Tag Archives: writers

Witty Writer Book Buttons

I discovered early on that a really good way to learn about becoming a mystery writer was to attend writers’ conferences and conventions. Not only did I learn a lot, but I made lots of friends and had the opportunity to meet my favorite authors as I scampered between classes and also sessions where authors talked about their careers and experiences, and I saw awards being presented and interviews and speeches being made and then there was—shopping! Shopping? What’s shopping got to do with anything? Well, let me tell you.

Conventions always have a book store so fans can purchase the books authors talk about during the event and I did plenty of that. But not all book stores only sell books. One of my favorites sells puzzles, jewelry, clothing (including T-shirts), even tea pots and book buttons!

I have a small collection of clever book buttons mounted on ribbons that hang from a shelf in my office, just to the right of my work space. Whenever I pause to think or rest, I can’t help seeing those buttons. They make me smile, bring me back to where they were purchased, remind me of those writers who have fulfilled my life with their stories and friendships. But I digress.

Topics of book buttons are as varied as the authors who create them. Some are about writing itself, while others have to do with a furry pet assistant, or perhaps the problem of owning too many books, or they may be quotes by famous people.

The following fit that category:

“But for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.” —Jane Austen

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” —C.S. Lewis

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”   —Jorge Luis Borges

“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”  — W. Somerset Maugham

Since I write in the mystery field, cats are common in that genre.

To a cat, “No!” means “not while I’m looking.”

Cat hair is the new black.

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Or catchy phrases:

Books: the original search engine.

Lit Happens!

Grammar Police: To correct and serve

Grammar Ninja

Warning! Anything you say can and may be used as dialogue in my next book.

The book was better.

Don’t judge a book by its movie.

First drafts don’t have to be perfect. They just have to be written.

Writer’s block: when your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.

Some of my best friends are fictional.

My weekend is all booked.

If you walk a mile in my shoes you’ll end up at a bookstore.

Some more of my favorite book buttons below. Do you have favorites, too?

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Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Obsession

I see comments on a regular basis about people who do not understand writers. In case you did not know, the average Joe, and often even our family members, tend to think we writers are a strange lot. We choose to sit alone in quiet rooms and “work” on our stories. Why? When we could actually be out “doing something fun”: going to parties, eating at restaurants, being thrilled by movies, or even watching TV.

My wife, for instance, does not understand how I can get lost in another world. Have “imaginary” friends whose problems worry me so. How I can get so upset or depressed over what one of these “friends” is feeling. How I can sit at the computer on and on, day after day.
The answer for me is simple. Being a writer is a driving motivating force in my life. I do not need to go on a vacation, sit beside a hotel pool or even the ocean. Currently, I spend much of my time on a space transport visiting other worlds with friends.

Some of the places we go are beautiful, composites of all the best places I have seen. These places live and breathe. Soft leaves crunch under my feet. Canopies of forests shade me. I never get tired. I can walk up mountains and never get winded. Run for miles. Swim across rivers. Some of these places are populated with kind and giving people…

Some places are pure hell…populated with the vilest, most evil people, you—or I can—imagine.
And we get to decide how it all works.

Therefore, I say never feel awkward for dancing to a different beat. Most people are not capable of hearing a beat. Dare to do things other people cannot imagine. Create your friends, your exciting, dangerous worlds. Have fun. And most of all, revel in your craft.

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The Passage of Time and Little Details by L.V. Gaudet

Just as in life, little things in your story would change with the passage of time.  It’s not a necessity, of course, but those little changes can bring a sub-layer of change to the reader’s unconscious mind.  And if they do pick up on it, it’s a nice touch in adding depth to the story.

 

They said goodbye in the spring.  She ran her fingers through his hair that was cut short just the week before, the hair tips following the curve of the top of the ears they were just shy of touching.  If it were any shorter, it would be called a brush cut.

She frowned inwardly at that.  She had always disliked brush cuts.  They reminded her of the father she had lost the day he enlisted in the army when she was only six.  He died years later, coming back for brief moments between tours of duty.  But something had changed in him.  When he came home for good, he never came home all the way.  Something of him was left behind in the war-ravaged wasteland that was left behind when so-called peace came and sent the soldiers home.  He killed himself ten years ago on her twentieth birthday.

 Now, years later, as she said goodbye to her own six-year-old son in the spring, it felt like a piece of her had been torn out.  She had watched him walk away, holding his father’s hand, her estranged husband, with his freshly cut short hair, she swore she would never let her son join the army like her father had.

