Monday, July 30, 2012

Dog Days and Cheesecake

Siberian husky by  grzegorz jaśkiewicz--public domain

We're coming into the Dog Days of summer. Yuck! I don't know about you, but we're in Texas and it's damn hot. At the moment, in this very place it's 101 (feels like 102, so the humidity isn't too bad). If you don't know why these are called Dog Days, no, it's not because they're only fit for dogs. They're not fit for anyone, man, woman, nor beast! They're Dog Days because the Dog Star, Sirius (seriously), is the bright star in the Canis Major (Greater Dog) constellation. It nears the sun in the summer and ancients thought that was what made it so hot.

Dog Days are hard on me, as a writer. The heat saps my energy and I have a hard time getting things done. Dog Days take on a new meaning at our new home. We've recently moved to an area where letting lots of dogs run loose is acceptable--apparently--behavior. There is no animal control. Hey, we're way out there! I've seen dogs chase people down the street, people who are just trying to walk somewhere. Except for the heat and the dogs, I'd be walking a lot and it would make a good break to get my blood pumping and work ideas out before I return to the keyboard. It IS possible to walk early in the day, temperature wise, so I've ordered Dog Spray (pepper spray) since mine is depleted. I hope to be walking, avoiding the loose dog packs, soon, even if these ARE Dog Days.

public domain photo of strawberry New York cheesecake
Now, what about Cheesecake? Today is National Cheesecake Day. Cheesecake is a great thing to eat while your ideas are percolating, after your brisk walk. The dairy is so good for you! At the risk of starting a fight, I'll baldly state that my favorite style is New York. But I do love the Jello mix cheesecake with graham cracker crust--don't tell anyone. Here are some places to refer to:

This site has links to recipes, and tells us that Olympic athletes in ancient Greece ate cheesecake: (probably not New York style, since there was no Old York, let alone New York)

And lastly (this one's for you, Mary Ann), the Cheesecake Martini: (includes a picture of George Clooney)

Happy Dog Days and hope your Cheesecake Day is yummy!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Elance Freelance Writing--The Key to the Online Freelance Marketplace

A while back, I wrote about freelance writing and how much I've enjoyed doing it. Yes, it can be time consuming, but I find that it helps pay the bills and helps me pay for promotional costs for my books. I use Elance to find freelance work ,though there are many different websites that offer jobs for freelancers. My experience with Elance has been mostly positive and what I like about this company is that if you run in to little hiccups here and there with clients, the Elance team helps solve the problem. When Angela Caswell contacted me about a short guest post regarding a book she wrote to help writers understand how to use Elance, I said yes! I even read the book she is talking about and found it to be a great guide for someone who is new to the site and wants to know the best and most effective way to win jobs and get noticed. So without further delay, welcome Angela!

Elance Freelance Writing – The Key to the Online Freelance Marketplace

By Angela Caswell

I recently landed my first summer internship in social media marketing. When this door opened, I was suddenly struck with the urge to search for other ways to work from home. This led me to the exciting world of freelance writing. The only question that remained was where to get started?

This question may seem daunting to a young entrepreneur, but never fear! Did you know there is an online marketplace for freelance writers to connect with clients? The social media platform is called Elance, and now there is an eBook to help you begin marketing yourself as a freelancer.

Elance Freelance Writing: A Writer’s Guide to Making Money is authored by Courtney Allison and Joe Latuszek. The eBook offers countless practical tips for starting your own Elance business and successfully marketing your skills to clients. In this handy eBook, you will learn about:

·        How to create your best personal profile

·        How to make your profile searchable and visible to clients

·        Tips for bidding and winning clients

·        Ways to create positive client/contractor relations

·        And so much more!

One of the most helpful aspects of the setup on Elance is the ability to review the history of potential clients. You can search to see how often they hire, their payment history, and comments from other Elance users.  Elance is not only an online marketplace, but an online community, enabling users to effectively communicate and create optimum business partnerships.

Using this social networking platform is a great way to start making money as a freelance writer. Reading this eBook ( offers a step-by-step guideline to equip you with the tools for success. You can get started today!

[Elance Freelance Writing: A Writer’s Guide to Making Money by Courtney Allison and Joe Latuszek is available at Barnes and Noble,, and]

Monday, July 23, 2012

Interview of Bobbi Chukran

Welcome to All Things Writing, Bobbi. It feels funny to be doing a cyber interview of a person I've actually met face to face. I enjoyed the chats we had before I moved away from Taylor--right as you were moving in!

A little about Bobbi Chukran: She's done a lot of different artistic things, as you'll see below. She lives in a cottage she and her husband recently purchased in Taylor, TX, and which they've made into a major project, converting it to their needs. She is very active in several online discussion groups and blogs about gardening, her cottage, and writing.

Her mysteries are written as B. A. Neal, everything else under Bobbi Chukran. Her website is and other links are at the end.

She has just set up a new venture to help out her fellow mystery authors. Check it out at

BOBBI: Hi Kaye! Thanks for having me here on your blog. It was an honor to meet you in real life, and I’m sorry you had to move away before we really got to know each other. I feel like we’re kindred spirits.

