Works In Progress update #amwriting

This week has been busy. I have finished my work as a reader for a short-story contest, which was an awesome gig, I am nearing the end of an editing project, and I am continuing to discover who my characters are in my current first draft. I am 70,000 words into this project, which is slated to be a duology. This means I am about a third of the way through it.

When I published the Tower of Bones series, I learned a difficult lesson. As slowly as I write, I need to have the entire series fleshed out and in the form of the final draft before I begin editing the first novel or it will take three years for the next novel to be published. That isn’t acceptable—people want the follow-up books in a timely fashion.

The entire two-book story arc is now laid out, and some sections are complete, but some of the characters are still raw and unfinished. I don’t really know them the way I need to for this story to come to life. After all, I can say they are charismatic all I want, but if the readers don’t find them that compelling, the story will fall flat.

At this point, I am still fleshing out my main character as a human being. He and I have come far, but I still don’t know him as well as I know his father and his brother. I am beginning to get a grip on him but some aspects of his character still elude me—he is still at what I think of as the “he-went-he-saw” stage of development.

When writing the other characters, I asked them to “talk” to me, asked them to tell me who they are and what is most important to them. So that is what my protagonist is doing this week. I have him as an old man, sitting on his porch and telling me what really happened. This is a short story, but it will never see the light of day.

This 2,000 – 5,000-word exercise is all backstory and will go into a file labeled as such. When I go back to writing the actual novel, this information won’t even be a part of the story. But because I have talked to my protagonist, Alf, and gotten to know why he thinks the way he does, his actions and reactions will be organic and natural. His motivations will become clear, and the reader will feel that Alf wouldn’t think any other way.

My antagonist, Daryk, will also have the chance to talk to me this week in the form of a letter written to me. He will tell me who he is and why he should really be the protagonist rather than the bad guy, as he is really the good guy and I have it all wrong.

I discovered this method during the rewrite of the Tower of Bones series. I knew who my main character and his companions were, as I had designed the original game story line around them. But I couldn’t get a grip on why my evil guy was so wicked and why he was convinced he was the good guy when his actions were so reprehensible.

What I finally did for Stefyn in Tower of Bones, was this—I had him write a long letter to me, explaining his reasons and trying to convince me that he was the real protagonist. Having read his reasons, Stefyn’s motivations were easy for me to understand. His commitment to his god’s path was fundamental to who he was.

My new antagonist must also be that committed, but he comes from a completely different culture than Stefyn, who was raised to be who he is. Daryk was once my protagonist, Alf’s, dearest friend and companion. Caught in a mage-trap during a battle, he has been turned against his will to the path of the dark god. Now he has abandoned the path of Aeos and has become Tauron’s highest priest.

In my current work,  Neveyah has recovered from a global disaster. The war of the gods brought three civilizations to their knees five hundred years prior. Additions have been made to the maps, and some places that are there in Edwin’s time are not there in Alf’s.

Humanity has emerged from the ruins, but the world is a different place. The tribes were sundered from each other, and the southern tribes no longer remember their roots—a source of tension between the two different cultures.

Now Neveyah is poised on the edge of another cultural change no matter which deity wins this skirmish in their ongoing battle. To survive, the disparate societies will have to work together under a strong leader. Who will that leader be, Alf or Daryk?

I have written the overarching story and the plot. The side characters are clear in my mind and on paper. The two most important characters, Alf and Daryk, are equally matched in abilities, but only one can succeed. The path before each character is difficult and the differences between them is clear. Alf’s companions are his greatest strength, and they serve Aeos beside him as equals and follow him out of respect. Daryk has only one close companion, his wife, and she is under a magic geas (spell) to serve him and his god.

Alf leads by reason and example—many times he has difficulty swaying people to what he believes is their only salvation. Daryk leads by force of will, and when that fails, he compels his wife to use her mind-magic to “make them understand.”

Historical figures of the stature of Alf and Daryk must embody personal charisma and great leadership ability. People must wholeheartedly believe in them and desire to dedicate their lives to following them. My current mission is to understand what makes these two people charismatic enough to be great leaders and figure out why each one could win. That final battle will decide the future of a world, and if I don’t make it epic, there is no point in writing the tale.

