Category Archives: Art & Craft

every book should be….

I have been a reader of mysteries since, well, I don’t remember not reading them. And I love how each author makes their journey from problem to solution differently.  Some are better than others. When I was growing up Nancy Drew remained pretty much the same and it was the plots that were unique. Now, the main character has to have wants and needs and should change in someway, probably for the better, although….

Truth be told, I am really a fan of mysteries that involve murder. And find it amazing how many different ways writers are able to kill off people, and it seems we do it regularly and with a lot of enthusiasm.

Thanks to the North Carolina Digital Library I can read a lot of mysteries. Right now I am reading the James Runcie Grantchester series, Sydney Chambers and his non-clerical adventures in detecting. Although I think I will never ever understand cricket, I find his very English voice of the 1950s to be fascinating, almost as interesting as the murders.

A lot of children’s books which are mysteries do not include dead bodies and I get that. They are perhaps finding a precious family heirloom, or noticing something strange with a neighbor and getting involved in maybe rescuing a family pet or helping someone in a bad situation. Personally, I like the idea that a person or persons with really bad intentions is out there and it is scary. I like that idea that a person or persons is willing to kill again, perhaps, making it dangerous for the main character.

 

Six pages….

We all know it’s hard to write. No, that’s not true.  It is hard to write well! I can write anytime, but I can’t write well anytime. I need to be able to get into the story, remember the characters, know where I want to go.

This year has been hard. With Tom an hour away since December of last year, getting the nursing he needs [certainly not on this planet or any other would anyone consider me to be a good nursing caretaker] and the rehab he requires to live a good daily life! For me it has been making sure I eat and sleep, take care of the puppies, the laundry, the bills, and any other part of our lives until he gets back home.

I have always written, not a good speller, and my grammar can be challenged by just about anyone, anytime, anyplace. But I’ve always been a writer. I like putting words into thoughts and ideas and having them come together and make sense, well, sense to me.

I have not been writing and I can feel the twitch in my hand and the itch in my brain to write. I have assuaged it by writing in the comments section of magazines, newspapers, articles, but it is not moving me forward. Our spring retreat is upcoming and I wanted to submit. Ten pages is not a lot to deal with, and I had comments from an agent and beta readers to consider. So I did. I considered. I re-read. I revised. I thought about wants, needs, what the resolution would be with what I had. I pulled out the synopsis. I read. Re-read. Revised.

I’m still driving that hour each way. Spending time with Tom. Getting him to stand. Walk. Talk. Having lunch. That open wound right at his tailbone is a mind numbing pain! And a second has opened! Not infected, thank God~ and yes, I mean it as a prayer~ months it will be until he is whole again. But it will happen. Yes, I could use this as an excuse. It is a good one! But no.

New year resolutions can happen any time. This is mine. Every day print off six pages. That’s doable. And while Tom is on a pressure release, or at therapy, I read and make notes. I revise. Six pages. It’s not fast. But it is what I can do. Getting it done is what counts.

Six pages at a time!

New Year

On Sunday we enter a new liturgical year. For me this is a better time than the calendar new year to sit and contemplate my goals and objectives, my faith and fortune, my needs and wants. Not really resolution time, more like assessment time.  Assessments are evaluations. Assessments work to estimate the quality, quantity, nature, ability of the something.  So this is more than just my writing. It is my everything.

For purposes of this blog, we will still with the ‘what I do’ not ‘how I live my life’ assessment. It is a common statement ‘do what you love and you will never work a day in your life’. And I was privileged and loved and cherished so that in essence that is how I have spent most of my life. That’s not to say that there was not turmoil~ there was. Or that it was all smooth sailing~ it wasn’t. Or that every second of every day it was butterflies and roses~no!

What is means is that I was always given the option to find my own path, and while I am grateful, I’m not exactly sure if that was a reflection of my early boomer status~ there were few in front of us, or my own personality~ I was really a ‘what me worry?’, or that I was actually that accomplished and aware.  LOL, accomplished maybe, unawareness was a sort of hallmark trait.

So. assessment.

I’m doing more to advance my own writing than ever before. Spending time on it. Attending webinars, programs, conferences. I’m using beta readers to get a sense of how my story is perceived outside of my critique group. And lastly, I am not rushing off to submit. I get that I have submitted too early [although in my defense, it ‘yea, it felt’ right].

It’s hard for me, not to rush in.  I do it well. I solve problems. I am a command person But #amthinking is where I am right now. And as I think forward to 2018, that is a great assessment.

What you know….

When I started writing, it was ‘write what you know’.  This has always been a trick question for me~ exactly what do I know? How to tie my shoes? How to get across LA at seven in the morning? [well, maybe not anymore] How to make great gravy?  How to buy Christmas gifts? I know a lot of things. I can be, if warranted, my own trivia course. Sometimes I am even amazed at what I remember, aka ‘know.’

Then it was ‘no stretch yourself’ what about what you would want to explore, about what you would like to do, where you would like to go. And I thought that was wonderful. And it seemed to me at that time we started to see a lot of, well, more and more world building. Whole universes designed to the greater good of what was essentially the same story–either boy loves girl, gets girl, girl becomes powerful, gets boy [lol] or man is ascendent to a throne but nobody, everybody wants to stop him. It didn’t matter if it was a love story, a thriller, an adventure, a mystery or a combination of all of them. Go ahead, stretch yourself!

