Monday, December 31, 2012

Encouragment for the New Year

For your New Year's Eve Giggling Pleausure - I bring you
 
How To Stop A Great Idea


"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy." - Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" - H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927

"Inventions reached their limit long ago, and I see no hope for further development," - Julius Frontinus in the first century A.D.

"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make." - Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields' Cookies

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible." - A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." - Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." - Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" - David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s

"But what ... is it good for?" - Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip

"640K ought to be enough for anybody." - Bill Gates, 1981

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." - Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

"Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools." - 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." - Western Union internal memo, 1876

After Fred Astair's first screen test in 1933, the MGM testing director wrote a meme saying, "Can't act. Slightly bald. Can dance a little. " Astaire got the memo and kept it over his fireplace.

An expert said of football coach Vince Lombardi, "He possesses minimal football knowledge. Lacks motivation."

"So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.'" - Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer

"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this." - Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M's Post-It notes
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Friday, December 28, 2012

Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child: Analysis of a Debut Novel


The Snow Child: Analysis of a Debut novel

 
 
Publisher: Reagan Arthur / Back Bay Books (November 6, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0316175668
ISBN-13: 978-0316175661
 

I am Jealous.
I am Sad.
I have read the book that makes my Favorite Read of 2012.
 

This was a bookclub choice for me; I would have eventually found it, I’m certain, like true loves are meant to be together. Ivey’s debut novel is a beautiful and tragic but hopeful, as all excellent stories should be.
 

Full of hope, full of despair, questions with only enough answers to keep the reader hungry, The Snow Child blossoms and melts, leaving an ice cream headache and the memory of something so delicious you want to taste it sparingly to keep the magic.
 

The Snow Child is a retelling of a favorite fairy tale of mine: a couple longed for a child, and even in their elder years, they never gave up hoping. One magic snowy winter day they built a snowman and went to bed. The next morning the snow man had come to life as their own little girl who could only stay with them as long as the winter lasted.
 

Ivey’s retelling is set in her home state of Alaska, where in 1920 Jack and Mabel have come to start a new life. Having never fully recovered from the loss of a stillborn child, Mabel convinces her husband to move far from their families and attempt to reclaim something of themselves and their dreams in the wilderness of the north. Some years into this bleak existence, Jack and Mabel learn that no one can truly outrun who they were meant to be, nor conquer humanity alone. They reach out to their nearest neighbors, the Bensons, who have a boisterous household of active boys and a thriving farm. Mabel realizes she must adapt or give up.
 

Which of them spy the child first? A little girl creeps to the edge of Jack and Mabel’s farm, just close enough to be seen. It is to Jack that she reveals her terrible secret, and Jack who bears this burden. When the little girl, Faina, becomes more than a wish, Jack and Mabel and the boy next door, and even Faina herself, must make choices to become the people they were meant to be.
 

Character growth in a setting and place that is somewhat universal and bigger than life and time are key ingredients to create a lengthy book shelf stay in a novel. Re-creating or re-telling a familiar tale without vulgarity creates an intimacy with an audience who already loves the story and serves well to speak to established readers who may not know you. A debut novelist must also have an enormous voice, connections that outweigh talent (though in this case that’s not entirely true), and the chops to back up your creation. Excellent opportunity for discussion in a topic either outside the box, combined with unanswered questions that don’t topple a premise are crucial for that all-important word-of-mouth sales crusade that keeps a book from being a fly-by-night gimmick.
 

Why I’m jealous: Ivey uses an experimental technique in the telling of her story. Minimal points of view are perfect: Jack and Mabel’s voices occasionally intersect but never parallel each other, and when the child is spoken of, to, heard, discussed, no dialog marks are used. This wondrous method works to convey the illusory nature of the child. Is she real? Is she there? Who can hear her? Are they really talking to her? It is Faina herself who slips and becomes real to the neighbors…as real as they let her be. It also serves the end of the story when cruelty, pain, despair, and resulting gentle joy are afforded the same consideration: is it real, is it true, will it stay forever, or am I dreaming?

 
Why I’m sad: Usually I’m sad because a book ends too soon. Usually it’s when I know there won’t be a follow up or a sequel and I want one. In this case, Ivey answers enough of the questions expertly, and leaves all the ones readers really want to know. It’s the perfect kind of book for discussion, but I know that in my eclectic book club, some will hate it. I hope I am surprised.  

 
Flashes of incidents, the picture I carry in my mind’s eye, a footstep, the sound of ice cracking…these are things more than names or detailed story arc that stay with me after the last page. I have not reached the point where I want to read the book again, but I will. The themes of friendship in unexpected places, hope, sorrow, death, and quiet peace are universal, but most real in Alaska in 1920 in The Snow Child.

 
What gift do you want to leave your reader?
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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Notation


NOTATION

 

 

What is man, that thou art

Mindful of him? Psalm 8:4

 

 

I am a single note, sounding but once

And not sustained, a transient passing tone

Too briefly audible for resonance,

One moment's quick vibration, quickly flown---

Not a suspension, bold to stand alone,

Alien and strange to the prevailing chord,

Subsiding into consonance, yet known

Distinct in selfhood---I have not explored

Some fresh key's flavor, nor can I afford

The thrusting dominant's drive to rest again   

Upon the keynote, certainty restored.

I'm one slight scratch from the Composer's pen,

   Yet by that scratch preserved forevermore,

   One part of His divine eternal score.

