Tag Archives: safe harbor

Lazarus Barnhill’s Newsletter

            Years ago I had a friend who wrote an article once a month for his company’s newsletter.  And nobody read it.  Tony could write okay.  The problem was his regular piece was always full of nothing but “thank you’s” and “coming events”.  Anytime someone did something noteworthy, he recounted the deed with effusive praise.  Whenever future activities were planned, he would write about them extensively and encourage participation.  By his third newsletter, everyone was ignoring Tony’s articles.

            So as I write this blog entry, I do so with a certain amount of trepidation—because I want to say a big “thank you” to all the kind people who posted such wonderful comments as part of the “Lazarus Barnhill Tribute”.  I’d also like to thank my friends at Second Wind Publishing who promoted and carried this off without me knowing about it until it was at hand.  You’re all delightful and lovely people—in addition to be fine authors.  This is the first time I’ve ever experienced a tribute, and it’s a wonderful, heady experience.

            I must admit, however, there is a dark side to this of which most people aren’t aware.  In the service of full disclosure, I suppose I should be completely candid and say that, without telling our “blog guru” what I was doing, I snuck in and removed all the ugly, hostile comments some people left. . . .  Well, I suppose it’s the thought that counts.  Folks make their tributes in different ways.  As I’ve read and reread the questions and observations about me that I deleted, it dawned on me I should respond to them.  Yes, even warped internet flamers need love and attention from time to time.  So here are some of the less favorable comments and questions along with my personal responses:

            What was your mother thinking when she named her son Lazarus?  Was that lame name the same as your daddy’s?  KDB

            No, my father’s name is not Lazarus.  When Mom named me that she was more than a little cheesed at my father, who at the time of my birth was in the Navy sailing over to Korea to fight a war.  She wasn’t about to name me after him.  Laz is a name that’s appeared in various generations of my family for some time, always accompanied with the hope that the bearer will final achieve something worthwhile. . . .  Now that I think of it, KDB are my mom’s initials.

            You should stick either to romance or to crime/mystery.  Where’d you get the idea you could screw up two genres?  M. Douthit

            You should read more good books.  In fact, you need to visit the Second Wind site.  Many quality romances (like Safe Harbor, Badeaux Knights, Fate and Destiny and A Love Out of Time) have strong elements of mystery and crime in them.  And some outstanding crime books (like Carpet Ride and my own The Medicine People) are full of romantic elements.  It would difficult to find a more heartbreaking romance—with a hopeful ending—than the thriller False Positive.  Murder in Winnebago County actually has a love triangle in it so compelling that Chris Husom’s readers demanded she resolve it in her upcoming sequel Buried in Wolf Lake.  Even though she would deny it, Pat Bertram’s books, especially A Spark of Heavenly Fire, are loaded with complex romances.  It’s a great privilege for me to be published by Second Wind, where authors are not confined to a single genre—which is really just an acknowledgement that a good book may have love, death, laughter, adventure, crime and even the supernatural in it.

            You make fun of police officers in The Medicine People.  You should be ashamed of yourself!  Edna S.

            My uncle and great-uncle were policemen in the little country town where I grew up, Edna.  They used to follow me around to make sure I wasn’t getting into trouble (or giving them a bad name) and when I got my driver’s license they’d find an excuse to stop me once every week or two.  I’m just getting even with them.  Anyway, the hero of the book is a clever cop and he’s surrounded by smart, ethical policemen who are trying to do what’s right.  I happen to think The Medicine People is actually pretty realistic in its depiction of police.

            Your hero in Lacey Took a Holiday is a kidnapper.  He gives me the creeps.  And the girl who’s the main character is a hooker.  She’s not much better.  Nobody wants to read about people like that.  P.P.

            Don’t I remember you from the romance writing contest?  You really ought to do something about your initials.  Anyway, get the book and the read the whole story.  They both start out as “damaged goods” through no fault of their own (he is an embittered WWI vet whose wife and child died in childbirth; she ran away from home as a teenager after being sexually assaulted and then being blamed for it).  Lacey Took a Holiday is not so different from a lot of modern romances in that the main characters have had prior relationships and endured great pain.  I’ll admit the story is a little gritty and realistic.  Second Wind is thinking about moving it over and making it a mainstream title.

            I understand you removed some of the steamier love scenes of your first two books to make them more acceptable to your readers.  Soon you’ll have another novel, East Light, coming out.  Have you made certain the sexual content is acceptable?  KDB

            Dang it, Mom!  Quit posting on the blog.

            Anyway, thanks for all the good comments.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate them.  And now for some upcoming events . . .  —Laz Barnhill

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It’s the holidays and all I want to do is Write!