Epic battles require epic characters. Hopefully, over the next few weeks of getting to know these characters, I will know why each one deserves to succeed. My hope is that finishing the first draft of these two books will only take half a year—although it could take longer.

As I mentioned above, I do write slowly. This is because much of what I write ends up being rewritten based on beta readers’ comments–and new ideas that pop into my head at 03:00 in the morning.

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Parallelism – what it means #amwriting

Allergy season is in full swing in my little corner of the world, and I have been hit hard this year. Nevertheless, writing and editing continues and so today we’re going to revisit the topic of parallelism and using repetition as a literary device.

Some aspects of writing craft were never taught in school. Either that or I was mentally absent the day they were discussed. But as a voracious reader, I often think about books long after I’ve finished them, analyzing everything I like or dislike, and I have found certain patterns in the work I love. One thing my favorite authors have in common is they sometimes use the intentional repetition of certain key words and phrases to highlight an idea or show a scene.

This technique is an accepted rhetorical device and is commonly found in mainstream and literary fiction. The great fantasy authors will also occasionally employ repetition in a particularly intense scene, often in conversations where great drama is unfolding.

In literary terms, intentional repetition of key words is used to evoke an emotional response in the reader and can be exceedingly effective when done right.

Literarydevices.net says, “The beauty of using figurative language is that the pattern it arranges the words into is nothing like our ordinary speech. It is not only stylistically appealing, but it also helps convey the message in much more engaging and notable way. The aura that is created by the usage of repetition cannot be achieved through any other device.”  (End quoted text)

Repetition as a literary device can take these forms:

  • Repetition of the last word in a line or clause.
  • Repetition of words at the start of clauses or verses.
  • Repetition of words or phrases in opposite sense.
  • Repetition of words broken by some other words.
  • Repetition of same words at the end and start of a sentence.
  • Repetition of a phrase or question to stress a point.
  • Repetition of the same word at the end of each clause.
  • Repetition of an idea, first in negative terms and then in positive terms.
  • Repetition of words of the same root with different endings.
  • Repetition both at the end and at the beginning of a sentence, paragraph, or scene.
  • Repetition is also construction in poetry where the last word of one clause becomes the first word of the next clause.

One thing that has always been difficult for me is the way my narrative will feel awkward to me, and I can’t figure out why. My eye always wants to skip these sections, but when I take a closer look, I realize the awkwardness is caused by poor sentence construction—something even editors deal with in their first drafts.

When an author presents two or more ideas in a sentence or paragraph, they must be equal in importance, or parallel. So, when an author uses repetition of key words to present two or more ideas in a sentence for literary effect, parallelism is crucial.

This is what I mean when I say we intentionally craft our prose—we arrange our words for the greatest effect. Repetition has its place, but it must be intentional.

What parallelism means can be shown by a quote attributed to Julius Caesar, who used the phrase in a letter to the Roman Senate after he had achieved a quick victory in the Battle of Zela.

I came;

I saw;

I conquered.

Caesar gives equal importance to the different ideas of coming, seeing, and conquering. In literary terms this is elegant on two levels:

  1. It employs repetition of the word ‘I’ to good effect
  2. Three ideas are presented in one sentence: He arrived in Zela, saw something he liked, and took it.

Consider the sentence: They fought in the streets, in the fields, and in the woods.

If you leave out the second instance of the word ‘in’ the sentence is no longer parallel. They fought in the streets, the fields, and in the woods.

In a series of phrases beginning with a word such as to or in, repeat the word before each phrase or don’t repeat it at all after the first one: They fought in the streets, the fields, and the woods.

However, in literary prose, there is magic in the number three: the emotional impact of three repetitions of such a small word as ‘in’ elevates the prose from merely reporting a fact to something poetic.

‘In’ is a correlative word, a word or concept that has a mutual relationship with another word or concept. It is rarely a standalone word, so when used in repetition the words it modifies must be given equal importance.

Intentional repetition of key words can create impact:

Pulling loose from his grip, Ellen wept. “I hate you, I hate your mother, and I hate our life!”

