Monday, May 31, 2010

Milk the action -- writing tip

It never hurts to "milk the action." That's a tip I picked up from Alice Orr who has written many books , worked as an editor at Walker Books for years, and had her own agency, also for years.

Alice talks in her workshop about how Charlie Chaplin, as the little tramp, was going to have a fistfight with a very large bully. Now we know they are going to fight, but first Charlie takes off his hat and hangs it on the peg. The bully charges at him and Charlie holds up one hand, then takes off his coat and hangs it up very carefully. The bully charges at him again and Charlie again signals for time and proceeds to very precisely roll up the sleeves of his shirt, displaying very skinny arms. Charlie milked the action, lacing the scene with more and more anticipation. It never hurts to keep the reader (or the filmgoer) sitting on the edge of the seat, wanting more.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Catching up -

Gone to press this week:

THE THROWAWAYS, by Jeanne Grieser

FULL TIME WIFE, by Anna Dynowski

Print Galleys out this week to:


Monday, May 24, 2010

Carlene Dater's Banana Bread - Recipe

Carlene Dater’s Banana Bread

½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 ripe bananas
2 eggs (or half a cup of egg substitute)
2 cups flour
1 tsp. Baking soda
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Cream together, butter, sugar, bananas, and eggs until well mixed. Stir in 2 cups of flour, 1 tsp. Soda and ¼ cup chopped walnuts. Placed in greased loaf pans or bundt cake pan.

Bake in a 350-f or 177-C degree oven until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about one hour.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Catching Up --

Print proof copies have been mailed to the following authors:

DEATH ON APPEAL, by Shel Damsky
NOT HIS FAIR LADY by Kaarina Brooks
MAGGIE'S MIRAGE by Jeanine Malarsky
KADY OF QUID by Warrington

The following books have gone to press or back to press:

OZARK WOMAN, by Terry Piper
KISS OF NIGHT, by K.S. Brooks
TIME-RIFT by Elena Bowman
GHOST MEETS AN ANGEL, by Elizabeth Eagan-Cox
MAGGIE'S MIRAGE, by Jeanine Malarsky
LOOKING FOR LOVE, by Anna Dynowski

Print galleys are up on Files anywhere for the following:

THE THROWAWAYS, by Jeanne Grieser
LOST MEMORIES, by Ray Morand
FULL TIME WIFE, by Anna Dynowski

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Can I base my writing on personal experience 2 - writing tip

Another way to discourage those who might complain about being identifiable in your stories, according to Anne Lamotte, is to give them an unattractive feature.

She suggests giving the character a small penis, as few folks would be likely to get on a witness stand and swear they had one.

Of course that only works for half the population, but the principle is the same if you choose some visible and unattractive cue for an unattractive character, one that definitely was contrary to the inspiration for your words, whether they really have a basis in your personal experience, or not.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Can I base fiction on my real experiences? - Writing tip

This week we had a question about doing autobiographical stories. That can be touchy. Very touchy, if family members will be reading them. I've heard people say, "If my family doesn't like what I write about them, let them write their own stories." I've heard others -- John Irving among them -- deny their fiction has any basis in reality at all. After Irving wrote "THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP," an interviewer pointed out to him that Garp's mother, like his own, was a nurse in a private school, a single parent, a women's rights advocate who was extremely politically active. He then asked if Garp's mother was based on Irving's own, well-known, parent. "Obviously not," Irving replied. "Garp's mother is dead. Mine's alive."

Whatever has happened or will happen to you is yours, to write about or not. Since we have to live in the real world, however, I urge you not to reveal other people's secrets, or write hurtful things about them, if they will recognize themselves. The key word is IF. When she was in the early stages of Alzheimer's my mother-in-law could say many hurtful things. Only later did we realize they were born of her own anger and frustration. But for several years she had not one nice thing to say about, or to, anyone. To complicate matters she was a cancer survivor and imagined every new small illness into the Big C. The urge to kill arose daily, and I dipped my pen and put her -- almost verbatim -- into a short story that later became my novel KILLRAVEN. I did set it back in time and make the character a bit younger than she, but essentially the situation was the same -- a mother-in-law who was driving her son and his wife to distraction. I gave her shingles, which she imagined into the C-word. I quoted her nasty observations word for word. What the hell, she wasn't a reader and thought my writing "silly." Why not? After all, even if it was published she'd never see it.

When a writer friend read my story she fell into fits of giggles, recognizing without any difficulty, some of Mom's ruder remarks. Later, we went to a writers group meeting, and when we returned, my mother-in-law handed me my story, with the comment, "I just wanted to see what Little Ticklebritches (her 'pet' name for my writer friend) thought was so funny!" I stood there stunned. I could have died! "Well," she continued, "It wasn't funny at all. It was downright sad. The way that mean old woman talked to that girl! She ought to have had her mouth washed out with soap!"

