Monday, December 27, 2010

The Holidays--an insightful and inspiring essay from my niece

My niece read this to us on Christmas morning before we all opened our presents. It was absolutely beautiful and I wanted to place it here verbatim.

Please enjoy. I couldn't be more proud of her:

The Holidays-- an essay by Alyssa Jones, ninth grade

"As the snow falls on the ground in December, you think about all the gifts that you want, that you have to buy for people. you also think about when your family gets to come down or up for Christmas, or if you get to go up or down to your family for the holidays. you think about if you will be able to get your car out of the snow tomorrow for work or school, but what we really think about is how lucky we are to have our family,how lucky we are to see and have snow, to have a warm house, money to buy and receive presents, if you just think about those things and don't get caught up in all the movement of the holidays and just let that stress fall off of you and get caught up in the moment of happiness, that's what Christmas and the holidays is really about. well, actually, no, it's about the birth of Jesus Christ as a baby, and the holy story of it, so see if you really think about what it's really about, many things come to mind. so just try to remember that through the holidays, and I'm not saying to not enjoy it, that's the point I'm making, be happy with how lucky you are and be happy about whatever happens, and make it happy for everyone. God has a plan for everyone so let it be. Happy Holidays. :)"

Friday, December 24, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!! -- check out this cool video

Merry Christmas from me and my snarky muse. 2010 has truly been a year of writing dangerously for me, and I hope it continues into 2011.

In the meantime, enjoy this video. Very, very, very, clever. My sentiments exactly.

Peace,
Dawn

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Flash Opera Mob---at MACY'S. A random act of culture

Okay, granted, this was back in October and I am just now running across it.

According to my preliminary Google search, the  organ at Wanamakers department store is believed to be the largest pipe organ in the world [28,000 pipes] and quite possible the largest 'playable' musical instrument in the world. Watch what happens when unsuspecting shoppers are treated to a surprise concert from members of the Philadelphia Opera Company.

How cool is this?

And if you want information on the event, here's the article from the Philadelphia newspaper...

Flash Opera Hits Macy's

Christmas Myths part two -- Was Jesus a Capricorn?

Okay, pardon the astrology reference in the title---no one get over-sensitive about it.

So let's tackle the when Jesus was born issue--here are some resources and information I found out about it--but it was doubtful it was on Dec. 25. Most likely, it was in fall, because the shepherds had animals out in the open. However, it could have also been a mild winter.

Here are some comments on the subject.
, J. Hampton Keathley on Bible.org takes a different view:

One of the main objections [to the December birthdate] has been that sheep were usually taken into enclosures from November through March and were not out in the fields at night. However, this is not as conclusive as it sounds for the following reasons: (a) It could have been a mild winter. (b) It is not at all certain that sheep were always brought into enclosures during the winter months. (c) It is true that during the winter months sheep were brought in from the wilderness, but remember, Luke tells us the shepherds were near Bethlehem rather than in the wilderness. This indicates, if anything, the nativity was in the winter months. (d) The Mishnah tells us the shepherds around Bethlehem were outside all year and those worthy of the Passover were nearby in the fields at least 30 days before the feast which could be as early as February (one of the coldest, rainiest months of the year). So December is a very reasonable date.

He also quotes James Kelso, an archaeologist who spent a number of years living in Palestine, on this issue stating:
"The best season for the shepherds of Bethlehem is the winter when heavy rains bring up a luscious crop of new grass. After the rains the once-barren, brown desert earth is suddenly a field of brilliant green. One year when excavating at New Testament Jericho, I lived in Jerusalem and drove through this area twice every day. At one single point along the road, I could see at times as many as five shepherds with their flocks on one hillside. One shepherd stayed with his flock at the same point for three weeks, so lush was the grass. But as soon as the rains stopped in the spring, the land quickly took on its normal desert look once again"

I tend to file this under it is not as important WHEN we celebrate Christmas, but HOW we celebrate it. Are we lost in commercialization or do we approach it with charity, reverence and joy?

A few more quiz questions" 


The sign the shepherds were to look for in identifying Jesus was:

a.   a Christmas tree
b.   Three wise men
c.   A baby lying in an animal feed trough




The answer is: c


--------


And now to the Wise Men.... 
The “star in the East” was seen by

a.  The shepherds
b.   Three kings from the Orient
c.    Astrologers living in Persia


The answer is C—astrologers living in Persia.
So, even though I'll be the first to admit that I love the  carol "We three kings of  Orient  are" [especially this really cool piano arrangement I have of it] they were actually  magi.

My understanding is that magi were also academics,  scholars,  and astronomers [in addition to astrologers--- many folks get the two mixed up] . 

The wise men came to visit Jesus:

a.  While Jesus was lying in the manger
b.  Just after the shepherds returned to the fields
c.   In the house where Joseph and Mary were staying




The answer is c – in the house where Joseph and Mary were staying.
The wise men weren't there the night Jesus was born. Of course, I still have them  in my Nativity scene.

And dude, does anyone know why  Nativity scenes have two white and one black wise men? Granted, we don't know the ethnicity of them, but I just think it's interesting that it's two white and one black in almost every display I see...what's up with that?





Saturday, December 18, 2010

How much do you really know about Christmas? Popular Holiday Myths, part one

--So I've been terribly remiss about the blog lately--my bad. I just finished up a semester teaching workplace communication at the local community college, and everything was kind of on hold until the final grades went out.

But I'm back, and enjoying a snowy evening with my writing group near B's farm, and it's absolutely wonderful.

I received this information from a Sunday School teacher -- J-- and it raises some interesting aspects of what really is a part of Christmas and how much do we really know about this holiday. I hope you enjoy this short series that I'm going to call:

How much do you really know about Christmas?

Question #1:

Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem:

a: on a camel

b. in a wooden cart

c. in a Volkswagen

d. with Joseph walking and Mary riding a donkey

Scroll down for the answer:






Answer:


None of the above

Okay, that may have been a trick question. Granted, MAYBE she was riding on a donkey, but we don't know. Some scholars think that is very unlikely, since Joseph may have been too poor to own a donkey [let a lone a camel]


Question #2

Jesus was born in:

a: a stable

b: a cave

c: the house of a relative

d: None of the above

Scroll for answer:




Answer: most likely --b-- in what amounted to a public shelter at the time.

Scripture records that Jesus was "wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger," and a manger was a feeding trough. That is where many get the image of Jesus born in a stable--which very likely could be the case. However, during that time, mangers were also frequently etched into the rock walls of caves, since many people--except perhaps the most wealthy--kept their animals in the open. So the manger could be either in a stable or in the inside wall of a cleft of rock--which is where the tradition is formed that Jesus was born in a cave.

Many scholars also believe the cave scenario because the region would be cold at night [regardless of the time of year] and a fire would be needed. Of course, a barn is the last place you'd want a fire. Other scholars believe that Jesus may have been born in a stable and laid in a manger, but more than likely the Holy Family spent most of their time in Bethlehem out in the open--particularly during an event that would have had crowds of people into the city.