 

                   © 1995, Donn Taylor

 

 

 

 
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Monday, December 24, 2012

What an Influencer Does

It's Christmas Eve---do you know where your joy is?
We shouldn't make Christmas the season of gifts, but our joy reflects the season, yes? If you are a gift-giver who has yet to give, the Internet can help. Gift certificates to your giftee's favorite on line retailer is always a great plan, and readily accessible. What else can you do for your favorite authors or other business people that doesn't involve money? Here are a few examples. Please share your own as well.

There are book reviewers, there are promotion team members, there are posse and tribe members and cheerleaders for authors…but how does it work? What should they do for and with you to help you promote your work? Here are some examples; few of which you need to be a writer to do.
 

AN INFLUENCER WILL do many or all of these activities:

 
Recommend the book as club selection to your book club; visit the author's interviews and leave comments.
 

Mention the book when you visit online book club or chat sites.
 

Offer the author a guest spot on your blog or web site.
 

Regularly contribute to an online book review site, and online retailers to post a review.
 

Offer to write a book review for your local newspaper. Offer to write (or use one from the author) an article or press release.
 

Add the book to your list of favorites on social networking sites such as Facebook, Shoutlife, Author's Den, and Goodreads, and post about the book to your friends.
 

Ask your public library to order a copy of the book for their shelves. If your church has a library, ask the librarian to add it to the acquisitions list or offer to donate a copy.
 

When you shop at a bookstore see if they are carrying the book. If not, ask if they'll order a few copies.
 

If you belong to a writer's group with a newsletter, ask if you can contribute a book review or give some other plug.
 

Help create a buzz about the book by mentioning it in any groups you might belong to: small group studies, women's ministry groups, health club, MOPS, civic organizations, Scouts, PTA, etc.
 

Tell friends, family, other people in your social circles about the book and the author.
 

Hand out author cards, bookmarks, or other promotional materials.
 

 
Always remember: Word-of-mouth recommendation is still the number one reason book buyers buy specific books.

 

 
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Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Review: A Tincture of Murder


A Tincture of Murder (A Lord Danvers Mystery)
by Donna Fletcher Crow, Greenbrier Book Company
A Tincture of Murder (A Lord Danvers Mystery) (The Lord Danvers Mysteries)
 
Reviewed by Donn Taylor, author of Deadly Additive, The Lazarus File, Rhapsody in Red, etc.

In the mid-nineteenth century, a fire that destroys the east wing of their manor drives Lord Danvers and his wife Tonia to make a long-postponed visit to Danvers’ younger brother, Frederick, in York. Frederick has made a plea for Danvers’ help with an unspecified problem, and Danvers assumes the young clergyman has gotten into some kind of scrape. Far from that, though, the problem turns out to be Frederick’s asylum in the midst of York’s slums, where he and his staff provide meals and medical attention to expectant women of the streets. Frederick is worried about several suspicious deaths among his patients in which he suspects poisoning. One visit to the asylum leads Danvers and Tonia to serve there as volunteers, and another suspicious death leads Danvers to check the various tonics the attendants administer. His initial findings are inconclusive, but he perseveres.

Concurrently, Danvers and Tonia observe the historical trial of William Dove for poisoning his wife, and Tonia takes an interest in the placement of a slum family’s children in a school that is supposed to teach them letters and a trade. Her interest arouses her suspicions that the children are being mistreated—or worse.

Both investigations lead through a tangle of contradictory facts to a climactic discovery of true horrors.

Donna Fletcher Crow brings to this mystery detailed research into actual crimes of the nineteenth century and combines her Dickensian subject matter with a polished writing style reminiscent of Georgette Heyer. She effectively captures the speech and mannerisms of the period, and she never lapses into the modern attitudes and expressions that mar so many of today’s historical novels. The result is a delightful period-piece mystery that keeps the reader guessing until the final pages.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Writing Like There's No Tomorrow

Or: One Hundred Books Before I Die...

So, in a few short days - four, to be precise - we will finally learn what happens when we reach the end of the Mayan long count calendar. Personally, I suspect it will be something along the lines of Y2K. I'd intended to go to an "End of the World" party put on by some friends, but alas, it was cancelled due to health concerns. Bummer. They were gonna pass out tin-foil hats as party favors, and I was gonna wear a sandwich board sign. The front would say, "Repent Now!" and the back would say, "The End is Here!"

So much for that.

Regardless, knowing that we are facing the imminent demise of the world as we know it, I've been contemplating my list of projects of late, debating on what I want to accomplish before it all goes up in a puff of smoke. Or, before I die of extreme old age, which is likely to happen before the Mayan prophecy comes to fulfillment.

My conclusion: all of them. I don't want to leave a single story unwritten. It's strange, sometimes, knowing how many characters, conflicts, and series are crammed into my head. I've got entire worlds filed away up there, waiting for the light of day. This morning in the shower, I came up with another story. Like the others before it, the story is compelling, exciting, complex, and sure to be worthy of a screen play. And like so many others before it, it will have to take a number and wait in line.

Sigh.

