Friday, December 21, 2012

As an author who writes about grief, specifically a loss that occurs during the holidays, I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment to talk about how to cope with the pain of loss during what's supposed to be a joyful season.

I highly recommend this wonderful series from griefshare.org, "Surviving the Holidays."

A few practical things I gleaned from it:

image by Bekahboo42, morguefile.com
Keep your expectations low
It's not necessary to accept every invitation, nor do the level of decorating and baking you've done other years. You're more vulnerable to being ambushed by emotions by the season, so don't add more stress.

Take care of your body
Exercise and exposure to sunlight should be part of your daily routine. If you feel like self-medicating with alcohol or unhealthy food, take a walk.

Dispense with the usual traditions or build new ones
If the thought of going through the usual holiday rituals fills you with dread, give yourself permission to do something completely different. Leave the usual ornaments in a box and make new ones. Take an impromptu trip to a lovely destination, or offer to house-sit for friends who are traveling. Change the time of day or room in which you open gifts. Make a completely different menu.

You might alternately find it comforting to build new traditions into your existing ones that honor your lost loved one. Here are some ideas for doing that.

Treat yourself
Give yourself a gift from your lost loved one, something that honors the special relationship you had or simply comforts you: a new album if you shared a love of music, an item of clothing in your loved one's favorite color, a book you've been eager to read, tools for a hobby you've always wanted to try.

Stay connected
Force yourself to attend social gatherings, if only for a short time. Try to plan a few fun activities with a good friend, like seeing a movie or concert or going out for coffee.

Reach out
Get involved with charity work--perhaps visiting a nursing home, delivering meals to needy families, serving at a homeless shelter. Supporting others who are also hurting can ease some of your pain.

Have you endured a post-loss Christmas? What helped you most? How might you reach out to a grieving friend during the holidays?
Friday, December 21, 2012 Laurel Garver
As an author who writes about grief, specifically a loss that occurs during the holidays, I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment to talk about how to cope with the pain of loss during what's supposed to be a joyful season.

I highly recommend this wonderful series from griefshare.org, "Surviving the Holidays."

A few practical things I gleaned from it:

image by Bekahboo42, morguefile.com
Keep your expectations low
It's not necessary to accept every invitation, nor do the level of decorating and baking you've done other years. You're more vulnerable to being ambushed by emotions by the season, so don't add more stress.

Take care of your body
Exercise and exposure to sunlight should be part of your daily routine. If you feel like self-medicating with alcohol or unhealthy food, take a walk.

Dispense with the usual traditions or build new ones
If the thought of going through the usual holiday rituals fills you with dread, give yourself permission to do something completely different. Leave the usual ornaments in a box and make new ones. Take an impromptu trip to a lovely destination, or offer to house-sit for friends who are traveling. Change the time of day or room in which you open gifts. Make a completely different menu.

You might alternately find it comforting to build new traditions into your existing ones that honor your lost loved one. Here are some ideas for doing that.

Treat yourself
Give yourself a gift from your lost loved one, something that honors the special relationship you had or simply comforts you: a new album if you shared a love of music, an item of clothing in your loved one's favorite color, a book you've been eager to read, tools for a hobby you've always wanted to try.

Stay connected
Force yourself to attend social gatherings, if only for a short time. Try to plan a few fun activities with a good friend, like seeing a movie or concert or going out for coffee.

Reach out
Get involved with charity work--perhaps visiting a nursing home, delivering meals to needy families, serving at a homeless shelter. Supporting others who are also hurting can ease some of your pain.

Have you endured a post-loss Christmas? What helped you most? How might you reach out to a grieving friend during the holidays?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

To mark the release of her new YA contemporary novel CHASTE, Angela Felsted invited bloggers to share a favorite holiday cookie recipe. What does this have to do with her book? Interestingly, it's the GUY who's the gifted cook in her story that pushes hard against gender role stereotypes.

Guys who cook are awesome. I happen to be married to one. He makes amazing gourmet meals, and I deal with the bills and taxes. Because running a home is a team effort and you want players in the positions where they have actual skills.

So while I don't really cook, I do like to bake every now and again. I like the predictability--that if you follow the formula, you get good results. So I'm sharing an old favorite I have fond memories of making with my mother.

Molasses Crinkles

Cream together:
3/4 c. vegetable shortening
1 c. brown sugar

Mix in:
1 egg
1/4 c. molasses

In a separate bowl, combine:
2-1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger

Mix dry ingredients into wet incredients. Chill for several hours.
Form dough into walnut-sized balls. Dip tops in sugar, then water to create crackled texture.
Bake, sugared side up, on a greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 9-12 minutes. Yield: 4.5 dozen cookies.


About CHASTE

When he steps into his physics class on the first day of senior year, Quinn Walker is too exhausted from staying up all night with his three-month-old nephew to deal with moral dilemmas. As a devout Mormon who has vowed to wait until marriage for sex, the last thing he needs is a very hot and very sexy Katarina Jackson as his physics partner. Regrettably, he has no choice.

Kat feels invisible in her mansion of a home six months after losing her older brother in a fatal car crash and will do anything to get her parents’ attention. Since her pastor father has no love for Quinn’s “fake” religion and her ex-boyfriend refuses to leave her alone, she makes an impulsive bet with her friends to seduce her holier-than-thou lab partner by Christmas.

View the trailer:


Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble.

What do you think of guys who are domestically skilled? How about girls who take the initiative in relationships?
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 Laurel Garver
To mark the release of her new YA contemporary novel CHASTE, Angela Felsted invited bloggers to share a favorite holiday cookie recipe. What does this have to do with her book? Interestingly, it's the GUY who's the gifted cook in her story that pushes hard against gender role stereotypes.

Guys who cook are awesome. I happen to be married to one. He makes amazing gourmet meals, and I deal with the bills and taxes. Because running a home is a team effort and you want players in the positions where they have actual skills.

So while I don't really cook, I do like to bake every now and again. I like the predictability--that if you follow the formula, you get good results. So I'm sharing an old favorite I have fond memories of making with my mother.

Molasses Crinkles

Cream together:
3/4 c. vegetable shortening
1 c. brown sugar

Mix in:
1 egg
1/4 c. molasses

In a separate bowl, combine:
2-1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger

Mix dry ingredients into wet incredients. Chill for several hours.
Form dough into walnut-sized balls. Dip tops in sugar, then water to create crackled texture.
Bake, sugared side up, on a greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 9-12 minutes. Yield: 4.5 dozen cookies.


About CHASTE

When he steps into his physics class on the first day of senior year, Quinn Walker is too exhausted from staying up all night with his three-month-old nephew to deal with moral dilemmas. As a devout Mormon who has vowed to wait until marriage for sex, the last thing he needs is a very hot and very sexy Katarina Jackson as his physics partner. Regrettably, he has no choice.

Kat feels invisible in her mansion of a home six months after losing her older brother in a fatal car crash and will do anything to get her parents’ attention. Since her pastor father has no love for Quinn’s “fake” religion and her ex-boyfriend refuses to leave her alone, she makes an impulsive bet with her friends to seduce her holier-than-thou lab partner by Christmas.

View the trailer:


Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble.

What do you think of guys who are domestically skilled? How about girls who take the initiative in relationships?

Friday, December 14, 2012

What twisted thing did I do to earn money for college? What author helped me meet the love of my life? What's my odd writing quirk? Discover the answers to all these questions and more in my interview with book blogger Elizabeth Marie at Read Review Smile.

She's also hosting a giveaway through the Feast of St. Stephen (December 26), which strikes me as fitting, since that's the saint Dani's church is named for. Two copies are up for grabs! Hop on over HERE to enter.

Help Hurricane Sandy victims
Get a great read for a great cause! Purchase a copy of Angela Felsted's contemporary YA novel CHASTE now through December 15, and all proceeds go to Hurricane Sandy relief, PLUS Angela will make a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution.  Available as an ebook and in paperback from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Have you had any unusual jobs? Which authors have kindled a romance for you?
Friday, December 14, 2012 Laurel Garver
What twisted thing did I do to earn money for college? What author helped me meet the love of my life? What's my odd writing quirk? Discover the answers to all these questions and more in my interview with book blogger Elizabeth Marie at Read Review Smile.

She's also hosting a giveaway through the Feast of St. Stephen (December 26), which strikes me as fitting, since that's the saint Dani's church is named for. Two copies are up for grabs! Hop on over HERE to enter.

Help Hurricane Sandy victims
Get a great read for a great cause! Purchase a copy of Angela Felsted's contemporary YA novel CHASTE now through December 15, and all proceeds go to Hurricane Sandy relief, PLUS Angela will make a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution.  Available as an ebook and in paperback from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Have you had any unusual jobs? Which authors have kindled a romance for you?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I'm calling today "three dozen day," in honor of the date 12/12/12. It will be a long while until we have another symmetrical date like today's . We'll of course have 1/3/13 and a palindrome, 3/1/13 next year, but that's not quite as pretty as the date patterns we've had going for the past eleven years, starting with 01/01/01.

To celebrate, here are three sets of a dozen goodies for you:

A dozen quotes (from yours truly)

"...truth is beautiful, no matter where you find it."
(From a guest post for Tricia O'Brien, "Make your stories sing")

"If you wait for inspiration to strike or writing conditions to be optimal, you’ll never finish anything. You have to keep chipping away at projects on good days and bad."
(From my interview on Read Review Smile)

"Gratitude is light in the darkness, friends. It is a powerful weapon against despair, a powerful creator of joy." (From "Thanks and Joy")

"A funny thing about listening to fear--it takes away your power to contradict it."
(From "Leaving Fear, Grasping Hope")

"Hope comes from being like the Magi--keeping an eye on the far horizon, watching for something good. We lose hope when unhappy things in the immediate environment consume our vision and we stop regularly scanning the horizon." (From "Following Your Star")

"...the stuff of creativity--joy, life energy, what have you--is like manna in the wilderness. It is a gift that must be gathered fresh daily." (From "Living Forward")

"The past doesn't stay in the past. It always has implications for the present and future."
(From "I've Got a History")

"Remember that where you come from shapes who you are."
(From an interview with Melissa Sarno, "Let Setting Emerge from Character")

"Real attraction, real magnetism is more deeply layered than finding someone hot. It grows out of finding something admirable in another person that resonates with who you are and want to be."
(From a guest post for Laura Pauling: "Romance is more than 'hotness'")

"The writers who do non-preachy well...succeed because the way faith deeply shapes how the characters think...around the idea of rescue and redemption, of deeply needing help themselves."
(From interview with Karen Akins, "Edgy? Clean? Writing across genre divides")

"Despite the eye-rolling, daughters know they’re valued when their dads don’t let just any guy get close to them."
(From a guest post for Tyrean Martinson, "Why Dads Matter")

"One of the most lovely things about literature is how it opens a window into other worlds, gives us a chance to understand other perspectives by living inside them for just a little while."
(from guest post for Leigh T. Moore, "Getting Real About Faith...and Doubt")


A dozen albums that inspired Never Gone

The Hurting, by Tears for Fears
Requiem, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Disintigration, by The Cure
Once Upon a Time, by Simple Minds
Macalla, by Clannad
Avalon, by Roxy Music
Mercury Falling, by Sting
Fields of Gold, by Sting
Hey Jude, by The Beatles
Optical Race, by Tangerine Dream
Thirtysomething Soundtrack
The Best of Simon and Garfunkel, by Simon and Garfunkel

A dozen British slang terms from Never Gone

barking mad / barmy / blimey / bollocks / crikey / fancy / gadding about / Geordie / git / hobgoblin / nutter / peaky

More chances to win

I also have a few giveaways going on. If you'd been hoping to win a copy of Never Gone and haven't yet, check out Read Review Smile (2 copies up for grabs) and Day 6 of  Fifteen Days of Christmas giveaway at Ramblings of a Book Junkie!

How will you celebrate Three Dozen Day? 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 Laurel Garver
I'm calling today "three dozen day," in honor of the date 12/12/12. It will be a long while until we have another symmetrical date like today's . We'll of course have 1/3/13 and a palindrome, 3/1/13 next year, but that's not quite as pretty as the date patterns we've had going for the past eleven years, starting with 01/01/01.

To celebrate, here are three sets of a dozen goodies for you:

A dozen quotes (from yours truly)

"...truth is beautiful, no matter where you find it."
(From a guest post for Tricia O'Brien, "Make your stories sing")

"If you wait for inspiration to strike or writing conditions to be optimal, you’ll never finish anything. You have to keep chipping away at projects on good days and bad."
(From my interview on Read Review Smile)

"Gratitude is light in the darkness, friends. It is a powerful weapon against despair, a powerful creator of joy." (From "Thanks and Joy")

"A funny thing about listening to fear--it takes away your power to contradict it."
(From "Leaving Fear, Grasping Hope")

"Hope comes from being like the Magi--keeping an eye on the far horizon, watching for something good. We lose hope when unhappy things in the immediate environment consume our vision and we stop regularly scanning the horizon." (From "Following Your Star")

"...the stuff of creativity--joy, life energy, what have you--is like manna in the wilderness. It is a gift that must be gathered fresh daily." (From "Living Forward")

"The past doesn't stay in the past. It always has implications for the present and future."
(From "I've Got a History")

"Remember that where you come from shapes who you are."
(From an interview with Melissa Sarno, "Let Setting Emerge from Character")

"Real attraction, real magnetism is more deeply layered than finding someone hot. It grows out of finding something admirable in another person that resonates with who you are and want to be."
(From a guest post for Laura Pauling: "Romance is more than 'hotness'")

"The writers who do non-preachy well...succeed because the way faith deeply shapes how the characters think...around the idea of rescue and redemption, of deeply needing help themselves."
(From interview with Karen Akins, "Edgy? Clean? Writing across genre divides")

"Despite the eye-rolling, daughters know they’re valued when their dads don’t let just any guy get close to them."
(From a guest post for Tyrean Martinson, "Why Dads Matter")

"One of the most lovely things about literature is how it opens a window into other worlds, gives us a chance to understand other perspectives by living inside them for just a little while."
(from guest post for Leigh T. Moore, "Getting Real About Faith...and Doubt")


A dozen albums that inspired Never Gone

The Hurting, by Tears for Fears
Requiem, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Disintigration, by The Cure
Once Upon a Time, by Simple Minds
Macalla, by Clannad
Avalon, by Roxy Music
Mercury Falling, by Sting
Fields of Gold, by Sting
Hey Jude, by The Beatles
Optical Race, by Tangerine Dream
Thirtysomething Soundtrack
The Best of Simon and Garfunkel, by Simon and Garfunkel

A dozen British slang terms from Never Gone

barking mad / barmy / blimey / bollocks / crikey / fancy / gadding about / Geordie / git / hobgoblin / nutter / peaky

More chances to win

I also have a few giveaways going on. If you'd been hoping to win a copy of Never Gone and haven't yet, check out Read Review Smile (2 copies up for grabs) and Day 6 of  Fifteen Days of Christmas giveaway at Ramblings of a Book Junkie!