It was not a warm, cozy, cute environment like the ones seen on Christmas cards [though artistically, I do like those pictures.] It was more likely that the Christ child was born into extreme poverty in an environment that was scary and amounted to little more than a public shelter.

One final question:
Christmas trees, mistletoe, ivy and holly were pagan icons. True or False?



The answer is: true.

It is no secret that many Christian traditions intermingled with pagan traditions during the festival of Saturnalia. Indeed, some of these traditions were "adopted" in order to help Christianize many pagan Celts and druids. This is one reason why the first Puritans in American did not celebrate Christmas--they viewed it as too pagan.
However, there is also a story about how Martin Luther saw a group of evergreen trees in the snow and it reminded him of the everlasting love of Christ.

So while I do know of many fellow Christians who do not have Christmas trees or mistletoe or Santa because of this, I prefer to see the tree as a fun activity that has no bearing---good or ill---upon what I believe is the True meaning of Christmas, the birth of my Savior.

Many may agree to disagree with me on this---and that's fine. St. Paul says we should not argue over debatable matters, "for who are you to criticize another's servant?" [paraphrase, NIV]. Feel free to leave comments agreeing / disagreeing---but this is not a place to get mean.

It is an opinion, granted, and just my opinion, but the Light of Christmas has nothing to do with colored bulbs that are blinking on an evergreen. But when I see the lights, it reminds me of The Light.


Coming up... Jesus was born on December 25....right?




Friday, November 26, 2010

NANO- Am I Pathetic or What?

I'm going to make one last ditch, "Hail Mary pass" at getting a good chunk of stuff done for NANO wri mo this month. We'll see.

But this is about a journey. Not about a destination.
Honestly, if I get to 25K words, I'll be happy. Even though far below the goal, that's nothing to sneeze at.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sent out queries for Big Tom

One of my goals for this year was to send out 10 queries for my Big Tom book: Man to Match the Mountain. A quick 4-1-1: Big Tom Wilson was my great-great-grandfather. He was a mountain man who was instrumental in helping a search party find the body of university professor Dr. Elisha Mitchell on the top of Mt. Mitchell (the peak was named after the professor).

As the media interest around this event grew, so did the legend of Big Tom---particularly when a writer for The Atlantic Monthly compared him to a "real life Leather-Stocking," referring to Nattie Bumppo, the main character in Last of the Mohicans.



Below is a picture of Big Tom from our family collection:


I finished my non-fiction book proposal and sample chapter (I think the book proposal is harder to write than the actual book).

Today I sent out the proposal, query letter and sample chapter to 4 presses and 1 agent. Five more to go!

Also, I'm going to start launching updates of my Kindle effort in December. I'm hoping to have the second edition of Saint Jude uploaded then.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NPR three minute fiction winner "Roost"

Okay, so I'm at a writing retreat right now ---and I'm trying to remember that every word I write on my blog is a word I'm NOT writing in my novel, so I want to keep it short and sweet.

NPR / Michael Cunningham selected their three-minute fiction winner [obviously, it was not me], but I confess, I really did like the different approach that the winner, "Roost" took. I really liked the imagery, the concept, and particularly the peacock. I'm not sure if the ending worked, or if I just didn't quite get it, but still, it's hard to spin a well-written yarn in three-minutes, and I really did like the fresh approach this piece offered, so kudos. Cool imagery and congrats.

In another matter, please note:

Also, I'm not one of those writers to suck on sour grapes or heavily criticize other stories, unless it's done as a part of a critique group, and even then I think it should be done tactfully. So I really make a point to not talk about writers here unless I LIKE what they do.

I know of writers from all walks of life, professors, genre writers, reporters, etc. who like to crack on authors who are popular that they feel are not deserved. Well, whatevs. Are there writers out there less talented that get published? Sure. But the door swings both ways---as published writers we must also recognize that there are also MORE talented writers than ourselves who have NOT gotten published.

I don't know---I'm always up for a good critique to help me learn and grow as an artist, but I think so many times these critiques end up being a kind of "sheep and goats" separation, where we try to confer some as "hacks" and some as "literary geniuses" and at best, these titles are subjective, and at worst, hurtful.

...or maybe I'm just writing this while my blood sugar is a bit low...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Forum postings

I'm trying to do some more promos with the Shangri-La collection and see how it works out.

Tonight I posted on 10 forums on Amazon / Kindle. Some of these were blatant promotional forums, the others were readers looking for book suggestions, and still others were questions about what constitutes magical realism, what are some favorite first / last lines of novels, and I posted to them.

And no, I did not say my novels had my favorite first/ last lines. Even I'm not that tacky :)

But I was tacky enough in each section to give a product link at the bottom of my signature.

In addition, while we all know that "indie" or "self-published" doesn't necessarily have the "stigma" that "vanity presses" has to it, I think vanity presses have given the self-publishing industry a black eye in that many people assume that all self-published books are crap, and that's simply not true. I do think that a lot of crappy books were printed out of something that was basically a glorified printing press, and that kind of had a negative trickle down effect.

In short, Kindle=strange new world for publishing. Not sure what will happen, but want to be on board when everything shakes out.

I'll post whatever results come about the end of this week. I'm going to go on a writing sabbatical, so that will be most likely when I can post the most to these forums. I'm interested to see if I can get an increase in sales as a result.

Friday, November 12, 2010

New Saint Jude Cover Called to Me

As per the earlier post, because my first publisher (Tudor Publishers, Greensboro) has reverted the marketing rights of my first novel back to me, I will be re-releasing Saint Jude, my first novel, on Kindle electronic format in December. Now, because the first edition's cover was paid for by the publisher and falls under that copyright, I have to have another cover for the book.

JA Konrath's blog "A Newbie's Guide to Publishing" indicates that a cover is a very, very,important part of this process, and it is worth it to get something done professionally.

While I told the designer---a very innovative and talented guy --- to do something similar to the first cover, he went in his own direction, and I have to admit, I LOVE what he created.
When he showed me the photo of the girl [who is actually a niece of his], it was so wild because it called to me --it looked JUST LIKE what I imagined Taylor, the main character to be.
PK, the designer (I never mention anyone's name in my blog without their permission) told me out of several photos he had, this one just kind of screamed "pick me!"

I'm thrilled with it.

First, here's the OLD COVER---a very nice cover, btw--done by artist Scott Sturdy:

















And now the NEW COVER, which focuses more on the girl's face and leaves out the swirl. What I love is the look on her face. Something so artsy and happy / sad / mischievous, hard to read:






















This same designer also did the logo for Carraway Bay Press -- which is below. I love it.

PK--I won't mention your name on my blog without your permission, but if you want to make yourself known, just post a comment with an e-mail addy or website where folks can contact you.

Here is the Carraway Bay logo---any guesses as to what the light symbolizes? I'll tell you in the next posting.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I felt the clear winter and thought of England.

There's something about the end of the year that I find, well, strangely joyous and sad at the same time. Maybe it's the winter, which I do like better than summer. (Anyone who has spent a summer in Eastern North Carolina can attest that the winters are far more manageable).

