Monday, February 28, 2011

A Fiction Factory?

During the past day or two, I’ve put old material into the computer—some of it I typed. Some of it I read into Dragon Naturally Speaking 11. I wasn’t sure how well dictation would work since I haven’t used Dragon in months—actually, since the day I installed it. Wow! Pretty cool. How I dreaded re-typing a 4500 word short story. I’m so glad I didn’t have to--I just read from my manuscript and watched the words appear. Though it wasn’t 100% accurate, I’m not disappointed at all. I understand the more I use Dragon, the more accurate it will become. Also, I need to add words to the vocabulary. Needless to say, I’m thrilled with the program. Remember all those short stories I found while cleaning out the garage? And now I’ll get to that novel I’ve been trying to scan—gave up scanning and started typing. Things should start moving pretty fast. The worst part of dictation is that after hours of reading aloud, I get a little hoarse so I’m wondering how in the world Erle Stanley Gardner did it. I decided to find out since I own all his secrets . . .

In Secrets of The World’s Best-Selling Writer: The Storytelling Techniques of Erle Stanley Gardner by Francis L. & Roberta B. Fugate, the flap boasts: All the hard-earned storytelling skills of Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of Perry Mason and still the world’s biggest-selling writer, are revealed in this informative, entertaining, and instructive book … and that’s the truth!

I read this book back in the 80’s and it’s one that’s stayed with me. Probably because Gardner was a writing machine. When Gardner first started studying writing, he came across a book called The Fiction Factory by William Wallace Cook. I just found The Fiction Factory online—downloadable. Go HERE. This little book was published under the pseudonym John Milton Edwards, copyright 1912. What’s fascinating is how Cook was such a major force in molding Gardner’s writing career.

Gardner became a writing machine, hiring one secretary, two and eventually seven. Being a lawyer, he was used to dictating so I guess his storytelling skills were perfected the more he dictated. Chapter 8 in Secrets of TWBSW is called The Fiction Factory; it’s inspiring. Made me want to try dictating my own stories. Now that I have Dragon 11, maybe I’ll give it a shot--from scratch. Funny though, once Gardner started churning out books, he got letters from writers (or wannabes) wanting to join his stable of writers. They thought he had hired people to write his books for him. In fact, on page 110 of Secrets of TWBSW, the authors state: At this point, Thayer Hobson of William Morrow and Company offered $100,000 reward for proof that anyone but Erle Stanley Gardner ever wrote any of Gardner’s material. There were no takers.

If you can get your hands on Secrets of The Word’s Best-Selling Writer, do so. It’s a great read.

Now I have a question for you: Does it bother you when you read stories where the characters don’t use cell phones or do research on the Internet or have digital cameras, etc? If you have older short stories, do you update them or put dates on them so readers will know when they took place?

I have a mystery that utilizes a Polaroid camera, video stores and no cell phones. Rather outdated, I’d say, and I’m wondering what to do. Advice?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Three Favorite Blogs

There are so many fantastic blogs I want to keep up with but how many can we read in a day and still work, write, socialize, live life?

I follow many but here are three I find interesting:

Working Stiffs is written by several crime writers. They blog about life, work and murder. I pop in periodically and I'm always intrigued by their stories and observations. I could spend hours reading their entries. Check out their latest about a young boy found in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia back on February 25, 1957. Investigators haven't given up; this story is amazing.

I also enjoy The Graveyard Shift - written by Lee Lofland, a veteran police investigator. Lee is the author of Police Procedure and Investigation , an authoritative guide that provides insight into a cop's world.

My friend and Swamp Lily partner Jan shared this great poetry blog with me just this morning. There's a wealth of info here if you're a poetry lover. You can spend hours and hours exploring this site.

Last but certainly not least is THIS ONE and I can truthfully say, I visit Hope Clark's blog more than any others. It offers markets, how to, advice, opinions and encouragement--and a number of other things. If you like to keep up with contests and markets, large and small, then you should be hitting this blog every day or two and subscribing to Hope's newsletter called Funds for Writers. I don't think I'm being naive when I say that I trust everything that comes out of this woman's mouth... uh... fingertips...uh computer. Well, as Robert Blake said in his 70’s T.V. series Baretta,"You can take that to the bank." And many of Hope's followers do take their writing success to the bank, thanks to Hope Clark's info. Check her out.

I still want to tell you about my photog course in Houston and a number of other things, but I'm racing toward a deadline. More later. Promise.

What have you been doing?

Sunday, February 20, 2011


While I try to figure out what to blog about, take a look at this interesting (and humorous) Power Point presentation by author Margaret Atwood posted HERE. She has some interesting observations on authors and publishing as she discusses The Publishing Pie.

It's long so make sure you have time to kill.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A New Leaf

A quick post today:

I'm always a day late and a dollar short, so I imagine most of you have read the book I'm reading now--No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWrMo. You know how I like motivational books and talks so this one really speaks to me. Why did I wait so long to read it? Baty says so much I can identify with:

Example: A rough draft is best written in the steam-cooker of an already busy life.

