Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Six Sentence Sundays

Courtesy of Creative Commons


     I went to the drawer in my desk to check on the evidence from the barn to make sure it was still there, it was. My hand brushed against the cell phone, dotted with Roberts’s blood. I shivered and pulled it out, going quietly to the bathroom to clean it up. That’s all I need is for them to find Robert’s blood in my room. My head whirled with thoughts.
     I sat down at the little desk in my room, stared at the phone, and then started to scroll through the call history.



For those new to this, the rules are simple:

1) pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published

2) pick six sentences

3) post ‘em on Sunday

See? Easy. Want to play? See the site for information on how to do just that: http://sixsunday.com

If you have a Twitter account, you can add the hashtag #sixsunday to your tweets when you tweet a link to your Six Sentence Sunday post. If you’re a writer (regardless of published/unpublished status) come join us!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Nothing is Impossible


“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible'!”


― Audrey Hepburn


I’m sure many of you have seen this quote before. When I came across it, I immediately thought about how true this is. Anything that you want is out there waiting for you, if you want it bad enough, and are willing to do the work to achieve it.

We just have to believe in ourselves and keep a positive mental attitude about life and the goals we have set for ourselves.

Believe me; I know how life tends to get in the way sometimes when it comes to working toward your goals and achieving your dreams. That kind of thing happens in my life all the time, little unexpected things to keep you on your toes, or big unexpected things to cause you frustration. Just because that happened, there is no reason to be discouraged.

If you really want to write that novel but just don’t have the time or the experience, don’t let that stop you. You will always find the time somewhere in your schedule to write a few words a day, even if you think there is simply no time and you’re overwhelmed with daily life and other activities. Something else may have to go if you want this bad enough, such as watching TV or networking too much on Facebook, or sleeping. You may have to get up earlier, or go to bed later, to squeeze in that hour of writing time each day.

Don’t worry about having experience either, because that is no excuse not to follow your dreams. Experience will come if you write, write, and write. You will keep moving forward through experience. There are also plenty of helpful people around. These individuals can give you pointers, or give you that pep talk that you may need.

You will never know unless you start and try. Every one of us started out with no experience at anything and we learned along the way. This goes for anything in life, not just writing. If it takes affirmations or positive phrases to get you motivated, there is nothing wrong with that. Post them where you will see them everyday to encourage you on your journey.

Now, if you’re not on your way already and where you want to be, go out and make it your New Year’s resolution to get started on your dreams. It’s never too late to take that first step.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

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     “Of course I know what I’m doing. I’ve kept order here in Hollow Grove for years.”
      “And how many murderers have you caught?” I looked him in the eye.
      He knew I had him; murder was unheard of in this little village. There wasn’t much crime at all, but suddenly that had all changed.


For those new to this, the rules are simple:

1) pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published

2) pick six sentences

3) post ‘em on Sunday

See? Easy. Want to play? See the site for information on how to do just that: http://sixsunday.com

If you have a Twitter account, you can add the hashtag #sixsunday to your tweets when you tweet a link to your Six Sentence Sunday post. If you’re a writer (regardless of published/unpublished status) come join us!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Showing, Not Telling, in Fiction Writing

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We have all heard this “Show, don’t tell.” But how do we apply this in practical terms when it comes to conveying a feeling or thought without exposition?


Right now, I’m really dealing with how to handle this issue with my new novel, which is the first one I’ve tried to write in first person. I’m finding it to be a lot more challenging than the customary third person is.

So far, I have written three novels all in third person. One takes place in medieval times, so there was some research involved even though it’s a fantasy novel. I still wanted it to take the reader back to that time.

People in different eras have different speech and speech patterns than what we use today. This is particularly true if you’re writing historical novels. But, we have to be careful not to try to be too authentic with this speech because today’s readers won’t understand much of what your characters say and you could distract them by your effort to be genuine. I think this is much the case with my Y/A novel about an Irish potato farmer’s son. I didn’t go all out here on the “Irish-speak,” but I probably could have held back a bit and it would have still been okay.

When writing a historical piece it’s probably best to immerse yourself into the society of the period your work is taking place. It’s good to ask yourself, what were the prevailing political, social, and religious viewpoints? How would people express themselves? Were they open about expressing themselves? Be careful not to let modern sensibilities get in the way of what your characters would do. Let the way they really speak and think be available to your readers.

The degree to which your characters express their opinions and ideas, or ponder over them, or the language they use, depends on a few factors:

We all need to keep in mind that people of different generations and backgrounds generally speak differently. The speech of older characters would be distinct from younger ones unless there is an exception, for example, a teenager has switched bodies with an elderly person and is trying to pass visually and vocally as the senior citizen. This of course is an unusual scenario.

In addition, speech and thoughts of well-educated characters would be different from those with less schooling. We must never assume that either of these characters is less intelligent than the other one is, but their vocabulary and level of sophistication will probably differ and we want to show that in our story.

