Thursday, March 31, 2011

This and That

Today is going to be busy. Here's what's on tap:

Opening day for the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. I'll be cheering from my van.

Driving my sister and me to Zumba class.
Taking Zumba class.
Picking up Cari from school.
Picking up Michael from school.
Driving Michael to tutoring.
Driving Michael and me to Cari's soccer game.
Cheering Cari at her soccer game.

March wrap-up:

Book reviews: 4
Author interviews: 1
Submissions: 2 short stories
Contests: 2 entries
Blog posts: 17
Blog giveaways: 2 ARCs

Watch tomorrow for my post on Coming Events for April.

Go, Cards!!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Writing with Scissors - the Cruelest Cut

According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Joe Holleman, “A writer can never cut too much.”

On March 26, Holleman, who is known for his popular blog Yakkin' with the Sherpa, shared that observation when he spoke to about fifty members of Saturday Writers at the Cultural Arts Centre in St. Peters.

In his opinion, “writing is a craft, not an art,” and “similar to shooting pool.” To become better, a writer has to write every day. He asserted that “writing should always be about the reader” because “readers are a writer’s customers.”

During his talk, he broke down his writing process into three phases:

* Before writing: Listen to yourself to discover what interests you in a story. Check your facts and research. Make an outline to organize your thoughts.

* Writing: Write a lede first. Do it fast; you can change it later. Put a human voice in the story because people like reading about other people. Arrange your story in chronological order. Although there will be exceptions, written stories are best told from beginning to end. Use active voice. Use strong quotes for powerful impact.

* After writing: Read your piece out loud ("Trust me," Joe says, "this is critical.") to reveal your story's rhythm and uncover clunky sentences and bad grammar. Cut out unnecessary words. Edit about ten percent then cut out another five percent.

It wasn’t until the question and answer session that Holleman shared how he got started as a reporter. After college graduation, he became a disc jockey. He wanted to be like Dr. Johnny Fever on “WKRP in Cincinnati” because being a DJ was “way cooler” than being a writer.

His first radio gig was in Chester, Illinois—the home of Popeye—playing Country-Western music. It didn’t take him long to realize the Dr. Johnny Fever thing wasn’t working in Popeye country. He grew bored reading obituaries on air and playing repeated requests for the song “Swingin’’ by John Anderson.

By chance, he filled in for a writer at the local paper. After his first byline, Holleman was hooked on writing. He worked for a newspaper in Festus then eventually landed a job as a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
According to Holleman, “every writer writes too much.” Holleman isn’t alone in his philosophy.

At the end of his talk, he shared quotes from several famous writers. Award-winning fiction writer Elmore Leonard advises writers to “try to leave the stuff out that people don’t read.” On the topic of revising and editing, Holleman read this quote from legendary author Truman Capote, “I believe more in the scissors than I do the pencil.”

So, next time you're shopping for writing supplies--don't forget the scissors--and when you're rewriting, don't be afraid to cut, cut, cut.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Telling Lies for Money - Best Fiction

When I was a kid, one of my mom's sayings was, "You can go to Hell for lying the same as you can for stealing."

Mom said that usually when she thought one of her little "angels" was telling a fib. Mom's strong words and seering gaze rarely failed. Whichever one of us had something to hide would spill our guts. If that didn't work, she used the ultimate threat--to tell our dad when he got home from work and get a spanking with "Dad's Army belt."

With mom's "look," the threat of a spanking, Catholic guilt from time spent on Saturday afternoons in the confessional--and being taught by nuns, who were experts on catching an untruth--telling lies does not come easy to me.

Maybe that's why I like to write fiction. It's liberating to lie without fear of getting in trouble--and getting paid to do it (sometimes). And that's why I get excited to find a fiction market that pays.

Best Fiction is a paying online publication of "brilliant stories" that is open for submissions of short fiction as well as photographs and art work.

Payment for short stories between 1,500 to 7,500 words is $25. According to their website, their tastes are fairly broad. For complete details, visit the Best Fiction submission guidelines section.

I found this market through Duotrope's Digest, which is a great resource for writers looking for markets for fiction, nonfiction, even poetry.

I'm not sure, but I think Mom would be proud to know her encouragement to tell the truth helped channel my tendencies to exaggerate or sometimes fib into something positive--writing short stories--and on occasion getting paid to do it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Word of the Day - Biwrixle

Today's word in my "Forgotten English 365-day Calendar of Vanishing Vocabulary and Folklore" is:

Biwrixle: to change, transform (from Sir James Murray's New English Dictionary, 1888--I guess it was new in 1888.)