 Her husband had joined the army too.  That’s why she left him.  She could not bear to live that again, to have her son live it like she did growing up.

 Summer is over now and fall is coming.  Her son’s summer with his father is over and school starts in a few days.

 She turned at the unmistakable racket of the approaching train, watching anxiously down the tracks.  Butterflies flitted in her stomach.  She told herself it was at seeing her son, but the reality is was over seeing them both.

 The train pulled into the station and she waited the interminable wait of one waiting for their loved ones to arrive in the designated arrival area.

 She held her breath and forced herself not to run to him, to tear him away from his father’s hand and squeeze him tight.

 There he was.  It felt like her heart would leap right out her throat.  Her throat constricted and her eyes burned.  Where is he?  Her son was alone.  How could he send him alone?  He’s only six!  But then her son turned, and he came through the crowd.  Her heart leapt and sank at once.  He was dressed in uniform.

 Her son ran to her, face cracked into the biggest smile she had seen since she said goodbye to him in the spring.  She got down on one knee, opening her arms to him, and he ran to her, throwing himself into her embrace and wrapping his arms tightly around her neck.  She ran her fingers through his hair, the tips of his hair reaching just past the top of his ears.

 “Mommy,” he sighed into her shoulder, “your nails got longer.”

 She looked up at a sense of a presence close by.  Her estranged husband stood over her looking down.

 “You look thinner,” he said. From his expression, she wasn’t sure if it was an attempt at a compliment or sarcasm.  He was still bitter at her for leaving.

 “You were supposed to bring him back last week,” she said, narrowing her eyes at him.

 

If you picked up on it, the above starts with a reference to the boy’s recent haircut and his hair being trimmed above the ears.  When he sees him again, the boy’s comment on her nails is a distraction to the reference to his hair now being just below the tops of his ears.  The ex-husband’s comment on her weight could go in any one of many directions.  It could be used as a reference to a longer space of time since she left him.  It could be a hint into his character, or her own wasting away at the end of her marriage.  It could even mean she’s become more healthy and fit since leaving him, at a healthier weight than before.

 

Even if the character doesn’t noticeably change, and neither does his or her immediate surroundings, some things can’t help but change with the years. Some things grow (plant life); other things inevitably deteriorate with age. Things become modernized as they have to be replaced. After all, that fridge in the kitchen will not last fifty years seemingly untouched by time.

 

images (4)It might be an old ice box from before the age of refrigerators, then be replaced with an early style fridge, eventually becoming more modernized as each one has to be replaced. (Just as an example, assuming the character even has one.)  Or it might be a fridge at a place the character frequents, even if that frequency is once every decade.

 

A change like that the character is certain to notice. Similarly, horses and wagons eventually become replaced by increasingly modernized cars.  Everything has a finite lifespan, whether it is a fruit fly or something that lasts for eons. A small sapling tree will grow and grow, becoming a massive tree and eventually dying.  A stone wall will weaken and crumble over time.  Look around you; everything is touched in some way by the passing of time.  Pick things that can be described well by you and easily be identified by the reader.

 

It is little details that make a story.  The odd little things that might catch one persons eye while no one else in the room even noticed.  Throw them in at the oddest of moments.  A moment so divine, that it is almost out of place – almost.

A moment of utter seriousness, where  picking out that one ridiculous detail only serves to bring home to the reader the gravity of just how serious it is.

That one out of place almost unnoticeable thing in a time of grief, to show how strangely the mind might work in a moment of stress and confusion masked by forced peace and quiet, to reinforce on the reader the many levels of the story and its characters.

 

Amidst the crowd of mourners packed into the room like cattle in a cattle car on the way to be rendered, Annie alone noticed the little loose thread sticking out mournfully from the fabric of the seat where Mrs. Peckham sat.  Annie stared at that thread, mesmerized, unable to look away.

 A stray thought teased at her mind.  With all these people staring at Mrs. Peckham, watching her sit there lost in her private world of grief, weeping for her child so tragically torn from her breast by the drunk driver, what does that thread mean?  Is the chair unraveling in sympathy to the shattered lives of all the mourners who’ve sat there day after day?

 She looked around, wondering if anyone else saw the thread and what thoughts it provoked in their minds.

 

No matter how farfetched and deep within the realm of the unbelievable a story may lay, it’s the little details that suggest it might just be possible.  It’s the ability to sell the story as a “what if”, the idea that just maybe this *could* be real if our world were shaped a little differently … that is what makes a good story.

