a’s and b’s of contests

I’ve entered a few contests in my time and have been a) mortified or b) uplifted by the judges’ comments.  I have had entries returned with angry lines scrawled across my hard-written efforts and I have had very nice remarks that almost made me feel good that I had lost. Judging is difficult, but it is akin to critiquing. You try to point out flaws gently and kindly.

Gently and kindly is best.

So when I judge, I try to keep in mind how I would want to be treated. Maybe there are issues. How best to tell the would-be writer that maybe, just maybe, they might want to take a teeny-tiny revisit and oh, say change a word or two here or there to make the sentence more coherent?

You almost have to choose your words as carefully as if you were writing a query letter, which everyone knows is the hardest writing of all. And a contest all its own, of sorts.

Because the last thing a judge wants to do is discourage a writer just as she is starting out her career. You don’t slap their hands with a ruler because they made a little error in spelling.

Spelling is the least of it. Spelling can be corrected. But when the writer makes a great big error in plotting, or in pacing, it’s a little more difficult to point it out. I can say, “I got a little lost here…” or “a bridge paragraph might work at this point” and go on my way.

That said, the beginning chapters of the three manuscripts I read made me eager to read more. The opening sentences were spot-on to rouse my interest. The unfolding plot lines kept me guessing.

If these authors are amateurs in the sense that they are not yet published, the established authors had better look out.

Or not. There is always room in the world for a good, fast-paced, and interesting novel. One thing I have learned about writers is that they do not feel as if they are in competition. They are always eager to help one another.

What I take away from judging is that a) I can see other writers’ mistakes more easily than I can see my own and b) I look forward to reading more from these talented ladies.

 

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Spring and Spring again

As I write this, I am waiting for the rain to stop. I am at my sister’s, many miles north of N.C. When I arrived, it was 40 degrees outside, the trees had not yet budded, and the daffodils were shivering. The next day it was 80 degrees and you could see the trees shake off winter as tentative leaves began to bud.

Back home, the forsythia has already traded its yellow for green and the daffodils are long gone. It is like experiencing Spring for a second time in one short week. I’m glad I packed short-sleeved shirts as well as fleece sweatshirts. I’ve needed both.

It took me two days to drive here, and it will take as long going home. But while I am here my sister and I talk, and laugh, and maybe shed a tear as we remininsce. We share our concerns as we sit on her deck and watch the birds at the feeders and the deer, raccoons, and occasional skunk that wander up to get the seeds that the birds have spilled. We brag on our grandkids over a cup of tea or glass of wine.

It is not only a renewal of the Earth as flowers and shrubs shower their blossoms over the landscape. It is also a renewal of spirit.

I know this week will seem too short and over too quickly as I drive home. However, I will bring back with me a renewed sense of connection and a deep acknowledgment that family ties are the ties that bind. Whatever life brings…children growing up and moving away, the death of a spouse, the feeling that things are spinning out of control…there is always the sister who understands because she has known you longer than anyone else on Earth. Who knows your secrets and the things you did when the world was young that you will never tell your kids.

And loves you anyway.

And loves you anyway.

Shameless promotion

Dear friends, my novel, “Riverbend,” is a nominee for the prestigious RONE Award. This award is given by InD’tale Magazine for the best independently  published books in 2017. Only those books that received a 4.5 or 5-star award in the magazines’ review pages are eligible. (“Riverbend” received a 5-star rating!)

I would appreciate your vote to get me to the next step in the contest, which  is for readers to vote for their favorite book. Voting in my category is open this week only, April 23-29.

Please go to  www.indtale.com in order to vote. Once you register, you will be required to click the verification link sent to you via email. If you do not verify your registration with this link, you will be unable to vote. This is very important to help insure that the voting is fair and maintains the high quality standards required for this top-tier award.

Books that get the highest number of votes are then judged by publishing industry professionals.

If you haven’t read “Riverbend,” you can read an excerpt at Sandra Z Bruney\read_riverbend.html

Thank you!

Genre riddles, free books, and #lovetoread

I have stated before that I love experimenting in different genres. No doubt in my mind that’s because I read just about every genre there

Today starts a book promotion that I’m part of–my books are either free or $1 just this week. There will be many authors participating so be sure to click the link and load up your cart with books! https://smashwords.com/ebookweek And here’s the Smashword link to find my free and discounted books: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AnsonWriter

is. So I have novels in Women’s fiction, Historical, and well, Whimsy, since I can’t find an established niche for my paranormal/alternate history/shape-shifting trilogy.

I’d read about other writers who dabble in different genres. I guess, like them, I should have had a different pen name for each genre so my readers won’t get confused. But then, I thought that if they bothered to read the blurb, they’d see right away what genre the book is and know if they wanted to read it or not. Luckily, I have loyal fans who don’t mind jumping from one genre to the other.

Now I read that no matter my inclination to write what I enjoy writing, I’m doing it all wrong. If I wanted to build up a fan base of considerably more numbers than I have now, I should have picked one genre and stuck with it. I should have written all books within that one framework no matter how much my fingers itched to try something new.

