Authors, Would You Like to be Interviewed?

If you are an author, I am inviting you to let me promote your latest book.

I do author interviews and character interviews, and post excerpts on my blogs, and I don’t charge a penny! Of course, since you get what you pay for, I can’t guarantee you will sell books because of your efforts and mine, but they will be promoted via Facebook and Twitter. If I haven’t scared you off, click here to find the directions for my Author Questionnaire. Click here to find the directions for my Character Questionnaire. And click here to Let me post your excerpt!

computerHere are some tips for doing the most compelling interviews:

For my Author Questionnaire, I begin with the question, “What is your book about?” It’s the hook, the reason why we are all at the blog — to know about your book. So, please, don’t start your interview with boring questions like, “Is this your first book?” Why would the reader care if it’s your first book if they don’t know what it is about? And please give the title of your book. If you’ve done your job right, people are going to want to learn more about your book, but if you haven’t provided a title, how will readers know what it is?

Pick ten questions that most resonate with you. Responding, “I don’t know” to a question is a waste of your time, my time, and the reader’s time. If you don’t know, pick a question to which you do know the answer. Giving monosyllabic responses is just as bad. You’re a writer, right? Supposedly you know how to hook readers. So hook them. Tell them something interesting. Most writers say they have no message in their books, that they just want to entertain, so be entertaining.

Almost as bad as “I don’t know” is saying “It’s difficult to describe.” You’re a writer. Take the time to find the necessary words. And please, do not respond to a question with, “You’ll have to read the book.” There are 130,000,000 published books as of this very moment, so people have plenty of options. They don’t have to read your book. You have to make them want to read your book.

Proof your interview or guest post. If your interview is full of typos, people will assume that your book is full of typos. If your grammar is sadly lacking, people will assume your book is as ungrammatical. And if your interview is boring, people will assume your book is also boring. So please, spend time on your presentations. It does you no good to carelessly throw together an interview, guest post, or excerpt, and expect readers to instantly fall in love with you and your work.

But most of all, follow the directions. I ask people to submit their interview as a comment reply on the blog, yet every day I get a message from someone asking for my email address so they can send me their interview. Um. No. If I wanted it sent via email, I would have provided the address.

Only about 10% of the people who do interviews for me provide everything I ask, which makes the interview rather a futile project. So, for best results, please FOLLOW DIRECTIONS!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Blog Tutuorial

I) Encapsulation of How to Blog Using WordPress

What you will mostly be doing when you begin blogging is a new post, so hover over your name on the right hand side of the black WordPress navigation strip on the top of the page and select your blog from the drop-down menu and click “new post.” Or go to your dashboard and click on “new post” on the left sidebar. Or click on “New Post” on the black navigation bar at the top of the page. That will take you to an article editor. (It’s similar to what you see when you write an email.) You type the title of your article in the title bar. Type your article into the body of the article editor, add tags and categories, then save as a draft to make sure you don’t lose it or to post on another day. Tags are individual keywords for search engines; categories are more of a general filing system. This sounds confusing, but truly, you will get the hang of it.

If you need more help than I offer in the following instructions, be sure to click “help” on the top right of your dashboard.

II) Basic Procedure:

To log in: go to http://wordpress.com \

2. Fill in your user name

3. Fill in your password.

4. Click on “Log in.”

5. Hover over your name on the right hand side of the black WordPress navigation strip on the top of the page and select your blog. Then click on “dashboard” which will take you to the dashboard and all the bells and whistles. (I use the classic dashboard, so some of these instructions might be a bit different.) It’s hard to explain what everything is, so just play around with it. But what you will mostly be doing is a new post, so click “new post” from either the drop-down menu or from the left sidebar of the dashboard. That will take you to an article editor. If you don’t see the dropdown box and are on a page that shows “Blogs I follow” or some such, click on “My sites” then click on “dashboard” and finally “new post.”

6. Fill in the title. Then write your article into the body of the article editor. (Or cut and paste if you wrote it using ms word or any other word processor. This is what I do.)

