Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sweet Words: What is the point of an opinion?

LK Hunsaker December 2010

"Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words."

Sweet words are always lovely to hear, such as when an author receives a glowing review for her latest work. We all want to hear what we’re doing right. Child-rearing experts will tell to to be sure to let your kids know when they’re doing good things, along with whatever corrections you need to give them. They do need both, however. What happens to children who are never corrected? Scary thought, isn’t it? We’ve all seen the results of that.

There has been a discussion among some authors recently about book reviews, with many of them saying reviews should always be positive, that criticism is “mean” and doesn’t belong in reviews.

I was left scratching my head over that thought. Has our culture seriously become so “politically correct” that contradicting opinions are not okay? That things we don’t like should be swept under the carpet instead of pointed out in fear of hurting someone’s feelings? That’s as scary as uncorrected/undisciplined children, of which there are way too many these days. It leads only to worse and worse behavior. In the same vein, authors who never get the bad along with the good will never improve; they will keep sliding. Even the top authors tend to slide after a while. Why? It’s too easy to get complacent without enough criticism.

I pay little attention to book reviews these days, unless they include both good and bad. If a reviewer finds no constructive criticism to offer, I figure he’s not well-versed enough in the craft to know the things I’ll find that could have been done better, and so it doesn’t mean much. Am I too critical? Maybe. But I am with myself, as well. I want to know what isn’t quite right in my work, what bugs readers as they enjoy my stories, so I can try not to do it again. I do know full well my books are not perfect. I don’t imagine they’ll ever be. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to keep trying.

I’m not sure I have ever done a book review without pointing out something that wasn’t quite right or didn’t hit me well. Maybe I have. I think Marilynne Robinson’s and Mark Twain’s books fall in the “no criticism” category for me. They are the only ones I can think of at the moment. Of course, other people would find plenty to criticize in each. We all have our preferences.

It’s human to have an opinion. Only in recent years have we been told it’s not okay to have an opinion that may disagree with what we “should” think. Who says we should? Who gets to choose which thing is okay to think and which isn’t? Why? When we stay quiet about our opinions, whatever they may be, we stop growing. We stop learning from each other. We stop understanding.

Isn’t that completely opposite what we’re trying to do?

I am pro life-sanctity. I am against using abortion as birth control. I have every right in the world to say so. You have every right in the world to disagree. Who knows which is “right”? No one, actually. It’s opinion. I’m also against people having 6-7 kids when population is already such an issue and I have every right to say that, as well, especially since I realize that overpopulation leads to disease growth, hunger, crime… and those things affect me and those I love even when we’re not the ones contributing to it. Why shouldn’t we stand up and say so?

The novels that do stand up and say such things are the ones that last through the ages. Something to consider.

As my last post for 2010, I’m standing up and saying that controversy and criticism is okay. In fact, it’s good. It opens communication instead of shutting it down behind sweet words and wine. There is a place for that. That place isn’t everywhere. 

(There is indeed a difference between criticism and meanness, however. That’s the line we should watch.)

Thumper’s mom did him, and a whole generation (or more) of people, a disservice when she said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Thumper was right, after all. Bambi was wobbly. Better would have been, “It’s okay that he’s wobbly since he has to start somewhere, and he’ll do fine as he practices.” That would have taught kids both acceptance and the idea that we all need time to grow.

I don’t believe the purpose of reviews is to help sell books. I believe the purpose of reviews is to guide readers and keep them from wasting time reading something they won’t enjoy. If authors are savvy enough, they’ll take full advantage of bad reviews, or of good reviews with a touch of criticism, and use them to grow. Who among us thinks we don’t need to grow?

Here’s wishing you both good and bad reviews of whatever kind you need throughout the coming new year, as well as the ability to grasp both in your hands and make good use of them.

