Friday, October 31, 2014

Horrible History: Lindesfarne

If a warrior comes knocking on your door this weekend should you let him in?
Only if he's wearing horns . . .


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Less is More

A Stephen King novel is about 100,000 words or so. Yeah, he's the king of fright all right, but that doesn't mean you need to use thousands of words to evoke emotion in your reader. More doesn't always mean better. Sometimes a few carefully chosen sentences can do the trick. Here are some creepy examples . . . 

I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, “Daddy check for monsters under my bed.” I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, “Daddy there’s somebody on my bed.”
 ~ Juan J Ruiz

The grinning face stared at me from the darkness beyond my bedroom window. I live on the 14th floor.
~ bentreflection

Working the night shift alone tonight. There is a face in the cellar staring at the security camera.
~ hctet

You start to drift off into a comfortable sleep when you hear your name being whispered. You live alone.
~ anonymous_abc

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door.
~ Scry67

You hear your mom calling you into the kitchen. As you are heading down the stairs you hear a whisper from the closet saying “Don’t go down there honey, I heard it too.”
~ comparativelysane

So, which one creeped you out the most? As a mom, I'm going with the last one. This works for other genres, though, as well. Ernest Hemingway penned a six word dramatic story that's stuck with me for decades . . .

For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.

The point is if you choose your words wisely, you cut straight to a reader's heart. That should be the bullseye for every writer.

If you'd like to read more or are game to try your hand at a few of your own, check out Two Sentence Stories. Their submission guidelines are here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

#Waterstones

Did you hear about the Texas guy who got locked in a London bookstore and Tweeted to get rescued? Seriously? WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT TO BE RESCUED FROM A BOOKSTORE?! YES, I AM SHOUTING!

Sheesh. That's like updating your Facebook status, asking to get let out of heaven.

Getting locked in a bookstore is a dream come true. Just think of what you could do all night, surrounded by shelves upon shelves of books. You could:

  • Binge read
  • Rearrange books so that the ones you like best are the most easily seen
  • Stack books into a mega kind of card house or a whopper of a book fort 
  • Learn some new moves in the dance section or take up martial arts with an illustrated how-to
  • Collect dinner ideas in the cooking section
  • Figure out how to pick a lock from a book on the I-wanna-be-a-criminal shelf
  • Become an expert juggler or origami whiz

And those are just a few ideas off the top of my head. The one thing I wouldn't do is call in the mounties for a rescue.

But that's what David Willis did. First he posted a selfie on Instagram with the message: "This is me locked inside a Waterstones bookstore in London." When that didn't get him any results. He turned to Twitter saying, "Hi Waterstones, I've been locked inside of your Trafalgar Square bookstore for two hours now. Please let me out."

Eventually he was freed, but I'm still scratching my head as to why he'd want to be.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Writer in a Monster Costume

Writers are notoriously eccentric . . .
  • Virginia Woolf wrote her books while standing up.
  • Edgar Allan Poe habitually wore black. Emily Dickinson and Mark Twain wore white. 
  • Charles Dickens walked nearly 20 miles a day.
  • Stephen King writes in the same seat at home and arranges his manuscript and notes in neat piles.
Though I’m not a famous author, I do have a few of my own quirks. See if you can relate to any of these…

I’m a creeper.

I love crowds. The more people in one place, the better. Why? Because I’m the one eavesdropping on the conversation next to me. And it’s not just my ears that get a workout. I people watch too, mentally taking notes about interesting body language and unique individuals.

I’m a zombie.

Usually I’m a very good listener. Key word: usually. Sometimes, however, if a person is talking and they use a unique phrase or bring up a topic that makes me go “hmm”, whammo! My brain suddenly leaves the body, and while I’m still there in person giving off the appearance that I’m listening intently, I’m far, far away in my WIP. One small trigger word from you, and while my body may still be in front of you, Michelle has left the building.

I’m an alien.