KAYE: It WAS bad timing on my part! You have had great success with your plays. What can you tell us about play writing? Or is it play wrighting? Feel free to mention the awards you've received and what they mean.

BOBBI: It’s play writing, but we call ourselves “playwrights.” Interesting, everybody tells me that I’ve had great success with my plays. If you count awards, I suppose you could say that I’ve been successful. Four of my plays have won awards since I started writing them five years ago. But I'm really just a beginner.

My first play, ANNIERELLA, won First Place in the Youth Education on Stage program in Williston, ND in 2010 and my LITTLE RED RIDING BOOTS and COOTER COYOTE, MASTER OF DISGUISE won First Place and Audience Favorite there in June of this year.

My DOT and the (AMAZING TECHNICOLOR) QUEST FOR THE REAL SANTA CLAUSE and my PRINCESS PRIMROSE and the CURSE OF THE BIG SLEEP plays both won monetary awards from the East Valley Children’s Theatre in Arizona.

Since then, ANNIERELLA has been published by Brooklyn Publishers and subsequently has had a handful of productions at schools in New York, South Carolina, Missouri. (Nope, none in Texas yet, although I keep hoping!)

In general, a playwright’s goal is to get productions of the plays, to have people actually see them and to get paid for it. It’s the getting paid for it that’s the hard part.

I really went into play writing blind and have stumbled around, finding my way. It’s not an easy field for a writer. There are only so many theatres, and most of them understandably also want to make money. So they will look for proven moneymakers, and usually not an original play by an unknown.

The plays I write are pretty much “production ready” because I can see them acted out and directed in my head, with full-fledged costuming, lighting, props. I’m not sure where that skill came from. I’ve yet to actually direct any of my own plays although it’s always in the back of my mind.

KAYE: I notice that you write fantasy plays and mystery novels. Why the different genres for the different forms?

BOBBI: Good question! It’s one that has kept me awake nights. My historical mystery novel (Lone Star Death) was one of those things that I had to do, had to get finished. I actually finished writing it over 8 years ago, but I went through hell-n-back trying to get it published. One editor wanted me to “add a lot of spice” and turn it into a cowboy romance. Another suggested I remove the “lady of the evening” so that it could be a “proper” young adult book. LOL. The market has really changed since then for YA fiction, and now I tell people that it’s PG-rated, but there is a bit of cowboy cursing. I do believe that it’s suitable for older middle grade and young adults, because the sleuth is nineteen-years old.

Most of my other writing merges the mystery and fantasy a bit more—leaning more towards fantasy. I’ve found that I don’t like writing about real people much, and I don’t like writing about school, or work, or contemporary relationships. So that leaves fantasy. To me, historical fiction is almost like writing fantasy, because it’s removed somehow from the concerns of everyday life. I think it would be great fun to write a steampunk story, which would combine the two.

I’m focusing on the stranger fiction/fantasy—some are calling it speculative fiction. I call it quirky fiction, leaning slightly toward dark humor.

To illustrate, my influences are the British comedies, Doctor Who, anything by Tim Burton, old sci-fi and horror movies, classic cartoon animation, Monty Python—things of that ilk. I’ve still trying to find the perfect novel that encompasses everything I want to do with my fiction. Some kid’s books come close---the Lemony Snicket books and the Spiderwick Chronicles are favorites. I LOVE movies, and they actually come closer to the kinds of stories I want to tell, but I’m not really into writing screenplays. I love writing dialogue, so have pondered writing some radio plays, though.

I recently made my first YouTube video book trailer, and a whole new world opened up to me. I’ve always loved multi-media, so I’m enjoying learning how to do those.

KAYE: I've read your play, ANNIERELLA and THE (VERY AWESOME) GOOD QUEEN FAIRY COWMOTHER, and can see that you have an absurdist sense of humor--very funny stuff! Were you the class clown growing up? Where do you think your talent for humor comes from?

BOBBI: Thanks! I like that description: absurdist sense of humor. I’ll have to use it. LOL! ANNIERELLA was great fun because I really played with language in it. Lots of alliteration, bouncy words, fun words—that’s really what I’m all about. I had a lot of fun naming the seven elves in PRINCESS PRIMROSE.

I do love to make people laugh, although I didn’t really realize I could do in my writing that until I started writing the plays. They allowed me to let loose and be crazy. I do have a stack of ideas and partial manuscripts for crazy kid’s picture books, sketchbooks filled with wild characters for stories, etc. and now that it’s much easier to publish e-books, I’m hard at work getting more of them out there.

 I don’t think I was the class clown—I’ll have to ask some of my Facebook friends that knew me back then. I was very depressed as a kid, lived inside books, and even did a lot of writing back then, but I really didn’t find my voice until my early 50’s.

 I’m not sure where it comes from. It’s just a skewed way of looking at things, and being a keen observer. Some of my kinfolks have had a really great sense of humor, although they didn’t let it show much. I think it’s just that I see things differently than most people and I’m just now willing to let some of that out on paper.

My most recent stories and plays are all comedy spoofs or satire inspired by classic stories turned on their heads mixed with cultural references. My DOT Christmas play mixes references to the Wizard of Oz, Lost in Space and Monty Python—all in one. PRINCESS PRIMROSE is a mixture of at least three fairy tales.

