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Archive for October, 2009

I opened the sliding door to the linen closet and saw this:

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Was it a sign? A message? Only to me or to the world at large spoken from beside a dirty clothes basket?

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I don’t really know, but should anyone care to worship in my front yard, for your convenience, there will be a donation box near the entrance. Careful with the candles, though. The grass is pretty dry.

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Let’s put two myths to bed right off.

  • Writers are loners. Sure we work alone because writing is a one-person job unless you are part of a writing team for TV, but “loners” does not describe us. At the Florida Writers Association (www.floridawriters.net)annual conference in Lake Mary, Florida last weekend most attendees did indeed come alone it seemed, but there was a reason, if we can trust my limited “survey.” Those I spoke with did so for the same reason I did. Okay, we don’t have any friends, but besides that, the purpose was to meet as many other writers as possible in a short time. The best way to do that was not to pair up with someone you knew. And it worked. I met so many kindred souls my head is spinning. I’ll touch on a few in a minute.
  • Conference or banquet food is old TV dinners from the days of Sid Caesar and Howdy Doody, scraped from the tin trays and plopped before you, probably cold. You people have obviously never attended a conference at the Marriott in Lake Mary. I heard a perfect description of the creative breakfasts, lunches, breaks and dinners served us: “I feel like I’m on a cruise ship.” That sums it up. Of course, we will all need to work off the extra pounds as we do after a cruise, too. If you need further convincing, how about this? During the conference there was only one standing ovation—it was for the chef.

This was my first time attending a major conference, so I paid for one day (the second) in case it was not beneficial. I came back for the final day and wished I had attended the first, too. (Note to self for next year.)

The first workshop attended was for those farther along and ready to publish and promote, but things picked up when I heard young fantasy writer M.B. Weston, author of Elysian Chronicles . Her presentation on plot and structure was spirited and aimed right at my sore spot, conflict avoidance. She has a hard time doing bad things to her protagonist, too, but had tricks to help. Thank you. Thank you.

The first workshop after lunch was Crafting Commercial Memoir and presented by Brandi Bowles, an agent with Morhaim Literary Agency (www.morhaimliterary.com) whose job it is to buy memoirs. You can’t get advice more straight from the mouth than that. We left there seeing we had to target our audience and basically begin promotion of our book before we even write it. It’s a commercial world out there, kids. Techniques for stringing individual stories together with a narrative thread are the most challenging for me. Ms Bowles gave us several ways to accomplish that goal. Now the work begins.

After a hearty lunch, my next workshop was with Margie Lawson, psychologist, writer, international presenter (http://margielawson.com/, who spoke on Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist. I have no doubt everyone in that workshop will soon be pouring over every work they have written to measure effectiveness against Margie Lawson’s criteria.

In the final workshop Sunday, James O. Born, author of five police thrillers, the latest “Escape Clause” (http://jamesoborn.com/titled his workshop Realism & What Drives Readers Crazy. He also writes science fiction under the pseudonym James O’Neal. Born, a DEA agent in “real life,” pulled one weapon after another from his duffle bag and kept us laughing while learning. Think: Carrot Top’s trunk with lethal weapons. No one got handcuffed (luckily) because he forgot the keys, but he turned my weapon against me when I asked advice on the police style (Surefire) defensive flashlight I carry.

This post has gone on long enough. I’ll be back to introduce you to some of the amazing writers I met and the visual treat we all had from the party next door, an Indian engagement party.

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I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. No one tells me what to do, not even myself. I kinda figured a lot of you feel that way, too, so here is my out-of-the-blue resolution: No more politics on this blog. If I have thoughts that won’t be held in, I’ll create a separate blog. This country is more divided on political matters than I’ve ever seen it, but so many of us are in sync in more ways than we aren’t. That’s what is blog has always been about, with a few diversions on the soap box. The soap box is going.

What brought this about? An unnamed best selling author invited me to be a friend on Facebook (soft promotion they all do). I have not read any of her books, but she is considered a Southern writer, and I do gravitate to Southern writers, so assumed I would enjoy her “friendly banter,” and maybe pick up a few writing tips. Lately though, her page has become a litany of political videos and rantings (with a chorus of admirers offering amens). What this writer showed me is that politics is a poor PR business model, and so is throwing your web friends under the bus for their views by implication. I promise to try hard to not do that. Let’s see if I can. YOU are worth it.

