Sunday, June 28, 2009

To Each (Writer) His Own (Way of Publishing)

Apparently there has been a great deal of controversy about E-publishing. Some say it isn't "real", while others say it is the "wave of the future". Here is a link to a story in Time Magazine that turned up in my email today. It seems to be a pretty thorough discussion of the various publishing models, including print and e-publishing. http://www.time. com/time/ magazine/ article/0, 9171,1873122, 00.html?artId= 1

I'm waiting to see where it all goes. My books with TWRP will be e-published shortly before going to print. I like holding a print book in my hands (especially when it's mine, she says as she asks forgiveness for the sin of pride!), but I've downloaded some good e-reads from their online store and at a fraction of the price of a "real" book.

The Sony E-Readers and the Kindle, both new technology advances that allow books to be downloaded and taken along without the bulk and weight of a printed tome, look interesting to me, but right now I'm not motivated to pay several hundred dollars for either one. Like computers, they will be refined and, I'm sure, go down in price.

I recently joined EPIC, "the voice of internet publishing". For $30 a year, it's a good resource and a good support system if I should choose to travel that road along with the print road. I decided against Romance Writers of America, mainly because of the continuing controversy between the members over e-publishing versus print publishing. Though I understand the local chapters are a wonderful experience, I wasn't paying my money to become embroiled in any type of controversy at this stage of my fledgling "writing career". Besides, I'm writing and publishing for my own enjoyment and satisfaction and have no ladder to climb or ax to grind with anyone.

I joined another writing organization for the purpose of becoming part of an online critique group but soon discovered that was not for me for reasons I won't go into. They generously refunded my money.

As I've begun to learn the ins and outs of publishing, I've found that among writers, just as in any group, there are egos to be dealt with. Success seems to trigger the "Look-at-me-aren't-I-wonderful?" syndrome. Now, folks, I know there are many writers out there who are much better than I am, and they will achieve much more notoriety and money than I will. Frankly, I'm delighted for them. But let me rejoice with you---don't demand that I stand in awe of you. We both have ten fingers and peck that keyboard the same way!

The last time I looked, I was still part of the human race with all its faults and foibles. The old saying, "The bigger they are, the harder they fall" is too true.

And I'm terrified of heights!

Have a good writing day!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

American Regional English---and the Way We Speak English in Texas!

In today's WOW! Women on Writing Blog: The Muffin (to which I e-subscribe free), I found information on a new edition of The Dictionary of American Regional English which will be published next year and contain some 75,000 entries. Having never heard of it before, I went looking to see if it was available at the local library (it isn't) and at the library in my hometown (it is, but only 2 of what appears to be 4 volumes). All four volumes are available for purchase at ABE Books--with prices beginning at $50 and rising! Um. . .I believe I will wait until I can get my hands on a library reference copy or view it online!

But what a fascinating resource! There are vast regional differences in speech patterns/vocabulary throughout America. I've been twitted more than once about saying I'm fixing to. . .or y'all. . .and those are just for starters! Though I usually set my stories in areas with which I'm familiar, both geographically and culturally, I can see that this tome would be a great resource for writers who are setting a story outside their general comfort zone.

For Texas writers or writers about Texas wanting a little flavor, let me recommend two excellent resources by Wallace O. Chariton:
  1. This Dog'll Hunt (Wordware Publishing, Inc., 1990)
  2. This Dog'll Really Hunt (Republic of Texas Press, 1999)
You'll have a hearty chuckle even if you don't use any of the "Texan-isms".

Sunday, June 21, 2009

New Resource Books

Instead of getting rid of books, I seem to be accumulating more. The excuse is, of course, that they're for research. Two more arrived on Saturday: Ghost Towns of Texas by T. Lindsey Baker, and Backroads of Texas (subtitled The sites, scenes, history, people, and places your map doesn't tell you about) by Larry Hodge and Ed Syers. Both are gems! Or, in Texas parlance, they're "jim-dandies".

So many towns flourished in early Texas---as in every state---and then died for various reasons: the railroad passed them by, the oil gave out, forts were deserted when there was no longer any need for them. Why are they called "ghost towns"? Maybe because they are only a shadow of what used to be. Once upon a time, though, they lived--and people lived in them--and where there are people, there are stories--and that's what I write.

