Author Archives: jjdare

About jjdare

I write books. My first novel "False Positive" was published in September, 2008. False Positive combines action, mystery, and suspense and makes you stop and think, what if this is true.

The Good, The Bad, and The Useless

Just like gossip, give a story to five different editors and you might get back five different edited copies. When this happens to me, I try to find a common theme in the critiques. In one instance years ago, a novella I wrote was reviewed by seventeen different classmates and received seventeen wildly different edits. This was the first, and so far, only time I’ve had that happen.

When you submit your writing for editing and critiquing, what advice do you consider accepting? What do you reject? And what editing do you merely shrug your shoulders and laugh at?

In some cases, it may depend on the type of person you are. Do you follow the crowd or do you break out of the pack? Do you believe everything or do you always have questions? Or, like most of the rest of us, are you a little of both? Whatever your personality, taking advice from someone else concerning your writing should always be taken with a grain of salt and a good sense of humor.

Individuality makes a story glow. If the advice you receive from someone else changes your story too much, then it ceases to be your story – it turns into someone else’s writing.

I have a friend who is a literature professor and he’s just like that: the only high grades in his classes are from those students who learn to mimic my friend’s writing style. I’ve never let him edit any of my own efforts because I already know how it would turn out: my story would cease to be my own and would mutate into his version.

That’s not to say some stories don’t need major overhauls – some of mine have and I’ve redone them accordingly when I’ve received good advice. However, when a good story you’ve written is edited with the intent to change the theme or style, that’s when it’s useless advice. Stick to your guns, or pens, and get a second or third or fifteenth opinion.

Bad advice is just that: bad, mean-spirited and it follows a dark path.  Bad advice is recognized by its very personal overtones: phrases like “This really sucks” and “I’ve never heard anything so stupid” or, the classic, “You call yourself a writer?” and other direct attacks.

Good advice is free of personal diatribes and has a very constructive style to its critique. This type of advice will help you turn your story into a work of art. Like a good mechanic who gives your car a tune-up that lasts, a good editor/advisor will help you fine-tune your writing. Instead of personal attacks and instead of trying to turn your writing into a clone of their own, good advisors will help you polish your work into a diamond.

How often do you get bad or mediocre advice? Are you able to “read between the lines” and recognize when someone is purposely trying to mislead you? What is the best advice you’ve been given and by whom?

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Have Charlie Brown, Will Travel by J J Dare

Happy Labor Day!

It’s a good day to whatever you want. I’ll spend the holiday packing as I get ready for a two-week trip to Colorado.

I’m packing light, with the goal of being like a bohemian on a hiking trip across the country. At least I’ll try. Packing light for two weeks is a herculean task for me. I tend to pack the whole house for a weekend jaunt.

Three essentials will travel with me: my laptop, cell phone and Charlie Brown.

Charles went with me on the last trip to Colorado. He would be very offended if I left him behind on this trip.

Although this trip may seem the same as the one I took two years ago, everything is different. I’m different. Life can change a person in seconds. I’ve had two years of changes.

It’s a good time to write. In more ways than one, this will be a working vacation. I’ll be working on my life.

;)

Happy Labor Day! May your day be relaxing and your travels safe.

^^^^^

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and too many works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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One Hundred Grains of Sand

Reality and dreams collide all the time. The day of my daughter’s beach wedding was rainy and cold. Instead of exchanging vows with bare feet wiggling in warm sand, she and her significant other stood in a flooded gazebo under a pouring storm.

Surrounded by friends and family, thunder and lightning became the background music instead of crashing waves playing the wedding march and seagulls calling well wishes. Dark clouds blocked the sun’s bright blessings. It was an auspicious beginning to a new chapter in my daughter’s life.

It was a glorious ceremony. If you know anything about my family, we are closer to the Addams than the Waltons. Although it wasn’t what my daughter had pictured in her mind, the entire day exceeded her expectations.

Because of the excitement preceding the ceremony, the ten-month old ringbearer fell asleep. Since he’s a grumpy boss when he doesn’t get enough shuteye, we didn’t dare wake him. I held him and the rings instead.

After the vows were exchanged and the kiss was kissed, one of the wedding attendants called out, “Take the plunge!” and pointed to the pool in front of the gazebo. Acting purely on instinct and a devil-may-care wedding high, the bride and groom jumped fully clothed into the deep end of the pool.

We adjourned to the condo where our wedding fare consisted of traditional sandwiches and our own local cuisine of red beans with rice and jambalaya. The chocolate wedding cupcakes towered over the table already laden with chai tea cookies, sesame cookies and brownies cut in dolphin shapes.

