Wednesday, November 30, 2016

NEVER TOO LATE






My interest in writing began when I took a creative writing elective course in high school. A spark ignited in me. However after graduation life quickly extinguished it. I married during the first year of college. Unfortunately, this marriage didn’t last. My first husband found someone else and left our baby daughter and me. Thankfully, a lovely man named Neal entered our lives. We married and he adopted my daughter. Over the next few years, we were blessed with four more children.

My life was full raising children, enduring teenagers (yikes), recovering from a house fire, and emotionally surviving the near-death of our youngest son and dealing with his following health issues.

Who had time to write?

When our last child left the nest, I felt as if I had been demoted from Mom in Charge to Mom Advisor. What was I to do with my life? Then a dear friend, Lois Spoon, began a critique group and invited me to join. The spark I experienced in high school reignited into a flame. I wrote in almost every genre, exploring where I fit into the writerly world. And while I enjoyed writing there was one thing that hovered over me like a black cloud—regret.

I regretted all the time lost when I could have been writing. It didn’t help that at every conference I attended the wildly successful author who keynoted started writing before he or she could walk! Who was I, an old woman in her late forties, to think she could start writing and have any success or impact at all? Even now, at the age of sixty-one, I still have those who am I moments. But if I tell myself the truth, I am a woman with stories to tell, experiences to share, and hope to give.

If you are struggling with regret for starting late—don't! Just think of the past years as research, and get on with the business of writing!

You have stories begging to be told!

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Comma Sense

5 Necessary Comma Uses

Commas and apostrophe misuse in rampant in the world. I’ve heard everything from “stick one in when you need to take a breath” to avoid them at the end of lists. I submit to you that if the only reason you put a comma in your sentence is when you want your reader to take a breath, your sentence is too long. If you don’t use one between the last two disparate actions or objects in a list, you end up with the classic Eats Shoots & Leaves  - both the English and American versions.

Commas are needed to avoid confusion. They are needed to circumvent run-ons which can result in multiple meanings. They are necessary to prevent dangling and misplaced modifiers. Besides office-type little usages, there are five particular places to use commas in American English. (Read Eats Shoots &Leaves for Queen’s English usages.)

8600

One:
Use a comma after an introductory word/interjection/direct address of a person, or phrase. Be consistent.

Oh, what a beautiful morning!
Hello, world.
Why, whatever could you mean?
Beatrice, please pass the potatoes.
Mother, may I?
When encountering a UFO, one must attempt a peaceful greeting before shooting.
If you bring me eggs, I will make omelets for breakfast.
Yes, sir.
No, ma’am. (This usage with just the two words is becoming more rare…omitting a comma is acceptable as long as it’s consistent. But it’s awkward when you have to use one in a longer introductory phrase.)

Two:
Use a comma with dialog tags THAT define a manner of speech NOT an action.

“Please pass the potatoes,” Beatrice said/whispered/yodeled. (NOT smiled, laughed, frowned)
She said, “If you bring me eggs, I will make omelets.”
“Yes, sir,” Mother said.

Three:
Use a comma to separate INDEPENDENT clauses. I’m not always sure how this happened…but think of it this way: If you can separate a sentence in to two sentences that can stand alone (not counting a conjunction or joining word) use a comma. If one part of the sentences is a fragment (not a complete sentence), then do not use a comma.

We gathered eggs, and then we made omelets.
The new house is finished, and the garage is large enough to hold our two vehicles.
Hold on to your dreams, yet take care of practical matters.
Beatrice asked Mom to make her wedding dress and scheduled fittings.

Four:
Use a comma to surround a parenthetical phrase or word. Think of it this way: If you include a phrase that adds to or defines something that you could put in parentheses, use commas on BOTH sides of where you would use parentheses. The parenthetical phrase is something that, if removed, doesn’t necessarily change the meaning of the sentence, or adds to the main idea, or is an interruption of the main thought. NOTE: The use of commas surrounding appositives—words that rename the preceding noun—are not always absolutely necessary unless there is potential confusion or multiple objects.

Tell Phyllis she may bring her cat and kittens, along with her poodle Toby, on the trip.
My aunt and uncle, John and Barbara, were invited to the wedding.
My sister Beatrice is getting married.
His son John will soon be five years old.
Toby and Fifi, our pets, will be lonely without us.
In the future, however, we won’t need to carry money.

Five:
Use commas to separate items in a list or actions or a series. Use a comma between ALL of the items, including the last two items if they are separate items/actions/nouns, etc. Likewise, use a comma between adjectives that can be reversed.

