Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Review Debut

This will be the first of what I hope to make a weekly book review at The Word Place, although I intend to continue posting resources and references for writers also.

Through the kindness of a good friend, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society fell into my hands on Friday. By Sunday, I had devoured it.

Written as a series of letters in 1946 between British author Juliet Ashton, her publisher, two personal friends, an erstwhile American swain, and a group of people who survived the Nazi occupation of Guernsey, one of the islands in the English Channel, this fictional account is vividly real. Dawsey, Amelia, Eben, Eli, Isola, Elizabeth, Remy, and little Kit live and breathe in the pages of this 274-page volume.

Historical and literary references pepper the text, intermingled with the total range of emotions from joy to heartbreak and everything in-between. Becoming engrossed in the lives of these wonderful people, the reader will find it difficult to leave them for such mundane pursuits such as eating and sleeping!

Your fingers should run, not walk, to the keyboard of your computer and find this heartwarming story at your favorite online bookstore.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, Dial Press Trade Paperbacks, 2009

Find it at ABE Books

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Welcome to the Word Place: American Rose Author, Beth Trissel

Beth Trissel writes for two lines at The Wild Rose Press: American and Faery Rose. She’s chosen to focus this post on American Rose because she is most deeply drawn to it.

I am passionate about the past, particularly early America. My fascination with stirring tales of the colonial frontier and Eastern Woodland Indians is an early and abiding one. My English/Scot-Irish ancestors were among the first settlers of the Shenandoah Valley and had family members killed and captured by the Indians. Some individuals returned and left intriguing accounts of their captivity, while others disappeared without a trace.

This absorption with Colonial America also extends to the high drama of the Revolution. My ancestors fought and loved on both sides of that sweeping conflict. My research into the Southern face of the war was partly inspired by my great-great-great grandfather, Sam Houston, uncle of the famous Sam, who kept a journal of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, 1781, that is used by historians today.

Moreover, I am ever intrigued by ghost stories, and Virginia has more tales than any other state. I find myself asking if the folk who’ve gone before us are truly gone, or do some still have unfinished business in this realm? And what of the young lovers whose time was tragically cut short, do they somehow find a way? Love conquers all, so I answer ‘yes.’

I’ve been writing novels for going on 14 yrs. Before being published by the Wild Rose Press, I finaled in a number of RWA chapter contests, won several, and was a 2008 Golden Heart finalist. I have four novels out with TWRP, a free read, and am one of the authors in the upcoming American Rose Christmas Anthology.

I had a big May at The Wild Rose Press with the release of three major novels that took years to write but all came out within weeks of each other. Two of them, Enemy of the King and Through the Fire, are American Rose releases. Even though Daughter of the Wind is a Faery Rose, it has a strong American historical base.

1780, South Carolina: While Loyalist Meriwether Steele recovers from illness in the stately home of her beloved guardian, Jeremiah Jordan, she senses the haunting presence of his late wife. When she learns that Jeremiah is a Patriot spy and shoots Captain Vaughan, the British officer sent to arrest him, she is caught up on a wild ride into Carolina back country, pursued both by the impassioned captain and the vindictive ghost. Will she remain loyal to her king and Tory twin brother or risk a traitor’s death fighting for Jeremiah? If Captain Vaughan snatches her away, he won’t give her a choice.South Carolina, spies and intrigue, a vindictive ghost, the battle of King’s Mountain, Patriots and Tories, pounding adventure, pulsing romance…ENEMY OF THE KING.

During the French and Indian War, a young English widow ventures into the colonial frontier in search of a fresh start. She never expects to find it in the arms of the half-Shawnee, half-French warrior who makes her his prisoner in the raging battle to possess a continent––or to be aided by a mysterious white wolf and a holy man.The French and Indian War, a Shawnee warrior, an English lady,blood vengeance, deadly pursuit, primal, powerful, passionate…THROUGH THE FIRE

Writer Tip: Write what you love because you are going to be doing it for a very long time. Revise, rework, polish those stories and hone the craft. Be receptive to good constructive criticism. I’ve balked initially, but benefited from it over the years.


Author Links:

Website is

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Guest Blogging Begins Monday!

Beginning Monday, August 31, I will be featuring eighteen authors from the various lines published by
American Rose author Beth Trissel will be my first guest here on Monday. For everyone who leaves a comment, she's offering the opportunity to win a digital download of the two books she's profiling on her blog.