I cannot write at home. Impossible. There’s laundry. Dishes. The dog needs to go potty. My kid needs a ride to Timbuktu. Whatever. So I must travel to another universe to get any kind of writing done. The most prolific place for me to go is a library, though I usually end up at Starbucks.

So . . . what kind of writerly monster are you?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Kicking it Old School

NANOWRIMO is nearly upon us. The big writing frenzy begins on Saturday. I don't think I'll go for the full 50k, because really, who needs that kind of failure in their life? There's a reason I live in Realsville . . . way less stressful. That being said, I am going to up my game this year and go for 1k words a day, which will give me a sweet word count of 30k in one month.

And I'm going to do it all with a Pilot G2 pen.

Is it because I fear typing on a keyboard will give me carpal tunnel before I get grandkids? Or am I terrified of developing cancer in my hinterlands from having a laptop radiating crazy vibes into my flesh? Perhaps I am a closet masochist?

Nope. No. And nuh-uh. Turns out there are some legit reasons to write long hand. Pay attention class. You're about to get educated.

Prevents Distraction
Who doesn't pop over to Pinterest or Facebook when the going gets tough? I've been known to have 52 tabs open at one time, bopping from Drudge to Twitter to Goodreads. And yeah, better check my email because who knows when the New York Times might send me a message that I'm on "The List." Squirrel!

Shifts Your Brain Into Gear
Recent studies suggest that writing in longhand engages the brain in a way that's different from typing. Virginia Berninger (professor at University of Washington) says, ". . . pictures of the brain have illustrated that sequential finger movements activate massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory." She also says handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole leter by touching a key.

So Long Internal Editor
While writing in longhand, there's no backspacing, deleting or re-working sentences to make them pretty. Sure, you can cross out sentences and re-write, but after the first few paragraphs, that usually gets old and you quit doing it.

Plus, writing with pen and paper is extremely portable and I don't have to worry about plugging in. But really, I just love the feel of a pen in my hand as it sweeps across the page. Ahh. Simple pleasures.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tidbit: Words

It's been 186 years since Noah Webster published his two-volume American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828. It took him 28 years to complete because he had to learn 26 languages, including Ancient Greek, Latin, Sanskrit and Old English. The final draft listed and defined 70k words. Oh yeah, and did I mention the dude was 70 years old at the time?

Too bad it only sold 2500 copies and he had to mortgage his home.

He went to his grave at the age of 84, never knowing that nearly 200 years later, most of the English speaking peoples of the world would be using his dictionary.

So in honor of Mr. Webster and World Dictionary Day (which was last Thursday), here are some super freaking sweet words that I shall endeavor to use in an upcoming novel . . . 

BABBLEMENT (n.)
"Senseless prattle" or "unmeaning words."

DAGGLE-TAIL (adj.)
As a verb, to daggle is "to befoul" or "dirty", or more specifically, "to trail in mud or wet grass". The adjective daggle-tail ultimately describes someone "having the lower ends of garments defiled with mud."

FOPDOODLE (n.)
An insignificant fellow. Webster described this word as "vulgar and not used."

JACKPUDDING (n.)
A "merry-andrew" or "a zany" according to Webster. Basically, a joker who acts the fool to make other people laugh.

MAFFLE (v.)
To stammer or stumble on your words.

QUADRIN (n.)
A quadrin was old copper coin, which Webster explains was "in value [worth] about a farthing". Its name can also be used figuratively of any tiny amount of something.

RAKESHAME (n.)
A vile, dissolute wretch. Also known as a rampallion, a scroyle, a runnion, apander, or a cullion.

WRANGLESOME (adj.)

To dispute angrily or to involve in contention. If you're wranglesome, then you're quarrelsome.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Questions You Always Wanted To Ask . . . Take Two

Here's the rest of yesterday's post, which asked the question, "You can ask your favorite author any one question: what would you ask?"

And here's the last response that was posted in regards to that question . . .

Who is YOUR favorite author, why, and what would you like to ask him/her?

