Writer’s Mail 4/12/2010
by Kimberly Simmons
“I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything.” – Steven Wright
Happy Birthday to Jerry Peterson!
Kim – Jerry thinks there’s some lyrical stuff here. Cathy and Millie liked the lush descriptions. Jen had a problem with the word loomed – it implies distance to her. Jerry suggests getting rid of the word suddenly – it has a tendency to be overused. Alicia didn’t think the two main characters were close enough for one to cry on the other’s arm. Pat thought Ryoko was more goddess in this chapter than before, which worked for her and Millie thought Ryoko was more tenderhearted as well. How is Levi coming off? Anyone? Clayton was looking for hints about the death of another character to come into question here.
Jen – Pat thought a lot of ‘de-adverb-is-izing,’ went on. Jerry suggests sticking with simpler, he said, she asked as opposed to using words like replied, retorted, answered, etc. Alicia still thinks it reads like a stage play or a script to her – it’s lacking description. For instance, what does the lab look like? What do some of the characters look like? Clayton thinks the elements are there, but can be expanded. Millie has a question about the passive voice and when it’s appropriate. Alicia thinks some passive voice is okay, as long as you don’t do it too often.
Amber – Many people had constructive comments, and I look forward to reading their notes, but I lack the skills required to interact with people and type at the same time. Am I fired? (No, Amber, you’re not fired.—Kim)
Alicia – Pat thinks she could leave the whole first paragraph out. In some measure, we already know a lot about Matson, just jump right in. Kim loved the chapter with Anthony and Jane together. Cathy thought the writing was tight, but didn’t get the stifled laughter. Millie (and everyone else) is glad to hear someone else has re-written their story about a million times. Clayton liked the choice of lawyer verbs associated with the questioning, like drilled. One character made need some ‘lawyering-up.’
Cathy – Kim liked Chapter 4 the best because she got a sense of, hey, something’s going on here. Jerry thought there had to be a threat made against the good-looking, friendly guy who ends up dead and he wanted to know if Nine took the emergency call about him. What happens to the rest of the beer? Somebody (anybody at our table) would totally steal it. Clayton likes to get up close and personal to the dead people – to see their character, whether they’re sympathetic or not. Kim wanted to know why he drinks another sample cup of beer when he’s already feeling sick from the first cup, but Shel thinks he doesn’t know what’s wrong with him, but he’s sure it can’t be the beer because he trusts his product.
Jerry – Kim (and Amber) wanted to know about Keystone cops. Alicia thought the diaper had to go in a food cart or someplace else, but Pat could see the nurse finding it later. Pat wanted to know when rubber pants came into existence. Shouldn’t there be seepage? Clayton thought Sonny could wish for his regulation gas mask. Good news for us mortals – Pat found a punctuation error. Clayton wanted a little more place at the beginning of the chapter to know whether he was inside or outside. The lack of an IV concerned Alicia – from her memories, if someone were out for two days they would be hooked up to fluids.
Who’s Up Next…
April 20: Kim Simmons (chapters 15-17, James Hyde), Jerry Peterson (chapter 26, Early’s Winter), Amber Boudreau (chapter 12, YA novel), Pat Edwards (poems), Clayton Gill (chapter 12, Fishing Derby), and Jen Wilcher (chapter 3, Memories Awakened).
May 4: Kim Simmons (chapters 18-19, James Hyde), Millie Mader (chapter, Life on Hold), Cathy Riddle (chapter 6, Beer Crimes), Amber Boudreau (chapter 13, YA novel), Clayton Gill (chapter 13, Fishing Derby), Judith McNeil (radio play).
May 18: Kim Simmons (chapters 20-24, James Hyde), and Nicole Rosario (chapter).
Tips For Writers by Writers
Writing habits? I like your idea of listening to your own play list of songs while writing to put yourself in the proper mood. And cooking—I do that, too, both to relax and to create something that comes together with success.
My writing tends to be clearer after I’ve walked outside. How cliché is that? And I know many writers advocate setting words down in longhand with pen and paper; by contrast, I do ridiculous things with my computer while writing, like changing the entire first half of a story from Times Roman to some wacky font and then back again hoping the look of it will give me a new idea. This is probably an anti-tip. A great time waster. Feel free to share that with others.
Lastly, I have learned of late to use index cards to sort, separate and control large stories. That is a real tip, something I learned the hard way I should have been doing all along. ~Cathy
Write out a time line for your story. You might find you can move some chapters around to heighten suspense.
Imagine your story unfolding like a movie in your head. You might refine some things, speed things up, slow them down, alter the way something is said, note something missed such as lighting, etc.
Someone at a writing conference advised literally walking around and acting out the actions of your characters to see if it makes sense.
The other thing I do is chase after historical era trivia on the internet. Sometimes it helps, sometimes not. I probably spent a couple of hours trying to find out what the metal piece grasper was called that allowed someone to grab a hold of the circular covers on top of an old wood stove. It had several names. I went with “lid lifter.” ~Alicia
When I was getting started with James Hyde I churned out a lot of banana bread. Sometimes cooking breaks the monotony of a long day staring at my computer screen. And other times it simply provides a tasty snack. A walk in the park, baking, listening to music, no matter what the source, inspiration is always welcome. ~Kim
2010 Pulitzer Prize Winners!
From reporting to fiction and music, here are the winners and finalists!http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100412/ap_on_en_ot/us_pulitzers_list
How to protect your stuff . . .
The greatest thing we writers fear is crashing hard drives. Vzzzttt, there goes our novel or the first 8 chapters because we never backed up our files.
Sometimes the Geek Squad can salvage our files from the electronic rubble. Sometimes.