There's only one way to write as many stories as I want to tell before I die. I must learn to write faster. I can't do much about the time I have available to write. I have 24 hours a day just like everyone else, and God, family, work, friends, church, and basic necessities (like sleep) all claim a chunk of my days. I can minimize distractions, turn off the television, quit playing solitaire and focus, but that's all I can really do. The formula for success in writing is very simple.
BIC = Finished Manuscript
The answer lies in self-discipline. I have a target word count goal I aim for every month. And I have to discipline myself to pursue that goal. Finishing means applying myself toward reaching that goal and surpassing it every day. And if I fail to hit it, then I have to catch up the next day. Stephen King was once asked by a reader how he wrote so many long books. He looked at the man and said, "One word at a time."
"Writing is manual labor of the mind: a job, like laying pipe." John Gregory Dunne
There are many times when writing is fun. I am inspired, and my fingers fly across the keys. The words pour out in a torrent of creativity. Sometimes I write so fast I leave out whole words I meant to include (that's what editing is for). Most times, though, I slog through the paragraphs, fighting for that one right word that best describes what happens next. And no, it isn't fun - these times. It's a job. It is labor. It is work.

The reward is twofold: a) seeing the book in print and knowing that people are buying it, reading it, and liking it, and b) knowing that one more world in my head has been committed to paper, and that I'm free to move on to another project. Someday, I'll get to that new story I thought up this morning.
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Monday, December 17, 2012

The 1918 Role Model (aka Edward Cullen) in Characterization

Our deepest apologies for a late post today. Linda Yezak and family could definitely use some jolly holiday Christmas cheer and prayers!


The 1918 Character Role Model


Hi, my name is Lisa and I’m hopelessly addicted to Too Good To Be True characters.


That would be, in my reading life. In my author life, I know that only international best-selling authors whose first novels hit the big time and are turned into mega-million-dollar movies can get away with stuff like that. Real writers must follow rules that say characters must stumble and get up again.


So, last spring I had a weekend looming with Not Much To Do. I happened to be at the library after my high-brow classic book club, which meets in the DVD section BTW, and saw that a couple of movies that had been getting a Lot of Attention were available for check out. I checked them out, being, an author who is, of course, ever on the hunt of Why Something Worked Really Well* for an author**, and why other Authors*** hate it (aka are Jealous****).

 
I totally groaned through the movies, then learned about borrowing books through the library for my eReader, so I (*) checked them out. And didn’t stop reading. I still haven’t, in case you’re interested, having discovered a way to cheat the system of having to return them, and not feeling one bit guilty, because…well…** can afford it, for *, and because I’m ****.


What * Learned.

People who indulge in their own and other’s pop reading habits leave snobbery to literary critics who think that only globally-shattering events are worthy of making Junior Lit’s immortal syllabus.

 
In other words, readers want Harry Potter, Edward Cullen, and Peeta Mellark. Characters who are challenged, focused, determined, and pure, having overcome an eensy little flaw. Someone I’d trust with my daughter.


The ** of Edward Cullen.

1918 wasn’t the quintessential year of glorified Americanism. It wasn’t even part of the Greatest Generation. It was an age of rising and comfortable middle class, growing affluence, and the coalescence of globalism that came out of the First World War. It was the first generation that began to grow away from the assumption that certain members of society needed to be protected, that honor and patriotism were more important than personal opinion, and that dignity was the natural order of civilization.

 
It was the year that Edward Masen died…and was created as Edward Cullen, a manchild newly loved unconditionally, but trapped forever between missing his mother and waiting a few more months to enlist in the army to fight in World War I. And here’s why the background of a character is so important. None of those facts are going to be part of the story, but they are essential to the makeup of the character; they are what guide his actions and reactions. Forward this manchild who’s grown in knowledge if not empathy for nearly a hundred years into a society of repellent mores, the opposite of what he believes right, and you have an admirable character struggling to maintain dignity and practice what he believes is right. It’s…attractive to readers. Being able to do right no matter the obstacle makes him too good to be true. But there’s enough multi-layered visionary conflict and travail to satisfy a leap off the page.


What about the others?
 
Harry Potter, a young boy growing to adulthood, was forced from infancy to constantly choose between dignity and despair. The Hunger Games just passed the Harry Potter series in sales. Peeta, the young man who is Katniss’s counterpart, is also a man of integrity and chose at a young age to risk personal safety to aid others in desperate straits.


By the time the Hunger Games came out, the *** had already gained acclaim for an earlier work. She didn’t suffer **** as did the other **s, who were debut authors with a formula.
 
The formula? Create a youthful, delicious, exceptionally well-mannered, perfected through trial character to root for, set up crazy odds but ensure victory, even if someone has to die and there’s blood. Oh, and it helps if there’s a rival for the girl.


Honestly, a story arc is never going to satisfy (sell) like the characters who ride it. It rarely matters where or when that goal-conflict-resolution business takes place as long as root-worthy 2G2BT characters rule.


For the record,
* like character-driven works to read. I will never understand the attraction of
 ***F Scott Fitzgerald or ***Irving Wallace, have read all of Bleak House in a week, think
***Anne McCaffrey could have taught me to knit and
will die believing that Dandelion Wine is the best American literary work of the 20th century.
 
 * been married a lot longer than I haven’t—to the same guy—and raised two perfect sons who turned out way better than I will ever be.
 
No daughters. But if I had one, she could date Edward.
 
*I
**other Authors
***My hero authors
****dying a fate worse than death
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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

When Write What You Know is Who You Are: Confessions of a Hermaphrodite


Writing Who You Are

 
So much more than “writing what you know,” author Lianne Simon has taken that little piece of advice and turned it on its ear. Welcome, Lianne Simon, author of Confessions of a Teenaged Hermaphrodite, to Author Culture.

 
Thank you, Lisa. My pleasure.
 

