Thursday, April 29, 2010


Taking a short break from some serious editing to share my shame . . .

I let my poetic nature run amok and horrendous-wondrous metaphors are shouting, "Look at me! I'm a writer! A really, really, really awesome writer (for the ages) who can make a metaphor out of anything. Who can sling a simile like a pizza guy slings dough!"


Right in the middle of tense and life-threatening scenes. Sheesh.

Metaphor-itis and Simile-osis were making me puke.

So, I went looking through my craft books in an attempt to confirm my diagnosis. To my surprise, I found nothing in the first two books I checked. But . . . in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King, I found this on page 203 (and didn't even have to read the example):

"The metaphor, the dark blue stolen jewels in a setting of bone, strains for effect."

Oh, ick. So do mine.

Then, "Yet the problem isn't the unworkability of the metaphor but its presence in the scene in the first place."

Nothing like confirmation, is there?

And the fifth item in the checklist at the end of the chapter reads, "Are there any figures of speech you're particularly proud of? Do they come at key moments during your plot? If so, think about getting rid of them."

Like so many other things related to writing, a little goes a long way.

Has anyone else ever suffered from these ailments?

Time to take my medicine.

CR: 212 by Alafair Burke.

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Little Inspiration from L.J. Sellers

The title of this video is "Writer goes from newspaper to no job to book deal." Talk about God's timing never quite matching up to our own, but always proving infinitely better. Well, in the end. *grin*

L.J. Sellers is a novelist worth checking out. She's involved in a lot of online groups and I follow her on Twitter. She has an energy and dedication and commitment that's contagious.

If you're having an "off" day, dip into a little of L.J.'s enthusiasm, then WRITE.

CR: Under the Dome by Stephen King. He sort of leads his readers along with this one, but man . . . you really want to know how it ends. There's only been one scene I kind of skimmed over so far, and out of about 500 pages, that's sayin' something.

It's all better with friends.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

John Irving on the Writer's Craft

I love hearing a bit from authors who have blazed their own trail. Some of our challenges have changed, but many of them are the same:

To craft a compelling story. To gift readers with a moment—a glimpse—into a world so different they're immersed into an alternate reality, but similar enough they can relate. To string a few words that are not new together and create something unique and magical.

Listen to John Irving, Master Craftsman:

CR: Under the Dome by Stephen King. I'm not even 1/2 way through this one. A fabulous story, but I'm finding some POV shifts disconcerting. I'm sure it's my bad, not King's.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Language Barrier

Last Friday I went to get my driver's license renewed. Believing I was in deep doo-doo because it had expired on my birthday in January, I didn't even try to renew online. My penance was to appear in person at the DMV and subject myself to government bureaucracy at its finest.

I imagine that all driver's license spaces look alike. Regardless of the colors used, they all look gray. Tired tile floors, tired plastic chairs all lined up facing the same direction, and tired looking people behind a barrier type desk calling out numbers—their biggest goal to make it through another boring day.

In spite of the large posters admonishing that all cell phones were to be turned off, a couple of people were talking on theirs. And like most cell phone users, talking loudly. (I, for one, try to tone my voice down to where I can barely hear myself. So far, whoever I'm talking to doesn't seem to have a problem.)

One young man in particular was on his cell obviously talking to a friend about a young woman. He wore the kind of droopy-drawer jeans that make me want to laugh out loud. They remind me of a country bumpkin cartoon character I must've been exposed to as a kid. What I wouldn't give to see the guys who sport those things have to tear off in a run.

If Droopy Drawers didn't have at least one four-letter word in every sentence, I think he would've confused himself. He further powered down the words by only enunciating the first two letters. (Have you ever noticed that people who use profanity actually seem to have their vocabulary curtailed?)

I'm painting a one-dimensional character here, which we should all avoid. If I were writing him, I'd work to add dimension, assuming he was important to my plot. But the fact was, this character cussed. He tossed F-bombs and others to the wind like confetti. Tired, gray confetti, but confetti.

What I did at the DVM was move away. But what if I were writing him?

I would want to write him true, but not as boring as he became in real life. Real life dialogue is dull. One F-bomb would probably be sufficient to make that particular layer of his personality clear.

As a reader, I get jolted out of the story as much by ludicrous dialogue as I do by overly-intrusive dialogue. Someone who has a live grenade land at their feet does not say, "Gosh." Nor do they say "Darn it" when headlights from a semi-truck fill their windshield on a dark night.

What about you?

CR: Under the Dome by Stephen King.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

All in Good Time

(Just so you know, I'm writing this post to help me as much as to help someone—who like me—might also see an occasional day slip away like so much vapor.)

Do you schedule your day?

Back in a previous life when I ran between appointments and meetings—with paperwork and phone calls in between—it was very natural to have a schedule. Without my calendar in front of me I would have had no idea where I was, what I was doing, or where I was headed next.

Flash forward to a life where self-imposed deadlines meets household chores.

I'm a nester. I love creating a haven for my husband and I. I work with what I have and rearrange and shove around and try different placement of tables and accessories. An entire day can disappear before I have the good sense to stop. My husband says I'm a good cook, but I think he says that mostly as an encouragement rather than an utterance of truth.

The nesting and cooking things mean time, planning and cleaning. Not one of those things means writing. When I worked in Corporate America, I often joked I needed a wife. Now that I'm home and trying to accomplish my own dream—rather than someone else's—I could really go in for polygamy.

I've learned a few things. First (and most important) I need to schedule my day. From 6:30 a.m. until 7:00 . . . overnight emails. From 7 until 8:30, shower, dress and get breakfast. Yes. That much detail. When I do it right, I include email time and get specific about what writing needs to be attended to. (Two new scenes, editing, a blog post, reviewing critiques that have come in, critiques done for my partners, self-education via a craft book, etc.).

