Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Recovering from my knee surgery these past few weeks puts gratitude for health at the top of my list, and I’m sure most of you feel the same way.

However, writing as a vocation is a close second. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, “always” being from the age of five. My sister, who was three years older, went to school first and then came home and taught me what she’d learned. On those cold winter afternoons in Illinois, we huddled in our attic “hideaway” with books and paper dolls. Then make our dolls act out the scenes in the books.

As soon as I could read, I found my calling and, luckily the public library was only four blocks from our house. I walked there, assembled as many books as they’d let me check out, and then walked home, reading as I went, from the open top book on my pile. Somehow I managed to go up and down curbs and cross the streets without being struck by cars. But then, there were fewer of them in those days.

This past weekend I participated in a local Arts & Crafts Fair where my writing club has a table for members to sign and sell their books. That’s where I get the greatest payback of having this for my career. A Fair customer bought my novel, THE ITALIAN JOB, on Friday and came back Saturday morning to say she couldn’t put it down and finished reading the book that night. Nirvana!

My other reasons for loving what I do:

* Making up stories for my characters to act out, especially seemingly insurmountable problems for them to solve. As another writer has said, “I tell lies for a living. What’s better than that?”

* Being able to “play God” with my characters, and have no qualms about killing off the bad ones. Sue Grafton said she wrote her first mystery in order to kill off an ex-husband on paper instead of real life.

* Telling people I’m a writer (when they ask what I do) and having a website to send them to.

* Getting plot ideas in the middle of the night, when other people might have insomnia.

* No need to dress up in heels and makeup. I can work in pajamas and fuzzy slippers if I want to.  With chocolate close at hand.

* Getting help from other writers, especially critique partners. Writers are the most generous people in the world.

* I’m “in the black” financially. True, it doesn’t support me, but this “hobby” has paid for itself and hasn’t taken any money out of the family budget. At the next income tax time, I expect to owe the IRS a little bit, so at least my earnings are going in the right direction.

Thanksgiving? My cup runneth over.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Sorry I didn’t post an article last week, but - as most of you probably know - I had knee replacement surgery and am still recovering. “Recovering,” for you youngsters who haven’t needed to do this yet, means ice packs four times a day to reduce swelling, and a physical therapist who puts me through torturous exercise routines.

But enough about the fun. In between, I sneak off to my computer room and hope to write something useful for my blog watchers.

David Farland’s always-enlightening “Daily Kick in the Pants” provided food for thought last week. Titled “Timeless Fiction,” he reminds us our University Literature courses advised us to “study the classics.” To be accurate, he says, “Learn from the best writers that have ever been. Learn everything they knew about writing and then bring their techniques to your own writing.”

Immediately after, however, Dave says this: “Yet, most of the authors of ‘timeless classics’ weren’t trying to write timeless classics. They were living in their own day, trying to write ‘timely’ fiction.” Those writers addressed personal or social problems, and probably never expected their work to be studied by future generations.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch, in her November 13 post called “Storytelling,” gives almost exactly the same advice. Don’t try to emulate the style of the classics: just tell a good story. In fact, Ms. Rusch warns about failure to do so, regardless of how beautiful the prose. She describes a novel she read about a secret, known to some characters, but not all, which was about to be revealed after being hidden for fifty years, a secret so awesome it would change all their lives.

KKR was on the edge of her seat now. How will they react? What would happen? The answer? Nothing. The characters went to bed (and not for sex). The End. The author had written the beginning of a story, but not a story. Were we supposed to guess? Or write our own book to supply a story ending? Rusch states that books like that are often called “literary,” whereas almost all romance, mystery, and science fiction will require a plot.

She doubts that those authors will ever be remembered in the future. Although their style may be outdated, we read books by Jane Austen, Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne because of the stories they told.

An example from my own recent reading is about a famous mystery writer who chose to place a book in the 18th century and used the style of language from that day. If the time period and style could have made the book a classic, it would not have died as quickly as it did in spite of her name. What it lacked was a story that resonated with 21st century readers.

So, when you write, write for your own day. You don’t know what kind of literature will be popular 100 years from now, but human beings will always like a story that interests them, that makes them turn pages to read what happens next. Just do that and your work might be considered a classic in the future. And if not? At least you wrote the best you could and pleased current readers. Besides, you’ll never know anyway.

David Farland
Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Well, it will be free for five days beginning Thursday, November 7. For details about how you can receive TWO free books, read my last post, because I’ve not written another since then. Talk about “best laid plans”...

But a look at my life–so far–should convince you I’m very good at making long-range plans and not so good at having them turn out as I’d hoped. As I said last month, I expected to have my knee replacement surgery on October 21st and be right back in the saddle with new posts on this blog by the 28th. Silly girl.

And my tardiness wasn’t because I hadn’t been warned. Apparently, I fell in love with the promise (from the many friends who’d already had the procedure), “You’ll be so glad you did.” Or perhaps it was this one, “I don’t even know I have knees,” which made me ignore, “Of course, the first few weeks are rough...” “Rough,” as in “OMG, wha hoppen?”

I haven’t worn makeup or combed my hair since Labor Day (or so it seems to my time-slowed-down brain), or eaten a decent-sized meal, or walked three inches without a machine attached to me or a person saying, “You can do this,”, or pain, or all of the above.

My autobiography, when I finally get around to writing it (sorry, there are at least four novels in line ahead of that),  will be titled Making Other Plans because I’ve always been good at telling God what I want and ignoring the no-doubt follow-up laughter. Like finishing my college degree (those four novels above), like marrying only once (but three isn’t so terrible, is it?) And winning an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (but that could still happen, right?)

Comments are very welcome, but responses may be slow since I’m only allowed 30 minutes at the computer. Wait. Do I hear the computer police sirens now?