Pets Talk 4/9/2020: Bringing it All Together Traci Kenworth When last we left our four space kitties, the Evil Emperor Midnight had waylaid the shipment of Lobster n’ Mac Cat Treats, the gentle giant, Snowball, and the Rebel Princess, Miss Prissy, and a female cat that mysteriously looked like her and was the Straw Thief in the mix, Miss Callie were all in his clutches. “Are you ready to accept your role by my side?” the Evil Emperor asked Prissy. “Never.” “Then you and your friends will suffer.” Callie folded her arms. “Who are you calling friends.” “Not you,” Prissy said. “And why do you look so much like me?” “Maybe we’re sisters.” Callie shrugged. “Perish the thought.” The Evil Emperor lifted his fist. “Let’s get to the bottom of this argument.” “What argument?” Prissy sniffed. “Stay quiet a moment.” “Huh.” “I said quiet.” He glanced at Callie. “Where are you from?” “A little planet called Rea.” He nodded to Prissy. “And you’re from Esa?” “So?” “So, any chance your paths have unknowingly crossed?” Callie raised her head. “I am an orphan.” “No way.” Prissy crisscrossed her arms in front of her. “You are NO relation.” The Evil Emperor stared at her calmly. “How do you know?” “I c
Three Links 4/10/2020
1. https://writershelpingwriters.net/2020/04/conflict-thesaurus-entry-a-romantic-competitor/ “Conflict is very often the magic sauce for generating tension and turning a ho-hum story into one that rivets readers. As such, every scene should contain a struggle of some kind. Maybe it’s an internal tug-of-war having to do with difficult decisions, morals, or temptations. Or it possibly could come from an external source—other characters, unfortunate circumstances, or the force of nature itself.
It’s our hope that this thesaurus will help you come up with meaningful and fitting conflict options for your stories. Think about what your character wants and how best to block them, then choose a source of conflict that will ramp up the tension in each scene.” This is a good tension provider. Man wants woman but so does another man. Or vice versa.
2. http://booksbywomen.org/living-and-writing-and-faith-dispatch-from-self-isolation-day-30/ “All I want to do is have coffee with my parents under a shade tree.
It’s day 30 of self-isolating in the era of Covid-19. I’m sixty-five and immunosuppressed (a double-organ transplant patient) so I started drawing back during my spring break from N.C. State. The first week, I went out for groceries and once to the garden shop, where I found, of all things, hand sanitizer—along with the pansies I felt I must have to power through these weeks.
Today, for the first time, I’m depressed. Maybe it’s the one month mark. Maybe it’s the Sunday blues. Maybe my husband and I are getting on each other’s last nerve. Maybe I’m depressed because the number of deaths in the U.S. doubled in the last forty-eight.
At first I imagined a bullet discharged from a gun on the other side of the world was barreling to the bullseye of my heart. Now I worry about everyone else.
My parents are dead so I can’t have coffee with them. My father died in 2000, my mother in 2014. Even if they were living, they would be, presumably, self-isolating as I am and in a facility on lockdown.”
3. http://booksbywomen.org/thoughts-on-writing-in-a-time-of-global-grieving/ “Kerry Schafer, also writing as Kerry Anne King, is the author of nine novels, including the Amazon Charts and Washington Post bestseller family drama, Whisper Me This. Check out her new podcast, Write Healthy, Write Whole, featuring tips on mind, body, spirit and creative health for writers.
Over the last few days I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster, cycling through tears, anxiety, anger, frustration, laughter, and random moments of joy. My brain alternates from a state akin to a herd of cats turned loose at a laser show, to feeling like it’s caught in quicksand and the smallest twitch of a neuron will bury it forever. I’ve needed to lie down a lot, my body just suddenly deciding that it’s exhausted for no particular reason.
This, my friends, is grief. Deep, pervasive, life-altering grief on a global and dramatic scale.
I’m familiar with grief, personally and professionally, but in this case it’s taken me awhile to recognize it for what it is. I haven’t lost anybody I love to this #&#@!! virus, at least not yet. I’ve still got my job. I know I’m blessed to be able to say both of these things, but all of us, even the most fortunate, have lost our ordinary, taken-for-granted reality.
