Archive for August, 2012


August 31, 2012

When I sent my fall schedule of book-related events around to my writers’ critique group, I got a message back from one member that startled me.

(This member wrote three novels while an active member of our group, but stopped coming several months ago. Reasons?  That’s another blog.)

He wrote:  “When I see this, I’m almost glad my books haven’t sold.”

That gave me something to think about.  Was it, indeed, too much?

Here’s a partial schedule of recent August and future Sept. and Oct. events planned in celebration of the release of my latest novel, A FAIR TO DIE FOR.  (The fair in question is a fall craft fair, so the timing is natural.)

Friday, August 17, Book signing, all day at T. Charleston’s in Branson, MO and same  Saturday, August 18, at Ozarks Writers League,  College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, MO.

Saturday, August 25, Trolley Line Books during the Frisco Festival in Rogers, AR.  Signing all day in the Trolley Line window.

Friday, Saturday and Monday, August 31-Sept. 3  Harps Food Market in Rogers, AR (The sanctuary store in A FAIR TO DIE FOR).  All day.

Friday-Saturday, Sept. 7-8. Price Cutter Grocery, Rogers, AR.  All day.

Sunday, September 16, Nightbird Books in Fayetteville, AR. Mini craft fair being held in the store in celebration of A FAIR TO DIE FOR. Book sales and chat.  1-4.

Saturday, September 29, War Eagle Mill at 1105 War Eagle Road off Highway 12, east of Rogers, AR.  (Some of the action in A FAIR TO DIE FOR takes place in the Mill and surrounding area.)  Schedule not complete yet.

Saturday, October 6, Signing at Steve’s Books and Magazines, 2613 S. Harvard, Tulsa, OK. 1-3 p.m.

Sunday, October 7, Fall Festival in Hobbs State Park, 20201 East Highway 12, east of Rogers, AR.  Signing and reading a bit of the story set in this park. 1-4

Sunday, October 14, Rogers Public Library, Rogers, AR. Book signing, craft chat, and display of Radine’s hand-crafted doll house. 2-3.

Thursday, October 18 – Sunday, October 21. War Eagle Craft Fair, 11036 High Sky Inn Road, Hindsville, AR.  All day book signing in a Fair staff booth.


I admit the schedule does look full, and I am sure I will be grateful for “in between” times to catch up on work at home and in my office, but, when I read the e-mail quoted at the beginning of this I realized I was looking forward to all of these events.

How could that be, when I grew up a shy, introverted female who was almost physically ill when she had to get up and speak in class?  Speak in public?  EEEK, no way.   And how could that be when my at home and office schedule was also jammed to the fourteen-hour work day limit?  Well, let’s see . . . .

I began my writing career when I was certainly a mature adult, and it started almost entirely because I fell in love with the Arkansas Ozarks.  I was born in a large city, and, except for a short time away at college, spent my entire life there. I married there, and my husband and I lived there happily for over 20 years. Then we began yearning for a life away from concrete and lined-up buildings.  We searched for, and found our sanctuary in an Ozarks forest.  Ten years after purchasing our land (in 1978) we moved there full-time, and became “poor hillbillies.”  We loved it.

I wanted to share my place with others who would never see it, so I began writing about life there.  My essays and articles telling about the people, animals, and events in and around Spring Hollow went out to the world, and, in a few cases, all around the world.  Some of these became a book (DEAR EARTH, a Love Letter from Spring Hollow) and, eventually, a series of mystery novels set at wonderful Arkansas tourist destinations.

What I wrote about, I was willing to talk about.  I also found I enjoyed talking about writing.  So–because of Arkansas, because of Spring Hollow, and what followed, I will enjoy my fall schedule.

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BARE BONES — OR THE FLESH (A warning rant)

August 24, 2012

Recently I’ve read samples of work by beginning authors who have asked me to critique their writing.  Usually what I see are the beginning chapters in a novel.  In all cases (yes, all) I found the bare bones of the stories acceptable.  These writers knew their genre, they had created plausible characters, the story theme made sense.  Good, strong bones.
But as to the flesh . . . .

In one story the writer opened by telling me it was a warm and sunny day.  By re-writing he could show me what the day was like, even should he want to give me a weather report in the opening paragraph.  (In the sample I read, I couldn’t see how the warm and sunny day had anything to do with the story.  Maybe later?)

