"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blog on Fire

A special thank you to Margo for giving me the “Blog on Fire” Award along with some funny questions.

1. Are you a rutabaga? Hmm… while I have been known to enter into a vegetative state from time to time, I don’t believe it has become a permanent case – YET!

2. Who is your current crush? No words are necessary! ;-)

3. Upload a heartwarming picture that makes you smile. I've shared this one before, but I still love it!

4. When was the last time you ate a vine-ripened tomato? About a month ago. My mom grows them like any good southern lady!
5. Name one habit that causes other people to plot your demise. I’m a bit of a control freak (OCD) and I can drive people crazy “fixing” things and situations. Sorry friends and family!
6. What’s the weirdest, most disgusting job you’ve ever had to do? It’s a three way tie. Being a teacher, stay-at-home mom and volunteer with the elderly has immersed me in all kinds of bodily fluids and clean-up projects. It’s just part of life and I’ll spare you the details.
7. Where da muffin top at? If it’s a blueberry muffin, in mah tummeh!

8. What author introduced you to your genre? I write in multiple genres. Some of my favorites growing up were Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare and Tennyson. One of my favorite modern day authors is Nora Roberts. She’s always classified as romance, but she writes just about every genre.
9. Describe yourself using obscure Latin words. Don’t know about obscure, but… aut viam inveniam aut faciam - I will either find a way or make one.
10. Now who else deserves this award? Well, lots of the bloggers I know, and if you would like to accept it or have me add you to the list, just shoot me a message. For now, I’ll just pick three:

Best of luck to everyone on their WIP's - Happy Writing!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Free Muse Online Writer's Conference

I only recently heard of this free online writing conference and have no personal experience with them.  As always, PLEASE read guidelines carefully before registering or sharing your work.

The Muse Online Writers Conference is affiliated with the award-winning sites and Writer's Digest Top 101 Writing Sites: The MuseItUp Club & Apollo's Lyre & MuseItUp Publishing. Registrations are now open but please bookmark and come back often for details on how to register for a pitch session this year.

No matter where you live, what you write, at what point you are in your writing career, you'll find a workshop that fits your needs during the weeklong conference. 
No hidden costs. This conference is FREE, but we do ask for donations to help support this site and our cause - to continue offering you FREE workshops each year.

If you know more about this conference, please share your experience and concerns.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Award Love

A special thank you to Bonnie Rae for gifting me with the Liebster award!

This award is intended to connect bloggers. In accepting the award, I am encouraged to:

• Show my thanks to the blogger who gave me the award by linking back to them.
• Reveal my top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
• Post the award on my blog.
• Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the internet—other writers.
• And best of all – have fun and spread the karma.

Instead of choosing five people to award this to (who may have already received it or do NOT wish to receive one), I will let you choose whether or not you want it for your blog. To accept, simply leave me a comment below.
Happy Writing!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Perfect is Boring

Today’s guest post is by Wayne Zurl. To learn more about Wayne, please read the previous post.

