September 24th, 2009

Top Secret

Top secret- these words alone can perk up eyebrows. They conjure up all things unseen and unheard. Loosen the grasp on your chair because there shall be no secrets unearthed here. And if I gave you one, I swear you’d hit the snooze button on the ole alarm clock and get back to me. No doubt, though, everyone, including me, has at least one family or personal secret that’s a tad spicy or horrifying, or just plain odd. Odd, I say. But whatever they are, secrets have power over people who keep them. Decisions and behaviors tiptoe around them. They are weeds in the hearts soil.

No eyebrow hiking, please. Even though I thought of a juicy one, I’m still not sharing. Oh, you have Starbucks Breakfast Blend? Gosh, that’s my favorite. But no, I can’t, shouldn’t.  Okay then, let’s chat… wink, wink.

Now, unless you live in a cave, which some people do- I saw one for sale on the internet, but it far exceeded my price range- then you can’t miss what happens on the news. Secrets are shared on a daily basis, some exposed, others revealed.  Heck, if we’ve lived long enough, we’ve heard our share from friends and kin, which revealed just how boring  we really are. Ah, what a blessing it is to be dull.

As such, let’s relate them to fictional novels we writers tell and hope to sell. Yes, we are back to fiction now, which is sometimes less weird than real life.

Our main character/character’s should have secrets. At least one. And you’re going to love this because you get to know what they are! As a matter of fact, you’d better know. Sometimes their secrets are at the heart of the story and other times they serve as a guideline to understand why your characters act the kooky ways they do. Readers don’t necessarily have to know, but we might want to clue them in if it serves the story and explains their odd or crazy behavior.

Is there a reason our protagonist hates being alone?  Does he/she avoid certain family members at all costs? Why, why, why? Do they steal, cheat or lie? When each day begins do they pop pills or swig scotch on the rocks? Does your character have premonitions about future events but is too afraid to own up to her gift? Are they plucked away nightly and whisked off to Mars?

Wow, please bring them to my next party!

Seriously though, don’t hold your characters at arms length. Let them come into the light. See them for who they are. Ask the questions, welcome the answers and, wha-la, a secret or two will appear.  They  just might be the treasure in your story.

Now back to that party.

September 18th, 2009

Let’s Get Fresh

I’m talking about writing here, so don’t get your panties in a wad. Sorry, I do enjoy that phrase. It’s a throwback to my younger years and those memories of mouth cleanings with Dove soap.

Now, the fresh fruit was posted because I needed a picture. If it makes you hungry, I apologize, which I do frequently. Go on to the grocery store. I’m not a fruit stand.

Okay, back to fresh writing. Have you ever read a book so dinged with cliches you wanted to drown yourself in your dog’s water bowl? Are we guilty of using them in our work? You bet your bottom dollar. If you can’t beat them, join them. Or as George Carlin would say, “If you can’t beat them, arrange to have them beaten.”

At least he spiked it.

Allow me to share the meaning of cliche, even though we know them better than our own children: A saying, expression, idea or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, rendering it a stereotype, especially when at some point it was considered meaningful or novel.

Although cliches can sometimes be used in fiction for comedic effect, we should remember a key word here. SOMETIMES. And it had better be funny. A no go and your readers might be swell enough to flip the page, but if you try again and fail, they could storm over to the fireplace, book or short story in hand, and snap a match. At least their wee bones would be warmed on a cold and stormy night.

Really, if we can, and we can, don’t socialize with cliches.  They talk behind our backs, and give our readers wrinkles. Now there are loopholes, well, maybe one loophole. If a cliche can be spun around to make it zing-which, ahem..I’m guilty of- then do. But not too often.

Cliches aside, fresh prose should always be the standard. Think beyond the box. Give people thoughts for their pennies. We can always notch up our words, allowing them to sing opera, or belt out the Stones, Van Halen, Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin. The key is throwing open the door and making an entrance.  Dress up those words in black leather pants and let them knock back a good stiff whiskey, then strut them around like a freakin’ peacock!

Bad peacock, but you get the point. Don’t be afraid to let your words glitter and leave your characters room to open wide and speak their truth. So what if your crazy Aunt Polly, who holds tea parties for her cats, stands gape-jawed at something you’ve written? All the better. Maybe you’ve awakened something dormant in her. Maybe she’ll slap on some make-up, down a margarita, and go out dancing with her husband Carl.

Or maybe she won’t like you. Gasp!

If pleasing the world is our writing goal, we’d best hang our letters this instant and go open a bakery. Cupcakes anyone? People will always love sugar. So Sugars, if we’re going to write, please let characters breathe without the Aunt Polly’s of the world peering over our shoulders. Do send them out for cheesecake at a bakery in Bora Bora. And remember to pluck and add fresh stuff and not the wilted crap.

For fun, here’s a bowl full of stale cliches.

My favorite, colored up by George W. Bush: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.

So true ye fiction writers!

Here’s more.

Breaking the bank

When all is said and done

Bored stiff

All hell broke lose

A wolf in sheep’s clothing

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Rome was not built in a day

Please feel free to add your own favorites. Maybe if we can secretly corral enough of them, and drown them in the Hudson River, we can make the world a better place.

September 9th, 2009

Catching Dreams


Our little group at the Hawaii Writer’s Retreat.  Author and instrutor, Anne LeClaire, center, seated.

Dreams are powerful. We all have them, but catching them is another thing entirely. I’ve always felt you must first know what you want to have it. Writing our goals down is a great place to start.  The Hawaii Writer’s Retreat has been on my list for seven years, and, sigh…  I finally made it there.

