Saturday, January 3, 2015
First, the Ultimate Reading Quest is on, sponsored by a homeschooling/teachers site!
Do you search for something new to read fairly often? So do I. I read books as part of judging contests, but that's not enough new material. So I think you should take the quiz/quest and get some suggestions for new reads.
(Please excuse the tone of the paragraphs that follow and the ugly yellow button. It's what the people who run the Reading Quest site sent us to use. Bah! But I didn't want to edit it TOO heavily.)
CLICK THE UGLY BUTTON ABOVE TO START SEARCHING FOR BOOKS
WATCH THE VIDEO TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE READING QUEST
Happy New Year from all the authors in the Ultimate Reading Quest! This year we want you to enjoy your reading more than ever. So in 2015, the Ultimate Reading Quest has more, more, more. More authors and more books means more mystery, more danger, more intrigue, and more edge-of-your-seat adventure. We want you to fill that Kindle, tablet, or E-reader you got for Christmas.
Who doesn't love searching for treasure? The ULTIMATE READING QUEST is about finding books that are perfectly suited to your reading taste. AND to thank you for participating, the authors have decided to give away oodles of prizes for free. Enter your name to win Amazon cards and free books from authors. Treasured books are waiting to be discovered!
Don't forget to enter the raffle on the first page of the Quest. And please leave comments or questions for the authors of the Quest. We would love to hear from you.
Click on the big ugly gold button above or below to get started on your QUEST for the next ULTIMATE READ.
CLICK ON THE BUTTON ABOVE (DUH)
Next, you can vote for my book covers in a contest that will win my books some promo! No money at stake, just promotion, which I need almost worse than money. You get to vote for ten covers--and three of mine are in the running, believe it or not. (Believe it!)
See all the covers here.
Then go to the poll (it's just one page--you mark the ten covers you liked best. APRIL, MAYBE JUNE is in the top third, then NICE WORK, then LITTLE RITUALS at the very end! Pick seven others and submit poll. Grin!)
You can only vote once in the poll . . . so be sure you do it right. (LOL)
APRIL, MAYBE JUNE page:
NICE WORK page:
LITTLE RITUALS page:
Isn't it cool how you can include a Facebook post in your very blog post itself? I copied the HTML ("embed post"), so don't be too impressed. Most of my HTML is hand-coded and is very basic.
Anyhow . . . what are your New Year's resolutions?
Mine include getting my mother's health and situation straightened out so that taking care of her doesn't take up all of my time and more, and getting my books out there so they are noticed by readers. I know that if I can only reach the proper audience, they could take off like a goose who got goosed by a gander.
Happy New Year! May this year be WAY better than the crappy one we just tossed!
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Critique groups will always carp on something or another. When a powerhouse agent was considering taking on MURDER BY THE MARFA LIGHTS, she sent me a list of issues. One of the issues was that Ariadne owned a carved wooden box that Aaron had given her back at the height of their love (or whatever it was). The box had a unicorn motif. When *I* see a unicorn motif, it evokes the Unicorn Tapestries at the Cloisters museum, from Renaissance times. It evokes a sense of mystery and mysticism. I think of the boyfriend I had who said I reminded him of the Jimi Hendrix song "Little Wing" and how I had come unto him as he sat quietly, as a unicorn approaches a virgin. This tidbit is in Ari's history as well.
Guess what? The agent wrote, "Unicorns are things for young girls. Why would she want a box with that on it?"
Well . . . I didn't want to enumerate all that stuff in the narrative. I had already hinted at the unicorn being a symbol of innocence and of the Virgin Mary (which is what it represented in medieval times!), and I had let readers know the box was sentimental to Ari. I thought that was a silly thing to carp about, and I didn't change that in the final text.
She didn't take me on for representation, either.
But now writers are freed from the tyranny of agents/big publishing. We now live by the tyranny of being unable to get the word out about our work instead. (LOL)
However, I think it might be instructive to take a look at the reasons I did what I did in this story. You may bring up questions and problems in the comments. That would be fun.
A CHRISTMAS MEMORY: MY GREATEST GIFT
A fictionalized memoir of an imagined Christmas miracle
by Denise Weeks
I'll never forget the year I almost missed Christmas.
(This is the hook, presumably. I am not satisfied with it, because it telegraphs what happens, in a way, but readers say that without this, many people won't engage with the story. So it stands, for the moment.)
On the afternoon before Christmas Eve, our final bell rang, dismissing school for the next entire week and a half for Christmas break.
(Setting the date and time. Also, we are taken into the past because we're now reading about that year mentioned in line one.)
Mrs. Mischen turned from the whiteboard and smiled down at our sixth grade classroom. "Y'all have a great holiday. And come back ready to work!" She dusted her hands as every desk instantly got vacated. She called after me, "Madeleine Pierce, remember you owe me a book report on the book I lent you!"
(This gives you the age of the protagonist. She's in sixth grade. We don't need to quibble about exact age. Also, we see that Madeleine is the teacher's pet, and perhaps you'll think that is disgusting. You know that she goes by her full name.)