How will you celebrate Three Dozen Day? 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I'm excited to announce the release of The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2012 anthology! My fiction vignette, New Hues, was selected to appear in this wonderful volume, jam-packed with evocative poetry and prose from 108 contributors.


Here's the description from Goodreads:
The vignette is a snapshot in words, and differs from flash fiction or a short story in that its aim doesn’t lie within the traditional realms of structure or plot. Instead it focuses on one element: mood, character, setting, or object.

The journal, published quarterly online, is a lush synergy of atmospheric prose, poetry, photography and illustrations, put together with an eye for aesthetics as well as literary merit. The annual print anthology showcases the very best pieces that appeared in the journal.

From the haunting prose of Theresa Milstein and Carrie Mumford, to the controversial and quirky work of H. Edgar Hix and Greg Belliveau, the pathological effects of cigarettes and apple seeds, ice sculptures and mental illness, a lovable old man named Joseph, and how the good old washing machine can change one's life. Oh, and how could we forget the mother with the scissors? Each vignette merges to create a vivid snapshot in time and place. Prepare for big stories in small spaces, between and beyond the words. 

Read them one at a time. Savour them. Taste them.

Live them.


To purchase, go to: http://emergent-publishing.com/bookstore/the-best-of-vine-leaves-literary-journal-2012/

Vine Leaves Literary Journal website
Vine Leaves Facebook Fan Page
Vine Leaves on Twitter
eMergent Publishing website
eMergent FB Fan Page
eMergent on Twitter

Any good news to share with me?
Tuesday, December 11, 2012 Laurel Garver

I'm excited to announce the release of The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2012 anthology! My fiction vignette, New Hues, was selected to appear in this wonderful volume, jam-packed with evocative poetry and prose from 108 contributors.


Here's the description from Goodreads:
The vignette is a snapshot in words, and differs from flash fiction or a short story in that its aim doesn’t lie within the traditional realms of structure or plot. Instead it focuses on one element: mood, character, setting, or object.

The journal, published quarterly online, is a lush synergy of atmospheric prose, poetry, photography and illustrations, put together with an eye for aesthetics as well as literary merit. The annual print anthology showcases the very best pieces that appeared in the journal.

From the haunting prose of Theresa Milstein and Carrie Mumford, to the controversial and quirky work of H. Edgar Hix and Greg Belliveau, the pathological effects of cigarettes and apple seeds, ice sculptures and mental illness, a lovable old man named Joseph, and how the good old washing machine can change one's life. Oh, and how could we forget the mother with the scissors? Each vignette merges to create a vivid snapshot in time and place. Prepare for big stories in small spaces, between and beyond the words. 

Read them one at a time. Savour them. Taste them.

Live them.


To purchase, go to: http://emergent-publishing.com/bookstore/the-best-of-vine-leaves-literary-journal-2012/

Vine Leaves Literary Journal website
Vine Leaves Facebook Fan Page
Vine Leaves on Twitter
eMergent Publishing website
eMergent FB Fan Page
eMergent on Twitter

Any good news to share with me?

Monday, December 10, 2012


"Writing religion is risky. Beliefs and values are so core to our identities, our vision of the good life, and these beliefs often come into conflict. And yet teens need to see themselves in fiction...."

I shared these thoughts and many more with author Leigh T. Moore over that That's Write. You can find my guest post on writing authentic religious experience HERE.

Do you read much faith-based fiction? Why or why not? Who do you think does it well?
Monday, December 10, 2012 Laurel Garver

"Writing religion is risky. Beliefs and values are so core to our identities, our vision of the good life, and these beliefs often come into conflict. And yet teens need to see themselves in fiction...."

I shared these thoughts and many more with author Leigh T. Moore over that That's Write. You can find my guest post on writing authentic religious experience HERE.

Do you read much faith-based fiction? Why or why not? Who do you think does it well?

Friday, December 07, 2012

The holiday season is upon us, and that means it's time to...
crack out the paper, scissors, exacto knife and hole punch to craft some out-of-this-world SNOWFLAKES.

To get started, you need to create a simple sketch of the image you're snowflak-izing that's also symmetrical--identical on either side of a fold. The cut-away areas will be the contrast parts of the image, the remaining paper, the primary/background color so to speak. See this page of templates for an example of how it works.

Follow these basic instructions for making a six-pointed snowflake. At step seven, you'll use your folded-in-half sketch to guide where you cut.

Keep in mind that it may take several attempts to arrive at a flake that is recognizable and also aesthetically pleasing.

Check out the themed snowflakes my hubby created working from his own sketches. The TARDIS took the most prototypes to arrive at its final form. He figured out that two-point perspective worked best for creating depth and symmetry to what's largely a big rectangle if viewed from only one side.





























Can you recognize the iconic Dr. Who images in each? Do you like to play around with traditional crafts?

Friday, December 07, 2012 Laurel Garver
The holiday season is upon us, and that means it's time to...
crack out the paper, scissors, exacto knife and hole punch to craft some out-of-this-world SNOWFLAKES.

To get started, you need to create a simple sketch of the image you're snowflak-izing that's also symmetrical--identical on either side of a fold. The cut-away areas will be the contrast parts of the image, the remaining paper, the primary/background color so to speak. See this page of templates for an example of how it works.

Follow these basic instructions for making a six-pointed snowflake. At step seven, you'll use your folded-in-half sketch to guide where you cut.

Keep in mind that it may take several attempts to arrive at a flake that is recognizable and also aesthetically pleasing.

Check out the themed snowflakes my hubby created working from his own sketches. The TARDIS took the most prototypes to arrive at its final form. He figured out that two-point perspective worked best for creating depth and symmetry to what's largely a big rectangle if viewed from only one side.





























Can you recognize the iconic Dr. Who images in each? Do you like to play around with traditional crafts?

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

My great-grandpa trained horses for Ringling Bros.
Yesterday, my nephew asked for help gathering enough family history to write a ten-page college paper. I quickly piped up with the most zany pieces of family lore I could remember. How a great grandfather ran off and joined the circus. How a great aunt had been in the Ziegfield follies. How my dad worked as a sideshow freak as a kid. (They called him Lizard Boy--he had ichthyosis, a genetic skin condition.)

One of the coolest things about being last born, and a late-in-life child, was having my parents to myself as they entered late middle age and became obsessed with legacy. I loved hearing the colorful stories of my grandmother meeting Boris Karloff when he did the Vaudeville circuit because the family boarding house was a usual stop for Vaudeville troupes. How my grandfather lost so much weight in dental school because he had to eat lunch in the anatomy lab, where formaldehyde-soaked cadavers lay partly dissected.

But I equally cherished hearing how harsh my paternal grandfather was and why my maternal grandparents divorced when my mom was seven. These stories are far more deeply important because they explained so much about who my parents had become, why my dad was such a softie, why my mom was terrified of drunk people.

That I was so steeped in family lore in my teens and early twenties surely shaped my sensibilities as a writer. Because it made clear to me that the past doesn't stay in the past. It always has implications for the present and future.

I'm guest posting at Tessa's blog, and when she asked what I hope readers will take away from my novel Never Gone, this is one the points I emphasized:

"Getting to know your parents’ stories is an essential part of growing up the relationship. It’s easy to misjudge them when you don’t know what struggles, hardships and heartbreaks they’ve endured, and how those things have shaped them."

You can read more of my interview with Tessa Emily Hall HERE.

Do you know your parents' stories? How might learning family history help you better understand family members and their interpersonal dynamics? 


photo credit: keyseeker at morguefile.com
Wednesday, December 05, 2012 Laurel Garver
My great-grandpa trained horses for Ringling Bros.
Yesterday, my nephew asked for help gathering enough family history to write a ten-page college paper. I quickly piped up with the most zany pieces of family lore I could remember. How a great grandfather ran off and joined the circus. How a great aunt had been in the Ziegfield follies. How my dad worked as a sideshow freak as a kid. (They called him Lizard Boy--he had ichthyosis, a genetic skin condition.)

One of the coolest things about being last born, and a late-in-life child, was having my parents to myself as they entered late middle age and became obsessed with legacy. I loved hearing the colorful stories of my grandmother meeting Boris Karloff when he did the Vaudeville circuit because the family boarding house was a usual stop for Vaudeville troupes. How my grandfather lost so much weight in dental school because he had to eat lunch in the anatomy lab, where formaldehyde-soaked cadavers lay partly dissected.

But I equally cherished hearing how harsh my paternal grandfather was and why my maternal grandparents divorced when my mom was seven. These stories are far more deeply important because they explained so much about who my parents had become, why my dad was such a softie, why my mom was terrified of drunk people.

That I was so steeped in family lore in my teens and early twenties surely shaped my sensibilities as a writer. Because it made clear to me that the past doesn't stay in the past. It always has implications for the present and future.

I'm guest posting at Tessa's blog, and when she asked what I hope readers will take away from my novel Never Gone, this is one the points I emphasized:

"Getting to know your parents’ stories is an essential part of growing up the relationship. It’s easy to misjudge them when you don’t know what struggles, hardships and heartbreaks they’ve endured, and how those things have shaped them."

You can read more of my interview with Tessa Emily Hall HERE.

Do you know your parents' stories? How might learning family history help you better understand family members and their interpersonal dynamics? 


photo credit: keyseeker at morguefile.com

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Click to add me to Goodreads!
Have you been told there's a little too much telling in your novel? Want to remedy it? Then this is the book for you!

In Show and Tell in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions from Telling to Showing you will find sixteen real scenes depicting a variety of situations, emotions, and characteristics which clearly demonstrate how to turn telling into showing. Dispersed throughout, and at the back of the book, are blank pages to take notes as you read. A few short writing prompts are also provided.

Not only is this pocket guide an excellent learning tool for aspiring writers, but it is a light, convenient, and easy solution to honing your craft no matter how broad your writing experience. Keep it in the side pocket of your school bag, throw it in your purse, or even carry it around in the pocket of your jeans or jacket, to enhance your skills, keep notes, and jot down story ideas, anywhere, anytime.

If you purchase the e-book, you will be armed with the convenient hyper-linked Contents Page, where you can toggle backward and forward from different scenes with ease. Use your e-reader's highlighting and note-taking tools to keep notes instead.

The author, Jessica Bell, also welcomes questions via email, concerning the content of this book, or about showing vs. telling in general, at showandtellinanutshell@gmail.com

Reviews:
“Jessica Bell addresses one of the most common yet elusive pieces of writing advice—show, don't tell—in a uniquely user-friendly and effective way: by example. By studying the sixteen scenes she converts from “telling” into “showing,” not only will you clearly understand the difference; you will be inspired by her vivid imagery and dialogue to pour through your drafts and do the same.” ~Jenny Baranick, College English Teacher, Author of Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares
“A practical, no-nonsense resource that will help new and experienced writers alike deal with that dreaded piece of advice: show, don’t tell. I wish Bell’s book had been around when I started writing!” ~Talli Roland, bestselling author

Purchase the paperback:
$4.40 on Amazon US
£3.99 on Amazon UK

Purchase the e-book:
$1.99 on Amazon US
£1.99 on Amazon UK
$1.99 on Kobo

About the Author:
The Australian-native contemporary fiction author and poet, Jessica Bell, also makes a living as an editor and writer for global ELT publishers (English Language Teaching), such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

She is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and co-hosts the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek Isle of Ithaca, with Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest.

For more information about Jessica Bell, please visit: 
Website
Blog
Twitter
Facebook
Tuesday, December 04, 2012 Laurel Garver
Click to add me to Goodreads!
Have you been told there's a little too much telling in your novel? Want to remedy it? Then this is the book for you!

In Show and Tell in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions from Telling to Showing you will find sixteen real scenes depicting a variety of situations, emotions, and characteristics which clearly demonstrate how to turn telling into showing. Dispersed throughout, and at the back of the book, are blank pages to take notes as you read. A few short writing prompts are also provided.

Not only is this pocket guide an excellent learning tool for aspiring writers, but it is a light, convenient, and easy solution to honing your craft no matter how broad your writing experience. Keep it in the side pocket of your school bag, throw it in your purse, or even carry it around in the pocket of your jeans or jacket, to enhance your skills, keep notes, and jot down story ideas, anywhere, anytime.

If you purchase the e-book, you will be armed with the convenient hyper-linked Contents Page, where you can toggle backward and forward from different scenes with ease. Use your e-reader's highlighting and note-taking tools to keep notes instead.

The author, Jessica Bell, also welcomes questions via email, concerning the content of this book, or about showing vs. telling in general, at showandtellinanutshell@gmail.com

Reviews:
“Jessica Bell addresses one of the most common yet elusive pieces of writing advice—show, don't tell—in a uniquely user-friendly and effective way: by example. By studying the sixteen scenes she converts from “telling” into “showing,” not only will you clearly understand the difference; you will be inspired by her vivid imagery and dialogue to pour through your drafts and do the same.” ~Jenny Baranick, College English Teacher, Author of Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares
“A practical, no-nonsense resource that will help new and experienced writers alike deal with that dreaded piece of advice: show, don’t tell. I wish Bell’s book had been around when I started writing!” ~Talli Roland, bestselling author

Purchase the paperback:
$4.40 on Amazon US
£3.99 on Amazon UK

Purchase the e-book:
$1.99 on Amazon US
£1.99 on Amazon UK
$1.99 on Kobo

About the Author:
The Australian-native contemporary fiction author and poet, Jessica Bell, also makes a living as an editor and writer for global ELT publishers (English Language Teaching), such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

She is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and co-hosts the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek Isle of Ithaca, with Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest.

For more information about Jessica Bell, please visit: 
Website
Blog
Twitter
Facebook

Monday, December 03, 2012

Maybe you're just coming off the high of "winning" NaNo and realize your first draft is, alas, full of flaws.
Maybe you've drawn up a holiday gift-buying list and realize there's no way you can afford all these wonderful gifts you think you must buy for precious family and friends.
Maybe you  have to sing in front of a roomful of people with a pretty serious head cold (that would be me. LOL.)

You're forced to face the fact that you aren't perfect. And if you never bought into the perfection myth, that's no big deal. But if you have, moments like these mean extreme anxiety.

What do I mean by "the perfection myth"? It's an inner script that says:

As long as I do everything just right, I will be safe.