Now if feels as if we are back to write what you know, with the added caveat of ‘how dare you!’ if you write outside what you know, and that means color and culture. A recent blog I visited spoke of all the white gatekeepers in publishing stoping the needed diversity. I was moderate, stating there are not new gatekeepers in the pipeline who are of a diverse background, i.e., people of color, marginalized voices, to take the place of those in position. I thought that maybe education, the opening of the mind, the possibility that there was a career in being a scrivener, that this is a hard slog for anyone wanting to publish.

First off I was told the author had a Ph.D., I am still unsure what that means, I have a masters. So? I was told it wasn’t education, because that was just another code word for system. And the system limits your interactions and holds you back from finding positions in an all white world.

I was told that I needed to ‘ponder’ the idea that marginalized voices are being held back purposefully by white gatekeepers, and I wonder at the self righteous anger, the victimization of their writing and the need to hold others accountable.

I wonder if these people know the editors and agents I do, the ones who continually go to conferences, SCBWI of course, who go through slush piles, who find those marginalized voices, hire sensitivity readers, and work to put out to the world stories that are important and necessary to everyone. I wonder if they ever saw Chimamanda Adichie in her ted talk on The Danger of A Single Story.

I come from the generation, while not me personally, walked the streets for equality, were chastised by fire hoses, jail, killings, and who were told “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”  and “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

I believed him. My dad preached the same message to us, not in front of a huge crowd, just at the dinner table. I too thought we were all created equal, that is what I read in my Baltimore Catechism! there was no caveat for color or ethnicity. Not made, not kept, but created. I thought that it didn’t matter what color your skin, were you honest, generous, giving, truthful.  I believed. Yeah, this little white girl from the San Fernando Valley in Southern California with freckles across her nose and dark red hair. And so did my parents, a lovely white couple from Scranton Pennsylvania, of Irish heritage who understood what discrimination meant~ they were not that far removed from the time of ‘no Irish need apply’ and “no catholics hired’.

And, I thought we had made progress.  Here, I’ll say this true, true for me, because each person’s truth lies in their values, morals and ethics.  I don’t believe Donald Trump made us more racist. And I believe that  Mr. Obama, not made,  just took advantage.

I am pretty positive that when, under what ever administration it was, we moved from being a melting pot of immigrants who came to this country to be a part of the ‘the great American experiment,’ agreed, nay took an oath, to follow the laws,  learn the language, participate in the civil, cultural and political life of this country and leave behind what was their native culture moving to the reality that this was now their home, in the physical, political and, yeah, even metaphysical sense and they accepted this home as it was, bringing the richness of their former lives to enhance ours we lost. When we became a ‘salad bowl‘ with millions in our country without the benefit of that oath, that commitment, that willingness to be a part, well, we, Americans and America,  lost big time.

We have places that no longer follow our, yes OUR laws, who no longer believe that we were, are, that place where freedom rings. Still brings a swell to my heart to hear that. We are no longer that melting pot. We no longer believe in that truth~if you listen to the blogs, pundits, news, cable, even TV shows~ sigh and how they disappoint in presenting one side of a political discussion. It is a discussion, you know. A discussion we have had since the first words were penned on the US Constitution.

I think, believe that if those of you canting about equality and justice truly understood the meaning of the words, that we are created equal then perhaps you would not be so angry and so quick in seeking to blame others.

To paraphrase Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, memory is tyrannical~~ This is what I know. This is what I write. 

Beta

So. Beta. The second (usually second-brightest) star in a constellation. Or, denoting the second of a series of items, categories, forms of a chemical compound, etc. Or, the 2nd letter of the Greek alphabet.

Nope, not never first. Beta is second. According to Literary Rambles, A beta reader is, essentially, someone who reads your work and offers input while it is in draft form but no I say, it is less than that and yet more.

 I have critique partners, you say.  Well, yes. And a critique is more than just an up or down ruling.

For me, my critique partners see the story first,  from the very beginning where it is just words on a page, a smidgen of an idea,  to the way it forms into story where we talk about the main character as if s/he exists in real time.

We worry about what is said, how it is said, what are the MC’s feelings or not, is s/he hurt or in trouble. We  want s/he to get out of that trouble, to solve the mystery, to change and grow, to be better than what they were at the beginning.

So all the ins and outs of the plot, the obstacles for the main character, the needs and wants, yes all, we want it all! And then you are done. You like what you wrote. Your critique partners like what you wrote. Now what.

Second reader. Yes. someone who is not familiar with the story, the way the MC first struggled with the mystery and now struggles with emotions. You want someone who can read the story without the weeks, months, probably year or so, of attachment to the character. Yep, just like an editor or agent. Someone who is coming to the story for the first time.

I have asked one other person out side my critique group to read one of my stories. But I have recently been a beta reader for another, a friend. It was a great opportunity to see the story without introduction, like I would pick off a library or bookstore shelf or on the digital library site. I enjoyed staying with the story but making comments on the character, the nuances, the plot. Why? because most often what you see in another’s story is also happening in your story. It do make you a better writer, a better storyteller.

Yay for Second!