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HOME . . ABOUT . . SCHEDULE . . LINKS . . IN PRINT

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2020 - December 7th

Today is the big day! Winners have been announced for my 2nd Annual La Viness Short Story Writing Contest: WATER FALL. Click here to see if you know the winners.

Anthologies make great Christmas gifts for readers. More of my stories have been published in anthologies this year. Here's where to snag a copy of each one. They make great gifts, too! I have a story and a parody in the last one.

Writing our Lives Southern Anthology, Volume III
The Vault of Terror: Tales to Tell, Volume 3
From Behind the Mask

There's one more that started up this year, but it will probably be published next year. I'll let you know when that one comes out.

You'll want to subscribe to Writers Monthly emagazine that's coming out in 2021. It's only $12 a year! You'll find Cozy Mystery writing tips from me and other great information from a few of my friends. As soon as we have a website for you to find all the info in one place, I'll post a link here, so it's easy to find. I'm looking forward to your feedback. If you want to sign up before the January issue is released, send me an email!

For me, this year has been full to overflowing with changes and isolation. I suppose it has been that way for most of us. I attended only two of the normal five or more conferences, but didn't seem to save any money from not traveling. How did that happen?

We stayed home from almost everything we normally would have done, but somehow, there has been less spare time.

By now, I should have at least ten or fifteen short stories to send for contests, next year. But, instead of using NaNoWriMo to write a bunch of short stories, I used it to create a base for at least ten to fifteen novelettes, or possibly novellas in a series of cozy, seasoned romances. After meeting a few of these folks on paper, I'm sold! I'd live in that little town any day!

In the first book...
Robin had a stroke three years ago, but she's fine now. She wants to move out of her son's home and be self-sufficent again. When her son objects, she takes charge of her life and moves forward anyway. But life isn't the same as it was in her teen years. Can she reach her goal, or is it too much?

Now that you've reached the last paragraph of today's update, I hope you'll scroll back up and check out the winners of my annual contest AND buy a few of those anthologies for Christmas gifts. Check 'em out to see who the authors are. You might know some of them! Each book has great stories inside. Thanks!

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PREVIOUS MESSAGES:

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2020 - October 1st

Most of you know I am a writer, instructor, speaker, organizer, school volunteer, and grandparent. However, you may not know that I am also a family historian. I used to organize annual family reunions for different branches of my family. As I regain my health after heart attacks and cancer (much slower than I had expected), I hope to start them back up. Until then, I am investing more and more time in my love for preserving my family history.

With this love of the past and my ancestors comes a serious responsibility: remembrance. I am active on Findagrave.com and I hope, one day, to afford to be a member of Ancestry.com again. I am also active on other sites. For the most part, you can find me listed as JesPiddlin. Sometimes, I use my real name, too.

But, in all these things I do to help others remember our ancestors, there is one troubling thing that comes to mind...

Cemeteries.

They serve multiple purposes. For some, they serve only as a final resting place. For many, visiting the graves of loved ones helps them deal with their grief by talking to them or simply being able to leave flowers and other items that show how much they are missed. Occasionally, when someone has been cremated and scattered, a marker is still placed in their honor for the living family members who need a place to "meet with" or honor their ancestor, or just for those who are searching for that ancestor's records. And let's not forget, cemeteries serve as a great source of inspiration for authors, too!

But, are our schools teaching our children about the purposes and needs of our cemeteries?

"Needs?" you might ask. "What needs can dead people have?"

They require lawn care, so the living folks can visit the graves of loved ones without fearing snakes, ticks, chiggers, or wild animals. Since no living humans reside there, some of these "things" are going to happen anyway, but lawn care helps minimize those threats.

They sometimes require security measures such as fences or more.

Some require utilities such as lighting (security) or water for multiple purposes.

Most cemeteries have someone to keep track of who is buried when and where, and who bought which plot, etc.

And there may be many other needs.

Many or all of these requirements cost money. Where does that money come from? The "residents" are not gainfully employed, and they do not grow money. Somebody has to pay the costs. Many cemeteries organize family members into boards that handle these things for us. But, even if that board is made of volunteers, they will require money to help them take proper care of our buried loved ones.