When I began writing police mysteries I said to myself, “Aha! This is fiction, not a documentary. I have the opportunity to make everything come out perfectly.”
            I thought it would be cool to chronicle my old cases and correct any mistakes or ask the questions that never came to mind or make the clever comments I only thought of the day after. It looked like an “if only” moment, a chance for perfection.
            Then it rained on my parade. The precipitation came in the form of a middle-aged man with lots of experience in publishing and some pretty good ideas. The retired editor turned book-doctor who I hired to assist me during the formative stages of A NEW PROSPECT said, “Your protagonist is perfect. He never makes a mistake. Are you nuts?”
            “Huh?” I said.
            “Perfect is boring,” he said. “Readers like tension. They like uncertainty. Put the character in jeopardy. Screw that perfection thing.”
            “Hmm,” I replied.
            I thought about the concept and remembered reading other mysteries. How many times had I said, “Jeez, a good cop would never do that?” I’d grit my teeth and wait for the ax to fall.
            One of my favorite fictional cops, James Lee Burke’s Cajun detective, Dave Robicheaux, ALWAYS did something I knew a guy with his experience would NEVER do.
            I’d tremble and say, “Oh, Dave, you know better.”
            Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe knew he should never enter a spooky building alone. He never used back-up. He never told anyone where he was going. He created the perfect opportunity for a hood to catch him snooping and hit him over the head.
            It was a commonality throughout fiction. Writers knew perfect characters were boring. Characters who took risks (sometimes stupid risks) created tension. They invited conflict. And tension and conflict sold books.
            I’ve experienced enough tension in my life to have had a liquor bill equal to the gross national product of a small banana republic. So, I’d rather read about a slick detective who does everything right. I’d look at that story as a description of an art form.
            But that little voice inside my head would say, “Too bad, Wayne, you’re one of a VERY small minority of readers.”
            Readers like tension. They love to grimace when their favorite characters foul up and put themselves into a situation which requires fancy footwork to get out from under the catastrophe.
            Remember James Bond when Ian Fleming’s books were more famous than the movies? International thugs captured Bond so many times he qualified for frequent hostage points.
            How about TV’s Jim Rockford? He never worked with a partner who watched his back. And Stephen J. Cannell arranged for him to be hit on the head so many times, his skull could have been called Land of a Thousand Concussions.
            But we loved it . . .  and them.
            So, what’s the moral of my story? It’s simple. When we create a protagonist, we must build in a few flaws. Does he or she drink a little too much when they shouldn’t? Does getting buzzed at the wrong time make them miss a crucial clue or forget to duck when the bad guy swings a tire iron? Do they have an uncontrollable big mouth and always say the wrong thing to people with serious political clout? Do they trust the wrong person at the wrong time?
            There are oodles of possibilities. All we have to do is dream up one or more to fit our protagonist’s personality and stick with it in numerous variations. Create that tension. Make your readers squeeze their eyes shut in anticipation. And always give your heroes a way to slither out from under the problem they created. You’ll have the makings of a good series of books or stories.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Author Interview: Wayne Zurl

Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.
Nine (9) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. His first full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards. It is also available in various eBook formats.
For additional information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see www.waynezurlbooks.net . You can read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and even see photos of the area where the stories take place.
If you enjoy the interview below, please come back Friday for his guest post.

1) How did you develop an interest in writing? I’ve only had two long-term jobs in my life—soldier and police officer. Writing played a big part in both. From after-action reports in the military to the reams of narrative paperwork that makes the criminal justice system go around, I spent lots of time behind a pen. Quite often my reports found their way to someone who I had never met. I couldn’t influence those upper echelon people with a big smile or a sharp uniform so, to make a favorable impression, I had to make my writing better than the average guy. Back then I received enough compliments to lead me to believe I had done the job I intended. When I retired I volunteered at a state park and wrote publicity for their living history program. That led to other non-fiction magazine articles, which in turn led to fiction. And here I am.
2) I see you are working on a MS. Can you please tell me a little about it? I recently signed a contract to traditionally publish my second full-length Sam Jenkins novel, A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT. We’re currently doing the edits and so far I’ve gotten good marks. They’re mostly line edits, which makes me happy. It’s another police mystery with a bit of thriller tossed in. I know every work of fiction comes with a disclaimer up front stating that any similarity to people, places, or events are purely coincidental, but the basic idea for this story came from an actual case I supervised back in the mid-1980’s. Possibly the most bizarre and frustrating investigation I ever got involved in, the storyline closely follows what really happened. Of course, I embellish it, fictionalize everything, transplant it from New York to Tennessee, and change the names to protect the guilty (and keep me out of civil court). I’ll use the query blurb that sold the story to describe it:
A stipulation of the Patriot Act gave Chief Sam Jenkins an easy job; investigate all the civilians working for the Prospect Police Department. But what looked like a routine chore to the gritty ex-New York detective, turned into a nightmare. Preliminary inquiries reveal a middle-aged employee didn’t exist prior to 1975.
Murray McGuire spent the second half of his life repairing office equipment for the small city of Prospect, Tennessee, but the police can’t find a trace of the first half.
After uncovering nothing but dead ends during the background investigation and frustrations running at flood level, Jenkins finds his subject lying face down in a Smoky Mountain creek bed—murdered assassination-style.
By calling in favors from old friends and new acquaintances, the chief enlists help from a local FBI agent, a deputy director of the CIA, British intelligence services, and the Irish Garda to learn the man’s real identity and uncover the trail of an international killer seeking revenge in the Great Smoky Mountains.