7. Add tags—they are on the right sidebar. (Be sure to click on “Add” or they won’t get added to your article. Add categories. Click on whatever categories apply for your article, preferably no more than a couple. The total number of tags and categories should not exceed 10 combined. This is how people find your articles, so use a minimum of five total. 8. Click “save draft.”

Your article is now saved in the drafts folder. Click on “preview post” to review what you have written; edit if necessary, then click “save draft” again. When you are ready to publish the article, click “publish.”

Some bloggers write their articles ahead of time and save them in draft form until they need them. If you’ve saved your article as a draft, and later you need to find it, go to the dashboard, and off to the right you will see “recent drafts.” Click on the title of your article, click on publish. And you’re done. Click View Site (next to the name of the website) and double check to make sure your article looks the way you wanted it to. If not, click “edit” on the gray strip above your article, make your edits, then click “update.”

III) Advanced Instructions:

1.  Adding a photo to your article

Under the title bar, you will see: Add media. Click on that link. Then click on “Upload photo.” When the photo has been uploaded, choose left alignment if you want the text to wrap around the photo newspaper style, or choose center if you wish the photo to be centered on its own line. Choose the size (generally medium) then click “insert into post.”

Editing the photo: If the image turns out to be the wrong size or you forgot to align it the way you want, do not delete it. This does not delete the photo from the blog, it only deletes it from your article. Instead, click on the photo, then click on the icon that looks like a photo. That will take you to the photo-editing box where you can change size and alignment. If by chance you delete the photo, click on the upload/insert icon, but do not upload another photo. Instead, click on Media Library at the top of the editor box, find your photo, click on it, and continue as if you’d just uploaded it.

1. Uploading icon/avatar/photo

It’s a good idea to have a gravatar so that people recognize you when you make a comment. This gravatar is also posted on the right sidebar of the blog. To upload an icon/avatar/photo:

Log in and go to your dashboard

On the left sidebar, down toward the bottom of the list, you will see “Profile” or “Users”

Click on the little arrow next to “Profile” or “Users” to get a dropdown list.

Click on “Your Profile”

In the top right hand corner, you will see a box with “My gravitar”

Click on “change gravitar” or “add gravitar.”

Click on “Upload an image from your computer” then upload image

Crop it as necessary. If your cropping tool doesn’t work (mine never does) go back (alt + left arrow) and try again. When you get it to the way you like, click on “Crop and finish”

Then close box.

3. Adding Tags

Categories are a way of filing the articles, which is important, but tags are every bit as important. Tags are what search engines look for, and so they bring people to the site. WordPress tags are weird in that you can’t just type them into the tag box then click on draft. You have to type the tags in the box and then click on “Add.” To me, the hardest and most consuming part of blogging is tagging. I go through the article line by line and if there is anything “searchable” I put it in the tags. For example, if you mention Gone With the Wind, even in passing, that should be put in the tags. So should “Margaret Mitchell.” Since tags are also a way of finding your posts later (your own private filing system), you can add the theme as a tag or anything else that will make it easy to find your post using the search box on the blog. (If you don’t have a search box on your blog, then add them from available widgets.) Once you have everything tagged, be sure to hit “add” or all those tags disappear. (I know this because I make that mistake when I am in a hurry.) So what do you do when you realize that your published post has no tags? Go to the blog, click on the title, and up on the gray bar you will see “edit post.” Click on that, add your tags — making sure you click “add” — then click on “update post.

4. Display name

Make sure your display name on comments is your author name. You want people to know who you are so that you can build your online author persona.

To change your display name to your author name:

Go to “Users” and click on “your profile.” Scroll down to where you see “display name publicly as”. Put in your author name, or whatever name you want people to see, then click “update profile.”

5. Linking your name to your blog

The internet is all about links, and the most important link is the link attached to your name. If you make a comment, and your name is not linked to anything, you become a dead end.

To link your name to your website or WordPress blog (preferably your blog, in case you ever have a problem with WordPress and have to contact support) go to “Users” on your dashboard, click on “your profile.” Scroll down to “contact information.” In the blank for “website” put in your entire blog address, including the http://

Then click save. Now, when you make a comment on WordPress, and someone wants to know more about you, all they have to do is click on your name.

