Nouns Need to be Concrete and Appear More than Once


Part two in this series of notes from the Highlights Foundation Workshop, Books that Rise Above, features points made by Patricia Lee Gauch and Linda Sue Park on the use of nouns.

Patricia Lee Gauch: Concrete Nouns

Patti says we want to write in profound simplicity to keep our writing unclogged, such as the opening paragraph in chapter 11 of Linda Sue Park's, A Single Shard:

         The path to the Rock of the Falling Flowers was steep, and Tree-ear leaned forward,
         sometimes on all fours, as he climbed. Just before he reached the top, he stopped by the
         side of the path and took the jiggeh off his back. He drank from the gourd and poured a
         little water on his hands to splash on his sweaty face.
         Thus refreshed, he felt ready to give his full attention to the sight of the rock.

To write with simplicity we must use concrete words; concrete nouns. In Patti's own Easy Reader Tanya series, she showcases lovely French dance terms, such as pas de chat, arabesque, and sur pointes. She points out the embellished concrete nouns and beautiful verbs in Karen Cushman's The Midwife's Apprentice: . . . the cat lay still in the dung heap, The merchant's booth . . . filled with other wares for wondering at . . . shiny brass needles, ribbons of red and lavender, copper spoons and brass knives . . ., she insulted and encouraged, pushed and poked, brewed and stewed and remedied.

Linda Sue Park: Nouns Need to Appear More than Once

Linda stresses the importance of analyzing each and every word. Every word has to work hard. Toward this end, she contends that in order to create wholeness of the world you have created, in order to buttress that world, all nouns have to appear more than once. Nouns that appear only once don't serve the story. A noun that appears in the first part of the book is not a force unless it is repeated at the end. Especially look at the nouns in the last chapter. Especially.

Repeated words refer to the subject, the container, in this excerpt from Chapter 1 of Linda's book, A Long Walk to Water, which is based on a true story, on the long, lone trek Nya must make every day in 2008 to a pond in southern Sudan to fetch water:

     Going was easy.
     Going, the big plastic container held only air. Tall for her eleven years, Nya could switch
     the handle from one hand to the other, swing the container by her side, or cradle it in both
     arms. She could even drag it behind her, bumping it against the ground . . .
     There was little weight, going . . .  

Repeated references to Nya's quest for water a year later in 2009 appear in the last chapter:

      Then [Nya's uncle] began moving the mouth of the pump.
      Nya held her bottle underneath the pump mouth. The bottle filled up quickly.
      She stepped aside to the let the next person fill a bottle. Then she drank.
      The water was delicious. It wasn't warm or muddy, like the water from the pond. It was
      cool and clear.
      Nya stopped drinking and held up the bottle . . .
      She drank a few more sips . . .
      Everyone had a bottle or a cup. They were drinking that lovely water . . .

Parting thoughts: Patti: Be specific. Use words wisely. Understand what particular means. Objects have great value, such as a woman wearing the same hat.  Linda: Be intimate. Write for personal therapy. Try writing in first person then switch it. Me: Before this workshop I edited the sentence. Now I edit every word.


Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six stories for children, and is in the final editing stages of her first book, a mystery story for 7-10 year olds. Follow Linda on Facebook. 

For past posts in this series, please visit:

Part One: Two Ways to Hook and Keep Your Reader

Next month: Tent Pole Construction

In future posts: Watch for workshop presenters' biosketches. A link to the complete list of "Books that Rise Above" will appear at the end.














Keeping a Journal

If you're just launching a freelance writing career, keeping a journal is key to productivity and success.

Let's look at some reasons why:

A journal keeps you organized.

Beginning writers are learning all sorts of new things - developing a platform, creating an online         presence, networking - not to mention fine tuning the craft of writing. It can be overwhelming. Listing what you've learned helps keep the path you are on clear so it doesn't interfere with your actual writing.

A journal keeps you on track.

