Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Truth About Thanksgiving

Ah, Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday. What other time of year is one expected to simply show up on a relatives' door step with a side dish, a hardy appetite and a good bottle of wine? With my family, it is even acceptable to nap afterwards, (after the dishes are done, or course). What other time of year do you hear Arlo Guthries' "Alice's Restaurant" played over and over again in the background, and everyone under the age of 30, who has been listening to it played at Thanksgiving every year of their life, wondering why it's being played and what is all the fuss about? The mashed potatoes, the turkey, the pies, the wine ... it is all a great time for family to get together, especially when a family is usually separated by the miles. And when else is there a designated "kiddy table" that is filled with every age up to 30 years, each just waiting to graduate to the big table, which happens only when someone dies, or never shows up for dinner.

However, fellow writers, there is more to Thanksgiving besides the traditional celebration of giving thanks, a big meal, listening to "Alice's Restaurant, and laughing at Antoine Dodson's bed intruder song. You know what I mean. It's all about character. Let's face it, where else would you dine with a group of people with such varied interests and mannerisms than at a Thanksgiving dinner? If you look hard enough at every face around the table you will notice the eclectic variations, the odd assortment of human beings. Call them relatives, or call them DNA mutants, each has a story to tell and a unique way to say it. Listen well. Unbeknown to my relatives, there is where I find many new characters for my stories. I twist their tales into plots, and subplots.

Sorry, Mom. Sorry Leesa, Jana, Randy, Reese, Angela, Carol, Bridgette ... Ryan, Gigi, Bianca, Gina, Mark, Ed... Your time has come. I have a story to tell and you're the main character.

I wonder if the Pilgrims did the same?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Women Writers in the Science Fiction/Fantasy Genre

A few weeks ago I stepped into a small bookstore at the Park City Mall in Lancaster Pa. While searching through the selection of sf/f novels, I noticed something. The entire section I browsed contained books written by female writers. Just imagine how thrilled I was! (books written by male sf/f writers were shelved further back in the store. Sorry, guys.) The section was not marked "Female Writers" or anything indicating a genre bias. That would be discrimination, now wouldn't it? Displayed were works that I might have passed over at Borders, or Barnes and Noble, but there they were, awaiting my purchase. This goes to show that in a genre that has for decades been dominated by men, women are finally getting their dues.

I remember the days when great writers like Anne McCaffray and Octavia Butler were lost among the crowd. Even today women in the genre use a sudonym that would not indicate gender, because God forbid a man want to read anything written by a women. Perhaps they should. I am tired of men getting it wrong. Portraying women as concubines or sex slaves or indicating that it is every woman's dream of sitting on a man's lap (because that's all we think about, right?) is not only insulting, but an unnatural view of human behavior. Most great science fiction novels written by men are actually male fantasy novels. So, why isn't there a genre for that?

I chose a book by Karen Miller entitled, EMPRESS. It enthralled me from the beginning to the end, and I can't wait to read another of hers.

Remember guys. Most readers are female. Get it right.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Harrisburg Book Festival


For all those who participated or attended the Harrisburg Book Festival at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore on June 26-27, you may have seen a variety of local writers signing their books. I picked up some great reads there. Fellow Susquehanna writers were there with their books: The Gospel of Matthias Kent, by Mike Silvestri, The Greater Good, by Susan Kelley, and Fever Dreams,by Cate Masters. As I approached a signing table with authors I did not know, a familiar name struck me. Eric Glick. Hmm, now where have I heard that name before. It turns out that Eric once lived in my township and had gone to the same school. I bought his book, The Dog at the Signpost, which turned out to be a truly entertaining book. The story is about a man going through a midlife crisis and runs into situations that alters the way he looks at his life. It is witty, unique and thought provoking. Glick's dry humor popped out on every page. I found myself suddenly laughing out loud at the most unexpected parts. The Dog at the Signpost can be purchased at amazon.com. I highly recommend it.

Next on my reading list is The Gospel of Matthias Kent, by Mike Silvestri. More on this book later.

Monday, May 31, 2010

"The Yellow Stone" is available at Amazon.com. as part of the SPECULATIVE JOURNEYS anthology.  It is the story about a woman's journey to find her people centuries after the super volcano known to reside beneath Yellow Stone National Park erupted. video

"Giving in to Peer Pressure," or, "Why I must Blog"

I remember when life was simple. Back then, there were few organized sports. A team consisted of the neighborhood kids gathering in the street for a game of kick-ball. Summer evenings were best spent sitting on the front porch talking to neighbors, drinking root beer floats and dreaming about a future filled with technology. There were no remote controls--the TV channel turner was but a few yards from your seat--or cell phones. A manuscript was written on a typewriter, not a computer. Surfing was when you took your board to the beach and "blogging" was a misspelled word.

The world is different now. Faster. Spell check, email ... have changed the writing industry. And yes, I've been told, it is an industry. No longer is having a talent for writing enough. A writer must be marketable. She must have a web site, facebook page, twitter account, and of course a blog.

While attending the Penn Writers' Conference a few weeks ago, David Pomerico, Assistant Editor at Del Rey Spectra, stressed how important it is for writers to blog. A woman in the audience challenged him. Why is a blog necessary when it takes away time a writer should be working on her current story? and why would an editor or agent shun a writer who didn't blog? This opened up a dialog, which, I might add, Mr. Pomerico seemed to welcome. After the conference, this dialog continued in many Penn Writers' members' blogs. YES, I was that woman. So I sit her today, blogging. Why? Because writing is not just an industry, it is a TOUGH industry. Have I given in to peer pressure? Me? Never. I'm a writer. I write any time, any place, and nobody tells me how.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How does a writer measure progress? Is the number of words written in a day? Is it three pages of words, a paragraph, or a single word? Is it a finished story, or the number of publications? How many words need to be written before a writer can sit back and say, "I'm done for the day. I've reached my daily quota of words." Many famous authors have written hundreds of stories only to have them lost. Most writers have filing drawers full of unpublished manuscripts most of which the author may feel unworthy of submitting, but may in fact open the hearts and minds of readers. Were those stories measured on the progress scale? They should be.

To me, the writing is never finished and each word is progress. My computer stays on, and sometimes in the middle of the night when a thought flashes through my mind I get up and write it down, be it a page or a single word. By telling myself, "I'm going to write four pages today," forces the words and decreases the level of creativity that goes into the pages. It doesn't matter how many words are written in a day. What matters most is that the writer is writing.

Of course, a published manuscript is the highest level of progress, and seeing your book in print is the ultimate goal. My congratulations goes out to a fellow cowriter and friend, Jon Sprunk, for the publication of his debut novel, SHADOW'S SON. SHADOW'S SON is a rich, fantasy novel published by Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus books. It is the first in a series and can be found in book stores throughout the country. Jon will be at Barnes & Noble book store at the CampHill shopping center in Pa. on June 16 at 6:00 for his book signing event. I just received Jon's book yesterday, and can't wait to read it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Many years ago I was listening to a radio interview. The interviewer asked the question, "How do you know when you've become a writer?" The interviewee replied, "When you wake up in the morning and the first thing you think about is writing." Hmm, I thought. That would put me in that category even though I've only written dozens of short stories at the time and never been published. So, here I sit today with a few short story publications and knee deep into writing novels. The first thing I do when I wake up is open the news paper and scan the obituaries. Once I feel no sense of grief, I head to my computer and start writing.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Getting back into the routine of writing after takings months off because of teaching responsibilities. Penn Writer's conference got the neurons firing again and the creative juices flowing. One thing I've learned from all of this is that life is much too short not to do what you truly love.