Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Guest Post: Alicia Singleton - Holding On By Your Toenails When Your Dream Goes South

Did you have dreams when you were a child?  What about now?  What are your dreams?  I want to do back to school.  Sticking my toes in the blue waters of Bora Bora would be wonderful.  I’ve always dreamed of owning a business.  A home that’s mine is something I’ve always wanted.   

Well, you’re not alone.  All of us have dreams.  Some dreams happen quickly, some take time.   All legitimate, passion-driven dreams deserve to be pursued.

The years, 1995.  The event, The Romance Writers of America Conference.  As I sat there, in the front row at the editor’s panel session, feelings of excitement, contentment and peace danced a jumbled mix in my stomach.  Throughout the conference, I’d asked questions about different publishing houses and editor then scoped out the editor that I was going to write for.  After the session, I walked up, waited my turn and pitched my novel.  She smiled and said, “Send it to me.”  Send it to me!!!  I thanked her, walked away cool, head held high.  Inside, my mind yelled, ‘Yeah, baby!’ 

I called home that night and told my husband that I’d have a book contract in 6 months tops.   Well, 6 months came and went.  6 more months, another year, five years then ten, still no book contract.

What do you do when your dream seems to go south?  Don’t give up!  Here’s what I suggest:

•  Set your goals.  Make a plan.  Work the plan.  If the plan doesn’t work, re-tweak the plan. 

•  Get a mentor, someone who is where you want to be.  Someone who is living your dream and willing to share their expertise with you. 

•  Surround yourself with level-headed, go-getter, dreamers.  (If you don’t take action to actively pursue your dream, you’re dead in the water.)

•  Stay connected to the related industry of your dream.  Attended conferences, workshops, join professional organizations and network with like-minded people.  Some of the people that I’ve met along the way have become my closest friends.

•  Your dream is yours.  Do it for yourself.  (If you’re pursuing your dream for someone else, then is it your dream or an obligation?) 

• When it gets hard, take a step back, take a deep breath then get back in the game. 

•  Say positive affirmations.  One of my favorites is: I refuse to accept the possibility of the death of my dreams. 

What happened to your dream of becoming an author with a major publishing house, you ask?  Well, that dream came to fruition17 years later. 

I’m not going to lie and say waiting for that day was giggles and roses.  Some days were so tough that I wanted to give up.  Being strong for the people that believed in me wasn’t always easy either.  Outside, I was the constant optimist, but on many days my mind was screaming, ‘What the hell!’  Then, I’d think about not accomplishing what I’d set out to do, all of the time and effort I’d put into bringing the dream to reality and letting down those people who had faith in the dream, then I’d exit my pity party and get back to work.

The only way you will see your dreams come true is if you never give up on them.  You might think that 17 years is a long time.  A lifetime of regrets is even longer.  Don’t quit.  Your dream is waiting!

About the Author:
Born and raised in Philadelphia, the Howard University graduate embraced the written word at an early age. She credits this to her loving, older sister whom, while they were youngsters, made the author eat lotion on a regular basis. Realizing the need to sound-out the ingredients on the lotion label, Alicia stopped the lotion-eating practice, but continued to read the labels of the concoctions her sister brought for her to try. This early necessity to read flowered to a passion; hence, a writer was born.The award winning author resides in Maryland with her wonderful husband and son.  Still an avid reader, label or otherwise, Alicia is hard at work completing her next suspense novel.Her latest book is the suspense novel, Dark Side of Valor.
Visit Alicia’s website at www.aliciasingleton.com.

Child advocate Lelia Freeman saves children for a living. As the director of ChildSafe Shelters, she ventures to abandoned squats and crackhouses to rescue teens from the hellish streets of Los Angeles. When she is summoned to Washington to serve on a committee that aids the children of a war-torn African nation, Lelia is kidnapped and becomes a political pawn in a sinister conspiracy. Oceans away from everything she knows, she must trust a mercenary to save her life, or die in the clutches of a psychopath.
Hunting, combat and staying alive are Elijah Dune’s specialties. Vengeance is his passion. Haunted by past demons, he’s travels to the Motherland to collect a debt. A debt that demands one payment. Death.
Caught in the crosshairs of a madman, Lelia and Elijah must survive the jungles of Zaire and the horrors of their pasts or be forever consumed by the DARK SIDE OF VALOR.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Guest Post: Wayne Zurl - Putting a Dialect into Dialogue

Writing dialogue with a dialect can generate controversy and debate, and on occasion, even animosity among writers and readers.

I write about a former New York detective working as a police chief in rural east Tennessee. The accents he’s been exposed to are about as similar as a Venezuelan and a Glaswegian both attempting to speak understandable English. Sorry, Scotland.

I live in the same area where my protagonist works. Coincidently, I’m also an ex-New Yorker. And through thirteen novelettes and two full-length traditionally published novels, I’ve used, in varying degrees, east Tennessee accents.

To my ear, there are three separate and distinct accents in and around the Great Smoky Mountains and I write them all. And occasionally I have a “Nu Yawkah” visit Chief Sam Jenkins and we hear them ask for a “cuppa kawfee” or tell him to “open a windah” or cut the grass with a “mowah.” I do that so the residents of southern Appalachia can’t accuse me of picking on them exclusively when some of my characters use the universal greeting of the region, “You doin’ aw rot t’day?” or any of the other appropriate colloquialisms I hear all the time.
Honest folks, I don’t make this up. I only write what I hear—and I have always had a good ear for languages. That’s why I can speak English fairly well, am semi-fluent in two other languages, and can swear and order a beer in five more.

