Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Just Doing It- A Writer's Group Emerges

Well, Kelly and I have been kicking this around, and at first I was all No, no and NO, I will not even attempt this...but people kept asking and expecting, and I am not the kind of person who likes to disappoint, so I reconsidered and we kicked the idea around some more. Next, I reached out to a few local author friends and acquaintances and received enthusiastic responses.

Next came the formulating of the group because there are a million writers groups out there where writers of various skill levels sit around a table and write to prompts and then critique one another's work and maybe discuss a subject and then go home and do their own thing until the next meeting with possibly no contact between members in the interim.

I once belonged to a group like that. It rapidly grew tired and monotonous.

Therefore, on the membership applications I asked what each applying member wanted from the group and a lot of them said they wanted to learn something, improve their writing, and enjoy socializing with other authors/writers and developing a camaraderie among local writers.

I took all this input and created a group that will be member driven with a moderator for each meeting- a member volunteer or one assigned or selected at the preceding meeting who would basically act as the referee/ringmaster and make sure the topics remain on writing and writing related matters and not gardening and an exchange of recipes. Members will be given an opportunity to discuss their current or past projects, their triumphs and dismal disappointments. Everyone will bring something to the table, And occasionally we'll have fun flash fiction prompts and write and do the traditional critiquing, back patting and ego stroking if so inclined, and grow comfortable with one another.

I want authors/writers to step up and mentor new and young writers, and beta read for members who are seeking feedback on their projects. Kelly and I have accepted the application of a book reviewer who might have time to write one day in the future. Picking the brain of a book reviewer- what author doesn't want to know exactly what makes them tick?

I also want the group to host several local author fairs over the course of each year, host read-ins at bookshops and other locations as allowed, and we would have one all-day writer's retreat with a potluck picnic just to have fun and talk among like minded people about writing, and maybe other things because it will be a very relaxing day. A possible segment of the day might be Sparks- where we sit around an bounce story ideas off one another trying to spark someone to write something outside their wheelhouse or comfort zone.

I want this group to have full membership participation- members don't have to stand up and lecture on the pro and cons of traditional versus self-publishing or whatever, but everyone should have a voice that's heard.

So, from No to Go...WhipCity Wordsmiths is now a reality. The public is welcome to read the blog, but only approved members will be given author access to post n the blog, and anything we deem inappropriate will be removed. Let's try to stick to topics on writing and related matters.This blog can be viewed by typing whipcitywordsmiths.blogspot.com into your browser. It's BLUE- you can't miss it!! (If you are a member and an author on the blog then you might get a different view of the blog as such since you can post n it)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mike's Trolley Stories

I just finished reading stories 4 & 5 set at the Connecticut Trolley Museum and written by Kelly's friend (and mine) Mike Brenner. I thoroughly enjoyed his stories. Kelly and I will be helping him ready his work for making the five linked stories into a book. This is Mike's first attempt at writing a book- and I was impressed by the quality of his writing, and the amount of research he put into making all the details in the stories as accurate as possible.

It also touched me because I am a New England girl since birth and every year since childhood there have been a couple trips to the trolley museum to ride the cars. And every year since I was a little girl the motorman has given a speech about how the museum owns the right of way all the way to where the trolley park once stood and how they hope one day to lay down the track and make a little park at the end of the line. I'm in my late 50's now. They did make the current line longer- a mile and a half in length. It was shorter when I was a kid in the 60's. But, I doubt I'll live long enough to see the Connecticut Trolley Museum's dream come true.

Anyway, I really loved the stories- I laughed and cried and felt warm fuzzies and cold chills. I disliked the bureaucrat and loved Trolley Three and many of the other characters. They all seemed familiar to me.

Good job, Mike Brenner! Even if this may be your one and only attempt at writing a book you pulled out all the stops and brought the trolley back to the barn after giving this reader one heck of a ride on the rails to the dark side and back!!

Bravo!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

What's On My Plate?

I have three novels to proofread and edit- slowly making my way through The Fairlawn Investigation at present, with The Victoria Wayfarer Investigation to follow, and then the vampire novel that poor neglected book!

I just put Mike Brenner's stories 4 & 5 into a binder and will start reading them for him today as his beta reader. I'm looking forward to this because the first three he's sent me have been very good! I expect no less from these two!

Weekends are much too short. I would prefer to work two days a week and write/edit/proofread/beta read/etc five days a week- then maybe I could catch up with things!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Three Projects to Finish

I just finished proofreading daughter Kelly's second novel, Teleport. She made all the corrections that I'd found needed to be done last evening while I was getting a haircut. I think she wants to go through it again herself to see if she wants to tweak it a little more before letting it go out there into the marketplace.

Meanwhile, I have my vampire novel patiently awaiting another proofreading and continuity check because I changed things since proof number 2. I also have both Amberton Paranormal Investigation Society novels to proofread. I've been slowly going through Fairlawn since finishing Teleport. Therefore, the three novels are in their almost ready for publication stage.

