Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Rejection

Well, in the midst of rejoicing comes rejection--the writer's lot--and probably a good thing to keep one humble! The Face on Miss Fanny's Wall, the novel inspired by last year's visit to the "Hello Bordello Welcome Center" in Ft. Smith last year, received a rejection slip yesterday. There were two positives: it was prompt, and it was complimentary of my writing (which they didn't have to even comment on) but did not "fit" their needs. I plan to reply with a brief note of appreciation for both.

There are several other small presses where I'm thinking of sending it. If it continues to be rejected, it may be time to gut it and start over. I think the story line has possibilities, but it may need a new approach.

Someone said to me once that a rejection slip was validation of being a writer. It's all in the game, of course, and while I'm disappointed, I'll press on.

I feel the need to share rejection as well as acceptance on this blog. I think it's only honest. And, as I said, it's the writer's lot. I'm in good company, I'm sure!

Just for fun, this is the cover that the house elf designed for Miss Fanny.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Another Story Accepted!

I was delighted to receive an email this morning telling me that my story about my first year in the classroom in Congo had been accepted for publication. The anthology, which has not been released yet, will be available on Amazon.com. Click the link to see the cover.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

New Recommendations

I subscribe to Hope Clark's Funds for Writers newsletter. Mine comes in two separate emails, one of which includes a list of small markets. I usually end up checking at least one or two of the suggestions, and I have a story sitting "under consideration" with one of those right now (a print magazine).

Also, I ordered an ebook from her site. She and co-author Gwynne Spencer wrote Ferocious Promotion for Timid Authors. For $7.95, I thought it was worth the download. I even printed it (64 pages) for easier reading and put it in one of the pocket folders I stock up on when they're on sale (like 10 for $1).

But I digress. I have to say it's the best money I've spent in awhile. Some of the ideas are obvious, and I was already looking for places to approach about booksignings. But there was so much more! The subtitle is Inexpensive Insights on Selling Your Book--and they are. An investment of time is the only real expense, and time I have in abundance now.

I'm going to post the eleven chapter titles just FYI:
  1. Strategy, the Ground Rules
  2. Collecting Your Tools
  3. Mailings
  4. Back to School with Educational Groups
  5. Shhh, Libraries are a Great Secret
  6. Do Good Through Civic and Charitable Groups
  7. Show Off at Conventions and Fairs
  8. Commercial Venues Make Money
  9. Scoop the Press
  10. Wrapping Up Loose Ends
  11. Keep Finding New Ways
As I said, not all the suggestions are viable for WIPSS, but the majority are. Some of them take more courage than I think I now possess, but I'm working on it! Anyway, it was a good investment of money and the time to read. I emailed her that, and she asked if she could use my email in her newsletter as a "testimonial". It took me awhile I decide that I could live with my name being publicized quietly, but today I replied in the affirmative. (Do you understand why the word timid in her title attracted me?)

Anyway, if you're in the market for writing venues and good tips, follow the link and take a look at Funds for Writers.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Revision #3 and a New Idea

I'm five chapters into the third revision of Blue Velvet (henceforth to be known as Dancing with Velvet due to other uses of the first title with which my story is definitely not associated!). My goal for this time tomorrow night is ten chapters, which will be one-third of the way through. Eventually I can start on revision number four! It needs work, folks, but thanks to my online crit partner, it's getting there.

Also, I've been doing some research for the new novel idea---a western story set on a south Texas ranch in 1910. My grandmother taught in a one-room school on a ranch in the Texas Panhandle in 1911 before she married the following year. I wish I knew more about her experience. The afternoon she mentioned it, I didn't ask enough questions! I do know she went to school and took an examination for a certificate, which teachers could do in that day and time. I'm trying to track down any records of that if they still exist---which I doubt---but a very nice lady in the TEA Library in Austin promised to see what she could find for me.

While my grandmother was there, she boarded with a family--or perhaps multiple families--and my grandfather gave her a copper chafing dish. I suppose she cooked in her room on occasion. Today it is one of my most cherished possessions.

I asked my Daddy, shortly before he died, for the name of the ranch on which she taught. After some thought, he gave me the name. Like a dunce, I didn't write it down, and with all the busy-ness of that time, it went right out of my head--and remains out! I've researched all the existing ranches in that area during that era, but nothing rings a bell. There is a museum that is the repository of old ranch records which I hope to research someday.

