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Showing posts from February, 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!

Wrules to Liv By

SELEKTED RITING WRULES: 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, th

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 impac

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

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 Goodr

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 creati

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. T

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 whit

Major Surgery

Image by Artur Bergman , via Flickr Before I talk about specifics, let me mention that this particular book I’m talking about was written ten years ago. Resurrecting an old manuscript has its own set of problems, but those tend to be technology and history. Oh, and let’s not forget the quality of writing. The operation I needed to perform was much more complicated. I’ve written all my books in third person point of view, but toward the middle of my current work in progress, my critique partner kept telling me that my heroine was standing on the sidelines, without much emotion. A cardboard character. No matter what I did, I got the same response from her with each page swap. I always have multiple POVs―four in this book―which is the reason first person never worked for me, except for two short stories I wrote for different anthologies. Was writing this one character in first person the solution to my problem? What about the other three POVs? Before I tested the POV switch, I c

Judgments and Judgment Calls

Merciful heavens, it snowed again last night. I suppose it might be possible to view such an event in one of two ways. Egad, more dad-blasted snow on top of an inch of sleet? Or, perhaps, Oh, how pretty! And much less than the forecast called for; aren't we lucky? A mighty force is the attitude, as is the adjective. How a person, place, or thing is presented can have lasting impact on the mind of the reader; the power can be used for good or ill. Consider the coat that I spied last week, pieced together from what appeared to be upholstery leftovers. I could tell you that it was a cabbage rose-printed nightmare direct from the diseased imaginings of a demented seamstress . On the other hand, I could also say that it was an eye-catching design that made clever use of found fabric. You see? Our descriptions have power. A wise author will choose the most important detail as a focal point, letting the rest flow from there. The CMOS warns against using any language that m

Misty Trees and Other Decisions

When I recently self-published my haiku books, I had to make many decisions that weren’t word-related. Like the cover designs for the books. I worked with Cathy Davis who I already knew to be an outstanding designer because she designed the covers and interiors for some of my clients’ books. First, Cathy and I, plus my VAA Janica Smith , spent half an hour on the phone talking about the general plans for the book. Because this was not just one book, but a series of seven, Cathy suggested that they all have commonality of design and color, yet could stand alone as individuals. Yes, that’s it, I said. Then Cathy emailed me a bunch of very detailed questions about my vision for the books, what I wanted readers to feel or know by reading them, what colors or images came to my mind when I thought about my books, and other great questions that made me think. I answered her questions as best I could. I said that haiku can be deceptively simple, deceptively plain, understate

Love It All

What do you find fun about writing? Getting to know characters? Watching them extricate themselves from traps that disrupt their journeys? Letting their stories roll off fingertips that race to keep pace with mental images playing in the mind? Editing? Proofreading? Cover design? Layout? Publishing? Printing? Marketing? Courtesy of Godserv at An introvert by nature and a true wimp when it comes to selling my wares, I love the writing part, the developing part, the watching-them-grow part. I can do basic cover and interior design (not to be confused with or used in place of expert design). Nit-picky beta readers top my list of “go-tos.” Courtesy of click at However, lack of marketing skills, the weakest link in my writing chain, have regularly rained on my promotional parades. In the past, absence of stunning covers has diminished the face value of my books. I don’t want to be “a jack of all literary trades and master of none.” I love writing—

When the Metaphor Becomes the Story

Photo by Cara Lopez Lee When I can’t find a way into a story, sometimes I write another story to crack it open. One becomes a metaphor for the other, and the two bounce off each other, creating a third story. I discovered the value of this while helping my teenage sister with an essay for her college English class. She was supposed to create a metaphor that described her and then write about herself. She wrote a metaphor about being a seashell that adapts to changing tides. Then she got stuck. When we say our minds are blank, it’s often because we’re thinking too hard. The most creative writing comes from our subconscious, where we do more dreaming than thinking. I get my best ideas by dreaming them onto the page. Sometimes I have to trick my brain into doing that. That’s where telling another story comes in. Dreams are metaphors: I may dream I’m a waitress working alone in a restaurant full of angry customers because in reality people are asking too much of me. Stories a

Fun for Valentine's Day

Hello dear readers and welcome to another day of frivolity. Since Valentine's Day is swiftly approaching, I thought we could have some fun with love and cupid and all that.    First, this joke from : Mike walked into a post office just before Valentine's day, and he couldn't help noticing a middle-aged, balding man standing in a corner sticking "Love" stamps on bright pink envelopes with hearts all over them. Then the man got out a bottle of perfume from his pocket and started spraying scent over the envelopes. By now Mike's curiosity had gotten the better of him, and so he asked the man why he was sending all those cards. The man replied, "I'm sending out 500 Valentine cards signed, 'Guess who?'" "But why?" asked Mike. "I'm a divorce lawyer," the man replied. The following are a random sampling of funny, and serious, quotes one can find on the Internet. "My boyfriend told me I

