On Monday, January 14, 2019, at the Barry County Commission on Aging, I'll be presenting a writers' workshop. This was an idea I shared with the director some months ago and the Commission added it to their annual roster of activities that begin early in the new year. I'm looking forward to this for several reasons. Most anyone can write; some well, some not so well (that's always a relative thing eh), but writing is such a healthy activity that I'd encourage everyone to give it a try. Poetry, prose, autobiographies, memoirs...whatever.
The fact is, far too many people live very isolated lives for a variety of reasons. Writing is a great, healthy way for any of us to express ourselves, think through situations affecting us for better or for worse, and perhaps find a better way to deal with the stresses common to all in this era.
Just as in other ways of communication, people need to be able to express themselves freely in a safe environment, neither judging nor being judged. Writing is one way to do that and for those who don't have the resources--financially or perhaps personality-wise--for professional counseling, it can even be lifesaving. The other side of the curtain...it's just plain fun! You might be surprised what lurks beneath all that gray hair--or that shining bald dome. Be warned, however; writing can be addictive.
Ah, English; I love it. Well, not so much sometimes. Like just now.
I’m adapting a movie script into a novel and have caught myself several times now spelling a Canadian’s verbiage with British English in this American English novel. Somehow, I don’t think editing should go this way. Either the book is written in one or the other but not a blend of both. I guess.
Since my computer dictionary is set to American English, it does give me the annoying ‘red wiggles’ when I add those extra U’s to my otherwise good words such as colo(u)r and favo(u)r. But, hey, I still love Canada.
Wow, I just had a nerve-jangling experience. Justin, my son, showed me a local paper with an article about a reading program that has a mobile unit going on the road as of June 18, 2018, a collaboration among several schools, libraries, and other organizations. He noted that it is very similar to one of my old projects/web sites from the late 90s/early 2000s that I called "Bee a Reader." My logo included a yellow-and-black bee, too. Funny that I still keep a bee in my logo (and a little Longaberger basket full of cloth toy bees by my desk)!
I obviously like the idea of children having more access to books and reading. My first reaction on hearing of this was to be defensive, but I suppose my idea has crossed many minds when thinking about encouraging youngsters to enjoy reading. And who doesn't love bees?
A quick search online shows many takes on the same idea, internationally even, so I'm just going to smile and be happy with my own old and new logos and ideas.
Per the blog posts and articles from the experts out there in lit land, I am writing my novels all wrong. I'm 'supposed' to be writing in easily identifiable genres, in categories that one word -- or maybe two -- is the pigeon hole that any given story fits into.
Say what? The next thing I'll be told is that I need to follow a precise recipe for the structure of the story, e.g., the same idea as a three-act stage play or screenplay. Some ads that land in my inbox say that I need software to guide me as I write, following the 'best' format for story development. I ask, what is the fun in that?
So at the risk of being censured for not following the advice of the experts, I will continue to write as the stories grow themselves in my little pea brain and come out the ends of my fingers on a keyboard, or piece of scrap paper, scribbled quickly in pen when a 'great' word, sentence, or idea hits me while I'm otherwise busy doing something other than writing.
I started writing back when I was a little kid because it was something fun that intrigued me; I got a kick out of seeing a completed story that was all mine not something that someone else had done.
I still write because, to me, it's fun. And when someone reads a story that I wrote and sincerely loves (and hates) the characters as much as I do, then that is just the cherry on top. I wish I could get 'out there' with more readers but I can't sell my soul to marketing mavens and online marketing companies.
And the marketing thing. Holy moly, is that a different beast; most of us who do write will probably fall into the same category as myself. It's not usually our favo(u)rite thing to spend time, energy, and dollars doing. It costs to be a novelist, and what it costs can eat into your most precious resources: time that you could or should be spending doing something else, and energy, both physical and mental.
