Tag Archives: J J Dare

The Good, The Bad, and The Useless

Just like gossip, give a story to five different editors and you might get back five different edited copies. When this happens to me, I try to find a common theme in the critiques. In one instance years ago, a novella I wrote was reviewed by seventeen different classmates and received seventeen wildly different edits. This was the first, and so far, only time I’ve had that happen.

When you submit your writing for editing and critiquing, what advice do you consider accepting? What do you reject? And what editing do you merely shrug your shoulders and laugh at?

In some cases, it may depend on the type of person you are. Do you follow the crowd or do you break out of the pack? Do you believe everything or do you always have questions? Or, like most of the rest of us, are you a little of both? Whatever your personality, taking advice from someone else concerning your writing should always be taken with a grain of salt and a good sense of humor.

Individuality makes a story glow. If the advice you receive from someone else changes your story too much, then it ceases to be your story – it turns into someone else’s writing.

I have a friend who is a literature professor and he’s just like that: the only high grades in his classes are from those students who learn to mimic my friend’s writing style. I’ve never let him edit any of my own efforts because I already know how it would turn out: my story would cease to be my own and would mutate into his version.

That’s not to say some stories don’t need major overhauls – some of mine have and I’ve redone them accordingly when I’ve received good advice. However, when a good story you’ve written is edited with the intent to change the theme or style, that’s when it’s useless advice. Stick to your guns, or pens, and get a second or third or fifteenth opinion.

Bad advice is just that: bad, mean-spirited and it follows a dark path.  Bad advice is recognized by its very personal overtones: phrases like “This really sucks” and “I’ve never heard anything so stupid” or, the classic, “You call yourself a writer?” and other direct attacks.

Good advice is free of personal diatribes and has a very constructive style to its critique. This type of advice will help you turn your story into a work of art. Like a good mechanic who gives your car a tune-up that lasts, a good editor/advisor will help you fine-tune your writing. Instead of personal attacks and instead of trying to turn your writing into a clone of their own, good advisors will help you polish your work into a diamond.

How often do you get bad or mediocre advice? Are you able to “read between the lines” and recognize when someone is purposely trying to mislead you? What is the best advice you’ve been given and by whom?

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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This In-between Life by J J Dare

A new chapter is starting in my life. My youngest, The Baby, is moving a gazillion miles away. While it’s actually only five hundred miles away, it feels like a gazillion. She’s never been more than ten minutes from my home but she is setting temporary roots in Austin, Texas. She wants to see more of the world than our little fifteen square miles of boringness. I don’t blame her. I want to see more of the world, too.

My baby girl is cutting the apron strings and flying out of the nest. She’s going solo, on her own, away from the nearness of family. She wants this adventure and wants to make it on her own as a full-fledged adult. At twenty-five, I suppose it might be time for her to try. Still, it’s hard to let go. As a parent, you never stop caring and worrying about your children, no matter how old they are. My mother never stopped worrying about children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. She fretted about her family until the day she died.

I will fret, too. I think about my brood constantly. My youngest will be heavily on my mind. I can’t picture her as an adult. To me, she is always The Baby of the family. It’s funny because by the time I was her age, I had been married, had a child, divorced and married again. My adventures in life started early and haven’t stopped.

I’m following her to Austin to see her settled in. I’ll be driving her car while she drives the moving truck. Another first for her, but another step toward taking charge of her adult life. You see, I babied her far too long. I tend to baby all my children forever. That’s what the mother in me demands.

It was amusing when she told me “You can’t drive the truck because your driving scares me and you can’t ride with me because you’ll stress me out.” Fortunately, this was said in a loving and almost paternal tone. Am I experiencing the beginnings of the student becomes the teacher or the child becomes the parent? Upon reflection, my other two adult children sometimes talk to me with the same tone. I didn’t realize I was that old. Blah.

I’ll help her settle in and together we’ll explore a little bit of this Texas city that has enthralled her. After a few days, I’ll fly back home.

As I’m writing this blog, I think about how many of our life chapters are written like chapters in a book. We have beginnings and endings, and many chapters in our lives. But, always, a beginning and an ending. We start fresh so often, we don’t really see our new beginnings. Even the most trivial event can set us on a different path in life. Endings and beginnings.

Life is a book of love, sad partings and adventures. Our stories never stop, even when we die. Like a book, a life lives beyond its end. As long as we are remembered by our loved ones, we live forever.

