ReBlog: Yes, The Cat will be Okay

I’ve been working on my latest novel, and in it there is a dog which reminded me of this post I wrote back in mid-2013 on my old blog, http://nellie-writes.blogspot.com/.

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Last weekend I got a text from a friend which said that [and I’m paraphrasing] her friend was reading Couillon, and she really liked the story, but before she went any further she wanted to know if the cat would be okay.

Years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a writers’ retreat in Maui.  [Sadly, that program no longer exists.]  Anyway, James Rollins spoke at the retreat.  He did a presentation on how to make a character more likable.  The one suggestion I remember best, because I love animals, was to give the character a pet.  Again, I’m paraphrasing, but he said something like this: if in your book, you gave Hitler a big goofy Labrador as a pet, the reader would feel the need to find some redeeming quality in him because monsters can’t possibly own big goofy Labradors. The thing is that even with Hitler, if he’s part of your story, he can’t be two-dimensional.  Yes, he was a monster, and should be portrayed as such, but if you don’t give him other qualities, at least one good quality, your story will be flat… and boring.  You want to surprise your reader.

Maybe I’ll write a post about making characters likable, someday, but, as they say in old books/movies, I digress.  Back to the issue with the cat being okay.

The other thing I know about pets in novels, is that they should survive whatever situation you put them in. I can’t remember where I heard/read it, maybe in Stephen King’s On Writing, although he kills the Oy, the BillyBumbler in the last book of The Dark Tower.  Basically the rule is to never, ever kill a pet in your story unless it is absolutely necessary.  Where humans are concerned, we see and read about so much violence and killing, we’ve become desensitized to their deaths, no matter how bizarre or gross, but kill a pet and you will likely alienate your reader.  So, unless you have a following as big as Stephen King’s, always make sure the pet is okay at the end of the story.

I will say that I cried more about that damn BillyBumbler dying than any of the other characters in The Dark Tower.  And if it had of been a new author I was reading, I may not have ever read another novel by that author.

Sometimes it happens even with authors I love.  In Minette Walters’ The Shape of Snakes, her descriptions of cruel acts committed on neighborhood cats by one of the characters almost put me off reading her ever again.  She’s a good writer, but I don’t want those images in my head.  Maybe if she hadn’t been quite so graphic about what was done, but it make me feel sick and afraid to read more of her work.  So you see, it does matter.  If she’d described those same things happening to a human… well, good, bad, or indifferent, let’s just say all those murder mysteries I’ve read have certainly anesthetized me to humans being tortured and killed.  But not animals.

So, think twice before hurting or killing an animal, especially a pet, in your story.

With that said, yes, in both Couillon and An Untold Want, the cat will be okay, as will the dog in Beryl’s Story.

ReBlog: Influenced by Kurt

I posted this on my old blog back in early 2012, for the anniversary of his death, I think. Anyway, I thought it was worth reblogging. Kurt Vonnegut is still one of my favorites.

~ o ~

I’m also reading Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut.  I had forgotten how much I love his prose, his wit (the dark humor), and the way he constructs sentences.  I read Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five way back in high school (and yes, they did have printed books back then — on paper, not stone).

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., photo dated April 8, 1992. Doug Elbinger, Elbinger Studios.

I suppose that Kurt V has been somewhere in the back of my head, all these years, setting an example, pushing the gallows humor that sort of pops up in my work, but the thing that really got me thinking about it was, while reading Sirens, I kept thinking I would write that sentence exactly like that. Now that I’m reading him again, I realize–and I’m going to test this theory, by re-reading Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five just to make sure that the prose is similar–that he, not Bill (Faulkner) influenced my style of writing.  I write very much like Kurt Vonnegut. Well, my style is like his. I won’t say I’m as good a writer, because that would be stupid.

Needless to say, I’ll be studying his books to see how to improve my own writing.

I’ll leave you with a few quotes.

From Cat’s Cradle:

–  Anyone who cannot understand how useful a religion based on lies can be will not understand this book either.

–  Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before… He is full of murderous resentment of people who are ignorant without having come by their ignorance the hard way.

