“If I’m Honest I have to tell you I still read fairy-tales and I like them best of all.”
–Audrey Hepburn

I love that quote. I, too, grew up loving fairy tales. Maybe that’s why I had my main character love them too. As the series continues, she becomes cynical and decides the stories are a young girl’s dream. Will she ever believe again?

We all want to believe in fairy tales and the “happily ever after” ending. Most Disney movies have show us that. Books I had when I was younger did, too. If Ms. Hepburn referred to those stories then I’m right with her. If she’s talking about the real Grimm’s Fairy Tales—maybe not.

I read an article recently that told the true stories behind fairy tales. It said people might be quite surprised by the real endings. Some were gruesome in their tellings. For example, Cinderella’s step-sisters chopped off their toes to make the glass slipper fit. I’ll spare you from the rest.

I think these stories were originally written to scare children into behaving. If you’re bad, look what happens. If you’re good, you’re rewarded. Don’t wander too far from home. The big bad wolf is in the forest. I’m sure children of the past took those stories to heart for different reasons than the children of today.

I’m glad fairy tales have been changed to sugar-coat the endings. Sure we still have the villains, and they get their due in the end. Kids need to still believe in something. I think fairy tales will do nicely. It encourages them to read and stimulates the imagination. In recent years the message has also changed. Not all princesses need to be rescued and not all have to fall in love. But the happily ever after message is still there.

Fairy tales. Whether you love them or not, they are steeped in history. Audrey Hepburn loved them as adult. So I guess it’s okay if I still love them, too.

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“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway

Remember The Sorcerer’s Apprentice? Mickey Mouse played the part of the Apprentice in the Disney movie–Fantasia.  Mickey, the young apprentice of the sorcerer Yen Sid, attempts some of his master’s magic tricks after the man leaves for the night. he puts on the magic hat and commands the broom to do his work–carry water to the cauldron. Only something goes wrong. The broom doesn’t stop. So Mickey grabs an ax and chops it into pieces. Problem solved, right? Nope. The pieces turn into more brooms that bring in more water. He doesn’t know how to control them. Once the brooms start flooding the place, Mickey is over his head.

Sound familiar? We all say, “Oh, I could do that”, when someone else is doing it. “That looks easy” is another comeback. But is it? Mickey thought so, and look how that turned out.

Sitting down to write a book isn’t an easy task. I tried to talk myself out of it. I had an argument going on in my head as I walked to the computer. You can’t write a book. Who do you think you are? The other side of me pushed on. I have a good idea. I’ll start writing and see what happens.

The brooms kept bringing the ideas in and dumping them in my brain. Could I keep up? Sort them all out? Turn them into a book? There was no master handbook, no guide.

Well, what happened was my first published book, Waiting for Dusk. I still had a lot to learn, but I took the first step. I had no idea how many words were in a book when I first started writing, but I did know the genre—Young Adult. I thought I had a good handle of the English language, always getting good grades in the subject. But I had to look up and refresh my memory on many topics. Commas were the worst. So much to still learn!

When I finished the book, I felt proud. When I got my first edits, I cringed. How could I ever master the craft?

I don’t ever want to get overwhelmed like Mickey or in over my head. He couldn’t keep up with those brooms pouring water on the floor. Bucket after bucket kept coming. Thank goodness the sorcerer eventually showed up.

When writing a book, the sorcerer never shows up. I think that’s Hemingway’s point. There isn’t one designated master in the writing world. If there was, people would try to copy and we wouldn’t get diversity. Not everyone likes the same cup of tea.

Some people may rave over the recent bestseller, while others pan it. Writing is subjective. Everyone has their own opinions. So I say, keep writing. Strive to be the master, but never stop learning.

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I’m reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63. It’s about time travel and since I write about the same thing–time travel–I wanted to know how the master approached it.

When I picked the book up from the library, the first thing I noticed was the size of the book. I’m not a fast reader, as I’ve said before, so I worried I wouldn’t finish before the return date. I hesitated to look at the last page and see the number.

  1. Yep, that’s right. 862 pages. When I see 450 I cringe. Now I had two weeks to read the book and get it back to the library. Renewing wasn’t an option. In a few days, I’d be going on vacation.

This was my first Stephen King book. As you know, if you read my blog, I’m not a fan of horror or scary writing. I watched the TV series, Under the Dome, (based on a Stephen King novel) and liked that show very much. Not all his stories are scary. Besides, this story is based on a real life event and about time travel so I was pretty sure no horror would be involved.

I can proudly say I’ve made it to page 624. And the book isn’t due for three more days. All my free time will be dedicated to finishing the book. It’s a very good book, hard to put down.

I can’t compare this book to King’s other novels or his writing style. But I can say this about 11/22/63. The author’s into minute details and did his research. I’m learning a lot about the late fifties and early sixties. I couldn’t wait to see how he set up his rules for time travel. There needs to be rules in every good time travel book. He didn’t disappoint.

