For some reason I can add sidebars, but not new posts. Please check back later. I have been working on a variety of things including switching my blog soon from this one, which was set up with my now-defunct West Wisconsin Telcom account. I hope to have my new blog through Gmail up soon. I will provide a link and announcement when I've got everything straight. 7/2/11

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I did it!

This afternoon, despite many computer and Internet access problems this weekend, I finished my 50,000 words—50,192, to be exact—for National Novel Writing Month. I entered my completed pages into the NaNoWriMon validator and have officially been declared one of the winners, winning meaning you complete the challenge and crank out 50,000 words before midnight on November 30. This has put me about half way through my new novel. It was an interesting and fun challenge. I plan on continuing to write daily (after a short break this week). And I’ll be doing this again next year!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a safe, healthy and happy Thanksgiving! And eat a lot! I plan to.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Job Series: being a writer. Part 4 Corporate and GovernmentWriting

Sharpie is always working!

One of the more profitable forms of writing is to be a staff writer for a corporation, organization, or government agency. These jobs not only come with paychecks, but also usually with health insurance, retirement, and other amenities. Competition is stiff, however, so be sure your resume is not only top-notch (absolutely NO typos), but also includes a clear description of your credentials.
Generally, corporate writing jobs will be one of the following: technical writing, proposal writing, copywriting, customer service, or marketing. A college degree in a related field is almost always required.

Locate corporate or government writing jobs through traditional classified ads in newspapers, job web sites such as career builder or monster, associations you belong to (for instance, I belong to AWP and have access to their job site), or through your college. For government jobs, you can also check the web sites for the units of government or go to

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Recently read: Martin Edwards’ The Cipher Garden

Edwards is a new discovery to me, and a fine one. The books are set in the Lake District of England and are in the manner of the traditional British police procedurals. Detective Chief Inspector Hannah Scarlett has been put in charge of the Cold Case Review Team, a position she worries signals her career is stalled. A vicious unsigned note sent to the police ends up triggering a reopening of the unsolved murder of a landscaper and womanizer. One of Scarlett’s team members was on the original investigations, which had too many suspects and not enough proof. Many of the suspects then and now were just as nasty as the murdered man, and all still have strong reasons to have used the scythe to slice the man up. This has a complicated and compelling plot, good character development, well-written and very worth reading.

Monday, November 15, 2010


My 30 days of novel writing for National Novel Writing Month are half over. I cleared more than 25,000 words yesterday, making me ahead of schedule for the total word count of 50,000 by November 30. It has been fun and surprisingly easy to do. My daily goal is 1,700 words, which—depending on if the ideas are flowing, takes me between one and one and a half hours (note I wrote all that out instead of keying 1 or 1.5. That helps pad the word count!). Since I started with a minimal plot and no background material, sometimes I have to pause in my writing to do some research for information or ideas. Right now my protagonist is in England, heading for the Chunnel, so I spent a lot of time yesterday surfing British travel sites.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Recently read: Tim Dorsey’s Atomic Lobster

I continue to LOVE Dorsey’s books, and Serge A. Storms still delights me. Serge and his semi-comatose buddy Coleman, continue to wind their way through Florida’s faded neon past, accompanied this time by a female psycho named Rachael. Characters and events from other books turn up, as families on vacation, government agents, cruise ships, dope deals, smuggled artifacts, and little old ladies having a grand time all merge and diverge in southern Florida. Among them, a vicious murderer is released from prison, bent on revenge—fortunately, Serge is there to protect the innocent and provide his own inimitable form of justice.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Guest Post: Creating Characters for Children's Books by Maria Rainier

As an adult, writing for children may be one of the hardest things you’ll attempt. The idea seems simple enough—use smaller words, add a puppy to the mix, steer clear of racy bits. Still, the old writers’ adage, write what you know, is significantly more difficult when most of us, despite what we may think, have forgotten what it’s like to be a kid.

One of the easiest ways to a reading child’s heart is through a story character. Not all children’s stories are character-driven, but everyone remembers Peter Pan, the cat in a hat, and a certain wizard by the name of Harry. Likeable characters come alive because the reader cares about them, and a living story is the best kind. It’s the kind that gets published, sold, and loved for years to come.

Know Your Audience
Surprisingly enough, some successful children’s book writers don’t have or even like children. If they’re successful, however, it’s at least partly owed to the fact that they know children. They know who to target with their writing and their characters. They know what will grab their audience’s attention, what will lose it.

This tip is an obvious one: get to know a few kids. If you don’t have any of your own, visit a park with your dog and watch children at play. Talk to a few friends and family members with children and listen carefully to their conversations. You can even go to a kid-friendly restaurant like Chuck E. Cheese and observe a birthday party.

Create Active Characters
Active characters are doers—not the likes of Hamlet, who broods around and wins the disapproval of high school students across continents. Children are drawn to doers, someone who doesn’t let someone else tell them what to do. Kids have to listen to their parents, so why would they want to read about someone who has to listen to theirs? The very premise of Where the Wild Things Are is that a child disobeys his mother.

Create Likeable Characters
No matter how active a character, if the reader doesn’t like him or her, the story won’t appeal. Children often get bullied in real life, so if a story is about a mean kid, why would they want to read about him or her unless it was his or her journey to becoming nice?

Neither, however, can main characters be perfect. Kids aren’t dumb, no matter what you’ve been told, and they don’t like being treated like they’re dumb. Nobody is perfect and they know it, so forget the knight in shining armor and make him afraid of sharp objects.

Create Character Through Names
Make characters distinguishable from one another by giving them distinct names—no John and Jake—and backgrounds. Unless you’re going the Dr. Seuss route with rhymes and alliteration, similar names can mildly confuse and even frustrate readers.

Moreover, think about what goes into a name. Many readers pull out baby name books to search for name meanings; others create nicknames, which are especially telling. Make a habit of writing down interesting names in your notes through daily life. Some sources include street and town names, films, religion and mythology, history, and the like.

Create Habits
What makes a character recognizable and real is the tags that the writer gives him or her—things that this character and only this character does, like stammer or chew gum. Showing a character through mannerisms, dress, speech, and actions is much more revealing and interesting to read than simply telling the reader that Sue is a Southern girl or Jack is an avid athlete. A dull character sketch makes for a dull story especially in children’s literature.

Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching areas of online degree programs over at her blog. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Association of Writers & Writing Programs

I have been a member for a number of years of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), which is sponsored by George Mason University. Its mission, as stated by David Fenza, Executive Director, on the web site, is “to foster literary talent and achievement, to advance the art of writing as essential to a good education, and to serve the makers, teachers, students, and readers of contemporary writing.”

If you are a writer by trade or are serious about becoming one, I recommend joining this organization. The membership fee is reasonable, you will receive their magazine, the Writer’s Chronicle, and are eligible to compete in their contests, as well as a number of other benefits. In addition, you get access to their database and job list. See for more information. If you are interested in going back to school for a degree in a writing program, see for AWP’s free, web-based guide to graduate and undergraduate programs across the country, as well as around the world.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Recently read: Lisa Kettell’s Altered Art Circus!

I am so addicted to beautifully printed books of altered art. This one takes us off the flat page or canvas, and into three dimensions, as described by its subtitle, “Techniques for Journals, Papers Dolls, Art Cards, and Assemblages.” The circus theme provides the background for a variety of artists to express themselves objects ranging from pocket posies to jar fairies to secret lanterns. Kettell also provides a good basic introduction to these art forms.