Every good genealogist is buried with a yellow legal pad and two #2 pencils (sharpened) so that she can look up all her ancestors and ask all the questions to which she never found the answers.
Mine are packed and ready to go at a moment's notice!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Book Review: Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress

I just finished reading Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress, a book recommended by an editor at TWRP. It was a worthwhile read.

The author divides the book into three parts:
I. Creating Strong and Believable Characters: The Externals where she dealt with descriptive details, character names, setting, employment, dialogue, numbers of characters, and the legal ramifications of basing characters on real people.

II. Creating Strong and Believable Characters: The Internals where she discusses characterizing through personal thoughts, how to show exactly when and what your character is thinking, the necessity of being clear and not depending on the reader to make assumptions, creating villains, and making the protagonist less than sympathetic without alienating the readers.

III. Character and Plot in which she suggests some new and innovative ways of relating character to plot and theme.

What I found most helpful was her use of concrete examples from actual works of fiction. I need to "see" what someone is explaining rather than just "hearing" it. She illustrated her points with characters from literary classics of years gone by as well as newer books.

A big plus is the "Intelligence Dossier" in Chapter 15, which provides a wonderfully-structured outline for creating and getting to know a characters. She makes suggestions for using it and says, "Or you may decide to photocopy some, all, or none of the sections as they seem to apply to your particular characters in your particular book, and fill them out." It's an excellent tool!

Each chapter ends with a concise summary of its main points, another useful tool for readers like me who need to be reminded of everything I just read--no matter how carefully I read it!

I give this book a two thumbs' up!

Dynamic Characters: How to Create Personalities That Keep Readers Captivated by Nancy Kress. Writer's Digest Books, 1998. ($16.99)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Making Characters Come Alive and Copyright Issues

In a message on the WRP loop, the editor who's working on my book recommended these books for authors:

  1. How to Build Story People by Dwight Swain
  2. How to Read a Person Like a Book by Gerard Nierenberg
  3. Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress
I only found one of them (the third) available at the local library, but Nan's helpful hints came just in time. I've just finished Blue Velvet and find my characters lacking--rather one-dimensional. I plan to read it before tackling the revision of BV and hope to improve Celeste, Kent, Nick, Coralee, and other minor characters.

In the March 2009 issue of The Writer, "Breathe Life into Your Characters" by Sam McCarver offers some good suggestions (paraphrased here) for character-building. They need:

  • an independent life
  • their feelings demonstrated by actions, dialogue, and thoughts
  • goals that challenge and give meaning to their existence
  • their own distinct characteristics shown through habits and personality traits
  • their imperfections
  • names consistent with their personalities and the part they play in the story
  • real-life relationships that show they're human

I'm anxious to see what Nancy Kress has to say, too. When my own characters don't live in my heart and soul, I know they need more developing, and that's the case with the characters in BV.

I've also been struggling with copyright issues surrounding song lyrics, poems, and quotes that I like to use in my writing. Usually (there could be exceptions) songs written before 1922 are considered in the public domain. I wanted to use two lines from a song with the same title as my novel, but reading other authors' takes on the subject, it wasn't even worth trying to track down the copyright holder and get permission---not was it worth the risk of being the subject of a lawsuit!

In the search for information, I stumbled on two books which look helpful:

  1. Getting Permission: How to License and Clear Copyright Materials Online and Off by Richard Stim
  2. The Public Domain: How to Find Copyright-free Writings, Music, Art, and More by attorney Stephen Fishman.
I checked the second rather hefty volume out of the library yesterday, but I may order it as a permanent resource if it proves useful.

Characters and copyright---both are haunting me these days! Hopefully, I'll improve the first and not make any missteps with the second! As for the article I mentioned earlier, I'm taking for granted that using the ideas here is similar to writing a research paper: I have not quoted them word for word, and I have given credit both to the author and the source.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yesterday, Pantoums----Today, Pangrams!

Here's another new and interesting thing I stumbled on today in the "Daily Writing Tips" to which I subscribe.

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.

It's a pangram or holoalphabetic sentence containing every letter of the alphabet! For a list of other pangrams, go to the Wikipedia List of Pangrams.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Wild Rose Press and White Rose Publishing

Thanks to an online crit partner, I'm going great guns on Blue Velvet again and am just 10K words away from meeting the goal of finishing it entirely. Then, of course, come revisions, before it's ready for submission as a vintage romance to TWRP.