Sweet pickled pineapples, Batman! How can anyone answer that? A single, favorite author? Gah! Can't be done. Well, maybe by genre. Yeah. That's how I'll get out of this one.

Genre: Young Adult
Author: Jill Williamson
Why? Characters that stick with you.

Genre: Speculative/Horror
Author: Travis Thrasher
Why? Takes the ordinary and reshapes it to extraordinary.

Genre: Speculative/Time Travel
Author: Lisa Mangum
Why? Beautiful, beautiful rhythm of prose.

Genre: Sci Fi
Author: Ray Bradbury
Why? Plot twists like nobody's business.

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Author: Tim Downs
Why? Snarky dialogue times ten.

Genre: Historical
Author: Jessica Dotta
Why? Haunting tales with detail so real that you feel like you're there.

Genre: Dystopian
Author: Veronica Roth
Why? Palpable tension between the characters.

Genre: American Lit
Author: John Steinbeck
Why? Turns of phrases that make me want to weep.

I don't have any favorite westerns because, umm, honestly the only western I've ever read is Shane. Yeah, I know there are a gazillion other genres I could've listed, but I see you yawning. 

Now then, wake up and share some of your faves in the comment section.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Questions You Always Wanted to Ask . . . And Did

See those eyes flashing in the dim light over in the corner? Don't worry. It's not a mutant killer spider or a crouching zombie waiting to take a bite of your brains. It's just me.

I'm a lurker.

Yep. One of those. I'm on lots of Facebook groups, but I don't usually participate. Why? Well, besides the fact that it's hard to explain why my persona is an adolescent boy named Jayshua, I'm really content to read what others have to say without adding my two cents. Except for last week over at Avid Readers of Christian Fiction. Someone asked the question:

"You can ask your favorite author any one question: what would you ask?"

So I did it. I **gasp** commented. I said I'd answer all the posted questions over at my blog, and just in case you didn't realize what you're reading, this is my blog. Here are the questions from that post that I figured I'd give a whirl answering. . .

Why do pets make the best readership appeaser in between books? Almost every author I follow on FB has a pet they reference in their daily posts.

Would you rather hear about my laundry pile or my elderly mother's daily battle with constipation?

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Eavesdropping. Wasting time on Pinterest. The burning desire to make more money for another trip to England.

Do you start with the beginning? Or where?

I start with a feeling. Emotion. The soul of a character. Goals, motivations, conflicts. Who are my players and what are they like? Then I figure out my beginning, end and climax, with a few inciting incidents leading toward that climax. Once those items are ticked off my checklist, I start at chapter 1, scene 1 and plod along until I hit somewhere around 90k words.

Can we sit down for coffee and a chat???

Sure, I sit for coffee. Shoot, I'll even roll over and play dead for dark chocolate.

How did you get started writing?

I ran away from home one night a week to escape from the insanity of four children. Yes, they were mine and I might be slightly to blame for their sometimes bizarre behavior, but honestly, I'd rather blame my husband for that.

What's your favorite book and why?

I'd say the Bible, but the Bible and Jesus is always the easy answer. So I'm going with Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Jane is a passionate, strong woman who knows herself and is willing to sacrifice the good for what is best.

Who is YOUR favorite author, why, and what would you like to ask him/her?

Sweet pickled pineapples, Batman! How can anyone answer that? A single, favorite author? Gah! Can't be done. Well, maybe by genre. Yeah. That's how I'll get out of this one. And guess what? I'll answer this one tomorrow in a post of its own.

Why do you make your readers wait so long for new books and tease us relentlessly with progress and snippets of the books progress?

There's this tiny little thing called life that sometimes gets in the way of our writing schedules. Yeah, I know. I hate it when that happens too. Writing takes time. A truckload of time. Thinking, scheming, plotting, capturing, rearranging, and research kind of time. Extracting what's in our head so that it doesn't look like a pile of dissected grey matter splattered on a page but instead is a heart-warming, soul-wrenching piece of magical fiction that lives on in a reader's memory for years to come takes a FAT LOT OF TIME, people. 