I know this from experience. I wrote and sold my novel when my daughter was little and I was shuffling her from school to soccer to Sylvan, plus getting up at 5 a.m. to pack hubby's lunch for work, not to mention moving every year. You might remember me saying I wrote my book in Luling, LA, sold it in Port Neches, TX and did rewrites in Sugar Land, TX. Busy is a good thing because we recognize time is precious. We seem to make better use of our time when we have less of it.

Example: The key to writing a novel is to realize that you are in the greatest hands possible: your own.

I love this. I'm going to try harder to tune out all those voices that beat me down. My hands are very capable. When did I forget that?

Example: No matter what your talent level, novel writing is a low-stress, high-rewards hobby.

Really, there's nothing more enjoyable than creating fiction or writing poetry. I've forgotten just how much fun writing is for me. That sense of accomplishment/enjoyment/satisfaction is coming back.

Example: The single best thing you can do to improve your writing is to write. Copiously.

How many times have I told my daughter that 'you learn by doing' and not to worry about the experience she doesn't have? We can learn anything, can't we? And the best way to learn something is to just do it...again and again and again.

Example: What you need to write a novel, of course, is a deadline.

We all know deadlines rule. I'm used to writing with a deadline and during the past year--ever since the magazine folded--I've been whining for a deadline. I wonder why I think my own self-imposed deadline isn't as good as an editor's deadline?

I'm devouring No Plot? No Problem and will probably have more quotes from Chris Baty. Needless to say, a new leaf for me?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Dream, Dream, Dream ...

When do you get your best ideas? Some of you dream every night. Some of you start with a character. Mine come when I’m driving—or early in the morning when I’m fresh. Of course, sometimes they hit at night when I’m in bed tossing and turning. Because I’m often too lazy to reach over for pen and notebook, they’re gone by the next morning. I’ve been told that if I can’t remember an idea, then it wasn’t valid or a good idea to begin with, but of course, I disagree with that. I think because of my laziness, the good idea is snatched away from me and given to someone who’ll appreciate it and do something with it.

Last week I drove to Lafayette to have lunch with daughter. I listened to an oldies CD. The song, All I Have to do is Dream by the Everly Brothers came on, and brought back a memory of when I was a kid window shopping with my parents. I hated window shopping. Still do. I’ve never liked looking at things I want and being unable to buy them. Window shopping is pure torment.

My mind runs rampant and random when I drive—especially on an interstate where there’s straight sailing. So, when the words of All I have To Do is Dream slammed into me, I realized when it comes to my writing, all I’m doing is window shopping. All I have to do is dream, dream, dream … and I’m satisfied. Whenever I want to feel productive, all I have to do is dream… or critique a manuscript for a friend… or start a literary magazine with a friend … or join another online writer’s group … or blog, or leave a message on someone else's blog … or purchase another how-to book ... or even write/submit haiku.

Get the picture? It's my escape, yet it's satisfying my need to be creative and productive--or I think it is. Actually, that's why I feel so frustrated. My lack of focus...accomplishment. My dreaming is the equivalent of some of you mopping your floors for an hour, or cleaning off your desk to avoid getting over that hump in your chapter 7. You'll get back to your chapter 7--I hope.

My driving and random thoughts took me from the song, to window shopping with my parents, to analyzing my writing life—and that little plotting/word association/mind-mapping exercise showed me that I’m window shopping—wasting my time. And I don’t like it.

I guess I need to do something about it, don’t I? Revise/rewrite at least one of my eleven novels. Or trash them all and start over fresh.

Have you realized something about yourself that needs to be fixed? What are you doing about it?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Outside that Comfort Zone

During the past week, I’ve received two rejections on my poems, signed up for a leisure learning course in Houston, won $100 and mentally packed for our move to Mississippi (early next month). Here’s the skinny:

Remember the rejection on my haiku that said 5-7-5 isn’t desired and that I tend to tell? Well, I rewrote some of those poems and created a couple of new ones only to receive the following from the same editor:

“Thank you for giving me an opportunity to look at these. Unfortunately I have not selected any of them for the upcoming issue. Though you don't want to "tell all," you need to tell enough to give the reader an idea of what you felt. I HAD TO SMILE. EVIDENTLY I’VE GONE FROM ONE EXTREME TO ANOTHER. I’M PRETTY GOOD AT THAT. These seem rather disjointed . . . and I don't know what to make of them. THIS MADE ME SAD. I REALLY LOVED MY NEW CREATIONS. STILL DO. The best haiku use concrete imagery to convey an insight or emotion. I suggest again that you read the essay on our website (I’VE READ IT TWICE) and study the sample poems from past issues of ________. I’VE STUDIED THE SAMPLE POEMS ON THEIR WEBSITE. I LIKE SOME OF THEM. DON’T UNDERSTAND SOME OF THEM. SOME SEEM DISJOINTED. I would be glad to hear from you again during the July/August reading period for the fall issue.” SO… SHE’S GIVING ME ANOTHER CHANCE. I HAVE TIME TO LEARN HOW TO WRITE MODERN HAIKU. I FEEL CHALLENGED.

In the meantime, I’ve done a thorough search and found 20 haiku markets to investigate. Wish me luck.