Let’s get back to the real reason I’m writing this post today. The book had over 800 pages. If I didn’t really want to read this book, I may have passed. How many times have you done the same thing?

So does it matter how many pages a book is? Would too many pages stop you from reading a book? What if it’s a bestseller or famous author? Then would you read it? So many questions. So many pages. What would you do?

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This post is not about baseball. I wish it was but there was no way to tell you who won the game yesterday. Our cable was out. And our phone. And our internet. So much for getting one of those packages. When the company loses the connection, goodbye everything.

I usually post on Mondays (creature of habit) and couldn’t get on-line. My whole world started to crumble around me. No access to anything. Really? I know some may say, just use your phone. But I don’t have a smart phone yet. I call mine a dumb phone. Soon I’ll be in the 21st century. I’ve designated the phone as a Mother’s Day gift.

So in the meantime, I was disconnected from the world yesterday. The internet was the first to come back, but everything went so slow it wasn’t worth being on the computer. One good thing came out of it–no telemarketing calls to interrupt dinner. Finally the TV came back around 9 pm.

Back in the real world again…or was I? In the good old days, dad would adjust the antennae on the TV, not having to rely on cable or even know what it is. We didn’t have computers so I’d probably be reading a book or playing outside. And the phone? I don’t remember it ever not working.

My husband called the cable company and found out there was an outage. They asked if he’d like to receive a call when power was restored. This morning the phone rang. Caller ID showed the name of the cable company. I answered to hear a recorded message. My phone, internet and cable were restored. Really? I knew that last night. Welcome to the 21st century. 🙂

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IMG_4636Just wanted to share a beautiful shot of the morning sun on the Atlantic Ocean. One of the rare sunny moments so far on this vacation. Regardless, it’s nice to get away and wake up to see the ocean out the window. We may not see too much sun from what the forecast is telling us. Trying not to take it too hard and find the silver lining. Hope you have a little sunshine in your life today.

 

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I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories, just as long as he finishes the book.”
—Roald Dahl

I love Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but don’t know exactly what he meant by that quote. Did he just want you to read for the sake of reading? Or give the book a chance?

I think if you don’t like a book and gave it a fighting chance, say fifty pages, it’s okay to give up. Not every book is for everybody.

I found this quote interesting because I also review books and will admit I couldn’t finish some. As an author, I’d prefer that method over a less than stellar review. Forcing yourself to read is like being back in school. Reading should be for pleasure. When I taught, I felt the library was one of the places children could choose. I didn’t have to tell them what to read. They could start a book and put it down if it wasn’t for them. They’d have another chance the next week to find something new.

So what do you think? What did Roald Dahl mean in his quote? Do you agree or not? I’d love to hear from you.

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Science Fiction. Romance. Crime and Mystery. Historical. When you read, is your first instinct to pick a genre? Probably, otherwise you may not like the book for that very reason. I recently ran into this genre problem. Horror is off my list. I’m not a fan of being scared and especially don’t want to read anything creepy. I avoid it at all costs. I like to stay in my comfort zone.

A few weeks ago, my son, who works at Barnes and Noble, bought a book—HORRORSTOR. He sees the latest and newest books coming into the store and found it to his liking. The cover caught my eye, but I knew better. It fell under the Horror Genre. Still I couldn’t resist flipping through its pages. The book is set up like an IKEA style catalog and the store in the book, ORSK, is a carbon copy.

Still intrigued, I told myself I could stop reading if I didn’t like it. I liked the fact the book was set in Cleveland. I could picture the store off I-77 and recognized the TV station mentioned in the book.

We only have one IKEA in Ohio–Cincinnati. The closest one to me is in Pittsburgh. Funny thing, I was going to make my first trip there, only having visited one store in Chicago.

So I thought it was the perfect time to read HORRORSTOR. Amy, the main character, works at ORSK while attending college. She’s the typical disinterested employee who rolls her eyes at the company’s rhetoric. Basil, her gun-ho younger boss, follows all the rules and recites policy to all that will listen. Strange happenings occur overnight. When the crew shows up for work each morning, the employees find broken or stained items. Basil decides to stay overnight to find the culprit and asks Amy to work a night shift along with another employee, Ruth Anne. They find two of their co-workers already there, ghost hunting.

Not writing a review here, just filling you in. It turns out the store has been built where an old prison once stood. You can take it from there. The ORSK store is haunted.

And guess what? I finished the book. I did skim a few paragraphs here and there when descriptions got graphic, but I made it till the end. I did dream I was in an IKEA type store and strange things happened, but it wasn’t too bad. I sent a text to my son while we were in the real IKEA store – HORRORSTOR Are you lost? But I’m okay.

HORRORSTOR is part satirical and part horror. I think the author equated the prison to working in retail. It would be rated on the lighter scale of the horror spectrum.