Most of us are not full-time writers. We're mothers, wives, employees, care-takers, or business owners. There are lots of responsibilities vying for our attention! Keeping a journal of daily accomplishments, no matter how small, helps you see you're making progress.

A journal keeps you encouraged.

We all get discouraged for one reason or another. Breaking into freelance writing requires hard work and patience. Being able to read over the last week or month of your hard work encourages you to keep going and not give up. Emotions cannot dictate or determine your future. The real deal is written down.

Your journal doesn't have to be fancy. I have a composition notebook. Every time I apply for a freelance job, take a writing course, submit a magazine article, or work on a long term project, I jot it down in my journal. Just the act of documenting these things makes me feel great because I'm so busy, I forget.

There are several ways to organize your journal. I keep it simple. I just list the date line by line, and write what I did that day. Having a record of accomplishments is valuable for every writer.

Do you have a journal? How does it help you?


Photo credit: Smallest Forest / Foter / CC BY-NC

Kathleen Moulton is a freelance writer.  You can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts -

The History of Fingerprinting

            As I dug into the history of fingerprinting, I was amazed at how old the art was. Now as writers we are generally more interested in how fingerprinting is used in crime situations, but how it all came about should give you an appreciation of it.
            It surprised me to learn that the art of fingerprinting came into being back in 1000-2000 B.C. and was used an clay tablets for business transactions. My guess is this was their form of a signature. It was in 14th Century A.D. that a physician notices that no two fingerprints were alike.
            In the 1600’s the microscope was invented, and in 1686 at the University of Bologna in Italy a professor takes note of the spirals, loops, and ridges in fingerprints. It was not until 1823 that Johannes Evengelista Purkinje, a professor of anatomy with the University of Breslau in Prussia, wrote a thesis detailing a full nine different fingerprint patterns. Fingerprinting was a standard use for identification, especially on documents and contracts. In 1882 Gilbert Thompson, employed by the U.S. Geological Survey in New Mexico, uses his fingerprints on a document to guard against forgery. In the 1800’s Sir Francis Galton started studying fingerprints and in 1892 published a book, Fingerprints. It was the first of this type book which detailed the first classification system called Galton’s Details for fingerprints. This system is still to an extent used today. This same year Juan Vucetich, an Argentine police official, started the first fingerprint files based on Galton’s Details. He made history that year by making the first criminal fingerprint identification.
            In 1896 Sir Edward Richard Henry, a British official instituted a fingerprinting program for all prisoners. In 1902 the Director of the Bureau of Identification of the Paris Police made use of the first criminal identification of a fingerprint without a known suspect. In the meantime the testing of the first systematic use of fingerprints in the U.S. is performed by Dr. Henry P. DeForrest. After that the use of fingerprinting spreads, and by 1911 the first central storage location for North America was established in Ottawa by Edward Foster of the Dominion Police Force. Today it is maintained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. By 1924 the Identification Division of the F.B.I. was created.
            The 1990’s he Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems had widespread use around the country. Fingerprinting of children became the vogue by 1996 for investigative purposes.
            I was totally amazed that the history of fingerprinting went back as far as Babylon. Once it was discovered that no two people have the same fingerprints, the significance quickly accelerated over the years until law enforcement had one of the most important investigative tools known to man.
            There is one thing I would like to mention. As fingerprinting advanced to greater technology, criminals also became innovative in erasing their fingerprints from their fingertips with acid. Painful but effective.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders
                              Sarah’s Secret
Member of: Sisters In Crime
                    Writers on the Move

Twelve-year-old Me and the Writing Dream

When I had just turned twelve, I ran across an old book in some of my dad's stuff called THE MASK OF FU MANCHU by Sax Rohmer. Apparently, my dad loved the book enough to, uh, liberate it from the public library, for the card was still in the back. At that time, I would read anything which fell into my hands—a habit which has continued to the present day, I’m happy to say.

