Thursday, May 10, 2018

Dear Editor-on-call,

I got this comment in a critique of mine and I have NO idea what it means. Could you shed some light? I feel so stupid, but I just don't get the terminology: "Misplaced modifiers. I’m seeing this phenomenon all the time with my clients! You do this just a little, but watch your antecedents."

Sincerely,
Mystified about Modifiers

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dear Mystified,

Your knuckle-rapping English teachers were trying to break you of this problem when they made you diagram sentences. You might have vague memories of identifying sentence parts as subject, verb, object. Each of these sentence parts can have modifiers--words or phrases that tell details about them.

Problems arise when those details are not close enough to the word they describe. The resulting sentences can be confusing at best, and inadvertently hilarious at worst.

Let's look at some examples.

Subject modifier misplaced

Example: The boy chased the cat who had asthma.

Whoops--Asthmatic kitties are not too common (though friends of mine work for a recording label by that name). The modifier needs to move closer to the subject, "the boy."

Revised: The boy who had asthma chased the cat.
Alternate: The asthmatic boy chased the cat.

Example: Growling and snapping, Melody was stalked by the werewolf.

Whoops--Is Mel trying to confuse the predator? More likely the writer doesn't realize the subject and object are in the wrong order.

Revised: Growling and snapping, the werewolf stalked Melody.


Example: Walking along the bridge, a ship suddenly appeared.Whoops--Is The Ship Who Walked related to Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang? You've got either some really wacky personification or a sentence with an unclear subject. I chose the latter.

This example is what's usually called a "dangling modifier"--the part of speech being described is actually missing. This sentence needs an actor walking and seeing that ship appear. Here are three ways to resolve the issue:

Revised: Walking along the bridge, the captain saw a ship suddenly appear.
Alternate: A ship suddenly appeared while the captain was walking along the bridge.
Alternate 2: As the captain walked along the bridge, a ship suddenly appeared.

Verb modifier misplaced

Example: He kept a black book of all the girls he had dated in his desk.Whoops--It might get a mite crowded in there among the paperclips! That directional "in his desk" needs to be closer to the verb "kept."

Revised: He kept in his desk a black book of all the girls he'd dated.
Alternate: In his desk, he kept a black book of all the girls he had dated.
Alternate 2 (with a shifting emphasis): There in Jason's desk drawer was his black book--a list of all the girls he'd dated.

Example: Larry told me he was getting married that afternoon at night.Whoops--When the heck is the wedding?? Oy vey. Please separate the time of the telling from the information told. "That afternoon" modifies "told," describing when Larry gave information.

Revised: That afternoon, Larry told me he was getting married at night.
Alternate: That afternoon, Larry told me about his plans for a nighttime wedding.

Object modifier misplaced

Example: You need someone to carry that load with a strong back.
Whoops--It the load is so strong, why can't it carry itself? The modifier "with a strong back" needs to move closer to the object of the sentence, "someone."

Revised: You need someone with a strong back to carry that load.


Example: I showed my dog to the veterinarian with the fleas.
Whoops--That poor, itchy vet! Sounds like he's been infested. In this case, it's the object "my dog" that needs to be closer to its modifier "with the fleas."

Revised: I showed the veterinarian my dog with the fleas.

Word order problems

Limiting modifiers can change the meaning of a sentence depending on where they are placed. Some words to beware of: only, not only, just, not just, almost, hardly, nearly, even, exactly, merely, scarcely, and simply.

Below are examples of how a sentence's meaning can change when one moves around a limiting modifier.

Subject modified:
Just Evan drank a Coke.
(No others drank Coke, only Evan did.)

Verb modified:
Evan just drank a Coke.
(Others had a big bar brawl while Evan sat there sipping his cola.)

Object modified:
Evan drank just a Coke.
(Others had vodka tonics, but Evan? Just Coke.)

Squinting modifiers are modifying phrases that could modify more than one part of a sentence. Clarity problems arise when you place them near to both possible choices.

Example: She said on Sunday she would call.

Whoops--Did she say it on Sunday? Or is she going to call on Sunday? We don’t know. The phrase “on Sunday” could modify “said” or it could modify “would call.” Revising sentences like this usually requires adding words to make clear who's doing what and when.

Revised: On Sunday, she said she would call me soon.
Alternate: On Sunday, she said, "I'll call you."

To capture the other possible meaning, try these revisions:
Revised: She just said she would call me Sunday night.
Alternate: She said, "I'll call you on Sunday."


Side note: the editor mentioned in this letter was misusing the grammar term "antecedent" to mean "a thing referred to," which should only be used when discussing pronouns. The correct grammatical term for something being modified is "headword."


Which of these areas trip you up? Any other helpful pointers for correctly placing modifiers with their headwords?
Thursday, May 10, 2018 Laurel Garver
Dear Editor-on-call,

I got this comment in a critique of mine and I have NO idea what it means. Could you shed some light? I feel so stupid, but I just don't get the terminology: "Misplaced modifiers. I’m seeing this phenomenon all the time with my clients! You do this just a little, but watch your antecedents."

Sincerely,
Mystified about Modifiers

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dear Mystified,

Your knuckle-rapping English teachers were trying to break you of this problem when they made you diagram sentences. You might have vague memories of identifying sentence parts as subject, verb, object. Each of these sentence parts can have modifiers--words or phrases that tell details about them.

Problems arise when those details are not close enough to the word they describe. The resulting sentences can be confusing at best, and inadvertently hilarious at worst.

Let's look at some examples.

Subject modifier misplaced

Example: The boy chased the cat who had asthma.

Whoops--Asthmatic kitties are not too common (though friends of mine work for a recording label by that name). The modifier needs to move closer to the subject, "the boy."

Revised: The boy who had asthma chased the cat.
Alternate: The asthmatic boy chased the cat.

Example: Growling and snapping, Melody was stalked by the werewolf.

Whoops--Is Mel trying to confuse the predator? More likely the writer doesn't realize the subject and object are in the wrong order.

Revised: Growling and snapping, the werewolf stalked Melody.


Example: Walking along the bridge, a ship suddenly appeared.Whoops--Is The Ship Who Walked related to Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang? You've got either some really wacky personification or a sentence with an unclear subject. I chose the latter.

This example is what's usually called a "dangling modifier"--the part of speech being described is actually missing. This sentence needs an actor walking and seeing that ship appear. Here are three ways to resolve the issue:

Revised: Walking along the bridge, the captain saw a ship suddenly appear.
Alternate: A ship suddenly appeared while the captain was walking along the bridge.
Alternate 2: As the captain walked along the bridge, a ship suddenly appeared.

Verb modifier misplaced

Example: He kept a black book of all the girls he had dated in his desk.Whoops--It might get a mite crowded in there among the paperclips! That directional "in his desk" needs to be closer to the verb "kept."

Revised: He kept in his desk a black book of all the girls he'd dated.
Alternate: In his desk, he kept a black book of all the girls he had dated.
Alternate 2 (with a shifting emphasis): There in Jason's desk drawer was his black book--a list of all the girls he'd dated.

Example: Larry told me he was getting married that afternoon at night.Whoops--When the heck is the wedding?? Oy vey. Please separate the time of the telling from the information told. "That afternoon" modifies "told," describing when Larry gave information.

Revised: That afternoon, Larry told me he was getting married at night.
Alternate: That afternoon, Larry told me about his plans for a nighttime wedding.

