Saturday, July 17, 2021

Throwing Away Words

Have you ever experienced wishing you could unsay something you've uttered in haste, without thinking, or in temper? Luckily writing helps you do just that, but it can often leave the feeling of the former scenario. 

Writing is often hard. Thinking up words and writing them down takes mental energy and time. Throwing them away can cause me doubts such as am I sure this is the best thing for the story? Have I deleted wording? Yes! Not only paragraphs but sections of numerous pages. Of course, the decision to remove wording is because I think it will make a better, more unified story. Not a few word changes in a sentence for clarity, but discarding several sentences, paragraphs, or even pages because they do not add to the reader's knowledge of the character, the plot, or the setting. Leaving those sections of wording in, no matter how large or small, makes the story ramble and may create disinterest in the reader so they quit the story. 

The writing process requires me to think about the story's purpose. Thoughts like: Where is the story going? Does this section add understanding of the character or expand their character? Or does this character need more clarification or purpose? Are they needed? Sometimes it raises the question should I change the plot and purpose?

Either in the writing process or editing process, when a section slows my reading I ask myself what is its purpose? How does this wording affect the plot or the character development? Or does this wording add to the setting?  

I do keep ejected wording in a separate document just in case I change my mind, but I have discovered I usually don't. I have never thought whether that wording might lead to another story or work in another one in progress, but maybe I should have. 

When the words involved do not apply to the plot, setting, or to the development of the character, it's just wordiness. In that case, it's better for the story and for the reader to get rid of it.

Anne Stenhouse 

Dr. Bob Rich 

Skye Taylor 

Connie Vines 

Marci Baun 

VictoriaChatham 

Beverley Bateman 

Fiona McGier 

Helena Fairfax 

Sunday, July 4, 2021

In Defense of Home World Aginfeld

One reader's comment about Home World Againfeld called the story trash and spoke of repeated rape of the heroine character because she was forced into the marriage, and when the female said she loved her husband, it was a case of Stockholm Syndrome, plus that the colony should have been annihilated. Well, okay, everyone has the freedom to voice their opinion. I have no problem with that… I also have that freedom.

My science fiction stories are often laced with facts from history, and how, if something has happened once, it can happen again. 

Yes, the heroine, Alix, is forced into marriage. She agrees because she is under a death sentence for robbery. Today the United Nations (UN) and many countries state that forced marriage is a type of slavery where unwilling participants are joined in a binding ritual. I believe this.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 by the UN General Assembly and according to Wikipedia, "Is an international document that enshrines the rights and freedoms of all human beings. It was accepted by the General Assembly as Resolution 217 during its third session on 10 December 1948 at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France." Since then the UN Human Rights Council in 2013 has adopted documents against childhood marriage, or an early or forced marriage. 

However, forced marriage still happens in many places today, including Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. And, while forced marriage is now banned in the United States and many European countries, it still happens here according to the National Consumers LeagueSo far, no existing country has been decimated because of this issue.

Same with slavery, the first slaves arrived in the North American continent in 1619 at Jamestown, Virginia. Slavery was a major issue of the Civil War and was abolished on September 22, 1862), which led to the 13 Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Even that was delayed in Texas until June 19, 1865, which became the Juneteenth celebration. 
While it was abolished, racism still remains a huge problem. Some of it resulting from slavery and racial profiling. And slavery is still prevalent in the U.S. in the sex trafficking industry. This only goes to show you that what has happened in the past can reemerge. Those types of circumstances are clearly defined in the story Home World Aginfeld.

So why is it happening in the story of Home World Aginfeld? Didn't the reviewer read the story? The colony is under attack by the Colonial Pact, the very company Earth governments established to help supply colonies so they could survive on alien planets until the population could bioform their world into a living outdoor habitat. The Colonial Pact stored some of the colony's human embryos until Aginfeld's population could leave their ten constructed habitats. After the embryos were requested back by Aginfeld, within years the colony knew the embryos had been altered, causing sterility. Now the colony's death rate is higher than the birth rate. As the planet is nearing a finished bio-formed world, the Colonial Pact is waiting and instigating problems that will lead to the colony's dying out... meaning the Colonial Pact will claim and sell the planet's land for staggering profits.