Looking at my reading list, I have to admit that advice is sound. My favorite authors (excluding a select few) have made their career writing in the same genre, book after book. Historical writers continue to write about historical figures or in historical settings. Writers of women’s fiction (and my favorite beach stories) write book after book exploring the same theme, but always with enough difference to keep the reader from whining that she’d read that story before.

Well, heck. I’ve been having so much fun I’ve missed the boat.

It’s a little late for me to decide on one genre and stick to it. I’m finishing up two women’s fiction stories and have a historical knocking on my brain and demanding to be written. And I’m too old to look at establishing a long-running career in  one field. By the time it got up and running I’d be looking at brochures for assisted-care facilities.

So, for you younger writers who are reading this, pick a genre and build your career on it. Don’t deviate, don’t look back. If you do have an uncontrollable urge to write something different, be sure to publish it under a different name and build a different fan base. Chances are someone will put two and two together and realize what you’ve done (we all know who J.D. Robb really is), but it won’t matter by then. Or too much.

As for me, that boat has sailed. So I’ll continue writing the stories in my head and forget about the wonderful career I might have had if I’d stuck to one plan. And if I’d started fifty years earlier.

But that’s another story.

 

 

 

Cat woes

It’s like having a toddler all over again.

One of my cats, Frenchy, has another ear infection. Both ears, actually. She is prone to get them and this time the vet told me to keep her on flea and tick preventative. It also works on ear mites, which are the  cause of her woes.

If they had told me that the last time I brought her in … never mind. I’m not on a rant. But here we go again with ear drops twice a day.

Easy for the vet to say. Frenchy is also a mind reader. She knows the minute I pick that medicine bottle up and goes into hiding. I’ve often compared her to a cockroach because she can slip into the tiniest crack. (Not a fair comparison because she is otherwise very sweet.)

I have cornered her behind the toilet, under the recliner, and now she is under the sofa and I can’t reach her at all because she got up in the springs.

The vet suggested I confine her to the bathroom for the next two weeks and I may have to do that. If I can catch her at all.

Frenchy’s big ears are the source of her woes. The shelter named her after a character in “Grease” and I didn’t change it when I brought her home.

It’s shame we can’t explain to our pets why we are taking them to the doctor and why we give them medicine. They don’t understand  “This will make you better.” They only know they don’t feel well and you are adding to their misery.

(We humans are pretty much the same way. We know we should diet and exercise more, but we run and hide. We avoid a physical exam because we’re afraid we might hear something we don’t want to hear and/or deal with.)

I read recently that the University of Georgia has a program that fosters stray cats with senior citizens who live alone. The outcome is very positive for both the elderly people and the animals. Cats don’t ask for much … food, a warm place to sleep, some petting once in awhile — on their schedule. I find my three adopted cats are a lot of company.

And, a source of exercise if you count chasing them around the house to give them their medicine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And to all, a good night

Hopefully, by now the packages have been wrapped and placed under the tree, all the cookies are decorated, and the stockings are stuffed. The cards have been addressed and  mailed, and the last ornament hung on the tree.

Or maybe not. I remember my Dad never shopped until Christmas Eve. Why he procrastinated, I don’t know. It usually meant the color, size, or style of whatever Mom wanted was unavailable.  We were introduced early the the concept of day-after-Christmas  returns.

Mom would be exhausted, having completed (under the wire) her weeks-long marathon of baking. No kind of cookie or candy escaped her measuring cups and spoons.  The worst part was coming home from school and smelling the delicious smells, only to be told we had to wait until Christmas to taste the goodies.

Whether you put it off until the last possible minute, like Dad, or spent weeks in preparation, like Mom, it’s too late now to do anything more.

Christmas comes, ready or not. And when it does, we realize anew that it isn’t the cookies or presents or the tree that we celebrate.

We go outside and gaze at a star above us, maybe through falling snow, or maybe through a palm branch waving in a sultry breeze.  It isn’t Santa we’re watching for, but the miracle of a blessed birth, the arrival of a holy child, the greatest gift of all.

 

Image result for christmas star images

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

 

And then…

I attended our local community theater’s presentation of “To Kill  Mockingbird” this week. Although I had read the book and seen the movie, the story still gripped me. The acting was dynamic, the sets were clever, and all in all it was a great evening. There is just something about a live performance that brings a story to life.

I got to thinking about what makes a great story. We are told over and over about “the hook.” Gotta get the read (or agent, or publisher) with the first sentence … the first paragraph … the first page.

But what happens after that?

I think it is the same whether it is print, film, or stage–we want our audience to wonder what happens next.

Remember sitting around the campfire while someone told a ghost story? The shivers of anticipation mounted with each new sentence: “And then …” until the climax when we all screamed in relief.

It’s great to get the reader hooked, but can we keep the fish–er, reader–on the line?

When we read a great book we say, “I couldn’t put it down.”

The author knew how to keep the suspense churning. Each page, each chapter, tempted us into “just one more” until parents, partner, or just plain realization that tomorrow is a work day made us put the book down.

My mother had a crafty way to getting us to read. She’d start a story, then put slap the book closed and say, “If you want to see what happens next, you need to read it yourself.”

And we did.

You can talk about the craft of writing all you want, but the rules are simple. One, get the reader interested in the characters and their problems (plot) and two,  keep the action going by constantly tempting them with “what’s next?”

I guarantee you’ll have a winner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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