You'll note a few key concepts here. It's very self-focused; it's what I do. It's absolute; I must to everything just right. It's nebulous; "just right" is never defined. It's tied to survival; my very safety depends on it, and the alternative is unthinkably awful.

Last week I heard author Anne Lamott speak (part of a book tour for her latest release, Help, Thanks, Wow), and perfectionism was one of the topics she tackled with wit, honesty and grace. This kind of striving for perfection, especially as I've defined it above, has less to do with being our best selves and more with fear. This kind of perfectionism comes out of the crucible of unpredictable, chaotic environments. Striving to do right is a means of achieving control.

But the fact is, perfectionism promises freedom from fear while creating more anxiety. Because the truth of all of us is that we're broken people. We've been harmed by others and we have weaknesses ourselves. The myth of perfectionism says I'm not safe if I'm not doing everything "just right," therefore, I must cover over all my inadequacies to stay safe.

That, friends, is living a lie. Lamott connected the dots of this to conclude that perfectionism is "the voice of the oppressor," is demonic. By that she means anything that encourages vices--like dishonesty and pride in this case--intends our ultimate ruin and is aligned with all evil.

The divine voice tells us, "You are broken, but you are mine. I love you and will hold and heal you."

Learning to find safety in acceptance by a higher power ("as I understand him," Lamott added, quoting from the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program) involves letting a mess happen and seeing how little it actually effects the people around you. They don't care as much as you think.

The other big antidote to perfectionism is laughter. Lamott called it "carbonated holiness."  Laughter looks at weakness and is not undone by it. Rather, it is thankful for the honesty. Joys in it, in fact.

We stumble, and laugh and know we are frail. We are not the be-all and end-all of the universe. With that attitude, we can love well and create with the kind of honest freedom that brings more light into the world.

Trying to be perfect is a most dangerous game. So laugh when you fall. Your freedom depends on it.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? Do Lamott's observations speak to you?
Monday, December 03, 2012 Laurel Garver
Maybe you're just coming off the high of "winning" NaNo and realize your first draft is, alas, full of flaws.
Maybe you've drawn up a holiday gift-buying list and realize there's no way you can afford all these wonderful gifts you think you must buy for precious family and friends.
Maybe you  have to sing in front of a roomful of people with a pretty serious head cold (that would be me. LOL.)

You're forced to face the fact that you aren't perfect. And if you never bought into the perfection myth, that's no big deal. But if you have, moments like these mean extreme anxiety.

What do I mean by "the perfection myth"? It's an inner script that says:

As long as I do everything just right, I will be safe.

You'll note a few key concepts here. It's very self-focused; it's what I do. It's absolute; I must to everything just right. It's nebulous; "just right" is never defined. It's tied to survival; my very safety depends on it, and the alternative is unthinkably awful.

Last week I heard author Anne Lamott speak (part of a book tour for her latest release, Help, Thanks, Wow), and perfectionism was one of the topics she tackled with wit, honesty and grace. This kind of striving for perfection, especially as I've defined it above, has less to do with being our best selves and more with fear. This kind of perfectionism comes out of the crucible of unpredictable, chaotic environments. Striving to do right is a means of achieving control.

But the fact is, perfectionism promises freedom from fear while creating more anxiety. Because the truth of all of us is that we're broken people. We've been harmed by others and we have weaknesses ourselves. The myth of perfectionism says I'm not safe if I'm not doing everything "just right," therefore, I must cover over all my inadequacies to stay safe.

That, friends, is living a lie. Lamott connected the dots of this to conclude that perfectionism is "the voice of the oppressor," is demonic. By that she means anything that encourages vices--like dishonesty and pride in this case--intends our ultimate ruin and is aligned with all evil.

The divine voice tells us, "You are broken, but you are mine. I love you and will hold and heal you."

Learning to find safety in acceptance by a higher power ("as I understand him," Lamott added, quoting from the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program) involves letting a mess happen and seeing how little it actually effects the people around you. They don't care as much as you think.

The other big antidote to perfectionism is laughter. Lamott called it "carbonated holiness."  Laughter looks at weakness and is not undone by it. Rather, it is thankful for the honesty. Joys in it, in fact.

We stumble, and laugh and know we are frail. We are not the be-all and end-all of the universe. With that attitude, we can love well and create with the kind of honest freedom that brings more light into the world.

Trying to be perfect is a most dangerous game. So laugh when you fall. Your freedom depends on it.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? Do Lamott's observations speak to you?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Is there such a thing as too much characterization? By that, I mean, can you invest too much time into developing some characters to the point of derailing a project?

I'd argue that yes, you can. Not every character warrants developing a back story, motivation, wound. If you did take the time to do that for every walk-on, a story could quickly become tangent-riddled every time someone new entered a scene.
Look at ME! No, me! Me! Me! Me!

Granted, most writers have the opposite problem. They don't develop even the primary characters deeply enough. But both the "too many stars" and flat characterization problem can begin to be addressed by taking one initial step.

You might call the process "assembling the cast." Basically, it entails listing all your story's characters and prioritizing them in terms of their importance to the story.

Primary characters 

Each of the main actors who appear in 3/4 of the story scenes should have a "characterization work up" that includes a basic life history (key events), a relationship web, and a psychological make up that includes desires, fears, and core values. Gather some telling details for each primary character. Those might include hobbies, taste in music or film, appearance, home environment.

It's easy to get carried away developing telling details at the expense of doing the deeper psychological work. Better to invest your time in knowing how family of origin issues and environment and education shape a character than furnishing apartments, creating music playlists and the like. It's the characters' underlying drives that fuel conflict, after all, not curtain colors, or wardrobe, or the current soundtrack. And without conflict, you have no story.

Secondary characters 

Second tier characters influence the primary characters and course of the plot, but appear less frequently. The key thing secondary characters need is a relationship web. They are connectors of the primary characters. Some psychological development can make their relationships more realistic, and telling details make them stand out from one another. Secondary characters might include a trusted friend, a coworker, a close sibling, parents or other near relatives. They lay emotional claim to the main characters and offer help and hindrance as the protagonist works toward his or her goal.

Tertiary characters 

Third tier characters might or might not warrant being named, depending on the role they play. Here are some tertiary functions and the types of players needed:

Catalyst
Tertiary catalysts are triggers who enter scenes in order to cause change. A tertiary catalyst might be a pacing aid, like the comic relief character who releases tension whenever he appears. Or she might be a functionary whose official duties bring change, like a police officer or an EMT.

Set dressing 
In film, they're called "extras"--the assorted faces that people a locale: patients in a waiting room, thugs loitering in a bad neighborhood, cliques in the school cafeteria, commuters, store clerks, security guards. Give some thought about what emotions they might evoke in your primary characters, such as a sense of security, fear, claustrophobia, or self-consciousness. Develop telling details to bring out those emotions. For example, when your protagonist is crammed into an elevator, we feel her anxiety through her reactions to fellow riders' cloying perfume, menacing umbrellas, over-sized backpacks.

Verisimilitude 
These characters lend reality to a story by filling small parts, somewhere between catalyst and set dressing. They have a handful of lines throughout the story. They exist to further widen our understanding of the main character and to create milieu. In a YA story, for example, this might be a younger sibling who creates obstacles and has some comic lines, or a secondary character's parent who is the polar opposite of the protagonist's parents.

image credit: arjmage at morguefile.com

Do you develop characters before you write or as you write? How might a bit of character planning and prioritization aid your drafting process?
Monday, November 26, 2012 Laurel Garver
Is there such a thing as too much characterization? By that, I mean, can you invest too much time into developing some characters to the point of derailing a project?

I'd argue that yes, you can. Not every character warrants developing a back story, motivation, wound. If you did take the time to do that for every walk-on, a story could quickly become tangent-riddled every time someone new entered a scene.
Look at ME! No, me! Me! Me! Me!

Granted, most writers have the opposite problem. They don't develop even the primary characters deeply enough. But both the "too many stars" and flat characterization problem can begin to be addressed by taking one initial step.

You might call the process "assembling the cast." Basically, it entails listing all your story's characters and prioritizing them in terms of their importance to the story.

Primary characters 

Each of the main actors who appear in 3/4 of the story scenes should have a "characterization work up" that includes a basic life history (key events), a relationship web, and a psychological make up that includes desires, fears, and core values. Gather some telling details for each primary character. Those might include hobbies, taste in music or film, appearance, home environment.

It's easy to get carried away developing telling details at the expense of doing the deeper psychological work. Better to invest your time in knowing how family of origin issues and environment and education shape a character than furnishing apartments, creating music playlists and the like. It's the characters' underlying drives that fuel conflict, after all, not curtain colors, or wardrobe, or the current soundtrack. And without conflict, you have no story.

Secondary characters 

Second tier characters influence the primary characters and course of the plot, but appear less frequently. The key thing secondary characters need is a relationship web. They are connectors of the primary characters. Some psychological development can make their relationships more realistic, and telling details make them stand out from one another. Secondary characters might include a trusted friend, a coworker, a close sibling, parents or other near relatives. They lay emotional claim to the main characters and offer help and hindrance as the protagonist works toward his or her goal.

Tertiary characters 

Third tier characters might or might not warrant being named, depending on the role they play. Here are some tertiary functions and the types of players needed:

Catalyst
Tertiary catalysts are triggers who enter scenes in order to cause change. A tertiary catalyst might be a pacing aid, like the comic relief character who releases tension whenever he appears. Or she might be a functionary whose official duties bring change, like a police officer or an EMT.

Set dressing 
In film, they're called "extras"--the assorted faces that people a locale: patients in a waiting room, thugs loitering in a bad neighborhood, cliques in the school cafeteria, commuters, store clerks, security guards. Give some thought about what emotions they might evoke in your primary characters, such as a sense of security, fear, claustrophobia, or self-consciousness. Develop telling details to bring out those emotions. For example, when your protagonist is crammed into an elevator, we feel her anxiety through her reactions to fellow riders' cloying perfume, menacing umbrellas, over-sized backpacks.

Verisimilitude 
These characters lend reality to a story by filling small parts, somewhere between catalyst and set dressing. They have a handful of lines throughout the story. They exist to further widen our understanding of the main character and to create milieu. In a YA story, for example, this might be a younger sibling who creates obstacles and has some comic lines, or a secondary character's parent who is the polar opposite of the protagonist's parents.

image credit: arjmage at morguefile.com

Do you develop characters before you write or as you write? How might a bit of character planning and prioritization aid your drafting process?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

by  C.M. Keller

When Laurel first talked to me about doing a guest post, one of the things she mentioned as a topic was characterization. What interested her is how often reviewers had mentioned it when they reviewed my books.

Honestly, when the first few reviewers mentioned it, I thought they were just being nice. And when it continued to come up, I was mystified. I had no idea why people seemed to be interested in my characterizations. I don’t do anything special.

But I’ve been thinking about it. I suspect that my characterizations are one of those occasions when a weakness becomes a strength. You see, I’m faceblind, which means I can’t recognize faces. (It’s called prosopagnosia.) In fact, it’s bad enough that one night when my son woke me up because he wasn’t feeling well, I didn’t know who he was. I knew there was something familiar about him (he wasn’t a robber), but it wasn’t until he spoke that I knew who he was. Of course, you can’t get by in the world without being able to recognize people. So you develop coping skills. I learned to recognize people by the tone of their voice, their gait, and their body type.

 Prosopagnosia also means that I have a hard time inferring people’s emotions by the looks on their faces (though not all people with prosopagnosia do). I’ve taught myself that a furrowed brow could mean anger or confusion. But the subtleties that normal people use to distinguish whether someone is confused or angry by their faces are beyond me. So I’ve learned to hear things in their voice—catches, emphases, pauses, etc., for clues to emotion. I’ve learned that posture means things, i.e., when shoulders hunch, someone is feeling shame, embarrassment, or depression. Even subtle things like the tilt of a chin or a muscle twitch (depending on which muscle twitches) can convey layers of emotion and character.

So now you know a lot about me, but how does this apply to writing? Because faceblindness governs the way that I experience people, the only way I know how to characterize people is by the ways I’ve learned to cope. I suspect that’s what strikes people about my characterizations. They’re different. I try to convey emotion through action and speech—it’s the way I understand and communicate it. Honestly, I sometimes think I’m ham-handed in it, that I’m too obvious. That a combination of a blink and a twitch is over-the-top. But other people don’t see what I see…

And maybe this is the gift that I can give other writers. Put yourself in my shoes. When you introduce a character, make them distinct by something other than their facial characteristics. (I can’t remember who a character is just because you’ve told me they have blond hair or are Asian.) As you develop the plot and character, think about how you would describe someone/some emotion if you couldn’t rely on a face to tell you. What else would give away a person’s character or their feelings?

And me…I’m trying to remember that most readers care about people’s faces. In fact, my first beta reader (my daughter) will often tell me, “Mom, you never tell people what Character A looks like.” In my thinking, I’ve told the reader everything about the character and what he or she “looks like.” Except I’ve forgotten the face. So I have to pull out my “cheat sheet”—a list that describes the facial characteristics of my characters—otherwise, I can’t remember what color hair or eyes they have.

If we do those things, we can all write better books.

===

C. M. Keller is an award winning novelist and the author of SCREWING UP TIME and SCREWING UP BABYLON. She loves old movies and poison rings. In her spare time, she searches for that elusive unicorn horn. Currently, she's hard at work on her next young adult novel, the third book in Mark and Miranda's story. She blogs about her time-travel series at Screwing Up Time Blog.

Check out Connie's time-travel awesomeness here:
Book 1
Screwing Up Time

Book 2 Just released!
Screwing Up Babylon 


Thanks, Connie, for sharing your experiences with prosopagnosia and making character descriptions more multi-faceted. I certainly learned a lot. How about you, readers?

Do your character descriptions tend to focus on facial appearance? How might you expand your understanding of character description with a reader like Connie in mind?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 Laurel Garver
by  C.M. Keller

When Laurel first talked to me about doing a guest post, one of the things she mentioned as a topic was characterization. What interested her is how often reviewers had mentioned it when they reviewed my books.

Honestly, when the first few reviewers mentioned it, I thought they were just being nice. And when it continued to come up, I was mystified. I had no idea why people seemed to be interested in my characterizations. I don’t do anything special.

But I’ve been thinking about it. I suspect that my characterizations are one of those occasions when a weakness becomes a strength. You see, I’m faceblind, which means I can’t recognize faces. (It’s called prosopagnosia.) In fact, it’s bad enough that one night when my son woke me up because he wasn’t feeling well, I didn’t know who he was. I knew there was something familiar about him (he wasn’t a robber), but it wasn’t until he spoke that I knew who he was. Of course, you can’t get by in the world without being able to recognize people. So you develop coping skills. I learned to recognize people by the tone of their voice, their gait, and their body type.

