Her Hacker Husband (working title)

A little snippet from the opening of a first-draft work in progress…

Let me start by saying I might be crazy, but I am pretty sure I’m not.  I fully believe my husband is cheating on me (maybe worse) and using different programs that he has either written or found to help him do it.

 I know nothing about programming so I would not be able to tell you if what I think is happening is possible, but if it is, I want someone to help me find out. Is it possible to hack into someone’s phone and watch every move they make? Eavesdrop on their conversations? Control what they see or don’t see on their phone? I think he has added software or programmed my phone to keep me from finding out what he is doing behind my back and to spy on me.

 I am looking for someone willing to help me find out if he has added code to my phone to keep me from viewing files and track me, find out what he’s up to, and help me find proof that I’m not crazy…

 Anyone interested please email. Discretion is of the utmost importance.

 Thanks

Jenna was fairly satisfied with the posting she was about to make on the local electronic classified site. She stared blankly at the computer screen, hesitating to publish the ad, holding the hoodoo shop receipt that she’d found in his jacket pocket. It still smelled like perfume. She must have written it a hundred times to try to make it sound logical and reasonable. Eventually, she realized there was no way to write the ad without sounding like a lunatic. So, she decided to get that out of the way in the first sentence. Then maybe someone might actually take her seriously and contact her, despite better judgment. Hopefully, she didn’t end up hiring a lunatic given what she was asking. She knew if she were in his or her shoes she would feel the same way, but she had to know. There were too many coincidences, too many unanswered questions, not the least of which was whether or not she was out of her mind.

Read Bad Books! Read Bad Books!

“The hell you say?!”

Yes, if you’re a writer, especially a beginner, you should be reading bad books. You should be reading your ass off if it’s not in a chair writing. Read all kinds of books.

Case in point:

I recently stuck it out with a trilogy that was recommended by someone close to me. There were two reasons I finished this trilogy.

  1. I thought my GOD, this has got to get better sooner or later. 
  2. I can learn from this.

It never got better. Not for me. But I did learn from it. That’s why writer’s should read bad books. Most of us are avid readers and have been long before, or alongside our writing. We know what works and what doesn’t work for us. Reading bad books helps us articulate what those things are that bug us and avoid them in our own writing.

Some of the things that were wrong with this trilogy:

  1. constant typos, spelling and grammar errors
  2. No conflict to speak of despite being a post-apocalyptic story
  3. Sweet but unrealistic storyline (all the darlings survived)
  4. No tension to speak of, the original results of an apocalypse can only carry so far

This stuff throws the reader out of the story and could make them want to <gasp!> put down the book. I know how hard it is to write a novel. I do. I’m currently working on my own revisions on an 85k novel. I’m not saying go out and purposely buy bad books. I’m just saying that when you run across a bad book, give it a chance to teach you something or another.

In my humble opinion, this particular person published too early. This novel needed an editor in the most desperate of ways, further revising, and more polishing. This was a self-published book and is an example of why self-published authors have a hard time being taken seriously. Self-publishing can allow the author to circumvent important steps in the process such as submitting to a competent editor and making appropriate revisions.

As a writer, consider finishing that bad book you put down. Learn from it. Learn how to evaluate the good and the bad. Learn how to articulate what’s wrong for you.  Think about how you would have fixed the problem. Then apply what you’ve learned to your own writing and watch it grow and mature. Also, never. Ever. Skip the editor.

What was the problem with the last bad book that you read? How did it help you make your own writing better?

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

I know, this one’s been around for a while and I’m a little late.

All the light we cannot See garnered a Pulitzer Prize for New York Times Bestselling author Anthony Doerr. It’s not his first award, but it may be the most recognizable. My feelings about this book are <dramatic pause> complicated.

On the one hand I can appreciate it for the Pulitzer Prize winning novel that it is. On the other hand I found it a little tedious. So let’s get a few preliminary things out of the way. First, I avoided reading any reviews or opinions about this novel before I read it. I didn’t want any preconceived notions going in. Second, historical novels, especially those set in the middle of a war are not really my cup of tea. Third, I’m not a very patient person when it comes to getting to the point. That being said, I still appreciate it for what it is, a beautiful work of art in the form of words.

The story is about a blind French girl fleeing the war and a German boy drafted into the ranks of the German Nazi army. The convergence of their paths in occupied France is heartbreakingly beautiful as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Despite her blindness, 14-year-old Marie Laure lives in a world with rich and vibrant colors provided by her other senses and her glorious imagination. Her father nurtures her curiosity and builds up her independence every chance he gets. He tries to save her from the ravages of WWII by taking her to her great uncle’s house in the seaside city of Saint-Malo. Her father tries to protect her and help her understand her new surroundings. In the process, he is taken prisoner by the Germans. Losing the people who support her one by one, Marie does her best to survive the hardships of war as it inexorably marches toward her.  Then there’s her father’s secret that she must keep safe, but should she?