As I left work today, I felt just that crisp bite in the air, with a scent that was almost as if you could smell the twilight clouds. It reminded me of when I was lost in Warwick, England with two good friends. We were coming home from the castle and took a wrong turn. As we walked through the dark, empty, cold streets (dark at 5 p.m.), we didn't feel fearful or frightened, but I remember looking at the glowing windows of the pubs and alleys.

I wondered who was in there? Who was meeting someone? Who was getting "chatted up" at the local tavern? I felt as if I had walked into a story that was not mine, but a tale that I so desperately wanted to become a part of. I heard the peals of the Warwick Cathedral bells, and felt at the same time, so alone, so peaceful, and yet at the same time as if I were walking down the streets that have been treaded upon by thousands of years of unbridled humanity....

...not sure what this post was about...but it was just on my mind.

I felt the crisp, cold, dark winter air and thought of England.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I'm interviewed by David Wisehart

Special thanks to David for interviewing me. He asked some wonderfully thoughtful questions.

Here's a link to the interview:

Kindle Author Interviews by David Wisehart




And National Novel Writing Month? It's going slowly, but I'm usually slow right out of the gate. Here's hoping for a stronger finish. First week and I'm only hovering at 3k. All in good fun, though.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

National Novel Writing Month

Why am I doing this again?

Maybe because I felt I didn't have enough insanity in my life. Maybe because I felt like pulling out some hair. Maybe because I really felt it would be a lot cheaper than therapy...

I am participating for the second time in National Novel Writing Month.

I'll keep a post of my word count here as well. The tentative title for my mystery novel is "Outsider Art." I don't want to divulge much of the plot here, but it is a project I've been wanting to work on with my friends K and S. This seemed like a good way to knock out a draft.

I've never written a mystery before, and I'm not sure I can pull it off. I'm hoping my friends K and S----and my old high school friend KC who knows a bit about police procedure-- will help me through it.



Saturday, October 23, 2010

Reworking book covers....

My first novel, Saint Jude, was released in 2000 by Tudor Publishers, Inc. of Greensboro. The book did well, but as its primary market was for high school and middle school libraries, it has not been released in electronic format.

Aside--it is with great gratitude that I can report that my first novel was rated one of the year's best reads for teens in 2004 and 2006 by librarians nationwide.

The message of Saint Jude is recovery from bipolar disorder, and that's an important lesson in itself.

At any rate, since the marketing rights have now reverted back to me, I am going to post it on Kindle. However, because the cover art was paid for and done under my publisher, I have to have a new cover.

I am working with P. Krause, and up-and-coming young designer. He's still in college, and his work shows great insight and maturity. He's talked with me about his initial ideas, and I'm very excited.

For the record, this is the cover of the first edition of Saint Jude---it's a great cover created by Scott Sturdy [I think he's an artist in Winston-Salem.] Can you see the girl's face in the cover?

[I confess, it took me two weeks before I saw it. That has more of a commentary on me than the artist's ability. Folks would tell me "I love hte girl's face on the cover" and I was like, "yeah, sure, I do too." Then I'd go home and I'd be all---wha?]

Thursday, October 21, 2010

50 State Dresses - and any guesses?

Okay, this is a section of my blog I'm going to file under "dang, isn't that cool?"

Artist creates dress art for each state

I can only guess, and somewhat shudder, at what North Carolina's dress will be. Seems like I do remember during my tenure at the Wilson Daily Times that there was a picture of Miss Tobacco from some pageant back in the early 60s ---she was wearing a dress made of tobacco leaves.

My understanding is that the artist isn't done with all of them, but let me give her a few suggestions for North Carolina (tongue in cheek, of course):

--- bright orange construction barrels
--- basketball netting
--- the Wright Brother's flier
--- cases of Cheerwine
--- old state lottery tickets

In all seriousness--wow and kudos to this artist. I love it.

Some folks try to write dangerously, why not dress dangerously?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Best Resource on How to Make Money on eBooks

If you haven't been checking out JA Konrath's blog, you're missing out. Granted, I have probably raised him to mythical proportions in my mind, which I'm fine with, but his blog "A Newbie's Guide to Publishing" is brilliant IMHO.

I'm one of those mid range authors ---well, okay, maybe one of those lower class trailer park mid range authors. I once told someone it was like I'm doing well in minor league baseball.

But I want to go up to the major leagues, baby.

While nothing is a guarantee of success, Konrath basically gives the good 4-1-1 at this link here. Check it out.

How to Make Money on e-Books

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kindle Formatting---things that make you go hmmmm

I've recently had the wild hair to reformat my short story collection on Kindle before I start promoting the heck out of it. The way I have it now, it is readable, but doesn't look like a "book book." Since I'm doing the reprint of my first novel, Saint Jude, on there in November, I want to be able to have it look like a print book, so I am going to have to figure out the ins and outs of this Kindle formatting.

On the writer side, Kindle formatting is strange. You upload a word document, and you get these strange spaces, tabs, yada, yada...supposedly you can save the Word doc as an HTML and then clean up the "code." I'm going to give that a try, since I do know HTML.

And btw, this looks like a handy guide to help with it...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Following Kindle sales and the cult of JA Konrath

Okay, while I'm not JA Konrath [see his blog "A Newbie's Guide to Publishing" to get up to speed on context], In 2011, I am going to start following Kindle sales for the electronic version of my traditionally published first novel that is about to go out of print. I'm also going to start tracking my short story collection sales --but please bear in mind that I do think short story collections are harder to sell...but that is just IMHO.

Short 4-1-1, JA Konrath is a genre writer who has been making a butt-load of money on Kindle. A few caveats: 1) JA Konrath is a talented writer---or so I've heard, because I've not read any of his stuff but have read good things ABOUT them 2) He has a lot of books out and up on Kindle 3) He is working his butt off.

And maybe "cult" is a bit of a negative connotation for him. No offense intended.

None of this guarantees success, because like starting a fire, the conditions often have to be just right for it to occur.

I'm jumping "once more, into the breach" to just see what will happen.

I have published my short story collection [hint, hint, you can purchase it at the link on the right] just four weeks ago. I've made a total of $6. I'll try not to spend it all in one place. However, I must admit I've done next to nothing to promote it, and I'm hoping to get more serious about promotion in October---even if that means having a print version available as well because some of my "word of mouth" folks would not have access to a Kindle.

So...I'm going to track things here, if for no other reason, for personal accountability. Of course, I still have a day job [and very thankful for it] so while I do not have the luxury of a lot of time to dedicate to promotion, I also have the luxury of a regular paycheck. I'm not sure those are mutually exclusive, but I am sure that this is going to take a lot more work to remain to have a day dedicated for promos, one for writing...etc. etc.

Characteristics of a great writing group

I was just thinking today how fortunate I am to be in a really, really great writing group. Though it's small for what you might term a "group," what we lack in quantity, I feel we make up for in quality.