I waved in reply. Of course I would be reading it at my first opportunity so I could write one of my typically prolix (SAT study word) analyses. This teacher always wrote comments back that made sense, which is why I always enjoyed doing extra-credit work.
(Readers should now suspect her aspiration to be a scholar and get a scholarship. She does extra-credit work and already has a list of SAT study words. But she has a supportive teacher. Wonk!)
Despite being slightly delayed by this exchange, I was one of the first out of the school. As I skipped down the concrete steps, tiny snowflakes dusted my head and arms. I smiled. The cold didn't bother me . . . nothing could bother me. It was finally Christmas!
(Yes, she does have some enthusiasm for the holiday. . . .)
"Christmas won't be Christmas if I don't get everything I want." Michelle Stevens' voice pierced the cloud of falling flakes directly behind me. "It'll really suck. I asked for a tablet and a new smartphone and a cashmere twin set and some other stuff, and I'd better get it all." She huffed, but I didn't think it was from the cold. "I cannot abide my brother and I can barely be civil to my parents. I hate to think of being cooped up in that house with them for nearly two weeks."
(We see the attitude that some people have.)
"I know, right? I can't stand my family." Lindsay McIrate commiserated in a vicious tone. "If there weren't presents, and good ones, I would never be able to stay in that house at all."
I resisted an eyeroll because someone would be sure to see it and report back, and then they'd start with me, just when I was almost free. I was polite and civil to everyone, don't get me wrong, but I couldn't understand these ungrateful rich girls who didn't socialize with anyone below A Certain Station or people who didn't have designer clothes. Maybe our family doesn't have that much--even less now that Dad had remarried and was "forgetting" to send his child support check most of the time--but I'd rather be on food stamps and Medicaid than have such a lack of appreciation for what we had, the way they did. It was almost comical the way those two complained about their fancy this and their designer that and how they just couldn't wear something from Sears or whatever. Give me a break.
(You will notice that Madeleine is not walking out with a friend. The situation is that her best friend moved away a month ago and she hasn't made any other special friends, but I couldn't shoehorn that in--I already have backstory and telling here. Readers who are sharp will surmise that she's kind of a loner, though.)
But I had to concede they had a point about being stuck at home. If only I were older and could drive. My sisters and I got along fairly well as long as they stayed out of my stuff, but could I take them in close proximity (another SAT word) for the entire break? My mother was beginning to be difficult because she had no idea that she needed to relax her helicopter status, since logically you couldn't still put the same restrictions on me as you did the younger ones. She couldn't let go and realize I was becoming a teenager, so sometimes it was a little touchy with her.
(She has issues and right now doesn't entirely appreciate her family. This is to show how she changes by story's end.)
As soon as I was out of sight of the crowd (especially those two), I skipped along, catching cold little snowflakes on my tongue. The snow wasn't sticking, so there was no problem walking in it, although my eyes began stinging a little from the cold.
At the bottom of the hill was our house, a humble abode completely unlike the one Dad now shared with Miss Hotpants, but it was all ours and had no residue from the screaming and fighting Mom and Dad used to do all the time. Actually, we all got along pretty well as long as my little sisters stayed out of everyone else's things. I would just deal with it.
Shucking off my heavy coat (it was a size too small already, but I managed with scarves to fill the gap) and the mittens that I'd crocheted from recycled yarn (I unraveled Lissa's old sweater that had so many holes), I heard Lainie's boom box blasting Frank Sinatra Christmas carols. She'd always had a thing for the Rat Pack and swing music, which she could indulge at Christmastime with very little teasing.
(The family is struggling and her coat is already too small, in case readers missed the hints from before.)
"Madeleine?" Mama called me into the kitchen. She had her cat-ate-canary face on.
My sisters were watching me from around the big room where they were wrapping last-minute presents and putting the final touches on the tree. That was unusual in itself--all of them cooperating. I'd seldom felt such a sense of expectancy hanging in the air.
Lainie, although the second oldest, after me, could never keep a secret. "You'll never guess . . . but we're going to have a little money this year."
"Elaine," Mama said in her warning voice. "This is Mother's news."
Lissa (Melissa), only six, couldn't contain herself. "The lady in the big house on top of the hill wants a 'girl' to help serve and clean up on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning for her huge gathering." I didn't even know she knew the word "gathering."
"Mrs. Franzblau?" I couldn't keep the surprise out of my voice.
"We do speak, you know." Mama smiled. They knew one another from women's church auxiliary and from Eastern Star, which for some reason Mama is still in although Daddy was the Mason. "And guess who she mentioned, by name?" "Me?" I wasn't sure if my heart was pounding from excitement or trepidation.
"Yes! I know you've been saying you want more independence and freedom, and this tells you I've been listening." She winked. "You'll go over there around noon on Christmas Eve and help in the kitchen and hand out food and take coats and such. Then in the morning you'll fix the big breakfast and help with whatever until they're done. They've promised you'll get a present." Mama was obviously expecting me to get something GOOD. "Of course, you'll get paid." She named a handsome figure. "We really need it this year."
