Sitting in the Rest Area Thoughts

RestareasignAnother “on the writing road again” post. Indeed, I’m finding my writing journey endless—though a most enjoyable discovery adventure—with my posts here at Writers in Residence, metaphorical rest stops[i], and my actual books, destination arrivals in places I’ve never been.[ii]

Looking back, I think my journey started with scenery, North Bend, WA, and now it’s the Mojave Desert and Route 66. And I’m thinking many would agree, questioningmanthat setting/scenery is the initiating spark for many a tale. Often being the impetus for the plot—or at the very least, the enabling/hindering plot action backdrop. I’ve spent a lot of time these last few years pondering over how to enhance my writing in those areas.

But now, with the arrival of 2021, when I think about the books, DVDs, and TV  I enjoy most, it’s the ones with great characters that have brought me the most enjoyment. Fotosearch_k8817762To mention a few, Agatha Christie (Poirot and Marple,) Neil Richards and Matthew Costello’s Cherringham audio series, Midsomer Murders(my all time favorite,) Justified, The Good Wife, Marilyn Meredith’s[iii] Tempe Crabtree and Gordon Butler, Craig Johnson’s Longmire, Simon Brett’s Charles Paris, Patricia Gligor’s Malone and Morgan—and not to sound like a publicist for Writers in Residence(smile), love Johnny Casino and the Harlow brothers.

There are many more… Good plots, enjoyable get-away settings—but most of all, it’s the Characters. And it’s not just the protagonist, but most importantly, all the story and backstory characters that bring a richness to the tales.

More particularly, is it their niceness? Their eccentricities? Do they remind me of people I’ve known? Is it because they make me smile and reminisce? Not sure, but my next writing travel-leg starting now at this rest stop—is to make my characters the best they can be.

How?   GroupOfPeopleThere are a lot of us characters out there! https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

So far on my writing journey, if asked, I think I would say “they just popped up” in my head. But I’m pretty sure the “just popping up” is based on many things—like past experiences, people I’ve met, people I liked, and people I wasn’t that fond of! Whatever that process is, I want better control over it.

Not sure I can add to what my fellow Writers in Residence have already quite helpfully said on this blog—but no matter what great advice one might get—I do know so much of writing is “personal.” I.e., you have to figure out how it helps you—by and for yourself. Sigh. It’s not math, you can’t just add up the column of great advice, come up with a sum, and you’re done.

I want my books to be populated with Midsomer Murders characters! I want my characters to be people a reader enjoys hearing from, and wouldn’t mind knowing and appreciate—well maybe not the murderers! (Smile) And I definitely think this is an important part of writing to think about… I’ve closed many a book, and turned off many a show because either I didn’t like the characters—or in some cases, actively disliked them.

So, on the road again…and hopefully something for you to think about. Not just from the “doing” perspective, but also from the experiencing side. Why did I dislike that TV show kind of thing. All thoughts welcome!

AnotherRoadSign

Happy Writing Trails!


[i] In younger days, on the road with hubby and pups, would sometimes find myself waiting, and would avail the time taking in, and talking to some of our fellow travelers. I wonder if some of those people stuck in the brain and psyche??

[ii] Not as many “destinations” as I planned at this point. I thought 20 books, ha! Only nine…  Author and friend Marilyn Meredith is my guiding light and star when it comes to “getting it done!”

[iii] As it happens, Marilyn has a recent post up about her characters. She even mentions Tempe Crabtree! https://anastasiapollack.blogspot.com/2021/02/mystery-author-marilyn-meredith-on.html

Here’s my latest group of characters (smile) Just out…https://www.amazon.com/Rhodes-Never-Forgotten-M-Gornell/dp/1943063605/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1613418531&sr=8-1

 

Alas……

I’ve always wanted to use the word “Alas” as a title for something because the word says so much to me, and sounds so much nicer, than therefore, thus, consequently…and for me, it does not have a negative connotation

As they often are, my posts tend toward being egocentric—having to do with something I’m dealing with. My thinking is, if I’m going through/learning/puzzling over something, maybe my thoughts will help other writers going through the same thing? So here’s the latest from my little corner of the writing world.

