Saturday, August 25, 2012

"Finding Unexpected Stories Within Books"

In the September 2012 issue of The Writer, Martha Lundin reviews Michael Popek's book Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller's Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages (Penguin, 192 pp, hardcover, $18.95.) What stories can be gleaned from items left behind when their usefulness as bookmarks has passed? He mentions photos, letters, cards, notes, poems, receipts, invoices, advertisements, and even official documents.

The review reminded me of my grandmother's Bible, a hardcover volume which she covered with a soft yellow chamois. How many times did I pop through the back door (our backyards connected with a beaten path where grass ne'er grew!) and find her sitting with it in her lap?

When my parents were both in a nursing home, but before they were willing to give up their apartment, I often walked through the apartment to be sure everything was in order. During one pass, I spotted the Bible on the bottom shelf of a table beside my father's bed. So the next time I visited him, I asked if I could have it. His reply was, "Of course! You can have anything you want." Being the only living child, I knew that, but out of respect for my parents, I would have touched nothing without their permission.

When I brought it home, I leafed through it, somehow sure that I would find something with a message for me. There were anonymous four-digit phone numbers jotted on the flyleaf, none of which I recognized. Between the pages lay cards, notes and newspaper clippings, but nothing jumped out at me and said, "She left this for you!" I'll admit being disappointed, even though I knew I really couldn't expect to find what I was looking for--whatever that was!

Still, after reading the book review, I'm tempted to go back and look again. Perhaps, unwittingly, she left me the idea for a brilliant story, even a novel. Who knows?

And perhaps the next time I'm in a used bookstore, I'll find a forgotten lottery ticket. Meanwhile, I'm going to suggested Mr. Popek's book as a purchase by my local library. Reviewers at rated it 4.4 out of 5 stars. Unfortunately, it's not in Kindle, but here's the link to take a look: Forgotten Bookmarks

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Welcome Andrea Downing to The Word Place

Most authors will tell you that their books in the Romance genre are character driven.  We do not have charts up and down the wall, index cards pinned to cork boards or possibly even little lists of forthcoming scenes.  Some will even claim they have no idea what will happen in the book because the characters act and do things of their own accord. For myself, I often have the first line, know well the ending, and the rest, as they say, is—no, not history—pot luck. 
With Loveland, I knew the story—and I knew it well.  It had run through my head so many times, I was practically living it.  I heard the dialogue, knew the people, mentally walked around the ranch and lived there.  And I could see them all.  They don’t look like ‘this celebrity’ or ‘that supermodel.’  They look like themselves and I see them clearly.  Maybe I’m a nutcase, but that’s the way it is.  But I had one problem:  Jesse!
I can see my hero Jesse perfectly, and I know him intimately.  The brim of his hat is slouched down rather than turned up, his check shirt is topped by a worn leather waistcoat or vest and, while some of his friends prefer the striped or checked pants of the period, Jesse has switched over to the new Levi denims. He has what would now be called “dirty blond’ hair, somewhat long and straggly, and eyes the color of bluebonnets from Texas, where he was born. And I love Jesse.  I love him because he is gentle and kind and patient, despite the fact he can lose his temper at the drop of a stetson, and he’s dependable, smart and caring.  But the trouble is, maybe he’s a little too gentle and kind and dependable?  Is he coming over as a bit too much of a pushover?
Someone off in the mists of time once announced that women like a bit of rough, and that may well be true.  But if you’ve had the kind of life that Lady Alexandra Calthorpe has had, it might more likely be the case that a ‘bit of rough’ is definitely NOT what you’re looking for.  You might be willing to put up with the fact that your man loses his cool every so often—as long as it doesn’t include throwing you about any.  And you’d certainly be willing to overlook his previous liaisons with the local soiled doves as long as it doesn’t continue past your own firming up of relations.  But, basically, you want someone with the nous to let you have your own way, be patient with you when you’re wrong, or–-more especially—when you’re unbelievably stubborn, and someone who’s unbelievably kind and giving and loving.  In other words, you want Jesse.
And therein lies the problem.  Because while Jesse to me is real, because he is who he is and can’t be changed, to my reader he might possibly come over as a little too easy to be manipulated, a bit too kind, a little too ready to let Lady Alex have her way.   And then again, don’t we ladies all want to be spoilt?
You tell me. 

