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Tammy Setzer Denton - Writer
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Everyday Writing

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One of my short stories. "Kingdom of One" will be published in the October issue (#28) of The Caribbean Writer.

The Caribbean Writer (TCW)--The Literary Gem of the Caribbean-- is an international, refereed, literary journal with a Caribbean focus, founded in 1986 and published annually by the University of the Virgin Islands.


The 2014 edition of The Caribbean Writer, Volume 28, highlights Time, Place, and Memories, so "Kingdom of One" was a good fit.




I hope everyone who reads it will enjoy or at least, appreciate the story. Like most of my work, it's dark and leaves the reader questioning the distinction between right and wrong.

I can't wait to see what it look like in print! You can order a copy of Issue #28 here. I hope that any and every one who reads it will send me some feedback. I would really like to hear your thoughts on it.

As an unexpected bonus, its publication in the journal puts me in the running for a literary award. It will be a year before the 2014 award winners are announced, but wouldn't it be great to get an award from a university located on one of my favorite islands?

Who wouldn't want to be here? I have fond memories of vacationing in St. Croix with my son when he was a child. We had such adventures there!

My next topic has to do with critiques. I take part in several critique groups and at times, I've walked away from them feeling as if I'm not getting serious feedback. Other times, I've come away feeling guilty that I've perhaps been too harsh with my comments.

Without construction, honest criticism, I don't see how my writing can get any better. How will I improve? Maybe, others aren't at the critiques to improve, but rather to have their works lauded. If that's the case, it's a game I don't play well.  I'm honest. Brutally honest. If that means saying, this piece needs a lot of work and here are some examples of what is wrong and some suggestions on how to make it better, then that's what I say.

Fortunately, I'm not the only one who believes this kind of honesty is the best policy. A writer whose work I admire and whose critiques I take to heart,Harvey Stanbrough, has generously allowed me to lift a paragraph from one of his blog posts. Here goes:

Social Graces — Yeah, well, okay, I just don’t have ‘em, I guess. I keep getting emails telling me I should be more gentle with my criticism when other writers ask me to critique their work. Sorry, but I’m just not that guy. When someone tells you only what you want to hear, maybe on the surface it makes you feel good but you learn NOTHING. What’s worse, you never know whether that person is telling you the truth about anything. What you get from mebut only if you ask is the plain, unvarnished truth, good or bad. When I tell you something could be better, I’ll try to explain how to fix it. Maybe best of all, when I pay your work a compliment, you’ll know I mean it. The professional (or the aspirant who will become a professional) gladly suffers criticism in order to grow in the craft. The aspirant who would rather hear unearned praise than be afforded an opportunity to grow will never be a professional. It really is as simple as that.

On a personal note, I got to spend some time in Mexico this summer. I always have a great time when I'm there and this time was no exception. I got to experience my first deep sea fishing trip and came home a winner as you can see below.


My catch-of-the-day was a 25 pound black fin tuna! Not bad for my first time.

Mundo cut it into steaks.                         The Chef cooked it for me!











I also got the opportunity to swim with the dolphins. It's something that's been on my bucket list for several years, but just couldn't seem to make it work until now.

                                                Me and Nautica. 

I strongly encourage you to swim with a dolphin if you ever get the chance. It was AMAZING!

On a final note, I'm off to see Gone Girl with my daughter. We've both read the book and are curious as to how well the movie is done.

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Goodreads and Amazon Reviews of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Below you'll find the review I posted on both Goodreads and Amazonfor Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.


Love, love, LOVE this book! I've tweeted, Facebooked, emailed, blogged, and reviewed this book. If I do anything more, author Robin Sloan is going to have to put me on the payroll!

I rarely get this excited about a book, but Mr. Penumbra's really resonated with the bibliophile in me. This debut novel abounds with quirky, intelligent characters on a quest. I truly adored Ms. Lapin! How could I not? She is me and I am her.

Rarely do technology and literature met and mesh. Just think about the ongoing debate over e-books. However, if technology and literature had a love child, this would be it. Even the cover glows in the dark!

From first to final page, the reader becomes part of a journey that he/she may not always understand (I'm not that technologically advanced.), but is always willing to follow. There are parts that are more bookish and in those sections, I felt like I was leading, guiding the others along the way. From Google headquarters to age-old libraries, Sloan blends the old with the new, and makes it work.

The truth he reveals/exposes is one you may have heard and forgotten. If it's your first time to see it, then enjoy and drink deeply of it.