Here are a few characteristics that I think are vital to a great writing group---and I'm incredibly best that my group has all of them:

--Good mix of encouragement/ critique.
I think it goes without saying that no one would be in a writing group unless he/she wanted honest feedback. Of course, you don't want honest feedback to end up as an ego pissing contest. When you have a good group dedicated to the art of writing and what works on the page--regardless of "like or dislike," you have something that will help you grow as a writer and minimize drama.

---Healthy mix of social/ work
Remember "all work and no play?" Let's face it, groups are going to talk about the latest movie, what's going on in life, etc. and I think that is important fro group bonding, but there has to be the "work time" as well.

---Not just talking ABOUT writing but actually WRITING
I know so many people who can wax poetic about other writers, publishing trends, etc. but if the group spends too much time on this and not actually WRITING something, then the group is an art appreciation group, not a writing group.

--Everyone in the group should present something to be read.
Otherwise, it's just not fair to have some people on the "chopping block" and others not. Writing is vulnerable, if done correctly.

--People in your group have to know how to write.
To be frank, there are some folks who I really don't CARE what they think about my writing. There are others---who are talented and dedicated--whose feedback I value. I'm not saying anyone in the group is perfect, I'm just saying they don't violate any of the Snarky Muses' rules for crappy endings (see earlier post)

And of course, if there is a mutual respect and admiration, that helps even more.

If you have all these things and you're lucky, you have a great writing group.

But if you're blessed, you have a great writing group AND a great group of friends.

[ shout out to writing group member B who totally rocks.]

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

And darn it, it's better than my blog!

Of course, when I started this blog, I wanted to claim the title “The Year of Writing Dangerously” for myself, but since someone had claimed that title on blogger, I had to insert the ‘dawn-‘ in front of my URL name.

So I wanted to check out that blog, mainly --and I hate to confess this--to see how much cooler my blog was by comparison.

Well, that didn't happen.
I went to the other "writing dangerously" and low and behold, it rocks. And as much as it pains me to admit this in my self-absorbed insecurity, it is a heck of a lot better than this blog. In fact, I'm now a regular follower.

I actually encourage you to check it out, particularly since this guy/gal is messing around with micro-fiction [whoa!] I’ve found the shorter the story, the harder to write.

Regardless, Kudos to this dangerous writer and kudos to the other dangerous writers who comment on his blog. Rock on, dude.


NPR Contest

Okay, so I sent off the short, short, 600 word story to the NPR contest by the deadline. I went the metaphorical route with the “haunted” lines. The premise was to write a short story in 600 words that had to begin with the phrase "Some people swore the house was haunted" and end with "Nothing was the same again after that. "

I really hope that it is at least posted as one of the ones they like [fingers crossed] though after reading some of the scathing criticism others have gotten on the comments section of the site, I might want to rethink...
...nah, I still want to be selected. Let the cards fall where they may.

You can see some of the entries and the past winners at the website of npr.org

COMING UP IN OCTOBER...


I am evidently so desperate for attention and hits on this blog that I am incorporating Clip Art icons to make it "easier" for folks to use. Not that folks are using it. But seriously, I am that desperate.

Clip art, the last refuge of the uncreative?

Because when you don’t know exactly what to say, there are cool clip art people?
Whatever.

Anyway, to try to get this blog back on track, and to try to give it some sense of cohesiveness again, I decided to categorize things using folks from the wonderful world of perfect cut out people clip art---which once again, makes me wonder just how exactly dangerous I am.

Coming up in October:

---The Snarky Muse confesses five things you should know about writing workshops. (see clip art icon of the Snarky Muse, above)
--Sneak peak of the true mountain man
--Goals for my writing residency.
--Why my writing group rocks
-- why everyone should just leave JA Konrath the hell alone and let him do his thing.
If you don't know who JA Konrath is, check this out: " A Newbie's Guide to Publishing."
-- Why some of the commenters on the NPR short-short story "Three Minute Fiction" competition need to take a chill pill. Seriously.
-- Why I'm a hack and why you're crazy.

I'm sure these posts will create some dissension, which is okay, as long as no one gets an eye put out.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Procrastination Station-- NPR Three Minute Fiction

So...NPR has a Three Minute Fiction Contest--a 600 word short story--aka "flash fiction."

The rules are, it has to begin with the phrase "Everyone swore that the house was haunted" and end with the phrase, "And nothing was the same after that."

I've written something I'm not sure is any good or not--but I'm sending it out in the interest of "writing dangerously."

Of course, I'm procrastinating. [sigh]

My issue is that, with only 600 words, I'm taking way too much time for the set up. I find I'm getting into the "meat" of the story about 300 words in, and it needs to start much, much earlier than that.

We'll see. If you're interested in entering, or in reading some of the previous winners, go to www.npr.org

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Photo Highlights from Highlands Celebration of the Book




...plus a shot from a side trip to Looking Glass Falls.

Celebration of Books Event---and HOW I MET BLYTHE

I had a blast although there wasn't much of a crowd at the book event I'm attending this weekend. I had forgotten how much fun it was to interact with other authors and just hang out and hawk books and do some chillaxing.

But the biggest surprise was when B and I went to a local restaurant, and THE WAITRESS WAS BLYTHE!!!! For those of you who aren't familiar, Blythe is the eccentric waitress in my novel, Leaving the Comfort Cafe. In interest out of this waitress, I will NOT share the location or name of the restaurant [though I really have no complaints about her, she was an awesome waitress].

Y'all seriously--the waitress we had said things that were sooooooo Blythe. Things such as:

[pointing to a scar on her arm] "I got this in a knife fight. Well, not really, I just say that to freak out the blue hairs."
"If you don't like the entree, don't worry. I'll just eat it."
"Sorry, I got a situation brewing outside." (we were never quite sure what that situation was)
"Oh, I hope you get the creme brule. I like that. I get to set it on fire when it comes to the table."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cool London Photos






While I definitely do NOT believe in past lives, the strangest thing about my trip to London that I can not shake was that I had the feeling I had been there before. Everything seemed so familiar, every street seemed someplace that I had wandered before---and even "chillaxing" on the lawn in front of Westminster, I had a feeling I had done this hundreds of times.










I'm having a hard time letting go of that wonderful, wonderful, city... aka, the City of Dangerous Writers...anyone wanna sponsor my work permit?




.
.

One of my friends said maybe I was drawn to London so strongly because that there is a book there that I have to go there to write. I'm not sure. I just know that I've never felt such a part of a place when visiting it
.

OK, maybe I won't be a character

....mainly because I'm having doubts that the wig would arrive via mail in time. The wig is vital to making Blythe work.

Then I realized, wait, I'm giving a writing workshop while I'm at this book fair. I'm going to have a bit much going on to worry with being Blythe....

And I always do this...I always build up these crazy, unrealistic goals and then hit myself over the head when I don't reach them. What's up with that?

But no more. Writing dangerously doesn't mean hitting oneself over the head.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Becoming my Character

I've decided I'm going to become Blythe.

I'm appearing at the Celebration of Books Festival in Highlands, NC. I'm very excited about it, including a specialized writing workshop for teens.

