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First, let me say that I have nothing against cats. I like them. At least six have “owned” me over the course of my life.

But my heart belongs to dogs—both real and fictional.

Carolyn J. Rose, author

Carolyn J. Rose, author

Right now I share my furniture and take long walks with two ten-pound hairballs, Bubba (a miniature Schnauzer/Yorkie mix) and Max (a purebred Maltese with issues). (Pictures on my website, www.deadlyduomysteries.com )

I share my office with a trio of fictional canines, Sebastian, Nelson, and Cheese Puff.

That puts me in good company. Dogs reside in far more than a third of all U.S. households. And a heck of a lot of writers have created canine companions—from Argos to Lassie to White Fang to Old Yeller to Winn-Dixie.

Many fictional dogs work hard, serving as symbols or sounding boards and providing pivot points for plot. Some are loyal companions, faithful and protective. Others supply comic relief, clues, or red herrings. Some are smart. Others are goofballs. Many help ratchet up tension.

Some writers hesitate to write kill off a dog (or cat or other creature) because they believe readers won’t forgive them for it. Others, however, create fictional canines that make the ultimate sacrifice.

Do well-drawn, memorable fictional dogs increase sales? Especially sales to dog lovers?

Probably.

Did I consider that before I created my fictional dogs?

Nope.

I created them for their value to plot and characterization.

Through a Yellow Wood by Carolyn J. Rose

Through a Yellow Wood by Carolyn J. Rose

My first fictional dog, Sebastian, makes a brief appearance at the beginning of A Place of Forgetting. He’s old, his muscles are limp and stringy, and his eyes are clouded, but protagonist Liz Roark loves him. To disrupt her life and force her to leave her hometown and get on with life, I sent them up a mountain on a perfect autumn day and let him die a peaceful death. Several readers wrote to tell me they loved Sebastian and were sad to see him go, but understood why I did that.

Nelson, the three-legged dog out for vengeance in Through a Yellow Wood, is the lone survivor of a serial killer’s attempt to hide his crimes. I thought long and hard before allowing that killer to shoot Nelson’s seven kennel mates (before the book begins). I finally took the leap in order to deepen and strengthen his character and will.

I created my third fictional dog, Cheese Puff, to get protagonist Barbara Reed out of the dumps and back into the world after a nasty divorce. He’s a shrimp of an orange mutt she finds in No Substitute for Murder, the first book in the Subbing isn’t for Sissies cozy mystery series. Barb’s neighbors find Cheese Puff endearing, but their pampering undermines her efforts to train him and encourages an excess of small-dog attitude.

Cheese Puff has been a hit with readers—especially those who have small dogs as companions. Several have suggested ideas for what might happen to him in future books. Thanks to some of those readers, he found love in No Substitute for Money and broadened his social and cultural life in No Substitute for Maturity. In the fourth book in the series—a book I hope to write this fall—Cheese Puff will be keeping a diary and tangling with Bigfoot.

It will be interesting to see what readers think about that.

The Dames of Dialogue and I would love to hear about your dogs—both real and fictional—and we’re looking forward to your comments.

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity have sold 50,000 electronic copies), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and soon-to-be-released The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.  Website www.deadlyduomysteries.com

For some writers—and I’m one of them—writing a synopsis seems more difficult than writing a book.

Author Carolyn J. Rose

Author Carolyn J. Rose

With a book, there’s plenty of “room to roam,” dozens of pages on which to flesh out characters and enlarge themes. There are opportunities to slow the action to provide sequels to follow tense scenes and add description to set the mood and foreshadow action to come.

But a synopsis must be pithy, a neat progression of plot points, thumbnail sketches, tight but evocative description. It must be a distillation of tone, theme, and character arc.

So when writing coach Elizabeth Lyon suggested I write two versions of the synopsis for An Uncertain Refuge, I came as close as I ever have to giving up on my writing dream and getting out that failed knitting project (Who knew a scarf would be so difficult?) from 1970.

To her credit, Elizabeth’s logic was sound. She felt the synopsis I’d labored over for two weeks (Fourteen days! Long days!) didn’t do justice to the emotional journey of the protagonist. She said my synopsis didn’t fully illuminate where Kate Dalton was when the novel began, the challenges she faced, the ways in which she grew, changed, and adjusted her attitudes, and where she was at the end.

Not wanting to break my perfect record of resisting good advice, I fought Elizabeth’s suggestions the way a feral cat fights a bath.

