Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wednesday's Words for April 27, 2011

My first novel was published in March of 2007 with Siren Publishing. Titled Made For Each Other, this story was the first one I had ever written specifically to sell—the first time I had targeted a market, instead of just letting my imagination fly, unfettered. I’d heard about “erotic romance”, you see, and since I was writing romance anyway—mostly for myself, and my beloved to read since the rejections were piling up—I knew I could heat the love scenes up to fit the genre.

I mean, let’s face it, at the time I was over 50, had given birth to three children, and been married to the same man for more than 35 years. Heating up the love scenes really was not a problem at all.

Today I have 21 novels published, number 22 is in the hands of my publisher, and numbers 23 and 24 are works in progress right here on my hard drive.

That’s a lot of books in a relatively short period of time, but I don’t want you to think that writing is, or should be, easy. It’s not. I tell you, without a word of a lie, that some days the process is very hard and damn near close to painful.

And that’s my fault, entirely.

You see, the problem is, I care about the quality of the story I write. I care that my characters have depth, that the work has soul. I care that there’s a story to be told, complete with a plot. I care that the words flow, a kind of verbal symphony, if you will. I care that there’s a cadence, and a style that lures the reader in and makes her—or him—want to read more.

Because I care so very deeply about the craft of writing, I get understandably upset when others who claim to be authors, do not. I’ve gone on, probably ad nauseam over the years in these essays, lamenting about the quality of writing being offered by those who call themselves authors in this e-pub world of mine, about the spelling and the grammar, and the literacy that sometimes seems to be completely lacking.

But there’s something even worse than bad spelling and sloppy grammar that has my professional senses incensed, another sin, if you will, which leaves me feeling personally insulted: plagiarism.

It’s an ugly word for an ugly crime—and that’s what plagiarism is, as far as I’m concerned, a crime. It damages the victim of the theft, and the perpetrator and—in my opinion—every other person who identifies themselves as a professional author.

I do not consider those who steal the written word from others and pass it off as their own to even be writers at all. They’re hacks. They’re worse than the worst tweed-coated, hair grease-wearing dishonest used car salesman whose lot is filled with cars all previously owned by little old ladies from Pasadena. They are worse than the worst snake oil salesman who sells a false miracle cure to an achy old man, swindling him out of his life savings.

When someone steals the work of another, and passes it off as their own, it hurts every one of us who invests everything that we are into this craft of ours. For you see, writing is more than saying “ta-da” when the book is done. It’s the planning, the research, the process of taking your characters from the first moment of their journey to the end, and all the growth and revelations and emotions in between.

Writing is far more than the finished product. It is an exploration, of the work, the characters, and the writer herself. Those who would plagiarize, plain and simply destroy the entire process.

This writer is about to do something she has not done since that first edition of Wednesday’s Words appeared in November of 2006.

I am taking a week off from my essay. Next week at this time I will be gloriously immersed in my one week writers’ retreat with my three best friends—Emma Wildes, Lara Santiago, and Raina James. We will be brainstorming and bonding, sharing and caring and writing, and, while I cannot absolutely swear to it, there may be wine involved.

This week long “me time” has been a very long time in coming, and I can hardly wait! Wednesday’s Words will return on May 11th.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wednesday's Words for April 20, 2011

The first quarter of 2011 is already in the books! I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed this year.

We here in Canada are immersed—well, as immersed as we ever get—in a federal political campaign, with Election Day less than two weeks off. We have to listen to the rhetoric and the whining and the mudslinging for just a few more days, so really, that’s not a big deal.

Mother Nature is showing her true nature by pelting us with unseasonably cold weather, blizzards, freezing rain, and whatever else she holds in her mixed bag—but not tornadoes, so really, that’s not a big deal either. Sure, we’re inconvenienced, and we’re disgruntled, but for the most part we’re safe, and we’ll get over it.

People everywhere continue to struggle to make ends meet, and here, I feel less optimistic. Do you know what depresses me the most about the gasoline prices? It isn’t that they’re high, although they are and it’s a pain in the butt having to pay so much. Where I am it’s about 1.34 per litre, which is the equivalent of about $5.20 U. S. a gallon. What depresses me is the fact that the people in charge of the big oil companies think we’re all too stupid to realize they’re just being greedy. They say these prices reflect the volatile nature of the price of oil, and blah, blah, blah, and then in the next breath they let it slip that, hey, what do you know, they had record-breaking profits!

I really dislike being played for stupid. Almost as much as I dislike the feeling that there’s really nothing we can do about those high prices.

In my opinion, this is the worst possible time for expenses to spike. Grocery prices are beginning to go up too, a direct result of the hike in the cost of gas. People are trying to recover from the horrendous economic implosion of just a couple of years ago. Some people have managed to get jobs, but in many cases they are jobs that pay far less than the ones they had previously.

How are people supposed to manage to pay for everything now?

To me it seems the reality is that the people who run our governments and the people who run our conglomerates simply don’t seem to care about ordinary folk.

More and more I feel as if our society is evolving into a two-horned beast. One horn is made up of the wealthiest, the uber-rich who live a lifestyle you and I simply can’t even imagine. The other horn is made up of most of the rest of us, because the affluent middle class is sinking slowly out of sight. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening, and this isn’t good, because one thing you can count on is that the poor, kept poor long enough, will become the oppressed.

History teaches us that every time human beings are oppressed they do eventually revolt. It amazes me that the oppressors haven’t figured that one out yet. Rather short sighted of them, don’t you think?

Or maybe they have figured it out, and think they can cheat history. Maybe they think they can keep us frightened and powerless, hopeless and penniless, clinging to the fading image of how things used to be. Maybe, they think we can be convinced that if we just give up some of our freedoms, and our expectations, that we will all be happier, and better off, in the long run.

