Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday’s Inspiration: Lawn Care Provides Something to Think About.

HOUSE WITH hydrangeas(640x427)Subject: GOD & LAWN CARE

This one has been doing the rounds on the Internet for a while, but it still makes me smile. You will chuckle as you read this .....  Because as stupid as it may sound, this is exactly what we do! You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the idiocy. Just consider how many other ways we fight nature when it works a whole better if we don’t….
Frank ,  you know all about  gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the  planet?  What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds

and stuff I  started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants  grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.
It's the tribes that settled there,  Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to  great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.
Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all  that grass growing there?
Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing  grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.
The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.
Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-Sometimes twice a week.

They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?
Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.
They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?
No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.
Now, let me get this straight. They  fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?
Yes, Sir.
These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.
You aren't going to believe this, Lord.  When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.
What nonsense. At least they kept some  of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so
myself. The  trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.
You better sit down, Lord. The  Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.
No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?
After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.
And where do they get this mulch?
They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.
GOD: Enough!
I don't want to think about this  anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?
'Dumb and Dumber', Lord. It's a story  about....
Never mind, I think I just heard the  whole story from St. Francis.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday Snippets: First Chapter, Naked Writing!

By @GlenysOConnell

For years I taught creative writing in class, at third level, and online, and U;m happy to report that a number of my students went on to be published, som by very respected publishing houses. So when the time came to let go of this course - although I'd still accept a student or two if asked, because I have fun doing this - I decided to put it all in a book.

Naked Writing: The No Frills Way to Write Your Book, has been very successful because it covers the basics. I talk about genres, outlines, characters building, using settings, motivation, and a whole range of other stuff. The idea is to identify your novel's audience, create a logline for use in your pitches, outline the book
and then work on the first three chapters so you can continue to the end. It's all aimed at helping you understand the writing process and actually getting your book written using the assignments at the end of each chapter.

Readers can even email me if they need a little handholding on the way! So here we go - Chapter One of Naked Writing (and no, you don't have to be naked to read this!)


This first chapter looks at markets, audiences and publishers for
the sort of book you want to write, and at what kind of genre/category your
book fits into. It might seem odd to think of marketing before you've
written your book, but students of my writing course tell me that this exercise helps to focus you on your idea and to clarify what you want to do.

 Don't take this as meaning that you should try to write a book that fits with other books on the market. What it really means is to get to know what is already out there, who's buying what. This will give you an advantage when choosing the theme and voice of your book and determining freshness of your plot and story, among other things.

It's also the perfect excuse to go browse around the bookstores - and what writer can refuse that? If you can't get into an actual store, go online and visit Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. and look at the categories like mystery, romantic suspense, romance, thrillers, historical, women's literature, etc.
Whatever areas you are interested in. See what area the authors you like are filed in - as writers, we often write the kind of book we like to read!


Go into any large bookstore and you'll be dazzled by the wide array of books, the subjects and the variety, all awaiting your eager purchase. But you're moving beyond being a mere bookstore browser - you're a writer and one day soon you're planning to
see your own book decorating those shelves. But what kind of book are you writing?

You can see from the shelves there that there are many different kinds. Are you writing mainstream? These are books with a more general appeal, as opposed to say, category romance. Mysteries, crime, literary, biography, docu-drama, science fiction,futuristic, military, gothic, horror, suspense, humour, fantasy, erotica….
There's even a section called Women's Literature. Yes, I know, I objected at first. After all, why should women's literature be separated out from Literature as if it's somehow inferior? But when you think about it, there are subjects dealt with in this genre that appeal specifically to women. Often they look at relationships, motherhood, sexuality, and survival in a patriarchal society. And the other bonus is that, if you're a woman writing a thoughtful literary novel unveiling some of the issues that intrigue or disturb you, you may well have an edge in getting published in this category.

Even most of the genres have sub-genres: detective novels, for example, have
'cosies', a sort of modern day English country house mystery, and 'hard-boiled' which is
the tough private-eye kind of story as made popular by Dashiel Hammett. Then there
are detective mysteries, which can be 'hard-boiled' or 'amateur'; police procedurals,
private eye novels, or law-and-order police types.

There are the category romances, which are a specialist genre in their own right.
If I were to say to you that I was reading a Harlequin Romance, you'd probably
immediately have a picture in your mind of a fairly sexy cover, and an idea of a book in
which the entire story usually revolves around the growing love relationship between a
hero and heroine (I say usually - there are many changes coming down the pipeline,
and some companies are publishing books for gay and lesbian relationships, etc. Not
Harlequin, Mills & Boon yet, though).

In these stories, everything comes secondary to the love relationship. However,
they are category romances because they can be split into categories: you have sweet,
sexy, hot, tender, and then you've got medical, suspense, paranormal….all crowding
together under the same general heading of category romance.

