Literary Intentions 
 
After having problems with this blog I switched to blogspot, but Google Friend connect is still leading people here.  If you like to check out my more updated blog, I'd love to have you come over.  Thanks.

http://dstracywrites.blogspot.com
 
 
Picture
Taken from a previous post from my other blog My Life in Writing


Last night my little family crowded in our bed and watched an episode of Star Trek (original series). Yeah, we’re dorks. It’s the one show we watch together with minimal grumbling. So, we’re watching Spock struggling through “pon farr,” which I think means he was in heat or something—I dunno—when a funky smell wafted through the room. 

I glanced over to my husband, who immediately said, “Don’t look at me.”

We’ve played this game many times before so I continued to glare, hoping to discourage any further nastiness from invading my nostrils. Then a little giggle turned my attention to my daughter, who stared back at me with her big chocolate eyes. She may have looked as innocent as Winona Ryder with an armful of clothes, but her guilty giggles said otherwise.

“Are you kidding me?” my husband said. “That was impressive!”

“I got gas,” she answered, rubbing her tummy.

“Flaggulence?” my husband said. He’s been teaching her bigger words lately, so he couldn’t resist popping in a good one, and I couldn’t resist correcting him.

“Flatulence, you mean. The word is flatulence.”

We debated for a bit as another funk permeated the air. When he finally conceded to me, I started thinking about all the words I’ve heard people say incorrectly.

In my critique group, we’ve all had a few doosers. My sunshine and roses friend (she’s the happiest person I know) corrected my ’script when I wrote, “twitter patted.” Her chicken scrapes in the margin suggested I change it to “twitter painted.” She swore on a stack of bibbles that Thumper coined the term in Bambi and that I was wrong.

Another writer friend wrote “making in front of” instead of “making fun of.” I couldn’t help but make in front of him on that one—come on now. Was this a joke? A pigment of my imagination, or did this well educated man not know this simple phrase?

So, I popped in my ear buds and started listening to “Secret Asian Man” and thought of some more malapropisms (verbal slips and gaffes) and some of the more common ones writers face every day as we plug away on our stories. I mean we want to be taken seriously, right? We have to send in our work with as little errors as we can. How are we ever going to rise above the plush pile if we don't?

Accept/except

Affect/effect

Lay/Lie

Too/to/two

Further/Farther

Its/It’s

Desert/dessert

And many more…

Not sure the difference, check out this helpful grammar site here.




What are your favorite malapropisms? Share your favorites.

 
 
Photo by Cliff Bryce
Picture
An old friend of mine is a talented photographer. He posted a photo on Facebook the other day and it had me thinking about where a writer’s inspiration comes from. So, I decided to challenge myself and write a quick story for a random photo. These stories are not edited and rough, so keep that in mind. My goal is to get my brain working, not produce perfection. Thanks for looking.


I ain’t much of a sneak. I tend to mind my own business most of the time. But something about that old man provoked me. Maybe it was the way he glared at me through those gnarly eyebrows like he knew better. I ain’t dumb. I know lots of stuff. Just ask Miss Johnson. I bust through a whole mess of fractions before snobby Lexi Carter had a chance to draw that stupid little heart over the “i” in her name.

My mama works at the nursing home down the block from my house. I don’t get to see her much on account of my old man being in jail and all. So, when I can, I walk down and share a Coke with her. That’s where I first laid eyes on the old coot.

His name was Clyde Sullivan Jr. What the hell kinda name was Clyde anyway and what possessed Clyde Sr. to pass his misfortunes onto his lemon-faced son? Anyway, I was waitin’ for my mama’s shift to get over and popped a squat in the hall, when he came wanderin’ by with a wooden box tucked under his arm. He peered at me sideways and curled his upper lip, looking meaner than a rattler. Ol’ Clyde mumbled something under his breath, no doubt thinking he was clever. What he don’t know was that I got 20/20 hearing. That fool called me a ragamuffin and shook his head.

My smarts probably weren’t with me when I decided to follow the old bear, but I couldn’t help it; my feet started walking. For being a lopsided fart, that man walked faster than any other old person I knew, and I know plenty.

He didn’t seem to notice me truckin’ on behind him. Of course, grownups don’t tend to pay me no mind, anyhow. Boys like me just sort of blend in, I s’pose. My uncle calls me puny and even though I’m smaller than other twelve-year-olds, I sure as hell ain’t puny.