Tomorrow is the first Local Author Fair at the Southwick Public Library. I need to finish getting ready for this event tonight so I can grab and go tomorrow morning. I'm really looking forward to seeing author friends and meeting authors I haven't had the opportunity to meet yet. I understand there is a child author that will be there, too. And, hopefully, my neighbor, Sonia Ellis will have gotten her application in in time so she'll also be there.

I'll have Black King Takes White Queen with me for this event as I believe we are being limited to one book...that wasn't quite clear.

Next Tuesday morning author friend Melissa Volker and I are supposed to be on an early morning radio program here in town with Bob Plasse formerly of Westfield on Weekends...will have to jolt myself awake with a cup of joe that morning! I owe Melissa a copy of butterscotch-a collection of stories. It's already in my car so I'll have it with me. I just need to remember to take it in with me to give it to her!

Off to prepare for tomorrow! Watching artist friend James Johnson-Corwin paint tonight- he's doing a Stephen King themed painting (maybe Pennywise?) around 10PM. He's painted a wave rolling into shore and a droid so far this week. He's amazing! It's been a great way to unwind after a long day- watching him paint live on facebook!


Monday, June 12, 2017

Felt Good To Write Last Night

I have been so busy this year that I haven't done much in the way of new writing except for ghost stories. I had an idea for a new novel over a month ago, started writing it twice but it stalled both times. Started this novel for the third time at 8:30PM last night and wrote until 11:30PM. I am 5,588 words, 11 pages into it and this is just chapter one where the main characters first begin to interact...and then he takes off for Europe to continue mastering his craft, which is mechanical clock making. He's already adept at it, but he wants to learn everything there is and continue improving n his amazing clock towers. And he has a terrible secret that will follow him wherever he goes.

I didn't want to stop and go to bed, but I had to work today, so made myself hit the hay and sleep instead of staying up writing all night like I really want to.

The work day seems so long when you really want to be home working on your new novel, but someone's got to earn a living in the house, and I guess that's me.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Judith Sessler, Local Author

I have four books by western MA author Judith Sessler- Saints and Sinners or short stories from the bizarre to the sublime,  Fifty Shades of Green Coffeehouse Confessions of the Uncommon Joe,  Fifty-One Shades of Green The Emerald Inn Behind Closed Doors,  and The Legacy of Aidan McManus. I have read and enjoyed them all, and am looking forward to her next story collection.

I first met her last December during a pop-up shop event at the local indie book shop in town. We chatted a little bit, but I knew another author there, Melissa Volker, better so spent the majority of my time chatting with her and her mother who designs t-shirts with book themes.

I have wanted to meet Judith (Sandy) though. We've been friends on facebook since December, and she's sent me stories to beta read and provide feedback on, which I've thoroughly enjoyed doing for her. We laugh at one another's posts and chat message occasionally.

Yesterday I had the chance to really meet her at her book event for The Legacy of Aidan McManus. This book is resonating with me on many levels as it is a story of immigrants coming to America in the late 1800's thru 1900's, settling, struggling, establishing themselves, raising their families, hoping and praying for a better future for themselves and their children. The majority of her characters are of Irish descent, but there are some Italians in the mix because America is the great melting pot of blended cultures, after all.

I am a product of that blending of cultures. My father's family immigrated from Poland in the late 1800's, settling first in Suffield, CT where relatives had already established themselves as farmers. They moved to Hatfield, MA known for its onion, potato and tobacco crops. This is where my father, a first generation Polish American was born in 1928. He couldn't speak English when he started school and was sent home to learn English, which he did. His older brother played the accordion and had his own band on the radio that also played local weddings in the Greenfield/Northampton area.

The paternal side of my mother's family immigrated from southern Italy- Naples and Palermo areas. My grandfather was a first generation Italian American born in Greenfield, MA in 1905, in the middle of a pack of thirteen children. It's from this grandfather, a great oral storyteller, that I've inherited my ability to tell a story.

My maternal side grandmother was from French Canadian stock that immigrated to Canada from France, then migrated south into Maine where some of them remained while others traveled further south into western Massachusetts to work in the mills in Colrain (Kendall Mills) MA. My Mom was born in the little village of Griswoldville, MA in 1930, a second generation Italian/French Canadian American.

I am second generation Polish American on my Dad's side, third generation Italian/French Canadian on my Mom's side. I grew up listening to my grandparents talk about their families. My Italian relatives first settled on Mulberry Street in New York City where they all were barbers. My great-uncle Alfred and his son Donald, and my great-uncle Nino were barbers in Orange, MA and Pittsfield, MA. My uncle Nino had a purple Cadillac that my brother, swears he drove down the sidewalk when he took him and my Dad to get haircuts when we were visiting my great-uncle George who worked for GE in Pittsfield in the 60's. (My brother later drove his AMC Javelin down the sidewalk in Greenfield, MA when he went to college there- wonder where he learned that bad behavior from?)