Maybe I'm desperate for publicity, maybe I've just not had much of a social life, maybe I took the wrong medication, but at any rate, I've decided to spend at least part of the time at the festival in character, dressed as my character, Blythe Shelley, from Leaving the Comfort Cafe.

Will this be successful or a disaster?

There's a pretty good chance of both.

The big ??? about whether or not I can pull it off depends upon whether or not I can find a red, curly-headed wig [though Blythe does change it to black later in the book....] This may be an opening for "The Blythe Monologues" --hmm...I'll file that idea away for later.

To get an idea of Blythe, you can hear me reading a section from the novel or even read a part of it [for free] on my website at www.dawnwilson.net.

Writing dangerously?
Well, it's doing something dangerously, anyway.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Free Writing Workshop for Teens

I'm returning from a hiatus. I had to move to a new apartment, then I had the wonderful chance of a lifetime vacation in LONDON. Absolutely awesome.

I hope some of the random Brits I met while over there check out this blog and drop a comment.

The main issue right now is I have to get ready for a book fair in Cashiers, where I will be presenting a FREE workshop on creative writing for teens. This is a part of the Celebration of Books festival in the Highlands Civic Center, Highlands, NC. The festival [where I will be selling and signing books] is on Sept. 11 from 9 am. to 3 p.m.....my workshop is scheduled for 2 p.m. in the Workshop room. I'm not sure where that is but I am sure I will find out.

I'm debating spending part of time in character as my character, Blythe, from Leaving the Comfort Cafe....What do you think? Should I splurge on the $10 ginger wig on Amazon?

Monday, August 9, 2010

London- the city of dangerous writers


I don't care if you don't like literature, or even if you can't appreciate the magestic genius of Shakpesare's sonnets, because the city of London is, in itself, complete poetry.


I have never seen such a gorgeous city in my entire life. I am instantly in love with its architecture, its vibe, its combintation of both the tr4aditional and trendy.


I do NOT believe in past lives, but there is something very strange about how wonderfully at home I feel in London, as if, as a writer, I have somehow lived here for thousands of years.


After taking a gazillion photos, I finally, and thankfully had my batteries die down---it made me realized thatI needed to beless concerned with capturing the moment, and letting the moment capture me. More coming up later...I'm just too jet lagged and incredibly thrilled to care.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Wishes for London Trip

We all know I love the Brits [see earlier entry] and I'm stoked about going cross the pond.

A Writer's Way exercise once told me to expect great and crazy wonderful things. So whenever I embarked on a trip, I liked to make predictions of what I'd like to happen...not an itinerary or stuff I wanted to do, but just strange, neat, crazy, off the wall things. While sometimes the things do not come through, they do teach me, as a writer and a person, to open myself up for the predictable unpredictability of the world and just roll with it [like the time I shared a trolley with the Secret Service while in Savannah.]

In no particular order:

-- I feel I will meet someone absolutely amazing over there. I'm not talking romance, though I'm open for that come what may, but just someone interesting, quirky, or intriguing. Someone I'll share my e-mail addy with.

-- I will have a religious experience of some kind.

--I will see some celebrity, have no idea who they are [because they are sans makeup or what not] and ask them for directions, the time, something mundane, and not realize until later who he / she was.

-- I will eat something in Stratford on Avon. Not food, but a leaf or piece of grass...I'm hoping there's something in the water there that will help me become a better writer.

--At a pub, my travel buddy C and I will meet a cool group of folks that we spend a bit of time with. We run into them later on a double decker bus.

- I come home with a TARDIS of some kind. Or David Tennant. Even better.

-- And of course, someone is going to inspire a novel. You know they will....

Blogging from Across the Pond

Yep, I'm writing dangerously as only you can when you are in the land of the great writers of Shakespeare, Keats, Dickens, and oh, so many too numerous to mention...

Check out my photos, travel journal etc. and the stuff from famous writer's houses at:

http://dawninlondon.shutterfly.com

And yes, before someone freaks about security, someone is housesitting for me.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Short Story from the Collection

To celebrate nearing an end to my first short story collection / Kindle venture, I wanted to post a flash fiction piece I did. It may be a bit abstruse, but I'm kind of pleased how it turned out. It started as something I wrote for a contest---we had to write something about a high school reunion.

I didn't win the contest.

So I'm putting it up here anyway.

I'd be anxious to know if I made it too subtle or too obvious. Is it something people will "get"? Should I even care?
Everyone enjoy!

--All rights are reserved, copyright notice, 2010, and all that wonderful legal jargon goes here. Copyright 2010, Dawn DeAnna Wilson.

ELSINORE SENIOR HIGH CLASS OF ‘99


“Oh, my gosh…you look fantastic! …oh, I know, I know, isn’t it beautiful? They did such a great job with the decorations ---though I wonder who catered it. Danishes? This isn’t a continental breakfast at some cheap hotel. Can you believe it’s been 15 years? ……Oh, Marcellus and the kids are fine. He started his own security firm about five years ago. Yep. Said he wanted to be his own boss---got tired of the drama. Speaking of drama, look who’s been at the cash bar all evening. Pathetic isn’t it? Oh, he still looks good---he always had a body that wouldn’t quit--- but the light has gone out of his eyes after the incident. His wife says he still has nightmares. At first she thought it was due to the war----all the guys who came back from Norway had some kind of PTSD. Seems like there’s always a war, doesn’t it? And seems like our men always want to run headfirst into it. ……Well, he started drinking heavily about two years ago. Nearly ruined his marriage. ……Oh, that was not my idea. I have no clue who thought he should give a memorial toast. He was there, you know. Saw the whole thing. Probably the only one who really knows what happened, and you just don’t ask someone to relive that over and over … …well, don’t tell him that. Oh, it’s not the mental illness stigma ---you’d think people would be over that by now. It’s like we’re living in the Dark Ages. You see, he still hold onto him, like a brother, and he thinks that by telling the stories he’ll keep him alive. You think that’s why we have these reunions? If we stop telling stories we’ll start to die?...... No, they’re not…no one told you? I’m sorry, I thought you knew that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.”

Back and an Even MORE Dangerous Revelation

I had made an informal pledge that I was not going to come back to blog writing until I had finished some of my OTHER writing---namely, the writing this whole blog has been about.

I was still stumped at a certain part of this short story [and got a little OCD about my new website design---still in progress] . In the meantime, around June 10, I learned I would have to find another apartment, so I've been in the process of lease signing, boxes, yada, yada, yada.

But then I realized the reason I didn't want to conclude this story: one of the characters has several of the qualities I like least about myself. I didn't want to continue writing this story because it was essentially like sitting on the therapist's couch with the shrink saying "yeah, and this is why you suck" in front of the entire world because I'm putting it in a book.....maybe that's what really scares me about writing dangerously: the fact that many aspects of these characters represent things we do not like about ourselves, but the very act of writing them down forces us to deal with them.

Nuff said.

At any rate, I'm back...maybe a bit too exhausted to be dangerous, but still kicking :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Writer's Digest Book Rescue

I've decided that I will not make any lengthy posts until I finish my short story collection---and in celebration, I'm going to post a FREE short story on this blog---yep, one from the collection. Not sure which one I will put up here...

