Thursday, July 31, 2014

Does the World Really Need Yet Another How-To-Write Book?


Fact: there are a gazillion and a half writing books on the market. No, really. I checked.

So why in the world would I consider contributing more how-to bits of quackery to the literary pile of tips already out there? Hasn't everything about writing already been said, by those more learned than moi?

Honestly, this issue isn't any different than publishing another novel. Think about it. Every plot under the sun has been told, the only difference being voice and tone. That being said, there has and never will be a book on writing with my distinct voice and tone unless I put it out there. 

And the same holds true for you.

Don't let the naysayers get all up in your business. No one can think or sound or write like you. 

"A choir is made up of many voices, including yours and mine. If one by one all go silent, then all that will be left are the soloists. Don't let a loud few determine the nature of the sound. It makes for poor harmony and diminishes the song."

So say what you've got to say. Write what you need to write -- even if there are others out there on the market.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Is Cursive Handwriting Doomed For Extinction?

I was one of those wicked homeschool moms -- albeit snappily dressed -- who forced her kids to learn cursive. Yeah, I know. Children today will enter a workforce that's more than ever dependent upon typing and texting, so why bother with the little curly-ques and sweeping lines of cursive? Why can't people just write in block letters and call it good enough?

Because to me it's the death of a skill that requires hand/eye coordination and involves a bit of thought. . . and that's what separates us from the apes, folks. Unless, of course, you subscribe to the simian flu virus. In that case, never mind.

Back to cursive. Why am I taking a stand on this debate? Because, duh, I'm a writer. I write in cursive. Well, not entire manuscripts anymore, but I used to. This issue is near and dear to my heart (yes indeed, I do have one). I'm on a mission to shed some light on this often maligned art form.

5 REASONS WHY CURSIVE IS CRUCIAL

1. It connects us to the past.
Okay, so not everything about the past is romantic. No toilet paper. Lack of potable water. And for crying out loud, Pop Tarts hadn't even been invented yet. But, like it or not, cursive writing links us to a heritage that would be impossible to read first-hand if one were not able to decipher such script. Most historical American documents are written in cursive. Deal with it.

2. Cursive develops motor skills.
No, I'm not talking idiot drivers who cut you off because they happen to think they own the freaking road. Cursive writing requires and uses different hand muscles than printing, which in turn activates a different part of the brain. It's all scientificky and neural and other goofy-butt Latin terminology.

3. You can capture thoughts faster.
A professor at the University of Washington, Virginia Berninger, PhD, reports findings that elementary-aged children wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand vs. with a keyboard. I could've told you that, but I don't have any letters after my name so this is way more valid.

4. Disabilities are disabled.
Because cursive letters vary in shape much more than block letters, this gives dyslexic students other options to learn language in a different format. 'Nuff said.

5. You'll stomp on the competition at Spelling Bees.
In the earliest grades, handwriting is linked to reading and spelling achievement. When children learn how to form letters, they are also learning its sound. It's like a complete package deal, dude.

I'm not saying we need to go back to the dark ages with quill pens and bottles of ink. Way too messy, plus I'll never part with my handy dandy G3. But let's keep cursive alive and well, or we won't be able to mock doctors handwriting anymore.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Are You a Re-Reader?

“To quote French author Francois Mauriac, ‘Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are’ is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread.” 

 ~ Sarah Wendell, American author and reviewer

Do you ever re-read a book? Sometimes when I admit this out loud, I get the same reaction as if I'd said, "I haven't washed my underpants in three weeks." Yep. That combination slack-jawed frowny face type of look. But come on, folks, I can't be the only freak out there.

Turns out I'm not. In fact, there's an entire page on Goodreads devoted to books recommend to re-read. What's up with that? With all the bajillions of books out on the market, why pull an oldie off the shelf?

One study based on interviews in the U.S. and New Zealand reveals that a 'second run' (techno term for rereading a book) can offer "profound emotional benefits." But that warm and fuzzy feeling isn't the only reason why people pick up a title for the second or third time. . .

TOP 5 REASONS TO RE-READ A BOOK

1. To Run Away
Everyone needs to press the eject button now and then and escape from a nose-diving schedule. When you open a favorite book, it's like running away to Happy Land because you know exactly what will happen with characters you feel safe with. . . which can be the polar opposite of reality.