–  Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are ‘It might have been.’

From Slaughterhouse-Five:

–  All this responsibility at such an early age made her a bitchy flibbertigibbet.

–  The skyline was intricate and voluptuous and enchanted and absurd. It looked like a Sunday school picture of Heaven to Billy Pilgrim.

–  And Lot’s wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. So she was turned into a pillar of salt. So it goes.

–  Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops.

And from Sirens of Titan:

–  The bounties of space, of infinite outwardness, were three: empty heroics, low comedy, and pointless death.

With that said, how can you not enjoy an author who can invent the chronosynclastic infundibulum. I’d urge you to read Sirens of Titan, but just in case you don’t, this is from A Child’s Cyclopedia of Wonders and Things to Do:

“Just imagine that your Daddy is the smartest man who ever lived on Earth, and he knows everything there is to find out, and he is exactly right about everything, and he can prove he is right about everything. Now imagine another little child on some nice world a million light years away, and that little child’s Daddy is the smartest man who ever lived on that nice world so far away. And he is just as smart and just as right as your Daddy is. Both Daddies are smart, and both Daddies are right.

Only if they ever met each other they would get into a terrible argument, because they wouldn’t agree on anything. Now, you can say that your Daddy is right and the other little child’s Daddy is wrong, but the Universe is an awfully big place. There is room enough for an awful lot of people to be right about things and still not agree.

The reason both Daddies can be right and still get into terrible fights is because there are so many different ways of being right. There are places in the Universe, though, where each Daddy could finally catch on to what the other Daddy was talking about. These places are where all the different kinds of truths fit together as nicely as the parts in your Daddy’s solar watch. We call these places chronosynclastic infundibula.

The Solar System seems to be full of chronosynclastic infundibula. There is one great big one we are sure of that likes to stay between Earth and Mars. We know about that one only because an Earth man and his Earth dog ran right into it.

You might think it would be nice to go to a chronosynclastic infundibulum and see all the different ways to be absolutely right, but it is a very dangerous thing to do. The poor man and his poor dog are scattered far and wide, not just through space, but through time, too.

Chrono (kroh-no) means time. Synclastic (sin-classtick) means curved towards the same side in all directions, like the skin of an orange. Infundibulum (in-fun-dib-u-lum) is what the ancient Romans like Julius Caesar and Nero called a funnel. If you don’t know what a funnel is, get Mommy to show you one.”

ReBlog: Copyright Infringement: A Warning to all Authors

My novella, Couillon, is there, linked to Kobo, with which/whom I do not have a contract. My novella is also available for “download”. General eBooks on Twitter, @General_EBooks, says they’re just doing free advertising. I disagree. Please check your books to see if they’re listed at http://www.general-ebooks.com/. I’ve also reported copyright violations, TWICE, with no feedback whatsoever.

Short of bringing in a lawyer, the best thing I can do is spread the word.

blindoggbooks

I would like to share a letter sent to me by a fellow independent author, who wishes to remain anonymous, about a website claiming to be promoting independent authors, when in reality it appears that they are offering free downloads of the work of dozens of us.

If you are an author, independent or otherwise, I urge you to read this letter and investigate the site yourself. Find out if your work is posted there and take appropriate action to have it removed, or, at the very least, make sure you are willing to grant permission to the site owners to list your work.

Making money as an independent author is difficult enough without pirating sites giving our work away under false pretenses AND without our permission.

Please share, tweet or reblog this post in order to spread the word through the independent author community and, hopefully, put some pressure…

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ReBlog: Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules

I’m on board with all of these except the one about the prologue.

I do agree that if there is a prologue it should be short and not a necessary part of the story as many people skip over them. In my novel, An Untold Want, I have a prologue that introduces the tone of the book. The reader won’t be missing any facts if they skip it, but it’s a nice bit of prose, even if I do say so myself.

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They say the day Goodie Lowrey’s husband died thousands of crows converged on Jacob’s Creek, blackening the noonday sky and drowning out her screams in a tumult of wings and incessant chatter. They say only the crows bore witness to the curse Goodie placed on Agnes MacAllister and that they’ve carried the secret for these two hundred years.

