Sunday, August 23, 2015

Good Sunday afternoon!

I'm just back from three days at the 2015 Writer's Police Academy, and as always, it was a jam-packed, hands-on conference led by active law enforcement personnel who really know what they're talking about and are willing to share it with writers to help us 'write it right' in our stories. Invaluable information was presented on many aspects of police work from how to handle guns to donning SWAT equipment and experiencing what it's like to enter a dangerous situation. Firefighting is part of it, too, as well as the chance to ride along on patrol and oh, so much more. The instructors are experts, personable and put up with dozens of questions...and, bless their hearts, they handle it all with great good humor.

This year was especially exciting because it took place at the Police Academy in Appleton, Wisconsin, just 30 or so miles south of my house in Green Bay.  No long plane ride to get there and back, as was the case when it was set in North Carolina. No worrying about whether I had something in my possession that didn't fit the TSA requirements...just a leisurely drive on down Highway 41 to the Paper Valley Hotel and there I was, ready to jump-start each day at 7:30 a.m. to meet with about 300 other writers who were as eager to learn as I was. I had a great time.

But here's what waited for me when I got home:

I'd left my muse Rocco behind, and he wasn't happy that I hadn't written anything for three days. Pretty clearly, he's worried and wants me to get with the novel I'm working on.

Or maybe he wants his own laptop.

But either way, I get the message, Buddy. Thanks for keeping me on track.


One of the neat hands-on scenarios this year was an experience inside a real 747 airplane, dealing with an unruly passenger. (There was no plane available at the earlier site in North Carolina. The Appleton facility is new, bigger and better.) The experience was played out using the approach and language officers would employ to convince that belligerent passenger to leave the plane without endangering himself, the police, or the other passengers. The language used to convince him was enlightening: no demands like "You must leave the plane!" The interchange was totally persuasive and non-threatening, and allowed the passenger save face by making it his decision to leave.

All in all, as in the past, the Writers Police Academy was money and time well spent. For me, anyway.  Now I just have to mollify Rocco.





Saturday, August 8, 2015

I have a new muse! Meet Rocco:


I love dogs, and they know it. But I didn't have one of my own. Too much trouble, you know? Got to walk them, keep them healthy, spend time with them...worry about what to do with them when you're on a trip, or try to find someone who'll take your place until you get back...

Well, having a dog just didn't fit into my life.

Until I saw Rocco. It was love at first sight and happily ever after all rolled into one.  I knew we were meant to be together and that he was meant to be my muse, that pesky one that nags, nags, nags you to get busy at what you're supposed to be doing - in my case, writing.

Look at that face. Could you resist cuddling him? He's cute, he's funny, and he's always right where I want him. Or nowhere, when I don't. The absolute best kind of dog anybody could have.

And the greatest thing about him is: he's my virtual dog.

Yep (or should I say, "Yip?"), what you see is what you get. Rocco's my dog, all right, and he's no trouble at all.

I like him so much I put him in the story I'm writing now. My hero, Grant Moss, never knew he wanted a dog. Until he saw Rocco in the animal shelter and couldn't help himself. I was right there with him and I understood. So I took my Rocco home with me, too, and now we're the best buddies ever. He's right under my desk. In fact, he's sitting on my foot, snoring.

Rocco tells me I need to write at least 2000 words a day. That's what a muse does, nags, nags, nags. I'm just getting to know him and I'm learning that he's well read, and that he's got opinions about what works or doesn't in a story. I'm finding myself thinking, "What would Rocco do?" when I'm stuck.

So...I'm stuck with Rocco. And he's stuck with me. I hope he loves it as much as I do.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

THE FRUSTRATIONS OF BEING A NON-TEKKIE...

Okay, I understand I'm supposed to be savvy about social media as a promotion tool for getting the word out about my books and short stories.

I know I'm supposed to have a newsletter mailing list of interested readers who want to know about a new book, or something of interest going on in my writing life.

But I can't figure out how I can make that happen on my own. I'm trying, but there seems to be a brick wall between the 'how-to-do-it' and my brain.

I'll keep trying.

My latest book, THE HOUSE ON THE DUNES, came out last fall, and I'd love for more readers to find it. Here's a synopsis of the story:


THE HOUSE ON THE DUNES

At her mother's death, Olivia Hobart (45) inherits two things she never knew existed: a house on the Lake Michigan Dunes as well as missing emerald jewelry.  Sending her pompous husband Bert (who wants to sell Dunes House) and adult retarded daughter Pamela back to their home in Oregon, Olivia moves into Dunes House to search for the emeralds and to unravel the mystery of her mother's life. 

The story turns to mother Catherine's childhood, from the early death of her sister in 1917, through a false marriage, her husband's desertion in Kansas and the death of her infant twins. She moves back to Wisconsin to teach, and falls in love with married Oliver Houle, whose son is one of her students. Pregnant with Oliver's child, Catherine quickly seduces and marries older Levi Sommers, who never questions and claims Houle's child as his own. Levi's all-encompassing love allows Catherine the freedom to continue seeing Oliver throughout their long relationship. 

Returning to the present, Olivia is threatened at Dunes House. Tim, the aging caretaker, falls down a sabotaged staircase, is later trapped under a truck he is servicing. An unknown inhabitant living in the boathouse raises the question: who is behind the criminal attacks? What do they want?

