Archived Writer's Notebook Messages

from March 3, 1998 to March 12, 1998

Michele Thu Mar 12 03:42:17 PST 1998

Having found out what a rump swab is (thanks for that info. TM) I now wish I didn't know !!!


Hayden Grayell Thu Mar 12 03:40:53 PST 1998

Thanks for taking notice of my "Think" posting. You can reciprocate by dropping off pennies here to pay for my hard


T. M. Spell Thu Mar 12 02:53:24 PST 1998

One writer who was able to catch dialectic nuances amongst the English English speakers (as opposed to American English speakers) was C. S. Lewis. Though he only learned to portray women well after his marriage to Joy Davidman -- and then outdid himself with Till We Have Faces -- his skills as a linguist were handily used in dialogue. He evokes the very essence of the Scotsman in The Great Divorce through the speech of a redeemed saint meant to be George MacDonald, who explains the meaning of events to the main character.

I'm sure there are other good models to study on how to say just enough and not too much without lapsing into cliche or insulting stereotypes. I have a Puerto Rican maid servant in my most recently sold short story, but she is based on a real person and I don't use dialect at all, simply try to suggest a speech pattern by her choice of words.

I'm sure others have other writers they could suggest as models for this.

Bye all. --T. M. Spell--

Michele Thu Mar 12 01:54:02 PST 1998

PLEASE Please will someone out there tell me what a rump swab is ! ???? I want to KNOW !!

Brendalee - so glad that this place has inspired you . . . as I've said (some 300 times it feels like) I'm not a fiction writer, nor even much of a fiction reader but I hang out here because these are the only writers I can converse with - I live in a fairly remote rural area (not as rural as the Australian outback but it's considered "in the sticks") and the Notebook is my only link with other writers - as you say the humour and banter here is enjoyable - I can't claim that I've been inspired to write since coming here but only because I'm in the middle of my research !!

Joan - no don't get over it - you're too good a writer to give up - so swallow hard and get stuck in again to the query letters - and don't worry about turning the air blue in your head - I've done that a couple of times lately - but over the day job rather than the writing . . . at least you didn't resort to punching walls !

Hayden - I'm not sure you should be getting my pennies - but if you can pick them up then I guess I don't mind - much !

Toby - you're a wise "old" bird . . .

Pat - you made me chuckle . . .

Anyway I must go get on with doing the day job else I won't have any pennies to cast here !!


Wed Mar 11 21:12:37 PST 1998

Joan -

You wrote:

How in Hades do people ever get past this and when will I learn how? (This isn't, after all, the first
time.) Maybe an easy answer--never.

Well, guess that's enough time for self-pity. Better get on with it.

If you ever "get over it" you won't be a writer anymore, because it will all have ceased to matter. After that, you're only a glorified typist. It has to matter or it's not worth doing. So don't "get past this," take your own advice and "get on with it."

You're really much smarter than you know.


Joan Wed Mar 11 19:06:43 PST 1998

Hi gang--

Well, here's a departure from the topic for you.

Damn damn double damn! Believe me, those words are euphimisms for much more exact vocabulary. The air inside my head is blue right now! I'm suffering from acute rejection. Sent the snarfblatting queries out on the sonofasnigglfritzing novel and one of them came back promptly with, No we don't even want a peek. Not intriguing enough. CURSE CURSE CURSE!

How in Hades do people ever get past this and when will I learn how? (This isn't, after all, the first time.) Maybe an easy answer--never.

Well, guess that's enough time for self-pity. Better get on with it.


Brendalee Astells Wed Mar 11 17:55:46 PST 1998


The first time that I came across this group my curiosity was piqued. The banter back and forth was lively and full of an energy I felt missing in my own life. I wanted so badly to write, but couldn't put pen to paper, or words into my computer and here I was in the midst of a group of people who seemed to have overcome their own fears and speak their truths about their experiences as writers, both published and unpublished alike.

There were two entries that touched me the most. First one by Hayden Grayell where he emphatically states that writer's THINK and consider what is happening. Next Pat C. responds "he doesn't write with his mind, but instead with his hands". Such opposing views and the resulting discussion was lively. I printed out both these entries and kept them at the side of my computer for days, reading and rereading them. I'm not sure exactly what it was about what was said, but they inspired me to find my own voice inside of me and write. I was grateful for the energy and emotions that I saw in those postings and the subsequent postings. I took a deep breath and posted a few words myself here, and was graciously welcomed by one of the regulars.

On an almost daily basis, I stop by and catch up on what is new. I must say that the last few weeks have been intense in this arena, emotions running high. While it may have been difficult for those directly involved, it certainly has been an experience to watch it all unfold. A lesson in the human frailties of emotion, ego and personality. What I'm really trying to say in a rather long winded way is it the spirit, the passion and the honesty of this group that have helped me find my voice and my pen. Thank you.


Philip Wed Mar 11 16:49:13 PST 1998


I'm proud of you!

The manner in which you dash in here is breathtaking - your stage experience is showing. And I would happily join your swelling legion of rump swabs too Brit.

You realise you are bound to lose friends with such sharp wit. But as some famous person once wrote:

"The fewer people I'm bound to for eternity the better."

(Sorry, I have a cleaning person who does our toilet - but I loved the concept)


Pat Christensen Wed Mar 11 16:27:26 PST 1998

One of the main problems with writing Irish characters is the prevelance of similar dialect throughout the "British" isles. People from Ireland and Britain use much the same slang, and ordering "a pint" is as likely to tag someone as being from London as from Dublin. "Bloody" is an equally frequent cuss word in both cultures. And the confusion is nearly the same with written dialect.

In other words, who's talking here, an Englishman or an Irishman:

"So I goes i' the pub an' gets a pint an' this fella, he says t'me, whatcher doin in here? Ya don' belong here, ya sot. Get out. An' so I knocked him flat on his arse an' ordered another pint."

Could be either, really (although I'd lean to the Englishman on this one). One of the few tricks I've used is the added query for Irish dialect. Unfortunately, this is also a trick you'll hear with the English, isn't it? But, then, the Irish will add a bit to this, won't they then?

And the Irish have a beguiling habit of turning everything into a question of some sort, haven't they now? It can be an English trait, wouldn't you think? But it's mainly an Irish one, I'd be saying, if my mother wouldn't wallop me one for the saying of it, don't you know?

It's nearly St. Patrick's Day, my name saint and patron of my favorite holiday. Forgive me. I'll go away quietly now, won't I then?


Rhoda Wed Mar 11 15:32:20 PST 1998

I told some of my friends here that I was going to stay off the Notebook awhile until things cooled off. Well, I tried and I couldn't do it. I just can't miss the fun when most people are behaving themselves and having a lively discussion on a good topic.


I'm excited about the things you and Philip mentioned. I don't have any specific ideas to add because I think so many good suggestions have been given already.

Bob Luthardt:

You said you didn't want a critique, but I must say you did very well for off-the-cuff. I can still see that burly, barrel chested guy right now and hear his booming voice.

T.M. and Toby:


As far as the topic is concerned, I don't think there is necessarily a right way or a wrong way. What you put on paper either works or it doesn't. I've seen authors pull off these accents well with little changes to regular English and some have done well with heavy modifications. I think Kim has the right idea when she reads other authors who use dialogue well and observes how it is done.

When an author does use heavy dialect, he or she had better be committed to carefully study it to do it right. One must in this instance resist using the dialect so thickly that the reader must carefully wade through the dialogue. Few readers want to work that hard.

On the other hand, all that is sometimes needed are a few words spelled a certain way, or a certain phrasing, or word choices that give the character his or her ethnic flavor, eg... "I vant to go to Moscow." or "Oh so loverly sittin absolutely blooming still. I would never budge till sping crept over me window sill." (See, Bob L., I can't give examples off the cuff. I must rely on other people's work.) Most every bit of dialogue must be peppered with these distinguishing characteristics.

The main purpose of all of this is not to show off to the reader how much you know of Irish or Scottish brogue, cockney, or whatever, but only to allow the reader to hear the character as he or she speaks.

I always try to read my writing outloud. I think this is an espacially good idea when working with accents and dialect.

As far as pacing, I am working on that problem in my own writing, and I would rather sit back and hear everyone else's views on that rather than offering any of my own.

I must go. My poor seven year old is complaining about his sore throat and headache. I guess I'd better take his temperature. I hope we're not in for another flu bug in this family.

See you all later,


Hayden Grayell Wed Mar 11 13:58:40 PST 1998

I don't mind everyone putting in their two pennies worth. If this keeps up, and I collect all those pennies, I will earn more this year than last year :-D

Toby B Wed Mar 11 12:34:56 PST 1998

Establishing the ethnicity of the character is a tricky job. I recently read a book by Feintuch, an Ohian writer called 'Voices of Hope'. He handles language by spelling, and in his book looks visually daunting, and twice as horrible to read. I was surprised it got by the publishers. I really had to take the time to get down and read it. On the other hand some books are brief, and though the character is, say, 'Irish', the reader sometimes forgets this. That is okay if the ethnicity isn't all that important, but if the writer wants to instill a heavy sense of ethnicity to the reader for a reason other than passing description (and in many cases I agree that saying 'he was Irish, and his accent reflected that' is enough in many cases, but sometimes...), you must include some flavor to remind the reader what he's (her, I'm not chauvinist, really!) getting into. Like anything else in writing that is a fine line to balance on. The balance ultimatly being in the hands of the writer. I myself believe that there must be some wordplay to establish that. I use a colloquilism unique to the culture ocassionally, and if you look at people who speak or have different dialects, I note that word order and preference and use that, so while I try not to clobber the reader with accent, I try to subtly remind them of the accent without it being a slap to the face (unless a slap to the face is what's needed). Research and lots of reading is key (for me) in getting this down. I also try and keep the thoughts unique to the culture, as different cultures often produce different ways of thinking. If I can give the reader a sense of Ireland through the occasional stray thought, such as, "Irishman thinks to himself 'A good pint of ale would be good right about now', that distinguishes him. Not many in America drink pints of ale. Or even, 'A pint would be good right now'. I think subtly keeping at it, when I read a book, is when an author best gives me a unique well done character, so I try to emulate that. But hey, that's just my two cents, I'm not trying to imply that everyone needs to follow.