Fiction writing will be more vivid with individual characters that are distinct from one another. It will keep things more like real life. After all, when you look around we are all different. This brings up the question, how does one’s personality affect their words and thoughts? A shy person will definitely think and speak differently than an outgoing one. An uptight, angry character will think and speak differently than a carefree individual.

Another thing to think about is the length of speeches and thoughts. Some one concerned with the deep questions of life would tend to go on about something a lot longer than a child that is speaking. The amount of speech needs to match the character who is speaking. So while we are trying to concentrate on all of this to make the writing a great read, we also have to keep in mind that sentence lengths and paragraphs have differing dramatic effects too. Long passages tend to be soothing, but can get boring if they go too long, while short bursts can create and maintain tension. This last thing is what I’m trying to do in my new novel.

In time, I’ll see how successful I am at doing all of these things.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

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     I’ll figure it out Robert, I hope.

     I quickly covered my tracks, making for the door and my get-away when the slam of a car door caught me off-guard, I flushed, nowhere to hide. My car was in plain sight anyway.
     I composed myself with pepper spray in hand. I took a deep breath and awaited my assailant, crouching down behind a stall wall. I looked out a knothole to see Sheriff Donavan. Oh, crap!



For those new to this, the rules are simple:

1) pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published

2) pick six sentences

3) post ‘em on Sunday

See? Easy. Want to play? See the site for information on how to do just that: http://sixsunday.com

If you have a Twitter account, you can add the hashtag #sixsunday to your tweets when you tweet a link to your Six Sentence Sunday post. If you’re a writer (regardless of published/unpublished status) come join us!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Story Container

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I read about this idea somewhere when I was searching for something else awhile back, as I’m quite fan of Google, finding myself there at least a dozen times every day, or so it seems.


I thought this would be a good thing to share on the blog. As writers, we are always looking for story ideas. The mind, being what it is, takes in things around us even though we don’t realize we’re absorbing this information sometimes. I’m talking about ordinary life here, not something we are deliberately trying to learn.

Whether we realize it or not, we notice things everywhere we go in our daily life, it could be to the coffee shop, market, driving down the highway, as we observe things around us, they stick with us as ideas to call up later, if we are lucky enough to remember everything. As we write, these things will jump out at us, perhaps it’s a conversation we overheard, or the mannerisms of someone we noticed while out. We can use all of this stuff in our writing.

If you’re like me, you may be reading a book, watching a TV show, talking to a neighbor and all of a sudden, a great idea will hit you that will work into a story you’re working on. I keep notepads and scraps of paper all over the house, in my car, in my purse or pocket, etc. that I use for jotting down ideas when these moments strike. Of course, I don’t use all these ideas right away because they are all over the place and won’t fit into the same story, however they are great fodder for future stories, so generally they work their way into a notebook that I keep for writing projects. This notebook is full of ideas and descriptions, bits of dialogue, some of it dating back a few years.

The notebook works, however, I think if it’s a great idea to keep them in a box. You could scramble the box now and then and pull one out to use as a prompt if you are stuck in your writing. This is kind of an intriguing and fun idea, reaching into a grab bag, pulling out a surprise, or even two, and combining them to make a story. If you don’t already have a system like this, here are a few ideas for starting one. You can purchase an inexpensive box, bowl, or pot at any craft store, or perhaps even a dollar store.

Here are places to get ideas for your story box:

*Looking around you, observing people, nature and things

*Talking with people around you

*Dreams

*Asking questions

*Reading

*Looking at pictures

*Watching TV

*Considering your own experiences in life

*Eavesdropping – intentionally or unintentionally

Don’t dismiss any of this because it might not sound like a good idea at the time, but it might be just what you’re looking for later, so jot it down and put it in your box.

Have fun!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

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     I was thinking about turning around when I spotted an old shamble of a structure in the distance, graying boards, falling down. My heart gave a flutter at the sight of the old barn. I sighed. I found it.

     My tires crunched to a stop, I slowly got out, wondering if I should have brought a weapon with me, not that I had one. I wonder if I should get one.


For those new to this, the rules are simple:

1) pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published

2) pick six sentences

3) post ‘em on Sunday

See? Easy. Want to play? See the site for information on how to do just that: http://sixsunday.com

If you have a Twitter account, you can add the hashtag #sixsunday to your tweets when you tweet a link to your Six Sentence Sunday post. If you’re a writer (regardless of published/unpublished status) come join us!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Importance of Persistence


Royalty Free Public Domain

The determination to keep going no matter what  - is what every writer needs. We must never be discouraged because we aren’t making a living by selling our books and articles. Very few writers become this successful. Even today’s big names have had other jobs while they were writing that great novel. We do all have to pay the bills.


Even though writing is a hard business, you have to keep writing and studying and submitting your work. You will only get better at your craft by writing often.

