Friday, December 31, 2010

Life in Your Writing

I had a discussion with a friend last night and it occurred to me that, in our effort to make our stories life-like, we endeavor to use all manner of tricks of the trade. 'Use all five senses to describe scenes', 'follow the order of notice in descriptions', 'not too many adjectives', 'avoid repetition'. Well, you know the list - it's a long one, but did you think to add bits and pieces of your life into your story? We all have different experiences, different opinions, different surroundings. Why not include some of that - in a way - into your story?

Lets say, you have a friend who is totally eccentric. Take a moment and analyze them. Hand movements, quirky habits, like what do they do when they get their mail, choice of wardrobe, speech habits. Now, I'm not saying you should put this person in your story, but you could pick one of those aspects and tack it to one of your characters, and since you already know the original, you are that much more attached to your character. It's that attachment that lends life to your character, and by association, to your story.

I happen to be watching the TV show, Monk, at the moment. I love that show, Monk is hilarious. I couldn't begin to have a character like Monk in one of my stories. I think a character such as Monk is unique. I don't care how many differences I put in, if I included his phobias, it would border on fan fiction, so you can't pick something easily attached to a well known someone, but there are so many little things you can use. Have you ever watched how someone uses their hands while they're talking? How about if they are really excited about something? How about if they're really worried about something?

In short, look at the people around you. Take note of what they do and use that information. Me, I am always including some kind of information on winter, anything from snowshoeing to cutting firewood, and if you've read any of my work, there may even be something about tracking or hunting, though not much will be modern day.

So tell me, what bits and pieces of your life have you dripped into your writing?

Friday, December 24, 2010

December 2010 Writing Contest winner - Guitar Chick - Ambitious Writers, Goodreads

Genres: Poetry and Romance
Winner: Guitar Chick

Title: Rag Doll
Rating: T, 'cause it's kind of creepy.
Genre Poetry
Synopsis: As I sat here to enter, I thought of a dream I had of being trapped in a doll house, a one eyed doll advancing towards me. I decided to turn it into a poem.


A frilly dress
Around my shoulders
I turn my head
There's nothing behind or below
But staring me down
Across the room
Is a doll with one eye

Her lips are red
A tear is shed
From that one single eye
As she comes towards me
She wants to die

The things are small
The house of a doll
I feel trapped
As she comes forward

Her lips are red
A tear is shed
From that one single eye
She comes toward me
She wants to die

I think of my situation
How do I get out of this mess
But as I fall into all my distress
Black blots out the rest

I wake in safety
But nevertheless I'm still shaking
Her face echos in my mind
The girl I won't be able to find

Her lips are red
A tear is shed
From that one single eye
She comes toward me
She wants to die

Friday, December 17, 2010


I have written about publishing before; back in October of 2009 - - where I remembered what it was like to finally get published for the very first time, and coincidentally last October - where I talked about becoming published again.

Trying to become published is something you need to decide just how much you really want. It is by no means easy. You can't just hand a stack of typing over to someone and 'poof' you have a book. There are a lot of things you need to consider and a lot of pit-falls along the way.

There must be a million publishers out there, and a good deal of them are more than willing to take your hard earned dollars in exchange for publishing your book, but you have to be careful. There are also all too many of them who just love to milk you for you very last penny and still not give you a real book. "Oh just go to this approved editor and purchase their services." "Oh and just pay this reader to read you book to judge what market your book will do best in." or "Pay this expert to decide on the best title and font to use on the cover." These examples are facetious but I did encounter a couple such publishers but I don't remember all the tasks they recommended I do. Their requests will all seem totally logical. The best you can do with a company like this is take notes, find readers and editors that you trust and hire them to do the job you're comfortable with. Be wary of any publisher who asks for money without some kind of solid promise like a contract.

The best way to do this is a google search for editors or joining a writing group where members exchange their work. A great resource to ensure your safety is a site called Preditors & Editors - - these fine people have done their homework and there can be found most any company involved in most any kind of publishing you might want to do. It's definitely worth a look-see. There are other sites - writer's beware, for instance, who devote themselves to writer's safety in the publishing world. By all means, lean on them hard. And if by chance what you're looking for isn't there, ask them about it - they answer, which is the greatest, if you ask me.

Book publishing is only part of the picture. Before you ever want to go that far, you need to make sure your book is the best it can be. Learn everything you can soak up about the writing art and then keep looking for more and better ideas - there are lots of people out there willing to share in their expertise. Some things won't work for you, and some things will, but never be so self-wise as to discard anything. Always be willing to make changes. Always be willing to take criticism and use it to make your writing clearer; you never want to confuse your reader. You want your story to flow, hopefully without notice, directly into your reader's heart.