I’m on the umpteenth adjustment/edit of my latest, “Never Forgotten.” My first novella. And though scheduled to be out right now—unfortunately “Never Forgotten is turning into seemingly “Never Finished.”

And I blame it all on Writers in Residence!

Alas, I’ve listened to both what my fellow Writers in Residence, and what our commenters have said here; and most importantly, I’ve tried to incorporate their insights into my thinking. If that sounds like a plug, it is. My advice to myself and others, has always been, listen, listen, listen.You may not use it all, or disagree…but if you don’t listen, you’ll never know if you missed a great tidbit.

And a lot of the great tidbits I’ve picked up are not direct editing(in the traditional usage), but incorporating concepts, ideas, story-telling enhancements.  Refinements that raise your writing to a higher level. And that kind of editing, for me, takes longer than fixing misplaced commas et al. (not that I don’t do an awful lot of that)… Here’s a recent example. I had several lead characters doing the activities in one day that you or I would need at least three days to do. I noticed that in this latest edit because of Gayle Bartos-Pool’s excellent post on laying out your time line.

Here are a couple more time consuming review items that I’ve picked up on this writing trail…

    • I write in third person and as such consider I need to be a disaffected narrator of events, while also getting inside the head of the current scenes POV(usually the protagonist or villian) character and emotions. Keeping that straight …
    • And of course, have I used the best words? i.e. Holding, clasping, clutching, or grasping LC’s diary in his hand.
    • Redundancies, and its counter-balance—not clearly explaining at least once.
    • Conclusions left out, because one is assuming the reader put my two and two together correctly.
    • Pictures of characters not clearly drawn (hard one), and again, its counter-balance, letting the reader develop their own picture from people they’ve known.
    • Words inconsistent with scene POV character’s life experiences

My point to all this whining is: because of Writers in Residence, “Never Forgotten,” whenever it’s finally out, will be better for all the advice and knowledge I’ve gotten here. So, I most heartily, not only encourage other writers to read our blog (another blatant plug), but if not us, find that group, that person, that editor—that can not only give “editing” advice, but also address good writing concerns. Having a story go from your head—to paper, is not enough. I definitely want a reader to understand and enjoy my little stories. And hopefully, want to come back for more. My egocentric opinion I know, but I really think a genuine area for thought.

As a side note: being privileged enough to be a Writer in Residence, has led me into thinking about my writing a lot, and I’ve received and taken in soooooo much great advice. And finally, on the “Never Forgotten” front, my LAST(smile) pass is currently being reviewed by my trusted editor Kitty Kladstrup.

A further nugget here besides just me bellyaching about editing…is to point out that good writing, I think, takes effort and hard work. That being said, I can’t really see Agatha Christie at her Remington Home Portable typewriter agonizing over whether Hercule was sitting, lounging, arranged in his chair…  Hmmm.

Alas, it’s never a straight line to anything….

Happy Writing Trails!

cover

Leftovers

This writing trail of thought started the other night when hubby and I watched the movie, How to Steal a Million, with Peter O’Toole and Audrey Hepburn. We settled on this particular movie because I like looking at Peter, and hubby likes looking at Audrey. That being a point of enjoyment, I nonetheless snarkily(sp) commented several times during the movie that it was a stupid plot and the story moved far too slowly. Hubby didn’t complain at all—Audrey was quite striking, indeed!

Well, the next morning I woke up with a film-cut-like  picture of Peter and Audrey, contorted together in the broom closet(a classic scene in movie history I think). And I wondered why I had that picture in my mind, given I’d complained about the movie?

Some background information about me is, for some of the best novels I’ve ever read, or movies I’ve seen, an actual photo-type image remains with me that I can call up into my mind’s eye. And often they popup when waking up. It’s more than scenery, or location, or character features, or clothes…but a real photography type snap. There have, of course, been many novels I’ve read, enjoyed, even loved, that did not have mental pictures associated with them. Some examples of ones that did are:

  • Murder on the Orient Express, book and movie(s) dénouement scenes in the dining car, and/or out in the snow. For me, these are classic pictures left behind—and my all time favorite one is of David Suchet.[i]
  • Several real-person pictures of Boo Radley—from the book and the movie To Kill a Mocking Bird. (of course, in the movie, the fantastic actor Robert Duvall may have had something to do with the leftover picture(smile))
  • And a great and fun-filled–even though there’s a murder–picture I can still see is Friendly Farm itself, in Murder at Friendly Farm by Jacqueline Vick, and then another picture from Friendly Farm of Santa in the corn maze ,
  • Miss Marple sitting in her drawing room,
  • The Penguin Pool Murder by Stuart Palmer— a picture inside the New York Aquarium with Hildegarde Withers standing there remains quite vividly with me. (Even though I’ve forgotten “who” actually did the murder and I’ve never been to that aquarium…but what a vivid picture I still have)

These are all wonderful fiction novels and movies, so why after my snarkiness during How to Steal a Million, did I retain such a vivid picture? So I’m thinking there must be some storytelling reason(not just just eye-candy), why that picture from How to Steal a Million remains with me, but I haven’t figured it out yet.

But a more pertinent question remains with me—in my own writing, do I want a real snapshot like picture left behind as one of my goals? Or does that just happen given the nature of the story? Or, or? And all the time? Can you even make leftovers happen?

Despite my advanced age(smile), I am still Pollyannaish[ii] at heart, especially in my reading and movie watching inclinations. As a kid, I hated fairytales with bad endings(which were many it seemed)—and after seeing Bambi at the movie theater as a child, never knowingly watched a children’s Disney film again. Further, if it seems like a dog is going to get killed–won’t read, watch, or finish a book or movie if started. Indeed, hope, happiness, the world goes on unharmed, and bad guys get it in the end (even if in an ironic way) are my cup of tea.

So, after writing all these thoughts out—my answer is YES—I want to leave endearing leftovers. Not just thoughts or emotions, but real snaps that bring a smile to the reader’s face. [iii] Hmmm.

Definitely interested in your thoughts…

Happy Writing Trails!


[i] Just downloaded latest Hercule Poirot by Sophie Hannah, and looking forward to visiting the picture of Hercule(probably David Suchet) in my mind’s eye. FYI from Ecosia search—The Killings at Kingfisher Hill the latest Hercule by Sophie Hannah https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Hannah She’s written 4 so far https://sophiehannah.com/

[ii] Pollyanna is a 1913 novel by American author Eleanor H. Porter, considered a classic of children’s literature. (again, per my search engine Ecosia)

[iii] Back to another review of Never Forgotten to see if maybe there are some leftovers!

Two Little Paths…

AnotherRoadSignI’m sharing today two short blog writing-trails I’ve been down recently. As always, my hope is there’s something in my meanderings that might send you down helpful writing paths of your own.

My first little wandering, was instigated by a recent Paul D. Marks post[i] (Thanks, Paul…I think.(smile))

Paul posed the question to his readers of what would you do if you weren’t a writer. It was an intriguing question, and in thinking about my answer, my thoughts–after several professional considerations–led me BACK to writing. And you guessed it, ending up with ideas on how to improve my current writing. Here’s how the thinking trail went… Clipboard01Knowing what I know about my myself and where I am writing-wise——answering Paul’s question, I did arrive at being a Movie/TV Show Producer and/or Director (admittedly based only on outsider-knowledge of the professions). I do love movies and TV, and in my mind, producers and directors do all the great things in putting together a compelling story, like picking the  setting, lighting, color pallet, sequence of scenes, casting…

Then of course, it hit me—in my rewrites, editing, endless agonizing reviews—I could improve my WIPs with a heightened producer/director perspective. A couple posts ago I talked about BBC radio dramas that I listen to on audio-books, and what I learned from them. Well, I’m thinking carrying that learning experience forward to the big and little screen, should broaden my writing reviews.

Readers2I should backtrack a bit, and point out my prevailing approach and perspective on writing comes from reading. And especially from the golden age. Updated by P.D. James, of course! So, adding radio and movie profession perspectives, though it may be obvious to some, was not such a straight line for me.

So, in my “backup” career as a Producer/Director, I’m in the process of adding some touches to my latest WIP to expand my movie production “Vision.”[ii]

My second Little thing–is weighing egoism, good sense, advice taking, and the shortness of life. Items/thoughts which are a continuing balancing act for me–especially during the editing process.