Bob Luthardt Wed Mar 11 07:50:11 PST 1998

Peter Motte Wed Mar 4 16:15:35 PST 1998, wrote:
I have several problems with writing:
- I like it
- I never get paid
- I got a completely wrong idea about writing and authors because authors are so often shown as stars, whereas most of them don't make a living form writing, or else they don't make a living at all.

Someone wiser and more published once told me that "...being a writer meant settling for peanut butter sandwiches seven days a week; being a successful writer meant settling for peanut butter sandwiches six days a week and tuna fish sandwiches on sunday."

It is a thankless job that not everyone is cut out for. You must slave yourself for years with no assurance of any payoff. If you are lucky, and you _do_ get a payoff, your total effort will likely add up to 0.00005 cents per hour.
If you want to get into writing, do >not< get into it for the money.

Kim Wed Mar 11 07:45:41 PST 1998

BRIT: Many congrats on your award! Witnessing your success has truly been an inspiration. The only discouraging part of it all is learning that, should my novel get published and become successful, I will still have to clean toilets. UGGHH!

As for pacing, I find short, sometimes clipped sentences work best for scenes that involve action or tension. I agree with Joan, though, that it's more intuition than forethought. If I'm writing an action scene and I allow myself to become really immersed in it, the tension that I'm feeling automatically produces the short-sentence pacing. Maybe later I will get brave and post an action scene and you can let me know if my pacing leaves the desired effect.

Now, for representing ethnicity in characters. I personally enjoy a mild amount of phonetics displayed in dialog. If it is done properly, it allows the character's ethnic or societal background to come alive. Overdone, it's unreadable. I think Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER series is a good example of how it's done effectively. One of her main characters is Scottish and this shows in his speech. By picking a few words and consistently spelling them phonetically, I can really hear the character's accent. Or, suppose you have a character who is poor and uneducated. If you donít reflect this in his dialog, if you have him speaking in clear sentences with no contractions or speech variances, I donít think it is very believable.

Yaíll have fun!! : )

Bob Luthardt Wed Mar 11 07:37:37 PST 1998

Greetings, fellow Scribes and Pundits.

My attempt at the current topic:

Before I can write a character, I must already know him or her quite well. I create a history from childbirth to the moment they step onto the bottom left corner of page 150.
Whenever I attempt to use "dialogue" to establish the personality of a character, I have to take a step back and ask myself where I have failed in the development of that character so that I must rely upon an "accent" to express this to the reader. If you introduce a Scottish bladesman as a burly, barrel-chested man with a voice that pounded the ears like the clapper of a grand church bell; dressed in leather hides and skins fashioned from whatever creature he'd slaughtered and roasted the week before, clashing in stark contrast to the deep blues, violets, and royal lavendars of the tartan that boasted the name MacChaidgh (Mac Haidough) into the peering eyes of all who dared more than a moment's glance for fear of being introduced to the sword that had felled twelve princes and two kings on the grasses of a little known field outside the tiny hamlet of Hastings - well, do I need an accent?
((please - no critique. This was off-the-cuff for demonstrations purposes))

You should have an image in your mind, and a "good reader" will "hear" the accent, even if you don't drop every "h" and end every sentence with "Oy".

I always go back to the short story I wrote in 10th grade about a bunch of Irish brats who chase off after a leprechaun only to discover he is just an ordinary (?) dwarf. The plot is of no concern, but the dialogue in that story was the only real attempt I made to establish the "Irishness" of the characters, and boy was it bad. Sure, if you read it out loud, it sounded pretty good, but in print, it looked like an explosion at a bookbindery.

I know - I know - I've gone too long. I'm a writer; it is what I do.
Anyway, My mental block is gone and I can get back to that damned chapter I've tussled with for a week now.

Write well,
Bob Luthardt

Michele Wed Mar 11 03:25:22 PST 1998

Apologies folks - obvoiusly as I loaded the Notebook it was being added to and so my posting hadn't actually vanished - or some such event happened I don't know me - I'm a mechanical idiot ! Anyway I apologise for apparently repeating myself - it was not deliberate !


Michele Wed Mar 11 03:14:12 PST 1998

That's a bit of a beggar - my last posting has vanished into the ether - ratfink !!

What I want to know is - what is a rump swab ???

My personal preference where making Irish characters Irish, etc. is concerned is to be told in the narrative that a character speaks in an Irish accent - or whatever - rather than having to struggle with reading dialects.

As to using contractions - I think that it depends who your characters are - I think Joan was right in saying that some characters just don't sound right if they say won't, can't etc. In my own writing I mostly tend not to use them because my writing tends to be more "formal" (in a loose sense of the word) and contractions do not seem so appropriate in non-fiction work. But that's only my pesonal opinion ! Don't anybody go taking me up on that and start another "war" !

As to the last war I personally feel that now it is a case of "least said, soonest mended". And that's my twopenny worth !


Hayden Grayell Wed Mar 11 03:04:04 PST 1998

Jack: here at work we are moving from Unix server to a WindowsNT server because Unix doesn't handle some of the authoring we need, such as forms etc...Does this make any sense to you, and will it change any ideas you have for the password protected area?

Gary...good to see you are still here. don't look a day over 50.

re the themes...

Linguistic tricks don't have to be heavy-handed. I wrote this a while back, and it still seems to do the job of making Shurndarn of a different culture, and still being understandable:

Shurndarn shook his head sadly. "It is not the devils I be thinking about, younger. It is a mean thing ya doing to the lass. She talks of you as if you be her love or her mate, an' yar not be doing her any-"

"Look, Reykjin! Don't you pass judgement on me!" Arden said, feeling guilty.

The Reykjin raised his hands in surrender. "Och, yar sore on that point, be you not? Still, I will say naught again. It is yar decision, not matter how mean 'tis. But tell me, since you will not tell the lass who you be, tell me what the devils do. Where hide they? Be I guessing rightly to say they sleep in the centre of your chest?"

Arden thought about it for a second. "Yes, they are."

"It is not what I wish to hear, Grey One," Shurndarn said, shaking his head. "Well, it is not a surprise to me they be there, aside the compass. It is the reason I am talking to you, not for any other, since we might not talk o' the girl. I did not come to hassle you 'bout when ya be talking--"

Arden held up a finger to silence the Reykjin. "Well, considering we're not talking about her, she is coming up a lot, isn't she?"

Jack Beslanwitch Wed Mar 11 02:39:01 PST 1998

    I am glad to see that the tenor of conversation is beginning to cool a bit. The group here is much too special to me for us to go too far off in those directions.

    To keep people apprised as to what I am attempting. I am currently talking with my ISP to move from a NT FrontPage/ASP server to UNIX. When that happens the Writers Notebook will move to with a probable URL of with an emphasis as always of the writers life, but perhaps without a specific topic set out by me each week. And the public Workbook will be retired

    Behind the Password Protected area:

    These are just thoughts of possible ways this can go and what I have been throwing around in my head so far. I want this to be a collaborative process of all of us coming up with the best approach. And I do not want it so complicated or time consuming that it takes away from our own writing or detract from what has grown up here, just some interesting places where we can share and improve.

    Other thoughts I had were an area for artists to link their artistic endeavors to. I was also tossing around the possibility of doing a collaborative fiction ezine, but that might be too time consuming and be frought with a lot of difficulties that we may not want to pick up at this time. Send me your thoughts about this. A little thought now may ensure that the success of the Notebook can be translated to this new venue.


Goodweed of the North Wed Mar 11 02:36:45 PST 1998

I'm going to follow Michelles lead and enter my two cents worth. I support a For Writers Only cirtique and subject section. Though I have to admit that I always considered this place to be that. At time we have digressed to regular chat. How you would screen serious writers from ordinary readers, or even the writing hobbyist, I'm not sure. I know that if a password were required to get in, many owrthwhile persons may never see how this place could help them improve, or further their skills.

As with all things, their exists a dichotomy with the password. It protects, but sometimes excludes.

I have posted my real name here before, but I here it is again; Bob Flowers

I now have to get to work on my own book. I didn't get up at 5:00 a.m. to spend an hour in the notebook, though I find myself doing that tooo often. It limits my available writing time when I do that.

Power to your pens.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Wed Mar 11 02:36:42 PST 1998

Gary S. Wed Mar 11 02:19:28 PST 1998


Here's an idea. How about simply saying that the guy with the red face, nose and hair, wearing a derby with a green band around it, and dropping shamrocks everywhere he goes which leprechauns keep slipping on, IS IRISH.

Gary S.

Michele Wed Mar 11 00:52:03 PST 1998

What is a rump swab ?????

From a readers point of view I prefer to have a narrative note saying that someone spoke in a thick Irish brogue, or whatever, as opposed to someone trying to write with an Irish accent - if you see what I mean !! Once or twice I've given on what may have been good books because I struggled to read the accents that dialogue had been written in - I say may have been good, because of course I don't whether they were good or not since I didn't finish reading them.

I agree with Joan that some characters probably should not use contractions - I presonally (on the very rare occasions when I've attempted to write fiction) generally prefered not to use them - but then that's probably because I am more used to writing non-fiction and I tend not to use contractions when writing "formally" - I use that in the loosest sense of the word - don't anybody go taking that as a mortal insult or anything !!

I'm not saying anything else on the other topics discussed concerning insults - I believe it's now a case of least said soonest mended.

(Another twopenny worth !)


Britomart Tue Mar 10 22:49:50 PST 1998

BOOOOOOOOORING. All those wasted words that could have been donated to the opening chapter of a great novel. Really.

I'd gladly be a Phil McLaren rump swab. I think. I don't really know what a rump swab is. I think it has something to do with testing his food for bacteria before he eats it. Right?

My book has just been sold on to a German publisher - hurrah, money for nothing!

As for making an Irishman sound Irish - I'd just write: "he spoke with a thick Irish brogue" and let the reader do all the work with his/her imagination. That way you don't get intrusive dialects which jar the reader out of the flow of the narrative. Story's everything, right?

Seeing as how we're all revealing our true names and credentials, I am actually Ophelia Finklegruber, 102 year old ex-rump swab for King Trevor of Spain. If you don't believe that, you can check out my internet site.

I have to go do some housework now. Even award-winning international novelists have to clean the toilet. Perhaps we'd all do well to remember it.


