Friday, October 30, 2015

Is it Fall Back or Forward?

Today we're roaming off leash into the neighborhood of mind games because this weekend is the big daddy of them all . . . Daylight Saving. Who thought it would be a brilliant idea to play around with time? Isn't that God's job? Not that I mind the extra hour of sleep, but retribution hits mighty hard in the spring.

So for those of you who get slightly annoyed with Big Brother adding and subtracting hours to your day, sit back and enjoy this short funny.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

The FitWrite Challenge

post by Michelle Griep
It snowed today. As in white fluffy stuff. As in it's only freaking October! And a not so funny thing happened when I pulled out my winter clothes. They're too tight. Either the Fat Fairy sprinkled evil dust on the Rubbermaid storage containers . . . or I ate way too much ice cream this summer. Either way, I joined the FitGirl challenge to whip this chubby body into shape before Thanksgiving hits.

Which got me to thinking . . . why not issue a FitWrite challenge to prepare for NaNoWriMo? You game?

The 3-Step FitWrite Challenge

1. Get a craft book and cram some knowledge into your head.
Of course I have a few suggestions for you:
    - Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
    - The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson
    - Writer Off the Leash: Growing in the Writing Craft by little ol' moi
                                **Still on sale for $4.99**

2. Figure out your plot now. 
Map out your scenes. Just a sentence or two will do it. Put time into the front end of this and you'll be able to write the story faster without getting stuck on plot glitches.

3. Pull out your calendar and schedule your writing time. 
You fail to plan, you plan to fail. That's just the way it is, Hoss. Write down how many words or scenes or chapters or whatever it is you want to accomplish on each day.

There you have it. The gauntlet is officially thrown down. Even if you're not doing the full 50k for Nano, you can still give this a whirl and make some headway on your manuscript.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What Makes a Romantic Scene Romantic?

post by Michelle Griep
Nobody wants to admit to reading romance novels. Those are for the trashy sort, the kind that hang out in laundromats, the losers with awkward social skills who don't have a hope of ever snagging their own happily-ever-after. Right?

Wrong-o bucko.

Besides that statement being politically incorrect and highly intolerant, it's also a huge misconception. In fact, romance novels are and have been some the hottest selling books flying off the shelves. So rest at ease if one of your guilty pleasures is snuggling up with a romantic tale. In fact, I just wrote a kissy-faced scene today and had to stop and think about the actual nuts and bolts of romance. And since I did all that brainwork, thought I'd share . . .

What Makes a Romantic Scene Romantic

The ooh-la-la-la thrill of it all.
Let's get this one out of the way first, shall we? When people think romance, they think smoochy-smoochy-touchy-feely, all twangy in the tummy and fireworks sizzling along every nerve. Of course you'll include physical sensations if you want to reflect human beings, not robots. 

The feeling of being cherished/wanted.
A really romantic scene plays on the deep need everyone has: of being desired for who they are, not just for what they look like or what they do. True romance is being loved even for your warts and toenail fungus. Yeah. That's tough love -- but it's also a primal need in all of us.

The hope of a secure future with this person.
Romance isn't just about a one night stand. It's about feeling secure, a peace and a hope of a bright new dawn. There's a reason for the phrase happily ever after. It makes our hearts grab some pom poms and cheer.


The outer release of inner feelings that have been building.
Think of this as the Christmas morning of all scenes. The culmination of what the reader's been waiting for. The tension that's been building inside the characters is finally released in a tangible way.

Next time you're crafting a romantic scene, make sure to include all four of these elements. It will connect with the reader on a deeper level than just a simple kiss. It will connect with their heart.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Trekkie Writing Opportunity

Yes, I got permission to use this. Sheesh.
Okay. I'll admit it. My aspirations as a young girl were to grow up to be Lt. Uhura from Star Trek. Two problems with that though . . . I'm not black and my thighs are way too big to look great in a short, red communications uniform.

Grr.

So instead I became a writer, but I'm still a Trekkie at heart. And if you are too, have I found an opportunity for all of us!

The Strange New Worlds Writing Contest is now in full swing. Celebrating Star Trek's 50th Anniversary, Simon & Schuster is breathing new life into this popular fan fiction contest.

The ten lucky winners will be published into an all new anthology to be put out in 2016. The deadline is January 15th. For full details of the contest, click HERE.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Writing Advice in Six Words

post by Michelle Griep
Whewie. I'm a little bleary-eyed and cotton-mouthed from all that partying last week. I kind of feel like sleeping it off a bit more, but before everyone dies of suspense, here are the three grand prize winners of a new book . . .