Restaurants. Social gatherings large and small. Conferences and book launches. Weddings and funerals and graduation ceremonies. Many of us have families home full-time and we’ve lost the luxury of long stretches of uninterrupted writing and thinking time.
The process of grief impacts our creative lives, sometimes in unexpected ways. I have friends who are completely immersed in words right now as the ultimate escape strategy, barely coming up for air. I have friends who are finding it almost impossible to focus. Some of us (me) are getting words written but it’s damn hard slogging. And some of us are doing well to get out of bed.
The grieving process—and how it impacts our writing—is highly individualized, so I can’t offer a clear roadmap that reads How to Write While Grieving for the Effects of a Pandemic. But I can offer what has worked for me. Take what feel helpful and ignore the rest, keeping in mind that what feels right on one day might be all wrong the next.”
Research & Fun Bits:
1. https://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com/2020/04/04/no-regrets-today/ “I had a reasonable opportunity to do some writing today, and squandered it away. This is my two day weekend, and Old What’s Her Face is off. That makes it kind of hard, but not impossible.
I dabbled. I switched back to Lanternfish, but it probably didn’t amount to 300 words. I also made some adjustments to an earlier part of the story. Nothing too Earth shattering.
Mostly, there were some decent movies on television. A couple of old James Garner comedies were on, back-to-back. I keep thinking I create wild characters, but I have a long way to go. Watching Harry Morgan and Dub Taylor yell at each other was hilarious. I’m calling it a study session.”
2. https://marciamearawrites.com/2020/04/03/how-to-publish-with-kdp-part-seven-a/ “Those of you who have been following Harmony Kent’s series on how to publish with KDP will want to check out her post on Story Empire today. She gives a very comprehensive explanation of how to create a cover for a paperback novel, and you’ll probably want to save this for future reference. Enjoy, and pass it along if you can, so that others can learn from it, too. Thanks, and thanks, Harmony, for such a well thought-out and informative post! 🙂 ❤”
Some Things More Serious:
2. https://lithub.com/a-pandemic-is-not-a-war-and-other-consequences-of-male-inferiority/ “During shelter-in-place I’ve been reading Italian writer Elsa Morante’s supremely adroit and quietly enthralling World War II novel History, that turning point in human civilization experienced on the subdued wartime streets of Rome. Morante writes with studied precision about the two men dominating the lives of her characters, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Both, she wrote (in the English translation by William Weaver), were “sick with a vindictive sense of inferiority” that warps and distorts their unfulfilled dreams.
It’s hard not to think these days, in the grist of the coronavirus pandemic, about the human cost of the vindictive sense of male inferiority. It’s playing out nearly everywhere, from Australia to Brazil to Chile, to England, Mexico, and certainly the United States, where small, frightened men seemingly incapable of preparation, careful study, or collaboration have turned a significant public health challenge into an unnecessary global crisis of mass suffering. Notably, given the domination of men shaping the response, Covid-19 is far more deadly to men; the Washington Post estimates that males account for 60 percent of fatalities worldwide.”
3. https://jamigold.com/2020/04/escape-generic-storytelling-by-asking-why/ “I’ve said before that the most important question we can ask when it comes to our writing is why. That question helps us get in touch with every aspect of our story.
Let’s dig into all the ways that asking why can help our storytelling, even helping us escape generic or cliché writing…
The Basis of Storytelling is the Question “Why?”
We’ve probably heard that many authors come up with their story idea by thinking of a “what if?” What if a woman’s lottery win leads to trouble?
Okay, what about it? That’s a story seed, but it’s not yet a story. Why would we care about this woman or her troubles?
Instead of what if?, a question that better gets us to the heart of a story might be why?
- “Why would a lottery win lead to trouble?” helps us find the story to go with that initial situation.
- “Why are these troubles happening now and not earlier?” helps us find where our story should start.
- “Why would readers care?” helps us figure out what’s going to make our story special.
In short, the question of why helps us discover and develop additional layers of our story. Without digging into the why, our story will be shallower.