What we want to remember is that when we intentionally repeat a word or a phrase, each repetition must be given equal importance, or the phrase will become awkward in a subtle way. Our eyes will want to skip it, and we may not notice it but another reader will.


Sources and Attributions:

Repetition Copyright © 2017 Literary Devices. All Rights Reserved

Quote from the PDF Parallelism: They fought in the streets, the fields, and in the woods.  http://faculty.washington.edu/davidgs/ParallelConstruc.pdf

 

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#FineArtFriday: The Merry Family, by Jan Steen

Jan Steen was fond of painting peasants and ordinary people, and this picture is a good example of that.

What I love about this image is the chaos. The clutter of pans and dishes heedlessly fallen to the floor, the boisterous enjoyment of wine and song, and the obvious lack of parental restraint is wonderfully depicted. The numerous children are smoking and drinking to excess, vices that weren’t acceptable diversions for youngsters then any more than they are now. The baby is exceedingly chubby, which was uncommon and represents the vice of gluttony–in one hand it holds bread and in the other it waves a spoon.

I suspect the children grew up with a similar love of wine and song as their parents.

The note on the wall contains the moral of the story. According to the Rijksmuseum website, “The note hanging from the mantelpiece gives away the moral of the story: ‘As the old sing, so shall the young twitter.’ What will become of the children if their parents set the wrong example?”

The Age of the Puritan had swept across Europe and while it was waning in the mid-seventeenth century, puritanism had influenced life in Holland as much as elsewhere. This painting is a wonderful visual exhortation reminding the good people to live a sober life. Steen himself was not a puritan, as he was born into a family of brewers and ran taverns and breweries off and on throughout his life. But he did need to sell his paintings as he was never a successful businessman, and his allegorical paintings were quite popular.

Quote from Wikipedia: Daily life was Jan Steen’s main pictorial theme. Many of the genre scenes he portrayed, as in The Feast of Saint Nicholas, are lively to the point of chaos and lustfulness, even so much that “a Jan Steen household,” meaning a messy scene, became a Dutch proverb (een huishouden van Jan Steen). Subtle hints in his paintings seem to suggest that Steen meant to warn the viewer rather than invite him to copy this behaviour. Many of Steen’s paintings bear references to old Dutch proverbs or literature. He often used members of his family as models, and painted quite a few self-portraits in which he showed no tendency of vanity.


Credits and Attributions:

The Merry Family, Jan Steen, 1668 PD|100 via Wikimedia Commons

Moral (English translation) quoted from Rijksmuseum website,  https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/SK-C-229, accessed 17 May 2018.

Wikipedia contributors. “Jan Steen.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 Jan. 2018. Web. 17 May. 2018.

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Thoughts on the craft #amwriting

We who write all begin this journey with a story we think would make a great book, and a certain amount of natural talent for storytelling. However, unless we have an exceptional memory for the obscure and boring lectures we endured in grade-school grammar, authors who are serious about the craft must learn how to write.

This means they must learn how to construct a sentence using accepted rules of grammar. They must also learn how to construct a story, so it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The core features of a great story are:

  • Originality
  • Plausibility
  • Plot arc
  • Character arc
  • A satisfying end

Within those pages, we want to see:

  • Unique characters
  • Well visualized settings
  • Compelling dialogue
  • Tension and pacing
  • Hooks and transitions that make a reader want to turn the page

Knowledge of grammar and writing craft is crucial if you want a reader to stay with your story. As I’ve mentioned before, commas are to clauses what traffic signals are to streets—they govern the flow of traffic, although, in the case of sentences, the traffic is comprised of words, not cars.

The opportunity to learn writing craft is out there on the internet, and it costs nothing.

Education in America is under fire at all levels. The determined learner can still get that education simply by going to the library and asking questions. Start there and use the information you glean there to lead you to other places to learn writing craft via the internet.

This is why it is crucial for us to support the libraries in our towns, both financially if possible, and with our patronage. In places where the education system is broken, libraries are the last bastion of opportunity for both children and adults with limited funds and unlimited curiosity.

If you are fortunate enough to have a secondhand bookstore in your town, purchase secondhand books on writing craft, and invest in technical manuals detailing different aspects of writing.