Beatrice set the table with the good china, soup bowls, cloth napkins, and silverware.
Mother called Jimmy, Bobby, and Susan to lunch.
Jennifer ordered eggs benedict with her toast and jam.
Pack a sweater and jeans along with your toothbrush, camera, and suntan lotion.
It’s going to be a hot, windy day.
My aunt’s new house is a two-story, red brick mansion.

Office biz:
Use commas to separate numbers over a thousand (no space)—EXCEPT in page numbers or calendar years:

There were 1,114 in attendance.
Please turn to page 1114 in your textbooks.
In the year 2525, people will no longer need money to trade.
Your tax bill comes to $3,425.

Use commas to separate dates, addresses, and cities and countries or states or other municipalities (space):

My cousin was born on July 23, 1977.
We visited Winnipeg, Canada in October of 2005.
I celebrated my work anniversary on February 17, 1988.
We live at 245 Sunnybrook Lane, Vanay, Oceana.
Beatrice’s new address is 711 First Street, Sinclair, Virginia 00555. (no comma before zip code)
Madison, Wisconsin is a beautiful capital city.
 
Use commas in opening and closing letters/communication:

Dear Sir,
Please accept this letter of intent…

Sincerely,

Elizabeth




Finally, this article should be required reading for everyone. Please read it. Please.
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Monday, November 21, 2016

Almost There!

If you're participating in National Novel Writer's Month, then you're almost to your goal. Well, in days that is. Maybe you're ahead of schedule on your way to 50,000 words, or behind, but the good news is, there's still time.



One of the perks of being a member of www.nanowrimo.org is the pep talks given during November. Here are a few snippets from larger articles of wisdom and advice provided by some veteran writers.

"Sometimes, after I’ve taken my seat and made a cup of coffee but before I begin writing, I’ll make myself listen to a whole song. It can be any song, but what’s important is that you’re not doing anything but listening and maybe dancing a little or sipping your coffee—enjoying the moment. This allows you to settle in, transition from world to word, from the everyday mundane crap to the realm of creativity." Daniel Jose Older

Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, which begins with Half-Resurrection Blues.

 "What makes a writer a writer? Writing. A lot of people would say ‘talent’, but talent is really just the ability to do something well that most people have to work hard at. If you don’t think you have ‘talent’, just work hard instead—the talent often comes with a cost, anyway: a lack of good work habits. The talented ones often never had to learn to work hard; so many of them don’t finish their work because they never had to—it was enough to be talented, to offer people a glimpse of what you could be. So don’t be that person—don’t be the person that everyone believes could have done something. Be the person who tried." Alexander Chee

Alexander Chee is the author of the novels Edinburgh and The Queen of the NightHe is a contributing editor at The New Republic, and an editor at large at VQR.
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Friday, November 18, 2016

A Lesson in Finesse

Rinee Newburgh and Lori Bridgeport are mind writers, capable of the amazing feat of transferring the mind from a dying body to a young, healthy, blemish-free clone. Then the clone comes to life and goes about its business as if the mind's owner had never been sick.

Great way for the ultra-rich and political elite to live forever.

Mind writers live in a beautiful environment, pay for nothing, and spend their lives being educated in medicine, history, political science, and who knows what else. If I remember correctly, they're all orphans. And---spoiler alert---they're all going to die.

But the authors of Mind Writer don't tell you that for quite some time.

I love the opening chapters of this book because they're so beautifully finessed. Advanced authors of thrillers, suspense, mystery, most any genre in which surprise is an element use finesse to guide their readers to conclusions. This adds to the readers' experience because it engages the mind more than novels in which the author spells out everything. Advanced authorship challenges the reader to engage with the story. It leaves breadcrumbs on treacherous ground for the reader to follow to the adventure the author has created. And every breadcrumb trail comes with rewards.

How does the author do this? The first part of the answer is easy: He writes to his smartest reader. To the one who wouldn't need explanation of clues on the breadcrumb trail and would probably resent it if the author did explain. This is part of the RUE rule: Resist the Urge to Explain. Your beta readers can let you know if you're being too vague. Meanwhile, write to those who can figure out what you're doing without being told.

Part two of the answer to how an author writes with finesse is more personalized to each story: You have to bake the bread from which the crumb trail is derived. The surprise itself is the loaf, so what's your surprise?