I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who loves books, reading, technology, architecture, mystery, secret societies, libraries, independent book stores, gaming, and magic realism. Did I leave anyone out? In other words, this book is for everyone.

Buy it, read it, enjoy it, sleep with it under your pillow to inspire good dreams.

Sort of Ivy League?

Some of you may have noticed an ivy-like vine decorating my home page. It’s also on my business cards, letterhead, and most anything related to my writing. Ivy—it’s not just pretty, it’s a tough plant. Have you ever tried to kill ivy? I have. I failed repeatedly.

Years ago, I planted ivy on the side of my brick house. I was in love with the idea of an ivy-covered castle. In my case, the castle was a small brick ranch, but still I loved the idea of it, the romance of it.



My next door neighbor, a woman wise beyond her years (and she had many) said, “You’re going to regret that.”

Of course, I blew off her advice. I was young—er and thought she was speaking out of dementia. (Oh, to be that young and convinced that I knew everything.)


I ignored her words, planted, watered and nurtured the ivy sprigs until they were growing well and then, left them to do what they do best—grow.

Did they ever! 

Within two years, it had grown up the side of the house, reached the gable and was heading for the roof line and shingles. Suckers attached the vine to the brick and mortar, firmly anchoring it while tendrils crept beneath the siding on the gable and entered the attic. Other tendrils search for the smallest of openings around the basement windows trying to find a way inside.


From that point on, I trimmed the ivy, pruned it, cut it, chopped it, all in an effort to get it under control and keep it that way. No matter how much I cut, it always grew back with a vengeance. Annual cutting turned into twice a year, then more and more often.  



My neighbor never once said I told you so, but every time I started trimming, she would appear on her porch swing with an amused smile on her face. While I sweated and worked and cursed, she swung and smiled and sipped iced tea. I guess I deserved it.



<-- Imagine this is ivy.    

Or perhaps, this -->





When I realized the ivy was damaging the brick and mortar, I committed an act of vegetational homicide. I ripped every vine from the wall, and cut them back to two inch stumps in the ground.



Next came a hatchet job to rival Lizzie Borden’s. I literally shredded each small stump with the hatchet until only a fibrous mass remained. Finally, I poured weed killer over what was left in hopes that it would reach those determined roots.



That was fifteen years ago. I don’t have an ivy-covered wall any more, but every spring a small, but determined vine will appear and reach for that wall. I maintain a vigilant eye for it and get out the hatchet as soon as it appears. My neighbor has long since passed away, but I swear I can hear her laughing at me each spring.

My writing is a lot like that ivy. Determined, with a will to live. Fortunately, it’s not destructive and instead of a hatchet, my weapon of choice is my computer. I don’t kill my writing “ivy”, but over the years I’ve trained it to climb a trellis and follow a pattern of my choosing instead of running wild all over the page. Instead of a hatchet, I clean my writing “ivy” with careful editing and a critical eye toward spell check.

The result? My writing blog complete with ivy logo. Now that you know the story behind the ivy leaves you find on my website, you’ll never look at an ivy leaf the same again, will you?

Discovering New Talent

I love when I get the opportunity to discover new talent. Okay, maybe I didn't discover them, but I did just recently find them.

One such talent is Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (his debut novel!). I may have found a new favorite book.                              
                                         
Mr. Penumbra's is a book lover's dream, a bibliophile's paradise. It references other books, drops hints and clues to an even greater book loving group while incorporating quirky characters (I am Ms. Lapin.), the Google campus, art, bookstores, and a quest. How can anything get any better than that? Don't just take my word for it, check out the reviews and comments on Good Reads. The book also glows in the dark! There's nothing I don't like about this book!

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves books or loves reading books (and yes, there is a difference).

I personally love books on so many levels. From reading to the way they are made, the quality of paper, the illustrations, type setting, the endpapers, and so much more.




To me, marbled endpapers are to swoon for,









      a deckle edge is almost
      orgasmic--almost!








I love to hold a used, but well-loved book in my hands and imagine all the other hands who've held it before me, all the other eyes that have read the words, the fingers that have traced a particularly intriguing line. A book with a well-broken in spine shows the love given it when it was first purchased. A book losing its pages shows me that it wasn't taken care of properly by someone who either didn't know or (dare I think it?) didn't care.

What was your favorite book of 2013?

P.S. I have another previously undiscovered talent that I hope to bring to you in 2014. This one is totally my discovery, and doesn't have to do with books, but will captivate and fascinate you in addition to leaving you in awe of his talent.

