Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Morning Inspiration: What readers want

Last Thursday, the weekly meme Booking Through Thursday posed that oft repeated question - What’s more important: Good writing? Or a good story?

It got me to thinking that this was a must read meme for writers. It's great to hear what readers want, what they tend to favor and even examples of books that supported their answers.

Some particularly succinct responses to this question can be found at:

Everything Distills Into Reading

A Very Disoriented Reader

Once Upon a Twilight

Magic Is In Words

And here's my response. Peruse ALL of the Booking Through Thursday responses here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Potpourri

Applause! Applause! Applause! I love this sign from the Milwaukee Public Library!

I currently have my face in THIS book!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Booking Through Thursday: Good Writing vs. Riveting Premise

If you'd like to join in on Booking Through Thursday, just click here.

This week's question...

What’s more important: Good writing? Or a good story?

(Of course, a book should have BOTH, but…)


I haven't participated in Booking Through Thursday in many weeks. However, today's question is one I wrestle with as a writer and a reader each day. Not surprisingly, my answer is that every story should have equal parts of both. 

As a reader, I confess that it's the premise that makes me pick up a book and the writing that often makes me finish it. I'm one of those people who will set aside a book after the first 100 pages if I'm not fully engaged. If it's a mystery or has some secret that awaits revelation, I will finish the book just to learn the ending. I can think of a few books in recent years that had weaker writing but such a compelling plot that I eagerly kept turning pages. I find that good writing is often the equivalent of a well-drawn character - a character voice I would follow around in any situation, or premise, just because I think he or she is that interesting. 

As a writer, this writing vs. riveting balance is a daily companion. Writers I know constantly ask themselves if their story-line suffers from the dreaded "sagging middle" - that lonely land where some stories fizz out and go to die.  With each new chapter, we have to ask ourselves if the stakes are high enough, if there's enough conflict and action to keep the story moving forward. This is true even in those quiet stories that are more about character growth than character adventure. Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons is a great example. Durable Goods by Elizabeth Berg is another one with a character voice I'd follow all over the world.

To create a book that has equal parts of both, a writer first hones his craft (becomes a good writer) and then daily brings those tools into his workshop and becomes a good story-teller. In my opinion, it is really easy to come up with a good premise. We could create 10 great premises in the comments section of this post today. But, it is a tremendous challenge to successfully execute a good premise. When a book has both, magic happens. I just finished reading Holes by Louis Sachar and it's a great example. City of Thieves by David Benioff and Little Bee by Chris Cleave are two more I'd include in this category.

What say you? What books have YOU read that had equal parts good writing and riveting premise? And just for grins, don't hesitate to toss a good premise idea into your comments! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Photo Wednesday: Proofreading

Always get someone to proofread for you. Always.

Or, you could take editing advice from chickens.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: A Guitar and a Pen

Today's teaser is from A Guitar and A Pen: Stories by Country Music's Greatest Songwriters edited by novelist Robert Hicks, New York Times Bestselling author of The Widow of the South.

What a great idea, right?

This collection includes stories from Kris Kristofferson, Hal Ketchum, Tom T. Hall, Marshall Chapman and many others.

From the bookjacket: Nothing tells a story better than the story-songs of country music. A GUITAR AND A PEN presents, for the first time, the literary work of some of the best storytellers in the world: the songwriters who cut and polish tales down to sparkling three-minute gems.
I recently had the privilege of meeting Robert Hicks and hearing all about this unique book. Here's a teaser from Hicks' short story in this collection, titled Gathering Together.

"If it had been any real member of our family or any other in-law, my grandmother would have ignored the cremation request. She would have reminded, gently, those who mourned that such a request was made by someone not in his or her right mind. 'What if he had asked to be stuffed and mounted? Would we follow his wishes and drive on over to the taxidermist?' Her arguments would have been clear and overwhelming. We buried our dead." - p - 69


Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at Should Be Reading

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Photo Wednesday: Pulpwood Queens, Pink Proms and Big Book Love

Here's a collection of fun photos from last weekend's annual Pulpwood Queen Author Extravaganza in Jefferson, Texas. Thank you, Kathy L. Patrick for an amazing event and party. You are a book's best friend!

With the "Under the Big Top" theme in full swing on Thursday night.

With authors (LtR) Jennie Helderman (Under the Sycamore Tree), Kathryn Casey (The Killing Storm, Shattered), Marica Fine (Paper Children, Stressed in Scottsdale),
Jenny Wingfield (The Homecoming of Samuel Lake) and your humble scobberlotcher.
Let me just say this about that. These women are all amazing and you should run, not walk, to your bookstore
now and get their books! And under the heading of "Did you know?" -
Did you know Jenny Wingfield penned the film The Man in The Moon - one of my
all-time favorite films? Yes. Yes she did. 