So, my dear blog-readers, your challenge--should you accept it--is to use the word biwrixle in a sentence.

Here's my shot at it:

Mavis hopes her facelift surgery will biwrixle her wrinkles into smooth skin.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Happy 100th Birthday, Tennessee Williams

During today's Saturday Writers meeting (and at lunch afterwards), our wise, witty, and very funny speaker, Joe Holleman, reminded us that today marks the 100th birthday of the legendary playright, Tennessee Williams.

Thomas Lanier Williams III, better known as Tennessee Williams, was born in Mississippi but lived in St. Louis during his formative years. Williams is known for his award-winning plays, many of which were made into movies. The Glass Menagerie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and A Streetcar named Desire were a few of his most famous plays.

Back to Joe Holleman: Joe has a blog on Stltoday.com called Yakkin' with the Sherpa. Each Friday on his blog, Joe has a feature "Sherpa's Top 10."

Yesterday's top 10 highlighted the Top 10 Tennessee Williams movies.

Another weekly feature is called "The Decider." This week's decider question is: Jelly beans or Peeps? For me, it's jelly beans--no contest.

Next week I'll post a few of my note's from Joe's talk about the craft of writing. Until then, check out Joe's blog when you get a chance. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Writing Advice, Meditations, and Welcome

With the change in the weather from nice to nasty I want to shake things up a bit. Today I'd like to share links to two blogs where you can find some great resources and information about writing.

First, over on Write in the Midwest, Dianna Graveman features Mary Horner in her post: "WritRteachR Has Advice for MFA Students." You need not be an MFA student to benefit from Mary's advice. Mary also shares helpful links to sources for potential writing jobs. I especially like Mary's advice at the end of the post encouraging writers to create themselves. Mary's book, Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, will be published next month by High Hill Press.

The second link is to Clara Gillow Clark's blog. Clara writes historical fiction for children age 10 and up. For the past few weeks Clara has hosted several children's historical fiction authors. The author interviews and features have been fascinating --- and fun. Clara also has several giveaways. I was surpirsed and pleased to see my name today among the winners. Also on Clara's blog today, author Laurie Calkhoven shares meditation exercises. Laurie talks about how the element of suprise can make characters come alive. Hop over to Clara's blog to read more.

Last, a hearty Hello to my newest follower, Dave from Dave's Travel Corner, Above the Clouds. WELCOME and thanks for becoming a follower of Donna's Book Pub.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wordharvest Hillerman Writing Competitions

If you like writing mysteries set in the American Southwest, here are two contests from Wordharvest that should appeal to you.

The Tony Hillerman 2011 Mystery Novel Competition: Contest for best first mystery novel previously unpublished and set in the Southwest. The story's primary setting is at least one of the following states: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Southern California and/or Utah. Winner chosen by the editorial staff of St. Martin's press. Deadline June 1, 2001. Click here for word count, prize amount and complete guidelines.

The Wordharvest Mystery Short Story Contest: Stories must be mysteries no more than 2500 words and set primarily in New Mexico. Winner will receive $1000 for the story, which will be published in New Mexico Magazine. Deadline for story submission is August 15, 2011. $20 entry fee. For more informtion click on these guidelines.

Good luck if you enter either contest, and please let us know if you win!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Truth Be Told

Last week I shared four truths and one lie and invited my visitors to try to pick out the fib in the midst of the truth. I forgot that awhile back I posted about something that a few of you remembered and thereby guessed the big whopper among the truths.


So, here is a recap of what's true and what is not:


* Growing up, one of my best friends—whose last name was Graves—lived in a haunted mansion. True: Stella Graves was a friend and classmate at Holy Name Grade School and St. Alphonsus (Rock) High School in St. Louis. She and her family lived in the historic Bissell Mansion, a reportedly haunted house that overlooks the Mississippi River. Sleepovers at Stella's were always fun -- and never dull.



* While working at an unemployment office in Massachusetts, my long hair got stuck in a check-printing machine and the boss had to cut my hair to get my head out. Embarrassing but true. I literally almost got scalped, had I not had the presence of mind to push the stop button on the machine.