KAYE: How on earth did the idea of a Fairy Cowmother come to you?

BOBBI: LOL. Well, ANNIERELLA was based on the idea of having a Texas cowgirl version of the classic Cinderella story. And I thought, what’s the least likely critter that could be a fairy godmother? I had an image in my head of a cow, standing on her hind legs, udders-a-danglin’, waving a wand all around, wearing a tiara—with an attitude the size of Texas. So the Very Awesome Good Queen Fairy Cowmother was born.

KAYE: I've also read and enjoyed your historical mystery novel, LONE STAR DEATH. There are distinct flashes of humor there, too. In addition, you write short stories. What do you do, mentally, to switch from one to the other--to the other?

BOBBI: Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! I have a really hard time switching from one to the other, although there is always some element of mystery in them all. One of my goals is to merge all of my interests so that I don’t feel so scattered half the time. And that means letting some of the things go. That’s why I’m glad that LONE STAR DEATH is out now in e-book and print, so I can move on to other projects. I found that I really love writing shorter things, and that works well with the kid’s projects and short stories I’ve written.

KAYE: Do you plan a sequel to LONE STAR DEATH?

BOBBI: I do have ideas for a sequel, but right now I want to focus on getting the books based on my plays published. I jumped into the world of e-books last winter with the publication of my JOURNAL OF MINA HARKER play on It was a great way to get my feet wet again with self-publishing, and I’m working on the novelization of that one, too.

KAYE: Do you have any recurring characters in your other works?

BOBBI: I did write a second Annierella play. My PRINCESS PRIMROSE play features S. White and R. Rapunzel as noirish sleuths “in service to Her Majesty, the Queen” with seven little operatives that assist them. I’m about to publish the novelization of that one, targeted towards middle grade or ‘tween-agers, as they call them now. It’s definitely the first in a series, with at least two more planned. I fell in love with the crazy characters and couldn’t leave them behind. I’m attempting to do the illustrations for it, too, based on the strange characters in my sketch book. Yes, I’m nuts! LOL

KAYE: Gardening, fiber arts, home remodeling, photography, painting--is there an artistic endeavor you're not interested in?

BOBBI: I am interested in a crazy amount of things. A lot of those were things I’ve done in the past, though. I don’t like to be bored, and have always had some sort of hobby. For years, I tried making a living with artwork, and my first non-fiction book was on the fiber arts. But in general, other than house stuff, I’ve left that behind. The remodeling project is mostly over. I take pleasure in working in the garden—it’s my therapy—and taking photos of it and sharing them with others is part of that. It’s something I’ll never grow tired of.

KAYE: You've written non-fiction also. That's something I've never done (except I consider this interview non-fiction). How does that differ from fiction writing?

BOBBI: Ah! I think it differs because non-fiction comes from other places and is based on real-life whereas fiction comes directly from inside me. There are areas where it mixes, of course—like memoir—but in general, I have so many stories inside me that I want to get out, I made a conscious decision to focus on those right now. I call it “authentic writing”—stories that only I can tell. Some of them are based on real life, but fictionalized. For example, there was the time we lived in a bait shop….LOL.

I do a lot of blogging, and for the most part, that’s non-fiction. It’s a way to reach out to potential readers.

KAYE: Thanks for being with us today! Good luck with all of your many varied projects!

BOBBI: Thank you so much! It was a pleasure. Your questions really made me THINK. And that’s a good thing.


Writing blog

Annierella publisher:

Amazon page:

Garden blog:


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Finding by Timothy Cavinder--Excerpt and Giveaway!

I love discovering great new summer reads, don't you? That's one of the many reasons I enjoy being a tour host for Innovative Online Book Tours. Today I'm sharing with you an excerpt from Timothy Cavinder's novel The Finding. We are also giving away a free copy of the book too! Be sure to enter the raffle below!


On the day Horace’s truck wouldn’t start he called Henry Bill to give him a ride into town. Horace needed to pay his property taxes, today being the final day allowed for such transactions and also he needed to purchase a new white shirt. The reason for the new shirt was the occasion of an impending visit from his older brother Donald and his wife of several years Vivian. Donald visited Horace every year much like a pilgrimage as Donald had promised their mother on her death bed that he’d keep an eye on Horace. The reason for this request remains unknown perhaps it was just a mother’s worry or it may have been the effects of the painkillers and the sips of Kentucky whiskey she liked to take from her bedside bottle.

Horace got along fine with Donald who managed a shoe store in the next county but he always felt nervous around Vivian. For Vivian was as they say “taken by the Lord.” She was as devout as they come, underneath her cold steely eyes lurks all the wrath that fire and brimstone could offer. Horace felt she never seemed happy and if that was what loving the Lord turned a person into he’d just as well remain in the liking column, nothing wrong with that he thought: nothing wrong with just liking the Lord and then I can still be happy.

Horace always wanted to look and act his best around her as he felt she looked down on him. So, a new shirt every year was Horace’s manner of proclaiming “I’m doing just fine. I have a new shirt don’t I?”

And so Henry Bill, driving his old four door that used to be a taxi, pulled up in front of Horace’s house to give him a ride into town.