2. The Movie Version is About to Hit Theaters
You remember loving the story, but you want to make sure you don't sound like an idiot when you tell your buddies how Hollywood got it all wrong. Think of this as the research approach to re-reading.

3. It's Tradition
My girls, though they're now in their twenties, still read The Christmas Puppy every Christmas Eve. It's for preschoolers. Sheesh. But they can't have a proper Christmas unless they read it together.

4. Go Deeper
Maybe you missed a theme the first time around. Even if you didn't, there are always nuances and things you didn't notice before because guess what . . . you're older. You're not the same reader you were the first go around. You're bound to get something different out of a re-read.

5. You Don't Like a Particular Author's New Style
Writers change over time, but that doesn't mean you'll like the changes. Some fans are die-hard, old school, gotta-have-the-same-old-same-old. And that's okay.

Some of my favorite titles to re-read are Jane Eyre, Lisa Mangum's Hourglass Door series, Robin Hardy's Streiker's Bride trilogy and L.A. Kelly's Tahn books. What are some of yours?


Monday, July 28, 2014

What Makes a Book Cover Good?

I've been thinking a lot about book covers lately, mostly because I don't want to think about balancing my checkbook.

So . . . what in the world makes a great looking book cover? A hunky shirtless guy with six-pack abs? A Picasso type of abstraction that makes people go, "hmmm?" Bright colors? Or a minimalist look because our world is crazy enough as is? No, really, have you been on Drudge lately? Seriously cray-cray.

Sorry for the whiplash. Back to covers. Design is subjective, but that doesn't mean there aren't some basic principles to consider when choosing a front for your book . . .
The cover must communicate what the book is about AND what it's like.
Text and graphics need to deliver a message (either subliminally or all-up-in-your-business) that clues readers in to what is contained on the inside pages. The cover should suggest the tone, mood and narrative quality.

A book's front plays a critical role in giving a book an identity different from the crowd.
Thousands upon thousands of new titles hit the shelves every year. To stand out from the rest, a fresh cover has to reach out and grab a reader by the throat.

A great book cover evokes emotion.
Whether through color, design, or typography, a potential buyer should "feel" something when they set their eyeballs on the cover of a book -- and hopefully that's not nausea. Oh yeah, and a cover's only got about a second to do that.

Don't make the reader work.
If the font is too fancy and frilly, a reader isn't going to take the time to decipher it, no matter how cute you think it is. If it's too small and they have to squint, nope. That won't work either.

The spine is the backbone of your book.
An equal amount of attention should be given to the spine. Think about it. How many books are displayed with their covers fully exposed on a shelf? Most are crammed in there with only the spine showing, hence the importance of an easy-to-read yet stunning spine.

Think big AND small.
When shoppers are perusing books online, they're probably going to see only a very small picture of the cover--an inch tall, if you're lucky. That one inch better be bright and legible or yours will be the one a reader skips over.

Think of the cover of a book as an entrant in a beauty contest. There are plenty of gorgeous covers out there. What will make yours different?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tidbit: Endorsements


You know those sweet little this-is-the-best-book-I've-ever-read kind of comments that are usually found on the first few pages of a book? Or sometimes highlighted on the front or back cover? Yeah, those are endorsements. Marketers figure that if famous people have something nice to say about a book that it will sell like crazy-go-nuts. So . . .  guess what I'm doing this week.

Yep. I'm knocking on cyber doors with my puppy dog eyes and fluttering lashes trying to scare up some big names to endorse Brentwood's Ward. It's not as tough as it sounds.  I simply sent out email queries to authors that write in the same genre. Some of them I know. Others not at all. I've had years of experience with rejection, so a big fat "No" or a "Get lost" doesn't make me all teary eyed.

The thing that really ramps up my emotions is when someone asks me to read their book for endorsement, I do, and then I discover I really don't like the story. That's tough. Should I put my stamp of approval onto mediocre writing? How will the author feel if I admit I think their book is a stinker? Why is it easier to take rejection than to dish it out?