3) What other styles do you write - genre novels, poetry, articles, memoirs etc? I believe in the old writer’s maxim of write about what you know. I know police work and have had those stories published. I also know the Army and many years ago I began a novel about Vietnam. But after only a few chapters I saw that to be as authentic as I wanted, I made the dialogue so “off-color” I felt a little embarrassed. I’m certainly no prude, but I wouldn’t have wanted one of my aunts reading it. So, I scrapped the idea. I did write a western short story that received good reviews. And I know enough about the old west to pull off something longer. Perhaps for fun I’ll try a western novel in the future. I couldn’t write a poem if someone held a gun to my head. Roses are red, violets are purple. On my waffles, I use maple surple.
4) Is this a hobby or do you plan to make a career from writing? Writing is my avocation. I have a few pensions so, I can devote lots of time to it and not have to draw a salary. It keeps me from playing in the traffic.
5) What authors do you admire? There are several established writers who I admire for different reasons. James Lee Burke can write descriptions of places and people like few others. He’s a real master—poetic in many cases. Robert B. Parker has taught me to minimize my writing—believe in an economy of words. He can tell a good story in the fewest words possible. Nelson DeMille, the guy I like to call “the other writer from Long Island” can turn out a seemingly endless supply of quality “smart-ass” dialogue for his main character, Detective John Corey. Raymond Chandler came up with a great supply of outrageous metaphors in his hard-boiled Philip Marlowe stories and novels. Loren D. Estleman picks up the tradition in his Amos Walker detective novels. And Bernard Cornwell writes historical fiction like no other. His battle and action scenes are so intense and fast-paced, I need a drink when I finish one. Or is that just a rationalization?
6) What music, places, people inspire you? I could spend a week answering this question. A) There is no better way to bring back memories than through music. I listen to the 60’s station on satellite radio and get transported to all kinds of places. B) If I had to pick a place that sends me into an emotional frenzy, it’s Scotland. My maternal side of the family was Scottish. I’ve been there thirteen times, driven thousands of miles, and never tire of the spectacular scenery, the people, and the music. Look out over a lonely moor or a shimmering loch, hear a piper somewhere in the background, and feel your heart ripped out. C) What else? There are three things that make me say, “Wow, that’s beautiful, ”vintage British sports cars, old wooden sailboats, and good-looking women over forty.”
7) What do you do when you have writer's block? Generally, when I get an idea from some past experience and begin writing, somewhere along the line truth doesn’t provide the tension and conflict necessary in fiction and I bog down and have to stop and think about what’s necessary to get it into a story-worthy package. The necessary infusion isn’t always easy to find. My wife and I kick around possibilities and I try to weave some fantasy into the real-life happening. Occasionally it takes more time than I’d like.
8) How long did it take you to write your current MS? My first full-length book, A NEW PROSPECT represents my learning process. It was published after a four year trip over a rocky road. My initial effort led me to rewrites almost doubling its length. That led to turning it inside out to bury the back-story I found necessary for a first-of-a-series book where I introduced the cast of regulars. When I began writing to publishers willing to accept submissions directly from a writer, I had read the book a thousand times and hated the sight of it. The current manuscript of A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT went much quicker. I roughed it out, made first draft revisions and began workshopping it on-line. After that, I took the suggestions I received and all the typos and nits other people found and made it ready for submission. I was very lucky with this book. A publisher found me and now we’re getting along famously. I’d estimate the total work time at three to four months.
9) Are you part of a critique group or writer's guild? The on-line workshop I just mentioned is thenextbigwriter.com. I find it very helpful. I look at writing as I looked at supervision in the Army or PD. I don’t need all the answers, but I must know where to find them. I deal with a group of faithful and talented friends. We help each other solve problems. If you want a good manuscript, two heads (or more) aren’t just better than one, they’re essential.
10) Have you ever attended a writer's conference? I never attended a conference, but did attend several workshops similar to those held at every conference I’ve read about. The classes didn’t work for me. I didn’t learn enough fast enough and I felt like I was in group therapy with people half my age.
11) When working on your current MS did you complete an outline first or did you just start writing? I don’t outline first—that’s too much like work. When I get an idea, I get my pad and pen and go to it. If the storyline requires specific time detail to maintain continuity, I make a calendar or list of the action to help me remember what day I’m dealing with.
12) What is your writing process like? Certain hours that you find more productive, a routine, a set amount of time or a number of pages you make yourself write everyday etc? When it comes to schedules, I’m as disciplined as a herd of elephants. I’m most productive and mentally prepared to work diligently in early morning. If I’m in the middle of a non-writing project and an inspiration hits me, I usually drop what I’m doing and get my thoughts on paper before I forget what and how I want to say things. That’s not always convenient and it can drive my wife crazy.
13) Do you have an editor or agent? I don’t have an agent and at this point I won’t pursue one. If someone contacts me with an offer, I’ll listen, but after an unsuccessful period of querying agents, they’re not on my hit parade. My current publisher has asked for the right of first refusal for anything I write for the next ten years. That arrangement looks good to me right now.
14) Would you care to share your opening paragraph (hook) with us? Sure. Here’s part of the prologue from A NEW PROSPECT:
Financially, Pearl Lovejoy stood on top of the hill. Intellectually and spiritually, she foundered on a reef surrounding her unhappy existence. Had she owned a time machine, she would cheerfully turn back the clock more than forty years, erasing the greatest mistake of her life. Realistically, she couldn’t turn back. She could alter her future, but so far chose not to rock her sinking boat.