Today we live in an exciting time to be a writer because we are no longer limited to submitting our work to agents and publishing houses. It’s become acceptable to self-publish your books today, so that leaves the door wide open for getting your work in front of the reader. Of course, this easy way of putting your book out there doesn’t excuse you from getting your work edited. We have to do our very best to put forth the best books possible. This means hours and hours of revisions to get it ready for an editor and proofreader to look at. Perhaps this process will take several years, but in the end, you know you did your best.

Indie authors have to try harder to make sure they deliver a good book because many believe it to be unacceptable if it is self-published and doesn’t have that stamp from a big publishing house. Even though self-publishing is looked down on, it is still becoming more mainstream every day. Some people think that an indie book will be poorly written and full of errors, but this is far from true. I have picked up many a book by a big publishing house and found errors in it. In fact, this happens all the time. I have also picked up indie books and found them written well with a charming story between the pages. I think the reader is beginning to realize this.

When setting out to write a book there are some things you can do.

Write, write, and write!

Set yourself a goal of so many words a day and keep at it. If you think about it, and plan and make notes, but never get started, nothing will happen. If you can manage to write 1000 words a day (approx 4 pages), it won’t be long and you’ll have the rough draft of a novel that you can begin rewriting and polishing.

Read as Much as You Can

You should read as much as extra time allows and across several genres. Reading helps you become a better writer. You will begin to notice writing structure, style, flow, and this will help you in your own endeavors. Obviously, this is the easiest way to study and see how other writers write scenes and weave their novels into marvelous tales. You should also read as many books on writing that you can get your hands on. They are full of advice on every issue you might encounter while writing.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you can get in the habit of a daily writing ritual, in a year or two you may have surprised yourself. You may have a couple of novels under your belt by then. With each one, you’ll only get better because your writing skills improve over time. You’ll begin to see things you could have done differently, etc.

So far, I have three self-published novels and I feel like I’ve learned so much since I finished my first one in 2008. Even though it is still my best seller, I feel that if I wrote the book today, I could improve it in so many ways. My feeling is genre makes a difference. I would caution you about picking a genre to write in, but you have to write what you want to write, even when the audience may be smaller.

Things have a way of changing over time, so you never know when, for example, vampire tales won’t be as popular as they are today, another genre replacing it. (No, my first book is not about vampires.) I only use that example because today these books are so popular that they inundate the market.

Don’t Lose Sight of Your Perception

You may be discouraged by the number of writers and books engulfing the marketplace today, but don’t let that bother you. You are a writer too and there is plenty of room for a good writer. Just keep writing and honing your craft. Don’t think too big in the beginning so you won’t be discouraged if you don’t live up to the demands you place on yourself. Instead, set smaller goals and then once you reach them, set more. In the meantime, you are writing and studying about writing. You know what you want and over time, you’ll be able to achieve it if you don’t give up.

Be Persistent

There really is no other choice if you want to succeed as a writer. Don’t ever give up when things start to seem impossible. They are not impossible to achieve, if you really believe in them. Don’t ever let anyone discourage you from your dream. Persistence pays off in every aspect of your life. It just may take awhile.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

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Was any place safe anymore?


This gave her a lot to think about; she decided to keep it to herself for now. She could tell Allie about this later. If she knew her sister, she was in way over her head anyway in another disaster of some kind. At least she hadn’t gotten a call from the jail again, so that was a good thing. Maybe she wasn’t giving her sister enough credit and was too hard on her, but somebody had to do it.


For those new to this, the rules are simple:

1) pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published

2) pick six sentences

3) post ‘em on Sunday

See? Easy. Want to play? See the site for information on how to do just that: http://sixsunday.com

If you have a Twitter account, you can add the hashtag #sixsunday to your tweets when you tweet a link to your Six Sentence Sunday post. If you’re a writer (regardless of published/unpublished status) come join us!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Review - The Neighbors by Ania Ahlborn


Captivating Fast-Paced Thriller
Just Released 11-27-2012


5 stars

This book had me captivated from the start. I was intrigued the moment Andrew Morrison found himself driving down the street toward his new home. It is a new beginning for Andrew, away from his alcoholic, agoraphobic mother. I felt the same hope he does for a new life that he will share with an old friend who’d invited him to room with him.

The neighborhood looks as if it holds the answers to all of Andy’s dreams, not ever having had a normal childhood. The manicured lawns, neatly trimmed shrubs, and white picket fences are only things he’s seen on TV as a child.

He is a bit disappointed to find his new home, with Mickey, will be in the only run down home in the neighborhood, but he puts these thoughts aside. Always looking on the bright side of things, Andy’s spirits lift at the prospect of a new life on his own.

Once inside this true bachelor pad, he goes about scrubbing up the scum and buying furniture for his room from the thrift store.

