Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Telling Tuesdays 2/7/12-"She thought she'd explode."

Welcome to Telling Tuesday, a day reminiscent of those in school when I looked forward to seeing what everyone brought for show and tell. This weekly feature was inspired by an article on WriteToDone.com, called "How to Show (Not Tell): A Writing Lesson from John LeCarre."

It is one of the best articles I've seen on the rule all writers know--show, don't tell--because it doesn't just tell us how not to tell, it shows us some of LeCarre's very own examples.

" . . . descriptions can set the scene, convey the inexpressible, and turn the reader into a witness, instead of remaining a mere bystander." -- Mary Jaksch, author of the article

Each week, I'll give a "telling" prompt, and invite you to show us, to make us a witness, not a mere bystander. Feel free to use the prompt, or the photo (if a photo is shown.) Of course, if you have a completely different "telling" prompt, you can "show" us that, too.

As always, I invite you to leave a link to your website or blog with your comments.


She thought she'd explode.

     No. He couldn't have. He didn't really say it. Not again.
     Tension tightened in her shoulders. Her heart beat faster, pounding in her head, pulsing in her neck, billowing exasperation through her entire body until it fanned to rage that would surely burst through her mouth in fiery words she knew she'd regret in a day or two.
     "What did you say?" she asked, holding a leash on her temper as though it was a Rottweiler, frothing at the mouth.
     "Oh, my pet," her husband replied. "I only want to know if it's 'that time of month' again?"

Monday, February 27, 2012

Not a Sorry Samurai

For those of you following me on my path to publication--a journey fraught with sharp turns, obstacles to trip over and plenty of crossroads--here's a tale of one of my "creative" marketing attempts.

As a writer--one who is supposed to be creative--I am forever "thinking outside of the box" when it comes to getting word of my writing "out there"--something beyond the usual Facebook and Twitter promotion. So, when my friend and fellow author, M.G. Miller, informed me that George Takei, a former internee of Rohwer, (where my Broken Doll characters, Sachi and Nobu were internees) would be narrating with the Little Rock Symphony, I decided I had to attend. Later, another writer friend, Bud Hanks, sent me an email with additional information about George Takei's appearances in Arkansas.

It seemed the forces were with me. Oops. Wrong movie.

If I could only have the chance to talk to Mr. Takei . . .

I knew my chances were slim, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Once I purchased the tickets to the concert, my question then became, "How can I be gain the attention of George Takei in a bold (my friend, Ruth Weeks, calls me Samurai Jan), yet dignified manner? (I am half-Japanese, after all, and my misbehavior could potentially embarrass not only my mother, but many generations before her.)

  • Sit in the front row, flashing the Vulcan salute?
  • Wear a Trekkie outfit?
  • Paint my face like a geisha?
  • Tattoo "I need to talk to you" on my forehead?
  • All of the above?

Okay, those were bold ideas, but hardly dignified.

So, I here's what I decided to do:
  • Wear my evening jacket, cut from a genuine kimono, purchased in Japan.
  • Bring a copy of the Ramblings Yearbook, (1945) from Topaz War Relocation Center, where my mother and her family were internees.
  • Bring a synopsis of my book . . . just in case.
  • Bring business cards . . . just in case.
Ruth and I sat in the front row, center seats. When the time came, Mr. Takei walked onto the stage, and I turned to Jell-O, almost like when I watched Michael Bolton walked onto the stage many, many years ago.(However, I didn't scream uncontrollably with Mr. Takei. I might have, but that would be undignified.)

Unfortunately, we were sitting so close to the stage that Mr. Takei's placement for his narration was blocked by conductor Philip Mann's pant leg. I strained to move around that pant leg to see Mr. Takei, knowing that if I couldn't see him, he surely couldn't see me. But, too much straining would look . . . well, undignified.

When his beautiful and moving narration was complete, Mr. Takei left the stage. I slumped in my seat, no longer concerned about looking undignified.
Philip Mann and George Takei
Then, the orchestra began to play Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, Ode to Joy. It was as though the sun began to shine again. A full symphony and 400+ voices, all conducted by the passionate movement of conductor, Philip Mann.

