Friday, February 27, 2015

Somatic Yoga for Seniors and Writers

Try this gentle exercise to free the muscles surrounding your spine. The result is that you will increase your flexibility, improve your posture, and flush out toxins stored in your muscles so that you can maintain radiant health. Perfect for writers!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wrules to Liv By


1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)
6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7. Be more or less specific.
8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
10. No sentence fragments.
11. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.
12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
14. One should NEVER generalize.
15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
16. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
17. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
18. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
19. The passive voice is to be ignored.
20. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
21. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
22. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
23. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth-shaking ideas.
24. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
25. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.
26. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
27. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
28. Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
29. Who needs rhetorical questions?
30. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
31. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

Author brilliant and, alas, anonymous. Copy this one and post it over your desk.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Money! Money! Money!

The pull is strong. We need more money. We want to be rich and famous, emphasis on rich.  Sometimes I joke that I will do anything for a dollar, but it is just a joke. Honest. Even though I have been tempted to join in the financial success of writers who have embraced the erotica genre, I have not stepped over an ethical line I hold dear.

That line has to do with our responsibility as writers as to what we are contributing to society by what we write.

What prompted this post is the lively discussion online about Fifty Shades of Grey ,and the messages that story gives to young people. I tried to read the book, but I couldn't get past the fact that Grey was an abuser and took advantage of Ana, a vulnerable insecure woman. Instead of empowering her, he overpowers her. Is that the kind of man we want our sons to emulate? I'd rather they become the kind of men that Terry Odell featured here in her post about heroes on Thursday.

Some people are dismissing the social impact of Fifty Shades of Grey by saying it is just fantasy, fiction, not to be taken seriously. Actually, folks, fiction is taken seriously and does have more impact than we might think. Here is what Kristen Lamb had to say in her post Does Fiction Matter? Fiction, Fantasy and Social Change :
To assert that any book that’s sold that many copies is just a story, in my POV, is naive and ignores almost all of human history. Societies have always been defined and redefined by its stories. Fiction IS NOT INERT. Why do you think dictators shoot the writers and burn the books first?
To claim that fiction is mere fantasy is to ignore the impact of every transformative work ever written. “A Christmas Carol” was not merely a sweet tale of a redeemed miser at Christmas.
It was a scathing piece of literature that eventually led to the establishment of children’s rights advocacy organizations and protection for children in the legal system (and also impacted the treatment of the poor and infirm).
During the time Dickens wrote this, children were considered property. The government regularly imprisoned and hanged small children, many of whom were orphans, for relatively small offenses from vagrancy to begging to petty theft.
In the early 90s I wrote a book about violence for a series Rosen Publishing was doing called “Coping With”. The books are aimed for teens to help them deal with social issues they face, and one of my books is Coping With Weapons and Violence in School and on Your Streets.  The first edition came out before Columbine, and the book has been revised twice since, as school violence and mass shootings continue to escalate.

During my initial research, I interviewed a criminology professor, and he pointed out the influence of all the violence kids are exposed to through film and television. As an example, he said there was a real danger of kids being desensitized to death and murder and violence after watching slasher film after slasher film. He believed that a young person who was immersed in violent games and movies could too easily begin to see that violence as normal.

To me, what that professor said back then is no different from the cautions being spoken today by people who are concerned about the messages in stories like Fifty Shades.

I am certainly not calling for censorship. We do have the right to free speech and free expression, and if you want to read, and write, erotica, that is your choice. What I am suggesting is that you consider that with the right to free speech, comes an ethical responsibility.  I join Kristen Lamb in encouraging writers to "Appreciate and RESPECT the power of art. Handle with care."

Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, screenwriter, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent mystery, Doubletake, was chosen as the Best Mystery for 2015 by the Texas Association of Authors. She also writes the critically acclaimed Seasons Mystery Series. All of her books are available as e-books and as paperbacks, and a complete listing can be found on the books page of her website. For information about her editing services, visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What's Your Answer? Today's Topic Is Social Media

Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn Addthis

We haven't played this game in a while, so it's time to start it up again. I present a topic, ask some questions, and offer my answers. You pick one or more questions to also answer. If you only choose one, please expand. If more, please shorten. You're allowed to include one website URL or blog link of your own. Okay, here goes:

Which social media sites do you visit? (not including blogs or Yahoo groups)
In the order of how often I visit them: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus, and Goodreads.

Which do you find most relaxing?
Hands down, that would be Pinterest. I can't resist all the pretty pictures. I wish I had more time to play there. 

Which do you find most stressful?
Facebook is definitely the most stressful. People are not bashful about expressing opinions there, which don't always coincide with mine. Trying to offer a differing opinion, even politely, gets me into trouble, so I don't try too often.  LinkedIn and Goodreads are mildly stressful, but for a different reason. I tend to muddle along on them, because I haven't completely figured them out.

Which do you find most useful to sell or find a book:
Posting an Event on Facebook helps during a promotion, which can spur sales afterward. However, regular posting on Twitter works best for me. When I'm looking for a book, I find plenty likely choices by visiting Facebook groups.

Now, it's your turn. Please offer your answers in the comment section.

Experience the diversity and versatility of Morgan Mandel. Romantic Comedies: Her Handyman, its sequel, A Perfect Angelstandalone reality show romance; Girl of My Dreams.  Thriller: Forever Young: Blessing or Curse,its sequel: the Blessing or Curse CollectionRomantic suspense: Killer CareerMystery:Two Wrongs. Short  and Sweet   Romance: Christmas   Carol.  Twitter:@MorganMandel Websites: Morgan Mandel.Com    Morgan Does Chick Lit.Com.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Are You Limiting Yourself?

