Back in the Groove

Two things have been happening since my last blog post eons ago.

Number 1

I moved.

Moving is much like doing a major spring cleaning of every room in your house. Every nook and cranny and every spec of dust. In a way, it was very liberating and made me practice minimalism. It struck me as incredible and depressing to see how much stuff I’d accumulated throughout the years.

I moved into a smaller apartment and so I needed to downsize and trim my possessions. I still haven’t been able to let go of a small beige colored handbag which I haven’t used in years but it used to belong to my mother. What am I holding unto?

And then there was the move itself during Montreal’s heaviest snowstorm of the season!

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Source

Oops! Sorry, wrong photo!

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Source

My poor dog, Bau, didn’t at all like the move.

Wake me when it’s over!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Number 2

The second reason why I haven’t been posting on my blog is that I had nothing to say.

Then, I received an e-mail from Thelma Mariano, the editor of my women’s fiction novels:

New Picture (9)  balawydermissisdatingadventures  cafe paradise a  Not by Design

Thelma was recently interviewed by Duke Diercks where, along with 12 other editors, was asked this question:

What is the #1 mistake that you see first-time authors make?

 Here’s part of her answer:

 Most first-time novelists underestimate the amount of work required to bring their completed draft to a publishable level. This leads to what I believe is the #1 problem with early manuscripts: a lack of story tension.

If we lack a “story-worthy” problem, something strong enough to pull a reader through hundreds of pages, needing to know what happens next, no amount of editing will make it better.

Click here to read more on Thelma’s answer

and here on the editing process

Not Another: A story by Ann Fields

Ann Fields’ short story, Not Another, is part of Voices from the Block – a Legacy of African-American Literature.

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Ann Fields transports us into another world where her protagonist, The Young Wife, is determined to make her community a safe place for the children by fighting The Great White – a monster who demands, every so often, the sacrifice of a child as protection for the village.

The nameless Young Wife is the kind of character that one reads fiction for. She brazenly and stubbornly puts aside her own needs in order to fight for a better world where peace dominates evil. Hers is an altruistic world. She is brave and strong and refuses to be defeated. And as all good protagonists, The Young Wife brings us to question our own weaknesses: would we, like her, be willing to give up our cozy lives in order to defeat a malice that does not personally touch us?

In her opening of Not Another Ann Fields writes this dedication:

To the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria,

Ivory Coast and others…

America, where is your revolution?

In this world of increasing intolerance Not Another offers inspiration and hope. What more can we ask of literature?

Besides this poignant and relevant story, Ann Fields played a significant role in bringing together this inspiring collection of essays, poetry, short stories and fiction starts by talented and gifted writers.

As a tribute to Black History Month, Voices from the Block is a book you’ll want to read any month, especially in March when Ann is planning to spotlight some of the writers whose works appear in this anthology.

 

The Writing Job Description

It’s been ages since I’ve posted and it feels great to flex these muscles again. But, like any activity, it’s best to go easy at the beginning of a routine. So, I’m going to start off by re-blogging Belinda Williams’ witty and spot-on article on The Writing Job Description.
See if you have what it takes to be a writer.
Please leave all comments on Belinda’s blog. I’m still not 100% back!

Belinda Williams

Whether you’re a writer or not, you’ve probably come across one of these memes:

What writers do

While you chuckle, there is an element of truth to some of these. And that truth is:

Writing is about a hell of a lot more than just writing.

When I started writing, I had a vague idea of what I was getting myself in for. With the release of my latest contemporary romance, The Pitch, later this month, I’ve got a much clearer idea. It’s the third book I’ve released (with two more due for release late this year and next).

A writing job description (Or, if only someone had told me all this earlier . . .)

Here’s all those things I’ve discovered are part of the job description for ‘writing’ but are not actually writing:

  • Editing. That’s writing, you say! Huh. To a writer, editing is not writing. Editing is the…

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TWO RISING STARS

Judy Penz Sheluk and Kristina Stanley have both been featured in my series How I Got Published when they were both starting out – before they established themselves as the respectful mystery writers they have become.

Both are Canadian. Judy Penz Sheluk writing about a small town community outside of Toronto and Kristina Stanley writing about the mountain resorts of British Columbia.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime International, Sisters in Crime – Guppies, Sisters in Crime – Toronto, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers, Inc. and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. She lives in a small town northwest of Toronto, Ontario. Read more here.

