Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z end

Today, the "Z" day, is ze last day of ze A to Z blogging challenge.

Thank you to the following people:
  • Those of you who stopped by, on a regular basis, and kept visiting even though you didn't comment;
  • Those of you who visited once or twice and didn't trash me or the blog; and
  • Those of you who visited regularly and commented, becoming new friends.
I'm glad I participated in the challenge. I met new people, visited new blogs, and picked up a few pointers.

Happy May Day! (Tomorrow, that is.)

Friday, April 29, 2011



If you're a writer, tell us about YOU! What's your latest book, where's your latest appearance, and what are the URLs to your online presences?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X Marks the Spot

I've never been enthralled with stories about treasure hunts. Pirates, parrots, peglegs, and buried treasure all seem kind of boring. The best part of Peter Pan was Tinkerbell. The best part of Romancing the Stone was its humor. And romance. Nothing about Indiana Jones appealed to me. (Not even Harrison Ford.)

I prefer puzzles to hunts. I also prefer figuring out why someone wants to dig a hole and bury something rather than doing the dirty work and digging stuff out of the ground.

What's the lure of treasure hunts? So you find something that's lost. Big deal. If the treasure you find is worth significant money, I can guarantee you someone else is going to claim ownership and take it away from you ... leaving you with nothing but frustration for all your efforts.

Now, if the satisfaction of the hunt is what floats your boat, okay, maybe I get it. A little.

Really now, tell me, what's the deal with treasure hunts?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Who is WonderWoman?

WonderWoman is a person who has great abilities to overcome, to survive and thrive, and pave the way for a better world. Thousands of WonderWomen live in this country (and in the entire world).

My focus today is on the WonderWomen who have have triumphed in the face of adversity presented to them in the form of sexual assault.

On April 30, 2011, thousands of people will take a Two-Mile High Stand Against Sexual Assault®. At dozens of drop zones across the country, men and women of all ages will take to the sky and jump. Most for the first time ever. And it's all part of Operation Freefall®, the boldest, highest-altitude, and most daring event organized to put an end to sexual assault.

Operation Freefall is the only event of its kind to increase awareness of sexual violence. The event is held simultaneously across the country on the last Saturday of each April, and it benefits both Speaking Out About Rape, Inc.® (SOAR®) and community-based anti-sexual violence organizations nationwide.

My daughter is a WonderWoman. If you'd care to support this wonderful cause--and all the WonderWomen, WonderMen, and WonderChildren in this country--feel free to visit Laurie's fundraising page to learn more: click here

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Very is a stupid word

I find myself using the word very lately, as in something is very important or very stupid. (I also use really in a similar fashion, but we'll overlook that on the "V" day of the A to Z blogging challenge.)

Really now, if something's important (or stupid), how does does very make it more so? Aren't the words important and stupid explicit enough on their own without having to define degrees of important and stupid? And grammatically speaking, how correct is it to modify an adjective with another adjective?

Why do we use adjectives anyway? Sure, the red car distinguishes it from the blue and green ones but why do we have to say the green grass? Yep, in places like Montana grass turns dirt brown in the dryness of summer but, otherwise, it's green ... and don't we all know that?

Same thing with adverbs. Yes, the earth spins slowly on its axis. I suppose it might be important to stress the fact to someone who's very stupid but, really, how many people are so stupid they think the earth spins quickly on its axis? And if someone were that stupid, why would you be talking about the earth's axis anyway?

All kidding aside, I understand the value of adjectives and adverbs. I'm just practicing a more judicious use of them lately.

What are your thoughts about the little buggers?

Monday, April 25, 2011


When I think of the word ugly, I think of nastiness. Many of the villains in literature have ugly spirits, as do their counterparts in real life. The first things that clues us in to a villainous spirit are words and behaviors--which are often only the tip of the iceberg.

Ugliness is bone deep and is almost always obscured by surface traits that are more appealing. A person is handsome or pretty, holds a prestigious job, has an attractive spouse and children and we all think, "What a nice person. So smart and successful." Handsome and rich don't equal kind and generous any more than pretty equals honest.