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P1060881Did you ever see one of those commercials where they put a car through the changing, violent weather test to see how the finish holds up? You are looking at the human version of that car.

Lake George

Do you see Mickey Mouse in the clouds, too?

Sunday at Silver Glenn, a beautiful spring on the St. Johns River, broiled in 93 degree heat (more in direct sun where we were), but the water was cool as a glass of iced tea. That is where my son’s and a friend’s family and I spent most of the day.

The clouds were billowing and beautiful all day. Since I am surrounded by trees, and see only a pinch of sky to the southeast, the view was a real treat. “They do look like thunderheads,” I told my son, but he assured me there was a zero percent chance of rain for the day. You know what’s coming, don’t you? Traveling back down the river to our ramp, the clouds darkened more and more until BAM! We began to be pelted in the face with raindrops like buckshot. The temperature seemed to drop thirty degrees in minutes and the towels drawn around to protect our bodies had to be rung out every five minutes.

“At least there is no lightn—-“I said just as the sky began to rumble. Time to pull over, but not too close to the trees. After a time, we slowly moved our way along, with the rain still coming down in bullets. Minutes before we turned into the dock, the sun came out. At least we wouldn’t have to pull out the boat in the storm.

Oh yeah, we're screwed.

Oh yeah, we're screwed.

In His defense, I must note, we saw three rainbows as we inched out of the treacherous monsoon. Noah may have fallen for that apology, but we weren’t quite ready. And no, I didn’t get pictures of them. I had stashed my camera in a dry spot seconds before the deluge.

My granddaughter “H-2” shouted over the din as we made our way in the storm, “What does ENDURE mean?” It was on her school spelling list and it suddenly occurred to her she needed to know now. Did we have examples she would not forget! The best was: It is persevering thorough difficulties, such as getting back to harbor in this storm. Somehow I don’t think she will ever forget the meaning of “endure.”

The REAL Florida

The REAL Florida

POSTSCRIPT: First trip on the St. Johns that we have seen not one alligator. Also there were few birds, save a few anhingas and cormorants, unless you count the flock of turkey vultures making themselves at home in the park. Our excellent Otter Spotter, H-2’s cousin spied one of those for us and a couple of turtles. I believe the wildlife decided they will come out when October REALLY gets here.

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Three very disparate authors came together tonight at Lake Mary Historical Museum for Authors’ Roundtable. Their only connection was geography. All live in this area, or come from here.

Judge Fredric Hitt’s account of how he came to write a historical fiction trilogy about Florida’s Timucua Indians was fascinating in itself. He seemed destined to research and write about the vanished tribe. Just enough titillation that I must start the first novel was the replica carved owl statue he brought. Others, much larger have been found in the St. John’s River. No one could tell him why the tribes would take such pains to carve the beauties only to throw them away. Judge Hitt promises me that I might just have an idea after reading his book. Now that’s a hook. All you writers out there, take note.

The second author, Robin Lippincott, read from his short novel, “In the Meantime.” Three characters, best friends, let the reader know them through brief glimpses of the lives over a long period of time. Later when I asked for his website, the writer told me he doesn’t have one, is not good at self-promotion. How many writers have I heard this from? But how many teach in the MFA program at Harvard University? Robin Lippincott has published three novels and a collection of short stories. I’ll be cruising Amazon shortly.

When you hear a book described as a romantic thriller with a historical backdrop, you think romance genre. When you see the adorable, perky author with her fantastic, large brimmed hat, you are sure. Ah, but you would be wrong. Dorothy Dubel has chronicled her mother, grandmother and great grandmother’s lives beginning in a Polish death camp during WWII. If you got the impression the novel would be dreary, my guess is you would be wrong. Dorothy Dubel seems far too upbeat not to see the joy, and dare I say it, romance in such lives. From a writer’s prospective, a most amazing point was that she “self published” because after having cancer three times, she didn’t want to wait for a publisher. Her confidence in her ability is apparently well placed. Dorothy Dubel has sold over 50,000 copies of “Escaping Danger.”

If anyone is interested in finding any of these books, just ask and I’ll relay more information. I know, I know, you are all reading Dan Brown’s latest right now, but when you are finished . . .

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