It begins

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And so it begins. While I have enjoyed writing all of my life, I started taking it more seriously years ago. And, like any idiot, I started by trying to write a book. The story was good, but after a … Continue reading

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Lane Bryant, what the hell?

At some point in the not so distant future, I’m taking a trip with my sweetie out west. During said trip, we will be spending time with his lovely family, and going out to eat at a nice restaurant. Since I am a vagina owner, I thought that this would be a great excuse…er…perfect time to buy a new dress.

My heart filled with song and I joyfully began my search on both the internet and brick and mortar stores to look for a lovely dress, not too fancy, because it’s a nice dinner not a wedding.

By day three this was my face:

Behold my mad paint skills.

Behold my mad paint skills.

They have beaten me down and ripped the song from my heart. I’m a big girl. Not gigantic. Mostly I wear a size 18, though that means little in the days of vanity sizing where I can fit into anything from a 14 to a 22 depending on what and where it is. The truth is that I don’t know my size anymore, because the fashion industry has gotten ridiculously stupid. I didn’t know how stupid until I tried to get a dress in a size over 12.

You know what all the stores these days thing big girls want to wear? Clingy knit fabrics! Sheathe dresses! Oh my fucking shit, the horror! You know, if a big girl has a nice hourglass shape, she can get away with clingy knit dresses, but what about the rest of us? Do we want to look like we are 23 months pregnant with triplets? I’m telling you, that’s right, you Mr. Big-Girl Dress Designer—we do not.

My mom has a Lane Bryant charge card that she offered me so that I can save money for the trip. I thought that would be my salvation. Lane Bryant usually has some cute things. I can’t buy pants there because I have a tummy, not hips and thighs the size of a thing that has large hips and thighs. If I buy pants there to my waist size, they end up looking like jodhpurs. That’s a type of horse riding pants that often has comically exaggerated thighs. If you are not familiar with the term, google image search it. I’ll wait.

Hilarious, aren’t they? Not quite a look I’m going for though. But I thought getting a dress at Lane Bryant would be no problem. You know what they think I want to wear?

Tube dresses.

You might notice that this photo has been slightly photoshopped to protect the innocent.

You might notice that this photo has been slightly photoshopped to protect the innocent.

What the fuck, Lane Bryant? Let me tell you something. No one outside of the 1970’s and teen girls who don’t know any better wants to wear tube dresses. And here’s another hint: If you can’t even make your lovely plus-sized model look good, then what you are selling is completely and utterly stupid.

As a big girl that does not have an hour glass figure, I’ll tell you what I do not want to wear. Sheathe dresses, clingy knits, pleats around my waist, tiny laughable belts around my waist–or even worse, under my bust. Also, LB, I do not want to wear black. Yes, your large variety of black dresses are fine for some things, but not spring in California. Designers seem to have taken this whole “black is slimming” thing a little too much to heart.

The few non-sheath dresses almost might as well be.

What the fuck is this shapeless shit?

What the fuck is this shapeless shit?

Every single dress I looked at for plus sizes had these things in common: They were unstructured, often with only the tiny, laughable belt at the waist giving them any shape at all. They were all made of clingy stretch knits, every last one of them. They had no real silhouette, unless you were looking for a stretch knit sheathe.

I do not want to wear clingy knits, you fucking hedge pigs! What were you thinking?

You want to date me, don't you?  You just can't keep yourself away from the glorious silhouette that clingy knits create.

You want to date me, don’t you? You just can’t keep yourself away from the glorious silhouette that clingy knits create.

So, guess what dress I’m going to wear for my nice dinner? A dress I’ve had for 10 years. One that has style lines, a fitted bodice, and a lovely skirt that’s hem is actually wider than its waist. I bought it before the unattractive empire style came back to haunt us, and I’ll keep it until this clingy knit trend finally leaves. Because I can be attractive, even if I am a big girl.

It’s a shame, you stupid stores. I was ready to spend money, but I won’t waste money on so-called “fashion” that is lazy and ridiculous. I won’t buy ugly. And it’s not only Lane Bryant. Woman Within, you should be ashamed. Kohl’s, the sizes small, medium, and large are for t-shirts–not dresses. Stop being stupid!

Now, you ridiculous things that call yourself fashion designers for plus sizes, get back to your drafting board, paint up some new renderings, and design some clothes that don’t look like you took a tube of stretch fabric and threw some straps and a micro belt on it.

Posted in current fashion, Plus sized clothes | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Words and phrases that I seriously f*%#ing hate

If you’ve ever read my blog, you’ll find that there are few swear words in it.  If you’ve met me in person, you’ll find that I love to cuss, and I am most fond of the versatility and unbiased joy of a word that means intercourse.  I’m writing about words and phrases that I hate, so I’m probably going to say the word fuck a lot.  You have been warned.

