Monday musings: The difference between imagination and memory

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Photo: Photo by Vidar Kristiansen on Unsplash

What’s the difference between the way a writer imagines a realistic scene, and the way a reader experiences something? Could it be similar to the difference between the way we watch a motion picture about, say, a day at the lake, and the way we remember a day at the lake?

I sometimes edit novels for other writers, looking for ways to improve the story and the way it’s told, without changing the author’s voice.

I have noticed I often change or suggest a change to a particular kind of writing: excessive description of a sequence of small actions. They’re little things that happen in a story, but that the reader doesn’t need to read. And it makes me think about the difference between the way we remember and the way we imagine.

I’ll make up an example here:

She pulled the lever and opened the car door. She stepped onto the dirt driveway in front of the summer cabin, and walked past the old porch in front. She passed the little cedar trees that had never grown very high, past the big old maple and down to the wooden dock. She walked to the end, and sat down on the boards. She removed her sandals and dipped her bare feet into the lake, only to jerk them out—cold!

It’s way too wordy. Sure, it describes what happened. It takes the reader through all the action. But it doesn’t actually bring the reader into the setting. And do we really need to read every single action?

When I think back to summer days at the lake, I don’t really think of long sequences. My memories are things like seeing my grandfather standing in his wooden boat, tinkering with something in his hands as the boat bobbed gently on the water. Or the backs of my father and grandfather, looking up at the big tin barrel that collected rainwater as the wind rippled the backs of their shirts. Or sitting on a dull, cloudy afternoon on a big rock over the shore, my uncle beside me, holding a toy fishing rod in my hand.

Which brings me to the original question: what’s the difference between imagination and memory?

It’s an important question, as things like “false memory syndrome” have a bearing on criminal cases. And maybe it’s part of the profound influence of motion pictures on our whole society.

Think about the passage above. It’s not from any particular book, but it’s typical of what I tend to tell a writer to re-write. And it’s kind of cinematic. It might be the way a screenwriter would provide instructions to a cinematographer. It has all the action, something that an actor and a camera operator could follow.

This is how I remember arriving at my grandfather’s summer cottage.

Thin fir boles and low-hanging evergreen branches framed the back of the cottage. The tires crunched softly over the dirt and forest litter before the car bounced to a stop. I popped out of the back seat—no thought of seat belts then—to be greeted by the scent of forest and water and the outhouse tucked behind a thin screen of bushes.

I ran around the log cabin, reaching out to touch the structure supporting the tin barrel that collected rainwater. The lake gleamed far below the cabin, separated by a steep slope crowded with dark evergreens and lighter deciduous bushes. A bright leopard frog leaped away, into the bushes as my sneaker-clad feet made soft drumbeats on the beaten ground of the path down to the dock.

See? Flashes, like the “Live” setting on photos on my iPhone these days. Not a long cinematic sequence.

What do you think? Are your memories more like cinematic sequences, or short live photographs?

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Monday Musings: The importance of interacting with readers

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By DelSheree Gladden

Interacting with readers is one of my favorites things about being an author. Frankly, it’s one of the things I’ve missed most over the last year. Last December, I went back to work full-time, which left little time for writing or staying up to date on social media. Recently, I left that full time job and am focusing on writing while I look for a new job. I’m also trying to catch up on everything I let slide for the last year.

Thankfully, one particular reader I’ve know for several years now, has been staying more on top of things than I have. A few weeks back, Stacey messaged me out of the blue and said she’d just been to her local library to tell the librarian about my books. As it happens, there were a few teens standing nearby and commented that the books actually sounded like something they might read. The librarian was apparently intrigued and agreed to look me up online. Fast forward a week or two and Stacey got back in contact saying the librarian was interested in “Trouble Magnet” and “Invisible,” and would I be willing to donate copies? Of course I was, so after figuring out how to order copies from the KDP print platform I just switched all my books over to, copies were on their way.

Now, I’m not telling you this just to brag about having an awesome reader like Stacey, even though it’s true and I’m super grateful for her enthusiasm and willingness to share my work. I bring this up because I’ve been so far from having any interest or motivation to write lately that I wasn’t even trying to keep up with readers or do any kind of real marketing. Stacey’s message was a reminder that I needed to get busy. It was motivation that just because my head was not in a writing space at all, my readers were still interested and wanted to engage.

Stacey’s message got me back to thinking about books and my readers and what projects I had left languishing on my computer for so long. Authors often joke about the readers who constantly want updates or want to message all day when they’re trying to get some writing done, but the truth is that these are the exact things that keep us going and remind us that the challenges of writing are worth it and what we do really does mean something to others. I’m so grateful I still have readers who are interested in my books after basically disappearing for a year. They haven’t given up on me, and I’m not going to give up on them either. It may take a little while for me to get back into the swing of writing and have something new for them to read, but the motivation is back.

