Thursday, November 20, 2014

Understand Your International Friends ~ International English #2

Last month we looked at Making Friends Across the Globe as the first article in a series on International English. Today we're going to look at some different countries and a few of the varieties of English interpretations there are.

POINT #2: Understand Your International Friends

When in doubtfind out! Perhaps you read the sentence, "She placed her hand-held mirror carefully down on her Dolly Varden." You screw up your face and re-read the sentence. If you live in North America you wonder why on earth she would place a mirror on top of a piece of trout. Or if you're in England, you are baffled why she wants to wear a mirror on top of her fancy, flower-decked hat. As an Australian you will find it strange that she places a mirror on a doll-shaped cake! But of course if you're a South African it makes sense. Where else would she place her hand-held mirror but on her dressing-table?
  • If you know the author, write and ask him or her. "I'm puzzled where she placed her mirror. I suspect your use of Dolly Varden is different to mine." That way you both learn.
  • Ask an international group. It doesn't need to be a writing group either. As long as the members speak English, quote the sentence and ask, "Can anyone throw a light on the meaning of this?" It will stimulate some interesting conversation between members; a group-leader's delight!
  • Look it up! I have had the free version of WordWeb installed on my computer for many years. If I come across a word I don't understand I simply hit Alt, Ctrl and W - and it gives me the meaning. On Kindle, I hover the cursor before the word and it gives me a definition. If all else fails you can always Google it, or (gasp!) turn to a traditional dictionary.   
Before submitting an article, check international scenes with someone from that country. In South Africa or England it is customary for people to go for a brisk walk along the pavement. In America I have learned that can prove fatal as that is the paved area where the cars drive!

I once was enjoying a book by a popular author who shall remain nameless, set in Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe). Suddenly the hero and his group made their way to an area that was an extinct volcano. Hello? I spent most of my childhood in that country. There is no volcano in the land, extinct or otherwise. That ruined the story for me. I felt I couldn't trust the author any more. He clearly had not done his researchor checked his facts with someone "on the ground".

One final example: Here in South Africa many of the rural population live in rondawels, thatched round huts buildings built of mud and wattle. The Australian nation floral emblem is the Golden Wattle which makes a beautiful display when grown closely together. And in Britain a common site is a fence made of upright stakes around which green branches of wattle are woven.

Allow for different words. Because the other country uses a different word, it doesn't meant it's wrong!  When I started my first Website I naively asked the question, "What English should I use?" The majority told me to use American English. Some told me to use British English (as I was born in Britain), and others told me to use my own South African variant of British English but to put a disclaimer on every page! Why would I do that? I may have a different accent to most of my readers, and I may use different words for some things, but my language is not wrong! Nor is yours. (Unless of course you speak or write badly!)

Obviously, if I am writing for an American market, I must write in American English. But on my own website? (Although I have to confess I tend to slip between the one and the other as I'm so used to using American English!) The important thing about a personal website (or my author page on Facebook) is, do you understand me? (And if you don't? Please ask!) 

In closing here are a few common differences you will find when reading American English (AE) or British English (BE):

BE: Babies wear nappies; AE: Babies wear diapers.

BE: The bathroom contains a bath, not necessarily a toilet; AE: The bathroom always contains a toilet, not necessarily a bathtub.

BE: You walk on the pavement and drive in the road; AE: You drive on the pavement and walk on the sidewalk.

BE: Biscuits are crisp snacks, similar to the AE cookies.

AE: Biscuits are a type of bread served with savoury foods, rather like the BE scones.

BE: A trunk is a large metal box, which you might put into the boot (storage section) of your car;

AE: The trunk is the storage section of your car.

BE: The engine is under the bonnet; AE: It’s under the hood.

BE: You go to hospital for an operation in theatre; AE: You go to the hospital for surgery in the operating room. (Oh and in BE you go to hospital. In AE you go to the hospital!)

BE: The kids may play in the garden, avoiding the flower beds of course; AE: They play in the yard.

BE: We may go on holiday in our caravan; AE: You go on vacation in your travel trailer.

And finally, one that I keep forgetting much to the frustration of my American critique group:

BE: Ladies fall pregnant AE: They get pregnant!

So next time you come across a word you don't understand in a book or on a blog, don't automatically condemn the author. Rather attempt to understand your international friends!

NEXT MONTH: We will look at International English at Christmas.

OVER TO YOU: Do you have other terms you can add to the above? Especially if you are from a different country to America or Britain. Leave a comment below.