For the financially strapped author wanting to increase their knowledge, an amazing resource is the website Writers’ Digest. They are also for profit, but they offer an incredible amount of information and assistance for free.

So here are several sources of online information about the craft of writing (and I’ve listed them before):

I’ve also mentioned before that Harlequin has one of the best websites for teaching authors how to develop professional work habits, which is critical to being productive. I highly recommend you go to websites that specialize in writing romance novels regardless of what genre you write in.

I say this because the romance publishers have it right: they want to sell books, and they want you to succeed:

  • They get down to the technical aspects of novel construction and offer many excellent tools for getting your work out the door in a timely fashion–something I need to work on.
  • They also offer tips on marketing your work.

Many authors are able to get a degree in creative writing. But many talented authors don’t have the money or education to get into a program like that. They are working day jobs to support their families and money is tight.

However, an education can be obtained at little or no cost–but it takes effort and determination. Though we may not have the money or time to get an official degree, many of us will become knowledgeable the craft of writing by obtaining information in bits and pieces over time. This is the method I have used–a combination of some college classes, writers’ workshops, and many hours of reading books on the craft of writing.

If you only have two books on your desk, one should be the Chicago Manual of Style, and the other should be the Oxford American Writers’ Thesaurus. Besides those two books, these are a few of the books I keep in hard-copy and refer to regularly:

Story, by Robert McKee

Dialogue, by Robert McKee

The Writer’s Journey, by Christopher Vogler

The Sound on the Page, by Ben Yagoda

Rhetorical Grammar, by Martha Kolin and Loretta Gray

You may not be able to afford to take writing classes or have the time to go to college and get that degree. But you may be able to afford to buy a few books on the craft, and it’s to your advantage to try to build your reference library with books that speak to you and your style. You will gravitate to books that may be different than mine, and that is good. But some aspects of our craft are absolute, nearly engraved in stone, and these are the basic concepts you will find explained in these manuals.

Reading is the key. Read widely, and you will begin to understand many different forms of literature. We all know that reading widens your horizons and opens your mind to possibilities in your own work that you otherwise wouldn’t consider.

Most importantly, you must lose the fear of being stuck reading works you don’t enjoy.

An essential skill for you to gain as a writer is the ability to clearly identify what you don’t like about a given work.

By reading widely, you will become less inclined to make broad statements, such as “I don’t like sci-fi.” You will be able to identify what it is that you don’t like about a given novel rather than dismissing an entire genre.

So much can be done at no cost financially, but it does require a desire to learn and the willingness to try.

If you have some funds to dedicate to learning the craft of writing, you can take online classes or attend seminars in your local area.

Look at the calendar of your local library and see if they are offering any FREE seminars on writing craft. If you check in your local area, you will be surprised just how many opportunities there are to learn about the craft of creative writing.


Credits/Attributions

IBM Selectric, By Oliver Kurmis (Self-photographed) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons, accessed Feb 26, 2017

The Chicago Manual of Style, University of Chicago Press; Seventeenth edition (September 5, 2017) Fair Use

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Language, words, and relevance #amwriting

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, English is like water–it shifts, it flows, and it takes what it wants from every other language it comes across. That naughty  penchant for word-thievery is what makes English so much fun to play with.

This continual evolution is also what makes it so difficult to work with. The very roots of English encourage the continual changing soundscape, because it is a living language.

Think about it–a bunch of smart guys in Victorian England applied the rules of a dead language, Latin, to an evolving language with completely different roots, Frisian glued to Old French, added a bunch of made-up words and usages invented by William Shakespeare, and called it “Grammar.”

Consider these words that either signify lazy speech habits or a shift in the language:

  • Supposably… oh wait, did you mean supposedly?
  • Liberry… no sir you must go to the library for those books–the liberry is not a truthful fruit and may give you hives.
  • Feberry... I hope you mean it will happen in February because Feberry will never come.
  • Honestness... In all honesty, I am not sure what to make of that one.

My favorite new word is Prolly, which my granddaughters seem to think means Probably, but in all honestness, doesn’t.

It’s not a new problem.

