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Sunday, December 4, 2011

ARE YOU UP FOR JANO 2012?

Congratulations to those of you who completed NaNoWriMo in November. It's no small task to complete a 50,000-word novel in a month. Our hats off to anyone who even attempted that daunting goal during a busy  holiday season.

Sleuths' Ink, a mystery writers group in Springfield, Missouri created JANO two years ago. Several reasons why we decided that January is a perfect time to write a novel are listed below:

THE HOLIDAYS ARE OVER!!!

YOU GET AN EXTRA DAY TO WRITE (There are 31 days in January)

YOU ONLY HAVE TO WRITE 1613 WORDS A DAY TO REACH YOUR 50,000-WORD GOAL!

WHAT ELSE ARE YOU GONNA DO DURING THE COLDEST MONTH OF THE YEAR!

YOU'LL HAVE A NOVEL READY TO EDIT FOR THOSE SPRING/SUMMER CONFERENCES THAT WILL BE SPRINGING (pun intended) UP!

For more information on the great prize categories we'll be offering, check our JANO 2012 page. We'll also be listing the sponsors as they appear.

Keep checking back for more updates on JANO 2012.
Hope you can join us.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Kim Luney From The Southwest Ghost Finders

How did you become interested in hunting ghosts?
For as far back as I can remember I have had an interest in the paranormal. When we are kids we share ghost stories and weird experiences at sleepovers camp outs or gatherings. I found myself envious of those that had experiences, true or exaggerated, so if the places were in my neighborhood, I would go there. Every neighborhood has a rumored haunted house so I would go there often alone in hopes of having an experience. But sadly most often all I found was a ran down empty house I can’t say that I became interested a certain age, it just seems to have always been there. 
  
Did something happen to spark your interest in the paranormal?
I would see pictures and hear stories of ghost and was immediately intrigued! One of my favorite shows growing up was unsolved mysteries with Robert Stack. 

How long have you been doing this?
I have been a team founder and been part of an organized team for 5 years.  But like I mentioned before I have been seeking ghosts off and on most of my life. Before I started with a team I would go to cemeteries with a recorder and camera in hand, I would also spend a lot of time online watching the live ghost cams of reported haunted locations in the hopes of seeing something.

What do your family members think of you doing this kind of investigation?
My family has a wide array of thoughts. My husband is non believer (yet it freaks him out to see or hear the evidence, he is a closet believer I think). My children’s thought vary greatly, But they are all supportive.

Have you ever brought a spirit home with you?
No I do not think so. We do small rituals to assure our safety many of us use prayer, but we also have a Wiccan who is on the team and she has own rituals. We have medallions such as crosses, Saint Medallions such St Michael.  

What’s been the most haunted place you’ve investigated so far? Can you tell us what you found?  
Wow this is a tough question. I have been to many great places it is hard to say which one is the best. Glore psychiatric Museum is a amazingly haunt place. Haunted Hilltop Manor in Des Moine Iowa is another place. A private residence in Pierce City that was a former court house, Jail house and fire house all in one! It was built in the 1800’s. We have had several EVP’s (electronic Voice Phenomena) and numerous personal experiences. For instance at Hilltop manor we were in the attic conducting a  EVP session ( where we sit in a group and talk to the spirits and hope to get a response either in real time or on our recorders). I looked behind me and seen a creepy little doll seating there looking at me, so I turned it to face the wall. We had asked the spirits to give us a sign of their presence. We asked that the doll be turned back towards me as a sign of course as we watched nothing happened. Yet when we getting to our feet to leave it was noted the doll was turned to face me again. That was truly awesome!


Is there a place you’d like to visit, but haven’t yet?
I have always wanted to investigate a insane asylum. I believe that some people that is said to be crazy is actually being haunted. 

