8/4 Sherry Harris, A Time to Swill
8/11 Authors of The Fish That Got Away
8/18 Authors of Mutt Murders
8/25 Alyssa Maxwell, Murder at Wakehurst
8/21 Nancy Nau Sullivan
WWK Special Blogger
8/7 V. M. Burns-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Friday, September 28, 2012
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Most of us were taught the importance of telling the truth. Our parents emphasized this by telling us we would be in more trouble if we didn't. In school we were told the same thing, and we heard how George Washington told his father "I cannot tell a lie. I cut down the cherry tree." We later learn that was a fabrication invented by an early biographer of our first president. And as the years went by, we read many books and saw many movies where someone was being interrogated and told it would be better for them if they told the truth, which often ended with bad results for the one being questioned, especially if the interrogator was a bad guy. To some extent this changed our seeing the world in black and white. Over time we started seeing shades of gray. Maybe it started when we found ourselves still being punished when we told the truth and wondered if it was really a lesser punishment because we'd been honest.
Still most of us, I hope, find the examples of lies, cheating and dishonesty that we read or hear about on the news repugnant. We've learned of college students at Harvard cheating, school administrators fudging their student rosters to hide how their schools are really doing and Ponzi schemes of all kinds. Recently we found out about writers, sometimes well-known ones, who have paid reviewers to give them good reviews to move their books up on the best seller or Amazon lists. That can only make us wonder how valid the Amazon lists actually are. One writer blogged about doing it as if he'd found a wonderful new way to market his book. I can only hope most writers are more ethical than that.
And, of course, now with a major election season in full swing, the lies, half-truths, hyperbole and misleading statements are filling the media nonstop. PolitiFact and FactCheck.org are working overtime to get the actual truth out there, but I'm not sure how many people look for those fact checks. Do they only get their candidate information from the ads? I hope not because the largest amount of money ever raised for campaign advertising is being poured into campaign coffers mostly be a few very wealthy people. A lot of people think all politicians are dishonest. Unfortunately some are, but I don't believe the majority are. Misguided maybe, according to my opinion, but there are a lot of good politicians who want to make our country better. I may not agree with the opposite party's viewpoints, but I don't think it necessarily makes them totally dishonest. (By the way, I have no idea who the men in the picture are so I'm not impugning their character in any way.)
That leaves us with the "In Between." Most small children blurt out the truth even if it's offensive like "You look funny," although at another time they can blame a sibling or an imaginary character for doing something they themselves did. As we mature we learn the value of the white lie; the way of fudging the truth so as not to hurt some one's feelings. When we get a gift we neither like nor can use, we don't tell the giver that. We look for something nice to say about it while wondering how we can get away with not wearing it or displaying it in our home. If someone asks us how we like their new dress, we evade telling them our true opinion by saying something like we love the color, but don't tell them it's very unflattering.
Cheating is a lie I have trouble condoning. Whether it's cheating at a game - how can anyone feel they really won if they cheated to win - or cheating on your income tax or something else. Of course, everyone has excuses if they're caught.
Is lying more prevalent today than it was in the so called good old days? I don't think so. Human nature being what it is, there have always been those who lied and cheated to get what they want. I think there's just more opportunity to be found out today through the Internet. Of course, there are more opportunities to lie, cheat and steal through the Internet, too. As for myself, I try to always be honest, except for those kind, little, white lies, and even those I try to avoid by not saying anything when possible. Guilty feelings are a burden on the soul and hard to live with.
When do you feel it's okay to stretch the truth?
Have you ever been caught out in a lie?
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
I met Karen at my local SinC Chesapeake Chapter when we launched the chapter’s fifth anthology of short stories, Chesapeake Crimes: This Job Is Murder. Her short story, “Next Stop, Foggy Bottom” highlighted Karen’s gift of writing humorous mysteries with a supernatural bent. But her series, starring Barbara Marr, takes her comedic flair to the traditional-demented cozy subgenre. So far, she has released three books in the series, Take the Monkeys and Run, Citizen Insane, and Silence of the Yams. Please welcome Karen to WWK. E. B. Davis
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Monday, September 24, 2012
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Saturday, September 22, 2012
The loss of some other words, however, may do real damage by depriving us of concise, specific ways to express certain ideas. And it’s frustrating when words or their meanings are lost not because of changing needs but because of ignorance, laziness, or, in some cases, silliness.
