The Fictorians

Posts Tagged ‘writing life’

Stranger Than Fiction

1 September 2014 | 1 Comment » | Nancy

We’ve all heard the phrase that “life is stranger than fiction” but what does that really mean? For me, it means that sometimes real life happens in such a way that if I were to use the event verbatim in a fiction story my readers would cry “implausible.” Think about that for a second. Readers accept vampires, zombie detective, purple unicorns, space ships, entire West Virginia towns going back in time to create an alternate universe, (speaking of which) alternate universes, evil twins, a series of coincidences that add up to a twist ending,,, and the list could go on forever.

So, how bizarre does an event have to be before it’s “stranger than fiction?”

Do the events have to be so coincidental that the odds of the event happening are astronomical? Does the main character have to be dumber than a fence post not to see the results of her actions? For me, I think the situation has to be so divorced from what we consider “normal” that we sit back and say, “no. No one (Nothing) could be that….” Judge for yourself though as we spend September exploring events that are “Stranger Than Fiction.”

Let me start.

Most of the things I’ve seen or heard as a lawyer I can’t repeat. Sometimes though it’s the other side’s client who does the unbelievable thing. When that’s the case there’s nothing that prevents disclosure. Still, I’ve changed names and occupation.

HOW TO BE YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????A husband and wife started an interior decorating business. Mary was responsible for getting and performing the work. John took care of the back office tasks – staffing, bookkeeping, banking, billing and the like. Years into the business they were doing well on a professional front (millions of dollars in gross revenue) but not so much on the personal one. Suspicion and distrust ran deep. A little deeper on one side than the other. Eventually, Mary accused John of embezzling. Mary hired an attorney (not me) to file for divorce and seek a court appointed receiver for the business. John hired an attorney (again, not me) to counter-sue for divorce and defend the theft allegations.

Mary alleged John would go to the bank every Friday with pizza for the bank tellers. In return, the bank tellers of a national bank would cash checks for John, andl hand him bundles of cash. The tellers would then create a false bank statements that wouldn’t show the deposit (if the check had come from a company client) or the withdraw (if the check being cashed were a company one). John believed that every gap in the checks sequence on the bank statements represented a check Mary used wrongfully withdraw the money from the company. She thought John stole millions of dollars this way. After all the company had margins of 60% so where was the money? Mary’s definition of “margin” didn’t include most of the company’s salaries or overhead. Mary also thought John was stealing her paychecks.

The receiver (yup, this is where I come in) obtained copies of all the bank statements from the national bank (not the branch John was allegedly feeding) and payments from the company’s client. Like most businesses some of the jobs from a gross profit number were very profitable and others were dead losers. Once you took out the operating cost including a HUGE monthly payment for their house the company ran deeply in the red. There was no proof of a national conspiracy. The checks…checked out. And those paychecks? They were deposited into a joint bank account. From the company’s standpoint there was no misappropriation of funds.

We met with Mary’s attorney for hours to explain the situation. Mary fired the attorney when she agreed with the Receiver. Mary hired another attorney to pursue the claim. He lasted as long as her retainer did. No amount of reason could shake Mary’s belief that John had robbed her blind. She accused the Receiver of being paid off by John (NOT) when the Receiver wouldn’t support her theories.

Mary threatened to report that the tax returns were false to the appropriate authorities when the Receiver wouldn’t amend the returns to show the “missing” income. We said she needed to do what she needed to do but we didn’t have any evidence to support her position. While there were substantial tax debt owed the various agencies had been mostly silent on collection since no one had any money. Ultimately, Mary called the governmental entity designed to ensure that people paid their taxes to report that John had under-reported the company’s income for years. She didn’t think about the fact that she was listed as a 51% co-owner or that she would be deemed to have received 51% of the “stolen” money as a result.

Well, the taxing agencies were no longer willing to wait to see if the Receiver collected enough money to pay them. After all, Mary just advised them that the couple had vastly under-reported their income for years. So, now Mary has some tax issues to deal with. And she still insists that John stole millions of dollars.

 

 

 

It Will Not Always Be Easy

27 August 2014 | Comments Off | fictorians

A guest post by Bobbi Schemerhorn.

There are so many things that I would tell myself in the beginning. I walked into this career path with my eyes shut in many ways. I thought that my writing could do no wrong, that there were only minor skills to improve upon.