Jonathan Swiftwriter and dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, complained to Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer, in 1712: “Our Language is extremely imperfect. Its daily Improvements are by no means in proportion to its daily Corruptions; and the Pretenders to polish and refine it, have chiefly multiplied Abuses and Absurdities.” He went so far as to say, “In many Instances, it offends against every Part of Grammar.”

I feel that may prolly be a little harsh.

But this all boils down to what our current language really sounds like, and what it may become in fifty years. If a true classic like The Hobbit is written in too old-fashioned a style for young people to read now, that doesn’t bode well for the longevity of the books we authors are so carefully crafting now.

But these shifts in sound and accent and the influx of new words into the language have a side effect I find disturbing. As frequently happens, this problem is caused by people with good intentions.

A great commentary was posted in the Guardian a while back, called The word-hoard: Robert Macfarlane on rewilding our language of landscape, written by Robert McFarlane and posted February 27, 2015. He states that many common words are being omitted from school dictionaries now in an effort to modernize them. (Acorn, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture, and willow.)

How will a modern reader understand a book like Watership Down if the meanings of those words  which describe common plants and animals are no longer relevant? And that beautiful, highly controversial book was only first published in 1972.

If I could say one thing to those who compile dictionaries, it is that all the many words that make up our English language have relevance and should be included in what is being marketed as a truly comprehensive dictionary.

At some point, a curious reader is going to want to know the meaning of a word. If that word appeared in the dictionary at one time, why must it be removed just because a committee of scholars with narrow life experiences don’t use it in conversation? This is especially important in a school dictionary.

At least the publishers of most dictionaries seem to be aware of this modern fact: In an on-line dictionary they have unlimited space and the per-page cost is not an issue as it is in a printed book. So, as the language shifts, I hope they continue to ensure the comprehensiveness of their online dictionaries by adding the new words and meanings and continuing to explain the old.

Conversation and literature both occur in Modern English, but conversation and literature are completely different mediums. For us to omit words from the dictionary because they have fallen out of common use in some people’s conversational milieu is shortsighted. At that point, the dictionary is not as comprehensive as we are pretending it is.

How will the landscape of our language look in fifty years? I sometimes doubt I will be understood, speaking in my ancient Northwest American dialect, using words that have no relevance. Without a comprehensive dictionary, how will the words I write today be understood by my great-grandchildren?

Prolly they won’t be.


Credits and Attributions:

Watership Down, by Richard Adams, first edition cover, Rex Collings, Publisher, 1972, Fair Use via Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, May 8). Watership Down. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:37, May 13, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Watership_Down&oldid=840171659

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The problem with hitchhikers…

A good poem for a Saturday, written by Sue Vincent!

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

They’re lurking in there,
This I know,
I put them there
Some time ago;
The are the fish
The eye forgot…
And have I seen them?
I have not.

*

A barbelled snout
I just might see
If I am looking
Carefully,
But over head
And wormlike tail
Their reticence
Has drawn a veil.

*

I’m told they do
Come out to play,
Though not, apparently,
By day.
They do their foraging
At night
And keep their colours
Out of sight.

*

Now given choice,
I might have bought
Some fishes
Of a different sort;
The type that might,
Occasionally,
Come out
That I might
Watch and see.

*

My loach had hitched
A ride with me,
Within a plant
He came for free.
But lonely loaches
Can’t be done,
It isn’t fair
To have just one,

*
And that is why
Within the water,
I have fish
I didn’t…

View original post 15 more words

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#FineArtFriday The Painter in his Studio by Adriaen Van Ostade

In “The Painter in his Studio” by Adriaen Van Ostade (1663), we see a self-portrait of the artist, sitting with his back to us. He is at his easel, and his brush hand rests on a ‘maulstick,’ a stick with a padded head used by painters to support the hand holding the paintbrush.  In the shadowed background, a pupil is at work, possibly preparing a palette, or maybe preparing colors.

The window, the floor with all its debris, the walls, and the ceiling are depicted with great detail. The artist and his pupil are less detailed.

The studio is untidy, with brushes fallen on the littered floor. The room is cluttered with numerous odd objects and tools of the trade, including the head of a broken bust beneath a table. On the ceiling above the artist, a canvas canopy is tacked up, possibly to protect the artist’s work area from leaks, or perhaps falling dust.