There are many awesome writer’s retreats, but  in my mind this was the mother of them all. And what a great mother she was. Seasoned authors attend here, still learning and growing. If you’re coming here to loll about the island, you’d best come a few days early. Once you start the six day retreat, or writing intensive, you’ll be drenched in classes. Classes before classes. Classes after classes.  So many great author/speakers you won’t want to miss. Your day starts at 9:00 a.m. and ends, minus homework, at 4:30 p.m.

First let me mention our amazing author and instructor, Anne LeClaire. She had the patience of a monk and the grit of a soldier. Talented to the max, she left no rock unturned when it came to our manuscripts. This is no place for sissies.  Or the ego. We were here to learn and learn we did. Anne had this uncanny ability to see exactly what was needed to turn our manuscripts into gold. She taught us how to flip our stories. She taught us to be better liars and that’s the truth!

Ask yourself, what would happen if? Here’s an example from my latest: The Passion Diary.  A pastor accidentally ends up with a woman’s diary, which changes their lives forever. Now: What if that same pastor takes a woman’s diary? Immediately the story has more flavor.  Why would a man, let alone a pastor take a woman’s diary and read it? What happens now that he’s fallen in love with her?  Don’t you want to know?

I do.

Oh, right. Guess I now have to figure that out. I also discovered this novel I’ve worked on off and on for four years needs to be told in first person rather than third. Holy crap. I now have to rewrite the whole ding dang thing. But you know what? I’m thankful because I just might have something in the end that will attract an agent.  We like attracting agents, don’t we? It’s all in the details.

The women I worked with in class were not only talented but witty and humorous.  It was a joy getting to know them and I hope to have them in my life for along time to come.

And, do you know what separates the real writers from the rest? Yes, you need talent, but the key ingredient is perseverance. Some of you knew this already. Those, like myself,  who have been slogging quietly along for years, believing when nobody else did. Belief in your abilities must start from the inside out.

It’s nice too, when people come along who see that you’re not just some fly by night, hokey poky, I’ll write when I want to kind of chick.   I hope you are blessed beyond measure that way. I have been so grateful for those who’ve gotten aboard my dingy. We get nowhere in life without the support from others, which means we need to  Pay it Forward also, which by the way is a great movie.

In the coming days I’ll be sharing more tricks I learned to make your writing sing, so stayed tuned and keep catching those dreams.

September 7th, 2009

Kreative Blogger Award

While writing in Hawaii, a delightful surprise was left on my blog: The Kreative Blogger Award.

I’m honored and thankful that Jon Strother, fellow writer and creator of Mad Utopia, chose little ole me. Thank you, Jon!  By the way, if you haven’t checked out Jon’s blog, do yourself a favor and pop in. He is the creator of #fridayflash, a venue for writer’s to post short stories. And post they do. You can post your own or be treated to a variety of other imaginative peices.

There are two parts to this award.

First: I will select seven blogs I feel deserve the award. This is the hard part. Choosing favorites is never easy, but I do feel these imaginative blogs deserve nothing less. But please see my blog roll on eblogger for all the creative and wonderful blogs I also follow.

Second: I will share seven, no make that nine, of my favorite fiction authors.  The suggestion was mystery but since I don’t read it, I figured I could break the rules. Most writers do, don’t they, Jon?

Drum roll please…

Rhonda Laveen’s, Wonderland-exploring life, love and interconnectedness

I recently discovered this blog gem and adore Rhonda’s fresh take on life. She’s not only original, but charming, taking on life one word at a time. You bet I’ll come back for more and have no doubt you will too.

Author Jai Joshi’s Tulsi Tree

A splendid storyteller, Jai weaves in fascinating details about her rich culture as well as writing experiences. Like turning a fast corner, you never know what you’ll find here. Her entries sparkle with wit, wisdom and humor.

Georganna Hancock, A Writer’s Edge

If you want the latest on the writing and publishing industry, Georganna has the edge. She’s in the thick of things and wants us there too. Her clever, informative style offers everything from author interviews to editorial services. Lucky her. Lucky us.

Deanna Schrayer, Deanna’s Blog- The life of a working writer mommy

How can you not love this from the title alone? We women know what a challenge it is to write and raise kids. When reading Deanna’s blog, it’s like pulling up a chair and sitting down to fried chicken and homemade gravy with our favorite people. Her style is warm and inviting, her stories original.

Cindy Tierney Adams, Heart

A boisterous, comical blog with serious undertones, Cindy captures us with her short stories, musings and writing experience. An example title: After the kids, come the granny pants. Now you know you want to read her!

Angie Ledbetter, Gumbo Writer

Straight from the Louisiana Bayou, this blog is flavored like a fantastic gumbo rue. Each post thrown into the pot is hot, hot, hot. You can’t stop eating, I mean reading.

Jenn Lidster

When you visit her blog the visual alone will draw you in. The tree, stars and clouds suggest something magical, and Jenn doesn’t disappoint. Her stories are stuffed with everything writing related, including author interviews.

Favorite nine fiction authors:

Barbara Kingsolver

Anne LeClaire

Alice Hoffman

John Steinbeck

Paulette Jiles

Ray Bradbury

Robert Morgan

Jane Hamilton

Brenda Jernigan

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Eleven-year-old Marnie Evans longs to be precious. She wishes on stars for parents who adore her, even though her family is dysfunctional. She also believes that jack rabbits and a boot-wearing Texas angel show her mysterious signs of things to come. Continue Reading

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