So in the beginning when I first started my Guardians Series I sent out several chapters to a friend to read. The woman whom I sent them out to was extremely critical of them. She was harsh with her critiques and I felt attacked in many ways. My arrogance was my undoing, her words hurt me, deeply.

My response to this was to quit, I walked away from it for many months, even years. I now doubted my story and my ability to tell it. But I wanted to write, I felt it in my bones, I knew in my heart that I was meant to write. I felt at peace in many ways when sitting behind a keyboard or with my pen in hand telling my stories.

So I returned to the book with open eyes, knowing that I was in no way infallible. I had so much to learn, I’m still learning every day. Although critiques can be harsh and painful at times to take, I do my best to see them for what they are. Not sharp daggers intending to kill my writing spirit but rather a gentle hand guiding it into a brighter light.

My advice would really come in two parts. The first one being, don’t give up on your dreams. There are always going to be obstacles in life. School, work, kids, spouses, etc., so you need to make time for it. There is nothing easy about being a writer, its hard work. So make sure that you want to be a writer as badly as you need to breathe.

My second piece of advice is, see the criticisms for what they are. Take the notes that are most helpful, the ones that are aimed to help you improve and disregard the rest. There will always be people out there that will want to see you fail. But the people that matter in life want you to have nothing but success.

I know that the strongest piece of advice that is given all the time is, grow a thick skin. That is sound advice, but I don’t think that it is always appropriate.

To say grow a thicker skin may not be the words that I would use. Because I feel that it doesn’t always fit the situation. An old African proverb said: When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.

This work isn’t easy, it’s challenging, frustrating, and sometimes even heartbreaking. But it is worth every word, sentence, paragraph, and second.

Bobbi SchemerhornGuest Writer Bio: Bobbi Schemerhorn has always come up with wild stories and characters since a young age. Many played out in school yards role playing but never written down. Till she entered seventh grade her teacher had handed everyone journals to document their weeks events and activities. Instead of speaking about her weekend, she created worlds and people within them. As the years passed the writing ceased and did not return again till her early thirties. When the characters and world for the Guardians Series came to life for her. It took many years of encouragement from her husband before she gathered the courage to follow a dream that had always been in her heart. Now she spends her time doing what her soul always knew she should be doing.
Guardians

Enjoy the Journey

25 August 2014 | 1 Comment » | frank

Enjoy the Journey“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”
—Philip Roth

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
—Stephen King

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
—George Orwell

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
—Virginia Woolf

“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”
—Larry L. King, WD

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”
—Stephen King, WD

“Long patience and application saturated with your heart’s blood—you will either write or you will not—and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.”
—Jim Tully, WD

“Beware of advice—even this.”
—Carl Sandburg, WD

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”
—Harper Lee, WD

“People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”
—R.L. Stine, WD

“Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”
—Ray Bradbury, WD

“I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.”
—William Carlos Williams

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
—Mark Twain

“I always start writing with a clean piece of paper and a dirty mind.”
—Patrick Dennis

“Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.”
—Annie Dillard

“Write while the heat is in you. … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.”
—Henry David Thoreau

(Those were a few of the best writing quotes compiled by Writer’s Digest)

I would add my own to the list:

“Writing is a journey, just like life. Some of the best moments will be unexpected and fleeting. Don’t focus so much on the future that you forget to enjoy the present.”

Embarking on a career as a writer is a long-term commitment. It begins with long months and even years mostly spent alone as you hone your craft and develop your skills. Authors who break out as ‘instant successes’ usually take years to get there.

It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Get used to the idea that you’ll be doing this a very long time. The price may be high, but it’s totally worth it when you see your vision on the page, when your words bring to life the images only you used to be able to see. It is magical, thrilling, and humbling.

To paraphrase an old proverb, A journey of a thousand pages begins with a single word.

Make it the best word you can.
Then write the next, and the next, and the next.
It’s a journey. Enjoy it.

What I Know Now

22 August 2014 | 2 Comments » | fictorians

A guest post by Lisa Mangum.

Well, hello there, Past Lisa. I see you are just sitting down to your laptop, an exciting new book idea all fresh and bubbly in your head. You haven’t decided what to call it yet; for now, it’s just “my story”—as in “I can’t make dinner tonight, sweetie, I have to work on my story.” You don’t know it, but this idea will be your first published book, The Hourglass Door. It’s good the story is about time travel, because you see, this is Future Lisa, and I have come from, well, the future to share with you some advice about writing and publishing and the journey that awaits you.