On another note, I've been tweaking my website. Hey, I'm a novice, but I got it up, and now I'm "fixing" it. In the WD Writing Basics which I've been poring over, Linda Formichelli describes "The Anatomy of a Writer's Website". She lists eight items to be included in such a website and says, "Your site is to establish who you are. . ." So I'm trying to make the site reflective of my personality, as well as create a marketing tool.

I'm still sticking to the advice to sit down and write for a certain amount of time each day and also incorporating the advice about letting a first draft just "flow". The Showboat Affair, which I intended to shelve temporarily, is coming right along. I'm averaging 700-900 words once a day in an unspecified but limited amount of time. At the same time, I'm completing research for the western novel and working on magazine articles which, hopefully, will be picked up.

Time is moving on, and so am I.

Friday, June 19, 2009

About China Dolls

Donna urged me to consider submitting some "trivia" articles to a history magazine, so I've been working on one about china dolls. I have two--a reproduction made by my great-aunt in the late 50s or early 60s and the head of a doll dating from the 1880s given to me by my beloved "Uncle Dutch".

A bachelor, Uncle Dutch lived and died in the house built by his parents, pioneer ranchers in the early days of the county. He never married, so he passed on some of his mother's things to me, including the little china doll head. It is mounted on a felt "lily-pad" and wears an elfin hat (both of which I removed for the picture), so I don't know if his mother bought the head for the purpose of making the table decoration or if it came from a doll she played with as a child.

I've done a great deal of research online and at the library. Last week I went to two antique stores which I'd contacted by phone to ascertain that they had some china dolls in stock. Both places were more than willing to allow me to photograph the dolls. At one shop I met a woman who collects dolls and is knowledgeable about them, so I went back today to interview her. She gave me quite a few interesting facts to add to the draft of the article.

So it remains only to write the article in final form and organize the photographs before submitting. I would love to have the article accepted for a variety of reasons, the most important one being that researching "old" information is particularly satisfying, and writing about it even more so! I'd love to do more of that---and being able to sell such articles for publication would be very motivating.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Answers and Advice for Writers

Writer's Digest publishes an annual issue called Writing Basics. It isn't one of the subscription issues, but I find it worthwhile to purchase at a newsstand.

Highlighter in hand, I'm about half-way through it and have already made progress on the shelved Showboat Affair by following Bill O'Hanlon's astute suggestion to take "baby steps" (the title of his article). He advises writers who tend toward procrastination to spend 5 - 15 minutes a day writing one page, about 250 words. "Do that every day for a year, and you'll have a book."

So, I committed to spending at least 15 minutes on that project, and today I was amazed that I wrote nearly 700 words without realizing it!

In another article entitled "Rough Up Your First Draft", author Elizabeth Sims believes in loosening up, letting your thoughts flow without regard to sequence, and slogging on, knowing that you'll have many more drafts to polish the final product.

Brian Klems, the online managing editor of WD, has set forth a year's worth of weekly story starters. I'm in the middle of his next article, "Your Biggest Writing Questions Answered".

I'm especially anxious to get to learn more about the ultimate writer's website. I've been tweaking and updating mine this week, but it has a long way to go.

All of this writing wealth may be purchased for $5.99 USD. (And don't forget the highlighter!)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Storyteller Magazine

Today I received my first issue of The Storyteller Magazine, a thoroughly professional quarterly published in Maynard, Arkansas. I also received a check for my story, "Looking Over the Edge", which is in this issue.

Let me recommend this magazine. A subscription is only $20 for four issues. They publish fiction, non-fiction, essays, and poetry. Fiction pays at the rate of 1/4 cent per word. Editor Regina Williams explains that payment, however "small", enables writers to term themselves professional by virtue of having received payment. I particularly appreciate this courtesy.

Find submission guidelines by clicking on the link above and consider a subscription for yourself or as a gift for someone who likes to read.

Meanwhile, I'm off to enjoy my first issue. . .right after I look at my byline just one.more.time. (She says, smiling happily.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

Well, almost everybody likes a good ghost story, don't they? It's actually enjoyable to be scared in a good way. I don't mean being terrified in such a way that one is scarred for life. I'm talking about entertainment.

One of the books I mentioned having ordered from the Writers' Digest online bookstore is The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Sprits. I soon found myself skipping over all the entries except those about historic places. Supposed hauntings aside, they were fascinating!