The teasing part is just a bonus to satisfy the sick and twisted half of our creative mind.

Why do you write?

Because being a pirate is frowned upon and I'd make a crappy life insurance salesman.

There you have it. Got any more questions? I'm just getting warmed up. Bring it on in the comment section.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dealing With Doubt

A lot of writers struggle with low self-image because of taking so many rejections on the chin, getting kidney-punched with one-star reviews, low sales numbers, yada yada. But even more humbling is receiving a review like this:

"Finishing this book was like having to say goodbye to a loved one for an indeterminate length of time! I had never heard of Michelle Griep before finding this treasure of a book free on Amazon and now I have added another author to my top 5 (she jumped into 2nd place, bumping a few other authors down a notch or two!) There are simply no words to describe this book! You know that feeling you get when you eat something so delicious that you just have to close your eyes and savour every bite, making the meal last as long as possible? That's what this book does to its readers! The description in it and the turn of phrase is beyond exquisite! Sentences such as "...yet the darkness deepened more. Black crawled in and made a home behind his eyeballs." "...he used up every profanity he owned, then borrowed a few he'd heard down at the wharves;" and "Whispers passed around the sanctuary like an unholy wind" compete to make this reading experience one of the best you've ever had! The characters were well rounded and described uniquely (I'll never forget the hedgehog policeman!) and the story was incredible! It was clearly very well researched and historically accurate. My only complaint (apart from the fact that it didn't last forever!) is that it ended on a bit of a cliffhanger and there doesn't appear to be a sequel - at least not yet. I'm hoping and praying that will change in the near future! If you want a compelling read pick up this book - you won't be sorry! 5 stars are not enough for it - even 20 would be too few!"

Wow. Really? Me--little ol' me--impacted someone enough for them to take the time to write down all those sweet and wonderful words? Amazing.

Yes, of course I basked in the glory of good feelings for a few minutes after reading this, but then my companion self-doubt put his arm around my shoulders and squeezed with this question:

How do I ever live up to that standard in the future?

Writers really are that messed up. I suppose that's what comes of baring one's soul to the world. So I did a little research and found out the
TOP 5 WAYS HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE DEAL WITH SELF-DOUBT

1. Stop making excuses.
Just because someone loves or hates your work, don't use that as an excuse to quit producing. Painters paint. Writers write. Bankers, umm, bank. Just do what you do no matter what.

2. Don't ask for validation.
Seeking outside counsel on a piece of work, a particular project, or even an issue that you're dealing with can be helpful if you take what you hear with a grain of salt. If you seek for validation from anywhere else but from God, you're going to be disappointed.

3. Shut up and put up.
Don't just talk about what you're going to do because your brain mistakes the talking for the doing, and then when you don't see any real progress, you feel even worse.

4. Choose your companions wisely.
Who you hang around with affects you as a person. Rubbing elbows with upbeat, positive buddies can and will keep you from sliding into a downer of a mood.

5. Self-compassion is key.
When you fail at something important, do you keep things in perspective, or do feelings of inadequacy consume you? If so, cut yourself some slack. Extend yourself grace. No one is perfect. Ever.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

Okay, so not really a poultry feast. More like the winners of a new journal, some Pilot G3 pens, and an advance copy of Writer Off the Leash: Growing in the Craft of Writing. Who are the lucky ducks? Dang. There I go with the whole poultry thing again.


Winners: email me with your snail mail addie (michellegriep@gmail dot com)...and congrats!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bookaholics Anonymous

Writers are readers. You can’t separate the two. Words are an addiction. Here’s what I’m currently mainlining . . .

By Sarah E. Ladd

Cecily Faire carries the shame of her past wherever she treads, knowing one slip of the tongue could expose her disgrace. But soon after becoming a lady’s companion at Willowgrove Hall, Cecily finds herself face-to-face with a man well-acquainted with the past she’s desperately hidden for years.

