Sunday, January 31, 2010

Resources for Writers #5: Writing Magazines: The Writer

The Writer: Advice and Inspiration for Today’s Writer (

Published monthly
Subscription: $32.95/year
Newsstand Price: $6.95
Online Edition: Yes

While pricier than the other writing magazines to which I subscribe, I find The Writer worth the cost. Besides the special feature articles, the following regular columns and departments offer good information:

  • Business Freelancing (bi-monthly)
  • Market Focus
  • Literary Spotlight

Departments (examples from the February ’10 issue)
  • Editor’s Notes
  • Letters
  • Take Note: FTC “freebie” disclosure requirements
  • WriteStuff: Building a story arc in your novel
  • Markets: Literary agencies is this month’s focus (January featured magazines and journals)
  • Classified Advertising
  • How I Write: one-page article by a published author who shares her writing tips about getting ideas, revising, a writing routine, research, etc.

Special Features for the past 14 months (selected)
  • January ’09: writing groups, suspense techniques applied to non-fiction
  • February ’09: advice from top agents, nonfiction writing and marketing tips
  • March ’09: making characters unique and real, the art of dialogue, personal essay writing
  • April ’09: getting published, breaking writer’s block
  • May ’09: freelancing tips, POV, flash fiction
  • June ’09: self-publishing, children’s writing, crafting queries
  • July ’09: story flow, research tips, freelancing in today’s economy
  • August ’09: first novels, high-tech writing tools, screenplays
  • September ’09: (missing—must have shared it out!)
  • October ’09: interviews with 3 top writers on ‘craft’, mysteries, the ‘hook’, character development
  • November 09: setting/place, worst writing habits, critiques, copywriting
  • December ’09: fixing computer problems, writing from a child’s perspective, plot, making your novel agent-ready
  • January ’10: creating memorable characters, interviewing, creating a professional website
  • February ’10: narrative, beginning bloggers, mystery shorts, self-publishing, agents looking for submissions

Other Features
  • Contests (sponsored by the magazine—winning stories published)
  • Contest Listings (sponsored by other entities)

FTC Disclaimer: I have received no remuneration for reviewing this magazine.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Welcome to The Word Place: Author Donna Patton

If You're Going to Be a Writer . . .
By Donna Alice Patton

       If you're going to be a writer, you have to start with a blank piece of paper. Then, because it looks so bare, so white, so empty - you'll have to fill it with doodles.

      The scribbles will remind you that your pencil feels dull. Who can write a best selling book with a dull pencil? Not you. So, you decide to sharpen it. It's not wasting precious writing time. Not really. Everyone knows you need a precision point on a pencil to make your writing flow. Sharp pencil, sharp mind, sharp ideas. Catchy. It might be something to write down. After you sharpen the pencil.

      So you'll spend twenty minutes searching for the pencil sharpener you know you saw - somewhere. You find the pair of scissors you lost, an expired gift card from Macy's and ah, ha! the pencil sharpener buried on your desk.
After you sharpen your pencil, it reminds you that you'll be writing so much the first pencil will wear down in no time. Better have plenty of extras.

      So, you gather up all the pencils you can find and sharpen them. Now it's time to write. Or, no - not yet. Who can write with all those pencils rolling around on the desk? You'll have to find something to put them in. An empty juice can does nicely. There, all arranged. Or are they?

      Imagining how the author's picture on the back of your best selling book will look, you figure you better find a more distinctive container than a rusting Florida Sun can.

      You look around for something better. Alumni mug? No. Hello Kitty glass? Um, not quite. Ceramic frog? Too middle schoolish. After half an hour's search, you finally find that souvenir vase a friend sent from Paris. Just the thing. Artsy. Memorable. No one will guess the closest you've ever been to Paris is Kentucky.

       Now to write. You sit down and face the doodled sheet of paper. Start with another blank sheet.
Suddenly, your mind is as empty as the paper. What was that stellar idea? Those brilliant words? And why are you staring at a sheet of paper when you have a perfectly good word processing program on your computer?
Sure, that's what's wrong. You're trying to write the old fashioned way. Paper and pencil? Why not reinvent the wheel while you're at it?

