Writing on Life

When writing a novel, the entire outside world stops. That’s the way my brain works. I can’t say I am introverted or extroverted. I am both at different times. I’s hard to find balance.

Much of my writing evolves from my life experiences. Spending weeks into years in front of the computer writing narrows my focus. That’s a good thing for my writing.

However, to a degree, living stops. I don’t go out to socialize much. I don’t play games. I don’t get much work done outside of writing. I don’t go to movies. Hell, I don’t even watch television.

If it wasn’t for date night and the need to consume food, I’d never go out to eat or go to the grocery store.

But I get stories written.

The flip side to that is spending time living life offers me much to write about. People I meet, places I visit all have a way of getting integrated into my writing. Life experiences become the ingredients of my writing.

My two favorite quotes on writing and life:

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
― Gustave Flaubert
“In order to write about life first you must live it.”
― Ernest Hemingway

The ideas expressed in the quotes seem on the surface to be in opposition, yet apply to me. They’re understandable.

I’m not so regular and orderly, but I like writing about those things that are beyond the scope of my own comfort zone in living. Granted, I have been known to live a wild and crazy life, but even I have limits. My books know no limits. My characters do things and get involved in ways I never could…in real life.

The old cliché, “Write what you know” comes home to me each time I take my seat at my desk. Having lived a full life and taking long breaks from writing to live life has fed me and continues to feed me.

I am obsessed with life. When I am living life, and not writing, I am driving all over the state, meeting new people from all walks of life and visiting places I never knew existed. Hosting lavish parties with four-hundred guests and attending events with thousands. Life is terrible, grand, scary, comfortable, fascinating, exciting, horrific, and wonderful.

There is nothing dull about the life I live.

Now, on to writing.

I recently participated in the “Give Me Five” podcast with Jimmy McCurry, Greg and Rob. They review all sorts of things: movies, TV shows, games, books, places…all of those things that keep us entertained with living. I will let you know when the podcast airs. They asked me some questions and let me talk about writing, my book, Naked Alliances, and list my five favorites. I chose five favorite literary influences. I will keep you informed when the podcast goes live.

Crime Fiction Beta Readers Apply

We have gotten about half-way through with the first beta reads and second edits on Naked Alliances, my first crime novel. Yay! I’ve been told, “It’s one helluva good story to be proud of.” That really boosted my confidence, and I am feeling just about ready to share it with others.

I have two beta readers and they are more than awesome!  I’m really getting excited now. There is absolutely no way I could thank them enough. You totally rock!

I have four more beta readers lined up and I will accept a couple more if you think it’s really something you’d like to read. Just send me a note: sknicholls1@gmail.com  I will tell you now, it may be a couple of years before this story is released to the public, as I have two or three more stories in my head that I want to get down before I publish Book One in The Naked Eye Series.

This story was written as a challenge by my husband, the Rocket Scientist, to write a crime novel. It developed exactly as I expected it would. We are both avid readers of crime fiction. He reads everything, but I mostly read regional authors. I can’t deny being an amateur.

I also can’t deny that it is cliche. My characters are cliche. The story, while serious and fascinating, is somewhat cliche. Not a comedy caper, but it comes off as nearly satirical it’s so cliché, in my opinion. But it is what it is. And I have worked hard on it.

It’s regional southern crime fiction. There are southern colloquialisms that I most likely won’t alter. It is also spiced with contemporary, regional urban slang. (Hopefully, not too much.) Some may be very clear to you and some more obscure, but it’s not hard to pick up on meanings in context. There are accents and some regional dialect, but nothing you have to slog through for any length of time.

If rape, prostitution, porn, nudity, and/or recreational sex are triggers for you, you probably don’t need to read. If you’re put off by the notion of alternate lifestyles, you’re likely not going to enjoy this story. That’s okay, it wasn’t meant for everybody.

Being as cliché as it is there are stereotypes, and they are supposed to be there. There are no patched eyes or limping characters, steampunks, or people with robotic appendages. There is nothing paranormal, magical, or mystical about it.

The book is both murder mystery and crime thriller, but it’s not a cozy mystery and it was a challenge to write both murder mystery and thriller in one book. The murder is more a subplot, so it doesn’t really unfold the way a typical cozy murder mystery would.

Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, when I am ready for more beta readers to take a look, I’ll have most of the editing done. I’m mainly looking for opinions and feedback on the overall flow, the pace, the story-lines, and how you feel about how they unfold. I would also like to know if there are characters that you would like to see come back in future books. The series books will stand alone, but may share common characters.

I am looking for folk who like crime fiction in particular.

 If you think you would be interested, drop me a line.

One of the fictional settings in the book, Leisure Lagoon, was modeled after this place, my family’s nudist resort here in Central Florida, Cypress Cove.

Part II: Stereotypes in Writing or Reading: Love Them or Not?

 

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A long while back I made a fun post about stereotypes and received some good feedback, some positive and some negative. I wrote that post long before I had the idea for this new series. Many new readers have come along since that time and I was wondering how you feel about stereotypes.

