Tag Archives: Writers Conventions

Sharpening my clause

I’ve been reading a lot lately, some for editing, which is a great pleasure, and some for my own amazement, which can be a mixed bag of nuts.
So let’s talk about what it is that makes reading for pleasure not a pleasure at times:  Some authors don’t understand the basic rules of how to write coherently.  I suppose that’s not a surprise to you, but I am always shocked.
So what makes a coherent sentence? We want a subject, a verb and some words to help explain those two things. We call this a sentence.
Sentences frequently consist of clauses. Okay, they always do, but…anyway:
  1. a unit of grammatical organization next below the sentence in rank and in traditional grammar said to consist of a subject and predicate.
Well, that seems pretty simple–simply confusing, anyway.
According to About Education: A clause may be either a sentence (an independent clause) or a sentence-like construction within another sentence (a dependent or subordinate clause).
Subordinate Clause definition: A group of words that has both a subject and a verb but (unlike an independent clause) cannot stand alone as a sentence. Also known as a dependent clause. Contrast with coordinate clause.
If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
(John F. Kennedy)
Mostly I find subordinate clauses cropping up in conversation–dialogue–when I look at my own writing. These “grammatical juniors” are like any other form of seasoning in our writing and must be used consciously and sparingly. When we write with too many subordinate clauses, we separate the reader from the narrative.
If you go on a cruise that consists exclusively of drinking, dancing, and partying, I shall worry.
Well, I won’t really worry, but I shall be jealous.
In genre fiction, which is what I write, readers do not want to be held away from the story by too many words. They want to be immersed in the tale, living it with the characters. One way we do this by providing balance in how we phrase our sentences, using a variety of sentence structures. We use complex sentences, consisting of:
Fun-Fruit-Skewers-21. a simple clause 
I went to the grocery store.  (the meat of the matter)
2. a dependent clause
because I needed skewers. (technically not necessary but adds to it)
I went to the grocery store because I needed skewers.  
Who was I going to skewer? I don’t know, but I at least I had the right tool for the job.
We can set the clause off with commas:
The lake, its surface calm and black with deceptive serenity, called to me.
The lake called to me is the meat of this sentence, the clause describing it is technically not necessary, but without that clause the sentence is flat.
An excellent FREE and entertaining resource for writers who want to get a grip on clauses, commas, and all that conjunction stuff is:
You might want to check it out, it costs nothing and is really easy to understand.


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Kicking off the annual PNWA writers conference

300px-DocsavageWell it’s that time of the year again–today is the first day of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference, held in Seattle, Washington. I’m a proud member of PNWA, and find incredible inspiration at these conventions. This year’s keynote speaker is James Rollins, the well-known master of magic, mayhem, and monsters.  According to Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge,  “Rollins found the authors of the Doc Savage series inspirational as a youth and acquired an extensive collection of the popular 1930′s and 1940′s pulp magazine stories.”

Quite frankly, I too adored Doc Savage, and discovering that another author was influenced by that wonderful, lurid, misogynistic series is quite a treat.  I’m looking forward to hearing him speak tonight.

Another person whose seminar I am looking forward to will be given by Lindsay Schopfer, author of The Beast Hunter. He will be talking on the subject of unlocking character motivation, and I am quite interested in hearing what he has to say on the subject, as he is an accomplished author, and his characters leap off the page.

The Beast Hunter, Lindsay SchopferIt’s one thing to understand the mechanics of writing, the nuts and bolts of how to put together a coherent sentence and join it together with other sentences to make paragraphs. Most writers can do that. It’s quite another thing to write paragraphs that become stories other people will want to read.  Attending writers conferences and seminars gives me insight into how successful authors whom I’ve admired over the years think, and helps me stay fired up about my own work.

I will reconnect with many local northwest authors who I’ve become friends with over the years, and of course I’ll be connecting with agents and editors from all over the country.  This is a huge opportunity for me to absorb the mojo that happens whenever writers gather to talk shop. My next blog post will cover the events and hilarity of this one.

