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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

IWSG October 1, 2014 - Insecure Writer's Support Group

#InsecureWritersSupportGroup entry for e-book - Asking for Help

First Wednesdays are the time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. This is the once-a-month blog hop started by Alec Cavanaugh . IWSG = Insecure Writers' Support Group (click for the link).  We share our insecurities and support each other with empathy, sympathy and  practical suggestions. 

Thanks to the co-hosts for October 1:

You Have to Ask for Help

It doesn't matter how fabulous you think someone is with his or her craft, it doesn't matter how enjoyable, engrossing, beautifully written the work is, the writer always has an Achilles' heel somewhere. 

In my case, I have a shyness - though I think the word is 'fear' - regarding asking for a beta read, a read-through, a review of a chapter.  I tend to get caught up in the flow of the story, the action... 

...Okay, now what?
Composing a story is, for me, as exhilarating as running before the wind on a sailboat.  But the wind will die down and you have to put the boat away.

So...  I have a story, and I've worked on it and worked on it and polished it, and I'm pleased with it (I'm pretty picky, actually), but another pair of eyes really is needed...isn't it?

Heck, the story is good, the characters are well-rounded, I love them to death, and they convey the story so very well.

...I think...

But what would happen if I gathered my courage in both hands and, clearing my throat apologetically, actually asked for a beta-read from someone other than a friend who, though a fabulous editor is, after all, a friend who loves me and loves my work.  Yeah, yeah, that one does say when something stinks, but still...  Is it just the really bad ones that are mentioned, and the others are allowed to slip by because, after all, I'm an old, longstanding friend.  Is the input valuable at all?

They're faking it because they don't want to hurt my feelings (sob)
(By the time this thought occurs to me I am in full cringe mode, and I find myself thinking, what if I really am absolutely mediocre to terrible, and my friends only read me because they don't want to see me cry?  And if the others read my work they would tear it to shreds because they don't know me, don't love me, and have never been my friends?) 

It's persuasive - and why are the unpleasant things persuasive?

So, why do I have this shyness about stepping forward and asking other writers to read my work and (gasp!) maybe do a beta-read?  Maybe let me know what they think?  Why am I like this?

A beta-read offer!  YIKES!!!!
I mean, really, it's silly, isn't it?  To have this horrible fear that if I ask for help (read 'Beta Read') someone might say, "Sure.  I'll do it."

It is foolish to indulge such nonsensical fears, even though they are  normal.  I know jolly well that I can take it.  I've had nasty reviews and come away with some good criticism that I could use.   ...Or am I afraid that I am going to bore someone, and they will say that my writing is frivolous and stinks and I'm bad news.  Let's face it: I write historical fiction (alternate historical fiction, if you want to be strict).  No paranormal, some  love stories, but not, strictly speaking, Romances in the modern term.  I hear people talking of their work and think, Gee, they're with it!  But me-- 
Diana at work composing
No vampires, no Heroic Fantasy multisyllabic names, no zombies, no dystopia, no horror (unless you have a horror of em-dashes). 

I'm not cutting edge.  I don't necessarily want to be.  I just want to be the best writer that I can.

The way I look at it, I can either go back to Business-As-Usual and fight my way through to a finished product, wearing out my friends and advisers (another insecurity, by the way: how long will they be able to stand me?)...
Or I can take a deep breath, step forward, manuscript or flash drive in hand, smile shakily at those people facing me who all write so well...I think... and say "I need help.  Can someone do a beta-read?"

Actually, that is the very best thing to do.  Not to seek help leads to stagnation. 

...Could be nice...

SHORT BIO: Diana Wilder is a writer of historical fiction, with elements of mystery, adventure, romance or fantasy. Her books include the four volumes of The Memphis Cycle, set in Egypt, as well as the first volume of her trilogy,
The Orphan's Tale, set in 1830's Paris. 

She blogs at http://dianawilder.blogspot.com.

Permission is granted to use this post in The Insecure Writer's Support Group Guide to Publishing.

Check out the hop.  There are some fabulous posts to savor:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Celebrate The Small Things, September 26.

Today is the Celebrations blog hop by VikLit .  Come join us: the information is below. 

I am linking to a post for another hop I'm participating in.  It ties in well, since good books, for me, are a cause for celebration.  Useful books that turn out to be fascinating and enjoyable in addition to useful are even more so.

The link to my post is HERE

On the other front, as an off-again on-again knitter, there is a 'Yarn Crawl' in my corner of the world (where various stores open their doors in a cooperative effort, offering prizes and lots of things to see).    The weather is supposed to be lovely, some troublesome wiring in my house was fixed (lightning strike took out a main breaker, necessitating extension cords, tripping hazards and much complaining).  AND the electrician who came yesterday was delightful, amusing, had a nifty-sounding family, and was very capable.

