Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The lost art of letter writing

Remember when we used to write letters? And I don't mean the cover letter for a job application or the complaint letter to the newspaper. I mean a heartfelt letter to someone we haven't seen for a while or may never see again. Perhaps a love letter, or a breakup letter. A letter to a soldier with news from back home, or from a soldier with news from the front. A letter to a long lost aunt about an orphaned child.

There is a beauty to be found in a personal letter that cannot be found in today's email. I'll show you some examples of what I mean.

Example of a letter from a gentlemen to a lady confessing a change of sentiment:

Your note has opened my eyes to the fully and wrong of the course I have pursued of late. All night I have been pacing my floor, trying to decide what course it was my duty to pursue, and I have decided to answer you as frankly as you desire. I will not attempt to excuse myself, for I deserve your anger, but I will only say that I was myself deceived in my own feelings. When I asked you to marry me, I believed that we were congenial, and that I could make you happy. I was not rich, but had sufficient, as I thought, for comfort, and thinking you would be content with a moderate competency, I invited you to share mine. Closer intimacy has proved my error. Your extravagant wishes are utterly beyond my means, and your bitter and sarcastic remarks upon those of your friends who are not wealthy prove that you covet a life of luxury.

To be honest, growing up I rarely wrote letters. I never had a pen pal because I never went anywhere to find one. I walked to school with my friends and we'd talk along the way. I wrote a few letters though. One to my father whom I didn't see that often and I wanted to update him on what was happening in my life (he didn't have a phone). One  letter I wrote to him never got posted.  It was about getting my first novel published and my new house on the coast. and spoke of how I wished we weren't so estranged. Sadly, I never posted this letter. It held a lot more emotion than the letter I did post, which is perhaps why I never posted it. When it comes to letter writing, I'm very secretive. What if someone read it?

This is the language we use now:

Hey, just checking that you’re free on the weekend for a catch up. I’m thinking either dinner or morning tea. Haven’t seen you for ages and I’ve got good news to share. Hope you can make it. Let me know. Love you and take care. Bye.

There is a vast difference between the tone and language of the two examples. Is it because technology provides us with the notion that 140 characters is all we are allowed to use to express ourselves? Or has our diamond (the verbose  and colourful language we used to partake in) been honed down so much that is resembles a pebble (catchya, LOL, BTW)?

It makes me wonder if we're happier now that the emotion is stripped out of the message. I used to panic that people would read my deepest thoughts and feelings. And judge me. Are we so afraid of people passing our letters around to others and mocking us? Are we so worried that these letters will be used as examples in future posts?

Are we missing out on connecting with our friends by leaving out the heartfelt emotion, whether it is anger or hurt or love? Are we denying our friends the opportunity to sit under a sunny sky and read a letter from afar? There are so many questions and nobody I can write to. in order to express my confusion, not like in the old days where I could have asked a long lost aunt.

We no longer talk. We text. So it's not the writing form of communication that we're revolting against. Perhaps it's the emotion. So what happened to the letter writing? And will it ever make a comeback? Perhaps they have been replaced with novels. I know there is no shortage of people wanting to share a story.

What was the last letter you ever wrote and how did you write it to? I'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.

About the author:

Not one to accept being put into a box, D L Richardson writes speculative fiction for anyone who likes a twist in their tale. She now has six books published and is working on an apocalyptic series and a dystopian novel.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Everything I learned about blogging I learned from Carrie Bradshaw

Like all authors, I have an author platform. I blog and post on social media, yet up to now I've always been led to believe that everything I blog or post about should be about 'writing'. Let me tell you, this is very limiting, hence the reason I rarely blogged. What do I say about writing that's of interest to anyone other than another writer? And why would I only want to reach that audience? I only want to read about writing if I need to learn something such as when is it okay to kill off a character? and even then I Google it or I bring it up at an author's group.

It was after reading Kristen Lamb's book for authors, Rise of the Machines I realised that I was right to doubt it was only writers and avid readers who were my only audience. I receive Kristen's regular blog posts straight to my inbox and even though some of the content isn't my particular area of interest on that day, I read her articles because she's a fabulous storyteller.

