Writing Dialogue Master Class

This afternoon I received an e-mail from writer and editor Joan Dempsey, asking if I’d help spread the word about the Writing Great Dialogue Master Class she’s offering. If you’re interested in joining and taking advantage of feedback from an editor to help you give your dialogue more zing, then do check out her link here: Learn More

Bear in mind that this is time sensitive. Enrollment in this class closes tonight at 10pm EDT— that’s four hours from now. I think the price is fair for what you’ll be getting. I’ve been taking a shorter “teaser” class this month and appreciate her feedback.

Theories Can Crash and Burn

What Is Truth?

The two neatly dressed young men stood on my doorstep, ready to discuss various problems of society and offer their solution. They were well versed on issues of eternal consequence as well. Had I been open to instruction they’d have no doubt produced their Book of Mormon, ready to enlighten me.

Over the years I’ve observed a few things about human nature and beliefs, right and wrong. We talked a bit and I told them, “I believe if we really love the Truth above all — if we love it so much we’re willing to let truth delete all our pet theories and reasoning — God will show us what is true and we’ll make it to Heaven someday.”

One of my young listeners spoke up and quite sincerely agreed with me.

So there we stood, the Mennonite and the Mormons, totally disagreed on doctrine yet agreed on something vital. The power of God. The ability and willingness of God to enlighten seeking humans. Our ability to grasp it — if we let go of our own formulations.

Having just come through Easter season, we’ve been reminded of Jesus standing in Pilate’s Judgement Hall. Again we hear Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”

He didn’t ask this because he really wanted to know. If you read the account you realize that Pilate knew full well what the facts were in this case. His question was really a sigh of frustration. a wish that truth would be more convenient for the situation he was facing.

This question has replayed through all ages, all issues, all human minds. Where in all this muddle of logic, feelings, rhetoric, and examples, do I find the truth?

Logic, Passion, Rhetoric, Reality

I’ve been pondering a variety of issues in the past few days, choosing certain avenues and exploring the adjoining side streets. What started this process was seeing a recently-published book on the Prohibition years in North America. In fact I bought it and am eager to read this writer’s take on the great experiment. A theory that should have worked — but instead crashed and burned.

Twenty-odd years back I did a study of the Women’s Movement both here and in Britain, mainly because of a friend who was really enthused about the subject. What we call the Women’s Movement today built up momentum in the late 1800s with a demand that the right to vote be extended to women. One arm of this movement, the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement (WCTM), threw their weight behind this demand and gave the movement a lot of its rhetoric. They did not give the movement its ultimate direction.

Once women gained the right to vote, the WCTM focussed on pushing through Prohibition laws. As my friend explained, “Their hearts were in the right place.” They saw how many women and children were victims of poverty and abuse because the father, the family breadwinner, was at the mercy of his “thirst.” The WCTU wanted to rescue destitute families and relieve suffering caused by alcoholism. Yes, their hearts were in the right place. And they used some powerful, logical rhetoric.

‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”
Etc.
From “The Ambulance Down in the Valley”
by Joseph Malins (1895)

Pondering the obvious failure of Prohibition started me thinking about the difference between Theory, Rhetoric, and Fact. Why so some things work so well in theory and not in fact? Skillful use of rhetoric fires people up, seemingly everyone gets on board, this is going to work — then what goes wrong?

To be continued.

Time to Write

Time Management Woes

As you may realize, this past winter I’ve become increasingly frustrated with my lack of order and productivity. This isn’t new; all my life I’ve refused to be a slave to schedules and To-Do lists — but this has left me with a case of chronic indecision. Bogged down with “Where to start?”

Also, I’ve been a hoarder. Part of my effort to make improvements I’ve already written about: decrease the paper clutter; finish small writing projects. But the bigger projects still await my attention — and zeal. Too many “Started, not finished” projects are like a stone holding your head under water.

This week a book title popped up in BookBub:
10 time management choices that can change your life.

I checked it out and decided to take a chance. I’ve have been working my way through it in the past few days and it’s been nailing me right and left. Addressing issues like why you never get done the big things because of wasting time, indecision, procrastination. Creative people who hop from one project to another. Never finishing — or starting— a project because you’re too much of a perfectionist. Examples of others who sound so much like me. Ouch!