His first view of the neighbors next-door, Mr. and Mrs. Ward, bring back memories of the Cleavers in “Leave it to Beaver” he’d seen on TV. They epitomized the perfect American family with the perfect house and perfect yard. They never dressed casually, not even for yard work. He couldn’t take his eyes off the fairy tale house.

As time goes on, Harlow and Red Ward became his friends, much to the angst of Mickey, who knows the real story and wants to protect his younger friend, as he’s done most of his life. However, Andy will heed none of his warnings about the Wards, who also have a few choice things to say about Mickey, all for leaving doubts about his life-long friend in Andrew’s mind.

Mickey and Andy eat a lot of fast food, so it isn’t hard for Harlow to get Andrew’s attention with her cooking. Later, Harlow makes a play to seduce the young Andrew, who looks upon her as a mother figure, the kind he wishes he had. Her behavior stuns him and he pulls away, but ultimately forgives her, being a very lonely boy.

By the middle of the book, the story is in full swing leaving the reader with lots of questions. What’s behind the locked door in Mickey’s house, why does Mickey disappear at times and sleep well into the afternoon when he’s home, are the Ward’s as nice as Andrew thinks they are? Something dark brews beneath the surface.

Andrew, having the good heart he has, also feels guilty about leaving his mother alone while he has the good life. He finds himself torn between staying and going back home, but it’s hard to turn down the home-cooked meals and the perfect life of the Wards. Besides Harlow is a lovely lady to look at, always done up perfectly and looking much younger than her age.

There is intrigue at every turn as this mystery begins to unfold, leaving Andrew with some suspicions of his own although he pushes them aside, and reasons with himself that his thoughts are not valid. Eventually, Andy begins to realize that sometimes things are not as they appear to be. As enticing as it looks, perhaps life isn’t any greener on the other side of the fence.

There is a lot of mystery in this well written tale about very twisted characters. It is gory and tense in places, so not for the squeamish reader, but if you love suspense, you’ll love this book. The end is satisfying and heartwarming.



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Six Sentence Sundays

Courtesy of Creative Commons 

      Nestled along the banks of an old twisting river, the quiet little town of Pleasantville seemed to lay untouched by the modern world.
      Sitting off to itself on a side street on the edge of town was the old McNeil mansion, now just a hull of old weathered boards and not at all the place it was in its prime. Most folks in Pleasantville did their best to stay away from it, believing the ghost of Abner haunted it, the last McNeil to live there a century earlier. On some level, these beliefs seemed to be true. What else would cause an old rocker to creak back and forth on its own? The eerie sound was enough to make your hair stand up and prickles to run up and down your spine.



For those new to this, the rules are simple:

1) pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published

2) pick six sentences

3) post ‘em on Sunday

See? Easy. Want to play? See the site for information on how to do just that: http://sixsunday.com

If you have a Twitter account, you can add the hashtag #sixsunday to your tweets when you tweet a link to your Six Sentence Sunday post. If you’re a writer (regardless of published/unpublished status) come join us!



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How Do You Review Books?

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I’m sure we all have our own criteria for writing book reviews. I like to review every book I read and as you know, I’ve been posting some reviews here from time to time, however, I don’t post reviews on my blog for every book I read.


My life has become so busy that I’m not able to read as many books as I would like to, not if I want to finish some of my own that I work on from time to time. However, I still love to read and at one time was reading about sixty-two books a year. Now I’m lucky to get a dozen or two read.

I would like to tell you some of the things I consider when doing my reviews. I have to say first that the title has to get my attention, that and the cover. Then I read the synopsis to see if it’s something that I can get into.

As I’m reading, I look at the following:

1. How long does it take to engage me in the story?

2. Does the story keep me engaged?

3. Are type-o’s, punctuation, and missing words distracting?

4. Does the story flow well and make sense?

5. Does the cover and synopsis accurately reflect the story?

I’m sure all of you look for those same things when reading a book. You know how important it is to engage the reader in the first few pages of the story. I’ve read a few books over the years where things don’t get moving until after the first one hundred pages. It’s very hard to keep reading a book like this.

I’ve also read books where the punctuation has been missing completely, leaving sentences to run together. This is very distracting, hard to figure out where the story is going and what is happening, especially when it comes to dialogue, even if it’s a good story.

I’m making these statements about books published by one of the big publishing houses where a good editor should catch things like this. I’m not talking about self-published books, although you’ll find some of these mistakes in them as well, but usually not to a large degree, at least not in my experience.

When I get ready to review the book, I’m always honest, regardless if I know the author. To glorify anything like this would be a disservice to future readers and to the author, who could benefit from my feedback. I am immediately suspicious if I see a book on Amazon that has too many five star reviews, or all five star reviews. I know these days that it is easy to get friends and family to review books and not leave an honest opinion. This is a red flag to me because, let’s face it, not everyone who reads the book will enjoy it, whether it is a good story or not. That is just human nature. I have no qualms about giving a three star review to a good book, if there are enough other issues that were an annoyance to me while reading.