Nathaniel Stanton has a secret of his own—one that has haunted him for years and tied him to his father’s position as steward of Willowgrove Hall. To protect his family, Nathaniel dares not breathe a word of the truth. But as long as the shadow looms over him, he’ll never be free to find his own way in the world. He’ll never be free to fall in love.

When the secrets swirling within Willowgrove Hall come to light, Cecily and Nathaniel must confront a painful choice: Will they continue running from the past . . . or will they stand together and fight for a future without the suffocating weight of secrets long kept?

By Jessica Dotta

London is said to be the glittering jewel of society, a world unto itself—but to Julia Elliston it is a city of shadows. Her life is swiftly dissolving into scandal. And in Victorian society, even a whisper of scandal—substantiated or not—can be the death of a young woman’s reputation.

Now under the watchful eye of Lord Roy Pierson, one of most influential men in England, Julia begrudgingly accepts his protection. But Chance Macy’s power is far-reaching as well, and he is eager to assert his claim over her.

Thrust into society as the Emerald Heiress, Julia is the toast of London, a celebrated curiosity. But in reality she’s trapped between the clutches of two powerful men. Aided only by a gentleman whose intentions she prays she can trust, Julia must finally take control of her own fate—but outwitting one’s foe rarely goes according to plan.

By Jane Kirkpatrick

Letitia holds nothing more dear than the papers that prove she is no longer a slave. They may not cause white folks to treat her like a human being, but at least they show she is free. She trusts in those words she cannot read--as she is beginning to trust in Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant cattleman who wants her to come west with him.

Nancy Hawkins is loathe to leave her settled life for the treacherous journey by wagon train, but she is so deeply in love with her husband that she knows she will follow him anywhere--even when the trek exacts a terrible cost.

Betsy is a Kalapuya Indian, the last remnant of a once proud tribe in the Willamette Valley in Oregon territory. She spends her time trying to impart the wisdom and ways of her people to her grandson. But she will soon have another person to care for.

As season turns to season, suspicion turns to friendship, and fear turns to courage, three spirited women will discover what it means to be truly free in a land that makes promises it cannot fulfill. This multilayered story from bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick will grip readers' hearts and minds as they travel with Letitia on the dusty and dangerous Oregon trail into the boundless American West.

Now it's your turn. Here's TODAY’S BLOGAVERSARY QUESTION:

What are you currently reading? Give that book title a shout out on Facebook , Twitter, shoot…you can even take a picture of the cover and post it on Instagram if you really want to go all out. Wherever you post, make sure to add a #writerofftheleash at the end and let me know where you posted in the comment section.


Remember, tomorrow’s the big drawing day so rack up as many entries as possible.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

More Dog and Pony Shows

Newsflash: Writer Off the Leash isn't the only writing related website in the universe. In fact, I write for two other very fine sites . . .

Novel Rocket

For several years standing, this site has been voted into Writer's Digest Top 100 Sites for Writers. Yeah. Its just that good. Ranging from market news to interviews to how-to articles, Novel Rocket is a go-to place for great advice.

Wordserve Watercooler

Here's what this site says about itself: "We are a group of authors. We write fiction and nonfiction. We write books about self-care and marriage. We write memoirs about Biblical womanhood and backpacking through Africa. We write lighthearted romance and supernatural suspense. We write for the CBA and the ABA. We are traditionally published and self-published." 

And here's a freebie for you. Though I don't write for this site, it's worth the hop, skip and jump to get to . . .


This group blog offers support, encouragement and information for the writing journey, all at no cost and no fees.

Now then, it's your turn. TODAY'S BLOGAVERSARY QUESTION:

What's one of your favorite blogs? Something with a literary flavor to it. Share a link to a blog you love on Facebook or Twitter or wherever, add a #writerofftheleash, and bam! You'll be entered into the grand prize drawing on Friday for each time you share. Just let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hamsters Are People Too

Some people learn visually. Others are auditory learners. Then there are the hamsters among us who bounce from wall to wall in order to imprint something on their brain.