       The world of technology is at your fingertips and you're trying to create the Great American novel by chipping hieroglyphics in stone. No wonder you can't write. Who was it, who said a writer, is as only good as his tools?

      Fifteen minutes after the search through a thesaurus, dictionary and a book of quotes, the author still alludes you. Never mind, it's probably true even if you can't give credit to the writer. Tools make the man - woman - or writer.
You open Word; sure this is going to be IT! The motivation to write. The words will fly off your fingers, edit themselves and print out in page ready prose. Magazines will call in the middle of the night, desperate for your articles. Your books will stay on the best seller lists so long they'll grow cobwebs. People will chase you down in Wal-Mart and wave in recognition as you drive by on the freeway.

      Yes, this is it. You make a commitment to sit down until you get 1000 words written.
So you stare at the computer screen. Funny how it still looks like a blank, white, empty space to fill. You can't even doodle to occupy your mind.

      After staring at it a while, your mind starts to drift. You think about email, solitaire, surfing the net. Before you quite know how it happens, you've logged on and another hour is gone.

      Writing time wasted? No, you've accomplished something. You read ten blogs about writing, played a new game called Synonym Swap and written a couple of emails. All grist for the mill. Ideas are flashing like lightning in your mind.But, by then the morning's gone and everyone knows a person works better after lunch. So you eat.
After lunch, you're so tired, you decide to take a nap. Maybe your brain will work better after some rest. You'll come back to the job refreshed, ready to write. An idea might come to you in a dream. Sure, didn't a lot of writers say their most famous works started with a dream . . . .zzzzzzzzz...

      Once you wake up, you figure most of the afternoon is already gone. Just so you'll have something to show for a whole day's work, you toss in a load of laundry, sort the magazines for the recycle bin into chronological order, and unthaw the hamburger for supper. Feeling smug and efficient, you sit back down to the computer. A thousand words? Piece of cake. No, that's a cliche. Piece of pie? Maybe just a small slice to get those creative juices flowing . . .

      The writer's blogs you read command - just start. Write anything. Get the words down. Go back and edit later.
Taking a deep breath, you start writing. Your name. Your address. A grocery list. The Gettysburg Address . . . No, no, no.

      You wrestle your mind back to this cool idea you had for a story last week. A snippet of dialogue blossoms into a scene. Two people argue. A setting emerges. Hey, this is fun. Your fingers fly, the words appear. Now you're in a flow. The words add up. You check the counter. Woo hoo! More than two thousand. If it's any good, you've done two days work in one. Maybe you can take tomorrow off. You stop.

      Because you're sure it's going to be the best scene you've ever written, you read it over.
From the heights of the best seller list, you drop to the depth of a hack writer. No good. Junk. You've seen spam email and grocery ads that sounded better. It's over. Done. You'll never be a writer.

      But wait! That sentence doesn't sound too awful. If you take that bit of dialogue and switch it from Character A to Character B it makes more sense. Or does it? Maybe you need to go back and start again. Get back to basics.
And say, wasn't there an article about how writing longhand did something scientific to your brain - made a connection between hand and mind? Sure, it's somewhere. So you spend twenty minutes looking for the nonexistent article you remember from an obscure magazine you've forgotten the name of years ago. It had a yellow cover with a rip in the corner. You're certain of that part. Or was it blue with a missing address label? Anyway, you're certain of the facts about writing. Probably. But after a fruitless search you decide a fact in the mind is worth two in a magazine.

      So then you come back to your desk and you know the truth.
If you're going to be a writer, you have to sit down and start with a blank sheet of paper. There is no other way.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book Review #4: Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace by Kenneth W. Osbeck (Kregel Publications, 1990) is actually a daily devotional book, but bear with me. Subtitled, 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions, it is full of true stories that could spin ideas for both Christian and secular stories. Let me share a few here.

“O God, Our Help in Ages Past”, written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748) as a response to his father’s challenge to write something that could replace metrical psalms as the preferred music of a church service. He became known as the ‘father of English hymnody’.

“God Leads Us Along”, written by 19th century carpenter-preacher George A. Young after vandals burned his family’s struggled-for home to the ground because they didn’t like his message.

