Friday, April 30, 2010

Critique Group? Check!

I have been busy over the last few days feverishly working for the League of Utah Writers. (Doesn't the organization sound like a group of super heros who happen to write? Unfortunately, this cool image is ruined when I envision myself in spandex and tights. So not a flattering wardrobe choice!) Sorry. Back to the topic. I am the chairperson responsible for the LUW annual Spring Workshop. This is going to be an awesome event, and I have no idea how I was able to land so many incredible authors to present at this function. If you know any of these people, please don't tell them how nerdy I am!

Here is our lineup:

Clint Johnson (Green Dragon Codex) - Clint is teaching an intense two hour block. It's called The Triple Threat and involves extensive writing exercises within small, separate groups.

Dan Wells (I Am Not A Serial Killer) - Oh, Dan's book is brilliantly creepy! It is in its 5th printing in Germany and has just been released in the states. We are lucky to have Dan join us. His Seven Points writing presentation is amazing, smart, and so darn funny.

Elana Johnson of Author Elana Johnson blogdom and Querytracker fame is coming to instruct us on the art of the query letter. Undeniably, Elana is the queen of the queries. I've heard great things about her class, and I can't wait to attend this one!

Ben Behunin (Discovering Isaac: The Beloved Potter of Niederbipp) is sharing his successful journey to publication. Ben's books have the most amazing, intricate graphics, and he is bringing Bert Compton, graphic artist extraordinaire, to tell us the story behind his work on those books.

Angela Eschler and Melissa Dalton of Eschler Editing are also taking Q&A on the publishing industry and marketing strategy.

What a day! And since I'm in charge and I like bakeries, the patisserie box lunches look delectable. If you live in Utah and are interested in attending, let me know. We still have twelve seats available.

Okay. Enough shameless advertising and self-promotion!

I want to know about your critique groups. How many are in your group and how often do you meet? Where do you gather? How do you conduct your meetings? Do you do writing exercises? Do you take turns leading a discussion? Do you read excerpts from your WIP? Are you productive?

Man, that's a whole lotta questions. But this inquiring mind wants to know! My critique group is awesome. There are five of us who live within a thirty mile radius of each other, and we meet at the Barnes and Noble in a nearby town. We love our B&N. We love the books and magazines, of course. Then there's also the Starbuck's aroma and the chocolate chip scones and the vanilla bean/caramel ice cream drinks. Mmmm, being in our critique group is wicked good. We go over our WIPs, discuss the problems in our stories and find their solutions together, and then we talk. We excel at this last part. It is always a fun time on critique group night.

Perhaps a little too much fun. At one point, a critique group member made a slightly racy comment about steamy phone conversations with her husband, and the man at the next cafe table, who had been leaning our way and listening, dropped his book on the floor. He had given up reading long before to eavesdrop.

Actually, the cafe is often distracting so we usually sit on fold out chairs in the corner by the foreign language section. How do you stay on task, buddies? Do you set goals together? Do you read from writing books? How do you critique group?

Hmmm. Maybe we could form a League of Blogging Critique Groups . . . As long as I can wear a mask and a cape, I'm in! What do you think?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Call Me, Errr, Bubba?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

So Shakespeare's Juliet says, but I can't say that I agree with her. Take the first immortal line of Melville's Moby Dick, "Call me Ishmael." We're involved with this character right away. Why? Ishmael is in dire straights, it's true, but it doesn't hurt that he has an interesting name.

And what of The Three Musketeers? If Alexandre Dumas had used the names Art, Phil, Bert, and Abner instead of D'Artagnan, Porthos, Aramis, and Athos, would we be as intrigued with his story? I don't think so. Dumas chose wisely. His musketeers sound strong, mysterious and noble. They enhance the musketeer legend without doing a thing. Art, Phil, Bert, and Abner do not. They'd fit in nicely on an episode of The Office, however.

