Writing, Reading, and Smiling . . . It's Contagious.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Seanachaí's News

On the last Sunday of each month, I compile “Seanachaí’s News,” a status report that assesses my work dur
ing the current month and also formulates my plans for the upcoming month. It will also give you a peek at my works in progress.

My Work During the Current Month

  1. My forthcoming novel, Haunted Voices from My Past: True Narratives of an Ohio Family, is finished. Currently it is in the final stages of production, and if all goes as planned, it should be printed near the end of the week.

My Plans for the Upcoming Months

  1. Haunted Voices from My Past... will be launched on October 31, 2009, giving readers the opportunity to experience a firsthand haunting for Halloween. To celebrate its publication, Sunflower Footsteps will host a series of events beginning with the Haunted Halloween Book Giveaway” on October 1st. All events can be viewed on Sunflower Footsteps October Calendar. Also, a surprise event is scheduled and does NOT appear on the calendar. Keep watching my blog and Sunflower Footsteps Bulletin for its disclosure.

I hope you’ll be along for the ride!

For more information on Sunflower Footsteps, authors, and titles, visit:


As always, I love to hear from you. If you’re in the cyber-neighbourhood, drop me a line. In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling. It’s contagious.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Autumn of a Novel: Proofreading

The maple tree next to the road performs its annual Shakespearean death scene. Crickets halt their strident song and vacate the courtyard. I sigh and hunt for the socks I stowed away four months ago. Summer is but a memory as autumn's chilly hand draws an amber shade over pink lemonade and charred hot dogs.

In my corner of the world, autumn's cool breath is not confined to the outdoors. It seeps through the cracks of the windows and drifts over the last leaves of a lingering novel that filled my summer. After all of the plotting and brainstorming, writing and rewriting, editing and proofreading, the autumn of my novel has arrived.

For me, the autumn of this current work involves a final proofing. Proofing my own work is difficult.
I know what I am saying, therefore, I am not relying on the written words to convey meaning. Although I employ standard proofing techniques, I also depend upon the vision of others and the reliability of sound. Without them, I believe a work never achieves maturation.

Fresh eyes are the best proofreaders because they are not hindered by the monotony that has afflicted the author. After reading the same passages repeatedly, my brain tends to shut off. This know-it-all has a bad habit of glancing at the first and last letters of words and filling in the blanks. To avoid this trap, I pass my work to another proofreader. Rarely does the work come back without a red mark.

Sound also plays a part in skirting the trap my brain sets for me. By reading passages aloud I force myself to do more than glance at the word. Another ideal proofreader is Hal, my computer. If you have a PDF reader and a sound card, you have Hal, too. Open your PDF reader and look under
view, then read out loud. As you listen to Hal read your work, you may be surprised by the mistakes your eyes and tongue miss.

With that said, I'm going to return to the final proofreading of my novel. That's odd. The crickets have returned. I thought they were gone. I no longer see them, but I do hear them. Maybe I should put on a blindfold and have another confrence with Hal.

Did you find the typo in the above passage?


As always, I love to hear from you. If you're in the cyber-neighbourhood, drop me a line. In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling. It's contagious.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Tribute to Ace

Monday was Labor Day for those of us residing in the U.S. Despite its connotation, it does not denote a day set aside for work. Rather, the day celebrates the ability to laze about and feed one’s face, preferably with one’s fingers accommodating in rapid, shovel-like gestures. While participating in this yearly ritual, I snuffled over half-cooked coconut pie filling, remembering a man who died thirteen Septembers ago.

Why was I crying? Each holiday my grandmother made a coconut pie for Pa and me. She always cooked the homemade masterpieces over her gas oven the night prior to the big day. Before the filling had set, Pa would slice through the gooey custard and warm crust. Between mouthfuls, he would dial my phone number to taunt me about his sneaking the first piece. This man was my grandfather, and he was known as “Ace.”

In tribute to Pa’s memory, I wrote the following short piece about one of the tales he told during a warm day like this and after an empty pie pan like now.


      Ace returned from the Second World War a changed, hardened man though he eventually confronted his problems and altered his life. Before this metamorphosis, he was a rabble-rousing young man with a cigarette in one hand and a homemade blackjack in the other.