Robin Elizabeth Mason
Zekkaina Solo
Caryl Kane

Congratulations ladies!

Now that all the partying is finished for another year and I've packed away all the confetti and balloons, it's time to get back to writerly business.

NaNoWriMo begins in less than a week, folks. Are you ready? Never fear . . . I've got two ideas for you to get your writing engines all revved up.

First off, Writer Off the Leash: Growing in the Writing Class is on sale for the next few weeks. Only $4.99 for a paperback that you can dog ear and highlight all you like. And only $0.99 if you'd prefer the ebook version.

Secondly, if you need a quick shot of writing advice, pop on over to The Best Writing Advice in Six Words and either read some nuggets of wisdom or submit six words of your own. You can also check out the same six word mania on Twitter at #NaNoSixHere are some examples:

- Don't write anything you wouldn't read.

- Write. Drink Coffee. Write some more.

- Write more words than you delete.

And my personal favorite . . .

- Can't say something nice? Try fiction.

Feel free to share some of your favorites in the comment section.

Friday, October 23, 2015

10 Reasons to Blog

Archived writing advice from 2014:

There’s no right or wrong way to plot. If you like to write scenes on sticky notes and line up those little soldiers on a wall in your house, then take down the family portraits and go for it. If you’re the analytical type that needs flowcharts and databases, then power up the ol’ hard drive and create files until dawn. How you go about organizing your plot isn’t nearly as critical as what you put into your plot.

I entered the realm of blogging five years ago. At the time I kicked and screamed as if I'd just seen a spider. Yeah, not exactly a willing participant. But I did it, and I'm still doing it, so clearly there are benefits even for the most staunch of those who thumb their noses at the blogosphere.

10 Reasons to Blog
1. It boosts your creativity.
Blogging forces you to flex your creativity muscle in order to keep your readers (and you) from gettig bored. New, fresh content takes a bit of thinking outside the box.

2. It's a document of your life.
Blogging is personal. There's no way around that if you want to come across as authentic to your readers. Sure, that has a creepy connotation to it, but the flip side is you have a virtual journal of your life to leave behind as a legacy.

3. It makes you a producer, not a consumer.
By offering readers free content, you'll stand out from the rest of the schmucks in this gimme-gimme world. You have the opportunity to enrich someone else's life.

4. It grows your network.
You never know who you'll bump into in the blogosphere. That's how I landed a contract for one of my books, just by cranking out my little posts week after week.

5. It makes you smarter.
No, really. Not kidding. Writing blog posts requires some research, and in the process, your brain cells will multiply. Disclaimer: you may not sue me if you don't become a rocket scientist simply by blogging about squirrels once a week.

6. It makes you a better writer.
Practice makes perfect. Okay, so maybe you won't turn into a Stephen King, but turns out he's an advocate for consistent, daily writing.

7. It's free.
No money involved. Snatch yourself a piece of the web and start typing away. Personally, I like Blogger, but I've used WordPress as well. They're super easy to learn. I figured them out without any help and I can't even turn on my TV by myself.

8. It's a challenge.
Do you seriously want to sit around in your underwear on the couch all day, eating potato chips and watching reruns of Andy Griffith? Step up to the plate. Take on a new challenge. Grow instead of remaining stagnant.

9. It gives you credibility.
How many axe murderers do you know that have a blog? Exactly. Prospective publishers or employers or mother-in-laws are looking at your record, Hoss, and if you're a blogger, you've got an instant check in the OK box.

10. It removes some of the chaos from your life.
Blogging is an escape that works well, especially if you want to get out of doing the dishes. "Sorry, I've got to go get my blog post up." 

Those are just off the top of my head. There are tons more reasons to blog, but honestly, you won't experience them unless you try.

And you certainly won't win a free book if you don't enter the giveaway. Ends Monday. Don't forget to share the love by telling your buddies or neighbors.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Celebrating You!

Archived writing advice from 2013 . . .

The quandary of a writer is engaging the reader with increasing odds against the hero that don't turn into a series of comic book whams, bams, and zowies. How does one do that exactly?

Evoke emotion. Not every scene needs larger-than-life action. Connecting with the human heart is every bit as engaging and oftentimes the largest hurdle a character can overcome.

One of the benefits of blogging is one that I never expected . . . to connect with my readers on a personal level. I'm of stoic Norwegian blood. Hug? What the heck is that? 