I’ve signed up for Photography--Breaking Into the Magazine & Calendar Market. The class is in Houston – one day-leisure learning. You know I love taking classes of all kinds. I’ll tell you about this one later. Should be fun and informative. The instructor is Kathy Adams Clark.


Last week I entered a contest offered by Writer’s Relief, a submission service. They invited videos telling their readers and potential clients how much we love their e-publication. I’ve never used Writer’s Relief as a submission service, but I get their great newsletter and I go to their site often to check market info and read their articles. I've relied on their tips and market/contest info to share with Bayou Writers' Group when I was prez. And years ago I even tried to become one of their editors. They sent me a test to take but I didn’t make the grade. Tough test. That hasn’t hindered my love for their free stuff. Check HERE for anthology submissions. Check HERE for contests. And check out the videos too. Hubby shot the video--several times and I just got worse with each one. I was so nervous my voice quivers but It was fun—and scary. Since it was a team effort, and we won a prize, we're going to split the $$ and head to Half-Price Books. As if we need one more book in this house!

I’ve never done anything like this—and probably won’t ever again, but I think it’s good to (every now and then) do things that scare us. Crawl out of our comfort zone.

Do you have a tendency to play it safe? What scares you?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Paranoia or What If?

I was in Houston last week. Tenth floor—downtown hotel. I always enjoy the view from my window—the architecture is beautiful—but this time our room was all wrong. The bed pointed in the wrong direction; must have been a Feng shui thing. It never felt right. The room seemed smaller too, but then it may have been that extra chair they’d squeezed between the bed and the window. A perfect place for me to sit with legs propped up while I read two romantic suspense novels. Of course, while sitting in the chair, my back was to the window. One night I got the strangest feeling that I could be shot in the back of the head. The shot would probably have come from one of the other buildings; lots of construction going on in some of them. I moved to the bed. Creeped my husband out. Ever get those feelings?

Early morning hotel halls are creepy too. Hubby leaves for work around 5:15. I moseyed out for ice. I felt jittery as I walked to the other end of the hall to the ice machine. I mean, all those closed doors and I had no idea who was on the other side of them. Seriously, what if someone had opened a door, yanked me inside, cut me into little pieces, stuffed me in suitcases and carted me out?

They don’t call me paranoid for nothing. But then again, maybe I’m just a writer with a vivid imagination.

I sat quietly … reading my romantic suspense. Something pelted the window.
And then I saw a thick black cord dangling.

 And then I saw a foot, finally, a leg,

And then . . .

Of course, I grabbed my camera but I couldn’t help but wonder—What if?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Rejections Aplenty!

I’m getting rejections like crazy on my poetry. While most are just thanks but no thanks, or doesn’t fit our needs, one editor wrote:

Thank you for sending your work to ____. Unfortunately I have not selected any of these for the upcoming issue. Though there are some interesting observations here, they tend to tell all and thus leave little for the reader to discover. I REALLY THOUGHT I’D MASTERED THE SHOW DON’T TELL IN MY HAIKU. Also it may surprise you to learn that a 5-7-5 syllable count is neither required nor necessarily desired in contemporary English-language haiku. YES, THIS DOES SURPRISE ME. I KNEW IT WASN’T REQUIRED, 5-7-5 IS MY PREFERENCE BUT FOR IT NOT TO BE DESIRED? THEY JUST FLAT DON’T WANT IT? THAT’S TERRIBLE! Also, haiku are not titled. I KNEW THIS TOO. I’D READ THAT AS HAIKU SPREAD WESTWARD, WE STARTED ADDING TITLES BUT HISTORICALLY, HAIKU ARE NOT TITLED—SO AGAIN, MY TITLES WERE MY PREFERENCE. If you are interested in learning more about contemporary haiku in general and ___’s editorial outlook in particular, you may enjoy reading the online essay _____________________________. You will find a link to the essay on our website: _____________________. Please check the website for submission guidelines and sample poems as well.
All best to you,

This was a wonderfully specific rejection. Wish they all came with this much info. Unfortunately, my submission made the editor feel I had NOT read their submission guidelines, the online essay or the sample poetry. I had. Before I submitted. And reading the sample poetry, I thought I might offer her something with a little more meat (5-7-5 )on its bones. Ha! Now isn’t that the height of arrogance?

And while her submission guidelines said nothing about submitting 3-5-3 haiku or any variation, said nothing about 5-7-5 being undesirable or outdated, there was a hint in the very title of the magazine that I overlooked. The title very specifically states contemporary haiku.

I’m not as smart as I think I am, huh?

How many times do we overlook the obvious when we read publisher's guidelines? We can skim over one word and misread the entire picture. Of course, many times we’re so convinced our writing is super-fantastic, the editor will gobble it up even though it doesn’t adhere to their guidelines.

Yes, I prefer 5-7-5 syllable haiku but that particular magazine doesn’t. I don’t like the unfinished look of no-titles, but I’ll have to live with that; play by the rules or not at all. So, back to the drawing board when it comes to haiku. Now, what to do with 35 haiku—5-7-5 and all titled? Any suggestions?

My husband has one: get back to the novel writing!