Jake RansomLast year I did learn one important thing–even the Hilton doesn’t have a clue when it comes to providing decent vegan entrees, no matter how the conference organizers claim they will offer them. Rather than starve as I did last year, this year I am commuting from home and bringing my own sack-lunch with plenty of snacks. It’s a bit of a drive, a little over 1 hour each way, but if the dinners provided are less than adequate, I’ll survive.

Today’s lunch will be an avocado, lettuce and tomato sandwich on whole-wheat. ♥  It doesn’t get any better than that!

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Hurricane Hilton

MH900175582Last week I attended a 4 day convention in Seattle where there were several glitches on the dietary front.

The kitchen at the hotel failed miserably on Thursday and Friday, but by Saturday they had figured it out at least for the final dinner.  In the meantime, there were a lot of starving authors sharpening their pens and busily writing culinary reviews that were less than glowing.

When we reserved our place in January, we were asked what dietary requirements we had, and were given many options.  The breakfast buffet was nothing but donuts, muffins and bagelsnone of which are vegan or gluten-free – options that were offered to registrants at the time of my original sign-up.

I am not gluten intolerant, but I am vegan, and not for moral reasons. I am vegan for health reasons, as I get horribly ill from eating even small amounts of meat and dairy. So, when I realized there was NOTHING for breakfast or lunch that I could eat, I figured I’d just go to the restaurant and order side dishes off the menu. I have usually found that to be an option that works for me. After all, hash browns and steamed veggies are usually easy for the kitchen to turn out.

MH900400553When faced with a simple request, such as, “Can I have veggies sautéed in olive oil instead of butter please?” or “May I have my toast with no butter, please?” the waiters and waitresses got the deer-in-the-headlights look.  

I know what it’s like to be faced with a horde of prima donnas who think they should have special treatment.  I worked in the food service industry as both a waitress and a dishwasher, and I was a hotel maid for 12 years, actually, during the Reagan and Bush Sr. years. That was one of my 3 jobs. I was also a free-lance bookkeeper and a darkroom technician during those years. Three part-time jobs kept the kids fed and the roof over their heads, right?

Trickle down economics didn’t always trickle down too far.

It’s amazing how many hotels and restaurants are not prepared for guests with strange dietary needs like those weirdo hippy-freak vegans.

I get it, and I understand it.  I left good tips in the VERY expensive coffee shop anyway, because everyone did their best, and why be more of a pain than you have to be? My fried spuds and steamed veg averaged $15.00 to $20.00 per meal for breakfast and lunch for 4 days. Hurricane Hilton blew through my wallet leaving behind a budgetary disaster.

curry and sweet potato soupBut in this case, I was not the only hungry author there.  There was little concession made for any of the other people who’d been offered diet options, including the carnivores.  In fact the first three days were total catering catastrophes, and hardly anyone was pleased with the pathetic offerings.

By Friday, things were looking up for me but the Carnivores were starving. The catering team had gotten the 3 vegans at the convention served, and the plate they put in front of me was lovely.

Yep. There I was alone, surrounded by starving authors, armed only with a plate of grilled asparagus.

The carnivores were all looking at my veggies covetously. Irene Roth Luvaul suffered worse than me. She was told that  A: they had run out of food, and B: they weren’t going to cook any more. 6 people at our table were yet to be served.

Irene is an editor. Did I mention that? Just in case I didn’t, I will just say it’s bad juju to cross an editor. And the room was full of them.

There was blood in the water.

The announcement that no food would be forthcoming didn’t fly well with the comma-Nazi. Irene said, “What do you mean, you aren’t going to cook any more food?” Her clipped Texas tones could have shaved the fur off a cat at fifteen feet, they were so sharp.

This was the voice of the woman who edited briefs for the Texas State Supreme Court. She wrangled lawyers for a living.