http://southwestghostfinders.webs.com/

Thursday, September 22, 2011

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW - B.K. Stevens


 
            “Write what you know”—next to “show, don’t tell,” that’s probably the advice writers hear most often. It can feel pretty limiting. What if you want to write a war novel, and you’ve never been to war? You can research battles and weapons, you can read soldiers’ memoirs, but can you really know how it feels to run forward as bullets fly past you or hurl a hand grenade at another human being? Can you describe those moments vividly enough to bring them alive for readers? Or should you forget the war novel and stick to writing novels about preparing tax returns, or persuading toddlers to try new vegetables, or doing whatever else you know best?
            I don’t think so. I think that we can write what we don’t know, and that we don’t have to feel guilty about doing it. Some of the most distinguished fiction writers have done it, admitted it, and encouraged us to follow their examples.
            For example, in his autobiography, Mark Twain says some of his characters are based on people he knew. His mother, for example, provided the model for Tom Sawyer’s Aunt Polly. In general, though, his knowledge of himself gives him the insight he needs into other people. “Broadly speaking,” Twain says, “we are all alike,” so he learns about others “by studying myself carefully and comparing myself with other people and noting the divergences.”
Is Twain right? If we write mysteries, can we use our understanding of ourselves even when we create killers? Well, the motives for murder definitely include anger and hurt, fear and frustration. We’ve all experienced those emotions; when we portray our murderers, we can start with those. If we also think about what Twain calls “divergences”—if we identify the qualities that keep us from acting on our more dangerous emotions—we can imagine a character without those qualities. That gives us our murderer—someone who’s like us in some ways, unlike us in at least one crucial respect.
Edith Wharton, author of such classics as Ethan Frome, makes a similar point in The Writing of Fiction. “As to experience,” she says, “the creative imagination can make a little go a long way, provided it remains long enough in the mind and is sufficiently brooded upon. One good heart-break will furnish the poet with many songs, and the novelist with a considerable number of novels. But they must have hearts that can break.” The crucial thing for writers, according to Wharton, isn’t experience itself. It’s more important to have emotional depth, “hearts that can break.” An emotionally stunted person couldn’t create characters readers can care about. But writers must also reflect on the emotions they’ve experienced. Only after we’ve “brooded upon” our experiences can we “make a little go a long way.”
            Anthony Trollope, a highly successful Victorian novelist, also believes in making a little go a long way. To this day, his six novels centering on the clergymen of the fictional cathedral city of Barchester are probably his most popular works. In his Autobiography, Trollope says people often asked him what cathedral cities he’d lived in and how he’d become “so intimate” with clergymen and their ways. In fact, Trollope never lived in any cathedral city but London and had no close friendships with clergymen.
Instead, Trollope says, the characters in these novels were “the simple result of an effort of my moral consciousness”: “In writing about clergymen generally, I had to pick up as I went whatever I might know or pretend to know.” The first Barchester novel, he says, sprang from a desire to comment on social “ills” involving the clergy and the press. From this desire, combined with Trollope’s “moral consciousness” and his ability to pick up bits of knowledge (or pretended knowledge) came six novels still praised as classics of realistic fiction.
            Today’s writers, too, can find ideas in the social “ills” they read about, and can use their “moral consciousness” to write about things they haven’t experienced. Like many others, I was both amused and appalled by two stories that came out late in 2009—the parents who pretended to fear their young son was aloft in a runaway balloon, and the couple who crashed a White House party. In both cases, apparently, the motive for misbehavior was the desire to get on reality shows. Since I write mysteries, I started wondering whether someone might actually commit murder to become a reality-show star. I came up with an idea for a novella involving a rising politician, a fading beauty queen, a slick gun lobbyist, an ambitious television reporter, a determined police detective.
            It felt like a good plot, a good opportunity for humor and social satire. One problem—I don’t know any politicians or beauty queens, any lobbyists or reporters or detectives. I don’t even watch reality shows.
            As an academic, though, I’ve known plenty of campus politicians. I’ve known people who cling to past glories, as my beauty queen does, people as smooth and unscrupulous as that lobbyist, as driven to get ahead as that reporter. As for the detective, I imagined what kind of cop my husband might’ve been if he’d chosen police work instead of academics. I tried to create a detective with his alert intelligence, his approach to analyzing people and situations, his sense of humor, his sturdy sense of decency. The resulting novella, One Shot, blends a little experience and observation with a fair amount of imagination. I don’t know if there really is a beauty queen like the one in my novella, a lobbyist like mine, a detective like mine. But I feel confident that there could be. Characters can be realistic even if they aren’t, strictly speaking, based on reality.
