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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Book Store, Library, or E-Reader?

Just got home from my weekly meeting with writer friend Sara. We get together one night a week for dinner and a chat. Because we both write and read, we always have a lively discussion. Since we meet at the local Barnes and Noble, books are a regular weekly topic. What we have recently read and what we are currently reading, always comes up.  She is a staunch paper book reader. I have a Nook that, I have to confess, I have not used as much as I had hoped.  I still catch myself buying paper. There is something about the cover and the feel and the whole experience that seems diluted with the electronic version. But, on the other hand, I have caught myself buying a book more than once because I take it home and forget that I have it and buy it again. With the Nook, I can buy it once and when I am ready to read it, it’s there. No searching through my bookshelves. Since so many of my friends have either a Kindle or a Nook, I thought it would be interesting to take of poll, just for fun, to see how everyone else is reading.

Virginia

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Posted by on September 27, 2011 in Just Curious, Uncategorized

 

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Don’t Expect More From Yourself Than You Expect From Your Hairdresser

Okay so the idea for this post came to me the last time I got my hair styled. Kelli, my hair stylist has been doing my hair for some time now. She recently moved to a different shop and because I couldn’t find her, I kept going to the old one. No one seemed to understand what I wanted. Luckily, Kelli sent me a postcard telling me how to find her. Her shop isn’t too much further from me than the old one so I promptly set up an appointment.

Because I was so thrilled to have her do my hair again, I may have been a little giddy. I told her that I wanted something that would make me look 10 years younger and significantly thinner. She laughed at me and said, “You aren’t serious,” as she pointed to herself? “If I could do that, honey, don’t you think I would have done it for myself, by now?”

I assured her I was joking but it made me think about what I expect from myself with my writing. Even though I am not a perfectionist, I tend to expect perfection in my work. I write a scene and try to go forward but the next day I read what I’d written the day before and cringe. Then I revise and edit and then go on. That is when I need to stop because if I don’t, I will re-read that section again the next day along with what I added to it and revise again. It can be never ending. There comes a time when a writer needs to just set it aside and go on. Worry about editing later. Going forward will get the book done. Continuously editing the same section all the time will give you a polished beginning but nothing else.

First drafts are not meant to be perfect. It’s okay to have misspelled words, grammar errors, out of sequence scenes, not enough conflict, drab description, and even cardboard characters, as long as those things are corrected later. That’s why we revise and edit.

This year I’ve had the opportunity to critique with a couple of published authors. Just having had the chance to see their process from first spark of an idea through the whole writing process and editing has been enlightening. They have encouraged and said that it is better to have a crappy first draft than nothing at all. At least with the crappy first draft, you have something completed. It can then be revised.

Go ahead and read your favorite authors but don’t expect your first draft to live up to that standard. They don’t even live up to that standard. Their work goes through many edits. You can no more make it perfect the first time, than my hair stylist could style my hair and make me look like a new person. Granted I can’t take off 10 years but with work, I can lose the weight. With work, you can revise a crappy first draft and have something worth sending to a publisher. Once you do, you’ll feel like a new person.

WHAT HAVE I BEEN READING?

I’m currently reading ‘Wicked Appetite’ by Janet Evanovich. I’ve also been listening to lots of audio books while driving. ‘Cemetery Dance’, by Douglas and Child,  ‘S is for Silence’ by Sue Grafton, and every other Evanovich book I can get my hands on. Her audio books are so entertaining, I am addicted. I spend so much time in my car, it’s a treat to be able to listen while I drive. Now I look forward to my commute each day. I highly recommend it.

Virginia

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2011 in What I'm Reading, Writing a Novel

 

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Train To Nowhere

I have to admit a lot of what I read could be called fluff. ‘Train To Nowhere – Inside an Immigrant Death Investigation’ is not. I was lucky enough to attend the Montezuma All-Iowa Writer’s conference this weekend and one of the speakers was author Colleen Bradford Krantz. Colleen was a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Des Moines Register. Now she is an independent journalist who not only wrote the book but also co-produced an award-winning documentary based on the events depicted in the book.