Beer flowed freely, as did soft drinks and lemon water. Champagne was nestled in a bucket filled with ice and plastic sharks. With full bellies, everyone trooped out to the sandy, wet beach in the rain because it’s how we roll, muggles ;)

^^^^^

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and too many works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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This In-between Life by J J Dare

A new chapter is starting in my life. My youngest, The Baby, is moving a gazillion miles away. While it’s actually only five hundred miles away, it feels like a gazillion. She’s never been more than ten minutes from my home but she is setting temporary roots in Austin, Texas. She wants to see more of the world than our little fifteen square miles of boringness. I don’t blame her. I want to see more of the world, too.

My baby girl is cutting the apron strings and flying out of the nest. She’s going solo, on her own, away from the nearness of family. She wants this adventure and wants to make it on her own as a full-fledged adult. At twenty-five, I suppose it might be time for her to try. Still, it’s hard to let go. As a parent, you never stop caring and worrying about your children, no matter how old they are. My mother never stopped worrying about children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. She fretted about her family until the day she died.

I will fret, too. I think about my brood constantly. My youngest will be heavily on my mind. I can’t picture her as an adult. To me, she is always The Baby of the family. It’s funny because by the time I was her age, I had been married, had a child, divorced and married again. My adventures in life started early and haven’t stopped.

I’m following her to Austin to see her settled in. I’ll be driving her car while she drives the moving truck. Another first for her, but another step toward taking charge of her adult life. You see, I babied her far too long. I tend to baby all my children forever. That’s what the mother in me demands.

It was amusing when she told me “You can’t drive the truck because your driving scares me and you can’t ride with me because you’ll stress me out.” Fortunately, this was said in a loving and almost paternal tone. Am I experiencing the beginnings of the student becomes the teacher or the child becomes the parent? Upon reflection, my other two adult children sometimes talk to me with the same tone. I didn’t realize I was that old. Blah.

I’ll help her settle in and together we’ll explore a little bit of this Texas city that has enthralled her. After a few days, I’ll fly back home.

As I’m writing this blog, I think about how many of our life chapters are written like chapters in a book. We have beginnings and endings, and many chapters in our lives. But, always, a beginning and an ending. We start fresh so often, we don’t really see our new beginnings. Even the most trivial event can set us on a different path in life. Endings and beginnings.

Life is a book of love, sad partings and adventures. Our stories never stop, even when we die. Like a book, a life lives beyond its end. As long as we are remembered by our loved ones, we live forever.

As my youngest takes forceful, determined steps toward a new life chapter, I will be terribly sad since she is so far away. But, who knows? She wants me to move to Austin, too. Or to wherever she is. All of my children are adults, but they are still babies to me and I’m still Mommy to them and those two things will never end.

^^^^^

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and too many works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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It’s Raining Words by J J Dare

I like rain and gloomy weather. My middle child and I were discussing where we’d like to live in the future. The upper west coast is definitely an option, particularly Oregon and Washington, and the areas around Seattle appeal to me.

Rain, rain, don’t go away . . .

My affinity for gloomy, overcast skies has nothing to do with my personality. I’m a pleasant, middle-of-the-road gal and when I feel morose I usually snap out of it quickly. The reason I like dark skies and no sun is because it reminds me of Christmas.

The yuletide seasons during my childhood were usually cold, wet and dark. On the outside, that is. Inside my parents’ home it was constant activity (at least from my viewpoint) with presents (and Daddy “helping” me open them) and food (always too much food) and Rudolph, Frosty and Charlie Brown on the television.

Pops, Tippy and that skinny kid my siblings called “Mouse”

Gloomy weather reminds me of those days when I didn’t have too many cares in the world. My main concern back then was whether I had enough allowance money left to go down the street to the creepy little candy shack with the nickles glued to the floor.

I wasn’t worried about paying the bills or fretting as the youngest child moves five hundred miles away or wishing I was closer to the oldest child who is figuratively on the other side of the world or gearing up to cry at the wedding of the middle child. I appreciate the carefree childhood my parents gave me.

My Three Girls

There are some days I wake up and for a split second I’m back in my old room, burrowed under the covers with my mother fussing at me to get up. Who doesn’t want to crawl back into the safe womb of childhood?

Dismal weather helps me write. If the sun is shining outside, I have trouble getting a bead on my thoughts. It’s too bright to think and the light feels like a heavenly interrogation. When it’s darker during the day, my mind has a chance to escape the cares of life and dive into worlds I create.

So, come on rain and gloom and darkness. The oppressive atmosphere makes me happiest and I feel alive when the skies are grey. I escape into my cocoon of gloom and write the real world away.

^^^^^

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and too many works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Three by J J Dare

Three is a nervous number. It’s not part of a pair nor is it part of two couples. Three is that in-between number sitting at the table twiddling its thumbs awkwardly while trying not to feel the odd man out.