I’ve posted before about two specific ways that asking why can help our story: editing and character motivations. Let’s review those first and then talk about how the question also helps us escape clichéd writing.” Asking why gives us specifics. What a great idea and way to look at things! We need to do more of us during outlining as well as revision.
Teaser Fiction & Poetry:
Book Reviews, Cover Reveals, & Author Interviews:
1. http://storitorigrace.blogspot.com/2020/04/a-book-review-of-let-ghosts-speak-by.html “In 19th century Paris, Justin Trotter, an immigrant from England, is making his way as a book translator while paying for his blind twin sister’s care. One evening, Marc Noël, Justin’s well-to-do friend and fellow thespian, invites him to a masquerade party at an abandoned schoolhouse. Justin hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know Marc’s lovely though sharp-tongued sister, Francine.
At the event, Justin meets four ghostly strangers—two adults and two children—who warn him that the party guests are in danger, and they must leave at once. True to their prediction, a murder takes place, and Justin is the prime suspect. He escapes and becomes a fugitive, hiding in the Paris catacombs.
Mystery and intrigue swirl as the ghost of Joan of Arc and other martyrs guide Justin on a lonely journey to prove his innocence and protect his sister from an abusive caretaker. Who really committed the crime? Marc? Francine? A ghost? And does seeing these ghosts mean he is going insane? Maybe he really is the murderer after all.”
2. https://franceandvincent.com/2020/04/03/slivers-of-soren-testaments-to-truth-a-new-book-from-stuart-france/ “In his relatively short literary career, Danish philosopher, Sǿren Kierkegaard, challenged the religious orthodoxy of his age with a series of exquisitely penned philosophical works which he placed before the reading public under a plethora of different aliases.
All these writings addressed the spiritual concerns of his age and, on a broader note, questioned just what it means to be human. Losing the ability to think for ourselves, and to question the decisions of a ruling elite, for Kierkegaard, was a prelude to surrendering our very freedom as a people.
Recognising alarming parallels with our own times, and taking Kierkegaard’s classic, Fear and Trembling as a start, author and essayist, Stuart France, heads straight to the heart of the Jewish and Christian spiritual traditions with this poetic foray into high ideas…”
3. https://culturevultureexpress.wordpress.com/2020/04/03/where-are-you-now-by-mary-higgins-clark-review/ “Where Are You Now? (2008) by Mary Higgins Clark is an enthralling read which holds your interest throughout.
The plot follows 26-year-old law graduate Carolyn MacKenzie whose older brother Mack went missing ten years previously. However, each year she and her mother receive a message on Mother’s Day from Mack. In the decade since Mack has mysteriously disappeared, seemingly out of nowhere, Carolyn’s and Mack’s father has passed away in the 9/11 attacks. Following a possible sighting of her brother and a note left by Mack warning Carolyn to stay away, Carolyn is on a mission to find out what really happened once and for all and to try to put some closure on the torment and pain she has felt since he has been gone. Her mission brings her into much danger from those who don’t want her poking her nose into the past and finding out secrets related to Mack’s disappearance and for their own reasons separate from it. While Carolyn begins her investigations, a young woman Leesey Andrews goes missing and it soon becomes apparent that the two cases are connected in one way or another.
I really like Carolyn as a character. I think her passion and strength drives a lot of this book forward and you find yourself rooting for her to complete her mission and find some peace. The plot is incredibly engrossing and flows with a gorgeously interesting ease from page to page. The cast of suspects is wide and we learn so much about each of them as well as the family and those missing. My only downside to this book is that I could partly work out from the page I met one of those involved that they were involved. Not meaning to give too much away but there is one than one person involved. I got one part of it and I felt it was very obvious. That was a shame because otherwise this book is splendid but sadly the killer cannot be obvious and one part of this reveal was from very early on. However that aside, I found this a very enjoyable read. I loved the main character which really made the book very character-driven in a way which I absolutely love. I couldn’t stop turning the pages and hearing more about these characters’ lives and what they were hiding.”
Nothing this week.
