Frequently Asked Question: Show Us Your Writerly Insecurity

Today’s question is, once again, from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  For October, we’re asked to post a photo of ourselves with either IWSG swag or the logo.  So, here you go!




Frequently Asked Question: Describe Your Writing Process

The current view from my computer.  Photo by the author.

This truly is the one I think I get more than any others.

I suspect that my process is a little different from some of my peers.  Many of them go to coffee shops to write, or have pristine little corners where they do their best work.

My process is a bit like Method acting; I tend to become somewhat immersed in the location and period I’m writing about.  I listen to music from the period, visit places whenever possible, and read books set in that time and place (fiction and non-fiction).

I also have a bulletin board over my desk that helps with this.  For example, I’m writing several stories set in Memphis and Mississippi for Bayou NonStandard Time (you can read my posts written directly from Memphis here and here, ), so I gathered some paper ephemera during my trip and just put it up over my desk.  This replaced the New Orleans display that was there for more than a year.

The only non-related images you’ll see on the board are the pic of my school horse, Maisey, from about 10 years ago, and an autographed photo from actress Karen Dotrice.  Like me, she’s actively involved with animal rescue … which she attributes directly to her work on The Three Lives of Thomasina.

I also have a little file with maps, books on my shelves and eReader, and access to the internet if I need to double-check something.  I have learned to limit my research to a specific timeframe with the exception of double-checking; otherwise, I’d never write a word.

I am not sure why this method works for me, but it does.  What works to help keep you in the story you’re writing?  Please share in the comments.


Frequently Asked Question: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

faq-2027970_1280Today’s question comes from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group newsletter, and it’s a good one.

Authors are always admonished to write what we know.  This means research, one way or the other … because it’s about your experiences.  You either already know about something or you need to go learn it.

The answer to this question, in my case, is that I’ve included some of my personal experiences, but not necessarily my personal information.  Does that make sense?

25908261I was still an active equestrian athlete when I wrote In The Eye of The Beholder … which features a woman whose job at the Opèra Garnier was to ride horses in some of the mid-show spectaculars that composers put in their productions.  They were desperate to get opera-goers to look at the stage and not one another; in the late 19th Century, people went to the opera to see and be seen, not so much for the performance.  My experience in dressage allowed me to write intelligently about what those performances might look like, what kind of equipment was used, etc.

M&M frt Verson 1Another great example is Bayou Fire.  I love to travel, so I was able to incorporate notes about some of the places I’d been into Diana Corbett’s work as a travel writer.  My love affair with New Orleans stands out loud and proud, too.  One of the decisions I made early on, given my determination to put atypical characters front and center in my work, was to give Diana the same autoimmune disease with which I’ve made no secret that I live:  Hashimoto’s disease, which creates antibodies that destroy the thyroid.  It gave me an opportunity to put a real-world problem into my character’s life, which would affect many aspects of her work and behavior.  Thyroid disease affects approximately 60 percent of the population, so it wouldn’t be surprising to have a given character live with it from a statistical perspective alone.

Frequently Asked Question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?

insecure2bwriters2bsupport2bgroup2bbadgeToday’s question comes to us courtesy of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.   I highly recommend a visit to the blog hop on the linked page, so you can see other peoples’ answers.

For me, the answer is an unequivocal yes.  I’d love to tell you that it happens with every single new work, but that isn’t the case.  Sometimes, stepping outside of my comfort zone (historical fiction) feels painful and forced.  Other times, it just flows.

My favorite example is my Global eBook Awards double nominee, The Rock Star in the Mirror (or, How David Bowie Ruined My Life).  I wrote and published this novella in 2012.  It was my first time writing first-person present, and using a male narrator.  It was also the first time that I laughed out loud at my own words; what developed from a simple concept became my first (and, so far, only) dark comedy.

Here are the first few paragraphs to whet your appetite:

layout 3So, I’m in the kitchen of The Seahorse Bed and Breakfast, prepping baskets of shrink-wrapped muffins and mini-cartons of O.J. and milk from the local dairy, when Lynnie bursts in.

Let me back up a minute.

My mom owns The Seahorse, here in Rockaway Beach, Oregon. Fifty years ago, it was nothing more than a beach cabin motel like you see all over the coast here. The baskets, in what surely constitutes the world’s greatest triumph of marketing over reality, are how Mom can call the joint a bed and breakfast. I deliver them every morning, after which I do the billing and so on. This is what I’m qualified to do, thanks to a two-year degree in hospitality services from the thriving institution of Oregon Coast Community College.

At least, if you ask my mom. She grew up at The Seahorse, taking it over when Gran’s health got too bad to run the motel. Gran’s in a home and not doing well.

Gramps passed away before I was born. My old man left no forwarding address.

Me? I’m Joe.

Lynnie always calls me Joe-the-Lion, after this ancient David Bowie song from the 1970s. She’s obsessed with the dude.

Lynnie? She’s one of our housekeepers … the other one being Mom. Lynnie’s originally from Netarts; she lives with her Pop just outside of Brown’s Camp.

Never heard of it?

I’m not surprised.

Frequently Asked Question: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

insecure2bwriters2bsupport2bgroup2bbadgeThis month’s question comes from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group … and it’s one I get a lot when I do panels as well.

I have a few, to be honest, but I’ll narrow it down to two.

The first one is homophones and malapropisms.  These drive me crazy.   Anything from not knowing whether to use their, they’re, or there to the difference between broach (approaching something) and brooch (a piece of jewelry), or knock (tapping on something) and nock (fitting an arrow to a bowstring), will get up my nose in a heartbeat.  And yes, I have seen arrows being knocked and women wearing broaches — in published material, not just drafts.  This is why spell-check is not the only editor any of us need.

Maybe it’s because of my days as a newspaper editor, but these simple mistakes leap off the page at me and take me straight out of a story.  It tells me that the author didn’t know better … and that they didn’t even bother to get a proofreader to look at the story, let alone an editor.

The second is egregious errors in fact.  There is a difference between taking creative license and flat-out getting it wrong.  People who read a lot of historical fiction tend to read a lot of non-fiction about the eras in which they are interested, and if you get it wrong?  They’ll know.  Heaven knows I do.  Like homophone errors, this is a sure way to pull me right out of a story.

Our goal as authors is to keep our readers in the story, not make them stop in their tracks and wonder what the hell we were thinking.  So, let us be vigilant.