Sunday, April 11, 2021

And The Winner Is!

Last week, I wrote about how my one of my entries into a local contest made the final cut of fifteen great opening lines from over 500 entries. I had entered three options, and this is the one that became a finalist: 

She needed some legal advice, or a husband, and fast.  

My entry didn't win, or even come in the silver or bronze position. Rather, it was one of the twelve others who were judged the cream of the crop. I'm thrilled to have made it to the final cut, because the competition was heady and fierce. And I agreed with the judges on the winning entry, submitted by a gentleman from Columbus, OH. Here it is: 

The kindergarten teacher told us that one baby in four was born Chinese, and being the fourth child in the family I naturally figured I was Chinese and needed to learn the language.


Very tongue-in-cheeky and made me laugh. You can't ask for more than that from an opening line. 

How about you? Do you agree with the judges?


 



Sunday, April 4, 2021

Pick Your Poison

 Last week, I talked about great beginnings to stories. The reason for the topic stemmed from a fellow author here in the Sandhills who publishes an amusing blog each week, mixing a dash of history, a side order of applicable famous quotes, and a sprinkling of insight. I look forward to reading it every Sunday afternoon. 



A few weeks ago, he decided to run a contest. He assembled a guest panel of judges and told his readers he'd accept up to three entries from each person. The only rule was the entries couldn't be from already published works, but rather, works in progress. I was beyond excited to get the news earlier this week that, of the over 500 entries received, one of mine made it into the top fifteen finalists! He said there was no clear winner among the fifteen, so he was sending the small list back to his judges for a consensus. There will be three winners and twelve runner-ups, but all the finalists will be featured in his blog this afternoon. 

I don't know yet which of the three I submitted made the cut, so until the official announcement, you all can choose your favorite. Here they are: 

1) Johanna Taylor stopped crying when she hit the Virginia state line. 

2) Wisteria Campbell felt the weight of the necklace as if it were an albatross around her neck. 

3) She needed some legal advice, or a husband, and fast. 

Pick your poison. I'll let you know the one that finaled next week. 




Sunday, March 28, 2021

New Beginnings

Does your favorite book have a great opening line?

There's a gentleman here in the Sandhills region of North Carolina who is a collector of quotes from famous and not-so-famous people. Each Sunday, he shares with his followers a sampling of quotes that correspond to events of the day. He recently asked his readers to send in their favorite opening lines from various published works. I perused my stash of favorite books, and my own published works, searching for a killer opening line or two. Other than one from Jayne Ann Krentz about the screams in the insane asylum, I came up empty. Which made me realize a good opening line is hard to find. 


Opening lines can make or break a story. Stephen King has confessed he often spends months crafting his opening lines. They must entice the reader, make that person want to know more about this world you're creating. Here's how King defines opening lines: 

"An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this." 

Snoopy gets the credit for popularizing the often ridiculed opening line from the book "Paul Clifford" by Edward Bulwer-Lytton: 



This exercise is making me take another look at my WIP. Here's the opening line at present: Wisteria Campbell felt the weight of the necklace as if it were an albatross around her neck.

Any suggestions to improve upon it will be gratefully accepted. And Stephen, if you're reading this, get back to me in a couple months with your take, okay? 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Questioning Behavior

 I've noticed recently, on Facebook, in passing conversation, and within my own family, that often, the first question asked, even before the "How are you?" is "Have you gotten your shot yet?" 

I'm planning a road trip next month, and I'm already obsessing over how many masks to take, if I should pack water and snacks to lessen our interactions with others, how much disinfectant is needed in the public bathrooms along the way. Since this is a family get-together and we've all been vaccinated, our chances of coming into contact with the deadly disease is decreased, but there are people we'll run into along the way who don't have the benefit of the vaccine. 

Someone recently told me she'd put her trust in the Lord rather than in science, and he'd take her when it was time. To me, that was a very narrow-minded point of view. She can feel the way she wants, but what about all the people she's in contact with each day? Such reckless behavior...

