Category Archives: Fiction

Compilation of Junot Diaz Stories!

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Junot Diaz‘s writing has strong voice that never, ever shakes.  If you’ve never read him, now’s your chance.  Enjoy these free stories in print and in audio.  These are perfect for any reader and especially English teachers.  His language might be a little dicey for the classroom at times, but his characters speak the way teenagers speak, so find a school leadership ally and ask for support in bringing an authentic Dominican voice to your classroom.

A huge thank you to Josh Jones for putting this list together. Whydontcha give him a follow?

 

For Anyone Who Questions Their Path

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For Anyone Who Questions Their Path

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 Sometimes writing is just above silverfish (I can’t even hyperlink…ewww…do it yourself) on my list of things that are scary.  I’m not too proud to admit it – I doubt myself.

And then I get over it.

And then I doubt myself.

And then I get over it.

You get the pattern.

That’s why it was fun to write this piece for Connect With The Chicklit Club.  

Writing this was a good reminder to just get it done and see what happens.  But never forget about the silverfish that scampered under the sink. Never.  :0

Book Signing and Fundraiser To Fight Sex Trafficking In The Lehigh Valley: TODAY

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Book  Signing and Fundraiser To Fight  Sex Trafficking In The Lehigh Valley: TODAY

Saturday 2/7/15  from 2-5 pm – Book  Signing and Fundraiser, Apricot Lane, Promenade Shops, Center Valley, PA

There’s no pretty way to say “sex trafficking,”  but Apricot Lane Center Valley has pretty ways to raise money to combat this horribly reality: a percentage of sales today  will benefit VAST (The Valley Against Sex Trafficking).  I will also donate a portion of each book sale to VAST. I volunteer with VAST and they do amazing work.

The 3Strands bracelets sold by Apricot Lane are made by women who are human trafficking survivors, so pick one up today. I wear one every day to remind me of what I’m writing about.

Why am I so interested in human trafficking?  Human trafficking is a plot point that weaves its way through the entire Marina Konyeshna Thrillogy.  Over 100,000 children are forced into the sex trade annually.  Over 24 million people around the world are forced into sex or labor slavery.  It happens here in the United States, too.  We have to make a stand.  Join us.

UPDATED Events

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UPDATED Events

BOOK LAUNCH AT THE MORAVIAN BOOK SHOP

Sunday 1/25 from 1-3 pm

Join me in the oldest continually running bookstore in the world to celebrate the launch of HOPE YOU GUESS MY NAME (Book One in the Marina Konyeshna Thrillogy, Northampton House Press, 2015). I’ll do a reading, take questions, sign books, and be so happy to talk to you in person rather than via social media. Did I mention I’ll also have a whole bunch of homemade cookies to celebrate, too? Because cookies never go out of style.
Reading: 1:30ish
Signing: 1-3 pm

Join the event HERE on Facebook to get a reminder and to give your cookie vote…you’ll see what I mean…

Hope to see you there!

RESCHEDULED DUE TO SNOW: BOOK SIGNING AND 3STRANDS BRACELET FUNDRAISER

Saturday 2/7/15  from 2-5 pm – Apricot Lane, Promenade Shops, Center Valley, PA

There’s no pretty way to say “sex trafficking,”  but Apricot Lane Center Valley has pretty ways to raise money to combat this horribly reality: purchase any 3Strands bracelet and a portion of the sale price will benefit VAST (The Valley Against Sex Trafficking).  I will also donate a portion of each book sale to VAST. I volunteer with VAST and they do amazing work.

Why am I so interested in sex trafficking?  Human trafficking is a plot point that weaves its way through the entire Marina Konyeshna Thrillogy.  Over 100,000 children are forced into the sex trade annually.  Over 24 million people around the world are forced into sex or labor slavery.  It happens here in the United States, too.  We have to make a stand.  Join us.

(And what’s not to love about books and bracelets?)

Guest DJ: Dancing About Architecture

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Guest DJ: Dancing About Architecture

untitledWipe the sweat and blood off your face and welcome Jim Scheers to the mosh pit. Jim’s debut novel, THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT, THIS IS WHAT YOU GET, is about the New Jersey punk scene in the 1980’s. As someone who knows little about punk, this book opened my eyes to the heart of the scene and the exhilaration of the music. As a writer, he catches the small details most of us would gloss over. It’s a rough beauty of a story.  Jim grew up in New Jersey and currently lives in Philadelphia, where he works as a technical writer.