They say any man foolish enough to fall under the spell of a MacAllister woman deserves his fate.

Maggie MacAllister tries not to listen to what they say, to the whispers as she walks past, to the nuance of their words that turn a nicety into an accusation, but a walk through the family cemetery is all the proof she needs they might be right.

Indie Hero

Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules

Among all the lists of writing rules and advice, this one ranks high, in my opinion. Simple, yet so important.


  1.  Never open a book with weather.
  2.  Avoid prologues.
  3.  Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  4.  Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
  5.  Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  6.  Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  7.  Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8.  Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9.  Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  10.  Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

 * Excerpted from the New York Times article, “Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle”


Some…

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ReBlog: Ten Ways to Increase Traffic to Your WordPress Blog

Great article on how to draw more traffic to your WordPress blog.

Books are Delicious!

Yesterday, was my blog’s one-month blogaversary and the biggest surprise of my day was logging in and seeing that Books are Delicious had reached 600 followers.  Winter Bayne and Ameliaormia have asked me how I managed to get so many followers so quickly and wanted to know if I had any tips. I’m no expert, but here are some of the things I have done to increase traffic to my blog.

1897710_10152398869302533_1366704020826944618_n This Bitstrip my husband made shows just how persistent I can be.

1.Be a Follower: Find blogs similar to your own and follow them. Whenever I see a list of book bloggers or author blogs, I always check them out and add the ones I like. I will also go to the WP Reader and run a search for ‘book reviews’ and ‘author’ to find new blogs that interest me. In addition to finding great new blogs, many of…

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ReBlog: Breaking The Low Mood Cycle

I have a difficult time dealing with motivation, especially with my writing. This is a long article, but well worth the read. The author does a nice job of making what could be a bunch of boring facts into a fun read. I love the “unfuck a very small portion of your habitat”. I plan on keeping that in mind and employing the sentiment as much as possible.

“’Motivation comes after action,’ the course leaders said a few times, so that we really got it. The idea is to get yourself into a nice cycle of self-esteem and self-reinforcement, starting with small things.”

Captain Awkward

Image: a cheerful orange blob monster is chatting to a friend using a speech bubble containing a question mark and exclamation mark. The friend is a grumpy grey blob monster who looks away expressing grumpiness. Its speech bubble contains a grey scribble.

Hello friends! It’s Elodie Under Glass here with a guest post on Low Moods.

I particularly want to thank Quisty, Kellis Amberlee and TheOtherAlice  for their kindly help in reading and editing this piece. It would not have existed without their care, support, compassion, and wonderful editorial abilities. They are truly remarkable humans! (edited: And thanks to the radiant and patient NessieMonster, who let me come to her city and follow her around, burbling insensibly about this post, for far longer than most people would have.)

So recently, I went on a Stress and Mood Management course, and I thought that you all might enjoy sharing what I’ve learned.

This post is something of a correction/update to Adulthood is a Scary Horse, a post for the Captain which I was never quite satisfied with. It really crystallized for me on this course, in our…

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ReBlog: So You Want To Make A Living Writing? 13 Great Truths

I’ve heard Bob Mayer speak at both the PNWA conference and a PNWA monthly meeting. He knows what he’s talking about.

I haven’t gotten to the point that I can live off my writing, but it’s my goal.

Bob Mayer

IMG_1494This is the flip side of my 13 Harsh Truths post of 29 April.

It’s a great life. I’m my own boss. I wear shorts and t-shirts to work, which is in my house. I sit at my desk with a great view of the TN River with a blank stare, drool running down the side of my mouth, and I’m working. Well, not really. Because no one’s paying me for my great thoughts. They’re paying for my writing.

I’ve been doing it for over a quarter of a century and here are some Great Truths I’ve learned about making a living as a writer.

  1. You can. You constantly hear “No one makes a living writing novels.” I’ve heard it for decades. In 2012 I was at a conference where I gave a keynote, then was listening to another keynote speaker saying “Don’t quit your day job”. And it started…

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