Just about wherever you are in my house, you see boxes. Some are packed full, others are flat and in stacks, waiting to be chosen because they're just the right size to put that set of knick-knacks inside, or for my husband's billion pairs of shoes. (Okay, so he doesn't have a billion pairs, but he wears size 12/13 depending on the shoe maker, so a big box is a necessity.) This process has been going on for probably two months now, mostly because I didn't want to hold off to the last minute and pack trash along with the stuff we wanted to keep. There's nothing like opening a box of treasured possessions and finding an old straw wrapper from a long-forgotten fast-food meal to bring home the need for pre-planning and organization for an undertaking of this size.

Yes, we're moving. Sort of. If all goes to plan, we're pulling down the old house we live in now and building new on the same lot. I don't think I'm going to miss this place all that much. But we've been here nineteen years, so there's a lot of junk to wade through in search of the things we really need and want to keep. Ask my son. Now that he's packing up his own things, I think he finally sees the wisdom in all those admonitions to pick up the trash so he can see what needs to be put away. He's already staked out the back bedroom in the yet-to-be-built house, which happens to be the master bedroom, but since the new house's two bedrooms are of equal size, I don't mind, because I really like the big windows in the second bedroom. Besides, the master bath is going to be cut down to a half-bath to make room for the furnace and the water heater. It's funny how not all house plans come with designated spots for those things.

I've been hearing geese, most likely on their way further south. Can't say I blame them. I hate cold weather. Leaves are falling off the trees at an increasing rate. Both remind me that we have little time left here. Not in the metaphysical sense--there's a lot of mold in the floor and the walls, and we have to have the windows open for the fresh air. Once it gets cold enough that we have to shut the windows, we will have to abandon the place, if it hasn't been pulled down before then. Mortgage paperwork is such a joy, especially when you have to rely on others to get back to you with requested information. I'm not sure we'll be done with it before we have to be out of here.

The Muse Online Writer's Conference starts next week. So far, we've got a bit over 150 people signed up for the Suspense workshop. If you're one of them and you haven't gotten my papers, "Writing Suspense" and "Adding Suspense", you might want to grab them off my website. They're not required reading, but you might find them useful, since this year, workshop attendees get to write their own short suspense scenes. My workshop partner is also running his tagline workshop again, so keep that in mind.

Now, off to wrestle with myself over whether I should be writing fiction or packing. Choices, choices...

'Til next time~~


Website update complete, plus Muse Conference

Finally, got the website update finished and posted. If you find any links that don't work, click the link at the bottom of the website pages to report them, please.

The Uncle Hunt is now available as a pdf download on my website. Enjoy! I ask that you don't pass along the file. Please help me keep track of how many downloads it gets by directing people to the appropriate page on my website. They can download it themselves. Requires Adobe Reader or an equivalent pdf reader to open the file. Adobe Reader is a free download from Adobe.

The Muse Online Writers Conference registration is open until September 1, 2008. If you intended to attend this year, you've only got a few more days to register. Lea is making no exceptions this year. If you miss the cutoff date, you'll have to wait for next year's conference.

Mysterical-E has accepted my story "Picture Imperfect" for publication. It will probably be out in the spring issue, from what I'm told.

Still waiting to hear back from the publisher about my books. I will post information as I get it.

Until next time~~~


Website updates coming soon

We've had problems with a computer virus getting in and messing things up (my husband's user account on the computer vanished entirely, including all his current bookmarks, which were considerable in number), followed by weeks worth of getting the harddrives reformatted, getting all the software loaded back on, and getting the computer and the router talking to each other again. A frustrating series of events for all sentients involved. I'm sure the computer didn't care one way or the other.

I plan on revamping my website, which may or may not include changing the background color scheme. Probably any future sample chapters will be posted in pdf format, and I'll likely have a free story download available sometime in August. Articles I've written for the Muse Online Writers Conference are also posted there, on the articles page. Those will continue to be available.

