David Myles Robinson has returned

I'm pleased to welcome David Myles Robinson back to Choices, while he's on his WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour for his new book, Son of Saigon. I couldn't resist reading another one of his mystery thrillers after the great time I had reading The Pinochet Plot. See my post about that book and my review here. His latest book is called Son of Saigon, and it doesn't disappoint. Here's a brief synopsis: Hank and Norm were living the good life: two friends with plenty of money, homes in a lovely California retirement town, and no problems except for the boredom that felt almost fatal. Then Mai came into the picture, the love of Hank’s life during his CIA days in Saigon, desperately needing his help to save the son he’d never known he had. Boredom was over, as Hank and Norm hit the road, following the few clues Mai could give them in search of a man who desperately wants not to be found. What they find is a slew of lies and hidden truths, strange characters, improbable dan … [Read more...]

My novel is finished – now what?

I had every intention of submitting my finished novel to a small press I heard about a few years ago that publishes American Jewish Experience fiction. I kept checking back and kept checking back to see if they were still around over the years. But when I pulled up their website again yesterday, I found a new note pertaining to their guidelines - they will only look a fiction works that are represented by an agent. That of course stopped me dead. Now I am on the lookout for a small press that will be interested in coming of age/immigration/feminist themes and maybe willing to go with the American Jewish Experience theme as well. Looks like a very tall order to me. I'll also make friends with the agents I've met through the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society, whom I've heard on panels many times. Maybe I can persuade one of them to represent me. In the meantime I want to thank all of the people who helped me with the book along the way. The following  is what I wrote for the … [Read more...]

My thoughts about the film The Wife (spoiler alert!)

The new film, The Wife, with Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce, brought up a lot of memories of my writing career. Early on in her studies, Joan Castleman, the character Glenn Close plays in the film, was told she could get nowhere as a female author. It was the year 1958 – the same year I started college as a journalism major. Castleman, already recognized for her writing skills, says she couldn’t live without writing. I too was hell-bent on having a career in writing though I was discouraged as well. My father made it clear I should study to be a teacher – after all that’s what girls in my generation did – or skip college altogether and become a secretary. Of course, the Castleman character in movie and I were on totally different paths in our writing. My forte was journalism; hers was fiction. I persisted and got a job right after graduating from college at a fashion trade magazine, which I quit after three weeks because my male boss verbally abused and harassed me. A few w … [Read more...]

What’s next to write?

Now that my novel is going through a final professional edit and hopefully getting ready to shop around. I’ve been thinking about what’s next for my writing life. For a long time, I’ve thought that there isn’t another book in me, but now I’m not so sure. Could I write another memoir? I’m at that stage in my life when I have almost all of it to look back on, so I could write a memoir from an old wise woman’s approach to turning eighty. I could write about the secrets of staying married to the same man for over forty-eight years and living in the same house for thirty-nine years. Really where have all those years gone? And really that brings up another big question – how much time do my husband and I have left anyway, and what are we doing to prepare for our last years? Or better yet, how we’re handling our lives right now as we age – at different paces. Yes, another memoir or even two are a real possibility. The options are endless: how we're still working at surviving the loss of … [Read more...]

How does an author change voices?

I'm delighted to have Wendy Lozano here at Choices. She and I have known each other since we worked on our high school newspaper together – and that's a long time. After an absence of many years, we reconnected while she carried out a successful career in academia and I worked for the aerospace industry. Coincidentally we are both novel writers now.  Her novel, The Fifth Sun, will be out next week. Here Wendy shares how she had found her author's voice after writing in her academic voice during her academic career – similar to my transition from technical writing to creative writing. I find the transition fascinating. I hope you will too.   Changing Voices by Wendy Lozano When I wrote my first historical novels in the ‘70s, my name was Wendy Lozano. Writing  seemed really easy to me then. I just fantasized about being in a particular time and place, did some research, and then wrote down my fantasy. I didn’t worry about voice or point of view. They were mine. The only … [Read more...]

