Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Around the World! ~ International English #3

We've been looking at International English.

It's Almost Christmas! 
How will you celebrate? What words will you use?

 The word "Christmas" comes from the old English Cristes Maesse, or the mass of Christ. Across the globe, Christmas Day is one of the most festive celebrations. Although greatly commercialized in many countries, it is a Christian holiday held in memory of the birth of Jesus Christ.

No one knows the actual date of Christ's birth but most countries celebrate it on December 25th, although in some countries such as those that follow the Russian Orthodox calender, it is celebrated on January 7th. 

Many homes have decorated Christmas trees, real or fake and many families decorate their homes inside and, especially in America, outside their homes as well. In many cultures Christmas is a family affair with family members traveling many miles to celebrate together. Other homes hold bring-and-share meals for many friends. In many countries, Christmas Day is a public holiday and all businesses are closed for the day. Across the world, cities go to great lengths to decorate their streets and main shopping centers.

Most churches have special Christmas Day services with carol singing and often they hold mince-pie celebrations. Within the family, gifts are exchanged and many children believe in Father Christmas, or Santa Claus. In the past, Christmas cards were sent and received but in many lands that custom is rapidly dying out due to the expense of the postal system and of the cards themselves.

Christmas traditions vary from country to country, including such elements as lighting of Christmas trees, hanging of Christmas stockings, Advent wreaths on doors, mistletoe overhead, candy canes, Nativity scenes, carol singing, fasting, midnight mass, burning a Yuletide log, pulling crackers and many others.
"Christmas cake, Boxing Day 2008" by SMC.
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

The countries following British customs often enjoy Christmas Mince Pies (where the mince is made from dried fruit), Christmas Pudding and Iced Christmas Cakeagain full of dried fruit mince, yummy! Because of the heat, South Africa is increasingly turning to trifle, ice-cream and fruit salad, and I suspect other hotter countries are doing likewise. (A tragedy to some gastronomical desires including my own!)

Christmas meals also vary wildly.  In Nigeria, rice dishes or stews are often served, as is pepper soup with fish, goat or beef. Japanese Christmas cake is a white sponge cake covered with cream and strawberries, and believe it or not, thanks to a successful advertising campaign in the 1970's, eating at KFC around Christmas is regarded as a national custom!

In the USA and many of the British countries, the traditional Christmas dinner features roast turkey and stuffing (sometimes called dressing), ham or gammon, and other meats, with a wide variety of cooked vegetables and roast potatoes. In some countries such as the UK and South Africa, the traditional meal is accompanied by the pulling of Christmas crackers which contain jokes, toys and paper hats.

In the Southern Hemisphere any dreams of a White Christmas are exactly thatdreams, as Christmas falls mid-summer. Although South Africans and Australians often follow a similar traditional meal to England and America, it is becoming increasingly common to serve barbecue meals (braai in South Africa) with salads.

No matter where you go in the world it is likely that you will find some form of Christmas celebration, and people will greet you in words only used once a year. In America you are likely to be wished a Merry Christmas! While in the UK, it's more likely to be Happy Christmas!

It's not possible to cover all the greetings in this post, but here are 24 international ways to wish you a Very Happy Christmas;

What in the World Do You Mean? 
Making Friends Across the Globe.
Understanding Your International Friends

SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer has created a multitude of friends and contacts across the world.

Please visit Shirley through, where she encourages writers, or at, where she encourages those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or FaceBook.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tis the Season

Here's a short video (less than a minute animation) with our holiday wishes for you:


End of Year Wrap Up

In January we tend to focus on goals and resolutions for the new year, but have you taken the time to review 2014? Just as important as establishing new goals is the process of evaluating where you are now, in fact, this will help you when the time comes to think about 2015.

Some questions to help you:
1. What is the most important thing you've learned this year? 
           Is it a grammar rule that you previously found confusing?
           Is it a marketing tool that helped you to expand your audience?
           Is it a way to develop good writing habits?
Any of these will help you move forward with your writing. Assessing and prioritizing the lessons learned will help you to determine where to focus your attention in the future.

2. What was the most difficult thing you had to overcome?
          Was it balancing work, family and writing?
          Was it budgeting for a writer's conference or other retreat?
          Or perhaps it was just getting past writer's block.

We may not have finished the book in the time we thought we would, or perhaps the editing process was more challenging than we had anticipated. Stuff happens, but focusing on our achievements is important to encouraging us to keep moving ahead with our work.

