Blog of a Writer on the Go and Barely Here.
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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Camp NaNoWriMo, We Hold You in Our Hearts...

Okay, it doesn't have the same ring, but you get the idea. Summer is here and with it, the time honored tradition of summer camps. Apparently some adults became nostalgic for the good old days and started Camp NaNoWriMo for us adults.

For those of you who have been around for a while, you've seen my posts about NaNoWriMo. For those new to the blog or have never heard the term 'NaNo' before, you can acquaint yourself here.

Now we're all familiar with the strange word, I'm announcing that I will be joining the ranks of campers this year. I know, it's a huge deal, but before you rush out to alert the press I ask that you all respect my privacy on the matter. Besides, if all the press shows up at my door how am I going to make my word limits each day?

The month of June will see me as a truly 'Absentee Blogger.' (You didn't think I picked the name by accident, did you?) I will schedule posts to automatically go up each Monday and Friday, but it will be only chapters from What the Whole Town Knew and very little of my own personal charm. I hope you all can survive our time apart.

For those of you also participating, I would ask you to add me to your friends list, but Camp NaNo has cabins and I already have been assigned my cabin-mates (the lucky dogs) so we will have to communicate our joys and frustrations elsewhere. Feel free to friend me on my Facebook page or on Twitter and we can try to get through the ritual that is (Writing) Summer Camp together.

If you're interested in trying out Camp NaNo, you can sign up here. Happy writing!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Voting Time!

Check out the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award finalists! Take a peek and vote on your favorite.

Congratulations to you all.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Four Years Ago...

Four years ago today, I was sitting at my desk, feeling slightly uncomfortable. My boss sent me home and a few hours later I was in the hospital, giving birth to my beautiful little girl.

Happy 4th Birthday, Bridget!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Alienating Yourself Using Social Media 101

Step One: Pick a user name. Using obscene words adds to your score.
Step Two: Sign into the social media of your choice and begin making connections. The more people whose views you disagree with, the better.
Step Three: Wait until someone says something completely opposite of how you feel. Argue publicly with this individual. Resorting to childish behavior such as name calling is encouraged.
Step Four: Run back to your like-minded friends and virtual high-five each other for 'stirring up the wasps' nest.'

Congratulations! You have reached Level One. People are talking about you.

It amazes me, and I know it shouldn't, how nasty people can be over the internet. With the internet  to provide a safety wall, so many think their online actions won't have any consequences. They say things online they'd never dream of saying to the same person face-to-face. They attack others for no reason other than getting a laugh or two. It makes them feel empowered to upset and frazzle everyone they meet.

While Internet Trolls have become a normal occurrence, there are others who follow in the Trolls' footsteps, thinking they, too, are immune to retribution. Sadly, they are mistaken.

Yesterday on Twitter, a conversation caught my eye. The part I saw was between an agent and an editor. I noticed it because the agent had been called a 'bad apple'. Being the nosy, uh, researcher that I am, I backtracked to find out what had happened. 

Seems like someone attempted to pitch to the agent on Twitter (a big no-no if anyone's wondering) and became upset over the agent's response that the author should follow submission guidelines on the agency website. Instead of saying, "Ok, sorry. Thank you for the information," the writer became angry over the agent's tweets about her query in-box. Others jumped in with personal remarks, namely the 'bad apple' comment and suggesting the agent in question was drunk.

Now, many agents on social network sites will host things like #10queriesin10tweets or #pubtip where they will randomly go through their slush pile and give tips based on what they're looking at in that moment. They never reveal who the MS belongs to and most writers will take what is said and see if it applies to their own queries. This agent was doing something similar, venting about what drives her crazy in her in-box. Up until she told the writer to check the website guidelines, this person had no problem with these tweets. Afterward, she thought they were 'unethical'.

Here's the problem with how the writer handled this situation. She did it on a public forum where anyone can see it. She called out an agent who had not personally attacked her, then rallied with others to 'stir up the hornets' nest' as one person said. They decried the publishing industry and how indie and self-publishing was the way to go. That people like this agent were the reason traditional publishing's days were numbered.