Clyde disappeared into the last room on the right, which stopped me cold. I didn’t much like going into patient’s rooms. That’s where most of ’em pass on. I learned a lot about death since my mama started workin’ here. The first week she’d come home with puffy eyes and a red face. She never said nothin’, but I knew she’d been cryin’. Nowadays, she just pours herself a bit more whisky and calls ’er good. No more tears. I guess whisky ain’t so bad.

I slid against the wall so’s Clyde couldn’t see me listening at the door.

“How ya doing, Earl?” Clyde said. “You’re looking pretty with that new haircut.”

I didn’t want to admit it, but I kinda liked ol’ Clyde’s voice.

“Whaddya say . . . how ’bout a game to get yer heart a pumpin’.”

I leaned over some, just so’s I could catch me a better look. I thought it was a good idea, at the time, but I lost my balance and fell flat on my face. Clyde’s head whipped in my direction so fast; his face scrunched and wrinkled with them hairy ol’ brows drawn together. I thought for sure I was going to get a lickin’ from mama for bothering the patients, but that old man did something I never imagined.

“Can you play chess, son?” he said.

I stood to my feet and slapped my hands up and down on my worn blue jeans, not that I cared so much about a bit of dirt, but I didn’t want any bad luck sticking to my body—death germs and such.

“Well, do ya?” Clyde asked.

“No, sir.” 

“What’s yer name?”

“Denny. Denny Warren, sir.”

“Grab yourself a chair, Denny Warren. Me and Earl are going to teach you the only game worth playin’?”

I looked over to Earl, propped up like a rag doll in his wheelchair. He stared straight ahead, wordless and unmoving. Death didn’t seem too far behind. I paused for a minute; I didn’t want to feel death that close. But as the sun shone through the window and cast shadows on Clyde’s wooden chess set, I knew I wanted to be nowhere else.   



 
 
I'm new to blogging. Not sure what I think about it right now. First, it is a lot of work. Trying to figure out what to say, how to say it, where to post it, is overwhelming. Second, there are a ton of bloggers out there already, figuring out a way to be unique is difficult. 

Another problem I've had is finding a home for my blog. I started here on weebly, which couldn't be simpler for a novice like me. My blog was ready to go in a matter of minutes, and I loved the look of it. But I noticed most of the people I knew had Blogspot or Wordpress with all kinds of gadgets on the sides of their blog. I wanted gadgets too. 
There are other features I like from the other sites too, traffic building features. So, I started another blog at blogspot, just to see where I belong.  If anyone has any advice on blogging please share. I could use all the help I can get.
This is my other site if you want to check 'er out.  dstracywrites.blogspot.com


 
 
Picture
Since I’ve become a mother, I don’t have the time  I once had for reading. I love to abandon my day in a wonderful adventure. And, if I want to succeed as a writer, it is crucial I study others. But it seems like each time I grab a book and snuggle into the sofa pillows, one of my little rugrats starts screaming, needs his boogers wiped, or must tell me the coolest thing ever right that very minute. Who can say no to ‘the coolest thing ever’? Not this girl. So, I inevitably toss the book aside and take care of my kids or my husband, who thankfully wipes his own boogers.

I started listening to audio books several years ago to help me sleep, because just like all the above daytime distractions, nighttime is not immune to drama. Both my children talk in their sleep, and my oldest and most sensitive child seems to have more bad dreams than she should.

After jumping full time into writing and critiquing, I’ve noticed a lack of attention to the sound of a novel—the rhythms and beats our words create. I don’t have a lot of time, plus I’m an impatient reader. If the novel sounds bumpy, I struggle. If it feels like a play by play, my mind wanders. But if the novel flows, has a rhythm to it, even if there are plot problems I will stick to it, hoping the writer comes through for me.

We’re told as writers to avoid using dialogue tags as much as possible except for “said.” The theory is that the eye simply passes it by; readers are immune to it. I have a problem with that theory because if you listen to audio books, you definitely hear it—like a thud. Passive voice also carries a heavy sound as well as the overuse of adverbs. (Some adverbs can enhance the sound with the right placement, but I’m on the side of deleting as many as you can.)

When I start revising my work in progress, I spend a great deal of time making sure I avoid the thud. Do I have too many coordinating conjunctions? Do I vary my sentence length? Have I placed my speech tags appropriately or avoided them all together?

A reader’s eye may pass by an annoying speech tag, passive voice, or see the artfulness of a stack of sentence fragments, but will a listener’s ear be as forgiving?