Philip Tue Mar 10 22:32:27 PST 1998


Good; Kim doesn't say she's leaving; yes I have; impostor also means "a deceiver; a cheat." - poser is a better word; prior to my 'crap' posting in the Notebook we did exchange unpleasant emails which weren't fruitful for either of us.

You may email me if you want to continue to communicate with me. I'm nearly sure everyone has had their fill of this. But I might be wrong.


Hayden Gayell Tue Mar 10 22:25:30 PST 1998

Gary S

I am sorry things fell to with this. What can I say? In your eyes I have been lumped with Philip and there is little that I can say which will break you of that belief. Philip and I have shared email, and, like eveyone else I have heard his side of the tale. Philip has his views, and I have mine.

Thank you for keeping an eye on me, and I sincerely hope you will continue to share email me when you feel the need. I must admit I am worried that I have affronted you far worse than I ever thought possible. Considering that I considered you a cyberbuddy, this is gone way out of control.

I posted the "Pull your head in" message. Period. No insult aimed at specific people, no insults to anyone's talent. Just the facts that almost every writer who talks on this site is a rival for the limited space on the bookshelf. And if anyone needs to wade through a pile of insults to get one grain of goodness which will take them to the top, then, in my opinion, they should be able to put aside the abuse and get down to it.


And in case anyone wants to know, my real name is Les Petersen, but here in Australia we have a gross comedian called Les Patterson who slobbers and dresses poorly and is the worst kind of redneck imaginable. He may sound like me :-D, but I would rather gain my "acclaim" through my own work.

Gary S Tue Mar 10 21:35:18 PST 1998


No need to mull it over at all, I do apologise to Allison C. Whoever Allison is, I had no right to call her a rump swab and I admit it. It was simply that, in the heat of anger I couldn't picture you having a relationship with anyone which didn't serve, primarily, to feed your considerable ego. In fact, even in the cool calm of the after-storm I find it a bit difficult to imagine.

The reference to Colleen Stapley was a clumsy mistake on my part when I meant to refer to Kim Rainey, who posted an objection to your remarks. It appears in the archive next, or near to, a posting of Colleen's which was very similar in nature and seemed to be saying much the same thing. At any rate this is all in the record for anyone to look at.

It is apparent that you have been covertly disseminating material about me to people, privately, in support of your contention that I am an imposter. I mean, you did call me an imposter publicly and since I can't see what you are telling people privately, only that it has the effect of convicing them that you are right on this point, I must wonder what it is.

My dictionary tells me an imposter assumes the identity or title of another for the purpose of deception. I can assure anyone that I am Gary Souza. I indulge myself the modest affectation of using my last initial because my name is often confused with that of a famous composer of marching band music. Also my full name is Paul Gary Souza. My use of my middle name is not an affectation but the result of family tradition. Further, I can't recall a case where I made claim to any title.

I have made it known to people in this forum that I am an unpublished writer without educational qualifications. I have not usurped or plaigiarised any writers, nor have I made claim to any qualifications or accomplishments which are not rightfully mine or that belong to another. The examples I have placed in the workbook, I admit are unsatisfactory and amateurish. You say they are crap, so be it. It has been said that brevity is the soul of eloquence as well as wit. Now there is eloquence. At least that is how you describe the one I refer to as my Violence Chapter; And I am sure that you apply that assessment to everything I post, in the workbook and in this forum. In fact, you have said as much.

Some of the participants, here, sent me constructive criticisms on how to change and improve that chapter, as well as others. You did not. I don't mind that you didn't. I choose to ignore many things I see in the workbook and in the notebook. There are things I believe are faulty or that don't interest me. I do, however, decline to insult the people who created them. It was my understanding that this site subscribed to a more civil form of criticism than those employed by professional, journalistic reviewers. I refer to those who use unseemly, agressive, and provocative methods for the sake of getting attention, such as yourself.

Oh, don't bother, Philip. We all know by now that you have given civil and constructive criticques, ad infinitum, (and ad nauseum) to many thousands and millions of deserving writers. It's only the imposters, such as myself that you abuse because we deserve it,so.

What I cannot understand is why one so esteemed as yourself (by yourself), devotes so much time and energy confronting anyone such as me. I can't imagine why you don't simply ignore me. It's so easy to just scroll down. And please don't say, again, that you did not confront, but responded to me. We both know that is a lie, something else I would have though to be beneath you.

To others,

I apologise for my prolonged departure but I'm keeping an eye on my path of retreat and I keep feeling compelled to return fire.

Best wishes,

The real Gary S.

P.S. Hayden, I'll be keeping an eye on you, mate.

Toby B Tue Mar 10 19:35:15 PST 1998


Sounds good.

Jack: Ditto what he said! That idea has my vote :-)

Philip Tue Mar 10 19:26:40 PST 1998


Regarding proposed site changes: as we writers are secluded and work alone, grafting away in our caves and garrets, I propose a social site for those whose only interested is in making contact with writers for light chat and banter. Maybe visitors here can be a mixture of readers and writers, and it not be exclusively open to writers.

If that is adopted there might also be a 'password site' for those serious about their work; definitely a writers' only site. What could be posted there could be limited in size and those involved in the criticism of any work could do it privately by email - saving any embarrassment. Biographies of the form and type you suggested really ought to be posted as an essential entry requirement prior to the issue of a password.

Maybe the Workbook site could be abolished if the 'password site' can perform the same function. If the serious writers want to chat, they can simply click on the other site.


Goodwed of the North Tue Mar 10 19:21:37 PST 1998

I can only say one thing about making an Irishman "Irish". That is simply that I can't. I have no close Irish freinds who speak the language enough for me to know it. I don't know the manenerisms, cadence, slang, etc. I cna't do what I don't know. I also have no eperiance in the Germanic languages, French, British, etc.

I found out quite rapidly that I lacked that skill. I tried to make a group of characters in my first novel "Irish" in nature. I only succeded in making them sound stupid.

This is a cautionary statement. If you want your characters to represent another culture than your own, then you had better do the research and learn the coloquialisms and speech patterns of the culture you are attempting to re-create.

For myself, I know North American English and a good smattering of Northern Ontario Canadian. I will therefore write from my strenths and not pretend to do something I can not.

Seeeeya; goodweed of the North

Tue Mar 10 19:21:33 PST 1998

Philip Tue Mar 10 18:27:36 PST 1998


I just received this email from Colleen, she said I could post it if I wanted to. Here is the first paragraph:

Dear Phillip,

I am sorry if my absence from the notebook has resulted from your
receiving the short end of the stick. I do appreciate your writing me
and I did not leave the workshop because of you.

Joan Tue Mar 10 18:04:06 PST 1998

Jack, this week's topics represent what I love (and detest---it's a love/hate relationship!) about your topics: they force me to sit back and say, "Now, how the devil DO I do that?" I--and I suspect many others--write more from intuition than forethought, and it is very helpful to have you ask these perplexing questions so that we have to stand back and analyze how the actual thing comes off.

As to how to make the Irish Irish, etc., speech patterns, of course, have a lot to do with it. One notebook critic pointed out to me, in reviewing one of my Workbook postings, that the use of contractions (don't, etc.) detracted from the generally more formal or bardic speech patterns in the post. They were right---the people in that particular land wouldn't (or, more properly, "would not") use those. There's one example.

I've read that it's not a good idea to use phonetic spelling of speech variances (i.e., "Suh," instead of "Sir,"), that it makes it too confusing to the reader. Whoever said that suggested instead using words and phrases that are common to whatever nationality or region is being written about. I'm not sure I agree.

However, that's all I'm going to write on that topic for now, since my own struggles are more along the lines of how to make "elves more elvish" or "Boeken more Boekenish!"

As to pacing, action scenes are often heightened by shortening sentences and cutting out excess description. Loves scenes are your chance to wax eloquent but be sure to do it with originality and don't lay it on too thickly!

Nuff said for now---I'm leaving a lot of this to more experienced heads.


Philip Tue Mar 10 15:10:51 PST 1998


I don't think you meant to call Alison C a "rump swab", did you?

She hasn't said anything to you; she hasn't posted here for weeks.

You will apologise to her after you mull it over, right?


It is a fait accompli that as writers we receive criticism if our work is made public. People are bound to draw conclusions about it and us. If I am accused of writing crap (and I have been many times) I usually thank the person, raise my nose ever so slightly, turn my head and move on. Every day I do my work regardless. I simply would not make a spectacle of myself because of it: rant and rave.....

Believe it or not, sometimes even Philip the Great's work has been professionally dumped on in the media and I feel like I ought to reply, but I don't. I got over it and move on. I remember an American singer who I worked with saying 'never answer your critics' - that advice has stuck. But hey, whatever makes you feel good.

While I have made no final judgements here, it seems others are able to make all manner of final judgements about me. Someone here has already said you have to be thick skinned if you put yourself out to be a writer (although donning armour or flak jackets are also good suggestions) I endorse that absolutely. How you react to criticism is important. I wasn't kidding earlier, people have publicly called my work rubbish. This is not a matter of backing out of fights or bystanding or rocks bouncing off your head, or being labelled or taking cheap shots. And it certainly is not about spinning about and insulting anyone who disagrees with you.

I have my opinions and I'm as entitled to them as anyone is to theirs. How I react to your opinion is my own affair and how you react to mine is of your own doing. Ask yourself why you think you copped the criticism in the first place (as was suggested by someone earlier).

For those interested and who have followed the haphazard thread: I emailed Colleen several days ago and presented my personal views to her. And I do get warm fuzzy feelings all over when I see the results of my workshops in overcrowded inner city colleges but especially when I visit the poor black communities in the outback. People there are grateful for any feedback about their writing, there is a wonderful absence of arrogance, or ego, and an abundance of humility (per Goodweed). It is my hope to see black writers blossoming all over this state and I'm determined to help make it happen.

I don't deem to speak for everyone here as some have claimed they do, I speak for myself and I'm here with my address and no armour whatsoever.


I have several ideas about our topics and I will respond to your list of questions about reorganising the site soon.


Hayden Grayell Tue Mar 10 14:27:27 PST 1998

I've been musin' about how ya get someone t' sound like an Irishmun, or whataveyou, and aside frum th' trick o' convurtin the wurds to th' sownd, boyo, dere's dis trick o' tagging on th' clues to who and wha' they be.

