Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Fabulosities--I'm one of those Page-A-Dayers

Now this made me very happy:
Make your writing a regular duty. Remember that one page a day--say 300 words--each day for a year gives you a 109,500-word novel. (Peter Lovesey, the great mystery writer.)
Yes, I am a page-a-dayer. Two years ago, frustrated by "never finding the time to write," I vowed to just write one page every day. That seemed manageable. And so it has proved. I've finished one half-finished novel, written another novel, dabbled in several short stories and picture books, and am midway through a new novel.

I don't say this to brag (well, maybe just a little.) I say this because sometimes it looks like there will never be time for writing. And there won't be, if you go about thinking that you must immerse yourself in a novel to the exclusion of everything else. That, in order to successfully write, you have to have several hours to swim in your story. I guess that might be something you could pull off, if you had no spouse, no children, and were independently wealthy and so didn't need a job.

But, for the rest of us, if we want to create, we have to find niggles and nudges of time to do so. If you can't do a page-a-day, try for half-a-page. Or a paragraph. Just keep moving forward. You'll be amazed at how much you will accomplish as the days, months, and years go by.

Here's to "A Page-A-Day"!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who's the Best Dad: The Literary Version

Those of you who read my previous post know that I was promoting the Who's the Greatest TV Dad? contest on the Man of the House blog. (Good news, my man Cliff Huxtable romped into round 2. Cliff for the crown!)

Well, with all those TV dads getting some primetime, I figured that it would be fun on a WRITING blog to come up with our own competition.

So, dear readers and fellow scribes, start your engines. Put on your thinking caps. Who would you nominate in the World's Greatest Literary Dad competition?

I've got two already: Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, and Arthur Weasley from Harry Potter 1-7. And that's just off the top of my vacant head. You're all so much cleverer than me. We need a good dozen to make a fair fight of it.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Who's the Best Dad?

The good folks at Dad Central Consulting have invited me once again to be part of a blog tour. And I love it.

Because, in honor of Father’s Day, the equally good folks at Man of the House (“if you are looking for advice on how to make an easy dinner that will leave your kids happy and your wife feeling safe to let you in the kitchen, we're here. We're here for the man who wears a dozen hats and worries about losing his hair…”) are running a hoot of a contest, voting on who is The World’s Greatest TV Dad. Hop on over and you can choose between such luminaries as Homer Simpson and Cliff Huxtable, or Ray Barone and Charles Ingalls.

I can’t say I have consciously been inspired by any TV Dad. In fact, as a person who watches hardly any TV, I was hard pressed to even recognize some of the modern patriarchs. My TV heyday was in the 70s, so I’m much more familiar with a Mike Brady, Howard Cunnigham, or Tom Bradford than an Eric Taylor, Phil Dunphy, or Mitchell Pritchett. But heck, I’m sure some of my readers are cool and hip and very Modern Family.

My own dad was a successful diplomat, who married and had children comparatively late in life. So he wasn’t outside tossing rugby or cricket balls like some of the younger dads of my contemporaries. What he lacked in physical energy (and I can sympathize with him now, as I head toward the big 5-0 with a 4 year-old in tow), he made up for in emotional and intellectual energy. He never shied from telling us he loved us, and he loved a good conversation, even if it later turned into an argument.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Fabulosities--Writing's a job?

The novelists quoted in The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists all say the same thing. From Kat Martin, to Cynthia Riggs, to the late Beverly Barton--they are all in agreement. Writing should be treated as a job with a schedule.

Yup, you can't wait around for the muse to strike. She's either too busy or too fickle.

I love this from Joann Ross:
An important thing to keep in mind is that while editors like brilliant authors. they love prolific ones. This means you're going to need to show up every day prepared to work, the same as you would any other job. Can you imagine calling a plumber or the fire department or showing up at an emergency room with a heart attack and being told the people just didn't feel like working that day?
Before you all clamor that this feels way too stultifying, I hasten to add that I have a very broad view of what constitutes writing. It's not just getting words on paper or screen. It's the minute by minute cogitating while walking the dog, washing the dishes, throwing the frisbee with the kids. So, in my definition, you don't have to feel like a failure if you're not butt-in-chair all of the time. Writing is a lot like playing. Thank God the imagination is such a grand playground.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Teens With Screens (Make Me Scream!)

I'm linking today to my cute little baby blog, Middle Grade Mafioso, where I spend time raving about Literary Rambles, wailing about teens with screens, and making dire threats to quit blogging. Pop on over, if you have a mo!
Hey, cool conversation!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Musings: Read, read, read

This was going to be a "Friday Fabulosity," but with Blogger grounded in her room last Friday for unpardonable behavior, it's a Monday Musing instead. (Once again, this is from The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists.)

This is by S.J. Rozan the Shamus, Edgar, Nero, Anthony, and Macavity Award-winning novelist of critically acclaimed novels such as Absent Friends, In This Rain. A Bitter Feast, and China Trade:
"read read read read read read read read read read read. If it means less TV, less family time, fewer movies, whatever it means. READ READ READ READ READ READ READ READ READ READ READ."
I read on another writer's (forthwith named C3PO) blog recently about not reading anything while writing. Apparently, C3PO believes that other voices will interfere with C3PO's own voice. My thought was, "Man, C3PO, since I write all the time, if I followed your advice I'd never read a thing!" Yes, sometimes I find myself writing like Lee Child, Stephen King, and Jane Austen combined (that was a joke; wouldn't that be a blast?!) but then I remember my own voice and start sounding like little old me again.

