Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone.

The best and most prosperous new year to all our Write Words authors, and to writers everywhere.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

First Hook 'em -- Writing tip

The first line in any story or article is your hook. Raise a question right away. Once a question is raised in the mind of the reader, he or she will want to keep reading to find the answer--and you have them "hooked."

The first "hook" in a short story usually foreshadows the central problem that will challenge the protagonist. In an article it asks a question on what the article is about. A hook should raise a question in the mind of the reader that will be answered before the story is over. Hooks heighten reader interest, pure and simple.

The good news is, you can write that line last, so don't waste time starting your story -- get the work done and then figure out the first line.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Bad Review - Writing Tip

If you receive a bad review, you are in good company. Plenty of good authors have been knocked by critics.

Someone complained to us this week that they received a bad review and were devastated so much that they questioned their decision to be writer. No one decides to be a writer other than that they are called to do it. Sure folks see all the money made by people like Steven King and think they want to be a writer, but when they get right down to it -- it's harder work than cleaning the oven. You end up standing on your head, up to your elbows in grease, and stiffled by noxious fumes. If writers had no calling, they'd be playing with their kids, going shopping or to the movies, or watching the Play-Offs. They would not be staring at the screen until beads of blood formed on their foreheads.

And after all that effort, we get trashed by reviewers? Yep. So it seems.

Remember, One Person's Opinion is just that. One person's opinion. Whether it's a critic for the NY Times or someone who posts a comment in an on line bookstore, it's only one person. Remember, even a bad review can lead to book sales.

So if you get a bad review, join the ranks of folks like Anton Checkov, Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy, John Steinbeck, Margaret Mitchell, and Mark Twain.

Then smile and go back to your keyboard.

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's all in the details - Writing Tip

Use what you have. That sounds simple, doesn't it. You would have thought I would know that from Jump Street, but I didn't.

I thought if I wrote a story about a wedding, I had to make up the church, spend a lot of time picturing what it was like, creating the whole thing in my mind before I tried to set it down faithfully in every detail.

Then I'd go on to do the same with the wedding dress, and then the next imaginary detail. Now I just describe my church, or a church I have been in, a bell-skirted wedding dress I saw in a magazine ad, the lace-encrusted shirt my son received as part of the rented tux when he acted as his friend's best man. The secret is that the reader will take the few details you include and imagine a church of his or her own.

Reading is participatory. If you use what you have in writing, the reader will bring his or her own imagery to the reading and create their own picture of a church, or wedding dress, or whatever you mention, in their imagination. What they envision may in no way resemble what you had envisioned in your own mind. But if you envision your church clearly, as you write, the reader will see it clearly, too.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Faith is the key!

If we would be blessed, then true faith is the key. Whatever we believe in, we should believe with all we are and ever can be.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Relax, it's the holidays - Writing Tip

When you construct a story, or even an article, don't worry too much about the "writing." There are at least a dozen good ways to say anything.

None are essentially right, or wrong. If you have a good smooth flow of language. If you have a good clear direction in mind and are already thinking things through--If you have all the information, and know what you want to say, I believe you'll find your story or article will "write itself."

The secret to writing is in knowing what is boring. If you've read enough (and lived enough) to know how to pick the most interesting information or turn of events and concentrate on the good stuff, then you are "home free." All you have to do is leave out the boring stuff.

If you write about what interests you and what you would enjoy reading, others will be interested and enjoy it, too.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snow Daze still going on

We only had about a foot of snow, much lighter here than in Virginia where author Nikki Leigh lives. From the photos above that she sent, they had a couple of feet.

Our son, Sid, came by with his pick-up, Big Liz (1950 Ford with 4-wheel drive) and got the driveway open so we could get out if we needed to, but we were content to spend our anniversary sitting safely inside, drinking hot chocolate and "testing" the Schneckins I baked.

Funny how when I see snow coming down it triggers my cooking instinct. What does snow make you want to do?

Monday, December 21, 2009

A happy Anniversary

Fifty-three years ago today, I married the sweetest guy... this is the two of us on our 50th wedding anniversary.

He still is just as sweet as ever. Hope you are all as blessed as we are.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Fudge recipe -- for those with a sweet tooth

Today I'm making my Holiday Fudge. The following basic recipe is easy to make and lends itself to all manner of variations and flavors.