There came a point, however, when I realized I was expending more time and energy avoiding the project than I would if I just did it. So, after kicking over a wastebasket or two, punching out a family-sized bag of corn chips, and downing an adult beverage, I got right to work.

“Easy” is not a word I’d use to describe the process. Neither is “painless.”

“Time-consuming?” Sure. “Frustrating?” You bet. “Worthwhile?” Yes.

When I was finished, I presented both versions to Elizabeth. She reviewed them and gave me a lukewarm “Okay.” Then she dropped the bomb. “Now put them together into one synopsis.”

What?

An Uncertain Refuge by Carolyn J. Rose

An Uncertain Refuge by Carolyn J. Rose

Combining the two meant boiling down 10 pages into 5. That involved tough choices and hard decisions and (Gasp!) deep thought. I punched out a giant-sized sack of pita chips, kicked a footstool, and found a dozen reasons to delay or ditch the project entirely.

But then I got down to it and, after a solid week of work, had a polished product I could send out. Over the next two years, that synopsis went to hundreds of agents and editors. It raked in a few dozen requests to view the first chapters, but no one wanted to take a chance on it. Eventually I published the novel myself. (E-sales to date: 16,000+)

Given all of that frustration and time spent, was the synopsis exercise worthwhile?

Absolutely.

I developed more discipline and focus. I learned how to refine my thinking, strengthen description, and capsulate characterization.

Would I do it again?

I don’t know. But one joy of self-publishing is that I don’t have to.

 

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries, Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood. Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking.  Website www.deadlyduomysteries.com

“You will not believe what happened today! “ “Have a minute? I have this great story.”We are forever telling stories. Stories link us, they connect us to our own lives and to the lives of others. Story-telling is as natural as speaking and goes as far back as humankind.

Rita Plush, author

Rita Plush, author

And so we tell our stories. We describe and elaborate, at times adding color and interest to make a better story. We tell about what the cable guy said when he hooked us up to HBO—was he flirting? Or the delightfully outrageous outfit on the supermarket checkout girl with the eyebrow piercings and nose ring, when she rang up our free-range chicken parts and Eddy’s Caramel Delight ice cream.

 
And then there are our family stories, told and retold. Stories that go back generations become part of our oral history, like the one about our grandma who bribed the border guard in Austria with cigarettes hidden in the hem of her underskirts, so she could continue her passage to America. We pass down these stories to our children and grandchildren, so that they might know how it was with their ancestors, linking the generations one to the other.

 
Sometimes the spoken word becomes the written word, more structured, more ordered, but always there are our stories.
Isaac Bashevis Singer said, “If stories weren’t told or books weren’t written, we would live like the beasts, only for the day… the whole world, all human life, is one long story.”

 
“Alterations” are my stories, a collection written over a period of twenty years, some of them harking back more than fifty years, stories that had lived in me, the way stories do, as a bit of memory – a certain smell, the turn of a head, or the particular sound of a voice.

 
Decades later, they called to me, the memories of them morphing, changing, altering, the people becoming characters that were and were not them. And I kept writing. I dressed my characters, gave them habits and a particular way to speak, and put them down on the pages, wanting things they could not have, remembering things they wanted to forget. They mended and they sewed, they owned stores and boutiques, they jerry-made contraptions and carved dollhouse furniture. They dug in the dirt and planted tomatoes, and put together a jigsaw puzzle in a far off mountain cabin. Makers and fixers, they had the creative qualities derived from my parents and passed down to me.

 
But Alterations didn’t start out as a collection. It started with a story I began in 1994 about a quilted dime-store night table and a sleeping Mexican painted on a cupboard door, a story that was rejected ninety-three times before a literary journal picked it up. Other of my stories were met with same type of rejection. Was I discouraged then? Did I think that maybe I should try another line of work? Not me. I kept on plugging away, typing away, and sending away stories trying to get them into print.

 
What was I? Some kind of nut-case who liked nothing better than to open the mail and find a “try us again” form letter rejection? Did I have a burning need to drive up the stock of Staples and Hewlet Packard with my incessant purchase of inkjet cartridges and reams of multipurpose office paper? What made me want to write when no one wanted to read my writing?
Perhaps I was out to prove that The Little Engine That Could chugged away inside me—The Little Engine that Could Not stop writing. I write therefore I am?

 
I wonder if I was longing for a promise of closeness with imagined readers. Was I lonely and didn’t know it? Was some kind of intimacy lacking in my life? Could there have been something I couldn’t get from the people I knew in the flesh, that I had to invent characters who lived in worlds of my invention? Did I want to be the wizard who could make things happen to them—wonderful and terrible things that only I had the power to create?

