· Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System

· * November 2009

· Editor: Howard Denson


and use the terms in the subject line.

In This Issue:

NFW will Hear Lynn Thompson Nov. 14

The Music of Good Writing – Howard Denson

Longchamp Author to Speak Nov. 7 to Sisters in Crime

Jerry and Bobbi Hanks to Give Top Ten Tips about Writing on Nov. 5

The Wrong Stuff

Reception to Honor Release of Two Books

DiGenti’s FWA NE Florida Weblog

Links to Reading Stuff about Words and Writing:

Historical Thesaurus is a Masterpiece Worth Waiting 40 Years for

English is Killing Off Many ‘Minor’ Languages

A Book in Four Months from Start to Finish

Not All History is Bunk, But This is

BBC Gives Nursery Rhymes a Fairy Tale Ending

70 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know about Marvel, Spidey, Et Al.

Quote from a Writer's Quill – Truman Capote

Writers Born This Month


The Nov. 14 meeting of the North Florida Writers will feature Lynn Maria Thompson, a professional writer, editor and speaker. The meeting will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Webb Wesconnett Branch Library (corner of 103rd Street and Harlow Boulevard).

Ms. Thompson says she basically helps people tell their stories -- some are the stories of their lives, others the stories of their businesses, and still others are pure fantasy. After working many years in the corporate world and winning awards for some of her writing there, she founded Thompson Writing & Editing in 2003.

She has written articles that have been published in numerous local, national and international magazines. Several of her articles have won awards. A past editor of The Florida Palm and POW! The Magazine, in 2008 she served as temporary editor of North Florida Doctor magazine.

Ms. Thompson has ghostwritten two books that have been published, and recently completed another for a longtime client. She writes promotional material for a wide variety of companies and non-profit groups. Authors for whom she has edited books have become published, and some have won awards for their books. Her second ghostwritten book, Just A Dumb Kid From Nowhere, sold very well and will soon be released with a new publisher, along with that client’s second book, Acres Aweigh!

Ms. Thompson has written and edited magazines and newsletters for such groups as the Florida Writers Association, RecycleFlorida Today, Beaches Women’s Partnership, Young Executives In Support of the Symphony, and both the Atlanta and Jax Beaches Gator Clubs.

To help other writers enjoy the independence of self-employment as a writer, Ms. Thompson is writing a series of e-books, A Professional Writer’s Ladder to Success. Each of the 40 books planned in the series focuses on a specific aspect of starting and running a successful writing business. Eight titles have been released as e-books. The first five are being developed into a full multimedia training program that will be available soon.

When she is not writing, Ms. Thompson stays active with the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and the Navy League, as well as singing soprano in the choir at Riverside Presbyterian Church. A past vice-chairman of Keep Florida Beautiful, the native Floridian currently serves as chairman of the Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Commission. For more information, visit her website at<>.

In the critiques that will follow the speaker, people other than the author of respective works read aloud the submissions (up to 10 double-spaced pages of prose, and reasonable amounts of poetry or lyrics). Authors may not defend their work, but they should listen to the words and rhythms of their creations.




I was thinking about music and good writing, and I'm too lazy to address the topic in a full-fledged book. I’d have to research, and write, one chapter on the influence of Greek and its grammar; then I’d have to do chapter 2 on Latin and their grammar; next, I’d have to track down the formal grammars established by pedants who tried to apply the classic rules to English.


You’re sitting there mulling something that may be intriguing, and the first thing you know ten years have passed and you have a massive tome to rival H.L. Mencken’s multi-volume The American Language. Then a reviewer says that your book “is helpful in spots but essentially doesn’t add anything to what Professor Waldo (Lockjaw) Briskitt said in his classic work back in 1969.”

My initial point simply was this: When writing is good, it sings; there’s a music to it. When you listen to Richard Burton perform one of the soliloquies from Hamlet, you can almost equate each syllable to a musical note. This part is held long; it’s a full note. He’s hurrying along here; they’re like sixteenth notes. These words or syllables are grace notes. You probably remember enough of the “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy to test out my hypothesis.