A skull of some sort hangs near the window, and antlers also decorate the ceiling. The painter’s mannequin poses near the stairs, and an indistinct trunk stands open in the background.

The room is in desperate need of a good sweeping. The large leaded-glass window, however, is clean and lets in good light. It shows us how the artist saw himself and his work space.

A Netherlandish contemporary of the Flemish painters David Teniers the Younger and Adriaen Brouwer, Van Ostade was inspired by the work of Rembrandt.

As Rembrandt did, Van Ostade painted people who had seen hard times. They were often old, sometimes ill-favored, and not always beautiful. He painted dark interior scenes, where shadows are often the dominant features. He also painted the interiors of taverns and the homes of ordinary people, so through his work we who write can see how people really lived.

Van Ostade lived and painted in Haarlem. His subjects and the mood of his work is darker than that of his Flemish contemporaries, as hard times had fallen on the people of Holland, and  Haarlem in particular.


Credits and Attributions:

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Adriaen van Ostade – The Painter in His Studio – WGA16748.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Adriaen_van_Ostade_-_The_Painter_in_His_Studio_-_WGA16748.jpg&oldid=270705051 (accessed May 10, 2018).

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Manners and Toxic Professional Relationships #amwriting

This last week’s #CockyGate furor has stirred a lot of people up and brought down some harsh criticism for the offending author.

Ceri Clark in her blog for Myrddin Publishing summed it up quite well in her article, The #CockyGate Trademark Kerfuffle: “The danger of letting this trademark happen is that authors could trademark other common English words. This could be the or billionaire, or how about star?”

This made me think about manners and the world of the ephemeral. Everything we say and do as public people is open to scrutiny—forever. To that end, I thought it time to reprise a post from 2017 regarding our personal reputations, Manners and Toxic Professional Relationships.


Working authors rely on the world of the internet. We must not only have our own website, but we must also have a Facebook page, a LinkedIn page, a Goodreads page, a Twitter page, and now we must also use Instagram.

In this electronic world, an icon or avatar is the pictorial representation of our alter ego or character. This is the image that appears beside our user-name on every comment we post on any forum on the internet and is our internet face.

We carefully select what we put up to represent us because we want people to see us as who we think we are.

The common courtesy that we would extend in a face-to-face conversation should extend into our online conversations. These conversations are places where we are represented in two ways:  by the picture we have selected as our ‘icon’ or ‘avatar’ and by what we write in the comments sections of public forums.

How we interact with other authors is public information and is visible to the world. When an interested reader Googles our author name, our online interactions at Goodreads and every other public forum will be available for eternity.

In my own life, I have learned to  phrase my comments with care, because some hypersensitive souls become deeply wounded by what they perceive as casual slights, and things blow up way out of proportion.

We must have a care about the way we behave.  We are judged by the way we act and react in every online interaction.

This brings me to the breach of common courtesy that brought this subject up in my mind. This turned up, posted on my Facebook author page, out of the blue:

Thank you Connie for the invite to your page coming to say hello and bring some love. Hope to have some in return here: https://www.facebook.com/—-/ Be sure to check out my writing group –(deleted group name)– where Writers can post blurbs, giveaways, get beta readers, and more here: https://www. facebook.com/groups/——-/

This was a surprise, as I had not ever to my knowledge met or spoken to this person, nor had I invited her to like my page. I don’t engage in those sorts of antics as I want readers to find my page. My author Facebook page is for readers to find my work, engage with me about it if they choose, and perhaps find a book they might like.

If you, as an author, are invited to ‘like’ another author’s Facebook page or website AND you choose to do so, it’s not appropriate for you to then post a comment on their page that you have done so and also post the links to your pages or books.  The proper way to inform the author you have ‘liked’ their page is to send them a personal message saying you have done so and include those links in that message.

Some of these offenders have no idea how rude such behavior is. However, most do and don’t care, as they’re only interested in advancing themselves. These are what I think of as Toxic Professional Relationships, and I refuse to interact with them unless they are playing nice. I set boundaries.