Skeletons in the Attic

 

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house  she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

 

 

Skeleton’s in the Attic is the first of Judy’s series but not her first mystery.

I found myself immediately drawn into Skeleton’s in the Attic not only because of the suspense but because of the wonderfully quirky characters inhabiting this novel. The author does a fantastic job managing her characters and making them all come alive with their own distinct personalities and secrets, adding layers to the novel’s core suspense.

As Callie moves into her father’s house and gets to know her eccentric neigbours, clues to her mother’s disappearance begin to emerge. The problem is that the more clues appear the more nothing is what it appears to be and Callie can’t quite trust those providing these clues.

Although warned that the truth can break your heart, Callie can’t stop her relentless quest to discover the truth behind her mother’s disappearance. I particularly enjoyed the protagonist’s search for a mother who abandoned her when she was six and in trying to put together the pieces of her mother’s past she dips into memories of her own childhood.

Skeleton’s in the Attic is a cozy, enjoyable read.

 

Kristina is the author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series.

Her books have garnered the attention of prestigious crime writing organizations in Canada and England. Crime Writers of Canada nominated her first novel for the Unhanged Arthur award. The Crime Writers’ Association nominated her second novel for the Debut Dagger. She is published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. click here for more.

Avalanche

 

On a cold winter morning, the safe at Stone Mountain Resort is robbed, and Kalin Thompson’s brother, Roy, suspiciously disappears. As Director of Security, Kalin would normally lead the investigation, but when her brother becomes the prime suspect, she is ordered to stay clear.

 

 

 

In her third installment of The Stone Mountain Mystery Series, Kristina Stanley begins the novel with her signature nail-biting tension. She immediately plunges the reader into the middle of an avalanche and we find out very quickly that “…Roy’s headlamp burst to life, eerily illuminating his surrounding snow coffin.”

Lovely sentence.

Kristina Stanley maintains tension and suspense throughout the novel, whether it has to do with the protagonist’s decision to take an appealing job offer that might tear apart her newly married relationship with Ben, or, this being a mystery, on solving a murder.

I’ve had Avalanche on my Kindle since last June. When the weather started to turn cold and snow covered the ground I pulled up the novel. Avalanche is perfect to take on a ski holiday or to sit by a fireplace, sipping hot cocoa or tea and getting lost in the tangles of relationships.

In the category of Women’s Sleuth Mysteries, Avalanche was an Amazon Hot New Release.

I’ve now read all three of the Stone Mountain Mysteries and this is my favourite.

The First Ten Percent Of Your Novel

In my last post I wrote about an article written by Jane Smiley, the acclaimed American novelist, on the Purpose and Practice of Revision This led me to her book 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel.

Front Cover

This is what Jane Smiley said about her book in We Wanted To Be Writers. com :

13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, (which) is a book about the anatomy and the history of the novel. And there are two chapters in there called “A Novel of Your Own Part I” and “A Novel of Your Own Part II.” Half of the book is about analyzing the form of the novel and half of the book is a sort of lengthy bibliography of about 105 or 6 novels that I read in order to write the book. (Jane Smiley on teaching writing)

Smiley, has a distinguished teaching record in the department of Creative Writing at the University of California so it’s no surprise that in reading her book I fell into the student role with Smiley as my teacher.

With clarity and generous spirit Smiley shares her insights on what makes a good writer. 

Because I am in the middle of editing a draft of my own, I was most interested in how she approaches “bettering” her rough drafts, specifically the first ten percent.

You, as the author, have about 10 percent of your novel to show the reader “who”, “what”, “where”, and “when.” “How” is for the rising action… You have only a certain number of pages to get the reader used to you as a writer. The more you pack into those pages, the more likely the reader will trust you and be willing to go on to the rising action.

So, what about this first 10 percent? What exactly does Jane Smiley suggest one pack into these pages?

PLACE: Where is everyone? When is the action taking place?

TIME: How is time going to be organized? Straight, continuous chronology? Chronological but in forward jumps? Some sort of looping structure?  Backward?

What makes your protagonist worth writing about?

These are the kind of interesting questions which Smiley throws at you, the writer, to help you go deeper. Another question which made me sit up had to do with the last 10 or 15 percent of the novel:

THE CLIMAX.