A corollary to good writing being musical is that the writer has to be careful what music, if any, he or she plays while writing prose or poetry. Let’s examine Denson's Unfinished Rule of Writing: "Be careful what you listen to when you're writing because ding-dong-wassa-wassa-wu-ker-plunk." (I did say it was an unfinished rule.)

My decree does have some exceptions. It does not apply to "tooth-pick writing." That category of scribbling refers to writing that is necessary but not significant: high school and college assignments, faculty senate reports and resolutions, memoranda to colleagues at work, minutes for any organization, and unfortunately most news stories. Several of these are significant in that, if you fail to do them, you don't receive a grade, a degree, a promotion, or another pay-check. You may listen to Spike Jones, Weird Al, or accordion music without harming the prose, although you will lose your immortal soul if any accordions are playing polkas.

If you have done a decent academic paper on vampiric imagery in Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (or maybe “Christabel”), then you may find that the paper is worthwhile to read ten years later. After all, vampires are enjoying a resurgence.

Quick Digression: I have it on good authority that CBS is negotiating with the Erle Stanley Gardner estate to bring back "Perry Mason." Perry will have fangs, dreamy brooding eyes, and a pale complexion. He’s about nineteen, having gone through a dual enrollment program and an accelerated online law degree program from Alucard U. Della Street will be played by a gum-chewing chippie with the weirdest tats. Oh, Perry would practice in night courts.

Is all that true?

Of course, trust me on it. I only lie about really really big things; there's no profit in telling a whopper about a mere TV show.

Where was I and who got me distracted? Ah, yes, we have old academic papers, memoranda, and news articles about most subjects. After a year maybe a few of these are worth re-reading; after a decade or two, it's doubtful if any of them are.

So my reference to music and writing refers to Real Writing: when you and I are attempting to write serious fiction or non-fiction. (Serious writing can include the hilarious Catch-22, fun novels by Robert Parker, or collections of columns or articles by Mark Twain, James Thurber, or Dave Barry.)

You will often find that the best music to listen to while writing is no music at all. In the golden silence of your imagination, your own sensory images may provide the music. Let me quickly refer again to Burton performing "Hamlet." The “Now I am alone” soliloquy resonates like a Bach organ concerto.

I have a series of FIVE unpublished novels about Martin Mowbray*, who is struck by lightning in the early 1900s while assisting an eccentric scientist as a storm comes on. He wakes up to discover that he can see ghosts, except he doesn't know they are ghosts. Other people can't see them, and, in fact, many ghosts can't see other ghosts. One of the series’ defaults is that it’s not healthy to be a ghost. (Think about it.)

For writing the first manuscript (set in 1908 to 1919 or so), I would put on vinyl records of Scott Joplin and "Gaslight Varieties," both of which the characters would have heard. They probably listened to lieder by Schubert, some Gilbert & Sullivan, and early work of Berlin and Gershwin.

When I write about Mowbray and his crew in the mid-1930s to early ‘40s, the rhythms and sounds of Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey get me in the mood. I find that albums that focus solely on the music of Goodman and his small groups (trio to octets) boast a purity similar to Johann Sebastian’s Brandenburg concertos.

When writing anything set in the 1950s to 1970s, I can NOT listen to Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Miss Ella, Vic Damone, Peggy Lee, or Jo Stafford. I also don’t play them while trying to doze off in bed. Why? I have to listen to what they’re saying, and those words will interfere with my words.

A post-script on another aspect of music and writing: Louis Armstrong and other jazz soloists speak of what makes an effective solo. The solo will have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and it will tell a story, in the same way that good prose should “sing.”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: *You are probably thinking, “A future article should be ‘What Kind of Idiot has Five Manuscripts in a Series and Hasn’t Even Sent Them Out to Agents and Editors?’”]