In every serial killer book I've ever read, someone makes a comment about the neighbors of the killer being shocked to learn that the nice, handsome, next-door neighbor was, in reality, the twisted, evil, ugly, killer.

Why do we equate surface beauty with nice? Why do we equate a lack of surface beauty ugliness?

Ugly isn't a lack. It's a surfeit of stuff that's rotten, only someone prettied it up in a disguise. Think about the villains we create on the page; think about the villains we've encountered in literature and on the big screen. Their ugliness is hidden beneath a layer of masks.

Some writers do a better job of characterizing and motivating their villains than others do because of the multitude of layers they use to cover up the ugliness. If we use the same process with our non-villainous characters--layering an unexpected trait with a variety of disguises--imagine the complexity we'd be able to create.

What other "hidden" traits do you bury beneath the layers of characterization?

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Although I am far more auditory and verbal than visual, today's blogpost on my personal blog got me all caught up in photos of Tigers.

I don't know why, but I think tigers are the most beautiful creatures on earth (other than naked human infants, that is).

Here are some I found; enjoy this pictorial essay. (You can locate the sites where I found the pics by clicking the photos.)

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Schedule

S is for Schedule, as in why does Blogger keep Screwing mine up? Several times in the past two weeks, I've checked my blog out at some point well after the 6:00 a.m. time I've scheduled a post to appear...only to find that the automatic post did not automatically post.

Does anyone know what I'm doing to Screw up my Schedule?

There, now that I got that off my chest, I'd like to share a few tips for getting your schedule under control:
  1. Quit your job;
  2. Divorce your spouse;
  3. Put your kids up for adoption;
  4. Destroy the TV, radio, computer, and all other types of electronic equipment; and
  5. Contract a mental illness so you're no longer responsible for anything.
Does that give you a clue about how my Schedule ran today?

P.S. My day wasn't half as bad as that of two other people I know!

P.P.S. Hope your day went well. Someone deserves to have had a good one.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rorschach is the "R" Word of the Day

I don't know much about the Rorschach Test, other than it's a projective psychological test named after a Swiss psychologist named Hermann Rorschach. The way a person interprets inkblots is supposed to reveal things about the way he thinks and how his mind works.

I wonder if our interpretations of the images formed by the clouds on a windy, summer day have any bearing to the Rorschach Test. Puffy, white clouds are sort of the inverse of inkblots, aren't they?

More importantly, I like the idea of looking at something and saying the first thing that pops into my mind. I used to do this conversationally as a child until I realized my comments weren't always socially acceptable (my mother's glaring and frowning was the clue). Nowadays, I don't much care who glares and frowns at me--I just like the way I occasionally allow my mind to wander down any path it chooses, without censorship.

As a writer, I believe it's important to be open and creative. As a human being, I believe it's important to be spontaneous and curious. I've got the curious thing down pat, now to work on the spontaneous.

Not that any of this really has anything to do with Hermann Rorschach and his test, but I'm feeling very disorganized and the opposite of grounded today. And, a couple of blog commenters recently told me to give myself a break and NOT be so organized.

This blogpost is the result: a stream of consciousness blathering. (I bet my blogging buddy Bill uses that word all the time...) A better word begins with "R:" rambling!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for quid pro quo

Kind of tough to find a topic for the letter "Q" on the A to Z blogging challenge.

So I thought I'd let you folks join in the fun and come up with words that begin with "Q" and then provide a sentence using it. This way, you'll help be improve my vocabulary.

Here's my "Q" word: quid pro quo. I'm not a turn-the-other-cheek person; I believe more in quid pro quo. (This is not necessarily the truth; remember, I write fiction!)

Okay, now it's your turn.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Perspective

Perspective. Each of us has one. And none of us has the quite same perspective as anyone else. Even if you and I think alike, and share the same ethics and morals, I might hate the winter and you might love it. This single different is going to make a huge difference in how we handle being stranded together in a blizzard.

One of my daughters has a perspective that's always been a bit different from that of anyone else I know, and in a really good way. She sees humor in places I might not and the way she phrases her observations makes me laugh like crazy. Because of perspective.