When reviewing I try to keep it concise, but also give at least a one page review without giving away any spoilers.

Besides the things mentioned above, I also look at:

Presentation: Is the formatting consistent throughout? Are all the paragraphs indented or none at all indented? In other words, does it all match throughout? Is the font size the same throughout and is it easy to read? All of this stuff can be distracting, taking away from a polished manuscript.

Voice: Does the book read naturally and come across as believable? Is the author pushing some agenda, or do they have issues with the subject of the book? An author should keep their views out of a work of fiction.

Organization: How well is the book organized? Is there a good mix of narrative and dialogue? Do the flashbacks detract from the story? They should be smooth so the reader can follow. Narrative should also fit in with the story. I don’t mind back story if it’s done in moderation, but I know there are some readers who hate back story and would rather it be mixed in as dialogue. Does the book have a beginning, middle, and end? I hate books that leave you hanging with no resolution. If the book is part of a sequel, it needs to stop in an appropriate place.

How do the sentences flow? Are words and sentence structure varied, or does the writer use the same words repeatedly? That can really drive you crazy.

What about word choice? I think that sometimes writers tend to use the biggest words they know, so that they sound well educated. Many times simple words can have an amazing impact on the story, or situation. The words selected should be varied and in keeping with each characters personality.

Ideas, plot, and characters: Is there a well-developed and interesting conflict? Are the story and the characters believable? Are there sub-plots going on that could actually happen in real life?

Here are my ratings:

5 stars – Excellent book – Could re-read it many times, always discovering something new. It engaged me from the beginning and kept me there to the end. I would highly recommend it to others. The synopsis is in keeping with the story, as is the cover. If there are any editing issues, they were few and didn’t distract me from the story.

4 stars – Good book – Could recommend it because of the good story. It probably has some issues that aren’t worthy of a five star rating, even if the rest is what I was expecting it to be, which is as advertised.

3 stars – Good book – A good readable story, but perhaps a predictable story with some issues mentioned above that were distracting. I would still recommend the book though probably, if it is as advertised and only needed a quick clean up without a total rewrite.

2 stars – Didn’t like it much and it needs work and wasn’t as advertised. It is probably not engaging with very little action to the story to keep me reading, along with other readability issues. It may have been work to finish it.

1 star – Hated it and it’s unreadable. Loaded with mistakes and couldn’t make heads or tails of the story.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Six Sentence Sundays


      “Yes sir. I’m pretty sure it’s not here,” the rookie replied as he scrabbled on the ground for evidence.
      “Okay, call me when you have it, I’ll be having lunch.”
      “Will do sheriff.”
      Judd Perkins locked the patrol car and went into the diner, taking a seat on a stool at the counter. Stephanie sat alone in a booth in the back, eyeing him before going back to her book and her sandwich. Why does he keep showing up everywhere?



For those new to this, the rules are simple:

1) pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published

2) pick six sentences

3) post ‘em on Sunday

See? Easy. Want to play? See the site for information on how to do just that: http://sixsunday.com

If you have a Twitter account, you can add the hashtag #sixsunday to your tweets when you tweet a link to your Six Sentence Sunday post. If you’re a writer (regardless of published/unpublished status) come join us!



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pebbles and Rocks – Does Anyone Ever Really Notice Them?

Royalty free clip art

We all should but most of us are busy going about our daily lives with nary a look at the scenery that surrounds us. I know that happens a lot where I live. Despite it being home to some of the most gorgeous scenery I’ve ever seen very few pay attention to the views all around them every day.


Rocks can be as large as mountains or as small as the smooth pebbles found in the bottom of a streambed. Trees and shrubs can grow out of the surfaces if there is a well that dirt has filled, giving them a place to take root. These plants survive off rainfall alone because, of course, it is impossible to push your roots through a massive rock.

Rocks, formed into their various sizes and shapes due to the elements and the ages, whether it is wind and water or earthquakes and other natural disasters. They have truly stood for all time, big or small, carved or smooth, and will continue to be part of Earth long after we’re all gone.

I’m sure we’ve all sat on a rock at some time during our lives, whether it was to contemplate some matter, to rest, or even to relax beside a river and fish.

In our youths, we’ve probably thrown smaller rocks at friends playing games that kids will play, or hunted for them in scavenger hunts, painted them for art projects, used them as doorstops, or thrown them into streams to watch the pools of water spiral out, or to see how many times they will skip before sinking.

However, you may ask, what does this have to do with books or writing? Well rocks exist in all genres of writing over the ages. Of course, they abound in history books and westerns, but we also see a lot of them in fantasy and sci-fi books where they take on mysterious elements. Of course, being a fantasy writer, I really like to put my imagination here. Looking out my window, I can imagine all sorts of things in the rocks and ledges in my back yard. Perhaps a completely secret world lives there in the crevices. Not to mention the one small pebble that may have some hidden magical power.