(Yes, quite a surprise. We now see that Mama knows that Madeleine is chafing at the bit somewhat and thinks she needs more independence. She thinks Madeleine is ready for this sort of thing. Or does she? Maybe she is hoping this will be a lesson of sorts. . . .)
So there are reasons an author does what she does. They may not be good reasons, but by Jiminy she has them. . . .
Sunday, November 30, 2014
I'm currently helping someone design a workshop, and I just read, once again, the silly “Show, Don’t Tell.” This advice has now exceeded the limits of my medication. This confuses so many writers because ALL storytelling is TELLING, isn't it? "Show" means DRAMATIZE, meaning "make a scene out of it with background, action, conflict, talking," and "Tell" means "narrate or summarize/encapsulate, OR briefly do what Dwight Swain (XOX) calls "sequel" with the character musing about what happened and what may need to be done next." OK?
DRAMATIZE, don't NARRATE, all of the SPINE scenes and the interesting action. Cool stuff mustn't happen offscreen. Put it in center focus. This is not a play, where you can't portray some locations, nor is it a film, where the producer won't pay for you to travel to Outer Gorotoland to film the scene on the waterfall. This is text! Write anything you can make me believe!
And dramatize what the characters are like instead of telling me about it--he's a cheapskate, so make him pick up a penny left on the counter by someone who wanted to help a person who's short a penny. (A shopkeeper at a bakery did this in FRONT of ME the other day--she looked down at her countertop as I was checking out and said, "Oh, look, a penny, so I'll take it," and snatched it up--so I will never go THERE again!) She's nice, so even though she has just been drenched by the neighbor's sprinklers as she cut across the lawn because she's already late, let her save the cat out of the tree for the children. Don't JUST tell me she's nice. You can foreshadow by having someone say, "That nice Jane?" But then you can twist it by later showing Jane being meeean and the lady either lying, kidding, or easily fooled/mistaken.
Also, SKIP the boring parts--don't tell me that "she got into the car, started it, turned the wheel, left the parking lot, drove down the street to the bar, parked in a terrible spot, walked onto the sidewalk, got into the bar, visored her hand to look around the disco, etc." I see this in endless published novels put out by the major NYC houses, and I wonder what was wrong with the editor. Just do a scene break from when Joe slaps down the ten-dollar bill and says, "Go find her," and "Leslie visored her hand against the flashing lights of the disco." Three octothorp(e)s, centered, indicate a scene break in manuscripts.
Oh, and when you ARE telling, use that strong and artful voice of yours. Make it fun to read, and readers will lap it up. Never let a critgroup, partner, or editor dumb down or dilute your voice and make you sound like everyone else.
That is all.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Monday, July 28, 2014
Here's some food for thought in case you are thinking. I don't recommend thinking, at least not in this heat, but maybe when the storms arrive, you can have a brainstorm. We can discuss this sort of thing at the book event.
What does a fiction writer do?
* provide a vivid, continuous dream about a vicarious experience
* present characters and/or situations readers can empathize with, giving them a broader base of "experience" than their own single life can provide
* allow readers to project onto their inner viewscreen a movie that they co-create with the author as dreamer, meaning that readers of books will have different experiences of the books more often than viewers of video will
* tell lies
* tell lies that people willingly suspend their disbelief for in order to learn or gain some insight from the story
Orson Scott Card writes in Characters and Viewpoint that the highest purpose of fiction is to teach readers something profound about people (paraphrase). Storytelling is archetypal, and it is a universal human occupation/obsession to hear and rehear or tell and retell stories.
Michelangelo said, "I know the creator will go, but his work survives. That is why to escape death, I attempt to bind my soul to my work."
Why *I* write? To entertain and inform, naturally. Because I hear the Muses singing, and I'm fascinated by what they send me to create with. But also for a selfish reason. So that someday after I've crossed the veil into the next world, perhaps someone will find and read one of my books, essays, or stories, and I will live again. I will be remembered unto another generation. My work is a tour of my mind. It's a way of doing a neener-neener to death, which eventually makes each of us disappear into the next world and be forgotten by this one . . . except for artists and writers. Look at those ancient Greeks who are still applauded and loved by many today who read their plays and other works.
"I don't want to live forever through my work. I want to live forever by not dying."--Woody Allen
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Saturday, June 14th, from 11 AM to 1 PM, there will be a launch party for *APRIL, MAYBE JUNE by Shalanna Collins*, given by Muse Harbor Publishing, held at Lucky Dog Books/Lochwood, 10801 Garland Rd, Dallas, TX 75218, 214/827-4860.
We will have wine (I can't drink it, but why can't you?), cheese tray, appetizers, and cupcakes from the best bakery in Dallas that's right next door (voted by Dallas Observer and D Magazine fans), along with entertainment including the author acting out part of a scene from the book with willing audience participants and (with luck) accompanied by interpretive belly dance troupe. Come one, come all. You'll have the chance to buy the book at a discount or WIN it. Door prizes include tote bags, T-shirts, stationery, gift certificates to Lucky Dog Books, copies of the book, a disposable (ha) video camera, and a few joke gifts. You get a ticket to the drawing just for staying to the end, and you get an extra ticket with each book you buy. Such a deal!
See you there!