Writing Tip — Guest Blogger Bettie Boswell

39760465_2130678013617363_178544449079476224_nOne of the authors in From the Lake to the River has stopped by to talk about her short story “Fred’s Gift” and her writing journey. Please welcome, Bettie Boswell!

You said your father inspired your story. What parts of the character Fred are like your father and what parts aren’t?

Bettie: My father was known for writing letters to his children that could be rather blunt. In his elder years he softened up and became a gentler voice to his family. He also surprised everyone by becoming involved in all the activities at his assisted living, including the Church ones. Several years before he entered assisted living, he did deed his home place to me and a sibling. Since he passed, I use it as a retreat to write music and stories. My brother uses it as a place to hunt deer, while I use it to hunt the right words.

Why did you choose Toledo and central Ohio as the setting?

Bettie: Northwest Ohio—I chose that area because it is where I live. Also there are areas nearby that would fit both the rural and suburban settings of the story. Though my father’s land is in another state, the Ohio farmlands are similar in setting.

You’re both an author and composer. What are the similarities between these two arts? What are the differences?

Bettie: The music I write generally has words, so choosing the right word with the right meaning is an important part in both. Most of the time the words to a song come first. Music uses poetry and which eliminates extra words that aren’t needed to convey a thought. Rhyming and rhythm come easy and–though not obvious in prose–many times they play a part in putting words into a sentence.

Writing isn’t restricted to a set meter so there is more freedom in expression. Terminology means different things in each place. Beat in music keeps the pulse going. Beat in a story refers to an action used instead of a tag like ‘he said.’ Mood in music may be expressed by tempo, dynamics, style, or by using a minor or major key. Mood in writing is composed of specific words, short or long sentences, actions or phrases conveying emotions. I think I could write a major essay on the comparison so I will stop for now.

If you do a major essay, let me know! I would love to feature it. Next question — What’s been your most unusual source of inspiration?

Bettie: I am inspired by family history and historic research. My father researched his genealogy and retold many of the family tales, which may find their way into a story someday. Many of the musicals I’ve written are based on Ohio history. Some of my children’s manuscripts are inspired by events experienced by my children and grandchildren. I’m working on one now about a Pig Alert that really happened to us when my boys were little. We saw some pigs fly…sort of…

What advice would you give to beginning writers?

Bettie: Learn the craft. Take classes to improve yourself. I’m taking a great on-line one right now from author Tina Radcliffe. Attend critique groups and conferences. (Learn to know which critiques are valid and which are not. Not everyone knows how to write your story, but you can learn from others who will see things you can’t.) I belong to several critique and writing groups. From the Lake to the River was developed through such a group.

Conferences are for more than learning. They give you the chance to share with editors and agents–but learn what to say to them before you go there. I left my first one in tears. I would suggest just going to workshops the first time you attend a conference. Listen to those who actually go to a meeting and learn from their mistakes. Sign up for a mentor meeting instead of an agent or editor. After that, pay the extra fees and meet up with several editors or agents. Those meetings may be the only way to get anyone to look at your manuscript.

Don’t pout too long when you get a rejection. Get over yourself, learn from it and challenge yourself to conquer the next hurdle in your writing career. Rejecting editors opinions are just that, an opinion. If they do make a suggestion give it major consideration and make changes.

I also became interested in children’s books and attended workshops at the Highlights Foundation.  (They have scholarships if the price scares you.) Though their aim is children to young adult books, I learned a lot there that improved my ability to write for any age group. Keep plugging away. Put yourself in front of your computer and start typing. (By the way, writing will cost you much learning time and money until you become a very famous writer. Think of it as an investment in a new career training academy or college.)

Enter contests. An early draft of “Fred’s Gift” placed third in a state ACFW contest a few years ago. AFCW has a contest every year for beginners. I’ve entered it twice and the critiques are worth the entry fee.

Today you have to be involved in social media and have a ‘platform.’ That was a tough one for me but I’ve become part of the Twitter (@Bboswellb) and Facebook world. They tell me now that Instagram is the way to go so I guess one of these days I’ll break that barrier–probably about the time they start a new venue. I submitted one children’s story to a small publisher and they said I had to have a social media presence to be considered by their house. That’s when I decided to jump into that world.

There are many great on-line communities that support writer’s. My favorite for many years has been Seekerville. They have an archive of amazing articles on writing for the Christian market. ACFW(Christian fiction) and SCBWI (Children’s) both have a wealth of information (pod casts, online classes, other resources) available on their websites if you are a member. You can start your education and have a couple of society initials to put after your name on your resume when you join them.

I just started a web site! I’m a rookie but you have to start somewhere!