Random authors who post ads and links for their books and websites are not welcome on my Facebook author page. Their posts are immediately deleted. I won’t disparage them, but I refuse to be a part of their PR team.

If you are desperate for FB likes and believe anything will help, there are groups out there on Goodreads for authors who want to engage in “Facebook Page Like Parties.” When I first began as an author, I was advised to do that. I ‘liked’ about 50 authors’ pages, and only about 10 of those ‘liked’ me back.

I soon realized that Goodreads ‘Like’ Parties didn’t help me find readers, which is what an author needs to do. I made a personal commitment to ‘like’ the pages of authors whose work I enjoy and not worry about whether or not they like my page in return because it doesn’t matter.

We live and interact in a world of the electronic ephemeral. It has no physical place in our lives as a tree or an animal might, but the ramifications of what we do and say in that world are monumental.

The internet never forgets.

The internet is forever and deleting a comment you regret making won’t make it go away because it has already shown up in the in-boxes of all the users on that forum.  We communicate instantly and frequently with no filters between the brain and the keyboard.

In this world of instant communication and myriad opportunities for damaging your own reputation, it is critical to think before you do.

To that end, I offer up this list of suggested “manners” for authors in the world of the internet. I didn’t invent them; they are copied directly from the website “Common Sense Media” and made to apply to indie authors trying to make their way in the cruel world of the internet:

Rules for Online Etiquette

Context is everything. If you want to have a silly online name that conforms to the convention of a particular online community and only your friends there will see it, fine. But for more formal communication — like email addresses, posting comments, or anything to do with work or school — choose a respectable screen name (though not your real name) that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to utter out loud in front of, say, your grandmother. If it is an author related forum, it’s okay to use your author-name.

Double-check before you hit “send” or “post”:  Could something you wrote be misinterpreted? Is it so littered with slang that it requires a Ph.D. in Urban Dictionary to be understood? Were you upset when you wrote it? Check to see if it’s rude, mean, or sarcastic. If so, don’t post it.

Take the high road (but don’t boast about it). Chatting, texting, and status updates are all “in-the-moment” communication. But if there’s an escalating sense of rudeness, sign off. No good will come of firing off a nasty comment. Authors (who are touchy, hypersensitive creatures at best) will NEVER forget how you flamed them. You can always write out a response to get something off your chest … without sending it.

Grammar rules. Rumors of grammar’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. (I love that line!) But again, context is key. An IM to a friend can dangle as many participles as you want, but anything more formal — for example, a public online comment or a note to a colleague — should represent your best self. This applies to capital letters, too. By now, everyone knows that writing in all caps means that you’re shouting, but it bears repeating once your kid starts interacting online.

Keep a secret. In today’s world, photos, texts, and videos can be posted, copied, forwarded, downloaded, and Photo-shopped in the blink of an eye. If you think something might embarrass someone, get them in trouble, compromise their privacy, or stir up drama of any kind, keep it to yourself — and maybe delete it from your timeline or the thread for good measure.

Remember the Golden Rule. Don’t post something online that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. If you do have something negative to say, discussing it in person is a better way to resolve your issues. Post nothing on someone else’s wall that you would not be glad to have on your own.

These suggestions translate directly to Do No Harm.

Behave with dignity and extend the common courtesies to others that you wish to have extended to you.


Credits and Attributions:

#amwriting: manners and toxic professional relationships by Connie Jasperson, © 2017, first published January 17, 2017, on Life in the Realm of Fantasy.

Common Sense Media  7 Rules to Teach Kids Online Etiquette By Caroline Knorr posted 5/5/2011, accessed Jan 1, 2017

Eye on Flat Panel Monitor, Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

 

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Five Thoughts On Writing #amwriting

Today, I have five thoughts for your consideration:

One: Some people don’t know what to do with commas and attempt to do without them altogether. This is not a good idea. Commas are to clauses what traffic signals are to streets—they govern the flow of traffic, although, in the case of sentences, the traffic is comprised of words, not cars.