Okay, let’s look at what the experts say. In his book THE 38 MOST COMMON FICTION WRITING MISTAKES (And How to Avoid Them), Jack M. Bickham wrote a   2 ¼ page chapter called Don’t Mangle Characters’ Speech. Jack says NEVER deviate from the King’s English; it may tend to confuse a reader. Prior to his death, Bickham published about 75 novels and taught English at the University of Oklahoma.

Since I didn’t like Jack’s answer, I looked further. Everyone’s heard of Stephen King and may have read one or more of his sci-fi/horror novels. I think we’ll all agree Stephen has done well for himself in the publishing business. I’m not a fan of horror stories, so I don’t read his fiction, but I liked and recommend his book ON WRITING (A Memoir of the Craft). The first half tells the story of a young Stephen King teaching high school English in Bangor, Maine, near poverty, and in danger of having his utilities turned off before he finally sold the famous CAREY. The second half is pure advice on how to write fiction King’s way.

Stephen’s take on writing dialect is, “Write it the way you hear it.”
And he’s got a unique accent to duplicate in “Down East” Maine.

Steve, however, goes on to say, “Don’t substitute apostrophes for the letters you leave out of the words.”

Example: writin’ rather than writing, should simply be writin, according to King.

So, I was looking at a stalemate, one for and one ag’in.

While working on my first full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, I hired Bill Greenleaf, a retired editor, book doctor, and author of nine novels.

Bill agreed with King and said, “Write it as you hear it; it’s more authentic when dealing with characters who speak with a unique accent.”

He further stated that new writers probably shouldn’t just omit letters without using the substitute apostrophe as suggested by King. That may only confuse editors, thinking you may be submitting a manuscript with typos.

Sad but true—a guy like Stephen King can get away with much more than you or I.

A NEW PROSPECT was published and the publisher/editor accepted all the dialect without question.

Since I’ve mentioned that book twice and at my age, I no longer have any modesty, I’ll tell you it was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards. It is currently a finalist at the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Awards and has been nominated for a Montaigne Medal. So, I guess the dialect hasn’t been too troubling to the judges who read the review copies.

My second novel, A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT, being handled by a new publisher, not only features characters with thick east Tennessee accents, but several with Irish brogues. The folks at Iconic Publishing are comfortable with the accents written as they would like the reader to “hear” them..

Additionally, both the publisher and editor at Mind Wings Audio where they’ve produced my novelettes as audio books and simultaneously published them as eBooks have accepted everythbing written with oodles of Tennessee dialect. The actor who reads the text says he has fun shifting voices. (A novelette is defined as something between 7,500 and 17,500 words.)

Some readers or reviewers of my works say, “I’m from the south and I don’t speak like that.”

Understandable. Someone from Charleston, South Carolina or Paducah, Kentucky sounds nothing like someone from Cocke County, Tennessee. Someone from Nashville in middle Tennessee doesn’t remotely sound like someone from the Smokies.

To these complainers I say, “If you’ve never been in my neck of the woods, don’t comment on how my neighbors speak.” Not only can I state with authority how a resident of east Tennessee sounds (I’ve been here for twenty years) but I lived in New York for forty-six years and know first-hand someone from Brooklyn speaks nothing like a resident of Buffalo and both possess distinct accents.

Recently, a reviewer said, “Writing in dialect never works.”

I’m suspicious of someone who uses absolutes like always or never. When I hear that, I tend to wonder where they derive their expertise on the subject upon which they commented.

This reviewer claimed, “It would be enough to state that the character spoke with a heavy accent.”

Isn’t that telling and not showing? Just the opposite of what good writers are supposed to do.

George Peleconos has written a successful series of novels featuring Derek Strange, an African American private detective working in Washington DC. Peleconos extensively writes dialogue in Ebonics. And it only makes sense. The jive-ass, hip-hop, gangsta-rapping, young drug dealers Derek encounters during his adventures do not speak like little old men from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In my opinion, it would not sound authentic and it would detract from the story if he omitted the dialect.

And I should mention an old book with lots of dialect and a pretty fair track record: THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN by a guy who called himself Mark Twain.

Some readers have told me, “Reading dialects makes me slow down.”

So what? What’s the hurry? Do you want to absorb and understand a novel or just knock out another book and add one more to your “I’ve read” list?

Shifting from one writer’s voice to another causes me to slow down until I pick up the cadence and get in tune with a different style. In only a few pages most readers should clique with something new.
Sometimes, I think semi-professional readers (self-styled, unpaid reviewers) cruise through books so fast they really can’t write an honest or intelligent review.

Another opinion (mine), “Everyone should savor a good book. Slow down and smell the printer’s ink.”

Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.

For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see www.waynezurlbooks.net. You can read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and see photos of the area where the stories take place.

Amazon link: http://amazon.com/author/waynezurl
B&N link: http://barnesandnoble.com/s/wayne-zurl
Mind Wings Audio link: http://mindwingsaudio.com/?s=wayne+zurl

Review: A Leprechaun's Lament

A Leprechaun's Lament
A Leprechaun's Lament by Wayne Zurl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book that I have read in the Sam Jenkins Mysteries and I really enjoyed it. The characters were believable and entertaining. I enjoyed getting to know that members of the Prospect PD and the people of Prospect, TN.

The story begins with Chief Sam Jenkins, and members of his staff, doing background checks on the city's employees who interact with the police department. Once he starts looking into them, he starts to find that things don't add up with one particular employee, Murray McGuire. Soon after, McGuire is found dead. Now, Chief Jenkins needs to find out why McGuire was killed and what secrets he was hiding when he died.

The book was well written and I look forward to reading more of the Same Jenkins books as well as other books by Wayne Zurl.

FTC Notice: I obtained a copy of this book from the author.

View all my reviews