I am a hamster.

Sitting still just isn't an option. Even now while I'm typing, my foot is swinging back and forth. When I read a book, I'm usually on a treadmill or elliptical at the gym.

Learning isn't a static kind of thing. What works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another. Different tactics can accomplish the same thing depending on what type of a learner you are. And if you're unsure, here's a quick 20 question quiz to find out at Education Planner. You won't find hamster on the list because it's a titch more scientificky, but you ought to be able to pinpoint the way you learn best.

Now then, on to TODAY'S BLOGAVERSARY QUESTION:

What's one thing you've learned about here at Writer Off the Leash? A plotting tip? Characterization? How to look like an idiot in front of a camera? Share on Twitter, Facebook or the social media of your choice one little tidbit you've gleaned from this blog, and I'll toss your name into the big drawing on Friday. Make sure to let me know where you shared in the comments.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Blogaversary Blowout

A lot can happen in three years. Multiple root canals. A toenail fungus that just won't quit. Entering into witness protection and taking on a whole new identity so Guido won't fit you with cement overshoes. But don't worry. This week we'll be celebrating something not only as monumental, but a heap more zany fun.
It's the:

Woo-hoo! Cue the canned applause! The crazy midget car with twenty-five clowns piling out! Blow the Bleekerhorns and Bingzingers!

It. Is. Party. Time.

Yes, indeedy . . . it's been three full years of non-stop writing advice with a bit of quirk thrown into the mix. And what better way to celebrate than with a contest? Here's the deal . . .

Each day this week I'll ask you a question. All you have to do is answer it on Facebook or Twitter, and make sure to use the hashtag #writerofftheleash. Each time you answer/share, I'll toss your name into a hat. Okay, so not really a hat. Probably more like an old piece of Tupperware.

Anyway, the more you enter, the more your chances will be of winning. What will you win? Shhh. Listen. There's a drum roll gaining in strength and...wait for it...yep. A huge cymbal crash. The grand prize is:
An advance copy of the upcoming February release of 
Writer Off the Leash: Growing in the Writing Craft.

Second prize is a pack of G2 pens and third prize is a cute little journal for you to write your own inspiring prose.

Here is today's question:

What's one of your favorite Writer Off the Leash posts? Simply put a link to that post (you can look in the blog archive on the righthand sidebar to find one, or use the search function at the top of the right sidebar) on Facebook or Twitter and make sure to add: #writerofftheleash. Each time you share, I'll put one more entry in for you. Just let me know in the comment section where you shared.

And check back every day this week for a new question. I'll be drawing the lucky winners on my Fun Friday vlog.

Let the Blogaversary Blowout begin!

Friday, October 10, 2014

What Would You Bring Home From England?

What kinds of things would an author bring home for souvenirs?


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Tidbit: Reality Check

To all you newbie writers out there with stars in your eyes, here's a dose of reality. Writing books sounds grand and glorious, and honestly it is, but there's oh-so-much-more that makes up an author's life. Here's what's currently on my writerly plate:

  • Read through and send off final galley for a book coming out in January.
  • Receive an ARC of my non-fiction and read through for errors.
  • Write guest blog posts for January blog tour.
  • Oh yeah, arrange for a January blog tour, so start emailing bloggers.
  • Editor asked for more story ideas . . . come up with some and send them off.
  • Prepare for speaking gig on Monday night to talk about plotting.
  • Plan for Writer Off the Leash's Anniversary on Oct. 17, as in conjure some zany promotional idea.
  • Write a book review for the novel I recently finished.
  • Try to finish reading the other 2 books I need to write reviews for.
  • Send off a chapter of my writing for a critique group meeting on Monday and critique those I receive in return . . . before Monday, of course.
  • Decide if I should sign a contract for a particular project or hold off for a bigger offer or self-pub the dang thing.
And that's just off the top of my head. I'm sure I'm forgetting at least five other writing-related items. Notice what's not on there? 