What are you celebrating?

How Paris Became Paris - A Book Review for The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: September 2014

The biggest mistake a writer can make is to forget to read. 

How Paris Became Paris, The Invention of The Modern City
Joan DeJean

Here is the link to the book.

I enjoy tales of fabulous characters, whether historical or imaginary, that follow them from their first appearance to their moment of highest triumph (or despair).  What brought them about, what made them 'them', the turns and twists of fortune?  In the book I speak of this month, one of my favorite characters is studied, her history recounted, illustrations of her growth in grace and charm, some account of the influences that made her what she is… 

This character was formed by a powerful man who, seeing her, visualized her as greater than she was at that moment.  He had the power to direct actions, mold events, and it was through his love affair with this character that events that led her ultimate form were set in motion.  His son and grandson crossed this character's path, as well, each bringing changes and molding her with their actions and personality

I met this character in person, myself, in May of 1990, during a time of upheaval in my life.  I had wanted to meet her.  Indeed, she was perhaps the most important character of my Work in Progress ('WIP') and I had no choice but to meet her and get to know her.  I have to say that I was charmed by her, fascinated, even enchanted.  She remained a very important character of my WIP (Volume 1 is now published).  I love to read about her, to see how others perceive her. 

This month I read a book about her, and I am reporting on it.  And I am chuckling a little because I am not reviewing a book about a queen, a courtesan, a goddess or a great heroine, but a book about a city:  Paris. 

The city of Paris is the setting for a series I am writing.  The first book, The Orphan's Tale, is out.  I had the idea for the story two years before I traveled to Paris, but the visit served to crystallize my thoughts.  Paris is the first of the great 'modern' cities.  Others have copied Paris.  My home city, Philadelphia, has The Ben Franklin Parkway, which is a copy of the Champs-Elysees. The City Hall there is a copy of the Hotel de Ville. 

I needed to understand the history and the development of that city.  I found the book, bought it and read it.  I thought it would be informative.  I did not expect it to be entertaining.

DeJean starts with the sentence what makes a city great?  The book goes on from there.   

Prior to the 17th century, Rome was the most celebrated European city, famous for its past.  People made pilgrimages to Rome to visit its ancient monuments and historic churches, to seek inspiration.  Novelty and excitement were not on the agenda.  And then, in the 17th century, a city was invented (or, I think, reinvented) to hold a visitor's attention and, itself, to provide enjoyment.  This was Paris, the city as it is now, planned to be changed and enlarged, to grow into what it is now. 

The history is fascinatingly told.  For anyone who has studied European history, the names are familiar.  One king had the idea, his son and grandsons followed.  Essentially, Henri IV invented city planning.  The book follows the changes (wars, invasions, revolutions) and the challenges (a river runs through it).  It was perhaps the most useful thing I read for research, and not nearly as gory as some, history being what it is. 

The construction of the book works.  It is, after all, a history, so flows linearly.  History involves people, and DeJean introduces the statesmen, rulers, ministers and citizens.  The dreamers, the liars, the schemers…  She ties the changes in culture in with the changes in the cityscape.  The wide avenues that Paris is now famous for were novelties that encouraged leisurely strolling.  Not going from one place to another, but strolling to see and be seen.  Flirtation as a pastime, conveyances (fiacres, the original taxi cabs), modes of address…  Architecture, too: the first balconies appeared in Paris, allowing residents to enjoy people-watching.  And if people are strolling past your house, perhaps spiffing it up, or rebuilding it in a more magnificent form was desirable.  And that fabulous piece of furniture, the boon for nappers and waiters-for-friends, made its first appearance in 1678.  The park bench. 
There are engravings of people, reproductions of paintings...

The book contains lots of illustrations including maps, engravings of citizens and celebrities (DeJean comments on them and ties them in to her narrative). 

I bought this as a sourcebook.  Rather like The Civil War Day By Day, or a topographical map of Georgia, which was invaluable for a Civil War novel I wrote.  Sourcebooks are useful, informative, generally interesting but not re-reads.  Enjoyable ones are unusual.  Joan DeJean writes in a flowing, chatty fashion.  The linear structure of the book makes it into a (his)tory rather than an encyclopedia.  For a sourcebook, I give it five stars. 

…And, thanks to this book. I now have the perfect comeback line for someone who says, "Well, Paris was just a jumble of twisty, dark, dirty streets until Napoleon III and his minister, Baron Haussman, tore it all apart and rebuilt the city."  "No, you're wrong.  Paris as it is now was planned five hundred years ago.  Go forth and read." 

Unfortunately, such people are rare.  Sigh.
The Coat of Arms of the City of Paris

Check the others in the hop!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Celebrations September 19, 2014

Today is the Celebrations blog hop by VikLit .  Come join us: the information is below. 