 

L. V. where the bodies areGaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

Watch for book 2 of the McAllister series coming soon at Second Wind Publishing, LLC:  The McAllister Farm.  The secret behind the bodies is revealed.

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Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

https://angiesdiary.com/bookoftheweek-web/081-botwoct262014.html

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

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Follow the Red Painted Lines

There is a red line running down the center of Trade Street in Winston Salem, NC. It’s thick and bright—like a fire engine, shocking on the old sidewalks. Taken aback, you wonder, how long has this red line been here? Where have I been not to notice this?  You might even say to yourself I wonder where this goes?

And dare yourself to follow.

Who would not want to follow a challenging red line? Artist or no, it’s hard to resist. And if you do follow, you won’t be disappointed.

Whether you choose (as my former college roommates and I did) to sing “follow the red painted lines” (to the tune of “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”) or not is entirely up to you, but as we rounded the corner and stumbled upon the city’s most recent park, we were pleasantly surprised and a little awed at what we found.

The red lines did in fact lead to the ARTivity Park, which I recalled having read about a few months prior, but seeing it completed did speak to the artist in me. The red lines were raised in places making the park both interactive and inviting. In fact, as we explored we even discovered sidewalk chalk, which we proceeded to make good use of in our foray. We may be 30, but we’re not too old to let our artist children out to play. Unfortunately, we were never misted. Though on a hot day like Saturday, it would have been nice for the fountain feature to have been utilized a bit more frequently, the shaded Artist hub was certainly a delight and I found myself wishing I’d brought a notebook or sketchpad.

As we walked away, following the red lines that held such mystery before, I watched people hurry about their business. Some people noticed the lines and commented, but didn’t follow. Some people ignored the lines—I refuse to believe they didn’t see them. They’re impossible to miss. These people just chose to ignore what was right before them. A select, a very select few, followed. And those who did found themselves in this park, a delightful escape from the business of everyday and a step into something…new.

The past few months for me have been a roller coaster of decisions, more so than the typical, every day type. More like life changing decisions where you have to decide to follow a red line or not. And it occurred to me that following the red line—well, it’s a lot like taking a leap of faith. You don’t know where that red line is going to lead you. After all, it’s red. Warning. Caution. Very few good things are associated with the color red. And yet, if you don’t take that leap, you just ignore those red lines, you can miss out on something amazing that right there in front of your face—something there for the taking. And red, after all, can be passionate, loving, and fire-y too.

And so, you dare yourself to follow.

Because that’s the only way to lead yourself to something new.


Ashley Carmichael is the author of Valerie’s Vow a Christian Romance which can be purchased at www.secondwind.com or Amazon. Follow Ashley on twitter @amcarmichael13 and Facebook.

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How Not to Get Noticed by Other Writers, Agents, Other Publishing Types, and Book Junkies

noticemeThis is my own personal 10 steps on how NOT to get noticed by other writers, agents, various other publishing types, and assorted book junkies.  These tips, of course, are in no particular order.  Failure to follow any one or more might risk exposing yourself to being (gulp) noticed.

Step 1 – Don’t be funny.  Seriously, humor brings smiles, which then bring good feelings.  Humor, smiles, and warm fuzzy feelings breed a sense of familiarity.  If someone in any way feels that familiarity towards you, you feel like a friend to them and you have been noticed.

Step 2 – Don’t follow blogs and other websites.  You never know when the author might peek to see who is following.

Step 3 – Don’t use a memorable picture.  We don’t all like the idea of pasting pictures of ourselves online for the whole world to see.  Sometimes we’d prefer a photo of something else, like your cat or an apple, or better yet that generic silhouette default picture a few billion other users are using.  Best to stick with the generic silhouette, everybody is sick to death of looking at the Grumpy Cat and all those other over-used images.  If you use a memorable picture of something interesting, you risk being noticed.  Worse, use a good picture of yourself and you might be recognized across more than one social media site.  Then you would feel like a real person to others instead one of the multitude of online semi-anonymous acquaintances.

Step 4 – Don’t bop around blogs leaving comments.  Sometimes those comments actually get read.  You never know when someone might decide to follow the link back to your own blog, and then, you got it, chances are you’ve been noticed, and maybe even a few more followers.