Following my author panel with Margaret Dilloway (How to be
an American Housewife)
and Meg Waite Clayton (The Wednesday Sisters, The Four Ms. Bradwells.)
At first blush, you might think this panel was titled "Authors who have vague images of women's heads and necks
on their book covers."

Clowning around with Meg Waite Clayton
At the Pretty in Pink Prom with author Margaret Dilloway
and Julie Kibler (Calling Me Home, out spring 2013) Sidenote: you
heard it here first folks - Calling Me Home just may be the next
"The Help"
Just sayin.

Partying with Marybeth Whalen (The Mailbox), Stefanie McAfee (Diary of a Mad Fat Girl) and Sarah Jio
(The Violets of March)  Beautiful books!!

Confection of pink hair-dos. If you were at the prom, you would've
seen a sea of pink. What proms have to do with books, I have no
idea. But it works. It really works.

My Jane Austen book purse on the auction table!

John Berendt's signed book bag at auction

Author John Berendt (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
signed his new children's book, My Baby Blue Jays, for my
daughter's birthday!)

Pinch me, I'm with author John Berendt. He's as nice and gracious as you imagine.
You know I have the Bird Girl statue
from Midnight in the Garden of Good in Evil in my
backyard, right? Would framing an 8x10 of this picture and
placing it in the birdbath be too much? No? Well.

With Tina Sloan, beloved actress of Guiding Light, at the Pink Prom! Wow!
Pinch me. Again.
She donned the 1983 prom dress her soap-opera daughter, Beth,
once wore. She's as warm as she is gorgeous. Check out her new book,
Changing Shoes: Getting Older - Not Old - With Style, Humor and Grace.
You can't have my copy. It's already dog-eared and beloved. Thank you, Tina.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Writers Gone Wild

A bunch of authors clowning around this weekend at Kathy L. Patrick's 2012 Pulpwood Queen's Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson, TX. (Can you find me?) More details and pictures and book discoveries to come this week.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Photo Wednesday: Books and Characters

I'm headed out to the 2012 Girlfriend Weekend with the Pulpwood Queens book club this week. Check out the full list of authors attending this event here. Among the highlights of this event will be New York Times Best-Selling author John Berendt, author of Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil. He will be talking about his new book, My Baby Blue Jays. I can't wait! Last week, I previewed the Jane Austen book purse I'm donating to the Girlfriend Weekend silent auction that raises money for literacy. Isn't it ironic that this purse can actually hold the entire works of Ms. Austen?

It was Book Character day at my girls' school last week. My girl dressed up as Fox in Socks, which I adore! This fox has been her favorite character for a LONG time and I'm so proud of her for choosing something vastly different from her schoolmates. (There were at least 2 dozen Hermione's in the school hallways. There was only one fox.)

Just as an aside, I'm now going to call my Wordless Wednesday posts Photo Wednesday because, who am I kidding, I've never been wordless.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

"Could it be that I heard it more this way: Time passes, but not so aggressively that anyone notices? Or even, time passes, but not for me? Could it be that I did not figure in either the general nature of the permanence of the slowing, the irreversible changes in mind and body, the way in which you wake one summer morning less resilient than you were and by Christmas find your ability to mobilize gone, atrophied, no longer extant?" - p. 17, Blue Nights by Joan Didion


This is a beautiful, poignant memoir on aging and reflection. I feel blessed that I read it at my current age, while my children are still so young. It was like having a wise older friend sit at my kitchen table and give me a glimpse of what's to come in 30 years and remind me that I should savor and soak up the joy of my present life and role as a mother. I recommend this for all ages, but particularly, for mothers and fathers of school age children.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

All things are artificial, for nature is the art of God. - Thomas Browne

With pleasure, I camped out with friends at Caddo Lake State Park last week. The park is located in Uncertain, Texas, which, all by itself, calls out to be visited.

Also, check out my fabulous Jane Austen Book Purse, featured on my Wordless Wednesday post.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wordless Thursday: Reader Love

A reader recently sent me this photo of herself, feet kicked up, a nice warm Kindle by her side, reading my novel, Janeology. Love and love and love. Sometimes, a reader can just make your day! Thank you.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Why yes, that is a purse!

It is a universally accepted fact that a woman in fashion must be in want of a good purse!

I'm headed back to the Pulpwood Queens annual author extravaganza in two weeks. The founder and head queen, Kathy Patrick, holds a splendid silent auction to raise money for literacy each year. This year, I'm fashioning and donating a book purse made from a Jane Austen book. (No relation to my novel, Janeology. But I did choose this book, in part, because people ask me ALL the time if Janeology is "yet another book about Jane Austen!?" I suppose this can only add to the confusion.)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Monday Morning Inspiration


Could this be the day?

I'm setting of to work now on the first real work day of the new year. It's time to get organized and set a few new goals. I hope your new year is off to a wonderful start.