The Wonder of New Found Friends

Friday night I was welcomed into a meeting of the “Neighborhood Book Club” by Susan Clarke and a group of her friends who’ve been gathering together discussing books  for several years. Other than Sue, I knew no one. And, truthfully, I’d just met Sue for coffee a few weeks earlier. Essentially, I walked into a room of strangers.

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And,  I guarantee no one had more fun than I did.

First, they asked me to tell them about my life in South Africa. And then they asked direct questions, inquiring about how I handled certain situations while writing my book MIDNIGHT IN MALAMULELE and while living in South Africa.

One question I particularly enjoyed was when was I most fearful while living in South Africa.

And now that I’ve mentioned the question, do you readers want to know the scariest thing I encountered as well?

Oddly enough, it was not getting used to a foreign place with young children, Philip, 8; Stacy turning 6 and Chris turning 4.  No, it had nothing to do with introducing the new culture to my children or finding new doctors and schools and learning my way around in a country absolutely foreign to me in 1972.

It was not the morning my husband and I found Martha, the woman who worked for us, shivering in her bed, convinced she was dying and attributing it to her brother who had a witch doctor cast a spell on her …

It was not the day I was nearly swept into a racial riot in Alexander Township where I volunteered …

It was not the day a tall, African in a three-piece suit walked up, playfully shaking his knob carry at my baby daughter Anne-Marie, 3 months, on the very day that black South Africans had organized a protest vowing to kill white children …

No, it was something different …

And next time, I will go into detail about “Night of the Dogs” and how terrified I was. Check here later this week for the second part of this blog.

Thanks again, girls, for a wonderful night!

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Left to right: Back row Sharon Miller, Peggy Winn, Sharon Hill, Lyn Chambers, Pam Grove

Front row: Sandy Anas, Susan Clarke, Marsha Mallory-Bennett, Linda Fisher, Linda Ayers, Lauren Allwein.

I NEED A HERO …. !

Finding a hero in the midst of becoming a better writer is gold.

David Morrell, a top best-selling New York Times author, took the audience into his hands, as he described his personal journey in writing, how he wrote for years, sought people to show him how to become a better writer, then finally righted his rudder and sailed into publishing. He is the father of “Rambo.”

I wish I could reiterate his complete spiel at Genre Fest in Westminster, Colorado at the Front Range Community College where he took the microphone and literally mesmerized the audience with how to continue learning about our craft, how to deal with personal tragedy and the importance of caring about our work.

Morrell’s commitment over his lifetime was the most impressive of all. He held the audience in his grip, left us laughing and clamoring for more. It was the second time I’d had a chance to shake his hand and express my gratitude for his assisting me in my journey. The first time was at the Hillerman Conference in Santa Fe this past November.

Here are a few jewels he gave us, but of course, this does not do the man justice. He was incredible and if any of you ever get a chance to hear him – make sure you don’t miss that opportunity!

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Morrell alerted the attendees to not follow the market. Not follow the trends. “Don’t chase the market – you’ll always see the backside…” Simply because the trend by the time you get your book out, will probably have changed. So stick to what you want to write.

“Every plot I ever had came from a daydream.” Morrell said that daydreams are spontaneous and personality specific, adding that most people dismiss daydreams. Some people never have them.

He reminded the crowd that you should pay attention to you, not mimic anyone. “You,” he told the audience, “are miracles of uniqueness.”

Before he begins each book, he writes a letter to himself. “Why is this book important enough to take a year or two or three to write?”

“Reading my books in order, you are reading the autobiography of my soul.” Check out his website at http://davidmorrell.net.

Thanks to the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Colorado Authors League for sponsoring Genre Fest.

Lois Lane? Really?

Today I blog about my relationship with Lois Lane over at rebecca-grace.blogspot.com.

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Guest blogging is fun. It’s like visiting someone. So drop on by and check out my blog there and peruse the site. It’s the first time I’ve ever written anything so personal about how I got into this writing business. Leave questions. Also, if you’re a new writer, you can find great stuff on that site.

But today what’s really on my mind is the weather.