Three makes everyone around a little uneasy. Sometimes it’s a good uneasy but in my life I see three with a bit of trepidation. For instance, my two youngest daughters and I each have the same make and model car (three of the same type of automobile). In the past year, major and minor things have gone wrong with each of our vehicles. Occasionally we’ll conference and see who has the most reliable car of the moment when one of us needs a trustworthy mode of transportation other than bicycle, foot or hoof.

A trio of bank robbers is scarier than a pair. On the flip side, a trio of policemen rescuing you from a trio of bank robbers is more comforting than just two officers. Your odds of getting out alive go up with more than a pair of heroes.

Lunching with friends can be awkward when you have to divide your attention between two instead of having a conversation one-on-one. In the back of your mind you’re constantly weighing how much attention you give to each friend.

The same thing applies when you have three children. I live that life and strive to equally parent my three girls. Of course, the running joke between the three now-adults is that one of them is, and has always been, my favorite. Which one depends on who is talking at the time. I let them have that illusion since we all know the cats are really my favorites.

The Real Slim Shady Favorite

When I write, three eventually has to be changed to more or less. I can’t have a trio of heroes or a trio of villains. Can you imagine the in-fighting with three John Waynes or three Hannibal Lecters? Hannibal One: “If you don’t let me talk succinctly, I’ll fry your brain with a little cilantro.” Hannibal Two: “Cilantro? With brain? Or you mad? Brain requires thyme and rosemary to bring out the flavor.” Hannibal Three: “You idiots are crazy. I’ll deep-fry you both.”

On the other hand, three is not the loneliest number. One has that distinction. Three can be a party or a terror. At the age of three, it’s definitely a terror – ask any parent. Three friends hiking in the Smokies is better than two when chased by a bear – you have two more chances to get away rather than only one.

Most of my characters are loners. Even when they pair up, eventually they will be unpaired. Trios in my writing are infrequent because of the awkwardness and because of my own neuorsis about treating everyone fairly. Although I can do that in real life with my family, I can’t do it with three characters vying for the same amount of attention on paper.

Awkward Three. How I avoid thee. I’d rather deal with Superstitious Six.

:shock:

^^^^^

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Highfalutin Flying Pigs by J J Dare

When friends and acquaintances find out I’m a writer, a few of them want to pick my brain about something they’ve either written or want to write. For the most part, I don’t mind. I mean, after all, everyone starts somewhere and a few of the lucky ones end up on a bestseller’s list.

A few months back an acquaintance from school sent a manuscript she’d written to a group of our former classmates. She asked everyone to take a month or two to read it. I took her literally at her word and read it on the last day of Month Number Two.

The problem with critiquing anything is: opinions are subjective. Others may love what I dislike. One thing I don’t like is pretentiousness – in person or on paper. In my neck of the woods, highfalutin flying pigs are shot and roasted – metaphorically, of course.

This manuscript was a challenge. Every fifth or sixth paragraph was written in Babelfish German. I know Latin (though, as the years go by, I remember less and less) and can vaguely translate a smattering in other languages, but this was migraine-inducing.

Here’s an example of what I faced: “Der Esel fliegt schnell Fett Himmel. Wer kratzt mein Zeh-Saft? Das Gestein beißen das Brot.”

Which loosely translates to: “The Donkey flies fast Fat Sky. You scratch my Toe-Juice? The Rock bit the Bread.”

The German words she used added nothing to the story except irritation. It was simply a play to get noticed – until someone who actually speaks German starts translating.

I have used foreign words in my stories but I limit myself to the easily recognized. The French words c’est la vie, au revoir and bonjour are familiar to American readers. The Spanish compadre is used down here more often than friend - and that’s kind of weird since this region is full of Cajun-French influence.

I draw the line when I feel myself trying to impress with my limited foreign language knowledge although I was rather impressive when my kids were younger. Sadly, they’ve caught on to Mom making up her own foreign words to sound smart. They speak French and Russian, so they are way out of my league now and I’ve stopped trying to bluff my way past them.

 How to tell a fledgling writer I would not buy their book if I need an English/German dictionary at my fingertips? It’s not easy when someone is dressed to the nines and you have to tell them their underwear is showing.

:shock:

^^^^^

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Nostalgic Writing by J J Dare

I’ve lived many lives. Not in the reincarnation sense, although I’m open to the possibility, but in the formative years from birth until now. As a child, I was precocious. Actually, from experience with my own children, “precocious” is a nice way of saying, you’re a brat. So, yeah, I was kind of a brat when I was younger.

The Early Years. Bottoms Up! Is that a beer Mom’s holding?

As the afterthought baby and last child of my middle-aged parents, I was definitely spoiled rotten. I had three teenage siblings to dote, ignore or fight me. My mother told me later that by the time I came along, she was tired. It wasn’t until I had my last litter of children during my own Middle Ages that I really understood. Tired for a mother is an all-encompassing word.

Parental fatigue played into my teenage years. My parents loosened the cord and I got away with a lot more than my siblings had when they were growing up. This fed into my wilder twenties.