When Donna urged me to consider writing some articles for a history magazine to which she has sold some, I came up with two ideas: china dolls and haunted places. The china doll article is almost complete. I spent Friday in town taking pictures of china dolls at two antique shops, and I plan to go back next Friday to interview a woman who works at one of the shops and who is a china doll collector. She'll have some good first-hand information that might have been missing from the print resources I consulted.

But I digress. I found two more books (used) at prices I couldn't turn down, and yesterday they arrived in my mailbox: Haunted Theatres by Barbara Smith and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Ghosts and Hauntings by Tom Ogden. I had decided to narrow my focus on haunted places to haunted theatres---spurred by the house elf's story of the "ghost" that haunted her college theatre.

Mr. Ogden, a professional magician, expresses my personal feelings in the introduction to his book when he says, "Do I believe that ghosts exist? Well, yes, I believe it's possible that they do."

I have no desire to become involved with the occult. In fact, I'm quite sure it's not the thing for me to do. But as I said, almost everybody loves a good "ghost" story, and I'm no exception. I love the history involved and stretching my imagination beyond the confines of what is "real" and "practical". Isn't that what writers do?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Handbook of Texas Online

The Handbook of Texas Online, part of the Texas State Historical Association, is a super resource for western writers. It has a searchable database and is print-friendly. A bibliography is included at the end of every article.

I just finished printing out articles on every ranch listed in the book Historic Ranches of Texas in order to cross-check information as well as be able to highlight important facts--something I don't want to do in the book itself.

And speaking of the book itself--when I am finished with my research, I intend to carefully take the book apart and remove the superb paintings of J.U. Salvant and frame them. When I get moved home, I'm going to have walls and walls of western "stuff" in my study!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Writers' Journal

Back in February, I sent off a short story to the "Write to Win" contest sponsored by Writers' Journal. There would be a first-place winner who would receive $150 and publication and an unspecified number of "honorable mentions" who would receive a year's subscription to the magazine. Since the entry fee, $5, was less than the subscription, I jotted down some ideas for the prompt, "About a million. . ." and wrote a story about a woman who returns to Normandy to visit the grave of the boy she expected to marry after the war.

Well, yesterday I went to the mailbox and found a copy of Writers' Journal and thought that I'd had a senior moment and forgotten that I'd subscribed. (I subscribe to Writer's Digest and The Writer.) Several hours later, I sat down to leaf through it and discovered the first-place winner's story (not mine)--BUT in a box at the end of the story, there was my name at the top of the list of four Honorable Mention winners!

I'm grinning from ear to ear and pleased at punch with seeing my name and having the year's subscription!

I guess it's true---nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Genre: Christian Romance

One oft-repeated piece of advice for writers is "Read!" My taste runs to mystery-suspense with a dollop of romance, preferably relevant to the plot, not particularly graphic, and with a better vocabulary than the commonly-used four-and-five-letter words that have grown old and boring. I also enjoy a good "how-to" book, although I find those must be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. Still, fresh ideas are always good.

I just began one of the the Writer's Digest books ordered from their online bookstore, Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin. She has forty romance and romantic-suspense books to her credit.

She begins by defining Christian romance and says that it contains the common elements of all romances. The difference between the two is found in the presentation of violence, profanity, and physical sensuality and explicit sexual content. She calls Christian romance "a modern day parable" with the purpose of providing hope and comfort within the context of God's promises. The genre has evolved to "tackle deep and devastating human problems".

I find this evolution promising. Readers may want to escape daily life with all its difficulties, and there are plenty of genres to help them do so. Yet a realistic visit with characters experiencing those same difficulties can also be self-fulfilling. What they are escaping in Christian fiction, I believe, is the in-your-face-this-is-life-so-deal-with-it-because-it-won't-get-any-better, whatever-feels-good-do-it sort of mentality.

One doesn't have to be of any particular religious persuasion to believe the old adage that "Hope springs eternal". I see hope as a gentle thing, though with a subtle strength that challenges all other less-positive philosophies. I believe that Christian fiction/romance can be the vehicle, the spreader for the "Miracle-gro" on the lawn of life.

Tomorrow: Characterization

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Cover!

Rae Monet, the graphic artist who did the cover for Where Is Papa's Shining Star? has followed up with the one for its sequel, Finding Papa's Shining Star. I couldn't wait to share it!