Share what you can about yourself and your journey to publication.

I was born in a small town in the Midwest, outside of Chicago. My father was a dairy farmer turned engineer, my mother a nurse. “You’re going to college,” were the first words they spoke to me. Whenever I asked my parents a question, they handed me another book. My mother grounded me in the love of reading before sending me off to kindergarten.
 

Although I didn’t like Language Arts in school, and didn’t take English Composition or Creative Writing classes in college, my love for reading continued to grow.
 

Much, much later the writing muse blindsided me. For a number of years my husband and I had visited Phoenix every summer. One year we decided to spend our last day there driving out the Apache Trail to Tortilla Flat. My father and brother had both died earlier that year, and I was caught up in a period of melancholy. I hardly knew my older brother—that’s how I felt anyway. And, as much a I had longed for it, Dad and I hadn’t been close. I could never quite meet his expectations.
 

The Apache Trail is beautiful, but deadly in its heat. It’s the sort of tour that’s lovely from the inside of an air conditioned vehicle. Anyway, we had lunch at Tortilla Flat, turned around, and drove back to the hotel. Depression enfolded me as I went to sleep.

 
I woke with a desperate need to write. The love of software design that had propelled me through a long career fled during the night and never returned. My heart was set on telling people about the kids I loved—those faie children born outside the ordinary boundaries of male and female.
 

The Atlanta Writers’ Club online critique group remained positive through endless revisions of a manuscript that I eventually scrapped. One hundred thousand words taught me who my characters were, but also told me the plot didn’t work. Manuscript on the shelf for a time, I read books like Hooked, and Story, hoping to learn something more of the craft.
 

My second draft was much improved, but still lacking in emotional depth. Almost as an afterthought, certainly as a creative writing exercise, I wrote a prologue—Jamie’s fifth birthday party—her life still full of innocence and imagination. The scene flowed out in about ten minutes—the first time writing had seemed natural for me. And based on it, my editor suggested I rewrite the entire story in first person and share more from the heart. Make the story my own. That’s what it would take to capture the emotional depth required. That advice, and some excellent critique partners, carried me through drafts three, four, and five.
 

Meanwhile, query letters seemed pointless. Agents didn’t quite laugh in my face, but they did tell me no Christian publisher would touch my novel no matter how well written it was. Several face-to-face meetings with agents convinced me that finding any agent open to the subject material would be problematic. So I concentrated on sending queries directly to small publishers. Of the three offers I received, I accepted the one from MuseItUp Publishing. They’re a small Canadian press with an excellent reputation and a progressive attitude. They’ve surpassed my expectations.

 

You call yourself a homemaker turned writer. I suspect there’s much, much more to the story. Tell us what you want to about how Confessions of a Teenaged Hermaphrodite came to be, and what you hope to gain from telling Jamie’s (your protagonist) story.
 
One of the agents I met with suggested rewriting Confessions as memoir. I pointed out that it was fiction, but that didn’t seem to matter. An author who read part of the manuscript asked me if I was prepared for people to think the story was about me. I’m still unsure how I should feel about that. I can understand why Jamie would go into denial about her condition. It’s too alien for our culture. And given the difficulties in finding a publisher, I’m not sure how well a query letter would have gone over had I opened it “Good morning. I’m a hermaphrodite.” It’s too outrĂ©, even for me, though I have friends who are faie.
 

Homemaker, wife, pilot, scrum master, volleyball player, Christian—those are handles I know. And yes, to write this story I had to own faie as well. I’m hoping that one day, because of books like mine, kids like Jamie won’t be considered freaks—just a bit enchanted.

 

You did research and interviews. How did you approach prospective interviewees on such a sensitive subject?

Fortunately, I already had a number of acquaintances who had grown up with a difference of sex development, including a few who had changed their gender on their legal documents. When I decided to write a novel with an intersex main character, I approached several to see what they thought important to include in such a tale. Peggy, a friend with Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, who had changed her legal status to female as a young adult, emphasized the fact that as a child no one had explained her options to her—that she could switch to living as a girl—that she should have been raised as a one in the first place—that it wasn’t too late.

 

Introduce us to Jamie, your heroine, and her world.

Jameson Isaiah Kirkpatrick—golden hair in wild disarray, emerald eyes alive with imagination, cute little mouth, ten thousand freckles playing tag across a pretty elfin face—the child was tiny for his age, and often mistaken for the twin of his younger sister Alicia. He nine, she six—their laughter echoed through the small bungalow where they shared a bedroom. Their cousin Kaylah—a sixteen-year-old and nanny to them—treated them both like little princesses. Only Mom and Dad thought Jamie a boy’s name.


At sixteen, the four-foot-eleven soprano left home school for a boys’ dorm at college. To become the man his parents expected, Jameson had to leave behind the hopes and dreams of a little girl. He could be a boy after minor surgery and a few years on testosterone. At least that’s what his parents always said. But then a medical student told Jamie he should have been raised female. Childhood memories stirred and Jamie began a perilous journey to adulthood.

 

What parts of Jamie’s story trouble you, the author, the most?

What troubled me the most was how much of the emotional pain was based on the real experiences of children like Jamie. So much of what she suffered could have been avoided had she and her parents and the doctors talked to each other in complete honesty. At the center of standard treatment protocols for intersex children was the commandment that all doubts about gender be removed as soon as possible. The genitals must be made to conform to male or female norms. The parents and caregivers were allowed no doubt regarding the choice of gender. Changing gender-of-rearing was viewed as more and more problematic as the child aged. Jamie’s parents loved her, but their options were limited by their situation. And Jamie bore the cost of it all, without understanding her own body, her options, or the reason she had to be a boy.