Object modifier misplaced

Example: You need someone to carry that load with a strong back.
Whoops--It the load is so strong, why can't it carry itself? The modifier "with a strong back" needs to move closer to the object of the sentence, "someone."

Revised: You need someone with a strong back to carry that load.


Example: I showed my dog to the veterinarian with the fleas.
Whoops--That poor, itchy vet! Sounds like he's been infested. In this case, it's the object "my dog" that needs to be closer to its modifier "with the fleas."

Revised: I showed the veterinarian my dog with the fleas.

Word order problems

Limiting modifiers can change the meaning of a sentence depending on where they are placed. Some words to beware of: only, not only, just, not just, almost, hardly, nearly, even, exactly, merely, scarcely, and simply.

Below are examples of how a sentence's meaning can change when one moves around a limiting modifier.

Subject modified:
Just Evan drank a Coke.
(No others drank Coke, only Evan did.)

Verb modified:
Evan just drank a Coke.
(Others had a big bar brawl while Evan sat there sipping his cola.)

Object modified:
Evan drank just a Coke.
(Others had vodka tonics, but Evan? Just Coke.)

Squinting modifiers are modifying phrases that could modify more than one part of a sentence. Clarity problems arise when you place them near to both possible choices.

Example: She said on Sunday she would call.

Whoops--Did she say it on Sunday? Or is she going to call on Sunday? We don’t know. The phrase “on Sunday” could modify “said” or it could modify “would call.” Revising sentences like this usually requires adding words to make clear who's doing what and when.

Revised: On Sunday, she said she would call me soon.
Alternate: On Sunday, she said, "I'll call you."

To capture the other possible meaning, try these revisions:
Revised: She just said she would call me Sunday night.
Alternate: She said, "I'll call you on Sunday."


Side note: the editor mentioned in this letter was misusing the grammar term "antecedent" to mean "a thing referred to," which should only be used when discussing pronouns. The correct grammatical term for something being modified is "headword."


Which of these areas trip you up? Any other helpful pointers for correctly placing modifiers with their headwords?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Dear Editor-on-call,

I'm weak when it comes to run-on sentences. Can you help?

Sincerely,
The On-Runner


Dear Runner,

You are in good company. Run-ons are one of the three most common errors I see in academic writing. PhD programs in English seem to encourage jamming as many ideas as possible between full stops. I once broke an 11-line sentence into FOUR parts. Clearly this was a case of reader distrust--an anxiety that the reader wouldn't comprehend the way ideas were linked unless crammed together. Keep in mind that a paragraph is the best unit for clearly and readably holding together a series of linked ideas.

The biggest danger of run-on sentences is incoherence. The reader will lose the thread of what you're saying if information isn't parsed into manageable pieces.

The most common form of run-on is the comma splice. This term refers to two complete sentences joined with a comma when they should either be divided or have a conjunction inserted (i.e., and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet).

Example:
It will be clear and hot today, you should put on sunscreen.

Possible fixes:
It will be clear and hot today. You should put on sunscreen.
It will be clear and hot today, so you should put on sunscreen.

Another cause of run-ons is misuse of conjunctive adverbs like however, moreover, nonetheless.

Example:
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities, however, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.

Possible fixes:
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities. However, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities; however, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.

I am no fan of the semi-colon and would recommend against using the latter method. These two ideas--"children in ivy-league" and "working long shifts"--are not so tightly bonded they need to be in one sentence. The semi-colon version also contains so much information in such a large chunk it can lose a reader.

And speaking of overload, the worst kind of run-on is the clause-a-thon--too many clauses strung together.

Example:
She read the letter from the insurance company that said that the claim we had filed as a result of our accident in center city on May 3 had been sent on to a review committee which would consider the matter and render a decision within a month.

Possible fixes:
She read the letter from the insurance company. It said the claim we'd filed for our May 3 accident had been sent to a review committee. The committee would review the matter and render a decision in a month.

Note that some unnecessary details are dropped and phrases condensed. The claim is for an accident (less wordy than "as a result of"). Where the accident occurred is unimportant. What matters most is whether the insurance company will pay.

The sentence could be further condensed to hit only the most important information:
The insurance company's letter said our car accident claim had been sent to a review committee. We'd have to wait another month for an answer.

The clause-a-thon is the most likely form to occur in fiction. When you run across sentences that are trying to do too much, look for ways to trim details and parse the information into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Example:
My best friend Nancy, who lived down the hall from me and who I first met at a departmental wine-and-cheese event, wore her onyx hair in a braid, smoked clove cigarettes and went through boyfriends like Kleenex.

Possible fixes:
My best friend Nancy lived down the hall from me. We first met at a departmental wine-and-cheese event. She wore her onyx hair in a braid, smoked clove cigarettes and went through boyfriends like Kleenex.

Leaner:
I first met my best friend Nancy at a departmental wine-and-cheese event. Smoke from her clove cigarette had curled around her onyx braid and wafted toward her boyfriend-du-jour.

In some cases, your best fixes will come from deeper level rewrites like this. Instead of using a list to describe Nancy, I turned the descriptions into an active flashback.

Which of these areas trip you up most?
Thursday, April 26, 2018 Laurel Garver
Dear Editor-on-call,

I'm weak when it comes to run-on sentences. Can you help?

Sincerely,
The On-Runner


Dear Runner,

You are in good company. Run-ons are one of the three most common errors I see in academic writing. PhD programs in English seem to encourage jamming as many ideas as possible between full stops. I once broke an 11-line sentence into FOUR parts. Clearly this was a case of reader distrust--an anxiety that the reader wouldn't comprehend the way ideas were linked unless crammed together. Keep in mind that a paragraph is the best unit for clearly and readably holding together a series of linked ideas.

The biggest danger of run-on sentences is incoherence. The reader will lose the thread of what you're saying if information isn't parsed into manageable pieces.

The most common form of run-on is the comma splice. This term refers to two complete sentences joined with a comma when they should either be divided or have a conjunction inserted (i.e., and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet).

Example:
It will be clear and hot today, you should put on sunscreen.

Possible fixes:
It will be clear and hot today. You should put on sunscreen.
It will be clear and hot today, so you should put on sunscreen.

Another cause of run-ons is misuse of conjunctive adverbs like however, moreover, nonetheless.

Example:
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities, however, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.

Possible fixes:
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities. However, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities; however, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.

I am no fan of the semi-colon and would recommend against using the latter method. These two ideas--"children in ivy-league" and "working long shifts"--are not so tightly bonded they need to be in one sentence. The semi-colon version also contains so much information in such a large chunk it can lose a reader.

And speaking of overload, the worst kind of run-on is the clause-a-thon--too many clauses strung together.

Example:
She read the letter from the insurance company that said that the claim we had filed as a result of our accident in center city on May 3 had been sent on to a review committee which would consider the matter and render a decision within a month.

Possible fixes:
She read the letter from the insurance company. It said the claim we'd filed for our May 3 accident had been sent to a review committee. The committee would review the matter and render a decision in a month.

Note that some unnecessary details are dropped and phrases condensed. The claim is for an accident (less wordy than "as a result of"). Where the accident occurred is unimportant. What matters most is whether the insurance company will pay.

The sentence could be further condensed to hit only the most important information:
The insurance company's letter said our car accident claim had been sent to a review committee. We'd have to wait another month for an answer.