Step 5 – Don’t blog regularly about writing, being a writer, your hobbies and passions, family, cooking recipes, or the thousands on thousands of other things people blog on.  A regular blog gets followers.

Step 6 – Multi social media.  This is a definite ‘no’.  Sharing and posting your own blog posts, links to others’ blog posts and book reviews and reviews on their books, and general sharing across multiple social media sites is a recipe for disaster if you want to stay entirely anonymous.

Step 7 – Don’t follow other writers and publishing world peeps in sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, et al with wild abandon.  They have a tendency to follow back and even re-tweet/repost your posts to their own followers if you do the same for them.  That will only build your online presence, instead of keeping you in that obscurity it is so easy to hide behind.

Step 9 – Be selfish.  Don’t do favors for others without the expectation of a return on your investment of time.  Hosting other authors in the forms of interviews, guest blogs, and posting links to reviews on their books or reviewing their books for nothing more than the exchange of a free copy of their book, these are all recipes for disaster when you want no one to notice you.  Not only will those people share your posts with their own followers, they might even be grateful, appreciate your kindness, and even return the favor some time.

Step 10 – This one is maybe the most important.  Don’t keep writing and writing and writing. The more you write, stories, blogs, and anything else you publish for free download or for sale, the more likely it is that you will develop a fan base.

Now let’s get serious about why you really read this article.

When you feel rejected, dejected, and let down that no one seems to be noticing you … stop it.  This isn’t high school; it only feels like it is.  Everyone out there is trying so hard to get you and everyone else to notice them, that they might not even see you.  Yes Virginia, it is a popularity contest, and the winners are the ones with publishing contracts and large book sale counts.

We all want the same thing, to be writers; and not just that, but to be published writers and have someone love our books.  In order for that to happen, you have to be noticed.  People have to find your book and actually buy it, read it, and rave to their friends about it.  The hard part is getting your book noticed in the sea of books out there.

Don’t let yourself feel down about that when it doesn’t happen.  Even some of the most popular authors struggled in the beginning to be discovered by their fans.  We are all struggling for the same thing, so you are not alone.  Getting discovered has as much to do with luck and it does putting yourself out there and working hard.

And, as a final word, don’t assume that breaking any or all of the rules above will get you noticed.  Sometimes you just have to be at the right place at the right time, and sometimes you have to do something very noticeable to get noticed.  The World Wide Web is a vast dark and dusty weaving of emptiness filled with the intangible beyond your computer screen.  Sometimes, you just can’t get noticed sitting in a room by yourself no matter how hard you wave your arms.   And other times, you might hit on that one magic stroke of luck and you are made.

 

 

L. V. where the bodies areGaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

Watch for book 2 of the McAllister series coming soon at Second Wind Publishing, LLC:  The McAllister Farm.  The secret behind the bodies is revealed.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00015]

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00015]

Other links to purchase L.V. Gaudet’s books

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

https://angiesdiary.com/bookoftheweek-web/081-botwoct262014.html

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

Facebook author page

Google+

Instagram

Pinterest

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Have We Completely Run Out Of Ideas?

I was watching television the other night and saw something so incredibly bad that it drove me to wonder how it came to be before me in the first place.  How was this horrific concept presented and who listened to this half-thought out lunacy and thought, “Hmm.  Its better than anything I’ve heard recently.  Let’s pump a few million into it.”  What were they listening to, I wonder?

I remember Bewitched. A fun sitcom about a mixed marriage between a witch and a mortal. I liked how Darren used his position as an ad exec to explain the weird goings on in the Stevens household. He and his boss would pop in and find a unicorn in his living room and Darren would, after a few exaggerated facial expressions, smile and introduce his boss to the new image for a car they’re representing.

“How about the Unicorn, Larry? Legendary gas mileage. Pretty great, eh?”

It wasn’t. Now every time I see a commercial or concept so inexplicably bad that I’m driven to wonder how such an atrocity ever made it to public airing, I call it a Darren Stevens. Something truly bizarre must have happened to allow this to seem like a good idea. Witchcraft, maybe. That would almost explain such concepts as casting Pierce Brosnan in a musical.

Movies, you see, have often crossed the line. I was appalled by last years’ release depicting Abraham Lincoln as a super hero vampire killer. I’ve written some pretty good stories but still had to fight my way through the thousands of other good stories to try to get a publisher’s attention. This is because there are good writers with new thoughts to be expressed in abundance. So what enormous bet must someone have lost to allow this laughable excuse for a storyline to find its way to the screen? Is this any way to pay homage to one of the greatest figures in American History? Is this a direction we in the creative or entertainment world want to take?