In many movies you are clued in by the linguistic variation or dialect, but further clued in by what they (the character/s) call their friends. In movies, Aussies call each other mate; Americans call each other buddy, Irishmen call each other boyo...ummm...French men call each other see what I mean? That is a simple, and effective trick...maybe a little overused, but almost an accepted way of bringing a viewer/reader up to scratch.

But there is something else as well, and that is the pace of how someone talks. I don't really have time to go into it in depth, but, as a generalisation, western cultures tend to be sharp, clipped, straight to the matter conversationalists, where as eastern cultures tend to deal with a more social line of conversation. They'll get around to what they want to say eventually, but first there are other subjects to discuss; the preliminaries of health, family, mutual friends. Sometimes you (the writer) won't have the luxury of a long conversation about the weather, family, what the cat had for breakfast, but you can combine the dialect with further pin someone down to a specific culture.

Now you see here, Jimmy, dere's this sheila whose caught m' eye. She got great flashing eyes, and hands like hockey mittens, and when she flashes those emerald green eye at me... Oh aye, she's the milkmun's daughter..lives up the way with her ma and her da. Aye, she's a fine woman, boyo. Aye. But those hands of hers...make a man weak, they would.

That wasn't all that well done, but the idea is there.

I'll approach the topic of pacing something out later on today, if I get the time.

Tue Mar 10 11:54:19 PST 1998

MELANIE BEYL melaniebeyl@vwcomm Tue Mar 10 11:50:45 PST 1998

Hello fellow writers

It is nice to know that there are others out there like myself.
I rarely if ever come across a person who inspires to write. I'm sure you all know how I feel when I say it is so hard sometimes to continue to write, because life does get too political. We forget how to imagine and get caught up in the dream world of our minds. I have a mentor that keeps me writing, my father. He also writes and he encourages me everyday to continue to write and share my dreams with a piece of paper. I believe when I write it brings some sort of closer to a thought or a way of thinking. Each story changes me and I grow from it. In turn when someone shares their story with me I grow from having heard it. Stories are the opening to our souls and you can change the world with them. Keep writing and inspring others and bringing the world to a way of peace.

Toby B Tue Mar 10 09:30:18 PST 1998

T.M Spell:

Congrats and good luck!

T. M. Spell Tue Mar 10 04:17:18 PST 1998

Jack & Michele, thanks for the kind words. I've been trying to get into Clarion for, I think, eight years now. It took me ten years to win the Writers of the Future Contest. Hopefully, it won't take me until I reach standard retirement age to write that bestseller I've got my heart set on.

I'm rethinking the bit about shoving off because of the current flak flying about here. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater? And such a cute baby to be wallowing in that nasty old bathwater that's been floatin' about.

Write lots. --T. M. Spell--

Michele Tue Mar 10 01:01:45 PST 1998

Well I'm glad I put my flak jacket on before I came in . . .

I don't know if my "cheap shot" earned me the privilige to sit at the left hand of Philip the Great - I haven't asked him. And it's OK to label me an "unimaginative, uninteresting and sycophantic chronicler of a dead poet" - after all everyone is entitled to their opinions - and besides as Gary so rightly pointed out I don't know him, and to be honest I only take notice of the opinions of the people I know AND who know me - theirs are the opinions that REALLY matter to me, not the opinions of people I don't know and aren't likely to meet. Of course, like anyone else I appreciate encouragement - and I've been grateful to those here who've taken the time to encourage me, but at the end of the day, they don't know me, and they mightn't appreciate my interests, which is fair enough. Most of the people here write fiction and I'm not much of a fiction addict, so if I comment on anyone's work here they're entitled to disregard it if they want, because my opinion is only my personal opinion and I haven't claimed it's worth much. Given the Gary already accused me of writing on a boring subject I don't find it surprising that he's now calling me an "unimaginative, uninteresting and sycophantic chronicler of a dead poet" - having said that though, he's changed his tune from a few weeks ago, when he was all flattery towards me. As I said - we don't know each other so I hadn't taken that much notice of his opinion whether he flattered or abused. I wish though that he wouldn't insult me by calling me a Lady - that I ain't, nor am I ever likely to be, and I don't pretend otherwise. My previous comment in support of Gary was made before I had been filled in on the details of the row - having heard more of the details I felt that I was justified in removing my support - but that's my opinion (again for what it's worth).

Jack - I think that ideas for a password protected area in which people can leave their work and receive critiques is a good one - go for it !

T.M. - my congratulations - for what they're worth - you done good.

(Having dispensed rather more than my usual twopenny worth I will now wander off and dust down the flak jacket before I come back again.)


Goodweed of the North Mon Mar 9 22:13:45 PST 1998

Phillip; I am entering murky waters here. As I have said before, I am not by nature one who aggresively confronts another. Yet, sometimes it would be better if it were so.

I have enjoyed comraderie with would be writers in this group. I have also recieved invaluable insight from those same persons, Gary S. included. I also know that though I have recieved great help from some, their writing left much to be desired.

I agree with you that some people do not have what it takes to be writers. I personally couldn't do what you sometimes have had to do. On the other hand, I look at how much my writing has improved do to advice from others.

I think (and this is strictly my personal opinion), that though writing talent may vary widely, and some may never be published, all have contributions to make.

For Hayden; I have never seen you post anything I disagree with.

For us less experianced, but hopeful writers; Quit whining and understand that we have much to learn. I think what Phillip was upset about with Gary (please correct me if I'm wrong) is the lack of humility. Gary, that you are no award winning author is not something for shame. It only means you are like me, inexperianced. Only by accepting the knowledge of those who have learned the trade, people like Hayden and Phillip, can we hope to learn the things which will help us be succesfull.

At the same time, we can not expect experianced authors carry us. Rather, we must be grateful for help and pick up the resposibility to improve ourselves. I will succeed. I can't fail. I will do whatever it takes to improve my craft enough. I will not cowtow to anyone in the process, but I will respect those who go before me.

If someone tells me that my sentences are too wordy, or that my punctuation is sloppy, or even says that my writing basicaly sucks, that is a cue to step back and see why they are saying that (thankfully that hasn't been the case). My next step is to see how I can improve. My goal is not to make Phillip or Hayden my freinds, but to respect them for what they are, a valuable rescource (I hope I can be the same back). Hopefully, a freindship will develop because of mutual respect. If I write well enough, and act professionaly, that respect will happen. If I am thin skinned, and take exception to criticism, I will hurt only myself.

I need to qualify the above statements for those freinds I have made here. I support each of you. I respect each of you and know that with continued effort and practice, we can overcome our weakneses. I do not feel anyone I have e-mailed has serious weakneses in their writing ability that can't be overcome by listening to those that know the craft.

I will name-drop here and I hope the gentleman doesn't mind. Hayden; you are a good freind and have taught me more about my writing weakneses than the university proffesors I have had. You are much more than a resource, you are a freind.

Phillip; though I have misconstrued at times my words, I also have been touched by your freindship and experiance. You helped me imensely with my query and your support when you took time from your schedule to first contact me. I also call you freind.

Thank you both for telling me what I needed to improve. I will continue to work hard at improving my skills.

Joan and Rhoda; What can I say? You have given me invaluable advice as well. Your imaginations are both equal to any I have had the pleasure to experiance. You are valued freinds.

T.B.; For one so young, you write with skill and daring. You stand by your principles and carry yourself with dignity and maturity. You are a freind.

There is not one person I have coresponded with that hasn't taught me something.

Jack; You are an exceptional man. You have presided over this site with intelligence, courage, and have been the rudder which brings this ship safely through the storm.

Fights, they will happen. It's how we conduct ourself after the battle that determines whether or not we are a comunity of honorable writers, or self serving individuals, milking others to shore up our self worth. I will not quit this site. It's too good a place to leave.

If I ran everytime the going got rough, I would not have teenage children in my home who respect me. The fights we have gotten into make this place seem pretty tame. Once we got past the battles, we were stronger for it.

Here's a cliche for you in the grand tadition.
Let us get over it, and get on with it.

Power to your pens;

Sincerely; Goodweed of the North

Gary S Mon Mar 9 22:01:18 PST 1998

OOPS! I forgot what my daddy taught me about backing out of a fight. That is if you donít want a bystander to suddenly pick up a rock and bounce one off the back of your head, like Michele Fry. Michele, you saw fit, once you saw my back was turned, to label me a dreamless poser. Did that earn you the privilege to sit at the left hand of Philip The Great?

Since you took a cheap shot, Lady, how would you like to be labeled an unimaginative, uninteresting and sycophantic chronicler of a dead poet? Who in hell are you to say what my motives are and that I deserve to be shit upon by Maclaren? Regardless of what you swallowed from the self declared guardian of the literary worldís standards, YOU DONíT KNOW ME.


If you paid attention, youíd know that the woman you drove out of the notebook was not one of your rump swabs but Colleen Stapley, whose posting you can refer to in the archive. Of course, people who throw a wide wake seldom look back at it. And how wonderful it is that you roam the countryside, bestowing your wisdom upon those fortunate enough to enter your field of fire. Iím sure it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling all over.


To you I apologize for one thing only, I see now, that you were not brow-beating Jack but just clueing him in. Other than that, I donít have the ball, Jack does, and I donít sulk, mate. I get angry and I move on. Had YOU been paying attention you would have read that I am leaving for the sake of peace in the forum. Only because I forgot to back out, am I here to set some things, and some people, straight.

Gary S

Jack Beslanwitch Mon Mar 9 19:52:55 PST 1998

     I just wanted to congratulate T.M. As I have mentioned in previous posts here, my own writers group has many past and present graduates of Clarion West and East among us (only one of the latter and he was previously a graduate of Clarion West). The Clarion style of criticque, which I believe was patterned after another writers workshop, is the basis for own method of doing criticque. Get ready for one of the more grueling and exhilarating experiences in your life. I look forward to seeing how your writing matures after going through this wonderful crucible. Good luck to you.

T. M. Spell Mon Mar 9 18:14:08 PST 1998

Well, I came here to brag a bit about having just been accepted into the 1998 Clarion SF&F Writer's Workshop, and despite the current shitstorm at this site I'm still going to mention it (see above), though the wind is out of the sails now here.