Yesterday a young woman asked, ” Why are you wearing all black. It’s summer!” She had on shorts. But I was the clever one because Colorado does not have summer until it’s officially June. It teases you and sends a few warm days. People rush to their closets and do the reorg thing. Not me.

Growing up in Texas, I always heard, “Wait five minutes and the weather will change.” Yesterday Colorado was at 88 and today snow is in the forecast.

This morning, I hear not one chattering bird but a choir outside as the dark is about to give it up to dawn. Lovely beyond words. Those precious little darlings are ready for spring. They’re in for a great disappointment. I do enjoy spring, but the first couple of years  in Colorado we had a blizzard … in late May. Now I’m snow shy. And skeptical. I’ll believe it when …

Enjoy today. And by that I mean look at the person you love. Grab that face and look into those eyes. Say “I love you.” Don’t do it only to their backs as they walk out the door. Live in the moment. And have a Happy Easter.

Midnight in Malamulele Book Giveaway

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Due to favorable reviews and requests for my book, Midnight in Malamulele, I’ve decided to gift my book to those of you who may not have heard of it yet.

Midnight in Malamulele is a mystery/thriller set in Africa with a touch of romance. Annabelle Chase, an American crime reporter, arrives for her volunteer gig only to discover a murdered nun in the locked down convent and her best friend Sister Bridget is arrested. Detective Baloyi asks Annabelle to join in the search, throwing them into a world of machete-wielding muti killers.

Smashwords Book Giveaway

1) Sign up for Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/signup
2) Click BUY on the “Midnight in Malamulele” page https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/479684
3) During checkout enter the code GJ26Y and click apply
4) Download the book in any format you want
5) Review the book! https://www.smashwords.com/books/writeReview/479684

To Portland, With Love

Before I left beautiful Portland, my friend Julie Adams from grad school (Columbia Graduate School of Journalism 2000)  insisted I take a drive with her and see what we could in a very short tour.  Immediately, she stopped at Powell’s bookstore in the Pearl District. A four-story, city block building displayed books in almost any category. Miles of books.

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This picture of Powell’s is from the bookstore website.

As we drove around the Pearl District, we passed the Portland Art Museum where there is an Italian Style exhibition. Larger than life murals appeared on the outside walls, instantly beckoning walkers and drivers to stop and come inside. Stunning photos on the exterior of the building. Be patient with the quality of the photos. I had drizzling weather to contend with!

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On the drive we viewed beautiful cherry trees full of blossoms. Even though it was nearly dark, the trees were exquisite.

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We drove by one corner, a gathering place for food carts.  Portland is known for the food cart concessions. Here’s a sample.

FullSizeRender-5Apparently it’s a Portland thing, this obsession with food carts. They’re everywhere!

In the later afternoon, rain falling slightly, a fog settled over the city. Beautiful. And the lovely meal at the top of Portland in the Chart House helped me bid farewell to my visit there, as if it were tied with a giant red bow. Julie and her 94-year-old father proved to be a good Portland public relations team!

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At the airport, sighing and thinking what a wonderful time I had at the Left Coast Crime  2015 conference, I looked up to see the tallest free-standing cuckoo clock in North America! A surprise and a delight. Thanks Portland!

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Left Coast Crime 2015 Kicks Off Today

Technically the conference in Portland, Oregon kicks off today, but yesterday a group of us early birds jumped the gun and showed up for a workshop featuring April Henry in the morning and Robert Dugoni in the afternoon. (Notice the cliches!)

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 April Henry

“The Night She Disappeared”

What I loved most about April’s  presentation, and the fact she’d recently tested for her purple belt for Kung Fu, were the tidbits she sprinkled throughout her crime fiction presentation.

Websites to visit, books to consider.

Bubbl.us for mindmapping

Query Shark.com

TVtropes.com

Myersbriggs.org

Books to assist in dreaming up plots:

“The Amazing Story Generators” by Jay Sacher from Chronicle Books, San Francisco. A fun way to spur brainstorming.

“Novel Metamorphosis” by Darcy Pattison.

Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots by William Wallace Cook

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Robert Dugoni

“My Sister’s Grave”

Dugoni gave us many jewels regarding creating fictional characters.

Posing provocative questions for writers, he asked: “Why does a character need to change?” It maintains interest and people change in real life.

“Are the stakes high enough?” What’s standing in the way of your protagonist getting what she needs? Something for writers to consider.

Dugoni said life experiences are the richest and mentioned people-watching at public places like airports.

Keeping your characters moving is important.

Your protagonist is just a little bit better than everybody else and the reader begins to root for you.

Dugoni referenced movies as he explained creating characters. In “Blood Diamond” a guy races across Africa to save his son. “I’d like to be heroic – would I do what that man does?” Readers relate.

Explore the inner demons and conflicts of your characters.

Character strengths can be a weakness and vice versa.

Help readers to stand in the shoes of your characters.

Give your character self-regard. If your character doesn’t care, you won’t care.

Dugoni said that the expression “Show, don’t tell” is a bunch of crap, that you have to show, but you also have to tell. For instance, expressions tell everything about a character. Such as “Why are you jewing me down?” Tells everything.

Good way to check on character description: Could your reader pick your character out of a line up?

 

 

Gearing Up for Left Coast Crime 2015

Left Coast Crime 2015, a writing conference in Portland, Oregon is touted as being one of the very best for those of us who love to write fiction with a touch of crime. I’ll keep you posted next week as I check it out beginning March 10 – 15.

Of course, any of you who know me know that I always show up early.

A quick sidebar. My father Lloyd Prudom always gave himself a 30 minute window so if he had a flat tire, he’d be okay and could still arrive on time. Showing up early is awesome for most people, with the exception of possibly my five children. To me, showing up early illustrates you are interested and you prepared to come early. But, mainly I’m arriving early for the conference because I’ve paid extra for a full day workshop before the conference starts. Why? You never know where you will learn that one nugget that will help you improve.

 If it’s between yes and no, say YES!

It is my belief that a writing conference is an education.

If you’ve a writer at any level, you can always learn more about the ins and outs of publishing. Also, you can learn to write better, become more colorful using interesting images in your work, more metaphors or similes.

Meeting people is the most fun of all. You can become inspired and even more enthused about what you do. The highlight is you’ll be amazed at how helpful you can be to others by inspiring them. It’s a give and take situation. I especially love that.

Learning how to meet people is a plus. Most of you have that ability already. And if you need practice, a conference is the best place I know of to meet other writers.

How to talk about your book is important. Writers are taught to have a :30 spiel, often called the elevator speech, about our most recent work. Of course, that elevator speech comes from various accounts of writers actually snaring an agent while riding on the elevator. And it has happened!

It’s easy to talk about your own book, right? Not always. I’ve found through experience that I am often at a loss because I didn’t organize my thoughts or practice. I will be going to the New Author’s Breakfast where I will have a full minute (sounds like a snap, right?) and I am working on coming up with a spiel that will get my book out there among my peers. A lot of people know about MIDNIGHT IN MALAMULELE, but talking about it is something I have to be ready to do at a moment’s notice. All you have to do is work at it – prepare and practice.

If you get a chance to attend a conference, I say go! And watch this blog next week for updates.

 

 

A WORRY CONTEST !

FIVE WORRY CONTEST

I come from a long line of worriers.

My mother worried about everything. When I was small I solved one of my worries by deciding there was no such thing as a real vampire.

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Thanks Pinterest, Sergiu Naslau and Wabbaly.com.

After that worry went away, I said: “Now what will I worry about?” As if it were my life’s destiny to become a veteran worrier. Or perhaps an obligation to carry on the family tradition by taking up the mantle of being a lifetime worrier.

And is it any surprise that one of my five children decided to mimic Mom?

If I could undo this role, I would.

It occurred to me that I should share what I worry about and maybe that would rid me of future worries.

Then I wondered what if my worries aren’t big enough to worry about? Just empty illusions of worry. A sham all the way around.

What if your worries are more substantial than mine? What is your biggest fear? What keeps you up at night?