I say article because I actually hate the word blog. It sounds like something is caught in the back of my throat. So I think of these as articles and that's how I approach writing them. But as I said, up to now the focus was on 'writing' only. Kristen's book highlighted to me that the optimum market for books isn't the avid book reader. It's everyone else. And when I was given the freedom to write about what interests me and what has so far shaped me as a person, the ideas began to flow. I keep a track of them all in a notebook. A conversation sparks an idea. Reading a newspaper article sparks an idea. I feel like Carrie Bradshaw - an idea sparks and off I run to my laptop.

I'll start first off by declaring my love for Sex and the City. I began watching it when I started dating my (now) husband. I used to come home after a date and want to bang my head against a wall and scream "what the hell is wrong with men?" Then I'd watch Sex and the City and I'd forget all about my man troubles and get swept up in their lives and somehow I knew everything would be okay. And it did work out okay. It's still one of my favourite TV shows.

Anyone familiar with the show knows that Carrie Bradshaw gets an article idea mostly from the conversations she has with Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte. There is a voice over throughout the show, only Carrie's POV as she is the central characters, and her voiceover says "I couldn't help but wonder..." and then we see Carrie in her New York apartment, sometimes smoking on a cigarette  and sometimes in her underwear, but always at her laptop typing up the article for her weekly column on dating and finding love. 

I wanted her lifestyle, sans the disastrous love life. Faced with their perilous pursuits, I think I'd prefer to stay single. anyway, Carrie was a paid columnist who became a bit of a celebrity. In today's environment you typically have to be a celebrity before you can get a column. Which is why I think blogging has become so prolific. Anyone can have a blog. Anyone can put their thoughts and ideas onto a page and share with others. If Sex and the City were written ten years later Carrie Bradshaw would probably be a blogger. There's a cute little post from a fashion blogger about Carrie and blogging if you'd like to read it. and here's another post dedicated to Miss Bradshaw

An important lesson I learned about blogging is that I need to invest ME into the project. These are MY thoughts and ideas. These are MY dreams and fears. And it's not all about writing because I'M not all about writing. Writing is what I do for about 40% of my life. The other 60% is made up of gardening, going to a 9-5 day job, catching up with friends and family, and the boring stuff like bathing, sleeping and eating. I have lots of interests that have shaped me as an author and that's what makes them relevant to readers. So I'll be posting articles about my personal interests from now on, as well as throwing the occasional blog about writing into the mix. I hope you can join me.

About the author:

Not one to accept being put into a box, D L Richardson writes speculative fiction for anyone who likes a twist in their tale. She now has six books published and is working on an apocalyptic series and a dystopian novel.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Is animal entertainment a prelude to The Hunger Games?

Those who know me are well aware of my stance on horse and dog racing. I am totally against it. They are cruel forms of entertainment that serve no purpose in the betterment of mankind. Yes, humans need entertainment, but surely we don't need to whip a horse and train it to ride itself to death to be entertained?

Last Melbourne Cup, there were two horses that died as a direct result of the race. one from a massive heart failure, and one from a broken leg when a spectator waved a flag which spooked the horse. These animals are flighty at the best of times, and race horses are bred to be highly spirited. So they spook easier than a two year old at Halloween.

A Palamino and her foal. The beauty of a horse is plain to see.

I fought back tears as I read the newspaper articles about the death of these two beautiful animals. I felt impotent. I felt hurt. I felt as if nobody cared. What sort of species are we humans that we don't care? It made me want to write a novel where we all die and animals take over the planet, but that's a form of running away. It would do nothing to tackle the issue.

Horse and jockey injured during a race. Guess which one gets euthanized if bones are broken?

I don't know how many times I've sat at a table with friends or strangers and the conversation has turned to something topical and everyone has a good old rant and then...nothing. Nothing is done but a lot of complaining and whining and hoping that somebody out there will do something. I call this the Superman syndrome, some poor sod always waiting for someone else to come along and fix the problems of the world.

Anyway, I decided to write letters to a few local newspapers and few national ones. I wrote a piece on Facebook and received supportive comments. I receive one response from a person in the racing industry who stated they loved the horses and were devastated about the deaths. Of course they are. And I'm being very cynical here, but when your cash-cow drops dead it's natural to be devastated.