TWRP has, despite these tough economic times, started an off-shoot company just for Christian romance. White Rose Publishing debuted last week. It's a lovely site, and it has inspired me to get back to the idea of writing a Christian romance. Not that any of my stories are, in the least, sketchy. Though they deal with real-life situations (and we all know that real life isn't always pretty), I feel that I present them tastefully. My motto is still "Fade to black" when a love seen teeters on intense. That's just my style and does not speak to any other author who chooses to write differently.

Back to White Rose Publishing. I wrote a note of congratulations to the editor-in-chief, concluding with the thought that even if I wasn't part of TWRP, I'd respect their business dealings. They came into being as an author-centered publishing company, and I have experienced that first-hand. Even when my first novel was rejected, I didn't receive a form email. I received a lengthy, personalized one explaining that what I'd sent didn't fit their company because it wasn't a strict one-man-one-woman romance but rather a family saga. The editor who read the synopsis told me that there were many other companies who accepted that genre and encouraged me to submit it there.

Frankly, I think they're a good example of "Nice guys don't always finish last." The editor replied to my note by saying that they did feel, if they did the right thing, they would succeed. So do I.

The publishing industry is in a state of turmoil. Newspapers are going under. At least one mainline book publishing company has put a moratorium on the acceptance of new manuscripts. TWRP is sailing along because we're all in this together. The company does everything it can for its authors, and everybody helps everybody else with ideas for marketing, etc. Frankly, I hope I can produce more work that fits their needs, because I feel I'm among friends---and I'd like to stay for the long run.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Poetry: The Pantoum

I belong to an online writing forum where we must post one story and one poem each month. Then each author reads and offers suggestions to the others. The poem that caught my eye this month was written from the prompt "an old photograph", but the form was different from any I'd seen before. Coincidentally, a few minutes after reading the poem, I picked up the latest issue of The Writer Magazine where I found a rather lengthy article on that very form!

It's called the "pantoum" and originated in 15th century Malaysia. The pattern is this:

  • Lines 2 and 4 of the first stanza become lines 1 and 3 of the second.
  • Lines 1 and 3 of the second stanza then become lines 2 and 4 of the second.
And so it goes. The last line of the poem must repeat the opening line, but it will be changed in a way that is slightly different. Use of what the author, Marilyn Taylor, calls "movable punctuation" and the use of homophones keep the poem from becoming repetitive.

Not wanting to infringe copyright, I won't use any of her examples, but I did get permission from forum member Bob Ruerhdanz to illustrate with his poem.

An old photograph
Circa eighteen sixties
It gazes across the room
Of a man in slight profile

Circa eighteen sixties
A formal portrait of
Of a man in slight profile
The picture is in gray

A formal portrait of
The general in his finest
The picture is in gray
It matches his uniform

The general in his finest
Gentle face and Silver hair
It matches his uniform
A proud man in his prime

Gentle face and Silver hair

Well principled and honest
A proud man in his prime
General Robert E. Lee

It's almost like a puzzle and certainly as fascinating!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Book Trailer!

Making this book trailer was quite a time-consuming and somewhat frustrating experience, but the upside is, now that I know what I'm doing, the next one will be much easier. I had some difficulty posting it to my website, but another author responded to my desperate pleas and literally walked me through the back door--which is how one has to approach cranky computer techonology sometimes. It runs a bit "rough" which it doesn't do when viewed from my computer, but at least it's up, and I can tweak it later.

As a child, I was never encouraged to do more than achieve academic success. I suppose it was easier on my parents to keep me under their thumb with my nose in a book. That lack of experience in the "real" world has been a major handicap all my life. Then, at the age of 34, I had to grow up overnight and take total responsibility for two children and my own so-called destiny. It wasn't easy, folks.

I did, however, develop a stubborn streak. Suddenly, if someone told me I "couldn't" do something, my immediate response was, "I'll show you that I can"--and I did. I may try five times and fail---but eventually I'll get it right just through sheer determination. When I do, I'm inordinately proud of myself---something I should have experienced as a child and young person growing up and didn't. So, perhaps my smug smiles and silent exultations may be understood and forgiven now.

Behold--the book trailer!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Another Guest Blog Spot

I'm blogging tomorrow, Friday, March 6, at Skhye's Rambings.

Check out the resources for writing "vintage" pieces and more!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Guest Blogging

I'm guest blogging Tuesday, March 3, for Terry Odell. Check it out.