With a background in scriptwriting, Jules is perfect for explaining how the dramatic techniques used in theaters and movies can power up your writing and make your storytelling bolder, more engaging, and more compelling. After all, these techniques have been test-driven for centuries in front of unforgiving live audiences, and they work!
Here are five ways you can use them to transform your fiction writing.
1. Dramatic actions
‘Dramatic actions’ isn’t about car chases, swashbuckling and hair-raising stunts. It’s a specific term to describe the underlying objective (‘want’) that’s driving your character.
Using dramatic actions will bring greater clarity, momentum, and tension to your scenes. It will stop your characters from wandering aimlessly, by clarifying a clear, driving throughline for each moment.
You’re probably familiar…
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The Writer’s Wheel 4/5/2020: Writing with Regrets
How is it, you can look back, see a way to correct your mistake but end up making the same one again? What motivates us to go through the fire again?
Feeling that you could’ve, should’ve done better. Most of my life have been full of regrets. Being a failure in elementary and high school. Wanting something better in college. Getting it and ruining it for all purposes. Going home in shame because you couldn’t stand up for yourself and wipe the slate clean. Thinking your life was over because of that mistake. Accepting that you’d go through life as a grunt, never meaning anything to anybody.
Yeah, that was my life once upon a time. I thought I could leap over the moon with my dreams. I was young and naïve. And I let a bad fall scald my future. It led to a serious of meaningless jobs though I loved them and the interactions they brought with people. I learned how to open up, to be more me. I guess fate has a way of taking us where we’re meant to be.
And Then We Run into a Wall.
I thought I knew the man I fell in love with, but I didn’t know him at all. He lied to me repeatedly as we built a life. I had been searching for something, not knowing what it was or what it could be. With the birth of my daughter and son, I found it. But I made discoveries I wasn’t prepared for. The marriage dissolved. The courts granted me sole custody of the children and I bought a house and prepared to give my children a better life than I’d had.
Oh, the snaggles that come our way. I fell into a pit of darkness called bipolar. Depression, anxiety, the whole package came. At first, they thought it was PTSD because of the hell I’d gone through with my ex. I didn’t realize my paternal aunt and paternal grandmother had been diagnosed with it. I couldn’t seem to claw my way out and each day was worse than the last until, hospitalization.
It was a nightmare. People screamed all day long. I couldn’t shake the headaches, the fogginess, the endless energy that dampened with the meds they gave us at night. I had some individuals trying to assault me at the same time and it unnerved me to deal with them and myself. I spoke with the dr. again and he agreed I might get better care at home. So, I was sent home to find that I had to fight for my children and my sakes.
It was trial and error at the new counseling place they sent me to. I turned out allergic to all the meds they started me on. So, it was a scramble to withdraw (try to avoid this!) and be put on other meds. Finally, some balance came. I spent a long time as a zombie, just trying to get through the day, feeling zoned out and not-myself. But slowly, progress grew. I took up journaling at the advice of my therapist and from there, began to write again. Being in someone else’s shoes allowed me to examine my own. I found I wasn’t as bad as I thought. I was worthy of love, of being somebody.
Yeah, regrets can take a lot out of you, but they can also re-build your life. I like who I am now. I have my faults. I don’t always do the right thing. But I try. That’s all any of us can do. The point is: forgive yourself. Begin again. Find something inside yourself to draw on whether that’s religion or survival. Life is good when we realize what the most important parts of our journey are. It’s not money. It’s not the size of your house. The car you drive. It’s our loved ones. Our pets. Ourselves. Maybe we didn’t get a good start, but we can have a good finish. Give your family hugs today. Take care, God bless!
Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here https://barbtaub.com/
Barb has been reading Madam Tulip And The Serpent’s Tree by David Ahern
She’s baaaack! I can’t binge on the absolutely bingeworthy Madam Tulip series because I obsessively grab each new book the second I can get my hands on it. Then I make a bowl of popcorn, pour my annual Guinness, and head back to Ireland with some of my favorite fiction friends. As I said in my review of Book 3, they include the (attractive of course) young actress, Derry O’Donnell—permanently broke and scratching for the next job in the Dublin theater scene, consistently dating the wrong flavor-of-the-week, while waiting for The Big Break—and her alter ego Madam Tulip, celebrity psychic and fortune-teller. (*That’s Madam without an “e”, because she’s not married to Monsieur Tulip.)