What’s next in my writing life

Since I’ve finished – at least in my estimation– revision ten of my novel, it’s on hold. I want to hire a professional editor it go through it, but I haven’t made that happen yet. I’ve asked a young woman who worked with me on my memoir, but her life is so busy with children, she hasn’t given me a yes or no yet. I’ll wait another week or two and then go on to Plan B. In the meantime, I’ve gone back to writing small stones – I’ll post a couple that I’ve written this month below And I’m working on my poetry. I completed the April poem a day challenge put out by Robert Lee Brewer over at Writer’s Digest. I also write to his weekly Wednesday prompts. And this not usual for me – I’m editing some of my existing poems, getting them ready for submittal. (I’ve heard somewhere that if we haven’t received at least 100 rejections in a year, we haven’t submitted enough. That I’m editing poems is the unusual part for me. I usually write them, and then only with quick word or two changes … [Read more...]

Where was this when I needed it?

As I finish my tenth and last draft of my novel, I've come across this Checklist for Authors. I don't know how it came to me, but I do know it's a product of WritersWrite, a site that is all about writing and writing advice. Check it out. I know I will the next time I write a book. And, you know, in going through this list again, I think I've covered most everything on the checklist already - especially Number 21: Have I rewritten my novel at least five times? I guess I'm in good shape to stop at ten. … [Read more...]

I’ve become a revision fiend

I’m sure you’ve heard this before. But I need to tell it to you again. Book revision and editing will be harder and will take longer than the actual writing of your book. So be prepared to stay with it for the long haul before you start. In other words: Make the Decision to Do the Hard Work Before You Start to Write a Book. Here’s a true story. After I wrote the first draft of my memoir I hired an editor who helped me prepare it for submittal to interested agents and presses. This took about a year. Then once I had a book contract, my publisher requested an enormous amount of revisions to that draft. So I spent another six months revising and editing my manuscript with the help of three writing friends who checked my work for repetition, inconsistencies, chapter organization, wording, and typos. Afterward, the publisher’s editor worked another month doing a final review and edit before producing the first hardback edition. After my memoir’s release in May 2011 many readers inf … [Read more...]

Now, there’s a poem

If you've been here a time or two, you know I’ve always believed there is a poem out there everywhere. So many of my ideas for poems come from people I see and places I go that I’m really never at a loss for something to write about. I’m constantly saying, “Now, there’s a poem.” Still I like to work with prompts. I keep a list of them that I get from the Writer’s Digest’s poetry editor, Robert Lee Brewer and his Poetic Asides blog. He posts a prompt every Wednesday. Sometimes he’ll combine it with a request that we write in a specific poetry form, e.g., Haiku, Nonet, Luc Bat, Tanka, Ekphrastic, Quatern, Tritina. So I get a prompt, but a poetry lesson as well. Robert writes about things he knows and loves. The words are simple, homey, about his wife and children. I relate to that. He also conducts two poem-a-day challenges a year in April and November. I’ve participated for the last several years. At the end of the month he asks us to submit a chapbook of our best few poems … [Read more...]

Should we let a family member read our drafts?

When I finished revision nine of my novel, I decided to let my husband read it. He’d been asking for a long time, and I always held back from letting him. I had heard early on that asking family members – especially such close ones – and good friends to read our work could be a problem. It they hate the work they would be reluctant to tell the truth, and if they love it, they may have a subjective rather than objective point of view. Well, I decided to risk it anyway, and considering how hard he worked on reviewing, I’m not sorry. He saved a copy and renamed it with his initials and started going through it – marking edits and/or typos in red font and inserting questions and comments along the way highlighted in yellow. He also created a separate timeline in a Word table. That is really his forte – he’s a numbers guy. And, he found a lot of inconsistencies in my dates (my novel is divided in three parts – each starting with a date in story’s history) and inconsist … [Read more...]