My fear is that this may spark a trend of salvaging truly bad scripts or manuscripts by recasting the lead as a pre-accepted historical figure. The public already likes them so the hack story has a foot in the viewing or reading audience’s door despite the total lack of credibility, creativity or talent.

But perhaps I’m being overly cynical. Perhaps this is why so many creative works never see the light of day.  We may simply be trying too hard.  This substitute for talent and hard work may in fact be a new and viable form of creativity. Perhaps exploiting the memory of historical heroes for a cheap buck is a good thing. Think of the endless possibilities.

Young George Washington tells his father, “I cannot tell a lie, Father. I chopped down your cherry tree… when my space ship crash landed on your planet.”  Washington – ET Patriot!

“I have a dream… of driving all the demons out of the White House!”                                                                                                                                                                Martin Luther King – Presidential Exorcist

“Old Soldiers never die… Until I chop their zombie heads off with my magic sabre”                                                                                                                                       General Douglas MacArthur versus the Army of the Undead!

 The possibilities are endless. And America doesn’t hold the patent on greed, bad taste and sensationalism. Britain has every right to jump onto the bandwagon.

This is England’s finest hour…  I know because I went back in time to diffuse Hitler’s bomb and change the course of history!”                                                Churchill- Time Minister.

Hey. That’s good. I’m calling Paramount right now!

You can find more about Donovan Galway at the Second Wind Publishing website http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/#!donovan-galway/c1ap8 and the usual places. Amazon, Google, or by liking Donovan on Facebook.

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Arc of Truth

Jay DuretBy Jay Duret

 

I am a liar.

I write fiction, that’s the job description.

I am fine with the undeniable fact that I will go to my grave as a liar, but I have noticed that some of my colleagues squirm under the label. They don’t want to lie for a living; they get queasy when describing what they write as “fiction”, the very word a declaration of mendaciousness. They believe, as I do, that lying can be a way to truth, sometimes the only way. But they want that idea to be more than just a line in a graduate student’s paper or an aphorism attributed to Hemingway. (“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” “You have the sheet of blank paper, the pencil, and the obligation to invent truer than things can be true.”)

Because we live in an age where each of us can create our own narrative, some writers have cast off from the fiction pier and are floating into waters closer to the shore that has been called, forever, by the bad name “non-fiction”. The problem is, despite its bad label, non-fiction is a real thing. There is an underlying school of craft – we call it journalism – that has rules and boundaries. A fiction writer can’t simply declare that he or she has landed on the shores of non-fiction and proceed to take up shop there; doing that would subject the writer to the rules and regulations governing the craft of non-fiction, a weighty commitment, particularly for those who love fiction precisely for the freedom it offers from overbearing regulation.

But that doesn’t end the matter. For those floating in the waters between fiction and non-fiction, new possibilities are arising, and I do not mean Creative Non Fiction. CNF, according to Lee Gutkind editor of the magazine Creative Non-Fiction, is subject to the same rules of reporting that govern journalism. The “creative” in CNF does not mean creating facts; it means telling the story with some of the tools of fiction – pacing, suspense, flashbacks, etc. A good piece of CNF is no less required to be grounded in actuality than a piece of straight up reporting. As Gutkind puts it:

“Creative” doesn’t mean … that the writer has a license to lie. The cardinal rule is clear—and cannot be violated. This is the pledge the writer makes to the reader—the maxim we live by, the anchor of creative nonfiction: “You can’t make this stuff up!”

When writers ignore Gutkind’s maxim, disaster can follow. Truth in labeling is the way of American commerce, why should it be different in writing than in, say, soup packaging? I like this quote about the writer of A Million Little Pieces, an Oprah Book Club Selection that became a best seller before The Smoking Gun outed the book’s many fabrications:

James Frey wants us to believe that he is a tough but sensitive bad-boy writer with a drug problem. The truth is, he’s a sensitive but boyish bad writer with a truth problem[1].

No, calling fiction CNF will not solve the writer’s dilemma. Fortunately in this, as in so many things, writers can borrow from another art form: movies. With the bigger budgets and the legions of people involved in making a movie – they have producers, best boys, gaffers! They have lawyers on the creative team! – no wonder motion pictures have fished these waters better than solitary writers tapping their keyboards in lonely scows and leaky rowboats. The movie industry has created a finely gauged explanation of the territory between fiction and non-fiction and that can serve as an excellent guide for writers.