“From Greenland’s Icy Mountains”, a missionary hymn standard, written by Reginald Heber (1783-1826), who became an Anglican bishop to Calcutta where he died at the age of 43

“O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go” written by George Matheson (1842-1902) whose college fiancee, upon learning that he was going blind, told him, “I do not wish to be the wife of a blind preacher.”

“Blest Be the Tie that Binds” written by John Fawcett (1740-1817) who, with his wife, ministered to an impoverished congregation At Wainsgate, England. Their wagons already loaded in preparation for moving to a better-paying parish, they realized they could not leave behind the congregants whom they loved.

“Jesus Loves Me” written by Anna B. Warner (1820-1915) who, with her sister Susan, wrote a now-forgotten novel, Say and Seal. But the words spoken by one of the characters to a dying child were later set to music and are known everywhere.

“I Would Be True” written as a personal creed by Howard A. Walter (1883-1918), a Princeton honor graduate, who died in the worldwide influenza epidemic in 1918 as he ministered in India.

“There Is a Fountain” by William Cowper (1731-1800) who, after completing his law studies dictated by his father, suffered a mental breakdown due to the stress of the upcoming bar exam, and spent 18 months in an asylum. He is remembered today as one of the finest of all English writers.

“Because He Lives” written by Bill (1936) and Gloria (1942) Gaither as they contemplated the chaotic world into which their son was born.

“Abide with Me” written by Anglican pastor Henry F. Lyte (1793-1847) shortly before his final sermon—for which, it is reported, that he almost had to crawl to the pulpit.

“Amazing Grace” written by John Newton (1725-1807) in response to his transformation from a slave trader to a man of God.

“Just As I Am” written by Charlotte Elliott (1789-1871), known as “carefree Charlotte”, a portrait painter and poet, until a serious illness left her a depressed invalid at the age of 30.

“I’d Rather Have Jesus”, a poem by Mrs. Rhea F. Miller (1894-1966), which proved the deciding factor in George Beverly Shea’s decision to reject the opportunity for a secular singing career and remain in sacred music. He wrote the melody for the words.

“’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” written by Louisa M.R. Stead (c 1850-1917) who watched her husband drown while trying to save the life of a young boy at a picnic. She later spent 25 years as a missionary in Africa.

“Nothing Between” written by Charles A. Tindley (1851-1933), born into slavery and taken from his parents at the age of 5, who later became a pastor in Philadelphia.

“Precious Lord, Take My Hand” written by Thomas A. Dorsey (1899-1993) after the death of his young wife and newborn son while he was at a revival meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. He eventually wrote 250 gospel songs.

“It Is Well with My Soul” written by Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888). After business reversals, he planned a European trip to lift his family’s spirits. Because he was detained at the last minute, his wife and four young daughters went ahead. During the voyage, another vessel struck their ship, causing it to sink in 12 minutes. Of the family, only Mrs. Spafford survived. Later, traveling to join his wife, Horatio Spafford stood at the rail of the ship as it passed the approximate point in the Atlantic where his daughters had died. Later he wrote the song which begins, When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll—Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well—it is well with my soul.”

So, if you're looking for inspiration to write--or just personal inspiration to live--check out this amazing volume.

FTC Disclaimer:  I own this book and have not been paid to review it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Resources for Writers #4: Writing Magazines: Writer's Digest

For the next few weeks, you’ll find reviews of various writing magazines. I subscribe to four and read them from cover to cover (literally!), usually with a highlighter in hand.

Writer’s Digest at a glance: 

Published monthly

Subscription prices vary—I renewed this month for under $20

Newsstand price: $47.92

Each issue focuses on a specific facet of writing. This month the theme is “Get Creative in 2010” with articles on inspiration, making more time to write, do-it-yourself writing retreats, tools and resources, contests, and marketing. Some past issue focuses have been getting an agent, writing your novel, publishing, self-publishing, publishing survival guide screenwriting, memoir writing, and the annual 101 Best Websites for Writers.

Each issue has an interview with a known author such as: Stephen King, Jerry B. Jenkins, Anne Tyler, James Pattterson, Brad Thor, Megan McCafferty, Debbie Macomber, and Sue Grafton.

