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Giving Thanks in So Many Words

November 15, 2020 by in category The Write Life by Rebecca Forster tagged as , , ,

         For Mothers Day my youngest son —the crazy adventurer, Eric—gave me language lessons. This was one of the most inventive gifts I’ve ever received, and one I wished I could return. Thoughtful as it was, this gift spelled only failure. How did I know I would fail if I tried to learn another language? It is because I grew up in a two-language household.
 
            German is my mother’s first language. When she came to the United States as a teenager, she wasn’t allowed to go to school until she learned English. She mastered the language in a year. Since then she toggled easily between German and English without the trace of an accent. I am not so linguistically blessed. Frankly, I count myself lucky that I manage English.
 
            With Thanksgiving upon us, I’ve been thinking a lot about my family. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, and my dad are gone, my mom at 96 does not speak German any longer. Still my memories of holiday meals are bright. My mothers family would gather in the kitchen. As they worked, I heard their quick guttural conversation. It sounded both exotic as they gave direction, warned one another that a dish was hot, and laughed at who-knew-what. In the big family room, my dad made drinks and corny jokes befitting his Kansas roots. The English speakers did nothing more than wonder when the turkey would be done.
 
            At our holiday gatherings, language created two states and the border wall was the long bar that separated the kitchen from the family room: Germany on one side, U.S. of A. on the other. But when it came time to eat, the dining room became our country.
 
            We took our places around the huge table. My father carved the turkey. He offered fleisch and kartoffel to everyone.* Grandpa tried to teach the children German words. We forgot them a moment later. But he taught, we tried, dad carved, and all moved in and out of different languages as if both were understood by all. The ritual was repeated at each holiday gathering. In the end, there was no lack for conversation.
 
            I miss the two ‘countries’ in my mother’s house. I miss my brothers and sisters around a table. I miss all those who are gone. I am thankful to have had them all for so many holidays. I am grateful that the real language spoken at the table was that of love and respect, even if we disagreed.
 
            This brings me back to my son’s gift. I am learning to speak Albanian, and doing pretty well. Maybe age has given me the confidence and determination to learn another language. I might be spurred on because I hate to see anything go to waste (especially a gift card). But in my heart I know that I’m holding on to something precious. I want to go to Albania and visit the friends I have made in that country. I would like to speak to them in their kitchens in a language that is not my first. I hope it will warm their hearts in the way the memory of German chatter from my mother’s kitchen still warms mine.
 
            No matter what language you speak, I know that you will understand this. Have a happy, healthy, and blessed Thanksgiving. Use your words; make a memory.

 

*meat and potatoes-the only two German words my father knew

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Hemingway and Me: AI Editing

October 15, 2020 by in category The Write Life by Rebecca Forster tagged as , , , , ,

Last month I was excited to share that I signed with Wolfpack Publishing, an online publisher. I never thought I would do that (check September to see why I did). This month, I’m having another never-say-never moment. I purchased an Artificial Intelligence editing program called Hemingway.

Why I shelled out $20 for Hemingway

A friend recommended the program. It was inexpensive. I am always looking for ways to improve my writing.

What is Hemingway?

It is an intelligent assistant for the writer who wants to improve their style. Hemingway cannot replace an excellent editor. In the early stages,  guidance on foundational work is essential. No computer program can analyze characterization, plotting, inconsistencies, theme etc. the way a human can. It will not check for grammar or spelling.

What I like about Hemingway.

Hemingway made me think. The app ‘believes’ that simple is better. The program color codes perceived style problems in the manuscript. Purple indicates  hard to read sentences, yellow very hard to read, blue is adverbs, and green is passive voice. The app also highlights phrases that have simpler alternatives.

More often than not, I heeded Hemingway’s advice. Yes, some of my sentences were convoluted. Yes, there were other ways describe action without a word that ended in LY. There were also times I didn’t change a sentence. Yes, that passive voice was necessary. Thank you, Hemingway.

What are the drawbacks of Hemingway?

Blogs, articles, and short pieces might find Hemingway more helpful than the novelist. I uploaded chapter by chapter so I wasn’t overwhelmed. It was tedious, but I’m glad I did it.

It is difficult to figure out how to transfer the edited work. I finally used the export as a word doc function. I did have to reformat each chapter. Not a problem, just an extra step.

Hemingway does not check spelling and grammatical errors. It would be a nice addition to the program.

Do I recommend Hemingway?

Yes. It is well worth $20. This program made me stop, think, revise, and it gives me reasons why I should pay attention. Because I will have a cleaner manuscript, it will save my real life editor time and  therefore save me money on the back end. For traditionally published authors, your editor will be very pleased with the smooth submission.

Bottom Line for Hemingway

I recommend that all writers add Hemingway to their tool box. It is a small investment for a big return on how you look at your writing.

P.S. Yes, I did edit this piece in Hemingway. Here is the link.


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Never Say Never: Online Publishers

September 15, 2020 by in category The Write Life by Rebecca Forster tagged as , ,

Three years ago a friend asked me to advise her niece about publishing her book. She was a new mom, married to a man in graduate school, and she needed to make a lot of money. We spoke at length; I told her publishing is not a road-to-riches. She thanked me, but clearly still had stars in her eyes.

A week later she e-mailed me with the news that she had signed with a traditional publisher. I was floored. I wrote for the big five for twenty-five years, and it took longer than a week to get a rejection letter. Then again, perhaps she had an amazing book. I congratulated her and asked which publisher she would be working with. It was not one I had heard of because she had signed an egregious contract with an online publisher.