There are words that I love.  Abscond. Lurk.  Smooch. Abominable.   There are words that are fun to say.  Aborigine.  Fandango. Metamorphosize.   There are words that describe worlds within a tiny grouping of phonemes. Wasteland.  Prairie.  Antidisestablishmentarianism.

*Snicker*  Ok, maybe not such a tiny grouping.

And then there are words and phrases that I have come to truly fucking hate.

Terrorist- I’m thoroughly sick of this one.  In our current political environment, it’s overused right and left.  Oh, the world is big and scary!  You can tell by how often we use the word terrorist!  To me, a terrorist is someone, often an outsider, who has a political or religious agenda and seeks to hurt people to forward that agenda.  It’s not some guy named Nick who broke into a house to steal things to pawn for drugs.  So why is my news station calling him an “urban terrorist?”  The guy’s a thief.  Thief is a perfectly adequate word to describe him.

65ysxzqaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAQQQQQQQQQQQ;/*/*

Sorry, a terrorist invaded my computer space and assaulted my keyboard.  No, wait.  It was only a weasel.

Today, an unnamed terrorist assaulted my keyboard.  Oh wait, that's Misha.

Today, an unnamed terrorist assaulted my keyboard. Oh wait, that’s Misha.

Slippery slope-  Everything is a slippery slope these days.  Me, I think the only thing that’s a slippery slope right now is my fucking driveway.  (It’s quite true, although I did salt it today.)  “Gay marriage will turn into a slippery slope and next people will want to marry children, and wombats, and inanimate objects!  Oh, the humanity!”  That is a hyperboleified example of some real-life things I’ve heard and read lately.  In fact, the same sort of arguments came out long ago about mixed marriages.  Oh my fucking goodness, it’s true!  Mixed marriages led to the downfall of the American family!  No, wait a minute.  It just gave civil rights to adult citizens that deserved them.  Mush like gay marriage rights would.  So far, no anarchy.  No people marrying goats.

Pot is an entry level drug that begins a slippery slope to other drugs like heroine and thin mints from the Girl Scouts.  Legalize it and we might as well dump thin mints in the baby’s playpen.  Yes, of course.  That explains all the toddlers in The Netherlands that are hooked on horse.  Wait a minute—

I’ll tell you what “slippery slope” is.  It’s a limp argumentative tactic thrown around by people who steadfastly believe their opinions but are unable to back up those opinions with facts and science.  The real slippery slope is that using that fucktastic phrase will start you on a slippery slope to brain cells loss.

It's a slippery slope!  It is bound do lead to interspecies dating!

It’s a slippery slope! It is bound to lead to interspecies dating!

Technology-  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love technology.  What I hate is that the word is thrown around willy-nilly for the most stupid of things.  My paper towels are not absorbent, they have moisture-lock technology!  Hey, adman!  Let me give you a fucking clue.  It’s paper.  It has no technology, and your lame-ass technobabble just makes those paper towels too stupid for me to buy.  What is truly amazing is that you got paid for that ad campaign.  Asshat!

Thisbeats the pants off of moisture lock technology.

This beats the pants off of moisture lock technology.

Event-  Now, I love a good hootenanny as much as the next person.  However, you know what is not an event?  Meteorological conditions.  It’s snowing outside.  It is not a snow event.  It’s just snow, full stop.  Tell me it’s going to rain, don’t predict a rain event.  And don’t even get me started on “polar vortex.”  I now pick my weather informant based on which broadcast is less dramatic and excitable.

I’d better finish this article up.  We’re expecting a rain of frogs event in my area.

Billy has hunkered down.  He's afraid of frogs.

Billy has hunkered down. He’s afraid of frogs.

You, as both plural and singular-  I heard a fairy tale that, once upon a time, the English language had separate words denoting “you” singular and “you” plural.  It must have been a magical time.  Other languages still differentiate between pronouns for one person as opposed to a group, but alas and fuck it all, we do not.  This leaves poor speakers of my mother tongue floundering, searching in vain for a less vague and confusing way to speak.  Thus was born the “y’alls” and “you guys” and “you lots” of the English language as people desperately try to be rid of the horror of pronoun confusion.

A member of a group of people: “Are you going to the movie?”
Person A:  “I don’t know.  Is the entire group of people that I’m looking at going?”
A different person in a group of people:  “Yes, we are going.”
Me:  “Bugger this.  I’m just going to say you guys, unless there’s a rabid feminist in the group.”

No offense meant towards rabid feminists, and for fuck’s sake go to the doctor.  You’re starting to foam at the mouth.

I’ll leave you with some lovely words, to get the bad taste out of your collective mouths.
Masticate.  Flabbergast.  Poinsettia.  Quixotic.  Cantankerous.  Heliocentric.  Cacophony.

Oh, and fuck snow events.  Fuck ‘em.

Fuck 'em!

Fuck ‘em!