Yes, the heroine was forced into marriage, but she also initiates change within the colony. In the end, the heroine's husband lets her go, but she chooses to return.

Lastly, if past problems and situations are not exposed in writing, whether in fiction or non-fiction or if the situations are wiped from history's recall, their consequences will be forgotten—until they reoccur.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Keep it, change it, or delete it? Writing in progress.

 This month's topic is about how do I recognize and overcome plot problems or failures? It doesn't matter whether you are a pantser (just start writing and keep going until you finish) or a plotter (plan out everything before beginning to write) the story can change.

First off, I'm a bit plotter and a bit pantser. I start out with an idea but perhaps not an overall purpose, think about the characters and their personalities, and some of the pitfalls they will encounter in the story. It is usually a thread that keeps weaving through my mind until I start writing. Once I start writing, the rest just seems to happen, but during that process, the purpose or goal may change several times.

Continually rereading and rewriting 'finished' sections and chapters as a story progresses through the writing phase helps me recognize plot problems or deviations and allows me to change them before they become obstacles. While doing these multiple rereadings I often come across passages that need fixing or eliminating. Some sentences or paragraphs serve no function or the function I want them to, however, as an author, I can become too involved in my writing and miss important issues.

What types of issues?

Well, I know all description is important as it describes locations, character actions, and the character themselves. It also reaches out to evoke the reader's senses, helping pull them into the story. But too much can overwhelm the purpose and even bore the reader. I need to ask myself if it is expansive enough to explain but succinct enough to not crush its purpose.

I also like to check the waves of tension and drama within the story, releasing them to rebuild again which also allows me to give subtle hints of forthcoming trouble through situations or character introspection. Sometimes some information needs to be deleted. 

Spending hours building a scene to either drastically change or delete it is frustrating. Hopefully, it helps improve the quality of the finished piece.

No wonder my eyes are worn out.

Please visit these sites for more opinions on this topic:

Marci Baun 

Skye Taylor 

Connie Vines 

Diane Bator 

Beverley Bateman 

Judith Copek 

Dr. Bob Rich 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Does Writing Change the Author?

I do believe my writing has changed me in many ways, starting with how it has expanded my mind no matter what genre I'm writing. I think having to make up characters and their behaviors helps develop empathy, especially the characters with bad intentions because I have to think about what made them behave the way they do. It also has expanded my ingenuity since I have to think about different situations and how I can make them relatable, compelling, and sometimes unique.

Writing a fiction story requires imagination, but every story also needs a basis in reality. After all, writing a story means creating believable characters and how they interact with other characters. It requires the writer to ask themselves questions about what will happen in the story. How will the characters react? What will result from their actions? How will they overcome their adversities? For this, authors must develop empathy for both their good and bad characters to make them understandable to the reader.

Writing often requires research, even for fiction. I've had to research Michigan police from city to county to state levels in requirements and practices. I've investigated quantum physics and how to bioform a planet, along with how would a spaceship work. I've also researched history for Constantine's Legacy. So I learn by writing, too. Interestingly, writing also helps memory.

Even writing a creative non-fiction narrative or an academic essay requires digging through one's memory and doing research. So writing exercises the brain and helps it stay healthy. 

Mental growth is probably inevitable for writers. Studies of the brain have shown both reading and writing involve different regions of the mind working together, so, at the very least, writing is a good brain exercise. 

Neuroscientists have also studied the effects of writing and reading on the brain. The online article "Creative Writing and Your Brain: The mind works in mysterious ways when it is creating a fiction story, by Jenni Ogden, PhD., in Psychology Today (2013), one line caught my attention. It said: "Creative writing is one of the best exercises we can do for our brains." Interesting as it kind of supports my comments. This is after explaining that the brain does not construct the mind but cooperates with the body to 'create' our mind and help us build memories.