Have a beautiful, creative, productive 2011!
Best Wishes,
LK Hunsaker

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Prompt Writing: December 21 2010

Have you noticed the writing prompts above? I love prompts, although I have novel ideas coming out my ears and not enough time to write them all, I still love to grab a prompt now and then and write a quick story for it. A wonderful exercise, it stirs the creative pathways and puffs out the dust and adds new dimensions, things you may not ever have written otherwise.

Today I decided to issue a flash fiction challenge on one of my writing lists. And then I got stuck as to what I wanted to write. So I came to my blog and grabbed the prompt from the rotating list provided by (Love that app!) The prompt said:

The car swerved to avoid the deer and plunged over the cliff.

Oh, that stirred my imagination! Actually, it pulled up a couple of characters in standby waiting for their chance for me to get to their story. So here's a quick first-draft glimpse of Tori and Neil (names could change):

“The car swerved to avoid the deer and plunged over the cliff.” Tori shrugged. “At least that’s the way they decided to call it. As good an excuse as any, I suppose.”

Neil studied the girl’s demeanor. There was oh, so much more to the story. He could tell there was. Tori wasn’t much for sharing, though. He knew if he was going to get the rest of it, he’d have to be vague and carefully work up to the revelation. It was becoming quite the adventure for him, figuring out how to talk to this girl without insulting or repelling her. Quite the feat.

“Anyway, so if you want me to cook anything special for your Christmas dinner, you’d best let me know quick. I’ll be out for a couple of hours that day, but not till later...”

“We’ll be at my parents’ for Christmas.”

She threw him a quick glance and nodded. “Figured, but don’t you take anything with you?”
“I take a couple of bottles of their favorite wine.”

“That’s it? I’m good at dessert. I do an incredible peppermint cheesecake if you’d want that.”

“Peppermint cheesecake? Haven’t heard of that.”

“No.” She put the last dish away she’d just washed and dried and turned to prop herself against the counter. “I created it. So I don’t imagine you have. Not that no one else has done one, but I bet it doesn’t beat mine.”

He couldn’t help a grin.

Tori tilted her head, her eyes penetrating nearly to his core. “You should do that more.”

“Do what?”

“Smile. Looks good on you. And what do you know? Your face didn’t crack.”

“Funny. Very cute.”

“You are, you know.”

Neil waited, wondering if she’d tell him just what he was and whether or not he wanted her to tell him. He already had a vastly good concept about just what she thought of him: arrogant, rude, vain, among other less choice words she wouldn’t likely let herself say, at least not directly to him.

She didn’t elaborate and his curiosity made him stupid enough to ask. “I am what?”

“Very cute. So again, why don’t you have a girlfriend? I’ve been working here ... what? five months now? and you don’t even date. Why not? You look decent enough. Are you as rude to all girls as you are to me and figure none of ‘em will take it from you long enough to bother?”

He’d expected much worse. Maybe she was warming to him a touch. “I’m never rude to my dates, and I do date.”

“Do you? Guess they’re late nights, huh? After I’m already out at my real job?”

He cringed at the term. Her real job. The job that made him cringe and come off as ruder than he meant to be. It wasn’t her; it was her job.

“Sorry, forgot I shouldn’t mention it around you. So, are you gonna answer about dessert? Want one or not?”

“Peppermint cheesecake sounds good, actually, although cheesecake isn’t one of my favorites. Mom should love it.”

“Great, I’ll have it ready early that morning for whenever you’re leaving.” She shoved herself away from the counter. “Guess I better shower and get ready to go.”

“Tori.” He caught her arm, only for a second until her eyes threw a warning. “If you were going to come up with an excuse better than a deer, what would you come up with?”

Her eyes remained on him, with that look. The one that said he better be careful. She wasn’t about to have any wool pulled over her. Then she shrugged again. “Wouldn’t bother with a story. I’d use the truth. It’s a lot easier in the long run.” She started away and looked back at him. “Although, I guess some would be a lot more comfortable hearing a good story. Maybe that’s something I should learn to do.”

“Bet you’d come up with some doozies. More worth hearing than the deer.”