Reading on in paragraph one, I soon learned the main character was far from wealthy. (His old car motor coughed and sputtered, rocking the car, when he tried to turn it off–a good description that told the reader a lot.)  Continuing,  I discovered  some of the language assigned to this man sounded quite “upper crust” if you understand my term.  Dictionary words.  Hmmm. Was there a reason for this?  Whether there was or not, I noticed that the speech of the man didn’t fit the image I was forming of him.  I guess you could say  some of the story’s flesh was sagging.

Writing blips like these can be corrected, especially with the help of a critique group and then, an editor.   Trouble is, many writers don’t know there are problems, or won’t acknowledge them.  I doubt if they have even read their work aloud, one great way to catch blips.  I also suspect that “second readers,” if they existed, were friends and relatives.  Trouble with that? Quite often our friends and family like/love us a lot, and that very liking erases any problems they might otherwise notice in what they were reading, just as our own pleasure in our work erases problems we might otherwise see.  Yes, the mind plays tricks on us.

On the other hand, if friends do notice problems they often won’t mention them because of love.  Maybe that’s best.  It’s  much easier to take even the most constructive criticism from strangers rather than friends.  (Who wants to ruin a friendship?)  Solution?  Hire an editor.

I haven’t yet downloaded one of the free or 99 cent novels being offered for e-readers, but I have heard from others that such books, often put on Amazon or Barnes & Noble by self-publishing authors, are sometimes badly written and in need of editing.

I have no quarrel with those eager to offer their books to readers.  All writers feel that urge (or dream that dream).  But those who do so without editing are, as slang has it, “shooting themselves in the foot.”   Having struggled to read a badly-fleshed story, how likely would you be to try that author again?

Readers are a precious commodity.  All writers–me, you, the members of your critique group, the people we meet at conferences–need to value them as such, and be sure our work is worthy of their interest and trust.  We must give them more than bare bones.


August 16, 2012

One of my favorite authors is Charlotte Macleod, (now deceased), and my favorite books by Macleod are those in the Professor Peter Shandy series.  Peter is “professor of Agrology at Balaclava Agricultural College and co-developer with Timothy Ames of Brassica napobrassica balaclaviensis, that super rutabaga which has brought fame to the college and wealth to its propagators.”  (Do you begin to get the idea that, at times, this author can be, not only funny, but hilarious, with some of her “funnies” not (in my eyes, at least) appropriate for quoting in this family-oriented blog?)

As the Mcleod novel, WRACK AND RUNE, opens, Peter’s new wife, Helen, is planting petunias along the walkway to their home. (These petunias, upon request from Helen, were specially bred by Peter so their color would match the brick color of the house.)  It’s June, and they are discussing the weather:  “And what is so rare as a day in June,” quotes Helen.  (James Russell Lowell.)  “A drink on the house in a Scotch saloon,” says Peter.  (Fred Allen.)

Other than the distracting fact my Scottish Mother-in-law would have bopped Fred for saying “Scotch” (a drink) when he meant “Scottish,” this got me smoothly into thinking about weather in books.   And, in life.

I guess everyone here knows about current weather patterns, not only in the world, but here in the United States.  For some time USA citizens have read about drought and famine in countries that  seemed far from our borders.  We probably felt sympathy, but perhaps not empathy.  And now empathy has hit us in the chops.  Right?  It sometimes as if nothing teaches us compassion and care for others as much as a disaster close to home.  I think of this as I look at brown pastures, and at forests with an increasing number of brown/tan trees among the fading greens.

We are really feeling the weather these days.  100-degree plus days.  Drought.  Pastures empty of cattle.  And on and on . . . .   A friend commented that she was busy watering gardens and shrubs.  We have few Nehring-planted shrubs in Spring Hollow, and, at this point, no remaining garden other than a few brave asparagus fronds still showing green here in our small clearing in the Ozarks forest.  “Well,” I said to my friend, “we aren’t watering much.  After all, you can’t water a whole forest.”

Turning away from what’s outside our doors, maybe we’ll now have time to read.  And what would YOU rather read in this kind of weather?  How about:  “Summer in Benteen County, Kansas, is a season possessed of all the gentle subtlety of an act of war.”  Those are the opening lines of MAD DOG AND ENGLISHMAN by J. M. Hayes.  The first page is guaranteed to make the daintiest female sweat.  (No, not “glow” as someone suggested as a more gentile word for sweat.)

On the other hand, would you rather read about Jim Qwilleran falling into a snowdrift in Pickax (north of everywhere) in a novel by Lillian Jackson Braun, or one of Wm. Kent Krueger’s novels that opens with a white-out blizzard?  (Go get an afghan for me, please,  I’m reading.)