My three out-of-print books are currently in the queue at another publisher. The first has made it through the initial read and is waiting for an editor to give it a good look before they'll make any decisions on it. If there's one thing the writing biz teaches you eventually, it's patience.

Speaking of the Muse Online Writers Conference, registration is now open. Registration runs sometime through September--my bad on not remembering exact dates. I'll post them once I've tracked all the information down. The conference is free, and you have the advantage of being able to attend your chosen workshops in your pajamas if you choose, because no one will ever see you. Except, perhaps, your housemates and the delivery man.

Many thanks to Lynne Patrick of Creme de la Crime, an independent British crime publisher, for unwittingly giving me exactly what I needed to get my latest Patty story moving forward. You rock.

Until next time~~


Stereotypes in Writing

My apologies for the extended delay in posting again. You really don't want to hear all about my allergy problems and the effect they have on my brain, so I won't get into that.

I’ve been pondering this post for a while, and decided to finally get my brain in gear and write it.

A number of years ago, before my first novel made it to print, a reader complained about the fact that my characters of a particular nationality weren’t the way characters of that nationality were portrayed in movies. I explained to her, politely, that the characters in the movies were stereotypes, and that I don’t use them.

Stereotypes are a sort of shorthand that is used to invent characters without giving much thought to it. Movies and television use them because they’ve got only so much time to tell a story, and they can’t afford to spend much of it developing their characters. Since movies and tv are such a pervasive part of our culture, their use of that particular shorthand is a trap that we can easily fall into. Got an Italian character? Throw in a love of pasta and a few ‘Mama Mia’s and you’ve got it, right?

Well, only if you’re writing a five minute children’s cartoon.

Writing characters according to stereotypes is somewhat undesirable because a) people are not all alike, inside or outside arbitrary national lines, and b) stereotypes often originated as uncomplimentary characterizations based on national prejudices.

Writing to stereotypes also suggests that the author didn’t do his/her homework.

If you have a character of a nationality other than your own, take some time to do some research into the history of the country your character comes from. If you can find books that tell you about the culture of that particular nation, it will help you to understand your character better, and you can write a more fleshed-out person rather than a one-size-fits-all, flat stereotype.

A word of caution, though—if you intend to use that nation’s slang and idioms in your character’s conversations, try to get someone from that nation to help you get it right.

Some time ago, I decided, for reasons I won’t go into, to learn Irish gaelic. I quite enjoyed the studying, learning new words and sentence structures, but discovered something that stayed with me a lot longer than the language did. Slang and idiomatic sayings are intimately tied into the culture and history of the people who made them up. If you have no understanding of the culture and history, and have no one to help you correct your mistakes, it’s better not to use them. There is nothing that screams ignorance louder than the improper use of them.

Don’t worry that not throwing in the stuff you hear in the movies is going to keep your readers from knowing who your characters are. I usually just have mine speaking good old plain English, and I can’t tell you the number of times people have told me, “Oh, such and such sounded so (fill in nationality).” Once your reader knows a character is a certain nationality, they’ll fill in the accent, among other things.

Click on the Writing label for all other posts on writing.


End of March Blues

Can you say 'tax time?' April 15 is suddenly just a short period away. A quarter of the year is gone. How did that happen so quickly?

Patty has suddenly made it plain she's ready for her next story, so I guess I'll have to oblige her. It's about time, really. Some people claim there's no such thing as writer's block, but I imagine that's just because they've never experienced it. Like the girl who tried to tell me there was no such thing as PMS. Uh-huh.

I've gathered a few links to posts on other blogs that I found interesting. Especially as writers, we tend to be isolated and have ideas about how the business works that aren't really accurate.

The first is Wait, you mean THIS is the hard part? Just how do those books get to the bookstore?

Next is The Other 90% Someone may be getting rich off those books, but it might not be who you think it is.

Sandra Ruttan has some Unsolicited Advice...For Aspiring Authors Seeking Advice.