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

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, November 19, 2014

Narrowing Your Focus... Yay or Nay

Most of us can agree that writers everywhere write... must write, live to write.  And if you are like me, you have thousands of ideas floating around in your head, ideas that need to get on the page. But trying to balance those ideas with what you know and what your target audience needs to read can be a real challenge.

The question for even the most experienced writer is how to decide on a focus for the writing and marketing to keep inspired, to  keep loving what you do and to be productive? Do writers actually need to narrow their focus as is recommended by books and instructors everywhere or can a writer  successfully write about absolutely everything swirling around in their head and reach a marketable audience?

First, decide what success means to you. Success may be keeping some of those tidbits of ideas in a journal while working on other projects. Success may be being on the New York Best seller list. Success may be in the form of self-publishing and for others success may be writing only for the catharsis of the process and not for public view. Ask yourself what success means for you as the writer to help to determine the focus and purpose of your work?

Next, list the ideas that you love, the topics that you know something about, and the subjects that your reader or audience longs for. This is where you start on any new project or new idea and where you decide what your focus should be. Explore these ideas and how many ways you can use this list to develop your product, story, or article idea. Within the focus of a topic there may be numerous ways to expand that focus for more than one product.

Narrowing your focus now becomes important for each project. Narrowing the focus helps you to hone in on the subject and the audience allowing you to meet the needs of your reader but it also assists you with targeting your audience specifically for this project in regards to marketing to them.

Narrowing your focus is important for stories, articles and specific writing projects so that your points can be clear and the topic remains specific. Facts and research can be used again in other products with the same topic so no information is wasted.  But the question still lingers for the writer... Does a writer need to narrow the focus in general when working on a lucrative writing career? Can an author be successful writing in more than one specific area? Can a writer who has done medical writing branch out to mystery or suspense? Can a financial guru write books for children? Or must you stay within your narrow focus of expertise to be successful?

I have found that there are many authors very successful at writing in many genres and avenues. I think the key to success is to hone your skills, narrow the focus of each project, and know how to market to the target audience with each written work. Being an expert in a field is very lucrative and increases the chances of success. For me narrowing a focus can apply to each individual piece of work but doesn't have to limit your ability to succeed with those other ideas swirling in your head. Your writing focus narrows with each project as does your marketing and audience but the types of writing you do can be wide open. What is your experience and opinion about narrowing your focus?

Terri Forehand writes from her home in Nashville Indiana. She writes health related material, stories for children and is currently writing and designing small quilt patterns based on fictional characters. She is the author of The ABC's of Cancer According to Lilly Isabella Lane and The Cancer Prayer book for adults newly diagnosed. ,

Monday, November 17, 2014

Writing is Good for Your Soul & Your Health

For as long as I can remember, I have written. In fact I remember asking how to spell 'tear' for my first poem when I was 5 or so. I wrote through my teen angst years, I wrote during an unhappy marriage and through years of happiness while I finally discovered who I was. Writing just seemed to be a way in which I could take down my thoughts and feelings to create something much bigger than myself. I considered the process healthy and I found it somehow kept me grounded. Now it turns out, others agree that writing can make you feel better and keep you well. Psychologists say that the process of writing through difficult periods can help people feel better, not only mentally but also physically.

Wow! And here I thought my great constitution had something to do with good genes. It turns out that when people wrote about their feelings and concerns prior to surgery and after - they healed faster. Young people who write tend to miss fewer days of school and some studies show that over all wellness is created by the process of writing - lower blood pressure, better liver function, and fewer asthma attacks.

What has been realized is that the process of writing is somewhat similar to that of meditation. In meditation you find yourself in a zone of calm. Writing can also induce these feelings when you enter what is called a flow state. In many disciplines there is what is called flow. Basketball players get into the flow and they score points. Runners get into the flow and they go longer distances. When writers get into the flow they leave many of their cares and worries behind them. This flow takes them away and actually allows them to reduce the stress they feel in their lives - one of the greatest reasons for ill health.

According to experts, even the act of writing before bed can create better health. Writing in a journal about those things you are grateful for improves sleep. And it doesn't even take much to reap the benefits - 15-20 minutes three to five times over 4 months is all it takes to make a difference.

Writing has other benefits:
1. Writers tend to pay more attention to being in the now. They listen better - I know it's just so we can quote the person later, but still.
2. Writing takes focus and concentration. Two things that are more and more difficult to acquire in this fast paced world where we live.
3. It allows us to tell our stories and to tell those of others, preserving history.
4. Writing lets our imagination soar, our creativity to flourish and our words create emotions that can impact others. Writing is good for the soul!