Photo by Peter Dutton, via Flickr
When it comes to fiction, rules and limits almost always inspire me. And I’m not talking about grammar rules.

My first manuscripts were crime novels written for adults, and I wrote without restriction, free to pepper my dialogue with swear words exactly as I heard them spray from my characters’ mouths.

Then I rediscovered tween/teen and young adult fiction. And, before I knew it, a bubbly teenager stepped into my writer’s brain and rattled off a fantastic story I couldn’t wait to get down on screen. But I’d have to curb the curses if I was writing a book for kids. Easy enough, surely? Except, sixteen-year-old boys don’t go around saying “drat” and “darn” when something goes wrong. It was an interesting writing challenge to imply, but not actually specify, strong language.

Another (self-imposed) limit was that none of the main characters could die. Again, it sounds simple enough – but it removes a lot of easy tension and conflict. More creative writing followed.

This year I have a new challenge. My chosen genre is Steampunk. Setting: Victorian England. That means researching the time period and checking even the smallest detail – would X have been possible/plausible in Victorian times? And the science part of the fiction needs to centre around clockwork or steam power. My mind absolutely churns with the plot possibilities offered by such specific limits.

Because, when you eliminate a vast number of options, you’re left with highly concentrated material to work with. And there’s nothing like concentration to sharpen your focus and stimulate your creative plotting.

Have you tried limiting yourself?

Elle Carter Neal is the author of Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin, a science-fantasy for tweens and teens. She blogs about the craft of writing at

Friday, February 20, 2015

First Paragraphs : Punch It!

Image by Jason Rogers, via Flickr
When it comes to attracting readers in a book shop, there are four factors in play. The first three are external: your title, the cover art, and the blurb on the back. In conventional book publishing, command decisions concerning these external aspects of the book are generally dictated by people in the marketing department of the publishing firm.1

The remaining fourth factor is the book’s opening paragraph. Here is where you-the-author come into your own. Your first paragraph of your first chapter is what gives a prospective reader the first real taste of what the book is about. It’s important to be aware of this, and not squander the opportunity to captivate the prospective book-buyer and clinch a sale.

Anybody can come up with a prosaic first paragraph. There’s no great effort of thought involved, and the results are often about as interesting as reading an office memo. It takes imagination to rise above the purely functional. The dedicated fiction writer looks for an attention-getting device to kick the story off in style.

Below is a list of suggested opening gambits, with examples.

1. Lead off with a direct quotation.
“Lymond is back.”
It was known soon after the Sea-Catte reached Scotland from Campvere with an illicit cargo and a man she should not have carried.
“Lymond is in Scotland.”
Dorothy Dunnet, The Game of Kings

2. Lead off with a target description of a person, place, or thing:
Hosteen Joseph Joe…[had] noticed the green car just as he came out of the Shiprock Economy Wash-O-Mat. The red light of sundown reflected from its windshield. Above the line of yellow cottonwoods along the San Juan River the shape of Shiprock was blue-black and ragged against the glow. The car looked brand new and it was rolling slowly across the gravel, the driver leaning out the window just a little. The driver had yelled at Joseph Joe.
Tony Hillerman, The Ghost Way

3. Confront the reader with a mysterious or frightening occurrence.
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited.
Daphne DuMaurier: Rebecca

4. Present the reader with a piece of action already in progress.
Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening Hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen. The three great tables that ran the length of the Hall were laid already, the silver and the glass catching what little light there was, and the long benches were pulled out ready for the guests. Portraits of former Masters hung high up in the gloom along the walls….
Philip Pullman, Northern Lights

5. Lead off with a provocative statement, observation, or revelation.
It was the day my grandmother exploded.2 I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach’s Mass in B minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach.
Iain Banks: The Crow Road

Each of these sample opening paragraphs is tightly focused on one conspicuous point of reference: a character (Lymond, Lyra), an object (a car), a place (Manderley) or a singular incident (grandmother exploding).

Each features concrete sensory and/or descriptive details: the name of a ship; specific landscape features; the layout of a particular room/estate; a particular piece of music. Details like this bring the story to life from the outset.

1 Unless you are in the same sales category as Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, you will have very little influence in these areas.

2 Maybe it’s just my warped sense of humor, but this counts as one of the most striking opening lines I’ve come across in recent years!

Debby Harris is an independent editor living in Scotland. Please visit her website for more information about her editing services and fees.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

What Makes a Hero?

As a writer of romance, the ideal "hero" is something I deal with constantly. Brave, strong, good-looking, right? Not necessarily.

I first saw a reference to the following article in Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels, by Sarah Wendell.

An article in the Boston Globe in October 2009 by oncologist Robin Schoenthaler stated "the ideal man … is the man who will hold your purse in the cancer clinic:”

Dr. Schoenthaler wrote:
I became acquainted with what I’ve come to call great ‘purse partners’ at a cancer clinic in Waltham. Every day these husbands drove their wives in for their radiation treatments, and every day these couples sat side by side in the waiting room, without much fuss and without much chitchat. Each wife, when her name was called, would stand, take a breath, and hand her purse over to her husband. Then she’d disappear into the recesses of the radiation room, leaving behind a stony-faced man holding what was typically a white vinyl pocketbook. On his lap.

The guy—usually retired from the trades, a grandfather a dozen times over, a Sox fan since date of conception—sat there silently with that purse. He didn’t read, he didn’t talk, he just sat there with the knowledge that twenty feet away technologists were preparing to program an unimaginably complicated X-ray machine and aim it at the mother of his kids. I’d walk by and catch him staring into space, holding hard onto the pocketbook, his big gnarled knuckles clamped around the clasp, and think, “What a prince.”
Who's your hero?

Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She's the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.


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