 Prosopagnosia also means that I have a hard time inferring people’s emotions by the looks on their faces (though not all people with prosopagnosia do). I’ve taught myself that a furrowed brow could mean anger or confusion. But the subtleties that normal people use to distinguish whether someone is confused or angry by their faces are beyond me. So I’ve learned to hear things in their voice—catches, emphases, pauses, etc., for clues to emotion. I’ve learned that posture means things, i.e., when shoulders hunch, someone is feeling shame, embarrassment, or depression. Even subtle things like the tilt of a chin or a muscle twitch (depending on which muscle twitches) can convey layers of emotion and character.

So now you know a lot about me, but how does this apply to writing? Because faceblindness governs the way that I experience people, the only way I know how to characterize people is by the ways I’ve learned to cope. I suspect that’s what strikes people about my characterizations. They’re different. I try to convey emotion through action and speech—it’s the way I understand and communicate it. Honestly, I sometimes think I’m ham-handed in it, that I’m too obvious. That a combination of a blink and a twitch is over-the-top. But other people don’t see what I see…

And maybe this is the gift that I can give other writers. Put yourself in my shoes. When you introduce a character, make them distinct by something other than their facial characteristics. (I can’t remember who a character is just because you’ve told me they have blond hair or are Asian.) As you develop the plot and character, think about how you would describe someone/some emotion if you couldn’t rely on a face to tell you. What else would give away a person’s character or their feelings?

And me…I’m trying to remember that most readers care about people’s faces. In fact, my first beta reader (my daughter) will often tell me, “Mom, you never tell people what Character A looks like.” In my thinking, I’ve told the reader everything about the character and what he or she “looks like.” Except I’ve forgotten the face. So I have to pull out my “cheat sheet”—a list that describes the facial characteristics of my characters—otherwise, I can’t remember what color hair or eyes they have.

If we do those things, we can all write better books.

===

C. M. Keller is an award winning novelist and the author of SCREWING UP TIME and SCREWING UP BABYLON. She loves old movies and poison rings. In her spare time, she searches for that elusive unicorn horn. Currently, she's hard at work on her next young adult novel, the third book in Mark and Miranda's story. She blogs about her time-travel series at Screwing Up Time Blog.

Check out Connie's time-travel awesomeness here:
Book 1
Screwing Up Time

Book 2 Just released!
Screwing Up Babylon 


Thanks, Connie, for sharing your experiences with prosopagnosia and making character descriptions more multi-faceted. I certainly learned a lot. How about you, readers?

Do your character descriptions tend to focus on facial appearance? How might you expand your understanding of character description with a reader like Connie in mind?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Music has been a big piece of my life for as long as I can remember. My sibs and I all took piano lessons. There were school choirs, the radio, and as anyone raised in the Christian tradition, sacred music making up the soundtrack of my days.

Lyric has a way of working into your consciousness, thrumming in your brain. It most naturally expresses itself in poetry. But lyrical writing can appear in any kind of writing, from nonfiction essays and memoir to the most hard-boiled fiction. Noir has its own musicality. So do thrillers and horror.

Today I'm over at Talespinning, talking about making your stories sing: the benefits of poetry training for novelists. Swing on by for some tips on using poetic devices in your work to give it texture.

Tomorrow, I'll have a special guest, author Connie Keller, here to talk about how having face blindness has in fact helped her build strong characterization. Can't wait for you to hear her story. It's fascinating!

Giveaway

Deniz Bevan at The Girdle of Melian is hosting an ebook giveaway of Never Gone. She's also talking about Daleks. Who could resist? Go forth and enter for a chance to win "a delightful page-turner full of sorrow, mystery and redemption."

Does your fiction have a soundtrack? Is it palpable in your story itself? 
Monday, November 19, 2012 Laurel Garver
Music has been a big piece of my life for as long as I can remember. My sibs and I all took piano lessons. There were school choirs, the radio, and as anyone raised in the Christian tradition, sacred music making up the soundtrack of my days.

Lyric has a way of working into your consciousness, thrumming in your brain. It most naturally expresses itself in poetry. But lyrical writing can appear in any kind of writing, from nonfiction essays and memoir to the most hard-boiled fiction. Noir has its own musicality. So do thrillers and horror.

Today I'm over at Talespinning, talking about making your stories sing: the benefits of poetry training for novelists. Swing on by for some tips on using poetic devices in your work to give it texture.

Tomorrow, I'll have a special guest, author Connie Keller, here to talk about how having face blindness has in fact helped her build strong characterization. Can't wait for you to hear her story. It's fascinating!

Giveaway

Deniz Bevan at The Girdle of Melian is hosting an ebook giveaway of Never Gone. She's also talking about Daleks. Who could resist? Go forth and enter for a chance to win "a delightful page-turner full of sorrow, mystery and redemption."

Does your fiction have a soundtrack? Is it palpable in your story itself? 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I'm fortunate to have great support both inside and outside writer/author circles. But that outside support didn't come simply from wishing for it. I had learn how to be open with friends about my struggles and my needs. Some friends came through with help I didn't know to ask for, others asked "how can I help?" and wanted some direction and education to be a good support.

My intuitively helpful friends and the support they gave is at the heart of the list below. Share it with the people who love you and wish you well, with thanks for all the ways they already brighten your world.

Six tips for supporting writers  

1. Take an interest. Ask what they’re working on, what they like about it, where they’re struggling.

2. Offer resources. Research can be a major challenge--offer helpful Internet links, books, and access to experts the writer could interview.

3. Provide practical helps. Babysit or invite the writer’s kids for a playdate with your kids. Offer to drop off their dry cleaning when you’re planning an errand run. Carpool. Take the family an occasional meal.

4. Encourage. More than anything, writers need voices of hope in their world. Writing is labor intensive and filled with rejection and disappointment. Writers need to hear that stories matter, that using their gifts brings more light into the world.

5. Advise only if invited. Writers need sounding boards, so let them bounce ideas off you very informally, and give them a sense of what might or might not work in a story, based on your life experiences. But please beware of telling a writer he or she should write. Writers can give their hearts and talents only to a story that captures their own imagination.

6. Celebrate. When a writer publishes something, even if it’s in an online literary magazine, praise them and celebrate with them. Share links on social media sites. Purchase copies of their work for yourself or as gifts if it’s a genre that might appeal to others more than to you.

[This is a modified expert from my October guest post for Connecting Stories, the blog of Lynn Simpson]. 

How well are you supported outside the writing community? What steps might you take to make your needs and wishes known to non-writer friends and family?
Wednesday, November 14, 2012 Laurel Garver
I'm fortunate to have great support both inside and outside writer/author circles. But that outside support didn't come simply from wishing for it. I had learn how to be open with friends about my struggles and my needs. Some friends came through with help I didn't know to ask for, others asked "how can I help?" and wanted some direction and education to be a good support.

My intuitively helpful friends and the support they gave is at the heart of the list below. Share it with the people who love you and wish you well, with thanks for all the ways they already brighten your world.

Six tips for supporting writers  

1. Take an interest. Ask what they’re working on, what they like about it, where they’re struggling.

2. Offer resources. Research can be a major challenge--offer helpful Internet links, books, and access to experts the writer could interview.

3. Provide practical helps. Babysit or invite the writer’s kids for a playdate with your kids. Offer to drop off their dry cleaning when you’re planning an errand run. Carpool. Take the family an occasional meal.

4. Encourage. More than anything, writers need voices of hope in their world. Writing is labor intensive and filled with rejection and disappointment. Writers need to hear that stories matter, that using their gifts brings more light into the world.

5. Advise only if invited. Writers need sounding boards, so let them bounce ideas off you very informally, and give them a sense of what might or might not work in a story, based on your life experiences. But please beware of telling a writer he or she should write. Writers can give their hearts and talents only to a story that captures their own imagination.

6. Celebrate. When a writer publishes something, even if it’s in an online literary magazine, praise them and celebrate with them. Share links on social media sites. Purchase copies of their work for yourself or as gifts if it’s a genre that might appeal to others more than to you.

[This is a modified expert from my October guest post for Connecting Stories, the blog of Lynn Simpson]. 

How well are you supported outside the writing community? What steps might you take to make your needs and wishes known to non-writer friends and family?

Monday, November 12, 2012

During the spring of sixth grade, something very strange happened to me. Whenever I opened my mouth to speak, the sound that came out could be breathy and girlish, hoarse, or squeakily soaring between registers.

This was not supposed to happen to girls.
photo from morgefile.com

Voice change was, as far as I knew, a boy thing. One day the kid telling you to stop hogging the swings would sound like your sister, then he'd sound like someone had replaced his larynx with a slide whistle, and a few weeks later, he'd sound like your dad.

It's no picnic to be the girl having this kind of boy thing happening to you. Especially if you got one of the leads in the sixth grade musical.

For a while, I managed to keep my affliction secret by telling everyone I had laryngitis and speaking only in a whisper. As long as I didn't try to engage my larynx, the embarrassing register changes and sudden bugling didn't seem to happen. I sucked a lot of cough drops and passed a lot of notes.

The affliction lingered. Salt water gargles did nothing. I tried talking it out in the woods behind our house. Tried singing it out by practicing my upcoming solo again and again, restarting whenever my voice hitched then squeak-squawked.

The afternoons of talking to the trees paid off. I was able to manage play rehearsals, speaking lines clearly. When I felt my larynx hitch, I'd stop, clear my throat, start again. The director thought I needed to see an allergist for all the throat clearing, but he let me keep my big role.

The rub came when we started adding in the songs. But try as I might to hide my affliction from Mr. Farr, the day came when he wanted to rehearse my solo. No more lip syncing, like I'd done in the full-chorus numbers. He played the opening bars, and I began to sing. The piece was a parody song of "Beautiful Dreamer" from the kids' musical "Frankenstein Follies," and I was cast as Liz, one of the villains. I needed to sound conniving and wicked. Squeaking every third syllable just isn't very villainish. Squeaking is for the comic relief, not the bad guy.

Mr. Farr was kind when the first swoop happened. "Relax," he said. "Pretend this is a player piano and you're all by yourself."

His advice was of course rubbish, because the moment I relaxed, my voice betrayed me horridly. It cracked and I could only speak in a wheezy helium voice.

Mr. Farr blanched. "How long has this been going on?" he demanded.

"Weeks." I squeaked.

"Weeks?" He looked at me askance. Surely he was going to kick me back to the chorus with the musically challenged kids, give my part to someone else. Someone with no imagination who had no idea how to be awesomely evil like I could.

"Sorry," I whispered.

"Take the week off, " he told me. "And don't worry. You know the story of the Ugly Ducking? That's what's happening to your voice. Give it a little more time, then we'll work on your breathing."

I went home and sobbed. I was ugly. An ugly-voiced freak. I would have to take up sign language and pretend to be deaf or something. Mr. Farr was picking my understudy. I was finished in theater.

I barely spoke all week, I was so upset. I spent hours in the woods, singing to the trees. The hitching wasn't happening, but something else was. From deep in my chest to the tip-top of my sinuses, things were resonating differently.

When my next scheduled rehearsal came, I smiled shyly at Mr. Farr.

"You doing better?"  he asked.

I nodded.

"You ready to try again?"

I nodded again. He played the opening bars, I filled my lungs with air and out came the sound. The woman sound. It poured out of my eleven-year-old self and it was as terrifying and wonderful as magic. The squeaks and hitches and cracks were left behind like the dull, grey down of a cygnet. And I soared.

Have you ever gone through a painful transition? What did you learn from the experience?

Voice tips for your writing

Today I'm talking "Elements of Voice" with author C.M. Keller, over at her blog A Merry Heart. There I discuss some key aspects of developing unique voices for your characters. If you're looking for ways to pump up your fiction, swing on by for tips.
Monday, November 12, 2012 Laurel Garver
During the spring of sixth grade, something very strange happened to me. Whenever I opened my mouth to speak, the sound that came out could be breathy and girlish, hoarse, or squeakily soaring between registers.

This was not supposed to happen to girls.
photo from morgefile.com

Voice change was, as far as I knew, a boy thing. One day the kid telling you to stop hogging the swings would sound like your sister, then he'd sound like someone had replaced his larynx with a slide whistle, and a few weeks later, he'd sound like your dad.

It's no picnic to be the girl having this kind of boy thing happening to you. Especially if you got one of the leads in the sixth grade musical.

For a while, I managed to keep my affliction secret by telling everyone I had laryngitis and speaking only in a whisper. As long as I didn't try to engage my larynx, the embarrassing register changes and sudden bugling didn't seem to happen. I sucked a lot of cough drops and passed a lot of notes.

The affliction lingered. Salt water gargles did nothing. I tried talking it out in the woods behind our house. Tried singing it out by practicing my upcoming solo again and again, restarting whenever my voice hitched then squeak-squawked.

The afternoons of talking to the trees paid off. I was able to manage play rehearsals, speaking lines clearly. When I felt my larynx hitch, I'd stop, clear my throat, start again. The director thought I needed to see an allergist for all the throat clearing, but he let me keep my big role.

The rub came when we started adding in the songs. But try as I might to hide my affliction from Mr. Farr, the day came when he wanted to rehearse my solo. No more lip syncing, like I'd done in the full-chorus numbers. He played the opening bars, and I began to sing. The piece was a parody song of "Beautiful Dreamer" from the kids' musical "Frankenstein Follies," and I was cast as Liz, one of the villains. I needed to sound conniving and wicked. Squeaking every third syllable just isn't very villainish. Squeaking is for the comic relief, not the bad guy.

Mr. Farr was kind when the first swoop happened. "Relax," he said. "Pretend this is a player piano and you're all by yourself."

His advice was of course rubbish, because the moment I relaxed, my voice betrayed me horridly. It cracked and I could only speak in a wheezy helium voice.

Mr. Farr blanched. "How long has this been going on?" he demanded.

"Weeks." I squeaked.

"Weeks?" He looked at me askance. Surely he was going to kick me back to the chorus with the musically challenged kids, give my part to someone else. Someone with no imagination who had no idea how to be awesomely evil like I could.

"Sorry," I whispered.

"Take the week off, " he told me. "And don't worry. You know the story of the Ugly Ducking? That's what's happening to your voice. Give it a little more time, then we'll work on your breathing."

I went home and sobbed. I was ugly. An ugly-voiced freak. I would have to take up sign language and pretend to be deaf or something. Mr. Farr was picking my understudy. I was finished in theater.

I barely spoke all week, I was so upset. I spent hours in the woods, singing to the trees. The hitching wasn't happening, but something else was. From deep in my chest to the tip-top of my sinuses, things were resonating differently.

