Merry Christmas

Comments: 2

With all that's going on in the West household lately, it's a wonder I find time to get on the internet at all, let alone write a blog message.

As always, the Christmas season is hectic, but this year is especially so with my wife, Brenda, in charge of two church dinners and a breakfast, then there's wedding bells upcoming. My son, Michale, is finally tying the knot. But along with that we put on a shower for the bride, then there's the wedding, and wedding breakfast upcoming, three days before Christmas -- and that's not the end of it.

With all that, is it any wonder we're having difficulty enjoying this special season? Still, I want to take a moment to reflect on all the wonderful Christmases I've enjoyed and I know, in spite of all that's going on to distract us, this Christmas will be as wonderful and special as any, maybe even more so.

So, with that, I wish everyone (all 1 or 2 of you) a wonderful and love-filled Christmas, and I hope you will take time to reflect on the real meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior into this world, who taught us he wonderful gospel and culminated his ministry with his sacrifice in the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross, to pay the price for our sins so we don't have to if we accept Christ and repent of all our wrong doings. Then, if we do that we can return to our Heavenly Father some day where we can inherit ALL that He has.

So I wish you a very Merry Christmas to all.

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About Paul West

Paul West is a freelance writer and novelist. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Paul claims to be a "Prune Picker," though he now makes his home in Taylorsville, Utah.

You can follower him on Twitter: @PaulWWest

Published: Saturday, December 12, 2009

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I've been struggling to decide whether or not I can classify my novel set in the mid-1960s as historical. Recently, I posed this question on several writer's forums and got some great answers. But the one I really think solidified my feelings that my work is "historical" is the one by LDSPublisher. Her response was illuminating, and greatly appreciated.

Historical fiction, simply defined, is when an author puts fictional characters against a setting of real historical events. Usually, to call it historical, the fictional characters need to interact with real historical figures or take part in/be impacted by the actual events.

What defines a historical event? Some people would call a novel set in the 70s historical fiction. Personally, I'm offended by that. I remember the 70s. Sort of. The 1950s is borderline. By the time you get to WWII, it would definitely be classified as historical.

Just because you can take a plot from one era and make it work just as well in another era doesn't mean it isn't a historical novel. However, the more the story depends upon the actual historical event, the more truly "historical" it is.

By that definition, even though it's more recent than most historical works, I still think my novel fits the bill. It's set with the Vietnam War as a backdrop. Kids are talking about either joining up, or being drafted, and even draft dodging. Arguments and even fist fights break out over that subject.

So, what does all that mean?

It means I need to start marketing it as a historical as well as young adult. I think that should open more agents' doors. At least I'm hoping so.

So, does your work fit within that definition, or are you writing more contemporary?
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I am super excited. My daughter, Rebecca, and her husband, Joel, and their three kids are coming to stay with us this week. They will be staying for 6 or 7 months while Joel joins the Air Force JAG program (we hope, assuming he's passed the BAR exam) and trains in the Air Force Officer's Candidate School (or is it Officer's Training School. I can never remember).

My wife and I have been working hard to get everything ready for them, including rearranging the beds in the house so the two oldest can be near grandma and grandpa and the baby will be downstairs with her mom and dad.

Welcome Becky and Joel and kids!!! We're excited to have you stay with us.

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Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. You can spend the day in bed recounting your difficulties or get out of bed and be thankful for the happy memories you have stored away. -- Michelle Allsop.

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As all of you, my faithful followers (all 1 or 2 of you) know, I am not the best query writer in the world. I've struggled with this form for years and still probably don't have it down right. Lately, I've been following the blog entries written by Elana Johnson on the Query Tracker blog site. She's written a book on how to write query letters and market your books and stories, etc., to agents and editors. I think her book is probably very good, she has a better than 30% positive response rate to her query letters, but I can't afford the $18.00 to buy it. Nevertheless, I've gotten a lot of good, detailed information about query writing just from her blog entries.

Using Elana's blogs as a go-by, I think my latest query is pretty good. I've submitted it to three places on the web where I could get some feedback fairly quickly, and think her advice has helped a lot. Many of the feedback comments have been positive, and most of the other feedback have further helped me refine my letter.

Still, I have to laugh. I think I've done everything I can to make my letter as perfect as is humanly possible, and I'm still getting criticism. I think that must be part of human nature, to criticize. One writer, whom I highly respect, suggested that my letter was too sparse and needed a few details. So, I added just a sprinkle of detail, and another commenter then said he thought it was too much detail, I only need the bare bones. I can't win.