My muse has a very strange sense of timing. I’m trying to finish edits on a completed manuscript. There is the piece I started for NaNoWritMo tugging at me to work on it and WHAM out of left field the opening I’ve been searching for on another work-in-progress comes out of left field and wants to be written RIGHT NOW!

Okay, well let’s see. Christmas Eve is upon us. My house will be full of guests. And you want me to write? Now? Blank stare.  Where in the devil were you in November when my Nano stalled because I was sick. There was no inspiration or muse around then. Why is it these wonderful, exciting dances with inspiration always hit when I’m too busy to make it to the keyboard.  In this case, I’m going to have my two year old granddaughter. Ever try to write with a two year old about? Oh yeah, great gobs of fun. “Sweetheart, what are you doing?”  ”Nothing.”  Right.

So tomorrow, I will be chasing a pixie princess. There are party trays to make and baking to finish. And the entire time a story will be spinning in my head with no where to go. All I can say is, at least I won’t be bored. 

How do you handle ill timed inspiration?

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Prime People Watching

The official Christmas shopping season opens on Friday. Hordes of merry makers hopped up on turkey and cranberries will flock, at ungodly hours, to retail stores. They are looking to be the first of 200 customers to get that TV for $200.00, or the complete Harry Potter set for $20.00.

This is human kind in its bases form. Herd mentality reigns.

You couldn’t pay me enough to be at the doors of Target at 2 am, unless it was for Garth Brooks tickets. Since that’s a no go, I’ll be at home.  Later in the day I’ll slip off to the mall. Shopping isn’t what I’m after. Being the dislikable kind, I’m done shopping and most of it is wrapped and ready to go under the tree. pluu

No, shopping isn’t the goal. People watching is. The mall is rife with emotion of all sorts. The bawling toddlers, because their parents think they can bend a two year old to their will. Poor dears.

The blackberry moms. Every hair in place, perfectly put together from their designer glasses to the tips of their torturous, pointy toed boots. They are on a singular mission. Fill their list with the fewest wasted steps. Their shopping experience was carefully mapped out with the sales fliers from the previous weekend.

The men. Poor dears. Disheveled, wrinkled and completely confused as to why they woke up in the food court.  One can see them huddled together for warmth and comfort as they wait for their MIA wives and children. Others can be seen numbly following their spouse, dazed and confused occasionally reaching out to coral a wayward child. Depending on the time of day, one might observe glares and audible groans. “Are you through yet?” will soon echo through the hallowed Christmas corridors that yesterday were the mall.

Some of the men have come of their own accord, well sort of. They are on a mission for the present which will make up for the one they got last year. No one told them snow tires weren’t an acceptable Christmas gift. You’ll spot the smart ones in the jewelry stores. They are easy to make out, just look for the sticker shocked, mortified expression as they try to pin a smile to their lips so they don’t look cheap.

While the toddlers do their best to impart the fact that they need to be fed and given a nap, the pre K and Elementary crowd, who obviously got into the whipping cream and candy canes, squeal, screech and run the gauntlet of adults. They cast devilish glances over their shoulders daring their adults to catch them. The thrill of victory and the anguished cries of defeat echo to every corner. 

Herds of Tweens and Teens abound. The Tweens are exuberant, filled with the thrill of shopping without a parent.  They gesture to one another with no thought about how they appear to others. The more seasoned Teen crowd move by with looks of distain as they text message scathing words to the other members of their herd. No need to speak when you can text. 

For the female teens this is the time to see and be seen. They’ve done their shopping online. It’s beneath them to haul heavy bags in full view of the male gender.
Male teens are pretending to shop with the money their mother’s gave them. They completely ignore the grave warnings of maiming and slow death should they fail their mission. Their objective is to site see. If you need to be told what they are looking at, besides the newest gaming system, I’ll leave you in the dark. 

The smug persons seated near the espresso stand are the writers. Sociologists if you will. They sip at their coffee or high end tea occasionally tapping the keys of their notebooks with a knowing look. Field work at its best. The realm of human emotion and relationships laid bare for those who know to look for it. Nirvana 

So where on the scale are you?
Do you go to observe and get sucked into the vortex of herd mentality? “Oh look at that price!” 
Are you a post Thanksgiving Commando? There are deals to be had, and I will get bragging rights!
What’s your favorite people watching scenario? The beach, park, parties?
I look forward to your answers.

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The Critique

I always find critiques interesting.

When the reader and author don’t know each other it can be taken as snarky or insincere.

When the reader knows the author, well that can get down right interesting.

You can hurt a strangers feelings and not feel too bad, but someone you know?