In the opening chapters of Mind Writer, the surprise is that the mind writers die. This isn't the overarching mystery, just the early fact of the novel that sets the tone, illustrates the backstory, and launches the reader into the depths of the plot.

Once you know this---once you've baked your loaf---what are the crumbs you leave behind for your reader? Here are Mike and Lisa's crumbs:


  • Mind writers are discouraged from becoming too close friends with each other.
  • Facility supervisors and personnel are always distant and impersonal.
  • The man in charge is named Malotetnev. 
  • The mind writer's goal is to finally put all their training into practice. To hear their name called, to head to the medical facility, and to be put to work.
  • Once they're called, they finally graduate and leave the facility for Paradise Prime.
  • Graduates never come back or contact anyone within the facility. 


If I hadn't already told you that mind writers die early in the story, you might look at all these crumbs and suspect that they do, but you wouldn't know for certain until the authors revealed it to you. You'd have it as a niggling idea, but you wouldn't know for sure.

And you certainly wouldn't know why, because you're not quite clear what a mind writer is, until Lori gets called down, and you get to see her at work.

Once she sees what she is to do, her mission becomes distasteful for her. She must be threatened before she'll perform the service required, but the promise of Paradise Prime is always in the back of her mind.

She puts one bare hand on an older man and the other on a waxen clone, and within seconds, all the memories and knowledge the elder possessed mingled with her own mind before flowing through to the clone.

Once the procedure is complete, uniformed men come to escort Lori to the transport which will take her to Paradise Prime. As she goes---with each guard clamping a hand on her elbows and hauling her away---no one looks at her. The guards don't smile at her. No one is encouraging or congratulatory or remotely happy for her.

By now, we're pretty sure she's going to die, but we don't get our suspicions confirmed until later.

We also don't have a clear idea as to why she must die. I've left enough breadcrumbs for you to figure it out, so I won't tell you here. But this is what finesse entails---clues rather than outright disclosure. Illustration rather than information. Implied instead of expressed. And once you follow the breadcrumb trail that finesse leaves behind, you're rewarded with having your suspicions confirmed or being utterly surprised. Either way, you as a reader are hooked.

Using finesse always enhances the readers' experience.
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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Will You Have Your Tomorrow?

Here I am looking a lot like my granddaughter,
Molly. Oh, who am I kidding? I haven't worn a
sleeveless top in a decade. 
I've mentioned before that I live with my oldest daughter and her little girl. In addition to Molly, I have five grandsons, and between the six of them, they've given me plenty to write about.

Lately, just before she goes to bed, Molly looks up at me and says, "Who will have tomorrow, Grammie?" I've asked her to repeat this many times, hoping to figure out just what it is she's trying to ask me. The closest I can come is that she's wondering what's on tap for tomorrow; just what do we have going on? I tell her a few things about the upcoming day, and she's content with my answer.

But I've been thinking about her innocent remark and its inadvertent, but stark reminder that none of us have tomorrow promised to us. While that's an overused statement nowadays, as writers we would be well advised to consider the ramifications it holds for us. The good news is that we're no more in danger of losing our tomorrows than the next person is since our job isn't particularly risky (unless you do your best writing while skydiving or rappelling down mountains). The bad news is that we don't have unlimited time to get that book written, find that agent, then get that book accepted, published, and marketed. Believe me, it takes time. Lots of it.

With the rapid-fire changes in the publishing industry, one never knows exactly what fate our book(s) and careers will face. For that matter, who knows what will become of actual books? Will ebooks become the norm? They're certainly on the rise. Personally, I prefer the real thing, but I enjoy the convenience of reading a book on my phone or Nook as much as anyone does. Some writers are opting to go indie and that's a great option for some folks. Others prefer to have someone else in the mix and decide to follow the path of traditional publishing.

But what ties all these possibilities together? Time. Can you afford to waste time? Maybe the world (or just one person) needs to hear the very thing you're aching to write. Maybe this is the year the perfect agent for you is still accepting clients. Perhaps the publishing house you're eyeing is just now deciding to branch out and accept more manuscripts in your genre. Can we afford to let time pass and opportunities escape our grasp? The serious writer will answer "no." Your time--those twenty-four hours each day that every human being is allotted--is the one constant you have in your life, at least until it runs out on you. Please don't waste it. Don't squander the chance to lift someone up, make them laugh, cry, think, get angry, feel avenged or cared about or justified. Don't let fear of failure or procrastination (or any of the other myriad excuses we writers are prone to use) destroy your opportunity to shine. Give the world what you have to offer while you still have the time.