When my next scheduled rehearsal came, I smiled shyly at Mr. Farr.

"You doing better?"  he asked.

I nodded.

"You ready to try again?"

I nodded again. He played the opening bars, I filled my lungs with air and out came the sound. The woman sound. It poured out of my eleven-year-old self and it was as terrifying and wonderful as magic. The squeaks and hitches and cracks were left behind like the dull, grey down of a cygnet. And I soared.

Have you ever gone through a painful transition? What did you learn from the experience?

Voice tips for your writing

Today I'm talking "Elements of Voice" with author C.M. Keller, over at her blog A Merry Heart. There I discuss some key aspects of developing unique voices for your characters. If you're looking for ways to pump up your fiction, swing on by for tips.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

I've invested more time in social media in the past month than ever, and yet am coming to the realization I'm doing something wrong. I really couldn't put my finger on what was not working until I read this post by Kristen Lamb: 3 Social Media Myths That Can Cripple Our Author Platform.

First of all, can I admit I hate the term "platform"? To me, a platform is where a greasy politician oozes charm through his Ken doll mask, tells people what he thinks they want to hear. And frankly, politics make me crazy--all the jockeying for power and manipulation. Is that any way to meet to goal of reaching a readership? I don't think so.
 Pelt the mime with hazelnuts. Have a little more wine.

To me, the term "venue" is more helpful. It incorporates environment, gathering, and a group gravitating to something attractive. You have expectations about what to expect at a funky coffeeshop venue versus a classroom venue, right?

If a blog is a venue, then what's the furniture like? Velvet couches, equipped worktables or classroom desks? Is it warm or cool? Is there music playing, and if so, what style? Do folks arrive at this venue primarily to passively learn? To be entertained? To interact?

Writers' blogs are dying because they've become an uninviting venue to those who don't want to wander from writer's conference to writer's conference. Fiction READERS are certainly not interested in doing that.

My blog has been ineffective because I've built a "brand" that doesn't make you want to read my fiction.

I'm sorry.

Really. I am. Sorry for me, sure, but more sorry for you. I've robbed you of smiles and genuine camaraderie by failing to show up as the zany nerd I actually am. I've rarely let you see the parts of me that show up in my fiction loud and clear. Instead, I've given you a whole lot of lectures.

Lectures. OMG. How did I turn into the person who gives lectures?

I guess when I started up this blog, I felt all I had to offer was technical expertise. I was out to get myself some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. That kind of thinking comes from one place--insecurity.

I don't want to be that chick any more. She's so scared, so rigid, so un-fun.

I want to start showing up in my own life, on my own blog, starting today.

Have you ever found yourself in a rut, or become a persona you don't like? How did you begin to change?

photo credit: nioanto, morguefile.com
Thursday, November 08, 2012 Laurel Garver
I've invested more time in social media in the past month than ever, and yet am coming to the realization I'm doing something wrong. I really couldn't put my finger on what was not working until I read this post by Kristen Lamb: 3 Social Media Myths That Can Cripple Our Author Platform.

First of all, can I admit I hate the term "platform"? To me, a platform is where a greasy politician oozes charm through his Ken doll mask, tells people what he thinks they want to hear. And frankly, politics make me crazy--all the jockeying for power and manipulation. Is that any way to meet to goal of reaching a readership? I don't think so.
 Pelt the mime with hazelnuts. Have a little more wine.

To me, the term "venue" is more helpful. It incorporates environment, gathering, and a group gravitating to something attractive. You have expectations about what to expect at a funky coffeeshop venue versus a classroom venue, right?

If a blog is a venue, then what's the furniture like? Velvet couches, equipped worktables or classroom desks? Is it warm or cool? Is there music playing, and if so, what style? Do folks arrive at this venue primarily to passively learn? To be entertained? To interact?

Writers' blogs are dying because they've become an uninviting venue to those who don't want to wander from writer's conference to writer's conference. Fiction READERS are certainly not interested in doing that.

My blog has been ineffective because I've built a "brand" that doesn't make you want to read my fiction.

I'm sorry.

Really. I am. Sorry for me, sure, but more sorry for you. I've robbed you of smiles and genuine camaraderie by failing to show up as the zany nerd I actually am. I've rarely let you see the parts of me that show up in my fiction loud and clear. Instead, I've given you a whole lot of lectures.

Lectures. OMG. How did I turn into the person who gives lectures?

I guess when I started up this blog, I felt all I had to offer was technical expertise. I was out to get myself some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. That kind of thinking comes from one place--insecurity.

I don't want to be that chick any more. She's so scared, so rigid, so un-fun.

I want to start showing up in my own life, on my own blog, starting today.

Have you ever found yourself in a rut, or become a persona you don't like? How did you begin to change?

photo credit: nioanto, morguefile.com

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

When NaNo time comes around every year, I honestly get a bit blue. It seems like everyone and his brother can churn out thousands of words a day, and I just can't. I never could. Not even when I was furiously scribbling away in high school (and my teachers through I was such a great note-taker! Ha!).


Photo credit: ajaxserix from morguefile.com
But you know what? There are plenty of NYT bestsellers, plenty of Pulitzer prize winners, plenty of all kinds of good, successful writers who have never written 50K words in a month. NaNo can be a motivational tool BUT it should never, ever be a de-motivational tool--something that makes you feel like a hopeless loser for not diving into.

Sometimes great ideas come in a flash of white-hot inspiration. But more often, the big ideas, the life-changers, take time to develop fully. Serious time. Decades of time.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share my story of the idea that arrived before I was mature enough to write it, and how letting ideas simmer can yield good results. Stop on by Shannon O'Donnell's blog Book Dreaming and be encouraged.

Shannon is also hosting a giveaway of an e-book of NEVER GONE and a SIGNED paperback. If you've been hankering to win a copy but don't have an e-reader, this contest is for you!

Do you keep an idea file of stories that come when you aren't ready to write them? What's the longest you've ever worked on a project?
Wednesday, November 07, 2012 Laurel Garver
When NaNo time comes around every year, I honestly get a bit blue. It seems like everyone and his brother can churn out thousands of words a day, and I just can't. I never could. Not even when I was furiously scribbling away in high school (and my teachers through I was such a great note-taker! Ha!).


Photo credit: ajaxserix from morguefile.com
But you know what? There are plenty of NYT bestsellers, plenty of Pulitzer prize winners, plenty of all kinds of good, successful writers who have never written 50K words in a month. NaNo can be a motivational tool BUT it should never, ever be a de-motivational tool--something that makes you feel like a hopeless loser for not diving into.

Sometimes great ideas come in a flash of white-hot inspiration. But more often, the big ideas, the life-changers, take time to develop fully. Serious time. Decades of time.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share my story of the idea that arrived before I was mature enough to write it, and how letting ideas simmer can yield good results. Stop on by Shannon O'Donnell's blog Book Dreaming and be encouraged.

Shannon is also hosting a giveaway of an e-book of NEVER GONE and a SIGNED paperback. If you've been hankering to win a copy but don't have an e-reader, this contest is for you!

Do you keep an idea file of stories that come when you aren't ready to write them? What's the longest you've ever worked on a project?

Monday, November 05, 2012

I've been reading more Indie authors these days, now that I'm one myself. One error I keep seeing is confusion about its/it's, who's/whose, etc. It seemed that a quick primer would be useful to lots of folks.

The rule here is very simple. Put it on an index card if you must.

Simple pronouns DO NOT take apostrophes in their possessive form. 
Pronouns morph into new words.
If there is ownership involved, no apostrophe. Got it?

Here is a quick run-down of the pronouns and their possessive forms:

I love MY sweater. It is MINE.

YOU love YOUR sweater. It is YOURS.

HE loves HIS sweater. It is HIS.

SHE loves HER sweater. It is HERS.

IT displays ITS sweaters. They are ITS.

WE love OUR sweaters. They are OURS.

YOU (plural, like y'all) love YOUR sweaters. They are YOURS.

THEY love THEIR sweaters. The sweaters are THEIRS.

WHO loves WHOSE sweaters? The sweaters are WHOSE?

These stand-ins for nouns take apostrophes only as contractions--when paired with a truncated verb (who's means who is, who was, or who has). I'll give more detailed descriptions in a separate post.

Compound pronouns behave like nouns. They DO use an apostrophe in the possessive form:
anybody's picture
anyone's coat
everybody's problem
everyone's favorite
nobody's fool
no one's girl
somebody's pet
someone's present

Do possessive pronouns trip you up? 
Monday, November 05, 2012 Laurel Garver
I've been reading more Indie authors these days, now that I'm one myself. One error I keep seeing is confusion about its/it's, who's/whose, etc. It seemed that a quick primer would be useful to lots of folks.

The rule here is very simple. Put it on an index card if you must.

Simple pronouns DO NOT take apostrophes in their possessive form. 
Pronouns morph into new words.
If there is ownership involved, no apostrophe. Got it?

Here is a quick run-down of the pronouns and their possessive forms:

I love MY sweater. It is MINE.

YOU love YOUR sweater. It is YOURS.

HE loves HIS sweater. It is HIS.

SHE loves HER sweater. It is HERS.

IT displays ITS sweaters. They are ITS.

WE love OUR sweaters. They are OURS.

YOU (plural, like y'all) love YOUR sweaters. They are YOURS.

THEY love THEIR sweaters. The sweaters are THEIRS.

WHO loves WHOSE sweaters? The sweaters are WHOSE?

These stand-ins for nouns take apostrophes only as contractions--when paired with a truncated verb (who's means who is, who was, or who has). I'll give more detailed descriptions in a separate post.

Compound pronouns behave like nouns. They DO use an apostrophe in the possessive form:
anybody's picture
anyone's coat
everybody's problem
everyone's favorite
nobody's fool
no one's girl
somebody's pet
someone's present

Do possessive pronouns trip you up? 

Friday, November 02, 2012

Quick quiz: When I was a kid, which did I want to be when I grew up?

A. An architect
morguefile.com

B. A teacher
morguefile.com

C. A magazine editor
photo by Raphael Gorski, Flickr Creative Commons

D. A Broadway star
morguefile.com

To find the answer, go check out my post for Jessica Bell, the Alliterative Allomorph! I also discuss why writing is harder for professional editors, and how I got my creative and analytical sides to play nice  (hint, there was a bit of bloodshed first).

Last chance to enter!

The ebook giveaway of Never Gone at Margo's blog, Writing at High Altitude, ends tonight! Pop on over and enter now!

Did you guess correctly? What were your childhood career aspirations?
Friday, November 02, 2012 Laurel Garver
Quick quiz: When I was a kid, which did I want to be when I grew up?

A. An architect
morguefile.com

B. A teacher
morguefile.com

C. A magazine editor
photo by Raphael Gorski, Flickr Creative Commons

D. A Broadway star
morguefile.com

To find the answer, go check out my post for Jessica Bell, the Alliterative Allomorph! I also discuss why writing is harder for professional editors, and how I got my creative and analytical sides to play nice  (hint, there was a bit of bloodshed first).

Last chance to enter!

The ebook giveaway of Never Gone at Margo's blog, Writing at High Altitude, ends tonight! Pop on over and enter now!

Did you guess correctly? What were your childhood career aspirations?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

image from morguefile.com
I feel like I'm having a very authentically spooky Halloween this year--in the dark, with lots of candles. Yeah, we got socked by Hurricane Sandy's powerful winds that toppled trees throughout my neighborhood and killed our electricity Monday night at 10 pm. The electric company estimates it will be restored November 1 at 11 pm. Yeah, that means three days of no electricity. Fun times. Fortunately my hubby's parents have taken us in for the time being.

Halloween is when we celebrate spooky things, which is really kind of strange when you think about it. In most cultures, spooky things are meant to be simply feared or appeased. And yet, here we are laughing about Uncle Harold being the perfect zombie and little Emily's dripping fangs looking oh-so-fabulous. What gives?

Though Halloween has roots in pagan practices, its edge has been somewhat lost because of newer Christian practices that sprung up around it--specifically All Saints Day (Nov 1) and All Souls Day (Nov 2) rituals that channeled all the previous death and spook obsession into celebrations of past heroes of the faith and lost loved ones. Though we're entering a post-Christian era, the sense that we can laugh at spooky things rather than cower is very much rooted in a faith that offers light in dark places and a leader who went through death and came back from it, triumphant. Evil didn't have the final word, and that's something worth celebrating.

How's everyone doing after Hurricane Sandy? What do you think of the "laughing at spooky things" aspect of Halloween?

Chance to win! (and other Ramble News)

Margo Berendsen is hosting an ebook giveaway of Never Gone that runs all week. Don't miss out, enter today! I also wrote a guest post for her about what's unique to a teen's grief experience and my particular take on it, as well as how cross-cultural family dynamics come into play in Never Gone.

I also got to be the special "Sit Down Sunday" guest on Ramblings of a Book Junkie. I talked a bit about how visual people experience grief, my style and all kinds of favorite things beyond raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012 Laurel Garver
image from morguefile.com
I feel like I'm having a very authentically spooky Halloween this year--in the dark, with lots of candles. Yeah, we got socked by Hurricane Sandy's powerful winds that toppled trees throughout my neighborhood and killed our electricity Monday night at 10 pm. The electric company estimates it will be restored November 1 at 11 pm. Yeah, that means three days of no electricity. Fun times. Fortunately my hubby's parents have taken us in for the time being.

Halloween is when we celebrate spooky things, which is really kind of strange when you think about it. In most cultures, spooky things are meant to be simply feared or appeased. And yet, here we are laughing about Uncle Harold being the perfect zombie and little Emily's dripping fangs looking oh-so-fabulous. What gives?

Though Halloween has roots in pagan practices, its edge has been somewhat lost because of newer Christian practices that sprung up around it--specifically All Saints Day (Nov 1) and All Souls Day (Nov 2) rituals that channeled all the previous death and spook obsession into celebrations of past heroes of the faith and lost loved ones. Though we're entering a post-Christian era, the sense that we can laugh at spooky things rather than cower is very much rooted in a faith that offers light in dark places and a leader who went through death and came back from it, triumphant. Evil didn't have the final word, and that's something worth celebrating.

How's everyone doing after Hurricane Sandy? What do you think of the "laughing at spooky things" aspect of Halloween?

Chance to win! (and other Ramble News)

Margo Berendsen is hosting an ebook giveaway of Never Gone that runs all week. Don't miss out, enter today! I also wrote a guest post for her about what's unique to a teen's grief experience and my particular take on it, as well as how cross-cultural family dynamics come into play in Never Gone.