* Two boys I dated were killed in Vietnam—the classmate who took me to my eighth grade dance and my date for Senior Prom, who was buried for a time in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Incredibly sad and true. James Donnelly, a classmate at Holy Name, gave me my first corsage and took me on the eighth grade dance on the Admiral. Mike Blassie, my date for senior prom, attended the Air Force academy after graduation. He became a pilot and his plane was shot down in hostile fire. He was declared MIA then KIA. For a time his remains rested in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier until they were identified through DNA testing. His remains were returned to St. Louis and buried in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in 1998.


* While working for the Dept of the Army I received an outstanding-intern-of-the-year award. My husband, my boss, two co-workers, and I were flown on our agency’s Commanding General’s jet to Arlington, VA, where the award was presented to me by an Assistant Secretary of the Army. True. I received the General Mark Clark Award for outstanding manpower and force management intern from General Clark's son, who at the time was an assistant secretary of the Army.


* One of my favorite snacks is a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of coffee. False. I've never eaten a peanut butter sandwich and only tried coffee once when I was 18. We grew up eating jelly sandwiches--guess we couldn't afford peanut butter with so many kids. And it's not that I don't like peanuts, which can be proven by waving a Reese's peanut butter cup in front of me.


There you have it. Thanks again to Sioux for giving me the award that got all this truth telling started.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I Cannot Tell A Lie ... Maybe

Thanks to my writer friend Sioux for bestowing on me this Memetastic award.

As a condition of receiving the award I have to tell four truths about myself, along with one made up, pure fictional, lie. I admit, it was a challenge.

In her blog post about me, Sue wrote that "still water runs deep." I've been told that about myself before, so I thought I would dig deep with my four truths--and one lie.

See if you can find the fib among the following:


* Growing up, one of my best friends—whose last name was Graves—lived in a haunted mansion.


* While working at an unemployment office in Massachusetts, my long hair got stuck in a check-printing machine and the boss had to cut my hair to get my head out.


* Two boys I dated were killed in Vietnam—the classmate who took me to my eighth grade dance and my date for Senior Prom, who was buried for a time in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.


* While working for the Dept of the Army I received an outstanding-intern-of-the-year award. My husband, my boss, two co-workers, and I were flown on our agency’s Commanding General’s jet to Arlington, VA, where the award was presented to me by an Assistant Secretary of the Army.


* One of my favorite snacks is a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of coffee.


Another condition is to share the award, so I would like to pass this award with the following bloggers:


Sally, over at Live and Learn with Sally, who is a frequent visitor and commenter on Donna's Book Pub. I love her inspirational posts.


Janet, who lives and writes in West Virginia. Her blog, Writing in the Blackberry Patch, has interesting posts and lovely photos that make me go ahhhh.

Betty Craker Henderson at Windy Ribbons. I've known Betty for several years. I was happy to read on her blog about her recent trip to Paris with her daughter.

Donna B. over at Mystical Journeys posts about her dad and family, her life, her hopes and dreams.

Melissa Ann Goodwin, Writer's blog has some timely posts for writers. Melissa lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her recent post about writing a FICTION book proposal is very interesting.

I tried my best to visit my followers' blogs other blogs to make sure I haven't duplicated this award. If any of you have already received this award, please but be happy to know that more than one person thought you deserved it!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Don't Forget the Beer

When you cook or bake or write, here's an ingredient you might want to keep in mind. . . BEER!

Beer is the "adventure" ingredient that helped Elaine Barbee from St. Charles, Missouri, win $10,000 in a national cupcake baking contest. According to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Barbee used stout beer to make her "You Make Me Want to Stout" chocolate cupcakes. Here's a link to her prize winning recipe.

Reading the article reminded me of my prize-winning recipe.

Being from St. Louis, the home of "the King of Beers," it's not unusual to use beer in the kitchen--not just for drinking or rinsing your hair--but also in recipes.

About ten years ago I entered a national chili recipe contest. The judging criteria weighed heavily on creativity, so I got creative. When thinking about chili, an image of the desert Southwest usually comes to mind, so I went in a different direction.

I concocted a recipe in homage to my home of birth (St. Louis) and my husband Walt's Bavarian roots. The recipe I created and submitted in hopes of winning a truck for my husband was "Walt's Bavarian Chili." Ingredients included potatoes, sauerkraut--and you guessed it--beer. In this case (make that a can) it was locally brewed Busch Bavarian beer.