I can still remember how awesome the book was—adventure, excitement, danger, the mystery of Egypt, stalwart, brave and handsome Englishmen, brilliant criminals, a plot to steal ancient treasures—who wouldn’t have loved it? The scenes where our heroes were staying at the Mena House Hotel, which sat on the Giza plateau in full view of the pyramids—THE the pyramids—made a special impression on me. I wanted to see it all. And more importantly, I wanted to write books full of adventure and danger and excitement—and handsome Englishmen.

Flash forward over thirty years. My lifelong love of all things historical is fulfilled, at least partially, by a trip to Egypt. Ah, Luxor and the Temple of Karnak! Ah, the Valley of the Kings—where was Boris Karloff’s Imhotep when you needed him? Ah, Abu Simbel, and a cruise down the Nile. And then, and then, the absolute culmination of a lifetime of dreams. I’m staying at…wait for it…the Mena House Hotel. Me. A country girl from South Carolina.

But something was wrong, and for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out what. I wanted to tell someone I was here, in the spot I’d dreamed of being for so long. But who? I’d told everyone I knew, believe me. Who, oh who else could possibly be missing the important information?

Then it hit me. The one person I really, really, REALLY wanted to know where I was…was me. Twelve-year-old me. The little girl who had fallen in love with adventure and Egypt and the Mena House Hotel. Okay, yes, and handsome Englishmen. I wanted her to know, “We made it, kid. We got here. We grabbed for that dream and we caught it at last.”

Yes, there is a point to my rambling. Writing is hard. Writing is work. Writing is a job. Promotion is hard and rejection is agony. And some days, we would rather be doing almost anything else. That’s when it’s important to remember that kid in you who first read books and got excited about the glorious, the amazing, the astonishing idea of writing them.

She is still inside you, waiting for acknowledgement. Tell her. Tell her, “Yes, we did it. We’re writers. And it’s all thanks to you and your dreams.”

And to handsome Englishmen, of course.

K.G. McAbee loves and writes all sorts of genre fiction, including steampunk, fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery and comic books. She’s a member of Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers. Her latest release is THE HEIRESS ON THE ISLAND book two in THE CLOCKWORK PIRATE middle-grade steampunk series, published by MuseItUp Publishing.

Sale alert! For a short time, book one in the series, THE JOURNAL IN THE JUG, is included for free with purchase of book two.  

She’d love to have you visit her Amazon Author page

 Keep writing!





Breakthrough your Writer's Block with a Story Vision Board

Sometimes as writers we just have to give the written word a rest. Maybe inspiration just isn't there; you stare at a blank page and really don’t have anything to say.  If your writing muse is hiding from you, then it’s time to try a different creative process.

A story vision board is a great way to hone in on your plot or figure out what makes your character tick.  Grab a poster board, markers, scissors, glue and materials to decorate your board. Magazines, stickers, yarn and felt are all great materials to use for this project. Start by adding images, stickers, a few words and anything that relates to your story. Make sure to limit your words, this is a visual experience.  Don’t over think the process. I like to use the yarn to show connections. Just start cutting and pasting and see where it leads you.  It might be a general vision board about your story or you can end up with a board that is all about your characters. 

If you allow the process to be fun and release you from the angst of feeling stuck, you may discover that the words and ideas start flowing again.  This process is useful, even if you are not stuck. Post the vision board in your writing space.  A story vision board, kept in sight when you write, can help nudge your story forward and provide you with inspiration.

If this sounds a little too crafty for you, consider creating a virtual vision board. Check out, it’s like using a virtual cork board. 

If you are willing to create a story vision board, I’d love to hear about your experience.

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life strategist. She offers personal consultations and coaching programs.   For more information check out   or folllow her at:  

The Million Dollar Writing Question

Spurred on by the gratification of almost instant virtual
publishing, more and more people are queuing up to
achieve fame as authors or would-be authors. So
much so that many of these "writers" are not even
taking the time to pen a book for themselves but
instead outsource the writing to others.

