Sunday, May 31, 2009

New Research Books

The books ordered from Writers' Digest arrived yesterday. Also, the book that I ordered from, Historic Ranches of Texas, arrived. Published by the University of Texas Press, it contains a wealth of text on a dozen ranches as well as gorgeous paintings of places on these ranches as they used to be. I opted for the soft-cover edition for $9. (Hard-covers ran over $50!) Though it is stamped "damaged book", it appears brand-new.

The Writer's Guide to Places is an encyclopedic listing covering all 50 states plus some Canadian cities and provinces. Turning to the entry for Arkansas, I find a map showing major highways and cities, followed by basic geographical facts. Further sub-headings include
  • Significant Events Your Character Has Probably Thought About
  • Arkansas Facts and Peculiarities Your Character Might Know
  • Your Character's Food and Drink
  • Things Your Character Likes to Remember
  • Things Your Characters Would Like to Forget
  • Myths and Misperceptions about Arkansas
  • Interesting Places to Set a Scene
and a listing of books and websites for further research.

The Texas entry is similar, BUT there are separate additional entries for Texas cities like Austin, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Houston, and San Antonio!

What a terrific resource! I like the "blurb" on the back cover which says, A WRITER'S MAGIC CARPET RIDE-Carry your readers from coast to coast without leaving home!

With all these terrific resources, I have absolutely NO excuse not to write -- and to write realistically!

Friday, May 29, 2009

To Twitter or Not to Twitter?

In the May-June issue of Poets and Writers, a new magazine I'm trying out (more on that later), Sarah Weinman has written an interesing treatise on the newest social networking service. In "Are Authors Who Twitter Any Fitter", she addresses the different purposes for which it is used. She says that there are "many in the publishing industry (who). . .consider Twitter an essential marketing and communications tool." She notes the examples of their use for business communication between publishers, reviewers, and booksellers.

However, she goes on to term the service "challenging" to newbies. Further, she states the obvious: it's another way to spend time both looking for something worthwhile to read and actually reading.

Her conclusion is that there no conclusion has been reached about its usefulness.

So, I'm still in the mulling-it-over stage. I don't even keep up with my Facebook the way I should! I doubt I need anything else to take up my time at this stage of the game.


Now about the new magazine. I got a "deal" on it--six issues a year--and my first issue arrived several weeks ago. It's a large magazine, but so far I haven't been able to get into it with the same zest that I have for Tthe Writer or Writers' Digest. I could be wrong, but it seems geared to the more experienced, truly professional writer. I'm not that and may never reach that point.

I have read, however, an interesting interview with poet Ann Lauterbach, author of nine books and only two years my senior. I enjoyed her life perspective since we are of the same generation.
There is a large section on writing contests and the deadlines for same. I've sworn off contests temporarily, but the pages are still useful to anyone who is still entering. There's also a listing of various conferences and residencies for writers. Sigh. I can only dream.

Overall, the magazine appears to be an excellent production, and I got a bargain on the year's subscription---but I'm not sure it's for me. I'll wait and see.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Regarding Crit Groups and Other Topics

In the March-April issue of Writers' Digest (I always seem to be a couple of months behind in reading!), there was an excellent article entitled "Critiquing Critique Clubs" by Gigi Rosenberg, a published author of essays and articles. She included a quiz to help decide whether staying in a particular group is the right thing to do. Basically, membership in a critique group should, in her opinion, lead to more and better writing and provide support. I think she is exactly right.

I participate in the writing forum sponsored by ALongStoryShort and have found the other members' comments on my pieces to be very helpful. I may occasionally feel that a comment has "missed the point", just as I'm sure some of my comments on pieces written by younger authors definitely miss their generational point. Overall, however, I feel that I benefit from their input.

In the "Writer's Workbook" section of the issue, the following articles were well-worth taking the time to read:

  • "Revision and Self-Editing" by Nancy Lamb
  • "Put Your Fiction to the Plausibility Test" by Steve Almond
  • "Strengthen Your Scenes with 5 Easy Tips" by James Scott Bell
  • "Rescue Your Story from Plot Pitfalls" by Laura Whitcomb
It may take me awhile to get around to reading the writing magazines to which I subscribe, but I always find treasures waiting!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Books on Writing

Several weeks ago I ordered three books from the Writers' Digest online store. They were on sale, and free S&H was not to be dismissed. The American West is a nice encyclopedic edition that will be a valuable companion to my other books on the Old West, including Dictionary of the Old West, Everyday Life in the 1800s, and Everyday Life in the Wild West.