Regular Columns and Departments—may vary slightly from issue to issue
• Inkwell—a look at innovative tips and techniques (5 or 6 different “shorts”)
• Ask the Pro
• Breaking In—debut author spotlight
• MFA Insider
• Questions and Quandaries
• Your Story—published story by a writer who responded to the contest prompt given in each issue (This month the prompt is “Parents look on in horror as a magician’s trick goes horribly awry during a child’s birthday party.”
• Standout Markets—featuring one publishing company
• Conference Scene
Writer’s Workbook—varies from issue to issue. This month follows the main theme of creativity with articles on journaling, writing descriptions, and how to get “unstuck” in the middle of a writing project.

The January 2010 issue was a special edition celebrating the 90th anniversary of the magazine. That’s longetivity! It featured 90 Secrets of Bestselling Authors such as Hemingway, Faulkner, Rowling, King, and More.

In addition, yearbooks (not a part of the subscription) are available at newsstands. Writing Basics appears once a year. Recently, I saw a new one called Novel Writing. There is also the Writer's Yearbook published as a special issue.

With a subscription, you can also register online to receive regular “online issues” and specials—such as sales on Writer’s Digest books. Back issues are available by mail for $5.99 plus S&H.

Next Week: The Writer 

FTC Disclaimer: I pay for my own subscription to this magazine and have received no remuneration for mentioning it here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Review #3: Ghost Stories of Texas

Ghost Stories of Texas by Jo-Anne Christensen (Lone Pine Publishing, 2001) is a quick, quirky read divided into seven sections:
  • Historically Haunted
  • “It Happened to Me…”
  • Phantoms in the Family
  • Modern Mysteries
  • Tall Texas Tales
  • Haunted Houses
  • A Strange Assortment

The reader would expect (and not be disappointed) to find two stories about the Alamo and Goliad (a pre-Alamo battle/massacre). My favorite was the story about the Driskill Hotel in the capital city of Austin, perhaps because I’ve been there. Running a close second is the tale of the specter that haunts the governor’s mansion in the same city—possibly the nephew of the Civil War governor who committed suicide in the north bedroom.

“It Happened to Me…” contains a series of short vignettes set in the 20th century. My favorite is the slightly-longer story, “The Black Dog”, a modern-day version of a old legend of the “Black Shuck”.

Phantoms in the Family has stories of deceased family members returning to help living ones. Be sure to read “Margaret Sends for Help”, the story of Josiah Wilbarger, scalped and left to die by Indians, then miraculously rescued by a neighbor guided by a dream about Josiah’s dead sister, Margaret.

Modern Mysteries tells of hauntings in schools, hospitals, and houses.

Tall Texas Tales doesn’t stint with the retelling of stories from Texas’ past:
La Llarona, the Weeping Woman, who lures children into the river where her own babies died; phantom horsemen who ride prior to the outbreak of a war; frontiersman Brit Bailey, whose request to be buried stand up with a gun was honored by his widow—though she declined the third request which was a full jug of whiskey at his feet; cattle stampedes, phantom horses in Palo Duro Canyon, a herd of albino buffalo; love gone wrong; and of course, the obligatory buried treasure.

Haunted Houses spins stories about just that, from Dallas to the small town of Lampasas, where my mother was born and grew up.

Finally, A Strange Assortment takes up near-misses, haunted worksites, psychic abilities, and the famous Marfa Lights, seen for over 100 years by those in the vicinity. The other claim to fame of this small west Texas town is that, in 1955, it was the site where the movie “Giant” was filmed.

So pull up a chair, have your favorite beverage and a snack close at hand, and let yourself be transported into the far and near past. Oh, and it might be a good idea to turn on all the lights before you begin!

 FTC Disclaimer: I own this book and have not been paid to review it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Resources for Writers #3: Ghost Stories

I’ve said it before—everybody likes a good ghost story! So in today’s Resources for Writers, you’ll find the names of some books about, as well as links to places to find such stories. Whether you just want to read for entertainment, or whether you’re looking for information to incorporate in a story, the resources below are only the tip of the iceberg.