Write for the sheer love of writing.

And that, newbies, is the one thing you need to hold onto for as long as you possibly can, because the Creeping Charlie of extraneous writerly duties will eventually choke-hold your writing time.

Yeah. Be careful what you wish for. It might come true.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Literary Tips From the Un-Dead

It's that creepy time of year again. No, I'm not talking about a midnight run to Wal-Mart. I'm talking my neighbors hauled out all their inflatable pumpkins and ghosts.

My family and I don't celebrate Halloween. I know. I hear you. . . "Michelle, why are you such a hater?" Because glorifying zombies, witches, and satan just isn't my thing, and honestly, I'd rather eat the Hershey bars myself than hand them out to ungrateful little sugaraholics trick-or-treating at my door.

But I am currently in the middle of reading Dracula -- and I'm loving it.

Incongruent? Could be. Hypocritical? Maybe. Instructive? Bingo! We have a winner. What could I possibly be learning from a nineteenth century horror novel?

Nail Biting Suspense

Author Bram Stoker uses a tool that authors today could learn from. Innuendo. He hints at a lot of things that could happen, but might not. What's really frightening is the not knowing. The reader expects something horrible will happen, but not when or how it will be executed.

A Strong Female Lead

Feminism isn't just a burn-your-bra 60's kind of thing. Stoker wrote Dracula back in 1897 and uses Mina Harker as one of the main characters. She is intelligent and integral to the plot, not just a pretty decoration or love interest.

The Reader is Judge and Jury

The way the story is laid out, via diary entries, letters and newspaper articles, it's really up to the reader to decide which characters are inherently good or bad or just plain stupid. Stoker obviously believed in his readers enough to not spoon-feed them every literary bite, but simply put a steaming plate of story in front of them and allowed them to eat at will.

Blending Reality

Much of Dracula requires the reader to entertain the notion of the supernatural. Stoker accomplishes this by the pacing of his tale, creating a strong relationship up front between the reader and the characters. You want to know what will happen to them. You're on their side. You want the evil creature Dracula to fail.

I'd tell you more, but I'm only half-way through the book. Stay tuned for more un-dead writing tips.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Call to Rebellion

Let's take time out to talk about book covers, shall we? You've all heard the old adage, "Don't judge a book by its cover." I'm here to tell you that's a lie. Tolerance is overrated. God gave you a brain. Use it, for crying out loud.

If a book is decorated with daisies and smiley faces, guess what? It's probably a light-hearted read. Or if it's grey and dreary looking and makes you feel weepy, it's likely going to be a drama. Is there a shirtless beefcake wrapping his arms around a doe-eyed damsel with flowing blonde hair? Romance. Yep. It's just that easy. This isn't rocket science.

What rankles me more than my husband chewing gum with his mouth open is when a reader picks up a book and expects something different than the cover is promising. Why would someone do that? Do they pick up a box of Rice-a-Roni at the grocery store and freak out when, gasp, rice comes out?

Yet that's exactly what I often see when I read reviews on Amazon or Goodreads (about books, that is, not Rice-a-Roni), people grousing about a novel not being what they expected and raking the poor author over the coals until they're all charred and blistery. Those kinds of negative reviews make me want to read the story just to see what all the fuss was about.

So here's a little pep talk for all of us . . . let's be discriminating. Designers create these things so that the consumer has an inkling of what's going to be on the inside. Be a rebel and judge books by their covers before you read them.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Re-Entry

I've been back from England for five days now and no, I haven't written a new novel yet. I haven't even washed my heap of dirty clothes. Transitioning back to real life from twenty days of vacation is kind of like returning from the dead. Life kept right on going while I was gone and left a stack of must-do's higher than my laundry pile.

