Review of Ronald Chapman’s A Killer’s Grace

I'm pleased to have read and written a review of Ronald Chapman's book A Killer's Grace in time for his WOW!Women on Writing virtual book tour. Today, September 1, is the publication of the book's second edition.  As you'll read, A Killer's Grace is a wonderful work. I hope you'll all get your copy (see the links below). You won't be disappointed. *** My Review of A Killer’s Grace A letter from a serial killer awaiting execution changes New Mexico reporter Kevin Pitcairn’s life. His investigations into the content of the letter drag him into his own dark past, that of a never-convicted murderer and an alcoholic. His journey draws the readers of A Killer’s Grace by Ronald Chapman into the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous and the close relationships Pitcairn made there, his love for Maria Elena who stays by his side even when she disagrees and fears his involvement with the serial killer’s story, how walking with his dog companions in the early morning hours calms him after nightmares l … [Read more...]

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Memoir or fiction? That is the question!

David W. Berner, my WOW! Women on Writing guest today, and I have something in common. After writing memoir we both turned to fiction—stretching ourselves, as David says, as writers. We both took a true story, settings, and characters and made up things—let our imagination have its way with us—to enhance the story's effect. My fiction book—though not ready to be published yet—takes off in a whole new direction from the true facts. My family members would definitely know the people and places I write about, and might even have a problem with the way my fictionalized version of our family history turns out.  Well, I'll deal with that when the time comes. I applaud David for using his wonderful memoir, reporting, and teaching skills to become a successful fiction writer. His first fiction work: Night Radio: A Love Story, has already received rave reviews. Thank you, David, for being here at Choices today and telling us about your journey into fiction writing—a story I very much relat … [Read more...]

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Theep and Thorpe – what a great title!

When my Facebook friend, Lillian Nader, announced the release of her book Theep and Thorpe, the title so intrigued me I had to learn more. With that I asked her to be my Choices guest and tell our readers how she conceived and wrote her new book. Thank you, Lillian, for accepting. I'm so pleased to introduce you and your book here. My BIG Announcement! by Lillian Nader I am so happy to announce the release of my book, Theep and Thorpe: Adventures in Space, on March 25, 2016. It is available now in paperback at Amazon.com. It’s a book for young readers and for those who are young at heart. The kindle version will also be available soon. The Story Behind the Story. The concept of Theep and Thorpe began many years ago when my artist friend, Angelo Divino, created images of two space beings. I asked if I could write about them and he said yes! Their names came to me first as I pondered the idea of how space beings might communicate. I decided they would know one another by their sou … [Read more...]

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A successful writers conference appearance

Early Saturday morning, my friend Eleanor Vincent (author of Swimming with Maya) and I drove to the Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys, California to participate in the Digital Author & Indie Publishing Conference. Tony N. Todaro, CEO of West Coast Writers Conferences invited us to appear on a panel discussing Building a Platform and Social Networking later in the morning. Our first task was to be interviewed separately by Nicole Baker, Manager of Author Education at Author Solutions – for twenty minutes on camera. And even though we were each given a list of questions and knew the answers cold, we each churned the night before about what we would say during the interview. I came up with a bulleted list of notes a few days before and felt well-prepared; however, my answers rolled around my head all night. Instead of taking my usual early morning walk on Saturday, I closed my office door  at 6:00 am and went over my notes for an hour. As it turned out, all my churning w … [Read more...]

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My Choices guest today is: Jennifer-Lynn Keniston

My Choices guest today is Jennifer-Lynn Keniston, author of Afta-U. Here she tells us how she balances the fear and thrill of writing dark novels. Like Jennifer-Lynn, I believe that balance is the key to success in all our live's undertaking. I welcome Jennifer-Lynn, and I wish her huge success in all her writing. How to leave the rollercoaster of emotions on the page/computer screen when stepping away from writing a dark novel by Jennifer-Lynn Keniston As a child, I could ride all the rides in an amusement park including the big rollercoasters with daring declines and twisting turns. From what I can recall, a rollercoaster ride can be both thrilling and terrifying. When I sit down to write more dialogue and piece together a dark novel, it is like I am sitting on an amusement park rollercoaster all over again. And I’m hoping I haven’t eaten too much cotton candy and fried dough before the ride starts. Emotions begin to battle one another. Now a days though, I have vertigo so I c … [Read more...]

