Writer at Work!

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Here I am, slaving away at my new novel! I’m all dressed up for the writing session in my new power suit and sensible oxfords. My hair is freshly coiffed, and I’m ready to turn out 3 or 4 chapters of great work.

Actually, that’s Agatha Christie. I found that image when I googled “Writer at Work”, and on a whim, I decided to use it with my post.

I am in awe at how Agatha Christie and other writers wrote full-length novels on those little typewriters. I guess typewriters were a new invention that allowed writers to write faster and turn out more work when they progressed from pen and paper.

I see what appears to be an outline, or notes that Christie is working from. See how neat and organized her work space is?

Now if Agatha Christie and others could write best-sellers on a manual typewriter, why can’t I just finish a novel, for Heaven sakes? I’ve got a decent computer, a comfortable room with sunlight streaming through the window, a ceiling fan, and warmth or coolness at the ready, thanks to an efficiently operating central Heat/AC unit. I have a choice of hot or cold beverages, and plenty of snacks. Sweet or salty. And a purring, sleeping cat at my feet. What else do I need?

My writing attire is usually my pj’s, and I’m barefoot. If I’m dressed, I’m wearing jeans and a tee shirt and athletic shoes. My hair is brushed. Or nah. My short grey ‘do is unruly, and if you know who the singer Miguel is, his messy, piled-on-top hair style is what mine looks like when I get up. My hair tends to look wild and pompador-ish ’til I tame it with water, gel, and hairspray.

An Agatha Christie I am not, but I have been doing some serious thinking concerning my writing and going in a different direction. The little cozy mysteries I write and the light, sweet romances are not marketable. Several have been published online, but I haven’t made any money. And folks, I’d like to sell my writing. I’d like to be paid, but as I’ve lamented before, the paying markets are few.

I’ve had friends ask, “Why don’t you write a novel?” and I’ve always answered, “I’m not a novelist. I don’t think I can write a book.” And that’s an honest answer. I don’t know if I have the patience or if I can come up with enough words. I’m a “tight” writer. I don’t know if I can pile on the dialogue and the details and the back story and the conflict and all the rest.

I’m at a crossroads. I am taking some online classes, and the first assignment deals with Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. I am lost. However, I did manage to write what I’m calling the first chapter in a novel. It doesn’t stand alone. I’ll have to keep going. I did the best I could, polished and tweaked and worried and fretted for a few days, and finally, hit that Send button. The first chapter is on its way to my instructor.

We’ll see what happens. If I’m on the right track, and if/or I can master the GMC components enough to work on a novel, I’ll keep going. Who knows? I just may finish that book I’ve started. For motivation, I’ll think of Agatha Christie and her little black typewriter.

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New Story Published!

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My flash fiction piece was just published at:


It’s called Grand Larceny and a Petty Thief.

I had fun writing it, and I hope the readers enjoy it.

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Top Ten Writing Mistakes Editors See Every Day

Confessions of a Creative Writing Teacher

Goya -The sleep of reason produces monsters (c1799) recut

In addition to writing and teaching, one of the things I do for a living is to evaluate manuscripts for their suitability for publication. I read fiction (and non-fiction) across several genres, and write comprehensive reports on the books. I try always to guide the author towards knocking his or her project into a shape that could be credibly presented to literary agents, publishers and general readers. You know how Newman and Mittelmark introduce How Not to Write a Novel by saying, ‘We are merely telling you the things that editors are too busy rejecting your novel to tell you themselves, pointing out the mistakes they recognize instantly because they see them again and again in novels they do not buy,’ well they’re right; I am one of those editors.

However good the idea behind a novel, when the author is still learning the craft of writing – like any…

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He did WHAT on the ground???

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I started reading a story online today, but I didn’t make it past the first paragraph. The last sentence in that paragraph read in part, ‘walks on the beach in Southern Spain, hunting lions on the African planes…’ Perhaps the writer was referring to the Serengeti, but I couldn’t wrap my head around the image of tawny lions and khaki-clad hunters aboard a Boeing 777, thrashing about in the aisles of the plane.

That story brought to mind some similar work-related typos from long ago. When I was in my twenties, I worked for Southern Bell Telephone Co. in Jacksonville, Florida. Our offices were in the Jacobs Building, a modern high-rise downtown.

We didn’t have computers back then. No internet, no cell phones, no digital cameras. We had nice electric typewriters that were seated on a pull-out side section of our desks. Banks of file cabinets lined the perimeter of the huge rooms. If you wanted to look at a customer’s contract, you went to the files that housed the Florida city of his business and pulled the paper work.

During the advertising sales campaigns, salesmen traveled to the cities and helped the customer design his ad for the yellow pages of the phone directory. Then the mock-up ads were brought back to the office and fine-tuned until the big galley books were sent to the printer. Although there were checkers and editors, mistakes still slipped by. You could chalk it up to carelessness, new people on the job, or workers too sick or exhausted to notice.

One particular ad featured a used car lot run by a Mr. Frater. He called himself “Friendly Frater” and claimed his customers loved doing business with him. Unfortunately, when his half-page ad appeared in the phone book, it read, “Let Friendly Farter help you! You’ll be glad you did!”