The clause-a-thon is the most likely form to occur in fiction. When you run across sentences that are trying to do too much, look for ways to trim details and parse the information into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Example:
My best friend Nancy, who lived down the hall from me and who I first met at a departmental wine-and-cheese event, wore her onyx hair in a braid, smoked clove cigarettes and went through boyfriends like Kleenex.

Possible fixes:
My best friend Nancy lived down the hall from me. We first met at a departmental wine-and-cheese event. She wore her onyx hair in a braid, smoked clove cigarettes and went through boyfriends like Kleenex.

Leaner:
I first met my best friend Nancy at a departmental wine-and-cheese event. Smoke from her clove cigarette had curled around her onyx braid and wafted toward her boyfriend-du-jour.

In some cases, your best fixes will come from deeper level rewrites like this. Instead of using a list to describe Nancy, I turned the descriptions into an active flashback.

Which of these areas trip you up most?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

I've read a few YA novels recently that left me a little cold. As I thought about why, I realized one aspect of all the stories was underdeveloped or nonexistent--the inner journey or emotional arc.

All three protagonists wanted something. On the surface. That desire drove the plot arc. But the inner need behind that desire wasn't addressed. There was no emotional arc.

What's the difference, you might ask. I turn again to one of my favorite resources for these sorts of definitions--Les Edgerton's Hooked.

Edgerton says that a novel develops around two major components, the "surface problem" and the "story-worthy problem." The former is generally a bad situation or quandary that is introduced at the beginning of a novel. The kidnapped sister. The business collapse. Impending bankruptcy. Serious illness. Infertility. That sort of thing. The story-worthy problem is the deeper psychological need that is challenged by the surface problem. The need to feel competent. Worthy of love. Generous rather than grasping, or confident instead of fearful.

The story-worthy problem adds emotional stakes to your work, so that what happens to your characters and the decisions they make actually changes them deeply. If you only work on the level of surface problem, you'll have a surface story. Quality writing puts characters through an emotional growth process that is cathartic and healing for the reader as well.

You find story-worthy problems, Edgerton says, in "that dark place we all have inside and try hardest to deny and ignore" (64). These are areas of vice or weakness that need to change for a character to achieve goals and fully blossom into his or her best self.

Here's an example:
In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor and her family become impoverished after the father dies. The best hope of solving the problem is a wise marriage. But Elinor is so "sensible"--practical, wise, following every rule of propriety-- that she comes across as cold to men. In other words, her virtue has a dark side. She learns to risk loving, even in the face of what seem impossible odds. Hope might not be sensible, but in taking risk, Elinor becomes a more fully human person.

What are some other examples you can think of? How might this distinction help your writing?
Thursday, April 19, 2018 Laurel Garver
I've read a few YA novels recently that left me a little cold. As I thought about why, I realized one aspect of all the stories was underdeveloped or nonexistent--the inner journey or emotional arc.

All three protagonists wanted something. On the surface. That desire drove the plot arc. But the inner need behind that desire wasn't addressed. There was no emotional arc.

What's the difference, you might ask. I turn again to one of my favorite resources for these sorts of definitions--Les Edgerton's Hooked.

Edgerton says that a novel develops around two major components, the "surface problem" and the "story-worthy problem." The former is generally a bad situation or quandary that is introduced at the beginning of a novel. The kidnapped sister. The business collapse. Impending bankruptcy. Serious illness. Infertility. That sort of thing. The story-worthy problem is the deeper psychological need that is challenged by the surface problem. The need to feel competent. Worthy of love. Generous rather than grasping, or confident instead of fearful.

The story-worthy problem adds emotional stakes to your work, so that what happens to your characters and the decisions they make actually changes them deeply. If you only work on the level of surface problem, you'll have a surface story. Quality writing puts characters through an emotional growth process that is cathartic and healing for the reader as well.

You find story-worthy problems, Edgerton says, in "that dark place we all have inside and try hardest to deny and ignore" (64). These are areas of vice or weakness that need to change for a character to achieve goals and fully blossom into his or her best self.

Here's an example:
In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor and her family become impoverished after the father dies. The best hope of solving the problem is a wise marriage. But Elinor is so "sensible"--practical, wise, following every rule of propriety-- that she comes across as cold to men. In other words, her virtue has a dark side. She learns to risk loving, even in the face of what seem impossible odds. Hope might not be sensible, but in taking risk, Elinor becomes a more fully human person.

What are some other examples you can think of? How might this distinction help your writing?

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Laurel's note: I asked today's guest, "What unique life experiences have shaped the topics and themes in your writing?" Cleo's experiences with loss and hardship have given her some very gripping raw material. Read on to learn more.

By Cleo Lampos

It isn’t the life that I would have planned. But on the far side of midlife, there isn’t a thing that I would change. No regrets. The experiences of early years created this writer who delves into the issues of child rescuing and second chances.

My father’s death left my mother with two preschoolers, a teenage son and no social security in Greeley, Colorado. She had spent her youth surviving the Dust Bowl, Great Depression and World War II. Now, in 1950’s boom, our little family faced poverty. Mom tried to work third shift at the canning company with a teenage girl sleeping all night with us. My brother enlisted in the Navy, leaving one less mouth to feed. Frugality and ingenuity kept us going until I entered second grade and Mom married a man who she barely knew. In short time, she regretted the abusive alcoholic behavior that filled most days.

Moving from state to state for “a fresh start” intensified a pattern of isolation and insecurity for the family. As the physical abuse intensified, Mom tried to escape by taking us “underground”. We lived in a tiny bedroom in a nursing home in Wisconsin, eating with the residents, then walking to school. After a semester in that situation, my sister and I entered the foster care system, living with a relative, then with a foster family on a farm. I am still in contact with my “other mother” and five foster sisters who showered me with love.

When Mom gained custody of us, I entered high school with nine different educational systems behind me. Almost an elective mute, speaking in class presented problems for me. The speech teacher, Mr. Schubert, forced me to give presentations and overcome my fears. He taught me that my thoughts and feelings were worthy of attention. Today I speak at many venues and am comfortable with the process.

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater awarded a four year tuition scholarship to me, so the only expenses were room and board for a four-year degree. Throughout the college years, most of my time was spent working in the library, carrying overloads of credits and staying on the honor roll to keep the scholarships. As with other children of alcoholics, I stayed closed off from deep relationships, thinking that no one could understand my past. But the approval from high grades and well written papers satisfied the people-pleasing need so deeply engrained in me. Difficulty having fun made these years hard work.

Predictably, my career choice involved relationships with people who required rescuing. With a degree in teaching children from deprived backgrounds, my own need to be rescued transferred to the students in my care. Later, a degree in teaching behavior disordered and emotionally disturbed children led to an urban setting where my rescuing tendencies made me an excellent teacher. Finally, my own background and the circumstances of my pupils matched, resulting in an intuitive educator who conducted her class with empathy, caring and compassion. Understanding both parents and students provided a place of healing for all of us.

Writing in a journal to prevent “teacher burnout”, it occurred to me one day that some of the entries resembled  magazine articles in teacher journals or religious take-home papers. Soon, a dozen articles had been published and plans for a book dedicated to encouraging educators. Adding quotes and suggestions to my classroom narratives, Teaching Diamonds in the Tough: Mining the Potential in Every Child was published by Lighthouse of the Carolinas. Transparent feelings and fears fill each page of this devotional.