If you enjoyed meeting Wayne, please come back Friday for his guest post “Perfect is Boring”.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wonderland Winners

Thank you to all of the authors and artists who joined in the Wonderland Giveaway Blogfest. There are still three giveaways taking place with Jody Hedlund, Lydia K and Kari Marie – see here to find out more.

The following three authors are the winners of my own giveaway!
Chicken Soup: Just for Preteens -     Crystal B
1,000 Word Critique –   Lorelei
                        Kari Marie

Congratulations winners! If you will email me (see Contact page), I will get those to you as soon as possible.
I have more giveaways and news coming your way soon. Until then, Keep Writing!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Free MFA

In March I shared a brief review of a book Portable MFA in Creative Writing. It offers the equivalent of a two year $50,000.00 University Master of Fine Arts course within its pages.
I recently discovered this book will be available to download for FREE for a limited time. You can find it on Amazon and is downloadable to both Nook and Kindle for FREE.
To see my original post on this book, please visit here.
Reminder: Tomorrow is the last day to enter for a chance to win one of my giveaways. There are 16 other authors/artists offering prizes. For more information or to enter, click here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dark Passions and Giveaways

There are only three days left to enter my giveaway and Friday is the last day for some of the others (see previous post). Also, another author has added her name to the giveaway list so be sure to stop by her blog to see her offer.

Thought for the day: “Do not hesitate to give your hero lusts of the flesh, dark passions, impulses to evil; for these dark powers, fused with their opposites – the will to good, the moral impulses, the powers of the spirit – will do to your character precisely what the opposite powers of fire and water do to the sword blade." - William Foster-Harris

Happy writing and best of luck winning one of the giveaways!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wonderland Giveaway

Welcome to the “Wonderland Giveaway” Blogfest. I have been gifted with so much from my blogging friends in the last ten months. I want you to get something as well. I am offering several prizes:
-   I will give away ONE copy of the Chicken Soup: Just for Preteens book in which my story “Feeding the Soul” appears.
-   I will critique (free of charge) any 1000 words of choice for two lucky winners.
The rules are simple:
1. You must add yourself as a follower of this blog if you are not already.
2. Leave a comment telling me which prize you want. Comments must be left by August 21 to qualify.
3. Earn extra entries by posting an announcement/link to this contest on your own website, blog, twitter, facebook etc. and leave me a link in the comments below. One entry for EACH announcement/link.
4. Winners will be announced by August 25.
Isn’t that easy?
More than a dozen authors/artists have joined me in this celebration. Each one has their own giveaway rules so be sure to read them carefully. To see what they are offering...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Writer's Recent Purchases

A friend of mine recently bragged to me about the number of books she owned on the craft of writing. I began questioning her about several of them explaining I was looking into brushing up on some skills and some of my weaknesses.
It became apparent she had not read most of them and could not give me specifics on more than a few. What good are books if you don’t read them? After discussing the topic with her and several others I made some purchases of my own.
1.      45 Master Characters – I use books by Christopher Vogler and Joseph Campbell when I teach archetypes (see my “For Writers” page above). I chose to purchase this one because it came cheap in a bundle package with:
2.      20 Master Plots – I’m interested in this one because of the following description I found on Amazon: “Find 20 fundamental plots that recur through all fiction - with analysis and examples - that outline benefits and warnings, for writers to adapt and elaborate in their own fiction. Each chapter includes brief excerpts and descriptions of fiction from many times, many genres - myth and fairy tale, genre and mainstream fiction, film plots of all types, short story and novel.”
3.      The Art of War for Writers – I came across a description and quote from this book several weeks ago that caught my attention. You can see which one here.
4.      Guide to Query Letters – I’ve never had to write a query letter before and feel pretty lost in the whole process. I found this book on the Writer’s Digest website when I was checking prices on some of the other books.
5.      Revision and Self-Editing – This book was recommended by a friend and while I saw it offered in a bundle with several others, I chose only this one because it has sections on character, plot and dialogue as well.
6.      2011 Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition – I did not have a recent Writer’s Market and I found this one on clearance since the 2012 is already available.
I’m excited about reading these. They WILL NOT just sit on my shelf and collect dust. Have you read any of these? Did you find them beneficial? Are there any others you would recommend?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Broken Angel

Rope and Wire just published my short story "Broken Angel".