DelSheree Gladden

was one of those shy, quiet kids who spent more time reading than talking. Literally. She didn’t speak a single word for the first three months of preschool, but she had already taught herself to read. Her fascination with reading led to many hours spent in the library and bookstores, and eventually to writing. She wrote her first novel when she was sixteen years old, but spent ten years rewriting and perfecting it before having it published.Native to New Mexico, DelSheree and her husband spent several years in Colorado for college and work before moving back home to be near family again. Their two children love having their seventeen cousins close by. When not writing, you can find DelSheree reading, painting, sewing and trying not to get bitten by small children in her work as a dental hygienist.
Check out her latest books, get updates and sneak peeks of new projects at
And find her on social media

 

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New book announcement: Wired Courage

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The 9th book in the bestselling Paradise Crime series launches today.

By Toby Neal

Paradise is stalked by a relentless evil.

What would you do if your family was threatened?

Sophie just wants to settle down with her unusual family—but a powerful presence sweeps in to steal her joy. At her most vulnerable physically and emotionally, Sophie must rise up to hunt down those who would take what’s most precious to her. The boundaries of love and friendship are tested as the men in her life grapple with their roles, each trying to help—but in the end, it’s Sophie who must face the darkness from her past and vanquish it.

Now available from all major e-tailers

USA TODAY Bestselling Author Toby Neal

grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. A mental health therapist, Toby’s career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her mystery, thriller and romance books.

She writes fast-paced, character-driven stories set in wonderful places. “No one can read just one!” exclaims one fan.

Outside of work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life through beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography, and hiking.

 Visit her on her:

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Monday musings: Readers provide awesome inspiration

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By Gae-Lynn Woods

Writers find inspiration everywhere, and often, readers inspire us the most. I’ve had the pleasure of attending several book signings and writer talks, and have even hosted a book launch party at a local winery. Every event and every reader has been a blast.

Most readers ask similar questions – where story ideas come from, whether my character Cass Elliot is named after the famous singer, or how long it takes to write a book. Some share story ideas – like the time a urologist was literally pulled out of bed to perform kidney surgery on a mafia boss while gowned armed guards stood watch in the operating room.

Occasionally someone comes to an event with a gleam in their eye and a detailed list of questions:

How could you end THE DEVIL OF LIGHT without bringing the old man to justice? I want him dead. Or at least in prison. (All I can say is, I’m writing a series. I know, I know. THE DEVIL OF LIGHT leaves the reader hanging, and maybe I could’ve ended that book better. All I know for sure is that the old man isn’t done with Forney County, and Cass isn’t done with him.)

Please don’t let anything bad happen to Hitch. I know he’s a horrible multiple murderer, but I kind of like him. (I kind of like him, too. Which worries me a bit. I’d like for him to hang around Forney County for a while, but we’ll see where the stories go.)

I really loved your writing style in A CASE OF SOUR GRAPES, but I don’t like Maxine. She’s too into her handbags and shoes. Couldn’t you write like that but use Cass as your main character? (It wouldn’t work. Maxine and her foibles are as key to the plot as is the search for the missing husband. Cass is too intense to bring that same level of impulsiveness and misadventure to a story.)

But my favorite reader interaction to date occurred at church, which is a little weird given that I write crime novels with a certain level of violence. A lady with the sweetest disposition pulled me aside one Sunday and said, “I thought about you yesterday.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yes. My son killed two deer and was processing them, getting ready to put them in the freezer. While I watched, I realized how hard it must be to actually dismember a human body.” Slight frown. “Or at least to do a neat job. It’s not easy to take a leg off at the hip without making a mess. It’s got to be even harder to saw through bone like Hitch did. What do you think?”

We spent the next several minutes, this gentle lady and I, discussing how one would go about cutting up a human body. Where would you do it? What about evidence? What do you do with all the parts? Dig a hole? Use a wood chipper? Where does one find a wood chipper in a rush? How much bleach would it take to clean up?

The fact that we were in the church foyer with congregants streaming around us didn’t bother either of us in the least.

“Well,” she said, patting my arm. “I just wanted you to know I was thinking about you.” And off she went to refill the coffee urn, leaving me to wonder if she would ever have thought about dismembering a human body before reading my books.

I certainly hope so.

I can’t afford that kind of therapy for my readers.

Gae-Lynn Woods

is a Texan mystery writer who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Visit Gae-Lynn’s

BestSelling Reads page   |   Amazon author page   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Google+   |   Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website   |    Blog 

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Monday musings: Observations at book signings

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By Scott Bury

Scott Bury showing off his display at his latest book signing event.