I learned two lessons that day. The first was to be as kind as possible and to disguise any "real" people thoroughly. The second was that people rarely see themselves in unpleasant characters. Even with her very own words tripping off the character's tongue, Mom identified with the protagonist. Something never did in real life.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Catching Up

Updated books for the following Final print galleys are on www.filesanywhere, awaiting a go ahead from the authors.

Terry Piper's OZARK WOMAN

Elizabeth Eagan-Cox's GHOST MEETS AN ANGEL

Anna Dynowski's LOOKING FOR LOVE

Books that have gone to press:


First print galleys at WWW.files anywhere for the following books, so that authors can check them and send corrections

Jamieson Wolf's HOPE FALLS

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Play Dialogue format is incorrect - writing tip

Lately we've been seeing some novels come in with dialogue in play format. I have no idea why people would use play structure in a fictional setting, but it is never correct. Needless to say this has led to some returns.

Dialogue in play format:

Arline: “I just want to make myself clear. You should be using the prose format, that’s, all.”

Dialogue in prose format:

“I just wanted to make myself clear,” Arline said, looking worried. “You should be using the prose format, that’s all.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Maggie Dix's Apple Salad - recipe

Maggie Dix’s Apple Salad*

4 medium apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup English walnut pieces
6 tbsp. mayonnaise*

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate in a covered container until ready to serve. Serves four.

* Using low fat mayonnaise makes this a healthier recipe.

Maggie Dix is not an author, but she is one of the artists who does our covers. We just couldn’t leave her out.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On Book Advances -- and other changes

The board has decided no longer to pay advances on print books due for publication. The advance we did pay was a negligible amount and created an inordinate amount of bookeeping work as well.

At the time the advance was initiated, eight years ago, any advance amount was a qualification to join the Author's Guild, but now their regulations require an advance of at least $1000, so that is no longer true.

In other news from the board meeting we have instituted a fee for ediitorial changes to e-books after the final files are completed. Proofreading is, and always has been the duty of the author. Once the corrections are handed in and the book files are finalized, it takes 6 to 8 hours of Shelley's time to remake them. That is time she could have spent in working on another book and time for which she has to be compensated. So basically if it's our error, no fees will be assessed, but it it's something the author missed the extra last minute fixing will cost him $25 -- not enough to cover Shelley's time, but enough to make each of us proof carefully, we hope.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Print Galleys are up and Best Sellers

Print Galleys are up on the following books:

CALL SIGN LOVE, by Carlene Rae Dater

LOOKING FOR LOVE, by Anna Dynowski

Current best-sellers at Fictionwise (for our own small company, not the whole site) are:

1. MEMOIRS OF A SLAVE GIRE, by Hariet Jacobs


3. TWO YEARS BEFOR THE MAST, by Richard Henry Dana

4. SECRET ADVERSARY, by Agatha Christie

5. LUST FOR DANGER, by K. S. Brooks

6. HIGH PLACES by Nina Osier

7. PATRIOT ACTS, by Steven Clark Bradley

8. THE SEARCH, by Grace Livingston Hill

9. THE MYSTERY OF MARY, by Grace Livingston Hill

10. TRAVELER, by David Yates

Highest Reader rated books (for out small company) are:

1. A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgeson Burnett

2. CAPTAIN BLOOD, by Raphael Sabatini

3. GHOST DANCER, by Arline Chase


5. BODILY HARM, by Arlene Stadd

6. SECRET ADVERSARY, by Agatha Christie

7. DARK ELF, by Ray Morand


9. SHAPE OF FEAR, by Matthew L. Schoonover

10. TORTURED SOULS, by Matthew L. Schoonover

That's it for a newsy, Monday.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Personal Essays - writing tip

The most important thing about a personal essay is that it have a point the reader can relate to in his or her own life. A pointless essay is like the broth without the beans. The point is where the essayist and the audience meet and understand each other's feelings.

All personal experience essays are written to a formula just as stories adhere to a plot outline Here is the formula:

1. Make a STATEMENT (Your Lead) about something -- say, baloney! The cost of baloney is nearly $3 a pound and it's expensive, just as it was back in the depression when it was 10 cents a pound, but nobody had a dime, or a job to earn one.

2. ELABORATE with detail over the next two or three paragraphs using anecdotes and examples that are easy to relate to. Explain how people are ready to hand you baloney every day with lies or nefarious practices. Because lying is also a simile for "baloney." Explain how polititians lie and the government lies as well, telling us they really NEED to buy those $800 toilet seats when you can get one at Wal-Mart for $9.95.