As my youngest takes forceful, determined steps toward a new life chapter, I will be terribly sad since she is so far away. But, who knows? She wants me to move to Austin, too. Or to wherever she is. All of my children are adults, but they are still babies to me and I’m still Mommy to them and those two things will never end.

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J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and too many works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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It’s Raining Words by J J Dare

I like rain and gloomy weather. My middle child and I were discussing where we’d like to live in the future. The upper west coast is definitely an option, particularly Oregon and Washington, and the areas around Seattle appeal to me.

Rain, rain, don’t go away . . .

My affinity for gloomy, overcast skies has nothing to do with my personality. I’m a pleasant, middle-of-the-road gal and when I feel morose I usually snap out of it quickly. The reason I like dark skies and no sun is because it reminds me of Christmas.

The yuletide seasons during my childhood were usually cold, wet and dark. On the outside, that is. Inside my parents’ home it was constant activity (at least from my viewpoint) with presents (and Daddy “helping” me open them) and food (always too much food) and Rudolph, Frosty and Charlie Brown on the television.

Pops, Tippy and that skinny kid my siblings called “Mouse”

Gloomy weather reminds me of those days when I didn’t have too many cares in the world. My main concern back then was whether I had enough allowance money left to go down the street to the creepy little candy shack with the nickles glued to the floor.

I wasn’t worried about paying the bills or fretting as the youngest child moves five hundred miles away or wishing I was closer to the oldest child who is figuratively on the other side of the world or gearing up to cry at the wedding of the middle child. I appreciate the carefree childhood my parents gave me.

My Three Girls

There are some days I wake up and for a split second I’m back in my old room, burrowed under the covers with my mother fussing at me to get up. Who doesn’t want to crawl back into the safe womb of childhood?

Dismal weather helps me write. If the sun is shining outside, I have trouble getting a bead on my thoughts. It’s too bright to think and the light feels like a heavenly interrogation. When it’s darker during the day, my mind has a chance to escape the cares of life and dive into worlds I create.

So, come on rain and gloom and darkness. The oppressive atmosphere makes me happiest and I feel alive when the skies are grey. I escape into my cocoon of gloom and write the real world away.

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J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and too many works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Three by J J Dare

Three is a nervous number. It’s not part of a pair nor is it part of two couples. Three is that in-between number sitting at the table twiddling its thumbs awkwardly while trying not to feel the odd man out.

Three makes everyone around a little uneasy. Sometimes it’s a good uneasy but in my life I see three with a bit of trepidation. For instance, my two youngest daughters and I each have the same make and model car (three of the same type of automobile). In the past year, major and minor things have gone wrong with each of our vehicles. Occasionally we’ll conference and see who has the most reliable car of the moment when one of us needs a trustworthy mode of transportation other than bicycle, foot or hoof.

A trio of bank robbers is scarier than a pair. On the flip side, a trio of policemen rescuing you from a trio of bank robbers is more comforting than just two officers. Your odds of getting out alive go up with more than a pair of heroes.

Lunching with friends can be awkward when you have to divide your attention between two instead of having a conversation one-on-one. In the back of your mind you’re constantly weighing how much attention you give to each friend.

The same thing applies when you have three children. I live that life and strive to equally parent my three girls. Of course, the running joke between the three now-adults is that one of them is, and has always been, my favorite. Which one depends on who is talking at the time. I let them have that illusion since we all know the cats are really my favorites.

The Real Slim Shady Favorite

When I write, three eventually has to be changed to more or less. I can’t have a trio of heroes or a trio of villains. Can you imagine the in-fighting with three John Waynes or three Hannibal Lecters? Hannibal One: “If you don’t let me talk succinctly, I’ll fry your brain with a little cilantro.” Hannibal Two: “Cilantro? With brain? Or you mad? Brain requires thyme and rosemary to bring out the flavor.” Hannibal Three: “You idiots are crazy. I’ll deep-fry you both.”

On the other hand, three is not the loneliest number. One has that distinction. Three can be a party or a terror. At the age of three, it’s definitely a terror – ask any parent. Three friends hiking in the Smokies is better than two when chased by a bear – you have two more chances to get away rather than only one.

