Fear in Writing: September 2010

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Reading should not be a privilege

Blogger extroardinaire Margot Kinberg has given the 'Literacy Builder Blog Award' to me.  Wow!  Thank you, Margot!  As I wrote on her post, it's been a bit since an award has come my way.  And I was ok with that.  There were so  many, so close together for a while there, that it was beginning to feel forced.  This one, though, is a bit different.  This one really means something.
As writers, how can we not push for literacy?  According to UNESCO, 1 in 5 adults is not literate.  UNESCO and the international community have a goal of "increasing literacy rates by 50% by 2015" (Literacy Decade).  One push to meet this goal is LIFE.  "LIFE targets the 35 countries that have a literacy rate of less than 50 percent or a population of more than 10 million people who cannot read nor write. Eighty-five percent of the world’s non-literate population resides in these countries, and two-thirds are women and girls" (LIFE).

Want to help?  Here is a link to programs supported by the UN Literacy program.  There are probably many more in your area, and there are always companies giving to such organizations with some purchase or action.  Watch for them.  Ask your library what you can do.  Head to your community center and start a reading time.  Volunteer to read stories at a local school or even to neighborhood children.  Give money.  Give books.  Give.

Think about where you would be without books.

And now back to me.  :P

Here are the rules for this award:
1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2. Display the award logo on your blog site.
3. Tell us five of your favorite words and why you like them, (add as many as you like).
4. Pass the award on to three bloggers you feel are excellent literacy builders, and link to their sites.
5. Contact the bloggers you’ve chosen and let them know about the award.

1. Tiffany's- my husband came up with this one for me!  (and he's so right...so why doesn't he shop there more often?)
2. Abstract expressionism- okay, so it's a phrase, but it evokes such imagery and feeling of art and passion and modernism
3.  Perspicacious- "having keen mental perception and understanding; discerning" (dictionary.com)
4.  Discombobulation- "to confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate"
Achilles defeating Hector,

5.  Baroque- (Jan Morrison's list made me think of this one, but who doesn't love a word with 'q' in it?) "an artistic style prevalent from the late 16th century to the early 18th century in Europe" (wikipedia)

Who gets it?  Who has encouraged literacy?  Aww, guys...this is the tough part!  Can't I just give it back to Margot?

1.  The Rose City Reader.  If you haven't visited this blog, you should.  A wide array of book reviews, links to reading challenges, and intelligent takes on the world of the bibliophile.
2.  Steph the Bookworm.  While we don't always read the same genres or sub-genres, I highly respect Steph as a reviewer.  And I think she encourages reading through her fun and interesting blog!
3.  Mary of Giggles and Guns.  This woman burst onto the blogging scene and hasn't stopped commenting since.  She says in her profile she has wanted to write all her life and has notebooks and journals full of the stuff.  Now she is fully engrossed in the writing community we have here and what could be more inspirational than that?  (Oh, and she also has a great list of banned books on her blog; go read it!)
4.  Debbie Cowans.  She is a fantastic writer and a great blogger.  I sadly miss a lot of her posts because I'm not hopping around much this Fall, but I am resolutely stating I will get back to Debbie's blog!  See?  She inspired me.
5.  Mason Canyon of Thoughts in Progress.  Really, is there a blogger among us who does more to promote literature?  Mason covers everything from self-help to thrillers and the authors who write them, too.  She is fantastic, a guaranteed stop for any reader or writer.

That's it!  Go forth and read...to yourself and to others.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


My week didn't start out so well.  Sunday, my child hit me in the head with an electric keyboard--right at that sweet spot between the ear and the temple.  Sunday night, my other child hit me in the face while I was leaning over to explain something to her fuss-face.  Monday afternoon I found out I didn't get a job for which I'd been asked to apply and had really been hoping to get.

Then came the grapes.

