It is with great zest that I end my participation in the A-Z Challenge.
It's been a privilege to have met so many wonderful bloggers.
Now . . . drumroll please.
I want to invite you to visit my blog during May
each weekday I'm going to post something
about the marvelously wild and beautiful state of
Picture from Google Images
I'm glad you asked.
Much of my soon-to-be released novel
is set in that state.
We're going to look at Alaska from A to Z
So please come join the fun!
Then in June I'll have the blog tour for Cold Justice. If you are interested in becoming an influencer and participating on the tour, please leave me your email address, and I'll get in touch.
You might ask: What's an influencer? Influencers help an author promote a book online. Generally they
receive a free copy of the novel to read and then post a kind review of
the novel and/or author interview, the book trailer, and a link to where
people can buy the book. Another
thing about influencers, they help spread the word about your novel on
Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter.
I have a few free copies to send to the first 20 influencers.
When my mother died, we found in her papers her hand-written life story. I learned things about my mother I didn't know before.
She was born at the base of Table Rock Mountain, and my grandfather had to row down the icy Snake River to fetch a midwife. My mother also had rheumatic fever when she was young, which weakened her heart. But that didn't stop her, though it did explain why she suffered two heart attacks later in life.
There were many other interesting details I learned about my mother,
however, it came to an abrupt halt when she wrote about the Teton Dam Disaster. Her last sentence was, "The water is coming." Talk about a cliffhanger. I know she died many years after that, but if I were a stranger I would have thought she'd died in the flood. Shortly after that time my mother's heath began to decline, so I understand why she never finished.
Because of my mother's encouragement, I became a writer. I love writing fiction, making up characters, putting them in danger, and saving them. In reading my mother's life story I came to realize how important it is to write my own life story.
How about you? Have you written your life story? It doesn't matter if you're a writer or not. Your story is what's important, and your family will find it priceless.
Writer Stan Lee created wonderful characters in his X-men comics. What I love about them is how Professor Xavier (cool name) made his Westchester mansion a safe haven for young mutants to learn to use their powers for good. These are wonderful, exciting, and very different characters who have a positive influence on readers. That's something to celebrate.
I must admit I didn't read these comics. And I was slow to warm up to the movies, but when Hugh Jackman starred as Wolverine, I became interested. And I've always liked Patrick Stewart, who played Professor Xavier, since his days as captain on Star Trek the Next Generation
The X-Men Prequel movie was released last year with James McAvoy starring as Professor Xavier. He was fabulous. The movie did a great job of filling in the back story that I didn't know before.
I read a lot of comic books when I was young. But that was long ago.
Now my son has to educate me on what's happening. There's some great stories in those wonderfully illustrated pages.
I have met and known many writers in my life. Some famous, some not. But we all have a common goal: to write the best stories we can.
My favorite writers are members of the critique group I belong to. We've been meeting for many years. Some members have come and gone, but the core group is still working hard.
Roseann, Kathleen, Brenda, Charlene, Dorothy, and I'm the one sitting down.
Here are some of the awesome writers in my life who came to support me when my first book came out. Writers are a different kind of people. For some reason, we're eager to help others learn our craft even though that may mean we're replacing ourselves. Most writers that I know have big hearts and want to share the joy of seeing great stories in print.
I wanted to give a shout out to my critique group, The Wasatch Mountain Fictions Writers. I would never have sold without their help.
Villains with two heads or gaping sores are pretty easy to spot as the bad guys. But villains who occupy some of the most nerve-jarring novels may not be so obvious.
Why is that?
Because the most chilling villains are those who are smart, could be the man next door, have vulnerabilities, strong motivation, are formidable, and their victims are real.
I remember reading a novel by Joyce Carol Oats titled Zombie. This was long before the current craze that has zombies the "in" thing to write about. She had used the term for her villain, who wasn't a zombie as you have come to expect. Oats was able to create a villain with all of the traits above and yet she made the reader feel sympathetic toward him. Not an easy task. However, I must admit I couldn't finish the book because her villain, frankly, unnerved me. I don't want to go into details because I don't want to give anything away, but oh my stars, as a parent I just couldn't handle it.
Believable villains are key to any novel. Just be aware that if your villains are especially bad and devious you might want to hold back for the readers who are faint of heart. You run the risk of them closing the book because they can't take it.