When writing fiction, it's important for us to communication the unique perspective of our characters. That's what makes the sociopaths in Lisa Gardner novels so chilling. Or what draws me to Ed McBain's writing: each of his characters has a vivid perspective.

Some writers give each character a physical trait that helps readers focus on their individual perspectives; others use an event from their characters' pasts.

What tricks of the trade are YOU willing to share about perspective?

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for "Ooops!"

Ooops! Life is interfering with my blogposts today.

I only wrote one and it's on my personal blog. Click here to be redirected.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


The "N" feature of the day is negativity.

According to psychologists, the brain is more sensitive to the unpleasant than it is to the pleasant; it has a “negativity bias.” Studies have shown that the brain experiences a greater electrical
surge when exposed to negative stimuli than when exposed to stimuli deemed to be positive or indifferent. Some psychologists believe the negativity bias is a form of survival instinct; it helps
us recognize danger as quickly as possible—so it can be avoided just as quickly. (excerpt from the book, Taking the Mystery Out of Business, by yours truly)

When I was younger, I used to believe that a positive person can bring a negative person up. In reality, the opposite is true.

Negative thinkers suck all the energy from their environments, especially at work. They complain, they whine, and they criticize—endlessly. If the sun is shining, it’s too bright and reflects off their computer monitors. If it’s raining, the lack of sunshine causes their depression. If everyone in the office is laughing and having a good time, they’re being too loud and disruptive. If everyone in the office is quiet and focusing on their work, they’re ignoring the negative thinker. (yep, another excerpt)

I knew a man once, who blamed the world for everything in his life he didn't like, or that he perceived to be holding him back: his left-handedness, his ethnic background, even his body shape and proportions. These factors, he claimed, set him apart from everyone else and set him up to be a victim.

I don't view life from the same perspective. Although I write with my right hand, I am otherwise left-handed--which makes many tasks that much easier for me. My ancestors were abused and neglected hundreds of years ago and I actually had a business associate once tell me how she didn't care for "the Irish" at a networking event. (She made the mistake of overlooking the fact that my married name is representative of my husband's ancestry--not mine--and that he, not I, am a compatriot of hers.) And although I wish I weren't so height-challenged, there's not much I can do about it. I have other physical attributes (i.e., curly hair) that make up for it.

The "N" feature on my personal blog is about the word "No." Many people consider the word "no" to be negative and, oftentimes, it's not. Especially when you say No to Negativity.

Let's start a campaign to outlaw negativity, pessimism, and whining. What do you say?

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for...

McHenry, Murphy, McLean, Mulligan, McGee, Malloy, Mallone, Maloney, McCoy, Mitchell, Moore, Morrisey, Murray, Morgan, Mooney...

Okay, I'm talking about names. Mostly Irish names. When I write fiction, I have a marked preference for Irish names: Mollie, Maeve, Maureen, Meghan, Moira, Mitch, Micheal (yes, that's the Irish spelling, it's not a typo!)...

I also like Irish names that don't begin with "M." For example, my dog is named Delaney, which means "son of the challenger."

I also like the first and last names of a character to involve some illiteration: Michael Murphy, Mollie Lynch, Neill Mooney...

What are some of your "rules" when it comes to choosing names for your characters?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Love

Some days, so far, I've immediately come up with a topic for the letter of the day on the A to Z blogging challenge. Other days, not.

Today is one of my good days. (At least from my perspective!) Check out my personal blog for another "L" blog post.

LOVE tends to be a theme I write about a lot in my fiction, even my mysteries. It's also a theme in a lot of the books I read, even mysteries and crime fiction:
  • Who loves who,
  • Who doesn't love who,
  • How people and pets love each other,
  • Why one person loves another person,
  • How a lack of love makes people behave,
  • How an overabundance of love makes people behave,
  • How people kid themselves into believing they don't want, or need love,
  • How people think they can't live without love,
  • How people manage to live without, or after the loss of, love,
  • What motivates people to do all manner of things in the name of love.