For more than an hour I had chills over the beautiful sounds of the orchestra and choir, recalled my days as a flutist and sat on my hands to keep from mimicking the conductor. On the way home, Ruth and I stopped for dinner and talked about everything under the sun.

In the end, the glow of Mr. Takei's Japanese dignity, melted my boldness like the sun melts the snow. But my path to publication is also lined with many flowers, and yesterday was one of them.

How could I be a sorry Samurai?

Morrill's Monday Morning Mashup - 2/27/12


creative combination
or mixing of content
from different sources.

I'm back with the Mashup after a couple of weeks of Internet challenges and being out of town. I hope this week's blogs of Twitterly information will help you over the hump of Twitterphobia. After you read these articles, my best advice is "just do it." Stop twittering your thumbs over Twitter and get started. Little by little, you'll learn this very foreign language.

# # # 

This post titled "44 Essential Twitter Hashtags" by Caitlin Muir on the blog, www.AuthorMedia.Com, explains what a hashtag is, and describes how to use them effectively. Says Ms. Muir:  "Used correctly, Twitter hashtags are one of the best ways to connect with industry experts, readers, and other authors. Used incorrectly, it’s just another way to waste your precious time."

# # #

When it comes to effectively using social media, Madison Woods is one of the best I know. She has begun an excellent and comprehensive series on the Writerly Business Plan on her blog. One of the components of that series is "Twitter as a Tool." Madison says:  "Networking is way different from selling. Marketing is not directly selling. It’s the art of making someone want whatever you are offering."

# # # 

Insatiable Booksluts. With a name like that you know you want to visit this website. And it gives you some idea that these bloggers (Susie, Rob and Amy) post information in an entertaining and informative manner, for both writers and readers. Their post on "Using Twitter to Market the Books You Wrote" provides great information on what to do, and more importantly, what NOT to do when using Twitter for marketing:  "Even super famous people with a zillion followers don’t spend all their time sitting around saying 'buy my book/watch my show/etc!' They wouldn’t have a zillion followers if they did that."

# # # 


A man should not
enter a house suddenly
without knocking.
               --- The Talmud

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Secret Saturday - 2/25/12: "Changing Colors"

February is Black History Month. Some of my fondest memories are of a black family that lived across Coolidge Street, where I grew up:

     When I was a little girl, some of my friends wanted to be Cinderella. Some wanted to be a nurse. One even wanted to be president. Me? I wanted to be black.
     On Coolidge Street in California, we lived across the street from a black family who, like my family, had five kids. But they had five girls, and we had four girls and one lucky brother. (Though he'd probably disagree.) I didn't really know the three older girls, but Maria and Nina became good friends of my younger sisters.
     Being the mean-no-fun-prudish-brainy-band-freak-oldest-sister, I wasn't included in most of the fun, and usually watched them "play" together from afar. Maria had the best laugh in the world, and Nina moved with the grace and spirit of Tinkerbell. When I say they were two crazy girls, I mean it in the fondest, happiest way.
     Perhaps I noticed these things about Maria and Nina because of my upbringing by my Japanese mother. I was brought up to be hypersensitive to what others would think of my behavior, overly cautious not to do anything that might cause me to "lose face."
     Maria and Nina laughed, danced and joked with such unabashed joy and freedom that it drew my sisters out of their cultural shells. I wanted to join in the fun, too. But, often, I couldn't make myself let go.
     So, I stood by and watched. And sometimes I wished I was black.

Thanks to Facebook, I'm still in touch with Maria and Nina, and have even gotten to know one of the older sisters, Donna, through Facebook. Maria is currently helping me with the voice of my Broken Dolls character, Terrence. Someday soon, we hope to have a reunion.