You’ll find rocks in books about family dramas, memoirs, geology books, children’s books, romance, and general fiction, as well as some famous books that have used rocks in scenes.

The next time you see a rock, maybe you’ll think about it differently than you have in the past.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Six Sentence Sundays

Courtesy of Creative Commons

      “I guess I’ll get on with my walk then.” Stephanie pulled her hands off the pickets and got back on the sidewalk.
      “Nothing wrong with my memory, miss. I won’t forget.” Old Dame Tibby moved back to the rug, Stephanie heard the dull thump of the broom as she jogged down the dappled street.
      Large oaks and cottonwoods shaded the sidewalk and part of the pavement, children’s squeals echoing through the boughs, shattering the peaceful morning, reeling in Stephanie’s thoughts.


For those new to this, the rules are simple:


1) pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published

2) pick six sentences

3) post ‘em on Sunday

See? Easy. Want to play? See the site for information on how to do just that: http://sixsunday.com

If you have a Twitter account, you can add the hashtag #sixsunday to your tweets when you tweet a link to your Six Sentence Sunday post. If you’re a writer (regardless of published/unpublished status) come join us!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Creating Memorable Moments in Writing

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It is the significant moments in books or movies, or just about anything else in life, which have lasting effects on us. I bet almost all of us can remember different scenes that have remained in our minds long after we closed the cover of a book, or we left the theater after seeing a film that made an impression on us. I know this happens to me.


The trick is how to make this happen in every scene in your book. It’s much better to start your novel off with a bang instead of a boring scene. You need to jump right into the action with something noteworthy. How can you strengthen the scene to make your words jump off the page? All of us know it is those first few paragraphs that really count. Of course, it would be great to write three hundred pages of material that kept the reader sitting on the edge of their seat. I’m trying to do this with my current WIP. Of course, it is much too soon to see if I’ll accomplish this or not. I am hoping to achieve enough tense moments when it’s all said and done.

The story advances by the characters dialogue and actions in different situations throughout the book, thus revealing things about them and moving the story forward. We get to know how the characters think and feel about the situations that they encounter throughout the story. As the writer, you need to create an incident that will stir things up for your character and get them started on their journey, which might be solving a crime, finding someone they lost years ago, finding the love of their life while tackling other obstacles in the way, rescuing someone or something, etc. You get the idea.

Your protagonist should have the reader engaged after the first chapter. Perhaps the character did something shocking. Maybe the first paragraph included a tear jerking moment, or they were so funny and unpredictable that the reader can’t help but care about them. Remember you can’t draw your reader in with pages of narrative that is all back-story. Something actually needs to be happening to your character. In fact, it is best to reveal any back-story through dialogue between characters. This is hard to do all the way through, but the whole book would read better if we all could refrain from tons of information that we don’t need to put in our stories. Narrative does weigh a story down and dialogue moves it along. If we could all remember that, we’d probably be writing compelling novels. I’m definitely at fault here on the first novel I ever wrote. I don’t think there is a bit of dialogue in the first three chapters and that is unusual for me.

Whatever the plot is, your character needs to encounter challenges from the beginning to the end of the book. There may be times when it looks like things are falling into place for your characters, but that is the time to step in and throw a brick in their path. Memorable moments are ones that catch the reader by surprise when they are anticipating something else. I think I was able to achieve this, even with all the narrative I had going on in the beginning of that first novel.

It is important to get across to the reader the way the characters feel, what they are facing, fearing, desiring. What are they feeling in their heart? Are they frustrated, vulnerable?

Along with this, let’s never forget the value of description, so the reader gets a real sense of place and time along with a sense of character. See, hear, smell, touch, taste all come into play depending on the scene. I’m guilty of this one in a big way. When it comes to description, I probably use it to excess, so beware it is easy to do. My very first writing class taught us how important description is to the story and personally I don’t mind reading books with lots of flowery descriptive phrases, but I know I’m probably an exception in this case.

Each chapter should hold a suspenseful, spellbinding moment that leaves the reader hanging at the end. You may ask how to accomplish this in every chapter. It could be a bit trickier in some genres. I think mysteries would be easy to do this with because think about all the things that can happen to throw things into chaos for the characters in a mystery novel. New evidence could become known, another murder could take place, someone significant could be caught up in shady dealings, people could disappear, the number of things that could happen is really only limited by your imagination. You can accomplish this in other genres as well, if you think it out.

When you look at things this way, you can see how easy it would be to introduce all kinds of issues for your characters to face in any genre. The most important thing is to keep the action coming to the very last page. That will make for a tense fast paced read, or a slower thought provoking one and that’s the best kind.