 
Maybe it was some of, or all of the above. In any case, I kept on writing, writing and rewriting, and sending out my stories. Finally, “Love, Mona” that first story, was accepted, and over time, others as well, but I no more thought story collection, than I thought my name was Joyce Carol Oates.

 
A collection needs a connective link, stories that have something in common, a recurring theme or idea that ties them together. But I wrote my stories without a specific plot line in mind, the characters and the writing itself bringing the story to fruition. Little girls and adolescents, a teenager, a father, a son, grown women, a whole slew of characters, who to my mind had little to do with each other. Yet when I reread them all again, I saw that there was a link, and that link was family. Families of different types and mindsets, families that were broken and those that were healing, families my characters clung to, and those from which they ran. And it was to that enduring notion of family life, with all its messy complications, its intrigues and dramas, its loving and sometimes mysterious bonds, that I dedicated “Alterations,” in memory of my parents, Molly and Max Weingarten.
This post originally appeared on BestChickLit.

Alterations, stories by Rita Plush

Alterations, stories by Rita Plush

Rita Plush:  Many of the stories in this collection are told through the eyes of a child growing up with the rumble of the El along 86th Street, walking with her mother in her big-shouldered mouton coat, as she did her errands and talked with the shopkeepers. The walkup apartment house where she lived with her family, the damp steamy smell of the lobby where the metal taps on her shoes made a satisfying clicking sound as she ran up and down the marble steps. The seamstress in her apartment building, her friend’s father who seldom spoke, the people her parents knew, the relatives – her ear pressed to the wall, hearing talk that was not for her to hear – the people they spoke of in Yiddish so the child would not understand.
Beginning with Frances, the young child grieving for her mother in “Love, Mona,” these stories come full circle to Rusty in “Feminine Products,” pregnant but unmarried, desperate to make a family for her unborn child. I hope they keep you turning pages, both interested and entertained, as the characters become ‘altered’ by their circumstances and continue to make their way in life.
Alterations is available in ebook and trade paperback from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Alterations-Rita-Plush/dp/1938758153/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
and from Barnes & Noble in ebook http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/alterations-rita-plush/1115410411?ean=2940016704166
Visit her website http://www.ritaplush.com for more information about Rita.

Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose, author

One rainy day in the 1950s, my mother got out a set of aging paper dolls she’d played with as a child. Sadly, they didn’t survive for long. Not many toys or games did. My brothers and I played hard.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that the tiny tabs designed to hold outfits in place never quite did their jobs, I loved the variety of clothing and the speed and ease with which I could make changes. It was far quicker than dressing the rubber-skinned ballerina doll for which my grandmother sewed skirts, tops, a cape, and even a beret.

In high school I created outfits for myself—seldom with much success—by stitching up simple jumpers and skirts, borrowing from friends, and buying what I could stretch my allowance to cover. All of that took time, time I spent yearning for what I saw as the cheap convenience of paper clothing. If only I could sketch a sweater and slip it on, paint a pair of paints, crayon a coat.

Now, with words instead of art supplies or needles, thread, and fabric, I do just that for my characters. Clothing them is far more enjoyable than clothing the dolls of the past or outfitting myself.

First, the sky is the limit. There’s no budget, no need to save up or ponder the necessity of each purchase. If Mrs. Ballantine from No Substitute for Murder insists on three strands of pearls and a cashmere wrap to wear with a silk dress, she gets them. If Dan Stone from Hemlock Lake demands top-of-the-line hiking boots, no problem. I’ll even throw in a pair of thermal socks.

Second, there’s no need to alter, hem, let out a seam, or take a tuck. Everything fits, no matter what shape the character is in. That also means there’s no need for a character to shed a few pounds or hit the gym to tone up.

Third, there are no storage issues. There’s no need to toss something old because a character bought something new. There’s always room in that fictional closet for a few more items.

Fourth, if a change of outfit is necessary to the progression of the action, it can be accomplished in the time it takes to write a sentence or two.

Fifth, unless the plot calls for an item to be impossible to find, out of stock, too large, or too small, what characters want is always available in the right size and color.

Sixth, I have the right to scoff at the dictates of fashion. Nothing goes out of style unless I want it to.

Seventh, I don’t have to dress every character every day. When they’re not in a scene, they’re on their own. I sometimes wonder if they sit at the edge of a page wearing outfits from previous scenes or if they slip into loungewear or strip down for a shower or soak.

How about you?