Torture, isn't it?











Getting By With a Little Help From My Friends

It's easy to get discouraged when writing. Sometimes, that discouragement comes from a lack of recognition for what you've done. Other times, discouragement comes from a lack of support for what you're attempting to do. Some people see the desire to become a writer as a pipe dream. Some see it as a waste of time better spent doing something more concrete. Yet, the dream, the desire, the need to be a writer is overwhelming and concrete in the aspiring writer. For me, writing is as essential as breathing.

Yesterday was one of those days when I was discouraged. Not by people, but by events out of my control and memories of those events. Yesterday was the ninth anniversary of the death of someone I loved. The sadness always sneaks up on me despite my attempts to head it off. So yesterday I was broadsided with a sense of loss, a waterfall of tears, and a mental slideshow of memories from happier times that only seemed to emphasize what I don't have now.

Yesterday could have been a real bummer...

But, it wasn't.

In fact, yesterday turned out to be a great day. Why? Because of the people who love and care about me. My family, friends, and writer friends know that December 6th is difficult, so they came to my rescue. Individually and with no prompting other than a feeling they should call or stop by for a visit.

As a result, I went from down in the dumps to having a great, productive day.

Sadness in one area of your life can seep into other areas causing doubts and negative thoughts that generate more negativity until a person is sucked into the abyss of a depressive funk.

Thanks to the people who love me and showed me that love yesterday, I can face today with a much more positive attitude about everything. I look forward to get some writing done, both the necessary and the creative.

Writers tend to be a solitary sort, but that doesn't mean they don't need friends. I highly recommend finding similar writer types and forming a critique group that will improve your writing skills and in all likelihood become a group of friends that will be there for you when you need a boost.

The Great Gatsy & an Apology to Nathan Bransford

I follow Nathan Bransford's blog and have for several years. He's an ex literary agent turned author, and all around informative guy with a huge and active following.

Over the years, he has ranted and raved over his favorite book, The Great Gatsby. He, on occasion, includes quotes from the book which have never impressed me, and I didn't quite understand the appeal. I figured it was just a case of personal taste.

Last week, I picked up a copy of Gatsby at Goodwill (one of my all-time favorite bookstores). At fifty cents, I didn't think I could go wrong even if I hated it and ended up donating it back.

I started reading it the same evening and much to my surprise I loved it! I didn't put it down until the wee hours of the morning when I finished!

I want to apologize to Nathan for doubting his taste. It's a great story, beautifully written, with layer upon layer of social commentary and observations of human nature. It's a love story, a story of obsession, gain, and loss, and ultimately, what is truly important in life.

Below is my apology to Nathan which I sent to his blog.

Dear Nathan,

I want to formally apologize to you for ever doubting your taste in books.

I've followed your blog for years and have always questioned your belief that The Great Gatsby is a fantastic novel. Even when I read the various Gatsby quotes you've posted, I was unmoved.

I recently picked up a copy, and I must admit that I've been wrong. While I won't say that it's my favorite book, it is in the top 10. I read it through in one night, unable to put it down.

I'm also posting a link to this apology on my website so my followers can see me eat humble pie.

Sincerely and apologetically,
Tammy Setzer Denton

I think it's important to admit when you're wrong, and in this case, I certainly was. The takeaway from this is not to limit yourself with preconceived notions. I missed out for years because I was wrong. Don't let the same happen to you, and guess what? It doesn't just apply to books. Now, I have to re-evaluate all the things I've avoided over the years for a variety of reasons. It may be just the day/week/month/year to give them a try!

Let me know what you've been avoiding.




Is the Chaos Over Yet?

It's been a crazy, hectic, chaotic last four months, but it's finally starting to slow down. My son has regained the feeling in his nearly severed fingers, my daughter is married, a brother has recovered from open heart surgery, a brother-in-law is learning to carry on with a few less toes than before, and I'm enjoying my new teaching position.

With a little less on the horizon in regard to family events (although the majority of recent ones were not planned), I hope to spend more time on writing. In fact, I  wrote today! Six pages of a short story that may or may not even have a purpose other than to make me feel better about getting some creative writing done.

I've been doing a lot of writing over the last three or four months, but none of it has been creative. Between writing tests, creating activities, freelance jobs, reports, query letters, and synopses, I have a high word count, but none of it came from the heart (except for maybe creating learning activities-I did enjoy that!)