Today I changed the cover art for "In the Gloved Hand" because try as I might, I could not balance the design in a way that I could live with; hence, I added the Nazi chest insignia worn by Heer (regular German army) officers in WWII. The male protagonist in the story was a Heer Lieutenant, under the authority of a Commandant who was SS. The lieutenant's chest insignia would have been the eagle with oak-leaf cluster on a dark green background; the SS officers' was on a black background and worn on the sleeve.
I hesitated to use this at all, but it is germane to the story; I've 'ghosted' the insignia to make it less prominent, as it is not my wish to give the Nazi symbols any more 'time' than the story needed.
This trilogy did, after all, grow out of my recurring nightmare, so I suppose putting it into the cover art may make sense. WWII was a nightmare for untold numbers of people across the globe; my nightmare couldn't hurt me, it just made me wake up in a cold sweat. For people who lived the reality, I still cannot imagine the damage done to victims and to German citizens as well. I guess it is summed up by someone else's observation that nobody wins in war, some just lose more.
This morning, between midnight 0005 and 0145 hours, I finished publishing the new book, A Woman What?, on Amazon.com as an ebook and paperback. This is the eighth one, so that leaves just one more to get completed so my home page can have a nice 3 x 3 balanced design. Irregular, unbalanced things just bug me. Oh there is proof that I've spent some serious time back in the 50s lately. But that's cool. Swell. And just ahead of groovy.
Writing is easy, formatting for Kindle Direct Publishing paperbacks is not easy but it's not as difficult as doing the marketing and publicity necessary for authors who want to actually get folks to read their offerings. I'd love to have face time with readers and get their reaction; since that's a rare event right now, remote contact via email, Twitter, and Facebook are the only way to find out if readers like or hate the books!
Done! Finito! Fini! Gjort! Just finished writing/editing/polishing the 1950s chick-lit (for lack of a better description) novel. I had so much fun writing this book, despite it having one very dark thread.
I've laughed out loud writing some of the dialogue that seemed to take on a life of its own sometimes, surprising myself as I became more acquainted with the characters and their way of expressing themselves.
Tomorrow, I'll work on getting the manuscript ready to publish in two formats IF I get time. Otherwise, it will be the next day.
Excerpt from Untitled 1950s
Mary would graduate from high school halfway between her eighteenth and nineteenth birthdays. She had acquired a total of two boyfriends up to the present: Jimmy Doyle in fourth grade and Nick Curelli in eleventh grade. Jimmy lost her affection when he decided that frogs were just small living things of no value and it was okay to torment them. Nick lasted for a whole month, until he decided to get seriously wandering hands. When she objected, he scoffed and called her a prude among other things. Mary retorted with a vivid expression that she wasn’t entirely sure what the literal meaning was before slapping him and stomping away.
She had been warding off unwanted attention for almost as long as she could remember, and it made her all the more certain that males who were not family members were probably not going to be her good friends.
At the Belardos’ crowded dinner table on the evening of that break-up with Nick, everyone was giving an account of their day and no one was taking turns. Overly polite was not a feature of family gatherings but loud and emotional could be. Sometimes at these events, Mary privately wondered if she had been adopted.
That evening, Mary just kept her mouth shut; with everyone else volleying stories, complaints, and the occasional insult, she didn’t think anyone would notice. She was wrong.
Her brother, Anthony—Tony, had heard about the incident with Nick third-hand from a friend of Nick’s and wondered how much of it was true. His little sister was normally the quietest of the bunch and she wasn’t known for using foul language. In a typical behavior pattern, he saw an opportunity to have a little fun at his kid sister’s expense.
“Mary; what happened with you and Nick today?”
She shot Tony a look that should have been fatal and ignored the leading question. Her mother was quick to note her daughter’s sharp nonverbal response and demanded, “What does he mean, ‘what happened’?”
She was not smiling, already having become aware that Mary was not acting herself. Everyone around the table went into suspended animation, waiting for her explanation. An uncommon silence fell over the room as Mary continued to glare mutely at Tony.