 

What was the hardest thing for Jamie to handle?

That her parents’ lies had stolen her childhood. Had she known more about her body—had she known her options, she might have insisted on being a girl sooner, instead of trying to please her parents.

 

How about the difficulties of the different people who lived in Jamie’s world, from her family who supported her, her family who wanted what they considered best, to those who truly loved her?

Jamie’s father never understood how to relate to his faie child. The games he had played with his oldest son only injured the young Jamie. The child didn’t seem capable of something as simple as catching a ball. Jamie was a gentle child, feminine and a bit timid, but the doctors had insisted that treating Jamie like a daughter would result in lifelong gender identity issues. The sadness in his eyes—the sorrow that hurt Jamie so, flowed out of his failure to help his child learn to be a boy.
 

Jamie’s mother watched, helpless, as Jamie was forced to return to living as a boy. She knew the smiles were for her benefit, that her daughter wore a boy mask. But she could only bide her time until there was an opportunity to set things right. And she had to scheme and deceive to do so.
 

Jamie’s cousin Kaylah was the first to realize Jameson’s true gender. She nurtured the child as though she were her own, encouraging Jamie’s fantasy of being an elfin princess. But her heart was torn out when the Kirkpatrick’s moved away and Jameson returned to living as a boy. When the girl Jamie reappeared years later, having survived being confined to a mental dungeon, the mother within her awoke again, and the memory of pain with it.

 

Did you have a goal in mind when you set out to write Confessions of a Teenaged Hermaphrodite?

Yes. I hoped to raise awareness, especially among Christians, of kids like Jamie.

 

You’re a Christian. Can you share some of the struggles you’ve encountered as a person of faith living this story? One of the most heartless parts of Jamie’s story was her encounter with the pastor who demanded she follow her father’s will. How can readers relate to this tragedy?
 

One of the things that troubled me when I took Biblical counseling classes was how easy some of the answers seemed—use the appropriate Bible verses and confront a person’s sin. While correct in theory, life’s not that simple. The problem isn’t the Bible, though. It’s the counselors who incorrectly apply it. This is especially problematic in cases involving gender. God created male and female and pronounced that good. That’s true. But if you run with that, you’re denying the biological consequences of sin. A counselor, refusing the reality of Jamie’s condition, cannot come to a proper Biblical understanding—cannot help the child.

 

I think, rather, of the story of the man born blind. The disciples asked Jesus who sinned—the parents or the blind man. Jesus replied that neither was at the heart of the issue. The man’s blindness existed so that God might be glorified. Then Jesus healed the man. Why cannot we use a similar approach?
 

Jamie’s behavior, when taken in the context of her body and spirit, wasn’t sin at all. Her sin was that she was focused on her gender to the exclusion of all else. What she needed was to be away from everyone else’s expectations long enough to find out how to glorify God with the body and gender He had given her.

 

You mention that you worked with a support group. How would joining a support group help someone like Jamie?
 
Yes. And I still belong to one.
 

Having a rare condition can make one feel like a freak and very much alone in the world. Especially when it results in sex differences. I have seen girls break down in tears after meeting someone else with the same condition. “They’re not a freak. Maybe I’m not either,” is not an uncommon reaction.
 

Doctors don’t become experts on disorders they never see in their practices. A support group gives a patient the opportunity to talk over treatment options with other patients and with doctors who are experts on these rare conditions.
 

There is also something about wandering through a large hotel and knowing that most of the women have medical conditions that, in the 1970s, would have been called hermaphroditism. These women, total strangers, can share intimate details of their lives that they’d never consider telling their friends or the people in their churches. They know they’ll be accepted because they share something so deep.

 

If we know someone we suspect is like Jamie, do you suggest approaching the person to offer support or friendship? How should we handle this?
 

Just be there for them. Jamie’s true friends accepted her without asking a lot of questions. Jamie opened up when she was ready. And they supported her. The other thing to consider is that most of the people you meet who are struggling with gender issues aren’t intersex.

 

What do you want readers to know and do when they’ve read your story?
 
First of all, I hope they enjoyed my novel well enough to want to re-read it someday, or perhaps loan it to a friend. I hope they were blessed by it. And perhaps someday they’ll help a faie child who crosses their path.

 

Can you share what’s next for you in the publishing world?
 
Every few weeks you may notice a wistful look in my eyes. There’s a fantasy novel—partly on paper—waiting to be finished. It’s set on an island in the southwest of Scotland, after germ warfare has wiped out the population, leaving only a few newborn survivors—The Fair Folk.
 
 
For more information, visit:
AndrogenInsensitivity Syndrome (AIS) society for more information. AIS is one of a number of biological intersex conditions. Intersex results from a variation in the embryological development of the reproductive tract, often determined by a known genetic mutation.
Connect with Lianne
Lianne and her husband live in the suburbs outside Atlanta, where she writes, tutors, and performs volunteer work.
 
