Category Archives: Writing

Truth in Our News by Christine Duncan

I was reading an article earlier today about the funding problems Social Security will have in 2034. The article was attempting to be upbeat, and it ended by saying something about how a staggering 36 percent of people say they will not even be affected by this funding problem as they do not expect to rely on Social Security for their retirements.
I spent a lot of time feeling like a loser after I read this. Social Security will certainly be a major part of my retirement. I hope to have other funding (God willing and the Creek don’t rise.) but Social Security is what I will rely on. And most people I know say pretty much the same. How can we be so clueless?
Then it hit me. Many people won’t rely on Social Security because they were teachers or some other sort of public employee and they will get some form of retirement from that. In a bunch of states, people who get that retirement package can’t get Social Security.
I’m not saying the author of the article meant to make me feel clueless, but there was definitely a slant to the article. And the author made no effort to explain that big percentage.
As an author, I try to explain to the reader what is going on and how I get from A to Z. I find it disconcerting and misleading to do less. Journalism used to be known for exposing truth. Now it appears we have to examine the smallest amount of information that comes our way.

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It’s Not Selfish

There has been some discussion this week over whether writers should be publicising our books, as it’s seen as selfish when the world is such a mess.

And the answers were mostly – well of course we should publicise our books!

We didn’t write them to have them sit i a quiet corner somewhere and be ignored.

It’s not only us we are gaining money and employment for – it’s our publishers and illustrators and bookshops.

And when the world is going to hell in a handcart is exactly when we need stories. We need them to help us explain and understand this world, to see what a different world could be like, or even just to escape.

So go on, publicise your work. It’s not selfish. It’s necessary.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad

Writer’s Retreat or Writers Retreat?

Recently I have been watching “Alone” and I have decided once again, that all of life is a mind game. If you haven’t seen the program, the gist is that 10 people are dropped off on Vancouver Island with some survival gear, and the prize goes to the one who can stick it out the longest.

They have to build shelters, gather food, figure out how to keep fire going and keep themselves safe from the wild life. Yet the guys on the program (I haven’t seen any women on this program yet) seem very aware that they have to battle their own heads as much as Mother Nature as they can get bored, miss their families or just talk themselves out of being there. They have to keep their heads busy with other stuff or they will tap out.

I can’t help but think that aside from the basic survival skills that are necessary, that most writers would have an advantage over the other contestants. Think of it! What would you give to have weeks or even months to work on your work in progress?  Where do I sign up? The only problem is I am afraid of bears.

The Author Talk

You may find yourself doing an author talk at some point. It’s an odd experience, to toil for so long on a book alone and then be thrust in front of an audience to talk about it, so here’s some tips.

If asked to do a reading, find out how long they want – usually ten minutes. Practice your reading. Record yourself if possible. Learn to read slowly and with care, but also give some life to your characters.

If there is a panel, see if you can find out the questions in advance. If not, or if all the questions come from the audience, try to work out answers to the sort of questions you will always get asked – where did the idea come from, what’s a writing day like for you, who’s your favourite character.

Work out what you’re going to wear in advance and test it. Walk around in it. On stage is no time to discover your shirt is see through in the light, or your shoes give you blisters.

Work out how you’re going to get there beforehand. Try to get there about twenty minutes early, ask where the toilets are. Make sure you have a copy of your book with you. Make sure there is a glass of water for you on stage. Ask how many people are in the audience, and what the sound quality is like.

Before you go on stage, go to the loo. Make sure your flies are closed or that your skirt isn’t tucked into your knickers or there isn’t parsley on your teeth. Make sure your mobile is off and you have your copy of the book.

You will be terrified beforehand. This is normal. It happens to everyone. Your fellow authors may seem cool and careless. They are not. For me, the terror starts about two hours before and rises to a crescendo right before I go on stage. It will go away once you have started, I promise you.

Don’t rush or gabble your reading. Read slowly and clearly. Think about your answers. If someone tells you they don’t like your books, don’t argue, just point out that not everybody can like everything.

Finally – these are fun. It’s great to meet your readers and find out what they think and feel. It’s great to meet other authors, and you’ll make a few friends this way – it’s always good to chat to someone about how mad this all this. As long as you prepare well, the entire event can be very enjoyable.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad

Writing by Christine Duncan

It’s ninety-five degrees here in Colorado today and all I want to do is play.  I just got back from a camping trip where I slept by the Blue river and listened to birds, and crickets and people kayaking and rafting down the river.

For inspiration, I went back to Michelle’s post about how much writers make now.  And having read it, I wonder yet again, why bother hammering on this keyboard?

But she is right.  We are losing voices.  I have known many writers over the years and I’ve seen many give up.  So I’m going to end with some quotes that maybe you need as much as I do.

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it takes to accomplish it.  The time will pass anyway.”  Earl Nightingale

“Nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost legendary. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Perseverance and determination alone are omnipotent.” Calvin Coolidge

And my favorite Nelson Mandela quote:  “I never lose.  I either win or learn.”

 

 

Research

I use a lot of reference materials and I thought I’d share them with you.

The Writers and Artists Yearbook – not only a very useful list of agents and publishers, it’s also crammed full of useful advice such as how to lay out a manuscript and how to write a query letter

Your library – first of all, to research the kind of fiction you want to write. Second, for reference books. You can even get some really obscure books (you may have to pay a small fee if they have to be ordered from another library). If you’ve no idea where to start ask the librarian. Most reference books are indexed so it’s easy to find the information you need.

Your library computers also have access to all sorts of useful research sites you can get elsewhere, for free. For example, Ancestry allows you to access it for free from a library computer and you search a census or for photos.

You can also access newspaper archives from library computers – if you’re looking for eyewitness accounts, pictures, trial reports have a look at these – they go back centuries. The advertisements are fascinating. Don’t forget to take a look at the letters page for a real voice from the people.

Wikipedia. People say don’t use Wikipedia, go to the library instead. Well, if you’re writing at 3am, and we all do it, that’s not really an option. It’s probably not the best place for in-depth analysis, but if all you want is to find the date Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves, it’s perfect.

Documentaries and podcasts. Have a good look through Netflix, the BBCiplayer site, any TV site. They’re uploading a lot of documentaries from years ago and they can be very useful. There’s also a lot of really good podcasts for history and crime and science out there.

Research is always really fun, and I always discover something – lots of things – that I had never thought of before during it. If you get something wrong, someone will pick up on it, so do your research -but enjoy it.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad

Happy Canada Day! Happy Independence Day by Christine Duncan