Archive for the ‘Displacement Activity’ Category

Usurping Voices

This is too important to languish on just one site.

Leigh Verrill-Rhys

Writers are arrogant pretenders.

We freely usurp identities, characteristics, ideas, thoughts, voices of people we imagine as characters in our books and stories. These are all part of our craft—our toolbox—of storytelling.

We step over the boundary between reality and fiction when we decide we also have the right, indeed the obligation, to speak for others. Two recent articles in the RWA’s Romance Writers Review December issue are cases in point.

Both articles address a “social” issue and make it a “creative” issue by assuming the right to tell us—their colleagues—what we should be writing.

I personally experienced this “presumption of right” while writing an American historical romance set in post-Civil War New England. I was told by another writer, “You had better be on the right side of history.”

This response shocked me and was meant to silence any disperate interpretation of history that clashed with her “accepted” impressions.

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In the past eight months since my last post, I have relocated from the windy canyons of the financial district of San Francisco to the high plains of the northwest. The weather is dry, even in the late winter when the snow is over five feet deep. The sun shines for at least 200 hundred days out of the year and, on 1/5 of an acre, you can grow winter-hardy apples that fall from the fire-blighted tree by the bushel basketful.

With all the upheaval of moving, little writing gets done. Besides a monthly contribution to the group blog, Classic and Cozy Books, updating my website with a new look and added features, the most I’ve completed has been revisions for a 2nd edition of Pavane for Miss Marcher, including consideration for a new cover image (which I have subsequently rejected—I like the “decadent red lilies”).

But, for me, there is always gardening, my favorite displacement activity. Digging in the dirt—up here it is river bottom silt as nourishing as cotton wool and as malleable as cement—amounts to a good shovel and leverage—the key to all creative endeavor.

Perseverance, persistence, planning, or in this case, planting. However, what I know abouthorticultural will fit on the first red line of an index card if you remember what those look like in this world of digital notation. Gardening for me is the real, down deep, nitty gritty of what Ralph Waldo Emerson praised as “work”. Being a New Englander as well, I appreciate the concept.

And gardening is a great way to ensure that you meet your new neighbors. For the past month, my neighbors have watched me dig and toss, rake and rip at roots of Amur Honeysuckle. When they’re comfortable with my work ethic and horticultural efforts, they approach and say hello! Thank you, WikiHow!

I’ll be moving on to Dance by the Light of the Moon now. Colette Ilar is not a gardener but she does dance.

If you can name another of my novels in which the heroine is a dancer…you’ll win a copy of my next “Americans in Love” novel, which happens to be…Dance by the Light of the Moon!

It’s good to be back. And thank you for reading my work.

Warmest best wishes,


August 27, 2018
In loving memory of Dafydd Elwyn and my mother, Virginia Verge Verrill.



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Ye Old Tea Shoppe?

Ye Old Tea Shoppe?

My mother seemed always to have an answer for every state of the human condition. A turn of phrase, an adage, an idiom, a quotation that addressed a predicament in which I or my siblings found ourselves.

One of these is well-known and the photo here begins as my mother would have, but goes on to encourage hatefulness in the guise of ‘cool’ or ‘clever’. But not representative of an establishment that I feel comfortable entering.

I first saw this advertising board earlier this month. As I write, the sign is still there. In the shop today, there were two male members of staff. At the beginning of this month, the staff member was female.

This is not the first time this shop has ventured into the realm of nasty in hopes of catching the eyes of what, to my mind, must be equally nasty patrons. However, I pass this shop twice a day and very rarely do I see any patrons inside.

Although I am a tea-drinker, I give this place a miss. In any case, this seems like the kind of business that does not welcome people like me as customers.

My philosophy is straightforward and one I learned from my mother when I was a nasty fourteen year old: “You get more flies with honey.” How we treat one another matters. What we do and say to one another defines us more than what we accomplish or possess.

Perhaps, if the owners of this tea shop put out inspiring, educational or encouraging messages, the staff wouldn’t be wasting their time coming up with hurtful witticisms. They’d be too busy providing service to enthusiastic tea-drinkers.

Smile and say hello. It’s painless.

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And as soon as I had thought of the title for this blog, I recalled an encounter that made a mark and was instrumental in guiding me forward.

Years ago, I attended a literary event and had a conversation with an escapee from a New England family. I believed, being also from New England, we might have a common ground or two. We did, but not as I initially expected.