So it's rare that I choke up or get all teary eyed, but doggone if I'm not seriously blown away by you, my readers. I've made some fantastic cyber buddies (waving at y'all) just by whipping out my computer each night and typing some random nugget of writerly wisdom that I've learned the hard way. The comments. The emails. Yeah. Someone pass me a box of Kleenex already.

So, a HUGE thank you to everyone who's roamed the writerly neighborhoods with me over the past five years. **lifts mug of steaming apple cider, which is what I happen to be slogging back at the moment** Cheers to you, readers! Couldn't do this without you. Well, I could, but that would be pretty pathetic.

And in your honor, don't forget to enter to win your very own copy of one of my books.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Exclamation Marks, Cupcakes, and Yoga Pants: Indeed, the Party Continues

Still standing? Good. The blogaversary party rages onward like a charging bull wearing a frilly hat.

Here's an archived piece of sweet writerly advice going all the way back to 2012 . . .

Exclamations are fantastic for e-mail, and possibly for texts, but when you're writing a novel, use them only for interjections (hey! ow! zoinks!). 

But just in case you don't think I have enough clout to boss you around, let me pull out a bigger gun . . .

"Cut out all those exclamation marks.
An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke."
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Careful . . . these bad boys are addicting.
Plus there's more where that came from. 
Snatch up your copy of 
Writer Off the Leash: Growing in the Writing Craft 
on sale at Amazon. 
$4.99 for paperback and only .99 for an ebook.

Now then, in honor of the party spirit, I whipped up some vegan salted caramel mocha cupcakes. Mmm mmm mmm. HERE'S the recipe. They were mighty tasty. I ate two. Anybody seen my yoga pants anywhere?

Don't forget to enter into the drawing for a freebie. I'll announce the winners next Monday.

Party on, readers. Stay safe. And wear a helmet.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why is There a Lampshade on My Head?

The blogaversary blowout continues today. Surely you're not too pooped to party yet, right?

Let's begin with an archived writing tip from 2011:

The trick of taking criticism is to move beyond the initial face-slapping sting and unearth the truth nugget. There's always something to be learned -- unless you're a teenager . . . in which case you know it all.

Yes, indeedy. Even in the one-star reviews there's usually something to glean. But if you want to avoid harsh reviews and/or critiques, it can help to polish up your craft.

And do I have a dealio for you. As the blogaversary continues, Writer Off the Leash: Growing in the Writing Craft is on sale for the first time ever! Okay, so it's only been out for six months, but still . . . just sayin'. Here's a LINK.


And don't forget to leave a writing tip in the comment section to have your name tossed into the hat to win one of three books: Brentwood's Ward, A Heart Deceived, or Writer Off the Leash, or simply enter via the Rafflecopter doohickey.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 19, 2015

Blogaversary Blowout

A lot can happen in five years . . .
  - your fender can rust off your Buick
  - you could grow your hair down to
     your waist
  - or you could go bald
  - the Vikings could take the
    Superbowl
  - or not
  - you could binge and diet,
    alternately gaining and losing the
    equivalent weight of an elephant (not recommended)
  - or you could make a ton of new buddies while encouraging and educating wannabe
    authors by blogging

Guess which one I did?

That's right, folks, it's time to haul out the fireworks and grab some handfuls of confetti because this week it's par-tay time as we celebrate . . .

5 YEARS OF WRITER OFF THE LEASH!

And what's a party without prizes? Sign up today on this Rafflecopter thingamabobber, then stop back every day this week to have a chance to answer a random writing question in the comment section. You could be the lucky winner of one of three books:



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to spread the word and share the love!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Happy National Dictionary Day!

post by Michelle Griep
This is it! Today's the day! Can you feel the excitement vibrating in the air? Bookish nerds all across the nation are joining hands and leaping with gazelle-like abandon because it's National Dictionary Day.

Yeah. I know. Right?

In honor of the day, however, I thought I'd share the most recent list of words that readers look up on their Kindle dictionary as they're reading. Would you have to look up any of these . . .
accipitrine, fantods, shufti, apish amore, scarfpin, vulpine, hifalutin, susurrus, caliginous, bristliness, chilblained, crepuscle, tenebrific, brumous, susurration, crapulent, frangipanni, megrims, gobsmacked, malacologist, susurrant, minacious, repechage, shan’t, ensorcelled, callipygous, bloviate, snogging, spavined, subfusc, discombobulated, susurrous, cojones, priapic, uxoriously, uxorious, concupiscent, aurochs, chuffed, precipitance, emulously, winceyette, cachinnate, hamartia, preternaturally, bacchanalia, defenestrate, copacetic, kerfuffle, fugly, tenebrous, avuncular, vermiculated, pickelhaube, tsuris, plagiaristic, addlepated, pusillanimously, ursine, gallimaufry, japery, starkers, towheaded, insouciant, epicanthic, druthers, plangent, gelid, underbred, pullulation, rictus, oleaginous, treacly, oubliette, louche, fuggy.
I'd have to look them all up except for hifalutin, preternaturally, kerfuffle, addlepated, and underbred. Hmm. That means there's a lot of words I don't know.