I hit a snag. I turned to a book I got from Writer's Digest Books---it is called "Fiction First Aid." I looked at it and it made me look at my character's motivation closer---and then I wrote LONGHAND and started writing the rest of the story that way [with some way cool Liberty of London journals I got at Target on sale for $2, I might add---and yes B, one may be coming your way at our next writer's group meeting] and had a big breakthrough....

First, the story about the psychic is really probably more about the priest. I was centering the plot on the wrong character---the psychic is merely the catalyst for the story. Because her story was more --well, crazy, I was paying attention to her. Kind of like the kid who yells and screams when he only has a skinned knee....

Okay, this post is too long when a story collection is unfinished...then I'm going to launch the publicity blitz [whatever that means] .

Hopefully by next post I will have a short story up here....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

God on the Quad-- UNC Safe Place

A week or so ago [dang, where has time gone?] I went back to my beloved Alma mater with L, one of my cool daddy friends from UNC. L was there with her daughter C, visiting the campus, and since I had not seen C since she was a baby, it was great to catch up.





After getting some noms from Whole Foods to have as a picnic, L met another friend and I took off my shoes and spread out on the cool grass of the quad--well, Polk Place technically. For those of you who have never been to UNC-Chapel Hill campus, there is a reason they call it the Southern Part of Heaven...and it's not because I'm biased. Some American Association of Architects labeled it as one of 50 US campuses designated as "works of art." Google it... love the pictures...


This is a picture of where I chilled out---courtesy of the blog 'justinsomnia'---or maybe not courtesy [if I'm stepping on any toes, I'll take it down, dudes]

At any rate, I forced myself to look up at the sky and the trees and just took time to STOP and be quiet.

Sometimes, I've heard shrinks say that if you have a panic attack, you should close your eyes and picture your "safe, happy place," which I always thought was a load of crap until I actually tried it. For some reason, this campus has always served as that visual oasis. I also sometimes pray as I think about it, and I visualize walking with Jesus across campus [for some reason, Jesus is always wearing a gray plaid shirt and jeans, but that's another entry].

If you haven't rubbed your bare feet across soft grass in a while, I highly recommend it. It was as if I could hear every bird, every twig, every squirrel shuffling through the blades of grass...and I found myself wishing that I could find a job in the Chapel Hill area and move there so I could experience that every day...and then, call it Divine revelation, I pictured my Jesus image, and could almost feel God say, "Is my sky any less blue where you are? Are the grass and the trees completely different? "

It was then I realized that it was not so much the location, but that I needed a change in my attitude. That I needed to learn more about how to be QUIET and how to rest and LISTEN.

So, it wasn't the burning bush by any stretch of the imagination, but I'd like to think I had an encounter with God on the quad. And I'm very blessed for it.

I wrote this poem on the quad that day...

As I was chilling out at the quad, I saw this older--but still young (at least compared to me)-- student [well, he looked about 23-25--he had long hair so it was kind of hard to tell] and he walked across campus with such defiance--not rebellious defiance, but just defiance against the mundane pratter of here and now, and beating against the vague voices of restlessness that would demand he start a dot com empire, wear a tie everyday, and make a million dollars at all costs.

For some bizarre reason, being I guess more rested, I wrote a poem right then and there about this unknown student, and how I wish I had carried more of that 'good' defiance with me. It reminded me of when I was at UNC and I felt that everything was possible---and to a certain extent, I still do, but rarely with the loving abandon I had once before.

Here's the poem--and yes, it's a draft so no one get all critical of it. I'm NOT a good poet.

And yes, copyright, all rights reserved, yada, yada, yada...


I think I would have loved you....


I think I would have loved you
sometime, somewhere,
maybe when I was younger
and without unraveled cares
of emptied patience long forgotten
behind yellowed teeth and empty breasts...

...as you walk boldly across campus
I think I would have loved you
sometime, somewhere
and traced my fingers across the corners of your tribal tattoo
calligraphy in Celtic knots and ivy dreams
on your sun-drenched abdomen


And I would not be intimidated
by your Sampson-length golden honey locks
I think I would have loved you
sometime, somewhere
your silky sheen mane fondling your shoulders
in the same way mine did a thousand years ago


And I would not be annoyed
by your crusade to challenge everything
and drink your desires off the cuff of your sleeve
I think I could have loved you
sometime somewhere
and dreamed outrageously with you


But now I must bathe in dusted cobwebbed-settles
and men with rusted crucifixes dangling on
secondhand gold-plated chains
and set the alarm for six a.m.
I think I could have loved you
sometime, somewhere...


Monday, May 31, 2010

Some more top websites for writers

In case you missed it, Writer's Digest listed the top 101 websites for writers. This is a great issue.
A link to the article is here:
Writer's Digest Top 101 Websites for Writers

A few of them that I enjoy that I have used before are--
Duotrope
Shaw Guides
Dictionary dot com
Coffee Time Romance [I've guest blogged there]
JA Konrath's blog

Of course, there are many, many more that I want to check out that are on the list...

Still plugging away...
I registered on the Kindle forums and Kindle Boards there, so say hi if you're around.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kindle Adventure - Part 2

The Kindle venture is going slowly---I've mastered a total of three [whoo hoo!] sales, so no hopes of quitting my day job yet :)
However, if being absolutely honest, I've done very little, if anything, on promoting it. The short story will be a part of a larger collection, so I'm wondering if I should just stick my toe in the water now and pull out the stopper when I get the whole collection up...I'll keep everyone posted though...

BTW- does anyone ever get writing ADHD? I'm kind of convinced it is something that can be damaging to your writing---seems like I keep wanting to start new projects and I have to force myself to finish what I'm on...

Monday, May 24, 2010

The LOST finale from a novelist's perspective: glass half-empty or half-full?

As you know, I've dedicated this blog to nothing but the fine art of writing, and have been determined not to get off topic too much with pop culture stuff...

...yeah, like that was going to last.

With all kinds of stuff in the blogosphere about the ending and did it deliver, etc. I couldn't resist weighing in on this...esp since I was, and have been a proud card-carrying LOST geek for quite sometime now. So I've really been interested in how these writer dudes were going to paint themselves out of this corner.

For the record, while this will be one more blog entry on the LOST -issue, notice that I'm trying to take it from a writer's perspective. I have my master's in English, so I'm not just some random dude munching on Cheetos like the Comic Book Guy in the Simpsons [Worst. Episode. Ever.]

And in the interest of full disclosure, I must say I'm in the Sawyer camp--though Desmond is my all time favorite, brotha.


So SPOILER ALERT ALL OVER THE PLACE...[but unless you've really been on an island in the middle of nowhere, you should know how it ends by now.]

Overall, the ending wasn't what I expected, but when was LOST ever?

At first, I was not so convinced they were in purgatory, mainly because according to multiple fan sites, the LOST gurus had denied that theory. So unless it's just a sucker-punch... let's just assume that they were in purgatory since that seems to be the general consensus, at least until the LOST gurus break their silence. If that were the case, I'd like to have known they were in purgatory in about season three---I think that would have made it interesting to frame the characters' motivation in terms of eternal consequences, though it would have moved the needle from sci-fi/mystery to religion.