Sorry to see the friction going on, but not being the passive type, I intend to say what I think about it. Philip, you were rude and while you may have lots of reasons for it, there's no excuse for your attempt to crush Gary's ego based on your own biased perception of who's got the talent and who doesn't. No one else here perceived the arrogance you mention. Everyone else here was having fun until you shit on the parade. Gary wasn't even addressing you with his jingle, so why you found it necessary to launch an attack aimed at driving him off is beyond me.

This site is aimed at providing writers with a resource for mutual help and encouragement. This isn't your site and you're not the final judge on anyone else's potential for *anything*. You're the one who was out of line. Believe it or not.

It *was* fun while it lasted, but I think I'm shoving off from this site for a while. Maybe the survivors of this falling out can consider this a lesson in how to effectively botch a discussion of humor.

--T. M. Spell--

Hayden Gayell Mon Mar 9 13:18:21 PST 1998

Victoria -- I agree with you, but I also agree with Philip, so I will very careully balance my monocycle on this tightrope, and try to clarify what I said earlier, without backing up one step.

My comments were not specifically aimed at Gary, who has been a pleasant companion over the past while, though the nature of the battle drew us into conflict because I was standing on the battlements and screaming at the warring armies who were keeping the castle awake while he was sabre rattling out on the field. Collateral damage, maybe.

You wrote: "In criticism as in life, little is accomplished by abusing others, and abuse says more about the character of the abuser than the talent or ability of the person being abused." I thought this was very well thought out. It blows my argument out of the water, but I will scramble onto the wreckage and point out that I wasn't actually condoning the use of abuse as a technique for critiquing.

Was I?

Jack Beslanwitch Mon Mar 9 12:49:18 PST 1998

Hello everyone:

         Please ,   I hope we can get out what we need to say, iron it out, take a very deep breath and move on. I have also been made aware of what took place behind the scenes and will refrain from commenting on or taking sides publically. But I hope that the tenor of the conversation can cool a bit and turn to either the topics I suggested or the new project that I am proposing for here. That last one needs lots of comment from everyone here.

   The new project I wanted to mention is that although I do not have it up yet, I think I do have the mechanics of creating a password protected area ironed out. Enough that it is when and not if. Before I do, I have a couple of proposals to throw out that I would like some constructive suggestions on. First the basic facts of what I am thinking of setting up:

  1. Create an area similar to the existing Writers Workbook behind the password area
  2. Create a criticque area that may blossom into a couple of sub criticque areas.
  3. Create a separate bios page of only those who are participating in the private area (I will provide a template that will keep the bios in a set length and I would suggest that all those participating contribute a photo either through a hyperlink, email so I can post it here or snail mail it to me and I will post it. You can even provide a link to a sound file, although I will not host it here. All behind the pass word area.
  4. Set up a group of principles that will guide us in our participation and our critiques. (This part I will solicit lots of suggestions on)

Your friend in writing

Jack Beslanwitch

Philip Mon Mar 9 08:32:53 PST 1998


I respectfully differ from almost all you say, except for the last bit.

I suppose I've done my share of professional critiquing. I review about three hundred writers works every year - for weeks on end I travel the state conducting workshops. You could say I recognise a poser when I see one. Posing as an artist or writer is not new, it has been a welcomed lifestyle for many for hundreds of years.

When one holds themselves out to be an expert in writing and shows me rubbish, I take exception to that person's claim. Especially if it's put forward in an arrogant manner. What I posted recently is not a method of criticising a person's work but is extremely effective in modifying unwelcomed arrogance. It was a reaction to continual displays of unrestrained haughtiness - not much to do with a critique style at all.

Just because I'm an established author I don't see why I should have "an even greater responsibility to behave in a balanced and reasoned manner". I'm just a person as you are. I think success gives credence (not power) to published authors opinions - why else did you preface your own posting as you did, you qualified yourself. As for luck, it has little to do with literary success: if you can't write, luck won't do a thing for your manuscript.

I believe it is talent and persistence that will win the day.

We differ again: I do recognise the creative temperament as being a personality trait. I've read numerous case studies about the nature of creative talent. I can recommend "Creativity" Edited by P.E. Vernon published by Penguin which may help change your view.

Tell me, how civil should one be to arrogant imposters, and for how long?


Michele Mon Mar 9 08:19:39 PST 1998

Victoria - just because something is a cliche doesn't actually mean it isn't true - as a general rule cliches are used to describe something that is (or at least once was) frequently true - the reason they're cliches is simply that the phrase/idea is overused. But I don't want to start another fight so I won't pursue this thought. In my own experience however creative people are far more temperamental than non-creative people - I've only (nearly) 30 years experience to go on however, and perhaps others haven't had that experience - I don't know.

Yes there is a difference between abuse and criticism, and no, established writers shouldn't use their fame/status or whatever, as an excuse to be rude BUT in this instance (from what I've been told privately) the "abuse" was pretty much justified. And you're right we probably shouldn't trash peoples dreams but as far as I can make out - having only seen the public face of this argument - there's no guarantee that there actually was a dream being trashed - more a pose.

I fear however that this topic is bound to be fraught with complications as we are all very different people and therefore bound to react differently to any given topic/subject/event. I hope that things will calm down soon and we'll be able to look at presenting our ideas on Jack's topic.

(Another twopenny worth !! I shall be broke before long !)


Victoria Mon Mar 9 07:05:43 PST 1998

I'm putting on my armor and launching myself into the fray. As someone who has done a lot of critiquing (and, yes, as a published author), I take exception to the idea that there is value in abrasive and/or insulting criticism, simply because it comes from one writer to another, or because it comes from a professional to a non-professional. In criticism as in life, little is accomplished by abusing others, and abuse says more about the character of the abuser than the talent or ability of the person being abused.

Criticism is an art, and part of the art is taking the work to be critiqued on its own terms. I've critiqued some pretty bad fiction, but I've rarely seen a piece in which there isn't at least something to praise, and in which some focused suggestions can't produce an improvement. Ability may vary widely, but hopes and dreams are identical; who are we to trash people's dreams?

It seems to me that established writers have an even greater responsibility to behave in a balanced and reasoned manner, because of the (often wholly undeserved) power that success gives to their opinions. I think many published authors forget that their success was due at least as much to chance and luck as to talent and persistence, and that they easily might still be in the same position as the unpublished writers who look to them for encouragement and advice. And I don't believe that old cliche about creative people being more temperamental than others; it seems to me more likely that people who've achieved a certain amount of status sometimes come to believe that this exempts them from the requirements of civility. Or else they are just uncivil by nature.

Civility is one of the things I've always valued about this message board. I hope it will soon return.


Philip Mon Mar 9 07:02:29 PST 1998


You are intelligent, eloquent, witty, sharp and swift: providing a lesson here for us all.


How melodramatic you are.

I won't repeat, paraphrase or publicly post the insulting emails I've received from you prior to my public opinion about your work. It is true, as I wrote to you privately, I was driven from these pages because of the non talented, self inflated arrogance of some people who used to visit here. They no longer place posts here which I also told you is why I returned.

The female I strongly disagreed with here, that you refer to as having left disgusted at the smell, was probably Alison C. Well, Alison and I communicate regularly and she has asked if I would write a piece for her literary/arts magazine - and I've agreed to do so. She has told me she is simply too busy to visit. Alison C is a brilliant, award winning writer; one of Australia's leading poets.

The community of writers here has turned over several times since the time I joined. There were writers of immense talent, humour and drive here at one time, writers whose opinions I held in high regard because of their own high standard of work. There are concerns in many fields that there exists a diminishing standard of expertise, the result of self proclaimed experts with little skill and few points on the board to support their self claimed status. That is the clearly case with writing: it suffers from a diminishing standard of unqualified, self appointed pedagogues.

And it was your "violence chapter" posted in the Workbook that was graded as crap by me long before the continuous stream of rubbish and nonsense that lead to the posting of the jingle. For me, the jingle was just the proverbial last straw.

As for the proximity of myself to others in this group and about my knifing people as they sleep, really, how melodramatic.


For the public record (as I mentioned in my private email to you) I personally take no offence from the term Abo as being the essence of one who is Aboriginal. Again speaking personally, I am trying to use the term Abo to defuse the effect it has on Aboriginal people in Australia and I've been involved in literary public debates concerning its use here.

I have seen in my own lifetime how derogative terms aimed at American blacks have been defused by common usage. But still some words may be used by blacks to each other that would not be acceptable coming from non blacks.

We have seen in Australia this same application of reverse psychology by the Greek and Italian communities. They were referred to here as wogs. Common usage of the term was taken up by these people - they called themselves wogs. "Wogs out of Work" was one of the most popular theatrical revues ever staged in this country and ran for years.

I would like this to be true for the word Abo. It is in common usage around my house; my non Aboriginal wife and my children use it; my Aboriginal mother and my Aboriginal family use it; but it is still regarded as an extremely insulting term by most Aboriginal people of Australia.

It was very astute and sensitive of Hayden to have mentioned this; his concern is not 'cynical hypocrisy' and I thank him very much. I am not the only Aboriginal Australian who reads these pages.


Michele Mon Mar 9 05:49:33 PST 1998

Hayden - I don't think you're a bad guy - in fact I found your analogy good - but then my mind is into that kind of frame of reference at the moment - war analogies make a lit of sense if you're reading a lot of war stuff as I currently am.

To all generally - I'm disappointed (as I've no doubt Jack is) that people have decided that they are not welcome here - be it Gary or someone else - and it seems a shame that tempers have flared up and hot words have been exchanged but arguments are a normal part of life and I guess "Creative" people are generally more temperamental than most so it was bound to happen sooner or later. For the most part however I feel that the Writer's Notebook is a welcoming place to be and I find the exchange of ideas, information and work interesting and stimulating. I hope to have some work to contribute to the Workbook myself in the not too distant future (folks don't hold your breath waiting - you'll expire !!). I will continue to hang out here and contribute my twopenny worth every now and again.


Hayden Grayell Mon Mar 9 03:44:59 PST 1998

Gary... If you feel passionately about it, you can do as you wish, though I have done nothing other than put my opinion forward as it seemed appropriate. Your departure will sorely deplete this arena, though you have certainly left a storm behind you.