“Hey ya,” Henry Bill calls out with a slight wave.

Horace nods and begins walking down the steps of his front porch and down the short sidewalk to the street. Having received his passenger Henry Bill slowly pulls away from the curb.

“What’s wrong with it?” He asks his friend.

”It’s making a grinding sound, then nothing,” Horace answers.

“Bouts where?”

“Under the hood, right side. I think anyway, I’m not sure.”

“That truck’s been trouble for you lately ain’t it?”

“Yeah, but it’s a good truck. I’ve had it for so long I don’t want to give up on it. I just need to figure it out that’s all.”

“Yep,” Henry Bill says as they approach town. “Where ya headed Horace?”

“Just downtown is fine, gotta pay at the courthouse and then to the Dixie May.”

“New shirt? Your brother coming again?”

“Yep, that time of year.”

“Boy, oh boy time sure flies,” Henry Bill says.

“That it does Henry. That it does.”

Horace felt quite comfortable calling Henry Bill for a ride as they have known each other since childhood. Henry Bill was the only child of Dee and Vernon MacArthur. When Henry started school Dee took a housekeeping job for the Ginleys. They were and always have been the richest family in Fair County, the only rich family actually. Vestor Ginley, the old man, made his money investing in Texas oil fields and foreign stocks. He wasn’t from here originally he showed up one day fifty years ago and bought up the seventy three acres that once made up the Winnie Ladlow farm (Winnie the window died with no known heirs.) And so Vestor hired a staff, put in crops, brought out his wife and raised five children all of whom divided their time between the farm in Fair county and New York City where Vestor owned a townhouse and liked to stay close to his business contacts.
When Dee took the job, Ginley had been there for forty years and was now as they say “getting up there in years.” His hearing and eyesight weren’t nearly what they used to be. Dee neither attempted to avoid him or interact with him. She saw him occasionally sitting in the parlor drinking coffee or sitting out on the porch with his large black Newfoundland at the old man’s feet.

Dee took the job for the sole reason that most folks take jobs: she needed the money. Since her husband Vernon had been let go from the machine shop he tried his hand at farm help but it tore up his back so bad the doctor gave him some pain pills that Vernon liked so much he took them every day for a week sleeping the entire week away. He said it gave him good dreams but by the time he got back on his feet his job had been filled. So, Vernon went out looking for work and the best he could come up with was a position selling shoes door to door, he did okay but was gone a lot and what money he sent home wasn’t enough to make ends meet so Dee took the job not always sure how she was going to pay the bills and not sure if Vernon would ever return.

Her premonition proved correct as one week when Vernon was due home he didn’t show up. As she washed the dishes in the kitchen sink she didn’t need to think twice she knew; “he’s gone.”

This was when Henry Bill was ten years of age. He learned to help bring in the badly needed money and help around the house. He learned to live life as an only child without a father and was never heard to say much about it then or now.

“Here be good,” Horace says as they approach the courthouse. Henry Bill pulls over to the curb and stops.

“You want me to look at your truck sometime? I be glad too,” Henry Bill offers.

“Well, all right but let me ask Roy first,” Horace says stepping out of the car and onto the sidewalk.

“Let me know then,” Henry Bill waves.

Horace waves back then turns and walks toward the courthouse.

Timothy Cavinder Online:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 16, 2012

Yellow Pig Day AND White Pig Day

Tomorrow is Yellow Pig Day. It's been celebrated on July 17 since the 1960s. I'm surprised you haven't heard of it! Or, if you attended Princeton and/or majored in math, maybe you have.

Here's the background. Two math students, Michael Spivak and David C. Kelly, were given an assignment to analyze the properties of the number 17. They must have stayed up late, or taken chemical study aids, or something, because they went a little crazy and decided to invent an imaginary yellow pig that would have 17 toes, 17 teeth, 17 eyelashes, and so on.

How we moved from there to having it be a holiday is not answered in my sources (see below). This holiday is to be celebrated by eating Yellow Pig Cake and singing Yellow Pig Carols.

I have information that the 17th is also, coincidentally, Peach Ice Cream Day. I supposed Peach and Yellow aren't that far removed on the color chart, so you could celebrate them together. Put the Peach Ice Cream on the Yellow Pig Cake?

In case you decide to celebrate, here are some Yellow Pig Carols:

If we can have a Yellow Pig Day, we should also have a White Pig Day. So I hereby declare today, July 16th, White Pig Day. I'm doing so, of course, in honor of Marshmallow, the pig featured on the cover of my second mystery, SMOKE.

pig pix are public domain from

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Bridge of Deaths by M.C.V. Egan---Book Review

***I received this book as part of IO Book Tours in exchange for an honest review****

I like history. I don't want to marry it or anything, but I enjoy it and feel that yes, we do in fact learn from it. I like tales based on fact, too, and when I read the synopsis for The Bridge of Deaths by M.C.V. Egan, I was excited. Past life regressions, a brutal plane crash, soul mates---oh yeah, baby. This sounded great. But….well….the execution didn't come like I thought it would.