Last week, I sent out three query letters, researched the 2014 Missouri Writer's Conference which I plan to attend, and received notice that I had been shortlisted for the 2013 Small Axe Literary Competition. While I didn't win, I was in the running for a while. I consider it quite an honor to be in consideration. It's also a sign that my writing is getting better.

Another sign of improvement is that I was going through some old flash drives and found a few short story starts that sputters to a stop for one reason or another. Many of them, I didn't even remember. Yet, one stood apart from the others. In fact, I admired it so much that I figured I must have copied it from somewhere as a source of inspiration. The choice of wording was spot on, the verbs powerful, and the promise of an intriguing story lay in a few short paragraphs. Impressive. In fact, so impressive that I was certain it came from someone else!

In an effort not to plagiarize and a desire to find out more of the story behind this sampling of paragraphs, I googled it. Nothing. I binged it. Still nothing. I tried a few other search engines which returned zero results before it finally hit me. I did write these paragraphs. I did this.

I always thought it was better to impress someone else (preferably an agent or publisher) with my writing skills, but I have to say I think I might like impressing myself even better. Of course impressing myself doesn't mean I'm any closer to being traditionally published than I was a year or two or three ago, but I do think it means that I won't be ashamed of my work when publication does occur.

In the meantime, I'll keep plugging away, learning more about the craft, writing daily, and submitting.  You do the same.

Here's a few links to check out:





And last, but not least, one photo of the bride. You can forgive me later.





























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Multi-tasking: Does It Work for You?

I find it difficult to juggle my freelance writing, creative writing, and my teaching job yet I can't imagine giving up any of them. Neither can I imagine giving up time with my children or grandchildren. As a result, there are weeks when nothing gets done or some things get done, but not very well.

I realized today as I was driving down the road teaching my grandson how to do addition while mentally rehashing a To Do List that never gets done that my thoughts are scattered and I've not be able to focus on anything long enough or well enough to do it correctly or to actually be in the moment.

So, as of today, I've decided to stop. To stop juggling. There is no way I can keep all those balls in the air at the same time. I don't want to give any of them up, but I've come to the conclusion that I don't have to do more than one of them at a time. This afternoon I did just that.

This afternoon, I played with my grandson without stopping to check my email every twenty minutes. We played without composing an article in my mind. He loved the attention, and although I struggled a bit to stay on track, I felt better afterward.

Later, I headed to the public library where I could write articles without the distraction of other people, music or the internet. Sure, I could have gotten the wireless password, but I didn't for three hours--not until I absolutely needed it. The result was nearly six articles written.

Finally, I headed back for a family gathering where I left my computer in the car, and let the battery in my cell phone die. Anyone who needed to talk to me was already there.

Tomorrow, my intent is to focus on painting a room in my house. Perhaps while waiting for the first coat of paint to dry, I will work on more freelance articles, but with a timer set to limit the minutes I spend away from the major task of the day. Working under a time constriction helps me to focus. That and turning off the TV, Facebook, and email.

It seems that items are getting checked off the To Do List faster so I'll give it another day or two.

Do you believe that multitasking means getting more done in less time or do you believe it decreases the quality of work involved in each task?

Updates and Recommendations

Last night, I finished my freelance articles for June with three hours to spare. I wrote 10,000 words for other people and only 350 words for me.  However, they were 350 words of pure pleasure, and freelancing pays the bills so I can afford to write.

I will continue to use the Pomodoro Technique which I wrote about in my last post. Setting aside a specific amount of time and writing against the clock/alarm/timer seems to work for me.  The hardest part was remembering where I had left off in my second novel, Spared Parts. I will be rereading what I have and checking my notes to refresh my memory. Another bonus is that my China connection is back in the US so I can pick her brain.

On a completely unrelated note, I'm putting my house up for sale and will hopefully move into a condo no later than early fall. It's an emotional roller coaster as I've lived in my home for 28 years. I love it, my neighbors, and my neighborhood, but the outside maintenance is killing me and stealing my creative time.

Moving will be another short-term factor that will take away from my writing, but it will not last forever (although I'm sure it will seem that way).  Anyone with moving tips, send them my way. I think I've forgotten all that I knew about the process.

I would also like to encourage readers to check out Alternate Endings  by Lesann Berry. If you're into sci-fi and like the style of Ray Bradbury, many of her short stories in this anthology really reminded me of his work. It's available at Amazon.

P.S. I have no idea why some words are highlighted and underlined in red. It's a glitch.
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