What advantages do you see to creating clothing with words?
What are your favorite fictional outfits?
And what do you think characters wear when they’re not appearing on the pages?

 

No Substitute for Murder by Carolyn J. Rose

No Substitute for Murder by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries, Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood. Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking.  www.deadlyduomysteries.com

Rita Plush, author

Rita Plush, author

Let Your Reader Hear Your Characters Speak on Audio
How we love to hear stories. The human voice, its richness and intonations takes us into make believe worlds.
And I love that my book, Lily Steps Out, has stepped off the monitor screen and printed page into the listening world as an audio book. After all the work of writing (5 years) and getting Lily into print (tack on another 7), it was pure pleasure to hear my story told through my characters. And because I think my fellow Indie Authors will benefit from my experience, I’m spreading the word—or words as we writers are inclined to spread.
I learned about ACX—Audiobook Creation Exchange—owned by Amazon (isn’t everything?) from a fellow author who said the procedure of getting a print or eBook into a listening format was “pretty much painless” and she was right. This this is the gist of how I did it:
First, I checked my publishing contract to see if I owned my book’s audio rights and the cover (yes and yes). If you don’t own the cover to your book ACX will help you put one together.
Thinking that the sales of the audio might in some way effect my publisher’s royalties on print and eBook venues, I ran the idea by them. Their only concern was that Amazon might “bundle” the print or eBook version at a discounted price with the audio, thus reducing their royalty—Amazon does what it wants with its pricing regardless of the publisher or author’s viewpoint (it’s good to be the king). A call to ACX assured me that if there was “bundling” it would be the audio that would be reduced, not the print or eBook version.
That bit of business out of the way I forged ahead and decided on the first of the three royalty options ACX offers. In a nutshell here they are:
1. Royalty Share—royalty payments are shared among ACX, the author, and the narrator (referred to as Rights Holder and Producer by ACX) with ACX getting 50 per cent of the royalty and the author and narrator each getting 25 percent. This plan is at zero cost to the author.
2. Pay for Production Exclusive Distribution—the author pays the narrator a one-time fee (this fee can be negotiated) and splits the royalty with ACX who is the exclusive distributor of the audio.
3. Pay for Production Non-Exclusive Distribution is the same as far as “author pays the narrator” goes, but the author can distribute to resources other than ACX which reduces the author’s royalty.
ACX handles all distribution of royalties and pays the narrator when she has earned $50 or more each month.
Next up on my to-do list was to create a personal profile, a blurb about Lily and provide a sample passage of the book. A click of a button put me in touch with narrators on the ACX website and I invited a handful to audition. The invites, auditions, and all correspondence between author and narrator are done through ACX’s website, with an 800 number if you have questions (I had many questions).
I also had a particular voice criteria for Lily Steps Out. A kind of New-Yorkish female voice, but I also wanted a narrator who could do male; there are men in the story who have a lot to say. Did I mention funny? There’s lots of humor in Lily and I wanted a voice artist who could put that over. So female, male, New York and funny.
Three narrators auditioned a fifteen minute, contract-specified, segment.
The first narrator lacked Lily’s spirit and liveliness, so she was out. The next was an improvement, but not quite right, so I emailed my reservations, suggested changes and waited for the revision (the seven year contract provides for two revisions of the fifteen minute segment). There was barely a difference between the first and second takes, and I decided she wasn’t for me. The third narrator nailed all the voices and patterns of speech but I felt that her emphasis was off in certain passages. My email to her explained the specifics, commented on her general performance and the recording quality (that’s the author’s responsibility) which according to the contract, can still be done after the entire recording has been presented.
Sheri Puggot, the narrator I chose, had other professional commitments to satisfy before she could start on Lily, and technical glitches and communication delays between her and ACX once she did start, making the audio production take a bit longer than the ACX website specified (three to four months turned into six months). Not a big deal, as far as I was concerned. We were in a partnership, she and I, both wanting the best reading of Lily.
From sign-on to breakout date, putting Lily Steps Out on audio was a learning experience, one in which I not only mastered a process unfamiliar to me (it’s not difficult, but it is involved and it does take time) but I was able to place Lily Steps Out on a new promotional track and put another notch in my marketing belt.
This post originally appeared on Indies Unlimited.

