"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it." - Hebrews 13:2

Friday, July 29, 2011

Critique Groups

Schmucker Hall
The Lutheran Theological Seminary ~ Gettysburg, PA
Photo by Loree Huebner

Last Saturday, I went to a writers group meeting at a local coffee house. The group has many talented writers, several which are published. We all bring something to read that we’ve written—a poem, a chapter, a part of a screen play, or even a letter. It had been awhile since I had come to a meeting because Saturday afternoons are just a hard time for me to get away. Sometimes I’m working or it’s spent with the family if I’m off. Six showed up at the Saturday meeting. I brought the first chapter of the book that I will be querying soon. Nope, I still haven’t queried yet. The book is not quite ready.

We pass out copies of the material to be read. After reading half of my first chapter out loud, I was very pleased at the response, but also at the incredible advice I received from my fellow writers. There was a paragraph pointed out to me that needed some structural work and a few grammar mistakes. It’s funny how you can be so close to the material and not see what needs to be fixed—even after going over it umpteen million times…very, very helpful. After realizing this, I can’t express enough the importance of critique partners that you can be honest with and that will be honest with you. Outside of the group, I have two individual partners that give me sincere feedback.
A critique from a group is different than from an individual partner.
As in any group, I was suddenly hit with a barrage of suggestions, likes and dislikes, grammar, or the removal of an unnecessary phrase or sentence. I loved it! At times, I couldn’t keep up with writing down all of the excellent points. During this session, something else important also happened. There was one man there who was very quiet as others were voicing their technical opinions. When questions arose about the heroine’s sister, he spoke up. He was the only one who could see the direction I was going with the story after one half of a chapter. His insight was amazing. He didn’t seem interested in the grammar or sentence structure…he was really interested in the story. That spoke volumes to me.
When I got home, I waded through all the evaluations that I had received. You have to go on your gut instinct at this point—use what makes sense, what is true, and throw away the rest. I believe I received that same advice when raising my children. Like we know our own children, we know our own stories. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated all the good and negative points I got. It opened my eyes. I’m going through the book one last time before I query.
I believe we can receive valuable help and information from using both group and individual partners.
Do you have a critique partner or group? What tips could you share about appraising someone else’s work? Have you had good experiences in a group situation? Which do you like better - group or individual reviews? I do it as much as anyone ~ Do you think that sometimes we just need to turn off that internal editor and enjoy the story?

I would love to hear from you.
Between you, me and the gatepost,

Friday, July 22, 2011

Crafting Characters of the Opposite Gender

Once again, Blogger is playing hide and seek with my followers and twitter updates ~ sometimes they are there, sometimes not. I hope they will resolve this problem soon.

From "As Good As It Gets"
Zoe: "How do you write women so well?"
Melvin: "I think of a man. And I take away reason and accountability."

I wanted to scream when I saw this scene – wait, I think I did.
In the movie, As Good As It Gets, Jack Nicholson plays, Melvin Udall. The character is a best-selling novelist who is a misanthrope. He works out of his home in NYC. The novelist suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder which, in combination with the misanthropy, irritates everyone he meets. (By the way, Jack Nicholson and co-star, Helen Hunt both walked away with Best Actor and Best Actress Academy Awards for this 1997 picture)
In the real world of writing, many people have trouble crafting characters of the opposite gender.
It’s not easy to write dialogue and point of view for the opposite sex. We all struggle with it at one time or another.
Most of the time, we take from what we know.
My husband, Eric, for example, says that when he first started to write many years ago, he had to take more time and do more research when writing female characters. Growing up in a house of all boys, for a long time he viewed females as an alien species – yep, I think he thought like Melvin. But then - God had a sense of humor and blessed him with 2 daughters, and then a son. Out-numbered in his own home, he now understands female motivation much better. Eric always gets a chuckle at the line from the movie, Little Women (1994) ~ John Brooke:Over the mysteries of female life there is drawn a veil, best left undisturbed.”

It was the opposite for me. I grew up with brothers. Not one of them was alike. I fully understood the male disposition by the age of 9. I even was a bit of a tom boy from age 10 to 14. I was athletic and sports-minded. Around 15, the femininity bloomed, and I shed my team sweatshirts for more delicate attire. I loved becoming a woman. I cherish all those feelings and use them in my characters.
YES - I can take what I know.
I know how women can be, but I also remember the guys - the talk, the walk, and the testosterone-filled conversations between my brothers, father, and their friends. I also lift personality or unique quirks from other real men I know, have known, or just meet. I take all of those characteristics and dabble them into the creation of my male characters.
We can research different people of the opposite sex.
As a female, I research real people for characters. I do this for both males and females. I keep a notebook with me and if I see someone interesting while I’m at work, or out somewhere running errands, shopping, in line at the bank, the movies - I take notes. It’s a good way to keep a record of simple or odd characteristics that you will want to remember for a potential character…especially for the opposite sex.
I also run the scenes and conversations by my hubby and my son. They always give me good advice - “A guy wouldn’t say that.” 
~ haha
How do you deal with writing characters of the opposite sex? Is it easy for you? Do you take from experience? I would love to hear your discussion on this topic.
Between you, me and the gatepost…

We are in the midst the of a nasty heat wave here in the midwest. Yesterday it was 103 on my outdoor thermometer. The humidity made it a steambath everytime you walked outside. I hope everyone is staying hydrated and cool. Don't forget to take care of your furry friends when the weather is hot during the dog days of summer. With that said...I leave you with a picture of my border collie, Fly, and my greyhound, Pickles.