We were lucky to have grown up with a family like Maria's and Nina's, lucky to experience a culture different from ours. For anyone who has not been so fortunate, different cultures can also be experienced through reading. Thanks to one of my blog readers for sending me the following link to a list of 25 Novels to Honor During Black History Month:


As the article says, these books "contribute to a greater cultural understanding of 'blackness' and its heterogeneous nature."

Do you have cultural stories from your childhood to share?

Friday, February 24, 2012

#FlashFriday #FridayFictioneers: Precious Delusion

Between my Internet being down and my mini-vacation in the Land of Enchantment (that would be Santa Fe, NM), I've missed the Friday Fictioneers! But, I'm happy to be back this week, and can't wait to read the other stories (click here and you can read them, too!) inspired by Madison Woods's photograph.:

Precious Delusion
     Perhaps you’ve heard of “little man complex.” Sadly, Precious, my little French Poodle, suffered from a terminal case of “little dog complex.”
    I remember my little foofoo barking wildly, her rhinestone collar glittering, even in the dull sunlight of that foggy afternoon. Her fatal delusion was the distraction I needed to get away. Still, I’m haunted by her tiny yelp as she was thrown against the rock where she now rests.
     So, I come to visit her, even a dozen years after her grizzly death. Yes, it was grizzly--as in bear--that brought her untimely end.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Stories to Honor Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, I am offering two of my short stories on Smashwords for free. These are stories that were inspired by two characters in my book, Broken Dolls: Sachiko Kimura, a young Japanese-American internee, and Jubie Lee Franklin, a black girl who lives in the town near the internment camp.

Xs and Os

In this Pushcart nominated story, Jubie meets Sachi, and they find though their skin color is different, they have something in common.

Click here to go to Smashwords for free download.

The Red Kimono

Life is pretty dull at the internment camp in Rohwer, Arkansas, and two girls couldn't be more different than Sachi and Jubie. That is, until something magical happens. 

Click here to go to Smashwords for free download.

I hope you will enjoy the stories of Jubie and Sachi. I've had many "conversations" with these two young girls, and their friendship demonstrates what could be lost if we judge a person by the color of her skin.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Valentine Box

In honor of Valentine's Day, I'm replacing my Telling Tuesday post with a Valentine post, to "show and tell" about one of my favorite memories of one of my favorite holidays.

Do you remember making Valentine's boxes?

In elementary school, I looked forward to the event for weeks. I honestly can't say if I looked forward more to decorating my shoe box or to the Valentine's that I hoped would fill it. Of course, there was always that one special Valentine I hoped for, too.

Weeks before the big day, my mom would take me to Wonder World (that was Fairfield's answer to Walmart back in the day,) and I would peruse the aisles, looking for red construction paper, doilies, aluminum paper, crayons, glue . . . whatever I could possibly think of to make my box the prettiest box in the classroom.

I'm sure the boys thought it was stupid, but some managed to make a box even a cootie-vaccinated boy (as evidenced by "C.V." marked on his hand) could be proud of.

Valentine's morning, I carefully packed my box in a brown shopping bag and carried it to school. Once inside the classroom, my heart beat with anticipation, and my hands trembled as I drew it out of its hiding place for its grand debut. I just knew mine would be the most beautiful, not only in the classroom, but surely in the entire school . . . heck, in the whole universe.

Of course, when Sally Smith put hers on her desk, I could tell she thought the same thing. Hmph. No way.

The next best part of the day was passing out Valentine's. Like I said, there was always one special person in the classroom for whom I'd saved my very best Valentine, and from whom I hoped to receive one, too.

Oh, of course, all those store-bought Valentines were all pretty much the same, but there was always one or two that had a secret code to let someone know they were more special than the rest. ("Strike up a match?" Now, you couldn't get more "special" than that.)

And what about "Popping the question?" Yep, that was a secret code, all right.

After all the cards were passed out, after we'd had our cupcakes and our tongues were red with icing dye, after the last bell of the day rang, I ran home. Inside the brown paper bag I carried, my full box rattled with Valentine's, and my heart raced faster than my feet, in my rush home to open my cards.

I tore open each envelope, scanned the card and read each name.