I also got to be the special "Sit Down Sunday" guest on Ramblings of a Book Junkie. I talked a bit about how visual people experience grief, my style and all kinds of favorite things beyond raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

Monday, October 29, 2012


by Leigh Talbert Moore
Author, The Truth About Faking

When I started writing The Truth About Faking, it wasn’t going to be as lighthearted as it turned out.  I planned for the main character Harley’s dad to have a crisis of faith because of a terrible disappointment. (Harley’s dad is a Presbyterian reverend.)

The story took a turn when Harley met Jason and then realized she liked him more than her “one true love” Trent—which created a whole different crisis for her. And maybe it was the mood I was in, but I couldn’t seem to keep the whole thing from being funny and romantic and sweet. My drama turned into a rom-com!

But one message I’d intended from the outset remained: Don’t judge others by their appearance. (The whole “book by its cover” adage.)

It’s a message we know by heart, yet I think until we’re actually surprised by someone or something, we pass appearance-based judgments all the time.

Harley decides Trent’s the one for her based on his appearance and his quiet politeness. The town in which Harley lives judges her mother based on appearance. They even decide Harley’s parents have a shaky marriage based on appearance.

Heck, even the town Shadow Falls isn’t shadowy nor does it have waterfalls…

Yeah, I was chasing a theme.

I also kept the religious elements in place. It was a risk maybe. Sometimes readers are put off by religion in books. But the consensus has been in this case, it makes the story more real.

In my experience, church and faith tend to be a big part of life in Small Town, USA. In addition, Christians are often just as guilty of judging books by their covers.

Ultimately, my goal was to make readers think, which I hope TTAF does. How often do we judge people wrongly? How important is it to keep one’s word when it might jeopardize one’s position in the community? 


Thanks so much for having me today, Laurel! I hope readers like my book!

----------------

Leigh Talbert Moore is a wife and mom by day, a writer by day, a reader by day, an editor when time permits, a chocoholic, a lover of YA and contemporary romance (really any great love story), and occasionally she sleeps.

The Truth About Faking is her debut young adult romance. You can find it on
AmazonB&N,  Smashwords and Kobo

ROUGE is the first book in her mature-YA/new adult romance series (available Nov. 11 in all major outlets).

Leigh loves hearing from readers; stop by and say hello:
-Amazon Author page: amazon.com/author/leightmoore
-Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LeighTalbertMoore
-Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/leightmoore
-Blog: http://leightmoore.blogspot.com/
-Email: leightmoore(at)gmail(dot)com

Monday, October 29, 2012 Laurel Garver

by Leigh Talbert Moore
Author, The Truth About Faking

When I started writing The Truth About Faking, it wasn’t going to be as lighthearted as it turned out.  I planned for the main character Harley’s dad to have a crisis of faith because of a terrible disappointment. (Harley’s dad is a Presbyterian reverend.)

The story took a turn when Harley met Jason and then realized she liked him more than her “one true love” Trent—which created a whole different crisis for her. And maybe it was the mood I was in, but I couldn’t seem to keep the whole thing from being funny and romantic and sweet. My drama turned into a rom-com!

But one message I’d intended from the outset remained: Don’t judge others by their appearance. (The whole “book by its cover” adage.)

It’s a message we know by heart, yet I think until we’re actually surprised by someone or something, we pass appearance-based judgments all the time.

Harley decides Trent’s the one for her based on his appearance and his quiet politeness. The town in which Harley lives judges her mother based on appearance. They even decide Harley’s parents have a shaky marriage based on appearance.

Heck, even the town Shadow Falls isn’t shadowy nor does it have waterfalls…

Yeah, I was chasing a theme.

I also kept the religious elements in place. It was a risk maybe. Sometimes readers are put off by religion in books. But the consensus has been in this case, it makes the story more real.

In my experience, church and faith tend to be a big part of life in Small Town, USA. In addition, Christians are often just as guilty of judging books by their covers.

Ultimately, my goal was to make readers think, which I hope TTAF does. How often do we judge people wrongly? How important is it to keep one’s word when it might jeopardize one’s position in the community? 


Thanks so much for having me today, Laurel! I hope readers like my book!

----------------

Leigh Talbert Moore is a wife and mom by day, a writer by day, a reader by day, an editor when time permits, a chocoholic, a lover of YA and contemporary romance (really any great love story), and occasionally she sleeps.

The Truth About Faking is her debut young adult romance. You can find it on
AmazonB&N,  Smashwords and Kobo

ROUGE is the first book in her mature-YA/new adult romance series (available Nov. 11 in all major outlets).

Leigh loves hearing from readers; stop by and say hello:
-Amazon Author page: amazon.com/author/leightmoore
-Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LeighTalbertMoore
-Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/leightmoore
-Blog: http://leightmoore.blogspot.com/
-Email: leightmoore(at)gmail(dot)com

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I'm over at Melissa Sarno's blog today, talking about a topic dear to my heart--"Let Setting Emerge from Character." I not only explain how I developed and researched settings for my novel, but also give some helpful tips on making setting and characterization support one another.

Why did I set the American portion of Never Gone in New York rather than Philadelphia? Is Ashmede, County Durham, UK a real place? Pop on over to learn the answers!

How important is setting in your work? 
Thursday, October 25, 2012 Laurel Garver
I'm over at Melissa Sarno's blog today, talking about a topic dear to my heart--"Let Setting Emerge from Character." I not only explain how I developed and researched settings for my novel, but also give some helpful tips on making setting and characterization support one another.

Why did I set the American portion of Never Gone in New York rather than Philadelphia? Is Ashmede, County Durham, UK a real place? Pop on over to learn the answers!

How important is setting in your work? 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Yesterday was my very first school visit, in which I discussed editing and writing with my daughter's mixed 3rd-4th grade class (her private school has mostly mixed-grade classrooms to encourage peer mentoring).

In addition to talking about what editors do and describing how I switch gears to write fiction, I also shared a little about how to shape a story. The teachers want me to come back and do some more activities on the topic, because this is one of the toughest things for kids ages 8-10. Their ideas are big and sprawling and rapidly become overpopulated and never quite arrive anywhere.

One activity we did together was discuss a basic story arc, and pulled examples from the film How to Train Your Dragon (HtTYD). I think it might be helpful to writers at any level to take a look at these skeleton basics, because we too can lose the forest for the trees:


Eight point plot structure


1. Stasis

This is where we see the normal, every day life of the character--what sort of person they are, and what are the “rules” of the world they live in.

In HtTYD, we meet Hiccup, the techie geek boy with a laughable name, and learn that he lives in a medieval-type Viking culture that has some problems--their weather is terrible and they have a "pest" issue, namely that dragons regularly attack and steal from them. Hiccup is inept at the one thing that matters most--killing dragons. He longs to be respected.

2. Trigger

Something disrupts or changes your character’s normal world. It might be something bad, like Snow White’s stepmother turning against her, or something good like finding a treasure map.

In HtTYD, Hiccup actually succeeds at doing something his culture values--he takes down one of the most feared types of dragons, a Night Fury.

3. Quest

In response to the trigger, the main character wants to do something, whether it’s Snow White fleeing for safety or the map finder seeking the treasure.

In HtTYD, Hiccup realizes he does not want to kill the dragon he injured. He commits to understanding dragons differently than his culture does. 

4. Obstacles and surprises

This is the main portion of the story--the middle--where the main character sets out on the quest and stuff happens. Other characters help or hinder them. Nature and society helps or hinders them. There should be a mix of defeat and victory. The events shouldn’t be too random or too obvious. They should make sense based on who’s in the story and the rules of the story world.

In HtTYD, Hiccup leads a double life, rehabilitating an injured dragon while learning to fight them in training sessions with his peers. He earns Toothless's trust and helps the dragon fly again through trial and error of various prosthetic tails. Meanwhile, he also learns through trial and error how to gain mastery over dragons through what Toothless has taught him about dragon likes and fears. More complications arise as the Toothless rehab project is discovered by Ingrid. In trying to convince Ingrid to think differently about dragons, Hiccup is led to discover the real problem: Toothless and others are bullied by a much worse enemy, the "hive queen." Through a series of events, the village learns about the taming of Toothless and make him their pawn in the war against all dragons.

5. Decision

The ongoing troubles of the quest should lead the main character to decide something important to move the story forward.

In HtTYD, Hiccup decides to rescue Toothless from the villagers and try to stop their raid on the dragon hive, even if it means becoming even more of an outcast than he already is.

6. Climax

This is the big battle the main character has decided to face. It might be a fight with an enemy, or tackling an obstacle that seems impossible, or entering a final test or trial like a sports competition.

In HtTYD, the villagers uncover the truth of the "hive queen" dragon, and Hiccup and the village teens work together to battle this mighty monster with the help of their trained dragons.

7. Reversal

The place the character was before the big battle--their status--is reversed. He or she comes out on top, or maybe thought something would be easy, but fails.

In HtTYD, the teens defeat the "hive queen," proving once and for all that Hiccup's way of seeing the smaller dragons is correct and that he is indeed not inept, but more skilled than anyone else. Hiccup's father Stoic is no longer prideful, but humbled; no longer disdainful, but loving. 

8. Resolution

This is the new normal for the main character. The weakling who has won the battle wins respect. The foolish person who fails wins wisdom. In fairy tales, it’s usual to see the hero or heroine winning a partner, a domain, and a treasure.

In HtTYD, we see Hiccup bearing a "badge of honor" for his culture--a battle injury requiring a prosthesis like his mentor the blacksmith and like his dragon Toothless. We return to a riff on the opening exposition describing the village, but with a twist. Instead of  dragons being "pests" that bring harm, they are now "pets" that improve villagers' lives. 

Hiccup gains Ingrid's affections (partner), a place of respect in the village (domain), and  a tricked-out prosthetic foot-- a battle scar that makes others honor him (treasure).
While there are variations on this most basic of hero's quest, it's a helpful model to keep in mind when you aren't sure how to start a story, how to build toward a satisfying ending, or how to shape incidents into a cohesive whole.


Another back-to-basics...

I'm over at the Rabble Writers' blog today, talking about "Grief faces, not phases." In the post, I discuss how researching the grief process shaped my characterization of Danielle in Never Gone.

Have you used a skeleton plot structure to shape your stories? 
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 Laurel Garver
Yesterday was my very first school visit, in which I discussed editing and writing with my daughter's mixed 3rd-4th grade class (her private school has mostly mixed-grade classrooms to encourage peer mentoring).

In addition to talking about what editors do and describing how I switch gears to write fiction, I also shared a little about how to shape a story. The teachers want me to come back and do some more activities on the topic, because this is one of the toughest things for kids ages 8-10. Their ideas are big and sprawling and rapidly become overpopulated and never quite arrive anywhere.

One activity we did together was discuss a basic story arc, and pulled examples from the film How to Train Your Dragon (HtTYD). I think it might be helpful to writers at any level to take a look at these skeleton basics, because we too can lose the forest for the trees:


Eight point plot structure


1. Stasis

This is where we see the normal, every day life of the character--what sort of person they are, and what are the “rules” of the world they live in.

In HtTYD, we meet Hiccup, the techie geek boy with a laughable name, and learn that he lives in a medieval-type Viking culture that has some problems--their weather is terrible and they have a "pest" issue, namely that dragons regularly attack and steal from them. Hiccup is inept at the one thing that matters most--killing dragons. He longs to be respected.

2. Trigger

Something disrupts or changes your character’s normal world. It might be something bad, like Snow White’s stepmother turning against her, or something good like finding a treasure map.

In HtTYD, Hiccup actually succeeds at doing something his culture values--he takes down one of the most feared types of dragons, a Night Fury.

3. Quest

In response to the trigger, the main character wants to do something, whether it’s Snow White fleeing for safety or the map finder seeking the treasure.

In HtTYD, Hiccup realizes he does not want to kill the dragon he injured. He commits to understanding dragons differently than his culture does. 

4. Obstacles and surprises

This is the main portion of the story--the middle--where the main character sets out on the quest and stuff happens. Other characters help or hinder them. Nature and society helps or hinders them. There should be a mix of defeat and victory. The events shouldn’t be too random or too obvious. They should make sense based on who’s in the story and the rules of the story world.

In HtTYD, Hiccup leads a double life, rehabilitating an injured dragon while learning to fight them in training sessions with his peers. He earns Toothless's trust and helps the dragon fly again through trial and error of various prosthetic tails. Meanwhile, he also learns through trial and error how to gain mastery over dragons through what Toothless has taught him about dragon likes and fears. More complications arise as the Toothless rehab project is discovered by Ingrid. In trying to convince Ingrid to think differently about dragons, Hiccup is led to discover the real problem: Toothless and others are bullied by a much worse enemy, the "hive queen." Through a series of events, the village learns about the taming of Toothless and make him their pawn in the war against all dragons.

5. Decision

The ongoing troubles of the quest should lead the main character to decide something important to move the story forward.

In HtTYD, Hiccup decides to rescue Toothless from the villagers and try to stop their raid on the dragon hive, even if it means becoming even more of an outcast than he already is.

6. Climax

This is the big battle the main character has decided to face. It might be a fight with an enemy, or tackling an obstacle that seems impossible, or entering a final test or trial like a sports competition.

In HtTYD, the villagers uncover the truth of the "hive queen" dragon, and Hiccup and the village teens work together to battle this mighty monster with the help of their trained dragons.

7. Reversal

The place the character was before the big battle--their status--is reversed. He or she comes out on top, or maybe thought something would be easy, but fails.

In HtTYD, the teens defeat the "hive queen," proving once and for all that Hiccup's way of seeing the smaller dragons is correct and that he is indeed not inept, but more skilled than anyone else. Hiccup's father Stoic is no longer prideful, but humbled; no longer disdainful, but loving. 

8. Resolution

This is the new normal for the main character. The weakling who has won the battle wins respect. The foolish person who fails wins wisdom. In fairy tales, it’s usual to see the hero or heroine winning a partner, a domain, and a treasure.

In HtTYD, we see Hiccup bearing a "badge of honor" for his culture--a battle injury requiring a prosthesis like his mentor the blacksmith and like his dragon Toothless. We return to a riff on the opening exposition describing the village, but with a twist. Instead of  dragons being "pests" that bring harm, they are now "pets" that improve villagers' lives. 

Hiccup gains Ingrid's affections (partner), a place of respect in the village (domain), and  a tricked-out prosthetic foot-- a battle scar that makes others honor him (treasure).
While there are variations on this most basic of hero's quest, it's a helpful model to keep in mind when you aren't sure how to start a story, how to build toward a satisfying ending, or how to shape incidents into a cohesive whole.


Another back-to-basics...