So, fellow writers, what do you do to carve out that precious reading time? Turn off the TV? Let the laundry pile to the ceiling? Neglect the kids?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Extreme Makeover: Blog Edition

Since the wonderful Blogger (or, as my friend Matt MacNish called it, "Frogger,") went into meltdown Thursday and Friday, consequently revealing the extent of my blogging addiction, I decided to get revenge by totally making over my blog.

I feel like a proud Papa.

What do you think of the makeover? Are there still things I could do to make it even more beautiful? If so, please give me the benefit of your wisdom.

Give me Beauty, all the time

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Story → Language → Story

In lieu of this month's craft book (I'm reading a good one for June, I promise, and it's even got the word "Damn" in the title), here are a couple of thoughts on my personal reading through the ages.

As a child: Story all the way. My faves were Enid Blyton (for those readers scratching their heads: remember, I'm British), Agatha Christie, Georges Simenon, and Ursula Le Guin's Wizard of Earthsea.

Then I took a detour, studying English Literature for five long years. The more difficult the text, the more opaque the language, the more I wanted to be seen toting it through the library. (Under the covers I read Jane Austen, Dickens, and Thomas Hardy--still on the syllabus, but definitely not cutting edge.)

Now: I'm back to story. Give me a tale well-told, and I'm yours for keeps. I write middle grade, so that's mainly what I read. But the adult authors who keep me up at night are people like Lee Child and Stephen King.

I got to thinking about this when I just couldn't get into a novel which had won all sorts of plaudits and critical acclaim. But, after several pages, full of dazzling language and minutely observed description, I was still waiting for a story to show. I gave up.

Either my attention span is shrinking as brain cells atrophy, or I'm becoming more discriminating in my old age.

What about you? What does your reading history look like?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

As part of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, we're having a middle grade party over at my new blog, Middle Grade Mafioso. Don Corleone and I tag-teamed to write a review of Gary D. Schmidt's 2008 Newbery Honor novel, The Wednesday Wars. If you want to see whether the Don congratulates or crushes me, head on over and take a gander.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Fabulosities--"If you can quit, then quit. If you can't quit, you're a writer."

R.A. Salvatore, bestselling author of the Drizzt, the Crimson Shadow, and the Dark Elf trilogy, has this to say in Andrew McAleer's 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists:
"There's way too much pain in this business for anyone who doesn't have to write. I always tell beginning writers, "If you can quit, then quit. If you can't quit, you're a writer." I'm not being facetious. The idea that writing is a way to get something else, be it fame or fortune, is ludicrous. The odds are astounding, and I'd wager they're even more astounding against someone who doesn't love the power of the word."

What, if anything, would make you quit writing? Have you ever quit writing? If so, what happened?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Here's What I'd Like To Do With That Comment Of Yours

No, I haven't been receiving nasty comments. Far from it. (Unless those anonymous comments that look like they're written in Czech are full of nasty Czech slanders and calumnies.)

I have been receiving wonderful comments, from a whole host of interesting people. I love all your comments and would like to answer them.

(There are some amazing bloggers out there. Matt MacNish is my all-time comment-responder hero, as he always seems to get back to you.)

And trust me, that means a lot.

Because it takes time to read a blog post. It takes time to comment on it. And it's gratifying knowing that your comment isn't stuck in the blog equivalent of the O'Hare taxiway in a snowstorm. It's being read, it's furthering the conversation.

Blogs are all about conversation. (And short paragraphs, if today's composition is anything to go by.)

So it pains me (just a little) when someone leaves a comment and I can't just email them right back. Because their e-mail address reads

Sometimes I click on their profile to see if they have an e-mail address. Sometimes they do, but then Microsoft starts bugging me to open Outlook, and all my e-mail goes through Yahoo. So I end up not replying. (Well, sometimes I say something in my blog comments, but who knows if a commenter ever returns to check once they've left a comment. I mean, there are only 24 hours in a day and a lot of blogs to cover.)

So, if you'd like to hear back from me, feel free to leave your e-mail address in the comments. I promise I won't spam you. (But if you're worried about spam, e-mail me your e-mail address to I'd love to personally thank you for dropping by.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Books Would YOU Buy?

What's going on? Wednesdays are usually sacrosant for "Craft Book." So why is this noble blog rabbiting on about consumerism and the lure of filthy lucre?


1) I have been so busy reading The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (see my post on my new baby blog, Middle Grade Mafioso for details) that my craft book for this month has gone by the wayside.

2) I've come into a bit of Amazon money, $50 to be precise. Add this to the $20 I found stuffed in a birthday card from last year, and I am poised to storm the Amazon citadel and go hot-diggety wild in the book lounge.


Question: If you were me, and had 70 smackeroos to spend on books, books, books what would you buy? (Yes, I know Amazon has toys, games, kindles, soy flour etc. to sell, but books are my addiction.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Whistle While You Work

My previous post, about the racket in coffee shops and whether one could in fact work to the tune of rattling tea cups and the whoosh of the espresso machine, brought forth a number of interesting comments. It seems that we are split between those who need a semblance of quiet and those who can write while yelling "Rock On!"

Which got me to thinking about the sort of music people might rock on to ("on to which people might rock?")

I am a musical dullard and very mainstream. And I do not usually write to a soundtrack. I did once spend a weekend writing while obsessed by Keane's Hopes and Fears CD, and I'm not sure what that says about me.

This is the tune I listened to ad infinitum. I overheard a recent version on Glee, which my wife watches on her laptop while I read [code word for "fall asleep."] It briefly brought me out of my slumber, so I could anoint the show as my new favorite. However, the video is very strange and is apparently an homage to E.T.

If you write while listening to music, what's YOUR playlist?