One Writer’s Journey

April 5, 2019

Merry Christmas to Me! An Amazon Recommendation

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 4:02 am
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Every now and again Amazon recommends a book to me and I think – why?  Why would you think that I would want to read that book?

Today, my husband got an Amazon recommendation that really made my day.  “Perhaps you would like to buy this book.”  Merry Christmas to me!

In case you don’t recognize the cover, that’s my title, Stem Cells from North Star editions. It will be coming out in August.  Nice feeling to know Amazon is out there promoting my work.

Guess I better go get the next book done.


April 4, 2019

Ghost Writing

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:37 am
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Yesterday I stumbled across an interesting post by literary agent Janet Reid, “Ghosting Is Not Stealing, Unless It Is.”  For those of you who may not have heard about this particular issue, someone in the world of romance writing decided to make novel-writing easier.  She hired a ghost writer and supplied her with chunks of text to mush together into a novel.  Unfortunately, this chunks were taken from other authors’ novels.  I’m not sure if the ghostwriter did it with knowledge or without knowledge but she ended up helping plagiarise the work of other authors.

As Reid explains, there is nothing unethical about ghostwriting.  Not familiar with this term?  Ghostwriting is simply when an author or authors are paid to write, knowing that someone else’s name will appear on the final product.

Ironically, given yesterday’s Nancy Drew post, the Nancy Drew novels were plagiarized,  So were the later Boxcar Children’s books.  Not all series are ghostwritten but many are and that’s okay.  The author name represents a brand that requires several authors to meet demand.  These authors all work to write in the same voice, using the same characters and the same story world.  This is essential for readers to have the “Nancy Drew” or whatever experience.

I have friends who have worked as ghost writers but it is something I’ve never done.  I have to come near to a shared voice when I write series nonfiction but we each get our names on the books we write.  If it is something that interests you, it is my understanding that ghost writing pays fairly well.

Like any other type of writing, if you are going to turn it in as your work, it has to BE your work.  It seems pretty straightforward but apparently it confuses some people.


April 3, 2019

Nancy Drew – Again

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:31 am
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Just caught the trailer for the latest Nancy Drew remake on Youtube.  Gotta love people who didn’t grow up on Nancy Drew.  Okay, I mean men.  “What do you mean the latest movie?  I didn’t know they made one.”

Yeah.  So if half the population can’t remember that it has been made into a movie once, why bother to do it again?  This is scientific but I do have a few ideas.

Nancy Drew, girl detective, has huge appeal.  She’s smart.  She doesn’t give up.  And she has a group of friends who are willing to work with her to solve crimes.

Boomers (as in baby boomers) are a huge market.  They read Nancy Drew because their moms read Nancy Drew.  They can share this Nancy with their (gasp) grandaughters.

But she’s been rebooted!  Updated!  Isn’t that sacrilidge?  She’s already been updated several times.  I have to tell you that I would love to read the originals.  I’m trying to remember if she wore a shift or a frock vs a dress and she drove a roadster.  A Roadster!   How cool is that?

I discovered this when I was at Half Price Books with a friend who is 18 years older than I am.  We were in the collectibles section and I saw a Nancy Drew that looked different from the others.  It didn’t sport the classic yellow spine.  I pulled it out to give it a once over and my friend was positively twitching.  “So do you want this?” I asked.

She positively pounced.  Then she started excitedly telling me about the book.  I might have held onto it if I had only known.  But, truly, I’m glad she has it.

Nancy, after all, is a commodity that has aged well with a little special treatment.



April 2, 2019

Writer Beware

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:52 am
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If you are looking into publication or searching for an agent, you should know about Writer Beware.  In 1998, Writer Beware was founded by Ann Crispin (A.C. Crispin) and Victoria Straus.

Interestingly enough, Straus says that she was never scammed but she is aware of just how lucky this makes her.  She came into writing about the time that several big scams, vanity publishers, were being exposed.  Because of this, the subject has always interested her.

Writer Beware has several parts.  They include:

  • Writer Beware, the website. The site includes warnings about “schemes, scams, and pitfalls” including agents, vanity publishers, vanity anthologies, small presses, contests, and more.  In addition to specific warnings there are also links to numerous sites so you can educate yourself.
  • Writer Beware, the blog. In addition to the most current posts and warnings there is also information on industry news that is just wacky and strange.
  • Writer Beware, the Facebook page. Anything and everything that is writing related and Victoria finds interesting ends up here.

It is impossible to stay current on all of the news.  That is what it is important to know about these kinds of sources of information.  They do the work for you and you get to share the benefits.

Take a look around.  This is the sort or resource that can save you some serious heartache.


April 1, 2019

Surprise! When Life Interrupts Your Writing Schedule

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:10 am
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Today, I am at the county court house waiting to see if I will have jury duty.  Show up by 8:30.  Plan to be here all day Monday and Tuesday.  And if you’re assigned to a trial, we will tell you then how long it will take.