Tuesday morning I sat on my couch typing away with a steaming mug of coffee and a bowl of grapes.  On the weekly T-days, both of my children go to preschool.  So this Tuesday, my husband offered to take them so I could get some time to myself without having to put on makeup, do my hair, put on clothes, and drive 25 minutes each way.  So I sat on my previously pristine, postmodern couch in my minimally decorated, child-adjusted living room and breathed.

In.        Out.  In.          Out.

Each grape in my mouth was a burst of spirit.  The juices flowed over my tongue and left behind that sticky feeling, that reminder of how the good things and life leave a trail of reminders that we can choose to pay attention to, or ignore.

What is it about grapes?  Grapes appear as early as 5000 BC in Asia, and in hieroglyphics on Egyptian tombs (whfoods).  They appear in art.  We all know the pervasive subject of The Still Life.  This one is Still Life of Grapes, Plums and Apples, 17c., Jacob van Es.

Then there is the religious painting.  Here we see Traubenmadonna, 1525, by Lucas Cranach the Elder.  He was known for his realism and worked as a court painter in the Netherlands while also being a friendly with both Protestant Reformers and the Catholic Church (wikipedia).

And, grapes appear in architecture going back centuries.  This is a building in Prague's historic Malá Strana district, in the market place at the center of the town (wikipedia).

So grapes have been around a while.  They are the sustenance of the wealthy in many media portrayals.  I think of Charles Laughton in Sign of the Cross, seen here not actually eating grapes, but giving that too-exhausted-from-being-in-power-to-do-anything-but-be-self-indulgent vibe. 

Do they still hold that flavor?  Do they make you feel self-indulgent?  Or has self-indulgence taken on a whole new meaning with all the chocolates and Internet searches and movies on demand we have at our fingertips?

I felt self-indulgent with my coffee and grapes in a silent living room, sunlight barely breaking through the backyard foliage.  But was it the grapes?  I think it was everything.  It was the peace after the storm.  It was the calm in my heart that replaced any bitterness.  It was the relief that comes from knowing what is (or what is not) next.

How do you indulge yourself?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

E.A. Poe House...or not?

E. A. Poe House, Lenoir, NC
 "Within a short time of beginning his work in Lenoir, Edgar Allan Poe began to enjoy prominence in the town..."

I found this sentence in an ad for the "E.A. Poe House" for sale on a historic homes sale site.  Historic Edgar Allan Poe house?  I might buy it just to say I own it!  It's only $159k and how amazing to say I own a property...wait.  There's another one...

Historic Poe House,
Fayetteville, NC
 "This was the land on which E.A. Poe began construction of his two-story frame house..."

The first one was in Lenoir, NC; this one is in Fayetteville, NC.  I thought Poe was from Boston and Virginia?  But this says it was a U.S. arsenal deeded to Poe's wife...Josephine.  Wait, poet-writer Poe wasn't married to a Josephine; her name was Virginia.

Are these fakes?

No.  But they are misleading advertisements.  The E.A. Poe house in Lenoir is actually the home of a locally-known carpenter and developer.  This Poe built projects all around Western North Carolina and may have also worked on the Vanderbilt mansion near Asheville, Biltmore.  The Fayetteville Poe house may or may not be the home of the same man, but also not the Father of the Detective Story.

The Edgar Allan Poe National
Historic Site, Philadelphia, PA
 The real Edgar A. Poe (as he prefered to sign his name) had houses in BaltimorePhiladelphia, New York City, Richmond, Virginia, and Boston (this one involves a mystery and a bit of detective work, so I suggest reading the article).  I'm not even sure he ever entered North Carolina.

Monday on her blog, Elizabeth Spann Craig wrote about diverting attention in mystery writing.  We all studied Agatha Christie's use of the 'red herring' in high school--mostly with the example of Ten Little Indians (or And Then There Were None), I'd imagine.  It is a very useful tool for writers!  We all want to include that element of surprise, be able to shock the reader, and, above all else, keep them guessing.

What diversions have sent you down the wrong path, either in life or in your writing/reading?