I was totally surprised to receive a phone call from someone who had read one of the articles. Don't ask me how she tracked down my phone number but if you're going to act like the sheriff you have to be prepared to wear the badge. She called to say that she'd read the article and was so pleased to read it, and that more people should stand up against animal cruelty.

The interesting part of this conversation was that she said, "it's pity nothing can be done to change this industry, too many people are making too much money off it. One person can't make a difference, but thank you for writing the letter."

The other interesting part of this conversation was that she then went on to counter her own remark by saying, "Actually, we have changed the way industry works. We've now got free range eggs. The live trade export has undergone changes as a result of protests. Well, you keep going and good on you. I hope something can come of this letter."

And this is why books like To Kill A Mockingbird, Animal Farm, and The Hunger Games are so important to read. These books act like the mirror to which humanity judges itself. There's no point running around telling people they're doing something wrong. They just won't change. You have to get them to want to change.

The Hunger Games highlights the line that is there to be crossed, it lights it up like the emergency strips on an aircraft, and the real test of human strength is whether we cross that line. 

For example, my dog loves to run. You should see her on the beach. She gets an energy spurt and just goes nuts. It's funny to watch. Anyone else on the beach gets a kick out of it, too. But there is a line that I will never cross. I would never think to myself, people enjoy watching her run. I should train her, let people watch, and charge them money. Then, in order to train my dog I'll tie her to my car because other dogs will want to compete - more competitors equals more bums on seats equals more money - and she needs to be the winner.

You might think that's a far-fetched concept, but it's not. Dog racing, circus animals, horse racing, bear baiting, these are all forms of entertainment. They're cruel and unnecessary and humans do not benefit from it. There's nothing "sport" about it, there's certainly nothing educational. The strange thing is that many of us know right from wrong, we've just become so used to letting our justice system decide the difference between the two.

So when a book like The Hunger Games comes along, we start to question if such a world is possible and debate about the morality of such a world. Could we send people - teens or adults - into a ring to fight to the death for our entertainment?

No? Why not? It's been done before in the Roman coliseums. It's probably still going on in some seedy part of the globe.

Another perfect example, and one that takes on a literal sense of holding that mirror, is Snow White. The evil queen asks the magic mirror each day who is the fairest of them all. And each day the mirror replies that she is. Until one day, it decides that it has told the evil queen enough lies and now is the time to tell  her the truth that indeed there is someone fairer than her. I love how only the mirror can make her see the truth.

Books often act like mirrors. To Kill a Mockingbird holds the mirror up for us to see that racism was rampart in the court system. The Hunger Games holds the mirror up for us to see that there are lines that can be crossed when it comes to entertainment.

Writing can change the world. As the saying goes, the pen is mightier than the sword.

By the way, if you wish to support an organisation against animal cruelty there are plenty to choose from in your country or around the world. These are just a few:
Born Free Foundation

About the author:
Not one to accept being put into a box, D L Richardson writes speculative fiction for anyone who likes a twist in their tale. She now has six books published and is working on an apocalyptic series and a dystopian novel.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Are you gonna eat that? Taurus traits

One thing you’ll often hear a Taurus say is “What’s to eat?”

Don’t talk to me, I’m eating. Taurus traits.
Taurus people like to eat. We walk into a room and the first thing we look for is the table with the food. And pity the hostess who catches us as we enter the room and decides to introduce us to her other guests first. We’d rather be introduced to the man or woman who will be serving us our food. He or she is the one we will be developing a rapport with as we apply our charm and wit to be the focus of their attention for the evening.
I can’t tell you the number of parties I’ve attended where people have been talking to me and all I’ve been able to think about is getting to the food table before all the food is gone. It also doesn’t help that I’m born under the Chinese sign of the dog. A double curse for me. I’m like a Labrador.
I remember one year where I attended the ARIAs, Australia's music awards, and there were a few celebrities roaming around. And yet my eyes were on the trays of food. I can tell you everything that was served. Little battered pieces of fish and chips in Chinese style paper takeaway cartons. Nachos. Smoked salmon on tiny little pikelets. Spring rolls. Meatballs with relish.
I can’t tell you the names of any of the celebrities.
I feel ashamed, but what can I say? Maybe the food was more interesting?