A fabulous place I've found for very helpful feedback is - It's a writing contest - one I've never made it better than mid-level, but even mid-level is great. Winners get free professional editing and publishing by a top publishing house. But for the purpose of this blog, it's the feedback that's important. You will be swimming in the company of a lot of writers in all degrees of professionalism, and they are all very nice and very helpful in their comments. I learned a lot there.

Finally, after you've done the best you can with your work, you need to find a professional editor, again one you trust. These people know their job - it's their life. I've met a couple and I've been able to learn even from them, and that with only a sample edit. Never trust that you've caught everything - you never will. Without a professional editor, you risk publishing a work that will ultimately disappoint your reader and tarnish the reputation you want to build.

And don't forget, during all this work, it might be advisable to search for a good agent. This person will find you a publisher and can ensure all the legal stuff is as in-your-favor as humanly possible. I have been watching for an agent ever since I came on line April before last. I haven't found one to fit yet, but that doesn't mean I'll stop looking.

Do you still want to get published? Do you want to self-publish or would you rather go traditional? Do you want your book available as an e-book or a book-book, or both, or hard cover? An agent can help you with all of this though he or she probably won't be interested in promoting your self publishing career. That's not to say you can't make a successful career out of self-publishing, but it isn't an easy road. However, the road to traditional publishing is no easier.

To become published is a long hard haul, and that is totally not counting the writing of the book you want to publish. So, if it's what you want, be prepared to be in it for the long haul.

Happy writing and good luck with your publishing endeavors

Friday, December 10, 2010

Book Review

If any of you have kept up with my 'Anna of Alaska' blog, or my Facebook profile, you know we're running out of fuel, and without fuel, there will be no internet, or even much writing, unfortunately. Ultimately, I may have to resort to paper and pencil. Gee, I wonder if I remember how to write with a pencil (without grammar and spell-check).

At any rate, in an effort to stretch what we have for as long as possible, the generator has been off for a serious chunk of the day, and though I have a fabulous battery on my computer, it doesn't quite bridge the gap. That 'dark' time does, however, leave room for my second, and much neglected, passion - reading.

Last winter I won four books. It was really quite amazing - I've never really won anything before (nothing worth mentioning anyway). I started one of them right away, but what with the crush of work, it took me a LONG time to finish it.



Since I'm a fiction/science fiction fan, I'm afraid my review will be a little biased. However I did like the story. Hanna Ford is a woman, a police officer, and in this story, she is working undercover. She is also recovering from having been raped - a serious blow not only to her body, but also to her self confidence as a police officer.

Her undercover job was supposed to be fairly simple. Look into a drug smuggling operation in a small town and try to figure out how it was being done. Being an investigative story, clues and problems were dripped in, keeping me delightfully strung along as Hanna met people and asked questions. Threaded through the story is a second mystery, one that hit much closer to home in more ways than one. A popular local barmaid had been raped and murdered brutally, and the woman happened to be a cousin. Well, I won't give the whole story away. Suffice it to say, Hanna did her best to investigate both crimes, which, thanks to the so small town that housed both affairs, were closely intertwined.

As I said before, I liked the story and I would recommend it. There was one thing that bothered me about it. I'm going to blame it on the genre though. The ending climax seemed hurried. Yes, the events were intense, and there was a rush to save lives and capture the bad guys before they got away, but I felt it was all tumbled together in a rush. What with all the methodical care with details that the rest of the book was filled with, the ending felt jerky. Aw well, that's the writer in me talking.


The second book I read is a collection of three shorter stories. In BENEATH A CHRISTMAS MOON the stories all took place on Christmas eve. These stories tip toward romance, another one of my not-so-favorite genre. That said, once again I liked all three of these stories. They weren't too terribly cheesy like some I've read.

The first story, LANDER'S MOON by Eden Robins should not have been the first story in this book. Though the story was sweet, the writer made so many of the beginner writer's mistakes, it nearly spoiled the plot all together. The point of view drifted. The two main characters were nearly carbon copies of each other in their actions and reactions to each other. And repeats abounded. If this story was edited, the editor should be fired. Though I didn't see any typos, such mistakes should have long since been weeded out.

The second story, PARADISE DESIGNS by Ariana Dupre was much better. It was a really cool twist on mythology brought to reality. But still, there were actions that were physically impossible and certain details noticed that certainly shouldn't have been. Who looks for compassion in the eyes of a lion when the lion is only inches away. There were minor discrepancies in background details that might be missed by the casual reader. In a house that had a staff, only one such person was ever seen. Maybe that's the way it was, but that's not what we were led to believe. And never before have I read an example of a character being treated like a simpleton. The house keeper gives the guest a map of the house and points out points of interest on it, and stipulates that the third floor is off limits, then she leaves the guest to her own devices. Fine by me - sounds reasonable. But then she hand carries the woman to her room and covers it all again as if she'd never given out the map in the first place. There were other flaws in the details that really bothered me. This story really needs a serious rewrite. However, I'd still recommend it. Get past all the writerly flaws and it's a very nice gentle romance.

