Writers are Readers, too.

You’ve no doubt heard this one before, good writers – READ.  It’s true!  I write mainly women’s fiction, so I do a lot of reading in that genre.  I also read chick lit, mainstream fiction, mysteries, thrillers, romance and much more.  Check out my Goodreads.com books and you’ll see that I am a diverse reader. If there’s a book review in the paper or a magazine I have to read it and if the story sounds good, then it goes on my list of things to read.

 

man_looking_thru_binocularsWhen I find a particular author I enjoy I tend to read everything they’ve ever written, but reading debut novels is enjoyable.  Sharing any new found book treasures is a must.  Many of my friends and family like to book swap, and if we’ve gotten the book from the library we make sure and email the title and author around the group.

Occasionally films will come out about the lives of authors or based on one of my favorite books.  It’s fun to get a group of writers together to see a matinee and then get coffee and hold a discussion.  We writers have such an interesting way of viewing things.

There are lots of book clubs out there that get together and discuss their favorite stories. reading books(But, you have to read them first.)  Kansas has a statewide reading event each year that is fun to participate in.  You will overhear book conversations in the grocery store and all around town.  It is like being a part of a really BIG book club.

Many of us have a library of unread books that we have collected from friends, book sales at the library, yard sales, and those bought with coupons from the local bookstores.    When I’m finished reading and sharing a book, I donate it to the library so others can partake of its pages.  The bottom line is – you can never read too many books.  And reading good books will help you become a better writer – I PROMISE!

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HE KNOWS HOW IT FEELS TO WRITE

“You first dreamed of becoming a writer to create a deep connection. You wanted another person to know how you felt. You wanted to change someone’s life.” excerpt from Joe Bunting article on Writing Practice, Medium Daily

He writing wineis so RIGHT. Good books move me on so many levels. I want to write those kinds of books. It is my wish for readers and a dream for me. Thank you, Joe, for putting it so succinctly.

 

Excerpt from Earl Divine

In 1949, Earl Divine and his family moved onto Miller’s old farm five miles south of the Viola Baptist church on my tenth birthday. He was a tall, good-looking boy of eleven, with a shock of dark blonde hair and cornflower blue eyes. His crooked smile and easy laughter won the hearts of all the girls in our Kansas county, but most especially mine. For the first time in my life I wanted to look nice and make a boy notice me. The fellows liked him, too, enjoying his joking ways. This included my little brother, Tom.

I was a serious girl, doing all of the things Momma taught me – like canning, cooking from scratch, and gardening. I even plucked chickens, which everybody knows are God’s dumbest creatures. Tall and naturally thin, my crowning glory was thick and shiny red hair. I never cared much for freckles, but there’s not much I can do about mine.     Papa said, “Them are God’s little beauty marks, Hannah.”

Personally, I think God’s got a leaky pen, and it splatters some when he draws our likeness.

By the time I turned fifteen, by shear determination I wore him down and Earl Divine and I became a “couple,” much to Momma and the other girls’ dismay. For three years we courted, going to dances, ice cream socials, potluck dinners at the church, and supper at my folks’ on Sunday.

In those days boys were polite about the fact that they wanted to kiss and touch. I’d been raised to keep my legs together, but it didn’t stop the warmth like hot maple syrup from sliding from one end of my insides to the other. That boy made me want to be bad, but neither one of us could bring ourselves to do the deed before marriage. We came as close as we could without breaking the rules, admiring all the parts of each other that weren’t expressly forbidden, often breaking out in a storm of sweat from the fight with our upbringing. Lord, what a beautiful body he had. The curly hair on his torso scratched and made me giggle.

Lord, forgive these raging hormones.

They taught us all about the crazy time we were going through and warned us not to succumb. The preacher made out like sex was evil, but if that was so there wouldn’t be so many big families in the county.

One evening we lay on the hood of Earls’ 1939 Buick gazing at the stars that peaked through the grove behind my papa’s barn. The night sky over the southern Kansas farm country was black as ink, but the stars were bright enough we could almost feel their warmth. Our breathing had finally slowed from a recent bout of heavy kissing. My body felt like cooked noodles and my brain had turned to oatmeal. I broke the silence. “I love the fresh smell of new mown hay,” I said, and filled my nostrils with the glory of the evening.

What a goofy thing to say, I must be crazy.

Earl snorted, but he didn’t make fun of my awkwardness. I think it was then that I truly fell in love with my fair haired beau.

(Excerpt from short story, Earl Divine, available on Amazon.com)

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How to be a Great Writer

I don’t profess to be a GREAT writer YET, but I’m getting better at it every day. Back in September I read an interview with Stephen King about the 22 lessons he recommends to be a great writer. THANK YOU STEPHEN KING. The article in the Business Insider stimulated my imagination to the point that I wrote the following (it was kind of like a test of what I retained from the content):

G – Grammar is only for understanding

R – Read as much as possible

E – Endeavor to write every day

A – Avoid adverbs, passive voice and run on sentences

T – Tell stories about people

W – Write for yourself and don’t worry about what others think

R – Retreat from the world when you write

I – Imagination can help you create and describe clearly and vividly

T – Temper your writing with only what is necessary, info dribbles not info dumps

E – Edit, edit, edit “Kill your darlings” is what Stephen said, be balanced not egocentric about your writing

R – Resist twenty-dollar words with a dollar-word will do, don’t be pretentious

King inspires me. He writes so well, having been successful for many years. I aspire to that as well. Wish I had a first reader like his wife, Tabitha King (also an author), but I do okay with my critique group. They are a great bunch of writers with vivid imaginations, huge hearts, and good advice.