The server brought her a plate of cold ravioli in pale tomato sauce.

Faced with a resounding plea-bargain, Irene desperately wished she was a vegan, and eyed my asparagus with longing.

However, by Saturday night the catering staff had redeemed themselves beautifully with a lovely, well-prepared meal that even the gluten-free authors were pleased with, along with copious quantities of decent wine, proving that giddy, well-oiled authors are a bag of fun.

Despite near starvation, it was a fun week, and meeting Greg Bear was awesome. But making new friends and connections with both sides of the industry was the best part of this for me.


Filed under Battles, Fantasy, Food, Literature, Uncategorized, Vegan, writer, writing

What I’ve learned from Greg Bear

Wow.  I just made me a new BFF! I’m never going to wash my ears again (insert starry eyes here.)  I am currently at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference in Seattle, Washington with my real BFF, Irene Roth Luvaul. We are having the best time and even though we are only on the second day of the event, with two more days to go, this thing has already paid for itself in what we have learned about writing, editing and the publishing industry in general.

Greg Bear - portrait-mediumThe keynote speaker was none other than Greg Bear (cue the angels) and what he had to say was more than entertaining–it was inspirational.

While still in high-school, this man and his gang of sci-fi fanatic friends used to hang out with mentor Ray Bradbury! THAT connection was invaluable to his career as writer and storyteller, working in the less-than-respectable genre of speculative fiction.

Greg’s complete dedication to the craft of writing and his passion for the genre of science fiction and fantasy comes across in his talks. He is very frank and has a sense of the ridiculous that resonates with his audience. He is a humble man, who told me he worked to deadlines because he has to pay the mortgage, and publishers frequently have deadlines.

cover_foundation and chaos, Greg BearGreg spoke about working on the foundation series after Asimov’s death, and how he frequently felt he heard the man’s voice in his head, guiding him as he was writing Foundation and Chaos. 

The best part of the evening for me was meeting the man and getting his signature on my copy of the Mongoliad, book 1. 

Irene is a champ at getting things done.  She got me moving so I was fourth in line to meet him and get his signature. I’m just going to say it–Nothing is more undignified than an old fat woman who has just met god.

cover_hull Greg BearYou will be so proud of me!  I made it all the way out of the room before SQUEEEEEing like a school girl with a front row ticket to see One Direction. I am fully convinced that by virtue of having exchanged pleasantries while he signed my copy of his book, Greg Bear and I are now best chums and will be forever.

Irene managed to get me peeled off the ceiling and back to earth, but it was dicey there, for a while.

What I learned from Greg Bear is this:  to be a writer, you must write. You must have passion for your story and you must be obsessed with your universe and the worlds therein. His passion and obsession for the craft of writing really come across in his speech. He lives in his worlds, he knows his characters and their lives better than he knows his own.

Another thing I have learned from Greg Bear is to attend writers conventions if you can.

mongoliad book 1These forums offer us the tools to advance our careers. With the huge boom in indie publishing, it is even more crucial than ever for those of us who intend to remain indies to have the edge that knowledge of the way the industry works gives us. We have to stand out of the crowd, and to do that we must have a professional product and a real marketing plan. If we intend to compete, we have to know and understand the competition.

For the indie author, the competition is the high quality of the finished product put out by traditional publishing houses who are blessed with talented staffs of editors and cover designers and their long established connections  with literary publicity publications.

We can compete. We have to put out the best, most professional product we are able to create. We have to hire editors, and pay for good covers. We have to write ‘blurbs’ that intrigue our readers. Our personal online presence when we are googled must be consistent and professional.  Attending conventions offers us the opportunity to meet people in the industry and make professional connections. It is so much more than just being an elderly fangirl.

I am inspired to write. More than ever I am driven to live this writing life, inventing improbable plots and eccentric people. And I am empowered to believe I can succeed because great storytellers like Greg Bear have gone before me, and paved the way.


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