Lily Steps Out by Rita Plush

Lily Steps Out by Rita Plush

Blurb: Empty nest, retired husband… after thirty-three years of making beds and cooking dinners, Lily Gold has had it and decides to look for a job. Her husband Leon, however, doesn’t like not having her at his beck and call and puts the kibosh on her chance of opening her own antique store by emptying out their bank account. This is marriage? This is war! Follow Lily as she turns the status quo into quid pro and gives her husband a run for his money.
Rita Plush lives and writes in Queens, New York. Her writing practice includes both fiction and nonfiction. She is the author of Lily Steps Out (Penumbra Publishing 2012), and the short story collection, Alterations (Penumbra 2013).
During her forty-year career as an interior designer, Rita was the Coordinator of the Interior Design Decorating Program in Continuing Ed. at Queensborough Community College. There, she implemented and taught several classes in the program and remains on the faculty. As a speaker, Rita has presented at libraries and synagogues, at Hofstra University and CW Post Hutton House, on topics ranging from writing and publishing, the decorative arts, interior design and “Coco Chanel ~ The Woman–The Legend”
She is the facilitator of the Self-Published Authors’ Roundtable that meets the first Tuesday of each month at the Manhasset Library, Manhasset, L.I.
Links for Lily Steps Out
http://www.amazon.com/Lily-Steps-Out-Rita-Plush/
Links for Alterations: http://www.amazon.com/Alterations-Rita-Plush/dp/1938758153/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/alterations-rita-plush/1115410411?ean=2940016704166
To learn more about Rita visit her website. http://www.ritaplush.com

Author Carolyn J. Rose

Author Carolyn J. Rose

I confess. I suffer from name envy.

I’ve always wanted an unusual name, a name with character, flash, and spark, a name like Scarlett or Tess or Storm. By comparison, my name seems ordinary, bland, and run-of-the-mill. I don’t even have a nickname I like better. In fact, I don’t have a nickname at all. (Okay, sometimes my mother called me “Petunia” but along with being a flower, Petunia was Porky Pig’s girlfriend, so no way would I allow anyone else to use that nickname, especially back in elementary school.)

Family legend has it that when I was three or four, I often wouldn’t respond to my name but would insist I was someone else that day and they’d have to guess who I was before I’d do anything I was told. We didn’t have a television then, so my knowledge of names was limited to relatives, family friends, and characters in the comic section of the newspaper or in stories my grandparents read to me. It wouldn’t take long for my mother and father to guess I was Cinderella or Alice or Heidi.

My name was “borrowed” from my mother’s college roommate and most of the kids I knew had what I think of as “recycled” names. There were family names handed down along with cribs and baby carriages, and names drawn from history or the Bible. In my limited experience, the “name pool” didn’t seem to be broad or deep. I went through school with plenty of kids named Mary, Barbara, Susan, Carol, Ann, Linda, Charles, Edward, John, Michael, Richard, Roger, or Paul.

When babies were about due, friends and family offered suggestions and opinions—sometimes in loud voices. Some held out for tradition, for honoring ancestors. Some had a snobbish attitude toward anyone who tinkered with a single letter of traditional spelling, joined names together, or—heaven forbid—gave a boy’s name to a girl. Others were more adventurous.

But they were nowhere near as adventurous as parents are now. The proof is in the attendance sheets I collect when I report to high school as a substitute teacher. The names on those sheets are imaginative, unique, and fascinating. There are names that are fresh and original. There are names borrowed from other languages. There are traditional names transformed by changing the leading letter for another. And there are old favorites spelled in new ways.

At the end of a day in high school, I’m green with name envy. I want a do-over. I want a different combination of letters printed below the picture on my ID badge.

Despite that, the characters in my books tend to have traditional names: Dan, Barbara, Molly, Kate, Liz, Dave.

I like to think I’ve made an effort to name them in a way that meshes with their settings, characteristics, and the roles they play. Dan Stone, the protagonist of Hemlock Lake, finds himself in a situation that reminded me of Daniel in the den of lions. Substitute teacher Barbara Reed got her name because I could shorten it to Barb, which said something about her sarcastic take on things.

But perhaps the truth is that when it comes to names, I have no flair, no flamboyance. I also seem to lack the courage to act. I could take a new name—legally or not—but I haven’t. I’ve stuck with what I was given at birth. It may not have panache and pizzazz, but it’s the name two people who loved me decided on.

How about you? Have you always wanted another name? (If so, what is it?) Do you have a nickname you’ll admit to? Do you go wild with your characters’ names?

Leave a comment and let’s chat.