  1. Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond (Hans Holzer)
  2. Haunted Places: The National Directory: Ghostly Abodes, Sacred Sites, UFO Landings, and Other Supernatural Locations (Dennis William Hauck)
  3. Haunted Inns of the Southeast (Sheila Turnage)
  4. The Field Guide to Ghosts and Other Apparitions (Field Guide to the Unknown) (Hilary Evans)
  5. The Ghostly Gazetteer: America’s Most Fascinating Haunted Landmarks (Arthur Myers)
  6. Haints, Witches, and Boogers: Tales from Upper East Tennessee (Charles Edwin Price)
  7. Oldest Ghosts: St. Augustine Haunts (Karen G. Harvey)
  8. The Granny Curse and Other Ghsots and Legends from East Tennessee (Janet Barnet)
  9. Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of America’s Haunted Inns and Hotels (Frances Kermeen)
  10. Haunt Hunters Guide to Florida (Joyce Elson Moore)
  11. Coast to Coast Ghosts: True Stories of Hauntings Across America (Leslie Rule)
  12. Ghosts of St. Augustine (Dave Lapham)
  13. Haunted Jonesborough (Charles Edwin Price)
  14. Savannah Spectres and Other Strange Tales (Margaret Wayt DeBolt)
  15. Mountain Ghost Stories and Curious Tales of Western North Carolina (Randy Russell)
  16. Ghost Stories of Texas (Jo-Anne Christensen)
  17. Haunted Theatres (Barbara Smith)
  18. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits (Rosemary Ellen Guiley)
  19. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Ghosts and Hauntings (Tom Ogden)
  20. Encyclopedia of Haunted Places: Ghostly Locales from Around the World (Jeff Belanger)

Links to Websites
  1.   White Chapel Press/ Books on American History and Hauntings Since 1993
      Books on Ghosts and Haunting
  1.  Books about Nevada Ghost towns and mining camps
      Haunted Houses
            The World’s Most Haunted Places

 Happy, hunting for information!

FTC Disclaimer: I have received no remuneration of any kind for suggesting these books and websites. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Friday Guest Blogger

None scheduled today

If you would like to guest blog at The Word Place, please let me know! 

Monday's Resources for Writers:  Herbal Medicine

Wednesday's Book Review: Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Book Review #2: Children of Pride (A Look at Antebellum/Civil War Life)

In keeping with Monday’s blog on antebellum homes, today’s book review is a story of the Old South and its people, the Jones Family in particular. Children of Pride by Robert Manson Myers (Yale University Press, 1972) is available in a complete or an abridged volume. I have read both, but I recommend the abridged edition if one is just looking for information to include in a story rather that doing in-depth research.

The book(s) consist of the voluminous correspondence between members of the Charles Colcock Jones Family in George’s low country, beginning in 1860 and ending in 1868. No notes interrupt the text, but there is a nice epilogue which “ties up the ends” nicely.

Charles Colcock Jones, Sr. and his wife (also his first cousin) Mary Sharpe Jones are both strict Presbyterians and wealthy land-and-slave owners. With the advent of the Civil War, their family fortunes, as so many others, disintegrate. Their lasting legacy, these preserved letters, gives us a picture of the times—birth, marriages, illness, death, sorrow, joy, hope, and despair. Pervasive in the letters are the strict religious and social conventions of the writers—and of the times.

Particular poignant are the letters detailing the unchecked rampage through the house and and outbuildings by Union soldiers on the same day that the Jones daughter is upstairs in labor with her third child. Mary Sharpe Jones quotes much of the actual conversation between her and the soldiers as she begs them to leave enough food for the children and not to take personal possessions of little monetary but great sentimental value.

Any author writing in this time period will want a realistic look the daily activities of the family and their stoic acceptance of the inevitable. Scarlett, Ashley, Melanie, and Rhett-while perhaps more dashing and romantic—hardly typify this time as chronicled by a real family who survived it.

The author uses a Biblical quote from Job 41:34 which says, He beholdeth all things; he is a king over all the children of pride.

