Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Happy (not sappy) endings

As some of you may know, I love a good romantic novel. I'm a sucker for romance; a hopeless (or hopeful?) romantic. I write romance, I read romance and I live romance (meaning I see and feel it everywhere). For me, the best romantic novel would excite me, break my heart (a little) then put it all back together again with an ending that leaves a smile on my face and hope in my heart.

I do not, however, limit my reading to romance only. I'm an eclectic reader with many interests and a willingness to take a chance on a story, but a common theme to the stories that capture me the most would be human endurance followed (always) by triumph.

I'm fascinated by stories of people faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, yet they find ways to survive and thrive. Add a romance in the mix and I'm on cloud nine. ;) But weather it's a romance or a story of the human condition, it's the happy ending that holds the power for me. That may sound sappy to some, but before you roll your eyes and shake your head, read on to find out why I feel the way I do about happy endings. It may or may not surprise you. Just don't mistake happy endings with happiness on every page.

World War 2 period stories are at the top of my list of beloved novels. The stories of endurance and triumph are abundant. From the Holocaust to the soldier's experience to the loved ones left behind, I'm fascinated. But I'm not limited to that time period as history holds endless stories of survival and triumph.

Why do I like this kind of stuff so much if I'm a sucker for happy endings? Because it's full of happy endings with amazing examples of how strong the human spirit is. I could go on and on, listing so many books as examples, but I'll go with the one that's in the headlines right now.

"Unbroken". That book (now movie) amazed and touched me deeply. Not simply for what the protagonist of this true story endured and overcame (though that was huge!), but for how he reacted to what he triumphed over; what he did with what he learned and endured.

As individuals with our own life struggles big and small, stories that show the success of endurance followed by triumph are empowering. Not only are they uplifting and inspiring to read, but after reading them, we store the bits and pieces of these triumphant stories to give us strength and hope in times when we need them most.

All of this probably leads you to conclude (rightfully so) that I am the kind of reader who searches for and expects happy endings. Absolutely. The happy ending doesn't just satisfy a conclusion to a good story, it offers hope in a world with too many unhappy endings. Wanting happy endings isn't living in a fantasy land, it's looking for hope. And hope is a powerful thing. Just ask any survivor.

Okay, so how do you feel about happy (not sappy) endings? Especially knowing that by "happy", I speak of something far deeper.

We all have our preferences and reasons for them. I'd enjoy hearing what yours are. And no matter your ending of choice, I wish you all happy reading.

Monday, November 24, 2014

How to name your book characters

The process of naming your characters in your story can be as daunting as naming your own child. You want the name to be fitting, yet not dull (unless dull suits your character). Generally, the first name of my characters comes fairly easily as I imagine their personality (strengths and weaknesses). I bounce through 4 or 5 names until one settles. But the last name is more of a process as it can also be used as a nickname or show family origin. Names hold a lot of weight, no doubt.

Have you ever read a book where the protagonist's name didn't seem to fit?  It's too flowery for the character, too strong, too hard to pronounce, or just plain too strange. It can be distracting to the point of pulling the reader from the story every time they come across the name. Not good.

One "trick" I use is paying attention to the names at the end of movies. All the names, not just the stars. There are a wealth of names scrolling up the screen after a film that are fantastic possibilities. I take note of a few that jump out and file them for future reference, or use them right away if I happen to be in need.

Whatever your method of name-finding, the key is to be sure the name isn't just a pretty or sexy name, but that it fits the character in every way. You probably wouldn't, for example, give a reserved bank teller from a traditional family and background the name Justice Jakes (female) or Rambo Drake (male), right? No, you'd stick closer to Jane Johnson or William James, or something along those lines (though maybe not quite that basic).

Though there is more work in naming a character than just slapping them with anything that comes to mind without further thought, do remember there isn't only ONE possible name that will work for each character. You'll likely find a few that would work, so just pick the one that grabs you the most and go with it.

For further information and insight, here are a few links to some sites I've found that offer more tips on the subject.



Best of luck finding what works for you, and happy naming!

Friday, October 17, 2014

"If you're satisfied with your first draft, you're not an artist".

The post heading is just one quote from a line of taken from an insightful blog post at Daniel & Daniel Publishers.

For a guideline of "rules" for writing fiction (short or long) summed up in an easy to read and understand (as well as humorous) form, go to http://www.danielpublishing.com/resourcesback.htm.

As the publisher states at the beginning of the article: "You may not wish to follow these rules as you write your own stories, but you should at least be aware of them, and know that if you're not following them, you are not following them by choice. If you do find yourself following them, it won't be by choice. It will be because you are writing well".

Rules simultaneously have a place in fiction writing and have no place in fiction writing. In other words, rules in writing are better used as common sense guidelines. They may be broken if breaking them will not confuse the reader in any way.

A quick look at the above mentioned article/blog will at the least be an entertaining read, and at the most, enlightening and informative. I find that reading or hearing a reiteration of what I already know (as a fiction writer) further cements my knowledge. Yes, I know that already becomes Oh, yeah. Good reminder.