"Walt's Bavarian Chili" didn't win the grand prize of a Ford F-150 4x4 shiny red pick-up truck, but it did win a first prize, which took a truck to deliver.

When the delivery truck showed up in our driveway, Walt and the driver needed a dolly and strong backs to unload the prizes, which filled up about a quarter of our garage.

Prizes included a state-of-the-art Weber barbeque grill and utensils, a portable stereo system with a dozen CDs, an apron and a hot pad, a cast-iron dutch oven, chili pepper and little pink piggie lights, boxes of hot sauce, chili seasoning and hot peppers, a dozen ceramic chili bowls and ceramic cups, two boxes of matching silverware sets, a gift certificate for Omaha steaks to be delivered to our door, and several other items I can't remember.

Wow! Hot exciting. Our excitement was tempered a bit the following January when our 1099 arrived and we had to pay taxes on almost $3,000 for the value of the prizes. Still it was fun, and the non-perishable prizes lasted for years and years.

So, if you're thinking about being creative in cooking or baking or writing--don't forget the beer!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Writers' Notebooks and Welcome

If you're like me, you love writing notebooks and journals. Like pens, I have notebooks sprinkled all over my house. I keep one in my purse and another in my car. I have several different notebooks tucked in tote bags for when I attend writing events. Never know when an idea might strike. Some journals are neatly filled in; others have ideas jotted down. Some--I have no idea what I meant to write--but I hope to figure it out eventually.

Last week I was thrilled when I received a Celtic journal in the mail. It's exactly like the one at the left, from Peter Pauper Press (say that three times--dare you!).

I won this elegant journal over on Lisa Ricard Claro's "Writing in the Buff" blog a couple weeks ago. Thank you, Lisa!

What I really like about my new journal, besides being free, is its "intricate knotwork and serpentine animal forms evoking the rich Celtic legacy." Just in time for St. Patrick's Day.

I visited the Peter Pauper Press site today to check out their journals. The one I have is now out of stock and won't be available until mid May. Bummer!

Today I also received my Real Simple Daily Finds e-mail. Today's finds are ten noteworthy notebooks. I found a few that I really like. Most are affordable, others are expensive--at least for me. Included among the journals is a "My Quotable Kid" journal to record funny things that pop out of kids' mouths. How fun is that?

So, if you're looking for a journal to record your thoughts and ideas, jot down dialogue you don't want to forget, or spark creativity and make you feel special, check out the Peter Pauper Press site or Real Simple Daily finds.

Today I also want to welcome my newest follower: MILO JAMES FOWLER.

Thanks for signing up as a follower, Milo. Hope you enjoy the ride. To my other followers and regular visitors, if you get a chance, check out Milo's blog, in medias res.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Call for Submissions - How the West Was Wicked

I'm not sure how I came across this call for submissions, but the "How the West Was Wicked" title of the anthology lassoed my attention.

Pill Hill Press is looking for submissions for an anthology of "weird Western fiction" with elements of horror that takes place in the American Old West.

Now there's an usual combination. But not unexpected, given the fact the publisher is located in a haunted house.

According to submission guidelines, the editors encourage writers to think "haunted house on the prairie" or other dark and weird tales in Wild West setting.

Deadline: March 31
Word count: 1,500-15,000
Payment: 1/4 cents per word

If that anthology doesn't appeal to you, there are other submission call outs. The common thread seems to be dark or horror elements. Generally not my cup of tea, but a challenge to stretch the writing muscles.

For complete details, check out their writer's guidelines.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Count Down to Lent - Rosenmontag

In you've never heard of Rosenmontag (Rose Monday), don't feel alone. I'm married to a German immigrant, and I didn't hear about Rosenmontag until I lived and worked in Germany (in the Rheinland-Pfalz state) in the 1980s. My husband is a German immigrant from the predominately Catholic German state of Bavaria, where they celebrate Fasching before Lent.

Back to Rosenmontag, which has nothing to do with roses. Rosenmontag is a day to get crazy during the German Karneval (carnival) season leading up to Lent.

At the office where I worked in Kaiserlautern, the local German women took charge and made a big production of cutting the ties off of men who wore them to work on Rosenmontag. The men, of course, took it all in good fun and knew to wear old worn-out ties on that day.

In addition to the cutting of ties, there was lots of eating and drinking of wine and beer and schnapps (for its medicinal purposes, of course).

