In my last blog post I talked about why beta readers are an important part of the writing process. But beta readers come in all varieties and and a bad beta read can hurt your writing and emotional well being. So what is it that makes a good beta reader? I’ve created a list of 10 attributes a good beta reader has, so you can find (and be) the good ones. Continue reading
Posted in On Writing
Tagged artist, beta readers, beta reading, cheerleader, communication, constructive criticism, critique, Editing, explain, feedback, fiction writing, genre, improve, negative feedback, nice, positive feedback, praise, readers, respect, solutions, target audience, top ten list, writing, writing helps, writing tribe
I was a clueless California city girl when the professor leading our field trip pulled our van to a stop along the highway that leads through Zion National Park in southern Utah. We spilled out of the vehicles and followed our fearless leader to the base of a sandstone mesa. Doc pointed. “Go up there,” he said and scrambled up the slope.
I didn’t know cross beds from conjugate joints, but I climbed after him and the other enthusiastic students. The slope went from comfortable to “I might fall and die” by the time I’d taken a couple dozen steps. I looked up. The mesa was vertical above me. My heart beat quicker, not from exertion but from the unfamiliar feeling of danger. I didn’t know if I could make it. Our professor had come to a stop not far above. Other students clustered near him. Continue reading
Posted in A Grain of Sand
Tagged burial, California girl, Checkerboard Mesa, college, courage, creative writing, cross bedding, desert, dinosaurs, erosion, field trip, friction, geology, grit, hiking, Navajo Sandstone, non-fiction, quartz, rain, resurrection, sand, sand dunes, southern Utah, thunderstorm, Utah, Utah Geology, Zion National Park
Recently, during a conversation about running, I mentioned that I had cut back my workouts because I was suffering from shin splints. A well-intentioned person proceeded to give me all kinds of advice on how to overcome this challenge.
I listened politely, interjecting weak comments, like, “I know,” and “yes, I’ve done that before,” until the conversation drifted to other topics. While I appreciated the desire of this person to help, what I really wanted to say is, “Buddy, I’ve been running for twenty years. These aren’t my first shin splints and they won’t be my last. I don’t need you to tell me what to do.”
(I have a lot more sass in my head than I do in person.)
But the thing that stuck with me most wasn’t my inability to speak my true feelings, or any of the advice this person gave. It is, that I have been running for twenty years. Twenty years ago this summer, I started high school cross-country and became a runner. (I am suddenly feeling pretty old.) But I never would have made it past my very first run, if it wasn’t for a stranger who offered a lot more than advice. Continue reading
Posted in Running Shoes
Tagged advice, autobiographical, California, creative writing, cross-country, distance running, Good Samaritan, high school, jogging, kindness, left behind, lost, non-fiction, Orion's Belt, running, running shoes, shin splints, shy, small acts of kindness, stranger, twenty years, unwanted advice
As a mother, I spend a lot of time reading out loud to my kids. We have so many picture books, that occasionally one will fall off the shelf (or out from under the couch) that I swear I’ve never seen before. My kids (5 year old twins, and a 2 year old) all love reading books, but as they are too young to read themselves, I do the reading for them. Even the best books can only be read so many times before you want to pull your hair out, and if you have kids you understand that they want to read the same book over and over and over.
And over and over.
(Annoyed yet? Because that is just a small taste of what it’s like to read the same book 453,499 times.)
My twins gained the attention span for longer books about a year ago, and since then I’ve been on a quest to find great chapter books to read to them. We have tried recommended books, as well as random ones pulled off the shelf. Some have been painful experiences, but in our adventures in reading I’ve come across some real winners too. I’m going to share them with you.
What makes a good read aloud chapter book? Continue reading
Posted in Book Reviews, On Writing
Tagged book recommendations, Book Reviews, bullies, Chapter Books, children's books, Commander in Cheese, early readers, fantasy, female protagonists, humor, Inspector Flytrap, Jordan Quinn, Lindsey Leavitt, monsters, picture books, Princess, Princess in Black, read aloud, Shannon Hale, The Kingdom of Wrenly, The Notebook of Doom, The Secrets of Droon, themes, Tom Angleberger, Tony Abbott, Troy Cummings, villians, weird
I’m in the middle of editing The Darkest Hour which is a good thing to do but sometimes I need a little “fun” writing time to break it up. Whenever this happens I turn back to my favorite character, Liz. If you’ve read this blog before, you will also recognize the narrator, Ethan, and his partner James. You can read more about these characters on the Elizabeth DiMaggio page of this blog. I hope you enjoy.
Ethan had known James’s identity for some time. Actually, “known” isn’t the right word. Suspected would be better. It was wrong, but he’d used his clearance and looked up her profile and memorized everything in it. But it hadn’t listed her real identity, so he’d…gone above his clearance.
The fact that her identity had been missing even in the most secret places in the agency was its own clue. He, for example, had no reason to hide his true identity. He was in the habit of using a fake name, simply because that’s what one did in the industry. James always called him Ethan, so that’s the one he preferred, but he could just as easily have gone by Jeremy, which was his given name. No one would have care and he had no one from “real life” that would be hurt. Most agents had a little more to protect than he did, so it wasn’t surprising when James’s identity was hidden under a few clearance levels. What was surprising was that her identity didn’t seem to exist anywhere. No one in the agency knew who she was.
She was good with computers, but erasing that kind of information from the agency database was the kind of thing only the top hackers in the world could do. So why did James need that level of protection? Continue reading
Posted in E.A. DiMaggio, Ethan
Tagged CIA, clearance, clues, Cover, creative writing, Elizabeth DiMaggio, Ethan, facade, famous, Fiction, identity, James, Mission, movie star, Oscars, partners, protection, research, spy, surveillance, venue