And don't forget, leave a comment on every GUEST post for the month of September (including this one on August 31) and be entered in a drawing for a $25 gift certificate to TWRP bookstore! You'll be able to order print books OR download ebooks.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Not Quite Free But Worth the Few Bucks. . .

I'm now the proud recipient of a year's subscription to The Writers' Journal as a result of receiving honorable mention on a recent "Write to Win" contest. I'd recommend it--give it five stars, actually.

There are two more contests for 2009 with deadlines of October 20, and December 20. Each 1500 word entry (that's max) begins with a specific starter phrase. The one I chose several months ago was "About a million. . .", and from that I spun a story called "So Long Ago and Far Away" about an elderly woman who goes to Normandy to finally say goodbye to the boy who fell there on D-Day, shattering her dreams of life and love.

The reading fee is $5 for each entry, and multiple entries are accepted. Stories can be emailed, but there is a specific (although very easy) format to follow.

There is only one prize--$150 and publication--but in the contest I entered, I was one of four honorable mentions who had my name published and also received a year's subscription.That in itself was worth more than $5--and you have to count the experience, too!

Contest entry fees can be expensive, almost prohibitive to the budding author trying to carve out a writing career. But this is a good opportunity on several levels: low reading fee, nice prize, an opportunity for publication and/or seeing your name in a national magazine as an honorable mention---and let me repeat, EXPERIENCE!

So check out the link and consider entering. You know that somewhere you have an unpublished story that could be reworked---or an idea lurking in your mind. Just remember, you have to begin with the story starter. The two left to be written about are In one quick motion (October 20) and As the boot flew across the room (December 20).

Don't just sit there. Go for it!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Free Is Good

In this economy, free is always good. Here's a link to a free newsletter called Daily Writing Tips.
Subscribe and receive the link to download a free ebook called Basic English Grammar.

Hope Clark has three free newsletters: Funds for Writers, Funds for Writers Small Markets, and Writing Kids.

Ginny Wiehardt's Fiction Writing Blog has plenty of free information, links to markets and contests, and writing exercises.

Finally, here is a link to a free download of yWriter, a novel-writing program to keep you organized. While I don't use it exclusively, I found some good ideas here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Climb Up on That Platform and Sell!

The release dates for what I call my "debut" novels are still months away, but it's not too early (and may possibly be rather late) to begin planning how to market them. They aren't going to sell in any great numbers just sitting on the "shelves" of online bookstores. (They may not sell in any great numbers at all, but I have to keep reminding myself that I'm doing this to fulfill a lifelong ambition with no illusions of becoming a "best-selling author".) That said . . .

I've sketched out some ideas that are workable---the obvious idea is multiple book-signings wherever I can get permission---but there is so much more to this marketing thing. Now I find I must have a "platform", too!

Recently I bought Novel Writing, a Writer's Digest Yearbook which isn't included with the magazine subscription. It's full of excellent information, but I bought it for the cover ad: "Author Platforms and What They Mean to Fiction Writers". It is a one-page article on the very last page. The article by Jane Friedman, a publisher and editorial director of the Writer's Digest Community, finishes by summing up platform building as "knowing what audiences will be most interest in your work, always thinking about know you can be more visible to them, and reaching out to them in meaningful ways." (Read more from Jane at her blog There Are No Rules.)

Okay, so building a platform and having a marketing plan are essential. I'll bet "Jo March", squirreled away writing in her little garret, didn't have either one! Alas, that was then, and this is now.



Friday, August 21, 2009

More Kinds of Almanacs

Webster's dictionary defines "almanac" as "a book published annually, containing information, usually statistical, on many subjects". (That's the second meaning--we're all familiar with the calendar-type almanac.)

Surprisingly, I was unable to locate state almanacs similar to that published in Texas, although I did find a reference to the World Almanac Library of the States, which appears to be a series. I did find these that may be of use to some author desperately searching for information:

  • The Teacher's Almanac, 1987-88
  • The Almanac of American Politics, 1984
  • The Rock and Roll Almanac
  • The Kids Almanac of Records and Facts Vol. 1
  • Witches' Almanac (2008-2009)
  • The Scholarship Almanac 2003
  • The Illustrated Almanac of Science, Technology, and Invention: Day by Day Facts, Figures, and the Fanciful
  • The World Alamanc and Book of Facts 1995
  • The 1987-88 Jewish Almanac
  • Indiana (The Hoosier State)
  • The People's Almanac
  • The People's Almanac Presents the Books of Lists No. 2
  • Poor Tuggers Almanac of Canine Wisdom
  • The Bathroom Golf Almanac
  • The Florida Almanac 1994
  • The World Almanac of the Strange No. 2
  • The Great American Food Almanac
  • Nutrition Almanac
  • TV's Guide Television Almanac
  • Celebrity Almanac 1994
  • Jerry Baker's Back to Nature Almanac
  • People: Almanac 2002
  • Ro-Dale's Good Times Almanac
  • World Wine Almanac and Wine Atlas
  • Contemporary Music Almanac
  • The Bathroom Sports Almanac
  • The European Women's Almanac
  • The New York Times Almanac
The above titles are just a sampling. Go to ABE and type "almanac" in the keyword space, and it will take you to a longer list than I've provided.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Lowly Almanac

I don't know about other states, but Texas regularly publishes an almanac. For authors setting a story in Texas, past or present, it's a treasure chest of information. Take a look at the table of contents:

  • State profile
  • State rankings
  • State flags and symbols
  • The natural beauty of Texas
  • History
  • Environment (weather, astronomical calendar)
  • Recreation
  • Counties
  • Population
  • Cities and towns
  • Elections
  • Historic government documents and officials
  • State government
  • Local government
  • Federal government
  • Culture and arts
  • Crime
  • Health and science
  • Education
  • Media
  • Business and transportation
  • Agriculture
  • Pronunciation guide
  • Zip codes
  • Obituaries
I ask you---is there anything about the state you couldn't find out in this one volume? I use it regularly to check facts in my story settings. Did this town exist in this time period? When was this college/university established? Who was the governor at the time of the story? What major events/catastrophes happened during the story? What flora and fauna are typical in the region of the state in which my story is set?

I keep an almanac on my shelf of reference books, but they're available in the local library, too. In addition, older issues likely can be found at or ABE books, and they don't go out of date insofar as the history of a state is concerned.

An almanac is an entire library in itself. In addition, Texas has a wonderful online resource called
The Handbook of Texas Online with a handy search feature.

For those of you writing stories set in Texas, here's everything you need to know and more. And for those of you writing about other states, check out their yearly publications (almanacs) and what's available online. Who knows what you'll find?

It might even save you a trip to the library or some money at a bookstore!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How True to Time Are Your Characters?

Writing in the past can present a few problems for your characters when you have a Colonial girl telling her "beau" that he's "cool". That's an extreme example, but credibility is everything. To that end, here are some resources (books) that might be helpful in keeping to the facts of your past setting. I'm not going to include names of authors (in most cases), because you can call them up online if necessary.

Everyday Life
  1. Everyday Life in Early America
  2. Everyday Life in Ancient Rome
  3. The Expansion of Everyday Life, 1860-1876
  4. Victorian America: Transformation in Everyday Life
  5. Everyday Life in the 1800's
  6. Everyday Life in the Wild West
  7. The American West
  8. Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800's
  9. Writer's Guide to Everyday Life from Prohibition Through World War II
  10. The Reshaping of Everyday Life: 1790-1840
Time-Life Books: This Fabulous Century
  1. Vol. 1: 1900-1910
  2. Vol. 2: 1910-1920
  3. Vol. 3: 1920-1930
  4. Vol. 4: 1930-1940
  5. Vol. 5: 1940-1950
  6. Vol. 6: 1950-1960
  7. Vol. 7: 1960-1970
American Heritage Books
  1. The American Revolution
  2. Making of the Nation, 1783-1860
  3. The Confident Years, 1865-1916
  4. 1920' s and 1930's
  5. The Middle Ages
  6. Pre-Columbian People of North America
  7. The Female Experience
  8. America's Immigrant Women
  9. America's Frontier History
  10. Zion in America: The Jewish Experience from Colonial Times to the Present
  11. The Oriental American
  12. The Italian American
  13. The Dutch in America
  14. South Slavic Immigration in America
  15. The Culture of the 20's
  1. America in the 40's (Reader's Digest book)
  2. Civil War and Reconstruction (American Heritage)
Speech and Language
  1. I Hear America Talking
  2. Slang Down the Ages (for those in the UK)
  1. Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (Victorian era)
  2. American Cookery (Amelia Simmons, 1796)
  3. The American Century Cookbook
  4. Food in History (Reay Tannahill)
So if you want your characters to act, speak, dress, and LIVE authentically, research the time period carefully. You don't want to meet Pocahontas in a speakeasy!

The First Time I . . .