Here's the synopsis:

On August 15th 1939, at the brink of World War II, an English plane crashed and sunk in Danish waters. Five deaths were reported: two Standard Oil of New Jersey employees, a German Corporate Lawyer, an English member of Parliament, and a crew member for the airline. Here is a conceivable version of the events.

As you read the book, the author lets you know that this is a personal story for her and that she spent a great deal of time researching the events of August 15, 1939. It shows, too. The novel is full of factual information that pieces together a fictional story about Bill and Maggie. Bill is having dreams about the crash and we find out this because of past life regression. In an effort to help Bill, Maggie's job is to research history and see if they can make sense of anything.  There's a third character, Catalina, who has spent years researching the plane crash because her grandfather was killed in it.

I think this is a great idea for a book. The past life regression especially grabbed me, reminding me of the movie Dead Again. The relationship between Bill and Maggie as soul mates is strong and I liked their "chance" meeting in the book store.

For me though, this book wavered a little about what genre it wanted to be. At times, I felt like it was historical fiction with paranormal elements, and at others, it wanted to be a non-fiction written like a fictional book. While I liked the idea, the research details slowed the story line down, making it difficult for me to stay with the book.

If you are some that enjoys reading historical documents, particularly from the World War II era, then this will provide some intriguing reading.

Here is the link to the book on Amazon, as well as, the author's info!

 Amazon code The Bridge of Deaths

M.C.V.EGAN Online:

Video interview

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summertime and Writing Time

Summertime and the livin' is easy....

Hmm, sounds like that could be the lyrics to a song. Oh, how I love this time of year! No classes of children to worry over. No cares or worries about lesson plans or grades. Just...relaxation....ah....

Unless you're a writer who gets the bulk of their work done during the summer hours!

I've been having trouble getting my act together the past month. Writing stories, editing the new novel---they don't seem as fun as vegging by the pool with a margarita and a good book. But it must be done.

What I've discovered is that I need a summertime schedule that allows me to work, spend time with the child and husband, and watch terrible TV shows. I think I've got it figured out now and have found a good balance.

But that margarita by the pool is so tempting....

How do other writers handle their writing schedules? Please share! I love knowing how other people do this!

Monday, July 9, 2012

July 10th is Piña Colada Day

Wednesday is the day to celebrate! But what do you celebrate when you commemorate Piña Colada Day? According to Intoxicology, the Piña Colada (Spanish for Strained Pineapple) got its start in the 1800s when the Puerto Rican pirate, Roberto Confresi, boosted his crew's morale by adding pineapple and coconut to white rum. When Confresi died in 1825, his recipe was lost. But the bartender at Caribe Hilton's Beachcomber Bar in San Juan (who was said to be Ramon "Monchito" Marrero) reinvented the drink on August16, 1954. This begs the question, why isn't August 16th Piña Colada Day? Oh well. Another bartender, at Barrachina Restaurant in Puerto Rico, brought a Piña Colada recipe home from South America in 1963.  There may be other stories of the origin, too.

Now they are filled with strawberries and bananas and who knows what else? Nevertheless, it's the official drink of Puerto Rico.

I had the great good fortune to be invited to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands a few years ago and toured a rum factory. I won't tell you that the vats of fermenting sugar are open to the air, shield only by a fabric sort of tent cover. The alcohol surely kills anything that falls into the roiling brew. It all turns out all right in the end.

Which bring us to fiction! We can put all sorts of stuff into our brews and sometimes they come out all right and sometimes they don't. Then we rewrite, right? I'm putting a tiny bit of paranormal into my next amateur sleuth, the one coming out in October. According to Wiki, paranormal has to do with unexplained phenomena. Supernatural means phenomena not subject to the laws of nature.

Paranormal, according to this article means ghosts, extraterrestrials, and weird animal-type critters like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, unicorns, werewolves. I think vampires are classified supernatural by these criteria. Personally, I'd put werewolves and vampires in the same category, since I've seen them appear in the same stories.

You can put some horror into romance, some thriller into fantasy, some vampires into a travelogue if you want to. There's no end to the blending you can do. You can even use bananas and strawberries in your plot. The only question is, will it work? Will the reader buy into it and want to read to the end? If you've written it that way, let's hope so.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Writing without Visual Aids: Can you do it?

Today's guest blogger reminded me about an important part of the writing process: being descriptive. When we write, we want everything to be clear for the reader. They should be able to visualize without ever seeing a real picture of what you are talking about. Sometimes it's easy and sometimes…well, it can be difficult! Ferina Santos took on the challenge of trying to write about applying makeup without any visual aids for the reader to go by. It's a unique challenge and one every writer should try whether it be about make up or something else! Welcome, Ferina!


Writing About Writing About Applying Makeup Without Visual Supplements: Is It Possible?

Write About Writing About Applying … What?