Aside from our Downeaster background, we both put pen to paper. I had a few short stories in small literary magazines and a prize or two (magazine subscriptions, nice writing implements—they all count!) to my credit. My eastern compadre had not yet committed to his chosen art form sufficiently to venture into the public arena.

In fact, he had difficulty admitting he was a writer, certainly not by acknowledging his desire to engage in the enterprise by speaking its name. When asked what he did, he made a gesture with his hand of writing in the air. When asked what he wrote, he muttered, “My dreams.” And he meant exactly that—not a list of goals or wishful future accomplishments.

He spent his days recording the activities of his sub-conscious.

At this point in my life—graduate student working an 8-hour nightshift—I didn’t have days or much of nights, but finding time to write was not a problem; I didn’t do much else.

My fellow writer lived on an allowance from his family and had all the hours of the normal day but could not commit to his chosen vocation without embarassment. He may now be a bestselling author or a billionaire or the CEO of his own company…I pass no judgment, only speculate that his family may have been instrumental in his lack of confidence.

I sympathize. My mother’s response to my announcement that I intended to be a writer? “Don’t be ridiculous.”

I blazed on regardless—not without many moments (read that as YEARS) of self-doubt. I am still learning my craft, even with ten novels and three volumes of nonfiction, I can never know enough but I do sometimes wonder if my mother was right.

But then again, I know she was only looking out for me.

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You know how it is when you read something and wish you had written it? Here’s one example I want to share… (Don’t let the image at the top scare you!)

Kristen Lamb's Blog

After six years in critique her novel was “perfect.”

Critique groups can be wonderful. They can offer accountability, professionalism, and take our writing to an entirely new level. But, like most, things, critique groups also have a dark side. They can become a crutch that prevents genuine growth. Depending on the problems, critique groups can create bad writing habits and even deform a WIP so badly it will lose any chance at resonating with readers, thus being successful.

The key to avoiding problems is to be educated. Not all critique groups are worth our time. Some critique groups might have limitations that can be mitigated with a simple adjustment in our approach.

Traditional Critique Groups

Many of you have attended a traditional critique group. This is the “read a handful of printed pages or read so many pages aloud” groups. Traditional critique groups have some strengths. First and foremost, they…

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This article was posted a few months before I moved from Wales, where I’d continued my writing and became a founding member and director of a women’s co-operative publishing company, Honno.

September 23, 2011

I’m in the process of clearing 30 years of accumulated essentials. Besides all the accumulation related to family and friends, I have acquired books, paper, pens, inkjet cartridges, pencils, notebooks, files and their cabinets, envelopes to send manuscripts, envelopes fmynotebooksbor the return of manuscripts, floppy disks, external hard drives, thumb drives, cameras and their batteries, photographs on paper and on disks, computer and laptop, printers and scanners, desks, office chairs, briefcases and laptop bags as well as boxes and boxes of manuscripts. All of the above is related to my writing.

With just seven days remaining before I have to condense my life and work into two suitcases and a carry-on bag, what do I really need to keep working for the next three months while I wait for all of the above to arrive at my next hometown?

I already know that I have a writing desk waiting for me, as well as a bookcase that will hold approximately 1/4th of the books I am shipping. So, in order of priority, these are my essentials:

  1. Current work with any associated notebooks all scanned to the laptop (see below).
  2. Laptop with all typescripts and scanned material (see above) saved in at least three different places (including cloud storage) in case of loss.
  3. My three favorite writing implements with all the ink cartridges I have in stock.

There is one other most critical something else, but I’m a bit short of that right now.

What are your essential ingredients for your work? Do you have any suggestions that will help me keep working while all around me goes astray? What should I leave behind?

All ideas grateful received.

By now, we are pretty well settled in three rooms, with more than 3/4th of our books stacked in boxes in a storage cupboard. All manuscripts accounted for and six have become published novels. The fourth necessity is still scarce, but who can ever have enough Time?

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My blog as a guest on Birth of a Novel.


Leigh V-R�My guest this week is Leigh Verrill-Rhys.  Leigh is a native of Paris Hill, Maine, but spent most of her childhood and early adult years in San Francisco before emigrating to Wales to marry and raise three sons. She has been a writer, editor and lecturer most of her life, intermingled with career portfolios in marketing, finance and community arts projects. An award-winning editor, she has published three volumes of women’s autobiographical writing about their lives in Wales and during World War II. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Welsh Academy and several RWA chapters. She is also the author of WAIT A LONELY LIFETIME & the six installment serial novel, NIGHTS BEFORE. Leigh admits to running with scissors and leaping before she looks.
Here’s what she has to say about her latest book, which probably has the most unusual title I’ve ever heard.

