Wittier Word Weavers

Writers' Club of Whittier


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Pantser. Not Pants, Sir!

Pantser Princess

The other day, at one of our club-sponsored book talk, author Kathleen Harrington mentioned the difference between plotters versus pantsers. You would think she was discussing some sorts of printer used in Manga graphic arts. Ever heard of Pantser Princess?

But the queen of romance, although her job was to paint sexy medieval ladies whose exquisitely-embroidered gowns were meant to reveal rather than conceal, didn’t mean that Pantser. I knew! And if you didn’t, let me speak in plain English. The novelist who plans everything from beginning to end is a plotter. S/he works with an outline, while a pantser is like me. We sit down with nothing concrete and start typing furiously until a story takes form. We are the true artists because our virginal minds conceive from the angels.

Just like what I’m doing right now. I sat down with no preconceived ideas about my blog topic until suddenly, as I and my fingers clickaty-clack along like a choo-choo train through deserted tracks, a form appears in the fog and lies down on those very tracks my fingers are choo chooing along. Kazaam! Unlike the train, I didn’t try to brake. Au contraire! My fingers take off in a hot race against multiple thoughts that threaten to dissolve into emptiness, thoughts that distract as well as interesting ones whose faces I long to uncover, running so breathlessly behind. Clang, clang, my fingers, the three or four that take charge, bounce along quickly across the keyboard, until I catch up to the faceless thought, or thoughts. It will be much more difficult if I catch up to too many of them, because they all turn in different directions, all quivering and wanting to slip away as I’m preoccupied with the other. It is almost impossible to force them to sit down in one group and behave like one loving family. They are a bunch of energetic thought bunnies. Even with seven pairs of hands it would be hard to catch them all and not lose any of them thought bunnies.

But one kicking and screaming bunny is enough to feed my whole village.

In the end, I’ll wipe my greasy hands on my pants and lick my chops satisfied. That’s why they call people like me pantsers.

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California Dreamin’

Kathleen Harrington, a member of the Writers’ Club of Whittier, will be signing books at The California Dreamin’ Writers Conference this Sunday, at Embassy Suites in Brea from 2 to 4. Kathleen is the author of the recently completed Highland Lairds Trilogy as well as several earlier novels of historical romance. The 2-day conference is for writers, but the public is welcome to attend the book signing. Come meet some of your favorite authors: Sylvia Day, Vicky Dreiling, Tessa Dare, Susan Squires, Laura Drake, and many more.

California Dreamin’Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 11.21.13 PM
Embassy Suites
900 East Birch Street
Brea, CA 92821
March 27-29, 2015


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Recent Publications Honored

DSC06963This Sunday WCW held its annual Author Tea honoring members who have recently published books. Congratulations to an amazingly varied group of writers. We’re proud to count you among us:

Carol Amato for Maximize Your Competitive Edge, a book for small business owners.
Amanda Ashley for Night’s Promise, the latest in her vampire romance series, Children of the Night.
Kathleen Harrington for her historical romance,  Black Raven’s Lady, the third in her Highland Lairds Trilogy.
•Rubin Johnson, for Well-Oiled, Cyberbully Blues and Dark and Cold, the first books in his futuristic series set in Mayberry.
Hilda Lassalette for Fishing for Love, a romance with a touch of the paranormal.
•Angela Myron, for Ennara and the Fallen Druid, the second of her young-adult science fantasies about a young girl learning to master her powers.
Raquel Reyes-Lopez for Born to Electrify, a collection of poetry.


Reaching a Milestone

I am finished. No, that sounds wrong. I am finished with my book. Does that mean I have thrown it out? I have finished my book invites the question: finished reading or finished writing? I have completed writing my book. Well, this sounds clearer. Now that I am going through the labor pains of putting all the pieces together: table of contents, acknowledgements, dedication and other boring stuff, I am already dreading the post partum despondency that happens after a book is sent in for publication. I hang on to the book like a treasure and am tempted to lock it up in a bank drawer. I have become tyrannically possessive. It’s like taking your first-born to kindergarten and dreading to leave the child there.

Did I mention completion? Can you imagine the audacity of writing a book in a foreign language? How about reading it over for the nth time, revising some, wondering if I missed a crooked sentence which may happen in the mire of translating from Armenian, my mother tongue; English learned at high school in Cairo; and American since I came to the United States. I still struggle with prepositions, compositions and oppositions. A few other sterling words seep in, like ambiance, kismet, raison d’etre that lose half their flavor translated into Amerenglish. Expressions like “you’re pulling my leg,” or “working the graveyard shift” throw me off completely, because I take them literally.

The book has passed the editing stage long ago but it is still on final revision – it has been on final from the second to the eighth version. I still find erroneous sentences, words underlined in red by the computer, a missing comma here, a capital letter there, quotations marks that I have not closed. When does it end? We crossed quite a milestone together. We went through critiques, computer hacks, identity theft, personal health problems, and other hair-raising distractions like losing seventy-five percent of the edited data without hope of recovery. Comparatively speaking, changing the title was a child’s play.