From time to time every writer is given the gift of an opportunity to write a crazy idea. This is one: to write about writing about applying makeup under the premise that no illustrations will be available to help guide a reader as to how to apply makeup. As long as I will not blabber on writing about the application of makeup itself, this crazy idea was welcome. I just needed to tell someone how to write about writing about the application of makeup without illustrations being available. That is, there would be no “Refer to Illustration A” type of instructions. So, here goes…

Writing for the Blind

Hoping for some insight, I punched Google with “writing for the blind” and, with only an admittedly cursory perusal, I could find no real theory articles on the art of writing for the blind. I did see a number of articles regarding contractions and short-form words that should be used or avoided because of the conventions of Braille. So, finding no “eureka,” I finally realized that I was perhaps heading down a blind alley, since both the writer and the reader would probably be sighted in spite of the fact that no illustrations would be available. At least a mirror would be available to the final reader. The process wouldn’t be a blind-leading-the-blind sort of exercise. I think …

Describing Technical Processes

Though I have been writing ever since I learned to hold on to a pencil, I am neither a writing theoretician nor a linguist of the writing arts. I have written a number of how-to articles or makeup tutorials, but almost always with the benefit of illustrations. I certainly know that a picture’s worth a thousand words. My next Google search posed “describing technical processes” and I wasn’t given much more than what I already know. I have done my share of writing to describe how to tie a shoe or put on lipstick without benefit of illustration – in class and in real life. It ain’t easy and it ain’t fun. It’s tedious. But wait …

Acute Observation, Delicate Questioning, Precise Translation

An art exists in technical writing. Applying makeup is an art that requires technique. No matter how girly-girly the use of makeup may be seen, it is indeed a technical art as much as sculpting or glass-blowing or painting is. It requires some precision and some artful use of tools. So, it must take an artist to describe an artistic process. The artiste to do this is the technical writer. That writer must have at least three highly-honed skills:

     Acute Observation
Divide the skill sets and pay careful step-by-step attention to each. You don’t want to do a little on the eyebrows and then jump to the application of the lip liner and then smudging on a little blush. Do eyes, lips, cheeks, and peripheral facial surfaces each in their turn. Pay close attention to what is going on during each step. If you feel you have missed something, ask the makeup artist to repeat the step, if only by mimicking, until you are sure of exactly what has been done. Watch the tools carefully and how they are used.

     Delicate Questioning
Never stop asking questions. Ask for the name of the tools. Ask if there is a term that is generally understood by a lay audience. “Squinch up your eyes.” might be an acceptable phrase in a makeup instructional book. Ask for relative measurements. Perhaps an acceptable instruction would be: “Start the eyebrows at the edges of your three middle fingers placed on the brow at the top of the nose.” Never stop asking until the precision is laid out and easily understandable to yourself and the operator, too. “What if I said it this way: …?” is a terribly important question. The makeup artist knows clients better than you do and understands how to communicate with clients. The operator is your expert. Ask, ask, ask.

     Precise Translation
Now the heavy stuff falls onto the writer. As said earlier, no illustrations are available. It is up to the writer to translate each and every movement, each and every technique, the divulgence of secrets and tips, the use of relative measurements, the precise use of each and every tool, into a language that the user can understand and apply – AND APPLY USEFULLY. The translation must be methodical and precise. Use of language must be as deft and as artistic as the moves of the makeup operator employing his or her techniques.

Test the Writing with an Eyebrow Pencil

Aside from the fact that you’ve probably couched your writing in the present simple passive voice, does it really work? Grab a girlfriend and have her sit down in front of a mirror and watch how she does while she reads your writing and applies her makeup using your words. Of course, have all tools and materials required. Take note of all problems and all the unforeseen results of your words. How awful does she look when she’s finished? Start the process over as far back as seems necessary.

Think about the Lowest Common Consumer

Having no pictures on which to rely requires communication precision and careful testing. This is not a job for every writer. And don’t expect every customer to be satisfied. After all, when you have to put tags on blow dryers warning users not to operate them while in a shower or a tub, you have to figure that you’re going to be dealing with some pretty low common denominators when it comes to users of your instructional makeup text. Keep that in mind as you write as well.

You Can Write about Applying Makeup – or Anything – sans Illustrations

While this is not a comprehensive text on how to write about writing about makeup without benefit of illustration, it should give you some idea of the challenges you might face. This primer can be used for many other forms of instructional writing that must be done sans illustrations. And just as with makeup, if the first try doesn’t look or work quite right, you can always wash your face and try again to be beautifully useful. Or better yet, go ask me for makeup tips… but that’s another story.

Ferina Santos is part of the team behind Open Colleges, Australia's provider of makeup and writing courses. A feisty, 20 year-old nerd at heart with an obsession for vanity, she captures all her random musings with daily photographs in her blog, A Pink Banana. When not online, she can be found reading a book or riding with her horses, while fantasizing she’s a real-life Khaleesi.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tale of Lust, Hate, and Despair--Interview and Review with Ian Truman

Mary Ann: Hi Ian! We're delighted to have you at All Things Writing. Our blog mainly reaches other writers so we like to talk about the process of writing. How long have you been writing?

The absolute first thing I ever wrote I think was some sort of Role playing game when I was in 4th grade or something. We were a few soon-to-be-geeks in school and we played a lot of Nintendo games and this thing that was called Hero Quest (a board game). It was around the time when the first Jurassic Park came out (In 93 I think) and my dad had bought me the game and so I adapted the Jurassic Park video game into a sort of D&D. That is the first thing that I can remember.