With foolish bravado the other day, I decided to pull out some boxes from my writing dark-ages with the point to toss or save. This impulsive housework-like behavior lasted about an hour before I said “the heck with this” and pushed them back out of sight into the closet. But in that hour of attempted work, I found several short stories I supposedly wrote in the 80s. I say supposedly, because my name (actually pseudonym at the time MM LaCour is on them with submittal envelopes attached)—but I just don’t remember them. Whoever(smile) wrote them, evidently thought they should write however they wanted, convention be damned. Egoism, front and center.

Fortunately since then, I’ve been exposed to marvelous advice on writing. Indeed, so much about writing can be learned at conferences, seminars, from books, (plug) and especially here at “Writers in Residence.” Good Sense and Advice taking.

Paul’s post and the pulling out that box path-meanderings, have brought me here. All this “stuff” is excellent for thinking about, and to use for “how to.” But all important, is keeping in mind tomorrow is not promised. And all these thoughts and paths mean nothing–if I/you don’t write. Which has led me to the main thought I would like to pass on from these two little combined posts—–write as much, and as often as you can. AND most importantly, Enjoy the journey!

ThinkingHeadtoBook2Definitely interested in hearing your thoughts on Paul’s question(which I’m still thinking about), and what “perspectives” you might be using for your writing reviews. And here’s hoping, my ziggy/zaggy comments will help you make your next work “a stellar production.”



[i] I Write Therefore I Am by Paul D. Marks. https://www.sleuthsayers.org/2020/08/i-write-therefore-i-am.html?fbclid=IwAR2Bd1kSxrMyvgkFVS8AO3GcmU4ElEcYINye_-W8lOp84TJTim9emcmFoYY

[ii] Still working on a novella “Never Forgotten,” and in this period of having plenty of time, it’s much slower going than it should be. cover

Visiting Ireland…

Ireland

Ahh… out here in the Mojave, yet able to visit Ireland, via BBC Radio 4, and “Maeve and Me”—What could be better?

At home, trying to write, but with low mental and physical energy, combined with a mindset not completely in tune with writing—and—on the other side of the possibilities pendulum, not inclined to do household chores of any kind.

Most fortunately, I had Maeve Binchy’s “Dublin 4”[i] on the top of one of my stacks of beloved books—ready for the right moment! And with my trusty Kindle at my side, as it often is, loaded with yet to be read or heard kindle and audio book offerings, I’ve been in couch-potato heaven. I did think about writing—but not about doing improvement tasks, or dusting “write your name in it” dust laden furniture, or any of the other neglected household items, or heaven forbid—donning a mask and going out into 2020’s real world. The “thinking” about writing part prompted this post…

Here’s the rambling part of this post that hopefully will end later with a writing tidbit/thought/adventure. Thru Amazon/Audible I first listened to a BBC Radio 4 Broadcast of Charles Paris, played by Bill Nighby, then there was Rumpole, played by Julian Rhind-Tutt, and now I’m finishing up Father Paolo Baldi played by David Threlfall. (I’m mentioning the actors names because I think they have great voices in case you want to give any of them a try) My current listening, Paolo Baldi, has taken me to his Ireland, including traveling around a bit, and I love his mystery focused adventures, and the Ireland he sees.

The next stop on my rambling writing road is Maeve Binchy and her book. I’m in a wonderful book club, and periodically, each of us have to come up with a selection. Fellow Writer in Residence, Rosemary Lord, mentioned Maeve Binchy in one of her posts,[ii] and I thought at the time, one of her books might be a good idea for book club. So I decided to buy a used one[iii] from Amazon, and have fallen in love with her Ireland.

So how does this all come together? After several years of listening to BBC radio,  my reading-self finally realized, that through the spoken-word only, I was hearing and putting together a whole story—location, action, clues, scenery, characters…all through dialogue. There are a few side-effects like a phone ringing, and stomping feet—but the story is carried completely through dialogue. Could I do that? Definitely not.

Then Maeve, who takes you to Ireland up close and personal, with lovely characters and situations–does so much of her story telling through dialogue. You get to know her characters, the setting, motivations, emotions, often via what they say. Can I do that? Definitely not.