If I were to follow everyone's comments to the letter I'd never get my query letter written. I think I just need to use the version I think best now and see what happens.

However, Heather Dyer wrote on today's Query Tracker blog that it might be good to have a few different versions of the query, send out a few of each every week or two and see which version garners the most responses. I think I might try that.

So, last night I resumed the querying process. But found I now have another problem. I've about used up all the agents that represent young adult novels. I went to the Agent Query website and had difficulty finding someone I hadn't already submitted my novel to. So, what do I do now?

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Recently, in a Yahoo News Story, the truth of global warming was explained. Here's the link to the scientific report. It says pretty much what I've been maintaining for years.
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Basic guy has another great post. Please read and pass on. It's frightening, but true.
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The Basic Guy has left a great commentary on his blog site. Check it out at Basic Guy
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Revise? Again!

I know, I've been over this several times in the past. Should I revise Sweet Revenge to be contemporary, or keep it as a historical set in the 1960s. Should I call it a Young Adult fiction, or Adult?

To revise will take a lot of work. The entire book will need to be reworked to make it sound contemporary. But, to not revise may mean it will never sell. But maybe it still will? Maybe it's just my query letter. Maybe I should market it as an adult nostalgic piece?

Decisions, decisions, decisions...
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Today I read a posting of a successful author wherein she says she is very shy and has a difficult time with personal interaction, which makes marketing her works difficult.

I too am VERY shy, but I've also learned that at times I simply need to overcome that. Having had various leadership type of church callings has forced me to climb out of my shell at times. In each of these callings I was forced for be outgoing which is totally against my nature. But I found I could do it if I tried.

However, marketing your literary creations does not necessarily require one to suddenly become an extrovert. There are plenty of behind the scenes ways of becoming "known". Blogging is an excellent method, but it’s just a beginning. First you have to encourage people to read your blog. Posting regularly on other writers forums helps to draw attention to you, your work, and your blog. Commenting regularly on other writers' blogs can also go a long way to getting people to know you, as does commenting regularly on Facebook, Twitter, Good Reads, and other social networking sites. I've even gone to sites such as ClassMates and Reunion to reconnect with old high school friends that I haven't heard from in many years. I'm finding them on Facebook and Twitter as well.

All these can help, but if you have an expertise, or are well versed in some subject or theme, posting your ideas wherever and whenever you can helps even more.

Now, don't think I'm some kind of expert in platform building. I'm trying. But I have to admit I don't do a good job of it yet. I simply don't have the time to devote to doing all this. I takes time and effort. But a shy person can do this just as well as an extrovert.
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Recently, I was asked about the need for credibility as a writer. In a way, I think this relates to platform, about which there has been a lot of comments on writing websites lately.

In nonfiction, credibility is your platform. If you've done extensive research into your subject matter, are a known expert in that field, or have a PhD after your name, you probably have credibility, and for those interested in your subject, you have a built-in audience, or instant platform as well. Consider the well-known radio advice personality, Dr. Laura, for instance. In addition to her PhD in physiology, she has done research in human behavior, religion, and has expressed her views on her radio program. Because of this, she has automatic credibility and platform. Anything she wants to write would be immediately picked up by a major publisher.

For fiction, credibility and platform are very different. A writer does not need to establish himself as an expert in some field of endeavor, though it can help, but more needs to write material that is at once credible and entertaining. To be credible, the writer needs to research the subject matter, the setting, characters, etc., and must be able to craft a compelling story. That, to me, constitutes credibility for fiction. Platform, then comes to the writer as his writings gain respect and following from his readers.

At least that was how it used to be.

Today, writers, in addition to writing and crafting compelling stories, are also expected to be marketers, or salesmen if you will. Many writers, who are timid by nature, find this expectation difficult to bear. For whatever reason, publishers are unwilling to expend a lot of money on publicizing works of new and unknown authors who lack platform. Thus, it is important for a writer to become also a salesman. One way to do this is by establishing himself in the writing community as a known commodity even before his writing is accepted for publication. If he can also establish himself with his genre's reading group, i.e. young adults, readers of fantasy or science fiction, mystery readers, etc., he will be that much further ahead when his work is finally accepted for publication. So, where do you find these reading groups? I'm not an inexhaustible source of information on that subject, but think about places you've been, organizations you've been part of. Consider old school friends, people you may not have heard from in many years. I'm finding more old friends nearly every day on Facebook, ClassMates, Twitter, etc. I'm also a member of several writers forum web pages. In all my signature blocks, I've got a reference to this blog, and as soon as my book is accepted for publication, I intend to contact everyone I know, and hopefully word of mouth will take care of the rest. And, if I can get a small allowance for advertising, that will be a help too.