Writing has also changed my physical world, allowing me to become an adjunct professor teaching academic writing. Yes, I had a degree in business communications, but the fact I was already an author had an effect in my hiring, too. So reading and writing always achieve something!

Please read the following author's views on this topic:

Skye Taylor

Anne Stenhouse

Marci Baun 

Diane Bator 

Connie Vines 

Dr. Bob Rich 

Fiona McGie

Judith Copek 

HelenaFairfax 

BeverleyBateman 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Naming a Story's Characters

This month's round robin is about how each author chooses the names for their characters.  In real life, names can be odd identifiers as spellings change and odd names occasionally show up. 

For instance, my legal spelling is Rhobin. Where did the 'h' come from? Not even my mother knew. My brother spread the story that a drunk midwife misspelled the name on the birth certificate as my father said to name me for the bird which was just outside the window while he and mom were deciding on a name. Supposedly she visited a bar across the ally. My brother, who was born at the same facility, gave me the nickname Beergarden because of the story. Although I love him dearly, grrrr! Older Brothers!  Why do I use Robin? Because everyone tends to pronounce Rhobin as row-bin rather than rob-in. Okay, enough about me.

So based on real-life names, fiction names can have a wide swath of usage.

From all of my reading, I know character names are important.  In some instances, they can indicate the period or place of the story's setting, or the ethnicity of the character.

My first caveat in naming characters for me is to not use the name of anyone I know—no family members or friends' names unless they are very commonly used names. But, if I did want to use their name, I would certainly ask if it was all right and describe the character to them. Do I think they would be upset or offended if I used their name? Maybe if used without permission. Yet as mentioned some names are so common that with a different surname the character would be just another person with that name, so it would be okay. While I know many people named Tom, I've used it in a story, but he was an honorable character and, of course, had a different surname. Come to think of it Tom might have represented my now deceased uncle.

It's my evil characters that I try to avoid offending anyone I know by not using their name. Usually, that character receives an entirely made-up moniker.

In my Aegis fantasy stories, the character naming is different. I've researched many historical names and now have a thick folder of names by country and ethnicity.  In it, I found Celtic names seemed to fit my characters best. This is odd because my son just did 23andMe and found out we are 80% Celtic.

Many of my characters in my science fiction books are also made up although I'm sure some historical names used today will also be used in the far future. The key in made-up names is to make sure the spelling clearly expresses the pronunciation.

That's why I use my folder. Luckily, for my historical book, Constantine's Legacy,  I already had a list of Frankish names. The problem is they can be hard to pronounce. 

Even with these caveats, I can search for names that just seem to fit my characters.

Skye Taylor 
Anne Stenhouse 
Victoria Chatham 
Beverley Bateman 
Helena Fairfax 
Dr. Bob Rich 
Marci Baun 
Judith Copek 
Connie Vines 
Fiona McGier 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Tension in My Stories

 How do I develop tension in my stories?

Everyone understands how emotions can cause tension. How a character feels is often how the reader begins to relate to the story. Certainly, relationships between characters can cause stress. Other circumstances factor in, too, like finances, toxic work or family environments, abuse, loss of a friend or loved one, failure at an assigned or desired achievement, all of which can lead to feelings of unworthiness, worthlessness, anger, frustration, hopelessness, and more. Plus these feelings can develop unhealthy ways of coping with them. All these situations can create tension for the reader, so starting with characters with problems is one way I try to create tension.

A character's self-concept also plays into emotions. That character's self-image can include their mental image that affects their self-image, their status, strengths, and beliefs. If a character's self-image is confronted in a story, it will affect them mentally and emotionally, and situational or emotional tension will also be involved. 

Situational tension is a huge aspect of how the plot leads the character into the story's purpose. People react differently to each other which often leads to opposition, dislike, hostility, and even personal danger.