Interesting to notice how skillfully many authors use weather to take us into their stories, introduce us to the coming danger, and have us shaking with cold (fear?) or sweating nervously as we pull the blinds.

Note to me:  Gosh, I must have more weather in my future novels!)

Can you think of novels where weather plays a huge part–where it helped you feel the plot?   Come to think of it, tell us especially about the cold weather ones!

A “glowing” Radine.






August 9, 2012

You said:  “Write well?   Me, I’m not all that interested in learning to write well. Don’t need to know fancy words.   Oh, wait a mo, got a message.”

cm 7, par-t brendas.”

While you might be excited about the seven o’clock party at Brenda’s, how do you feel about the words in the invitation?

Oh, you didn’t notice anything about them?

Hm, no wonder.  There are no words there except for Brenda’s name.

I suspect many think they don’t need good writing skills for communication today.   What do you think?

Guess it depends on your activities and life interests. It also depends on how well you listen to words that go across the screen of your mind.   Do they sing?  Jerk?  Rumble?  Do they show you things you haven’t imagined before, or state a fact and walk off the stage, leaving you in silence?

Well, how about words used in  political speeches?  (Okay, shudder, but, talk about clever use of words . . . !)  How about your pastor’s sermons? A teacher’s transmission of knowledge? Business and sales presentations?  Words expressing sympathy and friendship? AND, of course, words of love.

And, what if you’re a writer?

You know, there’s great personal pleasure in the ability to use language well, just as there is pleasure in any other human skill we master.  Developing skill in communication–which implies one or more people are going to be touched by our words–is right up there with skill in sports or in any other area where we strive for mastery.

Sports mastery is personal, though others will cheer any of our victories. Writing mastery, too, is personal.  It takes people into our idea-sharing web, it brings them into a world we have created.  Besides that, writing well is fun. If you are a writer, can you tell me it isn’t fun to turn on the computer in the morning, read something you wrote yesterday, and think, “Gosh, that’s pretty good, did I write that? If you are a writer and haven’t discovered this great pleasure yet, keep writing.  You definitely will!

Using only words, and your imagination linked to pictures inside your head, you can create dark places of fear, whether in street, cave, or jungle. You can create happy places, sunny weddings, colorful festivals, bright flower gardens.  No camera. No drawing pencil or paint brush.  Just WORDS!

Okay, get going.  Dig for the magic words only you can bring to life!  And don’t tell me “cn’t no tym.”


August 3, 2012

I wonder how many of us can really define contentment.  I guess different folks–even different writers like me–will define it in varying ways, and probably change their definitions depending on current circumstances.  How would you define it?  It takes some thinking, doesn’t it!

I like what author Robert J. Wicks says in his book, “Streams of Contentment.”  Wicks, a Marine Corps officer in Vietnam, and now the author of more than forty books,  lists what I would call a few steps toward contentment:

-Be clear about what is truly essential

-Appreciate everything and everyone in your life now

-Know what a renewing community is

-Recognize that a little silence and solitude is no small thing.

Big ideas, those!  They take some thinking about, don’t they.

He advises:  “Contentment is not a fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of what you already have.”  He ought to know–there were dark-thought days in the wilderness during his own journey from Vietnam to today’s contentment.

Is your today going well? What contentment issues do you have?  Let’s see, as a writer, I often awaken each morning with an awareness of unfulfilled tasks and “I wish” dreams.  (In fact, I sometimes mull these during the night as well. It does help to have made a list of what I need to accomplish on the following day, however.)

Events to plan? People to contact? On line promotion to do, and for that, how and where, to the best of my technical ability? A blog to write, since I promised myself I’d be regular about that.  Or, um, pretty regular. And that’s not to mention housework, meals to prepare, chores unrelated to writing to accomplish.

Doesn’t sound like a day full of contentment, does it!  However, there are many “findable” things to enjoy and be grateful for. These are often unrelated to me personally–like a sunset, or wildflowers along the roadside. There are closer-to-me things like a quick hug from my husband,  watching feisty hummingbirds at the kitchen window feeder, a fulfilling conversation with a family member.  And, of course, I am grateful to have a comfortable home.   Career-related strings tied to my contentment today could be a bookstore eager to plan an event for my new novel,  a succession of interesting Facebook comments, or (very important) words I have written that please me.

Seems to me at the moment that, wherever we are in our careers or life circumstances, it’s possible to seek and find contentment triggers. The very fact of living dictates that, doesn’t it?  What else “that I already have” can I think about today?

What about you?