Femnista: Pride, Prejudice & Deceit

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My February 2019 article on Love Triangles is up. Its entitled “Pride, Prejudice & Deceit” and its about… you guessed it, “Pride and Prejudice!” Ah, Lizzy and Mr. Darcy…and Wickham. Go check it out by CLICKING HERE!

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Revisiting/Revising an Old Novel

Recently I was encouraged to write a romance novel. There’s a formula to it and many of the romantic publication imprints allow you to submit without representation of a literary agent. I kept it in mind and then remembered a novel that I wrote some years ago. I sent it to a number of publishing companies, to no avail. I was rejected and rightly so, but a few of the editors responded with helpful and encouraging feedback. I abandoned the little romance novel and went onto write other things.

Well, I took another look at it and could easily make out its defects. Spelling and factual errors, plot holes, sparse description, etc. But there was nothing about the novel – the plot, characters, themes – that would prevent it from someday being in print. As long as I revised it. So, I did and though it isn’t life altering fiction, it is good and entertaining. I have more faith in it than I once did.

So, I submitted it to three publishing companies and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. We’ll see how my little novel fares this time around.

My point to this rambling post is that its good to take a look at an old WIP from time to time. Even if you decide its better left in a drawer, you can look it over time and acknowledge how you’ve changed and grown as an author. You can review it, make notes on where you went wrong and what you did right, you can borrow ideas and themes from it for future stories. You can become more discerning in your future writing projects.

Past mistakes shouldn’t be regretted. They should be accepted, embraced, and learned from.

The Pitfalls of Publishing

They say to be a writer, you need to grow thick skin. That’s the understatement of the century. You need full body armor and a shield, especially if you’re trying to dip your toe into the publishing world. I’ve been a little lucky, I’ve had a number of shorter pieces published and I’m very proud of my body of work. I hope someday to add some published novels to my collection.

Unfortunately, in my sixteen-year journey (I started to pursue publication when I was 16 and now, I’m dating myself…) there have been many perils and pitfalls of publishing. I’m not just talking about the rejections – and trust me, there will be rejections. Enough to paper a room, or in my case several houses. But there will be deals and agreements that fall through, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, etc. I’ve had an agent back out on me, I’ve had a magazine go defunct, I’ve had editors and readers openly question my sanity. I’ve been told the likelihood of success is small.

For a more recent example, a story that I placed last year will not be appearing in print after all. Of course, I’m sad and after going through the three stages of grief – anger, intense sadness, and sleepy indifference – I woke up this morning feeling refreshed and determined to resume sending this story out. It’s a good story, I’ve been told that, and I have to believe someday I will find a home for it.

You may feel like giving up, I do too from time to time. But if writing and publishing is like breathing for you, you will never be satisfied if you deny your heart’s desire. You have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, put on the full body armor and raise your shield, and try again.

Now get back to writing and submitting!

Until next time…

Pantser vrs. Planner

I already broke one of my New Year’s Resolutions, which was to update this blog more often. But with Snowpocalypse 2019 raging, I’ve been driven in doors and have time plenty of time to write productive (it remains to be seen if I do it or not, LOL!) and to post on my blog.

Onto today’s post: Pantser vrs Planner.

Now what the heck are Pantsers and Planners?

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Well, I’m using these terms in reference to writing. A Pantser is someone who writes by the “seat of the pants.” They sit down and write. From the Pantsers I know, they have a general idea of what they want to write, but no outline or notes. They just write. A Planner is the opposite; a Planner has an outline, notes, charts, graphs, whatnot. When I was younger, I was a Pantser – I simply sat down and wrote whatever my heart desired. Now that I’m older, I am more of a Planner.

I’ve argued in another post that the first draft of a WIP is to be written from your heart and I stand by that completely. First drafts are for the author and no one else. Even so, I outline and choreograph scenes as one might do a screen play, to better envision what I want and to maintain my focus. Otherwise, my characters would take over and nothing would get accomplished. That is my way of writing – my method to my madness.