About the Book:
Confessions of a Teenaged Hermaphrodite 
By Lianne Simon
c. 2012
MuseItUp Publishing
ISBN 978-1-77127-157-8
eBook 5.95
pBook 9.95
 
 
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Monday, December 10, 2012

The Legacy of Family

(Note from Elaine: So happy to be a part of Author Culture and looking forward to getting to know everyone here. As you will discern from my post today, I am all about family and fiction filled with history and faith. You can also now tell that I love alliteration. ;-) Thanks for allowing me to join Author Culture!) 




It was a simple excerpt from my family’s genealogy book that grabbed my attention: “Mr. Prince at fifteen years of age entered the Armory at Springfield, Mass., as an apprentice, and worked his way up to the position of inspector.”

The Armory at Springfield? What is that? 

Thus began my journey to uncover part of my family’s history that eventually unfolded to become my novel, The Legacy of Deer Run.

I knew from childhood that one of my ancestors (Daniel Prince) had been a British soldier (the enemy!) during the American Revolution. But instead of conquering the Patriot insurgents, his heart was conquered by a young colonial farmwoman named Mary. He stayed and became an American. I based my first novel, The Road to Deer Run, on their story.

Mary gave birth to twin sons in 1784 and that’s where the Mr. Prince, the Armory worker, came to my attention in the above-mentioned genealogy book. That Mr. Prince (one of the twins) was also named Daniel (Jr.) and his story is the romantic tale depicted in my recent release, The Legacy of Deer Run.

Researching the details for this book was a labor of love. It was also hard work!

Now living in the Midwest, I had to travel back to Massachusetts (my home state) for a week in the fall of 2011 and gather such facts as how muskets were made at the Armory. This is not information readily available online! The historian, Richard Colton, was most helpful in answering all my detailed questions. He patiently showed me drawings, maps, and other details that filled in the story to bring it to life for my readers.

As I gathered the facts, the fictional story began to take root in my author’s mind. I was ready to write the story of my third great-grandfather, Daniel Prince, Jr.

I think the highlight of researching this family history has been sharing it with my mom. Her name was Lucy Prince and she carried the name from generations before. But her own family story was lost to her when her birth father died in a tragic work-related accident. Her mother re-married and, unfortunately, never spoke to my mom about her birth father.

Uncovering this family history for my mom was like handing her a gift—a piece of her lost heritage. That is one of those gifts you can never put a price on.

The framed picture in the photo is of the Prince twins, Daniel and James, when they were in their 80’s. Although they look quite stern, a clipping in the Springfield newspaper—for they were quite famous as the oldest twins in America—describes them at the photo shoot as acting like boys! They both lived to be in their 90’s.

Their great-grand daughter, Lucy, apparently takes after them. She is 98. ☺


(There will be a book giveaway for my novel, The Legacy of Deer Run. I will draw one name from those that comment. Please leave your e-mail addy.)
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Friday, December 7, 2012

Book Review: It Really IS a Wonderful Life

(Note from Elaine Marie Cooper) I have admired Linda Wood Rondeau, not only as a creative writer, but as a wonderful lady who reaches out to help new wordsmiths along the precarious road of literary art. It is my honor and privilege to review her latest novel, It Really IS a Wonderful Life, just released through Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Here is my review: 




Dorie Fitzgerald’s life is a whirlwind of grief, and there seems to be no end to the downpour of discouragement. Widowed a year ago when her husband was killed at war, Dorie not only has to cope with his loss, but has moved back to small town Midville where the only thing deeper than the snow is her troubles. Raising two youngsters on her own is the frosting on her fear of failure.

The young widow is determined to stay in this Adirondack community where her parents live. But after four months of living in the frozen small town without finding work, she is feeling hopeless.

A small blurb in the local paper, however, draws her attention: The Midville players are putting out a casting call for their upcoming production of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Perhaps circulating with new townsfolk would open up opportunities for employment, Dorie hopes. Little does she know the real drama that will ensue.

This romantic story is so rich with believable dialogue, family dynamics, and interesting characters, that I was quickly drawn into the appealing tale of the young woman who struggles to survive in a new life not of her choosing. Dorie was such a sympathetic and appealing character who, more than once, brought me to tears.

Author Linda Rondeau’s prose was so descriptive: “…pretense fouling the air like over-sprayed perfume;” “the frigid air biting like a hundred mosquitoes:” and my favorite line of all, “Perhaps that’s where trust was born, in the belly of the storm.” Rondeau’s words draw you in like the smell of cider on a chilly afternoon. Lovely.

I highly recommend this romantic novel at Christmastime, or any time of year.



Author Bio: Winner of the 2012 Selah Award for best first novel (The Other Side of Darkness/Harbourlight), LINDA RONDEAU, writes stories of redemption and God’s mercies. Walk with her unforgettable characters as they journey paths not unlike our own. After a long career in human services, mother of three and wife of one very patient man, Linda now resides in Florida where she is active in her church and community. 