*****

Bettie Boswell is an author, illustrator, and composer for both Christian and children’s markets. She holds a B.S. in Church Music from Cincinnati Bible College and a Masters in Elementary Education from East Tennessee State University. She lives in Northwest Ohio. Her numerous musicals have been performed at schools, churches, and two community theater events. When she isn’t writing, drawing or composing, she keeps busy with her day job teaching elementary music .

Writing Tip — How Technology Ruins Suspense in Writing

laptopw1-3087585_1280When I mentioned to my brother-in-law, an ardent sf and fantasy fan, that I was looking for a new kind of mystery, he recommended two books from the 1950’s, The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov. These mysteries, set in the distant future, feature human police detective Elijah Bailey and his robot humanoid partner R. Daneel Olivaw.

I like The Naked Sun better than The Caves of Steel but I almost put it down because of how technology ruins suspense. Bailey is asked to investigate, with the help of Daneel,  a murder on a distant planet settled by humans. Because Daneel is a robot, and this is an Isaac Asimov novel, Daneel is programmed with The Three Laws of Robotics. This means Bailey’s safety is Daneel’s first priority. It also means that in the first part of the book, when anything exciting, or even mildly interesting, is about to happen, Daneel’s programming kicks in and prevents Bailey from taking any action that’s even slightly risky.

The fun thing is that Asimov has Bailey realize his partner’s protection is hampering his investigation. He trick Daneel into inactivity, and then the plot gets more exciting when  Bailey is almost killed.

Smartphones are reality’s equivalents of Asimov’s robots:

  • Main character gets lost in a dangerous section of city. GPS to the rescue!
  • Main character meets mysterious stranger. Does online search for stranger. Mysterious no more!
  • Main character notices someone following her. Calls cops while walking!

In the book reviews I read, I find a lot of novels are set in the recent past — 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Maybe that’s because authors know how technology ruins suspense. At a presentation, author Karen Harper, who writes contemporary suspense, mentioned how she had to keep inventing ways to get rid of smartphones to place her characters in danger.

That’s one reason why I like country noir. Many rural places in our country still have no reception. While driving through West Virginia, on a major highway, my oldest lost connection with my niece because the mountains loomed so high above us. A few days ago, I met my cousin and her family at a state park. As the kids went creeking, I glanced at my phone. No bars. A perfect place for a bad guy to lure a good guy.

In my short story, “Debt to Pay” in From the Lake to the River, the teenage main character and his brother live in a small house in Wayne National Forest with no cell reception. This inconvenience is a key ingredient in my plot. I also had to think of a realistic reason for a character to have lost a phone. I don’t want to tell the reason because I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but when I had other people read my rough drafts, no one said it was unbelievable.

What do you think? Have you read a mystery or thriller set in the present that convincingly works around smartphones?

Writing Tip — Favorite Story: From the Lake to the River

From the Lake to the RiverI am very excited to announce the upcoming publication on September 1 of my first short story in From the Lake to the River: Buckeye Christian Fiction Authors 2018 Anthology. The theme for the nine stories is that they are all set in Ohio, whether in the present or the past. To give you a hint of what’s inside, here are four summaries:

Soldier’s Heart by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Noah Andrews, a soldier with the Ohio Seventh Regiment can’t wait to get home now that his three year enlistment is coming to an end. He plans to start a new life with his young wife. Molly was only sixteen when she married her hero husband. She prayed every day for him to return home safe and take over the burden of running a farm. But they can’t keep the war from following Noah home. Can they build a life together when his soldier’s heart comes between them? 150 years ago the history of America changed forever.

Surprised by Love by Sandra Merville Hart

Set during the tragic 1913 Great Miami River Flood in Troy, Ohio.

Lottie’s feelings for an old school crush blossom again during the worst flood her town has endured in years.

Desperate circumstances throw Lottie and Joe together. Can tragedy unite the couple to make her long-buried dream of winning his love come true?

Summer Song by Michelle Levgine

Dani has growing doubts about mixing marriage and a music ministry on the road. Then again, with as little time as she and Kurt can spend together, despite working for the same ministry, she might never see that engagement ring. Four weeks at a teen music boot camp gives them time together, but the egos and politics that converge in one place might threaten everything.

Debt to Pay by JPC Allen

While cutting wood near their home in Wayne National Forest, a teenager and his older brother stumble across a dying millionaire, who claims his plane was rigged to crash. Do the brothers seek justice or cash in?

As you can see, our anthology offers a romance and history, as well as crime fiction. In fact my story qualifies as “country noir”. What is country noir? I’m so glad you asked! It’s a sub-genre of crime fiction which I will discuss in my next post.

I am a huge fan of anthologies because I can sample the works of many different authors. What are some of your favorite anthologies?

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