            Henry James, the revered author of over twenty novels and novellas including Portrait of a Lady and The Turn of the Screw, also offers encouraging words to writers yearning to venture beyond the bounds of their experiences. In “The Art of Fiction,” James describes experience as a “huge spider-web” that can catch “every air-borne particle in its tissue.” Like the spider-web, an imaginative mind “takes to itself the faintest hints of life.” A true writer can convert those hints into compelling fiction.
            To illustrate his point, James describes an unnamed English novelist who wrote a highly praised tale about young French Protestants; when, people asked her, had she observed her subjects closely enough to portray them so realistically? The novelist told James that she’d simply passed an open door in Paris once, and glimpsed some young French Protestants sitting around a table. “The glimpse made a picture,” James says. “It lasted only a moment, but that moment was an experience.” Writers don’t need much literal experience—not if they have active, fertile minds.  The crucial thing, James says, is to “try to be one of those people on whom nothing is lost!”
“Try to be one of those people on whom nothing is lost”—has better advice ever been offered to writers? Some people can pass through all sorts of experiences without gaining significant insights into them, or having anything much to say about them. Other people can grasp at “the faintest hints of life” and use them to create characters and situations that go far beyond their own experiences.
            I’ll mention a story of my own here, only because I think it shows how any writer can use the “faintest hints of life” to create a work of fiction. Several years ago, my husband and I had dinner at a less-than-great restaurant in Toledo, Ohio. Not far from us I noticed an elderly man wearing a baggy sweater, sitting alone at a table. The waitress brought him a martini and a glass of water, and he went through what looked like a ritual: Drink a sip of martini, replace it with a splash of water, take another sip of martini, add another splash of water—sip and splash, sip and splash, until both glasses were empty. The waitress then brought him soup, a roll, a basket of crackers. Slowly, he ate the soup and all the crackers, then wrapped the roll in a napkin and put it in his pocket. Next, the waitress brought him coffee and something wrapped up to go—a sandwich, maybe. He took a long time with the coffee. Twice, the waitress refilled his cup and paused to chat; once, someone who might’ve been the manager walked over to chat with him, too. When my husband and I left, the man was still sitting at his table, drinking coffee, eyes roaming hungrily over everyone in the restaurant.
            Did glancing at that man from time to time for an hour or so qualify as an experience? Compared to traveling to India or pulling off a bank heist, it wasn’t much. During the weeks that followed, though, I couldn’t get that man out of my mind. Why did he stretch his meal out so long, and why did he take half his food home? Maybe he couldn’t really afford to eat at a restaurant, but felt so lonely that he couldn’t deny himself the small pleasure of being around people for a few hours. Maybe the roll would be his breakfast the next morning, and the sandwich—or whatever it was—would be his lunch; maybe that’s how he justified treating himself to a restaurant dinner. And the food at that restaurant was lousy. Why did the man keep coming back—assuming that he did keep coming back, that the little episode in his life I’d witnessed wasn’t a one-time event?
            I found myself imagining a life for the old man, something that explained his apparent loneliness, his quietly odd behavior. And the waitress, the possible-manager—were they just being kind to a borderline eccentric old man? Probably, yes—but since this was to be a mystery, I imagined darker, more complicated motives for them. A story began to take shape.
            I called it “Table for None,” and it appeared in the May, 2008 Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Probably, every day, we all miss “hints of life” that could help us write stories. But once in a while, if we work to stay alert, we’ll catch one.
            Write what you know? Sure. But also write what you guess, what you imagine, what you conclude after careful thought, what you infer from the inevitably limited opportunities for experience and observation any single human life supplies. If you want to write a war novel but have never been to war, go ahead. Stephen Crane did that, and The Red Badge of Courage has given millions of readers insights into how it feels to be locked into a battle they can neither control nor understand. Take what you know of fear, of desperation, of honor, and translate it into a situation you’ve never directly experienced. If you’ve observed closely enough, if you’ve analyzed deeply enough, if you’ve imagined fiercely enough, you might just have something.