It's a lot of responsibility choosing a name. Yet, the success of your work may depend on it. Have you ever found yourself irritated by a main character's name when you're reading a book? When the monikers are too trendy, it drives me crazy and distracts me from the dialogue, plot, etc. I find myself changing their names in my head as I go. No writer should put their reading audience through that. Here's what I mean by trendy. What if we used the currently popular Addison and Burke for two legendary lovers? They sound like a law firm or a handbag, for heaven's sake! I can't get past their labels to see the story. Oh, and I don't want to imagine I'm someone named after a food or a town or tree either. And please, don't do the funny spellings. It messes with my concentration.

Think of the stories that stay with us over time. Wuthering Heights . . . We are haunted by this dark tale of obsession and romance. Thank you Emily Bronte for giving us Heathcliff and Catherine instead of Lulu and Mortimer. Jane Eyre . . . Jane and Rochester are perfection. Hortense and Reginald wouldn't be.

'What's in a name?' Much.

I know whereof I speak on this. I have been saddled with my own name for over four decades. (Let me tell you, the elementary and teenage years were not easy.) It doesn't matter that I was called after two remarkable women among my progenitors of over a hundred and sixty years ago. That fact bears little weight now. Today, I know more pets named Roxy than I do people.

Tell me, gentle readers, now that I've finished my rant. How do you decide what to call your characters?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Revising Tips And Miscellaneous

Good Monday! Wow, it's nice to be back among the living. I have written a brief poem to the stomach flu. It goes like this, "To the Flu, sent from those without luck. We hate you. You suck." Okay that was bad. True maybe, but bad.

As you can tell, my entire weekend revolved around taking care of sick people and being sick myself. I have gained a whole new appreciation for cleaning products. Lysol, Windex, Comet with bleach, Scrubbing Bubbles, Tide and laundry softener sheets. Ahhh, I love them with a passion. Since scrubbing my house from top to bottom, I think we're now relatively safe from any flu relapses. Thank you, Johnson Company!

While engaged in my feverish battle against germs, I thought about writing. Revision helps us clean house, so to speak. De-clutter. It gives us the opportunity to throw out the bad and improve the good in our writing. This can be an unpleasant experience, if we allow it, and yet, it can be invigorating, too. If we learn to appreciate this stage of storytelling and find the right tools to assist us along the way. I'm slow at revising, but I am discovering new things about my characters and plot along the way. This process has opened my eyes and given me a fresh perspective. Thank you, delete and save buttons!

What is your favorite method of revising? Do you have any tips for the rest of us?

P.S. This is the miscellaneous section of the post. Have you heard of Webook? If you want to test the metal of your first page, you should give it a try or at least check it out. Use your Google powers on this, blogging buddies.

I want to have a blogfest sometime soon. (After my blogger tutorials, of course. I need to learn how to apply Mr. Linky . . .) I was thinking of highlighting dialogue. Maybe a "Damn. That Was Good Dialogue!" Blogfest. What do you think? Would you prefer something else? Voice your opinion, people!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Best Love Song Ever!

There's a song by Ray Charles called Come Live With Me, and it's the best love song ever. The first line, "Come love with me, and be my love," reads precisely like John Donne's The Bait or Christopher Marlowe's The Passionate Shepherd To His Love. I don't know who wrote the version Mr. Charles sang, but you'll turn to quicksilver after hearing it. In my women's fiction novel, Charm Bracelet, this is Kate and Simon's song. If you haven't heard it, go to the iTunes store and give it a listen. Come Live With Me is one of Ray's lesser known strokes of genius. (It's no secret, I'm a huge Ray Charles fan. He's brilliant! He inspires me even more than Daniel Craig.)

A few years ago, I put together a playlist for Valentine's Day. It's comprised of sweet music. Songs like: Try A Little Tenderness by Otis Redding, Cry To Me by Solomon Burke, Over The Rainbow by Johnny Mathis, and lots of Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald. I play this, and I don't have to think about the words at all. I know these songs so well. They don't distract, they create a warm, honeyed atmosphere.