Other lesson: don't buy a house without doing a bit of research. ; )

Monday, September 27, 2010

To write or not to write (correctly)

I read a book last week that was written in perfect grammatical style.  I mean, every preposition was in place, every subject tense matched every verb tense.  Crystal would be proud!

But as I read it, I wondered several times if this was appropriate.  I mean, who really speaks this perfectly?  (Beside Crystal, I mean, and me, according to my husband.)  And if you don't speak this well, do you want to read immaculate grammar?

Statue at the Uffizi in Florence.
 Think back to the early works.  They were mostly written by the Church and they were all inaccessible.  One of the first works to be written in the vernacular was Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy.  (Written in Italian, Dante's work also made this a literary language  Later, when Italy chose an official dialect for their newly unified country (around 1871), the government chose the Florentine dialect--the language of Dante.

I love reading well-written works.  I enjoy and author who knows his proper English and uses it well.  But does it always fit the genre in which you are writing?

That's one part of this post.  The other is what I discovered about the author and the series I was reading last week.  The author is Michael Malone** and, on Wednesday, I finished First Lady.  Let me first say that this was the most wonderfully plotted mystery I have read in a long time.  The twists were truly surprising, often, and appropriate.  The characters were compelling, real, and likable--even when they weren't liked.  Then I began reading another Malone book in the same series (called 'Justin & Cuddy' after the main characters)...Time's Witness is not written in the most perfectly formed English at all!  And it's not because the author couldn't write when he wrote this one.  It's because this one is told from the viewpoint of Cuddy--the educated but country chief of police in the little North Carolina town of Hillston; whereas the first one I read, First Lady, was in the point of view of Justin Savile V--educated son of North Carolina royalty, gentry with poilitical ties.

So the author switches voice based on who is telling the story!  "Of course he does," you say.  BUT, I didn't know about the voices of other books when I read First Lady.  So, is this technique successful?  Knowing the entire picture, I like it and am impressed the author emersed himself so completely in the points of view of his characters.  But what about those who don't know the whole picture?

So...two parts to this one.
One: Does correct grammar fit every genre?  Should you ever sacrifice syntax for characterization?
Two: Does it work if the reader doesn't know?  Is a technique successful if it takes a while for the reader to get it?

*Thank you all for indulging in my self-indulgence last week.  I've truly enjoyed writing the blog and the interaction it brings.  So a little first birthday celebration was in order.  I loved reading all of your HBBlogfest entries, and I hope to participate in more blogfests in the future.  It always gets me writing!
**Malone's 'Justin & Cuddy' series is set in North Carolina and is fantastic!  I highly recommend it to all mystery readers.  Malone is a very talented writer.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Foreign Post Roundup

First order of business...the winners of the Happy Birthday Blogfest!  I couldn't quite do the point system as originally intended, b/c no one posted links to their tweets or posts of the blogfest.  That's ok, there are other ways to pick a winner!  And since there are three spots, I don't think anyone will complain.

1st place goes to J.C. Martin of The Fighter Writer.  If you haven't read her writing, you should--and not just this blogfest entry. (First Prize: 3 of my favorite books + Amazon gift card)
2nd place goes to Mesmerix at Scribbler to Scribe (Second Prize: 2 of our fellow authors' books + Amazon gift card)
and 3rd place is a tie between Cold As Heaven and Ronald D. Yeomans at Writing in the Crosshairs (Third Prize: Amazon gift card)
If you all will email your addresses to micheleemrath (at) ymail (dot) com, I will get the prizes out to you!  Congrats, and thanks for participating.

Now back to your regularly scheduled program...

1. Whodunit?  I bet even you can't guess the answer to this video post.

2.  Marketing is fun!  Not convinced?  Read this guest post by Sylvia Dickey Smith at Patricia Stoltey's blog.  You will laugh and take away some great ideas.

3.  A pep talk from a fellow writer and a new-to-me blog.  Click over to All That Good Jazz and get to know Amanda Sablan.

4.  Another new-to-me-blog AND an upcoming blogfest.  This one revolves around "hooks" and is, wittily, called "Hook, Line, and Sinker Blogfest."  Go on, you know you want to.