6. Adding Clickable Links to Your Blog Post:

The internet is created of links. Without links there are no websites, no way to navigate from one place to another, no way of connecting the dots. Whenever you mention your book, be sure to link to somewhere your book is available.)

To make a clickable link on a photo on WordPress: after you upload a photo to an article, click on “custom URL” then copy and paste the URL for the page of the book or author or whatever. Then click “insert into post.”

To make a clickable link for text on WordPress: Before you save your article to draft, select the words the same way you do for a MSWord document, then click on the icon in the WordPress tool bar that looks like a bit of a chain. In the “insert link” box that appears, cut and paste the URL of the book, website or whatever you wish to link to, then click “insert.” That’s all there is too it. If you forget to add links, you can click “edit” on a published article and add the links.

IV) Improve Your Blog

Please make use of the most important features available on WordPress. Simply having a list of categories or dates tells readers nothing. If you will notice on my blog I have a list of “recent posts” and “top posts.” Once people are on the site, often the title of another post catches their eye, and they click on it. This increases the views of the blog and hence the rating.

If you hover your mouse over the title of your blog in the left hand side of the wordpress tool bar, you will get a drop down list. Click on “widgets.”

Find the widgets you’d like to add to your blog, such as “recent posts”, “top posts and pages,” “search,”and drag them to the column marked “sidebar.” Sometimes, depending on the theme you choose, you have two sidebars, both a right and a left, so drag the widgets to wherever you want to place them. Fill in the information requested, such as “title” and “number of posts you want to show,” then click save.

Other important widgets — The “follow” widget will add a place for people to sign up to receive notifications of your blog posts. The “facebook-like” widget allows people to like your facebook page from your blog.

Use “image” to add the cover of your book to your sidebar, use text if there is something you’d like people to see (for example, on my blog, I use the text widget in the top of my left sidebar for a brief bio and a listing of my books with links to Smashwords.)

Use the “links” widget to add a blogroll — a list of other blogs you like. I use the blogroll as a reciprocal favor for people who have listed me on their blog rolls or who frequently comment on my blog. I’ve also added a “search” box to make it easier for people to search the site.

You don’t have to add all of these widgets, of course. We’re just showing you what is available and how to improve your blog.

V) Themes

I should touch on themes in this tutorial, though that could be a whole tutorial in itself. The theme is the blog format, and there are hundreds to choose from. When you sign up for WordPress, they have a video tutorial to help you get started. If you miss that or decide to change the look of your blog, go to your dashboard, scroll down the left hand sidebar, hover your mouse over “appearance” and click on “themes.” If you see something you like, click on preview to see how it will fit on your blog. Then, if you like it, click “activate.”

VI) Most Important Blogging Tips

Experiment with the various tools WordPress offers.

Explore the site and topics without fear — Wordpress is intuitive, so whatever you need or think you need, you will easily find. There are also multiple ways of doing most things, so find the ways that are most comfortable for you

Excite yourself and your readers with engaging posts. Have fun. If you treat blogging as a chore, so will your potential readers, and drudgery will make them bolt to a more compelling blog.

Blog

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Finding Something to Blog About Every Single Day

Today I celebrate my 1010th consecutive blog post. (I’ve published a total 1,629 posts, but the first 519 were before I started daily blogging.)

When a friend expressed amazement that I’m able to blog so much, I explained that it’s easier to blog if you write every day or at least on a regularly scheduled basis rather than doing it whenever you find something to say. If you blog sporadically, you feel as if your articles need to be important, so you don’t write. If you blog regularly, you relate a significant detail of your day, make your articles important by relating them to you, or find the youseetimmy in your topic.

(In the movie Speechless, Michael Keeton tells rival speechwriter Geena Davis that her speeches lack a youseetimmy. He explained that at the end of every episode of Lassie, Timmy’s father sat him down and explained the lesson of the tale, “You see, Timmy . . .)

Somedays, onumbersf course, it’s hard for me to find a topic — no event of the day and no thought frittering around in my head seems worth focusing on, so I just write something, anything in the hopes of stumbling upon an interesting idea. I fail often, of course, in the interest department, but sometimes what I think is uninteresting captures the attention of the Google gods and I get a lot of views. Since apparently I have no idea what others will find appealing, by blogging every day, I increase my chances of saying something profound or maybe even popular.