“Probably right. If I had the energy. I don’t. And I’ve gotta get ready for work. Casserole will be done in twenty minutes, about when Jack should be home. Tell him not to bother to come by tonight. I’m not staying late.”

Neil sighed and lowered into a chair. Not staying late. He knew what that meant.

No. Not tonight. She could be mad if she wanted, but not tonight.

He made his way up to her room and tapped on the door. It was open and she didn’t answer, so he went in, slowly. She was sitting on the bed, her head in her hands, elbows on her knees.


She yanked her head up, then stood and pulled back into her attitude. “What? I told you, I have to get ready for work.”

“What are you doing for Christmas?”

She stopped and frowned. “What?”

“Christmas. You know, December twenty-fifth. It comes every year.”

“Don’t be a jerk tonight. I’m not in the mood.”

“Okay, you said you had plans for a couple of hours. What about the rest of the day?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

He shuffled closer, waiting for another rebuff. “How about bringing your peppermint cheesecake with you when you come?”

She shook her head. “No.”

“We’d love to have you.”

“No, you wouldn’t. Don’t try to be nice just because of the season, all right? I don’t like that fake ‘be nice today and go back to nasty tomorrow’ garbage. Really, I’m fine. I’ll give myself the day off as a treat and that’s good enough.”

Neil couldn’t help himself. He moved closer. “What does the deer stand for, Tori? Tell me.”

“Doesn’t matter.” She pulled back.

“It was intentional?”

Her eyes touched his. Wounded eyes. Shielded. “Might as well have been. Wasn’t too unintentional. And it doesn’t matter.” She stepped backward. “I have to go to work...”

“Stay home.”

She shook her head.

He moved closer, touched her shoulder, amazed when she didn’t draw back. “Stay home tonight, Tori.”

“I can’t. Too much money lost. Boss is already mad at me...”

“What if I want you to try out your cheesecake on me? Tonight? I’ll even pay overtime since your shift is over, technically. Will that cover what you’ll lose?”

“Not if he fires me.”

“You know he won’t. You’ve said as much.”

“Don’t do this.”

Neil knew he was pushing his luck. And yet, he couldn’t stop himself. “Jack’s out late tonight. Practice, then dinner with Joselyn. I don’t want to eat alone. Come eat with me and then try out your dessert recipe...”

“I don’t have what I need. I’d have to...”

“Then we’ll run to the store.”

“Together?” She eyed him. “You’re going to be seen in public with me? Alone?”

Letting out a quick breath, he shook his head and dropped his eyes. “Have I been that much of a jerk?”


He raised them again, to hers.

“But it’s understandable. No harm done.”

His stomach tightened. “I think I might have to disagree. And I’m sorry. Please, don’t go to work tonight.”

“I have to. I can’t lose this job.”

Something told him she might honestly rather stay with him than go. “Okay, tell you what. Go for a short time as you planned then let me pick you up and take you to dinner. The casserole will wait until tomorrow.”

“You don’t...”

He touched her face. Her eyes peered into his, wary, warning, but maybe a bit hopeful, as well. “Please.”

That's all I have for now. But hey, it's a start on their story, even if this whole thing changes. ;-)

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Nano Wind-down

nano_10_winner_120x240-4Thank you again to all of my Nano guests this year! They all hit their 50K goals through all of the struggles and external trials and schedules: an incredible triumph.

Writers don’t live in enclosed little writing shacks where everything gets done by others and all we have on our minds is our story. Many of us like to dream of such a thing, but the truth is, we almost always have to work it around so many other things that come first. Sometimes they come so “first” that it’s nearly impossible to write. Those who succeed work around the impossible. That’s what Nanowrimo is about: giving ourselves permission to put writing first for a change.

I ended up the month with just over 95,000 words, but word count wasn’t my main goal. I wanted a complete first draft that I could jump back into at the beginning of the thing later on, after I let it sit through the holidays. Most of the last week, I was becoming convinced that wouldn’t happen. The story filled itself in more than I expected; the characters had more to say than I’d planned to allow them.