"Nope. Nope," I said, then tossed the card aside and reached for another. "Nope." My hopes began to fade. Had he not even given me a card, even one without a secret code?

Then, there it was:
To: Janice
From: Your Secret Admirer

"I just want to be your Valentine." Was that not the sweetest thing anyone could ever say?

Even if Sally Smith did win the Valentine Box Contest, I was the one with a Secret Admirer.

Do you have a favorite Valentine's memory? Hope you'll share it in my virtual Valentine's Box.

Friday, February 10, 2012

#FlashFriday #FridayFictioneers: Lovers Quarrel

There's so much to love about Fridays, but one of the things I love most is Madison Woods' Friday Fictioneer series. Her photo prompts stir my creativity and help me to step out of the comfort zone of my usual genres. This week's prompt was just one more example of a photo that gave my flabby brain the workout it needed.

Click here to read more fabulous flash fiction by the Friday Fictioneers.

     Lovers Quarrel

     Tessa Toad stared at her beau frog with bulging eyes. “You broke my stool.”
     “I didn’t mean to, my love.” Beau Frog’s nostrils twitched. “How can I make it up to you? Shall I bring you a dozen flies to tempt your pallet? Babysit the tads while you go lily pad hopping with the girls? Serenade you at sunset? Oh dear. I so fear you’ll love me less.”
     The thought of a dozen flies made Tessa’s tongue uncurl. Beau sure knew the way to her heart. “Oh, bull, Frog! Though I may hate you more, I could never love you less.”

Note: I "borrowed" that last line from the movie War Horse. Best line in the movie!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Telling Tuesdays 2/7/12-"He dreaded the news."

Welcome to Telling Tuesday, a day reminiscent of those in school when I looked forward to seeing what everyone brought for show and tell. This weekly feature was inspired by an article on WriteToDone.com, called "How to Show (Not Tell): A Writing Lesson from John LeCarre."

It is one of the best articles I've seen on the rule all writers know--show, don't tell--because it doesn't just tell us how not to tell, it shows us some of LeCarre's very own examples.

" . . . descriptions can set the scene, convey the inexpressible, and turn the reader into a witness, instead of remaining a mere bystander." -- Mary Jaksch, author of the article

Each week, I'll give a "telling" prompt, and invite you to show us, to make us a witness, not a mere bystander. Feel free to use the prompt, or the photo (if a photo is shown.) Of course, if you have a completely different "telling" prompt, you can "show" us that, too.

As always, I invite you to leave a link to your website or blog with your comments.


He dreaded the news.

The following is an excerpt from Broken Dolls. The scene takes place in December, 1941. Terrence is unable to get into the Christmas spirit, because he misses his daddy, who is stationed at Pearl Harbor.

Missy and Patty serenaded all the way home. Jingle bells, jingle bells. Over and over. Way too many times.
Terrence shook his head. “Come on, you two. Don’t you know any other songs?”
Wouldn’t matter none. He just wasn’t in the mood, even with a tree tied to the top of the car. Even with Christmas carols and colored lights showing through windows everywhere. It’d be a fine scene – if only Daddy was home.
Momma turned into the driveway. “Wonder why Brother Harold’s sitting on our porch swing? And who’s that man . . . in the uniform?” Her voice faded to a whisper.
Patty and Missy stopped singing.
The whole world came to a stop. The talking. The movement. The breathing. Something buzzed in his ear and clutched Terrence’s heart tight. Wouldn’t let go. Might never let go.
Momma’s hands clutched the steering wheel. She whispered real slow. “You kids . . . go on in the house now. I be there in a minute.”
Terrence lifted Missy out of the car and took Patty’s hand. No matter how bad he didn’t want to know, he knew.
Let’s just back up, Momma. Get back in the car. Get back to the Christmas tree lot. I promise I won’t complain about looking for the perfect tree. Won’t never complain about having to get up early. Just please. No way. No way do we want none of what Brother Harold has to tell us.
Terrence nodded as he shuffled past Brother Harold. But he couldn’t—wouldn’t—look him in the eye.
Brother Harold touched him on the shoulder with his large, warm hand. It sent shivers all over, tensed every part of his body.
Once inside the house, Terrence put Missy down and shut the front door. “You two go on and play now,” he said.
Missy ran off to her room, but Patty stared at her brother, her eyes looking more scared than he’d ever seen them. “I don’t want to play. Why’s Brother Harold here? Is it Dad—”
Don’t you say it!
“I said, go on now Patty. I wanna talk to Momma when she comes in.”
He pressed his ear to the door, wanting to hear, yet so desperately not wanting to hear. His heart begged for a way—any way—to stop time, to go back in time.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Morrill's Monday Morning Mashup - 2/6/12