I'm just saying . . . do a good job, but also be sensitive to your target audience and what they will tolerate.
Have you read a novel with a villain that haunted you?
As I write this, Hubby is watching the Sprint Cup STP 400. (This is not a picture of that race, but it's a racetrack.) He has always been a fan of NASCAR and huge fan of cars in general. We have model cars all over the house: stashed in closets, stored in the garage, and even hidden in the rafters. I know if Hubby had the money we'd have a huge garage somewhere full of muscle cars.
I think what he likes about race cars is that he knows when he sits down to watch a race the car that goes around the track the fastest and is in front of the pack when the race is over is the winner. It's pretty simple to understand. Cars that crash or have other troubles lose. The track is crucial in this sport. It's the pathway to victory and the only way to win. The pathway to concise writing, however, isn't quite so clear.
Sometimes topics can become lost or drive off the track. For instance, look at this sentence.
And therefore, for those who love cars, in the Southern states, since they were kids, NASCAR is the ultimate in racing.
The topic is "NASCAR is the ultimate in racing," but it is buried behind three other topics: those who love cars, the South, and since they were kids. Readers like clear topics. Those topics are usually the subject or "player" of the sentence. Here's a clear sentence.
NASCAR is the ultimate in racing especially for those who live in the South and have followed the sport since they were kids.
The topic is front and center. Sentences following can develop other aspects of the topic by delving into why the sport is so popular in the south and how even the very young love racing.
Most readers struggle with long convoluted sentences. They are anxious to find the topic and learn more about it. They want to follow a clear pathway. The goal of a writer is to keep the topic on the racetrack so the reader has an enjoyable time. If the topic becomes hidden and drives off the track, the reader will get lost and the writer will lose them.
Does this mean you have to write boring sentences? Of course, not. But it does mean your sentences need to relate and flow naturally.
Clear sentences may seem too simple for some writers, but a more simple sentence structure will help a story finish on a checkered flag and win over readers.
Okay, so where did I go off track? What's a good rule you use in writing to keep your sentences focused and your topic clear?
Saturday is a very busy day around my house. It starts with a visit to Jenny Craig. I'm only four pounds away from my goal. But last night I ate a small bucket (yes, a bucket **holds head down in shame**) of popcorn at the movies, so I might be further away than that. But it's all good. I plan to meet my goal by the end of May. A slip once in a while is understandable.
Then I'm off to watch my grandson play soccer, another good "S" word. It's so much fun to watch those little guys running up and down the field.
And then . . . I'm back home doing Saturday chores which includes not only housework and yard work, but I'm hopeful to squeeze in some writing time.
I'm a big-time fan of inspirational, romantic-suspense novels. There's nothing like reading a story where guy meets gal and they are drawn to each other, but life-threatening obstacles threaten to keep them apart. They rely on God to help them. And in the end, the hero and heroine get together.
Sometimes when people hear that I write inspirational, romantic suspense, they automatically think I have explicit sex in my novels. I have to draw their attention to the word "inspirational" which means faith in a higher power plays a major role in the story. PLUS there is NO explicit sex and NO swear words. But sometimes it's tough to get that point across.
I remember one day I saw an acquittance with his ninety-year-old mother. He asked how my writing was going. I told him fine. Then he told his mother that I wrote romantic suspense and she said, "I don't read that trash."
I wasn't offended, but I tried to explain that I wrote inspirational, romantic suspense. However, she had made up her mind.
She is not the only one. Even logical-minded people sometimes lump all romance together and think the worst.
How sad that romance has been labeled with such a word. Love is something to be celebrated.
What do you think? Has all romance been labeled with a bad name?
Whether it's to become a great artist, singer, or writer you need to believe in yourself. I've brought this up before on my blog, but it's very important. If you don't believe in yourself you will never fulfill your quest.
I wrote for many, many, many years before I ever saw a story of mine published. Before publication, I worked hard to learn my craft, sat in many painful critique sessions, and received a lot of rejections. And even after having some of my novels published, I still receive rejections. But I have learned that part of reaching my goal is learning from rejection and moving on. AND most importantly, never stop believing in myself.
I have been very fortunate to have had several of my novels published. If I had quit believing in my quest I never would have seen that dream come true.