For many years I'd make about 40 pounds, in different flavors and colors, then mix them 2 dozen at a time into plastic gift bags, and pass them out to friends and relations in the holiday season.

Holiday Fudge

3 sticks of butter ( Warning: must be Real Butter!)
1 2 lb package of 10x sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt

Melt the butter in the microwave

Stir in vanilla and salt with a whisk or fork

Mix in the sugar, half at a time, stirring well

As you add the second half of the sugar, the mixture will form a thick consistency. Mix well with your hands until it is smooth and thick, like biscuit dough.
(If the final mixture is too dry, add 1 tbsp of cream.)
(If final mixture is too wet, add a little extra sugar.)

Spread doughy mixture on a greased cookie sheet (Pam works great) Patting it into a flat square shape with your hands.

Cut into squares and Refrigerate for half an hour or more.

When the fudge is firm, put the squares into plastic bags, or candy dishes. Store in a cool place.

The fudge will stay firm at room temperature, but should not be stored near an oven, or a wood stove. I usually put mine on the back porch. It's glassed in, and not quite as warm as the rest of the house.

For Chocolate Fudge

To the above recipe, add 3/4 cup cocoa to melted butter, then proceed as shown.

For Chocolate Nut Fudge

Add 3/4 cup cocoa and
1 cup pecan pieces
Or Black walnut pieces
Or whatever nuts you like best
Mix nuts in with the sugar.

For Pina Collada Fudge

Leave out cocoa and add:
1 tbsp coconut flavoring.
1 tbsp pineapple flavoring
Yellow food coloring (optional).

For Mint Fudge

Add 1 tbsp mint flavoring.
Green food coloring.

For Almond Fudge

Add 1 1/2 tsp almond flavoring
Red food coloring to make the mixture pink.

For Chocolate-Peanut Butter Fudge

To the basic recipe, stir 1 cup of peanut butter in with melted butter.
Stir in 3/4 cup cocoa.
Then proceed with the basic recipe.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Character Creation - Writing Tip

I have seen a number of "character planning sheets" some in courses I have taken and others in courses I have taught, but over the years found they all needed a bit of a refocus, to refine motivation as to why the character acts as he or she does.

This is the list of questions I came up with for my own character work sheets.

Who IS Your Character?

Plot should come out of character, evolving naturally from each character's beliefs and desires. To understand your characters' feelings, take a look at the events that shaped their lives. Look first at the character's emotional life, then at world events they may have experienced.

Use the following interview sheet to get closer to your characters.

Remember, good characters do things for good reasons and bad characters do things for bad reasons, but all characters should have a reason to do what they do other than that you need them to do it at that time and place.

Fill out a sheet for each major character. Questions with a (*) must be answered.

Name, date of birth and place of residence? (*)

What does he or she want? (*)

What stands in his or her way? (*)

How will the character change by the end of the story? (*)

What is the character’s reason for taking action? Note: His or her actions should be taken to get what they want, not by coincidence or "in the course of events."

What are his or her strengths and weaknesses? (*)

What secrets does the character have?

What childhood or personal events shaped the character’s life?

What world events shaped the character? Hint: If your character was in one of the Twin towers on 9-11, that will affect him one way or another for the rest of his or her life.

Physical description: (*) (Hint: Sometimes it helps to pick an actor to play the role, so you will always have a visual image of what he or she looks like)

If you keep these sheets on hand as your scenes develop it will help prevent you from giving them, as I have done, blue eyes on one page and brown on another.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Holiday Poem

Each year I write a poem for the Winter Solstice, to celebrate any and all holidays near that date. If I live long enough, I may have a collection. Below is the one for this year.

Love and Joy Come to You

Thoughts Upon the Winter Solstice

So many things bring joy
Softly falling snow
Moonlight breaking through rain
A lilac-scented spring wind

Fulfillment comes to those who wait
Satisfaction in a book read, or written
Exaltation in a favored melody, a task accomplished
Inspiration and hope for each day lived

Yet, there are times filled with troubles large and small
A cat who won’t come down from the roof
A check lost in the mail
A stay in the hospital, a burned pudding

But all in all, life can be good
For those who seek, each day may be filled with wonder
And a quiet joy
Wonder that kindness yet abounds
Joy that fulfillment is still possible

Today may you, too, know exaltation.

