After This Perfect Storm

The perfect storm is approaching the East Coast.  Everyone reading this, if you live in the path of that storm, clear the yard of anything that can blow away, stock up the cupboards, make sure there’s wood for the fireplace and fuel for the generator and that you’ve downloaded lots of good reading to your Kindle, Nook or whatever.  And know that we’re thinking of you.

Here in the north woods, we know what it’s like to prepare for bad weather, though ours is usually snow and cold.  It’ll take you a long time to recover from this perfect storm just as it takes us a long time to recover from a nasty blizzard.  I remember one horrible winter when there  had been so many blizzards that there was no place left to shove the snow and plows couldn’t get through anyway.  The only thing that could was road graders and D-9 Cats.  Fortunately, our next door neighbor had a Cat so we were okay but it was odd to look out our window and see him chugging down our driveway in it.

But we’ve never faced a hurricane.  Or floods because we are on a high hill but we’ve had to drive around flooding everywhere around us.  And we expect that you East Coasters, too, will have to face flooding in the near future.  So place the waders where you can find them easily after the storm has gone away and you’ve read everything you downloaded onto  your Nook or Kindle… by flashlight or candlelight, of course, because the electric is out indefinitely, and you need to go out. 

And good luck getting to the polls on election day.  Use a boat if you have to, but get there and vote!

Readers… Wonderful People!

Readers are wonderful people.   Today I’m thinking about readers because writing is a lonely job with little connection to the world, let alone to the people who actually read what I write. 

I know someone out there is reading my works because magazine subscription and book sale statistics tell me my stories are getting out there and are being read. 

But statistics can’t compare to connecting on a personal level with actual readers.  Actual people.  People who have something to say and who say it.  That’s a thrill that I’ll never tire of.

So thank each and every one of you who have taken the time to respond to my posts.  I do read every response and I do take what you’ve said to heart.  (Of course, so far I’ve only gotten positive feedback.  Don’t know how I’ll respond to negative comments and I’m sure those will come because every other writer I’ve spoken to has had it happen.)

Anyway, again… thanks.  This post is for you!

On to the next American romance novel with a gothic feel

On to my next novel and back to what I often enjoy, writing a story with a touch of the supernatural.  This time it’s something in a lake that’s been there for a long, long time.  Since before white people came to the north woods.  So the question will be, are the spirits friendly or not?  I’m leaning towards friendly but the thrust of the book requires that the spirits not be too nice.  So I’m trying to decide exactly what the spirits will be like.  Any suggestions?

SHARPSHOOTER… NOT!

I finally… finally… finally… got my next novella… Wanted:  Sharpshooter… (originally Night of the Puma but that didn’t work out) uploaded to Amazon where it’s for sale.  I’m still in a state of shock at how different on-line publishing is from writing for paper books and magazines.  Which is only relevant because it took me way longer to get this done than I expected.  I guess it’s a case of this being my first made-for-e-publishing story and, as such, it was an educational experience with a steep learning curve which I hope is now finished.

But I digress.  This post is about a specific element in Wanted:  Sharpshooter.  And about my dad.

My dad made his own knives, bows and arrows, and slings (yes, that’s slings, the kind David slew Goliath with) and he re-worked guns until their configurations satisfied him.  At any given time, our home was filled to the brim with weapons of various types that he could… and did… use with unerring accuracy.  Like hitting a small bird on the fly with an arrow.  Or killing an Alaskan bear with a sling because a bunch of guys wondered whether a sling really could kill a giant and a bear was about the same size. 

Yes, he truly did all those things, and he also taught his children about weapons.  I think he did a passable job of teaching my brother and sister.  With me, all I can say is that he tried.

He made me a re-curved bow when I was a teenager.  It was a thing of beauty made of Osage Orange with black rawhide on the front.  I loved it.  But I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with it.  Neither could I hit the bulls-eye with any of the many guns he chose for me when he patiently tried to teach me to shoot.  To be honest, I was lucky to hit the target, let alone the bulls-eye.

Years later, when my husband had to travel for his job and I was concerned about being alone in the wilderness, my dad provided me with the most awful-looking pistol (a Dirty Harry look-alike) and loaded it specifically for me, a lousy shot.  It was a six-shooter.  The first two were salt that would spread widely and act as a deterrent without actually killing anyone.  The third and fourth were buckshot that also spread widely but were more serious.  If I needed the last two, he informed me that I’d want all the power possible, so they were for killing.  I never needed that gun, thank goodness. 

The hero of Wanted:  Sharpshooter is a former Army Ranger sharpshooter and the heroine is a woman who can’t hit the broad side of a barn but whose father provided her with a shotgun for protection because buckshot will scatter and hit almost anything, anywhere.

Thanks, Dad, for all those lessons and for teaching me that even people who can’t hit the broad side of a barn can protect themselves.  That information proved invaluable when writing Wanted:  Sharpshooter.

WORKING WRITER TIP… MIDDLES

First, a bit of housekeeping.  I have the feeling I’ve not got a lot more working writer tips in me. At least, not for the time being.  I admit I’m amazed how many tips I remember when I sit down and try to think what has helped me over the years.  Still…. not so many have popped into my mind lately so, if I’m not nearing the end, I am at least slowing down a bit.  With that in mind, I have decided to drop back to posting twice a month.  On or about the beginning and the middle of each month.

 But for now there’s a lot to be said for middles.  You know, that part of every story that writers hate because middles often end up boring readers.  Great beginnings and wonderful endings.  Middles, not so glorious.

 I must admit that I skip a lot when I read.  The boring stuff.  Description.  Telling not showing.  And middles if they are boring and don’t seem to add to the story.  Which often, they don’t.

 There’s a way to deal with those boring, saggy middles that I kind of figured out for myself.  It happened during a ‘eureka’ moment after I read a definition of a story.  Now, there are lots of definitions but, for the purpose of interesting middles, this is the one that led to that eureka moment and remains the one I prefer:  A story follows a group of characters through a situation to a conclusion and, during the trip, at least one character changes.

 It’s the part about one or more character changing that has to do with middles because that change takes place during the middle of the story.  So the key to middles that are not boring and can be riveting is to show the change.  You, the writer, are in charge of whatever it is that changes your characters and it’s that change that makes the middle worth reading.

 This isn’t a writing technique in the sense that it tells you how to fiddle with words.  Instead it’s a head thing, a way of thinking that you mentally assume whenever you sit down and begin writing. As you write, keep in mind what change must happen to each character before the end of the story.  And think about how that change can best be wrought.  Because if you are thinking about that change, then it will show up in each and every scene.  And that will make your middles interesting and your stories page-turners.