I'm over at the Rabble Writers' blog today, talking about "Grief faces, not phases." In the post, I discuss how researching the grief process shaped my characterization of Danielle in Never Gone.

Have you used a skeleton plot structure to shape your stories? 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Today I'm over at Karen Akin's blog discussing a tough topic--writing across the secular/sacred genre divide in a post entitled "Edgy? Clean? Writing across genre divides." As Karen notes in her introduction, it will interest anyone who has ever struggled with the question of where faith can fit in fiction. 

This was honestly the toughest post to write for my blog ramble. I know good people who have made hard decisions and altered their work to make it more salable to one market or the other. I mean no disrespect to those who've done this. It's perfectly fair and reasonable to want a publisher's backing to get a book on the market. 

And yet, my decision to self-publish has everything to do with this particular problem--the polarization of the markets.  I know plenty of readers who are frustrated with the lack of reading material that takes faith seriously but doesn't sanitize real life problems. 

The issue is a tough one for many considering what publishing path to take.

What do you think? 




Monday, October 22, 2012 Laurel Garver
Today I'm over at Karen Akin's blog discussing a tough topic--writing across the secular/sacred genre divide in a post entitled "Edgy? Clean? Writing across genre divides." As Karen notes in her introduction, it will interest anyone who has ever struggled with the question of where faith can fit in fiction. 

This was honestly the toughest post to write for my blog ramble. I know good people who have made hard decisions and altered their work to make it more salable to one market or the other. I mean no disrespect to those who've done this. It's perfectly fair and reasonable to want a publisher's backing to get a book on the market. 

And yet, my decision to self-publish has everything to do with this particular problem--the polarization of the markets.  I know plenty of readers who are frustrated with the lack of reading material that takes faith seriously but doesn't sanitize real life problems. 

The issue is a tough one for many considering what publishing path to take.

What do you think? 




Friday, October 19, 2012

Fellow Rabble Writer Madeline Sharples invited me to take part in The Look Challenge for writers. The premise is simple: find a passage in your manuscript or book that contains the word “look,” post it on your blog, and tag five other blogging writers to do the same.

Here's my excerpt, from Chapter 2 of my debut:

As I head toward the bathroom, a flash of blue by the front door catches my eye. Dad’s terry robe. And Dad, straightening frames. He frowns, probably deciding whether to swap some photos. When he gets to the second row, he turns and motions to me. Come.

My hands shake so badly I almost drop my makeup case. He’s still here. Right here. Maybe the phone call, the hospital, the surgeries weren’t real. Just a very vivid nightmare. My feet carry the rest of me, like a sleepwalker, toward him.

When I get there, he’s gone. Before me is the magic photo: the one split second in my short life that I look incredible. It’s not a coiffed, polished glamour shot. No, I’m sweaty and my clothes are rumpled. But I’m floating four feet in the air, my gawky tallness curved like a curlicue C around the high jump bar. My leading arm is like a ballerina’s, legs steely and lean, face full of happy peace. A swan moment.

I tag the following friends:
Deniz Bevan
Faith Elizabeth Hough
Connie Keller
Melissa Pearl
Melanie Schulz

I was surprised that "look" didn't appear more frequently in my story, which has as a theme "good vision" or seeing things correctly, rather than filtered through prejudices and pre-jududgments.

How much "look" ing happens in your work? Is vision the primary sense, or are your stories more strongly auditory and sound-centered?
Friday, October 19, 2012 Laurel Garver
Fellow Rabble Writer Madeline Sharples invited me to take part in The Look Challenge for writers. The premise is simple: find a passage in your manuscript or book that contains the word “look,” post it on your blog, and tag five other blogging writers to do the same.

Here's my excerpt, from Chapter 2 of my debut:

As I head toward the bathroom, a flash of blue by the front door catches my eye. Dad’s terry robe. And Dad, straightening frames. He frowns, probably deciding whether to swap some photos. When he gets to the second row, he turns and motions to me. Come.

My hands shake so badly I almost drop my makeup case. He’s still here. Right here. Maybe the phone call, the hospital, the surgeries weren’t real. Just a very vivid nightmare. My feet carry the rest of me, like a sleepwalker, toward him.

When I get there, he’s gone. Before me is the magic photo: the one split second in my short life that I look incredible. It’s not a coiffed, polished glamour shot. No, I’m sweaty and my clothes are rumpled. But I’m floating four feet in the air, my gawky tallness curved like a curlicue C around the high jump bar. My leading arm is like a ballerina’s, legs steely and lean, face full of happy peace. A swan moment.

I tag the following friends:
Deniz Bevan
Faith Elizabeth Hough
Connie Keller
Melissa Pearl
Melanie Schulz

I was surprised that "look" didn't appear more frequently in my story, which has as a theme "good vision" or seeing things correctly, rather than filtered through prejudices and pre-jududgments.

How much "look" ing happens in your work? Is vision the primary sense, or are your stories more strongly auditory and sound-centered?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

moreguefile.com
Today I'm over at Tyrean Martinson's blog, discussing "Why dads matter." This is a helpful post for anyone who has read Never Gone and wondered why I put my character into some of the tough situations I do.

I told Tyrean, "I was especially interested in exploring the father-daughter dynamic because girls first learn how to relate to boys from interacting with their dads."

But what happens when that teacher and protector figure is no longer in your life?

Pop on over to read more.

How much does psychology inform your writing? Do you agree or disagree with my premise about a father's role in a teen daughter's life?
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 Laurel Garver
moreguefile.com
Today I'm over at Tyrean Martinson's blog, discussing "Why dads matter." This is a helpful post for anyone who has read Never Gone and wondered why I put my character into some of the tough situations I do.

I told Tyrean, "I was especially interested in exploring the father-daughter dynamic because girls first learn how to relate to boys from interacting with their dads."

But what happens when that teacher and protector figure is no longer in your life?

Pop on over to read more.

How much does psychology inform your writing? Do you agree or disagree with my premise about a father's role in a teen daughter's life?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Today I have the exciting privilege to be a featured guest at New Zealand blog YAlicious (going international makes me all kinds of excited!). Melissa and Brenda are fantastically supportive of indie authors--please go check out their awesome blog!

I love how our Internet-connected world enables us to build relationships with English-speaking writers and readers all over the globe. No longer is it an obstacle that Melissa and Brenda are across the international dateline from me (through the yesterday/tomorrow conversations get a bit confusing); we can correspond easily. When I think back to the paper and pen days of my childhood, having a pen pal in Texas was exotic for a Pennsylvanian. Now I have online friends in western Canada, South Africa, India, Australia and all over Europe. It's an exciting time to a writer, don't you think?

What benefits do you see in the Internet-connected writing and reading community?




Tuesday, October 16, 2012 Laurel Garver
Today I have the exciting privilege to be a featured guest at New Zealand blog YAlicious (going international makes me all kinds of excited!). Melissa and Brenda are fantastically supportive of indie authors--please go check out their awesome blog!

I love how our Internet-connected world enables us to build relationships with English-speaking writers and readers all over the globe. No longer is it an obstacle that Melissa and Brenda are across the international dateline from me (through the yesterday/tomorrow conversations get a bit confusing); we can correspond easily. When I think back to the paper and pen days of my childhood, having a pen pal in Texas was exotic for a Pennsylvanian. Now I have online friends in western Canada, South Africa, India, Australia and all over Europe. It's an exciting time to a writer, don't you think?

What benefits do you see in the Internet-connected writing and reading community?




Monday, October 15, 2012

Today I'm over at Lynn Simpson's blog, Connecting Stories, talking about the importance of support, both as a theme in my novel, and in my own life as a creative person. I also suggest six ways to offer support and encouragement to writers.

One way I could really use support today is votes for my sample chapters on Wattpad. It's a great place for my target audience to discover my book, provided they know it exists. Could some of you lovely blog buddies take a moment to pop over and vote it to greater visibility? THANKS!

How have you been encouraged and supported as a writer? How do you wish others in your world would support you? 
Monday, October 15, 2012 Laurel Garver
Today I'm over at Lynn Simpson's blog, Connecting Stories, talking about the importance of support, both as a theme in my novel, and in my own life as a creative person. I also suggest six ways to offer support and encouragement to writers.

One way I could really use support today is votes for my sample chapters on Wattpad. It's a great place for my target audience to discover my book, provided they know it exists. Could some of you lovely blog buddies take a moment to pop over and vote it to greater visibility? THANKS!

How have you been encouraged and supported as a writer? How do you wish others in your world would support you? 

Friday, October 12, 2012

They lurk in your manuscript, undetected by spell check, ready to ruin your reputation. Worse, you might not know that these devils do not belong.

What are these twisted, little enemies? Homophones.

This term, from the Latin, means "sound-alikes," not to be confused (as I have in the past) with homonyms, literally "name-alikes." Homonyms are things like the noun "beat," which could mean rhythm, the area a police officer patrols, or the subject area a journalist investigates. Every use is spelled the same.

Homophones, on the other hand, are words that sound the same, but have different meanings AND different spellings. Spell check will not find them because they are legitimate words in their own right. Homophone errors can be some of the hardest to ferret out in your work, in part because you may not be aware of the other term.

Educating yourself is key. And I find that mnemonic devices can really help, too. Here are a few I've tackled so far:

bare and bear
rain, rein and reign 
phase and faze

A few I plan to consider in the coming weeks:
whose and who's, they're and their
than and then
jibe and jive
pore and pour

Ramble news
I've been out and about talking to wonderful bloggers about many aspects of my debut. Here's a recap:
"The perfect fall-into-winter book": a review
Repulsion, Attraction, Connection: Romance is more than "hotness"
In loving memory: how autobiographical is Never Gone? (and a review)
Eleven book trailer tips
Why did I write Never Gone? Tackling "where is God when we suffer?"
Stories of our youth: empathy and transformation
Inspirations, and Why ghosts and God?

Coming next week: I'll be talking to Lynn Simpson on Monday about writer support and to Tyrean Martinson on Wednesday about "Why Dads matter."

What are some homophones that trip you up? Which set would you like me to tackle first?
Friday, October 12, 2012 Laurel Garver
They lurk in your manuscript, undetected by spell check, ready to ruin your reputation. Worse, you might not know that these devils do not belong.

What are these twisted, little enemies? Homophones.

This term, from the Latin, means "sound-alikes," not to be confused (as I have in the past) with homonyms, literally "name-alikes." Homonyms are things like the noun "beat," which could mean rhythm, the area a police officer patrols, or the subject area a journalist investigates. Every use is spelled the same.

Homophones, on the other hand, are words that sound the same, but have different meanings AND different spellings. Spell check will not find them because they are legitimate words in their own right. Homophone errors can be some of the hardest to ferret out in your work, in part because you may not be aware of the other term.

Educating yourself is key. And I find that mnemonic devices can really help, too. Here are a few I've tackled so far:

bare and bear
rain, rein and reign 
phase and faze

A few I plan to consider in the coming weeks:
whose and who's, they're and their
than and then
jibe and jive
pore and pour

Ramble news
I've been out and about talking to wonderful bloggers about many aspects of my debut. Here's a recap:
"The perfect fall-into-winter book": a review
Repulsion, Attraction, Connection: Romance is more than "hotness"
In loving memory: how autobiographical is Never Gone? (and a review)
Eleven book trailer tips
Why did I write Never Gone? Tackling "where is God when we suffer?"
Stories of our youth: empathy and transformation
Inspirations, and Why ghosts and God?

Coming next week: I'll be talking to Lynn Simpson on Monday about writer support and to Tyrean Martinson on Wednesday about "Why Dads matter."

What are some homophones that trip you up? Which set would you like me to tackle first?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Yesterday afternoon my daughter and I watched what I believed would be a cute tween film, The Greening of Whitney Brown. About ten minutes in, I felt bad for Brooke Shields and Aidan Quinn for having their names attached to this clunker full of goofy, poorly motivated plot turns and thin characterization.

The biggest problem, according to my daughter, is that the story is "just like Cars." What does she mean? The story features a protagonist who is by all accounts a winner--competent, worshiped, healthy, wealthy. But he/she is simultaneously arrogant, impatient, unkind, boastful, rude. All the things that St. Paul in I Corinthians 13 says that love is NOT.

Both of these stories are based on the Greek tragedy plot, in which a hero full of hubris (false pride) suffers for it and is humbled, which leads to deep personal change, or to death if he refuses to change.

The tricky thing is, a certain segment of the audience will not connect with a Greek tragic hero. Their sense of a good story is shaped by the Judeo-Christian plot of the Messianic hero, figured in Moses and David, Jesus and Peter. These guys come from humble beginnings, get kicked around a lot, sacrifice for others and in the end are exalted.

Interestingly, both plot types assume that proud=bad and humble=good. But the Greek tragic hero method approaches the "lesson" from a punitive stance (punishing the wrong), while the Messianic hero method does so from a reward stance (honoring the right).

What does this mean for your writing? Be aware that getting your audience to connect with a hero who's arrogant and must get his comeuppance is extremely hard to pull off in certain genres. The only YA I've read that does this really well is Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. You'd do well to study how she achieves an unlikable queen bee's metamorphosis into a humble and heroic figure.

I think the key to Oliver's success is that she sows seeds of hope for change into the characterization from the beginning. Neither Lightning McQueen nor Whitney Brown show any signs of having an identity apart from arrogantly putting others down. You want them to fail, and it's hard to hang onto audience when they wish nothing but bad for your protagonist.

Ramble news
Today, I'm over at Play off the Page, where Mary Aalgaard interviewed me about inspirations for Never Gone and why I mixed ghosts and God in the story.

Do you prefer to read about Greek tragic heroes or Messianic heroes? Can you think of other Greek tragic hero plots that worked well?
Wednesday, October 10, 2012 Laurel Garver
Yesterday afternoon my daughter and I watched what I believed would be a cute tween film, The Greening of Whitney Brown. About ten minutes in, I felt bad for Brooke Shields and Aidan Quinn for having their names attached to this clunker full of goofy, poorly motivated plot turns and thin characterization.

The biggest problem, according to my daughter, is that the story is "just like Cars." What does she mean? The story features a protagonist who is by all accounts a winner--competent, worshiped, healthy, wealthy. But he/she is simultaneously arrogant, impatient, unkind, boastful, rude. All the things that St. Paul in I Corinthians 13 says that love is NOT.

Both of these stories are based on the Greek tragedy plot, in which a hero full of hubris (false pride) suffers for it and is humbled, which leads to deep personal change, or to death if he refuses to change.

The tricky thing is, a certain segment of the audience will not connect with a Greek tragic hero. Their sense of a good story is shaped by the Judeo-Christian plot of the Messianic hero, figured in Moses and David, Jesus and Peter. These guys come from humble beginnings, get kicked around a lot, sacrifice for others and in the end are exalted.