Posted in writing | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Querying Agents. (or: Welcome to Hell)

I’ve written several posts about writing query letters.  Now I’m in the middle of querying my paranormal romance, Wyrd House, and I think it’s time for another post about the hope, the dedication, the ocean of possibilities, and massive tides of rejection that make up the hell that is querying literary agents.

Somedays, I'd rather this handsome fellow stab me in the eye with his massive beak than write one more query letter.

Somedays, I’d rather this handsome fellow stab me in the eye with his massive beak than write one more query letter.

First, let’s talk about the agents.  I have it on good authority that, contrary to popular belief, they are not trolls masquerading as human beings who feed upon the despair and hopelessness of the writers who beg them for representation.  Nope.  Not one troll among them.  Certainly there are scammers in any industry, and you need to do your research to make sure that agent who you are writing to is on the up and up.  We aren’t here to talk about scammers.  We’re here to talk about the awesome agent who sent you a form rejection, or no reply at all to your heartfelt plea for representation.

Pictured: Not an agent.  This is obviously a hungry troll.

Pictured: Not an agent. This is obviously a hungry troll.

“Why can’t they see how awesome my book is!  They are obviously illiterate hacks who have no idea what they are missing out on.  I bet so-and-so is just a failed writer who gets their kicks tearing people like me down!  So-and-so sucks rabid weasels!”

But rabid weasels are so cute!

But rabid weasels are so cute!

Or maybe the agent you are querying gets hundreds of unsolicited queries a week and spends untold hours slogging through the slush pile, hoping that something will create a spark of interest.  Maybe they received twenty queries the same day as yours all in the same genre of your book.  Maybe they saw several queries that looked interesting, but they know that they only have time to follow up on one or two.  Maybe they opened one too many emails with the salutation of “Dear Agent” and cleared their inbox in a fit of debilitating ennui.  Maybe they only have so much time to read and respond to queries from everyone and their cat because they are doing that on top of their real work, which is taking care of their client’s interests.  Want to know why you got a form rejection or no response at all?  It’s not personal.  They’re just busy.  Insanely busy.

This is agent.  Note the fence to keep book writing winos from walking in off the street.  And the debilitating ennui caused by opening one too many queries that began "Dear Agent."

This is an agent. Note the fence to keep book writing winos from walking in off the street. And the debilitating ennui caused by opening one too many queries that began “Dear Agent.”

Or, maybe your query letter sucks rabid weasels.  Your book could be awesome, but they aren’t going to look at it if your query doesn’t reel them in.  Why should they waste time on bad queries when they get so many that they can afford to be choosy?

Perhaps your query letter is a rock star.  You are bound to get agent X’s attention now, right?

No, not really.  Agent X received exactly 32.5 rock star queries this morning alone, and 26.8 were for books very similar to yours.  The writing style of query 12 struck a spark with Agent X, so they went with that one instead of yours.  Also, while stories about robot space monkeys remain en vogue, if Agent X sees one more robot space monkey query today, she’s going to scream.  Then she might delete her inbox in a fit of debilitating ennui.

This rabid weasel also suffers from debilitating ennui.

This rabid weasel also suffers from debilitating ennui.

So what do you do?  Let’s say you wrote A Tale of Two Cities for the modern age.  Actually, let’s not.  I hate Dickens.  Let’s say you have written the next Harry Potter.  Oh, yes, that’s much better.  You’ve got a kick ass book, and you have polished it until it shines.  It’s taken thousands of hours and countless lives, but your query letter is so good it makes test readers demand the book before they even read it.  Are you going to get an agent?

Maybe.  Maybe not.  It remains a complex system and you are never going to know all of the variables involved.

Just as unpredictable  variables in the weather caused this hail to fall on my car.

Just as unpredictable variables in the weather caused this hail to fall on my car.

So what do you do?  Print your manuscript out so you can throw it in the trash or burn it in the parking lot?  Realize that everything you ever wrote obviously sucks and vow never to write again?

Except that this picture depicts how I feel when I think of never writing again.  Could I have a little less winter in my winter, please?

Except that this picture depicts how I feel when I think of never writing again. Could I have a little less winter in my winter, please?

Maybe.  But you should not.  Writing query letters and querying agents sucks.  There will be times you want to just quit.  You will be frustrated by spending hours and hours researching agents and working on queries instead of writing your books.  There will be times that you are convinced that your writing is worse than Dickens.  Own those feelings, and remind yourself that they are normal.  We all feel that way from time to time.  There are many reasons that books don’t attract an agent, but there’s only one reason that they do.  They succeed because the writers refused to give up and throw in the towel.