Here's a word of advice next time you have to humbly ask someone for potential words of praise: let them know ahead of time that it's okay if they don't want to, even after they've read it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

#MeMyShelfandI

Psst . . . hey buddy! Want to win a hundred dollar gift card to Half Price Books? No need to slip into a trench coat or hang out in dark alleys. All you have to do is snap a pic of your bookshelf with our without a selfie. Here's mine:


Okay, so that wasn't really a selfie. Cut me some slack. I only have a stupid phone so I had to yank a teenager off the street who had a phone with a real camera.

So the deal is that you show off your bookshelf anytime between now and August 4th, 2014 by submitting your "shelfie" on social media. Here are the full details:
  • Follow Half Price Books on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram
  • Upload a photo of your bookshelf, (with or without self-portrait) showcasing your collection (books/music/movies/collectibles)
  • For Twitter & Instagram users, entrant must mention @HalfPriceBooks and use the hashtag #MeMyShelfandI within a photo caption
  • For Facebook, users must post photo directly to the Half Price Books wall, using the hashtag #MeMyShelfandI within the photo caption
If you'd like to know more, you can always go directly to Half Price Books.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Just Because You're Buddy Buddy With Oprah . . .

I recently read in a HuffPo article that New York publishers don't really give a flying rat about the crafting of words inside a book but are more interested in the crafting of a marketing plan for the dang thing. That it's not really about how great of a writer you are, it's about how big your tribe is and how much moolah they'll pocket because of your potential to reach out to that tribe.

Yeah. I get it. They're corporations and making money is why and how they stay in business. But should quality suffer because of that? Do the ends justify the means? Is it fair to shove fourth-class books down readers throats just because the author has a first-class media presence?

Uh . . . a big fat resounding unh-unh. I don't think so, Hoss. Leastwise not in the perfect world I want to live in.

I submit that great writing, consistently put out in the public realm, will eventually rise to the top. It may take 10, 20, 40 years or more for that to happen. The author may well be mouldering in his grave before it happens. But it will happen.

As for the other writing, that which is pumped out because of a current market, I doubt that any of those books have the potential to become classics.

Time will tell, of course. But I'm confident enough to bet an iced caramel macchiato on this issue. Any takers?


Monday, July 21, 2014

Cue the Twilight Zone Music

Why are there still wood ticks out? I thought they were rampant in spring. My calendar says it's summer. Clearly the little blood suckers are not able to keep track of time. Other than that, my camping extravaganza in the north woods this past weekend was great. Here are a few pix to prove it. . .

The newlyweds, Ryan & Callie, my hubby Mark & I, and that furry little wiener dog is King Arthur.

Princess Ada Clare, Queen of the North Woods
So on the drive home, the conversation turned to publishing. One of my friends had the brilliant idea of creating something like Netflix but for books. We thought it could be viable, especially for ebooks, but the cost of mailing out paperbacks could make the service a little pricey. Maybe it wouldn't work after all.

When I got home and plugged my life back into cyberspace, lo and behold, but what to my wondering eyes did appear? Nope. Not a fat man in a red suit or a haloed angel.

The big news is that Amazon just launched Kindle Unlimited, an eBook subscription service that's like Netflix but for books (just like we'd been talking about in the car). It runs around $10 a month for an unlimited access to their full library of over 600,000 titles, but you can try a trial run for 30 days for free. Best of all, you don't need to own a Kindle to partake of the reading feast. It works for any electronic device, even a laptop. Plus they've got audiobooks as well.

Sounds rather intriguing, eh? Might be worth checking it out for a month for free. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fun Friday, No, Really, I Swear it's Working This Time

So sorry for the technical difficulties with this weekend's Fun Friday. I couldn't scare up a teenager to help me. Apparently they disappear to amusement parks and beeches during the summer.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Who's Going to Gannah?

And the lucky winner is. . .

Sorry. Stupid technical difficulties. You'll have to click over to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd6GPsscofI

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tidbit: Planning the ol' Vacay

So I'm planning an international scandal a fan-freaking-tastic visit to England this fall and whewie...the interesting things I'm finding. Should we stay in a gypsy wagon or a windmill? A train car or a yurt? Yeah, you read that right. A yurt. In England. What the what?