Mary Anna Evans, author of the Faye Longchamp series, will speak to the Florida Sisters in Crime meeting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7. Meetings are held on the first Saturday of the month at the Southeast Regional Library (10599 Deerwood Park Blvd., Jacksonville).

Ms. Evans has degrees in physics and engineering, but her series character, Faye Longchamp, lives the exciting life of an archaeologist.

Her novels have received recognitions including a spot on Voice of Young America's (VOYA) list of "Adult Mysteries with Young Adult Appeal." They have been on the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association's (IMBA) bestseller list and have been designated Notable Books by Booksense and Indiebound. She has won the Florida Historical Society's Patrick D. Smith Florida Literature Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, and a Florida Book Awards Bronze Medal. Her books have been nominated for ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year and for the SIBA Book Award.

Her first published work, her master's thesis, was entitled A Modeling Study of the NH3-NO-O2 Reaction Under the Operating Conditions of a Fluidized Bed Combustor. Like her mysteries, it was a factual page-turner. She turned from engineering to fiction after the birth of her third child, shifting her focus from managing hazardous wastes to preparing balanced meals.

Her interests include music, which has resulted in 7.5 feet of piano dominating her living room, and an arsenal of smaller musical instruments. Her interests in music and writing collided when she was asked to contribute a story and an original song for a book/CD anthology called A Merry Band of Murderers. She co-wrote and sang “Land of the Flowers for that project.” Click here to hear it<>.

Her novels include Artifacts, Relics, Effigies, Findings, and Floodgates. These novels have been written with adults in mind, but they have found an audience in schools, where they have been used to teach non-literature subjects such as social studies, math, and science.

The social studies link was no surprise to the books' author, since her protagonist is an archaeologist, but she swears that she never once purposely included math or science in her stories. She says her readers have never once complained that the laws of physics operate properly in her books. Learning that she has done this unconsciously has been an inarguable example of the axiom that writers write about who they are. They can't help it. Math and science explain the world, so they are indispensable to any story set in that world. And they are very handy tools for an amateur detective to have.

A native of Hattiesburg, Miss., but now a resident of Florida, she is a co-founder and board member of the Anhinga Writers' Studio. The Studio presents an annual summer workshop in Gainesville, providing writing instruction and networking for fiction and nonfiction authors of all levels of experience. Her e-mail address:<> .

For information on the summer workshop, visit<>.

Sisters in Crime is for both women and men who love to read or write mysteries.


First Coast Christian Writers will hear a husband-wife writing/editing team on Thursday, Nov. 5, when Jerry and Bobbi Hanks give their top ten tips about writing.

The FCCW meets from 6:45 to 8:45 p.m. every Thursday in room 513 at Christ's Church, 6045 Greenland Rd., near the Avenues Mall at the intersection of I-95 and 9A South.

The Hankses have more than 80 years of professional writing and editing experience. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and has had extensive newspaper experience in Allentown, Penn.; New York; Jacksonville; Honolulu, and Miami. He also was a writer in the nation’s aerospace program during the years leading up to the successful landing of the first men on the moon.

After that, he helped to form the professional firm of Hanks-Livingston, Inc., which now specializes in professional writing and editing.

She was a professional musician for 25 years before turning what had long been an enjoyable pastime into a full-time career as a writer and editor. She has been the editor of the Florida Restaurateur, the trade publication of the Florida Restaurant Association, and also has been the news bureau manager at FCCJ, now Florida State College of Jacksonville.

Since marrying Jerry, she has devoted even more of her time to professional writing and editing and now also serves as editor of The Voice, the official publication of the Intercultural Cancer Council based at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

A breast cancer survivor herself and the founder of the Bosom Buddies support and education program, she joined with Jerry to co-author “Tears of Joy,” the inspiring story of their life together as a cancer survivor and cancer caregiver.

The FCCW is a chapter of American Christian Writers and the Florida Writers Association. Every meeting includes a speaker and writing critiques for any genre. Visitors 18 and older are always welcome. Dues are $1 per week.