It’s important we not only give our writing a visual run through, but we need to take the time to read it aloud, imagining how it would sound as an audio book. Then, like a good steak, a manuscript needs rest.

After a period of time (I suggest no less than a few weeks), go back to it, but switch the font. I write my first draft in Arial and then switch to Times New Roman; it’s amazing what that does. The time away and different visual look will help our eyes see simple problems we missed before and our mind to turn off its autocorrect button.

One of my critique partners has developed a wonderful rhythm to her work. I liken it to a rolling hill. She gently pulls me along and just when I think I’m at the bottom, she guides me up for more. Granted, a rolling hill doesn’t necessarily make a sound, but when paired with narrative and dialogue, it most certainly does. She pays attention to sentence structure and the voices of her characters. Not every scene has a rolling hill feel, but the manuscript is drenched in sound and rhythm.

Does your writing have a cadence? A thunderstorm? A wave? Do you read your work aloud as you’re revising?

 
 
Picture
My husband has a history of giving me interesting Christmas gifts. I’m not a complainer because he’s a great man and even better father, so what’s to whine about, right? But I have to admit this year’s gift left me speechless, not because it was the worst gift he’s ever given, but . . . he gave me a Shake Weight.

I had seen the commercials, the SNL spoofs, and now, I had my own. I stared at my lovely gift, thinking there was no way in hell I was going to use it—at least in front of witnesses.

My husband, however, didn’t hesitate. He pulled the Shake Weight out of the box and proceeded to give me a demo. My eyes stretched in awe. Hadn’t he seen the commercials? Doesn’t he realize what he looks like as he shake, shake, shakes his way to fabulous arms and shoulders? 

“You try.” He flopped it in my lap, and I picked it up, mustering the biggest smile I could.

I gripped the weight, twisting it back and forth before giving it a lackluster shake. 

“Do you feel that?” he asked. 

“Yeah. I feel it.” I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to feel, other than idiotic.

My kids jumped up and down waiting for their turn at mom’s new arm exerciser. Was there an age restriction? A big “M” on the outside of the box—rated M for mature? I reluctantly handed it over to my son, who lifted it up and down like an ordinary weight. Phew! My daughter tried to shake it, but thankfully, she lost interest.

We finished our Christmas morning present swap with my mind wondering if the next gift I opened was a pair of Pajama Jeans or a Snuggie. I’m happy to report my Shake Weight was my one and only “As Seen on TV” find. 

It’s been a month and I have yet to use my Shake Weight. The box claims that six minutes a day is all it takes. I have six minutes I can spare, and my husband thought of me when he purchased it (hold your snickering, please). So I owe it to him to use it. Starting today, I will give up six minutes and shake my way to firm arms and shoulders. Wish me luck.

Don’t worry I’ll close the blinds.

Never heard of the Shake Weight? Check ’er out!

 
 
After I finished loading the dishes, I went to park my butt on the couch to watch a bit of American Idol when my husband blurted out, “Did you just stroke your laptop?”

“Did I what?” I sat down and rolled my eyes. I heard him, but I needed time to summon up a great comeback. We’ve played this game before—the ‘you’re always on the computer game.’ I usually lose this game.

“You stroked your laptop,” he repeated with even more complacency.

It took a second and then it hit me. When I had stumbled over my husband’s feet to sit next to him, I reached over and swept my hand across my laptop. A love pat? No. I was checking to see if it had cooled down.

So yes, I stroked my laptop. I don’t love love my laptop. I wouldn’t stroke it in a loving way. I don’t think about its warmth on my legs and the wonderful click-clacking sound as my fingers scramble over the keys when we’re apart. I don’t.

Okay, maybe I do.

I love my laptop. It is the one thing that is mine; the one thing that I do just for me. I write, blog, and critique manuscripts every day. So I do spend a lot of time on my computer and get a ton of flack from my husband.

Perhaps one day, when all this writing business pays off, he’ll be less inclined to reach for absurdities just to rattle me, or point out that my lovin’ feelings for the inanimate aren’t normal.

Funny thing, though, right after the “stroking” incident I went upstairs to take a bath. It took all of five minutes before I heard a knock, knock, knock on the door with my kids on the other side, screaming to get in. Another couple of minutes later, the cat reached her paw under the door and started howling. There’s never a dull or quiet moment in a mother’s day; so, I say let me stroke my laptop. As long as mama’s happy . . . right?

