Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Monday, July 28, 2014
The Written Response
by Fran McNabb
I was going through an armoire the other day and ran across the box of letters I saved when my future husband was in Germany with the Air Force and I was still finishing my senior year in college. I took the letters out and savored the feel and the smell of them, then I sat down and revisited the words he wrote over forty-four years ago.
The written word has lost its dominance today and is being replaced rapidly by digital. Here I am this morning writing this blog on a computer and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I can’t help but think how sad it is that the written word is fading.
Digital is a much quicker type of writing, sometimes even requiring less thought and certainly less energy. Because I rely on my keyboard so much, I have lost the nice handwriting I once had. I’ve read that schools are steering away from teaching cursive. What a shame. I’ve always admired those people who have the ability to write beautiful cursive. I look back at history to the beautifully handwritten documents that our forefathers penned. No more do we have such papers. Everything is done on the computer.
There’s a lot to be said about the digital age we live in. Fast, convenient, neat—all of these qualities are positive, but let’s take a moment to look at the positives of the handwritten word.
First, letters and written cards contain a little bit of the writer. He or she must locate the paper or card to be sent and a pen to use. The writer must then sit and carefully write the message because there isn’t a delete button. After rereading to make sure no mistakes have been made, he must locate an envelope, the correct address, and a stamp. He then walks to the mailbox or drives to the post office. I know we’re not talking about a day’s work, but still, there is an effort that must be made on the part of the sender that isn’t required with digital messages.
These written communications are tangible and can be held and saved and read as often as the receiver wants for as long as the pieces are kept. I still get a little zing of excitement when I find a card or a personal letter in my mailbox.
Most of us have a love affair with digital communications. No way could some of us survive if our computers permanently crashed tomorrow—and that includes me. Computers have become a necessary part of our lives, emails have become our choice of communication, and social media has connected the world. I’m not saying that any of this is wrong. Our world has probably changed for the better because of computers and the internet, but I hope we don’t completely lose the value of written communications.
When was the last time you sat down and wrote to someone? I have a few friends and relatives who still take the time to write to me. I love them for that and I hope you too still have someone who’ll send you something personally written soon.
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
|First Edition Cover via wikipedia.org|
A drunken driver put an end to any hope of a sequel to Gone with the Wind and gave rise to many Gone with the Wind wannabes such as Scarlett and Rhett's People — neither of which have engendered the reader response of the iconic achievement of Margaret Mitchell. Her life ended on a comma as did Scarlett O'Hara's story.
We know from our experience of the novel and her character when Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler says “After all, tomorrow is another day” she will rise from this defeat. We do not have to know the details; we can imagine how she will get Rhett back once she has time to think at Tara.
Margaret Mitchell finished her tale. The lesson we gain and the conclusions we draw from reading Gone with the Wind are for us to discern.
Some of my favorite last lines of beloved novels have the same ambiguity, intentional or unintentional.
For instance, at the end of The Accidental Tourist, Anne Tyler leaves us with: “The spangles were old water spots, or maybe the markings of leaves, but for a moment Macon thought they were something else. They were so bright and festive, for a moment he thought they were confetti.”
This symbolizes a significant change in Macon's outlook on life and is the beginning, rather than the end, of his transformation. It is satisfying because, as in Scarlett's last words, we know the future will be different.
At the end of the novel Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls, Emily Gitano tells her doubtful husband, “I also know whatever comes, David, we’ll handle it, all of us, but right now, I can’t think of anything better than telling your tenant to rent us that house for the weekend and watching you remove the door of that amazing shower and using tools to do it.”
“I’d rather make a soufflé.”
David has never used tools in his life, but he has learned to cook, a step toward his domestication from the predator Emily has come to depend upon, a sign he is willing to admit he is neither invincible nor alone.
This novel does have a sequel, Enduring Light, which I intend to read, if only to enjoy the company of the hero, Paul Otto. Even so, this book is sufficient in itself, because Julia's journey is complete.
With Wait a Lonely Lifetime, I chose to end on some ambiguity, but with a positive note: “Sylviana ducked her head to look up into his glistening blue eyes, surprised to see that magic-place, world-of-wonder smile jump out of his soul. 'Nothing a meat locker of ice won't fix, ma'am.'”
I've been asked to write a sequel, to take Sylviana and Eric through the first years of their marriage, but for me and most readers who have read this novel, my characters have crossed their barriers and come to terms with the difficulties that raising teenage stepdaughters and marriage at a distance will bring in their future.
Tying up all the loose ends of a story can be a tricky proposition. One of my favorite answers to this decision-making process comes from John Gould's foreword to Up Here in Maine by Gerald E. Lewis: “Gerry was after the usual fatherly advice about publishing a book. I told him what I tell anybody, and have often, that litt-ree consummation comes when the pile is big enough and you send it to a publisher.”