3. Where do you feel you could use the most improvement?
           In grammar?
           In plot or character development?
           In marketing?
           In editing?

Knowing where your weaknesses are can lead to many choices. You can choose to get a book, take a class and get better, or you can begin to search for others to do the things that come hard for you so you can focus on the areas where you are the most proficient. 

4. Finally, if you were to update your writer's resume from last year, what are you adding?
Take the time to acknowledge your large and small triumphs - and celebrate these. Assess your strengths and weaknesses - and determine the direction you'd like to go next. Be honest with yourself. Then update your writer's resume and begin thinking about 2015.


D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, House of Glass, Book 2 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole, and Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at

You can also follower her at or on Facebook.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What It Takes to Get Started as a Freelance Writer: A Top 10 List

Since I'm a writing coach and a freelance writer myself, people are always asking me what it takes to get started as a freelancer. Other than some basic writing skills, here is my top ten list of essentials every writer needs to start a freelance career.

1. A Professional Resume - Your resume might not include much when you're just getting started, still you need to have something to show potential clients, editors, and publishers that lists your education, writing experience, and publication credits (if any).

2. A Professional Bio - A bio is more simple than a resume. It should be written in third person and give an overview of your education and experience, the type of writing you do and the services you offer.

3. Some Writing Samples - These don't have to be published clips. They can be unpublished samples of the different types of writing you like to do. When responding to advertisements for freelance writing jobs, many times writing samples and a professional resume will be required.

4. Three Major Writing or Career Goals for the Year - I advise writers to stick to only three major goals for the year. Then, everything they do during the year should serve to help them reach one or more of these three major goals. Working toward one or more of these major goals at all times really helps any writer keep from feeling overwhelmed, overworked, or unfocused.

5. A Weekly Marketing Plan - Every Sunday evening or Monday morning, it's important to create a marketing plan and writing schedule for the coming work week. When you have a clear plan, all you have to do each week is "work your plan."

6. A Method or Means of Accountability - Every writer needs to have someone or something that will hold them accountable for maintaining their focus and working toward their 3 major goals all year long. A writing coach, a writer's group, or even another friend who is also a writer can be used for this purpose.

7. A Professional Website or blog - Editors and clients expect any serious freelance writer to have an online presence, which includes a website or blog with information about the writer, his/her education and experience, and the types of writing services offered.

8. Business Cards - These should be simple and inexpensive. Include your name, business name (if you create one for your freelance writing business) or a tagline that tells people you're a freelance writer, telephone number, and email address. Don't include your home address. If you think a mailing address is essential for your business, invest in a post office box and include that address on your business card.

9. A Success Journal - This can be nothing more than a spiral notebook used to record daily or weekly progress. A Success Journal is one more way to help any freelance writer stay on track with a weekly marketing plan, weekly writing goals, and stay focused on just three major goals for the year.

10. Total Commitment - A freelance writing career can be difficult to establish because, generally, people who start freelance writing do so when they still have a regular day job and/or dozens of other professional and personal responsibilities. Then, when things get too stressful, the freelance writing is the first thing that gets pushed to the wayside. Before any writer decides to start a freelance writing career, he/she must totally commit to making this career happen.

If your goal is to become a successful freelance writer, get these 10 essentials in place right now and it will be much easier to get your career established.

Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, certified professional life coach and writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter. She has written over two dozen published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications. She offers The Morning Nudge, for writers every weekday morning. Get your free subscription at

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December Blogging Prompts: List Posts

I realize the last thing you have time for is blogging … Between extra holiday commitments and wrapping things up at the end of the year, there’s little time for anything else. But, still, you want to keep your blog active, so your visitors have new posts to read.

An easy type of post is a list post. Choose a topic and then compile a list of items with a best, worst, or unique slant. Write a few lines or a paragraph, add links and/or images, whatever works for you and is in line with your tone, perspective, and area of expertise.

Here are 10 easy lists posts you can write for your blog in December. 

1. Books: fiction, non-fiction, or a mix of both.

2. Tools for writing, productivity, and/or business.

3. Moments of the year in your industry.

4. Food holidays. Food writers, also consider writing a recipe post either under a theme or a list of favorite.

5. Top blogs in a specific industry or all-around favorites.

6. Notable writers, marketers, consultants, or something else, depending on your niche.

7. Most popular (or favorite) posts on your blog.

8. Outstanding customer service (traditional businesses, indys or both)

9. Characters. These can be fictional (from books, film, TV or games) or people you met throughout the year.

10. Non-Traditional holidays. Some of these are kind of ridiculous, but many bring awareness to an issue or are just plain fun.