Happy writing and reading.
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To all my faithful readers (all 1 or 2 of you),

This morning as I checked my email, I found the following comment from “Anonymous” to a blog posting I wrote two years ago regarding an interview I had with Ellen Hopkins, who is a friend of mine, and author of CRANK, BURNED, GLASS, IDENTICAL and other NY Times bestsellers (I can’t recall all her titles at the moment). It appears the interview is no longer available, sorry. I had no idea someone would go that far back to make a comment, but still, I appreciate this person’s comment and want to respond in a way that she (based on her comments Anonymous appears to be female) will hopefully see it, as well as let you, my faithful readers, understand how I feel about a couple of important subjects.

Here is her comment, followed by my own:


Dear Paul,

I've recently read CRANK and GLASS, and both were novels that I could not put down. I see a lot on here about her being "explicit" but I don't think that's the issue. I think the beauty of her novels is the pain that she shows. She doesn't glorify drug use, like so many books and movies do (the electric kool-aid acid test, anyone?). She gives you the raw truth, about how bad drugs can screw you up. I'm 20 years old, and I've been through severe depression and the suicide of a best friend. I am in a much better place now than I was in January, when I attempted my own death. Reading her interview makes me realize that maybe I can begin to accept his suicide by trying to write from his perspective, instead of just my own feelings about loving him and missing him.

Explicit or not, her stories tell the truth about using drugs, about what can really happen to you. I can't imagine anyone who would read that novel and want to try meth. And THAT is what's really important.


Dear Anonymous,

I truly hope you read this response.

I think you missed my point. I love the way Ms. Hopkins writes about drug abuse and suicide and several other very important subjects. She has a beautiful way of portraying through her “free verse” style of writing, the truth about the horrors of drug abuse that cuts to the soul. I don't have any trouble with her subject matter or the way she presents these issues. The trouble I have is two fold:

1. Explicit use of the so-called "F" word. I know that is supposed to portray realism. She uses it sparingly, I admit, and only for its shock value. But to me it is not necessary, and as adults, we ought to show a better example to our youth.

2. In her book BURNED she refers to a Mormon family and comes dangerously close to portraying this dysfunctional and abusive family as normal of Latter Day Saints, and as a Latter Day Saint, I take exception to that. I think this would have been better, and totally acceptable, if she had not mentioned the denomination.

Aside from those two issues, I think her books are great and I recommend them to every youth who is depressed, tempted to try illicit drugs, or worse, suicide.
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If you think about it, you have to admit the overwhelming number of young adult (YA) books are targeted toward girls. Think teen-romance novels, novels with girls as main characters, such as mysteries and suspense novels, even YA fantasy novels. Very few novels are ever targeted to boys, and I think that is in part a result of too many female editors and female agents looking for novels written by females, or male writers who are willing to cater to the female sex, erroneously thinking boys don’t read YA.

I think it’s not a matter of boys not reading YA novels, it’s more that there simply aren’t many books geared toward them. In my opinion, male writers should be encouraged to target their writing to boys. Then, we male writers need to send our queries to male agents and editors, or at least to female agents and editors who understand this issue, and see whether boys will read YA novels.

I think it may be a while before agents and editors get the point, but we need to start somewhere. There are a lot of great male writers. I think they are every bit as good writers as female writers (and some argument could be made that some are even better than most female writers). They just need to be encouraged to target their talents toward boys.

I’ve written one complete YA novel and am working on a second, both with male protagonists, and I have several more YA novels with male protagonists in mind. I suspect they are likely to be a difficult sale simply because they are written with a male audience in mind and most agents and editors are under (in my opinion) the false impression that boys won’t read YA.

To that I say, try it and see.
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My daughter Rebecca is visiting from Nebraska with her 2 kids, Andrew, Emma, and Olivia. Brenda and I are having a wonderful time with them and are going to hate to see them leave.

Last week, my eldest son, David, with 2 of his 3 boys (Matthew and Nathan) took Becky's 2 oldest kids (Andrew and Emma) on a train ride on the FrontRunner. Its a commuter train between Salt Lake City and Ogden. While there we visited the railroad museum. The kids are all train fanatics (anyone heard of Thomas the Tank Engine?). They were thrilled. Wide-eyed. The trip was a bit long and by the end they were exhausted, as were David and Me, and little Emma fell asleep on my lap, but I suspect they would do it all over if given a chance.