The foundation of movies – perhaps other than documentaries – is to have  extremely good looking actors and actresses pleasingly stand in for the sad sacks whose stories are being related (All the President’s Men – I mean, really, Robert Redford is a beat reporter?). Given that foundation, it is hard to say that any movie is actually “true” – but a movie will frequently self identify as A True Story. That’s a wonderful phrase and frankly might be just the perfect oxymoron to serve any writer in need of a forgiving description of their work. Yet if the body of CNF proves anything, it is that non-fiction can be told as a story and therefore A True Story may not be quite as oxymoronic as one might have supposed. No, further nuance is needed.

Based on a True Story – here is a category that gives a writer some freedom! Nothing in it says that lying is involved – the writer is telling truth! – it is just that the truth the writer is telling is devolved from an underlying truth;  it is an expression of that truth, just not exactly the literal truth that might be found in the Palace of Truth and Justice. True, but not true in the pedestrian sense a member of the public might have otherwise expected. Understood properly, BTS is a branch of metaphysics.

So much of fiction is BTS that the category – by itself – solves the problem for most writers. But for writers that paddle even further from the banks of non-fiction, the movie industry offers an even more flexible concept: Inspired by a True Story. This one is a winner. Short of flat out fantasy, what fiction doesn’t fall under the category of ITS? And how could any reader complain if that little bit of disclosure were to be appended to the description of a book marketed as fiction? How could the writer be called out? As far as I can see, the best approach for one bent on attacking the description would be to say that a dreary work was not inspired. That would seem easier to prove in a court of law or public opinion than the proposition that somewhere – anywhere – there wasn’t some true story that the writer’s tale sprang from. Yes, Inspired By A True Story does the job: it will lend almost any piece of fiction a fine patina of truthfulness.

As good as ITS is, it doesn’t quite work for me. I write many stories that are all or mostly dialogue. I have come to believe – for better or worse – that you can tell the reader all they need to know about the characters by what they say and they way they say it. Many of my stories have come to me by eavesdropping – one of those things, like lying, that are essential parts of a fiction writer’s trade. Often I will hear a conversation and later on, after I have played it through in my head a dozen times, I will put it down on paper and find that I have a story that – at least to my own taste – is of interest.

Yet this is where I run into trouble. An editor will read my piece and ask if I am submitting the story as Fiction or Non Fiction or CNF. (Indeed, Submittable usually requires a commitment to one of those categories right from the start.) I could cover myself with a judicious use of the key phrase Inspired By A True Story but that disclosure – broad as it may be – needs some adaptation to apply to my type of writing. For when you start with an eavesdropped conversation, you never know whether the event that is being discussed is actually true or not. You may have happened upon two bullshitters – whose conversation you may be reporting truthfully – but there is no true story beneath it. I needed a way to capture that nuance.

At first I tried to explain it – but many of my editors did not possess the forgiving span of attention that the nuance inherent in this thing requires. And then I had an inspiration. Why not handle it with a picture, a diagram, an illustration? That would save me explaining the details to editors too busy  to focus. And that is how I came to memorialize the Arc of Truth.

I am not much of an illustrator but I like the way the arrow on the dial moves between black and white with shades of grey in between. Not fifty of them, alas, but enough for these purposes:

Arc of Truth3

 

***

Jay Duret is a San Francisco based writer who blogs at www.jayduret.com. His first novel, Nine Digits, will be published by Second Wind Publishing this year. Visit the website: www.ninedigits.com. Jay welcomes feedback at jayduret@yahoo.com. Read his prior posts on the Second Wind blog:

Nom De Plume

Nom De Plume

Bridalplasty

Bridalplasty

Queen For A Day

Queen For A Day

Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://listverse.com/2010/03/06/top-10-infamous-fake-memoirs (retrieved July 23, 2014).

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Filed under books, fiction, Humor, Mike Simpson, writing

Writers Write by Christine Husom

Writers write for many reasons. For some it is personal therapy, laying their thoughts and feelings down to sort through and analyze. Some like maintaining a diary of activities, a record to later refer to. Others keep a log when they travel to record details they may otherwise forget. There are technical writers who spell out detailed information in various manuals. There are textbook, non-fiction, screen play, musical lyrics, advertising, and greeting card writers. Written words are everywhere.