I am a little late to this dance, since I have been running around getting ready to head to my mother's place this weekend.  In addition to enjoying seeing her,

I have some urgent business with her: she is updating her Living Will form.  My father, t
Such a pity uniforms aren't so decorative now
wenty years before his death, drew one up for each of them.  The players have changed, and hers must be updated.  That is important, and I have that form for myself, as well.

But, going along with that, I am celebrating a week finished, a newsletter sent out (my website has one, and some nice folks have honored me by asking to be on the mailing list).  A revelation on a plot part - you writers know how it is: Something that happens in the story, that is important and has some far-reaching repercussions - and a light suddenly goes on for something that will set matters up beautifully for that event in the story.

...AND I get to write it this weekend!

I will also be going to some antiques/flea markets with Mom, who loves them, we'll sip some very nice red wine, and I'll be visiting my old haunts.

...And now for some eye candy (at least for me) that is very much like one of my characters eighteen years before the start of the story.

What are you celebrating?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Celebrations - September 12, 2014

Today is the Celebrations blog hop by VikLit .  Come join us: the information is below. 

Some of the best celebrations I've had or enjoyed have been those that highlight others' joys.  Today I am delighted to say that a good friend, Jerrie Brock, has a book that is free on Kindle, and it is doing very well, having reached the top 100 books free in all of Kindle after less than 24 hours.  It's a wonderful story of the way love can handle the intrusion of the past.

I interviewed Jerrie on this blog, HERE

Something Returned is the sequel:

It is, for me, a wonderful story of the resilience of love.  You can pick up a copy on Amazon.  Here is a geotargeted link for you:

Now, as far as what I, myself, am celebrating in behalf of myself. would the fact that I idiotically did NOT back up my manuscripts on a cloud drive, but did on a 16 gb flash drive, and somehow, through my own stupidity managed to destroy that drive and lose all those manuscripts and yet, through the grace of God was able to retrieve them from a source I had not expected count as a celebration?

Yes, I thought so, too.  Stupidity is not always fatal.  But this was too close a call.

Champagne tonight!

(Yes, the files are all on various 'clouds' now)

What are YOU celebrating?  ...I do hope it's nothing stupid.  Mine was big enough for now.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

When the World Stopped Turning

Where were you?

Things that once were...
I was at work.  In fact, I had taken a break and was visiting a favorite site - Cooking Light Message Boards.  Someone posted that a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers. 

I thought maybe it was one of those traffic choppers or small planes.  I never thought of an airliner among those buildings.  And I never thought of it being done deliberately.

The news came in, worse and worse.  Strikes at the Pentagon, a plane downed in Pennsylvania in an act of true heroism...

A dear friend worked near the WTC: she was safe, thank God, but it scarred her for a long time.

The images that came out of that day - the rescue workers going up the stairs as the people came streaming down.  The rescuers, the protectors.  The heroes.

I will say now that I never watched the footage of the plane hitting the tower.  I somehow missed it that first day and the next two.  I wasn't avoiding it.  The timing was wrong.  And then someone posted it, and I saw the plane take a turn, head toward the tower -  I switched off the video.  I did not need to see it, and I did not need to see the film of the tower going down.  Not that I am squeamish: my line of work - what I do to put bread on the table - has given me a very strong stomach. 

No, I didn't want to give those villains any further...what?  credit for their villainy?  Fear?  I stopped puzzling about it.

Some years later I went to New York on business.  I had not realized what a hole the absence of The Towers left in the sky.  They had always been a sort of beacon for me.  My first time in NYC, decades ago, I had gotten lost in a snowstorm.  I needed to find the WTC so that I could go into the subway there.  But I couldn't read the street signs (covered with snow).  A passer-by, hearing that I was lost and looking for the Towers, smiled and pointed.  And there they were against the winter sky, welcoming me.

That presence was gone.  I was disoriented.  I paused at The Battery - you can see the Statue of Liberty there - and strolled through the park.  And I came upon a battered hunk of bronze that looked somehow familiar. 

It was the globe that sat in the plaza at the World Trade Center.  I had passed it many times.  Battered, broken...  How strange to see it.

Where were you?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Celebrations September 5, 2014


Today is the Celebrations blog hop by VikLit .  Come join us: the information is below. 

I think you can find something to celebrate, if only that something has not happened.  Today I am celebrating my return after a hiatus of several weeks, and the fact that I am now able to tread water.

I am looking forward to going through everyone's posts and enjoying seeing things through their eyes.  Shared smiles are sometimes better and brighter than those you muster all by yourselves.

For something pretty, I am sharing a photo I came across:

It isn't the mountains that wear you down, but the grain of sand in your shoe...
What are you celebrating?   I hope it is wonderful!

Enjoy your weekends!