While this is great for those of us who make our living
freelancing and are happy to ghostwrite, the
proliferation of competition makes it harder for real
writers who take pains to perfect their art to make a

A "writer" who can produce hundreds of books a year
through employing others will obviously seem more
successful in the charts through sheer numbers.

So how do real authors compete?

The answer should be by writing a good book.

What makes a good book?

And that for me is the million dollar question that
stumps so many of us.

Authors  strive day after day to master their craft and
many produce well-written non-fiction books, chock
full of interesting and helpful information. Many more
produce works of fiction in every known genre and
sub-genre. They marshal troops of lifelike characters
with authentic dialogue and face them with plots that
keep their readers turning the pages.

We all know in our hearts what makes a good book,
don't we? And that's what makes the best seller charts
so bewildering. How often have we bought a best
seller and been bitterly disappointed?

How often have we found authors previously unknown
to us and thought they were terrific?  Why don't they
achieve a consistent place in the bestseller charts?

What makes a good book?

Perhaps it is easier to define it by what it is not. For
me, it is not a matter of genre, nor writing style. Not
3D characters nor plot though these are important.

It involves instead a strength of theme and answers
questions I never realized I wanted to ask.

Maybe not all human life is there, but the characters
are an intriguing mix of good and bad, the questions
posed are, like poetry, relevant to all who read it.

What for you makes a good book?

 Anne Duguid is a senior content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and   her New Year's Resolution is to pass on helpful writing,editing and publishing tips at Slow and Steady Writers far more regularly than she managed in 2012.

Book Clubs for Writers and Other Readers

Two members from my local writers group and I are forming a book club. We decided to get together to read books on the craft of writing because we all own books on writing that we haven’t gotten around to reading yet. (I mentioned something about that last month.J) We also have lists of books we would like to buy or borrow. In addition, the book club will offer more opportunities for socializing and improve leadership and organizational skills.

We are all involved in the process of writing for children, but books about other kinds of writing may also be read and discussed.  Mixing it up will make the meetings more interesting.

Book clubs cover many kinds of genres, such as history, romance, science fiction, etc. Some book clubs meet face-to-face, others are online. Some clubs are more intellectual, some are more social.

If you are thinking of starting a book club, the following should be considered.

  • Why start or join a book club? Perhaps a bunch of friends or a church group wishes to start a club.
  • What kind of book club do you want? What is the purpose of the club? Book clubs are great for getting to know people better, to spend more time with like-minded people, to learn about new authors and ideas, etc.
  • What is the name of the club? For example, you might want to choose a name that’s related to the locale where you live or is related to the genre that you will be reading.
  • How often will the club meet and when? Book clubs usually meet monthly, but some don’t get together over the summer. For longer books, club members may gather every 6 weeks.  Meetings can be held during the week or on weekends, in the morning, for lunch or dinner, or early evening.  
  • How long will the meetings be? A set amount of time should be allotted for socializing, business matters and book discussion.
  • Where will the club meet? Restaurants, book stores, libraries, and members’ homes are popular locations.
  • How many members will the club have? Each member could ask other people to join. Prospective members can be interviewed.  A small group, from 8 to 16 members, should be sufficient.
  • What books will members read? Each member can bring a list of book suggestions or reviews of books to get ideas. It’s ok to choose two or three books at a time to read in the upcoming months.  Some clubs read more than one genre.  Some clubs have a price limit or a limit on the number of pages. If books are to be borrowed, talk to a local library to see if enough copies can be obtained.
  • Who chooses what books to read? Each member takes a different month, and then suggests three titles. Members vote on which book to read. Or members take turns choosing a book for everyone to read each month.
  • Are guides available for the book the club is reading? Some websites, such as, have reading guides. Or write your own guide.  Also check publisher’s websites for reading guides.
  • Who will lead the meeting? Will it be the person who suggested the book or someone else? Perhaps each member would like to have the opportunity to take charge of a meeting and lead the discussion.
  • How many questions should the group ask? Each member should write two or three questions or list two or three book passages for discussion.
  • Who will keep a record of books that the club has read? Summaries, discussion highlights, and opinions are important and they will help new members see what the club has done previously.
  • Will members eat special dishes or use props that pertain to the book that is being read? Foods and decor may add to the enjoyment and understanding of the story.
  • How should the discussion go? Make sure everyone gets to contribute to the discussion during the meeting. Give each member their time to speak.  Everyone should feel welcome to share their opinions.
  • If some members don’t read the book or don’t finish it, will they be invited to attend the meeting? They may have something to contribute, so this is something that should be discussed.
  • How will you get new members? How will you advertise the club? You may need to expand your club or replace members who leave. Not everyone will be able to attend every meeting, but you want a large enough group for a healthy and lively discussion.
  • How do members keep in touch? Email, a website, and social media are ways to communicate.  All members should have a club list with contact information.