And finally, if you have something through a small press that uses a POD printer, this will probably be of interest to you, because Amazon's changing their policy about doing business with any POD printer but their own. Writers Weekly

Sigh. As if life wasn't already difficult enough.

Tomorrow is the last official day of my contract for Reef Runner. The series will be out of print in April. Hopefully I'll have news soon on if it's going back into print elsewhere.

Out for now~~~


What makes a writer a writer?

I tend not to say an awful lot while I'm online. Mostly, I 'listen' to the conversations going on on message boards and lists, learning and picking up interesting tips and tidbits as I go along. I'm still too new at this, and a bit too unknown as a published author to have much of importance to add.

I have to admit that there are times when my fellow authors do and say things that leave me scratching my head. There are writers who seem to feel all authors are involved in some sort of vicious competition for readers, and that it behooves them to do everything in their power to sabotage those around them. In their opinion, anyone who hasn't jumped through all the same hoops they did isn't worthy of the name 'writer' and should be slapped down with utmost speed. Those who haven't been published yet are beneath their notice. I believe the term that often crops up in these cases is 'wannabe'.

Frankly, it's a form of 'me-ism' that turns me off. Thank you for revealing your attitudes, folks. I have quite enough stuff in my TBR pile as it is. I'm thankful that you stepped right up and took your books out of the stack.

I'm not going to point at specific individuals or organizations. That's not what this is about. It's about what makes a writer a writer.

We all, or at least most of us, learned to write in school. We learned to put words on a page in an order that made sense. Under that definition of the word, we are all writers. We all use those basic skills in some form or another in everyday life, even if it's just in making out the grocery list. That's not, however, what most people think of as being a writer. But they are the basic skills that all writers begin with.

The major difference between most people and 'writers' is that writers take those basic skills and try to convey something with them. Not all writing fields are fiction, though that's the one I'm the most familiar with. Writing is like any other skill--you start out with the basic understanding of how it works, and you work upward from there. You wouldn't spend two hours learning how to toss a set of juggling balls back and forth between your hands, and then expect to get on stage and juggle fire. The flashy tricks come after perhaps years of practice. But it's interesting to note that jugglers who are at the beginning of learning, who have mastered the basic skills and are working their way upward a bit at a time toward that goal of juggling fire, are not called 'wannabes,' except perhaps by those with a high opinion of themselves. They're simply less skilled jugglers.

If you're at the beginning, you feel the drive, you have stories to tell, and you're working on your skills, you're a writer. Publishing is a wonderful goal, a validation of your hard work, but like juggling fire, unless you're that extremely rare, extraordinary person, you're not going to get there overnight, and certainly not without the hard work. In fact, most of what is called 'overnight success' is actually the result of years of hard work.

The only time 'wannabe' should apply to any 'writer' is when that 'writer' makes big claims about what the books they're going to write and how they're going to be the biggest thing since sliced bread, but never makes an effort to see it through. That's a 'wannabe', they wannabe a writer, but don't want to put the effort into actually being one. 'Wannabe' should never be applied to writers who are making the effort to learn and practice their skills.

I know I've used the W-word quite a lot in this post. And by that, I mean 'work'. Writing is a skill that requires an apprenticeship of sorts, though nobody ever tells us that. We're taught the basic skills and then tossed out into the world to flounder around until we either figure out what we're doing or give up. If you're wise, you'll seek out a group, or maybe several groups, where you can get your work critiqued. Expect that you'll be doing your fair share of critiquing. You learn by reading what works and what doesn't in other people's work, as well as having your own strengths and mistakes pointed out to you. Don't think you're not going to make mistakes. It's how you respond to them that will make a difference in whether you'll get to your goal or not. And just because your name isn't in Books In Print, don't let anyone ever tell you you're not a writer. You may not be a published writer, but you are a writer.

My apologies for not being a more regular blogger. I seem to have hibernated through the winter, lol!

Click on the Writing label for all other posts on writing.