Why is love so darned important to us?
  • Do we feel more valuable, or important, if someone loves us?
  • Do we measure our worth based on who loves us?
  • Is receiving "bad" love better than receiving no love at all?
  • Why is romantic love viewed by so many people as being the ultimate in love--i.e., more "important" than the love of, let's say, our dogs?
If Love is so wonderful, how come the most painful hurts we experience are because of our Love for others?

I guess I don't have many answers. Do you?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Killer

I love mystery novels. And suspense novels. And romantic suspense novels. And thrillers. And crime novels.

Although I love a good hero or heroine, I always find myself sucked in more by the bad guy. Or, more accurately, by the bad guy's motivation.

Why does the killer kill? Why are nasty people nasty? What prompts people to hurt others?

I recently read several books in Lawrence Block's "Hit" series. The protagonist is a professional hit man. And guess what? I like him. A lot. Why?

He takes his job seriously. He's professional. He separates his business and personal lives. These are all traits I share.

On the other hand, I can't imagine myself killing someone for money. To avenge a wrong, maybe. In self defense, certainly. But for $50,000? Nah.

Although I don't share his motivation and perspective on killing, I understand it. He has a code of honor and lives by it. I respect that.

Am I twisted? Maybe.

What's your take on killers? In fiction, that is.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Jerk

I'm really stretching it today on the A to Z blogging challenge. Over at my personal blog, the feature of the day is Jack and Jill and I started a campaign to resurrect nursery rhymes.

Unfortunately, my well of inspiration is drained and I'm suffering from writer's blog-block at the moment. The only "J" word I can think about is "jerk" and I really don't want to wax poetic in a negative fashion. (I'm writing this blog post on Monday, folks.)  Since I have always refused to surrender to writer's block, we'll see how this writing exercise goes...

I've decided to take the word jerk and write about it in a fashion that is not negative. So, instead of discussing the myriad incarnations of jerks I have known, and continue to know, and instead of focusing on jerk as a noun, I'll focus on it as a verb.

Hmmmm. Sigh.  [thumb-twiddling and head scratching going on]

Okay, nothing comes to mind except beef Jerky--which is not a verb. FYI, I've only tasted it once and didn't much care for it. On the drive north from Missoula, Montana to Glacier State Park, you pass a beef jerky plant that claims its beef jerky is world-famous. Hard to imagine.

What IS beef jerky? Why would anyone want to eat something that's called jerky?

If I haven't lost you and you've read this far, the reason I continued with this exercise is to prove that writer's block doesn't have to exist. Yes, I just wrote complete drivel--and I bet that's a word my friend Bill Kirton would use on his blog - he's literary and likes certain types of words, of which drivel is likely one. I did, however, spit out my word count and educated you about the beef jerky plant and my friend Bill, whose most recent blog post is undoubtedly more entertaining than mine.

If I've lost you, then you're not reading this, probably don't care about beef jerky OR me, and haven't benefited from the exercise. I guess you can't tell me it sucks then, eh?

Well, I may be a Jerk with a capital "J," but I hope I got you thinking about writer's block. It doesn't have to exist. Writing rubbish (another Bill word) is better than writing nothing. Besides, my mind has already jumped onto a terrific topic for the letter "P," so there!

Monday, April 11, 2011

I (aka writing in the first person)

I don't know about you, but my writing seems to be stronger and contain more of an emotional impact when I write in the first person.

When I step into the skins of my characters, I think differently than I do when I write from the third person. My unconscious mind doesn't allow for me trying to fake it, either, by writing in first person with the intention of changing it to the third person later on. I've done that in the past and it doesn't work.

Now that I've realized I pretty much have to write my fiction from the first person, it leaves me with a couple of Issues:
  1. How do readers feel about having a book sectioned into distinct parts written from the first person POV of different characters?
  2. How do readers feel about having a book with alternating chapters: every other written in the first POV by the main character and the remaining chapters written int he third POV by other characters?
What's YOUR take on this Issue of I?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hunter, Evan

I'm beginning to seriously wonder about the state of my mental health on this 8th day of the A to Z Challenge. My goal, before I began the challenge, was to write a blog post about the first thing that came to mind about writing--with respect to each of the day's letters. Now my goal is to continue doing that very thing without letting on just how odd I am. Let me know how I'm doing as the month progresses...

