Weekly Roundup 8-1-18 CURSES! Using naughty words in fiction.

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Curse. Swear. Expletive. Oath. Profanity. Cuss. Invective. Malediction.

Virtually everyone does it; from presidents to the smart-mouthed kid next door. Swear words may be pithy or profane, mild or malevolent, productive or pointless. Even mild euphemisms such as darn, shoot, and heck are simply substitutes for the “real” thing, and everyone knows exactly what you mean (sorry Grandma).

It follows, then, that fictional characters will also run a blue streak from time to time, and most readers would find it strange if they didn’t. Swear words are verbal emotions; cathartic for the speaker, able to evoke a visceral response in the hearer. It’s a non-physical way to let people know how you really feel and a powerful part of our interaction with others.

I grew up in a household where the strongest language included hells bells, ship ahoy, and crapola. Why? My parents were determined to raise respectful, educated children and they believed excessive swearing was a sign of moral failure and below average intelligence. Consequently, the cuss words I generally use are mild and infrequent and this spills over to the characters of my books.

I find strong language offensive (especially the F-word), and have no interest in creating foul-mouthed characters, even if it makes them more realistic. I believe I can convey the proper meaning and attitude with minimal obscenities, and my readers seem to agree.

I can’t tell you how many times I have stopped reading due to excessive use of profanity, even though the story up to that point was quite good. You might be surprised how much I put up with, but if the writer can’t tell the story without gratuitous curses every other sentence I will look elsewhere for my entertainment. Your standards and mine may differ, and that’s OK – just don’t expect to find F-bombs scattered through the pages of my books!

Here’s a few quotes I like:

“Grant me some wild expressions, Heavens, or I shall burst.” George Farquhar

“The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.” George Washington

“I think the reason that swearing is both so offensive and so attractive is that it is a way to push people’s emotional buttons, and especially their negative emotional buttons.” Steven Pinker

“There ought to be a room in every house to swear in. It’s dangerous to have to repress an emotion like that.” Mark Twain

“I’ve never found an interesting person with a foul mouth.” Marilyn vos Savant

“Swearing was invented as a compromise between running away and fighting.” Finley Peter Dunne

“Writing for adults often means just increasing the swearing – but find an alternative to swearing and you’ve probably got a better line.” Steven Moffat

“Profane swearing never did any man any good. No man in the richer or wiser or happier for it.” Robert Lowth

You may find these resources interesting:

Why Do We Swear? by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

What’s Wrong with Swearing? from the Cuss Control Academy

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Traitor’s Moon update. Another Gladstone pack member finds their mate! Word count is now 40,000+.  I finished chapter five on Sunday and will complete the editing today. I prefer to clean up each chapter as I go so the task isn’t so daunting at the end. If I don’t, the errors I KNOW are lurking in the text become so distracting I can’t concentrate on new material! I have read advice from established authors who do all the writing, followed by all the editing, but that method doesn’t work for me.

One step forward, two steps back. As an Indy author, I don’t have access to professional help to improve my writing skills. I’ve learned so much since I published my first five books almost a year ago, with advice coming from beta readers, reviews, various articles and blog posts, and a daughter-in-law with an English major (thanks J.)

When I become aware of an issue, I have to not only incorporate it into my current manuscript, but I also correct the others which came before it. This takes time and headache-inducing editing!

Recently, I’ve been working on three areas of concern:

  • 3rd person POV – apparently I missed the memo about Third Person Omniscient being decades out of fashion and should therefore be using Third Person Limited. What? Not going to happen! Well, not the way it was described in the article I read. I’m not prepared to ditch the Omniscient view entirely, as I find it quite useful, and will most likely continue the combination of Omniscient/Limited I have been using. What I am going to do is limit the view to a single person or group of people in any given scene/paragraph to reduce head-hopping.
  • Quotation marks – “When dealing with quotations that extend over more than one paragraph, you need to put quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph but at the end only of the final one.Great! What wonderful advice! Do you know how long it’s going to take me to fix this? Now would be a good time for an expletive….
  • Several reviewers have commented that they feel they are being told the story rather than living it, but none have gone on to explain exactly what they meant. After consulting with someone who has read all of my books (thanks T.), the suggestion was to include more specific descriptors. Nothing extensive, but by adding occasional colors, textures, sounds, smells etc. to the text, the reader will be able to experience the story in a way which echos real life. This is not a bad suggestion, but will take time to correct retroactively, and force me to change the way I write going forward.

Well, that’s more than enough from me today. Time to get some $!#*&@ writing done!