She was locked into a ten-book schedule, the royalties were miserly, the contract did not promise traditional distribution as she believed it did, and there would not be publisher promotions or advertising. Most concerning were the ladies who ran the company. Their qualifications were that they were all avid readers, one had a degree in English, and another had worked in marketing for a manufacturing firm.

I called my friend, a businesswoman, outlined the problems with the contract in regards to her niece’s objectives. The reality was that she would never be in bookstores, would be responsible for her own marketing, and would make next to nothing (sadly this proved true even after she’d written five books). When my friend asked if I would ever work with such a publisher, my answer was ‘never’.

SO MUCH FOR NEVER

Two weeks ago I signed a three-year contract with Wolfpack Publishing, an online publisher. Here’s why I did it:

1) The owner and his team are professionals in their book related fields (editing, online marketing, graphic artists, etc.).

2) The owner and his team are accessible to every author, at any time.

3) Wolfpack curates their catalogue, carefully choosing their authors.

4) Wolfpack is dedicated to understanding, nurturing, and marketing each author in their very specific genres (action adventure, westerns, thrillers).

5) Wolfpack is transparent, giving their authors monthly accounting of their sales and publicly celebrating those who hit lists.

6) Wolfpack encourages camaraderie not competition among their authors.

7) Wolfpack constantly evaluates the corporate and individual brands and adjusts for success

8) Wolfpack joyously promotes both the Wolfpack brand and their individual authors.

9) Wolfpack’s contract is reasonable, responsible, and fair.

10) Wolfpack asks their authors to do one thing: write good books.

As in traditional publishing, online publishers are not created equal. It is up to the author to do their due diligence, look closely at the online publisher, their capabilities, qualifications, and their contracts before signing on the dotted line. In publishing there is no golden ticket, there is hard work, luck, and, hopefully, support. For me, Wolfpack Publishing knocked the paradigm for online publishing out of the ballpark. I’m thrilled to be ‘running with the pack’.

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Suspend Disbelief

July 15, 2020 by in category The Write Life by Rebecca Forster, Writing tagged as , , ,

When I was little my parents packed my brothers and sisters and me into the back of a huge station wagon and headed to Palm Springs – in August! We’re talking 110 degrees in the shade. We didn’t have air conditioning in our car and the big six motels we stayed at had window air conditioners, but there was always a pool to cool us off. It was during one of these trips that I had my first taste of what would become an obsession with suspense and thriller fiction. It was the first time I surrendered to the suspension of disbelief.

In those days there were no freeways from Long Beach to Palms Springs, so it was a long drive. On that particular trip, there was a radio-play about a man who was eaten by army ants in a jungle. It was terrifying. Even worse, my parents never flinched. They looked like zombies staring at the endless ribbon of road. My brother turned his head to look at me just as the man on the radio screamed, but it was so dark all I saw were his glittering eyes. I was literally mute with terror. I had bad dreams for a month. I LOVED IT!

This week my brother sent me a link to that radio-play. Listening to it again not only made me feel like a little girl, it made me realize there were reasons I was caught up in the story. The characters were well drawn, the place was perfectly described, the suspense built incrementally and climaxed in a scene so terrifying I felt I was there. Bravo, to the writers and actors.

When it’s dark tonight, click the link and listen. I bet you’ll get a shiver up your spine too.

P.S. This radio-play was produced in 1957. I was 5 years old. Yike!
https://www.oldtimeradiodownloads.com/…/leinengen-vs-the-an… 

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A War of Words? I think not.

June 15, 2020 by in category The Write Life by Rebecca Forster tagged as , , ,

Defintion of incite

 to move to action stir up spur on urge on.

When I first saw this image, I paused. It almost looks as if the words are at war with one another. Just typing incite these days might result in an emotional response: dismay, frustration, and even fury. My author response was quite different. As with all words, the definition of this one depends on your point of view. From where I sit to incite is not political, it defines the core of my craft.

As an avid reader, I instinctively knew what made a story great: breathless action, sympathetic characters, and a plot that could intellectually engage me for hundreds of pages. What I learned as a fledgling writer was that I couldn’t have any of these things without a well-grounded inciting incident. This is the thing, the act, that sparks a literary fire.

Today, we seem to wake up to inciting incidents every morning. They are big, bold, and world changing. For an author, an inciting incident is a means to and end. My job is to see through the chaos and write about the individuals caught up in it. I must craft and communicate insights (noun; the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of a person or thing) into the human condition that has been super-charged by the inciting incident.

Book Cover

I just published a novella entitled The Death of Me that illustrates this part of an author’s job. In The Death of Me, the inciting incident is the brutal murder of a gentle mountain grocer. The crime inflames the hero as a lawman, hurts his heart as the dead man’s friend, and illuminates his prejudices regarding his own community. Given this foundation, I was presented with choices. I could write about the sheriff’s emotional struggle, his procedural training, or his spiritual journey. Each choice would lead me in the direction of a different genre. I chose to address all three, but with an emphasis on the procedural aspects of the sheriff’s story because I am a thriller writer.

Still, the incident of the grocery’s murder would not be as interesting without the insights into those who survived him, loved him, hated him, and those who committed the crime. As the story unfolded, I was responsible for giving the cast of characters individual points of view about death, desire, love, and most of all justice. In other words, insights into the hearts and minds of each character informed the heart and mind of the hero and the reader.

I chose the image above precisely because it is meant to explain one thing but instead led me to quite another thought. This image is about spelling and yet in the context of our world today, in the hands of author’s and artists, there is no war between these two words. One word is not pitted against the other, one word should not be mistaken for the other. Rather the the meaning of the first word should make the second meaningful.

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