Then the thought that all the experiences as a teacher in an urban setting might provide relaxing late night reading created the series, Teachers of Diamond Project School. Each stand- alone book is based on the 3 R’s: reality, reflection and romance.  So many of the plot lines are actually incidents from my own interactions in the classroom. In Second Chances, Zoey Pappas knows her cows, but not her gangs. Miss Bee and the Do Bees invites the reader into a challenging special education classroom. Cultivating Wildflowers takes Alana Alcott into the world of foster care. My self-published books mimic real life.

With artist Maralyn Dettman, Grandpa’s Remembering Book helps families with the journey of Alzheimer’s Disease. Rescuing Children takes the reader into the lives of eight men and women who spent their lives taking children from degradation and death to useful lives. The Dust Bowl: Living Through Tough Times talks about the many ways that those of the Great Depression overcame hardships. Dust Between the Stitches is the fictional version of the 1930’s struggle of beet farmers in Colorado trying to stay afloat.

The novel that capitalizes on my childhood is A Mother’s Song, which South Side Chicago Irish claim is the best description of Irish immigration. So much of my mother’s story and my own emotional baggage are conveyed in that book. The plot is simple: one girl and the two mothers that she loves.

My latest non-fiction is Piecing Fabrics, Mending Lives: The History, Philosophy and Ingenuity of Quilters. The essays in this book explore how women piece their scrappy lives back together into coherent wholes. My thoughts harken to my mother’s life and mine.
Every experience, whether positive or negative, is useable in writing that transforms a reader. May my words bring healing to others.

About the Author 

Cleo Lampos was born in Colorado, but raised in rural Iowa and Wisconsin. After graduating from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, she taught in the Chicago area. Raising three children with her husband, Vernon, she attained a Master’s from St. Xavier University-Chicago and taught behavior disordered/emotionally disturbed students for 26 years. Lampos has been published in magazines such as Lookout, Teachers in Focus and Power for Living. She is the author of seven books. Her life is filled with speaking engagements at senior groups, local community colleges, book clubs, and women’s discussion circles. Living in suburban Chicago, the Lampos’ are urban farmers certified by the University of Illinois. They are active in their church and love their 11 grandchildren.

Website: www.cleolampos.com
Facebook: Author Cleo Lampos
E-mail: cleolampos@gmail.com

About the Book

A Mother’s Song

In 1890, Deirdre O'Sullivan lives in Five Points, New York City with her husband, son and four year old, Ava Rose. Pregnant with their third child, Deirdre works as a washerwoman at the hotel's laundry. If Sean works at all, he drinks his paycheck at the pub. When he is killed in an accident at work, Deirdre is devastated. She gives birth to another son, but cannot work at the laundry. The oldest son lives on the street as a newsie. Rather than let Ava Rose and her baby brother starve to death with her, she signs for them to be put on an orphan train. This orphan train takes these youngsters to Nebraska to Claudine, who has suffered multiple miscarriages. Will the adoption provide the safety and opportunity that Deirdre hopes? This researched story of two mothers and the child who loves both is heart wrenching. It is a poignant tale of hope and courage against unfathomable odds for a better life.

Available at Amazon.com

Are there any compelling stories in your history or in your family's history that you'd love to draw on in your own fiction?
Thursday, March 01, 2018 Laurel Garver
Laurel's note: I asked today's guest, "What unique life experiences have shaped the topics and themes in your writing?" Cleo's experiences with loss and hardship have given her some very gripping raw material. Read on to learn more.

By Cleo Lampos

It isn’t the life that I would have planned. But on the far side of midlife, there isn’t a thing that I would change. No regrets. The experiences of early years created this writer who delves into the issues of child rescuing and second chances.

My father’s death left my mother with two preschoolers, a teenage son and no social security in Greeley, Colorado. She had spent her youth surviving the Dust Bowl, Great Depression and World War II. Now, in 1950’s boom, our little family faced poverty. Mom tried to work third shift at the canning company with a teenage girl sleeping all night with us. My brother enlisted in the Navy, leaving one less mouth to feed. Frugality and ingenuity kept us going until I entered second grade and Mom married a man who she barely knew. In short time, she regretted the abusive alcoholic behavior that filled most days.

Moving from state to state for “a fresh start” intensified a pattern of isolation and insecurity for the family. As the physical abuse intensified, Mom tried to escape by taking us “underground”. We lived in a tiny bedroom in a nursing home in Wisconsin, eating with the residents, then walking to school. After a semester in that situation, my sister and I entered the foster care system, living with a relative, then with a foster family on a farm. I am still in contact with my “other mother” and five foster sisters who showered me with love.

When Mom gained custody of us, I entered high school with nine different educational systems behind me. Almost an elective mute, speaking in class presented problems for me. The speech teacher, Mr. Schubert, forced me to give presentations and overcome my fears. He taught me that my thoughts and feelings were worthy of attention. Today I speak at many venues and am comfortable with the process.

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater awarded a four year tuition scholarship to me, so the only expenses were room and board for a four-year degree. Throughout the college years, most of my time was spent working in the library, carrying overloads of credits and staying on the honor roll to keep the scholarships. As with other children of alcoholics, I stayed closed off from deep relationships, thinking that no one could understand my past. But the approval from high grades and well written papers satisfied the people-pleasing need so deeply engrained in me. Difficulty having fun made these years hard work.

Predictably, my career choice involved relationships with people who required rescuing. With a degree in teaching children from deprived backgrounds, my own need to be rescued transferred to the students in my care. Later, a degree in teaching behavior disordered and emotionally disturbed children led to an urban setting where my rescuing tendencies made me an excellent teacher. Finally, my own background and the circumstances of my pupils matched, resulting in an intuitive educator who conducted her class with empathy, caring and compassion. Understanding both parents and students provided a place of healing for all of us.

Writing in a journal to prevent “teacher burnout”, it occurred to me one day that some of the entries resembled  magazine articles in teacher journals or religious take-home papers. Soon, a dozen articles had been published and plans for a book dedicated to encouraging educators. Adding quotes and suggestions to my classroom narratives, Teaching Diamonds in the Tough: Mining the Potential in Every Child was published by Lighthouse of the Carolinas. Transparent feelings and fears fill each page of this devotional.

Then the thought that all the experiences as a teacher in an urban setting might provide relaxing late night reading created the series, Teachers of Diamond Project School. Each stand- alone book is based on the 3 R’s: reality, reflection and romance.  So many of the plot lines are actually incidents from my own interactions in the classroom. In Second Chances, Zoey Pappas knows her cows, but not her gangs. Miss Bee and the Do Bees invites the reader into a challenging special education classroom. Cultivating Wildflowers takes Alana Alcott into the world of foster care. My self-published books mimic real life.

With artist Maralyn Dettman, Grandpa’s Remembering Book helps families with the journey of Alzheimer’s Disease. Rescuing Children takes the reader into the lives of eight men and women who spent their lives taking children from degradation and death to useful lives. The Dust Bowl: Living Through Tough Times talks about the many ways that those of the Great Depression overcame hardships. Dust Between the Stitches is the fictional version of the 1930’s struggle of beet farmers in Colorado trying to stay afloat.

The novel that capitalizes on my childhood is A Mother’s Song, which South Side Chicago Irish claim is the best description of Irish immigration. So much of my mother’s story and my own emotional baggage are conveyed in that book. The plot is simple: one girl and the two mothers that she loves.