My first manuscript I queried, my baby, my favorite thing I’ve ever written.  Tons of queries sent out.  Some partial requests.  A few full requests.  Ultimately rejected by everyone I queried.  Did I give up?  Hell no!  I wrote the second book.  You know what I’m doing right now, as I send out the queries for Wyrd House?  I’m three quarters of the way through the third book.  If I get no interest for Wyrd House, I’ll start querying Descending.  Never give up.  Keep writing.  Keep honing your skills and building your body of work.  Keep someone around who pulls your manuscript out of the fire on those days that it seems like only fiery book death will ease your depression.  Don’t panic.  Keep writing.  Keep trying.

My fiancé, bravely defending me from rabid weasels.

My fiancé, bravely defending me from rabid weasels.

My fiancé has gotten really good at figuratively pulling my writing out of the fire on days that I get frustrated and pessimistic about my work.  He was there last night when Wyrd House got its first partial request and I freaked out a little because it was from a major player in agency land.  He helped me do one last proofread and found a couple of punctuation mistakes before I sent it off.

He was there today when WH got its second partial request from an agent that specializes in romance novels and women’s fiction.  He encouraged me while I obsessed a little over sending the partial exactly as the agent wished to receive it.  I have a touch of anxiety disorder.  It doesn’t run my life, but I get a little twitchy from time to time.  My fiancé, he keeps me centered and tells me that I rock on a daily basis.

Will I get an agent?

Maybe.  But, oh, the possibilities in that wishy-washy little word.

bri2

My sweetie kissing an agent. No, wait, that’s a troll.

Posted in getting published, Writing Advice, Writing Query Letters | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Beginning the Book

Yesterday I wrote about some things that slow me down when it comes time end a story and what I do to avoid that slow down and finish the book.  Today I want to talk about a more prevailing problem, starting your book at the right point.  The last few years, I’ve read a lot of opening chapters, and tried to give an honest opinion of what I thought.  This can be a big problem with first time writers, and more experienced writers sometimes as well.  It all comes down to where in the story your book is starting.  Is it starting in the right place?  How can you tell?

Say, for example, your story hinges on what kind of person your character is.  Sure, it’s a murder mystery, but the readers really aren’t going to get it unless you tell them all about those events that happened it their childhood in vivid and many chaptered detail.

Mushu the ferret was a bully.  She'd always been a bully, but it really wasn't her fault.  Once upon a time, when she was just a little kit, she'd been bullied by all the other ferrets.  They called her names and wouldn't let her join in the ferret games.  Let me take several chapters to tell you all about it.

Mushu the ferret was a bully. She’d always been a bully, but it really wasn’t her fault. Once upon a time, when she was just a little kit, she’d been bullied by all the other ferrets. They called her names and wouldn’t let her join in the ferret games. Let me take several chapters to tell you all about it.

Stop.

Ok, let’s say you are writing an epic science fiction about rabid space monkeys.  The story just isn’t going to make sense unless you describe the planet and society in vivid detail, right away, in several chapters, or even one chapter.

There didn't used to be a barn here.  In fact back b'zillions of years ago, it was just a big swamp.  Then there was firm land.  Then the Indians came.  Then the settlers came and drove off the Indians.  Now that I've spent thousands of words telling you all of that, my book is actually about completely different people.

There didn’t used to be a barn here. In fact back b’zillions of years ago, it was just a big swamp. Then there was firm land. Then the Indians came. Then the settlers came and drove off the Indians. Now that I’ve spent thousands of words telling you all of that, my book is actually about completely different people.

Again, stop.

There are a million books and articles on the web about this very issue, and yet I see it time and time again.  Unless you are James A. Michener–and let’s face it, you’re not–you don’t want to start with long-winded world building.  And why do you want to be Michener anyway?  I made it through exactly one of his books, and it left me with no desire to read another.  That involved character study you want to start with?  By all means write it down.  It will help you as your character winds his way through your book.  Write it down, then put it in a separate file, and start your book somewhere else.

Why?  Think about the last book you read, assuming it wasn’t Michener.  Where did it start?  Did it start with a childhood memory, dream sequence, or flashback?  Did it start with even one chapter of world-building?  Chances are it did not.  And it did not for a very important reason.  The first chapter, even the first paragraph of your book, must do the job of drawing your reader in.  Memories, dreams, flashbacks, and world building are not an effective way to do this.

Are there exceptions?  Of course there are.  But why would a writer give themselves a handicap when they are trying to get an agent, publisher, or reader’s attention?  Because here’s the thing: if you do not catch your reader’s attention with that first paragraph, or that first chapter, they are not going to read any farther.  I read the first chapter of an aspiring writer’s work recently.  They had lost my interest by the second paragraph.  I had to force myself to finish a chapter, and I could not force myself to read any more.  Is that the effect you want to have on any reader, let alone a prospective agent?  Your book will not get far if you don’t draw the reader in immediately.

OMG!  I must know what happened to poor Misha!

OMG! I must know what happened to poor Misha!