Prosit! (a German toast to your good health)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Good News and An Opportunity from Silver Boomer Books

Earlier this week, a writer friend and I had lunch with Becky Haigler, one of the principals of Silver Boomer Books. Becky is editor of FLASHLIGHT MEMORIES, a Silver Boomer anthology that accepted my true story "Read Away Vacation," as well as stories from a couple blogger buddies--Linda O'Connell and Cathy C. Hall.

Becky and her husband recently moved to the St. Louis area, so I thought it would be a good idea to welcome her to the writing community. Lunch was entertaining and enlighting. We talked about writing, publishing--and of course family.

Becky is excited about the soon-to-be-released FLASHLIGHT MEMORIES anthology. She told me the anthology should be going to the printer soon. When I asked about the cover, she told me it is a photo her dad took of her reading a book.

Shortly after I got home I searched to find an image of the cover and discovered it (photo above) on Sharpwriters.com, the website of Silver Boomer Books partner Barbara B. Rollins. Isn't the cover wonderful? I can't wait to hold the anthology in my hands!

Becky is also excited about Silver Boomer Books' latest call for submissions. The editors are accepting stories for a Patriotic/Military Anthology to be published later this year. The deadline is March 31.

If you have something that might fit, read the submission guidelines and submit by the end of the month.
If you submit, good luck!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

!Welcome!

Today is a great day!

It's a bit cool, but the sun is shining. I made it through another Zumba class without embarrassing myself or hurting anything. Some of my muscles are a bit sore, but it's a good feeling because they're ones that haven't been used in awhile.

More sunny news.

Welcome! Welcome! To my newest followers:

J. C. Martin
Gaurab Sinha

Thanks for joining the Donna's Book Pub. I hope you visit often and feel free to leave comments or questions.

For my regular visitors, please check out Aron, J.C., Julie, and Gaurab's blogs (at least the two I was able to link to) when you get a chance.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cougars on the Prowl Deadline Extended

Good news for procrastinating writers--ahem, that would be me.

Yesterday I received an e-mail from Linda Fisher, publisher of Mozark Press, a small press located in Central Missouri.

Last year one of my short stories ("Criminal Minds") was included in Shaker of Margaritas: Hot Flash Mommas, published by Mozark Press. It's a lovely anthology, and from the publisher's reports, it sold better than expected.

With the success of that anthology, a few months ago Linda put out a call for Cougars on the Prowl. Here's the good news from Linda:

"We have extended the Cougars on the Prowl submissions deadline to March 31. Although we've received some excellent entries, we do not have enough to make selections for the anthology. It is important that only the judges' top picks will be published in the book."

Payment for selected short fiction stories between 1,500 and 3,000 words set in modern times is $20 and one contributor copy. Contributors also may purchase additional books at a substantial discount.

Here is a link to the guidelines. Be sure to read the guidelines because they are quite specific, especially for the main character.

To be honest, because of the title I wasn't going to submit. I let the original deadline pass. I'm not a prude, but I'm not the "cougar on the prowl" type either.

But, after carefully reading the guidelines I've decided the content in this "cougar" publication is tamer than I originally tought. So I'm going to get busy and try to come up with an acceptable story by the end of the month.

It definitely will be a work of fiction!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Marching into March and Two Winners

Yay! February with its weird weather is behind us.

Okay, let's recap what this shortest month of the year has delivered: Snow, sleet, freezing rain, near-record-breaking temperatures (highs and lows), flash flooding--what am I missing--oh, yeah, thunderstorms and tornadoes on Sunday night. Whew.

I say WELCOME March, which "comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." Today is not so lion-like. It's sunny but cold, expected to reach the high 50s later today.

Now, on to our WINNERS. Thanks to all my followers who left their comments to enter to win the ARC giveaways.

I wish everyone could win, but I only have one copy of each ARC . The names of two followers who left comments were selected at random--one for each book. Here are the winners:

* THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE - LISA

* HIGHWAY ROBBERY - MADELINE

Lisa and Madeline, if you haven't alredy done so, please e-mail me at dvolkenannt (at) charter (dot) net with your mailing address so I can get the ARCs to you.

If your name was not selected, take heart. I will announce another contest this month with two more ARCs and some other goodies.

Thanks again for visiting Donna's Book Pub!

Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V - Interviews with Johnny Boggs and Larry Wood

Several weeks ago, Jane Hale, president of Ozark Writers, Inc., forwarded names of contributors to Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V, who a...