Maggie Hathaway, the obsessive-compulsive main character in my novel The Second Life, is bitter and angry. She hates herself and feels undeserving of happiness. Maggie is a cutter without the knife. When I write about her, I listen to loud, aggressive music. Think Breaking Benjamin or Blue October. Ben O'Connor, one part of a love triangle in this story, is complex. At first, you think you know him, and then you learn that his father is a convicted murderer on death row. This explains a lot when we discover his secret life. I play Metallica, Guns N' Roses, and AC/DC for Ben.

I have an extensive collection of classical to soothe my soul if I need to focus when I'm writing a quiet passage, and if I'm just brainstorming or having fun blogging, I listen to Led Zepplin, The Stones, Aerosmith, Kings of Leon, or Nickelback.

What is your best song ever? Who do you listen to for your varied writing moods?

P.S. My husband and I have a long-running dispute. One of us prefers saying "Seriously?" when we respond with incredulity, while the other insists that "Really?" is better. Example: "You want to borrow my last $20.00 bucks? Seriously?" or "I'm taking your mother to the movies. Really?"

Cast your vote! Which do you prefer?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Awards . . . Part Deux

I broke my left pinkie yesterday as I was typing out that Soulmate award. But never fear! I have slipped my hands into a pair of fancy atomic-powered, steampunk, anti-carpal-tunnel gloves so today's three awards should be a breeze. I received these illustrious beauties a long time ago from some amazing writers we all know and love.

Anne of Piedmont Writer gave me a wonderful Supportive Comments Award. This is inspiring since she leaves such awesome comments herself. These happy people are the new proud owners of those delightful, yellow rain boots. (I want a pair bad!)

Lindsay (a.k.a. Isabella) @ Adventures In Writing

Hooray for these award winners! They bring the sunshine to your posts.

Now, on to the tasty Awesomesauce Award. I received this lovely prize from one of the awesomesauceiest people around: Jennifer Daiker @ unedited. She is not only a great writer, she's a blogging wunderkind. Look at the number of followers she has acquired! Go, Jen!

The pot of marinara goes to . . .

Justine @ Justine Dell
Kathi Oram Peterson @ Kathi's Writing Nook
Christi Goddard @ A Torch In the Tempest

Kudos to the cool! Post this on your sidebar with pride.

The final award is the inimitable Quillfeather. Really, this bird has charm and attitude galore. He may look like a rooster on the outside, but inside, he's all peacock. Jemi at Just Jemi bestowed this honor upon me. Jemi is so smart and writing-savvy. Join her blog and read those remarkable posts!

These are the lucky owners of Mr. Quill:

Jackee @ Winded Words

I'm taking my steampunk gloves off to applaud. You deserve recognition and honor. I lift my Diet Coke with lime and salute you! (Ouch! There goes my wrist . . .)

Tune in tomorrow for WIP Wednesday.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Awards . . . Part I

I want to thank Christine Danek of Christine's Journey and Lindsey Brooks of Dangerous With A Pen for the lovely Soulmate awards. These gifted writers are two of my best buddies! Both are witty, hilarious and kind. Click over and get to know them. The remarkable Christi at A Torch in the Tempest created this beautiful award. It's one of my favorites! Visit her today and see why she's so special.

I'd like to think we are all friends as well as compatriots in the writing trenches. Here are some wonderful, kindred spirits that I've met since joining blogger. Read one of their excellent posts and you'll feel like they're your closest chums. According to the rules of this award, I'm supposed to fabricate some outlandish story about each recipient. All right. I can do that. Here goes . . .

Kazzy @Kazzy's Ponderings Kazzy is so tidy she irons her manuscripts before submitting them.

Talli @ Talli Roland Talli actually dislikes coffee intensely. Instead, she has Diet Coke with lime in her cute little mug set. She thought the rising steam would fool us, but we're on to her now.

Old Kitty @ Ten Lives And Second Chances Old Kitty is Daniel Craig's publicist. (Can I get a signed 8X10 photograph?)

Bossy Betty @ Bossy Betty is a skydiving instructor for agoraphobic writers. If anyone can get them out of the house, Betty can!