Remember, if you are ever stumped, just pick out a few novels and read the first few paragraphs. This is a good way to get inspired. You want the reader wondering enough about what will happen to your character to keep reading.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Six Sentence Sundays

Courtesy of Modalt Creative Commons

     A squeak drew her eyes back to the rocker on the porch. She jumped when someone rapped on her window. Stephanie turned around and found herself face to face with a boy about ten.
     “You scared me half to death young man.” She was still shivering.
     “That’s a haunted house. I just thought you should know.” He grinned showing a missing tooth in front. Dust wafted off his tee shirt and brown hair hung in his face.



For those new to this, the rules are simple:

1) pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published

2) pick six sentences

3) post ‘em on Sunday

See? Easy. Want to play? See the site for information on how to do just that: http://sixsunday.com

If you have a Twitter account, you can add the hashtag #sixsunday to your tweets when you tweet a link to your Six Sentence Sunday post. If you’re a writer (regardless of published/unpublished status) come join us!



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How Far Would You Go For Novel Research?

Courtesy Creative Commons

Okay, people here is another wide-open topic that begs the question, what kind of novel are you writing. If an author went all out with wanting to experience first-hand the kind of things that they would be writing about, it could hold serious consequences.


Let’s look at this a moment. If you were writing about romance or erotica and are in a serious, committed relationship, you could be in trouble with your significant other in many ways, not to mention perhaps significant medical problems in today’s times.

If you were writing about murder, you certainly wouldn’t want to be the villain to experience what it feels like to kill another. It would be very unlikely you could also take the role of the detective or police to help solve the crime unless you are retired from that profession, or know someone in the force and could arrange a ride-along to get the feel for police business.

It is almost impossible to put yourself in the spot of a western these days unless by galloping out in the country on a horse and spending the night under the stars would inspire and give you enough of a feel for what the real cowboy was up against in days gone by.

I think we can all forget about experiencing sci-fi first hand. This pretty much goes for fantasy too, unless you happen to be writing about knights and sword battles. You can experience this by taking a fencing class, which is what I did for a sequel I’m writing for one of my books. Of course, this was nothing like wielding a broad sword in full armor, but it did give me a feel for what it was like to have an opponent coming at you with a sword when you had to defend yourself.

I will have to say I was not good at this. I definitely would find myself laid out in the courtyard straightaway had this been for real. But between that and attending a few medieval fairs, where I watched the jousting tournaments and talked with some of the die-hards, I had a good feel for the battle scene I wanted to write.

I really would like to hear your ideas for putting yourself into the action in order to write better.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday


    “I’d be careful around that ole cemetery.” Ed called after her and looked fearful as he turned the keys in the door and then checked the lock by rattling the doorknob.


    “Oh don’t worry about me. I can take care of myself. Thanks again.” Stephanie got in her car and wondered as she drove off what in the world Ed was afraid of.

    As she turned onto Main Street, she saw the sheriff and one of his deputies talking to Betty Sue in the parking lot of the diner. The end of yellow crime scene tape floated in the breeze from its knot on the dumpster.



For those new to this, the rules are simple:

1) pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published

2) pick six sentences

3) post ‘em on Sunday

See? Easy. Want to play? See the site for information on how to do just that: http://sixsunday.com

If you have a Twitter account, you can add the hashtag #sixsunday to your tweets when you tweet a link to your Six Sentence Sunday post. If you’re a writer (regardless of published/unpublished status) come join us!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Imagination Runs Wild in This “What If” Scenario

Courtesy of Creative Commons

My imagination always runs wild. Another blogger posted an article on the subject “what if,” the end of September. I’m always thinking about “what if,” so I decided to weigh in on this. That subject is so wide open. It can take your mind in a thousand different directions. Literally, in your mind, roads run out everywhere across a vast plain, which path will you decide to walk down?


I live in the desert, as many of you know, and outback, behind my house, the desert stretches out with nothing in sight except various native bushes and red sand, but among that the jagged faces of giant cliffs and bluffs rise up. There are numerous nooks and crannies there where owls, ravens, and birds of prey roost, perhaps other things too. However, I always look on that as a magical world – as I write fantasy most of the time – so why not?

The carved rocks intermingle with old black lava flows. Jackrabbits go there to stay the night and then venture out into the desert sand and sagebrush during the day. There is a low spot where tamarack trees grow and they hang out there too because the water supply is abundant, fed by underground springs.

I can imagine all sorts of life going on back there, as animals have a daily routine, just as humans do. It is easy to let your imagination carry you away with thoughts of getting everyone up for breakfast, off to school and such, or gathering the group back together before sunset with their anxious and mournful cries. It leaves me to wonder if the animals also enjoy the cool that evening brings.

There is a large mountain, 10,000 feet high, behind my house, that has a large crevice, and I can imagine that as the entrance to a magical world, abuzz with life in the fairy kingdom, yet just a common rock when looked at by most human eyes, which perhaps don’t even notice it at all. (I’m talking about the crevice – or magical door if you will, not the mountain.)

On another note, you can picture that landscape as it was in the days of the old west, with perhaps Indians lined up on the ridge in all their war gear, as they looked down on the covered wagons below and the brave adventurer’s making camp for the night on their way to greener pastures and new beginnings.

