Writing Life

Podcasts for Writers

This list of podcasts for writers came across my feed this morning from my friends at the Fredericksburg Book Festival. I haven’t listened to any yet, but am planning to do so, since my treadmill time is becoming sacred for keeping fit. Here’s the list:

art-lasovsky-559569-unsplash

Photo by Art Lasovsky on Unsplash

Source: Fredericksburg book Festival

Which podcasts would you recommend to fellow authors?

Janell E. Robisch – The Creative Penn

Marc Faulk – The Write Now Podcast is good.

Stephanie Noel – Book Riot

Rachel Kolodziej – Writing Excuses

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Announcements, Writing Life

Pictures from the Book Signing

My first book signing and reading event on October 28th was a success – thanks to YOU! A huge thank-you to all of the people who came to the event, and to those on social media who so generously shared the information with their friends and family about it. We had coverage in all the local newspapers, posters in the windows of the bookstore, and my very first book-on-the-shelf moment when I saw my books on a bookstore shelf and went, “Ah…yes…that’s it! Author!”

Here, a few pictures from the day’s fun and festivities. I read a brief excerpt from the prologue to my new Majek Family Mystery, “The Red Boy House”, and a short excerpt from “The Last Run of the 6:01.”

 

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Writing Life

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I began writing at age 12. I remember reading a dreadful science fiction novel that I’d checked out of the library. It was a ‘children’s sci-fi’ book that talked down to kids and acted as if we were morons. I chucked it across the basement playroom where it hit the wood paneling with a resounding thud.

“I can write better than that!” I shouted into the empty basement.

And suddenly, I realized – I can.

I took out my sister’s green pen, a marble-topped notebook like the kind I used in school, and began writing. But that wasn’t fast enough. I had a story to tell. I needed a better way. So I dragged out a rickety card table from the hall closet upstairs and my mother’s portable Royal typewriter. I walked the half mile to Grand Value, the five and dime story on Covert Avenue, and used my precious $3 a week allowance to buy a $2 ream of typing paper.

I sat down and began to type.

DUSTY VINTAGE KEYBOARD

Licensed from Morguefile.com/Ladyheart

My first novel was called “Caroline” and was about a princess who lived in a castle and was in love with the villain. It was dreadful, filled with typos, and 200 pages long. I gave it to a few friends to read.

My second novel was called “A Child of Wind and Sea.” I had been reading Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonquest series and was in love with the thought of riding a dragon through the skies. My heroine rode a dragon named Yahavana and went on a quest to save the love of her life. It was actually fairly well written and was entered into a young author storytelling contest through my eighth grade English class.  The teacher said that the judges were impressed by it.

Then, in my freshman year of high school, everything changes. My English teacher, Dr. Patricia Gross, gave us an assignment to write a short story for a science fiction competition. I did not want to write it, and she had to lower the boom on me to get me to finish the story. That story, “Runaway Boys”, won the Brockport Science Fiction and Fantasy competition. There were 70 entries. I was fourteen years old. I was invited to attend a summer workshop taught by Nancy Kress and Stephen Donaldson. My sister came with me to chaperone the experience. It was an amazing experience and fueled my desire to one day become a professional writer.

Life, however, intruded. I won’t go into details, but I will say that over time, I ended up feeling as if I’d never achieve my dreams. Even after becoming a professional copywriter – a writer focused on business, marketing, and professional writing for corporate and agency clients – I still thought my fiction writing wasn’t good enough. I listened to professors in graduate school who called my writing “old-fashioned” and “sickly sweet” and who wondered why I didn’t write about gritty, realistic topics filled with sex and violence. I listened to the editors who said my work was never quite what they were looking for – and I gave up.

Until the internet happened.

Suddenly, I realized that I could publish ANYthing I wanted. Anything. Anything at all. I could write a poem and chuck it up on my blog and it was there for people to read. Amazon, Lulu, and the self-publishing revolution meant that the stigma of ‘vanity presses’ was gone. I didn’t need the blessing of an editor to get my book published or the approval of a committee. All I needed was ME.

If I could step into Dr. Who’s TARDIS and visit that angry 12 year old who picked up a green pen and a marble notebook to write her first words, I would tell her to keep writing. I would tell her to trust her instincts about what makes a good story. I would tell her to avoid writer’s workshops at all cost and especially degree programs in which a bunch of wanna be writers rip your story to shreds without telling you how to fix it.

I would tell her to read, read everything in sight but especially the classics – Dickens, master of characterization, Hemingway, master of precision prose, and the modern novelists in the genre I love: Rickman, Koontz, Barclay, others.

I would tell her that she doesn’t need fame and fortune, she needs to write, because to write is to create, and she is made to create.

And I would tell her that Mrs. Meinster’s 10th grade typing class, which taught her how to touch type and avoid the hunt-and-peck method, was the best elective high school course she’d ever take.

 

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Writing Life

Fitness and the Fiction Writer

What the heck does fitness have to do with being a fiction writer? Plenty, since I just found out I am in the worst shape of my life. Apparently 10 years of sitting behind a desk and walking only about half a mile a day can do that to you. Who would have thought?

Seriously, though, I hate being this out of shape. I spend too much time behind my desk, or not enough time if you speak to my commercial copywriting clients and my fans who are eagerly awaiting my next work of fiction.

C.S.Lewis famously walked six to eight miles every afternoon or ‘rambled’ across the beautiful English countryside after writing each morning. Tolkien was said to do the same. Flannery O’Connor, a writer with whom my own style has been compared, wrote in the mornings then spent the afternoons ‘being Flannery’ which typically meant barn chores, walking, or tending to her collection of exotic fowl and chicken.

I need to walk and think. I plot my books while walking on my treadmill. I can’t tell you how many plot elements of “I Believe You” appeared after a particularly good walk on the treadmill. Now that I am writing “Salt and Light” as part of NaNoWriMo, I find myself drawn back to the treadmill and morning yoga classes online.

Writers need to move…movement fuels creativity. I am not quite sure why this is so, but I know that I am not the only writer who finds that walking helps the muse. Perhaps we’re busy running from her. Who knows?

jeanne-with-her-muse

A portrait of the author with her muse. That’s my muse, Sal, a Brooklyn thug who wields a big hammer when I need to work. Thanks to artist Sue Sudekum for conceptualizing Sal for me.

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