Kimberly @ Kimberly Franklin has gone to Office Supply Store Nerds Anonymous for her Office Depot dependancy.

E.Elle @ The Writer's Funhouse likes to wear Groucho Marx glasses when she's brainstorming plot lines.

Sorry, ladies, but awards happen. Blame yourselves for being so likable!

Tomorrow's post is: Awards . . . Part Deux

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Message To My Agent Repost

This was written at a definite low point for me. We've all had those moments when the desire to succeed is like a painful little shard in the heart, when you feel crazy for dreaming you have something to say that's worthy of the world's notice. You begin thinking you're wrong and maybe all those rejections are right . . . Then I felt this passionate, hopeful, defiant spark.

If you're a writer, you've experienced this. If you haven't yet, you will. It's par for the course so don't lose faith. As I've said before, it takes a will of iron to work with paper and ink. I'm much more optimistic now, and since I'm still single in the writer-agent dating pool, I thought I'd post it again. Maybe you can relate.

Hello. It's just me, your future client. I've been looking for you everywhere. Are you taking good care of yourself? Being careful when you cross the street? I certainly hope so. How's your diet? Are you getting the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals? Yes? Excellent. You'll need your strength. We have a bright future ahead of us.

Except you don't know that yet.

Maybe you're in an important meeting, or you might be answering one of the many messages on your cellphone. You are a success, future agent, because you love your job, in spite of the long hours and hard work. Right now, you're out there, somewhere, living your life, completely unaware that I exist.

Ask my children where their mother is and they'll roll their eyes and tell you, I'm here. In my office. At the computer. I'm thinking, writing, and revising. I'm dreaming of the day my work crosses your desk, the day you read it over and hear the story I'm trying to tell. Then, you'll have enough faith in me to take a chance on my talent. You will fight battles on my behalf and never stop until we win.

In that case, I'll stay up late again tonight and polish this manuscript a bit more.

Here's to us, agent of mine. I'll see you when I see you.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


The beauty of weekend blogging? Very few people actually read your work. They are sleeping in or going out or making blueberry pancakes . . . My standards decline a bit on Saturday and Sunday, and I can write something ridiculous without feeling bad. Okay, prepare yourselves for my foray into mediocrity! (For those of you diligently blogging this weekend, my apologies.)

According to the old axiom from the book of Ecclesiastes, there's nothing new under the sun. I'd agree with Solomon on this, and so our topic today revolves around common experience as it applies to comedy. (There's a jarring non-sequitur if ever I wrote one!)

Let's look at the metaphorical ladder of comedy, why don't we? On the bottom rung there's Low Comedy. You don't need me to explain this. It's when you tell a dirty joke or do a pratfall. A step up from there? Farce. Actually, I kinda like Farce if truth be told. I relate well to farce. Next comes, Comedy of Manners. This is where you find the clever puns and insults, the impersonations, and witty dialogue. By and large, most popular comedians work here.

Think Brian Regan, Jim Gaffigan, Steve Martin, Hoops and Yoyo cards, etc. (I love me some Hoops and Yoyo. I will stay in the greeting card section of Walmart until I have looked at every Hoops and Yoyo card. Twice.)

The highest rung: Comedy of Ideas. This is a difficult level to pull off. It's dark, satyrical humor. These comedians turn death, poverty, war, class distinction and government into a joke. If they're successful, we smile at the terrible. We laugh at what they say, even though there's a current of tragedy running just under the smooth surface of the punch line. Think Sam Kinesin, Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Pryor, George Carlin. These guys were brilliant. Not to stereotype them, but Idea comedians are often troubled, angry people. They walk a fine line between entertaining the audience and alienating them with insults. We think about their comments long after the standup is over.