Interestingly, both plot types assume that proud=bad and humble=good. But the Greek tragic hero method approaches the "lesson" from a punitive stance (punishing the wrong), while the Messianic hero method does so from a reward stance (honoring the right).

What does this mean for your writing? Be aware that getting your audience to connect with a hero who's arrogant and must get his comeuppance is extremely hard to pull off in certain genres. The only YA I've read that does this really well is Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. You'd do well to study how she achieves an unlikable queen bee's metamorphosis into a humble and heroic figure.

I think the key to Oliver's success is that she sows seeds of hope for change into the characterization from the beginning. Neither Lightning McQueen nor Whitney Brown show any signs of having an identity apart from arrogantly putting others down. You want them to fail, and it's hard to hang onto audience when they wish nothing but bad for your protagonist.

Ramble news
Today, I'm over at Play off the Page, where Mary Aalgaard interviewed me about inspirations for Never Gone and why I mixed ghosts and God in the story.

Do you prefer to read about Greek tragic heroes or Messianic heroes? Can you think of other Greek tragic hero plots that worked well?

Monday, October 08, 2012

morguefile.com
A question I get a lot is whether I  skipped hiring an editor when publishing my novel, since I'm already a professional editor. Surely I just did it myself.

My answer is an emphatic "No!"  See, I currently work on a scholarly journal of literary criticism. Our submissions come from all over the world--people who are smart enough to get into English PhD programs, or even teach in PhD programs. And you know what? Even these smart cookies have typos, misplaced modifiers, subject-verb agreement problems, comma splices, unclear antecedents and the like.

One truth is quite clear to me: we're all blind to our own faults as writers. We all need other sets of eyes on our work. All of us. Always.

Think about  it this way: If you were a surgeon, would you do your own appendectomy? Of course not. You'd want someone skilled who you trust to do it. Your manuscript is as close to you as another limb. You're intimately linked to some of your verbiage because you can't forget how it felt to toil over it. Also, your brain will trick you to see on the page what you meant to say, not what you actually typed.

But a surgeon does know enough about medicine to do quite a lot to improve his own health, short of performing surgery on himself. He doesn't just lay back and expect another surgeon to make him a healthy guy. He eats well, exercises, gets immunizations and check ups. He does what he can with resources he has ready access to. It's the same for us as writers. There's plenty we can do to  improve a novel's health before surgery a.k.a. final editing (yes, this metaphor is getting a bit weird, stay with me...).

I turned to critique groups first of all. I'm blessed to have some really great readers, including several published authors and journalists. They gave me amazing guidance on shaping the plot and characterization, speeding up the pace, fixing plot holes, completing character arcs. There's at least one in each group with an eagle eye for the simple stuff that could be really embarrassing  Like homophone errors (using phase instead of faze for example), weird tense slips, or knowing that Mother Teresa doesn't have an H in it, like nearly every other Theresa I know.  

And yet, I still hired an editor to do a final edit. I knew that in working with so many comments from so many readers (over 20 in all), I needed a strong hand to ensure the whole thing read smoothly. 

Should you try to self edit? Absolutely. You should strive to put the cleanest manuscript you can into an editor's hands, whether you publish traditionally or self-publish. I might say especially if you self-publish, because the messier your manuscript, the more hours of editing time you'll have to pay for out of pocket.

How you self-edit is a question too large for a blog post. I recommend a systematic approach and my favorite resource is Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon. It goes into considerably more depth than other editing resources I've tried that are decent supplements: Fiction First Aid by Ray Obstfeld and Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King. Lyon's book is chock full of checklists, a handy thing for the organizationally challenged.

Ramble News
"Deep personal change isn’t easy, and tragedy has a way of forcing us to grapple with our dark side." I said this and much more in an interview with Michelle Davidson Argyle in her October newsletter.You can view the full piece here. She's also holding an ebook giveaway of Never Gone. You need to subscribe to be eligible to enter.

Never Gone is being featured today at Bish Denham's blog.

The winner of the ebook giveaway at PK Hrezo's blog has been selected!

Have you ever been tempted to forgo working with an editor? Does the surgery metaphor make you reconsider? What are some ways you work to improve your manuscript's health?
Monday, October 08, 2012 Laurel Garver
morguefile.com
A question I get a lot is whether I  skipped hiring an editor when publishing my novel, since I'm already a professional editor. Surely I just did it myself.

My answer is an emphatic "No!"  See, I currently work on a scholarly journal of literary criticism. Our submissions come from all over the world--people who are smart enough to get into English PhD programs, or even teach in PhD programs. And you know what? Even these smart cookies have typos, misplaced modifiers, subject-verb agreement problems, comma splices, unclear antecedents and the like.

One truth is quite clear to me: we're all blind to our own faults as writers. We all need other sets of eyes on our work. All of us. Always.

Think about  it this way: If you were a surgeon, would you do your own appendectomy? Of course not. You'd want someone skilled who you trust to do it. Your manuscript is as close to you as another limb. You're intimately linked to some of your verbiage because you can't forget how it felt to toil over it. Also, your brain will trick you to see on the page what you meant to say, not what you actually typed.

But a surgeon does know enough about medicine to do quite a lot to improve his own health, short of performing surgery on himself. He doesn't just lay back and expect another surgeon to make him a healthy guy. He eats well, exercises, gets immunizations and check ups. He does what he can with resources he has ready access to. It's the same for us as writers. There's plenty we can do to  improve a novel's health before surgery a.k.a. final editing (yes, this metaphor is getting a bit weird, stay with me...).

I turned to critique groups first of all. I'm blessed to have some really great readers, including several published authors and journalists. They gave me amazing guidance on shaping the plot and characterization, speeding up the pace, fixing plot holes, completing character arcs. There's at least one in each group with an eagle eye for the simple stuff that could be really embarrassing  Like homophone errors (using phase instead of faze for example), weird tense slips, or knowing that Mother Teresa doesn't have an H in it, like nearly every other Theresa I know.  

And yet, I still hired an editor to do a final edit. I knew that in working with so many comments from so many readers (over 20 in all), I needed a strong hand to ensure the whole thing read smoothly. 

Should you try to self edit? Absolutely. You should strive to put the cleanest manuscript you can into an editor's hands, whether you publish traditionally or self-publish. I might say especially if you self-publish, because the messier your manuscript, the more hours of editing time you'll have to pay for out of pocket.

How you self-edit is a question too large for a blog post. I recommend a systematic approach and my favorite resource is Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon. It goes into considerably more depth than other editing resources I've tried that are decent supplements: Fiction First Aid by Ray Obstfeld and Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King. Lyon's book is chock full of checklists, a handy thing for the organizationally challenged.

Ramble News
"Deep personal change isn’t easy, and tragedy has a way of forcing us to grapple with our dark side." I said this and much more in an interview with Michelle Davidson Argyle in her October newsletter.You can view the full piece here. She's also holding an ebook giveaway of Never Gone. You need to subscribe to be eligible to enter.

Never Gone is being featured today at Bish Denham's blog.

The winner of the ebook giveaway at PK Hrezo's blog has been selected!

Have you ever been tempted to forgo working with an editor? Does the surgery metaphor make you reconsider? What are some ways you work to improve your manuscript's health?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

I'm over on Dare to Read today, blog of Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban, author of Two Moon Princess and Immortal Love, talking about why I wrote Never Gone, who I think the book would appeal to, the cover design and my publishing and marketing experiences and ideas.

Carmen bumped up the date from when I expected the interview to run, which opens a spot on my schedule next week Wednesday or Thursday. If you'd like a blogging break for a day on 10/10 or 10/11, let me know in the comments (with an e-mail address, please). I'd be happy to do a guest post on a topic of your choice, or an interview. (And if more than one of you volunteers, I also have slots in late November and early December.)

The ebook giveaway continues at PK Hrezo's blog. Easy entry--just give an e-mail address. Extra entries for tweeting and following me on Facebook and Twitter.

Tell me about what you're working on. Why are you working on this particular project? What ideas and themes drive your writing?
Thursday, October 04, 2012 Laurel Garver
I'm over on Dare to Read today, blog of Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban, author of Two Moon Princess and Immortal Love, talking about why I wrote Never Gone, who I think the book would appeal to, the cover design and my publishing and marketing experiences and ideas.

Carmen bumped up the date from when I expected the interview to run, which opens a spot on my schedule next week Wednesday or Thursday. If you'd like a blogging break for a day on 10/10 or 10/11, let me know in the comments (with an e-mail address, please). I'd be happy to do a guest post on a topic of your choice, or an interview. (And if more than one of you volunteers, I also have slots in late November and early December.)

The ebook giveaway continues at PK Hrezo's blog. Easy entry--just give an e-mail address. Extra entries for tweeting and following me on Facebook and Twitter.

Tell me about what you're working on. Why are you working on this particular project? What ideas and themes drive your writing?

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Today I'm discussing a book that shaped me as a reader and a writer over at Author Jennifer R. Hubbard's blogs on Blogger and Live Journal. Jenn asked specifically about something I'd read as a kid, and it was hard to choose just one title. But I think you'll see how my early reading experience shaped the kind of story I'm drawn to.

My ebook giveaway at PK Hrezo's blog runs through Saturday. If you haven't entered yet, pop on over HERE and do it! Super easy entry--just give an e-mail address. Extra entries for tweeting about it, as well as Twitter and Facebook follows.

What's a book you loved as a child that has deeply influenced you?
Wednesday, October 03, 2012 Laurel Garver
Today I'm discussing a book that shaped me as a reader and a writer over at Author Jennifer R. Hubbard's blogs on Blogger and Live Journal. Jenn asked specifically about something I'd read as a kid, and it was hard to choose just one title. But I think you'll see how my early reading experience shaped the kind of story I'm drawn to.

My ebook giveaway at PK Hrezo's blog runs through Saturday. If you haven't entered yet, pop on over HERE and do it! Super easy entry--just give an e-mail address. Extra entries for tweeting about it, as well as Twitter and Facebook follows.

What's a book you loved as a child that has deeply influenced you?

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

I recently finished a new novel by the lovely Leigh T. Moore, a YA romantic comedy called The Truth About Faking. 

This sparkling novel explores, among other things, the games we play in search of love. The protagonist Harley Andrews is certain her true love is Trent, the boy who doesn't really notice her (her inner monologues about it are so funny and true to life). She convinces the new boy in town, Jason,  to "fake date" her to help Trent "see the light." But the role playing leads to all sorts of strange complications Harley couldn't anticipate, including having feelings for the stand in.

As the story progresses, it becomes clear that roles are a big problem in Shadow Falls. Harley's mother, for example,  defies expectations of what pastor's wife should be like, especially in conservative circles. She's into natural remedies and a massage therapist, which I thought was a brilliant choice on Moore's part,  because Christianity can often have a really fraught relationship with the body. Being fit and athletic is one thing, but massage is definitely on the fringe of dangerous territory. Yet Mrs. Andrews is incredibly professional about her work that is, after all, a way of relieving suffering--exactly the kind of thing a devout person should do. The church gossips who look for opportunities to make trouble for her look very petty in comparison.

But there's a price to paid for breaking stereotypes. And the biggest is the rift between mother and daughter when Harley herself begins questioning her mother's integrity. And that's where the core of the story got really interesting. The family plot and romantic plot  begin to echo each other in fascinating ways. Not only does Harley misjudge her mother and the student who works with her,  but she also jumps to all the wrong conclusions about the competing love interests, Trent and Jason. 

All these misperceptions begin to grown into mistrust, and then gossip, and wreak havoc in the small community. As things come to a head, Harley sees the how all these misperceptions play out, and how she's been on the wrong side. She's played her role as squeaky-clean pastor's daughter to a degree that she hasn't been loving to her family or living her faith well. Behind her "upright, good girl" mask, she has a compassionate heart and works hard to repair relationships.

Moore's dialogue is wonderfully authentic and witty, and her depiction of the intertwining lives of the ensemble of characters felt very real. I loved the nuanced view of the good and bad in Harley's church community also--a breath of fresh air when so many books for YA readers depict religious people in a thoroughly negative manner.

The fabulous voice and romantic tension kept me turning pages. The question of how we each contribute to problems in our community stuck with me long after I finished reading.

The Truth About Faking is available in paperback and as an ebook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.

What have you been reading lately?
Tuesday, October 02, 2012 Laurel Garver
I recently finished a new novel by the lovely Leigh T. Moore, a YA romantic comedy called The Truth About Faking. 

This sparkling novel explores, among other things, the games we play in search of love. The protagonist Harley Andrews is certain her true love is Trent, the boy who doesn't really notice her (her inner monologues about it are so funny and true to life). She convinces the new boy in town, Jason,  to "fake date" her to help Trent "see the light." But the role playing leads to all sorts of strange complications Harley couldn't anticipate, including having feelings for the stand in.

As the story progresses, it becomes clear that roles are a big problem in Shadow Falls. Harley's mother, for example,  defies expectations of what pastor's wife should be like, especially in conservative circles. She's into natural remedies and a massage therapist, which I thought was a brilliant choice on Moore's part,  because Christianity can often have a really fraught relationship with the body. Being fit and athletic is one thing, but massage is definitely on the fringe of dangerous territory. Yet Mrs. Andrews is incredibly professional about her work that is, after all, a way of relieving suffering--exactly the kind of thing a devout person should do. The church gossips who look for opportunities to make trouble for her look very petty in comparison.

But there's a price to paid for breaking stereotypes. And the biggest is the rift between mother and daughter when Harley herself begins questioning her mother's integrity. And that's where the core of the story got really interesting. The family plot and romantic plot  begin to echo each other in fascinating ways. Not only does Harley misjudge her mother and the student who works with her,  but she also jumps to all the wrong conclusions about the competing love interests, Trent and Jason. 

All these misperceptions begin to grown into mistrust, and then gossip, and wreak havoc in the small community. As things come to a head, Harley sees the how all these misperceptions play out, and how she's been on the wrong side. She's played her role as squeaky-clean pastor's daughter to a degree that she hasn't been loving to her family or living her faith well. Behind her "upright, good girl" mask, she has a compassionate heart and works hard to repair relationships.

Moore's dialogue is wonderfully authentic and witty, and her depiction of the intertwining lives of the ensemble of characters felt very real. I loved the nuanced view of the good and bad in Harley's church community also--a breath of fresh air when so many books for YA readers depict religious people in a thoroughly negative manner.

The fabulous voice and romantic tension kept me turning pages. The question of how we each contribute to problems in our community stuck with me long after I finished reading.

The Truth About Faking is available in paperback and as an ebook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.

What have you been reading lately?