Liebster BlogLove Continues

Wow, how nice is this? Big thanks to Katianne Williams for sending me the Liebster BlogLove Award. 

Katianne’s Blog is very entertaining and right-on. You can also find her on Twitter, of course @Katiannewill. She’s represented by Jenny Bent so we know she’s talented!

So what’s the Liebster Blog? Part of what I call the Twitter Circle of Love.

Here’s an explanation of this award:

Here are the rules:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your own top 5 picks (the blogs you love with less than 200 followers) and let the bloggers know by leaving a comment on their blog or twitter.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all – have bloggity-blog fun!

Check out some of my favorite (smaller) Blogs:

1. Alison Lockwood: 
2. Hallie Sawyer:
3. Kelcey McKinley:
4. Ann Napoltano:
5. Tess Hardwick:


The Sadness of Strangers

We writers are a sick bunch. There are myriad jokes about how authors use others’ pain and suffering to enhance their writing. We see it, study it, stir it around until we can turn tragedy into text.

I am guilty of the same, to a degree.

On my bulletin board above my desk, I have a newspaper photo of a young woman from the earthquake a couple years ago in Italy; she’s being helped by EMTs. Either the victim’s legs were crushed or she’s just lost a child. There is no blood visible, but if you can imagine for a moment the pain of having your heart ripped from your chest without anesthesia, well, that’s the look on her face.

But do you want to know what compelled me to cut out the picture and hold on to it for this long? The victim has the most beautiful hands, more beautiful than a hand model. It’s the contradiction, the unfairness… Or, maybe it is fairness. Every person, every life has good and bad, triumph and tragedy. I’m not saying that beautiful hands make up for what has just happened to her, but they lead me to believe that before the earthquake, she had a comfortable life filled with people whom she loved; her hands have not toiled at hard labor; there is a lovely diamond ring on her left hand. I see her face everyday and wonder how she is and hope that she has recovered from what happened that day.

One of my husband’s favorite sayings is: Nothing is good or bad except by comparison. Perhaps that’s why we write—to offer comparisons so that our readers’ lives don’t seem so bad. Or, to help readers understand that they are not alone in their suffering.

Maybe we writers aren’t such a bad bunch after all.


Write What You WANT to Know

There are many American axioms that, like stereotypes, are prevalent because they are true: Location, location, location; Time will tell; Never underestimate the power of body language; and my new favorite: Research, research, research.

Me, in Jackson
I recently spent a week in Jackson, Wyoming because that is the location of my work in progress (WIP). I wrote an entire novel set in Jackson because I’ve long held a romantic vision of the West. I completed the novel (300 pgs) with a story, start to finish, based on Google Maps, Google Earth and Wikipedia. As any good teacher would tell an aspiring writer, “Don’t do that!”
Actually, it’s not a bad way to start a story, but the novel would have been a joke if I had never gone to Jackson at all.
Annie Proulx, of Brokeback Mountain fame, sets many of her stories in her home state of Wyoming. In her work, the setting is as strong as any main character. Ms. Proulx must get the details perfect because they are vital. Ann Patchett set her most popular novel, Bel Canto, in an “unnamed South American country.” That’s one way to do it ~ be so vague that no one can contest the details. While in Jackson, I learned that C.J. Box (who also lives in Wyoming) set one of his mysteries in Jackson specifically. I bought Out of Range so that I could see how a famous, published author dealt with the details of the same town I chose in his work. (He was also very vague.)
Setting can be as vital or unimportant in any story as the writer choses. But if a writer choses a specific location, he/she better get the details correct. While my storyline was solid and valid, I got many details of the setting incorrect from the information I garnered on the web (I didn’t expect to have them perfect, I only wanted the framework. I always intended to visit the town). If I had never set foot in Jackson, anyone who’d ever been there (10,000 residents + 3 MILLION visitors per year!) would have thrown my book down in disgust. “She’s obviously never even been there,” they would have said.) Because I spent nearly a week in Wyoming, I was able to correct the details and polish my novel, and it is crucially better for the effort.
Some would suggest visiting the location of one’s work first. I can see the validity in that. Others might say you really need to live someplace for an extended period of time before you can get the true feeling of a location. I’m sure that’s true, too, in certain instances. Again, it depends on how important the setting is to the novel. But the one thing I know for sure is, whether you write about your home town, or you visit the place you write about, a writer MUST know what he/she is talking about first hand. The same philosophy applies to the characters’ occupations, hobbies, lifestyles. If you write about a baseball player, you darn well better know something about baseball. Some say, “Write what you know.” I say, “Write what you want to know,” just be sure to learn all about it before you finish the book.
Most people seem to agree that too much description of a place or a person can hamper the reader’s experience. For the most part, readers don’t really care what color the wallpaper is in a room, or weave of the carpet, or how many columns are on the front of the mansion. On the same line, most readers don’t want too much medical or job-specific jargon. What people want is an engaging story. The details must enhance the story, but not overwhelm it or be so inaccurate as to turn off readers who know more than the author.
Novels are entertainment. If a writer wants to draw his/her readers into a new world, he must find the perfect balance between an enveloping atmosphere, realistic characters and an engaging plot that will grab the reader on page one and never let them go. But we writers can entertain ourselves at the same time, can’t we?
Research is not a dirty word. Think of it as making you a smarter person.

All Is Not Lost!

In my last post, Meet Me In Hell, I neglected to mention that I ditched The Blue-Eyed Twin because I had a better angle on the same storyline. All is not lost; I rescued the 3 main characters and moved them into a much better novel.

Just thought I’d let you know that. I didn’t want you to feel badly for me. I’m excited and energized ~ even more than the last time I was excited and energized about my last new novel.

Review: The Informationist, by Taylor Stevens

This is a great book, and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a tense drama. Taylor Stevens is an excellent writer, and her story was gripping through the final scene.  The story is extremely detailed, taking place mostly in Africa. Thank goodness I could flip back and forth from the novel in iBooks to GoogleMaps to follow along! A word of advice to future readers, you’ll have to concentrate to keep the names straight: Breeden, Burbank, Bradford, and Beyard are all major players.

The main character, Vanessa Michael Munroe, was intense, and Stevens did an excellent job of evoking sympathy for such a violent person. I was pleased with the ending in that she truly evolved. That was important to the success of the book. Stevens threw in a few red herrings that kept me guessing who the real “bad guy” was until very late in the story. I like that in a book.

Amazing that this is a debut novel. It was seriously cinematic; I could picture the action as it happened, although, if it becomes a movie, I’ll have to cover my eyes for the final scene from Africa! Whoa!

Well done, Taylor Stevens. Can’t wait for the sequel in December!

Four Stars. (I reserve 5 stars for the literary giants.)