So what do you do when the world gets in the way of your writing?  Sure, they encourage you to bring your work but I’m 100% certain they don’t have desk space for 300+ people.  I say 300+ because I am #300.  In fact, from the last time they commandeered my life, I seem to recall row upon row of chairs and a few tables.  There was also a lovely balcony full of smokers.

I don’t feel comfortable bringing my laptop so I’m going to stick with the low tech.  So far I’ve packed Ghost Hunters by Deborah Blum, Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody, and a notebook.  I was going to take Blum’s The Poison Squad but my husband thinks that will give them the wrong impression.  Honestly, I think it would give them a very accurate impression but that’s another story.  Should I worry about people being concerned or getting the wrong impression when they check out what I’m reading?

I can’t take my knitting or crochet because although Homeland Security has cleared both knitting and crochet for air travel the court house has not.  My husband has also recommended that I not take my beautiful Stanley coffee cup lest it “worry them” and they take it away.  Honestly, if I’m this worrisome, I’m not sure why they are making me come in.

Maybe I should bring The Poison Group, my metal coffee cup and wear my son’s DeadPool t-shirt.  It really says all the stranger needs to know.  I love science.  I adore coffee.  And my attitude is just fine so what’s your problem?  But until they figure it out, I will have something to read and something to write on.


March 29, 2019

Creativity: Flexing Your Muscle

I am currently drafting my second 15,000 word manuscript in two months.  I know, I know.  To a novelist, that number is pretty ho-hum.  But I’ve been doing other work as well and I’ve noticed my energy ebbing.

Then the beads that I had ordered arrived. I was making a necklace for my sister’s birthday.  I happily started my current audio book and got to work.  Even when I realized that I had messed up the pattern and need to disassemble almost everything I was fine.  No biggie.  These things happen!

I finished the necklace and immediately got back into my manuscript.  Tippy-tippy-type!   I was super charged.

I can’t explain why it is that I sometimes forget how doing something else creative fuels my writing.  Fortunately, I had bought beads to make myself a necklace as well.  As soon as my energy level started to ebb again, I was back in the dining room with beads and beading wire.  Then it was back to my manuscript and I wrote a chapter in a day.

I’ve made a bracelet and am planning to make earrings.  Then I’ll have to find another way to recharge.  I’ve been eying things around the house that could use a coat of paint.  Knitting is also an option.  Maybe I’ll make more cacti.  They are pin cushions although I don’t trust the cat enough to keep pins in mine.

As much as I enjoy it, writing especially when I’m on deadline, takes a lot of energy.  To keep up the pace, I have to take care of myself.  That means exercise breaks, time with my family, reading/listening to good books, and recharging my creative batteries.  I sure hope I have some green yarn in my stash because purple cacti would just be peculiar.


March 28, 2019

Titles: A Contract with Your Reader

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 4:09 am
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Lately I have noticed a trend in misleading titles. Yesterday I clicked on something like “Why I am Breaking Up with Twitter.”  The first paragraph was about how the author has never had a Twitter account.  Um . . . what?  You can’t break up with someone or something you’ve never had a relationship with.

Do not play with me if you want me to keep reading.  I’m serious.

If you promise me a mystery, there had better be a mystery.  Words like Secret and Curious also imply mystery.  Really.  They do.

And I’m not saying that titles can’t be clever and just a bit tricky.  Something Rotten by Heather Montgomery is about the science of road kill.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The Science of Roadkill.  But it is also vaguely reminiscent of Hamlet.  One, roadkill science, will attract the target read.  The second makes it curious and quirky.

A title is a contract with your reader.  It can promise mystery, romance, fantasy, or humor.  You don’t want your title to give too much away but you still want readers to know what to expect.  Of course, this means that you the writer need to deliver.

I have to admit that titles are not my strength.  It isn’t that I tend to fib to the reader.  Nope.  Instead I tend to give too much away. Deborah Blum does not have this problem.

The Poison Squad.  What do you expect from this title?  A group that tries to poison someone?  That tries to catch a poisoner?  This is the title of Deborah Blum’s book about a chemist who wanted to test some of the preservatives being used on foods in the 1880s and 1890s. He recruited a group of young men who would ingest the preservatives in capsule form when they ate their meals.  In this way, we learned which preservatives were safe and which were harmful. It is the beginning of the FDA.

The title is enough to pull you in but it doesn’t give the entire story away.  It hints but doesn’t deceive.  And that, my friends, is how is done.



March 27, 2019

Facts: The Devil Is in the Details

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:03 am
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“Hello. I am a squirrel monkey.”

My husband tells me that I’m a pill.  My standards are just too high.  But I hate it when an author or illustrator gets a fact wrong.