From Amar Toor’s “Classic 'Clue' Board Game Gets a High-Tech Makeover<>” in

Tired of the same old, boring 'Clue' board game? Feel claustrophobic while you wander aimlessly around that old dusty mansion? Have you ever lay awake at night thinking that the only missing ingredient from an otherwise near-perfect storm of a board game was international espionage? Of course you have.

E.W.S. SAYS: Journalistically, the lead paragraph is tooling along just fine: a couple of questions to the reader, plus the use of “you” – nothing to win a Pulitzer, mind you, but promising a good read. Then AARRGH! It asks “have you lay.” Let’s flip it around: “you have lay.” No, no, no, no! “You have LAIN.” Normally Americans in everyday speech and informal writing will use “lay” repeatedly instead of “lain,” and only English teachers will notice. However, when you turn the above construction into a question, the ears of even math and science instructors will perk up because something is wrong.


A reception for Chiche Scaglia-Davis to celebrate her two latest books will be held at the home of Helen Humphreys (1256 Queens Island Ct., Jax 32225) at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14.

The Art of Meditation is a guide to help with both the novice and the veteran on how to help with meditation abilities. Esther's Journey is a historical novel based on real-life events. Both works are published by Roseheart Books in Gainesville and have won multiple state and national awards.

The evening will also include a healing meditation led by the author. Both books will be available for purchase. Call 904.221.6011 to be added to the list of attendees to be admitted to the gated community. The event is open to the public. For more information see the author’s website at<>.

Looks like rain. Should I stay indoors and rake the growing tumbleweeds of cat hair or update the FWA blog? The cat hair can wait, I told myself, and found the inspiration to write a new post NE Florida Writers. Click here to read all about it.

In it you'll find the latest info on our November meetings, upcoming conferences and writing events. Plus I updated the list of RPLA winners from NE Florida. My previous message missed a couple of people, but I think you'll find that they're all here now. If not, let me know and I'll add them to the list. Sorry for missing James Weinsier and Mary Bridgman. Also, it turns out one of the two authors who tied for Book of the Year (Published) honors, Erwin Wunderlich, was one of Lynn Harlin's Shantyboat writers. Erwin lives in Tallahassee.

Don't miss out on any of the exceptional meetings planned for this month. The details are here:

Now, where did I leave that rake? -- Victor DiGenti, FWA Regional Director<> LINKS TO READING STUFF ABOUT WORDS AND WRITING * HISTORICAL THESAURUS IS A MASTERPIECE WORTH WAITING 40 YEARS FOR In a world infatuated with speed, a new thesaurus proves the virtue of patience, says Henry Hitchings in the Daily Telegraph [of London] at


The world has about 5,000 languages, but each year 25 of them die out, says Andrew Robinson in the Oct. 29 issue of New Scientist at A BOOK IN FOUR MONTHS FROM START TO FINISH In “Writing and Velocity,” a plan involving The Daily Beast and the Perseus Book Group would have an author completing his or her manuscript in three months and the publisher having it in print by the end of the fourth month, says Damon Linker in The New Republic (Oct. 25) at NOT ALL HISTORY IS BUNK, BUT THIS IS Writers (and history buffs) should examine an editorial in the Times of London (Oct. 29). What do you know about Richard III, or 1066’s Battle of Hastings, or Nero the fiddler? Not enough, the editorial says at .


Some argue that the British Broadcasting Co. is only proving that variety is the spice of life, but others chastise the network for engaging in unnecessary political correctness to protect tender young minds, says Paul Stokes in London’s Daily Telegraph on Oct. 19 at 70 FACTS YOU PROBABLY DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT MARVEL, SPIDEY, ET AL. When The Godfather author Mario Puzo was given a chance to write scripts for Marvel Comics, he found the task too intimidating, says Owen Vaughan in the Times Online (Oct. 30) at .


I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.