Although blog experts stress the necessity for sticking to a single focus for a blog, I’ve not been able to do that since my foci have changed over the years. At first I wrote about finding a publisher, then I wrote about finding readers. For a while I wrote about writing but I quickly gave that up when I realized how pathetic it was for a neophyte author to be giving tips on how to write. Too many writers who haven’t a clue what they are doing tend to parcel out advice as if they were dealing out doughnuts. For example, one self-published author explained how to write a grieving character, and proceeded to show the character going through all the so-called stages of grief in one brief bit of dialogue. Not only was this person dispensing erroneous information about writing, the person was also dispensing erroneous information about grief. Eek. I’m not a neophyte author any more, but still, the idea of publishing writing tips seems pathetic. The only people who would be interested in such posts are other writers, and they are busy publishing their own writing tips.

Finally, I started writing about me — my grief, my life, my dreams, my plans, my activities — so now the focus of this blog is me. You don’t get a narrower focus than that! I mean, out of the 7,237,175,306 people in the world as of today, there is only one of me.

On the days when I have nothing to say or no inclination to say what I do have to say, discipline keeps me going. I’ve been blogging every day without fail for almost three years — 1010 days to be exact. Not to blog would be a significant disruption of the pattern of my days, and hence would give me something to blog about. Ironic, that.

Still, there will come a time when I forget to blog because my mind is elsewhere or a time when I cannot blog because my body is elsewhere.

Until then, here I am — finding something to blog about every single day.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Interviews with the Police: Who Gets to Lie

I’m still researching what happens after a person or group of persons finds a dead body. A couple of people I know are asking friends and relatives who are in law enforcement what would happen, so I’m hoping I get some good information from them. Meantime, I’ve been researching actual instances of someone finding a body, and the questioning seems to range from nothing more than the cops taking name, age, occupation, and address of each person to five hours of interrogation. That’s a wide spread. It didn’t seem to make any difference if the finder knew the deceased or not — sometimes the stranger was interviewed longer than the relative.

Also, I’ve been researching interviewing techniques, which range from “I’m your best buddy; tell me all” to what amounts to terrorist tactics. (Though such tactics are not at all endorsed by the law, they do exist especially when it comes to interrogating afternoon tea“hardened criminals.”) In the case of my book, I would think the buddy interview with a woman detective would work best since it plays against the stereotypes of both the horrifying interrogation and the woman cop who out-machos the men. (I know just the woman to play the cop, too — a beautiful and very helpful bank employee who was thrilled to let me use her unique name. She was also excited to become a detective, even if just literarily. When I was making changes to an account at the bank, I ended up telling her way more than I intended. I imagine it would be the same if she were a cop.)

It seems as if someone who finds a body can be a bystander, witness, material witness, person of interest, or suspect, so it’s possible that any way I write the interview scene would be okay, but I still need to get the opinion of those who worked such cases. For one thing, it will be more authentic, and for another, the more information I get, the less I have to use my imagination, and that’s the hard part of writing for me. (Well, one of the hard parts. Sitting down and actually writing is the hardest part. I figure if I tell enough people about the book, I’ll shame myself into it so I don’t have to keep offering excuses why the story isn’t being written.)

I did find this article, which should be helpful: 47 Quick Tips for Better Investigation Interviews.

And I found out something very interesting. Russell L Bintliff, in Police Procedural: A Writer’s Guide to the Police and How They Work, says, “A suspect, even when waiving his/her rights and consenting to an interrogation or interview has no obligation under the Fifth amendment to tell the truth if it incriminates him/her. A witness, for example, may be guilty of a crime for lying or giving false information; however, a suspect can legally lie, give deceptive information, or sign false confessions or proclamations of innocence and he/she cannot be charged with a crime for doing these things.”

So I guess, before you lie to the police, find out if you’re a witness or a suspect. And yet, it seems that a witness who lies would soon become a suspect, so then the lies would be okay. (What’s the difference between a witness and a suspect? The Miranda warning? And yet sometimes the cops don’t Mirandize the suspect right away, so that makes the difference all in the cop’s head.)