For our book club, it’s just the three of us for now. We may ask others to join later.  There are at least four writer’s groups in town, so it’s possible we will be able to expand our membership. 

Some helpful websites to get you started on forming a book club:

Book Glutten is a new kind of virtual book club. It uses Facebook.

This is an excellent website on how to start a book club.

This is a book club in a box.  One could do something similar with other books.

If your club wants to read books on the craft of writing, here is a list of suggestions.

If you have an E-reader, you may find this article helpful.

Reading Group Guides, an online community for reading groups.

Lit Lovers – free classes, recipes and more.

Book Group Registry - free to join, book club/group tips, etc.

Are you a member of a book club?  Feel free to post your opinions here.

Debbie A. Byrne has a B.S. in Mass Communication with a minor in History. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is working on her first children’s book.

Guest Blogging - Advantages for the Guest Blogger

I have recently become aware of the advantages, for both parties, of guest blogging. This month we'll take a look at the advantages for the guest, and next month (same date, same place) we'll look at the advantages for the host.

Advantages for the guest blogger:

Here are some of the advantages you may gain if you are a guest on someone else's blog:

• Build Backlinks: Guest blogging is regarded by many as one of the easiest and most effective way to build backlinks to your site. Guests to your host's blog will follow your links. An increase in backlinks will increase your ranking on Google, and if they like your site, they may start to visit it regularly.

• Build Your Platform: We hear about this need all the time. Editors often look to see what your platform is like before considering your contract. If they find you as a guest on other blogs as well as your own, this can only help your platform.

• Build Your Brand: By guest posting on your host's site, readers will associate you with that site's niche, and start to search for you when they want to know more on the topic.

• Build your site traffic: Guest blogging is one of the best ways to draw readers to your own site. Chances are your host will advertise your post on Twitter, Facebook,etc, which will also get your name "out there". If readers enjoy your guest post, they may start to follow you on other social media sites as well.

• Build Your Subscribers: As other guests to your host's blog follow your links back to your website or blog, they may well want to sign up to receive your newsletters or follow your RSS feed, so that they do not miss further posts by you.

• Build Your Credibility: As other bloggers read your excellent guest posts, they in turn will want to know more about you, and may also invite you to post on their blogs.
• Build Exposure: This stands to reason, the more blogs where you post original material, the more people will read your work, and the better known your name will become.
• Build Promotion: of book launches, or other products you wish to promote. A condition of your guest blogging should be that you get a bio with clickable links.
• Build Your Social Base: Writing is a lonely occupation, but if you want to be read, you need to make friends in the cyber world. By posting as a guest on other blogs, you start to mix, not only with the hosts of the sites, but also with their readers.  

So what are you waiting for? Take a look at the other sites that cover interests similar to you, and see if you can write an article for them - or even share one you have already written on your own blog (provided you don't want them to pay you!)