Aside from accommodations, though, I'm super excited to be attending the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. They're going for a Guinness Book of World Records of having the most people dressed in Regency clothing. Yep. I'm going for it. Haven't managed to talk my husband in to it yet, but he did agree to sit through a lecture on what a Regency woman would've kept in her reticule.

I also snagged some tickets for the very same ferry that Cassie rode in UNDERCURRENT. Don't worry. I won't be buying any brooches. But I will be visiting Jorvik, the Viking dig in York where she met Ragnar.

I haven't found any special places to visit to find out about smugglers or highwaymen yet, but I'll nose around some more and uncover something.

Taking a vacation as a writer is a little different than tossing a swimsuit in a bag and hitting the beach. I want to find museums and living history reenactments and out-of-the-way non-tourist traps. It's tricky and time consuming, but I suspect that it will be oh so worth it.

If any of you readers out there in Blogland have any can't-miss-it sites in England I should visit, give me a holler in the comment section. And even if you don't, leave a comment anyway because the big drawing for a free Gannah book is tomorrow on Fun Friday.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Big Five-Oh

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No. Not me. I'm 29, remember? But Chuck is turning 50 this year . . . as in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

To celebrate the event, Penguin Young Readers is releasing a new paperback edition and is running a golden ticket sweepstakes. Five young readers will win a trip to New York City and a VIP experience at Dylan's Candy Bar, which sounds like fun, but the best part of all is that they'll get a year's supply of chocolate, plus other things. It's the year's supply of chocolate I'm hyped about. I wonder if I put on some knee-high stockings and pulled my hair into a ponytail if I could pass for a fifth grader.

Nah. The gray might be a giveaway.

But that doesn't mean we can't celebrate here at Writer Off the Leash. In honor of Charlie's birthday, here is a drool-worthy chocolate recipe from my tried and true collection of yumminess.

CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO CHEESECAKE

3 - 8oz. packages of cream cheese
1 1/2 cups Oreo crumbles
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
12 ounces chocolate chips, melted
2 tablespoons espresso
3 tablespoons flour
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream

1. Let the cream cheese soften. No, really. If you nuke it, it gets all cooky/bubbly/radioactive on the outside edges and the inside stays hard as a rock.

2. Blend Oreo crumbs (and you might as well make extra because you know half of them are going to end up in your mouth at this stage), 2 tablespoons sugar, and melted butter in a bowl. And don't forget to wash your hands after licking your fingers you big slob. Press firmly over bottom and halfway up the side of a lightly buttered 9" springform pan. What's that? You don't own a springform? You've got 2 choices, Hoss. You can sprint over to Goodwill and pick one up, or just use a dang pie pan. Yeah, it'll be harder to take out in neat slices, but as long as you're not taking pictures for Pinterest, who cares?

3. Beat the cream cheese with a mixer until smooth, as in smooth like a puppy's fat belly after she's eaten the slab of lunchmeat you left on the table.

4. Add rest of sugar (hey, I never claimed this was healthy) and beat until light and fluffy and looking like a ginormous cumulus cloud. Sprinkle the flour over this mixture and blend in.

5. Add eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. I know there's a lot of beating. Get over it. Or put on some loud music and rock out while you're beating.

6. Beat in melted chocolate -- yes, you can lick the bowl later -- and espresso and cream. Pour into the prepared pan.

7. Bake at 350 for one hour. While it's baking, whip up that heavy cream and refrigerate and don't forget to lick the chocolate bowl. When the hour is up, turn off oven heat and let the cake remain in the oven with the door closed for 40 minutes. It's nappy time. Catch some zzzz's.

8. Ding! When the timer goes off, haul your rear off the couch and remove the cake from the oven. Refrigerate.

9. Eat it for dinner. Go ahead. You know you want to. Slather on some of that whipped cream and ignore the gazillion calories.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

At the Hop

A blog hop is kind of like a chain letter, only there are no bad-luck-until-you're-dead threats if you don't participate. So here I am, participating. You can check out my feature on The Borrowed Book and leave a comment to win a freebie of mine.

Or you can stay here and win a freebie from one of my authorly buddies.