Sorry, Jack. Looks like I have stirred up a hornet's nest. I didn't intend to "grandstand" at your expense. If I was indelicate in my wording, then I will suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous MISfortune.

All others...well, so I am the bad guy now, huh? If you wish that I keep my opinions to myself, then I will do so.

But I will not take my ball and go and sulk.

Mon Mar 9 03:14:34 PST 1998


Now I have heard some crap in this note book and I am sorely disappointed to hear it come from you.

As much as I vowed not to respond to the nastiness of Maclaren's uncalled for and ignorant attack on me, I won't sit for you defending him on the basis that I must take his or anyones criticism with hostility.

First of all I got no advice from him, only some deeply rooted, pathological, uncivil, vitriol that was far out of proportion to the occasion. Are you trying to say that he was grading a goddamn jingle?

The first time I ever heard of Maclaren was several weeks
ago when he sent me a congratultory email for my postings in this forum, he went on to explain how he had quit participating in it because of so many "talentless" people who had no hope of being writers. I wired him back a note thanking him for his encouragement and explaining that I was no judge of who could never be writer, myself. He said at the time that he was planning on taking up active participation again and much to many peoples regret he made good on his promise.

All your babbling about seargents and boot camps is just so much fanciful cockamamie. Philip laid down a stink in this notebook that drove one woman clean the hell out of it. This isn't the goddamn 101st Airbourne or the Navy Seals, Nor is it the Australian Light Horse.

Your trying to peddle the idea that Philip is acting apropriately harsh in the interest of blunt and meaningful
criticism is a pile that just won't float in this bilabong, mate.

Maybe if I was on the same side of the planet as Philip I would want to suck up to him myself, just to keep him from knifing me in my sleep, but I don't know what the hell your
worried about. Maybe you just think your better off politically, with a brilliant published writer in your good graces, close to home.

And brow-beating Jack for an honest mistake is a grand-standing play of cynical hypocrisy on your part. You kmow damn well that Jack would never insult a man's ethnicity if he knew he was doing it. That's a crock of fresh steamy dung if I ever smelled one.

I'll tell you this, both of you mates, over there. For the sake of this effort on Jack's part, and to keep from turning
his notebook into a battleground. I will drop out of it as of now. Because I can see I am not going to be able to hold my temper with you two assholes around.

My very best to the rest of you, you know who you are.

And good riddince to the others.



Jack Beslanwitch Mon Mar 9 02:53:32 PST 1998

One of the advantages of being the arbiter of this little group of friends is to correct your own mistakes. So, lest I offend anyone, I have altered the wording of the topics I am suggesting for this week. Hope this clarifies things without getting into muddy waters of nomenclature I have to pleed ignorance on.

Michele Mon Mar 9 01:09:31 PST 1998

Philip - in all fairness I have to agree with you - and not reluctantly. You were very generous in your praise and I appreciated it.

Rhoda - glad to hear you've discovered both Edward Thomas and Siegfried Sassoon. I will send you some more Edward Thomas if you're interested.

Toby and Britomart - Many Congratulations !!

Joan - message received and replied to - I will post you a message on the topic of reading and notes for research purposes since we've moved off that topic.

As this week's topics is once again Novel orientated I won't be able to comment on the topic but I may comment on other people's comments !


Hayden Grayell Mon Mar 9 00:46:54 PST 1998

You have made a social blunder that requires immediate apologies. In your last posting you ask how to make an Irishman Irish, and an Aborigine Abo. In your ignorance you have insulted Philip far worse than any of the others who have posted their words with snarls and gnashing teeth. The word Abo is akin to the word nigger...with all the malevolence of the word entailed, and though you may well have posted this in a well meaning way, you have set up a nasty conjuntion to the whole sad nasty mess of attacks and counter attacks that revolved around Philip.

As to the rest of the game being played out by this group, it is about time I had my say.

If you want advice from writers, you take it on their terms. If they want to insult you while they suggest ways for you to improve your writing, then you better put on a steel jacket and get down in your trenches and wait for the flak to stop raining down. Not all of us are kind and benevolent and give you a helping hand out of the mud. Some of us are drill sergeants, and we'll curse you and kick you until you wake up enough to your egos to really look at what it takes to be a writer. Grit your teeth, gang, and live the life with the foresight that people like Philip are brave enough to put before you.

Chances are that none of us will reach the acclaim we want. And we aren't going to make it any easier for you to clamber over our reputations so you can climb where we desperately want to be. We might help you build a bridge across the slough of despond, but to quote a famous fiction character "We aint your mumma, boy, and this aint no tin sausage."

If you are not willing to pull your heads in, and put aside your sorely-bruised egos, then you have only two options.
1. Prove us wrong by becoming famous, and *then* spitting down upon us.
2. Pull your head in, and take defeat as it comes.

Jack Beslanwitch Sun Mar 8 18:03:38 PST 1998

       Inasmuch as some are growing tired of discussions of research perse, I would like to suggest two avenues of discussion, one the application of research and the other a strictly writing topic:

     Also, I just wanted to add my own congratulation on the Honorable Mention for WOTF. I have a friend, Michael Scanlon, who got several before finally placing and winning one of the prizes that pays well. Also, if I am not mistaken at least one of the anthologies included one of the honorable mention stories and the author was paid for inclusion. So, hope springs eternal. Writers of the Future is definitely something that provides a writer with the discipline to get at least one story in a quarter and the brass ring hanging out there of one of the more lucrative markets for a new writer.

Hayden Grayell Sun Mar 8 15:03:38 PST 1998

Sorry gang...but I'm finding this subject a little boring. No matter where you go to chat about writing, the subject invariably comes down to research and how to do it or where to do it, etc. Most of the time the discussion eventually disintegrates into a subject of picking the eyes out of some novel or screen play to find all the mistakes. No-one celebrates the hard work of how something was done, or the author's final victory of getting it up and running; it's just pick pick pick on the misplacement of an object like a gold watch during a Ben Hur shoot or some such guff.

Kim said, and I agree, that research shouldn't get in the way of a good story. Research is just to gathering the *minimum* facts required to create the atmosphere of the work. If you want to drop the reader deep into the fifteenth century, you may need more research than if you were going to slide them into modern day Africa. Obvious mistakes are avoided by a writer who has done a little research, but if you dig any deeper than the minimum, you are procrastinating. Get stuck into the writing, for Goodness sake!


Sun Mar 8 12:43:46 PST 1998


Did I tell you about those tomatoes?

Gary S.

Toby B Sun Mar 8 12:33:16 PST 1998

In Greneda, where I grew up, my mother and I lived on less, but it is easier there as it is a third world country. I remember a crate of bananas costing a quarter. If you eat lots of fish (catch it yourself) and chicken and fruit, no soda, but locally made juice, you'll live a healthy and cheap life. My grandfather is back sailing the islands on about that much.

It also means no cable, that alone devastates most of the Americans I know. There are luxuries you do without. But if you know what you're doing, you can have the cake and eat it too (TY VCR PC STEREO SYSTEM etc). The adventures and sights are well worth ANY negatives that pop up.

But if I were to do that, I would have other jobs. I used to make more money in my spare time down in the islands doing entrepaneurial things related to boats than I do at a regular stateside job now.

It's a good life. If you know how to go about it.

Sat Mar 7 23:11:40 PST 1998


Congratulations on your award. Hope you enjoy the ride on the wave of deserved recognition.

You make a good case for retiring to the Carib. I don't know how far 5K would go there, but I bet there are a few doing with less. A local mystery writer just turned down an offer of $7000 for her fifth in a series of novels. In a news interview she claimed to have calculated that she was working for less than minimum wage. I guess after the fourth novel, some of the glow wears off.


I believe you deserve some recognition for the work and the concern that you put into this site and your efforts
to accommodate the group. I would want you to feel that we
do not accept your hospitality without thought or gratitude.

Hayden, mate. Really funny stuff.


I'll be in touch.

Y'all keep on stroking,

Gary S.

Joan* Sat Mar 7 21:52:02 PST 1998

Toby B-

How absolutely wonderful! Yes, placing Honorable Mention in WOTF is a great thing. Congratulations (I'm green with envy!).


Sat Mar 7 19:51:42 PST 1998

By the way. To touch briefly on the subject of tomatoes (correct me if I'm wrong :) but weren't they considered an aphrodisiac by the English?

I don't know why I remember that fact-

Toby B Sat Mar 7 19:48:59 PST 1998

Hello everyone:

If there's been any E-mail sent to me and it hasn't been returned don't panic. I've been home on vacation for the past week and a half, and have been absorbed in reading books. I'm returning to college life this monday.

I also just recieved notice from L. Ron Hubbard's WOTF that I placed Honorable Mention last quarter. I'm not too sure what that means as a comparison, but it definatly warms my heart and gives me a little extra desire to keep plugging ahead.

Spectacular news, I also just bought a laptop, this has already doubled my effective writing output as I have trouble sitting still in one area. Mobility is where its at! (I have hundreds of sheets of paper covered in scribble from writing on the move).

Somebody back there mentioned that the average salary of a writer (non-journalist) was 5,000 a year. I'll take that. Just retire back to the caribbean (from whence I came), live on a boat, part time caribbean work, writing. There are worst futures I can imagine for myself.

Write lots have fun:)

Philip Sat Mar 7 16:54:33 PST 1998


Be even handed here. The week before you were 'blasted' by myself, you received unsolicited, well deserved praise from me for your excellent writing. My 'blasting' was really the result of our differing opinions. You will of course recall you did some heavy blasting of your own - and fair enough.

Unfortunately, Gary doesn't possess your clarity of mind or anywhere near your writing talent.


Rhoda Sat Mar 7 14:46:42 PST 1998

A few more things regarding research:

This business with tomatoes has reminded me of many subjects debated by experts. An example that comes to mind is stirrups for horses. The Huns and Tarters of the South Asian steppes were using these maybe a century or two before the time of Christ. Supposedly stirrups were first known to be used in Europe around the middle of the 9th century. There is much conflicting information about the use of stirrups in Europe. I've also read that they were used by Charles Martel in the Battle of Tours. I've read histories of The Battle of Hastings that claimed the Saxons did not use stirrups while the Normans did, and then I've read other histories that claimed both sides used them at Hastings. You see the problem. No one really knows just when stirrups were in common use in Europe.