My latest non-fiction is Piecing Fabrics, Mending Lives: The History, Philosophy and Ingenuity of Quilters. The essays in this book explore how women piece their scrappy lives back together into coherent wholes. My thoughts harken to my mother’s life and mine.
Every experience, whether positive or negative, is useable in writing that transforms a reader. May my words bring healing to others.

About the Author 

Cleo Lampos was born in Colorado, but raised in rural Iowa and Wisconsin. After graduating from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, she taught in the Chicago area. Raising three children with her husband, Vernon, she attained a Master’s from St. Xavier University-Chicago and taught behavior disordered/emotionally disturbed students for 26 years. Lampos has been published in magazines such as Lookout, Teachers in Focus and Power for Living. She is the author of seven books. Her life is filled with speaking engagements at senior groups, local community colleges, book clubs, and women’s discussion circles. Living in suburban Chicago, the Lampos’ are urban farmers certified by the University of Illinois. They are active in their church and love their 11 grandchildren.

Website: www.cleolampos.com
Facebook: Author Cleo Lampos
E-mail: cleolampos@gmail.com

About the Book

A Mother’s Song

In 1890, Deirdre O'Sullivan lives in Five Points, New York City with her husband, son and four year old, Ava Rose. Pregnant with their third child, Deirdre works as a washerwoman at the hotel's laundry. If Sean works at all, he drinks his paycheck at the pub. When he is killed in an accident at work, Deirdre is devastated. She gives birth to another son, but cannot work at the laundry. The oldest son lives on the street as a newsie. Rather than let Ava Rose and her baby brother starve to death with her, she signs for them to be put on an orphan train. This orphan train takes these youngsters to Nebraska to Claudine, who has suffered multiple miscarriages. Will the adoption provide the safety and opportunity that Deirdre hopes? This researched story of two mothers and the child who loves both is heart wrenching. It is a poignant tale of hope and courage against unfathomable odds for a better life.

Available at Amazon.com

Are there any compelling stories in your history or in your family's history that you'd love to draw on in your own fiction?

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Photo by Heather Cannon. Used with permission.
How to Use Your Life in Your Fiction

By guest author Lila Diller

Can I write about what happened to me? What should I keep in mind when including a personal story in fiction? If you’ve ever wondered this, there are three actions you can take.

Last year I published my first Christian romance novel. Though it is definitely fiction, much came from my own personal experiences. I had a friend ask how I got around some obstacles she was facing. She had written a memoir about her marriage, but the few friends she showed it to told her it would ruin her and her husband’s reputations. When I told her how I used my life as a springboard for a fictional story, the light bulb went off.

You can use your personal life as raw material for your fiction stories, too. Here are the most important things you want to keep in mind.

You’ll be kissing that writer’s block goodbye much more often when you use your memories as raw material for certain scenes.

1. Get the Legal Stuff out of the Way First

Include a paragraph on your copyright page. You’ll want to cover your tracks to protect you from being sued for libel, defamation, or a cut of royalties. Consider copying and pasting this notice or something like it to your copyright page:

Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.

2. Change a Few Details in Each Scenario

Protect the Identity of Your Loved Ones. It’s not just for legal reasons that nonfiction writers will say, “Names and details have been altered to protect identities.” You can capture the essence of a good story, an interesting dialogue, or a characterization without revealing so much that when your mother reads the story, she says, “Oh, that must have been so-and-so.”

If possible, change either the gender of the character, the time frame, surrounding circumstances, and/or the setting it happened in. Always change the name of a person, a place, or a landmark, unless it’s absolutely integral to the plot to leave the original.

3. Try Free-Writing about a Memory that Inspires You

Start with the nonfiction version of the truth; then you can change later. If you’re having trouble getting words on the page, sift through your memories until you find one that matches the flavor or inspires some aspect of your current story. Just free-write every detail of that memory down that you can think of. Don’t edit yourself; don’t worry about possible incriminating clues that might shed light on what really happened.

Once you have the memory down on paper (or computer screen), then go back and highlight the important parts. What details are absolutely necessary to make a good story? Then you can start changing non-essentials.

Let me give you a few examples from my first novel, Love is Not Arrogant or Rude. My readers have asked if this was taken from my life. My answer is “yes, but no.”

  • Though the three main characters are based on my husband, my former guy friend, and myself, I never worked with or under my husband. I didn’t meet him while on staff at our alma mater but before as students. And I have never been chased by two men at the same time. 😉
  • The dogs mentioned are based on real dogs, but Sasha was a purebred Collie of my husband’s when he was growing up. I only saw pictures and heard stories about her; I never met her as she had died before then. Esme is a real dappled dachshund that my in-laws currently own (15 years after we were first married).
  • My sister really did try to commit suicide; but I changed her name, changed the reasons why, and shortened the time it took for Morgan to realize how complicated depression is. It took me much longer to come to some conclusions.

Conclusion

You can definitely use your personal life as inspiration for a story. Sometimes the most realistic details come from experiencing those feelings, taking those actions, or saying those words yourself. Don’t be afraid to use them. Just keep in mind that you want to protect yourself and your loved ones.


About the author

Lila Diller is outnumbered by a houseful of males: husband of 15 years, two energetic boys, and a hyper dog. When not homeschooling her boys, you can find her studying the Bible, reading, singing, scrapbooking, or binge-watching Netflix. You will only find her cooking or cleaning when she can’t put it off any longer. She loves to help readers not only to escape from stress in an entertaining and believable story but also to fill their minds with the truth and hope of Jesus.

You can visit Lila's website at liladiller.com. You can also find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/loveisseries and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/liladiller.




If you love Christian romance, check out Lila's “Love is…” series on Amazon! You can also get a free digital copy if you sign up for her FB group Beta Reading for Lila Diller Author.  

Have you ever included autobiographical scenes in your fiction? Any questions for Lila?

Tuesday, February 06, 2018 Laurel Garver
Photo by Heather Cannon. Used with permission.
How to Use Your Life in Your Fiction

By guest author Lila Diller

Can I write about what happened to me? What should I keep in mind when including a personal story in fiction? If you’ve ever wondered this, there are three actions you can take.

Last year I published my first Christian romance novel. Though it is definitely fiction, much came from my own personal experiences. I had a friend ask how I got around some obstacles she was facing. She had written a memoir about her marriage, but the few friends she showed it to told her it would ruin her and her husband’s reputations. When I told her how I used my life as a springboard for a fictional story, the light bulb went off.

You can use your personal life as raw material for your fiction stories, too. Here are the most important things you want to keep in mind.

You’ll be kissing that writer’s block goodbye much more often when you use your memories as raw material for certain scenes.

1. Get the Legal Stuff out of the Way First

Include a paragraph on your copyright page. You’ll want to cover your tracks to protect you from being sued for libel, defamation, or a cut of royalties. Consider copying and pasting this notice or something like it to your copyright page:

Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.

2. Change a Few Details in Each Scenario

Protect the Identity of Your Loved Ones. It’s not just for legal reasons that nonfiction writers will say, “Names and details have been altered to protect identities.” You can capture the essence of a good story, an interesting dialogue, or a characterization without revealing so much that when your mother reads the story, she says, “Oh, that must have been so-and-so.”

If possible, change either the gender of the character, the time frame, surrounding circumstances, and/or the setting it happened in. Always change the name of a person, a place, or a landmark, unless it’s absolutely integral to the plot to leave the original.