So what is holding you back from sitting down and getting your words on paper?

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.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The First Step to Writing a Nonfiction Book

by Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer's Coach

Okay, so you think you're ready to write a nonfiction book.

But unlike so many people who jump right in and start writing – only to never finish the book OR they end up with a book that no one wants to buy – you’ve decided to learn more about the process so you’ll have the best chance for success.

The First Step

So here’s the first step. Simply copy and answer the 12 questions that follow:

1. Why do you want to write this book? (what will the book do for YOU)

2. What is the intended purpose of your book? (what will the book do for readers)

3. Who is your target audience for your book? Be as specific as possible - give as many details about your readers as you can.

4. What qualifies you to write this book?

5. What competition exists for your book? (If you don’t know, look in bookstores and online for books like the one you wish to write. There should be some books similar to yours already on the market. If not, then there may not BE a market for your book.)

6. Do you want to self-publish your book or try to find a traditional publisher for it? Please thoroughly explain your reasons for your choice.

7. How much time will have you available each week for writing your book? Please describe the type of writing schedule you hope to establish for yourself.

8. What kinds of materials do you already have that you can use for your book – notes, speeches, articles, etc? Also, how would you describe your current nonfiction writing style and voice/tone? Is this the same style and voice/tone you hope to use for this book? Explain.

9. Do you know other experts in your field who would be willing to write a foreward for your book? Explain.

10. Have you already conducted interviews, done much of the research, etc. for your book, or will you be starting from the very beginning? Explain in detail.

11. How will you promote and market your book?

12. In what ways do you want to financially benefit from your book? Explain in detail.

If you take the time to answer these 12 questions, you'll be much more likely to finish writing your nonfiction book, and you'll also be more likely to write a nonfiction book people will want to buy.

Good luck!

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. Let her help you launch your career as a romance author - at the beach. Find out more at

Monday, November 10, 2014

November Blogging Prompts

Just because the year is winding down, doesn’t mean you can slack off on your blog posts, even if you really don’t have the time. Consistency is a huge part of blogging, so even if you have to write a little shorter the next couple months, just keep to your blogging schedule as best as you can. 

Here’s some seasonal content ideas to get you through November. (I am U.S.-based, so for those in other parts of the world, adapt as appropriate.

Shopping: We have Black Friday (shopping day after Thanksgiving), Small Business Saturday (day after that), and Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving). However, holiday shopping starts sooner each year.

If you offer a product or service, and you have a holiday deal, post about it on your blog. Most of what you blog about shouldn’t be about selling, but it’s fine to make an exception every now and then. If you have an opinion on peoples obsession with shopping holidays, that’s another way to go. It could be serious, sarcastic or funny, but whatever you write, keep it honest. Stay relatable - that’s how you gain and maintain fans.

Food: November has an abundance of food holidays to blog about, whether you write about food or just enjoy eating. Among others, it’s Good Nutrition Month and Vegan Month. (Funny, it was just Vegetarian Awareness Month in October – I guess November takes it up a notch.) Healthy eating is a great topic to write about as we approach the holidays, even when you write about writing. For example, “5 Food-Related Advantages of Working and/ Writing from Home.” 

On the other end of the spectrum, November 16 is National Fast Food Day. And then there’s National Espresso Day on November 23. Talk about a great stereotypical writer holiday. The majority of writers I know have an opinion on coffee. And I know a lot of writers!

Thanksgiving: There’s a ton to write about regards to Thanksgiving. There’s the history, the food, and of course, the theme of being thankful. The best way to write about a holiday is to flip it on its side. Think outside the box. Brainstorm. Make a list of 10 or 15 things that you can write about in regards to Thanksgiving (or any of these ideas for that matter) and how it relates to your blog or business. Then, take a fun, original approach and run with it!

Bonus: Fiction writers and bloggers, November is National Novel Writing Month. If you are participating, consider writing posts on your progress. If you are not, offer advice and encouragement for those who are. You don’t have to write a novel in November to post about this fun International event.

As previously noted, November starts shopping season. Especially if you have a business website, keep your blog active, so potential customers can find you. 