Colleen’s talk was for writers and her task was to discuss other ways to publication. Colleen explained that when she heard the news story that is the basis for this book and documentary, it haunted her and she wasn’t able to let it go. She knew she had to write a book about it. While raising small children she pieced together enough time to research and write down what she wanted to say. Because this was a non-fiction project, she wrote a few chapters and a proposal that she sent out to agents and publishers hoping someone would offer to publish. She would then finish writing the book. Many rejections later, she was about to give up when someone thought her story would make a good documentary. She spoke with IPTV (Iowa Public Television) and they were interested but they wanted her to film the project. They said that if she could make the documentary, then they would talk. She found herself a step closer, but no promise. Because she didn’t have a lot of money to work with, she approached film students, thinking they might be willing to work with her for the experience. That didn’t work out so well either. Eventually, after receiving some grant money, she did find someone to help. She was able to travel to Texas for filming but had to pay someone else to go to Guatemala. Ms. Krantz became the co-producer as well as the writer of the documentary. After the project was completed, a publisher offered to publish the story and that was her path to publication.

No matter what your views on undocumented aliens, you will be pulled into this real life drama. It is not just a story about illegals entering the states and whether they should or shouldn’t be here, it is the story of what we will endure to reach our dreams and because of greed what we will do to each other.

It all started back in 2002, in Denison, Iowa, when they discovered a rail road car that contained 11 bodies. They were undocumented aliens who died when the smugglers lost track of them. It imprinted a gruesome picture that bothered me. How could this happen? What kept them from getting out of the railroad car? Were they murdered and left there?

Ms. Krantz succeeds in telling this human interest story through the unbiased lens of a journalist. Through her research she discovered who the victims were and where they came from. She tells about one of the victims, a young man Byron, who was trying to escape his life in Guatemala to be with his brother who lives here legally in New York. It is also about the INS officer assigned to the case. Officer Martinez is a Latino American who often found himself in an uncomfortable position. Some Americans questioned his ability to be impartial while some of the illegals he had to deal with expected him to show them leniency. He explained that he took an oath to work for his country, America, and never questioned what he needed to do. It is also the story of the smugglers and how law enforcement acted to track them down and make them pay for the murders.

Those eleven people suffered a gruesome death and the author describes in detail what really happened. Initially, I thought they must have starved to death or died from lack of water. The truth was even more startling.

If the documentary is half as good as the book, I would not be surprised that it will be the recipient of many more awards. Ms. Krantz, an accomplished journalist, tells the story with the heart of a novelist.

I was so intrigued; I started reading it as soon as I got home. I finished it quickly because it was so hard to put down. I would recommend it to everyone. Mark your calendar for September 26th. IPTV will be airing this documentary then. You can find more information at Mon, September 26, 8:59 PM on IPTV. For a trailer about the DVD check out http://www.traintonowherefilm.com/trailer.php .

I look forward to seeing more from this author.

Virginia

 

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Live and Learn – Always

If you are anything like me, I am drawn to everything writer related. If I hear about a gathering of writers anywhere, I tend to check it out. I guess it is like that saying, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

Over the years, I have been fortunate to be able to attend several RWA and mystery writer related conferences and workshops, including one RWA national conference in Anaheim and Love is Murder, in Chicago. Today I’d like to promote a local writer’s conference – the 2011 Montezuma All-Iowa Writer’s conference. This is the second year for this conference and I was lucky enough to attend last year’s. For the first year, I thought it was a very informative day-long event that I have no doubt will be even better this year.

This year’s speakers are Iowa authors Lesley Langtry, Kathy Bacus, Kimberly Stuart, Carol Bodensteiner, S. C. Sherman, Mary Zucker Reichert, Rebecca Janni, Colleen Bradford Krantz, and Sharon Helgens. The all-day event promises writing tips, as well as tips on choosing a publisher and marketing.

The conference is held at the Montezuma Community Schools, 504 N 4th and runs from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., with registration at 8:30.

For a registration form and more information go to http://ourfrontporchbooks.com/about/.  Price is only $25 .

I have always felt that workshops and conferences are necessary for a writer to grow. If you spend one day and only pick up one new idea, it’s worth it and that doesn’t even consider the networking possibilities.

I continue to work on my novel and am thoroughly enjoying Cheryl St. Johns on-line workshop on Conflict. If you were unable to participate in this one, Cheryl frequently has workshops and I will let you know about them as they come up.  What really surprised me about this workshop is the number of participants who are multi-published. Don’t want to be a name dropper but if you signed up, you know what I mean.