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I love The Handmaid’s Tale

I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and I can’t even wait to finish it to praise it. Atwood’s imagination and writing are enthralling. She makes me want to study with her to learn how she does it. This is a book about an imagined time, yet the story is so believable – how a woman who once had a job, money, a husband, and a child now is no longer even allowed to read. Her ovaries are her only redeeming feature. She now must lie with the Commander and his wife once a month, hopefully to give them the baby she conceives. Atwood writes: “But isn’t this everyone’s wet dream, two women at once? They used to say that. Exciting, they used to say.” The Handmaid is the narrator. In a particularly beautiful passage she discusses time: “There’s time to spare. This is one of the things I wasn’t prepared for – the amount of unfilled time, the long parentheses of nothing. Time as white sound. If only I could embroider. Weave, knit, something to do with my hands. I want a … [Read more...]

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Where should my novel go from here?

I’ve received comments back from four of my second-round beta readers, and I’m still awaiting to hear from two more. Of the four received, two raved about the book, one said I needed to do a lot more work to lift it from a first draft status to a publishable novel, and the fourth, whom I heard from this week, basically told me to start over, that it’s a poorly written mess with parts that make no sense at all. Years ago I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. In it she has a chapter about the creative U-turn. Ever since reading about U-turns I’ve been avoiding them ( as I wrote here). I haven’t allowed negative reviews or feedback to make me come to a full stop and do an about face. However, this time it feels different. I’ve worked so long and hard on this novel and written about how I've avoided the creative U-turn so many times before, that the thought of starting over or doing almost a total rewrite just seems too hard. You probably wonder what this latest reviewer said to … [Read more...]

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The Yiddish language is making a come back

An October 2013 article in the Huffington Post discusses the revival of training in Yiddish that is helping to keep the language alive for the next generation. This is of great interest to me since I chose to use Yiddish words in my novel, Papa’s Shoes. My resources were online Yiddish to English dictionaries and a wonderful old book called  The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten. My mother gave my husband a copy back in 1970 when we got married. I think she was trying to entice him to convert. One of my novel’s beta readers, who is also not Jewish, did a study of the words I used in the book, dividing them into three categories: Words he uses in his own vocabulary, for example: Goy – a person who is not Jewish Kibitz – to offer unsolicited advice as a spectator Mazel tov – good luck Mensch – a special man or person, someone respected Nebbish – a nobody, simpleton, weakling Schmooze – talk, conversation, chat Shtup – push, vulgarism for sexual intercourse Tokhter – dau … [Read more...]

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Meet Eric Trant – author of Steps!

Please welcome Erik Trant, best selling author of Steps. He's here for his second blog tour stop with Women on Writing - WOW! Eric's subject is very dear to my heart since I spent a lot of years squeezing  my creative writing aspirations in between the proposal deadlines I had to meet working my day job in the aerospace industry. Even now, my writing life has gone by the wayside for a few months while I work a consulting job. I can barely eek out a journal entry each day. However, I truly believe my work as a technical writer/editor and proposal manager taught me the discipline I needed to become a published author. Eric's insight into this topic teaches us how we all can benefit from a second career. Here's Eric. Part-Time Authors: How a Second Career Improves Your Writing by Erik Trant I suppose the dream is to begin writing around year ten, publish somewhere just north of puberty, bang out a Masters of Fine Art at the local institute, and scoot your way onto the best-seller's … [Read more...]

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John Updike writes love

I’ve been reading John Updike’s Rabbit quartet since December 2014, and I’m finally about finished with the fourth: Rabbit at Rest. I’m dragging the last fifty pages out because I know Harry (Rabbit) Angstrom, the main character, is going to die before I turn the last page. However, I’m happy to say I have one more Rabbit book to go – Rabbit Remembered – a 2001 novella still there on my book shelf. I’ve learned a lot from reading Updike. He’s a master of description – and very long and detailed descriptions at that. His characters are perfectly drawn. I’ve gotten so I can almost predict how each of them will react to certain situations. He also knows how to write about love and sex. While he can be very graphic at times, I found the following passage quite lovely and tame. I’ve always felt we can write erotically without having to go into all the gory details.   From Rabbit at Rest by John Updike: “…Her eyes widen in the dim face inches from his on the pillow. Ti … [Read more...]