The third story, was by far the best of the three and should have led the collection. VAMPIRE'S CHRISTMAS CAROL by Karen McCullough was a heart wrenching, touching story about a man determined to die rather than take a human life to feed his vampire hunger. When Carol Prescott knocks on his door, his plan might not be so successful. Stranded in a blizzard, Carol didn't have much choice. It was either freeze to death out in her car or weather the company of a vampire starving to death. The only flaw I could find in this story is that it was over far too soon, and yet it should not have been longer. And yes it had a happy ending, but I'm not going to tell you what it is. You'll simply have to read it for yourself.


The third book I read, WHISPERS by Erin Grady, brings together a disparate collection of people in an effort to solve a very very old mystery. The only thing that bothered me about this story was, in putting the pieces of the puzzle together, one piece was left out. By the end of the story all the characters were connected and the connections explained - all but one. It seemed to me that in the effort to tie all the characters together, if this one was not suddenly left out, the romantic thread, so strong throughout the story, would have been thwarted and perverted, so the author decided to cast his piece of the puzzle outside of the box. I think another solution could have been found. For me, that small detail was it's own sorrow, though the romance was now possible. But that's just me. I do like things to be logical, even if twisted and unexpected.

In reading this story, I was sucked in. Every few chapters, a few chapters taking place in 1896 were inserted and they too were enthralling. I really don't care for this format but that's just my opinion. It was successful in bringing all the pieces together at a single point and thus answering all the questions along the way. The only mistake I found was a single reference to ball-bearings. I really don't think there were such a thing as ball-bearings in 1896, not in the wilderness of Colorado anyway. If the horseless carriage had made it to Colorado then, it wasn't mentioned in this book, and I'm not that tight a history buff. I would recommend this book to anyone with a fancy toward hauntings and mysteries. The characters were well developed with complicated histories and their own reasons for coming along on this journey. Read it and join the journey with them.


I'm working on the fourth book now. SENSITIVITY 101 FOR THE HETEROSEXUAL MALE by Philip Nork. I've only just cracked it. First impressions - though tender, I might have trouble getting through it, but only because reading short stories is very frustrating for me. I'll tell you all about it when I've finished, and I will finish it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

November Writing Contest Winner - GC from Ambitious Writers, Goodreads

The genre for November's writing contest was set at Fantasy, and then the secondary genre we all voted on was romance. I truly believe that GC won with the shortest sample I've seen on Ambitious Writers since I joined. As you can see, it was delightful even if it was short. It left me wanting to read the rest of the story. What do you think?


Title: You Killed my Time by Guitar Chick

"LEAVE ME ALONE OR SO HELP ME I WILL CALL THE COPS!" I screamed as he backed up towards the wall.
Dean cowered against the wall as my rage electrified the air. I had never been so mad in my entire life. It was this continous, bubbling, insatiable anger that would leave the most patient trembling.
"I don't want to you to ever come around here as long as you live, which is freakn' forever now!"
"I'm sorry," Dean whispered for the ten billionth time. Like it mattered. Because it didn't anymore.
"Out. Now." I heard myself growl.
Dean and I had done something stupid. There were these whacked out evil elf people in the woods a little ways from Dean's house. We'd been dating for a while and things were ok. But then.... well.... it's not hard to forget.
"Why are we here again?" I asked dreamily. The elves had given us some weird stuff to drink that tasted like chocolate and bacon together.
"I don't know." Dean answered just as high sounding as I was.
This creepy elf lady who reminded me strongly of Professor Trelawny started reciting strange poetry, A group on the edge of the woods was in a heavy haze, and I realized I kept giggling uncontrollably.
The wooded area wasn't quite a clearing. It was more like a group of clearing seperated to from some weird wheel type shape with the spokes leading to a bigger clearing. Some dude with a sorry looking face had led me through it all before I had this clouded dreamy feeling.
Dean and I woke up the next morning on different edges of the wood. My head ached. I had no idea in the world of why I was laying down in a what seemed to be a puddle of silver.
"Wake up, mortals no longer..." said a light voice I recognized vageuly, as the memories of the night before played out in my head slowly like I was watching a movie.
"Come!" the voice said,a bit more impatient.
Dean and I looked at each other wearily.
"Alright, I'm not being paid, I'm on a hangover, and I don't like dealing with new ones.
You were drugged and made immortal because the Auberon hates you. BYE!" And she ran away so fast I saw a blur and felt a rush of wind, and saw no more of her.
I heard a shout from way back say "The silver stuff you woke up in was your mortality!"
I wanted to strangle someone, something anything.
All I could manage was to stagger home. I had an eternity to give Dean hell for leading me out there.