For example, if your friend Joan says she’s thinking of buying stocks, you might be tempted to tell her to get advice from a disinterested expert. If you do, however, Joan will probably recoil: “No! I want advice from an expert who cares!” It would take a long time to explain that a disinterested expert is not an uninterested expert; rather, it’s an expert who cannot profit from any decisions Joan makes, because he or she owns no shares in (has no interests in) any companies in which Joan might invest. So chances are you’ll tell Joan to seek advice from an objective expert, even though that won’t convey your meaning as precisely. That’s one way in which words get lost: So many people use them carelessly that one hesitates to use them correctly, for fear of being misunderstood. By now, it’s probably too late to save “disinterested.” After decades of abuse, it’s become an unnecessary synonym for “uninterested,” rather than a useful word with its own distinct meaning.
“Fortuitous” is similarly endangered. “Fortuitously, both sisters arrived exactly at noon”—many people will assume that it’s fortunate the sisters arrived at the same time, not that their simultaneous arrival, for good or ill, happened by chance. In this case, I suspect, the confusion got started not because there was any need for a synonym for “fortunate” but because people thought “fortuitous” sounded fancier. I had an intelligent, well-educated colleague who always said “comprise” when he meant “compose”—“The committee will be comprised of six people elected by the faculty.” Usually, I don’t correct people when they make this sort of mistake, but once, when he drafted a proposal that would bear both our names, I had no choice. He listened impatiently while I explained the differences between the words and showed him the relevant pages in the dictionary and The Elements of Style. Then he shook his head. “But ‘comprised’ sounds better,” he said.
Probably, to many people, it does, just as “infer” sounds like a more elegant way of saying “imply.” It’s ironic when mistakes become so common that the wrong words sound more impressive than the right ones.
“Aggravate,” “hopefully,” “tortuous,” “anticipate,” “transpire”—in one sense, these words and many others seem in no danger of disappearing from the language, for we still see and hear them often. But they’re so widely misunderstood that their usefulness is disappearing. When “aggravate” degenerates into nothing but a synonym for “irritate,” we won’t need it any more—and we’ll have an unfulfilled need for a word that concisely expresses the idea of making something worse by intensifying it.
How serious is this problem? It may not be a crisis, but I don’t think it’s trivial, and I don’t think editors and English teachers are the only ones who should be concerned. In George Orwell’s 1984, the totalitarian government tries to limit the range of citizens’ thoughts by limiting their vocabulary. If “double-plus-ungood” is the only word available for describing something that’s foolish, or unjust, or shameful, people’s ability to explain exactly why they oppose that thing is diminished—they’ll have a hard time articulating their objection for others, perhaps an equally hard time clarifying it in their own minds. If people have only a fuzzy notion of why they distrust Big Brother, how likely are they to rebel?
Of course, we’re far from the sort of thought domination Orwell envisions. Even if all the words I’ve mentioned and dozens of others dissolve into superfluous mush, we’ll have a vast vocabulary to draw upon. Still, it makes sense to do all we can to stop the erosion. If we don’t, it might get worse. We should at least have the courage to use words correctly ourselves, regardless of the consequences. So you should tell Joan to look for a disinterested expert, even at the risk of having to explain; and I shouldn’t have waited so long to find a tactful way to talk to my colleague about “comprise” and “compose.”
The connections between language and thought are so close, so vital, that we need to guard our words fiercely. As Orwell says in “Politics and the English Language,” our language “becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” In challenging times—and that means, really, in all times—we recognize the need to make our thoughts precise. We should work hard to keep our words as precise as we want our thoughts to be.
Friday, September 21, 2012
Thursday, September 20, 2012
I just returned from Seascape, a writers retreat put on by Hallie Ephron and Roberta Isleib. Roberta's invitation to join stated "Devote a weekend to reinvigorating your creativity and revising your manuscript in the beautiful Connecticut River Valley. Tune out distractions from the outside world as you spend time brainstorming, critiquing, revising and setting goals with other talented, committed crime fiction writers." And it lived up to the introduction.