Here's something important for my psyche. Usually, between noon and 2 o'clock, I block out something I call Slush Time. That's lunch and reading, or a movie, or a nap (I only wish), or piddling around with something non-essential. Slush Time lets me be amazingly productive or unbelievably lazy. It doesn't matter. It's all entirely my choice. It blends freedom and wise choices into one beautiful island of time.

I may not be successful to the letter (or the hour), but having a schedule gives me a thousand times better shot at having accomplished something at the end of the day. (I need to reduce the words in this sentiment and tattoo it on my arm.)

Time savers:

  • The crock pot is my best friend. Drill a dinner together in the morning, toss it in and go to work. Whoever invented this lovely kitchen appliance should have received a Pulitzer for Stress Elimination in the Working Woman.
  • I don't need to clean my house every single week. My husband is arguably a neater person than I am. Just because I had cleaning people here every week when I was working, doesn't mean they were actually needed. Every other week is fine. Unless of course, no one would really be put off if I went three weeks between intensive cleaning.
  • Laundry. One day a week. Okay . . . if you have a large family, this may not work. But just doing this one day a week (for me it's Wednesdays) not only saves time, but also money and expectations. The LOML knows if he wants a dirty something cleaned on Monday, he'd better figure out an alternative, or run a load himself.
  • Errands. These are best put off until they are compelling and can be grouped together. In and out all day long eats up time. And unless it's an errand for either new shoes, dishes, or books, I'm way okay to put it off. Online ordering, whenever possible, is by far my first choice here. (My sister gets free grocery delivery in Tucson, given a certain minimum amount. To me, that's incredibly civilized.)

Do you schedule your time? What are some of your challenges and how have you overcome them?

Here's my need: The iCal feature on Mac does not provide the same features I enjoyed on my PC calendar via MSN. I can't figure out how to get a continual schedule on my screen, and man . . . I sorely need the reminder. Any suggestions?

CR: Need to say I finished The Sex Club by L.J. Sellers. A good read, but the Kindle translation lost a little in the formatting. Which can make dialogue a little confusing. I'm back to Under The Dome by Stephen King. I'm not quite half-way through and am ready to concur that this is vintage King, a la The Stand.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Win a copy of Joseph Finder's VANISHED

While I regroup from my trip to Tucson, here's word of a book giveaway from Joseph Finder's web master.

I gave Vanished my highest personal rating of 3 stars when I read it in January. Finder introduces a great new protag named Nick Heller. An excellent read.

Here's how to win:

We are giving away a signed copy of the UK paperback edition of VANISHED on Joe's Facebook fan page:

I thought this offer would be of interest to you and your readers. For those who aren't fans yet, all they need to do is click "Become a fan." The winner will be selected at random on April 15. More details of the offer can be found on this note:!/notes/joseph-finder/win-a-signed-uk-paperback-of-vanished/378178839844

CR: The Sex Club by L.J. Sellers.

It's all better with friends.

Friday, April 2, 2010

On Giving Books Time by Barbara Fister

I'm sure we can all remember reading a book by a favorite author that seemed rushed. Thrown together. Not worth the investment of both money and time, and deeply disappointing.

Publishing houses are businesses, but they're only in business as long as they have people who want to buy what they have to sell.

Barbara Fister makes a fabulous point in this post, and with her permission, I'm reprinting it here

A little background. A well known author with a strong reader base was late submitting her latest manuscript to her publisher. Because the release date changed, she felt the need to publicly reassure her readers she was okay, and closed with the hope they would find the wait worthwhile.

I know that "write faster!" is often meant as a compliment to beloved authors, but I wonder if something's a little haywire with our culture when a writer who spends the time she feels is needed on a book to get it right has to reassure readers that she's not in trouble.

In the interviews with Dennis Lehane that I posted yesterday he mentioned how much he felt disappointed in Prayers for Rain because he had adhered to a schedule and handed in a manuscript he felt wasn't ready. Know what? I was disappointed in it too. How often have we groaned over series writers whose work seems to have slipped? I think it's because they feel they must publish books regularly whether or not they have a story they're burning to tell. It's a disservice to readers and writers to be in too big of a hurry. It's especially a disservice to the stories!

I realize that writers who write for a living feel they have to produce, but it's not because they need the money, which in most cases isn't a living wage, anyway, it's because they need to "build their brand" and they worry about losing their readers or their book contracts. A book a year is a given, and some say more than one a year is needed to really succeed. (Why did MacDonald's just drift into my mind? No, I'm not hungry...)

If I love your books, I will wait for you. Truly. When the books is ready, I'm there! Do what you think you need to do. You're not a brand, and your books are more than a product to me. I love them, I don't want them rushed out the door like a kid who's half asleep but late for the school bus and realizes too late he left his algebra homework in his bedroom and is wearing only one sock.

Hum along with me: "I'll be there..."

Meanwhile, I have a TBR pile that could reach the moon, so don't worry about me. I have things to read while I wait. But I won't forget you. Take your time.

Barbara's second novel in the Koskinen series, Through the Cracks, will be released next month from St. Martin's Minotaur. Here are a couple of early reviews:

"Koskinen connects with an array of well-drawn supporting characters . . . Thoughtful attention to the complexities of police work and social justice lift this gritty mystery well above the norm. Koskinen's empathy with both cops and victims as well as her fierce, brittle independence make her easy to root for."
Publishers Weekly

". . . packs a real punch. It will appeal to Sara Paretsky fans and mystery readers who long for tough and savvy female investigators."
Library Journal

All things good, in good time.

CR: Under the Dome by Stephen King. Leaving for Tucson and seriously debating whether or not to put this one on hold until I return. Not because it isn't good (it's vintage King), but because of the heft.

It's all better with friends.