Traditional or self-publishing: that is the question

  It’s time to report back about the status of my novel. First of all, I’m happy to say I’ve completed revision nine. The purpose was to cut out unnecessary words and bring my word count more in keeping with the number agents and publishers suggest. After I added a lot of needed new material, as suggested by my critical assessment editor, my word count grew from 85,000 to 103, 052 words. So, my goal was to cut at least 5,000 of them. I’m happy to say I exceeded my goal, and cut 5,675 words. Hopefully I didn’t cut anything that I’ll have to put back later. My next job is to break up several long chapters into smaller ones. That is an easy fix. And now I feel I’m at a point to think about getting my book published. The question is, should I shop around for an agent or publisher or should I self-publish? That’s a question I never thought I’d be asking. I’ve always said I didn’t want to self-publish. I didn’t self-publish my memoir, so why go t … [Read more...]

Three things

First. This is the last day the Kindle edition of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, will be on sale for $.99. So please grab your copy before midnight. Here’s what a few reviewers had to say about it: ...Leaving the Hall Light On left me in tears. It is a heart wrenching book; I could not put it down.  Anyone who wants to learn how to live with children or adults with bipolar disorder, must read this book. ...I could imagine that this book might be helpful for those dealing with bipolar disease or suicide in the family, but for those of us fortunate enough not to have yet experienced those problems, it also provides a very real look into how good but human people deal with the cruelty of fate. ...Suicide does not just end one life, it can destroy others. Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide is the … [Read more...]

Novel successes and woes

I’ve been glued to my chair working on my novel for months: writing new scenes, converting dialogue into inner monologues, changing tense from present to past, creating new chapters where three asterisks indicated breaks in the text, and generally editing as I went through it over and over again. A little bit about my new scenes* process: I marked up my manuscript to indicate where (with page number) a new scene was needed and what the scene should consist of. I highlighted that marker in yellow. I then copied the marker and pasted it in a new document called New Scenes. I created the new scenes in the New Scenes document – without touching my original manuscript. When I finished creating the scenes I edited them several times to make them as mature as my original manuscript, already in its eighth draft. Then I merged the scenes into the manuscript, starting from the end of the book, so I wouldn’t mess with the page numbers And as I copied and pasted … [Read more...]

May flowers and memories (small stones)

I just finished my tenth month writing small stones. The only break was during  my husband's Grand Canyon accident and recovery in November - December 2016. Here are my May small stones, including a couple of photos I posted with the words. By the way, the admin of the small stones  Facebook page, Ger O Neill, creates a new name for our group every month. Last month the name was May flowers and memories. This month we're writing Jewels of June. May flowers and memories May Day and the beginning of mental health month. A great day for people watching and writing at a little café. Congress is trying to decimate mental health care. If they pass the amended American Health Care Act (AHCA), millions of Americans will lose their mental health coverage. Please tell your congress representatives to vote No on AHCA. How can so many things in my house go wrong at the same time? My stove cooktop, a water heater, and dryer are all dead. And service people are nowhere in sight. … [Read more...]

April small stones

We called our April small stones April Smiles, Showers and Pearls, and indeed they were. Without further ado, here are the small stones I wrote last month. A beautiful day. A beautiful walk to the beach. And I’m not fooling. We had brunch and a trip to the park with our three-year old godson and his family today. Always a challenge, but always lovely as well. So much going on – house renovations, writing projects, and a wonderful visit with our deceased son’s best friend. I love that he is still in our lives. I’ve been working hours revising, thinking, editing, thinking. It’s exhausting. Looking at these awesome giant birds of paradise from my upstairs window. Nature is such a great inspiration. We had dinner 71 stories up last night. What a view of downtown Los Angeles: A beautiful bright sunny day for entertaining relatives from rainy Oregon. And it was so wet this morning I thought they had brought their rain with them. Today was a work day, not a … [Read more...]