Guess I'd better crack open a dictionary.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Character Must Haves

post by Michelle Griep
What's more important . . . plot or character? Yeah, that's a loaded question. The answer is they're both important. But today here at Writer Off the Leash, I'm focusing on characters. To make a really great character, meaning one that sticks in a reader's mind for a long time after they shut the book, you need to have a few essential elements.

7 Character Must Haves

1. Conflict
Is your character feeling like life is all rainbows and happiness and their pants aren't digging in at the waist? Too bad. You've got to mess it up all up for him. Make it rain. Break his happy bones. Give him a weight gain of five hundred pounds.

2. Desire
What does your character want? He's got to want something. A burp to ease his heartburn. A new Porsche. Maybe some Smart Wool socks because his toes are cold. What's his goal and what's motivating him to get there?

3. Confusion
Misdirect your character and you misdirect the reader. That's a good thing. As long as you're keeping your character guessing, you're keeping your reader guessing as well. Just make sure to tie things up by the end of the story and make everything clear.

4. Credibility
Your character has to deserve his losses and earn his victories. Coincidence won't cut it--or your reader will slice you to pieces with a one-star review (a throwing ninja star).

5. Flaws
Nobody loves a perfect character. They're annoying. Every character needs to have some kind of flaw, even if it's just a zit on the end of their chin. Okay, that's annoying too. Don't use that flaw. Make up a better one.

6. Cluelessness
Don't make your characters all knowing, unless your character is God, and that seems kind of heretical. The point is that it's fun for the reader to know something the character doesn't. Makes the reader feel all superior and hey-look-at-me-I'm-brilliant.

7. Success
Every now and then your character needs to be successful. Yeah, you're supposed to be upping the stakes, leading to a blood-gory climax, but along the way the reader needs a break. Put little park benches of wins for your character to give the reader a rest from the action.

Next time you're working on an epic, make sure to include these traits in your main characters.

Cover Reveal: The Courageous Bride Collection

** steps up to mike **

"Testing, one, two . . . hey . . . what's up with counting to test a mike? Are audio geeks seriously that creatively challenged?"

** blows air into mike instead, creating an ear-splitting feedback screech **

"Sorry, folks. But I do actually have an announcement to make. You ready for a cover reveal for my next book?"

** excessive applause, screaming, woots, and one freak in the back who plays 'We Are the Champions' on an accordian **

** steps aside and opens a red velvet curtain . . . hey . . . what's up with stages having red velvet curtains? Did they hit a screaming hot sale or what? **

Drum roll please . . . 

Voila!

On a bookstore shelf near you in July 2016

My story is THE DOCTOR'S WOMAN. Here's a blurb . . .

EMMALINE LARSON is no stranger to loss. Living in a land as wild as the natives who roam it, she's lost her father, her betrothed, and when DR. JAMES CLARK crashes into her world, she loses the last thing left to her -- her heart.

There you have it. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Questions Sheepish Writers Are Afraid to Ask

post by Michelle Griep
Lots of writers have questions, but most are too polite to ask them out loud. Being I don't have a filter -- it broke a long time ago, folks -- I'm here to voice these questions for the masses and ponder the potential answers.

Can I fire a reader? 
Can an author go all Donald Trump on a reader and tell him he's outta here? I'm talking the type of reader that hates Christianity and picks up a book that clearly states it's inspirational -- then blasts it on Amazon for "being religious." Sheesh. Get a life. But don't get a dead squirrel toupee like Donald Trump (we all know that seriously cannot be his real hair).

What's up with writing memoirs? 
All of a sudden it's super trendy. Did I miss the memo or what? Personally I think it's just a catch-all genre for people who want to write but don't know what to write so when they're asked, they're like, "Oh, yeah, I'm writing a . . . a memoir. Yeah! That's what."

