INAPPROPRIATE MATERIAL – WHEN TO SAY ‘NO’ by Miko Johnston

               Bother: to disturb; cause physical pain to somebody

               Offend: to upset; cause somebody anger, resentment, or hurt

 

Twenty years on I can still recall my reaction after reading Kathleen Woodiwiss’s first book, “The Flame and The Flower” – a romance novel in which Heather Simmons falls in love with Brandon Birmingham. Lest you think they ‘meet cute’, during their first encounter he rapes her. Then they fall in love. Sorry. I can’t get into a novel where the heroine falls in love with her rapist or an equally despicable person. Of course, no one is forcing me to read anything like that.

 

Unless it’s presented in one of my critique groups.

 

One of the challenges in writing groups is dealing with material that individuals may feel unable to fairly critique. Sometimes it’s a matter of not understanding what has been written or having an aversion to a particular genre. If I don’t ‘get’ your poetry, I can’t tell if the problem lies with what you’ve written, or me. I’ll always begin my critique of anything paranormal with the caveat that those storylines don’t appeal to me because they strain credibility. I’ve known others who take issue with profanity, graphic violence or sexuality, religious affronts, child endangerment, and most often violence against animals. When critiquing sensitive material we should express our bias and move on. But on a few – mercifully few – occasions I’ve found myself subjected to unacceptable material in substance or presentation.

 

My first experience with this involved an ‘author’ who kept bringing in pieces that read like letters to Penthouse Forum, wild sexual encounters that defied believability. Our group had no policy in place for dealing with such material, so after a few weeks of explaining that, shall we say, he misunderstood what was meant by a story’s climax, we finally told him to seek out another group. I should note that the graphic content didn’t offend me as much as the intent of the writer to shock and titillate his audience, like a flasher who inflicts anatomical words instead of parts.

 

Once I’d been exposed to this issue (yes, that pun was intended) it made me wary of it happening again, so in my next group I suggested creating a policy for a comparable situation. The members laughed it off as unnecessary. Less than a year later, I received pages to critique via email that glorified pedophilia. I wanted to scrub my computer clean in every sense. Since no policy was in place it took a village to expel that writer; angered at our group’s united refusal to read his pages, he dropped out.

 

I included the definitions for Bother and Offend to make a point. I’ve always thought of offend as being much stronger than bother, so I found it interesting that bother relates to a physical discomfort while offend describes an emotional uneasiness. It makes sense, though. Being bothered is more concrete; you know what’s causing it and how it’s affecting you. But offence is harder to pin down; like Potter Stuart’s legendary Supreme Court determination that hard-core pornography was hard to define, but “I know it when I see it”.

 

Having gone through this experience more than once, I’ve come to believe that having a written policy best addresses the problem. Individual wording will vary depending on the group, but in general no one should have to read material that is ‘unacceptable’, a more concrete and less emotional term than objectionable. I define unacceptable to include any material that presents what is generally considered heinous – ethnic cleansing, nonconsensual sex, child rape, enslavement – in an agreeable or glorified manner. Simply put, the hero should fight evil, not be evil.

 

My writers group recently updated its by-laws, so I brought up the idea of including a clause on unacceptable material. Some members agreed that a written policy in place would be wise while others felt that common sense should prevail, otherwise we might be perceived as practicing censorship. The subject initiated more debate than all the other sections put together. Ironically, one member of our group submitted chapters from a religious philosophy book he’s writing and complained about the personal nature of the feedback. Apparently members found his reasoning ‘unacceptable’ and commented not on the writing, but the philosophical ideas behind it.

 

So am I wrong in thinking issues like this should be headed off at the pass, or left to a case-by-case basis. And where should the line be drawn? What would you advise?

Don’t Love Your Characters Too Much

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Jacqueline Vick is the author of over twenty published short stories, novelettes and mystery novels. Her April 2010 article for Fido Friendly Magazine, “Calling Canine Clairvoyants”, led to the first Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic mystery, Barking Mad About Murder. To find out more, visit her website at http://www.jacquelinevick.com.

 

 

I was working on the next Harlow Brothers mystery.  During a scene where older brother Edward gets arrested, I noticed that I was leaving him with his dignity.

What?!