On to the H feature of the day: Hunter, Evan. Otherwise known as Ed McBain. Under the name Evan Hunter, he wrote the novel, The Blackboard Jungle, the screenplay for The Birds, and a number of other novels. He may be better known for the crime fiction he wrote as Ed McBain, most notably the 8th Precinct series. He was first published in the fifties and continued writing until his death in 2005 at the age of 78.

I've told a number of people (including other writers) that Ed McBain is my all-time favorite writer. Most people are shocked. Some people don't know who he is. I have a couple of theories about these reactions:
  1. Many people assume that a woman's favorite author will be a woman and a man's favorite author will be a man -  guess I busted that theory; and
  2. He had a strong, powerful, graphic voice that many people assume a woman wouldn't like.
His voice was my favorite thing about him. Using 3rd person narrative, no less, before the end of his first sentence in any piece of work, he had you by the throat. You knew who was telling the story and how the character felt. His writing style, no matter what genre, always managed to elicit emotion from my and grab me not only by the throat but also by the heart and mind. I never finished one of his books without having something to think about.

Can you think of any authors like that? If so, who are they and what is it about them that grabs you?

Friday, April 8, 2011

My favorite Georges

George #1:

Remember Curious George? And all the wonderful things he could do?

I loved the Curious George books when I was a kid. Being the oldest child of conventional parents, I really loved his flights of imagination and the way he attempted to do things. Everyone knows monkeys can't fly, right? But George could fly. He did, or tried to do, anything that struck his fancy.

George #2:

My very first job in an insurance agency came about because a wonderful man named George decided to take a chance on a 19 year-old college drop out. George passed away much too early at the age of 54 after suffering a heart attack long after I'd moved on to work somewhere else. He and I remained friends, however, and would often meet for lunch: especially in the summer because we both loved the hot dogs and potato salad  lunch special at a local restaurant. I remember his birthday, September 17th, and that he called his lovely, wonderful, sweet wife the barracuda--but with a twinkle in his eye and a private grin. I remember his wife's name, too: Brenda.

You know how some names just stick with you, in a positive (or negative) way? I really like the name George.

What names do you like, and why?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Writing and the F-bomb

I'm featuring that nasty four-letter word during the A to Z Blogging Challenge because of the controversy I've seen, in a number of genres and by a number of writers, about explicit and/or vulgar language in written and online materials.

Let's face it. Some of us use colorful language. Others of us curse. Still others of us possess a strong case of garbage-mouth.
  • Using Colorful language is saying, "Oh, poop!" when you step in a pile of excrement.
  • Cursing is saying, "Oh, cr*p!" when you step in poop.
  • Using garbage mouth is saying, "S**t, s**t, s**t, s**t, s**t!" when you step in a pile of crap.
To many of us (here in the U.S. of A, anyway), using the F-bomb is the ultimate in garbage mouth. To most women, there's a four-letter word that's even worse. To the rest of us, neither of these words is anything other than a normal part of our vocabularies. After all, the f-bomb is the only word I know that can be used as a noun or verb and can be modified into use an adjective or adverb.

But when is it acceptable to use bad language in your writing?

I, personally, seldom swore until I got divorced. For some reason, all that angst and anger released a vocabulary I didn't acquire, unlike everyone else, in childhood. I discovered the f-bomb when I saw it written on the bathroom wall [at school] in high school. Having never encountered it before, I looked it up in the dictionary. Not finding it, I asked my mother for the definition. After choking, then laughing 'til she cried when I explained why I wanted to know, she gave me the definition. I didn't find an urge, need, or reason to use it for 20-some years.

Do I say that nasty word? No! Never! (Not.)

Seriously, I do use it on occasion ... But only when I'm alone or with a person whom I know very well and know he or she won't be offended. I don't use it at work. I don't use it in public. I don't use it in my writing.