creative combination
or mixing of content
from different sources.

The last week reinforced something I've known all along: Technology is both a blessing and a curse.

The blessing was my cell phone. One rainy night last week as I drove home from Tulsa, my tire pressure light came on. I was five miles onto a dark, windy, lonely country road, so I tapped the light and hoped it would go off. It didn't, and within two minutes came the awful, whiny, rumbling sound of a flat tire. In the pouring rain, I searched for a place to pull over, but muddy ditches lined both sides of the road. At last, I approached a gravel driveway and pulled off the road. I prayed for a cell phone signal.

Relieved to find a signal, I called my husband, then AAA. I have to say, AAA is the modern day version of a knight in shining armor. From the representative on the phone to the husband and wife team who came to my rescue, they were friendly and professional, even as they got wet and muddy in the pouring rain, changing my flat tire.

It scares me to think about what the night would have been like had I not had a cell phone. I would have either had to wait to be rescued by hopefully a kind soul, or I would have had to walk to a house and ask for help. Oh, I guess I could have changed the tire myself, too.

I saw technology as a curse when my Internet was up and down most of the weekend. Even when it was up, it was painfully slow. I realized how much I depend on the Internet, not only to stay in touch, but to conduct business: paying bills, purchase airline tickets, research for my book, even research for this mashup. When the Internet is down, all of that comes to a stop. And when it's slow, I sit in front of the computer, pulling my hair out.

I guess it'd be more appropriate to say we've gotten so accustomed to the Internet being blessing that we feel cursed when suddenly it's taken away. We have cursed ourselves by becoming so reliant on its blessing.

Now . . . on to the mashup!

Agent Kristin Nelson (Nelson Literary Agency, LLC) has an excellent blog where she regularly posts invaluable information on being an agent as well as blogging on the publishing industry. Her "Agenting 101" series provides information on almost anything you might want to know about the agenting process. Her style is easy and friendly, but also very blunt and to-the-point. I also like that at the beginning of her posts, she lets us know what music is playing on her iPod. http://pubrants.blogspot.com/


Another agent, Janet Reid of Fine Print Literary Management, posts on the blog, Query Shark. This is an excellent blog on the querying process, where writers can submit their queries for honest (okay, sometimes brutally honest) critique. The great thing about the blog is that Ms. Reid shares the critique so that we can all learn from it. http://queryshark.blogspot.com/


The Center for Fiction has created a website so full of information, I'm still exploring my way through it. But the page, "For Writers" contains relevant topics such as "Writers on Writing" and "The Book Business." It's an excellent website to sit down and peruse with your morning cup of coffee.  http://www.centerforfiction.org



And then the day came
when the risk to remain
tight in a bud was
more painful than the
risk to bloom.
               ---Anais Nin

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Secret Saturday - 2/4/12: "Closet Secrets"

Well, I'm a day late with my new feature, "Secret Saturday," because the Internet Squirrels quit running at the farm yesterday. But, now that I'm back in the virtual world again, here we go:

I love secrets. I love to hear them, and love to tell them . . . to the right people. I see secrets as tidibits, juicy morsels of information that bring us closer to each other.

So, I decided to start a new feature, "Secret Saturday," where we can all share a little secret. It doesn't have to be a big secret, just anything we might not already know--about you, about history, about the world. Share a secret from your childhood, if that feels safer. Or a secret recipe. Or, what the heck . . . give us a whopper.