When Lady Alexandra Calthorpe returns to the Loveland, Colorado, ranch owned by her father, the Duke, she has little idea of how the experience will alter her future. Headstrong and willful, Alex tries to overcome a disastrous marriage in England and be free of the strictures of Victorian society --and become independent of men. That is, until Jesse Makepeace saunters back into her life...
Hot-tempered and hot-blooded cowpuncher Jesse Makepeace can’t seem to accept that the child he once knew is now the ravishing yet determined woman before him. Fighting rustlers proves a whole lot easier than fighting Alex when he’s got to keep more than his temper under control.
Arguments abound as Alex pursues her career as an artist and Jesse faces the prejudice of the English social order. The question is, will Loveland live up to its name?
The two men looked over at Jesse who was leading his own horse into the stable, anger etched in every muscle of his face. Joe nodded toward the chuck house and they followed the others in to leave Alex alone when Jesse came out.
She was starting back to the main house when Jesse grabbed her arm and turned her around. “You ever do that again,” he said in a voice she had never heard, intense in its anger, rage just below its surface, “I swear to God, Alex, I’ll...I’ll take you over my knee and give you a lickin’ once and for all.”
“How dare you!” She shook him off. “How dare you talk to me like that! How dare you! Who the hell do you think you are?”
Jesse jabbed his finger at her to emphasize he meant what he was saying. “Who do I think I am?”he snarled back. “Who do I think I am? You ever, ever take a gun off me again and point it at someone, you’ll find out who the hell I think I am. You know that coulda gone off? You know you coulda killed someone? I told you—out there yonder—I told you, you never point that thing at anyone less’n you mean bus’ness.”
“I did bloody well mean business! They were destroying that horse. Furthermore, I knew, and you knew, and they both knew, there wasn’t a shot under the hammer. You taught me that, didn’t you? So there was no chance of an accident!”
“That don’t matter none. You coulda pulled the hammer back twice. Way you was, you were nothin’ better’n a loose cannon, Alex. You ever do a thing like that again—”
“You’ll what?” She shook with her rage as tears pooled against her will. “I apologized to them both and they accepted my apologies. It’s none of your concern—”
“None of my concern! You pulled my gun! You ever do that again— Don’t you walk away when I’m talkin’ to you!”
She turned back to him after a few steps. “You’ll what? You’ll what, Jesse? What will you do? I want to hear it! Say it again. What will you do?” And she stood there in the evening darkness, facing him down, wearing him out like she’d faced down the stallion.

 Find Andra Downing at:




Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Adventure Begins

Well, I'm not sure if it will be an adventure or a tortuous journey, but I've set out upon whichever! Actually, after getting started with the Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker, free right now at, I am sort of like the 'little engine who could': I think I can, I think I can, I think I can! Here is what I find most interesting and encouraging:

Smashwords takes your original Microsoft Word source file, usually in .doc format, and converts
it into multiple ebook formats such as .EPUB, PDF. .RTF, .PDB, .MOBI, LRF and TXT, as well
as into online HTML and Javascript formats. After you publish your book with Smashwords,
your book will be readable on any e-reading device, including personal computers, the iPhone
(via the popular Stanza e-reader app), Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, Android smart phones, etc
(This quote taken directly from the book which can be shared as long as no one is charged for the info!)

Two more ebooks by Mark Coker, also currently free at, are Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success and Smashwords Book Marketing Guide--How to Market Any Book for Free

Kindle Formatting, The Essential Visual Guide by Everything Indie is $2.99 at Reviewers give it good recommendations except for the fact that it doesn't cover how to insert a cover into the upload. It does sound worth the price, however.

