Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Never mind the house...

Image borrowed from Gonzaga.eduMy friend advised me the other day that I should bury a statue of St. Joseph upside down in my front yard so that my house will sell faster. Well, never mind the house. Where do I bury St. Joseph to sell my novel?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Separations and friendships

This June we'll be packing up our laptops and our cats, and we'll drive across country from Massachusetts to New Mexico. We need the change of scenery, the change of climate, the lower cost of living. Will we stay? Who knows? We'll probably give it a year to test the strength of New England's gravitational pull. Meanwhile, the mere prospect of uprooting our lives leaves my writing less focused, and it engenders a sense of impending loss of the regular company of my writer's group of 15 years. It's times like these that make me happy to live in the Internet and e-mail age, because it will be so easy to stay in touch with everyone.

We talked about friendship at my writer's group meeting last night. Can you really make friends on the Internet? We all agreed you can use it to maintain already-existing friendships over wide distances, but what about friendships where the initial contact is on the Internet? One person thought no, because it's so easy to disguise one's identity. I'm more sanguine; while it's easier to accumulate a lot of pleasant acquaintances by using only a keyboard, I suspect it's also possible to find good friends here and there. As with traditional friendships, they take time and common sense to develop, and recognition of the limitations of thinking you know someone you'll probably never meet.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A conundrum

A conundrum. I'm in a writer's group with people I've known and whose opinions I've valued for many years. So now I am reading segments of a work in progress where a young girl has been kidnapped and her captors talk between themselves about how best to make money from her: ransom or kiddie porn? When I got to that point in my reading, my friend made it clear that she would stop reading. Fair comment. Good and decent people have different thresholds for this type of fiction, though, and I wonder if it isn't better to stay with my original direction and see what happens.

I've read and thoroughly enjoyed several books in Lawrence Sanders' hilarious McNally series, so I was quite surprised when I delved into his The First Deadly Sin, which is about as dark and unfunny a story as I've read in a long time. Sections of the book with the point of view of the killer are so hard to take that I've nearly stopped reading. A whole book of that would be far too much. What keeps me going are the terrific writing and the anticipation that I'll soon get to read about the very sympathetic and human protagonist. No doubt my good friend would never tolerate the book, yet in its own way it is excellent.

So I'm inclined to go where I'm inclined to go.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Write what you know

Many years ago a cartoon appeared in Writer’s Digest. A fellow sits at a typewriter (remember them?) and stares at the blank sheet of paper. The thought balloon says, “Write what you know…Write what you know…”

As the Internet age clearly shows, ignorance doesn’t stop us from writing. It used to be that writers wrote on yellow lined pads or hunted and pecked on ancient Royals. They always had to be careful near the end of a page so that the last line didn’t slant away. I used to painfully type a complete page of what was supposed to be clean copy only to look back in horror at a typo on the first line—and then of course my eraser always left a smudge. Or my carbon paper would be in backwards on an otherwise perfect page.

So who wants to keep piles of handwritten or poorly typed work, be it inspiration or dreck? Every few years I threw out piles of my pale efforts, unread and unlamented. Today, through the miracle of modern technology, I never have to throw any of my precious words again. It can stay on hard drive, on CD, or, God bless us, in cyberspace for everyone to enjoy.

But if word processing gives us the means to produce typo-free dreck, and the Internet gives us the means to assault the world with it, we also have the means to learn what we don’t know and to verify the rest.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Talented writer bursts onto cyberspace scene

This just in: The good folks at have accepted my short story, Write a Book in 14 Days. They say they'll publish it on March 15. I feel so--so validated!

Missing groove

There's a groove out there, a writer's groove I seem to have misplaced. In recent weeks we've been preoccupied with the prospect of a move from New England to New Mexico, even though the move isn't imminent. First we have to sell our over-55 condo in a crummy real estate market, and then we'll have the independence to move on.

Distractions have always come easy to me, so daily-life experiences like lighting fires under real estate agents provide the perfect excuse not to snuggle my butt into my chair and finish my current novel, or, for that matter, to market a completed one to agents.

I've been better than this. I had a groove that produced a modest but steady output of pages over the years. Now my story has a dark plot line involving a child's kidnapping that a trusted friend in my writer's group says would be too dark for her to read. That's actually good news, because even though my writer friends have talked me out of the darkest of the story line, I've discovered that I can write some fairly creepy stuff. So now to go back and add some balance, which may mean giving the villains at least some minimal touches of humanity so they don't come across as cartoon bad guys. I have a lot of notes from our Saturday meeting--and from previous meetings--which will help me a lot in fixing story problems. I'll work on it later, because first I have to find my groove. If you have any information as to its whereabouts, I'd like to hear from you. I will accept its return with no questions asked.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Writing from a child's point of view

Today I'm working on a scene from the point of view of a kidnapped four-year-old girl. Other scenes in my crime novel contain adults' povs, which is relatively easy. But it feels like a challenge to depict what's going on through the child's eyes. She hears adults talk but doesn't understand them, nor does she quite understand what's happened to her. I want to write all of the characters in a close third-person, so in any given scene we only know what the pov character hears, sees, experiences or thinks.

Well, I've never been a little girl, so I'll have to read the scene to my writer's group, which consists mostly of women. They will set me straight on the blunders I will certainly make, and then my second draft will be on the right track.