5.  Write Compelling Characters Blogfest hosted by

6.  My own blogfest--Happy Birthday Southern City Mysteries!  Read my entry and several others.

7.  VERY cool quiz for mystery/detective fiction lovers at Margot Kinberg's blog.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Roundup of great Blogfest reads

It was a great first-for-me Blogfest!  These writers all participated, and turned in everything from monsters to bars to heavy metal music.  The diversity of the pieces written was very exciting.  If you didn't get a chance to click by them all on Friday, here is your chance:
Black Metal Birthday by Cold As Heaven
The Fighter Writer's 'Scent of a Woman'
Summer Ross's Birthday blogfest entry
Happy Deathday by Roland Yeomans (if you like SciFi, this is the piece for you)
Rayna M. Iyer's Happy Birthday short
Mesmerix and the PG13 Birthday story

A second blogfest took place on Friday.  Elana Johnson, Alex Cavanaugh, and Jenn Daiker hosted The Great Blogging Experiment:  Writing Compelling Characters.  If I hadn't been so clueless in the weeks leading up to my own blogfest, I probably would have participated in this.  But, I did read several entries and found many of you have great ideas for creating characters!  So click over to the blogfest links on Elana's, Alex's, and Jenn's blogs to read all the entries.

Today I'll be adding up all the points and choosing 1st, 2nd, and 4rd place winners for my blogfest.  Small amount of entries so your chances are pretty good!  Next time, I hope the odds go down. ;)  Look for the announcement on the Sunday Foreign Post Roundup on, you guessed it, Sunday.

Friday, September 24, 2010

My Happy Birthday Blogfest entry

   Could have gone better, she thought to herself. The crumpled party napkin in her hand had started to bleed royal blue onto her skin. Crusts of petrified appetizers and dry grease pools spotted its surface. But it was the ink on the napkin that drew Cassandra's gaze.  It was why she'd picked the napkin up from its carefully balanced position on her favorite sculpture.  On the blue paper, Someone had drawn a perfectly childish stick figure--skirt and all--hanging itself with a neatly coiled stick figure rope.
   Ouch. She winced as the image penetrated her brain. Did someone draw that while I was speaking?
   Cassandra, or “Cass” as most people called her, tossed the used square in a nearby trash pile. She sighed and looked around her living room. There were little trash stacks everywhere. Some elements of the piles had attempted to escape, leaving crumbs and other bits trailing across tables and hardwood like Hansel's breadcrumbs.
   Slowly she bent to the first pile. Six discarded plastic plates, four napkins, and untold amounts of food stains. The group went straight to the plastic bin liner she had so geniusly tied to the dining room door handle.
   A loud crash above her made her jump and sent the pile in her hand hurtling toward the floor. Contact spread food pieces in every direction, and a misstep smashed a big chunk of chocolate into the area rug.
   Dammit, she thought. But it was really the crash that concerned her at the moment. She was alone in the house, wasn't she? A chuckle pushed the thought aside. She was always alone in the house. Tonight's party had been a very, very rare occurrence. And, as it turned out, a mistake.
   Cass had thrown herself a birthday party.  She hardly ever indulged, so this was a big event for her, even if it was just a ruse to get her colleagues in one place and ply them with alcohol.  Thinking back, she should have known a bunch of professor types wouldn't be interested in her big announcement, her foray away from the fold. Why should people who spent their lives encouraging exploration and education support her move into into a field where she could do just that? What good was all that academic knowledge if she couldn't use it to actually help people?
   So the big announcement and handcuff-shaped cake had fallen flat. Sure there was applause and Dostoevsky-linked jibes, but most didn't see why a renowned art scholar would choose to become a law enforcement consultant.
   But her problem here had nothing to do with art, and everything to do with what was messing with her house! No cats. No dogs. Cass doubted her fish caused whatever it was to fall over.
   Guess I'm getting my first test in detective work, Cass laughed to herself. And wouldn't you know it, my first case is in a creaky, old house!
   The 1920s Craftsman house had spoken to her when she first saw it and it was speaking to her now, every aching step of the way.  At the top of the stairs, she came to the closed-in upper hall and had to choose.  Right to the study or left to the bedroom?
   Neither.  The source of the crash was right in front of her, in the bathroom.
   It was an unusual bathroom.  The previous owners had raised the ceiling to give it a more regal look.  A strange contrast to the low-slung style of the Craftsman, but appealing in its oddness.  The literal high point of the room was the iron chandelier; dark in color and simple in design, with five arms reaching out before turning up at 90 degrees, where each held a glass-shaded bulb. 
   Cass loved that light, but she wasn't prepared for what hung from it.
   Happy Birthday, Cass.