Clearly, dialogue can do it all if done right, and I need to learn much more when it comes to writing dialogue, and I plan to definitely enhance my writing along that line. Once again, I’m sharing what’s going on with me with the hope it will help you in your writing. Although, I’m rather reticent it took me soooooo long to realize I needed to enhance my dialogue skills! Sigh. And even though I haven’t spent “enough” time at my computer (per my writing-conscience), I do think I’m going to be working on moving more of my story telling into dialogue.

I’m also thinking this will NOT be easy…

Happy Writing Trails



[i] It’s an old used copy I bought through Amazon from a book store across the country. It has the “feel” of being loved by many. Maeve Binchy on wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maeve_Binchy

[ii] https://thewritersinresidence.com/2016/11/02/a-quick-escape/

[iii] Didn’t notice until after I took the picture, London 4’s cover title is the exact same fuchsia color as my Kindle cover. Eerie.

On the Road Again

My post today is more of an exclamation point to recent excellent posts by fellow authors here, and elsewhere. Ideas were suggested/promoted by other authors that started me thinking—as they hoped they would do—kudos all. Also, and expectedly, with our stay-at-home circumstances, I’ve been reading a lot, sometimes at the expense of writing(smile.) Consequently, given several of these mentioned recent posts, and my plethora of recently read books, I’ve been thinking anew about point of view.

I’ve thought about and talked about POV before because I consider it a big deal—but now thinking anew, I’m reassessing and enhancing. Mainly because as I’ve already mentioned, have plenty of time and many wonderful book-club selections to read (and my tendency to constantly nitpick and notice things-more often than I’d like. ) Also revisiting POV because what I think now that I’m well into my curving writing path—versus what I thought when I first started my journey, has changed some (on several fronts,) and my thoughts continue to evolve. Good thing, bad thing? Not really sure yet.

In taking the perspective of what I like to read—not genre, but style–indeed, in our book club, we read lots of books, most by famous authors, and selected based on the preferences of our members, whose tastes are luckily quiet eclectic, which is why I like book club so much. Many, many, books I’ve enjoyed reading, especially since I know I wouldn’t have read if it wasn’t the selection of the month. So, I’ve had many chances to evaluate and critique many styles of writing. And since most are quite famous and big time, my critiques are worthless analysis[i] except for my writing improvement and whether I’ll buy another book from said author. Unfortunately, weak or confused POVs sometimes have me skimming a lot, versus reading and getting into the story I was trying to read.

And finally, to my point here, to enjoy a story, and really “be taken away,” I need to experience the events of the book’s world through the protagonist eyes. Strong, clear POVs do that for me. But, not just POV in perspective of who’s telling the particular scene’s events, but what I’m going to start calling a “sensory filled perspective.” SPOV? (smile) Not just who’s talking and telling the story—revealing the sequence of events, seeing this story-world for the reader, but also touching, feeling, inhaling, hearing breathing the story. Sensually leading the reader into the special world and on the journey the author’s book is supposedly taking them. Below is an example from early on in my latest WIP…

So here’s what I had a couple days ago:

God, do I love this. Indeed, Donny very much enjoyed, even cherished what he was doing. Especially under a clear and beautifully-blue Spring sky like this morning’s. Being on the road, watching the pavement before him appearing in its unique visual perspective, “feeling” the road below his van as they moved forward, and seeing the miles fading behind him in his rearview mirror.

And here’s what I have now expanded that one little paragraph into(a rather wordy passage—sigh):

God, do I love this. Indeed, Donny very much enjoyed, even cherished what he was doing. Times like this, when thinking about being on the road, he could even feel his heart fibrillate a tad. And today, when bringing one hand to his face while keeping his other firmly on the steering wheel, his cheek felt warm to his touch. Unfocused excitement, or some kind of adventure longing? He wasn’t sure.

This morning, he was traveling under a clear and beautifully-blue Spring sky. Being on the road, watching the pavement before him appearing in its unique visual perspective, “feeling” the road below his van as they moved forward, and seeing the miles fading behind him in his rearview mirror—ahh. Sometimes though, the “road ahead perspective caused Donny to hurtfully rub his eyes behind his glasses. Not today. Thank goodness for surgery and strong glasses. He did however, experience a fleeting inner shudder upon thinking back about having his retina sliced.