 

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries, Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood. Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking.  Website www.deadlyduomysteries.com

Rita Plush, author

Rita Plush, author

Sitting at a keyboard, waiting for the muse who refuses to appear can be a lonely business. And when we writers do get those synapses flying we often become so familiar and attached to our words, we can’t see them objectively. Our words are our darlings, we fall in love with them. They’re like our children, and like our children we can’t see their faults and blunders. We need others to point out their missteps.
That’s where a writers’ group comes in. Like-minded fellows gathering for give-and-take feedback and support, will not only make us feel less alone, but can take our writing to a higher level.
Careful readers that we are, writers can sense if a scene has too much or not enough dialogue, if the characters are developed, if there’s enough detail or too much unnecessary information. And while it’s true that it’s our work, if we find a few members making the same comment about a particular scene, maybe they’re onto something from which we can learn.
I realized I had a problem with character when my group discussed the first chapter of Lily Steps Out. It had to do with Lily’s relationship with her husband, Leon.
“I don’t see him as the take-charge guy you say he is,” one member volunteered. Another agreed. Still another nodded.
“But he is,” I said, defending my work. “He’s retired now. He has no business to run so he wants to run Lily!”
“It’s not on the page,” said a member. “I think you need to show it more,” from another.
Food for thought, and I thought about it, coming up with a flashback at the end of the chapter that showed how Lily and Leon met and how cocky and sure of himself he was even then. That inclusion not only fleshed him out, but also opened a window onto the balance in their relationship that Lily would soon toss on its ear—or better still, Leon’s ear.
Writers of fiction and non-fiction, authors of essays, poetry and plays, my writers’ group meets every week in a local eatery to have a bite and discuss our work.
Out of a core group of six, we rotate leaders, each member heading up the meeting for two months. “Any news?” the leader will ask getting things started, meaning has anyone been published or rejected (alas, there are always more of the latter than the former) or heard about anything writer related that might be of interest to the group.
“Who’s reading?” is the next matter of business.
Not every writer reads every week but those who do, bring double spaced copies of their work for each attendee. As we follow along the text, we jot down comments on dialogue, character, plot, and then have an open discussion. Remarks run the gamut, and though we give our general impressions, we focus on specifics. If we like a bit of dialogue, we say why. If we think it’s unnatural for a character to speak as he or she does, we weigh in on that. The plot is sagging? We suggest ways of shoring it up.
Has anyone ever left in a huff because they didn’t like their critique? Once in a while. Have folks come once or twice and not again? All the time. Writers try us out—we post notices in our local newspapers and libraries—and decide we’re not for them. But we also have writers who remain with us for months, years even, sharpening their skills, sharing the pain and pleasure of the writing life.
Our members’ original plays have been performed at libraries and community centers, their short verse has appeared in The New York Times, and it’s not uncommon for a short story to find its way to a literary journal—does The Alaska Quarterly Review ring a bell? My novel, Lily Steps Out was work-shopped at my writers’ group, the same goes for my short story collection Alterations. I’m convinced my work wouldn’t have found its way into print had it not been for my writers’ group.
A version of this post was originally published on Best Chick Lit.

Lily Steps Out by Rita Plush

Lily Steps Out by Rita Plush

Blurb: Empty nest, retired husband… after thirty-three years of making beds and cooking dinners, Lily Gold has had it and decides to look for a job. Her husband Leon, however, doesn’t like not having her at his beck and call and puts the kibosh on her chance of opening her own antique store by emptying out their bank account. This is marriage? This is war! Follow Lily as she turns the status quo into quid pro and gives her husband a run for his money.
Rita Plush lives and writes in Queens, New York. Her writing practice includes both fiction and nonfiction. She is the author of Lily Steps Out (Penumbra Publishing 2012), and the short story collection, Alterations (Penumbra 2013).
During her forty-year career as an interior designer, Rita was the Coordinator of the Interior Design Decorating Program in Continuing Ed. at Queensborough Community College. There, she implemented and taught several classes in the program and remains on the faculty. As a speaker, Rita has presented at libraries and synagogues, at Hofstra University and CW Post Hutton House, on topics ranging from writing and publishing, the decorative arts, interior design and “Coco Chanel ~ The Woman–The Legend”
She is the facilitator of the Self-Published Authors’ Roundtable that meets the first Tuesday of each month at the Manhasset Library, Manhasset, L.I.
Links for Lily Steps Out
http://www.amazon.com/Lily-Steps-Out-Rita-Plush/
Links for Alterations: http://www.amazon.com/Alterations-Rita-Plush/dp/1938758153/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/alterations-rita-plush/1115410411?ean=2940016704166
To learn more about Rita visit her website. http://www.ritaplush.com

Over the past year my husband and I revised and self-published four jointly written books previously with small publishers. He blogged about that experience for The Dames of Dialogue a few months ago, so—with the exception of saying that the process was tedious, time-consuming, and tense—I’ll skip to the revisions I don’t intend to make.

