Twitter gains

Who’d have thunk it? One tweet and I’ve connected with more writers than I have in the last two years on Facebook!

I haven’t been very active on Twitter but I’ve found #WritingCommunity and I’ve connected with all sorts of creative, funny, supportive writers that I now follow. Some of them have been kind enough to follow me back. I’ve made a few friends. I also follow some folks like Joe Lansdale and Stephen King, who I’d never have a chance to interact with otherwise, right?

This last week, a few of the more popular tweeters, ones with more followers, offered to retweet the tweets of those of us who have 1,000 or fewer (or 500 or less, it varied) to help us gain followers. With our names getting out there before all of their followers, it wasn’t long before our numbers were jumping.

I decided to throw my name out there. By the way, I’m @SafranekLori on twitter. I started last week with around 175 followers. I’m not too active, so it’s my own fault I have so few. Today, I have 258 followers! And I’m following more than 300 people, most of them fellow writers.  Other writers increased their following much faster. Networking at its simplest.

So forget about the political arguments on Twitter. Hook up with the #WritingCommunity to talk about writing, stories of success and struggles, have discussions of why we write, and so much more. And make friends. I have found my people!

The one about the dynamite

Stories have been a staple in my life from the time I was a child. My dad told stories at the dinner table, in the living room when there wasn’t anything good to watch on television, driving down the road, at family gatherings — everywhere.

My father’s family had a talent for spinning tales about their lives in the Ozark Mountains of southeastern Missouri during the 1940s through 1960s. Those stories traveled with them when they moved up to Nebraska, where I live now, and any time we got together, a story was told.

Dad’s family was poor, the kind of poor where they lived on beans and cornbread most of the time, and the kids went without shoes in the summertime. Photos of them from that time resemble Dorothea Lange’s photos from the Depression Era, except they were taken ten to twenty years later when most of the country had improved its circumstances. My family was still in poverty. My grandfather was illiterate and times were hard. But they found humor in their lives and the stories were funny, uproarious even. How else could they cope with the dreariness of being so poor?

As I grew up, our family in Nebraska got together for storytelling and I remember a lot of “hoopin’ and a’hollerin'”, which is what we call laughing and shouting. No story was too crazy to be believed, either. You didn’t need to back it up with facts, just “flour it up” with a few funny additions until we’re all rolling on the floor laughing. That’s all we ask.

When my aunt and uncles and my dad got together, I swear the roof lifted off the top of our house, they were so loud. (That’s an example of “flouring it up”.) Each one talked louder than the other, trying to get to tell the story. We laughed until our sides hurt and our throats were sore.

Here’s a good old story about my Grandpa Gabe, who had a real flair for drama but no tolerance for nonsense:

Somehow, he and his brother, Abe, (Yes, Gabe and Abe–I don’t make this stuff up, folks) and maybe their father, Homer, got their hands on some dynamite. They wanted to get rid of an old stump on their property. So they got the whole thing set up, dynamite ready.

Someone warned them they were using too much powder for a little old stump, but pshaw! Grandpa scoffed. They knew what they were doing. So they set it off and POW! The dynamite went off, the stump flew into the air and soared right over my Grandpa’s house!

Grandpa was watching, his eyes following the stump, and his head tilted back. As the stump arched, so did Grandpa. It went up, he leaned back, it flew over the house, he leaned farther.

Suddenly, BAM! He landed flat of his back. My Grandpa was a cranky old man, and landing on his back was not at all funny to HIM. It was hilarious to his kids, who laughed themselves silly.

And that’s how you turn a simple stump removal into a “story.” And EVERY time someone tells that story, we all laugh until tears fall.

Those old stories are like favorite books to me. I ask my dad to tell me “the one about the time a tornado was coming and you all hid in the storm cellar,” or “about the time you came home from school and they had moved to a different house.” I have a lot of favorites, and Dad is always willing to tell me one.

And that’s how the granddaughter of a man from the Ozarks found a love for telling stories. He never read a book in his life, but he and my grandmother, and their children passed along a huge appreciation of the art of storytelling to my generation. I sincerely doubt I can ever capture their flair for reliving a story, but they inspired me to write and I love them for it.

 

Women in Horror Month

February is Women in Horror Month, a time to recognize all the women who create wonderful horror stories for your enjoyment. Support women authors this month and always!

This week, a reader left a review on Amazon for my book Freaked Out. It was a great review, which is awesome, but it mentioned points I specifically set out to make as I wrote the book. I thought to myself: YOU GOT IT!!! You understood me! All the rewriting and editing was worth it!

You can’t ask for more than that as a writer. I was very touched and it gave me a boost of confidence I really needed right now.

Although I appreciate each and every review I receive, this was only the second review posted for this book, which was released in 2016. Reviews help books get more attention from readers (and buyers!) and also gives authors feedback on their work. I encourage every reader to review the books you read.

A review on Amazon doesn’t need to be wordy; a paragraph is enough! I love reviewing books I’ve enjoyed. It’s like recommended a new book to the whole world! I’ve always been the kind of person who says, “Oh, have you read this new book?” Sometimes I am sure I drive people crazy, but I love getting suggestions for exciting new reading material.

Do your favorite authors, and your friends, a favor and leave a review! It’s much appreciated!

 

26 Letters, Making Words

I named my blog 26 Letters, Making Words because one day I made the off-hand comment that all books start from just 26 letters, combined over and over to make different words. We can pretend to be linguistical geniuses, but it’s all sort of a big game of Boggle, and if you’re lucky and diligent and you paid attention in Miss Larsen’s Senior English class, you can probably write a pretty good piece of fiction.

Those 26 letters I have at my disposal are the same 26 letters Edgar Allen Poe had, and that John Steinbeck had, and that Ray Bradbury had. And they each ended up with words and sentences that inspired me and made me want to write. Now I have to scoop up those letters and make words. Make the words into sentences. Sentences into paragraphs. You get the idea.

Now I’m making words every day and I’ve finished the rough drafts of two novels. One is a romance novel and one is a horror novel. The romance novel started as a funny horror novel but it turned a corner somewhere and became a romance. The horror novel is still horror.

That little switcheroo wasn’t my idea, but words don’t always do what you tell them to do. Sometimes they gang up on the writer and head off in their own direction. A plane ride becomes a road trip, or a walk down Lonely Street becomes a trip to the Las Vegas All-Nite Drive-Through Wedding Chapel. Words are fickle that way.

And paragraphs? Don’t get me started on paragraphs. Those things will knock a writer right off the plot. Sometimes, they’re wise paragraphs and the change is good, but sometimes, the writer must be tough and throw those paragraphs in the trash. It’s only words, after all, just a bunch of letters. Don’t be too proud to mix ’em up or even throw them away.

NaNoWriMo Success!

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In a lonely, dimly-lit coffee house, the lonely writer types word after word, sentences turning into paragraphs and finally, a pile of papers forms that most revered creations of all–a novel.  It takes years, we all realize that.  First, the writer ponders a plot and character and conflicts. Outlines are written, unless you’re a pantser, then you’re just off drinking coffee and eating danish and thinking deep thoughts.

Then the writing begins. Hair is yanked out of one’s head. Coffee is consumed by the gallons, cigarettes are smashed into ashtrays outside the shop.  The whole process labors on, slowly, laboriously, until–at last–the writer types “The End” and is released from the spell the muse had them under.

That’s one way to do it. Or you can sign up for National Novel Writing Month and write a book in one month. Yes, I said one month, just thirty days. To do that, the writer needs to produce 1,600 words a day to create the 50,000-word mark by the end of November. Fifty thousand’s a good length for a slim but respectable length novel. Sounds so reasonable, doesn’t it? Just write every day, 1,600 words a day, every day for a month. Easy peasy, oh so easy.

You can’t tell but I’m laughing my pants off on this side of the computer monitor. Writing every day is a challenge itself. I’ve been a writer for more than thirty years and writing is my passion, forgive the cliche.  I’m overstating it a bit because I’m not so passionate that I write every day unless I’m facing a deadline. First books don’t have deadlines, unfortunately, so I never seemed to get that first novel written.

When I first learned of NaNoWriMo, it sounded like an excellent way to motivate myself, and so what if I didn’t finish 50,000 words by the end of the challenge? Who’s gonna know? Well, it turns out everyone would know because I told all my friends and they were encouraging me all month. I never could keep my big mouth shut.

On the days when I hated the very sight of my keyboard, I’d think about how lousy I’d feel if I had to admit I skipped a day of writing. Even worse, if I didn’t reach my goal, I’d face that disappointment. So I’d drag myself into my office and plunk around on the keyboard until words formed sentences and before long, my story was coming together.

Around the third week of November, I typed that 50,000th word and shouted, “Hallelujah!” startling my dogs into a frenzy of barking and trying to jump in my lap. Celebration over, I turned back to the computer and typed on. My book isn’t finished, so I’m going to keep writing every day until it is. I just realized I told you, so now I have to do it or I will feel terrible. Good motivation!