The photo on my sidebar shows David and me, with the 4 kids in front of the FrontRunner train.
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This may sound sexist, but I don't mean it to, so I hope no one will take offense.

I can't help wondering why boys don't read more young adult novels. Statistics evidently show that if they do read, it's probably something like adult science fiction or action/adventure, etc. Boys generally do not seem interested in novels written for the young adult audience.

But why is that?

Could it be that most YA writers, agents, and editors are women? If women write, represent, and publish what they like, I can understand why most boys probably would not care to read that. Face it, boys have different tastes than girls, which goes without saying, but I think this needs to be included in the equation somewhere.

I have written a young adult novel, and am half way through my second one, both of which probably are not targeted to young women. Since most of the agents I've sent it to are women, do you think that may be a partial reason it has not met with much success yet? If I were a woman, the story would likely be different, geared for girls and it would probably have found a home long before now -- maybe? That's assuming it's good enough to get published in the first place. But being a man, with a man's interests and thought patterns, I write for men (boys). So, when a woman agent reads about it, it doesn't catch her interest, but it may catch the interest of male agents and editors. So, that's what I'm trying to do now -- send my query letter out to more male agents.

Time will tell if that strategy will work. I'll keep you (all 1 or 2 of you faithful followers) posted.
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My wife and I just got back from a most wonderful vacation to Hawaii. We truly hated to leave that beautiful place. We'd seen lots of pictures of the islands, but until last week had never been there, and the pictures don't do it justice, in my mind. We only visited the island of Oahu, but we toured most of it. We got rained on on the windward side, but even that wasn't bad, except during the short torrential downpours. We stayed in Waikiki and mostly took bus tours, and enjoyed every minute of it, especially the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Anyway, since I'm back, I'll be posting something of substance soon. I just don't have time right now.
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For a chapter of my current WIP, I've been trying to write insulting parodies of old songs that adolescent boys might sing to a girl they find repulsive. You know how we boys can be so insensitive at times. However, I totally suck at writing poetry of any kind, plus I fear if the song is recognizable, which it surely would be, I will likely have to pay a royalty to the composer, or his descendants, and that can be a royal pain to go through the process of finding the composer's descendants, and deciding how much to pay, etc.

So, I'm thinking of cutting that chapter and moving on. I've stressed over this chapter too long now, and the more I think about it, while it would be fun to write (assuming I could write descent insulting poetry) it probably isn't necessary. The boys in this book are pretty insulting as it is and maybe I don't need to belabor the issue.

Here's to moving on.

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Recently I read on one of my favorite writer's forums, a question asking how long should a writer continue to send out queries. That question intrigued me, since I've been sending out queries, off and on, for a LOOOONG time now. The answer seemed logical enough that I'll share its essence with you, my faithful followers (all 2 or 3 of you -- do I still have that many?).

The answer was something to the effect that a writer should keep querying until he/she either sells the book, or until the next book is finished. The assumption, I gathered, is that when the second one is ready, you've probably grown in your craft and the second may just sell first. If so, then the first book might be also taken more seriously and might sell as well. But those could be a BIG MIGHTs!

I also read that if you've sent out 20 or so queries without any requests for partials or fulls, you should consider re-working your query. It's obviously not catching the agents'/editors' attention. However, I can't help wondering in my case, if instead of it being the query letter could it be the subject matter? I mean, after all, my first novel is a young adult novel, set in 1965 during the Vietnam War. I call it a YA historical suspense. But how many agents/editors are interested in that genre?

So, now that the economy is bottoming out, I'm toying with whether I should resume querying, and if I do, should I keep re-working my query (I'm only on the umpteenth version now), or assume agents/editors just are not interested in my novel's subject matter?
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. . . and probably a terrorist as well! Wow. I never suspected.

Let me ask all my faithful followers (all 1 or 2 of you). Do you love your country? Do you love your family? Do you love God? Do you pray? Do you love the Constitution? Do you believe government should protect us, not coerce us?

Well, my friend, it looks like you're probably a right-wing extremist too, and maybe even a conservative terrorist as well.
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This morning I read a news article that was reporting on a NASA study. It said, in effect, that there has been a marked reduction in sunspot activity over the past several years. HMM! According to the article, it hasn't been this quiet in nearly 100 years. HMM!! And, they expect the reduction in sunspot activity to keep happening for the foreseeable future. HMM!!!