So the first thing you are going to do is turn to whatever page comes 90 percent of the way in your rough draft…That one page of the climax of your novel can tell you a lot about both what you have done and what you want to do, if you let it. Reading it, and a couple of pages around it, is your first diagnostic. (p.233)

There is so much that I got out of reading studying 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel.

If you are in the process of editing a novel, I highly recommend that you have a look at this book, particularly parts I and II of the chapters titled A Novel of Your Own.

 

The Purpose and Practice of Revision

These past few months I have been submerged in revising one of my novels. It has been sluggish, at times arduous and discouraging, taking up a good chunk of my energy, which partly explains why I have been less present on this blog.

I tend to approach revision of my work like a ten year old might approach having to clean her room on a Saturday morning.

Image result for girl cleaning bedroom

There are so many more interesting things to do, right? After all, the sun is shining and I really should take advantage of one of the few nice days left before winter settles in.

When it comes to editing my work I need all the help I can get not only to get my brain cells functioning out of slumber but also to once again get excited about my work.

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This week, to help boost my enthusiasm over my novel, one of the members of the writing group I belong to forwarded to the gang this article on revising by Jane Smiley. Her essay titled The Purpose and Practice of Revision was published in  Creating Fiction, edited by Julie Checkoway.

 

 

 

So, I was gleefully pleased when I read this passage in Smiley’s essay:

A good revision should involve you more deeply in your work and make you more eager to get at it. As a good reviser, you will gain two boons. First, your work will get better, and so will  be more likely to get published. Second, you will like doing it so much that you will care less and less about whether it ever gets published.

Hmm. Like doing it so much. That sounds like an enticing promise to me. Somewhere between first draft and God only knows how many more drafts I lost interest. What was the point of going on when I already knew the story? Obviously, the point was to keep improving. We’ve all heard some form of this: a real writer writes.

The first idea you need to give up when you begin to revise is that you know what this story is about.

Sue Miller

 

If you’re in revision mode, Jane Smiley’s article is a guiding light to shine on your process. In less than a dozen pages, Smiley has managed to capture the soul of revision, not a small feat when you consider that many books attempt to do so in hundreds of pages.

Her advice is precise, concrete and uplifting.

You can read the entire article here.

 

 

 

 

Again Indie Books

 

 Hi Everyone,

Thanks for being here. I appreciate it. A lot! ❤

Here are a couple of my latest e-book reads that you might like.

Unhappy Endings is certainly a fitting title for this collection of three flash fiction stories. The endings are also unexpected. In Sylvia’s World a young woman dreams of escaping from a marriage to a man who has little interest in her life. In the middle story, Cleopatra’s Slippers, the author takes us into curfews and the  thorny moral question of the right to die from a teenage daughter’s viewpoint. The last story, Emmaline, lets us  draw our own conclusion on a sixteen year old girl’s pregnancy.

These days, I’ve been  finding myself pressed for time and so the flash fiction format was perfect. Unhappy Endings provided me with my literary fix and boosted my imagination.

This is not the first time Judy has been on my blog. You can read  more about her on my series  How I Got Published and on her interesting website.

Unhappy Endings will be a free Kindle download from Dec. 1 to Dec. 5. Her collection of short stories, Live Free or Tri, will be free on Kindle at the same time. She’s hoping to get some Amazon and Goodreads reviews!

 

 

I was initially attracted to this debut mystery novel  because of its setting. I have been following Jet Eliot’s Travel and Wildlife Adventures blog for some time now and so I felt that I could count on a vicarious Australian escape. The author’s description of snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef is worthy of any good travel book. Then there’s Jet Eliot’s  grasp on Australian nature, the cacophony of jungle sounds in the rain forest and her casually inserting Aussie words such as the chocolate covered pastry named the Lamington – the same name as her protagonist – Anne Lamington – a perky, middle aged-woman whose curiosity leads her to sleuthing.

Wicked Walkabout is a mystery, much in the style of the classic who-dune-its. Lately, I tend to lose interest very quickly on the many novels I’ve been coming across. Not so with this book. The author did a terrific job of holding my interest. I liked the characters in the book and loved the relationship of the protagonist with her police officer son back in America. I suspect that in her 2nd installment of the Anne Lamington series – The Golden Gate Graveyard – we’ll be hearing more about her son.

You can read more about Jet Eliot here.