Flysie ~ nuff said
Photo by Loree Huebner

Pickles in the car ~ riding down I-65. She loves to look out the front window. She thinks she's still running on the track.
Photo by Loree Huebner

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Informal Formal Query Letter

Sorry, Blogger is playing hide and seek with my followers and twitter updates. Hopefully, they will come back soon.

I started to write my query letter for an old novel that I had written nearly 5 years ago. I took that old novel off the shelf back in May. The book has been dusted with revisions and edits.
I queried this novel some years back and even entered it in a contest. There was some success with the very businesslike query, but all in all, I got rejections on the manuscript. I had stuck that book on the shelf until just recently. I’ve studied and learned from the bits of information in the rejections that I had received. I’ve been studying the craft seriously for several long years now—which I didn’t do before. Now, it feels like new book.  
I’m thinking that the query format I used before is too businesslike. Since I queried this novel last, I have read many, many different writer's blogs on the subject, and "how to write" a query letter from different agent’s blogs. I’m at the – too much information stage. I’m frozen.
Before, I always believed that this was a business, so I queried from that perspective. As I read about "how to write" a query letter to an agent, I am utterly perplexed. I’ve come to learn that there are so many different ways - not too formal and not too informal - and I’ve even heard that there is no right way.
What I do know is that I want to address the agent in the proper manner. I should query the book like the descriptions on a book jacket—make them want to read more. In a nutshell, I need an awesome 1 page query and short bio including publishing experience.
Now how do I get from here to there? I’m working through that. It's exciting and scary all at the same time.
It’s funny because querying a magazine article is so different from querying a novel. I don’t feel perplexed when I query historical articles. The procedure is much more straight forward.

Now I ask you... 
Any writers with query success: please feel free to leave any good tips. Any good advice would be much appreciated.
Anyone who is nearing the querying stage: Are you ready? What are you doing to get ready?
I would love to hear from you.
Between, you me and the gatepost,

I apologize for being in and out of touch for the last few weeks. I know I’m not alone in this. The summer has been a busy and demanding one with faith, family, writing, and work. Hope you’re all having the best summer ever! Take a look at that awesome full moon tonight! With that...I leave you with a picture of a moonflower from my garden.

Moonflower - Photo by Loree Huebner

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer Fun

The Boardwalk on Indiana Beach ~ Lake Shafer ~ Monticello, IN
Photo by Loree Huebner

I've been so bogged down with editing and revising the novel that I'm going to query in a week or two. I'm finally nearing the end of the book...then I have to get the query letter right. I planned on querying this week, but the process is taking longer (doesn't it always?) than I thought it would. I hope to be done with the book and query by the end of next week. ANYWAY ~ that's where I'm at. Eric and I are also writing the query letter for another Civil War article we've written. We plan to query that next week too. Soooo, with all this editing, revising, and query stuff going on, I thought that this week my blog would be just about summer fun. I know we are all busy doing summery stuff.

My questions for you have to do with SUMMER FUN.

What song or songs make you think of summer?

What movies do you like to watch during the summer?

What is your favorite summer memory? 

My answers are :

Songs ~ I have 4 older sibs, so I was exposed to all sorts of music when I was small. When I was real young, I can remember a hot summer at the lake when we heard (over and over) and sang ~ Joy to the World...all the boys and girls now...Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea...Joy to you and me...by Three Dog Night. The song Rocketman by Elton John also stirs up some summer memories up at the island in Minnesota. My brother played Rocketman over and over. We caught frogs, swam, fished, and jumped on a trampoline. Great memories.  

Movies ~ I always watch, To Kill A Mockingbird, at least once a summer. To me, it's the ultimate summer movie. Eric and I watch the movie, Gettysburg, over the 4th of July holiday. I also love to watch old westerns and old scary movies. During the summers when I was young, I used to watch those oldies with my dad and brothers. We stayed up late and ate popcorn and apples.

Favorite Summer Memory ~ In recent years, (about every other year) there have been destination weddings in our families. We've had some real great family times in Aspen, Colorado, Brussels, Belgium, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Marblehead, Ohio. No weddings this year, but my nephew is getting married next June in North Carolina. I love when the entire family gets together. It's summer. It's a whirlwind, fun-filled, pizza-eating, karaoke, wrench-your-knee-while-dancing type weekend...and that's all before the nuptials and reception. Each wedding weekend has priceless summer memories of its own.