The top two are my favorite rungs. Great comic writing reveals the everyday aspects of life in a new way. Take bacon for example. We've all heard of it, seen it, eaten it, but have we thought of bacon as particularly funny? I certainly didn't. Until I heard Jim Gaffigan's riff on this breakfast meat on youtube. So, so funny. "Thank you, Bacon. Sincerely, Water Chestnut the third." And his camping schtick. Amazing. "He's made hammocks a dirty thing." Brian Regan's inspired account of hospital emergency rooms makes me laugh until I can't breathe right. "Happy eight day! Happy eight day! Guess who's an eight again?" Steve Martin's Flydini is as clear in my mind today as it was the first time I saw him unzip his pants. Hilarious, smart humor. You all know how tech-challenged I am, I can't link to youtube to save my life. Go and see these snippets if you haven't watched them already.

By the way, comedians are dead serious about the art of the joke. It is not a laughing matter to them. It's perfect timing, precise wording, and the right choice of subject matter. (Sound familiar?) Not to mention: practice, practice, practice. Humor is a serious business.

When it's done well, comedy forces us to look at the human experience with a fresh perspective. That's what we do as writers. We reinvent the wheel, so to speak, and put an innovative, original slant on our version of Aristotle's seven basic plot lines.

What are your thoughts? Who are your favorite comedians?

Happy Saturday! (Have some bacon.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Congratulations, Prize Winners!!!

Waiting anxiously for this news, aren't you? You've put off your Friday night plans, you're sitting on the edge of your ergonomic office chairs. Actually, I think everyone is totally out having fun, and I'm the only person left at blogger tapping away on a keyboard. Even the janitors have gone home, telling me to lock up behind them.

Well, all right, you'll probably read this on Monday, but here goes . . .

Nordstrom Gift Card Winner: Lola @ Sharp Pen/Dull Sword

1st Barnes and Noble Gift Card Winner: Theresa Milstein @ Substitute Teacher's Saga
2nd Barnes and Noble Gift Card Winner: Crystal Cook @ write because you must
Itunes Gift Card Winner: Michaele at She Writes Again

Honorable Mention Prize Winners:

Courtney @ Southern Princess
Aubrie @ Flutey Words
Christine @ Christine's Journey
Laurel @ Laurel's Leaves

Please contact me if your name is posted above at I need your addresses. Congratulations!!!

If you don't see yourself mentioned here, I wish I had the resources to give you all the prizes you deserve. Please tune in on Monday. I have been stockpiling awards, and I am excited to pass them on. Happy weekend!

The Announcement Before The Announcement

You'll forever associate me with Hemingway after reading this. I'm a drinker, people. And today, I have foregone the lightweight Celestial Seasoning's Red Zinger for the hard stuff.

Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. Diet Coke. On the rocks. With lime. There's even a diet Mountain Dew chillin' in the ice box for later. Ahhh, it's good to be me. (At least until I run out of soda. When it's gone, my life loses that glossy sophistication you all admire.)

See those cute kids in the photograph? I love them. They are awesome. Yet, on occasion, they drive me to drink. Sometimes straight-from-the pantry, room temperature, full-strength Coke. I'm not proud of it, but those are gritty, hard-bitten days.

Enough with the soft drinks and irony, we have winners to announce! Except we're not announcing them until 9:00 P.M. EST. This way, you have time to hit me with your totals. Or if you can't do that, I'll look over the last two weeks worth of comments and tally them myself.

This is a picture of my son practicing a scene from Nacho Libre for his Spanish class. I just put it in because I think it's funny. He's the one in the mask, hanging upside down.

Check out the lovely ballerina above. See why I asked for help with my teenage daughter?

Thanks for your participation in this contest, blogging buddies. I'll post the prize winners tonight!

P.S. You should check out YA Author Elana Johnson's blog. She has a video clip with a guy signing to Party In The USA by Miley Cyrus. He is so cute. I love his facial expressions. Especially at the very end and in the 'swingin' my hips like, yeah' chorus. Definitely awesomesauce, Elana.

Do you think that anyone has ever mentioned Hemingway and Miley Cyrus in the same article before?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Give Back Contest Ends Today!