Sometimes, however, a character of mine will use the word because it's part of his or her vocabulary. But only if he or she would be using it in real life. When I'm in line at the registry of motor vehicles, for example, I hear the word a lot. I imagine I'd hear it used quite frequently in the hallowed halls of a police station. An exotic dancer in line behind me at the bank used it every other word during a cell phone conversation.

I'm not one for gratuitous vulgarity when I write (or read) and, personally, find many stand-up comics both irritating and crude because they weave nasty words into their shows to get laughs instead of telling good jokes. On the other hand, when used to illustrate a character, and depict him or her realistically, I find it appropriate.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Embrace the moment

My "E" theme for the A to Z blogging challenge is a phrase: Embrace the moment.

Each of us Experiences stress. If you're a writer, you're always concerned with deadlines, Editing, cranking out new words, creating sympathetic characters, dreaming up Exciting plots, and not feeling guilty about all the housework and other chores that inEvitably pile up.

Here's a little deep-breathing Excercise I learned that truly does help settle a person when he or she is strEssed or tEnse. First, you close your eyes and breathe deeply--in and out. You refuse to allow anything to Enter your mind while you're doing this Exercise (which takes only a couple of minutes) and you think the first half of the phrase on the inhale and the last half of it on the Exhale.

The Exercise focuses on the word C E N T E R:
  • Completely / surrender
  • Empty / of Expectations
  • Name / your work
  • Trust / your resources
  • Embrace / the moment
  • Return / refreshed
I find myself doing this Exercise if I can't fall asleep, when some idiot is going ballistic at the office, on an airplane when an Eight-month old is crying inconsolably in the seat behind me.

It's not yoga, it's not medication, and it's not a miracle. It's just a little, bitty way to Ease up when life is getting you down.

Care to share any of your own relaxation techniques?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Deadbeat

The title of this blogpost sounds like a title in Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone series... Yep, I just checked my bookshelf and it IS the title of her "D" book. Since you (or, more specifically, Sue) can't copyright a title, I'm keeping it for this blogpost.

If you're interested in another "D" blog feature, feel free to drop in at my personal blog ... it's a humorous anecdote.

My mind has wandered down the path to numbering the type and manner of Deadbeats in this world. (No, I'm not going to share why.) Here are the sort I've either run into or heard of:

The Deadbeat who hates to pay bills, or can't pay them on time and chooses to play sneaky, snarky games--like writing out checks to the electric company and the phone company, but mailing them to the other place. I don't know about you, but after the 2nd time this happens, I'm going to realize what the deadbeat is up to. I bet the electric and phone companies have, too.

The Deadbeat who doesn't pay child support because s/he wants to stick it to the ex. the kids aren't going to suffer more from neglect and living with a stressed-out parent than the ex is going to suffer?

The Deadbeat who talks trash about other people and doesn't realize that NO ONE  trusts him or her. When you're doing business with someone and she trash-talks another customer, does she really believe you believe she's not going to trash-talk YOU the minute you're out the door?

The Deadbeat writer who, at a critique group, asks a fellow member of the group to refrain from reading her work (erotica) aloud and cites her religious beliefs as the reason she can't listen to the other member or allow her to participate. (Yes, everyone writes in different genres and everyone knew what everyone else wrote before joining.)  Helllooo... how, as a writer, can you not understand and respect the First Amendment? How can you actually believe your right to practice your religion is more important than the other writer's right to participate in the critique group? How can you not choose to be respectful by stepping out of the room while she's reading her excerpt so as not to infringe upon her rights instead of demanding that she be respectful of your rights by not participating?

When we think of Deadbeats, we usually think of people who don't pay money. In my mind, Deadbeats are stingy, selfish, and focused on one thing: themselves.

What's your definition of Deadbeat?

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Challenge...What's Yours?

During the A to Z Challenge, over 900 bloggers are posting once a day to their blogs and each day represents one letter of the alphabet. (April/30 days minus 4 Sundays = 26 days/letters.)  Check out my personal blog to see what I came up with for the letter "C" on a non-writing basis.

I've faced and overcome many Challenges in my life--as I'm sure you have. On a few occasions, the Challenges got the better of me.  That's just how life goes, sometimes.