Her frowning mother repeated in a louder voice, “So, Mary, you didn’t hear me maybe? I asked you what happened? What’s this your brother’s saying?”
Mary focused on her plate of rigatoni and clam sauce, muttering, “I told him off.”
Tony snorted, “That’s the biggest understatement since ‘the Dodgers are bums’!”
Her mother laid down her fork; with the grim expression that meant there would be no further evasion, she declared, “You know what I mean. So now no more waltzing around, you can just tell us what’s going on.”
Even her father was beginning to get his grim, ‘I mean it’ look. Mary sighed and explained in a rapid monotone, “Nick Curelli is not the Mr. Nice Guy that we all thought he was. He seriously tried to get all over me today and when I told him to bug off, he called me a prude and talked nasty. So, I just told him off again, a lot plainer.”
The boisterous and enthusiastic reaction of approval that vibrated around the table was just what she had expected. She did not, however, expect her brother to quote verbatim what she had said to Nick, and when he did, she thought her parents were both going to have heart attacks.
In an epic historical event, her mother could not find the right words to respond to the information. Salvatore gaped at her open mouthed and was the first to find his voice. Again, it was not what Mary expected. With a scowl that creased his entire forehead, he sternly shot, “Good enough for him, but I don’t want you to ever talk like that again. Are you hearing this?”
Her brothers all gave her thumbs up one way or another, which she ignored and solemnly went back to concentrating on her food.
Her mother finally found her voice and demanded in a mellower tone, “I just want to know where a nice girl ever learned to talk like that.”
Mary glanced up briefly and retorted, “I have three brothers, a dozen or so cousins, and I go to public school, right.”
“Don’t be fresh. Like your father said, we don’t ever want to hear of you talking like that again.”
“I’m sure you won’t; sorry.”
Mary still didn’t know for certain what those words meant, but apparently it couldn’t have been too far from what she had wanted to get across to her now ex-boyfriend.
Facebook announced that today is teachers' day and asked for comments about which of our teachers had the biggest impact on our life; I was hard pressed to decide among a few but here's the short list: Hazel Brown, who was the junior- and senior-high librarian; Harold Connelly, my English teacher who tried so hard to get his students to think critically, meaning analytically and not to just accept everything we had heard or been told; Jack Allen, my biology teacher who was a strict disciplinarian. In tenth grade, I had written a short story set in the American Revolution; unfortunately for me, I'd penned it in the back of my official biology class notebook that had to be turned in and graded. The day we wrote final exams, he sat in the back of the room and graded the notebooks. I had completely forgotten about the story that was in there. The room was so quiet that all you heard was the whisper of pencils on paper and the tick-tick of the walk clock. During this stressful time, Mr. Allen suddenly called my name and I nearly jumped off my chair. Everybody looked at me because we all knew that if he even suspected someone's eyes roved toward a classmate's answers, you were out of class. Period. Since I was the quietest kid in the class it got everyone's attention and then he held up a notebook and asked me if it was mine. At that moment I remembered the story. My best friend sat beside me and she told me later that I turned white and then bright, flaming red. He said to see him after class. Of course everyone wondered what was up; I suspected it was about writing unauthorized stuff in my notebook. So, after class I walked to the back of the room to his desk. He just looked at me before handing the offending book back and with no smile and no frown, said, "You should seriously consider becoming an author." Fancy that. I was so horrified to have been caught (having had one of my stories ridiculed a couple of years earlier) exposing myself that way, that I tore the thing out of the notebook and shredded it into the library wastebasket immediately. Boy, do I wish I hadn't done that!
I've settled on a single phrase to describe the books that I've written and now published: Love Stories, because each one contains that important element, along with a balance of humor, suspense, danger, and mystery with the strongest thread in the fabric being love in all of its forms. They're as multidimensional as the characters who populate the pages and even the guys have enjoyed them.