still, coming in at about 240 pages, it's a good and important read. I would challenge you to pick up a copy, read it, learn from it, and determine where on the Writer's Path you are today.

Until next time,


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

With the onset of July, I just wanted to write a brief note to my (few) readers and wish everyone a good and safe holiday.

It is on July 4th that we celebrate our 233rd birthday as a nation. I hope you'll take a few moments and remember the cost at which we came to have this great freedom--the many fathers, uncles, sons, brothers, the mothers, aunts, daughters and sons that have sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

Without it, I may not be free to write this blog; you may not be free to read it.

Have fun with friends and family, be safe, celebrate our freedom.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Too Opinionated: Should you allow your characters to make blunt political statements?

Anyone who knows me well knows I've been involved in politics for quite a while--and I'm very passionate about it. If a fence post has a different opinion, I'm liable to argue with it.

But, I'm also a writer--and a fiction writer at that. I realize that while my opinions may be appropriate if I'm writing an editorial to a local paper, it may not be so appropriate in my novels.

For the most part, the books I read give few, if any, political opinions in their pages. There are exceptions and there have been statements in the pages of the novels I've read that have turned me off to the author. There are other authors that will occasionally make a statement I disagree with, but because the story is so well written--and it's not the main thrust of the story--I will allow it, gloss over it, or grit my teeth as I read the section, and be happy when it's over. Sometimes it's not so much political, but has to do with worldview (I, for example, am a Creationist, so have problems when certain authors refer to evolution in a be-all, end-all manner.)

When writing fiction, one generally needs to remember the reader is not into reading a book vocalizing strong political opinions just for the sake of vocalizing them. If, however, the context allows for it, my feeling is that it can be allowed, as long as it's kept to a minimum and not allowed to turn into a bash-party on whatever-it-is your character is against.

There is something else to consider, however.

Having political statements in your writing can easily date your books. I see this most in political thrillers. I've read several Tom Clancy novels, and one of my favorite authors is Vince Flynn. With Clancy, what may have seemed very current ten, twenty years ago, now seems like a fictional historical account. And, when Flynn wrote about Saddam Hussein years ago, now you read it and go, 'Wait a sec--didn't they hang him?' It doesn't seem as urgent when the character they're hunting was a real person and you know he's dead!

The same goes when opinions are clearly stated. Remember the illegal immigration debates of a few years ago? What about last year's fiasco with high gas prices? While some people may still keep them at the forefront, more than likely your reader has gone on to other things and is not likely to remember them.

Another great example was a reference I read in a friend's work-in-progress to H. Ross Perot, the presidential candidate in 1992 & 1996. While I knew who he was because of my background, how many other people would? Especially in ten more years? The line seriously dated her work, even though it was just one or two lines.

Something else to consider, since I do write some futuristic novels, are what may be the end result of the current debates? Or, if you're writing a story set in the 22nd Century, what are the hot button issues then? They probably won't be arguing about gas prices or Muslim extremists then (though you never know!) Perhaps it's genetic engineering, rights of androids, whether we should send people past the outer rim of our solar system.

With that in mind, I do encourage you to add a few bits of color by making an opinionated statement or two. Just try to not make it too "current" (like the illegals or gas prices). Certain topics are up for perennial debate over the past few decades: 2nd Amendment, abortion, death penalty, and I personally feel they always will.

But, if you do make a blunt statement I may disagree with, warn me beforehand so I can be sure to have some chamomile tea, okay?

Until next time,


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