Werner is an orphan recruited into a brutal branch of the Hitler youth army and torn from his only family, his sister. His childhood obsession with radios and other gadgets attracts the attention of a German engineer at the Nazi youth school. Soon he is out in the field tracking down forbidden radio signals all over Russia and Europe, which leads him to Saint-Malo where his world collides with Marie’s in the middle of the occupation of the city by German forces followed by its liberation by allied forces. Yet Werner’s punishing training never destroys the tenderness in his heart, perhaps causing him some extra pain.

I said that historical war stories are really not my thing whether fictional or not. However, I would still maintain that this one is heartbreakingly beautiful. Although the story jumps between characters and flashbacks at break-neck speed, I was usually able to follow fairly easily. The couple of times I was lost for a moment I kind of felt like it added to the tumultuous times I was reading about and caused me to sympathize. Especially with Marie.

Some have spoken about this book being full of “purple prose”, that is to say, ornate and extravagantly overly descriptive writing. In general, that may be true and a no, no for writers. BUT in this case, I think it works. All the Light We Cannot See couples beautifully flowing, vibrant, and colorful writing against the stark, chilling, and gruesome background of WWII in a way that is compelling and full of emotion. If no one ever broke the rules, we’d never know what freedom can feel like. The statement applies to life as much as it does to writing. The trick is, knowing when and how to do it.

I thought I’d be glad when this book was over. Yet in the end, it was one of those stories that left a kind of aching emptiness in its wake.

5/5 Stars
5/5 Stars for beauty and character

2015 Pikes Peak Writers Conference: What a Blast!

Two days after conference I am finally getting my bearings again. I go to a writers conference to learn and to connect like most everyone else. Like most everyone else I work my ass off doing it. 14 hours of workshops, 7 hours of connecting and schmoozing whilst having a meal and several more cocktail hours of connecting and schmoozing. All this over the course of a three-day weekend (there is a fourth, optional day on Thursday that I didn’t participate in). By Sunday morning I am usually hiding behind copious amounts of coffee, overstimulated, exhausted, and walking around in a bit of a fog.  At the same time I am content and happy to be among my people all weekend and thrilled with the learning experience. I noticed several others in the same condition. I tell people it’s like going to Hogwarts. Well, I think there is a clear correlation anyway.

Conference Experience

The Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) is known as the friendliest conference in the country and ranks as one of the top ten writers conferences in the U.S. This year the conference earned attendees from as far away as Ireland. So is it true? Is PPWC the friendliest writers conference in the nation? You betcha! This was my second year at conference. I was so overwhelmed my first year I kept to my workshops and didn’t talk with much of anybody. That was not for lack of trying on the staff’s part. PPWC staff made me feel so welcome and comfortable that first year that when I returned this year I made nearly two dozen connections including authors, publishers, and editors in several different genres. I practically felt like an old pro at this conference stuff.

Registration is a breeze, swag bags are awesome (this year included a free book!), and if you even think that you might be feeling lost or overwhelmed there is always someone nearby to help you out. In fact, they may know you need help before you do. Most likely they have been there and done that.

How friendly are these people. Well, I walked up to a keynote speaker’s table and asked if a seat was taken. Staff members piped up trying to gently tell me the table was reserved when I saw the sign. I played it off with some clever comment (at least I hoped it was clever) and ended up being complimented on my “radio voice” (I was a little hoarse that day). No snooty upturned noses, no rude comments or questioning of my cranial fortitude. No, instead I was complimented.

 Speakers

Holy cow, the speakers! Move over Tony Robbins. Get out of the way Zig Zigler. Find a new gig Mike Dooley. Meet the 2015 PPWC speakers, Mary Kay Andrews, Andrew Gross, R.L. Stine (I call him Bob), and Seanan McGuire! All wonderful authors, highly inspiring, with impressive histories, and individual flair and styles all their own. If you’re not motivated about your writing by the time these people are done with you, you need to find something else to do with yourself. You should have heard some of Bob’s fan letters, hysterical!