Wow, do I love a party! Besides being tax day, this is also my 9-year-old daughter's birthday. I am taking her out of school early, and we are going to lunch at Subway, then on to shopping and a pedicure. We're picking up my teenage daughter as well so it should be a fun girl's day out. Today is also the last day of my contest! I don't actually know how to run a contest, but this one really isn't about me anyway. It's about giving back to you, my blogging buddies.

Thanks for bringing so much fun and happiness into my life over the last few months. I'm reposting the particulars of said contest.

Here are the rules:

Newbie followers of my blog- 5 points
Well-seasoned, long-term followers-10 points
Daily Comments-5 points each
Advertising on your blog, sidebar, twitter, etc.- 10 points each
Remarks about my muse Daniel Craig-5 points each
Advice on raising teenage daughters-100 points!!!!
Funny stories, jokes, quotes, facts about yourself (These have to be clean, people.)- 10 points each

Use a calculator and tally up those points and let me know your numbers on April 16th. I will send your prizes to you the next day!

What prizes, you ask? Awesome prizes, that's what.

First Place: a $50.00 Nordstrom Giftcard. It's a shiny iridescent-silver, and oh, the things it will get you, on-line or in the store. Think of a pretty turquoise and black Brazen scarf, an over-sized Ariella ring, a pastel, grosgrain-banded Tarnish fedora. And don't forget the Sproutwatch. Cutest darn eco-friendly timepiece in existence! There's thatPhilosophy Blackberry body wash and lotion set you've been coveting and the Dior Addict lip gloss that really could be addictive. What about the Marc Jacob Hobo handbag which would look so perfect hanging from your arm? (Sigh) Okay, I went too far that time. No way can you get Marc Jacobs for fifty bucks. But there is a lot of great stuff to be had.

Don't worry guys, Nordstrom has a lovely Men's department as well. According to my husband, the Smart Wool socks are the bomb. They have gorgeous dress shirts and ties, not to mention cologne pour homme and skin care products.

The Second and Third Prizes are the ever-enviable Barnes and Noble gift cards in the amount of $25.00. We all love B&N! Show me a writer who doesn't like to read, and I'll have them tested for astigmatism.

P.S. The cookie dough has arrived from my kid's school fundraiser. Like five tubs of it! If I could, I would have you all at my kitchen table enjoying this treat--which should be tasty since I didn't actually make it myself. Daniel Craig tells me it's just cookie dough. It has no power over me unless I allow it. He's right. Right?!

Party on, dudes!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Muse Daniel Craig And Comfort Books

Inspiration . . .
About to smile. I think he's thinking of his muse.
Look at that face. Even with stubble, he's amazing.

Dan has left me for Honduras. He'll be shooting a film there for a while. Yet, even with the distance between us, he sends his mind bullets my way. Especially when I waiver on my diet and exercise. Then I hear him loud and clear.

Stay away from the chocolate cake, love. It isn't worth it.

I try to explain to him why chocolate cake is always worth it, but Mr. Craig is unmoved. Write your blog instead, he says. He also has little patience with procrastination. Revisions? Yes. Do them. There's a lovely girl.

Really, his praise is even better than chocolate.

I just finished reading a book I read over and over in my teenage years. The mystery/gothic romance was written by the late Victoria Holt, a.k.a Eleanor Hibbert. She wrote from the sixties through the late eighties, and her work would be unfashionable in the literary world of today. However, I still like her books. To me, they are the hard bound equivalent of comfort food. Like warm homemade chocolate chip cookies and cold milk in print. As I read them, I remember what it was like as a freshman at Lincoln High School to go to the library and hone in on the H section. My father had recently passed away and my mother needed to work. As a result, I spent hours alone in a big, empty house, afraid of every creaking board or random noise, and I felt I had found a kindred spirit in this author at a time when I needed friends.

In my adulthood, I've found other comforting books, not because they offer messages of comfort per se, but because I like the way I feel when I read them. I turn to these books again and again. For instance, Good Grief by Lolly Winston, The Harry Potter set, Sophie Kinsella's Shopoholic series and any of her other books, Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and anything Jane Austen. If I'm really in need of a quick comfort fix, I'm never disappointed by Longfellow's poetry. This is a diverse list, I know, but I love them all. (Plus, they have no calories!)