In matters such as this where there is some controversy about the use of things, a writer has to use his or her own descretion. Just because some people in America believed that tomatoes were poisonous doesn't mean everyone did. Perhaps tomatoes were eaten in some parts of the country and not in others. I think if you can find some credible source that claims an item was used or available when your story claims it was, then you have every right to use it. Even if you can't find a source, you can set up a situation in your writing to credibly account for the departure from so-called established fact.

I liked Britomart's statement about the story being the most important. I agree with that. Characters and plot can get too well hidden amongst details and history.

Depending upon what we are writing, there are times when anachronisms are expected. Take stories of King Arthur, for instance. Since the literary tradition of King Arthur is a medieval creation, most movies and stories of King Arthur are done using medieval technology, institutions, and costumes. Take the movie, CAMELOT, for instance. If someone had made that thing historically accurate, it would have been completely unrecognizable.


I regret that you do not feel comfortable leaving your e-mail address. I understand, but please e-mail me once in awhile so we don't lose touch.


I have not yet read your revised draft of your story. I got the file. I just have to sit down in read it. I appreciate you sending it to me.


Glad to see you back on the Notebook. I finally found an Edward Thomas poem. It is THE GALLOWS. Thank you for introducing me to Siegfried Sassoon. I've been looking around for his poems also. If not for your participation on the Notebook, I would never have been exposed to these two wonderful poets.


Congratulations on your awards. I'm sure it means a lot to know that your hard work is appreciated. Glad to see you back on the Notebook.

Well, I must be running along. I am about to finish VALERIE'S SONG, and I can't seem to get this thing out of the way fast enough. I'm going to be very busy this next week, so I probably won't be posting for awhile.

Take care, everyone, and Happy Writing!


Sat Mar 7 12:13:15 PST 1998

Jack Beslanwitch Sat Mar 7 11:37:25 PST 1998

However you want to participate in the Notebook, that is cool. However, just as a correction, the Writers Workbook does not require that you include your email address anymore than the Notebook does. If you wish anonymity, that is OK, even in the workbook. Also, I am looking into making a version of the workbook a password protected area. I have started doing this at least a dozen times and then got sidelined. So, this may be what happens this time again. However, if I do accomplish it what I will do is request those that would like to participate to contact me via email. Via email I would send them/you a group password. Depending on how the password protection scheme works, I am hoping that I would update with a new password monthly. Also, I have also considered creating a secondary discussion area strictly for criticque probably also behind the password area. Ideally, the best approach is for reviews to be shared with the individuals rather than the group. Any alternate ideas are appreciated. In terms of the anonymity issue, if I did do this. The only person the email would need to be passed to would be me. And, as I said above, this is provisional on my working out how to do this in the first place. Take care.

Jack Beslanwitch - email:

sorry Sat Mar 7 11:09:57 PST 1998


I thank you for your moral support. I have resolved my differences with Philip. I do not respond to him and I sincerely hope that he will do me the same courtesy. As of today, I have a new email adress, which I will not be posting in the notebook and since the workbook requires a viable email adress I will not be posting there. If Jack will allow this manner of participation, I hope to continue
conferring with you because you all have been a great group
of people as well as my most valuable resource for improving my writing. I regret that I find it necessary to resort to this stage of anonymity but for the time being it will have to be.

Warmest regards,

P.S. Hayden, you just may be the antichrist. Have you noticed any song birds falling dead as you pass by?

Joan Sat Mar 7 09:36:36 PST 1998



Hayden--Just read your Workbook posting. You raunchy thing, you! The fire brigade turned out with loaded hoses??? heheheheh Funny stuff!

Michele, good to have you back. Sending you an E-mail.

Question for all, re research: Everyone seems to read a lot for research, that's a given. But how extensive is your note-taking, and how much to you rely on that if you do it? I suppose it depends on what type of book you're writing, but it seems in any case that it would be a good idea to have some method of note-taking and retrieval of facts. Any ideas?


Jack Beslanwitch Sat Mar 7 02:57:25 PST 1998

Britomart: Congratulations. Actually, given your awards I plan to solicit my local science fiction buyer at the University of Washington Bookstore to consider stocking yours inasmuch as he stocks British editions of certains works. That is how I got my copy of Polgara the Sorceress ahead of the American edition and, given the respective quality of the cover graphics, I am delighted to pay close to double the price to get the beautiful cover.

Kim: I am trying to dredge my memories, but I believe I watched a Frugal Gourmet episode in which he did recipes from Thomas Jefferson. Among them were macaroni and cheese and also the comment that after he came back from France he enjoyed tomatoes despite the prevailing opinion in the states that tomatoes were poisonous because of their close relation with the deadly nightshade family. I am resurrecting all of this from an episode I watched several years ago, so I may be off base.

Hayden: Sometime tomorrow I will be archiving the Workbook, which is where you doubled your story. I will correct the snafu and chop the Workbook into a couple of more bite size files, retaining the last month or so of postings. Close to 200k is probably proving a little to large for folks. Take care everyone and I will be thinking of something appropriate in terms of topics that might be appropriate for the upcoming St. Patrick's Day. I have not quite figured that out, but I will come up with something useful and fun and amusing.

Michele Sat Mar 7 01:46:20 PST 1998

Hi gang.

I've been away for a wee while so I'm a little behind in answering Gary's comments on the topic of research.

Yes I am researching the life of Siegfried Sassoon but as I'm about to write a biography, I'm allowed to "let my research show". The way I've done my research so far has been to read as much of Sassoon's work as possible first, then to read other books/articles about him, to read up some of the history of WW1 and to re-read (in-between times) Sassoon's work so that I keep fresh in mind what he wrote and thought and felt, because the book is basically about him and his work, rather than what 250 (or however many) other people think of his work.

On the topic of friendliness and support - I thought Gary's jingle a harmless way of apologising to Rhoda and Joan for consistently confusing the two of them - I didn't think that it was necessary for Philip to blast Gary, but then having been blasted by him myself the week before I'm bound to sympathise with Gary ! I hope that Philip and Gary can sort their differences out.

That's my twopenneth worth !


morgana Fri Mar 6 22:57:01 PST 1998

There are two books that are very useful: 'The Timetables of History,' a Touchstone Book published by Simon and Schuster and 'The Timetables of Science,' same.

Neither goes into detail although there are sidebars in 'Science', but both are good for keeping dates in sync and
are loaded with interesting nitpicky items, such as 1841, Biology: "The Berlin zoo opens." Also, they each have fairly adequate indexes. For instance, if I look up "Dinosaur," I find that the term was coined in 1842.

Fri Mar 6 22:54:25 PST 1998

Fri Mar 6 22:48:11 PST 1998

Hayden Grayell Fri Mar 6 14:47:25 PST 1998

Sorry buddy I have posted the story twice to the note book. You might want to remove one of them (but I pray not both)


Hayden Grayell Fri Mar 6 14:43:23 PST 1998

Hi gang.

I'd like to tie together two streamd of discussions and deal with the book I am currently trying to complete. The two streams of discussion are Research and Humour. (So timely!)

To bring you up to speed...Last year I began a book entitled "How to Plan a Midlife Crisis", the basic plot line is about a male reporter who is researching how to go through a midlife crisis properly so he can get the most out of it. He interviews the men of his small town, called Bydetime, to get their opinions and in the process goes through his own midlife crisis not as successfully as he hoped to.

The research that went into book amounted to reading about 20 books on the subject of the male menopause. (Yes, they do call it that if they want to be Politically Correct). They were with two exceptions about as depressing as watching your new chevrolet being towed through a burning house.

The most difficult thing about the book was that I had to deal with subjects such as sex and religion and the battlescars left behind by divorces and the war between the sexes, and treat each of the subjects with a lot of respect. Whether I succeed will be judged later this year.

I've posted a chapter in the workbook for you to read. Those offended by my point of view will be forgiven for not buying a copy when the book is released.

Hayden Thu Mar 5 19:30:54 PST 1998

To Kim,

There will eventually come a point in the process that a hair just can't be split. Some one might discover that a certain community in the Adirondacks was growing and eating tomatoes thirty years before their popular acceptance.

No writer, with the possible exception of Stephen King would have a Trans-Am parked in the O.K. Corral, but some would have no problem with a few tomatoes being marginally out of context.

In an episode of the Twilight Zone a bulldozer with the blade removed and a superstructure built onto it, once doubled for a tank. Tanks can be a whole different problem for producers with low budgets and time constraints.

See y'all,

Gary S.

Philip Thu Mar 5 19:25:46 PST 1998



Congratulations mate!

You're our first success as witnessed by our group from go to Whoa.

Now we'll really have to celebrate next time you're in Sydney.


Philip Thu Mar 5 19:25:25 PST 1998



Congratulations mate!

You're our first success as witnessed by our group from go to Whoa.

Now we'll really have to celebrate next time your in Sydney.


Thu Mar 5 17:30:53 PST 1998

T. M. Spell Thu Mar 5 16:59:30 PST 1998

Peter, I don't want you to think I'm brushing off your concerns about not being paid for your writing. There are, certainly, ways to make a living writing, if by that you mean writing things other than fiction. A good college minor in journalism will prepare you to make a living writing any kind of non-fiction you set your hat at, provided you are willing to work at your studies harder than you have ever worked at anything in your life and be completely honest with every word that you write.

I say this based on the fact that I have such an education and have been a journalist in Washington, D.C., and St. Augustine, Florida. I have, can and could make a living as a journalist if I so chose. But I feel that such a job, while enjoyable, and good practice for keeping your writing muscles in shape, sucks all the creative juice out of a writer -- the juice needed for your fiction. At the end of the day, the last thing you'll want to do is sit down and *write some more*.

Or maybe it's just me. Maybe spending your days as a journalist, and your evenings and weekends as an aspiring (and prolific) novelist, until you win the three-book contract you've been dreaming about, sounds like a happy dream to you. If so, consider that college minor in journalism (or earning a degree in the subject by taking evening classes as you can).

T. M. Spell Thu Mar 5 16:39:07 PST 1998

BRITOMART, mega congratulations! What a splendid coup.