 Workshops

There are up to six workshops going on at any given time between breakfast and dinner. Open and closed critique groups and speaker panels round out this portion of the conference. Authors, editors, agents, and specialists present workshops on everything from craft to the business of writing. Tough stuff like plotting, keeping the pages turning, query letters, what agents are really looking for, platform building, how the process of writing a book and getting published works and many more. My best advice, fork over the cash for a recording so you can get all the fabulous workshops you’re going to miss while attending to your priorities or stuff that’s not recorded. So many talented people including Barbara (Samuel) O’Neal, Josh Vogt, Robert Spiller, Angie Hodapp, Cara Lopez Lee, Kevin IkenberryLaura DiSilverio, Liz Pelletier, and many more! Once again, if you’re not on fire about your writing after these people are done with you, you need to find something else to do. Maybe even check to see if you still have a pulse. Just sayin’. No, there is not Kool Aid.

 The Zebulon

The Zebulon is a comprehensive writing contest that includes a rounded list of genres and mimics the process of submitting a story for publication…only much faster. You can purchase a critique of your story and you will receive a scorecard so you can identify your strong points and work on the areas you’re not so strong in, including your query letter. So worth the small investment.

 Start Saving Up Now

So much more is available including query 1-on-1 and professional headshots as well as a book store. Then there’s the friends, comradery, and priceless moments to be had at every turn. This year there was even a ghost hunt. I save up all year just to go to this conference. I suggest you do the same and I’ll see you next year! There is a payment plan, so there’s not much of an excuse. I met writers of all kinds from erotica to nonfiction and everything between.

If you’re a writer and wondering if a conference is something you should do, let me save you the trouble. As the Nike ad says “Just Do It”. It could be one of the best decisions you could make about your writing career. Until Next year, adieu, magical PPWC. Back to the muggle world for now.

As always, feel free to drop comments or questions below and discuss. Love to see what you think.

Review – 50 Shades of Grey

The highly controversial movie debuted in theaters this Valentine’s Day weekend. The internet has been abuzz about it for weeks before its opening. Rumors about who was going to play Christian Grey went on even longer. Having read the first book in the series which I found disinteresting enough to not bother with the next two, I thought maybe the movie would improve what the book was lacking (like that ever happens). So for our dinner and a movie Valentine’s date, hubby and I stood in the line that everyone eyed to see 50 Shades of Grey.

If you are offended by nakedness of any kind, BDSM behavior, or sex in general, you should probably sit this one out. If you aren’t interested in shallow storylines that just don’t really work, don’t bother. If you’re looking for a good example of what the BDSM lifestyle entails, do not look to this movie to give it to you. If you want to see this movie so you can flood the internet with petitions to ban it because it’s an example of abuse, please don’t waste your time…and everyone else’s on the internet.

Anastasia is a literary student who does her roommate a favor that puts her life on a major detour. She attempts to interview Christian Grey, a magnetic, rich, well-dressed businessman with a supposedly tortured soul and a dark secret. Chemistry apparently happens during the interview and Christian decides he wants to get to know Anastasia better…no he doesn’t…yes, oh God yes, he does. Anastasia decides that, even though she’s terrified of Christian’s dark side, she still wants to get to know him and his “secret” better…no she doesn’t…wait, yes she does. This is about as much tension as this movie manages to muster out of a situation that is rife with potential to be a veritable tightrope.

Instead, the sold out theater of movie-goers I was with did a whole lot of laughing. So did I. It was like a cheesey wannabe porn flick. The ones that make a big production of making a storyline so it’s not so much like a taboo thing. Making a real case for Christian Grey as a twisted and tortured soul was never quite convincing because of this cheesiness.

Is there abuse in this movie? That is arguable. I know, I know “but what about the scene at the end???” I’m not going to give it away, I’m trying not to create any spoilers here. What I can say is the same thing I said when I started this review, if you are offended or triggered by BDSM behavior, you probably don’t want to go there. If you don’t know what BDSM is, please, look it up. Yes, the last scene is difficult and even more so because it plays like an over-the-top effort to try shock us into investing in the belief in Christians poor, tortured, soul. The effect fails miserably and we end up grateful for the abrupt ending to the movie, which I found…unsatisfying.

In my humble opinion, there are only a few groups of people who could be truly offended by this movie.

  1. Those who are truly triggered by the types of sex acts portrayed in this movie.
  2. The BDSM community in general, this film makes an already stigmatized group of people seem even worse.
  3. Anyone who believes that not-so-great writing should make it to print, let alone film.

Bottom line, 50 Shades of Grey is not nearly as dangerous to your average, fairly well adjusted person as certain people would have you believe. It is the same as any other movie, simple entertainment. An evening (or maybe afternoon, if you’re into that sort of thing) diversion that I wouldn’t pay to see in the theater. Wait for the DVD or Blueray unless you’re like me and just can’t stay out of a good down and dirty controversial conversation (no pun intended).

two stars

What did you think of 50 Shades of Grey? If you’ve read the books or seen the movie please feel free to share your opinions in the comments.