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Happy 90th birthday, The Great Gatsby

The Los Angeles Times posted an op-ed piece by Meg Waite Clayton* today commemorating the 90th anniversary of The Great Gatsby. The history of the book and its interest to readers when it was first published is fascinating. It wasn’t well-received or reviewed. I reread The Great Gatsby a couple of years ago as an assignment for the novel revision workshop I attended. That it’s still taught in schools and still beloved in the film industry – three actors have played Gatsby (Alan Ladd, Robert Redford, and Leonardo DiCaprio) – is definitely contrary to its early reception. I loved rereading it. I loved the last film. I can never get enough of the “old sport.” So, I’ve decided to publish Ms. Clayton’s op-ed piece verbatim (fully acknowledging the Los Angeles Times and Meg Waite Clayton). I hope you find it as interesting as I did. Goes to show even famous authors have their ups and downs – and perhaps their so-called duds. Gatsby, literature's party animal, turns 90 By Meg Waite … [Read more...]

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Writing about places we can’t personally visit

Please welcome Karen Mann. I'm so happy to have her with us today because I very much resonate with her topic. When I was writing my novel I couldn't travel to Poland or have first-hand knowledge of the time-period in which  my novel takes place - the early 1900s. Karen's novel, The Woman of La Mancha, takes place in the sixteenth century Spain. Here's what she did instead of personally visiting Spain and having a direct experience of the time period she writes about. When You Can’t Do Seat Research, Then What? By Karen Mann Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab’s Wife, talks about doing seat research for her historical novels. Sit where your characters sat, live where your characters lived, and you can write about how it smells, looks, sounds, tastes, and feels. But what if you can’t do that? When writing my novel The Woman of La Mancha, I was unable to go to Spain or even more specifically, I was unable to go to sixteenth-century Spain, yet my readers tell me I have made that t … [Read more...]

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Introducing Shirley Loeb and her debut novel

I'm so happy to welcome Shirley Loeb today as she tells us how she created her debut coming-of-age novel, The Y Sapphires. First a brief synopsis of The Y Sapphires: It is a coming-of-age story that will satisfy adolescents and adults. The 12-year-old protagonist, too tall and too fat, is lost in the new world of high school. She's funny, lovable, and reads people accurately. She joins the Y Sapphires, a club of the "not-so-popular" and begins a friendship with a sophisticated but troubled classmate. Can she remain true to herself and still fit in the club she loves? Here's Shirley: "The process was lengthy. I started writing this book about 25 years ago. I always loved the protagonist but somehow could not sit down long enough to complete it. It was left languishing for years at a time. Funny as it might sound, I felt I had abandoned Sylvie, the 12-year-old protagonist, and that I owed her the debt of completing her story. I was in a writing class where the members en … [Read more...]

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Character description

As I go through my novel chapters during this revision I'm continually checking back to the character descriptions I wrote up prior and during my writing process. One of the main considerations is keeping the characters' descriptions and actions and attitudes consistent throughout or revealing how they have changed as time goes by. One of my four main characters is described below (though a bit haphazardly). I've been told she is the most interesting. Please let me know what you think. Ruth Schuman, wife of Ira, mother of Charles and Ava Physical appearance: heavy-set, huge breasts, smooth white pale skin, short – about 5 feet, Always wears an old tight-fitting black dress usually with a dirty apron over it – until she transforms. Wears a wig at first, then her hair pinned in a bun until she gets it cut in a modern 1920s style Dark brown eyes At first all for going to America until the death of her three sons changes her so that she doesn’t want to leave Sokolow and the bu … [Read more...]

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Revisiting John Updike

It’s a given that reading is just as important as writing or maybe even more so. I’m always reading something. In the last month I read the first two novels that John Updike wrote about Rabbit Angstrom (Rabbit, Run and Rabbit Redux). My intent is to read some well-known and well-regarded books written by people of my generation. Philip Roth is on my list as well. I have no doubt I can learn a thing or two about novel-writing from these books. I won’t get into a discussion of plot and characters here. I am more interested in Updike’s writing style. The books are long. I bought old paperback editions and the typeface is so tiny I could barely get through five to ten pages at a sitting. Recently new novelists have been told to vary the length of their chapters and sentences and paragraphs and use a lot a dialogue instead of long narratives. Updike consistently breaks those rules. The two books I read had long, long chapters, paragraphs and sentences and little dialogue. Howeve … [Read more...]