3. Try Free-Writing about a Memory that Inspires You

Start with the nonfiction version of the truth; then you can change later. If you’re having trouble getting words on the page, sift through your memories until you find one that matches the flavor or inspires some aspect of your current story. Just free-write every detail of that memory down that you can think of. Don’t edit yourself; don’t worry about possible incriminating clues that might shed light on what really happened.

Once you have the memory down on paper (or computer screen), then go back and highlight the important parts. What details are absolutely necessary to make a good story? Then you can start changing non-essentials.

Let me give you a few examples from my first novel, Love is Not Arrogant or Rude. My readers have asked if this was taken from my life. My answer is “yes, but no.”

  • Though the three main characters are based on my husband, my former guy friend, and myself, I never worked with or under my husband. I didn’t meet him while on staff at our alma mater but before as students. And I have never been chased by two men at the same time. 😉
  • The dogs mentioned are based on real dogs, but Sasha was a purebred Collie of my husband’s when he was growing up. I only saw pictures and heard stories about her; I never met her as she had died before then. Esme is a real dappled dachshund that my in-laws currently own (15 years after we were first married).
  • My sister really did try to commit suicide; but I changed her name, changed the reasons why, and shortened the time it took for Morgan to realize how complicated depression is. It took me much longer to come to some conclusions.

Conclusion

You can definitely use your personal life as inspiration for a story. Sometimes the most realistic details come from experiencing those feelings, taking those actions, or saying those words yourself. Don’t be afraid to use them. Just keep in mind that you want to protect yourself and your loved ones.


About the author

Lila Diller is outnumbered by a houseful of males: husband of 15 years, two energetic boys, and a hyper dog. When not homeschooling her boys, you can find her studying the Bible, reading, singing, scrapbooking, or binge-watching Netflix. You will only find her cooking or cleaning when she can’t put it off any longer. She loves to help readers not only to escape from stress in an entertaining and believable story but also to fill their minds with the truth and hope of Jesus.

You can visit Lila's website at liladiller.com. You can also find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/loveisseries and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/liladiller.




If you love Christian romance, check out Lila's “Love is…” series on Amazon! You can also get a free digital copy if you sign up for her FB group Beta Reading for Lila Diller Author.  

Have you ever included autobiographical scenes in your fiction? Any questions for Lila?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

By guest Shannon L. Mokry

So you want to write a children’s book, but you don’t know where to begin? First get those ideas on paper, just the basic outline or concept to start with. Then, before you go any further, decide what age group you’re writing for. Next, consider what subgenre you are wanting it to be. If you have already finished your piece and are only now looking at defining it, all is not lost. Most manuscripts need several revisions before they are ready to publish.

So why is it so important to define now? What is a genre anyway? Both of these things are important because they tell you how long your piece needs to be, and what expectations your readers will have . If you want your book to be read, then it is important to understand your audience.

When I decided I wanted to write for children there were several questions I needed to ask myself. Will I be writing fiction or nonfiction? What age am I writing for? Children’s books fall into several age brackets. Hilari Bell does an amazing job listing them all in detail here.

For our purposes, the bare facts look like this:

  • 8-12 Middle Grade (MG) 40,000-55,000 words, MC(Main Character) is usually 10-12. It’s important to keep the story age appropriate. You really start to see subgenres at this point; is it a mystery, a fantasy, sci-fi? No specific page count. Still mostly sold in paperback.
  • 10-13 Early Young Adult (EYA) 50,000 words, MC 13-14. This category is a gray area. While it had some popularity a few years ago, it is important to note that libraries and bookstores don’t recognize this category. If you find yourself here, pick MG or YA and make the adjustments needed. This article goes into more detail on why EYA is not a real category. 
  • 12-18 Young Adult (YA) 55,000-70,000 or longer. These are full on novels with a MC usually 15-17 yrs old. No language concerns, no specific page count. You start to see an real uptick in ebook sales.

Now let's look a little closer at the differences between MG books and YA books. The vast majority of MG books are written in third person, while the majority of YA books are first person. That doesn’t and shouldn’t restrict you, but it is important to be aware of. Another factor is where the average MC age comes from. Kids want to read about kids their age or older. They do not want to read about younger kids. For example, a 16 year old doesn’t want to read about a 12 year old, they just don’t relate. For a similar reason, an 8 year old can read about 10-12 year olds just fine, but doesn’t relate at all to a 14 or 15 year old. That really makes sense because a 8-10 year olds are still in elementary school and while they may be looking forward to middle school, high school is too far into the future.

You may notice a that MG book doesn’t deal with edgy topics. There shouldn’t be any bad language or intimacy, drug use or explicit violence. Some of these things may be hinted at but not gone into detail and not be things your MC is experiencing. With YA all those rules go out the window. YA readers want to read about edgy subjects. They are exposed to and experimenting with the darker things in life. You can still write clean and sweet, but ignoring the roller coaster of emotions that a teen goes through will just make your book unrelatable.

About the Author


Shannon L. Mokry lives in Texas where she homeschools her three daughters. The Bubbles stories were inspired by stories she would tell her youngest daughter Charlotte. She recently published a MG novel.

Website / Twitter / Facebook

About the Book


Escaping Gardenia
MG fantasy

Friendships are forged in the most unlikely of places.

From a kingdom at war with dragons, Ivy is sent to scout out a path to safety. Along the way she learns about magic and accidentally hatches a baby dragon.

Safety is the next kingdom over. Vlad, a gamekeepers apprentice, joins in the effort to help the refugees. His only intent is to help as many people find safety as he can.

Making new friends was the last thing either of them expected. Can they get Ivy's village to safety and learn to trust each other? Or will they learn to late that even well meaning secret can have big consequences?

Available from Amazon

Q4U: What are some of your favorite books written for these age groups?
Thursday, January 25, 2018 Laurel Garver
By guest Shannon L. Mokry

So you want to write a children’s book, but you don’t know where to begin? First get those ideas on paper, just the basic outline or concept to start with. Then, before you go any further, decide what age group you’re writing for. Next, consider what subgenre you are wanting it to be. If you have already finished your piece and are only now looking at defining it, all is not lost. Most manuscripts need several revisions before they are ready to publish.

So why is it so important to define now? What is a genre anyway? Both of these things are important because they tell you how long your piece needs to be, and what expectations your readers will have . If you want your book to be read, then it is important to understand your audience.

When I decided I wanted to write for children there were several questions I needed to ask myself. Will I be writing fiction or nonfiction? What age am I writing for? Children’s books fall into several age brackets. Hilari Bell does an amazing job listing them all in detail here.

For our purposes, the bare facts look like this:

  • 8-12 Middle Grade (MG) 40,000-55,000 words, MC(Main Character) is usually 10-12. It’s important to keep the story age appropriate. You really start to see subgenres at this point; is it a mystery, a fantasy, sci-fi? No specific page count. Still mostly sold in paperback.
  • 10-13 Early Young Adult (EYA) 50,000 words, MC 13-14. This category is a gray area. While it had some popularity a few years ago, it is important to note that libraries and bookstores don’t recognize this category. If you find yourself here, pick MG or YA and make the adjustments needed. This article goes into more detail on why EYA is not a real category. 
  • 12-18 Young Adult (YA) 55,000-70,000 or longer. These are full on novels with a MC usually 15-17 yrs old. No language concerns, no specific page count. You start to see an real uptick in ebook sales.