Do I have other quests? Oh, yes. I'd love to travel more, play a par round of golf, and retire to a log cabin. I'm still working on those.
I love creating people for my stories. From the main character to the person who only appears in one scene these are the people in the world I've built. I love giving them flaws and attributes that make them believable.
I taught a class last weekend at a writers conference where I discussed the interior and exterior of characters: the interior forms character, the exterior reveals character.
For the interior you must build your character's biography from birth to the point your story begins, create context (where he lives, family dynamic, etc.), and set the character's point-of-view (which deals with how he views the world).
The exterior you need to define your character's need; create obstacles; and learn the personal, private, and professional sides of your character.
Personal--the character's outward domestic scene such as martial or single.
Private--what the character does when he/she is alone.
Professional--what your character does for a living.
The people in your story drive your story.
Do you remember a novel with unique people (characters)?
Is this sign obscure? What is it really trying to say? After looking at it for a while, you can tell that it just means there is two way traffic. This is a good example of unintended obscurity. Wouldn't it have been easier to just have a sign that said two-way traffic?
Unintended obscurity in writing is basically the same. A writer in the quest to be descriptive and insightful sometimes writes exactly what they think. Therefore, many times their writing is full of convoluted sentences that are hard to understand.
To avoid this pitfall, always edit your work and weed out unnecessary words. If possible have someone else read it to see if they understand what you're trying to communicate. Another pair of eyes can save you from unintended obscurity.
Now there are times when writers intend to be obscure. Think about legal documents. To me, that style of writing is intended obscurity. It's confusing on purpose, and you need a lawyer to explain what it means.
However, in general, writers need to avoid obscurity and write well-crafted sentences.
Can you think of a fiction writer whose writing is obscure on purpose? Off hand I can think of several, but I want to see if I'm the only one.
I'd planned to write about metadiscourse for my "M" posting. Don't yawn. It's really an interesting topic. However, a good friend (thank you, Christina) sent me a link to a very interesting article in the New York Times. It has to do with how your mind processes words.
This is so cool. Brain scans have shown that when detailed descriptions, an evocative metaphor, or an emotional exchange is read our brains are stimulated.
Now wait a minute. I know that some of you are saying, "No duh. That's why romances are so popular."
Wait for it . . .
This article says that our minds process words that make us think about smells and brings about a response not only from our language processing area, but also those dealing with smell. But that's not all.
Words that describe motion also stimulate areas of the brain. This supports the premise that it's important to use active verbs that create an image such as: grasped and kicked.
Another very interesting find was that ". . . . the brain does not make a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life." Isn't that fascinating? That only goes to show how important good, solid writing is in terms of connecting with our readers.
If you're interested in making your writing stronger and come to life, you should read this article.
Okay, what author do you think uses great descriptions and active verbs that really draws in readers?
We're going to go where no man, no person, human has gone before . . . well actually, that's no true either, BUT . . .
Everyone knows Mr. Spock is the king of logic. Logic can be cold and unfeeling, but for the writer logic can be your best friend especially as you're creating characters.
Creating believable characters is grounded in doing your homework. You must create your characters biographies, know them inside and out (from what toothpaste they use, what clothes they wear and even their political leanings), and give them context. So like Mr. Spock, your characters will act logically within the parameters you've set.
HOWEVER sometimes the most interesting characters are illogical. What causes illogical action? I believe the culprit is emotion and its many forms.
I'm going to refer to another logicalStar Trek character . . .
Mr. Data. He was a robot, but he was constantly perplexed by humans and tried his best to understand the sometimes illogical actions of those around him. I remember the story when he was given emotions and he suddenly understood jokes, fell in love, and felt jealousy. All at once he understood illogical/logical humans around him a bit more.
Even though emotions may make your character act illogically, you still have to layer his motivation with logic. Yes, it's a vicious circle in which logic must ground illogical actions. But this is something I believe even Mr. Spock came to appreciate.
Every once in a while Spock would have a moment when he stepped out of character and would do something totally illogical, but always for a good (logical) reason. And those moments were priceless.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is your characters need to have sound logic in their motivations, but if illogical actions are called for make certain you've laid the a logical foundation for those actions. Sounds contradictory, but it really isn't.
Share with me a character that you have read or seen in the movies or on TV that was very logical, but all of a sudden did something very illogical.