In Broken Dolls, when my character, Sachiko, finally reveals who she "really is," she writes this haiku:

A porcelain mask
Once broken, but now removed
My true face revealed

We can all remove our masks, even in tiny ways. It can be fun, but it can also be freeing. Share something with us . . . anything. And feel free to share a link to your own website or blog, too.

By the way, did you know that on average, a woman can only keep a secret for 32 minutes? Read about it on the Huffington Post. Click here.


When I was a young teenager, I had a secret place where I went to write things that I didn't want anybody else to know. But today, I'll take you with me, back to my house on Coolidge Street in California . . . to my bedroom . . . into my closet. There, behind my hanging clothes, I would write on the wall. Yes, the wall, where I wasn't supposed to write, which made my secret place all the more delightful, all the more mine.

Of course, as a young teen girl, most of what I wrote was who I had a crush on:


But I also wrote down my dreams, wishes and other things I thought people would think silly if they knew. I wished my parents would not argue. I wished we didn't have to move to Japan. (That wish came true, but now I wish we had moved there -- an experience lost.)

I wrote down my anger about things I couldn't outwardly be angry about, like every time I wanted to scream at my mom for grounding me.

After I'd written what I held inside, I moved the clothes back in place, and my closet held my secrets safe. When it was time for me to leave home, I took a big, pink eraser, shoved the hanging clothes aside, and erased what I'd shared in my secret world.

I don't know if anyone ever knew about that tiny place where I spilled my heart, but I suspect not. I was a typical teenager with sisters and a brother, and that information was too valuable not to use as ammunition against me in sibling battles. None of my co-combatants ever used it against me. So, either they never found it, or they had bigger hearts than I gave them credit for.

Friday, February 3, 2012

#FlashFriday #FridayFictioneers: The Chosen One

What a beautiful photo prompt by Madison Woods this week. Her photo prompts are typically challenging and stimulating, but this week the challenge for me was not to try to think of a story idea, but to pick a story idea from the several that popped into my head.

As always, I'm excited to read what everybody else wrote. Check out the other stories on Madison's blog!

The Chosen One

She would not be afraid.

Dressed in a clean, white gown, she walked up the mountain. Mother on one side, Father on the other.

She would not be afraid.

Still, she felt her father’s hand tremble on her arm. Heard her mother’s whimpers.

She would not be afraid.

The One to whom she’d been promised heaved before her, his breath hot and angry. They told her she would calm him.

She would not be afraid.

Cresting the volcano, she watched orange flames leap before her like a lover’s fingers, hungry to touch.

But she would not be afraid.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

An Interview with Author, Brian C. Conley

A few years ago, the Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop was lucky enough to have Brian C.Conley as an attending member. Each week, we looked forward to hearing the voices of the characters in his novel, The Neighborhood. So much so, many of us refused to believe him when he told us he and his family were moving away from Arkansas. Unfortunately, no amount of creative reasoning, even by a group of writers, could make him stay. He remains an honorary member, and thankfully, social media lets us keep in touch and follow his successes.

I hope you enjoy getting to know about Brian and his writing.

1) As writers, we often find certain characteristics in books that make them memorable. What makes you most enjoy reading a book – writing style, voice, sense of place, the story or something else? How have you incorporated that characteristic into your writing?

I guess my only barometer for total enjoyment is whether or not I'm thinking about the book a week or more after I'm done reading it, regardless of style, voice, etc. But there are characteristics I've lifted from certain authors: Chuck Palauniuk's style, James Patterson's brevity, John Steinbeck, Guy Johnson and Elliot Perlman's scope in dealing with multi-character stories, and Edwidge Danticat's soulfulness. I think my humor's more influenced by television, though. Elmore Leonard once said something that's always stuck with me: "Leave out all the parts you tend to skip when you're reading." That advice has influenced my writing more than anything else.

2) What are the similarities and what are the differences in your first novel, Stay and your second novel, The Neighborhood?