Friday, July 18, 2014
People are always talking about the importance of encouraging children to read, how it broadens their horizons and improves their mind, how it will help them do well in school and eventually improve their chances of finding a good job and making lots of money. There's nothing wrong with that. I certainly don't disagree with the logic involved, but, to me, it seems even more important to encourage them to read for the pleasures (yes, it does have to be plural) it will give them. That's really why I read - for the pleasures I derive from it.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
After some thought, I've decided that the secret, which sounds bone-stupid at first, is time.Obviously, a 21-year anniversary means we've stuck together for 21 years. But time, in a relationship, comes in many forms. Here's what I mean:
- Time spent together. Right, another no-brainer. But sometimes, when life gets busy, we can forget to simply be companions to each other. That night you set aside to go out to dinner may not go as planned. Then that unplanned hour you find yourselves together in the car, running pain-in-the-neck errands, can turn into a highlight of the week. Especially if you allow yourselves time to make an unscheduled stop at Starbucks for a drink, or McDonald’s for a hot fudge sundae.
- Time spent apart. I’m not talking long separations here. But doing a few things separately gives us individual experiences – something to talk about, to compare notes, to catch up on.
- Time to get to know each other. In romance novels, couples are often ready to get married days after they meet. The romantic side of us loves the idea of falling in love in a whirlwind courtship and getting married while we’re still dizzy. And of course, as writers we can be confident these two were truly made for each other -- because we made them that way! But these days, when divorce can be seen as such an “easy out,” I don’t think most couples would weather the storms ahead long enough to see what’s waiting on the other side. If getting married is really a good idea after a week, it won’t stop being a good idea after several months.
- Good times … and bad times. Realize that there WILL be storms to be weathered: accidents, illnesses, financial setbacks. The challenges (and sleep deprivation) of learning to be new parents. The challenges (and sleep deprivation) of raising teens. The reward of turning around and seeing those teens turn into really neat people.
Compared to some people with long marriages, my husband and I are rookies at just 21 years. We started late enough that I don't know if we'll see our golden anniversary, but I hope for another 21 years at the least!
Happy anniversary, sweetie.
I cried the night before my wedding. Not due to jitters, but out of sheer excitement and an overabundance of love. When my daughter was born, I spent half the night crying. Ditto six years later when my son was born. Both times, for the same reason as my pre-wedding crying jag. When I had to drop my daughter off at college for the first time, I managed to keep the tears in check until the drive home--when I blasted Bette Midler singing "Baby Mine" (a favorite song to cry to, originally in Walt Disney's Dumbo and always guaranteed to break me down when Mama Jumbo rocks Dumbo in her trunk). Songs have a huge impact on my tear ducts. Broadway show soundtracks get me every time.
And when it comes to movies, Dumbo's not my only source for waterworks. I cry at the same scenes in movies every time I watch them. I cry when E.T. dies, at Andy's funeral in Philadelphia, when Aurora pleads with the nursing staff to give her daughter "the shot" in Terms of Endearment, when the high school band plays Mr. Holland's Opus, and when Sarah begs her father to remember her in A Little Princess. I'm a glutton for punishment, and I'll watch these movies over and over, knowing I'll weep, and looking forward to it.
I cry when writing sad scenes in my books. I once killed off a character, then walked around the house in mourning tears for days. Forget those abused animal commercials. I can't look.
Scientists say that when we're stressed or upset, our bodies fill up with toxins, and crying is one of the ways we rid ourselves of those toxins. Tears heal our emotional wounds. Another reason we cry is in awe of something beautiful. Those who suppress the urge to cry tend to deaden their emotions, which isn't at all healthy. In fact, in Japan, "crying clubs" provide attendees with sad books, television shows, and movies to engender group cry-fests. Crying, like laughter, is a big part of what makes us human.
In the words of coach Jim Valvano, "If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."
I think I'm well on my way. Are you?
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Mystery writers absolutely have a unique way of looking at things. It's fortunate that no one knows all the strange thoughts that run through my head, such as: "Could a small woman swing that golf club hard enough to kill if she hit the victim in the right spot? or "How much of the insulin in my refrigerator would it take to kill a non-diabetic person if injected while the victim is in a deep sleep?" or "If my life depended on it, could I grab that butcher knife and slit an intruder's throat before he strangled me?"