Readers may visit her web site at www.lindarondeau.com. Her second book, written under L.W. Rondeau, America II: The Reformation, Trestle Press, the first in a dystopian trilogy, is a futuristic political now available in ebook on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Also with Trestle Press is her serial story, Rains of Terror which can be found on Amazon.Com. A Christmas Adirondack romance, It Really IS a Wonderful Life, is now available through Amazon.com, published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Discipline of Writing

  "Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work."
~Stephen King

Writing is like exercise; you don't get up one morning, decide to run a 10k, lace up the shoes and trot out the door. Both take discipline and time. How can we fit writing into our busy schedules? Wrong question. The question should be how do we fit our busy schedule around writing.
Debbie Macomber (who has sold over 140 million books worldwide) started writing with a rented typewriter while raising four young kids. I remember reading Stephen King's book, 'On Writing' where he described struggling to get to his desk to write while rehabilitating from an auto accident. The man had to write.
I believe in the discipline of Write Every Day. Determine your schedule and where writing can fit, and make it work. First thing in the morning? Set the alarm and get up. If the family pulls you from the keyboard, make a rule: When the coffee cup is on the corner of the desk, don't bother Mom unless the house is on fire. 
For me, I blog every day and guest blog on sites like this. During my Adventure (my wife and I are currently traveling 50 states in 50 weeks on a motorcycle) I'm writing 50 short stories, one for each state. I'm also writing the non-fiction book to document the Adventure, and a few novels. We ride until around four, get settled in and I write. If I can't sleep, I get up and write. 
Since we're traveling, I use an iPad (a challenge in itself) and what I've learned is I can write anywhere; in the tent, a motel, or even post a blog at the airport after hurricane Sandy, waiting for a shuttle. 


You could possibly write and if you get stuck, switch to another project. Just don't let the one tome languish.
Now a Rant: I personally think NaNOWriMo is a recipe for failure. Once a year in November, people punch out fifty thousand words. It probably works for many, but I've seen Facebook posts where people get behind and they need to crank it, caught up in the word count. This reminds me of when a few of us work out at the gym in December. By January we can't get to a machine for the masses working off the 'eating season.' Then they wonder why they struggle with their weight. 
Quality writing takes discipline and time. My friend Maxwell Drake has written since High School and got published- with his sixth book. It may be a lot of writing between your first words and when you write your name on the back of that royalty check. So, fanny in the chair, fingers on the keys. 
Still can't find time to write? Do you watch television? 



  
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Monday, December 3, 2012

Resource Roundup: Word Geek Sites to Bookmark

Fellow word geeks: I admit I am not the best person to ask about adverbial phrases and colon- or semi- colon--oscopies, never mind why snotty literary freaks seem to hate adjectives and purple prose; however, I think we can all agree that there are many ways to color your worlds. Vocabulary. Scenes. Dialogues.

I offer these few sites I've come across to help when I want to figure out why my editor refused to accept liminal, plangeant, or chaffering. I mean, seriously, the otiose, vertinginous exercise must have simply left her a scintilla of doubt in my quotidian scene. She was obviously perjorative regarding serious authors who keep an accretitive word diary and parse with great hubris for the perfect putative vocabulary.

How many ways can a person gaze at another?

For help--see these web sites.


Resource Round-up

 

At a loss to spell that noise? Check Sounds: http://www.writtensound.com/index.php
 

Breaks down any word into case, type, and synonyms: http://www.visuwords.com
 

Thesaurus at your keyboard: http://thesaurus.reference.com/
 

NonverbalDictionary http://collection-of-dictionaries.blogspot.com/2008/07/download-nonverbal-dictionary-of.html- this is a 781 page pdf file that provides gestures, signs, and body language - a must for any fiction writer.
 

Online Etymology Dictionary - provides historical meaning and sounds of words. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php
 

A very cool site that offers meanings, synonyms and antonyms, translations and pronunciations: Word hippo – http://www.wordhippo.com
 

AlphaDictionary -http://www.alphadictionary.com/index.shtml provides access to a variety of different dictionaries and articles on words and word usage – 1,065, at latest count.
 

http://www.Reference.com will give you all kinds of cool info just by typing in a word, beyond definitions: taxonomy, resources, usage, other resources on the web, and so forth.
 
Do you have others you use on a regular to share? Please - Do So!
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Friday, November 30, 2012

Fab Fun Friday: We Write to Avoid Oblivion -Faulkner


In the end, Writers Simply Cannot Help Themselves!


Why would you want to even do this writing thing…?

Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to be a writer – and if so, why?
– Bennett Cerf


Writing is hard work and bad for the health. - E B White


Because:

The original writer is not he who refrains from imitating others, but he who can be imitated by none. – Francois Rene de Chateaubriand


I was always a bit reluctant with anything like fame and the limelight and it didn't sit very well with me, although I love singing and writing. - Alex Parks


Writing a book is not as tough as it is to haul thirty-five people around the country and sweat like a horse five nights a week. - Bette Midler

 

How…

All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. – Red Smith


I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit. – P.G. Wodehouse


You can be a little ungrammatical if you come from the right part of the country.
Robert Frost


He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.
William Faulkner


In the writing of books, as all the world knows, two things are above all other things essential - the one is to know exactly when and where to leave off, and the other to be equally certain when and where to begin. - Jeffrey Farnol
 

My brother-in-law wrote an unusual murder story. The victim got killed by a man from another book. - Robert Sylvester

 

So that...

 
[The writer] knows he has a short span of life; that the day will come when he must pass through the wall of oblivion, and he wants to leave a scratch on that wall – Kilroy was here – that somebody a hundred, or a thousand years later will see.
William Faulkner
 

Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals. - Don DeLillo
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tax Deductions for Authors--Updated



Granted, it's a bit early to be thinking about IRS and taxes and various other non-Christmasy things--five months too early, in fact--but just in case you're going to need all that time to dig up receipts, I figured being a little early couldn't hurt. 

Earlier in AC's history, author/accountant Pamela Thibodeaux wrote a post for us about what kinds of things we authors can use as deductions on our tax returns. Now she's back with an updated version. So, even though this is early, bookmark it and make use of it whenever you're ready.