From what I’ve read so far, I can heartily endorse the book. How much benefit I get from it depends on how many changes I’m willing to make in my day-to-day activities. One quote really hit home, citing my prime nemesis:

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” Goethe

Now I’m thinking specifically of my writing projects sitting on the back burner. The books I’ve written for NaNoWriMo, for example. I can see how lack of accountability and lack of a deadline have stalled me. You could say, “Filling my days with the things which matter least.”

I was once a part of a writing group that met once a week and was a real inspiration to keep working at my writing. I miss that. So I’d like to ask you readers for your suggestions. I’m looking for online writing partners or a group that will add some pressure, some deadlines.

Last night I googled and checked out online writing groups, hoping to find one where members exchange chapters for critiquing. Some beta readers or an editor who will reply in reasonable time and won’t cost this penniless writer a lot of dough. Not a given weekly writing assignment, but feed-back on my WIPs. (By e-mail; no Facebook, Yahoo groups or Skype.)

I’m hoping to find a few critique partners somewhat on my own wavelength. I’m happy to give feedback on others’ writing but don’t want to have to read ten zombi and/or horror chapters a week just to get feedback for my own mild tales. (Been there, done that once.)

Any suggestions? Anyone interested in reading and critiquing, sharing WIP projects? If so, please leave a comment, or email me at christinevanceg @ gmail.com

Books: Sweet, Thoughtful Valentine

I downloaded an e-book from the local lending library a couple of days ago and read it yesterday evening. Now I want to tell you about it because I thought it was a really neat novella and well worth reading.

The title: Sweet, Thoughtful Valentine
Book #13 in the Isabel Dalhousie series

© 2016 by Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher: Penguin Random House

This is a unique story about ethics.

Isabel Dalhousie, a young wife in Edinburgh, owner and editor of the Review of Applied Ethics meets a friend at an art previewing prior next week’s auction. As they visit and look around at the upcoming sale items, Roz draws Isabel’s attention to one picture. She shares a bit of vital information about its value — and extracts from Isabel the promise that she’ll not tell a soul. Since the auctioneer obviously doesn’t realize the painting’s true worth, Roz plans to get it for a song, resell it, and make a small fortune.

The story’s maybe a bit wordy in places as Isabel muses over the ethics of this and other sticky situations she encounters during the week. She tries to sort out what she should do, if anything, with the help — or dissuasion — of her husband. He calls her his “sweet, thoughtful valentine” and wishes she would stay out of other people’s problems.

The art drama intensifies when she meets another friend by chance one day. Ruth’s in a financial bind, having to sell her home, also her mother’s belongs, to pay for her mother’s stay in a nursing home where she’s getting really good care. Ruth has sent a few of her mother’s paintings to an upcoming art sale. They likely won’t bring much, but…

The awful truth dawns — and Isabel is really in the treacle.

The writer has done a great job of squeezing poor Isabel between a rock and a hard place, between one friend and another, between promise and conscience. Will she practice the ethics she preaches or mind her own business? I found the solution intriguing  and unexpected.

This author has also written the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series, the 44 Scotland Street Series and the Portuguese Irregular Verbs Series and others.

Books to Fall Asleep On

I read once that if you’re having trouble falling asleep, start reading a rather boring book. Then, of course, someone else disputed this. Take an exciting book that will hold your attention and get your mind off the events/problems of the day. What do you think? Have you followed either of these suggestions and found success?

After a day of heavy caffeine intake, last night I wasn’t falling asleep like I wanted to, so I thought I’d start on a rather boring book, The Man Who Was Thursday, by G K Chesterton. I’d picked it up one time and hubby suggested I read it, so I read the first chapter Wednesday in between bouts of rearranging the living room book cases.

(Is anyone familiar with the Father Brown mystery series by G K Chesterton?)

Chapter One started in that old-fashioned “proper English” style and I assumed it would carry on in the same rather boring manner. But it got rather interesting at the end of Chapter One — and by the end of Chapter Two I was hooked. This daring young Scotland Yard detective infiltrates a cell of British anarchists and gets himself elected to a very important post. He’s about to sail off and take his place in the “Inner Circle” of seven, each one code-named after the days of the week, the organization’s head being “Sunday.”

I didn’t read further or I’d have been awake all night finding out what happened to him! There’s a hint in the beginning that he thought from time to time about the girl he met in Ch 1 and that he met her again at the end of his adventure, so of course I’d like to know how that panned out.