So this morning, instead of his eyes, his hand went to rub his pricey fake Moroccan leather dashboard. Oddly, it felt cold to his touch, and almost prompted a shiver. Why, he wondered?

It’s still early days with this novella, many changes, modifications still to come! And going very slowly… But now, many edits will be prompted by my desire to enhance the reader’s sense of SPOV.

As usual, I’m sharing my writing-wanderings here on Writers in Residence because I’m thinking they may tickle your writing thoughts and goals as you continue down your own writing paths.

Happy Writing Trails!


[i] Happily they’re making bunches of moolah!  Sigh, I’m not. I need to learn from them…

Bah Humbug…

bahumbugAs my posts often are, I tend to share “things” going on in my life influencing my writing, with the thought there’s “something” going on beyond just my little mental shenanigans—and might be a nugget for my fellow readers and writers. This is another one of those posts, but possibly even more “rambling down the writing road” than others.

Generally I’m not a negative person, and tend toward optimism versus wallowing in negativity. As bad stuff happens, as it does in everyone’s life, my mind and personality tend to jump to finding a solution—if I can. Some things you just can’t fix. Besides being positive leaning, I’m also a rather private person—I know, I know, yet here I am writing a very public blog about all this. But I’m sharing, because of the prime motivator I have for writing these posts—that maybe other writers can identify with my experiences, and consequently say to themselves, either “I’m not like that, I’m doing it right,” or “yes, I can use those thoughts, too.”

Nonetheless, despite by positive personality leanings, I’ve been literarily down in the dumps for several months. Have barely written a word—instead, besides reading of course, I’ve been nonstop indulging in Perry Mason reruns, Midsomer Murders DVDs, TCM movies, The Saint reruns, and Murdoch.

Why, I asked myself? Especially since I’ve tried all my fix it techniques:[i]

Scheduled writing times and/or number of words,

Made a new cover,

Enhanced character’s backgrounds,

Imagined (not wrote) scenes,

Imagined (not wrote) enhancements to characters backgrounds,

Spoke ideas into my Kindle recorder to get me started when next at my computer,

Went to laptop versus desktop, and vice versa,

Analysis of the point of my tale, i.e. “Who” would care or enjoy the story and new characters,

Not needed research…

Still nothing, to the point of having blasphemous thoughts that I’d never write another book. Months passed.

Then I read with joy Jacqueline Vickie’s latest, Murder at Friendly Farm[ii] and I finally realized (I’d read in eBook format is my excuse for not noticing earlier,), Jacqueline’s book is a Novella. And there was my answer. Never Forgotten will be a novella, not a book. And trying to stretch into a book was stopping me in my writing tracks. An interesting side note, the effects of one’s writing in the world might not be what you expect at all. Thank you, Jacqueline.

Back writing at last! And on top of that, Jackie Houchin’s post about murder on the high seas, has started some new ideas for future books/novellas percolating in my writing brain.

The culmination of all this rambling and a possible nugget of insight for others, is: no matter how much discipline, ingenuity, helpful hint lists, practiced routines, and personal insight one has—sometimes you just have to say, Bah Humbug…then just wait.

Happy Writing Trails!


[i] Used to also do pottery

[ii]  Thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend! Evan is a delight, and it’s never too late to celebrate Christmas. https://smile.amazon.com/Murder-Friendly-Farm-Mystery-Novella-ebook/dp/B082BGBMV1/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=jacqueline+vick&qid=1582485335&sr=8-3   Thank you, Jackie!

Time to Snuggle Up

My post today is very short, and is about “snuggling up” cozy-like under your favorite “blankey,” with a Christmas book at hand, ready for the reading.

In my olden reading days before our local book club meetings and selections, I never much paid attention to “Christmas books.” But tomorrow I’ll be attending my book club holiday meeting at one of our member’s home–potluck(yum); and our hostess really always does such a wonderful welcoming event! (This year I’m bringing candied yams (or sweet potatoes as my grandmother called them.))[i]) But this isn’t a food post, it’s a book post, and the connection is, it was our book club–mainly our “hostess with the mostest”[ii]–who introduced me to Christmas themed books.

