Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tell Me A Story

This was my first blog post, almost one year to the day, on 19 April, 2012. I think it's worth repeating:

  I saw a television story a few years ago about Don Hewitt, the creator of 60 Minutes. According to the program, he would ask his journalists to “Tell Me A Story”.
  I love telling stories. If it’s a good story, readers will want to read it, and that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.
  Is storytelling becoming a lost art? Are we so inundated with digital content that we’ve forgotten the art of sitting around a campfire, swapping stories? Consider the societies in the world that pass on knowledge verbally. Stories handed down for hundreds of years, virtually verbatim. It boggles the mind. Could we do that? I doubt it.
  I find myself wishing that I had listened more closely to the people in my life who had unique stories to tell. My grandfather on my father’s side worked on building the CPR across Canada. He was obviously highly skilled, as he was allowed to bring his family on the train as they moved. What I’d give to go back in time and hear his experiences.
  My grandmother on my mother’s side emigrated from Ireland with my mother after her husband was killed in WWI. She must have been a great storyteller because I recall her telling me how she worked in the linen factory. The details escape me, but she was young at the time and worked in a confined space where the looms whizzed very close to her. Come back, Grandma. I’d like to hear more.
  My own father rode the rails with a friend across Canada in the “dirty thirties.” He and a Peeler were hauled off the train by the police in Alberta and sent to work on a farm. Probably the best food they had; they went back the following year and worked there again. He told me about the hobo camps along the way, and how he actually rode on Kettle Valley section of the railway, only a portion of which still exists as a tourist destination in the town where I now live. Dad also worked in a gold mine in northern Quebec as a mucker. His knuckles were misshapen for the rest of his life, but he was still a sight to behold when he was fly fishing. How many people do you know would say "no thanks" when National Geographic asked to film him fishing? That was my Dad.
  My husband told me stories about a year spent commercial fishing off the west coast of Vancouver Island. He told me of foggy nights in his bunk, listening to the screws of huge tankers coming close, closer, and then finally passing. Or of circular bait balls of fish measuring fifty feet across, dotting the surface of the ocean as far as could be seen.
  I can’t get those stories back now, but these days I’m more likely to slow down and say “Tell Me A Story.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

All That Glitters...

  There’s been a lot of chatter in the past few days about the plunging price of gold, resulting in a torrent of online advice. Sell, don’t sell; panic, don’t panic.
  Of course that got me thinking about writing. Again.
  Okay, so I’m a bit obsessive about writing. But every once in a while I try to step back and take a look at the what and the why of this third career path I’ve chosen for myself. Or is it the fourth? Who’s counting?
  All writers read, and if they don’t, they’re probably not real writers. As a result, we can’t help but absorb the current trends. Stick with me here, I’m getting to the point.
   The point is: as with the gold, do I follow the trends, or don’t I? Why do we all think we have to know what’s trending every minute? Why can’t we be original?
  In my case, if the pack leads me to a best seller, instant fame and untold riches, I’m your man... or in this case, your woman. Just kidding, but it’s tempting.
  So where does that leave me? Surprisingly, it leaves me satisfied at the end of each day’s writing. I’ve finally stopped worrying about what everyone else is doing. I’m doing my own thing. I’m delving a little deeper when I write, and it feels good.
  I can’t stop reading, of course. I think my head would explode if I couldn’t read every day, but when I go back to the keyboard, it’s with a smile. And we all know the world can use more smiles.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Blog About Nothing

   My father used to have an expression that stuck with us kids. We'd giggle behind our hands because Daddy was being naughty. He'd say "I'm running around like a blue-ass fly," with that charming Angle grin. All of my uncles had that grin, come to think of it.
   Can't say I ever saw that blue-ass fly. Oh, wait...of course I didn't; it was too busy.
   More and more I'm feeling like that fly. There just isn't enough time to do everything that needs doing. I try to carve out four or five hours every day for writing, but 'must-do' writing-related chores pop up with such regularity, it's a miracle if I manage to write three days in a row. And that's a pity, because I'm happiest when I'm writing. Being connected, and taking care of business are unavoidable, but for me writing is what it's about. It's my joy.
   Last night (after knocking off 2000+ words),  I saw a blog by Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn. We women have heard this message many times before: Take Time For Yourself. Jeff's advice isn't quite that simple, but it stuck with me overnight, and this morning I went back and read it again. It's worth a read, and as a bonus, it isn't too long!  Read Jeff's post here. It's about nothing.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Something new...

   Some readers have told me recently that they missed my announcements about new releases and special offers, which include free e-books from time to time.
   Can't have that, so I've added a tab to my facebook page, where you can sign up to receive Special Offers, as well as my monthly Newsletter, if that interests you.
   I won't be filling your inbox with me! So go here to sign up, and don't miss out!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Perfect Side-Kick

Hi everyone! This post originally appeared on Shirley Bourget's blog, under Buzz From The Best, but I kinda like it, and thought I'd share it here, as well.

Andy Griffith and Barney Fife?

...or Laverne and Shirley... or The Lone Ranger and Tonto?
Okay, you get the idea. It’s about the sidekick.
I don’t think I’ve written a book yet that doesn’t have a strong sidekick. I write contemporary romance, so the sidekick is generally a friend, or a roommate. Or in some cases, a pet. I grew up with both dogs and cats. Love ‘em both, but if there’s an animal involved, it’s usually a cat.
I’m not fond of stories in which the main character is too introspective. That type of structure usually leads to long paragraphs of telling instead of showing. Boring, boring, boring. But on the other hand, if we impart the information via dialogue with the sidekick, it’s alive, and ultimately, interesting. If not, it shouldn’t be there.
I use the sidekick to say things the reader might be thinking. For example, the main character utters some emotionally charged dialogue, and you just know the reader is rolling her eyes and saying “give me a break”. Eh voila – the sidekick can say “give me a break”. This allows you to include that small, overly-dramatic but necessary scene, and yet keep it real, thanks to the sidekick.
Creating this character is something I enjoy...perhaps more than I should. Because the sidekick is me. Wait, let me qualify that. It’s the me I’d like to be. I’d like to be tall, slender, dress in a bomber jacket, tight leather pants, and be an international correspondent. Something ‘glamorous’ like that. What’s that you say? The job of an international correspondent isn’t all that glamorous? Never mind; you know what I mean. Besides, this is romance, and romance is mostly fantasy.
Do you notice how often the secondary character is the complete opposite of the main character? There are many ways this can be accomplished, but one of my favorites is age. Several of my stories have older women mentoring the heroine. A surprising number of readers have said that they’d love to read a story about the older characters. In Then Came Love, the older woman is named Agnes. She’s a feisty old broad who has outlived several husbands. We like her immediately, and she becomes integral to the story.
Yes, sidekicks aren’t only fun to write, they enrich our stories. Let’s hear it for the Barney Fifes of the world, and may our characters be as memorable.