If you have a Happy Birthday Blogfest entry, you can still sign up through Mister Linky and make sure you comment below with a link to your post!  Enjoy all the birthday fiction you read today.  And happy birthday to my Southern City Mysteries!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Friday. FRIDAY!

Forgive my disorganized ignorance.  My own blogfest and I published the wrong day...

The Happy Birthday Blogfest is this FRIDAY, Sept. 24th.  See corrected post below.

Sorry. :(

It's coming...in three days...

Happy Birthday Blogfest
Sept. 24th

That's right, Southern City Mysteries celebrate one year in the world of writers' blogs.  And to celebrate, please stop by to read my own Happy Birthday Blogfest entry.  While your at it, why don't you join in the fun?  The rules are basic: write something that includes a reference to a birthday, a setting of a birthday, or a scene that revolves around a present or upcoming or past birthday.  READ:  anything goes! 

Don't forget to tweet, paste in your sidebar, and/or sign up for a chance to win...
First Prize: 3 of my favorite books + Amazon gift card
Second Prize: 2 of our fellow authors' books + Amazon gift card
Third Prize: Amazon gift card

Comments for points go here.

Point system:
1. Spread the word. Tweet or post or place the announcement in your sidebar. Add the link to any of these in the comment forum below. (3 pts. for sidebar, 2 pts. for post, 1 pt. for tweet)

2. What's your favorite? Don't just tell me how #1ed, tell me about your favorite post or topic Southern City Mysteries has done in the past year. No rules here. It can be anything--a guest post, a series, or a subject I touched on briefly. (2 pts.)

3. On Sept. 24th, Southern City Mysteries' 1 year birthday, post your Happy Birthday Blogfest story! Who said birthdays are fun? They can be creepy or dangerous or dramatic or even fatal. Write a short story in (why limit the word count? Gimme what'chya got!) involving a birthday in any form and something mysterious, dangerous, dramatic, creepy, or deadly. The latter event doesn't have to take place in the story, but can instead be alluded to. It's your choice. (3 pts.)

First ever Southern City Mysteries blogfest...First ever Southern City Mysteries birthday!  Don't forget. ;)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Top 10 TV Shows Blogfest

I posted an "Oops" post earlier that was writing related...But I'm the one who made an oops by forgetting today's 'Top 10 TV Shows Blogfest' Day!  My bad!  This blogfest is hosted by Alex Cavanaugh.

So here are my picks, in no particular order...

1.  Pushing Daisies

2.  The Unusuals

3.  Dexter

4.  CSI

5.  Get Smart

6.  Criminal Minds

7.  The Closer

8.  Nurse Jackie

9.  She-Ra, Princess of Power

10.  30 Rock

Notice how several of mine were cancelled prematurely?  Obviously I think that was a mistake.  Many are, surprisingly to me, ones that are currently in programming!  But there are a few oldies...She-ra was my favorite as a child and I now watch it on Hulu with my son (posted about it here).  Get Smart is a show I was too young for, but think it was just so well-done and hit the comic mark perfectly.  The re-make movie wasn't bad, either.

No surprise there are several detective/murder shows on my list!  Hope you all had fun with this blogfest.  Click around the links to see others' picks.