Bio:
Award-winning author B.K. Stevens recently published an e-novella, One Shot, with Untreed Reads. This traditional whodunit, available at Amazon and other online vendors, takes a satirical look at issues ranging from gun control to reality shows. Almost forty of B.K.’s short mysteries have appeared in print, most in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She’s also published three nonfiction books.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

September Speaker, Linda Apple - Using Our Fiction Skills To Share Facts -


We all have life-stories to share—stories that can have a positive effect in our readers. But how can we write nonfiction that will capture the reader’s interest and cause them to connect with our work? By using our fiction skills. However, that isn’t all. We also give the greatest gift of all to those who take the time to read what we write—our experience—which offers people hope, guidance, help or maybe just a chuckle to brighten their day.

This style of writing is called Creative Nonfiction. In this mini-workshop we will explore the bones of creative nonfiction and how to put our fiction skills to work in telling stories worthy of magazines and Chicken Soup for the Soul-type books.
 
Linda Apple is the author of: Inspire! Writing from the Soul, and Connect! A Simple Guide to Public Speaking for Writers. She has been published in 13 Chicken Soup for the Soul books as well as numerous devotion guides and fiction anthologies.

She is also a instruction and motivation speaker for women’s and writer’s groups and conferences. Linda serves as the Arkansas Regional Speaker Trainer for Stonecroft Ministries.

Linda lives in Fayetteville with her husband Neal, their 5 children, 3 children-in-love, and 7 grandchildren.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Marketing Not for Dummies


A couple of days ago the marketing genius Seth Godin wrote a post entitled “The Professional’s Platform,” which consists of 9 ways to build a professional identity http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/06/the-professionals-platform.html

I thought I would translate them into marketing tips for writers:

1) Online forums, FB, and Twitter are great ways to meet other writers and readers. But building a place for yourself in these nearly infinite communities takes time. You are trying to create relationships with people you’ve never seen. Relationships in real life take a lot of work—this is even more true virtually. If you can’t commit to forging real connections, it is probably better not to mention your books at all. In short, people don’t like flybys.

2) If you stop striving to write the absolute best book you can, your books will start to feel stale, and fail to satisfy readers. In the end, writing a great book is the best marketing tool of all.

3) It’s tough to balance writing with marketing. Some writers feel resentful of marketing duties—shouldn’t they just be allowed to write? For better or worse, there are so many entertainment options out there, including a vast sea of books, that you have to make yourself known somehow. If marketing is always given short shrift, the last half hour in the day, you will fail to get the most out of what you do do. Even more importantly, you will fail to reap the rewards that good marketing produces—a bigger, richer world for you and your books.

4) Don’t stop at selling your book to a customer. Build a connection with that person. Find out what s/he likes to read, then recommend another author’s book. Talk to your readers about their lives. Let them know when you’re coming their way. When you meet them, talk more about them than about yourself. Along the way, you may find you’ve sold a few books.

5) Take the trouble to really learn the marketing tools you use. Don’t just hear that it’s important to tweet and throw a few out there. Don’t put up a fan page and never visit. Get to know your marketing arsenal deeply and well so you can avail yourself of all the riches it might bring.

6) Come out at times other than when you have a new book. Do events even if you don’t have a stack of books to sell. When you don’t have a new book, another writer does. Support that writer. Support the industries that support us—bookstores, libraries, and small press publishers—in whatever ways you can.

7) Memories are long on the net. People will recall who you are and how gracefully you acted—even when you’re no longer doing it that way.

8) Start blogging, participating in threads, and finding other ways to get to know the world of writers even before you know will be published. It’s never too early to create an identity for yourself. People will know you when you do get a book out there, and it’s much easier to say hello again than to cold call.

9) Find a few places that are important and rewarding to you—and stay there. The web is too massive to go everywhere. Deep sunk roots are better than many shallowly strewn spores.

The best, most natural marketing takes place when you’re not marketing at all. You’re just having fun in that most uniquely human of ways: building a web of true connections.

"Jenny Milchman is a suspense writer from New Jersey. She is the founder of the literary series Writing Matters, which draws authors and publishing professionals from both coasts to standing room only events at a local independent bookstore. In 2010 she created Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, a holiday which went viral across the web, enlisting booksellers in 30 states, two Canadian provinces, and England. Jenny is the author of the short story "The Very Old Man", an Amazon bestseller in mystery anthologies. Another short story will be published in 2012 in a book called Adirondack Mysteries II. Her novel, a literary thriller called COVER OF SNOW, is forthcoming from Ballantine."