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Dancing About Architecture

Music is a lifeline in my novel, THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT, THIS IS WHAT YOU GET.  The punk songs the characters hear on college radio are like rescue signals, letting them know they’re not alone in feeling, as the band Minor Threat sang, “out of step with the world.”

That’s what punk music was—and still is—for me, and when I set out to write this novel, I knew if I couldn’t make the reader “hear” the music, the story wasn’t going to work.

On my commutes to and from Philadelphia, I sat pressed shoulder to shoulder with my fellow office workers, ear buds in, cycling through all the punk and hardcore songs on my MP3 player, steno pad in my lap, scribbling down the lyrics I could quote in my story. And I tried to describe what I was hearing—as if I were talking to someone who’d never heard it before—but it was like grasping at smoke.

I paged through music reviews, and the few (very few!) novels I could find that dealt with punk music, and made a list of every evocative noun, verb and adjective. I had a bunch of variations on “the singer screamed” and fifteen different descriptions of how a guitar sounded, but still, something was missing.

In the evenings I paced my apartment, my drafts and notes spread out on my desk. Maybe this was beyond me. I felt haunted by this quote (attributed to everyone from Laurie Anderson to Frank Zappa): “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”

Then I paged through the steno pad from my train rides and came across these lyrics from a 7 Seconds song (written by Kevin Seconds):

You wanna be the way I am. But you could never understand.

It’s not just in my head. It’s in my heart.

And if I can give a f— you better start . . .

Even divorced from the music, the rhythm was there. And the emotion too. It was more direct than poetry, more stripped-down than prose. Blunt, abrupt, in your face (that’s also the name of the song). Scornful, but also idealistic.

Everything I had been struggling to capture was already there, in the lyrics.

My mistake had been trying to describe the experience of the late 80’s punk scene. Instead, I needed to recreate it. So I made each chapter read like a punk song. No long passages of exposition (no guitar solos). Quick starts and abrupt endings. Narrow intense focus. Limited metaphors. Only concrete things: shouts, fists, guitars, combat boots.

Instead of telling the reader what to feel or how the songs sounded, I let them join in, which was the whole point of the scene anyway:

7 Seconds live in 1985

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THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT, THIS IS WHAT YOU GET, published by Northampton House Press, is available on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. Read an excerpt and find out more at www.jimscheers.com. -

 

 

Do you have something to say about writing and want to spin the Guest DJ turntable? Contact me here.

Guest DJ: Finding Literary Inspiration Just Outside Your Door by Chris Campion

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Guest DJ: Finding Literary Inspiration Just Outside Your Door by Chris Campion

Next up on the turntable is the classic Kung-Fu Fighting, in honor of our guest DJ’s new novel.  Let’s hear what Chris Campion has to say about getting ideas for our writing.

1396691_10101874766804173_195418875_nChris Campion earned an M.A. in creative writing from Wilkes University. His fiction can be read on Fiction365.com and East Meets West: American Writers Journal. His debut novel, THE JIU-JUTSU BUM, was recently published by Northampton House Press, LLC.

Right Under Your Nose: Finding Literary Inspiration Just Outside Your Door by Chris Campion

My first short story was based on a guy who walked down an alley every day with a pit bull cur that ran amok all over the neighborhood. The dog would drag its twenty foot leash behind it because the fat ass who walked it never held the leash. Instead, he’d wattle after it with a cigarette stuck in his mouth like a lollipop. I’ll let you read the rest, but it doesn’t end well, if you couldn’t have anticipated that.

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I couldn’t make this guy up. So where did I find him? Right in front of my house. I’d take a break from writing my novel and wander outside for a bit to review the day’s chapter in my head. Soon enough, he’d make his way down the alley and we’d talk. Ergo, his presence and routine gave me the idea for a short story, and the rest is history.

What I’m trying to say is that you don’t have to go very far to find literary inspiration, should you find yourself in need of some fresh material. Your hometown—your current lot in life—and its characters will do fine. My blog is filled with its findings.