1. You’re going to love it.

Trust me on this one. There is a lot to love about writing. Developing an idea is freedom. You get to do whatever you want and no one can stop you—not the plot, not the characters, not your readers, friends, family, or even the voice in the back of your head that warns of failure. You get to ask “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” all the time, and there are no wrong answers to slow you down.

The writing process itself is even better. It’s like a huge, scattered jigsaw puzzle, and you get to sift and sort through the words, ideas, and images until you find two that fit together so perfectly you just know it was meant to be. And you simply connect more words and ideas and images until you have a whole big beautiful piece of art to share with everyone.

You’re going to love seeing your words come alive on the computer screen. You’re going to love making them stronger and better. And you’re going to love it when other people read them and say, “This is great!”

Most of all, you’re going to love seeing those words between the pages of a real book cover. And yes, that will be your name there on the front. You will never forget the first time you hold your very own published book in your hands.

Savor those moments. Love them. Remember them. Hold on to them tightly, because as much as you’re going to love it…

2. You’re going to hate it.

Editing sucks. Rewrites are ugly. Bad reviews hurt. Figuring out how to sell your book in one sentence is excruciating. Standing for hours on a Saturday afternoon in Costco trying to talk strangers into buying your book when all they really want to do is buy a five-pound jug of mayonnaise and go home is no fun. Sitting at a bookstore on a cold February night with only one copy of your book in the entire store, but you can’t sell it because no one even comes into the store for two hours—unspeakable.

(Later, you may find these to be valuable learning experiences, but at the time…yeah, you’re going to hate them.)

Deadlines are impossible, terrifying, unrelenting beasts. You will find yourself saying “no” to all kinds of things: No, I can’t go to the movies with you; I have to work on my book. No, I can’t read that new novel; I have to work on my book. No, I can’t be bothered to shower, eat, sleep, change my clothes, speak nicely to another human being; I have to work on my book. Your life will be measured in increasing word counts and decreasing days until the deadline knocks you flat.

But it doesn’t matter, really, because the deadline is just the point where your editor will say, “That’s great. Now rewrite the whole thing and make it better. And can you have it done by next month?”

3. The answer is “Yes.”

Remember to balance out all those “No” answers with some “Yes” answers as well.

You will be asked a lot of questions during your journey as a writer. And more often than not, the best answer to give is “Yes.” I know you won’t have much time for marketing your book. (You’ll still need to work full-time while you write, after all.) But if you say “yes” to one marketing event per week, you’ll be surprised at how many wonderful things you’ll experience and how many wonderful people you’ll meet.

So say yes to those book signings, blog interviews, newspaper articles, TV appearances, speaking requests for book clubs, business conferences, and writing conferences.

And above all, say yes when it comes time to celebrate your achievements: “You’ve just finished your last book. Do you want to go to Disneyland to celebrate?” YES.

4. Dream bigger.

You know how everyone tells you to “dream big”? Well, I want to tell you to dream bigger. Whatever you think your ultimate goal is, whatever the pinnacle of your personal and professional success looks like—dream bigger.

You hope in your secret heart to sell 1,000 copies of your book? Dream of selling 5,000. You think it would be amazing to win an award for something you wrote? Dream of winning four awards. You feel pretty sure you’ll be happy if you write only one book? Well, surprise—you have more stories in you than you’ll know what to do with. Make sure your dreams grow every bigger day.

5. “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. Don’t stop.”

Remember when you saw this quote at Disneyland? The truth of it will become more important to you every day that passes. No matter what happens, don’t hurry through the good stuff, don’t worry about the bad stuff, and just don’t ever stop.

(So, now that I’ve been-there-done-that, where do I pick up my T-shirt?)

Lisa MangumGuest Writer Bio: Lisa Mangum attended the University of Utah, graduating with honors with a degree in English. A lifetime lover of books, she has worked in the publishing industry since 1997, editing works by several New York Times bestselling authors as well as debut novelists. She was recently named Managing Editor of Shadow Mountain Publishing.

Besides books, Lisa loves movies, sunsets, spending time with her family, and trips to Disneyland. She lives in Utah with her husband, Tracy. She is the author of four award-winning YA novels (The Hourglass Door trilogy and After Hello), a short story (“Sold Out”), and novella (“&”). She also edited One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple Unicorn Anthology.

You can find her @LisaMangum or Facebook.com/lisamangum.

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