Blood-red Oops

Gearing up for a big weekend with lots of guests (son's birthday party and all that), my daughter picks up a full bottle of bright red nail polish.  Remember, she's 2 1/2, so not very high off the floor.  And these bottles are made of thick glass--what are the chances?  High in our case.  The bottle slips from her tiny fingers and breaks in two.  Shiny, red nail polish all over our wood floor. 

The spill is quite a study in spatter pattern.  If I hadn't been rushing to clean it up before it soaked in, I might have taken the time to pay closer attention to the way it grouped and congealed.

This was an oops that could be fixed.  Granted, we had to fine non-acetone polish remover and possible refinish the wood floor, but it could be fixed.

Once a book is in print, any mistake you've made is out there.  It's out of your hands and flayed open for the world to read.  I'm sure we're all nervous about this.  It's why we read, reread, and have others read and reread.  Then there are editors and publishers and professional readers and trial prints...But things slip by.

Spelling mistakes?  Frustrating and a bit sloppy, but forgivable.
All out WRONGNESS?  In my, book, not forgivable. 

This comes to mind not because of my daughter's big oops, but because of something I recently read.  The book is quite good.  In fact, I'm still enjoying it.  But the facts are...questionable.

1.  Author talkes about the gold dome gleaming on the top of the North Carolina capitol.  As you can see in the picture at the right, the NC capitol does not have a gold dome.

2.  He refers to the State Bureau of Investigation as the "NCBI," when it is actually the "SBI."

NC State Capitol
 These are facts easily checked.  The second is more understandable than the first, but who is ok with getting something so wrong that is so easy to find out?  Honestly, it makes me question how thorough a researcher the author is, and how much he really cares about his product.

Many questions could be asked from this post, so I'll just throw a few at you and let you pick...

What kind of mistake do you most fear making in your MS?
What mistake bothers you the most when you are reading?
What steps do you take to prevent printing mistakes in your book?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Foreign Post Roundup

1.  A little before the usual SFPR weekly time frame, but this post was so interesting and invoked so many emotions in me that I just had to include it.  Cold as Heaven asks, "Where were you on 9/11?"

2.  A blog hop for TV show lovers (or those who just want to sound off about them) at Alex J. Cavanaugh's great blog.

3.  This post, because if you've never read L. Diane Wolfe's Sunday Sillies, you just don't know what you're missing.

4.  Setting and a great conversation by Margo Kinberg.

5.  Tired of the "no's" and thinking of self-publishing?  Then read L. Diane Wofe's post on the topic at Stephen Tremp's Breakthrough Blog.

Alright, some repeat bloggers here today, but that just means you all are doing a great job!

6.  Alex Cavanaugh shares a glimpse into his soon-to-be-released Cassastar.

7.  A real look at money in the publishing industry, and how one author is making a bigger percentage by going e-.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Blast from the Past

I saw the most rad thing in the Target party aisle Thursday.  If you were a child of the 80s you'll know what this is:
That's right!  SLINKY BRACELETS!  As my sister pointed out, can't you feel your arm hairs getting caught just looking at them?

After I immediately sent out the picture from my phone to all my girlfriends, my friend Olivia asked where the slap bracelets were.  Do you remember those?  Well, they, too, are making a comeback:
And this got me thinking...In writing, we draw from our own pasts (i.e. experience).  But many also write about the past.  There aren't too many murder mysteries set in the 80s--though with the hair I remember, there are a few thousand hairdressers who should have been shot or drown in their own perm fluid.  Hey, that's a great idea...I could call it 'Hair Dye Time Machine' and kill off all the perpetrators of '80s Hair.'

Back to the point...Do you write about the past?  Do you set your work in the past?  Do you use the past/history in your writing?  Does the past inform your style?  Do you care at all or are you already websurfing the perfect slinky-slap bracelet?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jake turns 5!

Happy birthday to my baby boy, Jake!  He turns 5 today...5!!!!
From the moment he entered the world, Jake has encouraged smiles and left laughter in his wake.  He is amazingly smart and beautifully empathetic.