There are those who are deeply offended by stereotypes. I am a most liberal-minded person, supporting both a diverse population and multifaceted lifestyles. I am seriously opposed to discrimination. Yet, there is a part of me that recognizes stereotypes exist for a reason. They are how we categorize typical characteristics. Now, those of us who like to think we are all unique don’t always appreciate that practice.

I hear author experts give guidance to aspiring writers to avoid stereotypes so as not to be cliché. Our characters should be profoundly unique and original to demonstrate our clever creativeness. But I think stereotypes are useful in creating a mental image of a person without going into elaborate detail. Sure, give your stereotyped image his/her own voice, behaviors that are specific to that individual. Is it a cardinal sin to pluck a stereotype out of a comedian’s routine and develop a novel character?

My crime series is filled with stereotypes, deliberately. It is not a comedy caper series, but the stereotypes do provide for some comic relief in an otherwise serious story. There is a transsexual biracial woman, a sweet, smart, petite Asian girl, a loner P.I., biker dudes, a nurse, a gay neighbor, a dragon lady, a sugar daddy and his trophy wife, a redneck, a philandering politician, a flaming fag, a few cougars, a couple of Jamaican Rastafarian-type dudes, a few gamblers…I could go on with this. I’m not speaking of racial profiling in society or condemning/degrading any group. These are fictional characters.

I am sorry if my words have caused offense. My point is; with these few words I have already created images in your mind of this cast of characters without revealing too very much about them. Sure, my characters are unique in that they have been carefully created to play their roles in the story. They have their own voice and their own individual identities. I was not looking for an easy way out, but they fit the story set in a very diverse community well. And there are also characters in the story that I have created specifically to defy the stereotypical images people have.

For an example of how these images sale books, the rocket scientist specifically looks for regional authors who write about bumbling criminals. The wacko, goofy, redeeming villain grabs his attention in a book blurb every time.

That being said, how do you feel about stereotypes?

Would you be able to enjoy a book that has them?

Would you deliberately avoid reading a book if you knew it was laced with them?

It is for marketing reasons that I ask your opinions.

Reminder, Red Clay and Roses remains on sale for 99 cents for the digital copy on Amazon through Saturday, July 12th. All proceeds are matched and go to the Russell Home for atypical children.

Metaphors and Similes: You Have to Love Them

Often what separates a good writer from a mediocre writer is the use of metaphors and similes.

Using them shows imagination and creativity. Our favorite comedians are adept at hitting us with a punchline that is usually a strong metaphor or simile.

One thing is used to represent another. 

Some simple common metaphors:

  • The snow is a white blanket.
  • America is a melting pot.
  • Her lovely voice was music to his ears.
  • Life is a rollercoaster.
  • The alligator’s teeth are white daggers.
  • Their home was a prison.
  • His heart is a cold iron.
  • She is a peacock.
  • He is a shining star.
  • Time is money.
  • My teacher is a dragon.
  • Tom’s eyes were ice.
  • The detective’s face was wood as he listened to her story.

The problem with metaphors is that people not well versed in the language may not get the meaning.

Similes use like or as.

(They can also use more than or less than.)

Some simple common similes:

  • (Eat) like a bird
  • (Fight) like cats and dogs
  • (Work) like a dog
  • Like a dream
  • (Soar) like an eagle
  • Like fingernails on a chalkboard
  • Like a fish
  • (Racing) like a frightened rabbit
  • (Have eyes) like a hawk
  • (Eat) like a horse
  • (Sleep) like a log
  • (Sing) like an angel
  • (Act) like an animal

 

  • As big as an elephant
  • As black as coal
  • As blind as a bat
  • As bold as brass
  • As boring as watching paint dry
  • As brave as a lion
  • As bright as a button
  • As busy as a bee
  • As cheap as dirt
  • As clean as a whistle
  • As clear as mud
  • As clear as crystal
  • As American as apple pie

These are simple and common. They are all cliché.

They have become hackneyed.

A more complex cliche that has become hackneyed is: nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

Once they become common in usage they are stale, lackluster and bog down a story more than lift it. The phrases and ideas become time worn or overdone. Eventually they lack significance through having been overused; becoming unoriginal and trite.

As writers, it is best to make your own metaphors and similes.

Unless you are particularly talented, it is not easy, but it’s fun. The old has to be replaced with the new. Yet it has to be something that more than a few can relate to. It also has to fit the context.

For example; as red as a rose, would not be a very good description of the color of blood.

I have a three page backlist of original similes and metaphors for certain situations. There are many I could fit to a sentence with a tweak or two. Today I got stuck on one.

I just spent two hours coming up with the perfect sentence using a simile. I know you might think that is a lot of time to spend on one sentence. This is part of why great books can take months into years.

My sentence concerned the word squirm. The context is a kidnapping. Go ahead. Give it a try.

Worms squirm.

Eels squirm.

Politicians squirm when caught in a lie.

She squirmed like _____________________.  (Fill in the blank.)

I’m not going to share my sentence, but I will say that this is the sort of thing I am striving for in this novel.

It is moments like this when you just have to pat yourself on the back and say, “Brilliant.”

 Small triumphs.