Weekly Roundup 7-18-18

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I’ve got so much going on in my head I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. This week has been particularly overwhelming and I wish I had some time off work to deal with everything!

  • Current manuscript – Traitor’s Moon is coming along, though not as fast as I would like. Word count is 30,000+ and I am almost finished with chapter four. I’ve been looking forward to writing this part of the story for quite a while, though it presented its own challenges which slowed me down. I’m looking forward to book 3 which I hope will be a bit less involved and complicated. We’ll see.
  • Book sales are still flat and I need to start building my email list. I now have MailPoet, but it  isn’t set up completely yet. Relying on forums to answer my questions is a waste of my time, especially when I am already paying for the service! I need to hire a tech-savvy assistant to do this kind of stuff for me.
  • I’ve been joking around with a co-worker about writing a custom short story with her as the heroine. We have a lot of fun laughing over possible titles and content, and I would really enjoy doing it – but no time! My current book gets the majority of my attention for the foreseeable future, and I can’t allow myself to be distracted. Easier said than done…
  • The countdown to my move across country is getting close now – only a couple of months! It’s going to mean a major interruption in my writing, of course, and I hate the thought of losing momentum. It will push the release date out further too, but it can’t be helped. Meanwhile I have to start packing and make arrangements. There’s a lot to do!
  • I read a blog post this week in which the author suggested traveling to the places you write about. In some ways that would be cool, but then I decided it would punch too many holes in my imagined world. My current series is set in Michigan’s upper peninsula, which is someplace I have never been. I use maps and Google to get the info I need and base the story on real names, places, and facts, but add my own details when necessary. Actually traveling there (while I’m writing the books) wouldn’t be a good idea, as I would begin to doubt everything I’ve already written! Perhaps I’ll visit after the series is complete.
  • This week I started re-reading a quirky series from a few years back: Ganymede Quartet, by Darrah Glass. The basic premise involves a forbidden gay romance between a rich teen and his personal slave. The whole thing is fascinating and disturbing and difficult to put down. The biggest disappointment is that the author never really finished, leaving her readers hanging without some kind of resolution or addressing the important questions the MC has about his life and future. Still, if you want something different, this series might fit the bill! Get it HERE.

Weekly Roundup 7-11-18 “The Visit” A blast from the past.

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I ran across a bunch of stories and poems I wrote during my school days and chose “The Visit” to share with you today. This one was a 10th-grade English class assignment which I have never forgotten. Enjoy!

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The Visit

I never dreamed I would ever see my home again, but here I was twenty years later on my old street, my thoughts enveloped in times past. I rounded the curve and the full view of the old homestead shot out and drew my breath away.

Strolling up the walk to the door, I could almost feel the earth trembling with joy to see a familiar face. I turned and scanned the yard. Up ahead, the brick patio lay still and warped, obviously long in need of repair. Off to the left was my mother’s redbud tree. I recalled when the beautiful pink blossoms would burst into view each spring, bringing needed color to the just-waking earth. The large oaks, still rich in grandeur, which had graced our grounds throughout my childhood, were dropping their first leaves of the season. Many a year I remember raking their leaves into one huge glorious pile, and in a running leap, fall in childish ecstasy into the crinkly softness of the Autumn gifts.

Pausing before the door, I turned the knob and entered the familiar hallway, worn now from a million steps of past tenants. Slowly I closed the door and let my wandering memories once again renew themselves afresh. Stepping lightly into the living room, I could almost see us on Christmas morning, all sitting on the floor, sleepy-eyed and waiting for the signal form Grandma for us to start opening our gifts. “Ready, set, go!” she would say. Paper flew, and the room buzzed with oh’s, ah’s and thank-you’s. Along the bookcase would hang our stockings, stuffed with assorted goodies and fruit. We never had a fireplace to hang them on, but it didn’t matter much to us where we put them, just so long as they were filled.

I moved on through the dining room, kitchen and family room. The long-gone laughter of our young voices seemed to spring from the woodwork and draw from me a yearning to be young once again. Many times I had eaten, played, laughed, and of course cried in these rooms. Left now were only the cloudy remains of our times together, forever embedded in these walls which could not speak.

Slowly, reverently, I climbed the creaky stairs to the bedrooms above. Starting at the far end of the hallway, I opened a door and looked inside. Here was the first room I occupied as a child with my two older brothers. In the corner once stood our old wobbly bunk beds. I always had the top bunk, but in six years I only fell out of it once.