Author Yvonne Anderson

Meet YVONNE ANDERSON. She started playing the writing game right around the same time I did, so we became instant bff's. Besides which, she's a snarky little gal and a heckuva crit partner. So grab yourself a cup o' joe, put up your feet, and meet Y. . .

1. What am I working on? 

A bag of pepperoni pizza flavored Combos.

Oh, you’re talking about writing projects? In that case, the 4th and final title in the Gateway to Gannah series is in the process of being edited, and I plan to publish it in October. Meanwhile, my newest brainchild, still in its infancy, is a short nonfiction piece that describes the handling of venison from the field to the table entitled A Deer in the Dining Room: A Hillbilly’s Guide to DIY Bambi Butchering. I also have a new speculative novel gestating.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My sci-fi is light on “sci” and heavy on “fi,” but that’s no great distinction, as the same is true for much of the genre. My stories tend to be different simply because I don’t read a lot of sci-fi, so I’m not influenced by other stories I’ve read. Or seen. Because I watch even less sci-fi than I read. Once I realized I was a sci-fi writer, I started reading more of it to get a better feel for the genre. But I still doubt you’ll find my Gannah series derivative of anything else.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Short answer? It was an accident. But once I stumbled into it, I realized I’d found my niche.

4. How does my writing process work?

Depends on the story. Sometimes a character invades my mind, crying to be developed. Sometimes a situation begs to be explored. The Gateway to Gannah series began with a concept introduced to me by a little nonfiction book I read some years back, The Gospel in the Stars. It put forth the theory that when God created the heavens and the earth, He placed the stars in constellations that told the gospel message for early man to “read.” I found the idea intriguing, so I wrote a tale in which the characters discovered this “story in the stars.”

Whatever I write, I let it incubate in my mind for a while. Sometimes years. I get to know the characters, play out the action in my mind, and mentally clamber about the setting to become familiar with it. Then, armed with only a beginning, an ending, and two or three major events along the way, I dive in.

I ran into a little trouble with that method partway through The Story in the Stars. It became apparent that too many things had to happen before I could get to the end I’d first envisioned, so I was forced to settle on a different stopping point. Also, I’d discovered so many fun things about the planet Gannah that it wouldn’t all fit in one book. So I wrote sequel in the hope of wrapping it up, but I still couldn’t get to the end I’d had in mind. It took a total of four books, but I did get there eventually.

When I finally quit procrastinating and embark on the writing process, I work slowly. Laboriously. Agonizingly. Sometimes I think I won’t survive the travail. In fact, I’ve been told that I groan audibly when I write.

Once I’m through with the first draft, I’ll go back in and initiate a bloodletting: I file away burrs, spark life into comatose verbiage, and cut off all the dead wood I see. Then I’ll run the chapters past my crit partners—who will inevitably suggest cutting some more. More agony. All in all, my writing process is excruciating. I love this job.

Here's a blurb from Yvonne's latest and greatest, RANSOM IN THE ROCK. . .

How much is a life worth? And who will pay the price? 

Fifteen-year-old Lileela returns from the planet Karkar, frothing with bitterness over what she perceives as abandonment by her parents. Why do they want her back now? And why does Karkar demand such a huge payment for delivering her? Neither she nor her family suspects that Karkar’s true motive is revenge. The tiny New Gannahan settlement has no hope of repelling an invasion – no hope, that is, except for One the Karkar can’t see.

Don't let the sci-fi cover freak you out. This is a great story, plus Yvonne's snark is large and in charge throughout the tale. I loved it.

And you can too! Anyone who leaves a comment this week will be entered to win a copy of any one of her four books.

You can keep up with Y's adventures on her blog, Y's Words.


Monday, July 14, 2014

A Semicolonic Rant

Disclaimer: Don't worry. This post has absolutely nothing to do with cleansing or flushing or other intestinal-type unmentionables.

“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.”

Every time I see a semi-colon, I want to whip out a flyswatter and smack it for the annoyance that it is. Yeah. I know. Grammar teachers get all twitchy whenever I attack a piece of punctuation. But really, do we need to hook up sentences like a never-ending train in a work of fiction?