The three-book Casey Brandt TV news series (Consulted to Death, Driven to Death, and Dated to Death) is out of print and no longer available for download. The series came out through Deadly Alibi Press a dozen years ago. When Deadly Alibi folded, the books were picked up by SynergEbooks. When my contract expired, I gave away the print copies on my shelves, put my notes and files in a closet, and closed the door.

Despite the possibility of reaching readers through these early books, I don’t intend to open that door and release these titles once more.

Carolyn J. Rose, author

Carolyn J. Rose, author

Why not?

Three reasons:
• TV technology has changed
• I’ve changed
• My feelings about those books have changed

First, the technology. When I wrote the books, in the 80s and early 90s, a huge wave of change had yet to hit most TV news operations. Reporters still used typewriters. Wire service machines chattered in corners. Photographers hauled around bulky cameras and if they didn’t get to the fire or crash on time, viewers didn’t e-mail in cell-phone video. Editing was far more complex. Actual humans ran studio cameras. As an assignment editor, I communicated with news teams in the field through a radio system or landlines.

Bringing the stories into this century and this decade would take many, many hours. Not updating them, but simply trimming, tweaking, and tightening as we did with The Hard Karma Shuffle and The Crushed Velvet Miasma, would require everything to be “true to the times.” That may sound easy, but times (styles, expressions, technology, TV programs, car models) change so quickly that it’s difficult to keep up—and more difficult to remember how it was back in the day. In the process of rewriting a clunky paragraph I could slip in an anachronism that alert readers would spot and call me out on. (If you’ve ever been called out by an alert reader, you know why I don’t want to risk this.)

Second, I’ve changed. I’m not getting any younger, but I like to think that age and experience have made me a better writer. If I opened those books again, I have a feeling I’d be embarrassed by stilted dialogue, pointless descriptions, and drifting points of view. That embarrassment would be magnified because these were once the state of my art and I was proud of them.

Third, although I consider the characters to be old friends, they aren’t as well-rounded as they could be and they’re stuck in the past. I don’t relish a reunion, especially because I’m to blame for that “stuckness” and I feel a little guilty about abandoning them.

I’d rather spend time with characters from my Catskill Mountains Mysteries series and with those who populate the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series. Those characters are evolving. They’re filled with energy and exuberance. They wake me up in the night with ideas for scenes and interactions and bits of dialogue for their next adventures. And—perhaps selfishly—they urge me to write the books piecing themselves together in my mind instead of taking a detour into the past.

If you have books you won’t revise—or books you intend to get to soon—please share your thoughts and comments.

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries, Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood. Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking.  Website www.deadlyduomysteries.com

author Rita Plush and father

author Rita Plush and father

Barbara Bush’s recent stay in the hospital brought back memories of “The Barbara Bush Dress,” and the seventy-five plus years my father spent working in the garment center. From stretching, cutting, grading, pattern making and designing, my father knew more about a dress than a dress knew.
Aka the shmate business or rag trade of days gone by, the garment center was a bustling, noisy, Manhattan neighborhood between 5th and 9th Avenues from 34th to 42nd street, when metal wheels of rolling dress racks clattered along the cement sidewalks, the dresses merrily swinging from their poles, their minders shouting in Spanish. The trim and belt and button sellers, the zipper and shoulder pad purveyors, notions they were called—their shops set cheek to jowl along the streets.