When I first published Salsa…

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Everything You Were Taught About the Civil War is Wrong, Ask a Southerner!
Everything You Were Taught About the Civil War is Wrong, Ask a Southerner! by Lochlainn Seabrook
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Born and raised a Yankee, this book was a mind-opener. To be honest, I was ready for another point of view and Lochlainn Seabrook delivered, full-throttle, no holds barred, with conviction. I had previous inklings of a different truth while watching the PBS series, “The Abolitionists,” which made obvious that Abraham Lincoln was not the emancipator he has since been hailed.

The historical truth of his reluctance came out when Speilberg’s film, Lincoln, was released. So many of the historians and scholars I admire were lamenting and refuting the premise of that film that I had to take a second look at our 16th president.

Everything You Were Taught About the Civil War is Wrong, Ask a Southerner! lifts a dark veil obscuring this period of our history and reveals a tragedy that is being perpetuated on our country with relentless energy. We can never be healed without facing the absolute facts of this tragic and criminal event.

If you intend to make the so-called ‘Civil War’ the background for your novel, please don’t perpetuate the tissue of lies and call it history.

I recommend this book to anyone who is seriously interested in studying American history.

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First, an brief explanation of the process of deadheading:

with a very sharp secateur, you snip away the dead parts of plants so that the plant no longer pumps energy into the dead area.

This somewhat similar to ‘phantom limb’ sensation.

Since my secateur is buried in storage boxes awaiting the acquisition of a real garden, a pair of scissors or sharp knife will have to do. When I did have a garden, I had secateurs and loppers and hedgers.  Not to mention rakes, forks and shovels, trowels and pitch forks. Sigh.

Alas, empty plastic soup containers and damaged tablespoons serve those purposes these days.

As you saw from one of my earlier articles, some of my wildflowers aren’t thriving. Rather than allow them to suffer and sap energy from those that are, whether part of the same plant or in close quarters, it’s best to pluck, snip and sever so the negative energy doesn’t influence others.

(A bit tongue in cheek for that analysis but you will see where I’m going with this later.)

NB6-300I am what Ian McEwan once termed an ‘organic’ writer. That doesn’t mean I only use organically produced paper. It’s a writing process, sometimes called a ‘pantser’. It is the only way I can write. An idea comes to me and I follow it to its natural conclusion, one word, one scene, one character at a time.

For instance, my most recent publication, the novel-by-installment, Nights Before, began life as a word on the page. Another followed. A character appeared and another. Before long, I had a story I wanted to write. 64K+ words later, I had a novel, published over the stretch of a year.  Every installment was a surprise to me and pure pleasure.

More than any other reason, writing for my own pleasure is paramount. The same holds for gardening or any of the other pursuits to which I offer my time. If I’m not happy, the book doesn’t happen.

There is one drawback. Every word and scene doesn’t rate publication. And every one is a reason that saps energy from shreddingthe body of the story in the same way that a dead flower drains energy from the plant. It is natural for flora to make every effort to survive. A dead part draws the attention of the plant to surge energy into the dead area to revive it.

It is natural for the writer to pour energy into making a dead scene work. In the words of one of my college professors, “Kill your darlings.” Deadhead.

Sometimes, I get carried away with tangents: a perfect example of energy wasted. Not to mention paper and ink. But that is the allure of the organic, the narcotic of writing. The words flow and you go with it. The next best thing to the sweet sensation of writing anything that comes into your head, is the pleasure of getting rid of the dead weight of excess. Fortunately, shredding and recycling eliminates the guilt of wasting paper.

Once I have finished a story, the process of shredding the manuscript is a ritual finalizing its publication. Along with the shredding goes all of the false steps, the dead ends and the tangents. With that brutal cut, I am free to create anew, without reference to material that dragged my writing efforts offtrack, rejuvenated in the same way that flowering plants are boosted by the loss of spent blossoms.

I’m wondering if the same works for orchids.

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Illustrious Company for WALL

WLLjacketproofwebMy publisher, Montlake/Amazon, is offering my debut novel, WAIT A LONELY LIFETIME, in its January/February Sale. My novel is in wonderful company, as you can see, 25 Kindle books for $0.99 each deal.

The sale is on until February 8, 2014.

You can choose up to 25 books for $0.99 each. Stock up, and please pick mine…


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