Most of my characters are loners. Even when they pair up, eventually they will be unpaired. Trios in my writing are infrequent because of the awkwardness and because of my own neuorsis about treating everyone fairly. Although I can do that in real life with my family, I can’t do it with three characters vying for the same amount of attention on paper.

Awkward Three. How I avoid thee. I’d rather deal with Superstitious Six.

:shock:

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J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Highfalutin Flying Pigs by J J Dare

When friends and acquaintances find out I’m a writer, a few of them want to pick my brain about something they’ve either written or want to write. For the most part, I don’t mind. I mean, after all, everyone starts somewhere and a few of the lucky ones end up on a bestseller’s list.

A few months back an acquaintance from school sent a manuscript she’d written to a group of our former classmates. She asked everyone to take a month or two to read it. I took her literally at her word and read it on the last day of Month Number Two.

The problem with critiquing anything is: opinions are subjective. Others may love what I dislike. One thing I don’t like is pretentiousness – in person or on paper. In my neck of the woods, highfalutin flying pigs are shot and roasted – metaphorically, of course.

This manuscript was a challenge. Every fifth or sixth paragraph was written in Babelfish German. I know Latin (though, as the years go by, I remember less and less) and can vaguely translate a smattering in other languages, but this was migraine-inducing.

Here’s an example of what I faced: “Der Esel fliegt schnell Fett Himmel. Wer kratzt mein Zeh-Saft? Das Gestein beißen das Brot.”

Which loosely translates to: “The Donkey flies fast Fat Sky. You scratch my Toe-Juice? The Rock bit the Bread.”

The German words she used added nothing to the story except irritation. It was simply a play to get noticed – until someone who actually speaks German starts translating.

I have used foreign words in my stories but I limit myself to the easily recognized. The French words c’est la vie, au revoir and bonjour are familiar to American readers. The Spanish compadre is used down here more often than friend – and that’s kind of weird since this region is full of Cajun-French influence.

I draw the line when I feel myself trying to impress with my limited foreign language knowledge although I was rather impressive when my kids were younger. Sadly, they’ve caught on to Mom making up her own foreign words to sound smart. They speak French and Russian, so they are way out of my league now and I’ve stopped trying to bluff my way past them.

 How to tell a fledgling writer I would not buy their book if I need an English/German dictionary at my fingertips? It’s not easy when someone is dressed to the nines and you have to tell them their underwear is showing.

😯

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J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Jumping Trains by J J Dare

“How many trains have you jumped in your life?”

These nine little words gave me pause. For the past week, I’ve been alternately obsessing, compulsing and nonchalanting. Yeah, I know, I’m adding my own words to the dictionary. I kind of roll that way. Scrabble becomes a new game when I play.

It’s been a restless sort of week. I’ve been blowing hot and cold on a lot of things. One thing I locked on that helped get me back to my normal chaos was my country music roots.

I grew up with the country greats. This week I’m jumping on a familiar train with Cash, Campbell and Cline. As a writer, particularly as a short story one, I love a quick tale with a punch that leaves you breathless. A good song tells a story in the space of a few minutes. A good country song tells the story and leaves you misty-eyed.

I’ve talked about how music effects my writing. Most of my thrillers were written under the influence of hard rock. Avenged Sevenfold, Godsmack, Finger Eleven, and Seether were a few of the bands shaping the words I put on paper. They were heavy, dark and desperate and exactly what I needed for what I was writing.

I still love me some primal music in the form of hard rock. I love the stories good music tells. But, I’m drifting back to the original balladeers from the hills. These folks turned every day events into extraordinary happenings.

My current obsession is with Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.” It is a timeless human nature story of loneliness and love. With only a few words, Jimmy Webb wrote a powerful story about missing the one you love.

Most of us will leave a mark before we jump our last train. Song writers and singers never really die. Neither do we, the writers of today. I’m glad to be a member of this immortality club because I know that after I’m dust, my words will live forever.

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J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Broken Finger Syndrome by J J Dare

Better than a palm smack to the forehead, I’ve come up with a surefire way to prevent future writing embarrassments and shameful literary episodes. It’s called Broken Finger Syndrome. Posters, pens and stickers coming soon 😉

Live Long and Don’t Cut Your Finger

I don’t literally break my own fingers, although at times I probably should. Instead, I figuratively give myself broken finger syndrome. Sometimes it’s the only way to stop me from writing when  I shouldn’t.