Al Gore and Michael Moore. Can either of you spell G-L-O-B-A-L C-O-O-L-I-N-G???? For that matter, can you spell at all? I'm not convinced of your intellectual abilities, or do you have something else in mind, like making money off us poor people with your cap-in-trade scheme?

Average world temperatures over the past 10 years have been COOLING! not warming. And cap-in-trade will do NOTHING to help either way, because it ain't us causing the changes in world temperature. Try looking up!

"So, what about the polar caps' ice-melt?" you might ask. First, there is some question as to the viability of the satellite imagery that reported the shrinking north polar ice cap. Also, even if the ice caps are melting in some areas, other scientists tell us they are actually growing in other areas.

Can we all spell E-L N-I-N-I-O and L-A N-I-N-I-A?

Then, there's the issue of under ocean volcanoes. They've been erupting at an increasing rate over the past several years. Might they play a role?

Obama. Take a hint. Global warming ain't happenen'! So, quit trying to get rich off us poor slobs.
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I just read this article by Newt Gingrich and know it to be true.

It's sobering. Is anyone listening?
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I received a question yesterday from one of my many followers (all 2 or 3 of you), Chas Hathaway. If I understand his question correctly, I'll attempt to address it. Here's the question:
I've heard that it's a good time to get into the independent publishing market.

Is that true? If so, what are the biggest differences between independent and industry publishing?
He was responding to my comment that for the time being, due to the economic downturn in the publishing industry I'm not sending out any more query letters.

Let me answer by first defining what I think he means by "independent publishers" and "industry publishers."

The way I understand independent publishers is that they are those companies that will publish almost anything you want published, but they do it for a fee. Sometimes, they are called vanity presses. It's great for publishing a limited number of works such as family histories, recipes for a church organization, or even a novel if you don't intend to make any money from the sales. Certainly, there have been some notable exceptions, but they are few and far in between.

Industry publishers, on the other hand, only publish writings such as non-fiction books and novels that meet their company's standards. Often, with large publishing houses, you need an agent to approach these companies. These companies usually pay an advance against royalties, plus when the advance pays out, they will continue to pay royalties as long as the book is in print and still selling.

Keep in mind, that to a serious writer, the money should ALWAYS go TO the author, never the other way around. If a writer doesn't care about the money, then the independent publisher may be the way to go. On the other hand, if a writer expects to sell his book and earn money from his writing, then the industry publishers are the way to go.

Keep in mind, however, that the book needs to be up to the industry publisher's standards. I go by the mantra: "if it isn't good enough to be published by a reputable "industry" publisher, it probably isn't good enough." That means, if they won't buy it, I need to either work to improve it, or start something new.

I hope this answers Chas's question, and questions regarding this subject anyone else might have.

Keep writing and reading.
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The error of youth is to believe that intelligence is a substitute for experience.

-- Author Unknown

(Try telling that to your younger boss.)
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I thought this video might be of interest to all my faithful readers (all 1 or 2 of you). Enjoy!

Also, have you checked out Basic Guy lately? He's made some great commentaries on our nation's situation. Check it out.
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I'm reading on several writer's forums about how bad the book-selling industry is doing right now with the down economy. I'm hearing (reading) that agents and editors are taking on very few new projects and selecting the ones they do take on with extreme care.

So, I'm thinking of stopping my querying for the time being (months, years) until the economy improves. I have nine outstanding queries. I think I'll see what comes of them, but wait to send out any more.

My thinking is I want to wait until the market improves so I won't get a bunch of rejections that otherwise could be acceptances. There are only a finite number of agents and publishing houses and if I exhaust them now, when they're not in the buying mood, I may have lost them possibly forever.

At least that's my thinking for the time being.

Anyone disagree?

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"To get what we want we must be subtle as snakes; more deadly, more cunning, more patient, more mean. Think of the serpent, how it slithers through the garden. It's such a beautiful creature, slow and delicate, rarely seen but effective, low, and not loved, but gloriously efficient! The serpent is now our model; we must pattern our work after him. So go to your old friends and stand by their sides. Pretend you want to help them while whispering deceits in their ears. Only lie when you have to. Speak the truth when you can; for the truth, once it's twisted, is the most effective tool we have. Coat your lies with enough truth, and they will swallow it down.