Making the lie situation even weirder, cops are allowed to lie to obtain evidence. They can lie and tell you you’re free to go when you’re not. They can lie to extract a confession. They can fabricate evidence. The only place they cannot lie is in court. Cops always say that if you’re innocent you have nothing to fear, but it seems to me that if you’re innocent, you have everything to fear because it makes you vulnerable.

When it comes to lying, then, the only person who can be prosecuted for their untruth is a witness. No wonder witnesses lie. They have too much to protect.

I’ll have to see how I can work this information into my book. Could make an interesting twist somewhere along the line.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

On Writing: Clean Up Your Mess

One of the biggest problems writers have is editing their work. It’s difficult to see awkward phrases, sentences, even paragraphs since we know what we want to say and so believe we have said it, though readers might have difficulty trying to figure it out. The best way to find such ambiguities is to ask someone to read your book (someone other than me, that is) and have them mark any passages that make them pause or that jerk them out of the fictive dream.

cleanOther edits, though, are less subjective, and writers should be able to find and correct the errors themselves. The most common non-subjective problem I see in even the most polished works are wrongly used participial phrases that end in ing. According to The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, “a participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject.”

The example in the book is: Walking down the road, he saw a woman accompanied by two children. Who is walking? He is, of course, since he is the subject of the sentence, and the ing phrase always refers to the subject. If the woman is walking, you have to rephrase the sentence: He saw a woman, accompanied by two children, walking down the road. You, I’m sure, would never have to worry about who is walking because you’d never use such an ambiguous sentence in the first place!

The other examples of wrong participial phrases Strunk and White give are humorous and show why it’s important to follow the rule:

Being in dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house cheap.
Wondering irresolutely what to do next, the clock struck twelve.
As a mother of five, with another on the way, the ironing board was always up.

In case you don’t know how to rephrase the above sentences to make them grammatical and remove the silliness (the first sentence, for example, says that you were able to buy the house cheap because you were in a dilapidated condition), here are my quick efforts:

Because of the dilapidated condition of the house, I was able to buy the place cheap.
As I wondered what to do next, the clock struck twelve.
A mother of five, with another on the way, I was never able to put the ironing board away.

Another ing problem comes from simultaneous actions, when an author has a character do something that’s physically impossible. For example: Pulling out of the driveway, he drove down the street. He cannot be pulling out of the driveway at the same time he is driving down the street. He pulled out of the driveway, then drove down the street.

Such sentence structures do slip into our writing, no matter how careful we are. It’s up to us to clean up the mess and make it easy for readers to stay riveted in our stories. (This is primarily a post about “ing”s, which is good since I seem to be reverting to clichés. That, I know, is something you never do.)

Authors often shrug off the necessity for self-editing because either they believe they have the right to write however they please, or they leave the work to their editors, but the truth is, it is up to authors to get their manuscripts as clean and clear as possible before self-publishing or submitting their book to an editor. As someone who has edited one heck of a lot of manuscripts, I can tell you that having to point out the same error page after page after page gets tiresome.

So, do what you were taught as a child — clean up your own mess.

See also:
Grammar Guide for Self-Editing
Self-Editing — The List From Hell
The Editor’s Blog — A Remarkable Resource for All Writers

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Alternatives to Online Dating Sites

campingEver since I mentioned that I signed up for an online dating site, people have been suggesting alternative ways to meet people. Apparently, despite all the wonderful stories we hear about two people meeting on one of those sites and living happily ever after (well, at least happily ever after up until now), a lot of women have terrible experiences, such as the woman who agreed to go out with a guy who looked good online and communicated well in messages but showed up for the date in pajamas. Yikes.

To make sure I don’t lose this list, I thought I’d post it here. Feel free to use any of the suggestions or add tips of your own.

1. Hikes with the Sierra Club. When I heard that the local Sierra Club did a group walk three nights a week, I knew that was for me! I’ve met a lot of wonderful people on the walk — all that adrenaline and endorphins make this an easy way of getting to know people. I’ve even made some good friends.

2. Bird walks with the local Audubon. A friend suggested this, and she said that for some reason the bird watchers (in more than one locality) have been the friendliest and funniest of all groups.