So, how do you know where to start your book?  Now, that is a tricky question, isn’t it?  It’s hard to find that perfect spot to start, but I’ll give you a good clue.  Something should be happening.  Think about your story, and the first point where something important to the plot happens.  You might want to begin there.  In the rabid space monkey book, maybe space monkey, Barbara, is going to crash land on Earth.  Maybe that’s where you start, and maybe you add a little world building, bit by bit, through the story.  That’s the plot to the movie ET, by the way.  Ok, so he’s not a monkey, my point still holds.  The movie doesn’t start with a long winded description of ET’s home world.  We don’t really care about his home world.  We want to know what happens.

Now let’s look at the story of Forrest Gump.  Lots of details in that story.  Lots of time passes.  This story is, more than anything else, a character study.  It’s all about Forrest.  Does it start with a long winded description of his character?  No, it’s starts with bully’s and running, and the things that happen in the plot.  Little by little, as Forrest goes through his life, we learn who he is, and why he’s unique.

What it really comes down to is show, don’t tell.  Don’t tell me about your main character, show me, a little at a time, while the story is happening.  And don’t tell me about the space monkey’s complicated world and society.  Show me how she deals with that society, bit by bit, as she lives her life.

I don't need to tell you how Brian and Billy "watch football."  I can just show you this and you get it.

I don’t need to tell you how Brian and Billy “watch football.” I can just show you this and you get it.

Start your book with something happening, not a lecture.  Instead of bits of action amongst the lecture, it should be bits of lecture amongst the action.  And I don’t mean that every story is a big action adventure either.  Let’s go back to Forrest Gump.  That story is all about him.  It’s all about what Forrest does, and how he lives his life, and what he thinks.  And when we experience all those things that happen, we come to know who he is.  We aren’t told about him, we are shown his life.

Start your book with something that happens, whether that’s a big thing or a little thing.  Just make sure it’s an interesting thing, and that it makes me want to read more.

If you don’t, well Mr. Michener, I’m not reading your book and you can’t make me.

"Once upon a time, there was this big bang thing, and then particles of space dust collected to create a barren world we like to call Earth.  Eventually there were microbes on the surface, and tiny bits of moss... "  Shut up, Mr. Michener.  I said I'm not reading it!

“Once upon a time, there was this big bang thing, and then particles of space dust collected to create a barren world we like to call Earth. Eventually there were microbes on the surface, and tiny bits of moss… “
Shut up, Mr. Michener. I said I’m not reading it!

Posted in Habits in writing, writing, Writing Advice | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Finishing the Book Blues

A strange thing happens to me when I’m writing and I near the end of a story.  I tend to slow down, or stop all together for a time.  It happens in almost every novel length story that I write.  I get three quarters or so through the story, and I start delaying tactics.

It’s not because I don’t know how the story ends.  I always know the main plot points to my stories before I start.  Endings are big with me.  I may not know all the twists and turns my characters will lead me on during the journey, but I know how it ends.  I usually have a little movie of the ending in my head before I start the book.  The ending sometimes seems clearer than the beginning.

I’ve got a couple theories for why I slow down.  One is purely emotional.  I get attached to my characters.  Sure they’ll always be there on the pages, but I hate saying goodbye to them.  I live their lives with them, and then I have to say goodbye.  Ending a book is always a mixture of triumph and bereavement.  Yay, I’m done!  Oh, damn, I’m done.

But that isn’t all of it. I think the biggest reason that I slow down or even stop before I get to the end is that I worry about what book is coming next.  I think most writers do that.  What if the idea closet is empty?  What if the muse well has run dry?  What if that was the last good story idea I get?

So far, I’ve written five novel length fictions and the idea closet has never run dry.  But I’ve never finished one of those stories without knowing what the next one will be.  That’s what does it for me.  That’s how I get those books finished.  Sometime in the last quarter of the book, I figure out what the next one will be.

Then it’s ok.  Then I can finish the book.  Then I have a new story to look forward to, and new people to play with.  I just finished the first draft of Wyrd House, and I know what the next story is.  It came to me about a week ago.  The idea for the next story.  It combines two loves of mine, theatre and disasters.  Man is it going to be fun!  I need a break from Wyrd House before I do a little polishing.  I think I’ll start the new one tomorrow.  The idea grew out of a short story I wrote, and I think it will steal that story’s name. Descending.

So, if any of you have trouble finishing that book, try doing what I do.  Take a nice long walk, or drive your cat to the vet.  Think about the next tale that wants to be told.  Get excited about starting that new project.  Then buckle down and finish the one you’ve got.