What is on your list of comfort books?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Truth And Nothing But The Truth

Recently, one of my teenagers lied to me. I can hear what you're thinking, "Duh, Roxy, kids lie." I know they stretch the truth. But this wasn't a harmless white lie, so to speak. It wasn't, "Sure, Mom. I cleaned my room." *Wink, wink. Nod, nod*

Uncovering this lie was like lifting a metaphorical rock and unearthing a sophisticated network of deceit beneath. In our conversation following this discovery, I told my teenager to have the guts to stand by their decisions. Essentially, if you do something, have the courage to be honest about it, even if you think I won't like it.

In spite of this situation, I need to say that the individual in question is a remarkable, wonderful person. I love this child more than I can possibly convey, and I feel bad about being lied to because I thought we had a better relationship than that. Now, my teenager is learning a painful lesson; that once spent, trust is a difficult currency to earn.

Enough about parenting. I didn't invite you to my blog to distress you. However, I would like to apply this experience to writing. (Don't I apply almost everything to writing?) Anyway, here's my question: As you are reading fiction, do you ever feel lied to? I get that fiction, in and of itself, is fabricated, but shouldn't the author make us feel it is real, that the characters and plot lines exist? I cannot tell you how many times I have put a book down, unfinished, because a character inexplicably loses IQ points and begins saying and doing things that are, well, completely out of character. I also stop reading if I feel manipulated, patronized, or if the author appears to be writing by rote. I lose faith in the storyteller.

In his book On Writing, Stephen King wrote, "Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want. Anything at all . . . as long as you tell the truth."

Aww, Stephen. If you don't love his good heart as it is shown freely in On Writing then you need to read the book a few more times.

Integrity makes life easier, and I think that quality makes writing fiction easier as well. How do you keep your stories honest?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Textile Scrapbooks

Hello, blogger buddies. Maybe, if you're old enough, this will bring back a few bad fashion memories.

Textile Scrapbooks

I was sifting through the contents of my closet the other day when an idea struck me like a pointy-toed stiletto. I confess. I am a clothing sentimentalist. What is that, you ask? A clothing sentimentalist preserves cherished memories through fabric and design. We have textile scrapbooks instead of the kind with photographs and hoard outfits associated with important events in our lives.

I’m sick, I know, but in my fashion time capsule, I have dresses sewn before the invention of microwave ovens, personal computers, and VHS video players.

Obviously, if you’ve chosen to store away your wedding gown or your children’s heirloom blessing ensemble, it’s understandable. I have those, of course, and that sort of memento is normal. Saving the peach suit I wore before my wedding is okay, too. Keeping the formal gowns from my vocal recitals in college pushes the boundaries a bit. But why, oh why, have I retained the Victorian drop-waist pinstripe number with matching bowler hat from my high school days? Steampunk may be in style again, but my daughters wouldn’t consider wearing it.

Worse still, I have Ralph Lauren denim stirrup pants! Sweatshirts with the neck cut out, shoulder-padded—and I mean padded—power suits, acid-wash peg-leg pants, circa ’85 lace Madonna gloves. Beaded and bedazzled sweaters, broom handle skirts, business ties for women, and gypsy patchwork sundresses. Opaque leggings, Donna Karan onesie blouses, Barbara Bush pearls . . . The shameful list could go on and on. And I’m not even highlighting the tacky Durran, Durran, Miami Vice, or paisley-everything era.

After witnessing the invention of the mini-skirt, I’ve seen it reappear twice on the fashion scene since then, decades apart. Pant legs have veered from wide to skinny to wide to skinny again. I have some of all of these stored away. And what woman can forget where they were the first time they purchased their original pair of Sbicca wedges or Candie's mules?

So why do I waste valuable shelf space on these things? I think I’ve figured that out. I was happy when I wore those clothes. I liked who I was back then, and I take out my textile scrapbook, and say to myself, “See? This is who you used to be.” Before adulthood, before mortgage payments, children, and wrinkles, when the future was scary and uncertain yet full of possibilities and promise.