I think not.

Before you pitch your rotten tomatoes, make sure you've got enough in your bushel basket because I'm not the only one with an aversion to semi-colons.

"The semi-colon is a burp, a hiccup. It's a drunk staggering out of the saloon at 2 a.m., grabbing your lapels on the way and asking you to listen to one more story."

Semi-colons tend to make readers stumble. It pulls them out of the story, making them wonder if the dang thing was used correctly or if it was really necessary in the first place. Worse, the reader isn't sure, so he digs deep into his gray matter, desperately trying to recall his junior high grammar class. Cue instant adolescent angst, and trust me on this, ain't nobody got time for that.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying we pull out the big guns and blow all those dotted curves to teeny tiny bits of punctuation dust. Semi-colons have their place in non-fiction, just stay out of my fairy tales.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tidbit: Non-fiction


5 Things I've Learned While Writing Non-Fiction

1. It's way too logical for my spaghetti-wired brain.

In writing non-fiction, you need to string thoughts together like beads on a string. One after another, not in a big 25-bead-pile-up of a clump. It doesn't feel particularly artsy. It feels like the words are constricted in a straight jacket and I have to be careful how I let them out or they'll run wild.

2. The spelling of names is important.

I'm using a lot of quotes. If I mess up one of those names and only put in one L when there should be two, or call someone Mick instead of Nick, I just might end up with a lawsuit on my hands. Or jail time. But I hear there's free wifi in the big house.

3. You can't just wing it; you have to follow your synopsis.

When writing fiction, if a fantabulous new idea comes your way or a character you didn't know about pops in for a visit, no big deal. In non-fiction, though, you can't jazz up the middle with a surprise because it will mess up the second-half of the book.

4. There's no killing off characters when you get stuck.

The thing about fiction is that when your plot jams up, you can just pull out a gun and blast away. That doesn't work when your main character is a concept.

5. Soundtracks don't inspire.

When I'm creating a fictional world, I always have dramatic music playing in the background. Even when I was a kid, I'd play records (remember those?) and draw pictures according to how the music made me feel. There's not a whole lot of feeling when penning facts. It's just, uh, penning facts.

All that being said, I am adding balloons and rabbits to my non-fiction to perk it up a bit. Will it sell? Who knows.

But it is a grand adventure.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Walk to Forget

Not everyone is a writer, but each person on the face of God's green earth deals with stinging criticism now and then. You can choose to wallow in the depths of a nobody-likes-me-everybody-hates-me-I-think-I'll-go-eat-worms stupor. Or you can do what I do.

Take a hike past a cemetery.

Seeing tombstones and graves has a sobering way of making me realize what's important and what's not...like someone else's completely subjective opinion of me. It's a great way to make me forget things that never should have mattered in the first place.

I think it's interesting that with as much violence and killing that we see on TV, video games and the big screen, that our culture is so far removed from death. Bodies used to be on display in the home, up close and personal, allowing death to whack our priorities into shape. Not anymore. The dead are sanitarily disposed of, or if put on display for a funeral reviewal, all gussied up to eradicate the signs of decomposition. The effectiveness of introspection about our own lives in the presence of the deceased has been lost.

Maybe that's why Americans are so uptight, hmm?

So, if you don't happen to live near a cemetery to clear your mind when you need to, here's a verse to keep handy:

"Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."
James 4:14

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Who You Calling an Oxymoron?

My very first solo airplane ride took me to my very first writer's conference where I pitched my very first story. . . you know where this is headed, don't you? Yep. My very first rejection. The interesting thing about it, though was that the editor listened to my pitch, smiled, then proceeded to ignore everything I told him and instead talk about the upcoming genre of Christian horror.

What the flippity-flap? Should Christian and horror even be used in the same breath? Isn't that like combining matter and anti-matter? Peanut butter and sardines? Plaids and polka-dots and zebra stripes?

Yeah, it took a bit of stretching and I think I might've snapped my hamstring, but that, folks, is my segue into today's topic. I'm currently reading a "Christian" horror story, Ghostwriter by Travis Thrasher.