This is the only western story I have attempted. If you have a chance, please swing by and take a look. I would really love some HONEST feedback. You can leave a comment below or a review at the end of my story here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

By the Numbers

As a former journalist, I often take it for granted that all writers are taught the same rules. This just isn’t so, and I find myself catching the same mistakes repeatedly when I critique for other writers. One set of guidelines journalists learn that doesn’t seem to be taught in English books or “How To’s” for writers are the number rules. I see more traditional publishers and editors following these guidelines as well.
Spell out the numbers zero through nine. Use the numerical symbols for numbers 10 and up. I brought three pencils with me to class. I write approximately 20 pages every night.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, spell out all numbers that begin a sentence. Fifteen authors made it to the final round of the competition.
Of course, there is an exception to the exception: Don’t spell out calendar years, even at the beginning of a sentence. 2007 is the year my first daughter was born.
If you don’t like writing those long numbers, just rework the sentence. Washington Post turned down 10,000 applicants for the new editor position.
Other exceptions are to always use the numeric for ages, dates, monetary amounts and percentages. She is going to be 8 years old on March 3. We will give her $5 for her birthday. She will also receive 1 percent of all sales we make today.
To find out more about the guidelines journalists receive check out The Associated Press Stylebook .

Sidenote: Only one week until the "Wonderland Giveaway Blogfest" (see sidebar) and WriteOnCon (see Fridays post). Happy Writing!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Brilliant Award and Poets Market

Thank you Deirdra Eden - Coppel for the “Brilliant Writer” award. Deirdra is a talented young woman with some beautiful creations. I encourage you to check out her blog.
2013 Poets Market - Considering poetry submissions for the 2013 Poet's Market. You may submit up to three poems. Decision made by December 15, 2011. Announcement made on their blog after individual poets notified. The contract will include publication, $50 payment, and a contributor copy of the 2013 Poet's Market. The poets may also be given the opportunity to record and talk about their poems. The 2013 Poet's Market will be released in autumn of 2012. Submit by August 15, 2011.

Sidenote: Don't forget to check out the free writer's conference in my previous post.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Free Writer’s Conferences

Readers often ask me about attending writer’s conferences. They know it’s important to attend them, but they don’t have the time, the money, or both.  I ask them if they’ve heard of WriteOnCon.

WriteOnCon is a totally free, interactive online Writer’s Conference that can be viewed from the convenience of your home anytime after the initial post. Held annually during the summer, the dates for the 2011 conference are Tuesday, August 16 – Thursday, August 18.

Similar to a blog that is updated every hour - give or take, each new post will be by an author, agent, editor etc. and I believe they will release a schedule a few days before it begins. The Conference is designed to give attendees many of the features of a live writer’s conference, but in an online environment. Thanks to technologies like blogging, vlogging, livestreaming, and chats, WriteOnCon connects writers with both industry professionals and fellow peers. Critique forums allow writers to receive feedback and exposure for their work, and the entire program is designed to be both informative and entertaining.

The first WriteOnCon conference, held August 10-12, 2010, had over 11,000 attendees. Click HERE to read the story in Publisher’s Weekly. All of the content from last year’s conference can still be found HERE.

Did you attend WriteOnCon last year? If so, please share your thoughts and experiences.

Will you attend this year?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Under Construction

Two days ago I decided to begin making some changes to my blog. My banner and name will stay the same. However, I decided to add a few pages based on suggestions and requests. To see more about those or to make your own contributions, please see my previous post.

Though my time has been limited, you can already see a few of my updates including three new pages that are still under construction.

1.) Writing Samples - links to some of my work.
2.) For Writers - Tips, exercises and links.
3.) Reader Fun - Photos, comments and reviews.

There will be more to come soon. Please bear with me as I make some changes and feel free to add your two cents worth. I'm here to learn as well as teach and share.  Happy Writing!