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Okay, for the most part I’ve argued the side of the Planner, but that’s only because I haven’t done any Pantser writing in over a decade. I’m a little out of touch, but I do believe there’s no right or wrong way to write. Whether you’re a Pantser or a Planner, as long as you love and find joy in what you write, that’s all that matters.

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So, which one are you? A Pantser or a Planner?

Happy New Year!!!

Okay, I’m a day late, a dollar short, six months behind, and with no change. But Happy New Year!!! I rang in the New Year as I traditionally do, fast asleep and probably snoring.

December 31, 2018 turned out better than I thought it would. December 31st’s are always depressing for me. I spend the day reviewing the year, remembering those we’ve lost and the tragedies, my own personal failures. I tend to feel like another year has passed and there’s nothing to show for it.

Then, I wake up the next morning and it is the beginning of a New Year. A new beginning, a fresh start, a year without any mistakes in it. I have a New Year which will be full of second and third chances.

But this December 31st, I was reassured and I believe that every day, Christ makes all things new. We don’t have to wait until January 1st for our “second chance.” We can seize it now, or any time we please.

So, what are your New Year’s Resolutions? Do you have any?

Truce in the Forest

By Fritz Vincken

It was Christmas Eve, and the last, desperate German offensive of World War II raged around our tiny cabin. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door…

When we heard the knock on our door that Christmas Eve in 1944, neither Mother nor I had the slightest inkling of the quiet miracle that lay in store for us.
I was 12 then, and we were living in a small cottage in the Hürtgen Forest, near the German-Belgian border. Father had stayed at the cottage on hunting weekends before the war; when Allied bombers partly destroyed our hometown of Aachen, he sent us to live there. He had been ordered into the civil-defense fire guard in the border town of Monschau, four miles away.

“You’ll be safe in the woods,” he had told me. “Take care of Mother. Now you’re the man of the family.”

But, nine days before Christmas, Field Marshal von Rundstedt had launched the last, desperate German offensive of the war, and now, as I went to the door, the Battle of the Bulge was raging all around us. We heard the incessant booming of field guns; planes soared continuously overhead; at night, searchlights stabbed through the darkness. Thousands of Allied and German soldiers were fighting and dying nearby.

When that first knock came, Mother quickly blew out the candles; then, as I went to answer it, she stepped ahead of me and pushed open the door. Outside, like phantoms against the snowclad trees, stood two steel-helmeted men. One of them spoke to Mother in a language we did not understand, pointing to a third man lying in the snow. She realized before I did that these were American soldiers. Enemies! Mother stood silent, motionless, her hand on my shoulder. They were armed and could have forced their entrance, yet they stood there and asked with their eyes. And the wounded man seemed more dead than alive.

“Kommt rein,” Mother said finally. “Come in.”

The soldiers carried their comrade inside and stretched him out on my bed. None of them understood German. Mother tried French, and one of the soldiers could converse in that language.

As Mother went to look after the wounded man, she said to me, “The fingers of those two are numb. Take off their jackets and boots, and bring in a bucket of snow.”

Soon I was rubbing their blue feet with snow. We learned that the stocky, dark- haired fellow was Jim; his friend, tall and slender, was Robin. Harry, the wounded one, was now sleeping on my bed, his face as white as the snow outside. They’d lost their battalion and had wandered in the forest for three days, looking for the Americans, hiding from the Germans. They hadn’t shaved, but still, without their heavy coats, they looked merely like big boys. And that was the way Mother began to treat them.

Now Mother said to me, “Go get Hermann. And bring six potatoes.”

This was a serious departure from our pre-Christmas plans. Hermann was the plump rooster (named after portly Hermann Goering, Hitler’s No. 2, for whom Mother had little affection) that we had been fattening for weeks in the hope that Father would be home for Christmas. But, some hours before, when it was obvious that Father would not make it, Mother had decided that Hermann should live a few more days, in case Father could get home for New Year’s. Now she had changed her mind again: Hermann would serve an immediate, pressing purpose.