Now let's look a little closer at the differences between MG books and YA books. The vast majority of MG books are written in third person, while the majority of YA books are first person. That doesn’t and shouldn’t restrict you, but it is important to be aware of. Another factor is where the average MC age comes from. Kids want to read about kids their age or older. They do not want to read about younger kids. For example, a 16 year old doesn’t want to read about a 12 year old, they just don’t relate. For a similar reason, an 8 year old can read about 10-12 year olds just fine, but doesn’t relate at all to a 14 or 15 year old. That really makes sense because a 8-10 year olds are still in elementary school and while they may be looking forward to middle school, high school is too far into the future.

You may notice a that MG book doesn’t deal with edgy topics. There shouldn’t be any bad language or intimacy, drug use or explicit violence. Some of these things may be hinted at but not gone into detail and not be things your MC is experiencing. With YA all those rules go out the window. YA readers want to read about edgy subjects. They are exposed to and experimenting with the darker things in life. You can still write clean and sweet, but ignoring the roller coaster of emotions that a teen goes through will just make your book unrelatable.

About the Author


Shannon L. Mokry lives in Texas where she homeschools her three daughters. The Bubbles stories were inspired by stories she would tell her youngest daughter Charlotte. She recently published a MG novel.

Website / Twitter / Facebook

About the Book


Escaping Gardenia
MG fantasy

Friendships are forged in the most unlikely of places.

From a kingdom at war with dragons, Ivy is sent to scout out a path to safety. Along the way she learns about magic and accidentally hatches a baby dragon.

Safety is the next kingdom over. Vlad, a gamekeepers apprentice, joins in the effort to help the refugees. His only intent is to help as many people find safety as he can.

Making new friends was the last thing either of them expected. Can they get Ivy's village to safety and learn to trust each other? Or will they learn to late that even well meaning secret can have big consequences?

Available from Amazon

Q4U: What are some of your favorite books written for these age groups?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

by guest Kandi J. Wyatt

As you open the pages of a good book, you are beckoned into a new world, a place where magic may exist or where people travel between planets on trains. The possibilities are endless and only limited by the author’s imagination and effort. When an author does an excellent job of world-building, the reader longs to climb into the pages of the book and not leave.

Harry Potter, Marvel Universe, Star Wars, Middle Earth, Narnia, and the ‘World’ of Game of Thrones are all examples of worlds that exist because an author had a vision and then dove into world-building. World-building takes thought and consideration to be thorough. Many different aspects go into creating a world that feels real.


via GIPHY

1. Places

The most common aspect of the world is where it’s set. Is it the seas of the Caribbean or is it the halls of Hogwarts? Are there woods, mountains, or deserts? Currently, I’m working on creating a planet. It will have a combination of all extremes. Hannah Heath has written on how to not fall into the rut of common places.

2. People

Once we have a place, we now need to know who inhabits these spaces. As I create my worlds, I make my people fit the place they inhabit, or if they don’t then that’s part of the plot. How would where they live affect their physical attributes and their psychology? In my Dragon Courage world, the rainy marshes of the Carr led to some depression in the characters. The word Carr came from a Celtic background and so my characters tend to have red hair and the tempers that are associated with redheads. My middle grade fantasy, Journey from Skioria, has people that are short, hairy, and have nails that extend out to climb trees since they live in trees.

3. Culture

Early on in my life, I was introduced to different cultures through missionaries that came through my home. As I grew older, I went and visited missionaries in Arizona and New Mexico and was able to see for myself a different culture as I worked with the Navajo and Hopi tribes. Later, I lived in Ecuador for two different years and stayed in Mexico for a month. These experiences let me understand that each people group has their own unique set of laws, norms, and taboos. Why should our stories be any different?

What cultural aspects do you need to add to make your stories? In the north of the Dragon Courage world, tradition holds sway. Since “change comes slowly to dragons” it takes a war for tradition to change. The southern dragon colony of Boeskay sets up on the bluffs overlooking the river. Riders sit out on their porches at night and watch the sunset. Sometimes, it’s the little touches that make the world come to life. It could be as simple as referring to years by a specific season, or it may be as simple as an expression. H. L. Burke, in her book Beggar Magic, uses the expression, ‘By the strains!’ The strains are a significant aspect of the world and are held in awe by all.

4. Language

As a language teacher, I love thinking of how language affects us, but I’ve yet to put it into my books. I did create an accent more than anything in Dragon’s Revenge. For this new project that I’m brainstorming, I’m thinking of creating a script at least for the world, if not some language.

Think of Harry Potter. How would the books have been different if it wasn’t for

via GIPHY


5. Beliefs

As all believers know, our beliefs are what define us. We will do anything for something we believe in. This should be true of your characters as well. I’ve been challenged recently to go beyond the typical on this area. Hannah Heath (if you don’t follow her, you should. She has an amazing blog for writers.) shared some very thought provoking ideas on how to write Christian fantasy and religion.

6. Technology

How do your characters get around? Do they use the horse and buggy or are there airships? How does your protagonist wash her clothes? What? You haven’t thought of that? Then you should! No, really, you should. It’s not just the steampunk genre or subgenre that should have technology. Does your antagonist spread rumors via social media and his iphone? That’s technology at work, too.

7. Mythology

The most well-known author for having mythology in his work was J. R. R. Tolkien. He wanted to provide a mythos for Great Britain and ended up creating Middle Earth. When I wrote Journey from Skioria, I had fun having characters share little myths. You don’t have to create elaborate stories, but know what a few are or have an idea of what the mythos looks like for your world.

8. Animals

As you build your world, realize there should be more than just people, or aliens, living in it. Who or what else inhabit it? As I’m brainstorming for my newest idea, I realized that a mole-like animal may come in handy. Mythical creatures most often coming into fantasy stories, but think outside the box. What other animals would make your world right? Would it be a cat, a dog, horses, whales, kangaroos, or cheetahs?


If you stop at these eight, your world may be complete, but there are so many other things to consider as well. Think of your own life. What influences it? Add those to your world-building. Sure, you might not use all of it in your actual writing, but if you know it, then it will come out into your story-telling.

About the Author

Even as a young girl, Kandi J. Wyatt had a knack for words. She loved to read them, even if it was on a shampoo bottle! By high school Kandi had learned to put words together on paper to create stories for those she loved. Nowadays, she writes for her kids, whether that's her own five or the hundreds of students she's been lucky to teach. When Kandi's not spinning words to create stories, she's using them to teach students about Spanish, life, and leadership.

Connect with Kandi:
Website / Facebook / Google Plus / Twitter / Pinterest / Goodreads / Amazon

About the Books

In a world where dragons and humans live in peace with each other, it is a privilege to be a dragon rider, but riders, like everyone else, must find their purpose. In this series, twins Ruskya and Duskya fight for their dragon’s futures and their lives! Braidyn struggles with balancing justice and mercy as he searches for a stolen nestling. Kyn and a new friend, Ben’hyamene, discover a breed of wild dragons which have been at war with humans for four hundred years, and the two learn that peace is better than revenge. Kyn helps Duskya and her daughter, Carryn, search for a young rider who stumbles upon a slave trade. Carryn learns that bitterness leaves a person in bondage as much as being a slave. Follow along the riders’ quest in this exciting middle grade fantasy series by author Kandi J Wyatt.


The One Who Sees Me 

Teenage slave girl Faru’s life has been turned upside down when she discovers she’s been traded to a new master, forcing her to leave all she‘s ever known. Upon her arrival, Faru meets a friend, Cailean, who helps her adjust to life in the strange location. Life settles into a new pattern, and romance blossoms between the young friends. But as soon as they plan to get married, another proposal comes about – one that cannot be ignored. Being a slave means not always marrying who you love.
On a daring journey to heal her heart, Faru encounters the Existing One. Will she trust Him and do His bidding even if what He requests is so hard?