How does one go viral?
Granted, an author must write a killer story in order for it to go viral, but I've read some pretty awesome stories that never make it to the hundred thousand level on Amazon's sales ranking. Why? Why aren't perfectly penned novels guaranteed to sell a bajillion copies? I think it might have something to do with needing to be Oprah's cousin or some other big name superstar.

Is social media all it's cracked up to be?
One cannot possibly be a whiz at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linked In, Tumblr and a dozen more medias all at the same time. But that's what all the marketing gurus say to do. Get your name out there. Blast potential readers because it takes seven times exposure before one will actually purchase your book. Is our short vaporous life worth leaving a legacy of mere Tweets?

How come writers are nerds?
They are, you know. It's time someone admitted it out loud. Bunch a freaks who hear voices. I'm pretty sure this is related to a lonely childhood or possibly a genetic code disorder, but no one really knows the answer to this one.

There you have it. Any other questions you want me to tackle and/or give voice to? Leave them in the comment section. I promise this time I'll answer.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Checklist for Editing Your Manuscript

post by Michelle Griep

Ever wondered what to do with your manuscript once you type "The End?" Have I got a list for you! Yep. Go ahead and print it out. Pin it. Instagram it. Facebook or tattoo it on your bicep. You know you want to.



Friday, October 9, 2015

Write What You Love

post by Michelle Griep
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. 
And the only way to do great work is to love what you do."

~ Steve Jobs

This is not another dead-horse beating debate over what you should write, because there's no contest. Write what you love. End of story. Why?

  • Because life is too short to crank out words that don't inspire even yourself.
  • Because your passion will show up in your story.
  • Because if you don't believe in your work with all your heart, then why do it in the first place?
  • Because even if there's not a market for your story now, that doesn't mean there won't eventually be one.

Here's the dealio . . .  readers want to read gut-wrenching authentic stories written by passionate authors who love their plots and characters as much if not more than them.

Don't chase the market. Don't write what you feel obligated to write. Don't chase someone else's dream. Chase yours.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How Many Books Should You Put Out in a Year?

post by Michelle Griep
Which would you rather have your favorite author do . . .
Pump out three books a year, maybe a little lighter in content, the characters aren't quite as complex, and the plot is a bit predictable.
-- or --
Write one book in a year with multi-faceted characters, a twisty-turny plot, and a theme that makes you wonder about life's big meanings.

And no, you can't have it both ways, not consistently. So pick one. Go ahead. I won't judge you . . . leastwise not on this issue. On your shoe choice, however, I'm not making any promises.

Personally, I like a meaty, heavy-fisted book that whacks me upside the head. But that's just me. If you answered differently, then more power to ya, Scooter, because here's the deal . . . there are two distinct types of readers. There are those who devour books like there's no tomorrow, who are satisfied with an entertaining story that's not necessarily profound. Then there are those who like to dig into the what if's and how come's of life in a story format.

And that's great news for a writer, because it gives guilt the big beat down.

Writers are psychotic little mammals, all worried about if they're putting out enough books in a certain amount of time or if what they're putting out is too fluffy. But because of the diversity in readers, open your arms wide writer, because there's a place at the readerly table for you.

If you're a writer who loves to pound out words at high speed and have so many plot ideas you could type your little fingers to nubs, then do it and quit worrying about not having themes that vibrate a reader's heartstrings for months afterward.

Or if you're a writer who's slow but sure, anguishing about word placement and choice, and the thought of finishing two books in a year is not only exhausting but devastating, then listen to this round of applause. It's okay to not work at lightspeed.

Newsflash: there is no magic number of how many books you need to put out in a year, despite what marketing gurus say, because readers are as diverse a group as writers. 

Guilt about what you create and how you create it will suck the joy right out of your bones -- and ain't nobody got time for that.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Obstacle Course of the Writer's Life

Hey gang, while I tooled around South Carolina, I got to stay at the home of my writer buddy Ane Mulligan . . . and does she have some writerly advice for you! Sit back and enjoy some of Ane's wisdom. And make sure to check out her new ghost story at the end.

The obstacle course writers face has several stations. But first, you have to get in shape to even begin. So, flex those fingers, bring your typing up to speed, read lots of books, and when you’re sure you want to be an Author, then you start the obstacle Course.

The Tunnel Crawl
This is the place to start: in the tunnel to learning the basics. Don’t be tempted to crawl out too soon. What you’re doing by studying the guidelines of good writing, is exercising the memory muscle of craft. You’re building a good foundation. If you don’t learn the basic “rules” of good writing, how will you ever know when avoid the Stutter-step Tires*?