Let’s go back to my front yard: I see the old, scruffy dude who pushes a lawnmower all day long because he can’t find a real job to feed his grandson. I see my friend, Mike, who tells me his life story of being in and out of jail, driving cars until the tires fall off and sparks stream across the pavement while being chased by cops, then getting arrested for looking like a terrorist because of his beard. I see barflies with more wisdom than philosophy doctoral students. And in my opinion, characters such as these with just as much backstory and personality are constantly used as characters in literature and even screenplays.

In short, I try and find what’s interesting about the people, places, and things in my immediate disposal. And a side note: keep a journal for when you return home with a treasure trove of new material. You will not remember it that night.

It’s funny, but I swear the universe starts giving you more and more content when you ask for it. It’s as if it really hears your cry and comes through. Also, very importantly, get inside yourself more, because what’s inside of you will bring out the voice, the mood, the tone, the POV, and the overall vision and purpose of the story. Don’t believe me? Read Raymond Carver, Charles Bukowski, or John Updike and see how uncomplicated or simple the characters, settings, and conflicts are, yet, they write about them in such an original, refreshing, and beautiful way. They found the jewels around them—the stories, the literary sweet stuff that we writers live for. I hope my little rant will too.

You can contact Chris Campion via Twitter: @Campion23. “Like” his novel’s FB page at www.facebook.com/thejiujitsubum to stay up to date on author appearances, free excerpts, short stories, interviews, and more. Follow his wacky blog at campionsmind.blogspot.com

If you have something to say about writing and would like to be a Guest DJ,  please contact me here.

Show Us, Don’t Tell Us: Writing Dialogue

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Dialogue Exchange #1

“Leave me alone!” Jodie screamed loudly.

“Fine!” yelled Manny.

“Whatever! I hate you!” Jodie hissed.

“Good!”  Manny bellowed intensely.

Dialogue Exchange #2

“Leave me alone!”  Jodie said as she grabbed her keys from the end table and yanked her purse over her shoulder.  She was sure Mrs. Lenitsky could hear them through the walls and she wondered if there would be another note in their mailbox.

Manny’s face flushed as he crossed his arms over his chest and anchored himself in the recliner. “Fine!”  Their cat twitched her ears and opened her eyes as her nap was interrupted again by another fight. 

“Whatever! I hate you!”  Jodie’s voice was a hiss.  She heard her brother say “Good!” as she slammed the front door.

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Many teachers use Exchange #1 – screamed, yelled. hissed, bellowed.   I teach middle school and start teaching dialogue by instructing  my students to use attributes like that when writing dialogue. They’re beginning writers, so that’s OK.  I’m thrilled they know what verbs are in the first place, to be honest.

Strong verb attributions are a good place to start, but then it’s time to extend that skill.  I’m a fan of Exchange #2.

I try to always use said as an attribute.  In her fabulous guide to the craft of writing called HOW I WRITE: SECRETS OF A BEST-SELLING AUTHOR Janet Evanovich writes, “Said is preferable to words like remarkeduttereddeclaredarticulatedmurmured, or chortled. Descriptive words such as these can stop the flow of a sentence. Don’t be concerned that there will be too many saids in your book. Readers never really notice it. ”

The information supporting a piece of dialogue is called a tag or a beat.  This is where you should get creative.  So what can you do?  Like Exchange #2, paint a picture of what’s going on while the characters are speaking. SHOW instead of tell:

  • What does the person look like? (“Manny’s face flushed…”)
  • What is the person doing? (“She grabbed her keys from the end table and yanked her purse over her shoulder”)
  • How does another character respond? (“Their cat twitched her ears and opened her eyes as her nap was interrupted again by another fight.”)
  • Gestures? (“…he crossed his arms over his chest and anchored himself in the recliner.”)
  • Reactions? (“She heard her brother say “Good!” as she slammed the front door.”)

The combination of these elements show anger and discord rather than simply telling it.  Don’t slow your writing by using all of these all of the time; this was just to show you the gist.

Finally,  there are scenes that will require fast dialogue.  Roddy Doyle is an example of a writer who can pack a punch with using just pure dialogue with out a single attribution or tag. He’s one of my all-time favorite writers and instilled in me a love of using conversations to create characters and conflict. Don’t get caught up in showing and telling when the pace of the scene matters more.

So, take a piece of your writing, change those flowery attributions to said and try some showing instead of telling.  Please post your before and after below, because sharing is caring.