"Now listen to me, people, for this is the key-evil can be twisted into virtue if you phrase it just right. Any vice is accept-acceptable if you cloak it as an issue of freedom. Any immorality is worth fighting for if you tell them they are fighting for choice, if you wrap it in the mantle of privacy and freedom. So take their moral agency and turn it on them. But be patient. . . be patient . . . it takes time to turn the truth upside down."
-- Satan

(As quoted from the novel, "'The Great and Terrible,' Vol I, 'The Brothers.'" By Chris Stewart.

Sound familiar? Sound like Liberals and Marxists?
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This subject has a pet peeve of mine for a long time. The subject recently came up in the Utah Children's Writer's message board, and there are a lot of people who say profanity is needed to make a scene believable or credible.

I for one, do not believe using profanity in ANY book is necessary, adult or young adult. I've seen many books depicting bad characters who use profanity, but the author chooses not to use the actual words. I think it's sufficient to indicate that a character swears, or swore, without using those profane words.

As an example. I'm currently reading "The Great and Terrible" series by Chris Stewart. I recommend reading this series and other "best-selling" books by Mr. Stewart as great examples of what I'm talking about. Mr. Stewart has some pretty awful characters depicted in his books, yes, characters who swear and use profanity, but he does not use the actual profane words, choosing rather to indicate that a character swore, and leave the bad word up to the imagination of the reader. It does work. I don't think anyone reading his books will think they are fake or phony. They're quite realistic.

Another example is Dean Hughes' books. He writes about WWII and other difficult subjects where profanity should be expected. But I can't recall a single profane word and his books are totally believable.

Certainly, it takes a bit more creativity on our part, but isn't that what we writers pride ourselves as being -- creative?

I think we can avoid using profane words and still be realistic. It just takes a slight bit more effort. In my mind, using the actual words in our writing cheapens our work and is the lazy way out, and what example are we showing our youth?
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Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.

Admiral Hyman Rickover (1900 - 1986)
U.S. Navy
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"The totalitarian phenomenon is not to be understood without making allowance for the thesis that some important part of every society consists of people who actively want tyranny: either to exercise it themselves or -- much more mysteriously -- to submit to it. Democracy will therefore always remain at risk."

-- Jean-Francois Revel

I think we're close to being there.
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Seven queries sent via email and on-line submission sites. Three automated rejections so far. I can't help thinking with the automated rejections, as nice as they sound, did the agent even look at the query? I got these back within hours of sending them off.

Makes one wonder.
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Well, after a long dry spell of not sending out queries, I finally began sending them out again. I started with three e-queries. With my revised query and novel manuscript, I'm holding my fingers and crossing my breath - I know that's backwards, but it's what I feel like.

Anyway, wish me luck.
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Finally, I've finished the goal I set for myself to be finished editing SWEET REVENGE by the end of the year (2008). Now begins the arduous task of finding an agent. Wish me luck. My queries haven't attracted much attention in the past, so here's hoping for the future! I probably need to find a new name for the book.

On a personal note: My daughter and her husband and 3 kids are visiting for the week. The live in Nebraska and had to brave the huge snow storm we had on Monday to get here. My stomach was tied in knots all day.

On Tuesday night, my wife and had got the opportunity of having the two oldest ones, Andrew and Emma, spend the night with us. Andrew was excited to have an overnighter with grandma and grandpa, but I'm not so sure about Emma. She's almost 2, so it was probably more difficult for her, but she handled it well.

Well, that night, I had to go out and shovel the snow off our driveway and sidewalks. Little Andrew asked, "Can I help, Grandpa?" keep in mind he's only 4. I told him that would be fine and after bundling him up, I handed him a light weight, plastic shovel he could use. I was amazed at how well he worked. He's strong for a 4-year-old. He picked up some pretty large chunks of snow and plopped them onto the piles of snow along-side our driveway (well almost). After a while, I could see he was shivering, and some snow had fallen into his jacket sleeve. So, I asked him if he wanted to go back inside and warm up. He said, "No, Grandpa. I want to be with you, Grandpa." I about cried, I was so touched. Later, I said he could have a cookie, even though his mother had told him he couldn't because he hadn't eaten his dinner (he's a lousy eater). He was thrilled, and after putting Emma down for the night -- singing and rocking her to sleep (I love doing that), I went downstairs with Andrew and watched Kung Fu Panda with him. We didn't get too far into the movie before he first climbed up on my lap and cuddled close, then a few minutes later, moved to the couch beside me and laid his head on my lap. Soon he was asleep. So, I carried him upstairs and put him to bed. It was such a touching evening. I'm a real sap for my grandkids. Can you tell?
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