The Low Hurdles
Reading writing how-to books can be daunting. Some are downright boring. But others are eye-popping great. These are simply the low hurdles you need to jump. You’ll get the training you need to move on to the high hurdles.

*The Stutter-step Tires
Did you ever have a critique partner put the acronym RUE beside a sentence? Resist the Urge to Explain? I call these the stutter-steps. You’ve learned to show instead of tell, but then you don’t trust the reader to get it, so you tell it after showing it. Overcome this obstacle, because it will slow you down on your way to being published.

The High Hurdles
You’ve finally mastered the tunnel crawl and learned the craft. You’ve polished it and now avoid the stutter-steps. Now comes the high hurdle of editing. You’ve read your manuscript at least twenty times until you’re sick of it. Now you have to print it out and read it again???!! Yep. Told you it was a HIGH hurdle. Get going. You’ll thank me at the High Wall of submission.

The High Wall 
To leap this wall, you have to submit your work. Pry it out of your sweaty little hands and send it to an agent. If you’ve gone through the obstacle course, your manuscript is noes hinging like a new penny. It’s worthy of sunglasses. So submit it. And while it’s out on submission trail, start your next manuscript.

One final warning. The obstacle course contains Interruption Hill. And it’s often combined with the Sand Bag Carry. Slogging up that hill carrying sand bags of guilt, all the while trying to ignore the sideline voices of waiting chores isn’t easy. You have to practice it. But hey, your teenagers perfected selective hearing. You can too! The dishes will still be in the sink, and after all, paper plates can be a novelty. And I’ve told y’all before that dust bunnies are an endangered species. Let them propagate. Make PITA proud.
a short ghost story

The Mackeys and the Halberts have been feuding for generations, but on one can remember why.

When Savannah met Jackson, she fell in love before she knew his last name. Now engaged, they have to end the feud so they can get married with each family's blessing. But if no one knows why the feud started, how can they end it? Savannah is sure the answer is hidden somewhere within the old—and haunted—Mackey mansion, now turned museum.


MICHELLE HERE: Just breaking in to say I've read this story and it's a HEAP of fun! Perfect time of year to read a ghost story, and don't worry . . . it's not scary. It's just a sweet, sweet read you won't want to miss!

About Ane Mulligan

Author Ane Mulligan
While a floppy straw hat is her favorite, novelist Ane Mulligan has worn many including pro-family lobbyist, drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. Ane writes her Southern-fried fiction in Sugar Hill, GA, where she resides with her artist husband and chef son. Her debut novel, Chapel Springs Revival, was an Amazon bestseller. Chapel Springs Survival releases in Dec 2015, and Home to Chapel Springs, in May 2016. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction website, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Keowee and Table Rock . . . Two Gems of South Carolina

post by Michelle Griep
Indian Princess Screams Like a Banshee.
With a belly dragging the ground from too much banana pudding, what better way for me to finish a southern trip than to hike off all those calories at a few of South Carolina's finest?

KEOWEE/TOXAWAY STATE PARK

This area of upstate South Carolina is the lovely countryside that my hero travels in with his heroine to visit the Cherokee lower town of Keowee. I've read a lot about this land, past and present, and must say that it lived up to my expectations on our 3 hour hike today.

But one thing I didn't count on was the spiders.

Now don't get me wrong. Usually I can mash up a spider like nobody's business and not even bat an eyelash. But sweet mercy! They grow 'em big down here. Like the web I ran into today. Literally. And the spider at the center of it was freaking enormous. Like the dude should purchase license plates because someone could drive this sucker with a CDL. If there were any bears anywhere within a twenty mile radius, my scream scared the bejeebers out of them.
Lake Keowee, former site of the Cherokee Lower Town.

Takeaway value for my book: give my heroine a run-in with a spider

TABLE ROCK STATE PARK

Whew. No spiders here, folks. Just plenty of beauty. I'm talking waterfall, after waterfall, after waterfall. We did the shorter hike -- Carrick Creek -- but it took us nearly as long as Keowee because we stopped to take pictures like idiot tourists.

Takeaway value for my book: after all my heroine's hardships, she can finally stop and smell the roses, er, woodlands . . . this place smells heavenly!
One of the bajillion waterfalls at Table Rock.
I must admit that at both places it kind of creeped me out to have to sign in a ton of information just in case we got lost, eaten by wild animals, met with a tragic selfie end by falling off a cliff backwards, or twisted an ankle and couldn't crawl our way back. Thankfully none of that happened.