Perhaps a sheriff chased outlaws back there yeas ago, galloping on horseback past all the boulders, their hoofs kicking up the red dirt. Shots fired, as they’d take cover in the hollows of the lava fields.

Alternatively, turn this into a suspense story with a killer on the loose back there, existing in the desert to creep out in the still of the night to do his deed and disappear again before daybreak.

Going in a totally different direction, what if I had never ended up living in the desert, but had stayed in one of the other states I’ve lived in, never gotten married, had a great job or a lousy job, was homeless and living on the street, or residing in a great mansion you only see on TV.

As you can see, the mind can go anywhere on this subject. Where does the phrase “what if” take you?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

Courtesy of Creative Commons

From my WIP

     “Oh, are you still here?” He looked up sounding annoyed that she wasn’t going to let the subject drop.


     “I’m afraid so,” Stephanie said. “You’re warning won’t get rid of me that easily.” She gave him a courteous smile and he finally showed her to a dusty back room where boxes lined the shelves against two walls. A tiny desk and chair sat under a filmy window that was so dirty barely any daylight showed through. It was obvious this room didn’t get much use.

For those new to this, the rules are simple:

1) pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published

2) pick six sentences

3) post ‘em on Sunday

See? Easy. Want to play? See the site for information on how to do just that: http://sixsunday.com

If you have a Twitter account, you can add the hashtag #sixsunday to your tweets when you tweet a link to your Six Sentence Sunday post. If you’re a writer (regardless of published/unpublished status) come join us!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Are You Lacking in Self-Discipline?

This is something that we all struggle with from time to time. When you look at it, a certain amount of discipline goes into just about everything. We won’t accomplish much of anything if we don’t have some sort of control and order in our lives.


I have to admit that I probably suck at this on many levels, although I have more self-discipline than many of the people I personally know, just in different areas. I’ve been trying to be better at this. I’m bad about keeping any kind of schedule unless it revolves around writing. When you don’t live alone, that’s not a good thing.

I will be the first to say that I usually lack the drive to clean the house, or to cook too for that matter. However, I have to do these things once in awhile, so I make myself get started, which is half the battle of accomplishment and discipline. Naturally, I’d rather be writing or doing some other sort of artistic venture.

Being determined will help you to get the job done and I do have a bit of stubbornness that I inherited from dear old dad. That is a great help because to me cleaning is not really stretching my mind or a very exciting task, although I like a clean house. The problem with this is that it never stays that way for long. That’s very discouraging when there are only the two of us and the cats. I won’t even go into all the problems with the garage. That project is one huge waste of time.

Cooking is something I rarely get in the mood to do either, but it is another thing that is there everyday because you have to eat. The thing about this is standing over a hot stove for an hour or so, the meal is gone in a flash and then it’s another hour standing over the sink. Of course, all the while, thoughts are darting in and out of my head that I really feel the need to get down on paper. Usually I’m thinking about escaping to the quiet of my office and away from the TV where politics is blaring out polluting the room. I know this is just one of my issues, but politics 24/7 is excessively much for my blood. I always wonder how all the talking heads do it, but then I have to think about my passion for writing. I suppose they have the same passion.

I wonder if I’m obsessed as people tell me I am. Sometimes I do ponder that, but then I think almost every person out there is obsessed with something. I tend to wind myself up with things and then it’s hard to put them down until the thing is complete, whether this is a writing project or reading a very good book. Even with cleaning, or yard work, I won’t take a break until the job is finished.

I was so interested in a novel series a couple of years ago that I took the books everywhere, even to the kitchen and would read them while I was cooking. These were huge books too – 1000 pages each.

I’m the same way with writing when I’m on a role with a project. I tend to breathe and sleep the thing until it’s finished, taking pen and paper to bed or getting up in the middle of the night to write, surviving on two hours of sleep at a time for weeks. On several occasions, I’ve stayed up three days in one stretch. I don’t know if this is a curse or a good thing. Does anything like this ever happen to any of you? Maybe I just need therapy...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

Royalty Free Pic

From my current WIP

     “Well look what we have here,” his eyes flashed as he held the flashlight on my face.

     “Good evening Sheriff Donavan,” I replied.
    
     “Looks like we caught you red handed this time,” he smirked. “Want to tell me what happened?”
    
     “It’s not what it looks like,” I replied, looking down at my blood-covered clothes.
    
     “Of course not,” his eyes drilled into me as a deputy joined him.

For those new to this, the rules are simple:

1) pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published

2) pick six sentences

3) post ‘em on Sunday

See? Easy. Want to play? See the site for information on how to do just that: http://sixsunday.com

If you have a Twitter account, you can add the hashtag #sixsunday to your tweets when you tweet a link to your Six Sentence Sunday post. If you’re a writer (regardless of published/unpublished status) come join us!