Full disclosure. Here are mine:

1. I worried since I was in grade school that someone would find out I had a ringing in my ears. Tinnitus before its time.

2. I am worried I am writing or thinking about writing all the time and may be staying indoors too much.

3. I am worried that the built-in microwave is going to drop on the eyes of the counter top and break.

4. I am worried that the heating pad will somehow cause a fire.

5. I am worried about my friends in Sierra Leone who have to deal with serious issues like avoiding Ebola.

Are all of these true? No. Figure out which ONE IS NOT TRUE. I’ll draw one from the lot of correct guesses and send you my new book! The real deal. Send your answer to me by March 1 at darlabartos@gmail.com.

Enjoy!

MARRYING WEBSITES

Forever I’d wanted to simplify my online presence by joining my two websites into one. The website can be reached by clicking on darlabartos.com. Taaa-daaa-aaa!

Thanks to a wonderful web designer in Florida, my site has become what I have always imagined it to be. Major mobile friendly and easy to read with additional content.

Hopefully, my blog will entertain, inform and educate. My passion is helping other writers navigate the forest of trees out there and giving them short cuts to becoming published in fiction and non-fiction, which consumed twenty-five years of my life.

My blog is devoted to helping writers reach their goals. I hope to entertain from time to time and entice other authors to guest blog about their journeys. In addition, there may be days I blog about anything that comes to mind. And when I have something to vent about, expect it.

FAV articles are my favorite five. Take a quick look. It was a tough selection process. I was a columnist for several newspapers and so many of those articles were dear to me. But, I had to pare down my list. Tough. You should have seen me perusing file folder after file folder.

Photo album mostly includes pics I snap myself. For instance, a good many of them will be from trips to South Africa. Plus, I threw in a photo of my parasailing. (Best Selfie ever, right?) Thank goodness my daughter was able to get that shot. I wanted proof!

When I said the web designer and I created the website, it was a true collaborative effort.

I culled information from tons of files, and we negotiated what we both agreed was most important. I listened to him. Very important in a collaboration. He created the online look, but I supervised. It was give and take all the way! Important. When you select a long distance web designer, make sure you like the person. Have a chat of introduction, interview several. Make sure that person is highly recommended and make sure your personality is compatible with his or hers. Because, if you’re lucky, that person is like family by the time you’re finished.

As the reader of my blog, if you have any ideas to offer, please go to the contact page and leave a message! I would love to hear from you! This is intended to be a conversation. And it takes you to make that happen. Let me know how you like my new site!

Thanks for reading.

Darla

Snow Lessons

Snow is easy to love.

I awoke at 2:15. An hour later I gave up. Meandering down the hall, I stepped into my small office and glanced out at the night from the double window. Filled with the loveliness of the wonder before me, the moon, full and high in the sky, created a countryside spectacular with light bouncing off snow drifts. A stream of a cloud lay gently across the night sky. The roof sparkled with brilliance and I wanted to stay there forever. Truly a moment I will forever remember. A moment of inspiration.

Thanks Pinterest!
Thanks Pinterest!

Yesterday, Two grandchildren and I left the Old Chicago restaurant and walked into the beginning of a late afternoon snow storm. I couldn’t help myself. I belted out “Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but it’s so delightful ….” Quickly my eight year old granddaughter corrected me. “It’s ‘Dear it’s so delightful.'” And we began the song anew and while we were singing at the top of our lungs, a hatless woman busily sweeping snow off her grey vehicle finally glanced up. I was hoping our enthusiasm would get through to her so she might enjoy herself more. Although she didn’t say a word, I saw the crack of a smile, as I helped the three-year-old up into his car seat.

We can’t make the world different always. But it’s important to never stop trying. We can’t hit the mark always. But it’s important to never stop trying.

There’s nothing quite like those soft enormous flakes floating down to earth. It stirs the soul and triggers imagination.

Remember that it’s important to enjoy yourself where ever you are. To put yourself right out there. To relish the moment. For all you writers out there, it is important for your craft. How can you write when you haven’t experienced?

Enjoy this new beginning of the year 2015.

Live it.