And that wraps up our little off the leash romp to South Carolina. It was a great research trip. Of all the places I went, I have to say that the Cherokee Museum, Ninety Six, and hiking at Keowee (despite the spiders) were my top 3 sites.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Dear South Carolina

post by Michelle Griep
Lake Crawford dam at King's Mountain.
Dear South Carolina,

Really? Do you really have to close a visitors' center just because it's a little windy outside? Yeah, I know Charleston got hammered and Columbia is flooded and y'all are a little busy, but sheesh. King's Mountain is like on the opposite side of the state, practically North Carolina.

But at least you had the state park open . . . which made for some pretty sweet hiking. The replica 1820's yeoman farm was a nice touch and the chickens super cute.
Hiking the Catawba Nation trails.

Also, thank you for the education. I used to think that Catawba was a sparkly kind of grape juice I buy for Thanksgiving and Easter. I had no idea it's also a people group. The Catawba Nation Reservation is a little tricky to find but oh so worth the trouble. Lovely trails along the Catawba River and the smell of kicked up leaves in the woodlands is spicy woodsy deliciousness.

Speaking of deliciousness, shall we talk BBQ? South Carolina, your BBQ is awesome with a side of sauce. Literally. And dang if I didn't pack any stretchy pants. Grr. Next time give me a heads up on the weight gain.

There is so much history in this area that my six days here are not going to be enough. You should up your advertising game, SC, and let the rest of the world know that you're a destination worth the trip.

That is all,
your faithful friend,
Michelle

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Hiking in a Hurricane

post by Michelle Griep
Hurricane Joaquin, I spit in your general direction. Stupid weather. Apparently things get cancelled in South Carolina when a little rain gets in the way. Okay, so it's a freaking lot of rain, but still I'm a little mopey the Revolutionary War reenactment at King's Mountain got cancelled.

That didn't stop us though, and bonus, I can check off experiencing a hurricane on my list of things to do.

First stop today was the Cherokee Museum in Walhalla. It's a little town with an even littler museum but we spent over an hour and a half talking with a few of the founders, Luther Lyle and Hugh Lambert. I learned a ton about the Cherokee culture. Definitely worth the visit.
The Cherokee Museum

Then we tooled over to Oconee Station, a 1792 stone building used originally as a military outpost and a place where settlers could run to when threatened by Indians. But that's not all that's there. Even older is the Station Falls. We hiked it in the torrential rain. Was it worth the soggy hike? You betcha. In hindsight, though, it probably wasn't a brilliant idea to cross a river when flash flood alerts are everywhere. 

That earned us a bowl of soup in a nearby local restaurant. I'm not sure, but I think I ate okra. Anyone? Can you identify? And apparently cornbread is the go to side dish because it comes with every meal.
What is this?

Since our later walk at King's Mountain got scrapped, we hung out in downtown Greenville for awhile. Lo and behold, they've got some falls too, right smack in the middle of downtown . . . a much easier hike than the one in the afternoon.

One other observation . . . southerners take seriously the decoration of graves. There are flowers galore at every cemetery we pass.

Stay tuned. More tomorrow, rain or not.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Yankee in the South

post by Michelle Griep
Treasures found on a hike in Camden.

Day two of the research trip is in the can. The weather is making me feel right at home: cold and rainy. Actually, it was warmer in Minneapolis today than it was in South Carolina. Even so, I would not be stopped. Here are a few random insights into southern culture from a cold northerner . . .

- People really do "set" on the porch around here. I keep looking to see Andy Griffith out strumming his guitar.

- There are a LOT of abandoned houses and storefronts with vines and undergrowth squeezing the life from them.

- I've never been called sugar, honey, baby, and ma'am so much in my life -- especially not at a Burger King.

- Can we all just stop and give a big round of applause for banana pudding?

On today's dockett were two Revolutionary War sites. Despite the drizzly weather, we worked them both into our schedule.
Tiny houses were trendy back then too.

Site #1 BRATTONSVILLE

I had no idea this living history site was the place used to film The Patriot. I chose to visit simply because it had some sweet historical replicas of log cabins. They look like the original tiny houses but when you step inside, wowzer. Much more spacious than I imagined. We mostly hung out with the blacksmith, learning all about rifles and muskets

The Battlefield of Camden.


Site #2 CAMDEN

You don't have to be a huge military buff to visit this place because the tour guide is well-versed on way more than that. But yes, if you are into the Revolutionary War, then this is a must see. This is the place the Brits took over and used to supply their entire Southern campaign.