Now, the reason for knowing what genre your about-to-be-written book falls into
is not so that you can put out a cookie-cutter version of the latest best seller in that
genre. The idea is to find out what's already out there and who publishes it.
Also, consider the kind of books you enjoy reading. Writers often start out by
writing the sort of book they would like to read. List your favourite authors. It's important
for writers to read and keep up with current trends. Keep the receipts because in most
jurisdictions you can claim books, magazines, etc., as a business expense for your
writing. Even if you're making no money from your writing yet, most tax jurisdictions give
you a couple of years to get started, allowing you to claim tax relief on your expenses,
including your computer, travel, paper, workshops, etc.

Sometimes they may ask to see some evidence that you are writing seriously
and attempting to earn an income, so make sure you also keep copies of the letters you
will send out to publishers, and the replies you get - even the rejections count for
something in the taxman's eyes! Check with your local tax office for further details of
what you can claim.


Writing Exercise One: Consider one or more of your favourite books, and
write a few sentences about what aspects appeal to you, specific reasons you
liked the book: was it story, plot points, characters, setting, genre….?
Writing Exercise Two: Going to the bookstore and browsing the books was
no hardship, right? But wait - there's more:

Take a note of the titles in the same general category or genre as the
one you plan to write. List their publishers, and if you can, copy down a couple of blurbs
from the back or inside cover. You know, the parts that offer a (usually) enticing couple
of paragraphs about the story, designed to lure you into buying. And by all means, buy a
book, or two or three.

Your next step is to look up the publishers on your list from the bookshop. Use
the Writers' Market or Writers' And Artists Yearbook if you have one - it's invaluable for
writers. You don’t need to buy a new one every year, but do remember that publishing
personnel can move around a lot between companies, so it's usually a good idea to
phone or check their Internet listing when you're ready to submit to ensure the editor in
the section you're targeting is still there. Or get the new editor's name, no matter how
recent your Writer's Market is. There is also an online version.You can also do online searches for the publishers' websites. Look for 'submissions' (it's sometimes hidden away under the 'contact us' or 'about us' buttons) You will find that many publishers don't accept submissions from unagented writers, which can be a bit of a catch 22 situation as it can be hard to get an agent interested
until you're published.

Look through the publishers' sites; look at what they're publishing now that's
similar to the sort of book you're planning to write. If you can get guidelines for
submissions, and if they tell you what they're looking for, you're streets ahead. Are they
looking for stories with lots of action? What level of sexual content predominates? Do
they have a lot of humour, or are there mostly dark, edgy titles?

Basically, familiarise yourself with the publishers' requirements, and keep a list
and notes - sometime soon you're going to be targeting these publishers. While you are
not going to be writing a book deliberately pushed into a specific shape to fit a publisher,
you are going to keep one eye on the market as you write. This way you can enhance
any aspects of your own work you perceive that publishers want. Keep these notes -
they'll help you when you start sending work off.

Naked Writing:The No Frills Way to Write Your Book is available from your nearest Amazon in print or ebook!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wednesday’s Writing: What’s Your Deadline Style?

woman typingOne of the problems with earning a living as a writer is that you can't just quit everything and sit down the write the book of your heart. There are other writing commitments to be fulfilled, and while you may sneak a few pages of them here and there to pad out your NanoWriMo novel scores, the fact is that, as a professional writer, you have to meet deadlines.

Ironically, my first book, Judgement By Fire, took about ten years to be finished, all because of deadlines for other writing! Fortunately, I learned to write faster and focus better, and the second suspense novel, Winters & Somers, flew off the printer in about eight months. Other novels have germinated and gestated in their own time - Marrying Money just wrote itself, Resort to Murder flowed gently but steadily, The No Sex Clause paused only when I had to stop to laugh at the romantic comedy, Another Man's Son changed character with each new draft...

You do know where the word deadline comes from, eh? During the American Civil War, when it wasn't possible to set up properly fenced prisoner-of-war camps, a line was drawn in the dirt, and prisoners were warned that if they stepped over that line, they'd be considered to be trying to escape and would be shot. And they were. Hence, deadline.

There are days when, struggling to the end of a project, I can deadliner blogimagine one of my publishers or writing service clients, perched up in a tower with a gun aimed at my heart, muttering "You'd better get over that deadline, girlie, or I shoot!” Enough to bring a writer out in a cold sweat!

The funny thing is that I worked as a staff journalist on a daily newspaper covering the crime beat and features work for years. Deadlines were always tight, and family and friends understood that a story was breaking and I couldn't stop to chat, or cook dinner, or whatever. If it took working until 4 am to get the story out (and we started work at 8 am) then that's what we did. Even pulling all-nighters around events like elections.

But when I went freelance, my deadline style changed. Suddenly, I was putting off doing work to the last minute. I'd sign a contract and then happily work on other things until the diary told me I'd better get this story done - or else! It seemed I needed the pressure of an imminent deadline to actually buckle down and work. I tried to blame other people, because when you work from a home office it can be hard to convince people that you're really working when they feel like dropping by for a visit, or suggest an outing.

But the real problem lay with me. I realized after a time that there was no-one, like a fire-breathing editor, actually setting deadlines for me. It seemed I could only function under pressure!

I've learned to live with that, and still get a rush from that last-minute, up-to-the-wire adrenalin rush of deadline pressure.

What's your deadline style? Leave a comment about how you handle deadlines!