It was a rewarding and pleasant weekend at the Guest House Retreat Center in Chester Ct; a large, charming, renovated country inn surrounded by trees in a rural setting. There were comfortable areas to sit and visit with other writers, and our rooms were spacious, airy and clean each with its own bathroom. I had French doors on one wall of my room and a large window on another wall allowing a free flow of fresh air if I wished it. We had Internet access, but no TV in the whole facility to distract us. The only sounds were bird songs and the pleasant conversation and laughter of the guests. There was a grand piano in one room, but I didn't hear anyone play it.
Sixteen of us in addition to Hallie and Roberta attended this retreat workshop. Each of us had to submit the first 20 pages of our manuscript in advance of the members of our group to read before coming. We were divided into two groups. My group consisted of Debra Overton, Carol Lynn, Denise Terry, Marie Constanza, Mary Brookman, Rhonda Lane, Karen Cleveland, Rebecca Butler and myself. Although we mingled with the others in group sessions and meals, I got to know my own group best because of the in depth critique sessions. For our critiques, we were to read straight through the submissions first to get our overall impression of it as a reader. Then we were to go through it again following a list of things to look for and write what we saw were the major strengths and what needed to be worked on.
After our get acquainted session Friday evening, we went to dinner. Oh my, what a delicious meal that was. It was served buffet style with many choices including food for vegans and gluten free offerings. Coffee, hot water for a wide assortment of teas, lemonade, iced water and iced tea were available from early morning until nine or ten at night. Fruit was also always available.
When it ended at nine, I was ready to go to my room since I'd been up since 4:00 a.m. to catch my plane with very little sleep the night before, and also because of all the information and thoughts I had to absorb. I was so happy to have a comfortable bed to crash in.
After a plentiful breakfast, which I couldn't thoroughly enjoy because I'd slept in, we had our 2nd critique session with Roberta on creating memorable characters. It was another good session with lots of helpful input from Roberta and my group. I've come up with a lot of changes I want to make to improve my beginning from both critique sessions. Between the critique session and lunch there was a session on "Character Driven Plotting" by Roberta. After lunch there was free time to revise, relax, meet with others or have a "One on One" with Hallie if you signed up for one. I think everyone did.
At 3:00 Hank Phillippi Ryan joined us to present "Using Techniques from TV Journalism to Pump Your Novel." It was interesting, informative and at times funny as Hallie would interrupt and correct something Hank had said. It was quite obvious they're good friends. If you've not met Hank, you're missing something. She's quite charming and fun.
Later after dinner everyone met again to present their elevator pitches if they chose to do so, and then there was a practice session for a panel session Hallie, Roberta and Hank are presenting at Bouchercon. It's their take on Family Feud with questions pertaining to mysteries. We were divided into two teams; one side of the room against the other. It was so much fun that there was almost constant laughter. Our team won.
After breakfast on Sunday there was a session on "Pumping up Suspense" presented by Hallie. I had a "One on One" with Roberta during Hallie's session so I missed it, but I did get her handout. After my time with Roberta, I had to leave for the airport to catch my plane so I also missed the final wrap up and lunch.
Was the weekend worth the expense? Absolutely. I came away with ideas on how to make my manuscript better and I made new friends with people who have the same goal: writing a good mystery.
Have you ever attended any kind of retreat? Would you like to do so someday?
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
The second story was on my desk with notes from the editor. This time the story had more requested changes than I was willing to make. Police women in 1889? I don't think so. I have to figure out some way to satisfy the editors without making a mash up of my story. I can't change the weapons, since the story depends on the rifling marks on the bullets. Yes in 1889.
Under pressure from deadlines and not at all sure I could make either story work for the publications they were aimed at, I was beginning to wonder why I bothered. I could chuck both stories and start again.
I might just need to start something fresh to get out from under the burden of stories I couldn't seem to fix. Forget that I had deadlines and submit elsewhere. That would give me time to work through them more carefully.
Or maybe I needed to do something else like pay more attention to the sheep, write something new, take a cooking class. Or housework.
Or maybe I needed to suck it up and get back to work. I complained to all my on line buddies about how hard it was.
Monday, September 17, 2012
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
I was a boy scout and I belonged to a camping troop. We camped one weekend every month of the year except during the summer when we spent two weeks at Camp Massawepie in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. I liked camping a lot—the more remote the better.