I had a perfect opportunity to make a screamingly funny scene, and I was letting it go because I didn’t want to embarrass Edward.

Like many authors, I love my characters. We spend a lot of time with them, so this is understandable. However, there has to be a line between caring about what happens to them and getting in the way of the story.

I should tell you up front that I will walk away from a movie or TV show if a situation gets too embarrassing. I have a chronic case of empathy, and the character’s humiliation is just too much to bear.  Still, if I want to write the best scene possible, I’ll have to find a way to get past this.

Maybe if I thought of them as little masochists who reveled in embarrassment and shame. The more I pile it on, the happier they are. No, that’s too creepy for me and would lead to a completely different kind of book.

What if I told them to trust me? That no matter how bad it gets, I will pull them out of the mire, clean them up and set them back on their pedestals.

I just don’t know.  Have you ever had this problem? How would you get past this dilemma?  Leave your suggestion in the comments below.

Called to Please

Guest post by Rebecca Carey Lyles

becky Lyles

Write what pleases your readers?

While on my daily walk this morning, I listened to one of my favorite book-marketing podcasts. Although I’ve learned much from that audio show, I took exception to a statement made by today’s guest, who writes romance novels, thrillers and comedy. In addition to being versatile, she’s prolific and has sold thousands of eBooks. Obviously, she knows whereof she speaks. Even so, her suggestion that we write what pleases our readers didn’t quite jive with me.

My reluctance to accept her advice is partly due to being a faith-based author and partly due to the fact I’m old enough to be her mother. I realize more each day that life is short and my time on Planet Earth is limited. I want to leave a written legacy that deepens readers’ faith, enhances relationships, and inspires personal life-change as well as concern for others.

For a Christian author, writing for publication is a calling to use our God-given talent to honor him and draw others to him. Of course, I want to please readers. However, pleasing God should be my primary goal. Such a focus will enable me to compose stories that uplift, educate and challenge as well as entertain.

windsRomantic-suspense, peppered with frank reality

My romantic-suspense novels might attract a few readers similar to the above-mentioned readers. But difficult subjects like imprisonment and human trafficking will likely cause many who prefer a “lighter read” to turn away. Yet, I felt led to write about those important topics through a series of “serendipitous” events that precipitated each book in the Kate Neilson Series.

I’m currently conducting interviews and doing research for my next fiction series, which will feature individuals trapped in an abusive religious cult. Not exactly pleasant subject matter. Thanks to family members caught in a controlling group, I’ve learned that cult awareness is as crucial for Americans as is understanding the human-trafficking epidemic that plagues our country.

My part in disseminating truth about cults is to create an entertaining plot peopled by compelling characters who search for transformation and freedom in a beautiful mountain setting (only because I like mountains!). Just so you know, despite daunting themes and heartrending storylines, all my books have happy endings, even the nonfiction ones, It’s a God Thing! and On a Wing and a Prayer.

Passagways.A good story

 I might add that my writing is neither literary nor preachy (at least I try not to be preachy). I’ve penned short stories that entertain or make readers think but don’t overtly teach biblical truths (see Passageways)***. As Henry says in the movie The Book of Henry, “A good story will remind you of who you want to be.” All truth emanates from God’s Truth.

How do we live out our calling and write what God wants us to write? The same tools that help us know his will for other aspects of life are also useful for writing guidance. Prayer, Bible reading and study, Bible teaching, listening and responding to the Spirit’s nudges, wise counsel, inspirational books and music, intuition, contemplation, circumstances, confirmation, serendipitous moments—and peace when the right decision has been made.

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Becky.Steve LylesBio

Rebecca Carey Lyles grew up in Wyoming, the setting for her Kate Neilson novels. She currently lives in Idaho, where she serves as an editor and as a mentor for aspiring authors. She’s also written two Colorado-based nonfiction books, “It’s a God Thing!” and “On a Wing and a Prayer,” and compiled a short-story collection with other Idaho authors titled “Passageways.”  With her husband, Steve, she hosts a podcast called “Let Me Tell You a Story.”

Please visit her website or contact her via email or Facebook.