AND- he shares a birthday with none other than Agatha Christie, who would be 120 today.

Happy birthday, Jake & Agatha...but mostly Jake.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

OreGUN or OreGAHN?

Follows the perception post nicely, don't you think?  And here's the gist: say what you want, someone will always disagree.
Do you say toMAATo?  No, I sa toMAHto.
Do you say PILLow?  No, I say PELLow.
Do you say MOHNster?  No, I say MUNster.

Does this mean we can't get along?

Unfortunately in life, small differences like these often mean people can't get along.  Small differences can be the last straw in a political debate or the final word in a family argument.  Small differences can be huge.

And in writing, small differences can mean big changes for a character.  How your characters pronounce words can show readers where they're from, from which economic class they hail, and even the nature of their job. 

In addition to pronunciation, you can also express these things in choice of words.  Does your character use words like "obfuscate" and "propensity?"  Or do they stray toward "fuck" and "turd?"  (I know you're all laughing right now--I sware those are the first two that popped into my head!)

Regardless of your choices, what your characters say and how they say it say something.  It's part of the characterization of your protagonist, antagonist, and supporting players.

How do you use language in your writing?

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Terrorist-Coddling Warmongering Wall Stree-Loving Socialistic Godless Muslim ____"

As you can probably guess, the title of this post is a reference to President Obama, the 44th President of the United States.  But this post is not about him, or even the government.  It is about perception.

The title is a quote--the cover of the September 6th edition of Newsweek.  It began with "The making of" and ends with the word "President."  The magazine then goes on to paint Mr. Obama as 'The Illustrated Man,' a reference to Ray Bradbury's 1951 book by the same name in which a time-traveling witch covers the man's body in images.  Those images tell tales and make it difficult for the man to hold a job.  He says, "I'd like to burn them off."  But he can't.  Newsweek makes the analogy to President Obama in that "his enemies...have been busy for three years painting Obama as some kind of alien threat," and, just as the Illustrated Man struggles, the President cannot seem to shake the accusations.

Regardless of your political persuasion or feelings on the questionable adjectives given to the U.S.'s current President (though I will state for the record that I don't believe in the Kenyan birth certificate and I also don't think calling him a Muslim is an insult--the latter being a real sticking point for me in all of this controversy), you have to admit there is a problem with perception.

What is True or Factual is not necessarily what is Believed.  Rumors aside, multiple people can read an article about the President and take away many different things.  The same is true in life--witnesses don't always report the same observations about one event.  For example, we attended my son's soccer game Saturday and will readily admit he had trouble listening to the coach.  That being said, it's the U5 league and we aren't that concerned about whether he really learns the game, so much as that he has fun and enjoys exercising for sport.  At one point, Jake and another boy ran down the field behind a boy from the other team.  We saw them all swinging their little arms, but it didn't appear to us that they were actually fighting.  The coach then lifted Jake up, squeezed him to his body and carried him away, holding him in that position while he spoke with Jake.  Once he was set down, Jake ran to us on the sideline in tears.  To our perception, the coach's reaction was far from acceptable and did not fit the situation.  But, as my husband and I discussed how to deal with it, a parent next to us pointed out that the kids had been hitting each other and the coach was just separating them.  Our eyes widened.  We hadn't seen it that way at all!  We were ready to admit our child's fault in not listening (and had seen the coach react strongly to this in the past), but the swinging arms by three children did not constitute a fight in our minds, especially given the happy looks on their faces and the lack of furrowed brows.

I did not write this post to make my case in the soccer situation, though it feels good to write it all down.  My point is that perception may or may not be reality, and how this impacts what you write.

When you write, do you take into account how it might be interpreted?  Do you ask yourself, "Will making the MC a bit slutty insult readers to the point of not reading my book?" or "Does this joke go a bit too far, even though the character saying it is not supposed to be liked?"  Or, do you write what you want regardless, and hope the critics and the public will swallow it all?