The Jones family was only one of many who grew up sure of their place in their narrow world. Though morally “good” people who tried to do the “right” thing for their families, friends, and their slaves, they could not envision a day when that world would crash down around them.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Resources for Writers #2: Antebellum Homes

Last week I blogged about researching story settings. This week I want to get a little more specific. When I began the “blue diamond” challenge thrown out by TWRP’s Crimson Rose line, I decided to set my story in and around a former plantation home in Mississippi. Here are some of the resources I came up with:

1)  Architecture Glossary:  Illustrated Dictionary for Architecture Words

2)  Top 7 Books About Plantation Houses
  • Plantation Houses and Mansions of the Old South by J. Frazier Smith/This book is a reprint from the original in 1936 and includes floor plans for many of the houses. Be SURE to read the disclaimer by the reprinting publisher who “deplores…the racist reflections” of the author who wrote in a time when such were taken for granted. I found this short blurb particularly worthy of applause!
  • Under the Live Oaks: The Last Great Plantation Houses of the Old South by Clarkson Potter (2002)
  • Architecture of the Old South (Abbeville Press, 1993)
  • Marvelous Old Mansions and Other Southern Treasures (John F. Blair, publisher, 2000)
  • Vestiges of Grandeur: The Plantations of Louisiana’s River Road (Chronicle Books Llc, 1999)
  • Virginia Plantation Homes by David Gleason (LSU Press, 1989)
  • Plantation Homes of Louisiana and the Natchez Area (LSU Press, 1983)

Many of these books are quite pricey. I’d imagine they are “coffee table books” put out for browsing. But the first one, which is what I relied on a great deal because of the added bonus of the floor plans, was reprinted in soft-cover, and I found it used at a very cheap price. The other books may also be available that way.

3)  What is Antebellum Architecture? by Jackie Craven at

4)  Welcome to McRaven
I included this because I have visited McRaven twice and yet didn’t know all the fascinating facts provided on its website. I’d suggest googling individual homes by name (see 5) below to discover more in-depth information)

5)  Wikipedia: Plantations in Mississippi
10 links to antebellum homes in Ms

At the bottom of the page, there is a link  to plantations by state where you’ll find information about antebellum homes in  AL, FL,GA,KY,LA,MD,NC,SC,TN,TX,VA,WV. At each site, you'll find the  location, coordinates, area, year built/founded, architectural style(s), when it was designated as a National Historic Landmark,  and the governing body—whether it is a private entity or run by an organization. You’ll also enjoy the thumbnail pictures and the text with more details about the house—for example, a family cemetery on the grounds, the proximity of the house to a Civil War battle, even resident “ghosts”!

Why go to all this trouble to research a setting? In my opinion, it lends credibility to the story and makes available descriptive details that the author would otherwise have to invent herself. For me, research takes me where I’ve never been and may never go—and I have to believe that it will do the same for the reader.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Guest Blogger: Amber Leigh Williams

Amber Leigh Williams, Author of 1st Place More Than Magic Novella Blackest Heart
Forever Amore - LASR Best Book - Available Now!

The Roses of Prose – Holiday Giveaway: Win a Tote Full of goodies! 

Silken Sands Conference on the Beach - March 19-21, 2010 - NOW BOOKING!

Amber Leigh Williams is a multi-published romance author, PRO Liaison and former Secretary of her local RWA chapter, and monthly contributor to Romance Writers United's newsletter. Her western romance Blackest Heart is the 1st Place More Than Magic Novella of 2009 and her historical romance Forever Amore received top-rating as a "Best Book" at Long & Short Reviews. She lives on the Gulf Coast with her husband and three labs. Learn more by visiting her on the web at!

The Wayback bachelor is a dying breed, but that doesn't stop Casey Ridge from wanting to settle down. For this cowboy anyone but Josie Brusky would be an easy wrangle. Unfortunately for him, the Blue Bug singer and owner of Josie's Treasures doesn't believe in commitment much less marriage.

Years ago, Josie lost her heart to Casey's charm and dimpled smile. Since then she has done everything she knows to forget him. After all, she’s known as the local harlot and the daughter of the town’s biggest bigot. Casey could have any girl he wanted. Why would he saddle himself with her? In the wake of a shattering past, she refuses to give up her independence.

Casey digs down deep to win her over, but does he have what it takes to win Wayback's bluest heart? *Anticipated sequel to 1st Place More Than Magic Novella Blackest Heart*

"You remember that night behind the stable?"

She let out a small, throaty laugh. "Seems like forever ago, but yeah. Your hair was a lot longer then."

"Yours, too." He could remember it curtaining their faces, the tips of silky, red curls tickling his cheeks. Tracing the line of pearly buttons from the hem of her midnight blue blouse to the open neck-line, he touched the teardrop-shaped pearl on the thin gold chain around her neck which reminded him of the moon that night. "You were my first."