Heaven

Case in point: I don’t need to write when I’m under the influence of grandmahood. Although warm and fuzzy has its place in literature, it doesn’t belong in a gruesome murder-mystery. Grandmahood prevents me from writing those sharp scenes dripping with terror. I devolve into Care Bears and unicorns and cotton candy clouds.

I love the night life, I got to boogie . . .

Another time I should not touch my keyboard is late at night. I write my best when the house is quiet but lately night is not a quiet time. Late night has become the middle of the day for some folks in my household.

Cup says it all

Caffeine can be a bad thing when it comes to writing. I’ll get started on a story and speed through it like a cheetah. Even though I like what I’m writing as I go, the next day I might look at it and think, O M G, did I really write that?

On a different, yet similar note, writing while under the influence of (prescription) drugs may work for some (Mary Shelly, Poe, etc.), but not for me. I was due for my part in a collaboration and quickly wrote out what I thought was a shining chapter after taking medication for my pulled back.

It was so full of holes, Swiss cheese was jealous. Thankfully, the collaboration’s conductor gently pointed out how screwed up I’d made my chapter. She was much nicer to me than I was to myself. My butt still hurts from the kicking I gave it.

A serious lack of sleep is as bad as drinking or drugs. There’s a point during sleep deprivation that you believe you’re Superman. If I write during this time, it ends up reading more like a super villain’s not-so-bright sidekick than a superhero.

In conclusion, I’ve given myself permission to use Broken Finger Syndrome – BFS – when it’s in the literary world’s best interest that I temporarily cease writing.  You’re welcome, Great World of Literature.

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J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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The Day of the Trickster by J J Dare

The first day in April is a silly day. If this day had a spokesperson, it would be Monty Python’s Flying Circus (“Nudge, nudge! Know what I mean? Say no more! A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind bat, say no more, say no more”).

The origin of April Fool’s Day is obscured by this and that, but a good lead suggests it started as a farmer’s festival in ancient Rome around 230 BC. This festival, Saturnalia, was named for Saturn, the Roman God of Agriculture. It was a way for the people to cut loose after a long harvest season.

According to what we know about the old days in Rome, these guys and their mythological gods loved to party. During the Feast of Saturnalia, roles were reversed. The master served the servant, the parents obeyed the children, executions were cancelled with a laugh and pat on the back, cats pretended to be rabbits, and, for the most part, the shoe was on the other person’s foot for awhile. Silliness ran rampent.

Silly Cat-Rabbit

Although April Fool’s Day can be loosely traced to the Feast of Saturnalia, pranksters have been around since the beginning of time. The Romans upped the ante and it snowballed into what we recognize today as a time to get away with bending the truth. As long as we do it in the spirit of fun, we’ll be forgiven. Of course, don’t try this if you’re attempting to get out of a speeding ticket. Trust me, it doesn’t work.

Sometimes the holiday can be taken a little too far. There are numerous accounts of hoaxes and pranks throughout time and if I start talking about them, we’ll be here all day. Instead, I limited myself to four of the more notorious literary fibs from this century.

James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” hit the bookshelves with a bang in 2003. The sad memoir of a young substance abuser, this tale (and I use the word “tale” very specifically) was on the New York Times Best Seller’s list for almost four straight months. Only after The Smoking Gun published an article entitled “A Million Little Lies,” which pointed out the falsehoods in Frey’s recollections, did the “memoir” become “semi-ficitonal.” Great. One more category in book genres to keep up with. What next?

“Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin was published in 2007 and stayed on the NY Time’s nonfiction best seller’s list for a long time. Too bad this account of one man’s journey to make a difference in the lives of young children from Afghanistan and Pakistan was overshadowed by fictious accounts touted as true events and mismanagement of the charitable institution that sprang from the book. Was co-author Relin’s suicide last November because of all the controversy? Who knows? One thing for certain is Jon Krakauer’s rebuttal book, “Three Cups of Deceit,” did not help matters.

“Honor Lost,” an account of life in Jordan by Norma Khouri, debuted to sensational acclaims shortly after publication in 2003. While the story of two star-crossed lovers has played out through time immortal, this one was not true. In fact, it was a bald-faced lie. The relationship between a Muslim woman and a Catholic man is ficitonal but was sold as a true story by the author who was the supposed go-between for the lovers. The eventual “honor killing” of the girl by her enraged family is also false. Khouri admitted her deceit after she was caught in the lie. While these types of executions still happen in modern times, for Khouri to exploit this type of tradegy for profit was shameful.