Last Friday, I did a “meet the author,” book-signing event at Coles Carlingwood bookstore in a mall in western Ottawa. That was the fifth such event I have done in 2018. Most of them were outdoors, but now that snow remains on the ground, I won’t be doing outdoor signings until spring, at least. I probably won’t be doing any more in a store, either before the end of the year. Bookstores in these parts doesn’t do in-store events because they’re just too crowded with shoppers and all the non-book stuff they promote during this season. An author at a table stacked with just their books would be more of an obstacle than an attraction.

After five book signing events, there are some patterns I have observed.

I have to admit that I always feel a little trepidation as the date for a book signing gets closer. What if no one comes? What if no one buys a book? I’ve ordered a quantity—will that expenditure be in vain?

But over the year, I count nearly all the events as successes. I don’t always sell a huge number of books, but with one exception, more than I feared would be the worst-case scenario.

I learned a lot through this. I saw how some other authors, experienced in these things, who brought big fabric banners on collapsible frames. Some rented or bought big tents for protection from the elements. One, a horror writer also from Ottawa, has a little Cthulhu figurine that sparks conversation.

It’s astounding how many independent writers there are. Some come to events like the Authors’ Market at the ByWard Market with embarrassing self-printed little books, but most have learned the importance of investing in their own work with professional editing, design and production.

I have also learned that it’s nearly impossible for independent authors to get the attention of major media. Thank goodness for community and independent newspapers.

Another thing I learned after five book signings in eight months is that people like to talk to writers! Many are delighted to meet the person whose name is on the cover of a book. They are almost always amazed that someone actually wrote a whole book—never mind seven.

Another thing I have learned is that people have very different reasons for buying a book. One lady bought four different books as Christmas presents for her sons. She wanted me to sign them with not only my name, but also that of one of the characters within.

Another reader wanted an inspirational message with the signature. Still another wanted the date and place of the signature.

They asked the usual questions: what inspired the story, how long it took to write, why I wanted to be a writer.
It’s rewarding. I learn more about readers and why they choose to read the books they do.

Often, a personal connection is what it takes to get someone to buy a book. Over the summer, a number of current and former military people bought the Eastern Front trilogy. I also remember a lady with a British accent who told me about hiding in bomb shelters during the London Blitz.

At Arts in the Park in June, a man who had bought a book the previous year came back and bought a copy of Wildfire.
Everyone seems to have their own reason to read books, and to choose which to buy.

Thankfully, sometimes the chance to meet the writer is enough.

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Monday musings: The bookstore as tourist attraction

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By Scott Bury

In days of yore, I used to love hanging around in bookstores. Whether they sold new or used books, I could while away hours ambling down the aisles, perusing the obscure titles, poring over the pages, admiring cover typography and wondering about the authors. Sadly, it’s a pastime I haven’t enjoyed for a very long time.

Until last September, when I visited Portugal with my lovely wife. From the time we started planning the trip, one of the must-see spots was the Lello & Irmão bookstore in Porto. This is the bookstore that’s famous as the place that inspired J.K. Rowling’s setting of Hogwarts for her Harry Potter series.

The evocative double curving staircase is not the only reason it’s an inspiring bookstore. The inlay ceiling, the baroque woodwork, the antique lanterns—and the incredible range of books! There are books in many languages, bestselling books, books of great age and prestige, beautiful editions and even comic books.

But what is the most immediately striking thing about this bookstore is the crowd inside. Because of the Harry Potter-inspired fame, hordes of tourists cram into it daily. Lello & Irmão bookstore actually charge admission and limits the number of people they let inside at once. If you buy a book, they’ll refund the price of admittance.

Lello & Irmão was not the only bookstore I visited on that trip. Roxanne and I also popped into Livraria Bertrand in the Chiado section of Lisbon, known as the world’s oldest still-operating bookstore. It was first opened in 1732 by Pedro Faure, who took on the Bertrand brothers as partners some time later. The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 destroyed the bookstore and the Betrands moved to a different part of the city. In 1773, the Bertrands returned to the rebuilt Chiado section of Lisbon, its current location on Rua Garret.

Bertrand today is a chain of 53 bookstores across Portugal, and is owned by the Porto Editora publishing company. a

Livraria Bertrand in Lisbon, the oldest still-operating bookstore in the world. Photo: Wikipedia

I rediscovered the joy of spending time in a bookstore in Portugal. And on coming back to North America, I understood one reason that I don’t enjoy that activity as much at home anymore. It’s because bookstores here aren’t much in the way of bookstores anymore.

Every time I enter one in Canada or the U.S., there seems to be more space turned over to knick-knacks, coffee and food at the expense of books.

I have no problem with coffee in a bookstore. Books and coffee are a natural combination. But seeing more space for things that are far less important than books taking away space for them—that’s disheartening.

What about you? What are your favorite book places in the world?

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