3. Trips with a local astronomy club to look at the stars.

4. Follow your interests. Join clubs or do volunteer work in fields that interest you, such as Habitat for Humanity, museums, garden clubs, book clubs.

5. Join a local dance club.

6. Use http://www.MeetUp.com to activities and groups in your vicinity. There are discussion groups of all kinds, dance groups, special interest groups, and just for fun groups.

7. Participate in church and church activities

8. Take classes at community colleges — art, music, acting.

9. Join a local theater groups.

10. Join a gym.

11. Do yoga or Tai Chi.

12. Take a pottery class.

13. Go to a donut shop every morning and talk to five people.

14. High tea. I’ve never heard of other towns doing this, but where I’m staying they have coffee, tea and cookies once a month at the town hall. (Cookies and tea is not exactly a high tea, but I suppose anything in the high desert can be considered “high.”) I have it on my calendar to attend this month.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Beginning the New Year with a Clean Slate

This time of year, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of posts giving hints on how to keep one’s New Years resolutions. Some of the advice is even good:

  • Make your resolutions public. While we might easily break what amounts to a promise to ourselves, if we tell others, we have at least a modicum of incentive to keep going.
  • Make small, realistic resolutions for change rather than large, sweeping resolves. Bad habits cannot be broken over night; if it were that easy to change, all of us would be perfect.
  • Be specific. Instead of resolving to lose weight, for example, make a pact with yourself to be at least a couple of pounds lighter by the end of the year. Plan how you will lose that weight.
  • Instead of making resolutions, set goals. Once a resolution is broken, it is broken, and it seems futile to continue, but with goals, if we fail one day, we can pick up our banner the next day and continue charging into the future.

Despite all this advice, by this second day of the new year, many of us have already abandoned our resolves, and by the end of the first week, most of us will have given up. Only 8% of us will keep those resolutions until the end of the year.

This sad statistic makes us seem wishy-washy at best and lazy at worst, but I wonder if there is something else at work here rather than a lack of . . . well, a lack of resolve.

In response to my New Year’s post, Coloring My New Year, writer Malcolm R. Campbell (whose first book The Sun Singer will soon be republished by Second Wind Publishing!!) commented: “January 1 does have a clean-slate kind of feeling to it. Perhaps it is that fresh new calendar. Maybe it’s our constant reminders to ourselves to start writing 2014 (on checks and documents) rather than 2013. For some, it’s a line in the sand between old habits and new dreams. We can use it, the new calendar, to motivate ourselves one way or another.”

And then I realized why it’s so hard to maintain our New Years goals or stick to our resolutions.

We don’t lose the resolve. We lose the clean-slateness. After only a few days, the sense of a new beginning dissipates. We’ve become used to writing “2014.” We’re back into the routine of our lives, probably more tired, more broke, and fatter than we were before the holidays. And somehow, in the comfort of our old lives, we forget the idealism we had when embracing a new year. We forget that for a moment we believed anything was possible, that we could become better, stronger, healthier, wiser, richer, more beloved if only we . . .

I abandoned the practice of making resolutions when still a child after I realized that by the end of that first week, I’d completely forgotten my resolution. (I only remembered when the next new year rolled around and I had to, once again, make that same undoable commitment.)

As an adult, I don’t make resolutions, though during the past couple of years I have tried to make each day special, to become a bit “more” by the end of they day than I was at the beginning, even if was only by a well-chosen word, the glow of a smile, a laugh shared, a moment of appreciation for the world around me.

The truth is, whether we feel it or not, each day does begin with a clean slate.

What are you going to do with your today?

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

I’m going to Blog for Peace. Will You?

Blog 4 PeaceOn Monday, November 4, people all over the planet blog for peace. This year, I’m going to join the the Blog Blast for Peace, and you can join the movement, too. You make your own peace globe/statement or simply choose one pre-made at http://blogblastforpeace.com, and become – a peace blogger.

Peace bloggers believe that words are powerful, and that this event matters.

So, check out the above website or check out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BlogBlastForPeace.