Opening each door seemed to break the seal on the closed reservoir of my memories. Every thought was relished, pondered, and loved, adding to the mounting joy in my heart. At last, I reached my room. As I peered inside from the doorway, every detail once there came to life. Tears mounted and rolled down my quivering cheeks as I began to fade quickly. For the last time, I looked upon the room I had lived, loved, and died in. You see, they only let you come back for forty-eight hours. I had to wait twenty years for my turn. I guess my time is up now…

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My teacher, one of the few nuns I liked, was primarily responsible for encouraging me to write. She really liked this story (I got an A+), saying: “Oh, tis a truly lovely composition. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a heart-string tugger.” I’m sure she was just being kind, as it’s hardly an award-winner, but it has a special place in my heart.

My mother was an avid reader, and I must have presented her with everything I wrote, asking for her opinion. Clear as day, I recall her silence as she read the story, only to start crying at the end. What she never knew was how much time I spent as a child feeling unloved and alone. Secretly, I wished I could either run away or die so that my family would realize they loved me after all and would actually tell me so. That never happened, but the reaction I got from my mom was satisfying on some level. Returning home as a ghost in a story was the closest I ever got to sharing my true feelings.

Other things:

Traitor’s Moon – 25,000+ words and ready to start chapter four, which is mostly about Jack and William as they make an important visit to Arizona to retrieve some of Jack’s past.

Had a great idea to use in a future story which came to me out of the blue while I was at work. Of course, I wrote it down right away, and then spent the rest of the day thinking of ways to use it. Good for my books and distracts me from my job!

Finished a great book titled “Raver: The Horsecaller Book 1” by Candace Carrabus. This romantic adventure fantasy is hard to put down. I love an a author with a good imagination! Check it out HERE.

 

 

 

 

Reader Roundup 6-20-18. Using the Contact Hypothesis in Fiction.

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Several factors came together this week from my own experience, my writing, and from society at large. This post is going to be a bit more personal than usual, but it is a subject close to my heart.

Many authors of gay novels make use of the tension between gay and straight as a theme in their stories, as I myself am doing in my current series, Gladstone Shifters. Why? Despite a general increase in acceptance in recent years, the aforesaid tension remains an unfortunate reality in the lives of GSM (Gender and Sexual Minorities) folk everywhere. It’s been present in my life all the way back to grade school and remains an issue today. Mine is not a unique experience, as many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Much of the hostility out there is a result of ignorance and fear, along with a lack of personal connections which put a face on the issue. Incredibly, there are a multitude of straight folk who claim not to know one single GSM person, and yet have plenty to say concerning a subject they know nothing about! As we share our stories, there is a familiar thread which binds many of them together – a change in attitude and position came about only after personal relationships developed. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work this way, even among family members, but the concept has been around since the 1950’s.

The Contact Hypothesis, or Intergroup Contact Theory, is often credited to Gordon W. Allport (1954). The premise of Allport’s theory states that under appropriate conditions interpersonal contact is one of the most effective ways to reduce prejudice between majority and minority group members. If one has the opportunity to communicate with others, they are able to understand and appreciate different points of views involving their way of life. As a result of new appreciation and understanding, prejudice should diminish. Allport also claims that prejudice is a direct result of generalizations and oversimplifications made about an entire group of people based on incomplete or mistaken information.

In other words, (and as common sense would tell us), as we build relationships with each other the fear and misinformation can be replaced with acceptance and understanding. Unfortunately, it’s something of a catch-22 trying to overcome the barriers which prevent the relationships in the first place.

Many a gay person, myself included, has been rejected by a neighbor, co-worker, or family member after our orientation was discovered. Being burned this way makes us cautious and less likely to be honest about who we really are. Meanwhile the straight person has no idea they are rubbing elbows every day with GSM folks, and they continue on blindly with their prejudices based on what they already “know”. One remains in ignorance while the other hides in self-protection. We aren’t going to get anywhere this way!

Without mentioning the Contact Hypothesis directly, I will be using the concept in my current manuscript as part of the story. I want to show what is possible under the right circumstances from both perspectives. Is this pie-in-the-sky idealism? Perhaps, but it presents a positive option to the deadlock we often see in modern society, and I really don’t want to dwell on that any more than necessary! For the story, it will provide a bit of drama, solve an immediate problem, and perhaps plant a seed in the minds of my readers.

NOTE: I am not a trained psychologist or make any claims regarding the usefulness of the Intergroup Contact Theory. I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject because they are germane to the story I am working on and dovetail with my own observations and experiences. Take from it what you will!

For more information regarding the Intergroup Contact Theory, click HERE.