What is kismet? The definition from Merriam-Webster.com simply says -- fate.
The example they use is:
He always said that it was kismet that they met at a showing of their favorite movie.
I love stories with kismet in them. Especially when it has to do with romance. I guess that's because I love the idea that people are meant to be together.
Some fun movies where kismet really made the show were . . .
Just Like Heaven. David Abbot rents an apartment, but while living there this woman appears and tells him to get out. It doesn't take him long to figure out that she's a spirit. He thinks she's haunting the place, but as the course of the story grows, he comes to understand he's very wrong. He is really the only person who can help her with her problem. I'm not going to ruin it for you, but kismet comes into play.
Sleepless in Seattle, an oldie but a goodie, relies heavily on kismet as the couple is brought together because Annie Reed hears Sam Baldwin's son on the radio, and she is inexplicably drawn to the child's story and his father. They finally meet at the end of the movie by . . . kismet.
While You Were Sleeping is a wonderful tale of two people thrown together by one misunderstanding after another. I'd call that kismet.
Here's my question for you. What novel do you think used kismet to bring the main characters together? If you can't think of a novel, how about a movie?
What does the name Johnson have to do with writing? Well, hang on a minute and watch the following clip. It's only 38 seconds. You can do it.
The point is, a name means a lot! A name identifies who you are.
A name does even more in fiction. There are undertones with a name that not only identifies the character but also says a great deal about what the character does. Really. Think about Hawkeye in Mash.
Sure he said his father named him after a famous Native American, but the writer who created him named him "Hawkeye" not only because of his profession as a surgeon (wouldn't you like a surgeon named Hawkeye operating on you?), but also his keen wit and foresight.
Another thing an author needs to think over while naming characters is sound and the exact meaning of the name. What kind of character do you see when you hear the name Voldemort? J.K. Rowling knew what she was doing naming her villain with sharp sounds. Also Vol de mort means "flight of death" in French.
Now think of the name Hope? Or Sunshine? You have a completely different image and feeling.
Names are a big deal and like the fellow in the video says, you don't have to call me [or your character] Johnson (though Johnson is a great name, don't get me wrong).
What character do you recall who's name had duel meanings and really represented the character as a whole?
Is it what they say? How they say it? Or is it what they do and how they do it that makes them interesting?
I think it's a combination of many things. That's what makes people in our lives interesting and our writing should reflect life. Right?
Here's a couple of story characters that I've found very interesting:
Anne Shirley was a wonderful character, very complex and lovable. My heart went out to her when I learned that she talked to her reflection in the window. And her love for stories and words were very endearing to me as a writer.
Another interesting character was . . .
Darth Vader. I know he was a villain, a very bad villain, but in the end he sacrificed himself for his son. He finally realized the mistakes he'd made and tried to redeem himself.
Okay, your turn. Who are some of the interesting characters you like?
I know you've heard of hobgoblins. But have you heard about some of the hobgoblins in English usage? Well, they're out there. And people use them all the time. Some English scholars turn their noses up when they read them, pointing them out as incorrect usage. But what those scholarly folks may not realize is -- English usage has changed.
I'm going to use the book, Style: Ten lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams, as my guide.
Here are a few English usage hobgoblins:
Never use "like" for "as" or "as if."
Like evolved into a subordinating conjunction in the eighteenth century when some writers began to drop as from the phrase "like as," leaving just "like" to serve as the conjunction. This dropping of an element is called "elision" and is a common linguistic change. Use "hopefully" only when the subject of the sentence in fact feels hopeful.
This rule is so entrenched in the thinking of some that it is impossible to convince them by mere reason and evidence that it has no basis in logic or grammar.
It's wrong to use it in the following case. Hopefully, the matter will be resolved soon.
But when you use it in cases where you mean "I am hopeful" it's perfectly all right such as in this case. Hopefully, it will not rain.
Never use finalize to mean "finish" or "complete."
Here's the deal, to finalize means to clean up every last detail, which is different from finish. You can finish without getting everything done.
These are just a few. Do you have know of some other English usage hobgoblins?
On the rare occasion that I post a book review, it's because I liked the book. Sometimes authors send me their novels and sometimes I buy a novel to review. But if I don't like it, I won't review it. I do not receive any compensation for my reviews.