Reviewing my writing  itinerary was eye-opening. Now, would I be able to face doomsday when I part with it? Did I mention all that needed to be told? Did I overlook a life-changing event in my all-important memoir? Yes, I could include a few more but the original assumption that my book would end in three chapters has already grown into two volumes, putting me into competition with the Encyclopedia Britannica. I look back and marvel at the transformation I went through. I never expected that this quiet and silent girl who as a young adult had to ask for permission to go out of the house, escorted by her brother, crossed three continents alone in search of a niche and settled in the fourth one, a hemisphere away.

In writing this memoir I found the real me.


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Celebrate Pi Day

Mathematics is all about making the invisible visible. The relationship between the distance around a circle and straight across can’t be seen directly but is well known. The ratio of circumference to diameter is pi, whose symbol is π.

In 1971, Petr Beckman published A History of π which details humanity’s attempts to capture this irrational number. From about 3, to 22/7, to 256/81, to as many digits of accuracy as you are willing to compute, mathematicians and dilettantes have approximated π with precision.

Some people celebrate Pi Day by eating pastries and pies. A slice of cherry pie works for me. Technical schools and math classes celebrate by writing digits of pi, by answering math questions, or having an all-around fun day. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology celebrates by sending out its admission decisions. Einstein was born on March 14. This is a special day.

Pi Day this year of 2015 will be a once-in-lifetime event for most of us. Look at it — 3/14/15 is the first five digits of π = 3.14159265358979. If you see people in a joyful but quiet moment around 9:26, they may be paying attention to π with additional precision.

If you need some help remembering, the following is a famous piem (pi + poem) where the letter count of each word is a digit of π: How I need a drink, alcoholic, of course, after the tough chapters involving quantum mechanics.

Given the technical nature of Cyberbully Blues, it seems only fitting to help celebrate this very special day. On Pi Day, on Amazon, Cyberbully Blues will be released. Perhaps, you’ll join in the celebration.


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A Web Presence

Should you ask a barber if you need a haircut?

Should writers have a web presence? Search online. You’ll get hundreds of thousands of links offering lists of reasons why every writer should have a blog, a website, or a website with a blog. Rationality doesn’t explain my web presence. As a recruited WCW contributor, this blog was foist thrust upon me. I already had a website.

Here’s why I had a website. My first novel, Well Oiled, involves characters interacting with mayberryoil.com. An hour after the book hit Amazon, it occurred to me that my readers should be able to interact with the website as did the characters in the book. This brainstorm hit thirty minutes before I needed to leave for a dinner engagement. In that time, I was able to confirm that the name of the website used in the book wasn’t taken. I bought it.

After dinner, I built the site using Drupal. I also created an account with a username and password matching a character in the book. In the next week, I added treats to the site — pictures of elements in the book and related materials. To access the treats requires answering questions based on the story.

It takes time and energy to maintain a web presence. There’s probably a benefit. I still don’t know if every writer needs a website. My reason for having one is simple — it seemed a good idea at the time.


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Welcome to Mayberry

The Pasadena Author’s Fair took place on February 21, 2015. Hobnobbing with other authors, and signing and selling books entertained me from setting up at 9:30 am until packing up books, bookmarks, and posters at 2 p.m. There was also a chance to present. My remarks, including four passages I read, are the bulk of this, my first blog post.

Good afternoon. I’m Rubin Johnson, a Californian, born in New York. I graduated Harvard before doing an engineering Ph.D. at Berkeley. I worked at big companies before starting a software firm. Lately, I’ve been focusing on the craft of fiction.

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss my novels – Well Oiled and Cyberbully Blues, both Mayberry Multisport Adventure stories. Why Mayberry? I’ll explain and then read some excerpts.

Continue reading


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A Valentine for Romance Readers

 

KH-Edit-Small-Kathleen Harrington will be speaking at a club-sponsored event this Friday in Whittier, California. She’ll talk about writing a romantic trilogy, the creative process, what makes a novel a romance and what it’s like to work with an agent, an editor and the staff of a publishing house like Harper/Collins.

Kathleen will also be available to sign the books in her Highland Lairds Trilogy of Scottish romance: The MacLean Groom, Lachlan’s Bride, and Black Raven’s Lady.

If you’re local, please drop in. The public are welcome, the event is free, and you’ll be supporting a local, independent bookstore as well as a local author.

Half Off Books
6708 Greenleaf Avenue
Whittier, CA 90601
February 13 at 10:30 a.m. 


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A Tribute to Marilyn Jensen

My first novel, “McCarley’s Edge” had been struggling to escape from my head and hand for some time. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Marilyn Jensen for abetting the escape.

Years ago, Marilyn was leading a writer’s workshop at the East Whittier YMCA. She informed me in no uncertain terms that Maggie McCarley — a minor foil in another story I was writing — was competing detrimentally with the main protagonist. Consequently, Maggie got un-shuffled. And now stars in her own right.

When I saw Ms. Jensen was a member of WCW I was greatly looking forward to getting reacquainted. Sadly, I learn I just missed her by a few weeks. I still tremble when I hear her favorite constructive criticism: “Condense! Condense! Condense!”

(I’ll try, Marilyn, I’ll try. But I’m afraid I’m hopeless!)

Steve Enyart, WCW, Class of 2014

Editor’s Note: Marilyn Jensen, a longtime member and frequent office holder of the Writers’ Club of Whittier, died this past October and is sorely missed.

Obituary
Grief, a poem by Clair Khoeler
A Tribute to Marilyn Jensen, a poem by Hong-My Basrai