Another book, The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, has alphabetical entries for every person, place, and word associated with the title subject. Whether or not one believes in "ghosts", everyone likes a good ghost story, and I'm finding this book a fascinating read.

Alas, I fell prey to more temptation this week. Another sale. More free S&H. Coming to my mailbox soon will be
  1. The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing
  2. The Writer's Guide to Places
  3. Writing the Christian Romance
The third book is of particular interest because I would like to try my hand at that genre. Growing up on Grace Livingston Hill's books, all of them Christian romance---same story, different characters names, but totally satisfying to an impressionable young girl's soul---I always had in mind that I would follow in her footsteps.

There are a couple of glitches though. My aunt once described Mrs. Hill's books as "too sweety-sweet", and she had a point. Real life is not inevitably nice. People struggle with situations of their own making and not of their own making. Sometimes they appear to win--outwardly---and sometimes they lose. But, for people of faith, winning and losing are not always opposites.

Everyone familiar with my writing knows that I've drawn a line in the sand; crossing it isn't up for debate. "Steamier" romances are readily available, and I'm not criticizing them, just saying that they aren't the genre I choose to write. Of course, I've read some--- barely started some before deciding I could do without, stopped in the middle of some, finished some. The majority were good books, but I tire easily of four-letter words and repetitive bedroom scenes, and so moved on.

But real life is real. It happens. The Christian life is real life, so it must be written about realistically. While my current writing includes a definite moral tone, it couldn't be construed as Christian romance, and that's what I'd like to try.

The Wild Rose Press, which always had a Christian romance line, recently decided to form a separate publishing company for that genre. White Rose Publishing is up and running, and I hope to be part of it someday.

Meanwhile, I am slogging through the galleys for Where Is Papa's Shining Star? for the second time---there will be a third---and beginning to understand just what it is I've opted to do with the rest of my life. Work.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

It's Getting Closer!

The galleys for Where Is Papa's Shining Star? were in my inbox this morning. I have to make sure that everything is as it should be--no typos, etc. This is the last look at the book before it goes to press.

Actually, it's going "on the shelf" according to my editor, because she was kind enough to agree to the sequel, Finding Papa's Shining Star coming out within a month of the first book for marketing purposes. So, WIPSS must bide its time before going to e-publication and print.

I'll admit to some longing to hold the finished book in my hands, but my philosophy is this: I've waited a lifetime for this moment. What difference does a few more months make?

The contract for FPSS came with some good suggestions for changes in the first few chapters, so while I was making those, I did a complete read-through of the ms and made other revisions, too. Hopefully that will help the editing process move along smoothly and even more quickly than before. Also, when I finished, I liked the story better than the original!

Since this is a writing blog, I write about writing---and it has to be from my own perspective, as my shoes (ahem! moccasins!) are the only ones I walk around it. But I hope---oh, I do so hope!---that I never sound like I've begun to take myself seriously!

That needs some explaining, of course. We all take our writing seriously in that we want it to be the best product it can be, and that's as it should be. We all work hard, and I'm finding out just what hard work writing for publication really is! BUT--and here's the point--I don't want to ever sound as if I'm taking myself seriously in the nose-in-the-air, head-in-the-clouds demeanor. And, unfortunately, I've seen that happen to others.

I'm just one of so many writers out there, and I've read things that I think are infinitely better than what I write. More than ever, since beginning this journey to publication, I've realized just how much I don't know. . .how much I have yet to learn . . . and what a small cog in the wheel of literary endeavor that I really am!

Everytime I say "my editor" or "contract" or "ms", something in me says, " Listen to yourself! Just who do you think you are?"

I think I know who I am. I'm a lucky, lucky person who is beginning to realize the dream of a lifetime because of good friends and opportunities that I didn't make for myself. I want my website to look "professional", and I want to consider myself such, just as I did when I was teaching . . . but most of all, I just want to enjoy my small successes with those who encouraged me to pursue them and supported me along the way, because this moment belongs to them, too.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

It's Off!