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.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Gratitude for Simple Things

The Thanksgiving holiday is a special time of year when we pause in our whirlwind lives to remember what we are grateful for. I do try to think of each day with gratitude, but sometimes we do get caught up in the hurried way we live our lives and we start to see only the negative things that happen.
Sometimes the simplest things are what give me pause, bring me to tears:

  • ·         A spectacular sunset
  • ·         The full moon in a clear sky
  • ·         The warm sunny days and crisp cold nights
  • ·         My cat sleeping in my lap

I consider myself lucky (maybe that’s the wrong word, maybe it’s the recipient of great gifts) for bigger things in my life too:

  • ·         The parents who inspired me to be self-sufficient and independent
  • ·         My close family, including my “in-laws” who I think of as sisters
  • ·         The wonderful teachers who encouraged me to develop my interest in reading and writing
  • ·         The publishers who believed in me and my work and gave my books life.     
  •       My dear husband who always supported my writing dreams without question
And even though I lost my husband this year, his love and support and the memories live on, and I’m able to find solace in simple things.

May you all find gratitude this Thanksgiving.

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. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

What I've Learned from NaNoWriMo

For those of you who don’t know about NaNoWriMo, it’s an event that takes place in November every year.  Hundreds of thousands of dedicated writers all over the world each pledge to write a rough draft of a novel (at least 50,000 words) in one month.  That’s almost 1700 words per day:  a serious commitment and an exhilarating one.  I wrote my first Nano novel in 2009, starting at midnight November 1 in my pension in Znojmo, Czech Republic.  I wrote all the next day on foggy train rides in South Moravia, the perfect mysterious setting for writing my tale.

I now have five Nano novels under my belt.  It’s a great experience and I highly recommend it.  Here are some things I’ve learned from NaNoWriMo that can apply to all writing, not just crazy novel-in-a-month challenges.

1)  Have Concrete Goals and Record Your Progress.  “Write a novel this month” doesn’t work as well as “Write 1700 words today.”  During NaNoWriMo, I update my word count daily on Nano’s cool website so I can get a visual of how well I’m doing.  It’s really motivational.  You can create similar charts on your own, with spreadsheet graphics, other computer applications, or simple paper charts above your desk.  The very act of physically marking off your progress (or realizing you haven’t done the work to allow you this satisfaction) really helps.

2)  Band Together with Other Writers. In Nano, depending on where you live, you can join regional groups that host in-person planning sessions, parties, and write-ins throughout the month.  Even if you don’t have an active regional group, there are virtual write-ins and word wards (where you compete to write the most words in a set time limit).  NaNoWriMo forums are fantastic places to go for inspiration or to do research for your novel.  Ask what arsenic poisoning feels like, or how much beer costs in Germany, and you’ll get answers.  It’s amazing.  In non-NaNoWriMO life, writers’ groups are just as important.  I am and will be eternally gratefully to my writer’s critique groups, who not only help me become a better writer and catch my stupid typos, but who motivate me to write, write, write, so I can submit regularly. 

3)  Lock up your Inner Editor.  When you’re trying to get a story down on paper, try not to re-read and edit as you go.  It slows you down and may kill your inertia once you get going.  I used to edit a lot as I went.  Every time I sat down to write, I’d go back several page sand re-read and edit before I started writing.  Sometimes I’d run out of time or creative energy and never get to the actual writing part.  In Nano, if I wanted to reach 50,000+ words in 30 days, I couldn’t afford this, so I would open up my document, read maybe two paragraphs, and then start writing. And my rough draft wasn’t as rough at the end as I supposed it would be.  Now I try to implement this “just get it down first” style of writing even when I’m not in a time crunch.

4)  Plan Plenty of Time to Revise Later.  My first NaNoWriMo novel is in print and available.  I’m querying my second to agents.  But my third, fourth, and fifth?  They’re in the trunk, not completely finished and mostly unedited.  What I’ve failed to do is commit as much (or more) time to polishing these novels as I did to writing the first drafts.  They say, of course, that writing is 1/3 of the work and revising is 2/3.  So plan for this and don’t let your drafts languish in Rough Draft Land.

So this year I’m not writing a novel during NaNoWriMo.  Instead, I’m rewriting and revising a trunk novel—still in 30 days, still a huge challenge.  And though I’m a little sad not to be writing something new, I’m excited about readying my old work for public eyes. 

It’s not too late for you to start Nanowrimo:

If you want to read my first NaNoWriMo novel (on sale now in honor of Nano), here’s the Amazon link:  Far-Knowing 
Far-Knowing is also available at other major online bookstores.

Melinda Brasher loves visiting alternate worlds through books and exploring this world through travel. Check out her newest article on Go Nomad:  “Hunting Mushrooms in Wallachia.”  For some free short fiction, read “Stalked” on On the Premises or “A Learned Man” on Electric Spec.. Visit her online at