Sex v. Romance

Regency Wedding, image by Louish Pixel, via Flickr I was once interviewed by a local newspaper reporter who asked me why, as a romance writer (a species he all too obviously despised), I didn’t write sex scenes. Not expecting the question, I gave a snappy answer off the top of my head: “I’d rather do it than write about it.” Naturally that was the only thing I said that he quoted accurately. A more thoughtful answer would have been: To me, romance is getting to know each other, falling in love. Going to bed is the end product, the culmination, not part of the process. As it comes after discoveries, difficulties overcome, and in fiction the author’s efforts to keep lovers apart for 75,000 words or so, it’s an unnecessary coda to the story. After all, as a neighbour of mine said, we all know what happens after they close the bedroom door. Maybe my attitude is old-fashioned, but my historical setting encouraged my view. Zeitgeist strikes again! In Regency times, contraceptio

Create a Distraction-Free Writing Environment with FORCEdraft

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Pinterest. Email. The list goes on with "busy work" we often do on the computer that keeps us away from writing. If you need a distraction-free writing environment that will keep you focusing on your latest story, you should give FORCEdraft a try. FORCEdraft is a text editor that blocks everything on your computer while you write. And I do mean EVERYTHING. Here are some snapshots of the initial pages once you click into FORCEdraft. FYI, these are pictures from my phone because you can't do print screen while in FORCEdraft. They did say they block EVERYTHING. Take a deep breath, and dive in. On this page, you can title your document and choose the parameters for blocking the computer. The menacing white page. When you click on FORCEdraft at the top of the screen, you'll be alerted to whether you are done (and are able to save and exit), or you have more writing to do. My short, sweet opinion on

The Rules of Romance

I’m not sure why, but the genre of Romance tends to be an easy target for people who want to shoot down a particular genre. I’ve heard so much abuse of the genre for being cliché, escapist, unrealistic, and second-rate. Of course, the thing that makes me shake my head at the folks who throw that mud is that, as a genre, it’s supposed to be escapist, idealistic, and hopeful. That’s why Romance is routinely one of the highest-selling genres. So let’s embrace Romance as a genre. What do you need to know to join the ranks of those of us who can’t seem to write without writing a love story? What exactly is a Romance novel? According to the Romance Writers of America , a book qualifies for the Romance genre if it contains two things. Yep, just two things, and I quote (from the RWA website): “Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.” Having a central love story means that the crux of the plot revolves aro

Bad Romance

February is the month of Valentines and romance. In keeping with our KISS theme (keep it short and simple), here is a short list of malignant memes about love that are perpetuated through modern storytelling. 1. My love will heal you syndrome. Love cannot cure dysfunctional behavior. You can love someone through their recovery, but the journey is theirs to undertake. If the character is severely dysfunctional and verbally, physically, or emotionally abusive, your hero/heroine should run, not marry them. 2. The Eeyore syndrome, or “Thanks for noticing me.” Your hero/heroine’s self-worth should not be based on who pays attention to them. Let’s model heroes and heroines with intact self-esteem: no more doormats. 3. The Jessica Rabbit Syndrome Your heroine does not have to have large breasts and wear stiletto heels to be sexy. Your hero does not have to have six-pack abs and a seven figure bank account. Sexy is confidence, humor, and a good character. Those

10 Things to Love About Being a Writer

10. You’re able to work in your pyjamas. I don’t, but I gather others do. Pyjama on, my friends. Go bravely into the flannel.  9. You don’t have an office job. But you do, really. If you don’t think of writing as a job (pyjamas or not), you’ll never get anywhere. Those manuscripts don’t write themselves. There’s no app for that.  8. You don’t have to make polite conversations with your co-workers. Although I consider ‘liking’ people’s posts on Facebook as the equivalent.  7. You HAVE no co-workers. Usually. But partnerships happen. Rejoice in the real-person contact. Compare and contrast your pyjama pants.  6. Lunch time is at your discretion. As is its content.  5. And duration.   4. You can (occasionally) receive praise for your writing from strangers. This means far more than praise from people you know. Odd, but true.   3. The best praise is royalties. Best, best, best. Yes, I know people say it’s not about the money. I disagree. Money is never a bad thing.

Want Romance?

My personal preference is to read and write novels with some sort of romantic element. Romance doesn't necessarily need to be the main focus, but I want it in there somewhere. Its presence seems to round out a novel, offering a certain warmth which otherwise is lacking. Still, if I really enjoy an author's writing style, I'll veer from my usual preference. Way too many years ago, back in high school, I got hooked on Dick Francis novels, though at the time I was mainly into Gothic romances. His books were an exception, since I enjoyed his humorous way with words. It appears that many other authors and film makers have similar tastes as mine. Even in the most suspenseful plots, romance seems to pop up somewhere along the line. I'm guessing that's one reason why Gone Girl has done so well in book and film sales.  Find these and more of Morgan Mandel's books at What about you? Does it matter to you whethe