Follow Faru’s tale in author Kandi J Wyatt’s retelling of a Biblical story found in the Old Testament book of Genesis, showing that when things don’t make sense, God will guide the way.

Get it HERE
Read reviews from Pursue Simple Joy / Julie L. SpencerLive. Love. Read

Pick up the rest of the series!
Dragon's FutureDragon's HeirDragon's Revenge / Dragon’s Cure / Dragon’s Posterity / Dragon’s Heritage

Q4U: What aspects of world-building do you most enjoy experiencing in books? What aspects do you find most fun to develop? Most challenging?
Thursday, January 18, 2018 Laurel Garver
by guest Kandi J. Wyatt

As you open the pages of a good book, you are beckoned into a new world, a place where magic may exist or where people travel between planets on trains. The possibilities are endless and only limited by the author’s imagination and effort. When an author does an excellent job of world-building, the reader longs to climb into the pages of the book and not leave.

Harry Potter, Marvel Universe, Star Wars, Middle Earth, Narnia, and the ‘World’ of Game of Thrones are all examples of worlds that exist because an author had a vision and then dove into world-building. World-building takes thought and consideration to be thorough. Many different aspects go into creating a world that feels real.


via GIPHY

1. Places

The most common aspect of the world is where it’s set. Is it the seas of the Caribbean or is it the halls of Hogwarts? Are there woods, mountains, or deserts? Currently, I’m working on creating a planet. It will have a combination of all extremes. Hannah Heath has written on how to not fall into the rut of common places.

2. People

Once we have a place, we now need to know who inhabits these spaces. As I create my worlds, I make my people fit the place they inhabit, or if they don’t then that’s part of the plot. How would where they live affect their physical attributes and their psychology? In my Dragon Courage world, the rainy marshes of the Carr led to some depression in the characters. The word Carr came from a Celtic background and so my characters tend to have red hair and the tempers that are associated with redheads. My middle grade fantasy, Journey from Skioria, has people that are short, hairy, and have nails that extend out to climb trees since they live in trees.

3. Culture

Early on in my life, I was introduced to different cultures through missionaries that came through my home. As I grew older, I went and visited missionaries in Arizona and New Mexico and was able to see for myself a different culture as I worked with the Navajo and Hopi tribes. Later, I lived in Ecuador for two different years and stayed in Mexico for a month. These experiences let me understand that each people group has their own unique set of laws, norms, and taboos. Why should our stories be any different?

What cultural aspects do you need to add to make your stories? In the north of the Dragon Courage world, tradition holds sway. Since “change comes slowly to dragons” it takes a war for tradition to change. The southern dragon colony of Boeskay sets up on the bluffs overlooking the river. Riders sit out on their porches at night and watch the sunset. Sometimes, it’s the little touches that make the world come to life. It could be as simple as referring to years by a specific season, or it may be as simple as an expression. H. L. Burke, in her book Beggar Magic, uses the expression, ‘By the strains!’ The strains are a significant aspect of the world and are held in awe by all.

4. Language

As a language teacher, I love thinking of how language affects us, but I’ve yet to put it into my books. I did create an accent more than anything in Dragon’s Revenge. For this new project that I’m brainstorming, I’m thinking of creating a script at least for the world, if not some language.

Think of Harry Potter. How would the books have been different if it wasn’t for

via GIPHY


5. Beliefs

As all believers know, our beliefs are what define us. We will do anything for something we believe in. This should be true of your characters as well. I’ve been challenged recently to go beyond the typical on this area. Hannah Heath (if you don’t follow her, you should. She has an amazing blog for writers.) shared some very thought provoking ideas on how to write Christian fantasy and religion.

6. Technology

How do your characters get around? Do they use the horse and buggy or are there airships? How does your protagonist wash her clothes? What? You haven’t thought of that? Then you should! No, really, you should. It’s not just the steampunk genre or subgenre that should have technology. Does your antagonist spread rumors via social media and his iphone? That’s technology at work, too.

7. Mythology

The most well-known author for having mythology in his work was J. R. R. Tolkien. He wanted to provide a mythos for Great Britain and ended up creating Middle Earth. When I wrote Journey from Skioria, I had fun having characters share little myths. You don’t have to create elaborate stories, but know what a few are or have an idea of what the mythos looks like for your world.

8. Animals

As you build your world, realize there should be more than just people, or aliens, living in it. Who or what else inhabit it? As I’m brainstorming for my newest idea, I realized that a mole-like animal may come in handy. Mythical creatures most often coming into fantasy stories, but think outside the box. What other animals would make your world right? Would it be a cat, a dog, horses, whales, kangaroos, or cheetahs?


If you stop at these eight, your world may be complete, but there are so many other things to consider as well. Think of your own life. What influences it? Add those to your world-building. Sure, you might not use all of it in your actual writing, but if you know it, then it will come out into your story-telling.

About the Author

Even as a young girl, Kandi J. Wyatt had a knack for words. She loved to read them, even if it was on a shampoo bottle! By high school Kandi had learned to put words together on paper to create stories for those she loved. Nowadays, she writes for her kids, whether that's her own five or the hundreds of students she's been lucky to teach. When Kandi's not spinning words to create stories, she's using them to teach students about Spanish, life, and leadership.

Connect with Kandi:
Website / Facebook / Google Plus / Twitter / Pinterest / Goodreads / Amazon

About the Books

In a world where dragons and humans live in peace with each other, it is a privilege to be a dragon rider, but riders, like everyone else, must find their purpose. In this series, twins Ruskya and Duskya fight for their dragon’s futures and their lives! Braidyn struggles with balancing justice and mercy as he searches for a stolen nestling. Kyn and a new friend, Ben’hyamene, discover a breed of wild dragons which have been at war with humans for four hundred years, and the two learn that peace is better than revenge. Kyn helps Duskya and her daughter, Carryn, search for a young rider who stumbles upon a slave trade. Carryn learns that bitterness leaves a person in bondage as much as being a slave. Follow along the riders’ quest in this exciting middle grade fantasy series by author Kandi J Wyatt.


The One Who Sees Me 

Teenage slave girl Faru’s life has been turned upside down when she discovers she’s been traded to a new master, forcing her to leave all she‘s ever known. Upon her arrival, Faru meets a friend, Cailean, who helps her adjust to life in the strange location. Life settles into a new pattern, and romance blossoms between the young friends. But as soon as they plan to get married, another proposal comes about – one that cannot be ignored. Being a slave means not always marrying who you love.
On a daring journey to heal her heart, Faru encounters the Existing One. Will she trust Him and do His bidding even if what He requests is so hard?

Follow Faru’s tale in author Kandi J Wyatt’s retelling of a Biblical story found in the Old Testament book of Genesis, showing that when things don’t make sense, God will guide the way.

Get it HERE
Read reviews from Pursue Simple Joy / Julie L. SpencerLive. Love. Read

Pick up the rest of the series!
Dragon's FutureDragon's HeirDragon's Revenge / Dragon’s Cure / Dragon’s Posterity / Dragon’s Heritage

Q4U: What aspects of world-building do you most enjoy experiencing in books? What aspects do you find most fun to develop? Most challenging?