Archive | July, 2012

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

26 Jul

P.C. Zick, who writes the wonderful blog, “Living Lightly Upon the Earth,” has been kind enough to nominate me for the “Very Inspiring Blogger Award.” I have just discovered her blog, and it always give me something to ponder.

Here are the requirements for this award:

1)      Display the award logo on your blog.

2)      Link back to the person who nominated you.

3)      State 7 things about yourself.

4)      Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.

5)      Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

Seven things about myself

  1. I lived in Costa Rica for seven years.
  2. I grew up on a farm in southern Illinois.
  3. I have been in 49 of the 50 states. I’ve yet to visit Oklahoma.
  4. I love doing yoga.
  5. I love singing, and have even performed in Carnegie Hall — as part of a very large choir.
  6. One of my ancestors was the first female schoolteacher west of the Alleghenies.
  7. I had a poem published when I was in second grade.

My nominations for the Very Inspiring Blog Award – I chose the following blogs because they all inspire me in some way. Some are practical writing blogs, some are food blogs, since when I am not writing, I love to cook, and I love healthy food. Some just provide some thoughts and words to entertain and inspire me throughout the day.

It’s Always in the Details

17 Jul

Someone said that “life is in the details.” I take that to mean that we really only see the big picture of life when we look at the past or the future. In the present moment, we only see the details. I see the computer screen, I feel my fingers typing, I see my orange cat sleeping on the desk. I know I am hungry for lunch and need to take a shower and go out and run some errands this afternoon. I live in the details.

It is the same with writing. A novelist wants her readers to appreciate and enjoy the totality of her novel, but she writes it chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, word by word. And an error can trip up the reader and cause her to lose the flow of the story. A reader can be caught by a detail that makes her stop and think –” I’ve noticed a mistake in this writer’s work. What other mistakes has she made that I have not noticed?”

In a novel I read recently, the author described the French press in the kitchen whistling away to tell them the coffee was ready. Anyone familiar with a French press knows that it doesn’t whistle at all — it simply sits there until someone pushes the plunger and pours the coffee. This small error caught me up short. Another error of language that I noticed recently in a novel was simply a mistake in terminology in different parts of the country. I know that in southern California, people use “the” before the number of a highway, as in “the 5.” I drive up and down I-95 between Pennsylvania and North Carolina quite often, and I can assure you it is never referred to as “the 95,” as this author did.

While these are small errors, they always make me pause and wonder if the author just didn’t do his or her research, or was in a hurry, or thought it just didn’t matter. Of course, it also speaks to the importance of an editor.

I also do some freelance editing, and I am always on the lookout for small mistakes that can hurt the credibility of an author.

How important do you think these small errors are, either as a writer or as a reader? As a reader, do they catch you up short and interrupt the flow of the story?

Life is in the Strangeness and the Details

6 Jul

I spent a “girls day out” yesterday with my cousin Linda, and we ventured out of Pennsylvania down to Delaware to visit Winterthur, the historic estate that was once the home of the DuPont family.

The house, all 175 rooms of it, is now a museum, primarily devoted to American furniture and household art. We found the whole experience to be a bit overwhelming. I am not a collector — I like to travel light in life — and it amazed me that someone would devote so much energy (not to mention money) to amassing pieces of furniture, china, silver and even woodwork to display in one place. And it was, after all, a home.

It is wonderful that all these items are preserved and appreciated, but I think as a writer, I like to know about how people lived, what they thought, how they felt. I want to know what Mrs. DuPont thought about when she drank tea from a cup that was used by George Washington. I want to know about the mix-ups and accidents. Did anyone drop and break any of these pieces? What happened if they did? I suppose it made a difference if itImage were a servant or a guest.

With all the beauty and perfection on display, I was looking for a flaw that would show the humanity of the people who lived there. At one point in our tour, I pointed to some yellow roses and quietly asked my cousin if she thought they were real. We examined them more closely — we weren’t supposed to touch anything — and she found a small tear in one petal, so yes, they were real.

If you have enough money, power and influence, can you create perfection in your life? And does that create a good life? Aren’t we all more interesting with our flaws and messes? That is certainly what makes a good character in a story. 

This is Not a Book Review

3 Jul

I am currently caught up in reading The Lost Ones, a new novel by Ace Atkins. It was not a book I picked up by choice; I am reading it to review for Suspense Magazine. After the first couple of pages I was sure I wouldn’t like it. It’s set in rural Mississippi. The main characters are veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The first scene deals with a possible sale of guns headed for Mexico. Not my kind of book.

But I got caught up in it. The characters are human, compassionate people. They have their baggage, like everyone does, and even more so because of their combat experience. The story is well-written, with a balance of strong female as well as male characters. Atkins shows what “character driven” means. Even while I am thinking how happy I am to not live in the rural South, I admire the people who have come to life in this novel. 

This book is just another reason why I enjoy reviewing novels. I am often sent books that I would not have picked up on my own. I gravitate toward British or historical mysteries and prefer female protagonists. But it is always good to step out of the familiar comfort zone and try something new. I had the same experience with Jaden Terrell‘s mysteries, another author I recommend.

Do you tend to read the same types of books? Have you been surprised by one that was not your usual choice?