  • Commas follow introductory words and clauses. Instead, they took a left turn.
  • Commas set off “asides.” Her sister, Sara, brought coffee.
  • Commas separate words in lists: We bought apples, oranges, and papayas for the salad.
  • Commas join two complete sentences, and once joined, they form one longer sentence. When used too freely, linked clauses can create run-on sentences.
  • Commas frequently precede conjunctions but only when linking complete clauses. When linking a dependent clause to a complete clause, don’t insert a comma. “I intended to come back to the Swords but found myself here instead.”

Consider how many sentences you link together with the word and. Could brevity strengthen your prose? Conjunctions are the gateway to run-on sentence hell. If you are deliberate in your use of conjunctions you will also use fewer commas. Craft your prose, but use grammatical common sense.

Two: Don’t write self-indulgent drivel. Go lightly with the praise, adoration, and general lauding of your characters’ accomplishments.

Three: Use active phrasing. There were Small colorful flowers growing grew in each raised bed. and some slightly Larger flowering plants growing grew around the fountain at the center. With a mixture of mild pastels and vivid colors, it was beautiful.

Four: Don’t waste words describing each change of expression and mood. Consider this hot mess of fifty-one words that make no sense: Eleanor looked at Gerard with concern. His voice changed so much in the telling of the story as his emotions came to the surface that it still seemed so raw, as if Timmy’s death had happened only days ago. In addition, his expressions also changed and his current one was akin to despair.

It could be cut down to fourteen words that convey the important parts of the sentence: Gerard’s raw despair concerned Eleanor, seeming as if Timmy’s death had happened only days before.

Five: Simplicity is sometimes best. “Delicious sounds captivated their eardrums. Please, just say it sounded amazing. If music touches the protagonist’s soul, it’s good to say so. We want to convey the fact the music was wonderful, and we don’t want to be boring. But when we try to get too artful, the prose can become awkward. Odors and sounds are part of the background, the atmosphere of the piece and while they need to be there, we don’t want them to be obtrusive, in-your-face. This is an instance of prose working better when it isn’t fancy.

Five thoughts to get your writing week started–now, go! Write like the wind!

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#FineArtFriday: The Netherlandish Proverbs by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

One of the best allegorical paintings of all time is The Netherlandish Proverbs (also known as The Dutch Proverbs) by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, which was painted in 1559. A master at humor, allegory, and pointing out the follies of humanity, Brueghel the Elder is one of my favorite artists.

Quote from Wikipedia:

Critics have praised the composition for its ordered portrayal and integrated scene. There are approximately 112 identifiable proverbs and idioms in the scene, although Bruegel may have included others which cannot be determined because of the language change. Some of those incorporated in the painting are still in popular use, for instance “Swimming against the tide”, “Banging one’s head against a brick wall” and “Armed to the teeth”. Many more have faded from use, which makes analysis of the painting harder. “Having one’s roof tiled with tarts”, for example, which meant to have an abundance of everything and was an image Bruegel would later feature in his painting of the idyllic Land of Cockaigne (1567).

The Blue Cloak, the piece’s original title, features in the centre of the piece and is being placed on a man by his wife, indicating that she is cuckolding him. Other proverbs indicate human foolishness. A man fills in a pond after his calf has died. Just above the central figure of the blue-cloaked man another man carries daylight in a basket. Some of the figures seem to represent more than one figure of speech (whether this was Bruegel’s intention or not is unknown), such as the man shearing a sheep in the centre bottom left of the picture. He is sitting next to a man shearing a pig, so represents the expression “One shears sheep and one shears pigs”, meaning that one has the advantage over the other, but may also represent the advice “Shear them but don’t skin them”, meaning make the most of available assets.

You can find all of the wonderful proverbs on the painting’s page on Wikipedia, along with the thumbnail that depicts the proverb.

My favorite proverbs in this wonderful allegory?

Horse droppings are not figs. It meant we should not be fooled by appearances.

He who eats fire, craps sparks. It meant we shouldn’t be surprised at the outcome if we attempt a dangerous venture.

Now THAT is wisdom!


Credits and Attributions:

The Netherlandish Proverbs (Also known as The Dutch Proverbs) by Pieter Brueghel the Elder 1559 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia contributors, “Netherlandish Proverbs,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Netherlandish_Proverbs&oldid=829168138  (accessed May 3, 2018).

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