I don't think we ever played more than a few games and then high school kicked in and I was sent to this specialized class for smart kids (and I am not saying this to brag) which does not land you points with ladies or jocks, but hell if we learned how to use computers. We were really into like early cyberpunk novels and I remember reading a bunch of the Shadowrun series and then trying to write one. I don't remember what I did with it.

It wasn't until I went to Cegep (some sort of community college here in QC) that I took my writing seriously. I played around with philosophy, political science, poetry, script, but after a while I realized I was more comfortable with novels. How long have I been writing you asked? I guess 19 years now.

You bio and your synopsis of Tales of Lust, Hate, and Despair indicate you were strongly influenced by music and cinema for this work. Is that the norm for you when you are writing? Or is this the first time you've attempted that style?

I have been a huge fan of all things cinema for as long as I can remember but it was when my uncle gave me a copy of Aliens (the Cameron one) when I was something like 15 that my mind was really blown away. I started digging into these kinds of stories, asking people I knew if there was anything else like it they knew about.

There was this weird goth kid (we became friends) at the record shop and he introduced me to a few of the bands that I still love to this day. If you look at the “thank you” part of movies, novels or Cd's (back then), that's how you discovered these gritty movies or underground bands. I had the internet, but there was no such thing as wiki or youtube back then and finding an director like Kevin Smith still required some work.

For the longest time I didn't want to write novels “Who the fuck would buy them?” I was thinking. I mostly wrote songs and sang in a hardcore band, but when the band broke off, I had to do something else. That was the first time I thought about moving away from music and I tried writing scripts first which I still do from time to time, but then I figured I could actually sell my own books so I started writing novels for the first time. That was maybe three or four years ago.

I think that what I write is visual and I have heard people call it something like “cinematic” because it is mostly descriptive with a lot of dialogue, but that's just how I learned to do narratives when I watched these hundreds (if not thousands) of movies. I think my writings will always be influenced by cinema and music. There's no way around it.

This novel is full of gritty characters and complex situations. Where did you get your inspiration from?

Movies and music are a big part of it. I cite Kurosawa and Samuel Fuller as major influences, you could add writers like Richler, Hemingway or Lehane, but as far as the story goes, I was mostly influenced by the darker sides of Montreal. I know the city has (had?) a reputation for being a place where people are all happy and all, but there are these places and times where people struggle and conflicts are real. I would never say that it is as bad as places like Baltimore or Detroit but the conflicts are not unlike New-York in the 80s-90s (from what I've read of the era). There was this think in Montreal in the late 90's, early 00s that has been called “The Biker Wars” and although I was never part of it, that's all the news would talk about back then.

I also spend a lot of my young adult years in the red light district at this community center called “L'x room” which is where I discovered “Straight Edge” but also a lot of violence, drugs and prostitution. The room was sort of a safe heaven for young punks and bums where you could see a show for 5$ and there were old used books for sale every now and then. The whole area is gentrified now and I can't say I miss it (I still work there for a student coop) but it was a time and place of turmoil and a lot of stories in the novel are from that time in my life.

The city is certainly a huge character in the book!  Agent or no agent? What's your take on that part of the publishing process?

I did send out stuff to a few agencies, mostly when I was still in college, but none of them seemed to care. Back when there was no DIY option (or no viable one) for self-publishing I understood their necessity even if I could argue that they maintained themselves in a position of power in order to guarantee themselves a job, but now that self-publishing is incredibly easier, I see no reason why I should get an agent.

I also discovered art and music by going at L'X (which I mentioned before) and it was a very special place where most of the people believed in direct democracy and the DIY (Do It Yourself) ethic. There were these bands that we all loved, like Minor Threat, Bad Religion and Black Flag, and these bands had built their careers (and an entire musical genre) from scratch. There was no one around willing to support them, so they did it themselves.

In the 90s in Montreal and early 00s, there was this void downtown where most of the buildings were vacant and artists kinda took them over and there was no scene at all and no money, so everyone I knew were adamant on DIY. If you could find a few instruments, a few mics and a computer you'd be alright. It was the beginning of the accessible numeric-age, the very first “affordable” pro-tools and CD printers.

So going to a major was never much of an issue for me whether it was music or literature. If ever a publishing house or an agent calls me, I am not saying I would say yes or no, but I would simply ask if the deal was to my advantage or not.

What is something major that the publishing world has taught you?

“You're on your own kid.” I guess that's nothing new to people my age, but in today's world, if you are a creative person, you have to know how how to do (almost) anything. Of course, there are endless databases and videos online on how to do this and that or this and that. If someone asks you good money for information on anything, look elsewhere, there might be someone who wrote a similar article and was happy to give it for free.

Libraries are also free and have endless on a vast aray of subjects. If you are expecting to be a self-published author, you need to know how to write, but then you need to know how editing works, how the programs themselves work, how the technology is evolving and mostly, how marketing works. All of these competences ca be found for free if you are willing to give in the time.

Something else I learned is that I am not proficient in all aspects of book publishing. For example, I know how to work the basics of photoshop, but I am not a graphics designer in any ways. That is why I gave the cover design for Tales of Lust, Hate and Despair to a professional. I came up with the general idea, I spent maybe 16 hours just looking at stock photos. I had made a plan to have my wife take pictures of models we knew, but as I am not rich and we have little place (and a daughter) I took the decision to buy stock photos instead. I sent the proofs to my graphics designer (who is a friend as well) and he replied “this one will work, this one won't for this and this reason” which are details that I don't know about.