Olivia meets the grandson of Dunes House's original owner, who believes he should have inherited the property. They become romantically involved - Olivia's first and only exciting affair - but is he only attempting to regain what he sees as his rightful estate?

Daughter Pamela is attacked in Portland, comes to stay with Olivia at Dunes House and drowns in one of Lake Michigan's sudden storms. Olivia is devastated, but her husband Bert sees this as a chance to heal their shaky marriage; he felt Olivia's devotion to Pamela kept them from becoming close and insists she come back to Portland to rebuild their life. She tries, but their marriage weakens further and she returns to Dunes House.

A young relative of the Houles learns of the missing emeralds through renewal of an insurance policy, demands the jewels and threatens Olivia's life.  His plans are thwarted by Tim, the old caretaker, who knows the real circumstances of Olivia's birth but has not revealed them.  She learns an old friend of her mothers, Oliver Houle, is alive in a nursing home and visits him, hoping to shed some light on her mother's mysterious life.  Finally, going through an old desk which had been set aside for repair, Olivia finds a letter that leads her to the truths of her mother's life.
                                                                          ///





Available on Amazon.com and other e-book outlets.



Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Good morning!

I've deleted my old blogs and am starting anew  - too much confusion with addresses and all that goes with finding my place in this overwhelming world of cyberspace.

I've just joined a great group of romance writers at the Romance Writer's Weekly and am looking forward to learning a lot from them. Though I don't write romance exclusively (I've got some mysteries, some short stories, some poems, some essays) I've found that romance writers are by far the most welcoming and helpful writers in the whole spectrum of the writing world.

Right now I'm in the doldrums between writing projects and am searching for that one idea that will spark a whole community of characters with problems to solve and relationships to navigate. Help!

A short while ago I wrote a piece about something that happened early in my writing career that I think other writers (and people in other businesses as well) might find interesting. I'll post it here:

DON’T TELL A NEWBIE WRITER THAT!

Ever had a well-known, published teacher hand you the story you’d submitted for comment   and tell you to forget about writing seriously? Not just to forget about that particular story. No, it was obvious what that writer/teacher meant (and here I’m paraphrasing, more or less): “Go home and vacuum your house, clean your closets, raise your children and knit afghans for old folks’ homes. Just don’t write. You’re wasting your time. You’ll never make it as a writer.”

That actually happened to me on a brilliant fall day many years ago and I can still remember exactly where I stood facing the teacher’s insensitive condescension at the front of a classroom. I remember the smell of the chalk on the blackboard behind him, where his name was scrawled boldly across two sections, as though nothing else in the room could be as important. I remember hardly being able to swallow and the sinking feeling in my stomach as I turned away, hoping none of the other students had heard his remark, and scurried out of the room before I could burst into tears.

I was thirty years old and living my dream: to go to a writer’s conference! I’d been writing for years, but only for myself. I hoped one day to have a children’s book published, but raising seven children under ten didn’t give me much time to work on that idea. The story I’d submitted to the arrogant, oh-so-important teacher/writer was a humorous novella involving a small Pennsylvania town where a visiting French artist who’d always hoped to paint a renaissance nude met a plump housewife who yearned to have some money of her own. Result: subterfuge and, of course, misunderstandings. (I’d had fun writing it. Now—after much revision, which it needed, “Girard’s Nude” is available as an e-book on Amazon.com.)

It was a good premise, and not a bad story, even then. I’d read enough to know it needed more—revision, polishing. That’s what I’d come for. To learn how to go about that necessary next step. That’s what I’d clipped coupons and saved grocery money for: this chance to learn how from an expert.

Instead, I was a failure. I was desolated.

And now?

Now, after fifty years and over a hundred published short stories, poems and essays later, along with seven picture books, three print novels and a number of shorter e-books available, I’m still here. Still writing. But not because of that teacher; in spite of him.

I’ve often wondered what he would say about my work today, were he still alive. (That is, if he would condescend to read any of it.) He was actually a pretty big name in our state, with many publications to his credit. But what wasn’t to his credit was what he’d done, not only to me, I discovered later, but to other aspiring writers whose ambitions were dismissed summarily, as though not worthy.

‘Pay it forward’ wasn’t a phrase used back in those days, but he obviously didn’t subscribe to the concept. Whatever his reason for accepting the offer to “teach” at that conference—money? Self-satisfaction?—he had an responsibility to offer his experience to us lesser mortals who yearned for his knowledge. It was his duty to hold out his hand and welcome us into the intriguing, astounding, exciting world of writing.

He could have. He was in the position to do just that. But he chose, instead, to discourage and belittle. I’ll never know why. I only know that, after drying my tears and rereading my story, I gritted my teeth and vowed, “I’ll show him.”

And I have, Mr. Hotshot. I’ve worked hard and had some success, and yes, I’ve paid it forward; I’ve taught whenever I’ve had the opportunity, privately and in groups. There’s a whole lot I still don’t know about writing, especially not now with all the changes in today’s publishing world; nobody knows it all or how different it will be tomorrow. But I do know some things that just might pull a newer, not-so-confident writer a step closer to their dream of publication. You probably do, too. Pay it forward.
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I'll try to post on a fairly regular schedule. Let me know if you have a subject you'd want to chat about. My email is nancysweetland@gmail.com and I'd love to hear from you!