How my novel is progressing

I haven’t written about my work on my novel for quite some time. So, I thought I’d bring you up to date. Yes, you’re right. I’m still working on it after all these years – about seven at least. However, I think I’m finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. After all, I'm working on draft number eight. A few months ago, I hired an editor to do an assessment critique, and after a thorough reading, he provided me with ten pages of single-spaced notes, with many rewriting assignments. Before I embarked on any of it I asked him to honestly tell me if I should put the book on a shelf and forget about it, or keep on working. He suggested I keep working, and that’s what I’m been doing. For the last several weeks I’ve been working steadily to accomplish the editor’s suggestions. And while I work on the novel, I totally ignore social media of every kind. That was hard at first, but it gets easier with time. The first thing I did was abide by the editor’s … [Read more...]

It’s time to start rewriting again

I apologize for taking so much time off from Choices. My temporary day job has been exhausting and as such has given me little time or energy to write here. However, I’ll be free of it early next week and look forward to getting back to my writing work. That said I attended a rewrite seminar last weekend to hopefully help me get revved up to work on my novel after a long hiatus working a proposal management consulting job. Some of the contents of the seminar were familiar – I learned a lot about rewrite and revision while working proposals in the aerospace business – and some things discussed gave me some new nuggets to incorporate in my work. Here I’ll try to give you ways to tackle your own drafts. The two-step process for writing a book are: Step 1 – write the draft Just get it out Don’t hang up with editing Don’t go to the Thesaurus to find a word. Lay all your cards on the table as fast as you can. And avoid tendency to write in chronolog … [Read more...]

My Name Is Wonder by Ronald Chapman

It is may pleasure to showcase another book by Ronald Chapman during his WOW!Women on Writing blog tour. Ronald's latest book, My Name Is Wonder: A Tale of Adventure, will have you thinking from the first page until well after you’ve closed the book. This beautifully written novel chronicles the transcendent adventures of a little goat with big dreams. Join Wonder and his wise cracking guide, the mysterious crow Mac Craack, on a journey through the scenic landscapes of the American Southwest and into the heart of a mindful presence. Along the way, you’ll meet an unforgettable cast of creatures, each with an important lesson to teach. Praise for My Name Is Wonder: “…a book for the ages, with profound truths simply stated. First there was Jonathan Livingston Seagull and then Yoda—Now there is Wonder…” - Beverly Molander, Minister and Radio Host of Activating the Power of Yes “…an exploration of human nature and into the allegorical realm that shows us how t … [Read more...]

A little novel excitement – short-lived

I was on two panels last weekend at the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference – one on memoirs and the other on building a platform. After getting much kudos I was feeling pretty good, so good that I jumped at the chance to present a short pitch to a literary agent about my novel. I had a synopsis with me and I knew my story cold, so why not? When it was my turn I told the agent about my book. He smiled and told me to tell my story without a lot of details. When I finished, he nodded his head and said, “I like it.” He then asked me to send him a synopsis by email. He didn’t want the hard copy I had with me. I was stoked. When I got home I decided to rewrite my synopsis. And thanks to Jane Friedman I found a wonderful resource: How to Write a 1-page Synopsis by Sooz. The outline was easy to follow. And in most cases I was able to use some of the synopsis I had already written. I also wrote a cover/query letter that included a recap of my meeting with the age … [Read more...]

A progress report

In John Lennon’s song, “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” he sings: “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_j-tpmdPlI My mother always said something similar: “Man plans, and God laughs.” Well, life was sure happening to me last week. I worked diligently on my book, as I said I would do in my previous blog post, for the first three days, and I actually made some great progress. Then boom! It all fell apart. My husband, Bob, woke up early last Thursday morning with shortness of breath. I took him to urgent care and he got an EKG. With those results the doctor there said take him to emergency at our local hospital. And we were off and running. Two and a half days later and tests to rule out a heart attack, pneumonia, blood clots in his lungs, and congestive heart failure, he was feeling better. So they sent him home. Less than 24 hours later, he was short of breath again – even worse. This time we called his … [Read more...]