And who knows? You may have another fifty years in which to make your mark on this world. I know I don't, but some of you do. Please make the most of the time left to you to do what your heart tells you is the right (or "write") thing to do.

Let's make sure your name is included on the list the next time Molly asks me, "Who will have tomorrow, Grammie?"


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Monday, November 14, 2016

The Newest in Christian Titles!


Unseen Love: She has an uncertain future. He has a hidden past. Can a forbidden romance set them free? In the shadows of pagan Rome, Laelia Ricarri’s recent blindness destroys her hopes of a betrothal to escape her abusive father. For Drusus, his new mistress is more capable, and beautiful, than she knows. Still tormented by the sins of his past, the only thing he fears more than falling in love with his mistress is failing her in his task. But his newfound faith has made him an enemy of Rome, and the reemergence of an old feud with a calculating rival threatens to ensnare Laelia within its dark grasp. As Drusus reawakens Laelia’s inner strength, his patient encouragement is awakening her heart. She’s learning to trust, as Drusus must also learn to trust in his God. When the indiscriminate tide of tragedy sweeps through Rome, Drusus and Laelia will have to put their faith in each other to survive. Even if that means being parted forever.




Southbound Birds:  Continuing the saga in this Early Birds sequel. This Christian comedy has Rose and Larry Wilford hitting the highway on their next RV adventure. Ben and Betsy Stevenson are right behind them in their 5th wheel. Filled with fun, fellowship and a few fiascoes!





The Bucket List Dare: a Christian Romance Novella Collection: Four best friends—Texas A&M grads—challenge each other to revisit the bucket lists they made in college and tackle one daring item before they turn thirty. Living in different parts of the country and with birthdays on the horizon, the Aggie girls choose their adventure and work toward making it happen . . . with wonderful, unexpected results. Her Impossible Dream, by Angela Breidenbach, Save the Groom, by Jessica Ferguson, What Lies Ahead, by Pamela S. Meyers, and Skydiving to Love,by Linda W. Yezak



Biblical:

Slender Reeds: Jochebed's Hope by Texie Susan Gregory -- In a deadly race to save her son, a young slave woman dares defy the most powerful man in the world. (Biblical from Barbour Publishing)


Contemporary Romance:


Crazy Woman Christmas by Renee Blare -- A quiet cowboy whisks Bianca to his ranch to ride out the Christmas blizzard where she discovers life is cold but also beautiful in the “Cowboy” state. (Contemporary Romance from Inspired [Prism Book Group])

Other Than a Halo by Valerie Comer -- Even though she’s a new woman in Christ, single mom Bren Haddock was no angel as a teen. Now managing the Hiller Farm for a CSA, life is good until a friend offers to enter her daughter into the Little Miss Snowflake Pageant. Old insecurities flare when she meets the intriguing head of marketing the pageant. Rob Santoro isn’t so sure about handling the pageant portfolio until he meets Bren. Soon he’s fallen for her and her two kids. When a Thanksgiving adventure goes awry, he’s left wondering how to love a woman who refuses to be loved. What will it take for Bren to retire her tarnished halo and move into the future God has for her? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Do You Know What I Know? by Becky Melby -- What if a phone call from the obstetrician’s office went to the wrong person? Elizabeth Schmidt can’t figure out why her husband doesn’t seem excited about the news she’s sure he heard. Is he unhappy? Or is James cheating on her? Pastor Jay Davidson is in shock. Bethany Schmidt, the woman he’s in love with, is pregnant. Should he walk away, or is God asking him to play the part of Joseph in real life and not just in the church Christmas program? Bethany can’t figure out why Jay is acting so weird. Has he figured out one of the two secrets she’s keeping until after Christmas? Can a ponytailed itinerant carpenter with a pet chicken help unravel the confusion? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

How to Charm a Beekeeper's Heart by Candice Sue Patterson -- Weddings are the last thing beekeeper Huck Anderson wants to be associated with, considering his past. So when he inherits a building occupied by a bridal boutique, he aims to evict the failing business and open a sporting goods store. That is until his tenant ends up being Arianne Winters, a woman he’s indebted to from a mistake made years ago. When a life-threatening injury derails Huck entirely, Arianne offers to aid in his lengthy recovery if he’ll allow her to remain in his building. But nursing her adversary proves challenging when her adolescent crush resurfaces. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay -- After a whirlwind romance and marriage, Emily Price returns home to Italy with her new husband and learns that life at its richest is only found when she accepts its chaotic beauty. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])