Back porch view, Smokey Mountains

Back porch view, Smokey Mountains

Posted in Habits in writing, writing, Writing Advice | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Writing News, Wyrd House Update

Greetings all!  I can only apologize for being MIA for so long.  I’ve had a bit of winter depression, I think.  My fiancé and I only moved two hours north of Louisville, but it’s very different weather-wise.  It’s been so much colder that we’re used to, and the snow!  Indy’s getting lots of snow this winter.  A couple weeks ago, we had enough for the counties in this area to close the roads for three days.  And we at the Johnson hacienda had a nice power outage for most of a day.  It got mighty chilly.  Brian and I were trying to decide whether to try to get my parents a motel room with heat when the electricity thankfully came back on.

I’m between jobs at the moment.  I worked holiday help at Amazon for a few weeks, which left me too exhausted to do any sort of writing, not even a blog post.  I was grateful to be hired, but warehouse work is a little too tough for this 48 year old pudgy woman.  Brian is still working there, which has given me a chance to get some writing done while I do a job search.  I’m not in a hurry.  Amazon and the holidays wore me out.

So I had lots of time to write, and couldn’t manage to write a word.  Until a few days ago, anyway.  To get our butts moving, I challenged my mom, who is writing on her own project, to a 500 words a day challenge.  Doesn’t matter how much we write as long as it’s at least 500 words.  Three days ago I wrote 900, yesterday 2,915, and today, 3,106.  I finished chapter 12 and wrote all of 13 and 14.  Yay me!  That’s by far the most I’ve written since the move.  I hope that I’m mentally getting back in the swing of things.

I wasn’t completely prose-free during that time.  I did write a couple of short stories and reworked some old stories.  But it feels good to be working on the book again.  I’m about 40k words in, and I think it will finish around 70-80k, so I’m about half way through.  And I hope to get more active again here on the blog.  I love blogging, but this winter has really seemed to get me down.

I’m posting chapter 12 of my paranormal romance, Wyrd House, and you can find it here: Wyrd House

I had planned to post the book here in its entirety, but I’ve since found out that posting the whole thing can make it harder to publish it.  So chapter twelve is the last chapter I will post here, and in a few weeks, I intend to cut it down to a three chapter sneak peek.  For those of you who have been reading it, never fear!  Email me at Julianneqjohnson@gmail.com and I will be happy to send you the chapters as they are written.  I love having beta readers, I just can’t do it the way that I planned to.

No more writing news to speak of.  Ghost in the Park querying is still on hiatus.  I still haven’t been paid by Xiaduo Media for the short story they purchased in July, and they said they’d pay by publication or in six months, whichever came first.  I guess it will be February at this rate.

I hope you all are doing well, and I’ll try to get a grammar post or something up soon!

I want spring and I want it now!

I want spring and I want it now!

 

 

Posted in romance novel, writing, Wyrd House | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Grammar vs Creative License

Today’s post comes from some comments I’ve read both here and on the writing forum I frequent. It can cause arguments, so let me get one thing straight from the beginning—I believe with all my heart that each one of us is entitled to our own opinions.

It’s just that I think some of you are wrong.

Hey, I’m entitled to my own opinion as well. That’s my opinion. You don’t have to take it seriously, and you shouldn’t lose any sleep over it.

So, here’s my opinion. For the most part, if one is writing a novel, proper grammar has nothing to do with creative license. I’m not talking about dialog. People talk the way they talk and of course that should be expressed by the author when writing dialog.

“Ain’t that right, young feller?”

Of course it is, so long as those quotation marks are present. Other than dialog, being that free with grammar rules is to be avoided, for the most part, in modern novels.

“But what about James Joyce?” you seem to ask. “He wrote whole novels in dialect and they’re classics!”

Sure, he’s classic, but I’ll tell you a secret. I hate Joyce. It isn’t that I’m too stupid to get it, or too nonintellectual to understand the skill it takes to write in that fashion. I hate Joyce. I hate any author where I have to fight against the structure of the writing to get to the story.

I love Austen, by the way. The old-fashioned gait to the language adds rather than distracts from the story, and the grammar is there, it’s just a bit outdated.

“Oh,” you seem to say, “I see. You must be some sort of grammar fancy-pants. I bet you write Literary fiction.”

Actually, I don’t much care for literary fiction. I read it from time to time, but it’s not where I turn to for fun. Reading, to me, is for fun more than anything else. I certainly don’t write in the literary style, and I don’t tend to use twelve dollar words when a ten cent word will do. I enjoy plain language, and I personally think that it takes a certain strength of will for an author to refrain from showing off when he writes.

The following is a bit from my supernatural mystery, Ghost in the Park. It’s not an especially important bit, I just reached in and grabbed something from the middle.