Of course, if someone stole our laptop at the airport or we lost it in a house fire. Well, you know the answer there. Our stuff is gone. All gone.
Some of our TWS writers do back up their files. In the not so olden days, we dumped copies over onto disks. Now it’s thumb drives. And, if we’re really diligent, we make two copies and put one in our lock box down at the bank. But most of us get sloppy about backing up our stuff, even about saving as we type along on a new chapter. The blue screen of death pops up, and we’ve lost some or a lot of our stuff.
I put it off for years, but I now have Carbonite. Carbonite makes a master copy of all your files and encrypts them and saves them on its servers out there somewhere. Every time it detects you making a change to a file – or creating a new file – Carbonite automatically makes a copy of that file, changes included, and wipes out its copy of the old file.
With Carbonite, I don’t have to do anything, other than pay my bill. If I have a crash, I can call my files down out of the cloud and I’m back in business. Same when I get a new computer. A couple key strokes and I download all my files to my new machine.
Cost? Five dollars a month. But I cut that in half by getting the free 30-day trial, then signed up immediately for a discounted first-year price. Actually, I bought the service for 3 years. With all the discounts that come with that, I got Carbonite for $2.50 a month.
Yes, it’s money out of my pocket, but now I’m sure my files are always being backed up. I was never certain when I was creating my own backups because, well, I’m like most writers – I got lazy about it.
How to protect your computer
Carbonite, or any other method of backing up your files, saves your stuff from being lost forever when a lightning strike fries your computer. But viruses and worms are another matter.
Yes, you need a good anti-virus program. I use McAfee because my computer mechanic recommends it. I used to use Norton, and I thought it was all right. But neither is sufficient. Download two programs that are considered about the best in the business: Spybot Search & Destroy and Ad-Aware.
Both are free. And you should do a scan of your files once a week with each program.
I run Spybot first, for no particular reason, and in each of the first two weeks it picked up 90 or so nasties that had sneaked past McAfee in the previous 7 days – last week Spybot found only 6 spyware problems, so I must be getting back to a rather clean computer. Once Spybot finds the nasties, you make a second key stroke and they’re gone. I then run Ad-Aware. It picks up a couple more problems and zaps them. ~Jerry
Boys Without Names
Book Review by Millie Mader
Kashmira Sheth draws us into every scene in her eleven- year- old protagonist, Gopal’s, life. We know that he is surrounded by a loving but poor family. His father has lost his onion farm, and the moneylender is pressing them. Baba, the Marathi word for father, is splitting stones to eke out a living. Then Gopal’s six-year-old brother becomes ill and the family is left bereft, save for the mud hut that is no longer theirs.
Baba has to persuade the family that they can no longer stay in their home village, and there is mutual sadness. They must tell no one, and leave in the darkness of night.
“If we stay, we starve,” says the father, and the family knows it to be true.
An uncle invites them to come on the train to Mumbai, which was formerly Bombay. He gives them money, but the train fares have risen, and they can only go part of the way. They have never been far from their village before, and the teeming city crushes around them like a vice. They begin to live a nightmare.
We suffer with them through consuming fear, hunger and loneliness. Noxious fumes rise from the crowded streets, making breathing difficult. Their hearts pine for the soil, the trees, the pond and friends left behind. Baba goes off to see if there is a way to walk to Mumbai, and they are left to sleep on the street. Masses huddle in the storefronts- some kind, others cruel, all homeless. Gopal has always entertained with his stories, and this is how the remarkable young boy keeps his family distracted. They wait in vain for Baba’s return. He never comes.
With ingenuity, Gopal earns enough money for the family to take a bus to Mumbai. Their journey is filled with misadventures, but they finally reach the uncle’s house. It is not what they had envisioned. Open sewers run past all the huts, and we can almost smell the stench. In monsoon it is beyond believable. Kashmira lets us live it.
The father is not at the uncle’s house, and has become lost. Gopal is eager to work, and then attend school. These people value education the same as the peasants we have read about in Greg Mortenson’s books. Schooling is their only passage to a better life.
On the street, while searching for work, Gopal is tricked into a slave labor house of horrors. How he survives by his unique talents is the centerpiece of this novel. Ultimately, he earns the trust of five boys, enslaved with him, who have known only hunger and terror. We nearly suffocate with these boys, as they endlessly glue beads on wood frames in an airtight, unheated and uncooled attic. They breathe fumes from the glue, and their bodies are cramped and wracked with pain. They sit huddled on the floor, and are threatened if they speak to one another. Gopal keeps his sanity by plotting means of escape. All plans seem futile, but this precocious boy’s mind remains active.
We triumph with their hard fought, long awaited rescue.
Kashmira points out that this fictional tale is, sadly, based on fact. It will grip your heart and awaken many minds. She graciously furnishes a glossary, so that we can interpret the foreign words that are sometimes used. This novel will be thought provoking and inspirational for teens and adults.
They Call It ‘OddCon’
Science fiction and fantasy fans, gamers, and folks who like a good alternative history yarn: you’re invited to check out OdysseyCon April 16-18 at the Radisson Inn West in Madison. OddCon, as it is affectionately known, has been running for about ten years. This year’s Guests of Honor are author Harry Turtledove, “The Master of Alternate History,” author Tobias Buckell and professional game designer Monte Cook.
I haven’t been to a science fiction convention in nearly twenty years, so if you decide to jump in the fun (writer’s workshops are on the panel schedule!) give me a holler! (Carol Hornung)
For complete details, check out www.oddcon.com
The Last Word
“Editing is the same as quarreling with writers – same thing exactly.” – Harold Ross