Environmental factors that give tension to a story include locational dangers and hazards both nature and human-made. The world has many locations that are dangerous such as trying to climb Mount Everest (or any other mountain) to even an avalanche while skiing in a resort, or being stranded far from any help. People have developed their own dangerous situations from work sites like buildings under construction, chemical plants, or even events like Texans suffered in February--unusually bad, freezing weather leading to no electricity, no heat, and broken water pipes all during an epidemic. 

So, developing tension isn't difficult but not repeating similar situations in other books sometimes becomes a problem.

Marci Baun 

Dr. Bob Rich 

Skye Taylor 

VictoriaChatham 

Connie Vines 

Diane Bator


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Where do I get my story ideas?

Brains are amazing organs. The mental part holds memories from experiences and learning and can create imaginative ideas even when the body is not awake. Putting the two together is where stories evolve. I didn't even know I wanted to write a story until this dream character kept showing up in my mind at night. In the end, she didn't even end up in my first novel for she inspired other stories before her own, but hers is the third one in the Aegis series. 

Once started, however, new ideas and characters began to develop. Now my initial story ideas develop when I'm walking, which I think frees my mind to wander, too. Once started, though, the ideas come while writing the story. 

At the beginning of my writing, I found I liked to write science fiction and fantasy, but have since expanded into trying historical fiction and I might, maybe, even write some contemporary romance. 

While writing fantasy and sci-fi I've found I like to delve into both historical and contemporary problems and issues as background in my stories. Why these problems in the future? As conditions change, what has happened in the past can under certain circumstances, always happen again.

Storytelling is an ancient art form that has provided listeners and readers not only entertainment but also lessons about life, and I hope that is what my fiction does while taking readers on (hopefully) imaginative journeys.

Visit these authors for more about where stories come from:

Skye Taylor 

Anne Stenhouse 

Beverley Bateman 

Connie Vines 

Diane Bator 

Dr. Bob Rich 

Fiona McGier 

Helena Fairfax 

Marci Baun 

Victoria Chatham 

Judith Copek 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Goals for 2021

Here we are in a new year, and, hopefully, one better than last year although the problems of last year continue to plague us. Still, everyone has to be hopeful to be vaccinated against Covid this year, and the United States has a new president, and perhaps the divisions dividing us will grow smaller or close (ideal, but doubtful). Many qualifiers line the previous sentences, but nothing in future time is guaranteed. As an introvert, being home so long this year hasn't bothered me, and I do go out and walk as often as the weather allows her in Michigan, which is supposed to help with isolation. Winter snows so far have not been as accumulative this year. I suspect Global Warming at work. Sadly for me, last year I didn't move ahead with any novel writing.

Things are, as always, changing, including writing. New programs like Grammarly have arrived. First off, I use Grammarly and find it very helpful, but like everything, its recommendations are not always correct. Users have to be careful that they decide whether the suggestion will work in their writing or not. It just presents options to consider. I must say, it does help me with spelling and finding comma errors. Even so, I have to be selective there, too.

Do I have goals for this year? Yes, the main one being able to concentrate on my writing. I've been rather scattered with many projects going on that have affected my writing. Plus my mind has stalled. I have ideas written down for quite a few books, I just need to find new and different characters and find out what difficulties they face.  Leonard from Constantine's Legacy is beginning to haunt my mind, telling me I need to work on the second volume. I also have a goal to post at least twice a month to my three blogs. Like writing novels, that is sometimes a difficult goal to achieve. 

Besides writing, I have many other projects in art and sewing I want to complete. Then there is the house. It needs painting and some renovations. As long as life goes on, work is at hand.

Check out these authors for their 2021 goals!

Skye Taylor

Victoria Chatham 

Beverley Bateman 

Connie Vines 

Dr. Bob Rich 

Anne Stenhouse  

Diane Bator 

Fiona McGier   

Judith Copek 

Marci Baun  


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Issues with Reading


I've read books since around age six. It is a necessary skill many people are still lacking, so I was very lucky. Now I need ever stronger bifocals to keep reading and I have some macular degeneration. It is a sad state, but I'll still keep reading for as long as I can. If my vision gives out, I can still listen to audiobooks.  Few people can spend all day, every day, or even only free time, reading. 

