Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why Can't You Be More Like...

We've all done it.  We've read about a character or watched an actor and thought, "Now why can't so-and-so act like that?"  Or - and this is even more telling, "Why doesn't s/he treat ME that way?"  Here's a hint - they are not real.  They were created from the mind of the author or the script writer and were given the characteristics that they'd like to see in others.  In other words, they really don't know folks like that at all.

On the other hand, we've all had a reality check of sorts when reading a book or watching a film.  We've recognized others and ourselves with amusement, guilt, distaste, and sadness.  Why?  The characters have been given 'real life' attitudes.  Whether we like it or not, these are the characters that we bond with. Bummer.

Take a quick peek at what you like more:  Fantasy or reality.  And let that answer be the starting point for your character creation in your own writing.  With that you'll have figured out what it is you do best.

And keep writing.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

To Thine Ownself Be True

William Shakespeare said it, your mother advised it, your conscience chides you to follow it, and Ralph Waldo Emerson added his two cents when he said, 'To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to change you is quite an accplishment.'  And to that I say a hearty 'amen'!  Why would I ever want to be someone other than myself?  And yet...

When I first began writing in earnest- about 35 years ago, so chalk it up to youth- I experimented with various styles of the authors I most admired.  The results were lacking, to say the least.  I was so intent on channeling the prose of Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer and even Maud Hart Lovelace that I completely lost my own voice.  It took a very honest high school teacher to suggest that I 'quit trying to copy others and do my own work' that shook me out of that rut.  Thus began the search for my style, my particular manner of using words and phrases to create on paper what I could see in my mind's eye.

As a teacher myself, I give that same advice to my own students.  Whether they take it into account or not is their business.  My business -literally - is to continue following that long-ago directive.

Thanks, Mrs. Ostrowski.  I did it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

And Evermore Shall Be

"The more things change, the more they stay the same."  I'm not certain what genius coined this phrase, but nothing could be more true.  The more we writers look for that magic formula, that holy grail of creating the next best seller, the more we stay with the old style.  I'm not sure why that is; maybe, deep down, our style is a safety net.

And that is exactly why I tried something entirely different when I began writing "Legend".  (I can hardly wait for it to come out!)  I wanted to see a) if I could branch out and b) if my editor would like it as well as the cozy mysteries.  He did, and I'm delighted.  I hope that you all feel the same.

Trying new things is good.  Sometimes it gives us new paths to walk - and sometimes it simply reaffirms that we are already doing what we should, in the manner we should.  And that's not bad.

Whatever you choose to do, keep writing!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Paper or Digital?

I've long been a proponent of books:  Hardcover, paperback...and digital.  Yes, I said 'digital'.  In fact, I'm delighted that my books are offered on Nook, Kindle, and iTunes as well as in a more traditional paperback version.  Any way you slice it, it all promotes reading, and that is the ultimate goal, isn't it?

Anyone who knows me knows that I love linguistics, enjoy breaking down words to find the origin.  I did that with 'digital' and realized that anything that included 'digit' in the word was related to our word for fingers.  (The Latins included the toes in that meaning as well, but I am not going to operate my iPhone with my toes.)  Reading a book digitally requires manipulation, almost like turning the pages in a book.  This has changed my view on the relatively new world of libraries - both personal and public- being kept electronically.

For those of you who need to hold the paper specimen, please feel free to buy my books on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble.  Or you can do what I've done:  I've got the Kindle and iTunes copies on my iPhone.  And the 'real' copies at home.

Whatever you choose, keep reading.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hot, Hot, Hot!

Here in the great AZ, as I refer to Arizona, summer is already here.  We briefly had spring for a few hours and it was enough to convince me that my retirement years will not be spent in the desert.  (Sorry, family!)

Some folks write like summer:  No outline (no spring) needed, just a straight plunge into the plot.  I've tried that as well and find that, depending on how inspired I am, I can produce something quite readable.  In fact, "Legend" was written this way.  For the most part, though, I recommend having an idea of the characters and main plot in mind before starting the manuscript.  After all, it's nice to know where you're going.

Back to AZ.  According to the local weather report, we're going to 'cool down' next weekend to the mid-80's.  Ah - sweet relief!  Maybe I'll even feel like sitting outside while I work on the next Jo Anderson book, "Sweet Death".  Maybe.

Keep reading!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"Legend" is...well, legend!

Wow!  I'm truly impressed with the current manuscript that is in editing.  I know - I wrote it and I should be impressed.  This one feels different.  It feels as though I've settled into a well-loved chair, iced tea at hand and a pile of my favorite things around me.  It feels familiar, as though I've written in this style for ever.  I haven't - this is a brand new type of writing for me...and I love it!

This is how it feels when we meet that 'soul mate':  Friend, significant other, whatever.   You just know when that connection happens.  Connection on a deeper level is always special, no matter the time or place.  And I've felt that with this new group of characters and with the plot.  I have a feeling that this is a relationship that is here to stay.

Keep reading...and I'll keep you updated on "Legend" and its progress through the editing and publishing process.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Get Your Own Voice!

Today I was stopped by a co-worker (I'm still teaching high school English classes) who told me that she could 'hear me saying that!' in regards to one of my books, Murder at the Miramar.  I laughed and said that was to be expected:  I write with my own voice.

This is what I mean:  I could no more write like a Hemingway or a Steinbeck, and I would hope that no one would expect me to do so.  I have to use my own tone, my own verbiage, to make my books realistic. When I read a book and find myself not engaged, nine times out of ten its because the words don't feel authentic but more like the writer is copying someone else's style.  When that happens, the book doesn't 'flow'.  Why? Because the writer cannot stay true to a style that is not his; his own voice slips in there and causes the plot to feel herky-jerky.  (Not a technical term, certainly, but all I can think of at this moment.)

Write authentically.  Use your own voice.  And by all means, check out www.danemcaslin.co for links to read my books.  See for yourself what 'real voice' is all about.  (Shameless plug...)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Who Would Do Such a Thing?

I overheard an exchange the other day that made my blood run cold.  Two members of the younger set were talking about an upcoming assignment that required a trip to the library, and one said to the other, "Why do we need a book?  I can it all from the internet."  Needless to say, I almost added my two cents but thought better of it.  Better to say nothing and appear brilliant, or something to that affect.

I love books. I love the heft and weight, the smell of paper and ink, the way I can immerse myself in the pages.  I know what you're thinking: Don't be so hypocritical, Dane!  After all, this blog is an offspring of the online world.  And there, as William Shakespeare would say, lies the rub.  Is it possible to hold hands with both print and e-book at the same time?  Yes.  And no.  And I don't know.  It's still unfamiliar territory for me, a field of land mines that might trip me up with a wrongly-placed step.  And yet...

When I've come to a conclusion, I'll let you know.  Until then, keep reading.