Happy Thanksgiving!

thanksgiving-foodThis is not just “Turkey Day.” In fact, we’re not even having turkey! For us, it’s a day set aside to remember what you are grateful for, and we have many, many things, including plenty of healthy food!

I’m thankful every day for my parents who raised me in faith, taught me to be self-reliant, honest, and that I could do whatever I set my mind to. They instilled in me a love of reading and from there came my career in writing.

I’m thankful for my grandmother, who provided the inspiration for what will be four books by the end of next year. Little did I know when I was 8-10 years old, riding the pasture by her side, that I would write a series of novels based on her life.

I’m thankful for my brother, my only sibling, and for the fact that we are best friends, and that he provided me with a wonderful niece and nephew, and from there grand-niece and nephew! I’m so grateful I have family on both sides that we love and get along with splendidly! My sisters-in-law are really my sisters, and their families my family.

I am thankful for my husband, also my best friend and my most ardent supporter, for the adventures and fun we’ve had inpraying_hands_clip_art_18373 our forty years together. And I am grateful for alternative treatments that give us hope for renewed health in his battle with cancer.

I am thankful for our new home in sunny Arizona, where I am still able to sit outside on my patio with my morning coffee (most mornings) in the last week of November!

I’m thankful for great neighbors and new friends we’re making here, as well as the many old friends I left behind in Washington and Montana.

And I’m thankful for God in my life, for He gives me strength and courage to live each day to the fullest!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Published in: on November 28, 2013 at 6:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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10 Writing Tips From Bestselling Novelist Janet Fitch

As reprinted in the Los Angeles Times

by Janet Fitch

1. Write the sentence, not just the story

Long ago I got a rejection from the editor of the Santa Monica Review, Jim Krusoe. It said: “Good enough story, but what’s unique about your sentences?” That was the best advice I ever got. Learn to look at your sentences, play with them, make sure there’s music, lots of edges and corners to the sounds. Read your work aloud. Read poetry aloud and try to heighten in every way your sensitivity to the sound and rhythm and shape of sentences. The music of words. I like Dylan Thomas best for this–the Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait. I also like Sexton, Eliot, and Brodsky for the poets and Durrell and Les Plesko for prose. A terrific exercise is to take a paragraph of someone’s writing who has a really strong style, and using their structure, substitute your own words for theirs, and see how they achieved their effects.writing

2. Pick a better verb
Most people use twenty verbs to describe everything from a run in their stocking to the explosion of an atomic bomb. You know the ones: Was, did, had, made, went, looked… One-size-fits-all looks like crap on anyone. Sew yourself a custom made suit. Pick a better verb. Challenge all those verbs to really lift some weight for you.

3. Kill the Cliché.
When you’re writing, anything you’ve ever heard or read before is a cliché.They can be combinations of words: Cold sweat. Fire-engine red, or phrases: on the same page, level playing field, or metaphors: big as a house. So quiet you could hear a pin drop. Sometimes things themselves are cliches: fuzzy dice, pink flamingo lawn ornaments, long blonde hair.Just keep asking yourself, “Honestly, have I ever seen this before?” Even if Shakespeare wrote it, or Virginia Woolf, it’s a cliché. You’re a writer and you have to invent it from scratch, all by yourself. That’s why writing is a lot of work, and demands unflinching honesty.

4. Variety is the key.
Most people write the same sentence over and over again. The same number of words–say, 8-10, or 10-12. The same sentence structure. Try to become stretchy–if you generally write 8 words, throw a 20 word sentence in there, and a few three-word shorties. If you’re generally a 20 word writer, make sure you throw in some threes, fivers and sevens, just to keep the reader from going crosseyed.

5. Explore sentences using dependent clauses
A dependent clause (a sentence fragment set off by commas, dontcha know) helps you explore your story by moving you deeper into the sentence. It allows you to stop and think harder about what you’ve already written. Often the story you’re looking for is inside the sentence. The dependent clause helps you uncover it.

Coffeepot Rock

Coffeepot Rock

6. Use the landscape
Always tell us where we are. And don’t just tell us where something is, make it pay off. Use description of landscape to help you establish the emotional tone of the scene. Keep notes of how other authors establish mood and foreshadow events by describing the world around the character. Look at the openings of Fitzgerald stories, and Graham Greene, they’re great at this.

7. Smarten up your protagonist
Your protagonist is your reader’s portal into the story. The more observant he or she can be, the more vivid will be the world you’re creating. They don’t have to be super-educated, they just have to be mentally active. Keep them looking, thinking, wondering, remembering.