There is also this issue with editing and proofreading that I (really) such at. I think I know how to tell a story and I am far less interested by the grammar than I am interested by the tone and the story I am telling. So I hired two people I used to go to college with who are now graduates as well. And these persons are now professional writers and publishers in a certain way. I could have looked for someone with ten years of experience, but having spent countless hours in workshops and classes with these two (I am talking here of Sarah Needles and Alex Manley) I knew their work was just as good as the next guy with “more” experience. So I paid them what I could and they seemed happy to put in the time. Hopefully I'm make a little money out of the novel (or at least cover my costs) and be able to pay them more next time but their inputs has been invaluable to the novel.

So I guess the lessons you need to remember is :

A) learn at least a little bit about all aspects of the work


B) know your own limitations and act on them by getting the proper help.

What's next for you? Any other books in the works?

I started writing my third novel a few months ago. It was mostly snapshots at first and a good idea, but I've been putting in the hours lately and the novel is advancing almost as fast as I'd like it. The title will be “A Teenage Suicide” and it is a straightforward look at the lives of young men and women whose lives have been struck by that kind of event. It's more of a Young Adult marked I'd say, but it is also a story that is closer to my heart so I wanted to get it off my chest before going back to my more hardboiled stuff.

I had a bunch of fragments and ideas written down on scrap paper for something titled “Memoirs of a Hit-man” but it'll have to wait for A Teenage Suicide to be over. I would love to get the third novel ready for late November and catch a bit of the Christmas crowd, but I am not willing to cut corners just for that.

That's pretty much it for now.

Thanks for having me.

Review of Tales of Lust, Despair, and Hate

Be sure to enter the raffle copter giveway at the bottom to win a copy of this book!

This is not a sunshine and roses book. It has no paranormal element to it or pages and pages of a romantic hero looking to ride off into the sunset. And none of that is a bad thing! I have to admit that I've been swamped with romance novels, historical fiction, and high fantasy books for review so I was really looking forward to something with a little more grit to it.

And boy, did I get that.

If you read my interview with Mr. Truman, you probably gathered that he is quite passionate in his beliefs. You can easily sense this in his writing as well. Tales of Lust, Despair, and Hate is a gritty, brutal novel that travels a dark path of self-discovery. Full of tough truths, this is the book that stays with you long after it's done.

Here’s the synopsis:

Samuel Lee has known three days of freedom in the last eighteen years. Three days to come out of prison, see his daughter, settle a score with the mother of his child and her dangerous new boyfriend. Finding shelter in the unlikely company of a group of prostitutes, Sam will have to challenge his friends, his family, and ultimately, himself.

Told in the tradition of the best literary noir, Tales of Lust, Hate and Despair is a modern, lowdown and gritty take on the genre. Inspired by the cinema of Akira Kurosawa and Samuel Fuller as well as the music of Tom Waits, Sage Francis, Neurosis and Marilyn Manson, it is a novel that is sure to please anyone who has ever found themselves trapped and cast aside from the world.

Cast aside from the world? Yeah. I would agree that is where we find Sam when the novel begins. He is  a man looking for answers and looking for his daughter. He tries to be peaceable, tries to mind his business and walk a straight path, but his internal struggle with himself does not make that easy. Oh, and then there's that little liquor problem he seems to have. He doesn't exactly make the best impression on people when he's been drinking. 

I had mixed feelings about Sam as a character. On the one hand, I liked him and wanted him to stop daydreaming about what he could do with his life and just do it! He often wanders into flights of fancy where he imagines himself living the good life or where things are perfect. Yet, he doesn't allow himself the opportunity to follow through with those thoughts and make them a reality. This was frustrating for me as a reader,and unfortunately, very true to life. There are so many people like Sam who think about how great their life could be, but yet do nothing to make it happen.  The author really had me here!

There is quite an eclectic group of characters within this story ranging from Alice (Sam's drugged up ex) to Josie who fits the prostitute with a heart of gold stereo type. I particularly liked how the story of the European client who beats the prostitutes unfolds.  I liked Mikey (the best friend) because I could feel his concern for Sam. So all in all, great character development!

There is a lot of backstory which guides the reader to the present day situations that are occurring.  While I think backstory is important, I did feel that at times it slowed the forward motion of the novel.  The descriptions of the city were vivid and painted a picture, but once that picture is painted, I want to move on. Occasionally, I felt like some of the setting stuff was taking away from the pace of the tale. I also loved the narrative style of the author, but there were times when the tense changed and some head hopping occurred.  I spotted quite a few typos and misspellings--not enough to make me stop reading, but enough to make me think the book needed one more pass with a line editor.  On the other hand, I was reading the Kindle version  and I always find more mistakes in that format.

I agree that there is a cinematic feel to this novel, and I would recommend  putting it on your reading list! I'm glad I got to read this one! Don't forget to enter the raffle for your free copy of this book!

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Ian Truman Online:

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