Sitting in the chair near the bed, I stare for a long time at my friend and listen to him breathe. Eventually, I tire of watching Chase being alive, and pull up a Jack London novel on my phone. Todd and Harris chat together for a while, and then leave the room to explore the hospital. I suppose that even the dead get bored on occasion.
I’m reading part two of the book, and in the fifth chapter, when a nurse walks into the room. The nurse calls to Chase, and as he stirs, I set aside my tale of a wolf pup learning that the law of the land is “eat or be eaten.” When he awakens, Chase looks groggy and weak, but he is otherwise himself and even manages to flirt a little with the pretty nurse while she gives him his pain medication. I am not noticed until the tall blonde quits the room.
“Hey. When did you get here?”
“A little while ago. How are you feeling?”
“Kinda like I got shot,” Chase says, and then laughs. Grinning at me, he continues, “I think the morphine just hit. I get the good stuff.”
It’s little wonder that Chase is feeling no pain. Chase wants to sit up for a while, so I help him adjust the mechanical bed and the pillows behind his back. Even with the morphine, he winces as the movement jars his shoulder. I see now that his right arm is in a sling.
“How bad is it?” I ask.
“Well, it’s not good, but no irreparable damage done. The doc say’s I’ll make a full recovery but it’ll take time. I’m off the clock for at least a couple months.”
“How long do you have to stay here?”
“A week, maybe. I guess I hit my head pretty good. Knocked me out cold..couldn’t call for help…lost a lot of blood. So, they want to hang onto me for a while.”
Though his speech is a bit hesitant and he grins at odd times, I’m relieved to see that my mate is basically himself. I have no idea how long Chase was dead, and I’d been worried about brain damage from lack of oxygen.

End excerpt. I think you can see what I mean. It’s first person present, so we are in the main character’s head throughout. That does not mean that I threw grammar out the window just because the narration is deep in his head. Yes, it is heavily colored by Bryce’s personality and word choice, but it still has grammar. There may even be some grammar mistakes, but that is because I am still learning the ins and outs of grammar, not because I’m not trying. You can also see that I write fairly plainly, this book is not pretending to be a literary gem. It’s perfectly possible to use correct grammar without being pompous about it, or striving to write in the literary style.

The reason for this entire diatribe is that I have noticed something in the comments that I have read which seem to value poor grammar as part of the writer’s literary style or voice.

They seem lazy. I’m not saying that they are lazy, just that they seem so. For all I know, those writers could simply be so excited about writing that they are not taking the time to learn the grammar that they need. There has not been one James Joyce among them. And Joyce, though I dislike his style personally, was a master of his style. He had to carefully learn the rules of grammar before he plotted which bits to chuck out the window.

The fact is that so far in my study of this subject, the writers who are shouting style over grammar all have one thing in common.

Their writing is bad, and I don’t want to read their books.

And there’s the rub. While it’s true that you have the creative license to write any way you wish, if you expect people to pay for your writing and read your work, you’d better pay attention to the will of the masses. If people see a sample of your writing and grammar has been thrown out of the window, they are not likely to buy the book. It’s as simple as that. They will never see that underneath it all you are James Joyce reincarnated, they won’t want to read it.

I say to you, if you wish to be a writer, you must learn the tools of the trade backwards and forwards. That means grammar. Then once you master it, you made decide with an informed mind what is to be cherished, and what thrown away. I am not grammar master, but I realize this, and I keep learning. I read posts about it, and books about it, and do whatever I can to give myself the tools I need to write effectively. I am no devotee, setting aside time everyday to study grammar, but I do study it, and I do learn.

Any writer who does not, is indeed lazy, and masking that laziness in excuses of style.

Brother Joe, Niece Steph, and Friend Sami. enjoying proper grammar at the lost haunted bridge near Greencastle.

Brother Joe, Niece Steph, and Friend Sami. enjoying proper grammar at the lost haunted bridge near Greencastle.

Posted in Bad Writing Advice, Grammar, writing, Writing Advice | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Vaginas and Chainsaws

A couple of days ago, my mom bought me a chainsaw.  It’s a petite little thing, 1.5 horsepower, 14” blade, and it plugs in to an extension cord.  It was just what I needed to clean out all the dead pine branches at my mom and dad’s place.

I love it.

My new baby

My new baby

I’ve never used a chainsaw, but it’s very easy, as long as you keep safety in mind.  This one is light, and easy to handle.  I chopped down so many branches and bits of dead wood that it will take me three trips in my brother-in-laws pick-up truck to get rid of it all.  I totally destroyed those dead branches, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  I even had no trouble adjusting the chain when it got loose.  It’s a well-made, simple device.

However, what I did not enjoy was all the negative comments from certain males in my life saying I had no business using a chainsaw.  Apparently, to the males of the population, I am one breath away from hacking off one of my own limbs in a freak chainsaw accident.  My fiancé refused to be in the yard while I used it.  He had visions of amputated stumps spurting blood.  My fiance’s friend #1, said flat out on the phone that I was crazy and going to injure myself.  My dad, bless his heart, shook his head and told me to be careful, but didn’t tell me not to do it.

Now, let’s have a little background on me, so you can truly understand my situation.  I can be slightly clumsy.  In small ways.  In moving a bedframe, I’m likely to get a splinter.  I’ve nicked my thumbnail more times than I can count while cutting vegetables.