I enjoyed the book. There I said it. I’d recommend it for an interesting read. Book in hand would be better than digital. It’s fun to look at the pictures and read the made-up names for the furniture. So I guess I’m tearing apart my genre theory. Try going out of your comfort zone. If you don’t like the book you choose, you can stop reading. But you may keep reading, and find the book stays with you. Not because it scared the crap out of you, but because you can’t stop thinking about what a clever story it was. Isn’t that what all good books do?

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The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
—Stephen King

When I first started writing I searched for just the right adverb to describe an action. Adding “ly” to many words turned them into adverbs. Happy becomes Happily, Jealous—Jealously, Lazy—Lazily, you get my point. Many adverbs, but not all, end with “ly”. Words like almost, never, always qualify, too.

Imagine my surprise–after amassing the greatest list of adverbs known to man–to find you should not use them when writing a story. A writer needs to describe the action instead of using an adverb. Here’s an example.

“You picked him over me?” he asked angrily.

“You picked him over me?” he asked as his eyes widened and face grew red. He crossed his arms, spun on his heel and stormed away.

I’ve become obsessed looking for adverbs in novels. I forget to read the text. I nod my head up and down in approval when I read a description instead of seeing a single “ly” word. When I do see an adverb, I cringe. Then I practice in my head how it could be corrected. It’s not an easy task. One way is to envision the person doing the action and explain what you see.

I think Steven King is sending a message. Adverbs are the easy way out. When it comes to writing, nothing is easy. If you get writer’s block stop what you’re doing. Walk away from the computer, the typewriter or notepad. Go do something else. Whatever you do, don’t revert back to your old ways. Remember, the road to hell is paved with adverbs.

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“I want to do something splendid…
Something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead…
I think I shall write books.”
― Louisa May Alcott

Such a nice thought. I think I shall write books and people will remember me.

What a simple time Louisa lived in. I love the quote, but does it work for today’s world? Thousands of people are writing books and publishing them at record speed. The general public doesn’t have to wait for new stories to come on bookshelves once or twice a year.

Computers, the internet, self-publishing have changed all that. Competition is fierce. Who will notice your book? And why should they read it? Is it free? Or 99¢? Hardback or ebook? So many choices. Louisa May Alcott, it would make your head spin.

Luckily, Louisa’s books were published during a time when readers could discover an author at a slower pace and look forward to their next novel.  People read for entertainment, reading being one of the only outlets at the time.

I remember reading Little Women over and over again when I was young. I went on to read other books by Louisa. Little Men and Jo’s Boys come to mind, but I don’t remember reading those stories more than one time.

Louisa May Alcott got her wish. Her time-honored story of four sisters, Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy March, has been made into a movie, a musical, and has a soundtrack. Yes, Louisa, people remember you.

How can writers apply the quote to today’s world? Well, I wouldn’t change a word. Go ahead and do something splendid. Do something heroic. Write it all down. Maybe you won’t be remembered, but perhaps you’ll inspire someone by doing something you believe in. There’s a possibility you’ll make yourself feel wonderful you accomplished a huge undertaking. Writing a book is no small task.

So I challenge you. If you had the urge to write and felt you wouldn’t be heard, so what? Tell yourself, “I think I shall write books.” Just like Ms. Alcott did. Pick up the pen and get started. You may surprise yourself.

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Nancy 1952

I never said, “I’m going to be a writer.” I always liked to write, but never thought I’d be an author. I wanted to be a teacher since third grade and accomplished that goal. Funny thing, when I retired the writer came out in me again. It was always hidden in there somewhere, I guess.

The story plays out in my head. I picture my stories as acts and scenes. I write the first scene, knowing how it should blend into the next. There’s a feeling of accomplishment when one scene is completed even if the story isn’t done.

A song can give me an idea. Or the inspiration for a character. Or the hook I was looking for. I might hear a song for the first time and says, “That’s __!”

I try not to think about promotion, which is harder and harder to come by.  I have a good group of author friends who are willing to send me posts for my blog and post my things on theirs. I appreciate this new group of friends. Thanks, girls! And guys.

I read somewhere you should try to write every day. I try to do that, if possible. Sometimes weekends get in the way! I read that Steven King said he tries to write ten pages a day and not stop until he’s done with a novel. He said it should take about three months to finish, like a season of the year. Looking back on how I write, I have to agree. I usually finish in that time frame, too.

I like to write without music. I know many writers have it playing as background, but it would distract me and I’d start listening to it instead of write.

As a writer, I’ve been asked this question. If you could travel in a Time Machine would you travel to the past or the future? I would have to go to the past. I would visit the Grand Canyon in 1927 and see how I did. I would eat at El Tovar and have a Harvey Girl wait on me. I’d try to peek in the back kitchen to see what’s going on. I’d run to Kolb Studio to see the real Emery and Ellsworth Kolb and hope I’d get a glimpse of Drew! I’d visit all the places and trails mentioned in the book and compare them to how they look today. Hopefully not too much of the Grand Canyon has changed.

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Nancy Pennick wrote the young adult series, Waiting for Dusk, and is now working on her exciting new series, 29.

Learn more about Nancy

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