I was working at Paramount Pictures when I was given the nickname of Fang. My job was to purchase the biscuits for the office. The monthly budget was astronomical for the number of employees – two hundred dollars for twenty staff – and I often thought it was my job and my job alone to eat the biscuits. No wonder I jogged every day at lunchtime. But even while out jogging, the focus was on food. Danielle, my running partner, and I would start our running mission talking about what we would have for lunch, then we’d move onto what we would have for dinner. It didn't stop with running. We always talked about food. She was also a Taurus. Ah, those conversations.
While working at Paramount I got to attend a few movie previews. Pizza was usually supplied and once again I would make it my goal to ensure there were no leftovers, or nothing for anyone who happened to have ducked off to the toilets to eat.

I fondly became known as the person who hoovered up food. Luckily I didn’t have a weight problem. I led a very active lifestyle. Something James Morrison, an Australia jazz musician, once said was, “if you want to eat like a triathlete you have to train like a triathlete.” I used to be very active. Jogging in the morning, lunchtime, often in the afternoon as well. I was a runner. I enjoyed running, but I also enjoyed eating and didn’t want to put on weight. Taurus people are also into their appearance, somewhat – we’re not crippled by the fact we got caught in our uggies and sweat pants, but we do tend to go home afterward and throw out all our fat clothes or do a wardrobe cleansing and wish we earned more money so we could buy clothes we like as opposed to only buying clothes we can afford (that's a whole other conversation about the Taurean love for value for money and frugality).
Are you a Taurus? Does this sound like you? I'd love to hear how you deal with food and focus.

So how does any of this relate to writing? Well, for one thing characters have traits and I have once or twice used star signs to develop the bones of a character in order to keep him in context so I could see how he reacted when faced with his conflict. And it's good to give our characters natural addictions such as food or wine or shopping. If we give them quirks or idiosyncrasies it makes them more real and therefore more relatable to you, the reader. Actors study people so they can get in character. Writers need to study people too or run the risk of having every character end up the same.

About the author:
Not one to accept being put into a box, D L Richardson writes speculative fiction for anyone who likes a twist in their tale. She now has six books published and is working on an apocalyptic series and a dystopian novel.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Sapphyria's Book Reviews: Guest Appearance and a Giveaway: Music and writin...

My top 30 songs are featured on Sapphyria's Book Reviews: Guest Appearance and a Giveaway: Music and writin...:   I'm so excited to have D.L. Richardson on the blog today.   Just in case you didn't know, a quote from my review of her n...

Monday, 5 January 2015

Writing multiple books at once

For years, I baulked at joining a writer's group because I didn't want my writing to be overshadowed by the idea of sitting around sipping cups of tea while critiquing writing - that sounded too much like a book club, not a writer's group. But at last I succumbed and joined the local group. And I'm glad I did, though I do follow my instinct and if my gut tells me now is a good time, then now is a good time.

We've had one meeting so far, it was a combined Christmas get together as well as writer's session so it wasn't the usual session. They were doing edits of an anthology they had put together to release for Christmas, and since I had joined that night, it was too late for me to submit a story. However, it was good to turn up to this session as a participant and get a feel for the group. Plus the story they edited, one tale as told in different perspectives by each of the ,members, was intriguing and I was sorry that I had to leave early. But it was getting late and I had to go to work the following morning.

Our first session for 2015 should be being held next week, and from what I understand we each submit around 1000 words for critique by the rest of the members. Considering I'm halfway through Book two of a four book series, I've decided to write a novel in conjunction with my current project. And since I won't have the time to write two novels at once I thought I'd submit the first 2000 words of each chapter to the group, and this was I can also gauge interest. If I can't hook readers in the first 2000 words of each chapter, then I run the risk of not capturing them at all.

And then later on I can go back in and fill in the blanks.

So my question is this: Have you written multiple books at once?

The Creative Penn has an article on how to write more than one book at a time.

What tools did you find effective? Was the process worth it?

And what about readers who read multiple books at the same time. I'm guilty of that. I'm currently reading Magician by Raymond E Feist and I'm midway through The Twelve by Justin Cronin.

Agent turned author, Nathan Bransford received a lot of responses when he asked the question if readers cheat on books by reading other books.