All of these attacks are now public knowledge and easily accessible. Agents and publishers tend to follow each other on Twitter. Anyone who follows this agent knows about the incident and will most likely let others know. The publishing world is small and one comment can burn many bridges. You may think Indie or Self-publishing is the way to go now, but can you be sure in ten years you won't be tired of doing it all yourself and want to focus on the writing? Maybe you'll be happy doing it all, but do you want to take that chance? Even if you are content with untraditional publishing, why alienate industry professionals who you can learn from? Take a deep breath and think before responding to anyone.

Be careful what you write and post. Words have power to help you along or destroy all your work before even get started.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Trying an Experiment

I'm going to try something new over here. Once a week, I'll post a chapter of my WIP. Either people can read it and comment or skip it and wait for my normal weekly postings. Hoping it'll be the latter. ;-)

The current WIP up for comments is "What the Whole Town Knew."

Advance warning - this had very adult material in it. If you are easily offended, please skip these. I will put up more family-friendly reading for next month's - if this goes well.

If you're still here - Enjoy!

Chapter One
Dale was dead, that much was obvious.  He was motionless, lying in the bright red blood that had gushed at first, but now just trickled a bit, from the hole in his neck. The hole where you plunged the kitchen knife when he came at you in a drunken rage. The last time he would ever come at anyone in a drunken rage.
                As you sat there on the floor next to him, knees to your chest and staring at him over your bruised and bloody arms, a sense of relief washed over you. The beatings and abuse would stop now. No longer would it be necessary to wear long sleeves in the summer to hide the rainbow of bruises. The sunglasses could be saved for when it was actually sunny out.
                A knock at the door startled you, sounding unnaturally loud in the silence. Standing was difficult after sitting for so long. Bruises from the broomstick he had swung were red and angry, turning purple against the whiteness of your legs. Each and every one of them was a reminder of him.
                Grabbing a dishtowel on your way to the door, you scrub at the blood on your arms.  Some of it is yours, but most of it is his. You frantically start to think of excuses for the bruises and blood. Maybe whoever was at the door wouldn’t notice.
                Another knock.
                “Just a minute,” you yell. Whoever it was certainly didn’t have much patience. Peeking out the window in the door reveals Miranda Withers from across the street. What could that nosy busybody want?
                “Miranda.” You force a smile and civil tone as you open the door just enough to carry out a conversation.
                “Lizzie. Hi. Is everything all right?”
                “Yeah. Everything is fine. How are you and Eric?” Keep her out on the front step but don’t raise her suspicions.
                “Oh fine, fine. Listen, we were wondering if you and Dale would like to join us for dinner Saturday night.  Nothing fancy, just a neighborhood get-together. It’s been so nice that we thought a barbeque was in order. What do you say?”
                “Sounds lovely, but I think Dale might have plans. Saturday is his bowling night after all.” 
                “Is he home now? I can talk to him if you like.”
                “No, he’s out right now.” Miranda’s eyes glance beyond the doorway. What did she see? Did she suspect something? You move to block the doorway and she glances down at your arms. There are smears of blood where the dishrag, still clutched in your right hand, wasn’t able to wipe away the traces of guilt. Miranda’s eyes grow wide.
                “Oh, Lizzie! What happened, honey?” You try to remember some of the excuses you came up with, but nothing comes to mind.
                “Uh, oh. Just a little accident. I was, uh, lugging some glassware up stairs to the attic for storage and slipped and fell. Just a few cuts from a plate that shattered and some bumps when I fell down the stairs. Nothing to worry about.” You bite at your bottom lip, wondering if she believes the lies.
                “Do you need some help? I can have Eric come over and put things in storage for you if you’d like since Dale’s not here.”
                “No, no. I got them up there after a while. You caught me while I was cleaning up is all.” It came out a bit rushed and it’s doubtful she believes it. Her mouth turns into a tight smile but her bright blue eyes don’t look convinced.
                “If you’re sure. Let me know about Saturday. We’d love to have you over, even if Dale can’t make it. No reason why you shouldn’t get out and have some fun.”
                “I’ll let you know.”
                “And Lizzie, if you ever need anything, if you ever need to talk, I’m right across the street. Don’t be shy.”  She turned and walked back to her house, her bleach-blonde hair barely moving as she bounced slightly in her platform sandals. On her porch, Eric waits as she makes her way across the road. When she reaches him, he leans down and hugs her. They talk for a minute and laugh. Eric looks over toward your house and sees you still in the doorway. He smiles and waves. You wave back and close the door on the sickenly happy scene.