I want to say that I have faith in my fellow man not to buy what they’re selling. But the ones doing the selling are so darned talented in the smoke and mirrors department, that I’m genuinely concerned.

It’s just a good thing that I believe in miracles. I think we need one, and badly.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday's Words for April 13, 2011

Last week, the high school in our community suffered the loss of one of its young students. The fifteen-year-old boy succumbed to the injuries he suffered, having been struck by a commuter train as he walked along the train tracks the week before. The rail line is off limits, of course. Police routinely charge teens with trespassing when they catch them there.

This sad and senseless incident immediately brought to mind a similar tragedy that occurred when my late son was sixteen. One of his best friends fell to his death onto solid ice, from those very same tracks, but further down the line, where the rails span the river.

The day following that horrible accident more than a decade ago, my home was filled with teenagers, all grieving, and all whose parents didn’t seem to grasp the significance of this event in their children’s lives. “I told my folks and they said that was too bad and then they went back to watching TV.” Nearly every kid in our house that day and evening said a version of that same thing. So my beloved and I hugged, we listened, we mopped tears and we fed them dinner.

It was the one time in my late son’s life when I knew we were doing it right.

My grandson and his girlfriend, both of whom knew this young man who’d just died, stopped by to tell me of his passing, as it had just been announced to the student body.

While here, the girl called her mother to tell her the sad news, but more, to look for the solace she needed. Her mother’s response was less than ideal. Instead of listening, or offering sympathy, the woman told her daughter she was ‘stupid’ for being upset, that she should worry about her own life instead. Several feet away, I heard every shouted word clearly.

Teenagers are emotional creatures. They tend to look at the world through a largely narcissistic lens, and I would be the first one, under most circumstances, to not take too seriously any grievance or issue they might take up as a cause célèbre.

The death of a peer is different. It’s a major watershed event in the life of a teen.

Up until they lose a friend their own age, teens secretly and deep-down believe they’re immortal. Oh, they know they’re not, but death happens to older folks. Losing a friend their own age is profoundly significant for them. I wonder that some parents don’t seem to understand that.

I’m sure there have to be many who do; but what’s with the rest of them?

I suppose this is just the way it is. We all know people who are exceptional parents and we all know people who never should have been allowed to reproduce.

Does that sound harsh? It’s always been a wonder to me, that for the most important task any of us can ever assume in life, there are no pre-requisites. You don’t have to pass any exams, achieve any degrees, complete any sort of community service requirement in order to have children.

As parents, we all make mistakes. That’s inevitable. Add into the mix that the fact that our children are complete persons, which means, of course, that they have wills of their own. Navigating the waters of parenthood without major incidents of failure could almost, at least in my opinion, be considered a sort of miracle.

My heart goes out to this young man’s family. By all accounts, he was a respectful kid, gifted artistically. His elementary teachers remembered him as friendly and creative, and as a boy who very rarely got into trouble. He was a good kid.

But even good kids sometimes make a bad decision. And sometimes the result of that one bad decision is every parent’s worst nightmare. Love, Morgan

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday's Words for April 6, 2011

Recently there was a furor in the blogosphere with regard to a review offered on a book written by an “indie” author.

For those of you who are unaware, an “indie” author is a writer who, without benefit of publisher, has made their book available to be read, which the reader may purchase for that purpose. This is easily done these days using Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook.

I won’t mention the name of the reviewer or the author, because those facts are not really important. The review did have some positive comments to make with regard to the novel as story-telling. However, the reviewer rated it poorly because the book contained copious spelling and grammatical errors.

Shades of High School mid-terms. Every time I took a test when I was in High School, some classmate would invariably ask, “Does spelling count?”

It would seem that some of us who are authors are still asking that question. Therefore, in this essay, here and now, let me answer that age old query, for once and for all. Yes, spelling counts. It matters all the time, every time.

Why does it matter? First, spelling errors in a story tend to pull the reader out of the story. The effect is not so different from having a glass of ice cold water tossed in your face, without warning. The author’s goal should be to hook the reader and keep their attention riveted on his/her book until the last page has been turned. Spelling and grammar errors work directly opposite to this goal.

Second, flawless spelling and grammar speak to the care taken by the author to present the reader with as excellent an experience as that author is capable of creating. When a piece contains numerous errors, it’s as if the author has posted this caveat at the beginning of the work: “I don’t respect myself or you enough to go to the trouble to make it excellent.”

Third, poor spelling and poor grammar equal poor education. Don’t get me wrong. Some of the most intelligent, and wise people amongst us didn’t have the opportunity to achieve more than a Secondary School diploma. But you can bet your ashes they’ve taught themselves, and elevated their reading level to the equivalent of college graduate or beyond. Yes, they took great pains to be the best they could be.

We, who are authors, are authors all the time. I believe that if we consider ourselves to be professional authors, then, by golly, we need to be professional in every face we show the world outside of our own bathrooms.

This means, that when we submit anything that people are going to read, we take care that it is clear, concise, and as clean in grammar and spelling as we can make it.

It means that when we receive a review for our work, we send a personal note or e-mail to the reviewer, saying, “thank you for taking the time.” If it is a good review, why then, we will publicize it and perhaps be a tad more profuse in our thanks. If it is a bad review, we will simply forget it. Seriously. The best thing you can do is to act as if it never happened.

Finally, it means we don’t rant and rave and bitch about life, the landlord, our editor, the horrible dinner we were served in the restaurant last night, the unsatisfying sex with our spouse afterwards, or the price of tea in China. It means we don’t pepper those raves with reams of profanity. Contrary to the belief of some, scattering F-shots through one’s prose doesn’t make one appear anything but vocabulary-challenged.

In short, if we consider ourselves to be professional authors, then it behooves us to behave professionally, all of the time. Love, Morgan