Looking back over our books we’ve read list, here are some you might also enjoy this Christmas season:

A Cricket on the Hearth                     Charles Dickens

The Paper Bag Christmas                   Kevin Alan Milne

Copper Mountain Christmas              Jane Porter

This yearThe Mistletoe Murders, P.D. James ( and it has two early Dalgliesh stories in it.  I love P.D. James’s writing, thinking she’s one of the best writers ever, especially when it comes to setting/scenery and characters)  &  A Christmas Gathering, by Anne Perry

Also, here’s a link to a UK website https://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/classic-christmas-crime/ with even more great selections from mystery authors you know, like Agatha Christie, Gladys Mitchell, George Simenon, and more. I’m going to have to extend the Christmas season, just so I can read some of these (smile).

And I’d be remiss if not listing as one of my favorite Christmas reads, Lovers and Liars, by Paul Alan Fahey. I read Paul’s book a few years back, but even now, when I think about Christmas reads, I always think about the ending of his book…to give you a feel, here’s the last part of my heartfelt 2014 Amazon review:

“…he has a knack for taking you right into the character’s soul and story. I felt like I was there in England during the war–with Leslie, Edward, Robert, Caroline, and Cyril. At the end in Kent, I even felt like I was part of their little family Christmas….”  Miss ya, Paul.

So, my conclusion to this post is to say–Christmas time is a little tough for some to sit down and actually write, though I’m tryingbut what a great time to snuggle up with a seasonal book–reading and enjoying a selection from the wealth of Christmas literature available to us!

Any other Christmas books you’d like to recommend?

Joy to all this Holiday season, and Happy writing and Christmas Reading Trails!

 


[i] Yams? Sweet Potatoes? After research (I spent more time than I should have researching potatoes for this post – they really were yams my grandmother cooked so memorably) many years back… https://www.google.com/search?q=difference+between+yam+and+sweet+potatoes&client=firefox-b-1-d&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=Mieaf3CHDafUeM%253A%252CZ-Aoa6ukDLXpmM%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kQ6OmgzfwDPA03Cv4iE_6hqnC0rFQ&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwidzu7EjJ3mAhWKrZ4KHTsgAfAQ9QEwAHoECAMQAw#imgrc=Mieaf3CHDafUeM:

[ii]  Quotes From Google, “Generally attributed to Jimmy Durante, an American entertainer, describing a well known hostess of large party’s of the time, Perle Mesta. This would have been in the 1940’s. Simple explanation is that Perle Mesta hosted the best parties to which all the “A” list people aspired… hence the hostess with the mostest.” Or, “It comes from The Hostess With The Mostes’ On The Ball, a song in Act I of the 1950 Broadway musical Call Me Madam, originally sung on stage by Ethel Merman. Ethel Merman played Sally Adams, a rich socialite widow who gets appointed the ambassador to the fictional country of Lichtenburg.”

Metaphorical Tapestries…

 

My post today is about “depth and richness.” [i] And as usual, the road winding roadgetting here is twisting and curving. This particular writing thought path started for me this last August, with a Jackie Zortman post on her blog, Jackie’s Mountain Memos. It is the most lovely post, and the link is provided below[ii]. Besides Jackie sharing her past memories and her present day touchstone to her family, there are several lovely oil lamps pictured in “This Little Light of Mine.” I’ve collected a couple lamps myself from antique stores, and I find the unknown memories and possible past family events associated with the lamps, intriguing and compelling when it comes to story-imaginings.

Then recently at a High Desert Book Festival discussion on what inspires authors to write about the desert, I talked about those courageous and tough individuals that came before us, how tough it must have been, and how lucky we are to have benefited from their pioneering efforts. (Such as in my current Rhodes series.)

Then from another direction,[iii]—there are past discussion I’d read orrug participated in—on whether pottery was Art versus craft. I always sided with art, and now as I move more down my writing road, once again I’m siding with art. So, how can we  make our writing-tapestry[iv], more alive, more colorful, and more textured?  More artful? Fancy flowery talk I know—but at the core, I think, a true and solid goal.