                Dale is still laying on the kitchen floor. The blood had begun to congeal and turn brownish as it dried.  Walking around towards his head you can see the look of surprise on his face. He didn’t believe you had it in you to fight back. Not you, not little Lizzie Mosher.
                “Lizzie Mouser,” Dale use to say. He would tease you about your name because you refused to change it when he married you. He always thought women should be subservient to men, especially wives to their husbands.  His mother had always done what his father wanted and his grandmother would always bow to his grandfather’s wishes. Then you came along and broke with the whole family tradition. 
                He didn’t know how to deal with a woman who wouldn’t bend to his will. It was probably what drew him to you in the first place. You were different from any he had ever known and he wanted to break you. And break you he did, on all accounts except your name. Your name was the only thing that was yours, that you alone owned, and you refused to give that little scrap of identity to him. It irritated him and he would try to use it against you, belittling the one thing you could call yours.
                “Lizzie Mouser. Mousy little Lizzie,” he’d call when he came home from the bar after work, drunk and stumbling about. You would lock yourself in the bathroom, listening as he bumped into walls and furniture, looking for you. Yelling for you. 
                It always ended the same way. He’d find the bathroom door and pound away on it, rattle the handle and yell obscenities at you on the other side.
                “Lizzie, I know you’re in there. Come on out.” Silence fueled his anger. “Get out here, you little bitch. I am your husband and you will do what I tell you to.” The banging and rattling would get more insistent. In the early days of his abuse he would break the cheap lock on the door and drag you out. He would beat you with his fists, relishing the sound of flesh hitting flesh.
                “You little bitch. You little fucking bitch. You think you’re better than me? Don’t you ever try to hide from me again, do you understand? I am your fucking husband and you better not forget.” The abuse was mingled and rained down all the same. 
For a short time there was a deadbolt on the bathroom door. It was a short reprieve from the violence. Dale could still scream through the door, but his fists were useless. A few days later, during a sober moment, he remembered and removed it. The next time he came home drunk your defense was short lived. You ran to the bathroom, but the bolt was no longer there. In your moment of surprise and horror you never put up any form of a barricade. Dale was through the door and upon you within moments.
“Stupid bitch. Thought you were smarter than me? Think again. I own you, do you understand? You are mine, as my wife, to do what I want with.” The hitting had stopped for a second and you risked a look at him, uncovering your head with your arms. He was smiling a very chilling smile. His brown eyes that once generated warmth now could chill the stoutest heart.
“That’s right, Sweetheart. Nothing to be afraid of.” You made an attempt to scoot backwards, away from this madman, but the grin left his face and he grabbed you by your hair, kept long under his orders.
“I don’t think so, my little mouse.” He dragged you down the hall to your bedroom. He threw you on the bed and tore off your clothes with no regard to buttons or zippers. He forced himself on you again and again and the sobs caught in your throat. His big calloused hands groping every inch, pressing harder at the bruises, trying to cause more shouts of pain.
  You tried to fight him off, but he was too strong. He worked in the town foundry, pumping iron in a much more literal sense. He was far too strong for such a little mouse.
That was the night, wasn’t it? The night you knew it all had to end. Dale had become possessed by something far more evil than anything you had ever seen and it had consumed him entirely. It had to stop. And it had to stop soon.
Kneeling next to his body, you reach out and close his brown eyes, frozen in their state of sightless surprise. What to do now, now you don’t have Dale to make all the decisions. Everything was yours to decide now.  A shower seems most logical, but sleep is trying to take over. It has been a long day. A very long day.
You grab a sponge from the sink and dampen it. Gently, you wipe away the blood and the grime from Dale’s face and arms. His lank, blonde hair had fallen across his face when he had collapsed, making him look peaceful, almost angelic. He had been such a good looking guy.
Sleep soon claims you and you snuggle up next to Dale’s body. It’s cold, but for the first time in over a year it doesn’t cause fear. It’s just a shell and shells can’t cause any harm. You wrap his arm around you and kiss him goodnight on the cheek. In the morning the body would have to be taken care of, dumped where no one would find it. Tonight was for the final goodbye.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Are You Hip to the Jive?