The genre is controversial, so it raises a lot of hackles on otherwise nicely coiffed Christians. . . which is really interesting because doggone if the Bible doesn't have some freakishly supernatural whizz-bangs going on in it. Fingers writing on walls. Dead people coming to life. Ghoulish murders with tent pegs. So is the fuss about reading horror really just a knee-jerk reaction to appear all pure as the wind driven snow and I don't read Harry Potter thank you very much?

Or is it something deeper? A fear to look at things unseen. . . evil with a side of squiggly, gooey, ugliness convulsing like the legs of half a smashed centipede? Sorry for the visual. My point is that in reading this particular book (Ghostwriter), I'm forced to consider the possibility of demons around me -- or worse. In me.

Don't worry. My head isn't spinning and I promise not to projectile vomit pea soup, nor am I about to wade into the murky waters of if a spirit-filled Christian can really be possessed or not. I don't have to. There's plenty of creepiness in my own heart without being prodded by a red pitchfork.

I understand that this genre isn't for everyone, but the concepts sure are because wickedness abounds on this side of heaven. It is healthy to take a good look at our own hearts now and then, and acknowledge the wickedness that resides within.

Only God is holy. Everything else is truly horrific. Good news, though. Jesus conquered all that yuck on the cross, and because of that, our lives don't have to be a horror story.

I'm not saying that horror is my new favorite genre, but it has raised some questions that have caused me to flip open my Bible ~ and that's always a good thing.

Monday, July 7, 2014

5 Minutes in a Writer's Head

Today I'm going to nail 5,000 words. Can't be that hard. I hear Jodi Piccoult does it all the time. She's a female, human, not raised by wolves. I'm a female, human, not raised by... dang it.

Wonder if I should have that 3rd cup of coffee now or later. Maybe later. No. I think there's one piece of chocolate cake left and I could inhale it before the teenager rolls out of bed. If she gets to it first, there will be nothing left but a faint brown smear on the plate where her tongue missed a lick.

**rises out of chair, then slumps down with a whump**

What am I thinking? I'm at least 10 pounds over my driver's license weight...which makes me a big, FAT liar. Fat, that's what will happen if I eat that cake.

Now then, 5k. 5k. 5k all the way! Here we go. . .

I'll just check my email real quick. Maybe I snagged a fanfreakingtastic review on Amazon overnight and ~ hold on. What's this? A screaming hot deal on pub food at Groupon? Well then, let me just clickey clickey, and...

Oh yeah. I shoulda balanced my checkbook like 5 years ago. Wait a minute. I've never balanced the stupid thing before. Why start now?

Click.

Okay. 5k. Let's do this thing...

It was a dark and stormy night.

Puke. Am I seriously copying a black & white beagle? Nothing against Snoopy. The Thanksgiving Special is my favorite, or maybe when Linus recites the Christmas story with his cute, lispy, little boy voice.

Hold on.

Are those footsteps I hear coming down the stairs? That cake will be gone in a quick-slap second if teenager sniffs out where I hid it behind the sofa pillow.

**ears perk, radar antenna rises out of head**

Whew. Nope. False alarm.

**resettles behind in rolly office chair, which attracts the attention of puppy, who's so stinking cute we must roll around the office several times laughing insanely as puppy chases and ends up wiping out against the wall**

5k. 5k. 5...okay, where was I? Setting wasn't working. Skip to dialogue.

"Are you crazy? I told you never--ever--to mix ground dolphin in with the tuna. We'll have PETA activists climbing down our throats and it's all your fault. Idiot!"

Yikes. That's way too controversial. Maybe I should do a sex scene instead. Nah. I'm a Christian. Everyone knows Christians don't do that.

Think I'll go eat cake.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fun Friday First Lines

Today I'm yanking the top 6 books off my TBR pile and reading the first lines. Which one will you like best???


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tidbit: Non-Fiction


I make it a point to read several non-fiction books a year because they’re “good for me.” They’re okay, but compared to fiction, about as tasty as a slice of Spam cheesecake with a side of toe jam. Quit your groaning. What sentiment did you expect from a fiction lover at heart?

So I’m kind of freaking myself out this week because I started a new non-fiction project, as in writing, not reading. Yep. Me. Non-fiction. Weird and a half. What’s up with that?