-- Truman Capote



1--Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux (1636), Christopher Brennan (1870), Stephen Crane (1871), Sholem Asch (1880), David Jones (1895), James Kilpatrick (1920); 2--Jules Amédée Barbey D'Aurevilly (1808), Shere Hite (1942); 3--Benvenuto Cellini (1500), William Cullen Bryan (1794); 4--Conte Aleardo Aleardi (1812), Will Rogers (1879), Ciro Alegría (1909);

5--John Brown (1715), James Beattie (1735), Sam Shepard (1943); 6--Colley Cibber (1671), James Jones (1921); 7--Mark Aleksandrovich Aldanov (1889), Albert Camus (1913); 8--Roger de Beauvoir (EugPne Auguste Roger de Bully) (1806), Margaret Mitchell (1900), Kazuo Ishiguto (1954); 9--Mark Akenside (1721), James Schyler (1923), Anne Sexton (1928), Carl Sagan (1934), Roger McGough (1937);

10--Jakob Cats (1577), José Hernádez (1834), Olaf Bull (1883), Vachel Lindsay (1879), Karl Shapiro (1913); 11--Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821), Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836), Winston Churchill, of U.S. (1871), Howard Fast (1914), Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (1922), Carlos Fuentes (1928); 13--Robert Louis Stevenson (1850); 14--Robert Smythe Hichens (1864), Jacob Abbott, P. J. O'Rourke (1955);

15--Marianne Moore (1915), J. G. Ballard (1930), Ted Berrigan (1934); 16--Chinua Achebe (1930); 17--Sigurd Wesley Christiansen (1891), Shelby Foote (1916); 18--Wyndham Lewis (1882), Margaret Atwood (1939); 19--Hjalmar Fredrik Elgerus Bergman (1883), Allen Tate (1899), Sharon Olds (1942);

20--Thomas Chatterton (1752), le doyen Bridel (Philippe Sirice Bridel) (1757), Alistair Cook (1908), Nadine Gordimer (1923), Don DeLillo (1936); 22--George Eliot (1819), André Gide (1869), Endre Ady (1877), Richard Emil Braun (1934); 24--Dale Carnegie (1888), William F. Buckley Jr. (1925), Paul Blackburn (1926);

25--John Bigelow (1817); 26--William Cowper (1731), Mihály Babits (1883), EugPne Ionesco (1909), Charles Schultz (1922), David Poyer (1949); 27--Friedrich Rudolf Ludwig Canitz (1654), Bankim Chandra Chatterji (1838), James Agee (1909); 28--William Blake (1757), Carl Jonas Love Almqvist (1793), Dawn Powell (1897); 29--Louisa May Alcott (1832), Ludwig Anzengruber (1839), C. S. Lewis (1898), Madeleine L'Engle (1918), Kahil Gibran (1922), David Kirby (1944);

30--Jonathan Swift (1667), Mark Twain (1835), Sir Winston Churchill (1874).



First Saturday of each month: 10:30 a.m.; SISTERS IN CRIME at Southeast Regional Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd., Jacksonville FL 32256; Sherry Czerniejewski, president Email<> Every Wednesday: 7 p.m.; BARD SOCIETY; Frank Green 234-8383; Email<> Every Thursday, 6:45 p.m.; FIRST COAST CHRISTIAN WRITERS GROUP; Christ's Church, 6045 Greenland Rd., Room 204, near I-95 & 9A; Email:<> Second Saturday: 2 p.m.; NORTH FLORIDA WRITERS; Webb Wesconnett Library;<> Second and fourth Wednesdays: 6:30 p.m.; MANDARIN WRITERS WORKSHOP; S. Mandarin Library (corner of San Jose and Orange Picker Rd.). Larry Barnes at<>.


President: Margie Sauls (<>)

Vice President: Richard Levine (<>)

Secretary: Kathy Marsh (<>)

Treasurer: Howard Denson (<>)



Membership is $15 for students, $25 for individuals, and $40 for a family. (Make out checks to WRITERS.) Mail your check to WRITERS, c/o Howard Denson, 1511 Pershing Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32205.

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