I kept pushing toward that goal, anyway, and at 11:00 pm on November 30th, I came to the end of the story.

My fingers were cramping. My wrists are tender, even in their braced assistance. My back, which decided to bother me this month more than it has in 21 years, spent a week and a half fussing at me to get up and go lie flat on the floor. I did that often in between propping a pillow behind it in my supportive chair, along with stretching gently and so on. Part of that time was given to my ‘day job’ which is also on the computer. And yet, I wrote The End on the 30th as I hoped. (I also managed 2,000-some words for Rehearsal one day when a scene jumped into my head.)

So much for a quick, light write that I thought I’d only put out only as an Ebook to help fill in Fred Dawson’s background for Off The Moon fans, and specifically Daws fans. Because it filled out so well, I imagine this one will go to print, also.

And I’m breaking the rules. Instead of letting it sit for at least a month, I’ve started edits. It won’t let me go.

That’s okay. Soon Christmas activities will take over and I’ll have to let it sit. I suppose I should do some shopping and decorating.

If you haven’t yet, please scroll down and read my guests’ experiences. They’d love a comment, as well!

Nanowrimo isn’t only for or about writers, by the way. It’s about taking time for your dreams. I urge everyone to do so.


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Nano Guest: Nicole Zoltack

nano_10_winner_120x90-2Nicole Zoltack is the author of Woman of Glory and Knight of Honor. We met through CRR since we both write classic (non-erotic) romance. Welcome Nicole!

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NaNo. How I love NaNoWriMo, much to my hubby’s chagrin. He always groans and mutters under his breath every year when November comes along.

My first time doing Nano was in 2004. I was in college, and my one sister had mentioned it to me. I signed up on November 6th and managed to reach 50k before the end of the month. I was thrilled! Walking on air! The creative juices were flowing!

I have yet to finish that novel. I opened the file recently. It’s crap. Complete crap. Full of telling, lots of unnecessary scenes, so many grammatical errors. The basic plot is sound, but it needs so much work that I might as well rewrite the story, if I ever decide it’s worth it. That story was chick lit, my first time trying that genre.

The next year, I wrote a fantasy story. Reached 50k which is about half the story. Fantasy stories are normally around 100k so that fine. But I haven’t touched that story since I hit 50k.

2006, I wrote a story about an assassin. Reached 50k. This story I have since finished and shined it up. I’m ready to query agents with this one. It’s called Hidden in Shadows and it’s an urban fantasy with romantic elements.

2007 I wrote a story about a young girl who wanted to become a knight. I won again this year. I finished this novel and it’s published with Desert Breeze Publishing. It’s called Woman of Honor, and it’s a high fantasy romance.

2008 I didn’t even try to write 50k in November. With a one month old, I figured it wasn’t worth the stress. Sleep was just too important.

2009 I was a Nano rebel. I rewrite a previously finished novel (fantasy YA). Wrote 80k that month. I’ve since revised this story several more times and after this latest revision, I’ll start querying agents.

Now Nano isn’t for everyone. But it works for me. There’s this rush of adrenaline that seizes me. Something about writing so many words in the month, knowing that so many other people are trying to reach that same goal along with me. It pushes me. I push myself harder in November than any other month.

Yes I’ve reached 50k every time I’ve tried. Yes, I haven’t finished all of the novels. Some need a lot of work. But I have discovered, to my happiness, that my latest Nano novels are actually rather clean. I’ve learned so much about being a writer and the writing process that my novels are cleaner and tighter, despite the frantic pace of Nano. And for me, that’s a success. Nano has helped me to grow, to write faster, cleaner.

Now if only I could write at this crazy, frantic pace in months other than November…

Find Nicole’s current and future books on her Website

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Notice the image change above? All of my Guest Bloggers throughout November met the 50K challenge and conquered it! CONGRATS to ALL! Please scroll down and read their adventures, as well. Smile
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