I also loved going to Indiana Beach on Lake Shafer when the kids were small. We had some great times there, spending a long weekend at Harbor Inn and playing at the waterpark. Crazy raccoons always tried to steal our burgers, hotdogs, and jalapeƱo poppers from the grill.

Have an awesome summer week and write on!

Between you, me and the gatepost,


Friday, July 1, 2011

Visit the History Corner with Eric Huebner ~ and YES...I've been tagged!

Before I launch the History Corner, I want to address that last week I was tagged by two awesome lady authors –
Brandi Boddie & Jessica Patch.
Please visit their blogs. I guarantee you will find both women ~ inspiring, refreshing, witty, and downright funny at times.
I promised that this week I would play along. The rules were to answer a few questions and a task to upload. (Note – I did not make up these questions, they were passed along from way back) After answering the questions, I'm supposed to tag a few others.

Do you think you’re hot?
What?!? Ask my husband.

Upload a picture of the wallpaper that you are using.

Twilight on Little Round Top ~ Gettysburg, PA
Photo by Loree Huebner
I love this picture. I took it. Little Round Top is one of my favorite places on earth to be at sunset.
When was the last time you ate chicken?
Tuesday. I made an awesome chicken piccata in a white wine sauce.

What song or songs have you listened to recently?
I usually don’ t pay attention to the overhead satellite music pumped in to where I work, but I did find myself humming and singing to these songs yesterday  ~ One Step Up And Two Steps Back – Bruce Springsteen version, Deacon Blues – Steely Dan, The Waiting – Tom Petty, and Jump – Van Halen.

Do you have nicknames? If so, what are they?
Poo (okay stop laughing) – Husboo calls me that.  Also, Mamoo or Moo for short (I said, stop laughing) - The kids call me Mamoo. We were all at a Blues & Jazz fest about 7 years ago where The Mighty Blue Kings were performing. They sang, Big Mamou. I’ve been Mamoo ever since. Now, I love to pick up the phone and hear, “Hey Mamoo…”  My bff calls me L…that’s it, just simply L.
Okay, I know that I am supposed to tag a few others, but I’m not going to. I’ve been around the blogosphere and seen that many people have already been tagged…and retagged...and tagged again.  It’s a holiday weekend, so I will just be IT…and that’s that.


Gettysburg, PA
Photo by Loree Huebner

With 2011 starting the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, I thought on occasion, I would give you a little bit of history of the happenings of approximately 150 years ago - You don’t have to be a buff to appreciate the importance of this time in American History. I want to have a History Corner appear occasionally on my blog along with regular posts. 

This week I am proud to introduce you to my husband and soul mate, Eric. After sharing our love of God, a wonderful family, and our life together ~ we share the passion for writing, and love of American history and the Civil War. I'm hoping to add him on the blog, on a more permanent basis for an occasional History Corner. 

Anyway, for now, please welcome to the History Corner - my husband, life and love ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Eric Huebner.

Thank you, Loree, and thank you to all the readers for taking the time to stop by.
The answer to the tagged first question above is YES. Enough said on that.

Last week Loree and I went to a White Sox vs. Cubs game and had a great time. US Cellular Field in Chicago was nearly full with about 34,000 fans cheering every pitch. The next time you are in a stadium, look around at the crowd so you can get a sense of what 30 thousand, 60 thousand, or 100 thousand people looks like.
The reason for my preoccupation with numbers is that this coming weekend is the 148th anniversary of the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg. I am no war monger, but war has been an important factor in the shaping of our nation, particularly the Civil War. Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle ever fought in the Western Hemisphere. About 165,000 men from the north and the south (5 full stadiums) fought for 3 days – July 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, 1863 - with 51,000 casualties (or 1.5 times the size of the crowd). Imagine 51,000 people. Now imagine 51,000 men casualties - dead and wounded, strewn across a landscape only a few miles long. How could people do such a thing? We must always keep in mind the tragedy that is war and only engage when there is absolutely no alternative.
In 1863 the stakes could not have been higher. After a year of striking success, Robert E Lee led his Confederate army on an invasion of the North. Should he defeat the Union army on Northern soil, he could dictate terms from a position of strength. Would the United States remain united or would the Confederacy become a separate nation built upon a foundation of slavery?
President Lincoln said, “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other,” however “God cannot be for, and against the same thing at the same time.” Voltaire wrote, "God is always on the side of the big battalions" which in this case appears to have been true. The Union army won the battle of Gettysburg after Pickett's charge was repulsed on the third day of battle. The following day - July 4, 1863 - 30,000 Rebels surrendered to General Grant at Vicksburg. The war would rage on for almost another 2 years, but the South would never recover from the summer of 1863.
This weekend, watch the movie or a documentary about Gettysburg if you can. If you have time, there are scores of books on the shelves at your library or bookstore. When you hear about the incredible numbers involved at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, remember that those stadiums of people were volunteers, people like you and me, fighting for what they believed in - ready to give that "last full measure of devotion." 

Until next time - Three cheers and a tiger,


Between you, me and the gatepost, 

~ Loree ~ and Eric