Derry’s supporting cast includes her…
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Three Links 4/3/2020
1. https://annerallen.com/2020/03/rescue-endangered-book/ “You’ve kinda/sorta finished your book/first draft/whachamacallit.
In drastic cases, it could even be an outline that’s gone off the rails and landed in a ditch.
But.” Oh, those “buts.” Don’t give into them. Carry on!
2. https://jamigold.com/2020/03/character-internalization-to-italicize-or-not-to-italicize/ “A few years ago, Marcy Kennedy guest posted here to share three writing problems we can solve by understanding internal dialogue. At the time, I gushed about her book on the topic, Internal Dialogue (Busy Writer’s Guides Book 7), and that book is still the best resource I know of for really understanding how to make our characters’ thoughts work for our story.
As Marcy says in her book, internal monologue (also known as internal/interior/inner monologue or dialogue, or just plain internalization) is:
“Internal dialogue is the conversation we have with ourselves, the running commentary inside our heads about our day.”
Internal monologue is a powerful technique to establish the story’s emotions, characterizations, motivations, story arc, etc. But many writers struggle with knowing how to use this technique.” I don’t use italics unless it’s telepathic communication between characters or unless something is intentionally emphasized.
3. http://booksbywomen.org/finding-balance-in-isolation/ “Last week, I had to issue a blanket threat: “The next person who tells me I should be getting so much writing done at home, I will ignore social isolation and get within 6ft to cut you.”
You see, like many writers suddenly thrust into our homes with our families, I’m not blessed with an abundance of time, space, and creative leeway. I’m not sitting around with hours in which I can expand my craft, dive into my story, and create something beautiful.
No. Instead, I have been dropped into the equivalent of an exam, where I haven’t studied a single day for the subject, and the answers are due in six minutes. And oh, yeah. I’m not the student. I’m the teacher.
My son’s school went on lockdown a little over two weeks ago with an indeterminate end date, and no clear indication of what the next two to six weeks would hold when it came to homeschooling. This isn’t the school’s fault, naturally. The Coronavirus epidemic has hit us all suddenly and with the force of an F-5 tornado, ripping all of our routines, schedules, and normal coping measures up by the roots and is rapidly flinging them at us like fence post spears. I feel like I’m constantly dodging anxiety, depression, and toddler tantrums, it’s no wonder I have felt like I have no time to write.” I’ve found less time as well. Although now that I’m doing visits for dr. via phone, that’s helped give me the time I’d spend driving to do things. The problem is there’s other things as well to do.
Research & Fun Bits:
1. https://nailyournovel.wordpress.com/2020/03/29/an-author-and-bookseller-give-a-masterclass-in-titles-book-covers-and-spines/ “What makes a good title and cover? What mistakes do authors generally make when devising a book title and how can they get a title that does the job well? What job is that, indeed?
How about covers? What conventions do you need to consider for both? Why have we made a special point about spines? And can you discuss book covers on the radio?
Yes you can!
That’s what I’m covering in today’s episode, with my co-host, independent bookseller Peter Snell. I usually describe him as asking the questions, with me providing answers, but today it’s more the other way around. Titles, covers (and spines – don’t forget the spines) are areas where authors can be too close to the work. The opinion of a sage and experienced bookseller, though, comes into its own.”
2. https://nailyournovel.wordpress.com/2020/03/31/all-about-reading-groups-and-writing-groups-ep12-free-podcast-for-writers/ “In this episode we’re spanning the entire spectrum of the book-reader continuum. What makes a good writing group? What makes a good reading group or book club? How do you organise such a group? How do you find a group that suits you? Should authors visit book groups or does it cramp everyone’s style? We have the answers!
My co-host is independent bookseller Peter Snell.”
3. https://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2020/03/best-gadget-ever-well-maybe.html “All month we’ve shared our favorite hacks and gadgets, and I admit I’ve watched closely to see if any grabbed my particular interest. I’ve tried a few gadgets and apps in the past few years, but none have held my attention for very long. As the days of March passed, I realized that next to my laptop, the one gadget I use most is my Kindle Fire.
