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Archive for the ‘Writing Rambles’ Category

The Perfect Pen

When writing my first drafts I prefer to write with a pen in a notebook. There’s no battery to monitor. There’s no powering it up and opening up a word document. Just grab the notebook and the pen and nestle on the couch to write. Pens are perfect. Except they do run out of ink. And not all do the job well.

The wrong pen puts a kink in writing. Some fight you, dragging you down, making the words come slow and sloppy. Other pens gush ink so freely it runs the letters together marring the page. Finding the right pen isn’t easy. When I used to go to conferences, finding pens wasn’t so hard. I picked up tens of them and would go through to select the best ones. They might be cheap, give-aways, but they wrote smooth and fine. Now I’m at the bottom of my pile, the rejects, and they are so not working.

It’s off to the store I go. The inexpensive Bic pens and their other brand counterparts will not do. The nib is hard and the ink doesn’t roll off the tip. I find a more expensive kind, wishing I could try them out. Maybe I should have gone to the office supply store. I decide to take a gamble and pick out a pack. There are five in the pack and it’s advertised to be smooth. And it is. I’m happy. Except I wish they didn’t run out of ink so fast. A good pen should last a good novel’s length plus. This pen conks out before then. I may have to find another pen, the perfect pen.

 

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My last post made me remember me telling my mother that on all those houses they show on the HGTV channel we’ve seen any with bookcases full of books. Seriously. Some don’t even have a single book anywhere. Today we watched an episode of Property Brothers with a family of four in their cluttered home and I didn’t see a book anywhere. Sad.

My mother and I watch HGTV in the morning. First a look at the weather (my mother seems to think it’s always raining even when there is full on sun shine outside), then a scroll through the news (politics and more politics), and then HGTV. We don’t watch long, just during the time between she takes her first pill and she eats. She has to wait thirty minutes between the two events. To keep her occupied I turn on the TV. How long she watches depends on her headache and how interesting the show is. I was set to turn the set off today, but the amount of clutter the family had tossed around the house astonished us.

I also use HGTV to figure out what I want in a house. The draw for me is bookshelves. We saw a picture in a book where there was shelving in the hallway! Now that’s my kind of house. Mom asks where the library will be, the home library. I keep telling her the whole house is going to be one. I mean, she has it in her house. Even the kitchen has some books. At my old house the only room without books was the tiny dining room and that because there wasn’t any room after you put the table in. And the bathroom. I don’t want to potentially damage the books there.

I hope one day I will find a show in which the house owner has books, lots of books. I’d like to see how they cope with that, with the moving or the renovation. I guess I have to keep watching.

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I’m reading through the children’s section, going backward Z to A because that’s just how I decided to do it. As I go, I’m reminded of authors I’ve read long ago, books I’ve enjoyed. So when I get to an author I like, I’m all excited. Yes! I can reread by favorites. Except they’re not there anymore. Where is ‘The Bully on Barkham’ Street by Mary Stolz. Or ‘The Ornament Tree’ by Jean Thesman? Come on, I tell myself. If they have Robert Westall, they should have plenty of books by these authors.

I look in the card catalog. No ‘Bully on Barkham Street’ and it’s companion ‘Dog on Barkham Street’. I always thought it was so cool how one book was about the victim and the other about the bully. I was crushed there was no ‘Ornament Tree’. Hopefully I have a copy somewhere. With my books squashed and scattered about I’m not sure what I have at the moment.

It made me sad to think of all these great authors and all their work being disregarded and not read. Some of the books I see on the shelves just can’t compare. So many are so alike – kid spy, kid wizard, etc. But I guess if the kids read will read them, then so be it and it’s a good thing, but they sure are missing out.

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I’m still working on my historical novel, doing the research thing, and anguishing over every little detail while telling myself to stop being so anal. It does not have to be 100% accurate. I mean, it’s a story, a mash of mystery with disaster. Or maybe it’s more the other way around. But I do want to kids to get a feel of what it was like in the late 1800’s Charleston.

I recently read something from the same time frame, also set in Charleston. The story was interesting, but it was more a romance novel with a focus on the relationships than what was happening politically and culturally and I left feeling a bit disappointed. Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading so much about South Carolina history. Maybe it was because while I saw some parts that were accurate and I had my doubts in other sections such as how the whites interacted with their black servants.

So, how much accuracy should there be in a novel? Where does one draw the line between the story and historical info dump that could alienate your reader? I’ve another story that I’m typing into the computer that deals heavy with the third crusade led by Emperor Frederick of the Holy Roman Empire and as I retype I’m thinking: that can go, that can go. Maybe I find it interesting, but I don’t think everyone will. The trouble is I haven’t felt that way about the Charleston story. I’m going to have to do some heavy thinking on that one.

And more research. I need to know about funerals. Did you know they already embalmed people back then? I didn’t. That was new. The Pinkertons. Were there Pinkertons in Charleston? I might change that one. Or I won’t. I can be a little free and just mention something in the ‘what’s true and what’s not’ section. I just can’t quit the teacher in me.

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I am shamelessly plugging my new book here.

http://www.blurb.com/b/7500143-the-year-it-snowed-kitty-treats

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It’s one of my annual Christmas stories based of my cats Mietze and Talbot. In the book they are Roly and Poly, two kittens who disobey their mother and sneak out of the house to gather kitty treats that mingle with the snow. The greedy, little kittens eat all the treats they can get their paws on. When their mother finds them she is shocked at their new appearance.

 

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Not too long ago I picked up a book at the library I thought might be interesting. It was with zombies. I think. When I got home I discovered it was the last in a series of five. Or maybe it was seven, I don’t remember. But there were several books in the series and I thought I might want to go back and read them, but let me read this one first. I am so glad I did even though I never read the whole thing.

It wasn’t long in the book when zombies attacked and people started dying and being eaten right and left. It was a zombie/monster killfest. Way too much gore for me so I decided not to finish it. I did however go to the last chapter to see what was going to happen and if there was a next book. I guess not because the main character seemed to be one of only a handful alive and she just got bit.

I am so glad I didn’t start this with book 1. For the life of me I can’t imagine anyone wanting to spend all this time reading this series only to have everyone die in the end. What a waste of my time it would have been and how utterly pessimistic. Really? Everyone dies? This is someone’s idea of a good read? I’d be pretty ticked if I invested all that time and there wasn’t some hope at the end.

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Reading YA (young adult) books could be detrimental to a YA author. Yes? No? Candance Moore in her blog article “Why YA Authors Should Spend Less Time in Bookstores” makes some good points. Not that I will read less YA. I’ll explain as I go along. Or at the end. We’ll see.

Ms. Moore writes that fads in young adult changer faster than in the other categories. The fad ‘du jour’ of today are dystopic novels and vampires and zombies and the supernatural. Next year it can be something completely different as teens today go on to college tomorrow and the new teens, who are interested in other things, take their place. One could start a book in those genres or voice today and by the time it’s published the book is dated.

If one reads the books published today, Ms. Moore argues, and use them as a reference point, as a tip off point for one’s own novel, one could be doing oneself a disfavor especially if relying too much that dystopias will continue to be a strong seller.

I don’t read YA books to get ideas or see what publishers are buying. One reason is that I’m usually ahead of the game, not that I ever wrote a vampire story, but I’ve always written dystopic ones (I called them science fiction). I do know writers who monitor what’s currently out and asking what publishers are buying today. Ms. Moore offers good advice although one could be lucky and the fad continues. By being original, the writer gets a chance of being noticed and, hey, maybe even start the next new trend. Just think J.K. Rowling.

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