Authenticity can enhance or destroy any story. You set a story in a real world setting, make sure it's one you're familiar with or you'll hear it from your readers. Make the dialog unrealistic and you'll alienate others.

Seems like a legitimate request

What prompted this post? you might be asking. Or not. I'm a writer, not a mind reader. Either way, I'll tell you. This post has been a long time in coming, spurred on by something that happened on last night's writing group. (I knew you were all looking forward to another Writing Group installment.)

The first time the authenticity issue came to my attention it was while I was reading a book whose title shall remain unnamed. It was a novel I heard great things about and was repped by a very, very well known agent. I figured it had to be good, right? For me, not so much.

If you live in MA, you either belong to this family...

or you do this on the weekends. And weekdays. Whenever.

The premise of Untitled was good, but the setting kept pulling me out. Supposedly, it takes place in Massachusetts. This would have been fine if the writer kept it generic or had some understanding of Massachusetts and the people who live there. Instead, towns and their inhabitants were horribly stereotyped. I tried to get past these issues, but ended up giving up once the MC was taunted by many of the other characters for not wanting to take a plane from Boston to NYC because he was afraid of flying. Because, you know, so many people choose to FLY from MA to NY. No one would ever, say, take the train or bus. God forbid they DROVE the whole 3-4 hours.

To someone not from the area, these things might not have caused them any additional thought. To someone like me, the book read like the author heard about this place called Boston and based their location and characters on things they heard second-hand. Too many times = Deal breaker. I never finished the book.

Yesterday, this issue of authenticity came up, this time in my own writing. For anyone who doesn't know, my husband had an idea for a detective series set in the 1920s. He drew up the outline and handed it off to me for the actual writing. Yes, I'm my husband's ghost writer.

Working with a time setting of the 20s brought interesting challenges, one of which was the slang. While researching the slang of the time was fun, I worried about over-doing it. My solution was to give the club-goers and musician-types jive talk, but my MC isn't up to speed on the lingo.

My husband read through what I wrote and gave his stamp of approval. He told me he had been worried about bogging down the story with too many slang terms, but ended up pleased with the result. Of course, we're both partial and will have to await judgement from the Impartial Authenticity Committee. If anyone wants to join the committee, feel free to check out Tinman and let us know.

Now we get to the Writer's Group portion of the post. Last night I met the rest of the group. The louder, more talkative section of the group, all of whom were absent on my first visit. One of these writers is working on a fantasy piece. I know, I know. What does authenticity have to do with the fantasy genre? Isn't the whole point of fantasy to work outside the normal and believable? (Hmm...maybe I should be a mind reader.)

The helmet's connected to the pauldron, the pauldron's connected to the..

The problem with this piece was, while well-conceived, it was over-written. I like details as much as the next reader, but too many in an effort to bring about the ring of authenticity with bog down the rest of the story. Certainly describe the armor your hero or heroine is wearing, but don't list every single piece. Knee and elbow pieces are extraneous, particularly if they add a whole paragraph to your novel.

The point I'm trying to make is authenticity can bite you both ways. If there's too little of it, people are going to notice. Too much and a reader will give up, lost somewhere between the vambraces and greaves. The challenge we all face is finding the balance and bringing a sense of true authenticity to our writing.