While Jim and I helped with the cooking, Robin took care of Harry. He had a bullet through his upper leg, and had almost bled to death. Mother tore a bedsheet into long strips for bandages. Soon, the tempting smell of roast chicken permeated our room. I was setting the table when once again there came a knock at the door. Expecting to find more lost Americans, I opened the door without hesitation. There stood four soldiers, wearing uniforms quite familiar to me after five years of war. They were Wehrmacht Germans

I was paralyzed with fear. Although still a child, I knew the harsh law: sheltering enemy soldiers constituted high treason. We could all be shot! Mother was frightened, too.

Her face was white, but she stepped outside and said, quietly, “Fröhliche Weihnachten.” The soldiers wished her a Merry Christmas, too.

“We have lost our regiment and would like to wait for daylight,” explained the corporal. “Can we rest here?”

“Of course,” Mother replied, with a calmness born of panic. “You can also have a fine, warm meal and eat till the pot is empty.”

The Germans smiled as they sniffed the aroma through the half-open door. “But,” Mother added firmly, “we have three other guests, whom you may not consider friends.” Now her voice was suddenly sterner than I’d ever heard it before. “This is Christmas Eve, and there will be no shooting here.”

“Who’s inside?” the corporal demanded. “Amerikaner?”

Mother looked at each frost-chilled face. “Listen,” she said slowly. “You could be my sons, and so could those in there. A boy with a gunshot wound, fighting for his life. His two friends lost like you and just as hungry and exhausted as you are. This one night,” she turned to the corporal and raised her voice a little, “this Christmas night, let us forget about killing.”

The corporal stared at her. There were two or three endless seconds of silence. Then Mother put an end to indecision. “Enough talking!” she ordered and clapped her hands sharply. “Please put your weapons here on the woodpile and hurry up before the others eat the dinner!”

Dazedly, the four soldiers placed their arms on the pile of firewood just inside the door: three carbines, a light machine gun and two bazookas. Meanwhile, Mother was speaking French rapidly to Jim. He said something in English, and to my amazement I saw the American boys, too, turn their weapons over to Mother. Now, as Germans and Americans tensely rubbed elbows in the small room, Mother was really on her mettle. Never losing her smile, she tried to find a seat for everyone. We had only three chairs, but Mother’s bed was big, and on it she placed two of the newcomers side by side with Jim and Robin.
Despite the strained atmosphere, Mother went right on preparing dinner. But Hermann wasn’t going to grow any bigger, and now there were four more mouths to feed.

“Quick,” she whispered to me, “get more potatoes and some oats. These boys are hungry, and a starving man is an angry one.”

While foraging in the storage room, I heard Harry moan. When I returned, one of the Germans had put on his glasses to inspect the American’s wound.

“Do you belong to the medical corps?” Mother asked him.

“No,” he answered. “But I studied medicine at Heidelberg until a few months ago.”

Thanks to the cold, he told the Americans in what sounded like fairly good English, Harry’s wound hadn’t become infected.

“He is suffering from a severe loss of blood,” he explained to Mother. “What he needs is rest and nourishment.”

Relaxation was now beginning to replace suspicion. Even to me, all the soldiers looked very young as we sat there together. Heinz and Willi, both from Cologne, were 16. The German corporal, at 23, was the oldest of them all. From his food bag he drew out a bottle of red wine, and Heinz managed to find a loaf of rye bread.

Mother cut that in small pieces to be served with the dinner; half the wine, however, she put away “for the wounded boy.”

Then Mother said grace. I noticed that there were tears in her eyes as she said the old, familiar words, “Komm, Herr Jesus. Be our guest.”

And as I looked around the table, I saw tears, too, in the eyes of the battle-weary soldiers, boys again, some from America, some from Germany, all far from home.