So, what does this all have to do with writing, you ask? As one who is known for finding analogies where there is none, I relate this reckless behavior with writing a book before you study how to write. Regardless of your genre, you need to study your craft. Many fine books on the subject of writing exist, most  of which are created by industry leaders like Stephen King and Janet Evanovich. A nuts and bolts book, relied on by many, is Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder. A more recent entry, Save the Cat Writes a Novel, by Jessica Brody, more narrowly defines how to craft a novel. 







Add in a dose of study of the English language, and you are prepared to write a book that has a good plot, is free of typos, and is not a waste of the reader's time. If not, you'll end up with a book that few will want to read. You may be able to say you're a published author, but your reckless behavior will make for a very small audience. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Ghosting

I've been hearing the term "ghosting" a lot lately. According to Wikipedia, here's the definition:

Ghosting is a colloquial term used to describe the practice of ceasing all communication and contact with a partner, friend, or similar individual without any apparent warning or justification and subsequently ignoring any attempts to reach out or communication made by said partner, friend, or individual.



For me, ghosting means something entirely different. For the past several years, I've been ghostwriting novels that will never have my name on them. I've just finished book number ten for one of my favorite clients, and he's ordered eight more. I'll be busy for the rest of the year at this rate. I still get to perform the part of writing I enjoy–the creative part–and I can ignore the parts I don't like–marketing, design, promotion, etc. Not to mention I don't have to wait for royalty payments to come in months down the road and pray that I can maybe eke out enough money to cover the costs of the promotion I had done. 

Of course, all this ghostwriting cuts into the time I have to work on my own stories. I may not publish any books this year that carry my own name on them. I've got a couple of ideas kicking around in my head, so I never say never. But for right now, I'm content to write for someone else. 

So, in a way I am ceasing communication and contact without warning. Because I'm ghostwriting, I'm practicing ghosting. Who knew? 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Spring Chore List

 If you're like most people, there are some household chores that you don't mind doing, and there are others you hate to do. We are coming into the season where my chore list is filled with things I look forward to each year. My condo has only six units and each of us maintains our little plot of ground out front and out back as we see fit. There is a landscaping service we use for the heavy lifting, but we each can put our own stamp of individuality on our units. Most of the lawns here use pine straw for mulch, but since I grew up in the midwest, I like bark mulch. Black mulch. It makes such a difference, and I can't wait to lay down a new layer of it. Here are the before and after pictures from last spring: 




The Spring chore I'm least looking forward to? Replacing the spline in my screen door. I didn't even know what a "spline" was until I visited the hardware store with a piece of my broken little band of rubber that held the screen in place. The tool, and the new coil of spline are staring at me, coaxing me to get to work. 

Maybe I'll just go buy some mulch instead. 

How about you? What Spring chores do you like? Which do you despise? 

And to my Ohio friends and family–do not despair. Spring is coming.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Some Color, Please!

 I have this herb garden window in my kitchen, which you would think would be a great way to keep fresh herbs for my cooking. But, the North Carolina sun tends to bake everything, especially in summer, so all the herbs I've tried to cultivate have shriveled up and died within days of being put in the window. Not wanting to throw my money away on a lost cause, I've let the window languish for months. The only thing I could think of that would handle the harsh rays would be cacti, and I'm firmly of the opinion that, if a plant doesn't produce blossoms, it's not something I want to spend time with. That eliminated cacti, for the most part. 


So, it was with some trepidation that I picked up a bag of crocus bulbs a month ago. I planted some of them in the herb garden planter and then threw the rest of them into the ground–no mean feat, since the ground was fairly frozen. When the bulbs in the window began to sprout, I was thrilled. I finally had found something that would give me some color in my kitchen. 



A few days ago, it hit the mid-60s here, and I was delighted to see the bulbs I had tossed outside had bloomed as well. A little color is a good thing, whether it's in my window, my yard, or my books.