Perception.  Truth.  Facts.  Believing.  These are all loaded words.  And there is no Right Answer, just your perception.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


My apologies.  Sick today and just can't eek out a post.  Again, apologies.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Getting it together

Ok.  I have the weekend to organize my posts for next week...Promise!  Some good stuff will come your way.  I took tons of photos on my drive back (between Nashville, TN and Raleigh, NC) that will inspire some interesting discussions.  Plus, I have some other topics brewing up there in the 'ol grey matter.

I didn't blog hop at all this week, so don't expect a Sunday roundup post (even though I know that is a favorite for some of you).  I'll come up with something else for Sunday...But that's tomorrow's burden!

I hope you all had a wonderful week.  It's Friday night and I am preparing for the Discount Tire Friday Night Final--the live high school football show I produce at News 14 Carolina.  So, back to it!  And thanks for your patience!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Vaca/Catchup Day

Another travel day for us, but hoping to be back to normal next week on here.

Wednesday...the latest family reunion photos came out, so I wanted to share them with you:
All cousins and spouses/offspring!  Hindmans, Rogers, Emraths,
Powells, Steves, and Williams!

All the cousins, in our traditional congo line

Balancing on our dad

And don't forget...
Southern City Mysteries' first birthday is September 24th.  In honor of one year in the blogging biz, I'm hosting my first ever Blogfest--the Happy Birthday Blogfest.

First Prize: 3 of my favorite books + Amazon gift card
Second Prize: 2 of our fellow authors' books + Amazon gift card
Third Prize: Amazon gift card

Happy Birthday Blogfest
Sept. 24th
1. Spread the word. Tweet or post or place the announcement in your sidebar. Add the link to any of these in the comment forum below. (3 pts. for sidebar, 2 pts. for post, 1 pt. for tweet)

2. What's your favorite? Don't just tell me how #1ed, tell me about your favorite post or topic Southern City Mysteries has done in the past year. No rules here. It can be anything--a guest post, a series, or a subject I touched on briefly. (2 pts.)

3. On Sept. 24th, Southern City Mysteries' 1 year birthday, post your Happy Birthday Blogfest story! Who said birthdays are fun? They can be creepy or dangerous or dramatic or even fatal. Write a short story (why limit the word count? Gimme what'chya got!) involving a birthday in any form and something mysterious, dangerous, dramatic, creepy, or deadly. The latter event doesn't have to take place in the story, but can instead be alluded to. It's your choice. Actually, the birthday can be alluded to as well--free form! (3 pts.)

Leave your point total in the comments at the original announcement post, and link to your Blogfest post on Sept. 24th--oh, and sign up through Mister Linky!  And we'll be all set.  I promise I'll put together something special for the event.  Hope you all help me celebrate!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Family in Writing

Cousins at reunion '06
Family.  We all have one.  We may not like them all, we may not be close to them all, but we all have them in some form or another.

Over the past weekend, I have had the unique opportunity to observe the personalities and interactions between members of my extended family.  As I mentioned Tuesday, everyone from the newest to the oldest members of the Hindman clan converged on Nashville, Tennessee for my grandfather's 93rd birthday/family reunion.  It was a mixed bag of craziness, fun, and emotions.

My cousin Jeanne, courtesy
my aunt's Facebook page
I spoke with my cousin Jeanne (pronounced Zhahn, as it should be) about researching my Great-Grandma Jeanne's story.  (Dez so kindly recommended I write about her after this post, and a complete outline popped onto paper out of no where.)  Her work will be more of a factual, memoir-type piece, whereas mine will be (I hope) more based-on-fact fiction.  A fast-paced, historically accurate glimpse into the life of a young girl with dreams of the stage, who meets murder and betrayal along the way.  With dark twists and...Alright, so I'm getting ahead of myself.

Regardless of how you feel about your own family, how do you include family in your writing?  Do your characters have children or spouses?  Do they interact with their family in your works?  Or are they loners, grabbing onto strangers for comfort and pushing away those who want to get close to them?  Do you intentionally not write about family, or the opposite?

Family.  We all have one, of some kind.