People may write solely for personal reasons, having no intention of ever getting published. For others, that is their main reason; getting published so others will read what they wrote. Whether it’s a poem or a play or a book of fiction, they want to share their written words. The audience may be small and specific or worldwide and astronomical. Again, there are a myriad of reasons. If it’s an expose on a botched murder investigation, the writer may be seeking justice. A biography may be written to tell the world what a great person, or total jerk, the subject was. The writer may feel compelled to share a philosophy or to simply entertain. He or she may want to tell of a personal journey to offer hope to others who are faced with a similar circumstance.

Many years ago I read formula romance novels purely for entertainment. My children were young and when they went to bed, instead of settling in front of the television, I read. I digested about five books each week for a couple of years. Along the way I told myself, “I can write a romance novel. I have the formula memorized and can come up with a decent story.” So I wrote two romance novels. I made a weak attempt at publication, but life was busy with my husband, four kids, career, and volunteer work, so I let it slide. And I had quit reading formula romance sometime before then. In fact, I had gotten bored with the genre and was reading anything but. I had switched to mainstream and mystery for the most part.

In addition to the completed romance novels, I have a number of manuscripts for mainstream novels that I started writing and never finished–like a lot of writers. I have completed plays, poems, short stories, and notebook pages full of ideas for others. I am a writer, but one who has not always actively written. A writer who is constantly creating stories, scenarios, characters, dialogues, but one who gets only a small percentage of those things on paper. I quit telling myself I’d remember a snappy bit of dialogue, or a cool way to describe a person or place or emotion, a long time ago.

When tragedy struck my family sixteen years ago, I had no way of knowing it would give birth to a mystery series. Without a satisfying explanation for my father’s death, I wrote Murder in Winnebago County to tell the story of what my imagination thought could have happened. When I entered the book in the “search for the next best crime writer” contest on-line, I had no idea I would meet the man who would become my publisher. That was five years and four published mystery novels ago.

As I work on the fifth book in the series, I know the reasons I’m writing it: I like my Winnebago County characters and am curious what they are up to; my readers are waiting and asking when it will be released; I learn a great deal of new information doing research for each book; and it keeps me connected to a community of writers and readers.

My goal as the author of a mystery series is not to write the great American novel. And that’s what most of the other authors I converse with tell me. My hope is to entertain, to share some police procedural information, to take my readers on a journey that will take them away from their workaday world to Winnebago County where mystery, romance, and all sorts of unexpected things continue to happen.

Please tell us what you’re looking for as a reader or writer.

Christine Husom is the author of Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, An Altar by the River, and The Noding Field Mystery

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Plot Changing Gadget

A couple of months ago I decided to splurge and upgrade to a new LED television. Although my LCD flat screen cost more than $3,000 back in 2005, its technology has fallen way behind what is now available for less than a fourth of that. So I shopped around and settled on a Samsung model. The salesman told me it was a “Smart TV.” I thought, “Well, why not? Most things around my place are kinda dumb.” Turns out that actually means it has the capability of accessing the internet via my wireless router. Dumb as most of my possessions are, I do have one of those.

Once I got everything set up, I tried the Netflix application I had heard so much about. During my free initial month I got hooked on watching the old X-Files TV shows. I had forgotten how much I liked that imaginative science fiction series. Agents Scully and Mulder seemed like old friends reappearing from my past. Every show from all nine seasons is available, all the way from 1993 through 2001. I have been slowly working my way through them. I still find the plots creative and interesting, but what has also fascinated me is the evolution of technology that can be observed over that span of time. Nine years is a long time for any series of stories. Downloading each episode in order has been like exploring a time capsule. Things change. The “Smoking Man” would not be obnoxiously puffing away in the FBI director’s office these days. And not only does Agent Scully’s hair style change dramatically over time, so do the details and logic of the plots. What might have worked in 1993 could seem unbelievable in 2001, mostly due to new technology available to everyone. In regards to story plotting, I think the most dramatic of these changes has been the evolution of the telephone.