Randomly, for the record, I think we try to take too much of the mystery out of religion. We try to explain everything away. Everything has to have an explanation.

Well, it doesn't.

As a writer, the whole "they were dead all along" kind of reeks of the easy way out, just a few steps away from the "it was only a dream" scenario...but for some reason, I didn't find it as irksome with LOST. I credit this in part to good acting, characterization, and the fact that, let's face it, the island has had themes of love/hate, heaven/hell, death/life, salvation/damnation for the whole six years, so it's not like we can't say it never occurred to us. It did. In season one [but was denied by the LOST powers that be]

I can NOT say --despite my earlier comment--that I felt cheated. [I could watch Desmond take out the garbage for an hour and not feel like I had wasted time. ] The reason was because this was essentially a character study. It wasn't so much what the island was, but who the people were and how they were all searching for some type of redemption or second chance. When Jack's eyes closed in the last scene, that was the perfect bookend. The first scene in season one was an opposite mirrored reflection of season six. That was cool. Why was it cool? Because I think it communicated to the viewer what the writers have been trying to say: we've been here before. We'll go there again. The cycle of life and death and forgiveness and grace.

I found myself getting a bit choked up [which was strange for me, as I was somewhat disappointed in the purgatory situation]. But I think it was because this was so character-driven [and great acting, too, btw] that I didn't mind.

It's like a magic show. We all know he doesn't REALLY saw the lady in half. But we liked to believe it. That's why we go along with it.

The flash sideways was great --esp. with the reunion scenes, which the actors managed to do without becoming cheesy [a hard thing to do].

Of course it left some unanswered questions, but I have to agree with Newsweek in the "Some Questions I Hope Lost Doesn't Answer" story [see www.newsweek.com] in that, this show was trying to essentially cover everything: the secret of existence, why are we here, what is my purpose in life...
...and they can't give us answers to that because, outside the realm of faith, that doesn't exist.

So WHY do I think-- as a writer-- the LOST glass is half-full?

When was the last time a network TV show made you think? I mean REALLY think.

And a flash forward? Bleepin' brilliant.

These challenged the viewers to actually do a bit of detective work on their own. [like one of my other favorites, "Boomtown," that was cancelled, in my opinion for trying to make viewers think].

Let's face it, for many networks, they want to go the easy way, the safe way, the canned laughs, the "plot-out-of-a-box" dramas---and while I am a Law and Order addict, do we really need another cop/ lawyer/ medical drama?

It was something different that actually made allusions to literature, philosophy, the Bible, science and of course, Star Wars.

When was the last time a network TV show mixed such genres - successfully-- combining both philosophy and religion, science vs. [and including] faith, paying for past sins. It made folks think that even if you aren't in purgatory [which, for the record, being Protestant I do not believe in so I am not the best to ask about it] you have to deal with your past. You cannot run from who you are. Responsibility always finds us, no matter how far we run...
...and self-sacrifice is the ultimate act of love.

Now, compare that to some other final episodes when we wanted to know if Ross would end up with Rachel or if the show really was about nothing.

Simply put, the glass is half full because we drank half of it already.

See you in another life, brotha!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Starting My Kindle Adventure-- Kindle Chronicles - part one

Well, I made the leap.
I decided to go ahead and publish my first short story with Amazon Kindle--inspired in major part by JA Konrath's blog ["A Newbie's Guide to Publishing"---I highly recommend it]

I am just starting and am being realistic about expectations here.
The short story I published is the entire text of "This is Not Barcelona" [an excerpt of the story is available by clicking on the link to the right...though don't read my bio information at the bottom of the page because it has a major SPOILER ALERT in it.

This short story is a part of a collection that will be released this summer called "Welcome to Shangri-La, North Carolina."

Of course, I will be posting shameless self-promotion on this blog.

I will also make this a chronicle of my Kindle journey, so you can see how one writer starts out from absolute zero and tries to building a following. I promise this: to be bluntly honest. I think we all must have realistic expectations -- JA Konrath has definitely been an incredible success, but success like his does not happen overnight. As he says, the keys are two words: QUALITY and QUANTITY.

The first challenge I've had has been formatting. There's some quirky things with Kindle. Also, my wonderful writing group buddy B alerted me to a few typos, so I went back and corrected them. However, B found that she couldn't get the "corrected" version of the story -- i.e. Kindle wouldn't let her buy it twice...but we'll see how that goes....

The short story sells for 99 cents and the collection will probably sell for $1.99
Here is the link:
This Is Not Barcelona

Yes, you CAN get a copy of this story even if you do not have KINDLE---all you have to do is download the FREE Kindle ap [either for PC or for MAC] and go from there.

Time will tell...I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Writing Tips I Swear By

Steps to getting published---
It sounds so simple, but yet, so deceptive....the FIRST step to getting your book published [and the most important] is.....
FINISH THAT BOOK!!!!!!!!!!

I have to be honest--- I have had maybe 20 to 30 people ask me for advice on getting their novel published, and out of those, only 3 have actually finished their novel.

True, finishing a novel (or any type of writing of any length) is a daunting process. However, I have found that it is significantly cheaper than therapy :) The point is, you cannot simply get something published unless it is finished. And not only finished, but finished and in pretty good shape.

So remember these three things to finishing your novel:
1) It's a marathon, not a sprint.
2) You will have to rewrite.
3) Just finish it.

REMEMBER-- Sprinters need not apply.

If you find that overwhelming, just realize that all books are composed of chapters, all chapters are more or less, several different "scenes" or short stories compiled into one. Break it down. If the entire project is overwhelming, just try to do a few short scenes.

Writing a novel utilizes the same philosophy that it does in eating an elephant. How do you do it? One bite at a time. (DISCLAIMER: before anyone calls PETA on me, this is just an expression. I'm not REALLY advocating eating elephants.)

When you're working on a novel, realize that this is a marathon. Not a sprint. Nothing worthwhile in life is easy. If you want to get instant gratification from finishing a project, then write short stories, flash fiction, poetry...not a novel.

Other writing tips that I swear by

1) Read
Look at the books you enjoy reading and ask yourself why you enjoy reading them? Is it the characters? The setting? Also, examine HOW the author managed to create these characters and the story--is he/she more descriptive or more action oriented?

2) Write, write, write, write
Write a lot. Even if you don't feel your first efforts are very good. Then rewrite. Then write some more.

3) Send it off
If the Great American Novel is sitting in your desk drawer, it's never going to get published.

4) Don't take rejection personally
I think ALL writers have had several rejections before they got published. Don't let it discourage you.

5) Remember: it's not a sprint. It's a marathon.


6) [to be credited to one of my old journalism professors who will remain nameless] JUST TELL THE DAMN STORY

Monday, May 10, 2010

Why I love the Brits...my love affair with the UK

I guess my love affair first began around fourth grade. I grew up in a small town in the rural Carolina mountains, long before cable or DVD players. The only real dose of culture I could get at that time [my hometown has since become a cultural Mecca] was through the local PBS station.