This isn't a new writing excercise by any means. Lists of "firsts" proliferate in ideas for teaching children how to write as well as motivating adult creativity. Making a list is as good a place to start as any. You never know when the light bulb will come on, and there'll be a new story in the making!

Here's my list (in no particular order of importance!)

  1. My first trans-Atlantic flight
  2. My first day away from home at college
  3. My first baby
  4. My first pair of high heels
  5. My first year of teaching (and that one already earned me a tidy sum!)
So grab your pen and paper and start listing. You'll probably come up with more than five. And if you need more ideas, follow the links below.

Wikipedia List of Firsts
Firsts by American Women
Famous NFL Firsts
Military Women Firsts
Presidential Inaugural Facts and Firsts
Celebrating Black History: Black Firsts
Firsts in Medicine (Wikipedia)

Book: History Begins at Sumer: Thirty-Nine Firsts in Recorded History by Samuel Noah Kramer available in paperback at

And, of course, there's the old standby: The Guiness Book of World Records

Monday, August 17, 2009

Is There a Story in Great-Grandma's Name?

Recently I read an interesting writing exercise that asked the writer to come up with a name for himself/herself if he/she was:
  • a flower
  • a color
  • a musical instrument
  • an ice-cream flavor
  • a fabric
  • a city
  • a street or highway
  • a food
Taken all together, the answers could be the start of a new story--character, setting, plot, etc.

My mind drifted to--what else?--genealogy, and I began to consider all the different family names I've run across in 35 years of researching. Many of the names were passed down through generations. It would be interesting to know, however, how they got started.

  • My great-grandfather's name, passed on to his son, my grandfather, was Petillo.
  • Delilah was the name of my maternal great-great-great-grandmother.
  • My paternal great-great-grandmother's name was Oretha.
  • Great-great-grandpop's name was Freeman, obviously someone's last name--but whose?
  • And, of course, there was the usual smattering of not-so-unusual names such as Margaret Elizabeth, Susan, Louisa, Pattie, Nancy, and Mary.
According to my grandfather (Petillo!), his great-grandmother Delilah smoked a corncob pipe and would often ask him to bring her a coal from the fireplace to light it. She married Isaac Newton Leatherwood (I guess we don't have to wonder where Isaac Newton came from!) and their 10 children had pretty ordinary names. I wonder, though, if Margaret Elizabeth would have smoked a corncob pipe!

Do names affect character traits and personality? When you're choosing your characters' names for your latest story, do your choices have anything to do with the kind of person you plan to write about? Can a hero/heroine have a "sweet" name? Do "sweet" names deceive or define?

The antagonists in Grace Livingston Hill's books usually had fitting names. The one I remember clearly is Vashti. She was a piece of work!

Character names are important. They don't necessarily make or break a story, but they lend credibility (or not) to its content. So the next time you're looking for the perfect name, think back to great-great-great-grandma. You just might hit paydirt!


Behind the Name
Most Popular Names
20,001 Names for Baby
by Carol McD. Wallace
Fantasy Name Generator
A Barrel of Names
Prairie Den

Saturday, August 15, 2009

And the Winner Is . . .

I was going to have the long arm of the law draw the winning name for the book, but it is attached to my son, the police detective, who is out of town for the weekend.

So. . .I had to do it myself!

And the winner is Patty Krylach!

Friday, August 14, 2009

So What Do I Write About?

"Write what you know" is the advice most often given to beginning writers. If you know about something, how hard is it to put what you know down on paper? Maybe you know more than you think you do ... and again, maybe not.

Nonfiction writers expect to research their subject. Why should fiction writers be any different?
"The devil's in the details. . ." That says to me that if you want something to be credible, whether fiction or nonfiction, you need to be sure of your facts. That means research them, double-check them, and don't expect to slip something by your readers who just may know more than you do about a subject!

Finding Papa's Shining Star just went back to my editor this morning. The conflict between the two lovers is that one knows who he is, and the other just thinks she does. David, raised in a far-from-orthodox Jewish home, returns from World War II after spending a year and a half in Dachau because of his Jewish heritage and the fact that he speaks fluent German. The months spent trying to survive the concentration camp have heightened his awareness that he is a Jew and now feels a responsibility to be part of the new homeland of Israel.

I did a great deal of research to make sure that the historical timeline and references to Shabbat, the Hebrew language, synagogues, and so on were accurate. Still, I knew that my protestant interpretation of what I read could lead to problems. Fortunately, I found a fellow author who could answer my questions about some of the details I wasn't convinced were 100% accurate. I researched--and then I double-checked.