Update on Traitor’s Moon: working on chapter 2, word count: 14,000+, three new characters introduced, Jack and William make their reappearance,  Alaska becomes part of the story. I wish I could write faster, but even then it would not be enough for some of my readers! Good things come to those who wait…

For Father’s Day

I was digging around in my mementos box and found a father’s day “card” I gave my Dad years ago. It was drawn/written in pencil on a piece of notebook paper. It’s obvious I cannot drawn to save my life, but my mother must have thought it was worth keeping. My Dad passed away in 2016, and though we weren’t particularly close, it’s sad not to have him in our lives any more.

Instead, I sent my oldest son (a father of two, plus one on the way) a Father’s Day card and we spoke on the phone. Here’s to all the great dads out there!

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Since I missed Mother’s Day, I wanted to include this poem I wrote for my mom when I was 11 years old. She would always read the stuff I handed her, and would often cry – probably because it was so awful! I’m still glad she kept some of these things. My mother is also gone – passed away back in 2000. I miss her!

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Reader Roundup 5-30-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Current Manuscript: Traitor’s Moon – Gladstone Shifters Book 2

  • Word count: 2086
  • Now writing: chapter one
  • # of new characters: 3 (this number will grow as I write)

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On the sharing of sincerely held opinions:

The news is full of colorful characters from all walks of life who insist on exposing the rest of us to their thoughts. Those who find themselves in the public eye, and therefore command a ready audience, have a greater responsibility to share their views with caution – yet many seem to feel it is their right to smack the rest of us over the head with what they think.

We all have opinions on things, whether it be politics, religion, entertainment or sports. The issue is knowing the correct time & place to share them and when to keep quiet for the sake of peaceful co-existence. Obviously, some folks just don’t get it.

Personally, I avoid sharing my opinions on divisive issues as it relates to my life as an author. I am a  private person, and too much sharing makes me uncomfortable. This is one reason I do not and will not have a Facebook account. Besides, my readers don’t really want to hear what I have to say on current topics, and I prefer not to antagonize or offend them. If at all possible I want them to have a relaxing and enjoyable experience while reading my books.

Does that mean I will avoid all controversial topics? No, it simply means that if I decide to share my personal thoughts and opinions, I may do so using one of my characters and let the reader agree or disagree as they see fit. I get the chance to share a lot of things this way, yet my readers don’t need to know it was “me” and not a made-up character in a story.

Purposely or not, I believe all authors do the same thing. In fact, it would be almost impossible NOT to allow personal thoughts, attitudes and opinions to leak into the narrative while writing fiction. Every one of my books contain snippets of the real me, making the characters and situations I portray more believable. When not using my own experiences, I borrow from the people I have known or read about over the years.

If the story is a good one, the reader is unlikely to stop and wonder if certain elements came directly from the author. In the end, it hardly matters where the inspiration came from for a particular character or situation, as long as it rings true for the reader and conveys what the author intended. This is part of the mystery surrounding each author’s style and storytelling mojo.

So, if you really want to know, feel free to contact me. I may tell you, but then again, I may not…

The World I Like Best

I have always considered reading as a healthy way to escape for a while. One glance at the news gives ample reason to seek a temporary way to stop the real world and enter an imaginary one. Like a pressure valve, it enables me to face the sometimes harsh reality of life by being able to remove myself from it, even if only for a short time.

It was only recently I understood that writing the story serves a similar purpose for me. One of the perks of being an author is the opportunity to let my mind and imagination LIVE within the story I am creating. Even more, I get to influence each event and character to my liking. It satisfies a bone-deep desire to have mastery over something – anything – since real life gives only a fleeting illusion of any sort of control. It also compels me to keep going, since I miss the characters and the lives I’ve designed for them.

Writers, then, are doubly blessed – or cursed, depending on how you look at it. There is something deeply fulfilling about creating an imaginary world which is uniquely mine. The setting, characters, action, and outcome are all mine to fashion, and I relish in crafting a story in which I get the final say. Nothing in real life allows such complete creativity, enabling me to enjoy not only the worlds created by others, but the ones I craft myself. A double blessing indeed.

May the good guys win!

I will gladly admit it – I enjoy writing stories where the good guys win, the bad guys get their comeuppance, and a happy ending awaits.

Will every single story I write be this way? Probably not, but most will. But, you say, it’s not realistic! No it isn’t, and that’s the point. The world we live in is already filled with more than enough sadness and pain in everyday life, and I prefer to create stories which take my readers (and myself) away from it for a while.

Let’s face it – real life is often dull, discouraging, or even downright painful. So after another soul-devouring day at work, and a glance at world news, I want to relax and enjoy a great book where things unfold the way they should. Given a choice, I prefer something which makes me smile or laugh over realism any day.

I believe there is a place for real life books and sad stories, but I will leave those to authors who have the ability and courage to tell them.