If I don’t know you, I will put your book aside.  That’s it.  I don’t need any more of that nightmarish experience.

If I know your work and love it, I may stick around.  But there will be whining.

Last week, I excitedly picked up my stack of books at the library.  As soon as we got home, I flipped open a picture book.  WHAT!  You can’t call it a monkey and a chimpanzee.  No, no, no!  Chimpanzees are apes along with gorillas, orangutan and gibbons.  Monkeys include spider MONKEYS, baboons, tamarins and many, many more.  They may be close on the tree of life but they are not interchangeable.

The offending book is still sitting on my library shelf unread.  I may as well slip it back into the library bag.

Just this morning, I was finishing off my coffee while reading a chapter in my latest mystery.  The series logo includes two paw prints, a dog and a cat.  The dog print is beneath the profile of a dog.  It includes no claw marks.  The cat print is beneath the profile of a cat.  It contains claw marks.

I love this series, so I will keep reading but the illustrator got it backwards.  Dog prints include claw markets.  Cat claws, except for cheetah, are retractable. Only rarely, such as when they are running or pouncing, do cat paw prints include claw marks.  Yes, I will read on but I will whine.

Young readers are the same way.  They may not pick up on the same things that I do but they want what they read to be accurate.  That means that if you are going to use the current lingo, you better get it right.  Science terms?  Don’t guess.  Look it up because a science mad kid will know when you err.

If you want to expand your pool of readers, get it right.  It doesn’t matter if it is science, technology or the latest slang, the right word matters.


March 26, 2019

Characterization: Making Them Truly, Irritatingly 3-D

Getting out in the world can be a great lesson for a writer.  Among other things, it reminds us how complex our characters should be if they are going to seem realistic.

Last week, my husband and I ran into another couple out in the country.  He had met them before but I hadn’t.  Or so I thought.  We chatted away about our jobs, our families and how much we liked being “in the country.”  Then their daughter and son-in-law arrived and reality dawned.

We had met before and the only reason I remembered was because of how she had interacted with her son-in-law.  Let’s just say OMG and leave it at that.  The next morning I got to spend some time with her and her daughters.  Fortunately, knitting often means having to count stitches and non-knitters generally can’t tell when you are counting and when you are avoiding conversation.  Is this the same person who was so nice to me yesterday?  Holy cow.

What does this have to do with characterization?  Often our characters behave the same way with absolutely everyone.  Our heroes are heroic.  Our villains are mean.  And that is that.

But real people very often behave one way with one group of people and another way with another group and yet a third way with a third group.  The differences can be astonishing.

Think about it.  A nine-year-old is going to talk and act one way with classmates.  Then there is the behavior that their parents see.  Doting grandparents?   They see an entirely different set of behaviors.

People are complicated.  While a character who was that complicated would probably be confusing, they need to be multidimensional.  At the very least this means behaving one way with allies and another with the protagonist.

Because writing just wasn’t complicated enough before.



March 25, 2019

Finding Reliable Sources

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:41 am
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Last week, we went down to the lake for a few days.  By “lake,” I don’t mean a big, commercial lake with fast boats and water skis.  Nope.  This is a little, rural home for fish, turtles and other assorted wildlife.  It is part of an outdoor sports club (think hunting and fishing). In addition to getting so see wildlife I don’t spend much time around in the city, I get to talk to a wide variety of people.

One thing that this has taught me is that I have points of disagreement with people who hunt and fish. For example, what they call nuisance animals, I often call wildlife.

This past week, one of the men was telling me about finding a dozen or so large catfish dead on the shore.  He said that this was the work of river otters.  “You might think they’re cute, but they’re really destructive.  They kill fish just to kill fish.”

“Actually, I know that they’re cute.”  I was pretty sure his statement about otters killing just to kill was bologna but I decided not to pick an argument.  Not until I’d done my research.

River otters eat a lot of fish.  They live in groups of 2 to 8 animals and can decimate a pond or hatchery.  Part of the problem is that, apparently, when the fishing is “especially easy,” they will kill just to kill. It really is best to do your own research before you decide a source you don’t like is full of bologna.

Last week, my son told me about a news story.  A group of academics, now called Sokal Squared had spotted a trend in academic journals.  They felt that they were seeing more articles being published with poor to non-existent science.  As long as the articles supported the trending “results” that these journals wanted to see, the pieces stood a better chance of being accepted.

To prove this, the three academics wrote a number of fake journal articles.  They claimed results that they never reached.  Heck, they didn’t even do the research. But seven of these articles were accepted.  Seven.

Too often we are willing to cheer the results we agree with, even when the science supporting them is clearly fake.  And something we don’t like the sound of?  Rubbish!

Rather or not the end result is what we want, we need to take the time to evaluate the data.  That’s the only way to be certain we’ve found reliable sources.



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