In a nutshell, the key here for me is how the past is influencing, determining, and controlling how our characters are experiencing their present. And on all levels, physically, emotionally, and proactively even–such as in determining what they do in the action part of our story. Indeed, I very much think our metaphorical writing tapestries then become more colorful, more textured–more a work of art.

In my reading, I love it when the author brings the past into a current story; which for me, not only brings an emotional touch of nostalgia to the tale, but also a richness to the current world happenings–as they are layered upon past events–and the contrasts between those two worlds. The past is no longer just background for what’s about to happen—but key to understanding current world character’s thoughts, emotions, and motivations. Why the heck they’re doing what they’re doing.

My bottom line point is, past events need to come through on a personal level through our characters eyes and heart. Not cardboard characters with simply narrative pasts, but living, breathing pasts that are part of their being, and make them full-flushed-alive as they experience their present. I know, I’m talking about characters as if they are actually alive. They are, aren’t they?

Happy writing trails.


[i] From Webster online–Tapestry: A piece of thick textile fabric with pictures or designs formed by weaving colored weft threads or by embroidering on canvas, used as a wall hanging or furniture covering. Used in reference to an intricate or complex combination of things or sequence of events.

[ii] https://jtzortman.wordpress.com/2019/08/25/this-little-light-of-mine/

[iii] Trying to figure out if and how to get back into pottery.

[iv] I know the picture is not a tapestry, but a rug–but it is the closest visual I have.

The Last Goodbye…

This is a short post “looking inside” one author’s writing process/journey…

ThinkingHeadtoBook2Several weeks ago, Gayle Bartos-Pool posted an excellent writing on polishing your latest[i] before sending your wonderful novel out into “the world.” My “polishing activity” follow-on thoughts this week, are on my developing questions to use when looking back on my novels once they are actually gone and fending for themselves in the world.

One of my writing goals has always been to continually improve my writing — classes, books, editors, advice from writers I know, reviews, blogs like Writers in Residence (smile)—you get the picture.  Mainly, trying to do better than my last book.

This last item for me, has always been haphazard and unstructured. Especially since I have never reread any of my books after publication, except when I’ve read snatches at several events. Even that was hard—once published, the work is mentally and emotionally gone. If I didn’t have “important details” files, I probably couldn’t recall many characters names. Though sort of having a series now, my Shiné world and inhabitants have remained with me from book to book much better, stronger, and more fondly. Still, I haven’t reread any of them.

So, my point in this post is to share an actual list I’m working on to counteract my unfortunate tendency not to re-live what I’ve written, AND also enable thinking about what I want to do better in the next one. Improve my writing. Here’s the beginnings of what I’m working on so far from my looking back perspective..:

RTCTQuestionMark.jpg

  • More dialogue, and more action involving characters physically doing things (this is just a nugget of a goal—and I’m not sure exactly what I mean yet. Especially since I just reread a short story by P.D. James called the Mistletoe Murders where there’s mostly narrative—and I loved it.)[ii]
  • More action with real personal danger involved.
  • More real romance other than intellectual “love of the Mojave.”
  • Characters “actually” having changed, versus in the “process” of change.
  • More skillfully handle “musicality.” (do so much rewriting in that area — especially balancing long passages with short)
  • Better develop traditional “mystery” conundrums. (An outstanding example of what I’m talking about here is Agatha Christie. What a mind!)
  • Better balance against each other – (1) stopping a reader in reading-stride, versus (2) using the absolutely perfect word–noun, adjective, adverb, verb–for description emotional impact. Love finding the perfect word!

I plan to think about all these items, and more, as I start writing my latest Shiné adventure, Deceiving Eyes. But these items are peculiar to me and my writing goalsand the point of my sharing all this “what’s in my mixing bowl stuff” is to offer the thought of doing this type of farewell with your own ideas, writing, and goals?

Which leads to my second point, actually using Last Goodbye thoughts in the future. Not just thinking about them…smile. Another bullet for my list.

Happy writing trails…


[i]  https://thewritersinresidence.com/2019/08/14/polishing-the-gem-3/  Polishing the Gem

[ii] See Jackie Houchin’s post last week about our favorite authors.  https://thewritersinresidence.com/2019/08/21/these-are-a-few-of-my-favorite-reads/