I love my life now. I’m living what that girl from long ago dreamed of doing. Even so, I don’t want to forget her entirely. I may release my hold on the past and donate my couture relics to charity one day. But not yet.

Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue magazine, would have an aneurism, a cardiac infarction, a grand mal seizure, hives, and a nervous tic simultaneously if she laid eyes on my collection.

Look away, Anna, look away.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Places Writing Takes You

It's a beautiful Spring day outside. My daughters, my mother, and I are all going church-dress shopping this morning. Before that perennial activity begins, I wanted to mention something about The Lord of the Rings. I know, I know. What is it with me and movies, and further more, didn't I just talk about Tolkien's characters a few posts ago? Sheez, I'm sounding like a broken record.

Anyway, our family has been watching Peter Jackson's LOTR films each night. One of my favorite parts of the first movie is when Sam and Frodo are traveling out of the Shire and Sam suddenly stops. Frodo looks back at him, and Sam says, essentially, that he is as far from home as he has ever been. One more step and he begins his adventure into the unknown.

That scene applies so well to life, and more specifically, to writing.

I have written since I was very young. Yet, it was only four years ago that I decided to write novels. What a journey it has been for me. I would never have guessed, when I began writing seriously, all that I would learn. Could I have foreseen the characters who live in my stories or how they would affect me? I love them now, but a few years ago, I didn't even know I was capable of creating them.

I'm so glad I took that first step into the unknown four years ago. Even though writing messes with my ability to simply read a book and not analyze it. Even with the rejection, the agonizing over imperfections, and the nagging desire to be understood, I would take that step again. Without question.

Life needs adventure and discovery.

Where has writing taken you?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Blogging Buddies Giveback Contest

Welcome to the party! I appreciate each of you so much, and I'd love to give everyone a wonderful present! (Unfortunately, my pocketbook doesn't reflect my enthusiasm, much as I wish it did.) Hence, the contest of love with three really great prizes!

You all know I am technology-challenged and therefore, I need your help to make this contest the fun, over-the-top event it needs to be. This blogging-Gala-extraordinaire begins today and runs through the 15th . . . Here are the rules:

Newbie followers of my blog- 5 points
Well-seasoned, long-term followers-10 points
Daily Comments-5 points each
Advertising on your blog, sidebar, twitter, etc.- 10 points each
Remarks about my muse Daniel Craig-5 points each
Advice on raising teenage daughters (The winner of this category will be chosen by said daughter, and this advice cannot make her father nervous! )- 100 points!!!!
Funny stories, jokes, quotes, facts about yourself (These have to be clean, people.)- 10 points each

Use a calculator and tally up those points and let me know your numbers on April 16th. I will send your prizes to you the next day!

What prizes, you ask? Awesome prizes, that's what.

First Place: a $50.00 Nordstrom Giftcard. It's a shiny iridescent-silver, and oh, the things it will get you, on-line or in the store. Think of a pretty turquoise and black Brazen scarf, an over-sized Ariella ring, a pastel, grosgrain-banded Tarnish fedora. And don't forget the Sprout watch. Cutest darn eco-friendly timepiece in existence! There's that Philosophy Blackberry body wash and lotion set you've been coveting and the Dior Addict lip gloss that really could be addictive. What about the Marc Jacob Hobo handbag which would look so perfect hanging from your arm? (Sigh) Okay, I went too far that time. No way can you get Marc Jacobs for fifty bucks. But there is a lot of great stuff to be had.

Don't worry guys, Nordstrom has a lovely Men's department as well. According to my husband, the Smart Wool socks are the bomb. They have gorgeous dress shirts and ties, not to mention cologne pour homme and skin care products.

The Second and Third Prizes are the ever-enviable Barnes and Noble gift cards in the amount of $25.00. We all love B&N! Show me a writer who doesn't like to read, and I'll have them tested for astigmatism.

Hooray, this is going to be fun, fun, fun! Thanks for your participation!