___Arline Chase
Winter Solstice 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dickens Anyone - a Writing thought

Watched an entertaining rerun of A CHRISTMAS CAROL last night on TV and it made me think about writers and entertainment and why we all enjoy it.

Dickens wrote "for the money" of course, doing a chapter a week for newspaper publication, that only got collected into "novels" afterward. He didn't expect his work to last two and a half centuries, or change the world, but it did. Though he wrote about characters who were poor, his work was read, absorbed, and admired by the rich and powerful, who identified with his protagonists.

When Dickens began to write, sweatshops hired children who were contributing breadwinners or often "on their own" from age seven or eight. There were no social services, or state help, but by the end of his career, those same upper classes who read his fiction had voted to change the deplorable social conditions he depicted so vividly. Laws against child labor had been passed. A school system for the lower classes was established. Life for the poor got better in England, because what Dickens had written touched the hearts and minds of the statesmen who made new laws there.

Dickens considered himself an entertainer at best. Someone to provide a few hours of escape. Yet he lived to change the world and he did it writing fiction.

Non-fiction gives us all information we may need, but fiction involves the reader's emotions and makes him or her care, not only about the characters involved in the story, but about issues that need to be changed.

When people say to you, as someone said to me recently, "Oh, you just write fiction. I never read that," implying by their tone of voice that reading fiction is a worthless pastime, remember Dickens and the social changes brought about in England by his work.

He blessed us every one.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Rose is Still a Rose...

Booksurge, our printer, has changed its name to CreateSpace. Someone contacted me this week who hadn't yet heard that news. I'm sorry for not posting it here sooner.

People with books on order should be aware that the arriving packages will say Create-Space, not Booksurge.

This news has been on other blogs and lists, including the EPIC Business list. What does this mean for us? No real changes that we can see, except that the printing and ordering software has all been revamped at this Amazon company to give publishers more autonomy and require less staff time at their end.

In short, the system is more automated, but just as efficient as before.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Good News on the medical front

The doctor says my health has much improved from where we were just after my hospital stay in August, though it's not yet what he'd like to see.

As for me, I'm feeling much improved and hope to soon be back to my normal self.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Time's A-flying!

Hope you all are getting ready for the holidays.

I have not yet begun, though I am still working on some books, I'm not getting much else done. I will be editing MAGGIE'S MIRAGE by Jeanine Milarsky, and OZARK WOMAN by Terry Piper, later today.

By this time last year, I had done a lot of shopping on line, made 35 pounds of fudge, and baked 24 dozen "Ugly Cookies" to give out to family and friends. Since I won't be doing much baking this year, I'll share my "Ugly Cookie" recipe with y'all.

These are not the pretty sugar cookies favored at this time of year, but they sure taste the best.


Into a bowl, mix:
1 cup cooking oil
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp butter flavoring
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder

Stir with a whisk until fully blended.

1 1/2 cups sifted flour

Mix well into a smooth batter.


1/2 pkg chocolate chips
1 cup pecan pieces
3 cups of rolled oats

Mix well.

Drop cookies onto a greased cookie sheet and bake 10 to 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Makes 6 dozen or so.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Stay Active -- Writing Tip

Verbs are action words, everyone knows that. And it’s a good idea to use the active form of verbs whenever possible.

One thing that will make your writing read better is to avoid gerunds and verb participles, by using the more active form of the verb. That helps keep you in "active" voice. Almost all "ing" words follow a "to be" verb–is, was, were, are – one that's in static, if not exactly passive voice.

In fact if you search for was, were, etc. you can pick up on those passive phrases and turn them around pretty easily. Instead of "He was still chuckling as he closed the trunk...," try "He chuckled as he closed the trunk." It’s more direct, more specific. Better writing. Do you see what I mean? This is no big thing, but the writing will feel more “participatory” to the reader if you do that.