Have you stroked your laptop today? 
Picture
 
 
Since I was a child, I’ve secretly scribbled out stories and poetry. I would tuck my creations away in an iridescent orange folder and slip it under my mattress—my secret, my coping mechanism for whatever life threw my way. I had always wanted to be a writer, but lacked the confidence to pursue my bliss.

It wasn’t until a family tragedy knocked everything out of whack that I thought I had any sort of talent for it. My mother-in-law passed away a few years ago on Easter. It was sudden and unexpected. Her death not only shook the family, but it became my inspiration to pick up a pen and write. 

A few days after the funeral, my four-year-old daughter interrupted story time to tell me something that had been weighing on her mind. She said Grandma Strawberry (My daughter’s nickname for her Grandma Atteberry) was a fairy who visits her in her dreams and they go on wonderful adventures together. She said when her daddy felt sad and missed his mom, all he had to do was close his eyes and find her: she would be waiting for him.

Through the eyes of a child . . .

My mind marinated in my daughter’s words, and after I put her to bed, I had the overwhelming urge to write a story about Grandma Strawberry and her many dreamland adventures—free of pain and full of happiness. I shared the story with my sister-in-law who later said it came on a day when she needed a nudge, a simple reminder her mom was okay and that she would forever live on. Her response was my nudge to pursue something that allowed me to feel a different sort of purpose besides wife and mother.

So, here I am nearly three years later. I’ve written two novels and nearly finished a third. I’ve placed in contests, and I’m currently seeking a literary agent. The one downside to it all is the fact that my mother-in-law isn’t here to root me on. She was a voracious reader, but more than that, she loved how a book made her feel. The waves of emotions, ebbing and flowing, freed her mind from the constant pain tearing through her body. The woman who sacrificed so much for her children could simply pick up a book and be whoever she wanted to be. I miss her, but thanks to my daughter, I now know when I need a little inspiration all I have to do is close my eyes and welcome the adventure.

 
 
A writer can’t simply write a great novel and send it off to the first publisher he finds and sell his work. It just isn’t that simple. So, besides the dratted process of querying literary agents and publishers to “please, please, please” request pages, a writer is constantly looking for other ways to promote his work. Contests are one of those avenues. However, not all contests are created equal and writers must read the rules and then, reread to ensure they haven’t unwittingly relinquished their rights.

I’ve entered several contests and have scored a first, second, and third place victory. Woo-hoo for me, but as nice as my total prize winnings of $150 is, it is not publication. Winning or placing in a contest does help a writer feel like their work is legitimate and worthwhile literature, but . . . it is not publication. Then there is the ABNA. It is like American Idol for aspiring writers and the best part is the no entry fee and (dun, dun, dun, duh) publication is the grand prize with a $15,000 advance from Penguin Books.

The first stage is the pitch round and begins on Jan. 24-Feb.6. I hate this stage. If we refer back to American Idol, this round would be similar to the bare bones audition round without musical accompaniment. In ABNA terms, it is a 300-word pitch/summary of your proposed novel and the 5000 entrants from each category (YA or Adult) become 1000. Sounds easy, right? It’s not. A writer has to whittle down his or her 90,000 word novel into 300 words that’ll make someone want to pick up the book. I didn’t make it past this round last year. L Does that mean my novel stinks and I should really reconsider my bliss? Not necessarily. My pitch just didn’t entice the judges to want to read more.  

The second stage—Hollywood round for A.I—is the excerpt round. In this stage, judges review the entrant’s 5000 word excerpt, which in my case will be my first two chapters. They judge on a scale of 1 to 5 in the following areas: overall strength of excerpt, prose/writing style, plot/hook, and originality.

The top 250 then advance to the quarterfinals where Publisher’s Weekly reviews/judges the excerpts from the previous stage, sending the top 50 to the semi-finals. If a person can make it to this stage but not advance further in the contest, they still have the benefit of a Publisher’s Weekly review to include in queries (If the review is good, of course). During the semifinals, the Penguin judging panel will take 50 contests to 3 in each category (YA or Adult General Fiction) The final round is open to Amazon customers to review and rate excerpts as well as a celebrity panel.

Last year at this time, I was a nervous wreck getting ready to submit my entry, which was the first full manuscript I’ve written. This year, I’m a little wiser, have written nearly three completed ‘scripts, and have a much tougher skin. So, I won’t be threatening an imaginary, literary version of Simon, or shedding tears because I didn’t make it. I will simply keep trying, perfecting, and submitting, and maybe one day, I’ll get lucky.