I hope someone (or a lot of someones) find this post helpful in even the smallest of ways.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

First bird leaves the nest

Well the day finally arrived. A day I've thought about for years, but was not prepared as fully as I'd hoped when it snuck up on me. My first-born "little bird" has flown from the nest. He's gone off to attend his first year of a four year university. While I couldn't be more excited for him and thrilled for his arrival into adulthood and real independence, I admit I was a little thrown by the sadness that followed.

It began as H.S. graduation approached. I found myself weepy off and on (not a usual characteristic of mine) as the year came to a close. When he walked down the aisle, waiving his diploma with pride and the thrill he was finished with high school, I frantically tried in vain to get my camera to take pictures. An action that caused me to miss the walk completely. I did, at least, hear the announcement of his name, thank goodness. I'll hold on to that!

Summer followed and I put aside thoughts of the looming fact he would soon be leaving home to live in the dorms of his school. When summer came to an end and the day we drove him to school arrived, I was more afraid of crying (or crying too hard) than I was of leaving him behind. But, in fact, I did not cry. Not until the next day when reality sank in. I tried to bury my emotions, but I was discombobulated, scattered, distracted and weepy. By that night I was fully aware how terribly I missed my son, and how truly uncomfortable it was not to know where he was and what he was doing. After 18 years, it's tough to relinquish access to that knowledge.

The emotional roller-coaster is as much about entering into a new family dynamic and new routines as it is about missing him and letting go. I'm not one who normally takes issue with change, but some change is just too big to grasp right away. It takes time.

The biggest help in my journey to finding my equilibrium again came when my son contacted me. A simple text, promising to call me the next day, ending with a heart symbol did a world of wonders for my state of mind. I realized he hadn't forgotten me and he hadn't disappeared from my life, just my daily life. So I soldier on, still missing him, but also still very happy for him and the adventures that await him as he steps further into adulthood.

I wish all you moms and dads out there who are in the same shoes all the best as we each travel through this time armed with the love that unites us forever to our children, wherever they go.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Grammar as a tool to land a job or even get a date?

I recently read an article that claimed 61% of employers looking (on Linked-in) for potential employees in any field ignore those who do not use proper grammar on social sites, including Facebook postings.

It seems using bad or incorrect grammar on your social sites is even more of a faux pas than posting about drinking and parties or other frowned upon activities (in the eyes of an employer).

My son chimed in with another interesting article he'd read on the subject of grammar and dating sites. It seems women are more attracted to men who have a grasp on correct grammar. Those men receive more "likes" than the others who are more lackadaisical with their grammar skills.

Although I make my share of grammatical errors, I work like heck to limit them. Nonetheless, I admit to being a grammar Nazi. I may not be totally efficient (or as thoroughly educated as I'd like to be on the subject) with all the rules of grammar, but I sure expect it of others! LOL! And I find it ironic that I am a horrible speller, yet when a man misspells words, it turns me off. How unfair of me!

Bottom line? Don't let social media, tweeting or texting ruin your grammatical skills (or your love life!). :) Make an effort at the very least.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Should you OUTLINE?

I wrote my first novel, Cadence Beach, without an outline, but as I write this second novel, I find I could use an outline.

I'm not a fan of rigid or long, involved outlines by any means, but I have come to a place in my writing process where I do believe an outline that offers a clear path to follow from point A-Z is a necessary tool. If only I'd come to that helpful conclusion thirteen chapters ago, I wouldn't be limping through my first draft as much as I am. But, as I mentioned, I made it successfully through novel number one without an outline; I'll make it through the current one.

I do write a brief summary or synopsis of a story before I begin draft number one, but I'm finding it's not helpful enough to carry me through to the end. So, my advice to fellow writers is to always write some sort of outline, long or short, for the simple value of moving the process of writing a first draft along at a more reasonable pace. You'll groom the path along the way with adding and changing details , but at least with an outline there is a path to follow.

Through both personal experience (as mentioned above) and a wonderful, helpful book I purchased called Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland, I'm on my way to a smoother and better paced writing experience. I hope you find the same successful outcome.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Preparing for College

As my eldest is going through the task of filling out college apps and writing numerous essays, I'm struck by one thing: the questions of gender and ethnicity (maybe two things?). If discrimination due to gender or ethnicity is not acceptable (or legal!), then why do those questions even make an appearance on the applications for college?  Those questions can easily be answered (if needed) after acceptance into the college.

I confess I have not looked at any of the apps as I'm not the one applying to schools, so I don't know if the questions of gender and ethnicity are optional, but I don't think they have any business being on the application at all if one is to believe it's illegal to discriminate against any gender or race/ethnicity. I doubt they are asking out of curiosity (yeah, right!) or even to keep track of what groups are applying in the first place. Those questions can be answered upon acceptance into a college.

I don't know if being white, Italian, Scandinavian and American Indian will help or hurt my child in this process, but the inappropriateness of the above mentioned questions remains regardless.

Shouldn't merits be the focus? The only focus?

Would you agree or disagree that posing the question of gender or ethnicity on college applications is unnecessary, even wrong?

Whatever questions are posed or not on college applications, it's an exciting and anxious time for young students who wish to further their education, so I wish them all the very best!