Reading makes better writers and good writing makes good reading. Author use techniques to ensnare the reader and keep them interested in the story or topic. They keep everything in a logical order with wording that smoothly leads the reader through all the pages to the conclusion, but glitches happen.
The following issues often put me off reading:

Nonfiction:
  • Go-on-forever articles that are full of rambling off-topic opinions.
  • Articles with many unfamiliar and undefined scientific words and acronyms.
  • Must-reads required for work or any other function.
  • Legalize language in any form or content, especially in small type with little space between lines. Done purposefully I'm sure so the reader isn't inclined to read the information. Is it impossible to put important legal information someone must know into an accessible, fast-reading format?
Fiction:
  • Reading stories with characters I dislike, which is usually because of their moral viewpoint. These are the main characters, not secondary or incidental ones. If they are lying cheats I have to know right away what caused this and what mission they are on. If the character has a major turnabout in viewpoint, attitude, or behavior, then okay. However, I sometimes doubt these changes are anything more than to get their own way, so the cause of the turnabout is important.
  • Snarky first-person voices using metaphors to make the reader laugh where I'm completely ignorant of the meaning. Am I behind on cultural jargon?
  • Stories with too many characters. Yes, I'm guilty of writing some, especially in series novels. Most, however, are minor characters. Usually, I keep the main characters to four, and secondary characters to under ten. One novel, Crewkin, had seven characters total until the last chapter.
  • Knowing which character is which bothers me when the names are so close in spelling or sound very similar. I am always mixing them up. This happens often in fantasy novels with Gaelic names. I read one with five Gaelic names beginning with A. I couldn't keep any of them straight but learned the valuable lesson of watching my own characters' names spelling and pronunciation. Isn't it funny how the words sound in our minds as we read?
  • And finally, stories starting with issues listed in the previous round-robin post, What draws you into a story.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Family Story of 'The Pin'

The Pin

After my mother-in-law's memorial service, Bill, her husband, insisted my daughter and I divide her extensive costume jewelry collection.   Metta had some beautiful jewelry. One-piece I received was a large (3.5") colored crystal pin with three red rhinestone flowers, the stems were lined with small clear rhinestones. There was a note in the box saying that a friend gave it to her in Czechoslovakia in 1946.  

My Bill asked his Dad (Big Bill) to tell me about the piece of jewelry, which made me curious. I knew Big 
Bill was a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. I later learned he was part of the 78th Division's 311th Infantry which was the third infantry to cross the Remagen Bridge into Germany and also among the first U.S. Divisions to enter Berlin. The U.S. Army left Berlin in July of 1945, but the U.S. State Department asked Bill to stay, so he remained in Berlin until the end of 1946, maybe longer. He never mentioned why the State Department selected him to stay or what his job was. Once it was relatively safe, he asked his wife Metta to come to Berlin and stay with him while he was stationed there. They had commandeered a house for their lodging and had three Czechoslovakia driver-bodyguards, Jacque, Fred, and Walter. Jacque and Fred convinced Bill to take Metta for a skiing holiday in Czechoslovakia.




While skiing, they met the son of the prime minister of Czechoslovakia. Before the war, the prime minister had a business manufacturing costume jewelry. His son wanted to re-establish the business, and he asked Bill if he would be interested in becoming a salesman/partner for U.S. markets. They gave Metta a sample of the jewelry they used to make. Bill was very interested and spent an extra week there talking over aspects of the business.

Before anything could be finalized, word spread like wildfire that the Russians were taking over the country. Jacque, who Bill said was a freedom fighter and the bravest man he ever knew, turned white. Bill and Metta were rushed to their cars, a Mercedes and a BMW. Their security guards pushed Metta onto the floor in the backseat, and Bill laid on the backseat. Fred drove the Mercedes, and the BMW followed going (at times?) 100 mph for the German border.