Dad had a bad back, so hiking was not something he was able to do, but he did enjoy canoeing. Our family owned a log cabin on Chandos Lake, Ont. where we spent two or three weeks each summer. It was rustic—no electricity (or hydro as the Canadians would call it), cooking over a wood stove. A few hours north exists a canoeist’s paradise: Algonquin Provincial Park. Unlike most parks with miles of hiking trails, Algonquin’s trails were the myriad lakes connected by portages. Dad and I made several outings over the years.
Our canoe was a monster designed for family outings—much larger (and heavier) than necessary for just two of us, but we made do with what we had. I was the bowman; Dad took the stern. Back then I could still kneel in a canoe for hours at a time, and we could cover many miles a day. When the wind was against us we would have to huddle next to the shore to reach our destination. We chose times with good long-term forecasts, but even the best laid plans didn’t always work quite as expected.
With a little planning you could canoe multiple lakes in Algonquin with just a few short portages. If you were willing to do just one long portage, you could often find yourself the only canoe on a lake. That was what Dad and I preferred to do, although on one trip Dad threw his back out on our first long portage, and we had to beat a painful retreat.
We shared a two-man tent. If the weather was good, we’d set up the fly to keep the dew off our gear. If it rained, we crammed everything inside the tent. Our duties were clear: Dad would collect firewood, I would do the cooking (what little skills I had from scouting far surpassed Dad’s) and clean-up. Once dinner was complete, we played card games using a set of miniature cards and a small cribbage board for scoring.
Dad’s snores assured us that we would not be disturbed by any wildlife during the night. If I could get to sleep first, I wasn’t bothered since I was physically tired from the exercise. However, I was often awake first in the morning, and the snoring meant I would not get back to sleep.
Once we were away from people, wildlife viewing opportunities increased. A distant log became a black bear swimming across the lake. When he reached shore, he shook off great sheets of water, much as a dog would, and then bounded up a 30-degree slope with no more effort than I would need for a Sunday walk. A beaver scared the bejesus out of us when it surfaced and slapped its tail on the water right behind us. Apparently we had stayed too long looking at its lodge, and it wanted us gone. Other fond memories: Osprey fishing for dinner, belted kingfishers leading the way down an outlet, raucous rattles announcing our presence to all the other animals so they could hide before we turned the next bend.
The individual memories are too many to enumerate, so I’ll just relate one more. One evening we camped on an island in a distant interior lake. We had not seen anyone else for more than a day. A dense fog built up overnight, leaving the lake shrouded as the Mists of Avalon. I awoke early and could not get back to sleep because Dad was snoring loudly. A solitary loon was making his “rain call”—that’s the haunting call you often hear in wilderness scenes in movies (even those set in the Amazon which is not exactly loon habitat). Often loons continue to make that call until they are answered by a mate. They have other calls when they are disturbed or frightened. From somewhere in the fog the loon continued calling.
I sat on the shore and watched the day unfold as the sun crept over the eastern hills. The fog did not diminish in the sun’s heat, and I wondered how we were going to find our way home. Our schedule was a bit flexible, but… Then in a manner of seconds, the fog bank lifted three feet off the water. If I stood, my head was in the clouds (something I have been accused of more than once). I waited for the fog to dissipate, but it didn’t and then fifteen, maybe twenty feet in front of me up popped the loon. It tilted its head and gave its call, which echoed around the lake, bouncing from shore to shore, seemingly trapped by the fog.
Normally I let Dad sleep as long as he liked, but this time I woke him up so that together we could listen to the loon and watch it fish in the window under the fog bank. Many minutes later we heard an answering call; a second loon flew in, splashing down in what must have been an instrument landing. It swam to the first loon and together they dove after fish. Soon the fog bank began to disappear.
Earlier this week, I took my last camping trip with my father. It was a different wilderness experience. Rather than sleep in a hotel, I pulled a blanket over me and slept on the cushioned bench in his hospice room, sharing one last night with him. Although his breathing during the day had been ragged, that night it smoothed out. I fell asleep to the rhythm of his respiration, awoke every time a nurse came in to check on him and fell back to sleep to his steady breathing.
And in my waking hours I remembered our camping trips and the fog and the loons and the snoring I will no longer hear.