In contrast I downloaded a free e-book last week and read the opening a few days ago. It starts off with this preface: a lonely, destitute old man, broken by life. But it wasn’t always this way. He thinks back to his youth as a gentleman’s son, to the times when he had everything going for him.

Did I want to read the book and find out the bad choices he made? How things went wrong, how he ended up in this sad state? Nope.

This is a decision an author makes, knowing that it’ll kill some sales. Some readers may be eager to hear the story. For me, if I know the ending why should I read the book? What about you? Does this kind of opening make you curious to read the book, or do you find it rather off-putting?

Back to the topic. I’ve rarely found fiction I could fall asleep on. I need something like an account of the life cycle of a miller moth, or a recap of the War of the Roses.

So I gave up on sleeping last night, rather turned on the computer and did more DropBox sorting. Normally a repetitive task tends to make one sleepy — except that I kept finding stories & poems I wrote some years back and have forgotten the names of. By 3am and after a hot chocolate I was ready to sleep.

They say not being able to sleep is part of old age for some people. It’s definitely hit me. 🙂

Housekeeping the DropBox

Good morning, World!

I woke up very early this morning — 3:45 to be exact — and finally got up just before 4am. For the past few days I’ve had a cold and have been taking medication to clear up my sinuses. Makes me sleepy in the daytime and I had a couple of long naps yesterday, so I guess it’s fair if I can’t sleep the whole night.

Of course as soon as I was awake, so were the cats, and Pookie wanted to go outside. Yesterday was a milder day, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt him to take a small jaunt outside. But when I opened the door I felt something you don’t want to feel here in February: rain. More like spitting than real rain, but enough to give the roads a nice coating of ice.

The rain has since turned to snow. Checking with Environment Canada I see the temp in Saskatoon is -1C or 30F right now and supposed to drop a couple of degrees during the day, so I’m very glad we don’t have any place we have to be early this morning.

I didn’t get up and start the vacuuming or the laundry, such as one might do. I’ve rather spent the last three hours doing housekeeping in my DropBox files. Over the past six years of blogging I’ve amassed this huge assortment of poems, stories, articles, etc. — and I’ve filed them all by name. Note to new writers and bloggers: this is a NO-NO — unless you don’t write that much or have a fantastic memory.

I’ve spent precious hours searching my thousands of files for a story or poem I once wrote, either to reblog it or to include it in Silver Morning Song — and never could find it. The fact that I have 300-400 haiku mixed in among all the other files hasn’t helped. Maybe a year later I open a file with an unfamiliar name, and here’s the thing I was looking for. Why did I name it that?

So for the past month or so I’ve been renaming all my files — with category first. That way I know if I’m looking for a poem I’ll find it in POEM, the stories I wrote are all in the STORY section, articles in the ART section, etc.

Oh, to have done this all along! As the old saying goes, “Little and often makes a heap in time.” Take a tip from one who’s learning her lesson late in life: when you don’t do that little bit of organizing every day you end up with a big heap to sort through.

“A place for everything and everything in its place” may be an old cliche, but the older I get the more I see the golden glow in this wise advice. I’m battling memory loss now as well as general clutter issues, which means I spend far too much time wandering around the house looking for something I need RIGHT NOW, trying hard to remember where I last used it.

So I consider the past three hours time well spent and I haven’t made a lot of racket to wake my husband up. My next organizing project is to redo our two main bookcases with books placed alphabetically by author’s name instead of loosely by topic. (Yesterday I resolved to get started with this project, as I was looking for a book by Francis Schaeffer and couldn’t spot it on the shelves.)

It’s 8am now and the sky has turned a pale blue. So nice to see our daylight hours getting longer! The snow is fine, but it’s really coming down. Now I’ll go have breakfast and then probably take a long nap before I tackle any more housekeeping. (I did. 🙂 )

Note:
When I went to post this, I discovered we had no internet. 😦 (Heavy clouds often block our internet access!) So, better late than never…

Enjoy Inspirational Romances?

To whom it may concern: 🙂

I’ve just received an e-mail from an author I follow, informing me that she and a number of others have gotten together to host a Book Giveaway via BookSweeps. As a tribute to Love, Hearts & Flowers, they’re giving away 35+ inspirational romances. If you are interested in entering your name or just checking out the site, Here’s the link: BookSweeps