Max Weingarten's tools of the trade

Max Weingarten’s tools of the trade

And in one of the lofts, or “The Place” as we called it, was my father, Max Weingarten, taking a bodice from one dress, a sleeve from another, sketching and pricing, hoping for the next “hot number” that would “check out” of the stores. Perhaps adapting, or in the vernacular, “knocking off” an up-market garment he had seen in “Better Dresses” in Macy’s on Herald Square, into one of the more moderate-priced dresses his company manufactured.
And always, he had tales to tell of the garments that sold beyond expectations, of zippers that refused to zip, of skirts that had been cut an inch too short because a cutter hadn’t laid out the pattern efficiently. But no sold-out dress order or faulty zipper, no skirt above the knees, caused the excitement, both at our house in Queens or in the showroom on 34th Street, when Barbara Bush, campaigning for her husband George in 1988, was photographed on the pages of Look magazine in a V-neck, short-sleeved dress with a pleated skirt, of my father’s design. Barbara Bush who could afford any designer from James Galanos to Bill Blass to Adolfo, chose instead a Max Weingarten.
The talk of Seventh Avenue, the dress caused a sensation in the industry. Bold announcements decked the entrance to the Damon Dress company’s showroom, Scott Biller, his boss, copied the picture of Mrs. Bush in her Damon outfit and turned it into a life-size poster, which included the missive: “Everyone tells me in my Damon dress I look like a size 2. I can afford the best and I buy Damon.”
Women’s Wear Daily—the bible of the garment industry—headed up an article (November 22, 1988), “Damon Hopes to Win with Bush” in which they told that Mrs. Bush bought the dress in Washington’s Lord & Taylor and wore it several times during her husband’s bid for President.
Damon produced 14 versions of the polyester and rayon/jacquard two-piece in an array of colors and prints that sold, sold, and sold. And my father, Max Weingarten, though he was not credited in print as its designer, was known throughout the industry as its creator.
It still makes me proud.

Alterations, stories by Rita Plush

Alterations, stories by Rita Plush

This post originally appeared on Boomer Cafe   <http://www.boomercafe.com/2014/01/24/rita-plush-proudly-recalls-father-new-yorks-garment-district/>
http://attheinkwell.com/at-the-inkwell-with-rita-plush/
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bernadettewalsh/2014/01/23/nice-girls-reading-naughty-books–rita-plush

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

A few days ago I watched a group of high school seniors struggling to write two-page essays about their lives and their plans for the years after graduation.

 

These were kids who spend untold hours sharing information—sometimes what I consider to be way too much information—in conversations and phone calls and text messages. This was a topic that required no research or attributions. The assignment seemed like a no-brainer.

 

And yet, after putting down their names and the date and the class period, most of them came to a full stop. Hung up on how to begin, they stared at that blinking cursor.

 

I felt their pain. Hoping to hook readers who happen across my books but aren’t familiar with my name, I labor long and hard on first sentences and leading paragraphs. Years ago I learned to delay the stress of crafting that opening and leapfrog into the story by leaving a blank space and writing this: Something brilliant goes in this space and I know I’ll think of it later.

 

I passed along that advice and saw a few kids catch fire and start hammering their keyboards. Others, though, sat like statues. I offered another piece of time-worn writing advice. “Don’t worry about getting your sentences and paragraphs in order. You have that cut-and-paste function. Move things around and clean up transitions later.”

 

More fingers prodded the keys, but about a third of the class was still floundering. I hit them with the ever-popular first-draft dogma. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be great or even good. It just has to be done. You’ll fix it later.”

 

Author Carolyn J. Rose

Author Carolyn J. Rose

That was enough incentive for a few to suck in deep breaths and tap hesitantly at the keys. But there were still three staring at their screens with expressions of fear, loathing, panic, and/or soul-searing anxiety. Trotting to their sides, I did a quick survey: “What are you having trouble with? What would help you?”

 

If you’re a writer, their responses won’t surprise you. They felt that what they wrote—in this first draft or any other—wouldn’t be good enough.

 

Thanks to that critical little voice in my head, I know Not-Good-Enough Territory well. In fact, I take up residence there every time I sit down to write.

 

The terrain is riddled with sinkholes and quagmires and quicksand. If a map exists, it’s not accurate. Storms swirl across the landscape and a sudden freeze is always imminent.

 

One trick to traversing this hostile land is to get moving and keep moving. If you write fast enough, you may outdistance the inner critic or develop enough momentum to leap across or plow through obstacles it throws in your path.

 

Another trick is to be your own BFF and make plenty of positive noise to drown out snarky comments that could bring you to a halt. If you can’t shut the inner critic up, then shut it down. Congratulate yourself on every simile and bit of dialogue. Cheer the completion of each paragraph. Reward yourself for every chapter.

 

I shared that philosophy and saw one boy take it to heart. In a few moments he was pounding away. Ten minutes later he had a full page. One of the others managed a paragraph before the bell rang. The third said she couldn’t work in a room filled with people, but made notes.

 

As for me, when I got to my keyboard, I took my own advice, shut the little voice down, and cranked out eight pages. They might not be good. They might be barely this side of dreadful. But they exist.

 

What are the tricks you use to get the job done? Leave a comment and share your strategy.

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of more than a dozen novels, including the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), and the Catskill Mountains Mysteries (Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood). She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers and is an active supporter of her local bookstore, Cover to Cover. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking. Website
www.deadlyduomysteries.com

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