She lifted her gaze to his. Tenderness warred with uncertainty in the whiskey-colored depths. "Me, too."

His heart pattered at the memory. "I always liked that about us."

She nodded, frowning. "I was crazy about you."

The tip of his thumb traced the bottom edge of her lip. "So why didn’t it last?"

She looked beyond him, remembering. "Because however much I wanted to be with you, I knew I would be leaving the first chance I got. I wasn’t going to let anything or anyone stand in my way."

"You figured I would?"

"Casey, we were so young," she told him. "Who knows what you or I would’ve done?"
He paused, running a hand over her hair. "Just for the record," he murmured, lips brushing her cheek, "I would’ve let you go."

She sighed, reaching up to clutch his upper arm. The muscle under her hand and his sleeve warmed. "Why hasn’t anyone snatched you up yet?"

"Because you’re the only one I ever wanted, Josie," he told her, cupping her chin in his hand to look her in the eyes as he said it. "The only one."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wednesday Book Review: Stories Behind Everyday Things

Three hundred alphabetized articles and special features throughout this handy-dandy volume provide a wealth of information for the aspiring author--who knows something exists but isn't quite sure when it came into being or how it got its name.

The entries are arranged in the table of contents like a dictionary's guidewords. For example:
Acronym - Automobile

If you can't find what you're looking for that way, try the comprehensive index.

Before you begin searching, you might want to spend some time just leafing through the pages to look at the vintage illustrations/photographs. Did you know that the first safety pin originated in the Bronze Age? How about a glimpse into a Duncan Phyfe tool chest circa late 18th-early 19th century? Or the snake-ring bracelet created for actress Sarah Bernhardt?

Each section is filled with special features (in addition to the entries) detailing customs (for example, signals at auctions, blind dates, and kissing), the origin of words and expressions  (bringing home the bacon and busman's holiday),  and people (the chewing gum king and Mr. Broadcasting).

Longer articles on advertising, designs, images, renderings, and technical genius are full of unusual pictures from ads for men's "cool, knee-length underwear" for summer to the invention of an 1868 "corpse preserver" and a musical sewing machine cover--so the kiddies can dance while you make their clothes!

So if you're writing a story set in times gone by, add realism to your tale by researching the origins of some of the things we take for granted today. 

Stories Behind Everyday Things published by The Reader's Digest Association, 1980 (I found my copy for $5.98 at Half-Price Books!)

Disclaimer: I own the book and reviewed it here strictly as a resource for my fellow writers. No remuneration, other than the satisfaction of sharing information, has come my way.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday's Resources for Writers #1

Searching for a setting for your story? Discovered the perfect setting but don't know much about it? No need to buy a ticket on Amtrak, an airline, or the bus, or fill your car with gas, to spend a week soaking up the atmosphere of a place (though atmosphere is definitely more fun in the soaking-up process).

Free is good, and states offer free tourist information for the asking. I recently emailed the state department of tourism in Mississippi and asked for their guide, a fat book just chock full of information on sites to see, hotels, and restaurants, not to mention snippets of history that always add credibility to a setting.

Crossing state lines on a major highway? Stop at the welcome center and help yourself to free brochures touting the state's must-visit areas. On my recent trip home to Texas this past summer, I stopped at the welcome center on I-30 and came away with a litter bag (offered to me at the desk, along with a new highway map) full of colorful folders detailing historic sites. I could have filled up two or three more such bags, but I concentrated on the information I thought would make good story-starters and research resources.

Check out public libraries which often have free printed information on the city and county in which they're located. Travel agencies provide good printed material, too. Often their last-year's information is in the back, waiting to be tossed out, and they'll be glad to get rid of it. (I used this resource as a teacher when I needed pictures for classroom projects.)

Bookstores specializing in used books often have older copies of the Fodor's Guides and other travel guides as well. While working on a novel set in Houston, I went online and bought a Fodor's "City Guide to Houston". Though it was eight years old, the street maps and other restaurant listings still met my needs for writing like I knew something about the city.(I double-checked the information on the internet to make sure the restaurants and other businesses were still operating.)