I spent the week-end going back through Finding Papa's Shining Star and making minor changes both as requested by the editor issuing the contract and from my own perspective after having let the ms "ripen" a bit. It had already been revised multiple times, so hopefully this latest tweak will make the edits flow more smoothly.

The contract is signed (2 copies) and ready to be mailed tomorrow. The other documents could go back in an email---updated author information, as well as character description and ideas for the cover for the graphic artist. I requested the same artist (Rae Monet) who did the cover for book #1. She's terrific!

Anyone who has the idea that writing isn't a full-time, all-consuming job isn't considering the hours that goes into (a) writing the first draft (b) multiple revisions (c) edits (d) galleys and all the other details that goes into a finished product. How much simpler it must have been for Louisa May Alcott's Jo March in the immortal Little Women to sit in her chilly garret, wrapped in a comforter, and pen her little tales!

Personally, I find it amusing to picture myself living in a room high above a teeming city street, the quintessential literary persona, sporting gypsy-colored clothes that make a "statement", drinking wine from antique glasses, descending from my ivory tower at night to mingle with other "artists" in quaint, out-of-the-way bistros, and by day turning out pieces that will endure for all eternity.

In reality, I live in a house that must be kept clean, wear jeans and t-shirts or sweats (not to forget the moccasins!), drink milk and V-8 juice from a Dollar Store goblet and Diet DP from the can, close the blinds at dark and sit alone in the recliner to read, exhausted from a day of pounding the keyboard in hopes of turning out just one something to merit a check, however small.

My soul wants to soar, but it is anchored in the must do instead of the wish I could.

But then, without the "stuff of dreams", life would be dull indeed.

Friday, May 15, 2009

New Contract!

I just received my second contract from The Wild Rose Press for Finding Papa's Shining Star, a sequel to book #1, Where Is Papa's Shining Star? I've requested the same graphic artist to design the cover and should, hopefully, have one to display in a few weeks.

However, I will note the dedication in advance:

To Donna, Leona, and Linda, my good and true writing friends, with affection and appreciation

Monday, May 11, 2009

Inspiration and Resources

There is a full page spread in the newest AARP Magazine about authors who have penned best-selling novels past the age of 50. "Write On Past Age 50" by Bill Hogan is a look at 11 authors with synopses and backstories of the books written when they were no longer "young".

  • Irving Stone wrote The Agony and The Ectasy at age 58.
  • Katherine Ann Porter wrote Ship of Fools at age 72.
  • James A. Michener wrote The Source at age 58.
  • Elia Kazan wrote The Arrangement: A Novel at age 58.
  • Leon Uris wrote Trinity at age 52.
  • Robert Ludlum wrote The Matarese Circle at age 72.
  • James Clavell wrote Noble House at age 57.
  • Jean M. Auel wrote The Plains of Passage at age 54.
  • Alexandra Ripley wrote Scarlett at age 57.
  • Robert J. Waller wrote The Bridges of Madison County at age 53.
  • Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye wrote Desecration: Antichrist Takes the Throne at ages 52 and 75.
Though I'm getting a somewhat later start than most--and I certainly don't anticipate becoming a best-selling author with my little tales--I feel encouraged that I am in good creative company in my senior years!


Also in the week's collection of mail was a catalogue of books which can be bought through Writer's Digest. Many are how-to books, but others are valuable resource books. I'm considering several, including The American West (regularly $40, now $24), Literary Law Guide for Authors ($14.99), and The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, 3rd Edition ($12.95). Free shipping and handling on U.S. orders of $25 or more makes ordering the books even more appealing.


Last but not least, the June issue of The Writer was in the bundle of mail. There are four articles on writing for children, one on overcoming writer burnout, a short piece on the coming of age of e-books, and some information on business cards (which I'm happy to report, I remembered to take with me on my trip and handed out several!).

Friday, May 1, 2009


Day 1: So far, I've set up a folder for The Showboat Affair and added previously-made notes plus a list of characters and a brief outline for the first chapter. I also tried to add a count-down widget, but it comes up with a "broken and can't be fixed" message. Alas.

Day 2: After driving 281 miles today, often in driving rain, I only managed 343 words. Will fewer miles tomorrow equate more words?

Day 5: Hmmm. Well, At this point I have about 2000 words. Still traveling. Certainly driving faster than I write!