I'm going the Smashwords route first. Once I get everything formatted and uploaded, hopefully well enough for inclusion in their Premium Catalogue. Here's more about that, also a direct quote from the style guide:

Premium Catalog (NEW! ): This new catalog is distributed to major online retailers and other
distribution outlets. There’s no cost for consideration, but your book must satisfy higher
mechanical standards required by the retailers such as having a quality book cover image, good
formatting, a proper copyright page, and other requirements clearly outlined in this Style Guide
and on our Distribution page at If you're a serious
author or publisher, you want your books included in Smashwords Premium Catalog because it
offers your book unprecedented exposure at no cost.

I'd be interested in hearing from any of you who have gone this indie route!

And a quick off-topic note: for anyone who thinks her blog is an abysmal failure based on the comments/lack of same, take a look at 'stats' in the new Blogger program. I may get zero comments and have almost 20 views in one day! Last month, The Word Place racked up 450 views (and mine aren't counted)! Perhaps not as great as others, but not too shabby either, so I press on!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Random Writing Information

Some of you may know that I write for Sandra Sookoo's Front Porch Saturday every second Saturday of the month. Yesterday I posted "Gossip and Genealogy--Mutually Exclusive". Does genealogy relate to writing? Where do you think many of my characters and situations come from? You'll have to scroll down, since the regular Sunday post is already up, but you might find an idea or two.
Now to the business at hand for this week: sharing information on writing. This week's hints come from the June 2012 issue of The Writer. Founded in 1887, it's still relevant for writers today. If you subscribe, you also receive weekly web updates like a writing prompt and additional instructional articles.

Lisa Shearin discusses "When writing a novel, how much research is too much?" The answer, of course, depends on the genre of the piece and whether or not you're writing about real places and things. I tend to err on the side of caution because I want to get it right. Even if only one reader finds an error in what I've written, that's one reader too many. I find travel brochures as well as online websites great resources for describing a setting correctly, especially if I've never been there. (And if I have, relying on my memory isn't always the best idea, so I double-check facts!)

Monte Schulz advises interspersing setting with dialogue in an interesting list of "5 Rules to Write By" on page 9. That advice hit home with me because dialogue is what I do best, and I often have to remind myself to set it up in place and time. 

In "The Amazing Disappearing Essential Ingredient", John Jakes (Kent Chronicles, North and South) opines the importance of characters which endure beyond plot. Oddly enough, when I reflect on my own novels, I may have to look up a piece of the plot, but the characters remain part of me forever--perhaps because I "gave birth" to them. 

Finally, freelance writer Howard Scott writes "Sell Books the Old-Fashioned Way" and shares how he managed to sell 27,000 copies of what he describes as a "small niche (self-published) book" through independent book stores. Most writers dream of seeing their books shelved neatly in a bookstore--and we all want to sell more! 

Even if you don't want to subscribe to a writing magazine, check your local library to see what's in their periodical section--and suggest The Writer to them if it's not there. I lend my copies to friends with the understanding they come back home. I might even share a copy with you by mail--if you put up an arm and a leg and maybe even your first-born as collateral! 

Disclaimer: I receive no remuneration of any kind when I recommend a book or periodical on this blog.
New in 2012: The Face on Miss Fanny's Wall (Champagne Books,, eBook only, as Gwyneth Greer, $5.99) A tale of buried family secrets and revenge
Dancing with Velvet (The Wild Rose Press,, print and eBook, as Judy Nickles, $14.99 and$4.99) A story of love and loss and survival in World War II

Read the first chapters free at

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Rose by Any Other Name

Looking for just the right/appropriate/authentic name for a character? Look no farther than this site onto which I recently stumbled.

Here's the complete list of what they have, plus you'll find lots of interesting information on names at the site.


All right, so I've (you've) never heard of some (most of) the origins, but there's always a first time

Happy character naming!
And this just in--writing friend Pat Wahler has her THIRD acceptance in a year from Chicken Soup for the Soul.  Her story will appear in this book due for release in October 2012.

Find her at

We can all use as many POSITIVES in our lives as we can get!