Here's an opportunity for you share a story about how you overcame, or didn't overcome, one of life's Challenges. Of Course, the Challenge has to be related to your writing, even if only peripherally.

YOUR CHOICE: post a Comment here or e-mail me and we can arrange to have you share your story in the future--either as one of "letter" days this month, or in May.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Boring

I haven't been bored since puberty ... which is a heck of a lot of years. No matter what I'm doing, or who I'm doing it with, I can always keep myself amused. As each of my daughters passed through this phase of life, and as my oldest granddaughter begins it, the word boring found (and still finds) a home in a lot of conversations.

Okay, I admit it: I have little patience. Some would say I have NO patience. But still, I don't understand how it's possible to be bored for more than a few minutes. Once I find myself falling into a state of boredom I jump out of it. Of course, I always carry pens, pencils, pads, and index cards and they're a big part of why my handbag is so big. And why I always have a briefcase in my car. But that's another subject...

I spoke to a classroom of fourth graders about being a writer earlier this week and one of them asked me what I find boring about being a writer. I could honestly say I'm seldom bored.  And that's because most topics and people fascinate me. Over the years, I've performed tremendous amounts of research--both for my writing and about things that barely touched on it simply to satisfy my curiosity: graphology (handwriting analysis), the different branches of the Secret Service, how different states require criminal and sexual offenders to report, etc.

As a reader, on the other hand, I find myself bored more often than I do as a writer. And I believe this is something we need to keep in mind when we're writing. Of course, what interests us may not interest our readers. And while we may love long stretches of narrative description or detailed love scenes or pages of witty dialogue--not everyone else does.

Not that we should be writing to make other people happy but, if our goal is to publish works that elicit emotional responses from our readers or to create material they enjoy reading, we have to balance writing what we want with what readers want.

In no special order, here are some of the things that bore me as a reader (and cause me to skim over paragraphs, or even pages):
  • Love scenes that provide in minute detail what goes where. Dear Ms. Writer: I've had sex once or twice and know how the process works. Instead of giving me a biology lesson, share with me how the characters feel.
  • Too much repetition. Dear Bestseller: Yes, I know the protagonist has blue eyes. Or was abused as a child. Or wants to be a pilot when he grows up. But I don't have Alzheimer's--I remember what you told me. I find this especially boring when the repetition has to do with body parts, hair and eye color, height, etc. without also being directly and significantly tied to motivation or character growth.
  • Lack of personality. Dear Mr. Novelist: I know you're human. I know you have feelings and opinions. Why aren't you communicating them to me? From, Bored Reader.
  • More than a few errors in editing, spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Dear Author/Publisher: I've read LOTS of good stuff that was published by small, independent presses or self-published authors. Those works were reviewed by editors and other professionals to help them improve the quality of their work before publishing. Cripes, even Stephen King and Nora Roberts run their work by editors before sending it off to the printer. Why didn't you? You should have.
What are some of the things you find boring when you read?

Friday, April 1, 2011

A My Name is Alice

Actually, my name is NOT Alice but it was the first thing I thought of as I prepared this, my first blog post for the A to Z Challenge. (Remember that old jump rope song? You had to come up with people's names, towns, and products to sell that began with the same letter of the alphabet: A my name is Alice and my husband's name is Al; we live in Attleboro and we sell Acorns.)

Okay, so maybe you didn't jump rope. Or sing stupid songs. But I did and it was fun. Which is why I thought I'd join the A to Z Challenge. Each day during the month of April, except for Sundays, I'll be publishing a blog post with a theme that begins with a letter of the alphabet. If you click the image at the left (or at the image in the top right sidebar of the blog), you'll connect with the list of bloggers who are doing the same thing. I'm doing the same thing on my personal blog. Which may be stretching my creativity a bit now that I think about all my responsibilities and writing projects during the month of April. But hey, that's why it's called a challenge, right?

Back to the theme letter: A. And my blog post title: A My Name is Alice. And American poet and author Alice Walker. Writer's Digest's August 2010 issue had a terrific interview with her and I found her to be fascinating. I also love the titles of her books, especially Hard Times Require Furious Dancing, and some of her poetry. You can check her out at