Smug teenager. Sorry, Mom

Fun. That was the word for my early twenties. I had fun. And, let’s leave it at that.

My late twenties and early thirties found me starting a second family. I call this my Tired Mommy Decade. It was about this time I started to find my voice in writing. Writing became my escape.

Words cannot begin to describe . . . in fairness, it was a cool wedding dress at the time.

When I was in my mid-thirties, I became a young widow. Raising two young children and one teenager alone was daunting at times. It was a sink or swim situation. I swam, occasionally dipping below the water, but always bobbing back to the surface. Even more so, writing was a necessary part during this time in my life.

By my forties, I had written and published a few short stories. At this point, young children were teenagers approaching adulthood. Living through my first child’s teenage years didn’t prepare me for the younger two. A few times I seriously thought about shipping them off to the Foreign Legion.

Devil’s Tower with some of my spawn

Thankfully, we all survived without killing each other. My mid-forties was a time of travel. I went from coast to coast and some interesting places in between.

New York, New York!

LA. John Wayne, Hollywood snakes and a magnificent view from the air

Vegas, baby! What happens in Vegas . . .

Snobby Vanderbilt ducks, The Parthenon and Tootsies!

Now, I’m here. Fifty is such a good, round number and I expected this decade to be pleasant and peaceful. It has not been. Turmoil, sorrow, despair and darkness tainted the early part of my fifties. I’m approaching the mid-range and while sorrow and darkness still linger, I’m having antonymous feelings toward those heavy emotions as sorrow enhances joy and darkness enhances light.

The periods of my life affect my writing. Sometimes subtly, sometimes boldly, but there is always a part of me in the endearing characters I create. I have to confess that there is also a little of me in the despicable narcissistic ones.

My next stories are developing and the adventures in my many different lives are strong influences. I’m sailing on the Sea of Words aboard the Good Ship Inspiration and the Waves of Imagination are high when, suddenly, I spot the Island of Dormant Novels. I think I’ll land there for awhile.

Writing, Ho!

Emerald Lake, British Columbia

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Floating in the Sea of Dreams by J J Dare

My inspirational muse is very fickle lately. While she is dropping story plots left and right, the actual nitty-gritty business of writing these tales keeps skittering away from me. Mean muse.

Of course, some of the blame can be placed on me. I live a busy life for a starving artist. Keeping up a household and helping care for Baby Boy makes life at my home interesting and always hopping. Add to this catering to several mildly insane pets and being on call for family.  I’m never bored.

Baby Boy and Grandma

Sometimes I wonder if I should write a story based on the eventful hours of my days. Baby Boy fills a lot of those hours. A story about his life so far would be funny, sad, hopeful and soaked in Grandma’s love.

Fat Houdini Cat climbed in the cabinet through a narrow opening

Houdini Cat above is an interesting character. He hates the other animals. He tolerates me and my fellow lesser beings to a degree. He tries to escape but because his size slows him down, he’s easily caught. But, he never gives up.

Mother’s Day gift from the Little One

I told a dear friend recently that I felt my writing was dying. I realize now I was wrong. The size of my responsibilities may slow me down and force my writing to take a backseat, but, like my fat white cat, I’ll never give up. I’ll keep floating in my sea of dreams.

^^^^^

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Jumping Trains by J J Dare

“How many trains have you jumped in your life?”

These nine little words gave me pause. For the past week, I’ve been alternately obsessing, compulsing and nonchalanting. Yeah, I know, I’m adding my own words to the dictionary. I kind of roll that way. Scrabble becomes a new game when I play.

It’s been a restless sort of week. I’ve been blowing hot and cold on a lot of things. One thing I locked on that helped get me back to my normal chaos was my country music roots.

I grew up with the country greats. This week I’m jumping on a familiar train with Cash, Campbell and Cline. As a writer, particularly as a short story one, I love a quick tale with a punch that leaves you breathless. A good song tells a story in the space of a few minutes. A good country song tells the story and leaves you misty-eyed.

I’ve talked about how music effects my writing. Most of my thrillers were written under the influence of hard rock. Avenged Sevenfold, Godsmack, Finger Eleven, and Seether were a few of the bands shaping the words I put on paper. They were heavy, dark and desperate and exactly what I needed for what I was writing.

I still love me some primal music in the form of hard rock. I love the stories good music tells. But, I’m drifting back to the original balladeers from the hills. These folks turned every day events into extraordinary happenings.

My current obsession is with Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.” It is a timeless human nature story of loneliness and love. With only a few words, Jimmy Webb wrote a powerful story about missing the one you love.

Most of us will leave a mark before we jump our last train. Song writers and singers never really die. Neither do we, the writers of today. I’m glad to be a member of this immortality club because I know that after I’m dust, my words will live forever.

^^^^^

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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