This is where the rubber meets the road. I picked people I knew would suck it up and tell me ‘It’s trash’ to read my early work. And they did too. I found knowing them a help. These people had a vested interest in me and they risked upsetting me. THANK YOU..this is how we grow as writers.

I’m not above injury, however when I put something out there for critique that’s what I want. How horrifying it would be to query crap and never get called on it.  Friends tell friends when it’s bad. Are you a friend or an acquaintance?

I always wonder at the would-be-contestants for American Idol. It is obvious even to me some of these people can’t sing. Doesn’t anyone care enough to tell them? “Darling I love you. You will only embarrass yourself.” Dang.

Throwing flowery words around is good for the ego, but little else.

Is it too wordy? Too lean? Confusing? Or can’t string a good sentence together bad?

If an author isn’t ready to hear the answers, they aren’t ready for the world to see their work.

I don’t want anyone blowing sunshine up my skirt.

How do you feel about it?

What’s really going through your head as you read articles looking for a scrap of good to say?

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If you have to explain it isn’t working.

I’m in the front row these days, having recently been published here on Second Wind with debut novel Safe Harbor.

This far from gets me off the target of critique. If anything it rather makes my work a bull’s eye. I’ve gotten my share of comments, complaints and suggestions. I decided very early to consider each of them carefully and do my best not to get defensive.  Getting defensive only serves to put off readers.

Listening and carefully filtering what other people have to say has made me a better writer.

I note some aspiring authors want to argue with readers, instead of asking why it’s confusing, not well executed. 

When an aspiring author posts parts of their writing to a social board or blog, they should expect readers to express their opinion. They are giving their time to your unpublished work, and as such should be treated with respect. Telling the reader they are wrong, or that it is explained in the next chapter isn’t respectful. 

When you go into a bookstore is the author of every book standing next to their displays? No, and you won’t be either.

If you don’t catch a reader in the first paragraph, it doesn’t matter how brilliant the rest of the book is. They will put it back on the shelf and move on until one does capture their attention.

Should you listen to every criticism? Of course not, you’d go crazy trying to make everyone happy..it can’t be done.  When the same comment is repeatedly being made, give it consideration.  Could that many readers have simply misunderstood your intent? Or as an author did you fail to convey it properly?

Social sites and contests are a great place to learn. Take advantage of the reader’s observations, and learn from them. Writing is a solitary occupation. Sharing your work is not.

Sherilyn Winrose

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Setting the Scene

I find when I’m writing it is like a movie playing in my head and I tend to get wrapped up in the action, dialog and characters, forgetting to paint the scene. So I find myself going back to add visuals later. Often times more than once. Doing sweeps for clothes, decor and so on.

What are my character’s wearing? Do I have the correct styles, fabrics for the period? Do I know the names of the fabrics, styles I’m using? Sometimes I don’t and have to looking for them or have long chunky sentences.

The Costume Gallery

The Fabric Store

Whether it’s a Regency or a Contemporary setting knowing what you are talking about takes a bit of research. 

What a character wears says as much about her as the way she interacts with other characters. Clothes can give subtle hints to things yet to be revealed, or negate the need to explain she’s modest or eccentric or at the top of fashion.

Where do our character’s live? An Arts and Crafts/Californian bungalow or a  Victorian style house. Do you know the different Victorian architecture styles?  As the author it’s your job to be precise in your settings.

Queen Anne is a specific Victorian type not a generic term for the era.  Queen Ann is my personal favorite.

Dave’s Victorian Houses

Are your characters Frank Lloyd Wright, free from clutter, streamlined? Or are they stuck in the eighties with dripping oil lamps and enormous water bed furniture? Or somewhere in between with Gustov Stickley’s clean lines which lend themselves to a homey feeling consistent with the Arts and Craft movement?

FM4 Furniture Styles

Clem Lambine’s Period Homes

As I see it; there should be nothing in a novel which doesn’t serve the purpose of the story. Whether it’s a chintz tea set, Mission style furniture, the color of the walls, carpet or lack there of.

While they might seem inconsequential, what you dress your story with adds layers to characters and the mood of the story. Can you imagine Dracula living in a 70’s split-level? How about Queen Victoria in a sod house?

Knowing what you are talking about can make the descriptive short and unobtrusive. Unless you are in Queen Elizabeth I court it shouldn’t take paragraphs or a page to set the scene or describe a gown.

When I find that I’ve done just that, a lot of it hits the cutting room floor in edits.

So does window dressing happen as you write your first draft?

Do you write in layers, going back to add color to the script?

Is any of the background conscience thought or does it just happen/dictated by the characters themselves?

Do you use back drops and accents as a means to propel the story, or just as fill?

Sherilyn Winrose, author of Safe Harbor published by Second Wind.

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