Even so, I managed to sneak in a little writing and a lot of editing. The final galleys of BRENTWOOD'S WARD are off to the printer. I noticed the paperback version is currently on sale as a pre-order for $11.70 at Amazon, so if you're a hard copy kind of person, you might want to toodle over there (though it won't be mailed out until Jan. 1).

And Writer Off the Leash: Growing in the Writing Craft is just about ready to send out for endorsements. Launch date is Feb. 1. Here's a blurb to whet your appetite:

You are the ultimate master of your writing success, namely by writing. That’s it. That simple. Anyone saying anything else is a snake oil salesman.

Are you a writer at heart? How can you tell? And if you are, how do you go about composing and selling the next Great American Novel?

WRITER OFF THE LEASH answers these questions and more—all in an easy to understand, tongue-in-cheek style. This is more than a how-to book. It’s a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn’t know how to take their writing to the next level.

While it's been interesting to visit the land of analytical fact writing, it kind of hurt my brain. My next writing venture will definitely be fiction. Here are a few pictures I took in England that have story possibilities . . .


Look through the window. The opposite building was a bit decrepit. Dead vines on the brick. Smudgy windows. What might a character see in that neighboring home if she peeked out on a moonlit evening? A candle through the glass illuminating a face? What kind of face?

Or here's another one . . .

That little building atop the bridge is a toll house, where the bridgekeeper lived with his family, receiving fees from people crossing the bridge. Who might show up on a stormy evening? Was his family happy there? What kind of relationship did they have with the villagers on the other side of the bridge?

So many ideas, so little time.

And speaking of time, I suppose I should fire up the ol' washing machine instead of my imagination. Yeah. Re-entry is rough.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Buckle Up

Guess who's back in the country . . .


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Day 20: Home Sweet Home


RANDOMOSITIES

Who'd have thought they could stuff so many people on a tube? Claustrophobics beware.

Rode the rails on our way to Gatwick, making our total modes of transportation: car, plane, steam engine, subway, bus, and train.

Add to the tally of a broken washing machine and microwave, a stolen lawn mower. Somebody left the garage door open. Hopefully that's all that was taken.

One thing I noticed but neglected to mention is how long English meals take. There's no rush. Like even for paying the bill. People tend to linger at the table.

Gatwick airport is way nicer than Heathrow, but sorry, Keflavik airport in Iceland still gets the blue ribbon.

Not sure, but I think the old dude sitting next to me at the airport might have hacked up a hairball. Sorry for the visual.

Love the view from an airplane. Just think. That's what God sees all the time.

TIMELINE

9:00 Leave to board the tube then the train to get out to Gatwick Airport.

11:30 After lugging heavy baggage and Mark getting stuck in a pat-down, we finally grab a of coffee and some food before our flight.

1:00 Flight to Iceland then switch planes for Minneapolis.

6:00 Land

7:30 Leave the stupid airport because of stupid customs and stupid border control. Border control? Really? In Minneapolis? What about down by Mexico?

THOUGHTS

Am I ready to go home? As much as I miss my kids and my dog, umm, honestly? Nope. It will be back to responsibility. Having 20 days to do as I wish was really living a dream. But I am coming away with a gazillion new story ideas and lots of great memories. 

A smile and a "thank you for your patience" would go a long way to diffuse angry customers. We waited a half hour at the check-in line at Gatwick without the clerk even acknowledging the growing rage of a line. Then at our layover in Iceland, the plane boarding ran late. Flyers huddled around the gate with frowny faces. If they'd have just announced that they were running late, I think a lot of the rage would've been tamped down. It's the not knowing that flips people out.

And as if that line weren't bad enough, shall we talk about customs/re-entering the U.S.? Sheesh. That took over an hour. It would've been faster if we'd taken a Mexico flight and waded through the Rio Grande. Illegals have a way easier time getting in here than citizens. 

All in all, though, it was a fantastic journey that I wouldn't trade for anything. Thanks for coming along with me, my readers, and a huge thanks to God for making the whole thing possible.

 
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