It doesn't look like you'd expect a battle"field" to look. It's in the woods, mostly because, well, that's where they fought, eh?

Stay tuned . . . the adventure continues tomorrow. Too bad the national weather service is predicting record rains and there are flash flood warnings galore.

Friday, October 2, 2015

What a Research Trip Looks Like

post by Michelle Griep
Playing the Patriot at Ninety Six, South Carolina
Writers make up lots of things all the time, but honestly, it helps if you can visit the area you're writing about. That's why I'm currently tromping around the backcountry of South Carolina. Today I hiked historic Ninety Six. That's a town, not a number. Yeah, goofy butt name, but sweet mercy! Such history! And here's where my trip all began . . .

Two years ago I pitched a story to an editor about an English woman coming to the colonies as an indentured servant. All my stories to this point had been set in England. It's what I know. But at the time, Americana stories were all the rage and what publishers were snapping up. So I figured I'd bring a Brit over here and still get my taste of England a wilder setting.
No Cherokees, just spiders and snakes.

It sold. Whoda thunk?

That's when I started cramming. I picked up books on the Carolina frontier during the 1770's and read like crazy. I started writing the story with the bits of information I'd picked up. But I figured I'd better pack up my northern derriere and hustle down south to really experience what my heroine would. I've only been here a day, but I've already learned 3 very important facts . . .

#1. There are apparently venomous snakes around here. I didn't happen to see any or you'd have heard the scream tear around the world.

#2. The dirt here is red. Like really. Not kidding. Shouldn't dirt be black?

Orange lichen . . . weird!
# 3. Walking through the woods you run into spider webs. These suckers are everywhere. I didn't see the spiders but the webs are like dental floss dipped in super glue and they stick to everything.

When I get home and get back to work on my story, I'll weave in the dirt and the spider webs. Not sure if I can toss in a snake. They creep me out too much.

So, writers, if you want to add real-life touches to your stories, I highly recommend you visit the areas you're writing about. It's not always possible, but venomous snakes and spiders aside, it's worth it if you can pony up the cash.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Hot Headed Heroes

post by Michelle Griep
Rage. Everyone blows a gasket now and then . . . or at least feels like it. Like today when I flew Frontier Airlines. No wonder I scored such a sweet deal because they charge for extras. Lest you misunderstand, I'm not talking some frivolous perk like a cashmere blankie to snuggle up with in your seat. Nope. I'm talking the dang freaking seat itself.

Here's how it works on Frontier (though they don't tell you this up front) -- you choose where to sit, and each seating zone is a different price. The cheapest is $11 and goes up to $25. Sitting on the toilet or the captain's lap isn't an option. I checked. I already paid for the flight, so remind me again why I must pay to park my royal heinie? That ticked me off.

Oh yeah, and my carry on? That will be $30. As in extra. As in these cheap seats just got real expensive. I'm surprised I didn't have to run my credit card to open the restroom door. Frontier Airlines just lost a customer. Sheesh.

But anger can be constructive, especially to a writer. It helps create real characters because characters need to feel and express anger as well as real people. Everyone expects the villain to grump and growl and stomp around, but heroes must roar now and then as well.

3 REASONS TO ANGER YOUR HERO

INJUSTICE

The best and most obvious reason for a hero to snarl is when the little guy is getting beaten to a pulp by a bully. That's when a hero can shine by getting all indignant, swooping in, and dishing it right back to the bully.

This doesn't have to be used in only violent situations. An injustice can be a legal matter, a matter of the heart, or simply righting some wrong.

SHORTCOMINGS

Who isn't frustrated with their own shortcomings? Your hero needs to have flaws, and those flaws need to annoy him. In the long run, he can either overcome them or adapt, but while those flaws are present, he needs to be irritated by them. Think about it . . . what kind of hero is content to be less than perfect?

LOT IN LIFE

Not every hero is born with a cape, pearly white teeth, and so much gold he can buy a ticket on an airline other than Frontier (yes, I'm still bitter). It's okay for a hero to be angry about his lot in life because that gives him the motivation to change his situation. Or he could also accept that lot. Either way gives you a great character arc.

Note, however, that you don't have to inflame your hero over all these situations. In fact, don't. Be judicious. Readers don't love a hothead. But do go ahead and have your hero get annoyed with things now and then to make him more believable.

Disclaimer: To those of my lovely readers who may happen to work for Frontier, don't worry. I still love you.
 
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