      Ace’s car swerved around the deserted town like a child’s toy car spinning on linoleum. The drunken young man jerked the steering wheel again, determined to elude the blaring police car chasing him down the darkened road. He stomped harder on the gas pedal and whizzed around the corner past a gas station. His grey eyes flicked to the rearview mirror. The police car had fallen behind during the last maneuver but continued its pursuit. Ace glanced at the gas gauge and grimaced. He was nearly out of town, and if he were to lead the police into the countryside, he would soon run out of gas. He threw his spent cigarette to the floor as he reached the last intersection. The car engine whined as the accelerator furthered the distance between him and his pursuer. Grinning, Ace fumbled in the dark for his cigarettes. He glanced one last time at the rearview mirror and flipped off the headlights.


      The police car raced through the intersection and rounded the corner into an alley. It roared down the gravel road past the cars parked alongside a series of crumbling brick buildings. After stopping briefly for the traffic sign at the end of the road, the car headed west.
      A tiny orange light bloomed and faded in the alley. Ace was lounging on the hood of his car, smoking the remainder of his cigarette and laughing.


As always, I love to hear from you. If you’re in the cyber-neighbourhood, drop me a line. In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling. It’s contagious.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"Writing What You Want to Know"

"Write What You Know"

How many times do we hear this slogan from teachers, writers, and peers? Though this adage is overused, it holds merit.

On the other hand, writing what you know does NOT mean you have to write about the autumn leaves in your backyard. It DOES mean that if you want to write about something OTHER than falling leaves, you have to research.

I suffered the same dilemma when writing my new book, Dead Bird in the Weeds. In the beginning, I was hesitant to start this project because "write what you know" was holding me back. At the time, I did not know that attaining the qualifications to write this book was within my reach.

"Writing What You Want to Know"

During my last project, my focus was on the 1798 rebellion in Ireland. Besides having to write about foreign places, people, and events, I was also catapulted into a different time period. As these obstacles were hurled at me, I took a deep breath and followed these steps to success:

  1. OBTAIN PRIMARY SOURCES: Primary sources are works written by people who have experienced events firsthand.

  • Though beneficial and necessary, secondary sources do NOT take the place of primary sources. While researching the 1798 rebellion in Ireland, I did not rely solely upon secondary information. I wanted to know what actual people of that time felt, thought, and did during the rebellion, so I read firsthand accounts.

  • If you have trouble finding primary sources for your subject, look in the “Works Cited” section in the back of a secondary source. A bibliography of all the primary sources used will be there.

    • How does one obtain primary sources?

      • Besides a trip to the library, which may or may not have primary sources (most likely NOT if you need dated historical material), search the Internet. The Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg are great repositories for such works.

  1. READ SECONDARY SOURCES: Secondary sources are works written by people reporting on events that happen to others.

  • While primary sources are key to understanding your subject, don’t neglect secondary sources. They gather a great deal of information into a condensed work that gives an accurate understanding/time line of the subject/event.

  • I also live by the “three source rule.” If I find the exact same information stated in three legitimate sources, I feel confident of its validity. Also, be sure to cite any references you use.

  1. CONDUCT INTERVIEWS: These provide either primary or secondary information.

  • Interviewing someone who has experienced your subject or is an authority on your subject provides unique information and quotes.

  1. REQUEST FREE INFORMATION: Many organizations and tourist companies provide free information on request.

  • Also, many people associated with organizations are usually more than willing to help out with information their institute can provide.

    • Keep in mind that you may also be ignored or treated rudely. I have been the recipient of both tactics. The best response is to not reply and move on.

  1. BECOME AN EXPERT: Experience your subject directly.

  • In order to write effectively and with authority, become actively involved in your subject.

    • If possible, visit the location of your subject. If you cannot afford travel fare, the Internet provides a plethora of information on practically every location in the world. Photos, videos, and articles from other travelers are indispensable.

    • Wear your characters’ shoes.

      • In my last project, my main character was thrown into a period jail/dungeon. In order to recapture the character’s emotions, I spent the entire day in a dark closet. I kept a log of my emotions and reactions, and after several hours of darkness, my mind recreated the feeling of being trapped and alone. While this is a bit extreme, you may find other methods of exploring situations. Please remember safety!

Turning “what you want to know” into “what you know” requires time, research, and patience. By investing in each, you can write effective, authoritative works.



This is the last day to enter the drawing for Sunflower FootstepsBack-to-School Book Give Away

For details, visit:

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As always, I love to hear from you. If you’re in the cyber-neigbourhood, drop me a line. In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling. It’s contagious.