Dad always had to watch the news at 6--so if I wanted to watch something else, I had to watch it on the small, 12-inch black and white television in their bedroom. So one day, something unexpected came on PBS--a time traveler with a long scarf. It was my first introduction to Dr. Who. Since then I've been fascinated by the accent, the literature, the castles, and well, pretty much everything [except the black pudding---Mother. Of. God.].

I said to mom, "I was watching TV, and people were saying things like [and here I mustered my best Brit accent] walk and chance and telly."

"They're English, dear," Mom said.

"But we speak English." [yes, all my Brit friends can add a little snicker, snicker, there.]

"No dear, they ARE English. They're from England."

That's all it took. I was a devoted Dr. Who fan, and if you are a regular Dr. Who fan, you realize that it is almost impossible to separate the show from various elements of British culture. I'd like to think that I would have found the wonder of Shakespeare and Keats and Dickens on my own, without Dr. Who, but maybe the good Time Lord knew I needed a nudge.

So in a nutshell, why do I love the Brits?

Because any culture in any country in the world can produce A Shakespeare, A Dickens, A John Lennon, A Keats, but England has produced them all. I'm not belitting other cultures--in fact, one of my favorite books is by Indian author Anita Desai, but I'm just saying there has to be something about this soggy, foggy, damp, island that is connected, and yet not. These authors have a tendency to transcend time---the thematic elements of basic human nature can be transformed and reworked throughout the centuries [see my Hamlet entry for more on this.]

Well, and the accent---Scottish, Irish, English, what-have-you, I love it all. In fact, a Brit could come right up to me, cuss me out, and I would merely say, "That was beautiful. Can you say that again?"

I'm gearing up for a trip to London soon. It's been on my "Bucket List" for a long time.

Life is too short.

Current Project

Going back to my short story collection - Six Degrees of Shangri-La. It will be on Kindle by the end of July. I'll post a free read of the first chapter here.

I'm looking at my yearly goals at the left of this page and thinking hmmm....but I'm reminded of a concept that Julia Cameron points out in "Riding the Dragon"--- it is ironic that when we take ourselves less seriously, we can produce our best, most serious work. [my paraphrase.]

Friday, May 7, 2010

Girl in Translation--Jean Kwok Reading - initial impressions

When my friend L invited me to drive to Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh to hear Jean Kwok reading from her debut novel, "Girl in Translation," I didn't know what to expect. I confess, I do not keep up with new writers like I should, and I find most of the time, my year of writing dangerously has more to do with just keeping my head above water and trying to keep my sanity "normal"---or what I have come to know as normal anyway.

Let me just say, I can see why the reviews were so stellar.
WOW.
Kwok has such an intense command of the language--the detail, the emotion, the description--and yet somehow manages to do this without making the writing sound 'thick' or overtly 'heavy' [for what I mean by 'thick' writing, look at Thomas Wolfe's "You Can't Go Home Again."].
The few excerpts she read showed a depth of emotion without being sentimental, a story that moves without sacrificing setting and detail, and vivid description that does not weigh down the pace of the story.
In short, pretty near darn perfect.

Background: "Girl in Translation" is about a young girl from China who comes to live in the US and it follows her transition as she adjusts to the language and the culture. She goes to school during the day and works in a sweat shop at night. Though not overtly autobiographical, Kwok did say that there were areas of her own life that were closely mirrored in the book.

Her use of first person is effective--if the narrator cannot understand what is said, neither can the reader. She provides a voice that is fresh, genuine, and somewhat lost in the world around her.

And for the record, Ms. Kwok was extremely generous. You never know what you're going to get with writers---the 14 city book tours, though an incredible blessing---can be exhausting, and discussing one's work can easily slide into egotism or esoteric ism [is that a word? Did I use it correctly?]

Kwok was generous, entertaining, kind, enthusiastic, and her genuine joyfulness came through quite clearly. Also, she is so darn intelligent, it's almost scary.

If you've not been to the Quail Ridge Bookstore in Raleigh, you're missing out. Thanks to my friend L who invited me and took me to Tripps for dinner.

And my creative contributions for the evening?
I did enter a short short story contest. They had a contest at the bookstore, where you had to submit a one page story about a high school reunion--fact or fiction. I turned mine in. I feel pretty good about it. It was fun to write, and I've learned if I have fun with it, my reader will as well...I'd print it here, but I may send it to some contests, so I'm not sure if blogs technically count as publication [most contests limit themselves to unpublished short stories].

Oh, I did write a haiku about my dessert at Tripps. It was a chocolate something that was better than Robert Redford.
I forget the details, but it is something like:

Chocolate, joyful
Cascading down my hot spoon
Back off! Get your own.

In short, two things to check out: Jean Kwok's "Girl in Translation" and Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC---if you're in town.

I'm going to a Renaissance Faire tomorrow. What a great way to kick off my next post---why I love the Brits....

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Publishing America case and interesting self-publishing article

Laura McFarland, one of my peeps, wrote this interesting article on self-publishing for the Rocky Mount Telegram. One of the things that the article emphasizes that I think is important is the situation with digital presses, and how the publishing game is rapidly changing. JA Konrath touches on this so well in his blog [I think I have a link to it on my blog, which you can find by utilizing the Google search feature at right].

Link to her article-
http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/features/publication-perks-perils-19232

In addition, many do not realize the work that goes into marketing a book, though the internet has certainly made that easier. For the record, I was NOT self-published. During the 70s- 90s, it carried a certain stigma to it that I think is fading somewhat. Its not that there aren’t good self-published books out there, but just that the bad self-published books are SO bad. I remember when I was a reporter, we were told specifically NOT to do reviews of self-published books for this very reason. I even confess, we would occasionally get a self published book with such pathetic writing that we would laugh at it before tossing it into the trash [I know, that’s bad. I have ‘paid it forward’ by mentoring younger writers so that I can avoid the wrath of karma].

For an interesting article on the a Publish America ‘case,’ see Preditors and Editors at this link:
http://pred-ed.com/pebpublisham.htm


I have to be careful about what I say on this subject, because I think there is a lawsuit involved, and as I have very little money---nuff said. So I’m just going to forward this link and as a legal disclaimer encourage you to get both sides f the story.

That being said, Eragon was self-published. Mark Twain self-published [but I think that’s more like comparing apples and oranges because things were so different then], so the flip side of that coin is that when it works, it REALLY works. I would caution that money should ultimately flow toward the writer, and I am initially skeptical of any group that charges a reading fee.
I’m going to start a writing tip and writing exercise of the week. Hopefully, I’ll be able to compile all my blog information and tips into a book at the end of the year that will guide you through writing your novel in one year….

Writing tip of the week: WRITE!!!!! I can’t emphasize that enough. Write, even if it’s crap. Eventually, you will unearth something good—but you can’t do that unless you get started.

Writing exercise of the week: The character of your favorite TV show goes to his/ her 30 year high school reunion. Who is the first person he / she speaks to and why?