How To Blog For Peace The short version:

1. Choose a graphic from the peace globe gallery http://peaceglobegallery.blogspot.com/p/get-your-own-peace-globe.html or from the photos on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BlogBlastForPeace#!/BlogBlastForPeace/app_153284594738391 Right click and Save. Decorate it and sign it, or leave as is.

2. Send the finished globe to blogblast4peace@yahoo.com

3. Post it anywhere online November 4 and title your post Dona Nobis Pacem (Latin for Grant us Peace)

Sounds cool, doesn’t it? See you on November 4!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Elegant English

In The Dimwit’s Dictionary, Robert Hartwell Fiske describes elegant English as that which is “expressed with music as well as meaning, with style as well as substance.” He goes on to say that “It is time we aspire to becoming who we were meant to be. It is time to aspire to expressing ourselves well. Elegant English is grammatically correct English, it is uncommon or forgotten English. In all instances, elegant English is English rarely hear, English seldom spoken.”

Everyday English uses such constructions as “It is me,” “okay,” “the fact that,” “I don’t think so.” The corresponding elegant constructions are “It is I,” “as you wish,” “that,” and “I think not.” Everyday English commonly uses “how come?” where elegant English uses “how is it that?”

MusicEven though I don’t like what Fiske calls “quack equations,” I still find myself using them on occasion. Quack equation are expressions such as “a deal is a deal,” “a rule is a rule,” “what’s right is right.” He says such quack equations “readily explain behavior that the dimwitted otherwise find inexplicable, and justify attitudes they otherwise find unjustifiable.”

Occasionally such phrases are inescapable. They are a way of acknowledging that some events are inexplicable, for example: it is what it is. No matter how we try to find the meaning in inexplicable happenings, sometimes the meaning eludes us. Sometimes there is no explanation besides “it is what it is.”

(I have a hunch he would have despaired at the definitions of elegant and elegance in my dictionary. Elegant is defined as “marked by elegance,” and elegance is defined as “something that is elegant.”)

He also rails against plebian sentiments such as “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” “I just work here,” “that’s life,” or “you think too much.” “That’s nice” is particularly plebian because it is used to dismiss what a person has said, though it suggests interest. He asserts that plebian sentiments reflect the views and values of the least thoughtful among us, that they blunt our understanding and quash our creativity, and “actually shield us from our thoughts and feelings, from any profound sense of ourselves. People who use these expressions have not become who they were meant to be.”

I consider myself well spoken. I don’t use a lot of colloquialisms or bad grammar, but even I have found my English slipping way past elegant into banal. In my case, it started out as protective coloring. I had a big vocabulary when I was young, though I didn’t always know how to pronounce the words. (I still remember the laughter that greeted me many years ago when I said something was mackaber instead of macabre.) But still, if I wish to lead a more elegant life, and aspire to be who I am meant to be, I should relearn how to speak (and write) more elegantly.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Writing: Passion or Puzzle?

Most how-to books on writing suggest getting the first draft down as quickly as possible so that the passion shines through. This is good advice, and I would follow it if stories came easy to me, but they never do. I worried about this (for five minutes or so), wondering if my novels would feel dry and unemotional because I approach them as a puzzle, but the only difference between my way of writing and the so-called right way is that I do my thinking as I write rather than as I lbjigsawrewrite.

Is one way better than another? I don’t know, but if we accomplish what we set out to do, both the logical writers and the passionate ones can end up with interesting stories that will evoke emotions in our readers. In my case, during rewrites I get rid of much of the dryness that comes from the puzzle approach. In your case, perhaps, you lose some of that freewheeling passion when you organize what you have written into a more cohesive story.

We all have to find the best way to write. I am not condoning poor grammar, typographical errors, bad plotting, ignorance of story elements, or any of those other rules that new writers rail against. I’m talking about the fun of writing, the passion, the puzzle.

Samuel Johnson remarked, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” I guess that makes most of us blockheads, because we write knowing that except for a select group, there is little money to be made from writing. We need other reasons for spending so much time bleeding words.

For me, it’s the puzzle. As frustrating as it gets, I love figuring out plots, character’s motives, new ways of presenting common thoughts. Beats crossword puzzles any day.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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