Getting back to the point, The Legacy of Aidan McManus, was like reading history that had a personal meaning as well because her characters experienced things, lived in tenements, struggled, shared triumphs and tragedies just like my real life ancestors did. The only native Americans are Native Americans, the rest of us all immigrated from somewhere. Although the characters in the book are Irish and Italian, they could be Lithuanian, Czechoslovakian, English, Dutch, German, Ukrainian, Australian, Chinese, etc.

Judith has a way of breathing life into her characters, making them feel like people you might know from your own life. Her stories move along quickly and flow smoothly.

I really enjoyed meeting her again yesterday and having a chance to talk to her more about writing, our shared "hobby" of writing and being authors, our families, and projects we're working on. I firmly believe in supporting local authors and writers and try to make it to as many local events as I can. I've discovered many amazing books. Large publishing houses pick and choose and tend to go with established big name authors. I follow one author, who is up to book 11, about to release book 12 in the same series with the same characters basically rehashing the same thing. I would love to see something fresh and new from her, not the same thing only changed up a tiny bit from book to book. The horse is getting tired and this rider is about to fall out of the saddle and look for a fresher ride.

Judith offers a lot of variety in her writing. She even has some young readers in The Travel Kids series. She's versatile and entertaining. I highly recommend her.

Her books are available on Amazon and at Blue Umbrella Books here in Westfield and can be ordered from either location. Blue Umbrella's phone number for orders is 413-579-5383.

I am now happy to say that Judith (Sandy) and I have a bond as authors and friends. I'm looking forward to seeing her again at the Southwick Public Library's first Local Author event on June 17th from 10:30AM-12:30PM in Southwick, MA on Route 57.

Five stars for local author Judith Sessler from me, an avid reader and fan and it's not just because I'm an author and her friend. I've been a prolific reader forever so know a good book when I read one!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Proof Proves A Powerful Plus

The print proof copy of The Fairlawn Investigation arrived today. Just paging through it quickly I immediately spotted a humongous screw-up in chapter headings that leap from the pages, slapping me in the face. There are TWO Chapter 2s. There are inconsistencies in font size, and the use of digits versus spelled out numerals. How this ever got by me when I was putting the book together mystifies me as it's never happened before! I must have been editing on another planet- planet GoofUp.

I guess, when you scroll through a computer layout of ones novel, view it in digital proof layout when you're putting it all together and you don't take the time to look at an enlargement of every single page because you find it TEDIOUS...then you'd better order a print proof copy in order to catch what would be tremendously embarrassing errors BEFORE you okay the proof and your book is suddenly out there with your name on it and you find yourself wanting to crawl under a rock in shame!

This is why I like self publishing- because, if I was a lazy person and just approved this book and it went out for sale on Amazon and THEN I found the OMG MISTAKES, I can always pull the book and fix it, whereas big name authors don't have the luxury of yanking their books with boo-boos off the market- and believe me, I've seen some big publishers let books with errors that, as an author, would make me cringe and grind my teeth to dust, go out to the reading public. I've thrown such books aside in disgust- both with the author for not catching this stuff and the publisher for going forth and publishing unacceptable editions that will never grace my personal library shelves.  Don't they employ proofreaders anymore? What exactly do editors do? Don't they read the books, or even look at them? Are they lazy? Ignorant? Or just out to make money off a hard working writer- who should also be ashamed of themselves for submitting a work with so many mistakes.

Anyway- as a self publisher using the CreateSpace platform, I can quickly pull a book that I discover doesn't meet my standards, correct it in a day or less and have it back on the market within 36 hours of pulling it- and readers probably won't even know it was a hot mess when it made it's debut.

Anyway-advice to all self publishers is proofread your work, make it the best it can be...and then order a print proof and read it again because there are gremlins in your computer who enjoy messing with your hard work! You're bound to spot it once it's in print! Your work represents you as an author- if you're work is sloppy you won't make a good impression of persnickety readers, you won't earn the respect you want to receive. And you'll have that gut clenching experience of finding your wonderful book selling for a quarter in a bargain book bin at a library book sale or tag sale.

My books are a reflection of me and who I am as an author/writer- I want them to look their best when they leave home- like it's school picture day. I certainly don't want them looking neglected, as if I don't care what other people (ie. readers) think; like I just wanted them out of the house.

Respect yourself, respect your work, respect the intelligence of the reader- order a print proof copy and actually read it, examine it with a fine tooth comb, pull out a blue pen and don't be afraid to write all over the pages. If you're going to put a book out there, then make the effort to make it the best book it can be.

A proof copy is a powerful plus in the author's tool box.