This is something we should teach our children and grandchildren. They need to understand that our deceased ancestors require a little help from the living to pay for their "needs." If these cemeteries are not funded by donations, they will have to begin charging families for "memberships" or some other kind of annual upkeep fee. Some probably do this, already, or they charge enough to pay for a few years of upkeep when they sell the space. But years after they are full, they will still need care.

If each cemetery "resident" had one person who paid just $20 to $50 a year, most of our cemeteries could be well cared for. Some cemeteries could even create a "trust" fund that supplies their needs for years into the future.

Once or twice a year, take your kids or grandkids through a cemetery to see the family gravestones. Even if your family is buried far away, teaching our youth that those gravestones represent someone’s deceased family member will help them understand. Explain how the markers help so many people just by being there, but they have "needs" that cost money. Help the kids contact the cemetery to find out how they fund the care-taking, then give them twenty dollars to donate to the cemetery each year. These activities will help them remember how important it is.

If your family is buried in a small local cemetery, have the kids help with cleaning up the grave sites. Maybe they can do some weed trimming, plant some pretty flowers, build a few nice benches for visitors, or mow.

Showing our future generations HOW to care for our ancestors will help them remember how important it is. Help them find out who is in charge of keeping the records and care-taking, and see if they accept donations to help with the upkeep. Encourage them to start a cemetery beautification project with area kids who also need to learn about the “needs” of our deceased ancestors. Let’s educate our younger generations about the responsibility we have to protect and care for cemeteries, so our living family can remember and honor our loved ones of the past.

Never assume your children are being taught anything. Share all you know, because they may not learn it anywhere else. Too many of us assume they are learning these things, but we didn’t learn everything we know from school. A lot of it came from our parents, friends, and others. This is a great opportunity to be that parent or grandparent who helps your child learn things, too. You will both be glad you did.

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2020-August 29th

Update on the 2nd Annual La Viness Short Story Writing Contest:

In this year's contest, we are accepting both snail mail AND email submissions. So, you may submit in whichever way you prefer. Payment is easy, too.

Also, we have removed the 100-entry limit for this year's short story contest. If we get more than 100 entries, we'll be glad to deal with the load.

The deadline for submissions is Monday, August 31st, 2020, which means the time to submit is NOW.

Click on the contest ad below to visit the website where you'll find all the details you need to enter the contest. And please, help us share. More entries equals more money for the winners, so reach out to other writers with this news.

Good luck!

Also, Happy Birthday and Congratulations to my beautiful, sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Xaundra, who recently won FIRST PLACE in the Youth Poetry Contest at the Arkansas Writers Conference! Writing definitely runs in the family!

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2020 - June 27th

Ellipsis or Em Dash?

EXAMPLE
When the pace of your story is fast—and you need to interrupt it with an extra thought—the em dash is a much faster pause than a comma.

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EXAMPLE
“I wish you wouldn’t interrup—”

“But I can’t wait!”

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EXAMPLE
When the pace of your story is slow … and maybe … you need a pause that’s slower … yes … much slower than a comma, the ellipsis is quite handy.

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EXAMPLE
When a character's dialogue slowly trails off, and a period doesn’t pause long enough…

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The em dash and ellipsis should almost exclusively be used for internal or external dialogue. The same goes for a question mark or exclamation mark.

Narration is most often an unknown impartial voice that serves as background noise. It is the "glue" that fills the gaps and holds the story together. The reader knows it’s there, but he shouldn’t really notice it.

Narration offers important information. It can also speed up or slow down the pace of a story. However, it should use only periods and commas to prevent calling attention to itself. Other punctuation can be distracting. A surprising number of people aren’t sure how to read the em dash, ellipsis, colon, or semicolon, so they might read it incorrectly or stop reading to figure it out. This is why writers are often told not to use them unless they are absolutely necessary.

Good writers strive to prevent confusion or distraction. They want readers to be glued to the story from beginning to end.

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OTHER NEWS

My husband recently won FIRST PLACE in the Children's Fiction category of the annual Friends of the Tulsa City-County Library Adult Writing Contest! Click here to visit his website and learn more about him.

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The 2nd Annual La Viness Short Story Writing Contest is already receiving submissions. We’re only taking the first 100 entries this year, so don't wait until the last minute!
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Two pieces of my work have recently been published in anthologies. One is a memoir, and one is a short story. Here are a couple of links:

Writing Our Lives: A Southern Storytellers Anthology, Volume III

The Vault of Terror: Tales to Tell, Volume 3

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2020 - June 15th

Am I male or female?

I’m not sure why, but when I read a story, and I’m not told right away if the main character is male or female, I usually assume it is a male. So, I seem to read from a guy’s point of view, unless otherwise directed. This works out in some stories, but when I read two or three pages of the story and THEN I find out the main character is a female, I have to start the whole story over, which is frustrating. So, I normally stop reading that story and move on to the next.

Yes, I move on, unless I’m editing the story or judging it for a contest. In that case, I take points away for the author not clueing me in right from the start.

Guys and gals just don’t see things in the same way.

If a girl has a cat or dog in a story, it’s usually a sweet little cuddly creature. Guys are more likely to be buddies with them, so the animals may take on a main character role. This goes for any other animals, too. Girls tend to fret over the sweet things or be afraid of them, and boys will talk to them out loud, as if they’re going to respond.

Even a house is subject to male-female differences. A guy tends to see the house as a temporary location. It should serve his basic needs, and it has to be there when he needs it. But most women see a home as a place of comfort. It needs to look pleasant and be comforting. She needs to be able to cuddle up on the sofa and read a book. A guy needs a sofa to sit or sleep on. He doesn’t care what it looks like, as long as it’s not slimy or stinky. And when he’s had an extra hard day at work, even that might not matter.

Now, before you get all fussy with your views on how we shouldn’t stereotype our characters, you should know that I’m speaking about initial interpretation, ONLY. A character’s gender should be identified in a very clear manner as soon as possible in a story. If you want to have a guy who acts more feminine, that’s fine. Just be clear at the beginning that we are reading about a guy, so we can relate to him better as we learn more about him. Same goes for a female.

And what if the name is Lynn, or Mattie, or Sam? There are a lot of names that will not help the reader identify the character’s gender. So, find a way to be clear, and make sure it’s near the beginning of the story.

The next issue is making it clear. Since we’re supposed to start our stories in the heat of a situation, how can we clearly identify the gender of our character without coming out and saying it is a woman? Even worse, what if it’s written in first person? What gender is an “I” person? How do we make that clear right away?

Sometimes, you can let the character talk to himself: “OMG! I’m a guy. I’m not supposed to be afraid of a half-inch spider. If anyone finds out, I’ll die. I’ll just die!”

Other times, you can rely on stereotype: “It’s just a mutt, Laura. Ya gotta be firm with ‘em.” Lou turned toward the German Shepherd. “Now, get on outta here! Get!”

And there’s clothing: When the elevator doors closed, they grabbed the hem of Sam’s dress. (If Sam’s not a woman, you might want to make that clear pretty quick.)

Look for ways to help your readers instantly connect with your main character. It will make the beginning of your story much stronger and more believable if they don’t have to keep on guessing until page two or three.

And remember – If you’ve submitted something to a publisher or a contest, you are losing points if it’s not clear from the beginning.

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2020 - June 3rd

How many books do you have in you?

One thing serious book publishers are looking for is whether an author has more than one book in them. If you have a trilogy, that's great, but what's next? A trilogy will carry you for more than one book, but if you're a big hit, your readers will want more, and the publisher is expected to give more.

Do you have more? Are you an author that a publisher can sink their money into and get a good payback on, or are you an author who has only a few good words?

If you're a one-hit-wonder, then as soon as that book is done, the publisher has to look for another good author. That takes more time, and more time equals more cost.

Publishers are looking for authors they can invest in. They don't publish your books for free. They have people to pay. In many cases, those people only get paid when your books sell. That's what royalties are all about. But some entities, such as the printers, usually get paid up front. Where does that money come from? The publisher's bank account.

So, the publisher wants to know, "Are you worth that investment?"

How many books do you have in you?

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2020 - March 10th

Welcome to my new website. The old one got...old. I wanted something a little different. It's not quite perfect, but I'm working on it.

Please, take a little time to check out the site. Feel free to link to any of my pages. And thanks for stopping in. I hope to see you this year at a conference or other event on my schedule.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I always encourage writers to attend at least one conference each year, so they can learn more and connect with other writers. But, we all have a first time, and first times can be a little scary. So, if you are new to a conference and would like to hang out with me, just let me know. I'd love to have your company. I remember what it's like to be the newbie.

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All images and text on this site, were created by JesPiddlin - copyright 2017 and forward.