3. Make your POINT. People dish out baloney all the time and we sometimes swallow it, without even noticing.

4. In the final paragraph, make your piece come FULL CIRCLE by tying the end of the essay to the opening sentence or lead. "Regardless of the time or place, baloney can be very expensive to all of us."

In this way, your personal experience will become a shared experience with the reader.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Marie Prato's Peas, Potatoes and Macaroni - recipe

Marie Prato’s Peas, Potatoes and Macaroni

1 medium size onion
1 or 2 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 medium or three small potatoes, cut into cubes
1 sm. box frozen peas
1 sm. can tomato sauce
2 quarts of water
1 sm. box shell macaroni

Cut up a medium size onion and saute it in a tablespoon of olive oil in a pot. Cut two medium potatoes into small cubes and add to the oil. When slightly golden add in a package of frozen peas. Put in two quarts of water and a small can of tomato sauce. When the water boils, add a box of shell macaroni. Season to taste. Makes a thick broth soup and a complete meal in one pot for four people.

Contributed by Marie Prato, author of Ten Terrifying Tales...Impeccably written and haunting short stories. Marie Prato reveals all of her writer's craft in these pieces of short fiction. Her stories are believable and chilling. Read Ten Terrifying Tales and prepare to sleep with the lights on!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Triple O Outline - Writing Tip

Every story is about someone who wants something and whether they get it or not. Any story plot can easily be broken down into three parts: Objective; Obstacles; Outcome, sometimes referred to as the Triple-O Outline. There are hardly any new plots, so don’t be discouraged if “it’s been done.” The challenge for any writer is to make the characters so fresh and interesting that the reader forgets they have seen the plot before.

Plots for short stories should be short. If too much action is incorporated, the story will grow longer and longer and may become unwieldy. If too many obstacles occur, the reader could grow impatient and give up.

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.

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, 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 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. Stories are about overcoming something. If there is no “overcoming” then there is no satisfaction to the reader at the end.

Here are The Triple-Os

Objective: The objective (some call it object, but I like objective better) is what the character wants. Once your character knows what s/he wants, s/he has an objective. Cinderella wants to go to the ball. Her sisters are going and she darned well wants to go, too.

Obstacles: Whatever stands in the character’s way of getting what s/he wants are plot obstacles. There's an old writer's axiom called the "rule of three" that tells us not to include more than three things in any one sentence. For hundreds of years three has been a magic number in our culture. Genies grant three wishes, Cinderella had two ugly sisters, there are usually three turning points or complications in a story plot, with the last one resulting in the crisis/bleak moment (some people call it the “black moment” and Carla Neggers calls it the “big gloom”), just before the resolution. So it is unwise to plan more than three obstacles in any plot.

Cinderella wants to go to the ball, but: She has nothing to wear. She has no way to get there. She must leave by midnight. And sure enough, that last leads to the bleak momen of her leaving the prince. The resolution is, of course, that he searches for her.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Gone to press

The following books have gone to press:


NOT HIS FAIR LADY, by Kaarina Brooks

Print editing continues on:


DEATH ON APPEAL by Shel Damsky

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Oma Julchen's Chocolate Mousse - Recipe

Oma Julchen's Chocolate Mousse

4 1-ounce squares bitter or semi sweet chocolate
1/4 cup water
5 pasteurized eggs
1 tablespoon Cognac
3/4 cup sugar

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler. Add the sugar and water; stir until dissolved.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites and set the whites aside. Beating vigorously, add the yolks, one by one, to the melted chocolate. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the Cognac.

Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then fold them gently into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mousse into individual molds or a dessert bowl, then place the mousse into the refrigerator for at least 12 hours. The longer it stands the better. It will keep for several days. This recipe makes about 4 cups.

Contributor’s Note: In my recipe files is a yellowed index card on which I long ago typed my grandmother's "piece de resistance", her chocolate mousse. Yes, she was short and plump, often sighing deeply. But despite her heaviness, both emotional and physical, she was the one who could make food addictive. Maybe the two go together.

Contributed by Hannelore Hahn, On the Way to Feed the Swans in the park, 5-year-old Hannelore heard Hitler making a speech.... “My, those must be terrible people he’s talking about,” she said. “Hush,” came her mother’s answer. “He’s talking about us.” This is the story of how Hannelore and her family left their home in Dresden, Germany, and how she journeyed back, almost half a century later, in search of old friends.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Turning Point - Writing tip

A good story really should have one crisis (or dramatic high) or climax, just before the resolution. What most have is three turning points with the last resulting in the crisis. A turning point is the place in the story where something CHANGES FOREVER. Good stories have a single conflict. Somebody wants something, they try different ways to get it, and their third try results in the “BLEAK MOMENT” – when it looks as if they will never have it – and the crisis that leads to the conclusion, where they either do get it, or they know they never will and the story plot is resolved.