Today is my day off from my real job so I have to get back to working on my novel.

Currently reading – Louise Penny’s latest ‘A Trick of the Light’. Love, love, love Louise Penny. Someday I hope to meet her.

As far as author’s I have met, Teresa Weir has a memoir out ‘Orchard’ and Oprah has picked it as her # 2 pick for the October O magazine. Might check it out; I met Teresa years ago at an awards luncheon for my local RWA chapter, Iowa Romance Novelists. Teresa lived in Iowa, at the time. She wrote several award winning novels using her own name back then. She currently has several paranormal suspense novels under the name of Anne Frasier now. Her memoir sounds interesting, another book to add to my- to be read list.

Happy reading and writing,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2011 in What's Happening

 

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Murder Most Persuasive – Book Review

Thanks to Librarything I just finished reading Murder Most Persuasive by Tracy Kiely. It is an entertaining story about Elizabeth Parker, the protagonist who has a penchant for everything Jane Austen. When her great-uncle Martin dies her family comes together for the funeral. His not so grieving widow leaves the next day for a health spa and the family who purchased one of their homes digs up the pool and finds a body that was placed there the last time Elizabeth’s family got together, several years earlier at a fourth of July celebration. That was the night Elizabeth’s cousin Regina broke her engagement with the murder victim. It was also the night the victim attacked Elizabeth’s other cousin and Reggie’s Sister Ann. After that night, the family had assumed the victim had decided to get as far from them as possible, especially since they discovered his theft of a million dollars. The situation places everyone at the scene of the crime and all as possible suspects.

Like an Austen character, Elizabeth not only finds time to solve the mystery, she also does a little matchmaking.

It was a well written, enjoyable read with characters that are nicely developed. I had noticed the covers from this series before but had just not gotten to reading any of them. I will keep them in mind in the future and would recommend them to anyone who loves a cozy mystery.

Happy reading and writing,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2011 in Book Review

 

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Conflict in Life and in Your Story

Sometimes it feels like my life is a total conflict. I always have more than one thing I want and need to do; leaving me conflicted, making it difficult for me to focus on my goals. I need to be more like Scarlett O’Hara. She was a woman who knew what she wanted and whatever got in her way, she either bulldozed through it or connived her way around it.

Conflict is something we try to avoid in our daily life but avoiding it in our writing will kill the story. There is no story without conflict. Who wants to hear about little miss perfect who always has every hair in place, is never late, never gets mad at anyone, never trips, never runs out of money, is never jealous, her house is perfect and somehow she manages to do it without a housekeeper, even though she can afford one, she doesn’t have to work because she is independently wealthy because some unknown relative died and she didn’t care and so inherited by default, all men are drawn to her but somehow she always knows how to keep them all happy. You get it, she is boring. Even though she has everything, she doesn’t have a story to tell.

The really good stories are those that torture the main character. They have to struggle. Think Scarlett O’Hara. She seemed to have everything, she was beautiful, lived in a gorgeous home, was cherished by her family and most men were drawn to her like ants to a plantation picnic, except the one she wanted. Even though Ashley had a small part in the movie and the book, without him, there would not have been a story. Scarlet’s goal was Ashley and her conflict was that he was in love with another woman, Melanie; a sweet woman who befriended her when no one else would. Rhett was a complication but he wasn’t a conflict. He wanted Scarlett and because of that, he sometimes got in her way but her focus was always on Ashley, until the very end when she realized she did love Rhett.

Take a good look at your story. Do you need to torture your characters more? Have you been coddling them?

If you are struggling with conflict in your stories, run, don’t walk, to your nearest computer and sign up for Cheryl St John’s September class on Conflict. You can find her blog on my list of blogs or at the link below. She is a worthy teacher and the price of $10.00 for a month long class cannot be beat. The class has just started so you should be able to catch up. What are you waiting for? Go do it, now!  http://cherylstjohn.blogspot.com/2011/08/september-workshop-conflict-makes-story.html

When you get done signing up, check out a few more of the blogs listed on my site. I’m sure you’ll find something of interest there.

Oh, fiddle dee dee, now I must get back to my writing.

Virginia

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2011 in Writing a Novel

 

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