Recently, I bought a new book through the Writer's Digest bookstore--Writer's Guide to Places by Don Prues and Jack Heffron. The subtitle describes the volume as "a one-of-a-kind reference for making the locales in your writing more authentic, colorful, and memorable". It covers 50 states, 51 cities, and 10 Canadian provinces. The entry on Houston covers such items as
  • Houston Facts and Peculiarities Your Character Might Know
  • Houston Basics That Shape Your Character
  • If Your Character...
  • Local Grub Your Character Might Love
  • Interesting and Peculiar Places to Set a Scene
  • Exceptionally Grand Things Your Character Is Proud Of
  • Pathetically Sad Things Your Character is Ashamed Of 
  • For Future Research (includes books and websites)
Last but not least, let your fingers do the traveling across the keyboard and find everything you need to make sure your story sounds as if it were written by a native of the geographical location!

Settings, like characters, plot, and dialogue, need to be realistic in order to be credible. So while a trip to the French Riviera might be more fun, the resources mentioned above are always available and affordable.

Wednesday Book Review:  Stories Behind Everyday Things

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Starting the New Year Right

The need to be more productive in 2010 is a given. Here's what's on tap for this year:

(1)  Awaiting acceptance or rejection for The Showboat Affair
(2)  Sent off "A Good Long Run" as a 'free read' for TWRP--awaiting acceptance or rejection
(3)  New article on "haunted theatres" for submission to History Magazine
(4)  Finish rewrite/revision of The Face on Miss Fanny's Wall to submit yet again (!)
(5)  Begin writing novel for submission to TWRP new "jewels of the night" series--must be in by 3/31 for
       inclusion in competition as 'lead-off' book
(6)  Find paying markets--goal is one submission/month
(7)  Work on yet another revision of 2008 NaNo novel Dancing with Velvet prior to submission somewhere
(8)  Work on self-publication of The Kate Chronicles (4 volumes)
(9)  Finish and publish website for #8
(10)Put marketing plan together for Where Is Papa's Shining Star? and Finding Papa's Shining Star for
       June 18, June 25 releases
(11) Eagerly awaiting February and results of WOW-Women-on-Writing Flash Fiction Contest--notified that
       I'd made it through the first cut
(12) Revise and rewrite 2009 NaNo novel Keeping Promises for possible submission

And last, but not least--actually the most important items on the entire list:

(13) Rejoice in the new friendships (and old ones) that have come with this new writing world
(14) Be a better reader/editor/crit partner for fellow writers when asked
(15) Learn to say, "I write" with the same spirit that I used to say "I teach school"--remembering that I am but 
       one tiny grain of sand on a wide, wide literary beach
(16) And, when I come to the end of 2010, look back on accomplishments and failures with the same
       philosophy: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Look for The Word Place

Happy New Year to all my fellow writers! May 2010 see the words flow from your fingers straight to first place in every contest you enter and to the publisher(s) of your dreams!

At my age, New Year's Resolutions are moot. I will do what I can do--that's all. I have, however, decided to close down my personal blog, Starting Over One More Time, and concentrate on this one with the following schedule:

Monday:  Resources for Writers
Wednesday:  Book Review
Friday:  Guest Blogger

If you would like to guest here, I would love to have you! There will be no schedule--just first-come-first-serve. Send me your copy and any pictures (j.pegs, please!), and come Friday, you're on if your blog is the first received that week. I will "promo" you on Facebook, Twitter, and several Yahoo loops, but I hope you will anounce yourself, too, in whatever venue to which you have access.

One note about guest blogs:  I am old. I come from a fade-to-black world. I do not want other readers keeling over into their coffee, tea, cocoa, or--in my case--Diet DP. So PLEASE keep it family friendly. If you write "hot" romance, great--just send me a "lukewarm" excerpt without the body parts, etc. Readers who want more can link to your website. THANKS!

On that note, I'll close this first blog of 2010. Before we know it, 2011 will be here, and I hope all of us are miles ahead by this time next year! We're all in this together!

Happy New Year--and Happy Writing!

PS If you're on FB, I'd love to be your friend. If you "Tweet", I'd love to follow you. And I'd love for you to become a fan of "Someday is Here"--there's not much on the site yet, but it's coming!