Here's my pitch:

Hagan Perry will do whatever it takes to escape her kidnappers on Scout Mountain, not only for herself but for the other woman fighting to survive the Caretaker’s evil games. Unfortunately for Hagan, getting out alive means trusting the one person who has always let her down—her father.

To many, James Perry is nothing but a troubled ex-con whose word is about as good as a campaign promise. He’s fine with that, on most days, but when his daughter disappears, no one believes she’s in danger, especially his own brother who’s too busy polishing his badge to do him any favors. Even after James receives a call from his daughter and reveals an important clue, he’s branded a manipulator.

Without help from the police, he must save Hagan on his own. Little does he know exactly how far the kidnappers will go until dead bodies pile up and he becomes the number one suspect. If James can’t figure out who’s targeting them and why, he will wrongfully return to prison for not only the deaths of a few innocent people, but perhaps for his daughter’s death as well.

Even if Hagan survives THE CARETAKER’S KISS, she will have to face something just as insurmountable and bleak as the mountain—the truth.



 
 
Even at my skinniest, I hated trying on jeans (swimsuit shopping is a completely different beast that requires meds for me to address, so we’ll just go with jeans).

There’s something ominous about slipping into a dressing room, staring into a carnival mirror, and seeing all my imperfections nagging back at me. Guilt, shame, regrets all roll through my mind. But no matter how much I beat myself up and curse that last donut, I can’t change the fact that until I recognize my insecurities and accept them, I’ll always be the fat girl in skinny jeans.

I could say the same thing about writing.

Some people jump into writing with the idea that they’ll be the next latest and greatest author and their book will outsell even Stephen King. I hate to break it to those folks, but it’s not gonna happen. (Unless their name rhymes with Shmephenie Shmeyer) Becoming a writer—a novelist—is not for the weak. It is brutal.

The most important thing a writer can do as they hone their craft is to develop a thick skin—armor is more like it. Some think they can write their story, spell check it, and then wah-lah it’s ready for publication, but that is far from the case. Most writing is rewriting or editing, going back through the 'script, tightening up loose ends, and cleaning up clumsy sentences and plotting issues.

My carnival mirror I use for writing comes in the form of a critique group. If you are a writer and don’t have one, I think you should find one asap. Beta readers are a great help, but unless your readers are writers or read anything they can get their hands on, chances are they won’t pick up on the things you need to perfect your ’script. The group also helps a writer deal with criticism—the good, the bad, and the ‘what the $%*#?’

There is nothing like sending a chapter to a critique member and getting it back littered with marks or highlighted with rainbow colors. It is overwhelming and disheartening . . . for about ten minutes. After the shock wears off and the suggestions evaluated, excitement rolls in and the real writing begins. Things start to click and ideas flow—at least in theory.

My critique group has the tough, the tougher, and toughest of members. I can rely on each person to find something wrong and steer me in the right direction. Do I follow every suggestion? Nope, because I have to stay true to my voice and my vision. Tie goes to the writer. In turn, they support and rally behind me as I take on the next step—submitting to agents.

Agents are overwhelmed with query letters and submissions—drowning in them. A person can’t rely on an agent or an editor to look at a manuscript and see its potential through all the grammar issues and plot holes; they want perfection.

According to Noah Lukeman in The First Five Pages:

“Agents and editors don’t read manuscripts to enjoy them; they read solely with the goal of getting through the pile, solely with an eye to dismiss a manuscript—and believe me, they’ll look for any reason they can, down to the last letter.”

Why am I in this business again? Thankfully, I have a few friends who are standing outside the dressing room waiting for me to parade around in my new jeans. And when I emerge looking like a fool, they are the first to suggest a different size. Although it isn’t easy accepting a failure, I know that with a little hard work and one less donut, I may just be able to fit in the skinny jeans next time.

 

    RSS Feed

    Picture

    Author

    My name is Diana (a.k.a DS Tracy) I am a wife, mother,  and wannabe writer. One day, I hope to delete the wannabe part--no one likes a poser!  
     

    Click to set custom HTML

    Archives

    February 2011
    January 2011
    December 2010
    November 2010

    Click to set custom HTML



    ________________
    Add this to your site
    Click to set custom HTML
    Blogs I'm following:
    Whimsywritingandreading
    The Crazy Life of A Writing Mom
    Writing Delights
    Nathan Bransford