I would say the only similarity between the two is that they were written by the same guy. They differ in tone, style, subject matter, theme, setting, length, maturity and skill levels of "the same guy", and the cover art (one's in color, the other's black & white).
3) Is there a message you wanted readers to carry with them long after they finished reading each?

There's no message with The Neighborhood; my only hope is that readers enjoy the book and tell others about it. Make it a book club selection and whatnot. As far as Stay is concerned, I just wanted to show that even though men are not wired or raised to show our emotions in relationships, we do have them. And that some of our most hateful actions can come from a loving place, we just don't always know what to do with those loving emotions, especially if they make us feel like a girl.
4) You describe Stay as: "Told in Anthony’s words to the new woman in his life, follow the story of a young man trying to do what few men attempt: To explain to his woman why he is the way he is."

This book would be a great book club selection. What are two questions you would want a book club to discuss about Stay?

1. Did you make it past the first half?
2. By the end, did you understand the point of the first half?

I believe Stay has been unfairly judged as "raunchy", "smut", and so on, though mostly by those with delicate sensibilities like my godmother and church-going friends. True, the first half is racy, but it evolves into a genuine love story because the main character evolves from a man whose only interest in women were sexual to a man who can't fight the emotional pull the love interest had on him. Being that the story was told in his words, I had to be true to what he thought and felt.

5)  One of my favorite quotes on writing is by Madeleine L’Engle: “When I’m writing, I’m listening.” So, I was particularly interested in what you said on your Amazon author page:

          Long aware of his talents, his beloved parents, in an attempt to lend some direction to their wayward son (and perhaps to prevent him from moving back in with them), enrolled Conley in a creative writing class at Rice University. He was, as they say, a hit. 
          Since then, the prolific writer has gone on to publish one short story (Voices Volume II Anthology), and two novels - Stay and The Neighborhood.
            He lives in North Dallas with his wife, two children, and thousands of voices in his head.

What have you found to be the best way to “listen” to those voices in your head?

Just to let them talk. It's the same way I've learned to listen to the voices in my house. (Just to be clear, I'm talking about my wife and children, not ghosts.)

6) My most challenging character in Broken Dolls was Terrence, a black teenager. Not only was he outside of my race, he was outside of my gender. As you know, I struggled with his voice. Since then, I have been intrigued by the question of whether or not a person can (or should) write outside of his/her race or gender. (Click here to see my post, “Color of a Voice.") What are your thoughts?

I remember you having that issue. My issue with helping you was that even though I was once a black teenager, I wasn't alive during the time in which your story was set, so I had no idea how a black teenager spoke during WWII.

I think a writer can and should write outside of his/her race or gender. The problem is when the effort devolves into caricature and stereotype. I have two white characters in The Neighborhood. Neither speak alike because I never concerned myself with how white people speak, but with how these two people speak.

You can't say, "My character speaks this way because (random racial group) people speak this way. But I will admit that non-white writers may have an advantage (sad as it may be)in writing white characters because of the multitude of personalities shown in the media, whereas non-whites are not shown in nearly as many variations. My advice to white writers seeking to write about non-white characters is to read books and magazines written by and for your character's ethnic group. Watch their tv shows. You'll learn that one size (or voice) does not fit all.

7) What’s next for Brian C. Conley?

I'm currently developing a sitcom pilot, a dramatic series adapted from one of my favorite novels, two comedic memoirs, and a psycho-sexual novel and screenplay tie-in. It's those damn voices fault! Whichever voice speaks the loudest and has the best story gets first dibs.

Brian, thank you for sharing some of your thoughts on my blog. On a personal note, I most appreciate your insights on writing outside of one's race. Like you said, "The problem is when the effort devolves into caricature and stereotype." For someone unfamiliar with the nuances of an ethnic group, "getting it right" without crossing the line is a big challenge. I've followed your suggestion to read books "written by and for your character's ethnic group," and that has helped a lot.

By the way, the Northwest Arkansas Writers still miss your reading and critique!

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