Throughout the years here at Writer Off the Leash, I’ve received many comments like, “Hey, you oughtta write a writing book.” Or “Why don’t you compile all these posts into a writing guide?” And my personal favorite, “If I mail you some Pop Tarts, will you put together a snarky how-to book for wannabe authors?”

After much soul searching and a quart of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, I figured why not give it a whirl. I am currently hip deep in slogging through years of posts, deciding which ones are coherent enough to compile into a book about writing. My goal is to have it out by October. Of course, I don’t know a doggone thing about self-publishing, so I could be way off base with that launch date.

I’ll keep you posted, though, you faithful little blog buddies. Thanks for the idea, and feel free to package up those Pop Tarts. My toaster and I are ready.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Are Audiobooks Kosher?

I was asked last week for my thoughts on audiobooks. . . like if you listen to one, does it count as if you actually read the dang thing? Or are audio versions the snotty-nosed illegitimate children of the publishing world?

I know several people who prefer audio over ebooks or paperbacks. It allows them to multi-task. Even I have listened to a few (sidenote: does anyone else find it creepy when a male tries to impersonate a woman's voice?). Seems like the perfect fit for a long car ride. But again, does that really count as having read the book?

I used to think not. Wouldn't comprehension be skewed if one was a visual learner rather than auditory? Turns out that's a big, fat no. Daniel Willingham, University of Virginia psychology professor, explains, "The way these (comprehension studies) are usually interpreted is that once you are good at decoding letters into sound, which most of us are by the time we're in 5th or 6th grade, the comprehension is the same whether it's spoken or written."

Some studies even find major advantages with audio over visual when material is tough to parse such as Shakespeare. That's because an audio book pre-determines the musicality of words (called prosody).

Yeah, well what about the whole multi-tasking thing? Is someone who's only half listening to a story really listening? Actually,"The half-life for listening is much longer than for reading because we are pre-conditioned to listen to an entire conversation out of politeness. Generally, people keep listening until there is a pause in an idea, but especially in today's information-overload age, we stop reading at the slightest suggestion that something more interesting might be going on elsewhere," says Dr. Arthur Graesser, University of Oxford psychology professor.

While personally, I prefer the act of turning a paper page when I read, but that doesn't mean it's a "better" format. It's a different format, and here's a newsflash for you: people are different, too. If audio works for you, then more power to you. Last time I checked, this wasn't one of God's Big Ten, so do we really need to make those who devour books with their ears instead of their eyes feel like second-class citizens?

Now that we're all on the same page about loving those who prefer audio, here's a great opportunity for you to show some love (cue shameless promo music). My new release, BRENTWOOD'S WARD, is available in audio format at Amazon. Go ahead and pre-order HERE.


Place an unpolished lawman named Nicholas Brentwood as guardian over a spoiled, pompous beauty named Emily Payne and what do you get? More trouble than Brentwood bargains for. She is determined to find a husband this season. He just wants the large fee her father will pay him to help his ailing sister. After a series of dire mishaps, both their desires are thwarted, but each discovers that no matter what, God is in charge.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

For Crying Out Loud, Just Write

This Longhorn Cowfish has absolutely nothing to do
with today's post.
"Sometimes you have to write to figure it out…This advice isn't just savvy guidance for how to write — it might be the wisest advice I know for how to live… Sometimes, the only way to discover who you are or what life you should lead is to do less planning and more living — to burst the double bubble of comfort and convention and just do stuff, even if you don't know precisely where it's going to lead, because you don't know precisely where it's going to lead."

Planning things out to the Nth degree can flatten you faster than a head on collision with a Mack Truck. Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying you shouldn't have some idea in mind before you start writing a novel or a blog entry or whatever. I'm just saying you don't need every detail nailed down before you begin. Why?

~ You might miss out on some great secondary characters who frequently pop in unexpectedly.

~ You won't be able to add in that new fact you discovered that might take the plot in a different direction.

~ You never know when a brilliant bit of inspiration might ooze out when you're squished to figure out what happens next.

So go ahead and write a synopsis, but don't fret over fine tuning it. Allow yourself some wiggle room. The most important thing is to just write.
 
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