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Does NaNoWriMo make sense for me or not?

I’d love to get involved with the NaNoWriMo challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days, but I’m not sure it’s right for me. I’m almost finished with the first run through of my revisions based on my beta readers’ comments on my existing novel and plan to be complete in time to start the challenge on November 1. However, I don’t know if making major revisions and rewrites rather than writing a new novel qualifies. I know the warning not to edit as we write makes a huge amount of sense and definitely slows down our writing. Take my advice for those of you in the challenge. Just keep you fingers moving. Don’t stop to think. Just write. However, my situation is totally different. I’ve already written my first draft and even spent hours and hours revising and editing it. Now it’s ready for another major revision. As I’ve marked up my hard copy with my yellow marker and red pen, I’ve identified places to cut, to add, to rearrange, to carry through a whole slew of thre … [Read more...]

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Am I going to take a creative U-turn?

Today is the day I asked my novel beta readers to send me their comments. So far I’ve received two sets. And of course I’ll very patiently await the rest. I feel my readers are doing me such a huge favor that whenever I get their comments will be okay. My dilemma now is with the two conflicting sets of comments I already have. One set says my novel is amazing, well written, and gives my writing lots of other kudos. The other set suggests major rewrite, reorganization, and more work shopping before I send it out again. This second set of comments reminds me of Julia Cameron’s section on Creative U-turns in her book, The Artist’s Way. It makes me want to stop working on this novel altogether because the task is too deep and too tall. I fear that I don’t know how to pull it off. Cameron says: “We usually commit creative hara-kiri either on the eve of or in the wake of a first creative victory….Creative U-turns are always both from fear – fear of success or fear of failure. It does … [Read more...]

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How to write a novel

I was smitten with the following photo that pranced around Facebook yesterday courtesy of Melissa Foster. It makes the writing of a novel seem so simple and the deterrents to writing a novel so easy to solve. I’ve been working on my novel for about four years – off and on. I revised and got my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, published in the meantime, and I spend a lot of time every day marketing it. However, I don’t let any of that take away from my writing time and my commitment to my novel. What I want to do is to briefly comment on the photo I’ve shared here and let you know where I am in my novel’s process. Think up a story I was fortunate to have a story fall into my lap from my aunt’s lifestory writing, and when I presented the idea at my first novel-writing workshop, it was very readily accepted. I’ve, of course, fictionalized her true story, making up characters, dialogue, events, and locales. However, I’ve tried very hard to be historically accurate about plac … [Read more...]

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Gathering inspiration for your novel

I like Cate Russell-Cole's great advice about gathering inspiration for historical fiction. I've been googling all morning to get inspiring images for my historical novel. Her way is much better. Thanks again Cate.   The Power of Day Dreaming in Fiction #Writing by Cate Russell-Cole “Set Building” I am a fantasy writer, who has hassles with description. Day dreaming and visualising is the only way I can cut through all the one sided fuzz that runs through my head. Otherwise my writing just sounds like a monologue! For me it’s a challenge as I am very analytical. I am more interested in the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the story, than telling it. I have a few tricks for getting over this: Pinterest, story boarding and “set building.” The last two set my ideas in concrete; Pinterest shows me things I can mull over, and all these techniques expand and improve my work. I find I rarely click on the links in Pinterest, it is the images or quotes which give me the ideas, so th … [Read more...]

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Dr. Heather Friedman Rivera’s creative writing journey, Part Two

Thank you for returning to read the rest of Dr. Heather Friedman Rivera's story. I'm so pleased she offered to write a guest post here on Choices. In Part Two she relates how she wrote Quiet Water, the first novel in her Golden Raven Series trilogy. Part One was posted on January 22. Part Two The Writing of Quiet Water and the Golden Raven Series The following week in Dr. Miles’ class just as usual she started with a guided meditation. When I relaxed into meditation I saw an image of a woman sitting on a curb. This woman started talking to me. She said her name was Tess Whitaker and she just moved to the apartment she was sitting in front of. I was surprised by what I was being shown but I told myself to just allow the images and words to come. I wrote quickly what she related to me and then over the next six months she spoke to me daily telling me her story. Some days I could not type fast enough. Quiet Water was born. I finished the book and it was published in September 2 … [Read more...]

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