Necessary Equipment

As federal agents, the main characters always had the latest thing, but in the earliest episodes, even they didn’t have tiny phones in their pockets. It brought a nostalgic smile to my face to see Mulder in his apartment holding a gigantic cordless phone with a three inch retractable antenna up to his head. I once had one of those—seemed pretty cool at the time. As the years passed, they eventually acquired mobile phones of decreasingly small size. They could then call for backup or at least keep in touch with each other if suddenly separated. This is interesting from a purely historical viewpoint, but as a writer it struck me just how much the cell phone has directly affected story plotting in general. How many older books and movies, especially in the horror genre, began with a car breaking down, requiring the protagonist or victim to mosey up to a spooky looking old house to ask to use the phone? For that to work now, the author would have to explain a loss of signal or a dead battery. Both situations are becoming less likely all the time. People, even children, are more constantly connected now than ever before. Seems to me this has significantly altered the plot twists available to an author. I specifically remember being required to work out a get-around to eliminate a character’s cell phone in my own novel. If it had not been stolen, a future scene could not have logically happened. And it’s not simply the availability of a phone. Caller ID also complicates the use of the old anonymous phone tip in mysteries. The modern cell phone has added some new plot possibilities as well. I have read several mysteries in which the police track a suspect’s location through the constant locator signal emitted by his cell phone. Someday, we all may have the latest GPS app on our little unit. So, how will a character ever get lost?

Computers, the internet, and other advances have also affected story plotting, opening up new possibilities as well as complicating some common story lines of the past, but none so directly and noticeably as the telephone. Even Superman would be hard pressed to find a phone booth to change in now. And he thought Kryptonite was rare.

Tonight I think I’ll probably watch an X-Files episode from 1997, a good year I remember well. Things may change, but still, “The Truth is Out There.”

Norm Brown is the author of the suspense novel Carpet Ride, published by Secondwind Publishing, LLC.

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Miracle by J J Dare

Somewhere, over the rainbow . . .

True miracles are mysterious. No matter how a miracle is explained, something headed in one direction suddenly reverses and heads another way. Why? That’s the “mystery” part.

Doctors and scientists may be able to explain in minute detail how a cancer suddenly disappears without treatment, but they can only theorize why this happens. A “misdiagnosis” is a common explanation for the mysteriously well cancer patient.

Eleven days ago, my granddaughter’s husband, a healthy young man, was comatose after severe seizures. A day after he was hospitalized, the doctors were not hopeful that he would make it through the day. The cause of the seizures was an adverse reaction to medication.

He was put on a ventilator. The doctors said he would be on the ventilator for anywhere from two weeks to four months. If he woke from the coma, they would not be able to assess his brain function for up to a year.

At the beginning of this week, his doctors decided to try to wean him off of the ventilator. One time, he “crashed” and panic set in again for all of us. Then, suddenly, he started to show reactive signs; he would briefly open his eyes when someone spoke, he would occasionally squeeze my granddaughter’s hand. We took this as a wonderful, positive sign.

What happened next blew us all away.

Day before yesterday, the doctors removed his ventilator. He started to wake up. He followed people with his eyes. Yesterday, he started to speak. My granddaughter called me at seven yesterday morning to laughingly complain that her husband had woken her up (she was sleeping in a chair by his side when the ICU nurses let her) at four that morning, talking. “He won’t shut up!” she ecstatically told me.

It’s been uphill ever since. From near death two weeks ago to this evening  as he’s moving into a regular room and fed regular, albeit, soft, food. His coordination is slow right now, but his mind is not.

What is a miracle? Unknown, unseen, unsettling. Trying to answer this question brings up more questions. Ultimately, we simply accept the miracle.

Skepticism is the biggest drawback to believing in the miracle. In real life, miracles are like history: unless you are a personal witness or have a personal connection to the miracle, it’s hearsay and biased by the one who records the event. As a fiction writer, though, I can get away with miracle after miracle just like I can get away with, well, anything and everything.

There’s a distinct line between miracles in real life and miracles on paper. On paper, we need to give some semblance of an explanation. Even if it’s supernatural, the miracle has to pass the skeptic’s, I mean, reader’s test.

Witnessing a miracle is unnerving. As logical creatures, we need answers. Writing a fictional one is easy. Writing a fictional miracle a reader will believe takes a delicate skill.

When I write about seemingly miraculous happenings, I always have a backup explanation. I’m highly skeptical. If I read a fictional miracle that appears out of nowhere with no plausible reason and only an admonition to “believe,” I mentally go, “ughh” and stop reading. I need a little bit of an answer to keep me going.

In real life, I’ve become less skeptical. There are too many unexplained events and occurrences, and like an X-Files chaser, I’ll believe, even if I hear about it second or third-hand.

What do you think about written miracles? Do they go over as well in some stories as they do in real life? Or do most fall a little flat? How can writers make the miracle more believable?

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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