 

Excerpt from her most recent novel:

 Winds of Hope***

Prequel to the Kate Neilson Series

THE PRISON GATE CLANGED SHUT behind Kate Neilson, the sound as loud and harsh in her ears as coupling train cars. She’d heard that clatter of metal against metal hundreds of times during her five years of incarceration. Yet with each slam, her stomach lurched and her shoulders jerked. Try as she might to steel herself against the jarring crash, she couldn’t help but react like a startled bird.

For the first time, Kate stood on the visitor side of the barred gate that separated the reception area from the wide fluorescent-lit hallway leading to the cellblocks…..

 

***NOTE from Jackie: To read the entire excerpt, go to http://bit.ly/2sLVHzI  on my ‘Here’s How It Happened’ blog.

 ***NOTE from Jackie: PASSAGEWAYS  is a collection of 16 stories by four authors. They range from amusing (an old lady with an unusual “weapon” for an unusual purpose, in Mattie Cummins), to romantic (Follow the Moonbeam), heart-rending (Grand Champion), thought-provoking (Invisible Thread), mysterious (Three Days) and sweet (Morning Song) to….. downright creepy! (The Magician).

And yes, Gayle Bartos-Pool, there is a Christmas story (Spirit of Christmas) with a not-so-typical ending.

 

Let Freedom Ring!

*My country ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died!
Land of the Pilgrim’s pride!
From every mountain side,
Let freedom ring!

Our father’s God to, Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!

Freedom.

Freedom.flagFreedom from fear and oppression, freedom to live our lives and fulfill our dreams, freedom to write our stories. It’s in our constitution and our patriotic songs. Freedom is a precious commodity still alive (for the most part) in this country. Oh, may we cherish it!

As authors and journalists, we are still relatively free from censor as long as we don’t intentionally harm someone. Ours is a country made for wordsmiths! We can write our articles, poems, songs, memoirs, stories, and books without fear of being imprisoned. We can think up plots that chill spines or puzzle astute minds; humor and satire that produce chuckles, guffaws, or wry smiles; and desperate, horrific situations that rend hearts (and bring out tissue boxes), and pierce consciences.

Freedom.pen.swordWords have power.

“The pen is mightier than the sword,” said English playwright, Edward Bulwer-Lytton. So let’s wield our words wisely.  Yes, let us use them to entertain, but  also to encourage, inspire, challenge, and provoke our readers toward  what is good.

Come mighty patriots, take advantage of the freedom you have. Write on! Publish! Change a mind, a life, a world!

The Lord announces the word, and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng:” Psalm 68:11 NIV

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Isaiah 52:7

 

* Written by Samuel Francis Smith; the tune used for this song is “God Save the Queen”, the British National Anthem.

 

 

Launching a New Adventure

Thunder.Bailey.Book Cover.2

 

Hi again! It’s me: Thunder, the PR Rep for some of the Writers in Residence. This job is taking up so much of my nap and play time that I hired an intern. That’s her, Bailey, behind me in the photo. She’s learning the ropes, but since she’s not even a year old, she’s easily distracted by squirrels and other moving objects.

But I digress.

I’m here today to tell you about a brand-new book by Bonnie Schroeder (that’s my mom.) We are beyond excited to share the news that Write My Name on the Sky has just been published by Champlain Avenue Books!

Here’s the official press release, written by Bonnie of course, since dogs don’t think this kind of stuff up themselves:

Write My Name on the Sky is the story of Kate Prescott, a 1960s college dropout who marries art student Jack Morrison and helps him become famous. Then things go off the rails, as they must in a novel.FrontCoverOnly300dpi (002)

The book’s title is a metaphor for ambition and its dark side. Many of the characters in the novel are wildly ambitious—and ambition often drives success, but at a cost, which comes out as the story progresses.

All names have been changed to protect both innocent and guilty, of course, and most of the story events are purely imaginary, but it’s grounded enough in reality to make it believable—and, I hope, entertaining to read. Based on the early reviews, readers seem to agree so far.

The book is available wherever good books are sold (online of course, and mostly by special order at physical bookstores, although Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse in La Canada will always have it in stock.)

 

All right, my work here is done. For now. It’s past my nap time. See you around the book universe.

Happy Summer Reading!Bonnie_Schroeder-McCarthy-Photo-Studio-Los-Angeles-7187

–Thunder and Bonnie