Last, but not least, here’s one that was stopped at the gate before trotting into the Field of Books. “Angel at the Fence” by Herman Rosenblat was the “true” love story between an inmate in the Schlieben concentration camp and a Jewish girl pretending to be a Christian who saved his life by supplying  him with food thrown over a fence. They later met in the States on a blind date and, surprise, surprise, discovered their shared history (ehh, only a little bit true. The truth: they met on a blind date). Although Rosenblat was at Schlieben during the Holocaust, the account of a brave, selfless act by a young girl was fictitious as she was on a farm over two hundred miles away. Once the facts were discovered to be false, publication was cancelled in 2008.

“Secret to Immortality,” rare Japanese document I found in a bottle someone had tossed in the ocean. Bidding starts at $2.5 million. April Fool’s! For all I know, this is someone’s grocery list my dad picked up in Tokyo after the war.

I’m really glad I write fiction. As a teller of tall tales, I can get away with just about anything. Unless I’m a Cohen brother and the script’s name is “Fargo,” if I label something I write as the truth, I sure as shooting flying pigs better be able to back it up with facts. Unless, of course, it’s April Fool’s Day.

By the way, did I tell you I’m in the running for a Pulitzer?

Snort. April Fool’s 😉

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J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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March 29th is Festival of Smoke and Mirrors Day

Celebrate Festival of Smoke and Mirrors Day!

Grab a book from Second Wind Publishing

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A Spark of Heavenly Fire by Pat Bertram

The Red Death has quarantined the state of Colorado and the dead start to outnumber the living. Reporter Greg Pullman investigates and against the backdrop of chaos, he falls in love with Kate Cummings. Will he discover the source of the disease before it’s too late for the woman he loves?
Also by Pat Bertram: Daughter Am I , Grief: The Great Yearning , Light Bringer and More Deaths Than One

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The Magic Fault by Paul Mohrbacher

The theft of the Shroud of Turin turns the Catholic Church upside down. Only one clue is left and its obscurity baffles all: the relic will head off a disaster of epic proportion.

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False Positive by J J Dare

It all started when Joe Daniels’ wife is involved in a terrible automobile crash. Nothing is as it seems as Joe battles faceless enemies in an effort to discover the truth behind his wife’s “accident.”
Also from J J Dare: False World

http://www.secondwindpublishing.com

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Five Easy Body Pieces by J J Dare

“Dismembering the human body in five steps” is one of many terms I use when researching books I’m writing. One day I can see this getting me into trouble.

While “the amount of blood in a human body” won’t send up any red flags, I know I landed on some government entity’s radar when I tried to find out “location for black market cheap plutonium.” Yeps, these types of searches will have the Men in Suits knocking at my door.

To be fair, I go to Wikipedia for most information. It doesn’t have to be completely accurate; it only needs to be believable.  I’m not about to cross the line into the dark abyss of internet anarchists. I don’t want to be labeled as a threat to national security. And I don’t want to be responsible for the recipe for a homemade disaster.

Writing mysteries and thrillers, especially spy and terrorist thrillers, involves getting down in the trenches. A few of the places I’ve found information have been, in the words of one of my kids, “sketchy.” When I hit those dives in the dark corners of the Internet, I get my stuff then quickly and quietly run away.

While Dexter makes dismembering a human body look easy, that’s not actually the case. It can be done, quickly and efficiently, but a human body is not exactly like a chicken. I won’t go into detail; suffice to say, the three steps in the title refer to a chainsaw and a big old mess.

“Robbing Fort Knox” won’t win me any medals. Neither will “at what temperature do eyeballs freeze solid.” I doubt “fastest acting poison” and “lethal amount of absinthe” will get me in trouble, as long as no one around keels over.

My ISP probably wonders about me.

I know so many authors who write about the intimate details of military operations, coups and terrorist attacks. I have to wonder if they also look over their shoulders when they research material for their books.

How about you? When you look for answers on the Internet, does a small part of you keep waiting for the authorities to bang on your door as you type away?

When you read a book, do you ever wonder where the writer found his technical material? Ever wonder if the author might know some of this stuff firsthand? Scary 😉

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J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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