Ideas for mysteries are everywhere. Our neighbors are clearing some previously-wooded land on the other side of our back yard fence. I looked over there this morning to see how far they'd gotten and thought "what if I saw a dead body in that pile of brush?" We attended a city council meeting last night where a discussion was held about whether some folks in our neighborhood should be allowed to open an elder-care facility in spite of the residential-only zoning. During the mundane talks about square footage and providing ample parking for visitors, my brain went straight to a plot where these elderly people are held against their will and then one of them ends up killing the caretaker...you get my drift. And I probably shouldn't even get started on the things in my head when my paralegal job has me dealing with a likeable client trying to divorce the spouse-from-hell. I'm sorry, I can't help but think the only good way to get out of some situations is to hire a hit man. That happened for real in one of the first cases I ever worked on in a law office, but it was not because I made the suggestion. Honest.
I've encountered people who are interested in hearing all about the writer's life. Others seem to doubt my sanity when I begin spouting murderous plot ideas . I've always been (or maybe I should say 'I used to be') a relatively quiet and introverted person. Comments from me about killing or finding bodies often take people by surprise, but don't they always say it's the quiet ones you have to watch?
Mystery author Kay Finch is currently writing her new Bad Luck Cat Mystery series set in the Texas Hill Country to be published by Berkley beginning in 2015. Her Klutter Killer mystery, Relative Chaos, features a professional organizer who finds a dead body in a hoarder's garage. Kay lives in a Houston, Texas suburb with her husband, two rescue dogs and a cat. Visit her web site at www.kayfinch.com.p>
Monday, July 14, 2014
|Source: Edible Crafts|
Saturday, July 12, 2014
As a former magazine editor myself, I submit manuscripts that are pretty clean when it comes to grammar and spelling. I know where and how to punctuate a sentence, and I’m pretty good with spelling and word usage. But… I’m a terrible typist, and sometimes those typos do get by my repeated reviews. I’m very glad to have an editor who catches my booboos.
Readers read a book over the course of a few days, but that novel likely took the author months if not years to write. I write novels from start to finish, so it’s entirely possible that I’m writing the ending a long time after the opening chapters. That means that I’ve likely forgotten a number of details from the beginning by the time I get to the end. And there are a lot of details to keep track of. I keep notes, character descriptions and some visual aids to help, but it’s nearly impossible to remember everything. The classic example (and I’ve read it myself in more than one published novel) is when a character’s hair or eye color changes.
Once I finish a first draft, I go back and read through, correcting and making notes on the things that have to be changed to align with what I’ve written later, but even then some things elude me. Thank goodness I have editors to find those things.
What gets by me even more easily and too frequently is what I call “lazy writing.” Sometimes I just take the easy way out, usually by telling about something that I should be showing. It can be as simple as saying that a character “looked angry” rather than saying this “his eyes narrowed and lips pressed together in a hard line.” They’re not always that simple, though. I’ve had to rewrite entire scenes that should have been done better.
Like many authors I tend to rely on favorite words, phrases and gestures, too. It’s another variety of lazy writing.
I was blessed with this book to have an excellent editor who found a lot of those instances. It took a week of solid work on the first editing pass to rework all the problematic areas. As always there were a few things where I disagreed with the editor on a change, but by and large I recognized that most of the things she pointed out were places where I could improve the story. Some of them were okay as they were, but by making the changes I could make it better, polish it up and, hopefully, make it shine.
Here’s the blurb for The Detective’s Dilemma:
Her fingerprints are on the gun, but Sarah swears she’s innocent.
Although Sarah Anne Martin admits to pulling the trigger, she swears someone forced her to kill her lover. Homicide detective Jay Christianson is skeptical, but enough ambiguous evidence exists to make her story plausible. If he gives her enough freedom, she’ll either incriminate herself or draw out the real killers. But, having been burned before, Jay doesn’t trust his own protective instincts…and his growing attraction to Sarah only complicates matters.
With desire burning between them, their relationship could ultimately be doomed since Sarah will be arrested for murder if Jay can’t find the real killer.
Coming in November from Kensington Lyrical Press.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
If things aren't confusing enough, along comes Google Glass. A smartphone you wear like glasses. You can snap a photo, translate, and check your flight. Definitely compact and easy to pack, but not my style.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Monday, July 7, 2014
Among the Expletive Construction Issues, Implied Propositional Phrases, Directional Adverbs, Male Dialogue Corrections, Showing versus Telling and POV issues were the subtle words - YOU SUCK!!! At least that's how I felt.
Where did I go wrong? The 300 page manuscript I loving sent as a Word attachment to an editor who told me how much she loved the story, how the characters were so dimensional and how she couldn't wait to see the stories in print, had just sent me back an attachment from Track Changes Hell with an implied note saying "Your baby is ugly."
Aside - don't show her this blog. She'd probably make me break the above sentence into two simpler sentences which did not have the same impact.