Contemporary Women's Fiction:

Forgiveness by Marianne Evans -- Country music bad boy, Chase Bradington is on the comeback trail. Fresh from rehab for alcohol addiction and transformed by the power of Christ, Chase is battling to rediscover the music he loves and a career he nearly ruined. Then he meets up-and-comer, Pyper Brock and instantly sparks ignite. Despite her rampant attraction to the handsome and talented icon, Pyper knows of Chase’s reputation and soundly dismisses his romantic overtures. No way will Pyper repeat the mistake of trusting a man whose done battle with the bottle. Can a sin-damaged past be released in favor of forgiveness? (Women’s Fiction from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])



Historical:

Beneath a Golden Veil by Melanie Dobson -- As elegant as the Sacramento residence she operates, Isabelle Labrie keeps her past concealed, like the treasure she hides under the Golden Hotel. Then, unexpected guests—fugitive slaves seeking safe passage to the North—force her to confront her past and reconsider her path. (Historical from Waterfall Press)

Forest Child by Heather Day Gilbert -- Historically based on the Icelandic Sagas, Forest Child brings the memorable, conflicted persona of Freydis Eiriksdottir to life. (Historical from Elk Lake Publishing Inc.)

The Lost Generation by Erica Marie Hogan -- On August 5th 1914, the world changed forever. For John and Beth Young, it meant the happiness they finally achieved was snatched out from under them. For Emma Cote, it meant that her husband Jared would do his duty, despite her feelings. For Christy Simmons it meant an uncertain future with the boy she loved. The lives of six people, spread across the British Empire to America were changed forever. (Historical from Elk Lake Publishing Inc.)


Historical Romance:

The Blue Ribbon Brides Collection by Jennifer AlLeeAngela BreidenbachDarlene FranklinCynthia HickeyCarrie Fancett PagelsAmber StocktonNiki TurnerGina Welborn, and Becca Whitham -- Meet nine men and women whose competitive goals take them to state and county fairs between 1889 and 1930. From baking pie to polishing pigs, from sculpting butter to stitching quilts, everyone has something to prove to themselves and their communities. But in going for the blue ribbon, will nine women miss the greatest prize of all—the devoted heart of a godly man? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Left at the Altar by Margaret Brownley -- In the wild and untamed West, time is set by the local jeweler...but Two-Time Texas has two: two feuding jewelers and two wildly conflicting time zones. Meg Lockwood's marriage was supposed to unite the families and finally bring peace until she's left at the altar by her no-good fiancé. Hired to defend the groom against a breach of promise lawsuit, Grant Garrison quickly realizes that the only thing worse than small-town trouble is falling for the jilted bride. But there's something about Meg's sweet smile and determined grit that draws him in...even as the whole crazy town seems set on keeping them apart. (Historical Romance from Sourcebooks)

Mail Order Mommy by Christine Johnson -- Nursing a broken heart, Amanda Porter had answered a frontier mail-order bride ad placed by Garrett Decker's children—only to find the groom-to-be didn't want a wife. But his adorable children are determined she'll be their mother by Christmas… His wife's betrayal and tragic death demolished Garrett's life. Now he can't even look at another woman, let alone marry Amanda, who resembles his first love. But with his daughter convinced Amanda is the perfect mother, will Garrett realize she's also his perfect match? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Hope's Design by Dawn Kinzer -- An independent city girl aspiring to be a fashion designer falls for a stubborn artist from the country who wants to keep his talent a secret. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Brides of Wyoming by S. Dionne Moore -- Roam the Wyoming range alongside three couples who meet under danger from bands of outlaws. Renee escapes a gang of outlaws and lands in the arms of a sheepherder. Olivia’s sleuthing upturns secrets key to solving the murder of a reluctant rancher’s father. Maira is trying to keep her ranch running alone when a drifting cowboy offers a hand. Can love develop where suspicion and greed roam the range? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Negotiated Marriage by Christina Rich -- When the railroad pushes to buy her land, orphaned Cameron Sims will do anything to keep the only home she and her sisters have ever known. Even if she must marry a stranger. Duncan Murray doesn’t want a wife. He wants Sims Creek, a sanctuary that can help him forget a troubled childhood. But his reluctant, and captivating, bride-to-be is key to making his dreams a reality. And despite their business arrangement, Camy and Duncan might be signing on the dotted line for true love… (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Love in the Seams by Jodie Wolfe -- A little girl on a quest for a new mama has the local seamstress in her sights. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)