Just before midnight, Mother went to the doorstep and asked us to join her to look up at the Star of Bethlehem. We all stood beside her except Harry, who was sleeping. For all of us during that moment of silence, looking at the brightest star in the heavens, the war was a distant, almost-forgotten thing.

Our private armistice continued next morning. Harry woke in the early hours, and swallowed some broth that Mother fed him. With the dawn, it was apparent that he was becoming stronger. Mother now made him an invigorating drink from our one egg, the rest of the corporal’s wine and some sugar. Everyone else had oatmeal. Afterward, two poles and Mother’s best tablecloth were fashioned into a stretcher for Harry.

The corporal then advised the Americans how to find their way back to their lines. Looking over Jim’s map, the corporal pointed out a stream.

“Continue along this creek,” he said, “and you will find the 1st Army rebuilding its forces on its upper course.” The medical student relayed the information in English.

“Why don’t we head for Monschau?” Jim had the student ask.

“Nein!” the corporal exclaimed. “We’ve retaken Monschau.”

Now Mother gave them all back their weapons. “Be careful, boys,” she said. “I want you to get home someday where you belong. God bless you all!”

The German and American soldiers shook hands, and we watched them disappear in opposite directions. When I returned inside, Mother had brought out the old family Bible. I glanced over her shoulder. The book was open to the Christmas story, the Birth in the Manger and how the Wise Men came from afar bearing their gifts. Her finger was tracing the last line from Matthew 2:12: “…they departed into their own country another way.”

 

Merry Christmas!

Famous Author Rejections

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every author’s work is rejected. This includes the literary greats. Below is a list of famous authors and how they were rejected before they hit it big. I think these are accurate. They are amusing to say in the least.

Sylvia Plath: There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.
Rudyard Kipling: I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.
Emily Dickinson: [Your poems] are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and are generally devoid of true poetical qualities.
Ernest Hemingway (on The Torrents of Spring): It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.
Dr. Seuss: Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.
The Diary of Anne Frank: The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.
Richard Bach (on Jonathan Livingston Seagull): will never make it as a paperback. (Over 7.25 million copies sold)
H.G. Wells (on The War of the Worlds): An endless nightmare. I do not believe it would “take”…I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book’. And (on The Time Machine): It is not interesting enough for the general reader and not thorough enough for the scientific reader.
Edgar Allan Poe: Readers in this country have a decided and strong preference for works in which a single and connected story occupies the entire volume.
Herman Melville (on Moby Dick): We regret to say that our united opinion is entirely against the book as we do not think it would be at all suitable for the Juvenile Market in [England]. It is very long, rather old-fashioned…
Jack London: [Your book is] forbidding and depressing.
William Faulkner: If the book had a plot and structure, we might suggest shortening and revisions, but it is so diffuse that I don’t think this would be of any use. My chief objection is that you don’t have any story to tell. And two years later: Good God, I can’t publish this!
Stephen King (on Carrie): We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.
Joseph Heller (on Catch–22): I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say… Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level … From your long publishing experience you will know that it is less disastrous to turn down a work of genius than to turn down talented mediocrities.
George Orwell (on Animal Farm): It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.
Oscar Wilde (on Lady Windermere’s Fan): My dear sir, I have read your manuscript. Oh, my dear sir.
Vladimir Nabokov (on Lolita): … overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit was turned down so many times, Beatrix Potter initially self-published it.
Lust for Life by Irving Stone was rejected 16 times, but found a publisher and went on to sell about 25 million copies.
John Grisham’s first novel was rejected 25 times.
Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) received 134 rejections.
Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) received 121 rejections.
Gertrude Stein spent 22 years submitting before getting a single poem accepted.
Judy Blume, beloved by children everywhere, received rejections for two straight years.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle received 26 rejections.
Frank Herbert’s Dune was rejected 20 times.
Carrie by Stephen King received 30 rejections.
The Diary of Anne Frank received 16 rejections.
Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rolling was rejected 12 times.
Dr. Seuss received 27 rejection letters