Of course, I use it for the obvious reason – to buy ebooks! My most recent acquisition was this book by Becky Clark. It’s an engaging and helpful read, and I’ll probably review it here soon.”
Some Things More Serious:
1. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2020/03/31/my-statement-to-npr-on-the-internet-archives-emergency-library/ “o, unless you’ve been living under a rock, or you happen to be a normal human who doesn’t care about the weave and weft of the publishing industry, you may have missed that the Internet Archive has announced its “National Emergency Library,” removing lending limits on what goes out the door, so anybody can grab anything at any time. Problem is, a number of authors have discovered their books there, and orgs like the Author’s Guild, the SFWA, and the Association of American Publishers, have all submitted statements objecting to what is perceived to be an over-reach on part of the IA.
I called them a “pirate site” for it, which admittedly was a bit of a stretch (social media is not good for nuance, please accept my apology), but it remains clear just the same that what they’re doing appears to exceed their purview. Regardless, NPR had initially promoted this as a good thing a few days ago, and last night issued a follow-up article, in which I’m quoted, but I wanted to give my full quote here, as I think the full context is useful, if not essential.
That statement is:”
2. https://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com/2020/03/31/local-excitement/ “We just had an earthquake. Early reports are a 6.5 centered in the backwoods of central Idaho. It shook our house in the Boise area, and made the chandelier over the dining table rock.
We also have a bell on a standout back and it was ringing. I immediately contacted our daughter, and she felt it in Sun Valley.
The west has many fault lines, but in nearly sixty years, I’ve never felt one. There really wasn’t any danger out here in suburbia. We aren’t near any tall buildings or anything. Honestly, I thought it was kind of cool.”
3. https://franceandvincent.com/2020/03/30/603/ “The night howls in triumph… pale eyes watch from the shadows…
It is the night of the Hunter’s Moon and the dancing ground should be alive with flame as the Foxes dance in the dark. But the dancing ground is deserted. They are gone. No earthly light pierces the gloom, only the sickly glow of a veiled moon. Don and Wen stare in disbelief.
Whispers in the shadows, a faceless voice, a tale of ambush and betrayal… of Foxes driven from their home and scattered, condemned to wander far from their ancestral lands. Charles James Fox wounded… none has seen him since that fateful night.
Will the Hunter’s Moon pass in darkness? Have the Demon Dogs succeeded in their mission to bring eternal winter to the land? Or will their celebrations be short-lived?…”
Teaser Fiction & Poetry:
Book Reviews, Cover Reveals, & Author Interviews:
1. https://mariacatalinaegan.com/2020/03/31/true-love-series-by-debra-ann-kummoung-genre-historical-romance/ “From the family lives of the Bennet sisters and their characterful parents, to the hidden charm, grace, and elegance of the unflappable Mr. Darcy, it might seem as if fans of Austen’s timeless classic, Pride & Prejudice, know all there is to know about this truly great novel. However, within the pages of this much-loved book, there are questions which call out for answers… the greatest of which are: what if everything we believed to be true about the Bennets and their fellow characters was, in fact, a veneer for something quite different? What if the behavior and intentions of the iconic sisters was all an act? And what if Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, and all the other refined gentlemen of Pemberley and beyond were not the genteel and mannered men we saw them to be?”
The Book Corner 4/2/2020
Nothing to add this week. Getting back into my routine of reading. I’ve been so busy with everything adding what seems to be two areas of concentration on top of my regular writing. There’s all the disinfecting, baking, searching grocery stores and dime stores for items. It feels never-ending at this point though I know others probably have more to deal with including sickness. Although I have a high-risk, I’ve also had to continue to some drs. Though most are now doing visits by phone call. Some are still open though at their office. I also have to drive my daughter to work as she’s an essential worker. Maintaining things has become difficult as my arthritis worsens. My allergies are up full force as well but with meds they’re more manageable than they used to be. I’m doing my best to take care of myself and my family. I hope you are all doing well. Take care and God bless!