An ad for a pool company depicted a big swimming pool with the words, “Drive right in!” instead of “Dive right in!” And a new restaurant with high-backed booths, art on the paneled walls, and potted palms in the dining area claimed to have “great food and unique décor.” The custom drawing of the restaurant’s interior was printed upside down, making the décor unique indeed.

As writers, we must be diligent. We must edit multiple times. We must have a friend or three read over our work to make sure it’s free of errors.

According to the Huffington Post, the typo that appeared in this book is one of the worst ever. I wouldn’t want to be that author!

Here’s the article:

Susan Andersen’s ‘Baby I’m Yours’ Typo: ‘He Shitted On The Ground’

If any of you bought the iBook edition of romance writer Susan Andersen’s latest corset-ripper, “Baby, I’m Yours,” delete it immediately! Olaf or Butch or whatever the hero’s name is will never seem the same once you read a certain coprophilic typo 300 pages in. Let Susan explain:

I wanted to give you all a head’s up on a killer typo in my digital edition of Baby, I’m Yours and apologize for page 293, where it says:

He stiffened for a moment but then she felt his muscles loosen as he shitted on the ground.

Shifted–he SHIFTED! God, I am so appalled, not to mention horrified that anyone would think that’s what I wrote. I’d really appreciate it if you would forward this to your romance reading friends just in case they bought the ebook, which is on sale for $2.99 at the moment so has likely been selling even better than usual (trust me, usually that’s a good thing). Please assure them that I’m on it and it will be fixed asap.

Did you get that? Susan Andersen is not, she repeats NOT, into the weird stuff. Expect some good old-fashioned stiffening and loosening shortly.

Poor Susan Andersen! I’d never be able to live that down!

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Papa’s Cats and My Cats

Papa’s Cats and My Cats.

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Papa’s Cats and My Cats


Ernest Hemingway was an inveterate cat lover, and so am I.  Having lived in Key West, I’ve been to the Hemingway House and Museum on several occasions. It’s not uncommon to find 50 to 60 cats roaming the grounds or snoozing in the gardens. Most of the Hemingway cats are descendants of the author’s first cat, Snowball, a six-toed cat. Cats with six-toes are called polydacts.  They look like they’re wearing mittens on their front paws.

Hemingway’s cats kept him company as he wrote, sequestered away in an upper bedroom of the house. My cats share my writing space as well, and three of them are all I can handle.

Prunella is 16 years old and the most spoiled cat on the planet. A homely little black and white, her markings look like someone dipped a brush into a pot of black paint, closed their eyes, and randomly daubed the brush on her white fur. She appears to be wearing black underwear, and she has a black mustache.

Earlier this year, Prunella was diagnosed with an overactive thyroid. She lost a lot of weight and will be on meds the rest of her life. Along with her thyroid med, she takes Prednisone, which increases her appetite. She wants to eat all the time. Even though she always has access to dry food, Prunella meows constantly, begging for canned Fancy Feast. It’s a bit difficult to concentrate on my writing when all I hear is a rusty, raucous meow, meooww, meooowwwww.

Basil Brian is a head butter-face patter-kneader sort of cat. He likes to stand on my lap while I’m at the computer, and he gets those little paws going in a rhythmic march until I can’t take the pin pricks anymore. I have to curve my arms over him to type, which is a bit awkward. Amber-eyed, Basil Brian is a pale-golden and cream with just enough light markings to identify him as a tabby.

A lean, swaggering, street-wise brown tabby, Cooter Brown is my rebel cat. If he were a human, he’d look like Willie Nelson. Cooter would play a harmonica and swig his beer right out of the bottle.  He adopted me about nine years ago. Cooter Brown is a roamer. I’ve tried my best to make an indoor cat out of him, but with no success. Cooter shows his affection by biting. I’ll be typing away, deep into a scene, and he’ll pad in on his little silent cat feet. Next thing I know, he’s nailed me on the ankle, or stood up on his hind legs and taken a chunk out of my elbow. He gazes at me with those emerald green eyes and purrs so loudly he snuffles.

Cooter Brown thinks of Prunella as his Mama, and he sidles up to her and nudges his head under her nose for a grooming session. She licks him so vigorously the dark tabby “M” on his forehead shines like patent leather. A jealous cat, Cooter hisses, snarls, and growls at Basil until he turns tail and runs.

Some days I don’t get much writing done. I’ll bet Hemingway’s cats were all nice and sweet,  curled up in little round, furry-purry balls.  I’m certain they napped while he pounded the keys of that old Royal typewriter. If Papa had had to put up with incessant meowing, kneading, head-butting, face patting, biting, snuffling, hissing, growling, and yowling, he might have spent more time down at Sloppy Joe’s on Duval Street instead of at the typewriter. Just sayin’.

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Link to Friend’s Blog

I have an online writer friend, Birdie Etchison, whom I have never met in person. We have corresponded via both email and postal mail, and Birdie has motivated and inspired me with my writing. We frequently read each other’s works in progress and offer critiques and suggestions. She has been a great help to me.

Birdie has quite a number of published books to her credit. Google her name, Birdie Etchison, and read about her. She writes Christian romance and Amish romance.

Here is a link to Birdie’s latest blog post, which I think you’ll enjoy. It will motivate you, as it did me. Read it here:


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