To me, it's about respect for my subject and my readers. Credibility is everything. I've "tuned out" on books where I've found misstatements.

Bottom line: when writing what you know, be sure you know what you write!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Writing in Today's Publishing Market

The effects of the economy on the publishing market has been the subject of many blogs and articles in writing magazines. The consensus seems to be that, while the large mainstream publishers are still alive and well, authors are finding more acceptance with smaller independent publishers.

While POD (Print-on-demand) publishing has often been criticized, it seems to be the way to go in the present economy. With fewer people making non-essential purchases---of which books are one---why would a publisher do a run of thousands of print books, many of which they know will eventually be sent back unsold? That's not the way to make money.

E-publishing is another model that has received a thumbs-down by proponents of traditional publishing. However, more and more e-publishers are springing up online, and people are making money.

Self-publishing is yet another option, although not one I would choose or recommend. However, many people take that road, and some are successful.

The choice of a publishing path is an individual one and should be undertaken with care. You choose a reputable company to put a new roof on your house, so why would you select anything less than a reputable publisher to put your book on the market?

Just getting the book published isn't the grand finale. It's my understanding that even authors who publish with larger companies must be active participants in the marketing process. That's even truer with smaller companies which have smaller budgets for promoting their authors.


In the September issue of The Writer, Randal Silvis (award-winning author of ten fiction and one non-fiction book) contributes to their Market Focus section with "How to Weather the Literary Climate". I'd highly recommend it.


Selected Links to Markets for Fiction, Non-fiction, and Poetry mentioned in the September 2009 issue of The Writer. (See the issue for other markets, including magazines.)

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a free copy of My First Year in the Classroom in which my story, "Not to Mention the Python" appears. (See cover on right)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Guest Blogger Update

I have eight "roses" on board for guest blogging. Six more will make the garden!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Guest Bloggers Coming Soon

Sometime in the next few weeks, I hope to feature guest bloggers from each of the lines published by The Wild Rose Press. They include:

  • Crimson Rose (mystery and suspense)
  • Faery Rose (light paranormal--elves, fairies, good witches, etc.)
  • Scarlet Rose (erotic romance)
  • English Tea Rose (Non-American historical)
  • American Rose (American historical)
  • Cactus Rose (western historical)
  • Yellow Rose (cowboy contemporary)
  • Last Rose of Summer (contemporary--the more experienced heroine, hero, ie widowed, divorced, older, many life experiences)
  • Sweetheart Rose (sweet contemporary)
  • Vintage Rose (classic romance from days gone by--1900-1970)
  • Black Rose (dark paranormal--werewolves, shapeshifters, vampires, etc.)
  • Climbing Rose (young adult)
And I also hope to have a guest from White Rose Publishing, recently begun by TWRP, which publishes inspirational romance.

Since I posted the request yesterday, I've had three responses.

If you've ever considered writing in any of these areas, consider downloading the submission guidelines and giving it a whirl. (The Wild Rose Press)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Naming Your Characters

Just found this marvelous website to help with naming characters. For years I've been using a paperback copy of 20,001 Names for Baby by Carol McD. Wallace. It's a great resource and gives variations of names, their ethnic origins, and meanings. However, one can never have too many good research tools.

So check out this website, and be sure to play with the "Generate a Name" tool. See what you might be called in a variety of cultures, including hillbilly and rapper! It's a hoot!

Another website that is useful for finding popular names of a particular time period is Most Popular Names, which gives the most popular boys' and girls' names for every decade beginning with the 1880s.

I like to give my characters nicknames, too, something that references their personalities and/or has a special meaning to a special person in their life. Someday, if I ever finish The Great American Novel (which is doubtful), you might meet Tank, Francie Babe, Peg (Sweet Girl), Vic, Peaches, and Bix, as well as their various offspring and offspring's offspring--Will, Will T (III), Will F (IV), Rosie, Button, and many others.

I've read that heroes and heroines should have names befitting their status---as should villains. Certainly I'd trust a Dumbledore over a Snape, a Potter over a Malfoy, and a Melanie over a Scarlett! In real life, however, people with very innocuous names can be either hero or villain--which, I think, helps to keep the suspense going.

Whatever their names, characters must be crafted carefully. I get personally involved with mine, which makes killing them off (as I often do) something of a wrenching experience.

Ah, the freedom of a writer's life ... characters, plots, dialogue ... mine to command---with a little help from some good resources, of course!