Someone wrote in this week to ask where I get all these tips. I was a writing teacher for 25 years, first for local colleges and I led workshops for some conferences, and later I taught for Writer's Digest Correspondence School for 15 years. And since there isn't a writing mistake I haven't made myself, I've learned a lot the hard way, too.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Print Books gone to press & other updates

Two new titles have gone to press:

JENNY'S LEGACY, by Cassandra Barnes
FIGHTING FOR A DREAM, by Tonya Ramagos

Gallies received back from the following:

TIME-RIFT, by Elena Dorothy Bowman

Second Print Gallies sent on:

MAGGIE'S MIRAGE, by Jeanine Malarsky

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dialect Anyone - Writing tip

With dialect, less is more, for sure.

We are a nation of poor readers. The average for the general public is 5th grade level.

I grew up reading Frances Hodgeson Burnett’s thick dialect in THE SECRET GARDEN, but most readers today don’t have patience to decode all those missing letters and apostrophes in strange places. They go rent the movie, which also has very little dialect.

I’ve met people from Northumberland. I wasn’t sure they were speaking English.

Dialect can be very difficult to write well. This is a lesson I learned, reluctantly I’ll admit, in a workshop with Diana Gabaldon. She wrote a book about a group of 17th century Scots, and English OUTLANDER. No dialect is a thick as that of Scotland. Diana said she listened to old Scots ballads sung in English and in Gaelic to absorb the rhythm of the speech. There’s a great deal of difference between the speech of the Scots and the Englishwoman, and among the Scots, depending upon their station in life and educational level. But nobody said, “Hoot mon!” She changed didn’t to didna, and wouldn’t to wouldna, and added some dated terms like “foxed” for drunk. But most of it was in the rhythm of the language.

Because of the sentence construction, English just plain sounded different when the Scots spoke, but their meaning was never obscured by a lot of fancy punctuation.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Is writing an Art or a Craft? Writing tip.

I do believe that writing is an art. But it’s also a craft.

No one can write your stories but you. No one can create exactly as you can.

No one else on earth has your “voice.” But there are tips and little techniques that you can learn to make the work easier for you. Just as an artist learns to mix colors, what glaze or wash will enhance a color, or make water look "wet" so will a writer learn how to get across to the reader the story that goes on in his or her head.

Getting the "story in your head" onto the page is the hardest work in the world.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New Books up for December

Our new titles are up on the front page at the Web Site for December 2009. All new titles are on discount for the coming month and all Holiday titles are also marked $1 off list price as part of our "Get in the Spirit--find time to read a Holiday Book" sale.

New e-book titles are:

A GHOST MEETS AN ANGEL: Shannon Delaney Series, Vol. 3, by Elizabeth Egan-C0x

A MATTER OF FAITH: Harmony Village Series, Vol. 2, by Anna Dynowski

MURDEROUS ROOTS, by Virginia Winters

LIFE AS A VIP: (Visually Impaired Person), by Sondra S. Williams

New Paper books this month:

GENESIS: Sarah's Landing Series, Vol. IV, by Elena Dorothy Bowman

RAMPAGE, by Hank LeGrand III

MAIDEN RUN, by Joan L. Cannon

Books that went to press this week:


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Backstory vs. Plot - Writing Tip

Be careful not to confuse “back story” (information needed to explain the characters personality and problems to the readers), with current plot action. Whatever has happened before the real action begins is “back story.” Be careful not to confuse explanatory action, with a plot turning point. A plot turning point is always when something CHANGES. Backstory has always been there and does not change.

Backstory is where "Telling" becomes a GOOD thing. You don't have to SHOW every little thing. Put the backstory in narrative and get on with the action.

To use a classic example, in the story Cinderella her mother’s death and her father’s remarriage are all “back story.” The mean way the rest of the family treats Cindy is explanatory action used to set up the objective. Because the Objective for Cinderella, is that she wants to go to the ball. Until Cinderella decides she wants to go to the ball nothing has really happened in the present, everything is going on as usual.

Remember, plot always happens when something changes. When the character knows what he or she wants, that is the objective and the knowing the objective is always the beginning of the story, the beginning of the plot. Now the character has a problem to solve – how to get what s/he wants. Once there is a problem statement, it’s time to get on with the story.

If there is no problem, nothing is happening, and there is no story --only backstory. Stories are about overcoming something, usually the difficulties set up in the backstory. If there is no “overcoming” then there is no satisfaction to the reader at the end.