8. Learn to write dialogue
This involves more than I can discuss here, but do it. Read the writers of great prose dialogue–people like Robert Stone and Joan Didion. Compression, saying as little as possible, making everything carry much more than is actually said. Conflict. Dialogue as part of an ongoing world, not just voices in a dark room. Never say the obvious. Skip the meet and greet.

9. Write in scenes
What is a scene? a) A scene starts and ends in one place at one time (the Aristotelian unities of time and place–this stuff goes waaaayyyy back). b) A scene starts in one place emotionally and ends in another place emotionally. Starts angry, ends embarrassed. Starts lovestruck, ends disgusted. c) Something happens in a scene, whereby the character cannot go back to the way things were before. Make sure to finish a scene before you go on to the next. Make something happen.

10. Torture your protagonist
The writer is both a sadist and a masochist. We create people we love, and then we torture them. The more we love them, and the more cleverly we torture them along the lines of their greatest vulnerability and fear, the better the story. Sometimes we try to protect them from getting booboos that are too big. Don’t. This is your protagonist, not your kid.

Janet Fitch is the author of “White Oleander” and “Paint it Black,” and she teaches writing at USC. It seems like every time I run into her at a reading, she introduces one or two or more of her students who she has encouraged to come along, people whose work she praises. This enthusiastic engagement makes her, well, nicer than many writing teachers, and that niceness might be why she’s posted a list of 10 writing tips that can help almost anyone on her blog. But the list shows that just because she’s nice, she’s no pushover in the classroom.

Published in: on November 22, 2013 at 6:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cowgirl Dreams Getting New Life

Dreams 1 5 X 2Today I sent the manuscript edits for Cowgirl Dreams back to my new publisher, Globe-Pequot/Twodot Press. My first novel, along with my second in the “Dare to Dream” series, Follow the Dream, and my new novel, Dare to Dream will all be released on May 6, 2014. Finally!–for all of you who have been patiently waiting!

While there were not a lot of changes to be made, this process just points up how important it is to for writers have your work edited! Even though this book has been through an editing process before it was first published in 2008, and even though I am a freelance editor, there were still things that were missed.

So…even editors need editing!

We don’t have a cover design yet, but stay tuned. I will keep you posted on the developments as they progress toward giving Cowgirl Dreams and Follow the Dream new life!

Celebrating a Cowboy’s Birthday

Dad, Grandma & Grandpa

Dad, Grandma & Grandpa

My dad, Don Neil Gasser, was born November 9, 1924. He would’ve been 89 today.

He grew up in the Cut Bank/Sunburst area in Montana (often known nationally as the coldest spot in the nation in the winter). His mother, my grandmother, was the rodeo-riding cowgirl I’ve written about in my novels Cowgirl Dreams, Follow the Dream, and the newest, Dare to Dream, scheduled to be released May 6, 2014.

Dad was an only child and the little family moved many times over the years, following the grass for their Percheron crossbred herd. He was six years old when they trailed 100 head of horses from Cut Bank to Salmon Idaho in the early 1930s to find grass, after drought and grasshoppers left Montana tabletop bare. He remembered that adventure vividly and that became one of the pivotal events in Follow the Dream.

I remember my 6’4″ dad as a quiet, soft-spoken man, an avid reader and student, although he

Dad & I in his rebuilt Model T

Dad & I in his rebuilt Model T

never attended college. He taught himself to read at least three languages, memorized passages of the Bible while driving tractor, and passed on the love of books and music to me and my brother Mark. Dad was, out of necessity, an inventor, a mechanic, a veterinarian for his own and neighbors’ cows. Anything that needed done, my dad could do. And he was a real cowboy–when he was astride his horse, he rode so smoothly you could hardly tell where the man ended and the horse began.

Dad passed away in 2003,  much-loved and well-respected by all who knew him. Happy Birthday, Dad!

Kanab Writers Conference

I was thrilled to be on the presenters’ roster last weekend at the Kanab, UT, Writers Conference. I joined 11 other authors in giving workshops to 83 attendees.Writers Conference My workshops included “Marketing Your Writing” and “Show versus Tell.” I had a nice turnout and received good feedback.Presenters' boardMostly, I had fun doing it, and if I was able to give some help to other writers, that’s icing on the cake.Kanab red rocksKanab is a beautiful area, with sunrises accentuating the vibrant red rock hills and cliffs. Population about 35,000, Kanab is described as being in the “Grand Circle” area, centrally located among Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park, the Grand Canyon (North Rim).

Published in: on November 1, 2013 at 6:56 am  Comments (1)  
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