Romantic Suspense:

His Perfect Love by Sharon K. Connell -- On the run from a hit man, Patricia Campbell is unaware of the FBI’s search for her to learn what information she might hold, so she continues to hide out. Then she meets a persistent computer technician, a charming philanthropist, and a handsome, wealthy businessman who wants to marry her. But her fears resurface, and she wonders if she can trust any of them. Can she survive long enough to find peace…and perfect love? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Counter Point by Marji Laine -- Her dad's gone, her diner's closing, and her car's in the lake. Cat McPherson has nothing left to lose ... except her life. And a madman, bent on revenge, is determined to take that, as well. Her former boyfriend, Ray Alexander, returns as a hero from his foreign mission, bringing back souvenirs in the form of death-threats. When several attempts are made on Cat’s life, she must find a way to trust Ray, the man who broke her heart. (Romantic Suspense from Write Integrity Press)


Speculative:

The Flaming Sword by Heather L.L. FitzGerald -- When evil joins forces in the Tethered World, Sadie Larcen must risk all to protect the Flaming Sword and her family...even if it takes her life. (Speculative Young Adult from Mountain Brook Ink)

 More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Joys and Perils of Satire

by
Donn Taylor

            Satire is "A literary manner that blends a critical attitude with humor and wit for the purpose of improving human institutions or humanity." Thus says A Handbook to Literature (Fifth edition, 1986). But because satire usually employs ridicule, whether bitter or light-hearted, writers' claims of beneficial intent are always suspect. Does the writer really intend to improve humanity, or does he simply enjoy ridiculing people, institutions, or practices that he disagrees with? And how do we as readers receive satire? If we are located well outside the target group, we join the writer in laughing at "those people" who are committed to folly. But if we find ourselves located in the target group, we will respond with anger that any writer could misrepresent us so unjustly.
            Consequently, we writers should approach satire carefully, for it can be a boomerang that, once launched, will come back to attack us. Nevertheless, it can be an effective method of calling attention to a problem (and thus potentially contributing to its solution) while also being entertaining. I have introduced a good bit of it into my novels and poetry, and have experienced both positive and negative responses by readers. Here are my findings:
            My two published mysteries are set on the campus of a small denominational college whose management is suppressing its Christian heritage in order to appeal to more students and keep the enrollment up. The conflict between heritage and popular appeal is one that all Christian institutions must deal with. However, it allowed humorous satire when combined with the unfortunate fact that schools are often managed by the least competent. So my college is ruled by a president who makes elaborate speeches filled with non-sequiturs and clichés, and a dean who is always two thoughts behind the faculty he supervises. All of this remains light-hearted, and I have never received an adverse critical comment on it. (That may also mean that presidents and deans don't read much popular fiction.)
            I've also had good response to my momentary satire of TV news programs. As my protagonist described it, "Trumpets sounded a fanfare while colorful graphics gyrated around the screen, climaxing in a flaming nuclear explosion accompanied by a ringing bell. It was the only place I've ever seen A-bombs associated with bell ringing. Out of the mushroom cloud, the local news anchorette, Francie LaBouche, appeared like a stage magician emerging from a puff of smoke. She was dressed like a chorus girl, had brownish hair with bottle-born highlights, and wore enough grease on her lips to fry an egg. Her manner suggested that she bore tidings more important than the Second Coming."
            Again, this response may mean that more readers watch TV news programs than produce them. I'm grateful, in any case.
            On the other hand, my poetic satires have not generated many positive responses. I believe that is because I've tended to be too blunt in my criticisms. For instance, there is no doubt that school curriculums have been made less stringent, but my criticism is probably too pointed:

We purged hard subject from the schools,
Self-satisfaction taught instead,
Creating unemployment pools
Of graduates dumber than the dead.

            That is exaggeration, of course, and it is intended to focus on management. But it is too easily mistaken as criticism of individual teachers and students, all of whom are innocent of the fault. Some of them have not been happy with me. And the failure is mine for not keeping the focus where it was intended.
            Similarly, my poem satirizing awkward and blatantly half-dressed fashion models ends with the judgment of models "who have never known/ The taste of either gracefulness or grace." I've learned that this poem does not go over well in a poetry reading.
            To summarize: Satire is good fun to write, and it can be an effective means of calling attention to real problems in the real world. But to be effective with today's readers, the writer must avoid being openly pejorative, and must keep his criticisms of human folly lighthearted and amusing.
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