Saturday, September 06, 2008

10 Things I've Learned

"Often, when I am reading a good book, I stop and thank my teacher. That is, I used to, until she got an unlisted number." ~Author Unknown

Three days into a new school year, and this is what I've learned so far:

1. It's easier to get up at 5:30 am than I thought it would be, especially if you can use some of that early time to squeeze out some writing.

2. It is a delicate drill to find the exact time to leave the house in order to avoid all school buses on the way to work.

3. Lunchtime comes a lot earlier (according to my stomach) than it did during the summer.

4. Those muscles in your legs that keep you upright on two-inch heels all day long? They stop working in the summer and have to be re-trained, come Fall (ouch!).

5. Same goes for the vocal cords.

6. Some people will be over the moon-happy to see you back in the halls and classrooms.

7. One or two people will be jealous of the fact that you manage to have a life (i.e., writing success) outside of school and will try to make your life miserable as a result.

8. In those cases, it's best to end the days with (a) a good long run; (b) a good tall glass of wine; or (c) a good conversation with a close friend. Ideally, all of the above.

9. Unlike John McCain's claim in Thursday night's speech, I do not believe that public education is a "failing institution."

10. Standing in front of a group of students who are excited to see you and interested in what you have to say is still the best way to spend a day :)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Advice About Class Reunions

Wow, yesterday's blog question definitely prompted some good and thoughtful responses. Thanks! When I was going through final edits of One Night in Memphis, I was actually surprised by the number of times I had characters swearing. It was always either the bad guy, or male-male conversation. And in both cases, I think, it was realistic dialogue. Still, I cut out probably 1/3 of it in the edits, and I also emailed my editor asking whether she still thought it was too much. I'm not sure what or who else she edits, but she (somewhat laughingly) replied that she thought it was fine. If you check the Samhain page, though, there's still a warning for "Mild profanity." I figured I just wanted to be safe.

End of the week - finally! And among other things on my plate, I have taken on the task of planning my high school reunion (and no, I'm not telling you how many years. You'll have to guess. And even then, I won't tell you if you're right). So...any advice from anyone who's done it? Even better, any advice from anyone who's gone to a class reunion and either loved or hated the way it was set up? Share, please!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Question About the F-Word

"When angry count four; when very angry, swear." ~ Mark Twain

First question: How do you feel about profanity in writing? In the novel I'm working on now, the hero swears every now and again - mostly to show that he's sort of a slacker, a little insensitive, not a great guy at the start...but that's why his change is dramatic later in the novel. One of my readers was offended by the language (specifically, the word "Christ" used twice on the first page, and the f'-word later in the first chapter). She thought it was likely people would put the book down upon reading the first few pages, and I'd be alienating an entire group of people who might otherwise enjoy the story.

Now, the villainous character in One Night in Memphis swears quite a lot, especially as the novel goes on and the danger/conflict heighten. He, of course, isn't a likable guy, and so maybe those language choices are slightly more appropriate or acceptable.

What do you think? Does profanity in dialogue bother you? Does the genre/character/plotline matter at all? Do you have a certain tolerance for it, or none at all?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Reviews Sometimes Come from the Nicest Places...

"The average woman would rather have beauty than brains, because the average man can see better than he can think." ~Author Unknown

Hi folks, I'm taking today off from Writers' Wednesday...but the weekly feature will be back next week with Samhain author Maria Zannini!


In the meantime, check out this video about the different treatment a "sexy" girl vs. a "plain" girl gets. I've seen the same thing with a fat vs. skinny woman, but it's always sort of a jolt to realize how much looks matter in the world. Still.


Here's a question: when a friend/coworker/boss prefaces a conversation by saying, "Now, this isn't personal..." don't you think it usually is?


Hey, this is cool: yesterday at work a fellow teacher greeted me and said, "Why can't I buy One Night in Memphis in print yet? I can't wait until next May!"


And a former student emailed me to ask about college/grad school advice and said, "I just wanted to say I finished One Night in Boston and loved it. I even cried at the end!!!!"


Those kind of reviews and feedback, from people I know whose opinions I value? That's cool.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Prison Break Gets a Thumbs-Up!

OK, so I LOVED the first episode of Prison Break's new season, last night. I wasn't sure...I mean, they've already covered a lot of territory, but it seems as though the writers have a decent plot planned for this 4th season. The best part, though? Sarah, the love interest of main character Michael, is back. And they didn't try to hide her for too long - the two were reunited within the first 10 minutes or so. Amazing how a little love in the air can color a story so differently :)


Also thought I'd mention this cool fund-raiser: Unleash Your Story for Cystic Fibrosis. You can either sign up to read, write, or donate money to those doing so during the month of September, all in the name of a pretty good cause.


I'm off to the first day of school ~ wish me luck!

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Day to Rest - For Some, Anyway

"Labor was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labor, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased." ~Adam Smith

So today is Labor Day, here in the U.S. - the official day off for working citizens in this country and the symbolic end of summer. Falling on the first Monday in September, for me it means school begins tomorrow. We always begin the Tuesday following - and why, oh why, did Labor Day have to fall on September 1st this year? Why couldn't August have stretched into the week by just one lousy day, so that September 1st fell on a Tuesday, and Labor Day fell on September 7th, and the first day of school on September 8th?


Well, I hope you all have a chance to do something relaxing and enjoyable today, even if it's only for a few minutes. I'm keeping an eye on the Gulf Coast and Hurricane Gustav, and saying a fervent prayer that it doesn't cause the kind of damage Hurricane Katrina did. All those people - all those businesses - all those lives that lie directly in the storm's path. I really hope somehow it loses speed before it makes landfall.

Prayers, all~

Sunday, August 31, 2008

"Find"-ing Your Way Through Revisions

Just a quick tip for my fellow writers today:

Learn to appreciate the "Find" feature when you're revising your work. So often, we use the same words and phrasing for a good portion of our story. Using "Find" forces us to locate exactly how many times we've done that and rework the sentence (or image) to make it stronger. In my first-ever manuscript, one of my beta readers pointed out that my characters sighed a lot. When I did a search for "sigh," I discovered how right she was. Being forced to find another dialogue tag or body language action made my writing, and the individual characters, stronger.

"That" is another dangerous word. It often turns up as filler in a sentence and can be eliminated, tightening the phrasing. What about your descriptors of characters' appearances? Too often, writers will use a favorite term for, say, hair color. When it becomes over-used, you're going to pull your readers right out of the story. So check that too. I'm reviewing a story right now that has a decent plot, and the writing itself is pretty good, but the hero uses the same term of endearment for the heroine over and over again. While the author might be trying to make a point, I fear instead she's falling into the trap of not varying her word choice enough.

OK - that's my tip for today! I'm off to work on One Night in Napa. And yes, using the "Find" feature will be one of the ways I'll tackle it :)