Now, from Pam~~~

Writing is more than creating the "great American novel"; writing is a business and a business requires record keeping and tax preparation. Many have already begun gathering information and getting things in order. Most will wait until the last minute then will be in a panic. Don’t be one of them, BE PREPARED!

IRS rules state that you can claim a loss for business expenses
 even if you’re unpublished as long as you can “prove you are actively pursuing a career in writing” and as long as the expenses are considered “necessary business expenses.” (IRS pub. 535)

Most writers will use a
Schedule C or Profit and Loss statement to file their business tax. This form is found in your 1040 forms and instructions book or from your local IRS office. You can file a 1040 form with a Schedule C and still take standard deductions in lieu of itemizing. Use your social security number and your name unless writing under a pseudonym then it’s your name DBA (your pseudonym). The “Principal Business or Professional Activity Code” (711510) is listed in your 1040 book under the Performing Arts section.

How do you prove you’re “actively pursuing a career in writing” and what are “necessary business expenses”?
 Here are a few examples:

1). Send letters to agents, editors, publishers. Postage is deductible as well as return postage on your SASE. Do this via email? Print out a copy of your email query and their response.

2). Office supplies (paper, ink, envelopes, business cards, etc.) are valid expenditures. If you have an office set up in your home you may be able to claim a portion of your rent or house note and utility bills for the use of this room. Also,
long distance phone calls that are writing related are deductible as well as Internet service fees if you’re using the Internet to develop your craft and/or promote yourself and your work. Postage and/or shipping fees for books sent to wholesalers, retailers, readers, reviewers, etc. are necessary business expenses.

3). Membership dues, conference fees, hotel expenses, gas mileage and meals are all deductible expenses even for unpublished writers. Mileage (round trip) to meetings, speaking engagements, book signings, conferences, etc.
*for 2012 55.5 cents per mile - changes annually. Map quest the directions and mileage to business activities (meetings, speaking engagements, etc.) for records. Keeping a calendar also helps to provide proof of your activities should you be audited. (IRS Publication 463)

4). Fees related to the creation, development and maintenance of your website are tax deductible.

5). Professional fees and services (CPA, Tax Consultant, professional evaluation or critique, attorney fees, etc)

How do you keep track of all those expenses?


Spreadsheets and receipts. Keep receipts in a standard manila envelope or organized by category in a pocket sized file folder. Spreadsheets are easy to set up and easy to maintain. Most programs like Windows come with a standard spreadsheet application. One column (or page) for Income and one for Expenses. What about all those formulas? Simple. Most spreadsheets have an Auto Sum (
) feature for the addition of a column or you can manually do this by using the formula =sum(cell+cell) or =sum(cell:cell) for a range of cells. Need to subtract, divide or multiply? Formula would be: =Sum(cell*cell) to multiply; =sum(cell/cell) to divide; and =sum(cell-cell) to subtract.

Additional items that can be written off as expenses for published writers:


Promotional expenses (brochures, flyers, press kits, press releases, etc.)

Advertising is also deductible but separately

COGS: What does your book cost you including shipping – figure on a per book basis and deduct from your gross receipts to figure gross profit for the year. If you include an expense in the cost of goods sold, you cannot deduct it again as a business expense. Be careful with inventory because in some cases you’ll actually pay inventory tax. This is something you want to research or consult a tax professional about.

Set up costs, cover art, and the charge for producing (or buying) your self/ E-published books. Occupational or Resale License fees are also deductible.

Self Employed Health Insurance

Charitable Donations to NP – Do you tithe off of your income separately? (IRS Publication 526)

Education Expenses – are you working toward a degree to benefit your writing? (IRS Publication 970)

Other miscellaneous expenses (IRS Publication 529)

Trademark/Copyright fees (copyright your book or trademark your tagline?)

Subscriptions to professional, technical and trade journals (Writers Magazines)

Books, professional equipment, etc. (Writers Market Guide or books bought for research; Computer, printer, etc – this can be done on a one-time basis (full expense) or depreciation *see a tax professional*)




Remember, if it falls under “Necessary Business Expense” it is deductible!

Worried about being audited? Don’t. Be careful and be honest.

One more note; IRS suggests that you keep all tax records for a minimum of seven but up to ten years. Remember, tax laws change yearly. For more information visit the IRS website at
 http://www.irs.gov/, or call them toll free at: 800-829-3676 and request IRS Publications such as # 334 (Tax Guide for Small Businesses and Individuals who use Schedule C or C-EZ), #535 (Business Expense –this guide tells you what you can and CANNOT deduct), and #552 (Record keeping for Individuals).

For more information on deductions available to you, check out: Tax Tips for Freelance Writers, Photographers and Artists by Julian Block. Julian Block is a nationally recognized attorney who has been singled out by the New York Times as a "leading tax professional" and by the Wall Street Journal as "an accomplished writer on taxes." E-mail him at julianblock@yahoo.com or telephone (914) 834-3227. His address is 3 Washington Square, #1-G, Larchmont, NY 10538-2032. Website:
http://www.julianblocktaxexpert.com/

© 2003 Variations of this article have appeared in print and e-publications. Updated November 2012.

Author Bio: Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux has been a bookkeeper for over twenty years. She is the co-founder and a member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana and the CEO of The Wordsmith Journal Magazine. Pam’s writing has been tagged as “Inspirational with an Edge!” and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”

**Links**
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