Enjoy the journey, fellow scribes!

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Life Ventures Rocks!

Do you ever wonder what you will do when you retire? There’s a great program called Life Ventures that has groups on the East and West sides of town. They’re learning programs for all ages and I had the pleasure of speaking to the East side group Oct. 28th. What a delightful group of folks came to listen and ask questions about writing family stories and my books in particular. Some came to hear me speak just because they had read my books and others were curious. I had a great time and hope they did also. East Heights United Methodist Church has a wonderful facility and I’m honored to have been asked to participate in this wonderful program. Thanks again!

reading books

No free lunches

Folks, there really is no such thing as a free lunch.  But I have to admit I love discounts, coupons, and sales.  If I feel as though I’m getting something extra I am that much happier with my acquisition.  I wouldn’t have nearly as many great books in my library if I hadn’t had a coupon or got them at the used bookstore at a great price.  How does that apply to writing, you ask?  It means giving your reader more than they expect.  More twists, surprises, mystery, things that will keep them reading. Giving them a bigger helping of fun!

kids_icecreamI got a call from a friend who said, “It’s all your fault I don’t get anything done.”  She was reading Patchwork Family and was having trouble putting it down.  That’s the kind of news authors want to hear from readers. That’s how I want to feel when I’m reading, as well.

reading_lotsWhat makes the book so hard to put down? Is the character multi-layered?  Is the plot unpredictible?  Does the tension keep increasing? These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself and share the answers with the author.  Is there a surprise?  As a reader, I like plausible surprises.  Personally, I don’t like loose ends.  I must be satisfied with the resolution of the conflict, but that doesn’t mean everything is tied up with a big blue bow. It means, things make sense and feel mostly resolved. 

snoopy happy danceGive readers more than they paid for…give them a GREAT read instead of just a good one. That’s my goal as an author. One more thing Readers: Be sure and leave a review when you finish a book, good or bad – they are helpful to other readers and to the author, too.

Patchwork Family book cover is here…

Patchwork Family - 600x900x300Isn’t it beautiful? I’m so excited. And yes, readers, I’m using my first name instead of my initials. Pub date is the end of March. Stay tuned for events to be scheduled in my calendar. Right now I’m battling day-job demons so I have some planning to do. And don’t forget – dreams really do come true!

Patchwork Family Update

snoopy happy danceI’m so excited I can barely sit still at work. Belle Books confirmed that PATCHWORK FAMILY is coming in March, final edits will be coming soon, and I get the opportunity to give input on the cover. How Cool Is That?

With FEISTY FAMILY VALUES I saw the cover in my head, or a reasonable facsimilie of it, anyway. This time, not so much. I love the cover for FFV, the Victorian house, the fall leaves, the roses…all of it put me back into the story and invited the readers to come in and join the family.

So, what kind of a cover will speak to PATCHWORK FAMILY readers? To me this family is like a crazy quilt my grandmother made when I was a little girl. The people in the story are the pieces, and while they don’t exactly fit together like an engineered drawing, they are bigger and of different shapes, somehow when you put them all together they make this beautiful creation – a family. What a lovely thing that can be, all be it, a bit messy.

crazyquilt2For those of you who do not know, PATCHWORK FAMILY starts about a year after the close of FFV. The teens are a year older and that much more unpredictible, having all sorts of hormonal fluctuations that teens are known to have. They are running Annabelle ragged, and her ticker starts acting up, too. Sam would love for Regina to marry him, but she prefers the relationship to remain as it is, after all it took her a long time to get to where she is now – out of the family home, and into the arms of real love.

Tillie and Joe still live across the street, keeping an eye on things, and lending a hand like friends will do. As usual, Tillie is the voice of reason and referee when needed. Don’t you just love friends like that? We all need them  now and then.

PATCHWORK is more Peggy (the eldest grandchild), Annabelle and Regina’s story. You’ll be glad to know there are a few new characters popping in, most notably Tom Malone, the missing father to Peggy, Tad and Megan. Yup, there’ll be some fur flying at the Riverside home, so stay tuned…

write what you know, find out about what you don’t know

All writers have heard “write what you know”, but we just domedical-research-study-25588827n’t know everything, do we?  Not all of us are forensic scientists writing about forensic anthropology, nor are we all doctors writing about the surgical procedure the character has to undergo.

So, what do we do about that?  Do we limit our writing to just what we’ve experienced in our short life span?  Some of us have gone through a lot in our lifetimes and that makes great story telling.  But what about those that have lived fairly ordinary lives, but dream about stories where characters do extraordinary things?  Sound familiar?

Research.  Find out about what we don’t know.  If it’s important to the story that the character is put in jail and you’ve never business-man-jail-18593741experienced that, then arrange a jail visit.  Find out first hand what the procedures are that they follow to keep you and the inmates safe.  Record in your mind the sights and sounds of this new experience so you can capture it in your story.

If your character knits and you don’t know how then attend a class or knitting club – watch, listen and learn.  If your character is a cold blooded killer, talk to someone in law enforcement or a criminal psychologist and try to get into that mind set.  Not everything should be experienced first hand.  We all have imaginations and we can use them, just make sure there is enough fact to be credible, that’s all the reader is asking for – help them suspend belief.

glasses_paper_keyboardMake sure what you need to learn is truly important to the story and fits with the plot and character.  Putting something shocking or technical into a story that doesn’t propel the story forward is a waste of time for both the writer and the reader.  So, write what you know, find out about what you don’t know, and use that new knowledge to make the story richer.

BD

(This is modified from a post I did in 2009. It’s still true writing buddies!)