For those of us who haven't been around too long, or those who missed it, why not give us the title of your book again and the name you published it under?

And again, kudos to you.

PETER, you wrote: << I got a completely wrong idea about writing and authors because authors are so often shown as stars, whereas most of them don't make a living form writing, or else they don't make a living at all. >>

The same is true with actors. For every movie star who makes a fortune there are thousands who can't make a living.

The last time I heard the statistic touted, writers make an average of $5,000 per year -- and that's figuring in both the writers who don't pull in enough to cover their postage costs with the ones who cop million dollar advances for books that haven't even been written yet.

Even so, knowing that, there are still those of us who take the leap of faith. It's a scary thing to believe in yourself when no one else does. But it makes the successes, when you finally achieve them, that much more satisfying.

--T. M. Spell--

Britomart Thu Mar 5 16:14:55 PST 1998

Dear everyone

Sorry I haven't been around for ages. I wanted to drop off some good news. My frist novel won the Aurealis Awards for Best Horror Novel and Best Fantasy Novel for 1997! Hurrah! Also, it has just been sold on to a German publisher. Hurrah again!

Hayden, sorry I haven't written for ages. I've been busy finishing the second book and now I'm back at uni. Sometimes I don't get near the modem for weeks.

Re: the topic. My novels are always part historical, and these tools work really well for me:
1. Read a lot of stuff written at the time you're researching. Victorian literature abounds, Renaissance stuff is everywhere, and it doesn't take long to track down Medieval stuff. You get such an insight not just to the details, but also to the mindset, the world view.
2. Get a Shorter Oxford Dictionary. All the etymologies of words are in there, including the date they were first used. I'm fond of pointing out that the word "orgasm" was not in use until the 1680s. If in doubt about a word, just look it up and see if it was used.
3. Watch period films! They are usually meticulously researched, especially the BBC mini-series, and the visual images are so much easier to work with.
4. Most historical periods have a "everything you needed to know" written about them. Books with pictures are the best.
5. Don't stress too much about historical accuracy. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. The story is everything, and history is not guaranteed to be 100% factual. We can't ever *really* know what happened, and if somebody complains you can always plead artistic licence.


Kim Thu Mar 5 09:41:51 PST 1998

The other night, I was coerced into watching the movie PATTON with my husband. Being the military historian that he is, John picked up on the fact that the tanks being used as German tanks were actually American tanks made *after* WWII. Now that is an anachronism that *I* never would have picked up on, but I guess it goes to show that for every movie made and every book written, there will be someone who will know if you mess up!

JACK: You said you are working on a project that is set in the 1840s/50s. Will it take place in America? If you donít already have it, I would recommend THE WRITERíS GUIDE TO EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE 1800s. This book has helped me catch at least one anachronism in my novel, a beginning scene set in 1864 in which my main character is in her garden picking tomatoes. Yet, according to THE WRITERíS GUIDEÖ, tomatoes were not generally eaten until the 1880s because it was widely believed that they were poisonous. This book has chapters on everything from slang to "life on the ranch," and I highly recommend it.

Have fun!
~Kim Wed Mar 4 22:46:27 PST 1998

Peter Motte,

Have you tried with any of the publishing houses to see if they have translator jobs. It seems worth a shot, if you cover the houses that are doing a lot of foriegn markets.

Let us know how it goes,

Gary S Wed Mar 4 22:29:08 PST 1998

Peter Motte,

If you are interesting in doing literary translations,I would think the publishers employ them. If you work up a resume that you can send round to the houses, you may get a better chance of connecting than most of us do with a manucript.

Let us know how you make out.


Gary S.

Hayden Grayell Wed Mar 4 20:07:46 PST 1998

Woops...wrong email address on the last posting. Sorry.

Hayden Grayell Wed Mar 4 20:06:20 PST 1998

Hi gang,

I've been rushing around doing exciting things over the last few days--such as creating a 20 page subweb for the bosses here in only ONE day--so I missed all the flak going on. I have no comment on it. What I will comment on is how quickly we brushed over the topic of humour, and I would like to add a little more to the topic before it is closed properly.

First of all, I remember reading a very good reference book a while back which would be useful for those of you who want to brush up on humour. I think it is called The Comic Toolbox and is subtitled "How to be funny even if you're not." The author's name was Vorhaus, and he showed how to construct jokes, one liners, and entire scripts for situation comedies. I recommend it as a useful book to keep on your shelf.

Secondly, I have been discussing the use of humour in Science Fiction and Fantasy with Neville O'Neill, and he remarked that there is no humor in SF/F except throw away lines by a few of the characters. Very few authors know how to use comic relief without dropping into slapstick. Terry Pratchett is almost the only exception, writing his Diskworld novels--though a purist would argue that he is writing humour and not SF/F. Yet Terry, or TP as I would like to be able to call him, has handled humour with brilliant skill. His latest books have, IMHO, fallen a little short of the mark because they have lost the light air that his previous novels have. Maybe he is trying to get a message across and his characters have become a little flippant.

And that is what humor, by that I mean comic relief, is there create a light inside all the darkness of the worlds of SF/F. Take, for instance, a character who can throw off one liners. If they continuously do so no matter what kind of trouble he/she is in, then the humour is seen as a redeeming feature of the character, a fortification of our empathy with them. If, on the other hand, they are throwing off lines when they are in a casual conversation with the next door neighbour, then they can be seen as affable, or if you take it to an extreme and have the character always throwing off one liners, then the character is a smart arse, or silly in the head.

But comic relief is also something that can create darkness with a dark piece, by comparison. For instance, more often than not the villian is the one with the humor, and his smart one liners are used to make his evil actions more evil. He slays an entire tribe of pigmy elephantmen and then remarks how they didn't measure up to his expectations, and his act becomes even more vile because he hasn't taken what he did seriously. (Don't worry baout the "not measuring up" remark as most of a villian's jokes fail anyway)

Situation comedies set in a SF/F genre, such as Red Dwarf, know how to make speculation fiction and comedy blend together. But imaginge if you took the comedy/SF one step further, and ended it not as it usually does with the good guys winning, but with a powerful message of the ravishes of evil, and you have a situation where the reader has been going along with the gags, and then is dropped from a serious height to a realisation that the evil has won out. Then you have a perfect blend of humor and science fiction/fantasy. (Of course you can't be a pessimist/nihilist so you then have the good guys win through against the protagonist and the "counter-humour", and that is good fiction.

Enough for a while

Peter Motte Wed Mar 4 16:15:35 PST 1998

I have several problems with writing:
- I like it
- I never get paid
- I got a completely wrong idea about writing and authors because authors are so often shown as stars, whereas most of them don't make a living form writing, or else they don't make a living at all.

Currently I'm full time engaged as a translator from English and French to Dutch, but I would more appreciate to translate literary works. Has anybody an idea on how I could find a job like that?

Also, what could we do to promote reading without promoting the idea of living as an author?

Philip Wed Mar 4 14:37:55 PST 1998


With reference to recent history, sitting behind me I have a book titled 'Chronicles of the 20th Century'. This was given to me by my daughter for Christmas a couple of years ago; it has condensed newspaper articles complete with pictures, cartoons, graphs etc. It's a massive book (1,392 A4 pages) devoting a month per page for the whole century and has a comprehensive index. I believe the publishers (Penguin) have a different version for each English speaking country with news of importance featured of that country. Importantly, this is not an expensive book - I think it was about $25.

For instance I'm browsing January 1970 right now: 23rd - First Jumbo takes to the air; 21st - Biafra revolt crushed; 22nd - Melbourne abortion rackets involve police; 6th - Aussie wins World Featherweight title; 16th - Gaddafi becomes Premier of Libya; 26th - Mick Jagger is fined for possession of marijuana; 28th - Recent winner of the Australian Open, Black American tennis player Arthur Ashe, refused a visa to play in South Africa... and more. What a memory jogger!

I'm writing a book set in the 60s and 70s and have used this book to set me on the path if not satisfy my immediate need.


T. M. Spell Wed Mar 4 04:12:46 PST 1998

If the future is an undiscovered country, the past is largely a forgotten one. Do any of us really recall the 1970s with any accuracy? So much slips away, the infinite details, and meticulous research can provide us with some of the answers we need about events and circumstances, national obsessions and happenings in the news, but a great deal is lost forever, including the perspective of the time.

Someone from your niche in society didn't think the way you think today. Very few individuals ever think past the prejudices or assumptions of the age they live in. You may be on this or that side of an issue --school prayer, environmentalism, etc.-- but it's not likely you helped to define the issue in your culture.

Even Barbie has had to change with the times, with a new reduced bust size and more proportionate dimensions over all. If a child's toy (the production of which is controlled by a corporation) has to get into political alignment, just consider the pressure being constantly exerted on the individual to do so. This constant pressure is one of the things common to nearly all societies at all times. In societies and time periods where the pressure was even greater than it is today, imagine someone trying to question the assumptions of the day -- even if they had the author's enlightened intellectual perspicacity to guide them, they would, realistically, be in danger of being crushed by those around them.

Jack Beslanwitch Wed Mar 4 00:05:35 PST 1998

Hello everyone: Inasmuch as I was about to archive anyway, I thought it might be appropriate to make a clean start here. A tabula rasa, if you please. All the comments of the last day or so are available in archive. However, what I wanted to emphasize was a line from the opening paragraph above:

"It is requested that we all respect the feelings of each other, but strong emotions, strong opinions and strong comments have been known to be dropped off here. We are writers and creative personalities."

Please remember that we are a diverse group coming from all corners of the planet and with relative levels of thickness of skin. And creative passions to match. If we did not have those creative passions and excesses we would not be the writers we are.

In the category of a personal nature, BTW, just got some closure on my Computer Book project that has been in limbo for some time. It is officially dead, but they are sending me a check for the draft I completed. So, at least some joy is forthcoming, although not as I would have wished when I started the project.

I would like us to get back to research ideas for a quite selfish reason. I have a project that has been on the back burner for several years that I am beginning to experiment with that is set partly in the twenty first century and partly in the 1840s and 1850s. So, I am all ears for ideas and gems of wisdom for making my historical characters come to life and as few anachronisms as possible. Take care everyone. Shalom. Salaam. Pax.

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