As they neared the border crossing, they saw armed soldiers already held the gate. Fred never slowed down but drove right through the gate, busting it to pieces. It was a hundred yards to the American held gate. The soldiers fired on the two cars, riddling both trunks with bullets, but as the cars neared the American side, they stopped firing as U.S. soldiers had picked up their weapons and aimed them at those holding the Czechoslovakian gate.

They all made it safely back to Berlin, but that was the last they heard from the prime minister's son and his family even though the information was sought through American diplomatic channels and Jacque and Fred inquired through their contacts.

I now own this lovely piece of family history and will pass it along to my daughter. This past October, Bill took the pin to a jeweler. Surprisingly, he discovered the stones are not rhinestones. The red ones are semi-precious garnet stones. The white ones are diamonds. The pin is made of pot metal, a cheap metal, but one sometimes used in jewelry, and perhaps more accessible for jewelry production during the financial depression of the 30s, making jewelry more affordable. The pin has no manufacturer's identification imprint. 

While this story was told many times to Bill, the story has discrepancies. 

Recently, I've done some investigating and found some information probable and some problematic. Do I believe their story? Yes, but many of the facts are missing. I found black and white photos taken in January of 1947 at the Spindleruv Myln ski resort in the Krkonose mountains of north-eastern Czechoslovakia. It is less than five miles from Poland's border and a minimum of fifty miles to the German border, or perhaps further, considering what mountain roads would be like in the 1940s and winter. 

I  now think the pin might have been made at Jablonec Industries in Jablonec nad Nison which is about twenty miles west of the Spindleruv Myln. Jablonec Industries was well known for making jewelry and garnets were mined in the Jablonec nad Nison area. The company had faced hard times during the 30s and WWII. It is highly conceivable that Jacque, Fred, or Walter knew people in the area, including someone from Jablonec Industries who wanted to expand sales in the United States and restart their jewelry production and profits. These areas are all in what was known as the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia, which was populated mainly by German-speaking citizens and a highly contentious area in Czechoslovakia after the war. Those who spoke native Czechoslovakian hated the German speakers in their country and wanted these residents expelled no matter how long they had lived in the Sudetenland. 

The Czechoslovakian president at that time was Edvard Benes who returned home from a WW2 exile in England. The Russians began pulling out of Czechoslovakia in July of 1945. The last of the Red Army evacuated Czechoslovakia in December 1945. Evard remained president until 1947, dying in September of 1948. In May of 1946, Russian sympathizer and communist party rule supporter Klement Gottwald was elected Prime Minister. He is only listed as having a daughter, not a son. Neither Edvard nor Klement had manufacturing of any type in their family backgrounds. 

Big Bill and Metta did not speak Czechoslovakian or German, so may have misunderstood who the person offering the business deal was, or one of their guard-drivers might have misinterpreted the information. 

Do I think they were shot at? Yes. I saw photos of the back of the car. Were those shooting Russian soldiers? Maybe but most likely not. Maybe they were Czechoslovakian guards watching two cars speeding toward the border.  However, in traveling from Berlin, didn't Metta, Bill, and the bodyguards cross the border once already? Why was this time suspect? The Russians didn't invade Czechoslovakia until 1948. But if Czechoslovakia didn't have an adequate army, perhaps the Russians were assisting, or did they travel through part of Poland?  Were Russian troops stationed in either country after the war? Why would they attack Americans? Did Big Bill's position with the State Department raise questions? This all leaves lots of questions. Big Bill is gone, now, too, so can't answer questions, so I'll never know the true story.

It goes to show you that we all think we know about our parents, relatives, and friends, but we can't know everything about anyone. Sometimes we know their life experiences were as exciting as anything imaginable, more so than their everyday lives would suggest. Somethings are never told and get lost with time. So I want to encourage you to write down your and your family's stories. Ask those who know the stories what they remember before those memories get lost.