Although these may seem end-of-year specific, many can be written for any time of year.

The key with list-posts, as with all blog posts, is to infuse your personality and experience into recommendations. There may be similar items covered, but for the most part, lists are like snowflakes: no two are alike.

Happy Holidays!


Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project manager, and the author of Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages.  She founded Guided Goals, as well as Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. She is an editor at Social Media Examiner. Debra is in demand as a national speaker addressing writing, networking, goal-setting and social media.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Those Pesky Extras

(This post originally ran Feb, 8, 2012)

I recently learned a new term: Pleonasm. Is it a murder suspect? A graffiti artist? A practical joker?

Turns out, it’s nothing quite so mysterious. A pleonasm is a word or phrase, which can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning. For example, John walked to the chair and sat down. “Down” is a pleonasm and can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Although I was not familiar with the term, I did know them when I saw them. In fact, part of my editing advice revolves around deleting extraneous words. Words such as “that,” “very,” “both,” and “there was.” Others might include “began,” “started,” or “continued.”

Here’s another phrase that nearly everyone is guilty of: “The sky held a myriad of stars.” Myriad means “countless.” So the correct use is “The sky held myriad stars.” (Simply substitute the word countless for myriad.) That eliminates two extraneous words.

And then there is the word “unique.” We are inundated with varying degrees of “uniqueness” every day: “That was a rather unique movie.” “Your story is very unique.” What’s next—uniquely unique? Unique means “the only one of its kind.” Unique is unique. It doesn’t need any modifiers

I also caution to watch use of “ly” words. These words are often used to prop up weak verbs. For example: “She walked quickly” can be stronger if written “She strode” (or bounded or rushed). Likewise with the “to be” verbs (was, were, had been, etc.) especially when used with an “ing” verb. “She was walking” is better as “She walked.”

Some authors like to use taglines (he said, she said) plus an action: “…she said, taking a sip of coffee.” The simple action is sufficient: “She took a sip of coffee.”
You also don’t need to describe two actions at once: She nodded and smiled. He puffed himself up and took a swig...

A writer friend of mine is looking at every sentence in her manuscript and challenging herself to remove at least one word from each. She has cut 14,000 words from a 400-page manuscript.

I challenge you to go one step farther: see if you can delete an entire phrase from a sentence, an entire sentence from a paragraph, a paragraph from a scene.
Hunt down and exterminate those “Pesky Pleonasms.”
A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona.
Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, the sequel, Follow the Dream,  won the national WILLA Award, and Dare to Dream rounds out the trilogy. In addition a non-fiction book, Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women has just been released. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of the Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing, edits, and blogs. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Never Write an Unnecessary Scene Again

Thank you to longtime writing friend K. M. Weiland for sharing her essay that helps you identify unnnecssary scenes in your fiction. 
By K. M. Wieland

When you think of the important moments in a story, you probably think about the big scenes in which stuff happens. Characters are taking action—or having action taken against them. Somebody’s doing something that matters. There’s conflict; there’s nail-biting; there’s huge stakes on the line.

But what if I told you these are not the most important moments in your story?

The most important moments are always those that take place after the big scenes. Yes, you heard right. As crucial as character actions may be, they pale in comparison to the importance of character reactions. This is because character reactions are the measuring stick readers use to determine the true importance of a big scene

Consider this: Let’s say the volcano under Yellowstone erupts. That’s big, gosh darn it. So of course it’s important to your story. ’Nuff said. Especially if, say, your protagonist’s brother is missing in the disaster area. But then, let’s say, your protagonist hears the news and then just goes about his daily life as a mailman. He doesn’t do anything about his missing brother. He doesn’t even seem that concerned beyond his initial, Oh my, that’s horrible. Poor Samson.

Suddenly, readers are confused. Maybe Yellowstone blowing up wasn’t such a big deal after all. Maybe the missing brother isn’t important. Maybe we misread all the signs. Maybe the author just stuck in this seemingly “big” scene for kicks, even though it obviously isn’t going to have any impact on the story.

Every big action in your story needs to garner an equally big reaction from your characters. Otherwise the action, no matter how impressive, simply doesn’t matter.Readers will always look to your characters to gauge the importance of any scene—and if the characters aren’t reacting in appropriate measure, the readers will, at best, count that big scene as inconsequential. At worst, the jarring disharmony between their understanding of events and the characters’ response will frustrate them to the point of abandoning your book. Now just think how you’d react to that!

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.