I also learned to to use power tools in college, and continued to use some power tools during my career as a costumer.  I have a little anxiety disorder, which makes me a bit hyper vigilant where safety is concerned.  I am definitely anal about safety.

I’m not trying to tempt the gods, but to this date in the 48 years of my life, I have never caused myself a serious injury.

So why are these men, men who have known me for years, concerned about me using a chainsaw?

I’m pretty sure it’s because I have a vagina.  While most of these men are not what I would call sexist, they are still a product of the culture that they grew up in.  Our culture tells men that 48 year old women shouldn’t use chainsaws.  Estrogen and vaginas are detrimental to chainsaw use.  Something in our hormones reacts badly with big, noisy electronics.  While women have come a long way, folks that think the days of discrimination are over are crazy.

Just ask any woman who has gone to buy a car and had the salesman speak only to the man who went with her.  Or the rowdy that’s surprised the lady cop can handle him just fine.

Or the woman who just bought a chainsaw.

This discrimination in the name of protection reminds me of when they built the Empire State Building and elevators were considered “too dangerous” for women to ride.  So what happened?  Men zoomed to the top with ease while women had to climb all those stairs in order to see the view.  I’m not taking the stairs.  If I do get hurt, I promise you that it isn’t because I have a vagina.

In mankind’s defense, my when my fiancé’s friend #2 came to visit, he just strode in and helped me chop things down without one disparaging remark.

See the street?  Before you couldn't see the street.

See the street? Before you couldn’t see the street.

 

**Author’s note- Miriam-Webster states that the plural of vagina is vaginae, but it just didn’t have the right ring to it for my purpose.

Posted in sexism, writing | Tagged , , , | 20 Comments

Yard Sales and Memories

Yard sale. There’s a million jokes and a certain amount of disdain associated with that phrase.

“No one’s going to pay five dollars for that.”

“You must be really hard up for money.”

“Who wants to buy other people’s junk anyway?”

Pardon me, Mr. Fancypants, but that isn’t junk, that’s bits of my life spread out all over the front yard. Bits of my life that I have to get rid of because of two households colliding so that I can take care of my aging parents. That child’s wooden high chair that you don’t think is worth 35 bucks, that was handmade by my great grandfather in the 1800’s. That red and white glassware? I love it, but I don’t NEED it, and I no longer have room for much that I don’t need.

That necklace that doesn’t look like anything special, that was given to me by a kiddo I worked with, because they desperately wanted to give me something and that’s all they had to give.

Then there’s the books. The giant pile of books that is about half of my precious book collection. Carefully sorted and culled out, because I don’t have a huge two bedroom apartment to scatter them out in. Yes, I know books don’t sell well at a yard sale. Yes, I’ve heard of Half Priced Books, I’ll take the rest there. I just wanted to give some of them a chance at a happy home first.

And who are you anyway, Mr. Fancypants? You act so disdainful of my yard sale, but you’re right here, at the crack of dawn on a cold and windy day, looking for something to buy.

That’s not junk strewn across my front lawn, it’s my life. It’s my memories. If you don’t want to buy any of it, fine by me, but keep your disrespectful comments to yourself.

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Posted in Change, writing | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Read

Sorry I’ve been MIA lately. I posted quite a bit there for a while, but then got involved with some other projects. And I got distracted. I’ve been reading.

Yeah, I know! That’s crazy talk! What am I doing reading when I’ve got a book of my own to finish, one that’s been on hiatus since before the move.

That’s how it goes sometimes. We wouldn’t be writers if we didn’t love to read. And we wouldn’t know what the hell we were doing if we haven’t done our share of research by reading the work of others. I think that reading is as important as writing, to a writer. Not only because of the mechanics we learn, but because reading is what inspires us to write in the first place.

I haven’t settled down to writing yet in the new home. I lost my little writing nest in the move, and nothing feels right yet. I have plans to set up a corner more suitable for me than on my uncomfortable chair at my desktop. My family is having a big yard sale this weekend, so I can get rid of a bunch of crap and maybe then have some space to breathe and maybe even a comfy chair for me and my laptop.

For those of you waiting for an update to Wyrd House, I’ll get back to it. Just be patient a little while longer. In the meantime, my reading binge is a good sign. It makes me want to write again.

So, my advice to you, my fellow writers, is to read something. If you have been writing like mad, or a bit stuck like me, take the time to read something you enjoy. Take the time to remember why we do what we do in the first place. A writer that doesn’t read is like a diver that doesn’t swim. Sure, you could do it, but it’s not likely to turn out well.

Houck bridge, near the Boone-Hutchingson cemetary.

Houck bridge, near the Boone-Hutchingson cemetary.

Posted in reading, writing, Writing Advice | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments