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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Morphing the Christmas Letter

      Since 1968 I’ve sent out a dutiful Christmas letter each December that had three major intentions. Touching base with friends and family was always a given, but exercising my writing skill and incorporating a historical timeline were ulterior motives. Each of our children will someday benefit from a Christmas binder of letters that includes a parallel view of the family in changing times, along with some family photos and greeting cards through the years.
     When the nest thinned out, we opted to take Christmas photos of hub and I with one or more of the animals left in our domestic “zoo.” In my Pride and Prejudice phase, we rented costumes and posed as Darcy and Elizabeth with our favorite white Arabian. Another year, we posed in bathing suits on a snow-covered patio, enjoying summer drinks. “Greetings from tropical Minnesota” topped that year’s newsletter.
     Keeping the letter witty, cheerful and held to one or two sides of a single page was often a challenge.  Running an impromptu wildlife preserve on our woodsy Minnesota acreage the last few decades, however, provided a wealth of material. (I count four children and even their children among “wildlife” which included horses, deer, turkeys, dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels, birds, snakes, rodents and even a pygmy goat and a pelican.)  
     After the holidays, I always regretted time constraints that squelched focus on more than the occasional article or feature for a local paper or magazine. Somewhere deep inside those spurts of creativity the Great American Novel fluttered impatient wings. When I did carve out time in my busy life to freelance—that demanding novel raged and pouted over the put-off. Things began to pop when I joined a few National Writing Associations and began to attend their writer conferences. 
     After placing in a short story competition , the judge wrote a letter begging me to continue the story. An agent at a Las Vegas Writers Conference suggested I write a novella first, then pursue the longer novel I finally got around to pitching. I took their collective advice and my debut novel, “The Accidental Wife,” was scooped up by Wild Rose Press and released in 2015 to good reviews and several awards. Confidence surged into motivation. With an empty nest and only one dog left in our menagerie, I had no more excuses! 
      I write full time now, churning out ideas once suppressed by time. The vanity license plate on my hot little red car expresses it all. “Novel CJ” is finally in gear. Book Two, “The Accidental Stranger” will be released January 6th  in my “Accidental” series. The annual Christmas letter is morphing into a newsletter put out bi-monthly for fans. It is no accident; there is never a time-stamp on creativity or new careers. Never too late to promote delayed dreams! And to think…it all began with one of those much maligned, dutiful Christmas letters.


Cj Fosdick

Saturday, September 17, 2016

MOVIES TO BOOKS OR BOOKS TO MOVIES?

                                           WHICH DO YOU PREFER?

Ever see a movie based on a book that drives you to pick up a copy of the book? Or vice versa--read a book that sends you to the theater adaptation? Chances are you may be disappointed by one or the other...unless you are an author. I was conflicted after seeing "The Girl on the Train" at a theater recently. The flashbacks and setting locales were confusing. While reading the novel would have helped clear things up, it would have removed the suspense and "who-done-it" conclusion.

Any author who has gone through the editing process with a professional editor is often cautioned every scene should drive the story forward. Rule exceptions that stands out with a "but" are mysteries that requires red herrings--like Girl on a Train--or historicals that call attention to actual history. A backstory that reveals character may also earn a pass for adding length to a novel that may or may not be cruicial to the story.

A screenwriter's job is to taper that novel length down to a fixed number of screen minutes. That may mean vaporizing characters, dialog, and even some plot lines until a viable outline of the novel remains to be adapted. Even some of the author's "little darlings" that remain may end up on a cutting room floor once the screen editor does his job. If you've read the book first, at least you can plug in missing links to the story, however.

One of my favorite movies, Gone With The Wind, was a very large and popular novel that became a very long and popular classic movie. But when I read the book, I noticed several characters had been eliminated in the movie. Scarlett had two other children by her previous husbands before she married Rhett, and commentary about Civil War battles was obliterated by the character-driven plot. I appreciated the history in the novel, but I loved the streamlined romantic movie version that still took four hours to tell. 

I felt the same about other favorite movies, after reading the books, Raintree County and Pride and Prejudice. The screen version of The Last of the Mohicans was almost unrecognizable as a book adaption when the romanticized Daniel Day Lewis movie was released twenty years ago. However, To Kill a Mockingbird was entertaining in both of its venues.

Some fans of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander books have commented about some of the casting in the Starz TV series of Outlander. Wrong hair or eye color, a different twist in the plot? I've read all the Outlander books and think the small screen version has brought the books to life with uncanny accuracy. Diana wrote one of the screenplays herself, and has been concordant about any changes, remarking instead on the talented cast and scriptwriters in the lavish production. I wholeheartedly agree. Adapting a novel to the screen is a huge validation and compliment to any author. And reading the book--before or after you see the screen version--can be a DOUBLE TREAT, even with a preference.  Which do you prefer?
                                                                                                                                           Cj

Trolling For Blogs?

­TROLLING FOR BLOGS?   
Need a quick blog or newsletter idea?  Like searching for that special fishing hole in your favorite stream or lake, a well of inspiration can often be hard to locate…or even found bone dry. 
HOLIDAY INSIGHTS, an internet site listing historic ordinary and bizarre holidays OR alternate Days to Celebrate, is a good resource.  For instance, I learned that Star Trek debuted on TV in September 1966. Good for any relateable Trekie or Sci-Fi trivia warehoused in the brain?
People who love…or hate…Ketchup might compose a blog after learning
cj fosdick boy
the  record for drinking Ketchup belongs to Dustin Phillips, an American who—on Sept. 22, 1999—famously sipped a 14 oz. bottle of it through a quarter inch straw in just 33 seconds. There’s a competition for that?  Holy french fries! But doesn't everyone have a good Ketchup story?
Memorable brain-jog-blogs that nailed me were special days for September 5 and 6: “Be Late for Something Day” and Fight Procrastination Day.” I took the hint and decided to finally stow the Easter decorations on my fireplace mantel, then planned to write a blog about how I put things off—someday soon.. Sept. 6th was also “Read a Book Day.” Fudging a little, I may have qualified for that one because that was the day I completed—and sent back to my editor—the preliminary edits for my new novel.  I can read a book a day, but track-change-editing your own book will slow you down, even if you’ve read the book six times.
Lucky September 13 had three choices in a theme stream: “Defy Superstition Day, Fortune Cookie Day and Positive Thinking Day.” Fortune Cookies reminded me of candy conversation hearts—and the sweet series of Wild Rose Press stories—all titled for candy heart inscriptions. “Hot Stuff” was my submission about a crime, a cop, and a klutz! The only superstition I give cred to involves black cats and Halloween. (Keep those cats safe indoors!)  “Positive Thinking Day” forged a new mantra of hope. I will have prints of my new novel for the holidays.

“Wife Appreciation Day” on Sept, 18 was an easy post on hubby’s calendar, though I think he’s got that down pat. I appreciate him more than ever as writing often drives me into an alternate time zone where I need reminders to eat. “Wife Appreciation Day” also reminded me to appreciate all the wonderful reviews for my debut novel, The Accidental Wife.” I always have a special day when someone reads my book, then clicks for a review on https://amazon.com/author/cjfosdick  

September 19 was “Talk Like a Pirate Day. Funny, this brought to mind a little scene from the newest novel:
   Without using his hands, he snapped the bacon like a fish to bait and chewed thoughtfully. “Aye, but I’ll take my porridge straight, if you don’t mind.”
   “Aye Aye,” Scout chimed in from his high chair, banging on his empty bowl with a spoon. “More,” he said, licking the last of the oatmeal from his chubby fingers.
   We both chuckled at the mimic while I dished out more oatmeal. “Let me guess. You’ve been reading Goldilocks and his pirate books again…aye?”
   Mitch sucked his lips into a straight line. “Oh aye, but Goldilocks?”
   “She ate the bear’s porridge, and wanted more.”
                                         “Aarrrgh, Cheeky little lass.”

September 23rd was designated as “Dog in Politics Day.” Lots of blog ideas there, even if you don’t own a dog. However, courage to write about political convictions could be dicey this fall, unless some unbiased doggie humor can be extracted from the unreality show that will end in an election.


My favorite alternate day to celebrate is destined to become a favorite for any blogger. A whole 24 hours on September 28th for “Ask a Stupid Question Day!” Are we ever too old to learn something stupid?

Finally, September 29th is “Confucius Day.” Lots of red meat here if you look up his quotes. I love the line quoted in the Pear/book picture, though I never credited it to Confucius. Research is such fun! And only a little trolling can net a basket of great ideas for blogging and newsletters.     Cj



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

THE ACCIDENTAL WIFE-- A GOLDEN QUILL FINALIST!

     
   Spring is in the air…and in my heart this month. On May 17th I was emailed notice that THE ACCIDENTAL WIFE was named a Finalist in the RWA Golden Quill Awards for Best First Novel. The Chairman wrote: “The judges in our contest are readers who love romance, and they loved your book!”  
     But is it a true romance? Wild Rose Press qualifies a romance as having the HEA (happily-ever-after) ending between hero and heroine after push-pull encounters that tweak the reader to the end. (Think Nicolas Sparks.) Add history and a time-slip and you may find yourself reading historical fiction. Add some biting humor and mystery and you may have a historical fiction with those ADDED elements. Set the novel in the American West (Wyoming), and you may have a Western with all of the above. Twist that HEA ending into hints of sequel, and you have the lst book in a series that shares some—or all—of the characters. 
     With all these sub-genre’s invoked, my first novel may defy category. I’ve seen it dubbed a time travel, historical, spicy romance, mainstream, woman’s fiction, as well as all of the above. The Historical Novel Review Magazine (who generally categorizes all books by their century setting) linked my review with a few others, under a more obscure “Time Slip” category. I loved that other reviewers hailed it as a fresh new genre. I also approved of the mainstream tag, after noting the book’s appeal to many readers regardless of gender or age.
      My personal reading tastes move toward mystery, history, romance and page-turning adventure. One best-selling author who combines all of these in her intelligent and emotionally-draining Outlander novels is Diana Gabaldon—my inspiration. Behold my writing blueprint, posted above my laptop: Read the BEST in your genre and work toward imitating, emulating, equaling and then surpassing! Okay. Diana’s got the lock on long sagas, sexy Scots, British intrigue and detailed medical practices in the eighteenth century, but her story-telling talent AND defiance of category has mesmerized me along with her fans—millions more who are viewing the Outlander series currently on Starz TV. 
   Hey, hope springs eternal. The Accidental Wife has had an auspicious debut so far. The story continues in a sequel that again defies category, bridges time and even an ocean. This girl can’t help it! 
             ***Writing the sequel is a WIP nearly finished and full of surprising twists. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

SHAMROCKS, SNAKES AND BLARNEY!

     Nineteen months ago I kissed the Blarney Stone, lunched on Irish Stew under a thatched-roof pub near a 19th century Famine Cemetery, and learned the truth about shamrocks. The wee part of me that’s Irish felt a tug of allegiance to the Emerald Isle during our tour. As I do on most St. Patrick Days in the U.S., I wear green, sometimes even a button that says “Kiss me, I’m Irish.”
     My early memories of St. Patrick’s Day include me singing “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral” with friends on a school playground while we formed a line attempting to dance an Irish jig. Much later, in high school, I briefly dated an amorous Irish boy named Dittle—who grew a beard and dyed it green on St. Pat’s Day. I missed my curfew that night and my mother was waiting at the door when I got home. She stared at me, speechless of any reprimand. When I saw the green on my pillow the next morning, and looked in the mirror, I too, was speechless...and busted!  My mouth and chin were green.

      Who doesn’t love a parade—a holiday festival—on March 17, celebrated in more countries than any other National festival, thanks to Maewyn Succat. So who is Maewyn Succat?? When Britain was part of the Roman Empire in the 4th Century, Maewyn was a Christian-Romano British aristocrat, just sixteen years old when he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and enslaved in Ireland—as a shepherd. Six years later he escaped, walking 200 miles to the Irish coast to find a ship that took him back to England. He entered a monastery to become a priest, taking the name Patricius—aka Patrick. In a dream, he was directed by an angel to return to Ireland to Christianize the Celtic Pagans. St. Patrick made good on his intent, with at least 300 churches and 100,000 converts to his credit over 40 years in his verdant mission field. St. Patrick died on March 17, 461.
     The legend goes that St. Patrick used the native shamrock to explain the trinity. Actually, there are no organic shamrocks in Ireland, only wood sorrel or clover leaves disguised as shamrocks. A young three-leafed clover was known as seamair. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the three-leafed “shamrock” became a National symbol, like the English rose and the Scottish thistle. Great branding, though!
     Was it also blarney or did Patrick truly rid Ireland of snakes? Snakes may have been a euphemism for Pagans, since there probably never were snakes in an island surrounded by water too cold for snakes even to migrate there. Greenland, Iceland, and New Zealand are also blessed with with no snakes.
     Did wearing green originate with St. Patrick? Actually, Patrick was identified with blue. Wearing green probably came about because the emerald isle is literally green. No big surprise since it rains there 225 days a year--producing lots of green clover/shamrocks. In the rebellion of 1798, green was also symbolic of southern Nationalism, while loyalist foes in Northern Ireland wore British red. Popular song lyrics of the era described men hung for “Wearin’ of the Green.”

         Part of my sequel to “The Accidental Wife” takes place in Ireland. Life has impeded sequel progress with numerous distractions and the interim romantic comedy published last month. ("Hot Stuff”—is getting "hot" reviews on Amazon.) I am at a halfway point in the sequel, however, and to honor the first anniversary of The Accidental Wife this month—as well as the March holiday that invokes the largest parade in the world--(NYC)-- here is an Irish excerpt from the sequel:

     He was nodding off when he sensed a brush of movement in the room, and opening one eye, focused sleepily on a halo of light at the foot of the bier. The candle at the head of the coffin was drifting toward the window. He rubbed his eyes and blinked. Heard the latch break…felt a wisp of fresh air smudge his face.
       Was it the soul of the mistress, leaving her body?
       The light grew larger, multiplying, reflecting copper flames in the mullioned glass. He blinked again, focusing on a shimmery slip of white swaying in a new flood of air as the window creaked open.
      “Saoirse,” she whispered, leaning over the sill into the ocean breeze. The candle flame broke into tiny stars that caught in her hair. Recognizing the voice, he leaped to her side, crushing the sparks with his gloved hands. Her muffled scream startled them both, and she fell backward into his arms, dragging them both to the floor. The snuffed candle rolled out of her hand, splattering hot wax on the parlor rug.                  
      “Livy, A Dhia, what have you done?” he cried over the limp body, frantically batting at her singed hair and tiny sparks that blinked like fireflies across the shoulders of her nightgown.                                     

As every thirsty Irishman says on St. Patrick's Day and beyond... Sláinte!    Cj  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Sprinkling of Hearts!

Actual Valentine Lamp

     Sometimes our favorite live-in- every-day Valentine heroes do pay attention!  (Even without a gentle nudge). Early in our marriage, I got a lamp one Valentine's Day. It was a "light bulb" moment for me. The man I married was witty OR practical OR maybe tired of reading by candlelight!? (As newlyweds, we lived on a shoestring budget in a 2 room apt. with low wattage and pitiful furnishings.)  
     It took years of re-training, but eventually he moved up to roses and chocolate, even jewelry on rare occasions.              
    There were setbacks.
     When I accidentally flushed my wedding rings down the toilet and cried for days, I made him promise never to buy me expensive jewelry again. I am a klutz. It is painful, even for a self-confessed klutz to own valuables that can be lost...and will scar you forever by the memory.
      I was happy with a plain gold band to replace my rings. Costume jewelry--when an occasion called for it--almost looked as good as real gems. I wasn't the type to sport dangling earrings or jingling bracelets or chains of gold, anyway. Instead, I collected things like ceramic owls, mugs, nutcrackers, stray dogs and cats, rescue horses. All objects larger than anything that would fit in a jewelry box. I was happy to get a "gift" that expanded my collections. Especially 4-legged gifts.
Made to order from Rubipotamus
       When I started writing, I quickly learned that writers don't wear uniforms or dress up for a daily meeting with their laptop. Some don't even wear bras when they work, even preferring baggy fleece and slippers!  I'm content with the metamorphosis to hubby's practical sphere. But that doesn't mean I've shed layers of sentiment to get there. So when I wrote "Hot Stuff" for the new Wild Rose Candy Hearts Line, hubby paid attention to gift possibilities and found conversation heart earrings made to order-- online via Etsy. My Valentine passed on a new lamp this year and bought me 2 pair: one pink, one white--imprinted with "Hot Stuff." I'll keep them all. (Hubby and the earrings.) I may even wear the earrings to work. My laptop needs a change of scenery. 
      By the way, the heroine in  my new story,"Hot Stuff," is also a redheaded klutz. Truth in fiction is like a sprinkling of candy hearts, eh!?

Monday, January 4, 2016

MY NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION EVOLUTION


      I am Queen of the “To Do” lists—according to my chagrined hubby.  To be fair, I make more lists for myself than as I do for him. Goose for the gander? Sometimes it takes us more than a week to check off our respective lists. But there’s something smugly rewarding about completing tasks that range from vital to procrastinated.  
     Years ago, inspired by such feel-good rewards, I thought it would be fun for the family to write down resolutions for the New Year and seal them in an envelope to be opened a year later on New Year’s Eve. Fun to encourage long term goals and celebrate accomplishments, right?   Not so much. The years I actually remembered where I hid the sealed envelopes, I regretted opening mine. No weight was lost, no book written, even reading a book a month often came up short. I was lucky to count a finished quilt or completed project among my annual achievements, and ripping my list in tiny pieces with an inappropriate expletive destroyed any illusion of new-found serenity and patience. Where did the year go?  And what did I accomplish in all that time?
     Nobody else gloated over their annual “achievements” —or wanted to share their defeats. My ‘fun idea’ belonged in a circular file, unworthy of any celebration.  But losers do love company. When I polled close friends, fishing for similar resolution failures, losing weight seemed to top lists, along with giving up bad habits like smoking, cussing, drinking too often, working too hard. Fixing relationships also got a few hits. Vowing to get along with obnoxious co-workers and weird family members, learning to pick more insightful battles with your kids, paying more attention to spouses—all were resolution biggies—most with checkered success among those polled.
     I decided less personal goals—more like hopes and wishes—really didn’t meet the criteria for resolutions. Over-the-top wishes like ideal vacations or new home or cars were easier to check off and, as we aged, evolved more into bucket lists. Resolutions have become archaic in our family. Even outside the family, nobody I know even asks about New Year Resolutions anymore.  The “To Do” list, and companion “Bucket list,” however, will always survive changing times and attitudes.
    My favorite best-selling author, Diana Gabaldon, keeps a ledger with daily “To Dos.”  Her hubby suggested she keep a “To Don’t” list. I love the idea as much as D.G. did. But a negative list in the wrong hands could mean trouble unless you seal that list in an envelope and store it where nobody else could possibly read it.  A mental list is safer for “don’ts” that could be misconstrued: “Don’t give your email address to relatives in retail or don’t talk Vikings with Packer fans, and don’t ever talk politics with right…or left wing friends. Danger may even lie in things you don’t want to share with your hubby...or your best bud.  Don’t ask!  

   I made lists for hubby and me today—four days into 2016. Most items concern Christmas decorations, snow removal or feeding the winter wildlife outside. His list makes it easier for me to concentrate on MY LIST. With a published novel and a new story to be released Feb. 10th, I find the writing and marketing tasks have a never-ending spontaneous list that force daily, weekly, even annual check-offs. Anyone predicting an Evolution Revolution in 2016?  Stay tuned.