Before you guest blog:

• Research the blog. Know its goals. Figure out what sort of posts the host wants. Read the last dozen or so blog posts. Get the feel of the site.
• Post original material. By all means quote from some material on your own blog (and don't forget to link back) but your host doesn't want a clone. For Google ranking, the material you post must be original.
• Write your very best. Where obviously your own blog deserves good writing, and everything you post should be well proofed before going public, it is even more important when you're posting on someone else's blog. Send in poorly written material and chances are it won't be posted at all. You certainly won't be invited back. And it won't achieve any of the advantages listed above.
• Send a sample. Rather than querying whether you can do a guest blog for a site, send along a possible post and say, "After researching your blog, I thought you might like to use this on your site?" Or "Would you like me to adapt this for your blog?" That makes it easier for the host to accept it--or reject it if it isn't suitable.
• Comment on possible blogs first. It is a good idea to frequent the blog for a few weeks, and comment on other posts. This way the host already knows your name, and may in fact follow your link back to your website or blog. He or she may then invite you to do a post.
• Promote your blog post.
○ Tweet your post on Twitter - more than once. Remember, the world is ruled by time-zones. A good time for Americans to read your tweet is a bad time for Australians. I promote all my blog posts eight times in all: three times, eight hours apart, the first day; then once a day for five days, each at a different time.
○ Share your post on Facebook, LinkedIn, ShoutOut, and any other social media you are involved in.

OVER TO YOU: What sort of posts could you write or share with other readers of this site? What would prevent you from doing so? Let's talk! Hit comment and leave your thoughts.

SHIRLEY CORDER lives a short walk from the seaside in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with her husband Rob. She is author of Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer. Shirley is also contributing author to ten other books and has published hundreds of devotions and articles internationally. 

Visit Shirley on her website to inspire and encourage writers, or on Rise and Soar, her website for encouraging those on the cancer journey. Follow her on Twitter or "like" her Author's page on Facebook. 

Matching Actions with Goals

We are well into the second month of 2013 and it is time to get very serious as well as professional about writing goals and the actions that make them happen before too much time elapses in 2013.

We all know that it is most productive to shave down our writing goals to the top three, maybe four for the first half of the year. We understand that too many goals will lead to frustration because it will interfere with our productivity and set us up for failure.

 We are all professionals and we also know that it takes action to make our goals come true but often our actions may not line up with our goals. How this happens is simple, life gets in the way.

So my advice to you and mainly to myself is to re-evaluate goals vs. action steps. When we do this we can change our productivity and ultimately the results of all our writing efforts.

This is what to look for when analyzing goals and actions. Ask yourself :
  • Are your writing goals specific, measurable, and attainable?
  • Do your action steps move you towards your goal?
  • What actions can you delegate or even delete?
  • How much of what you do is busy work that may actually be disguised as procrastination? ( Bingo.... A light bulb just went on in my office space)
If you can answer these questions with honesty and make the necessary changes to your writing habits you may well be on the way to publishing another great work.

Honestly we only have so many hours in any given day. Being flexible enough to allow life to happen but controlling how we spend much of our time will make our actions align with our goals in a more productive way.

Blogging for instance may not be the best use of time if you have nothing ready for submission. Revising the first paragraphs of a beginning story trying for perfection when you don't have a well rounded character, a conflict important to the reader, or any idea where the story might fit in the market place may make having the perfect beginning paragraph worthless to your goal.

My goal is to be a published children's writer. But I also want to publish magazine articles. My third goal is to make money with my writing. Blogging for pay is an action step that lines up with goal number three. Researching and writing on my children's book is an action step for goal number one. Researching for articles in the quilting arena fits my second goal.  Creating new blogs that don't directly relate to the three goals would be non-productive at this stage and clearly for me allows me to procrastinate so I am deleting those for the time being.

This is how I see myself in the middle of month two of 2013. I need to realign my actions with my goals. How are you feeling about your actions and your goals? Whether you are an expert author or just beginning your writing career,  it is never a waste of time to re-evaluate where you are going and how you are going to get there. And whatever you do, keep writing.

Terri Forehand writes stories for children, health related articles for a variety of blogs, and is the author of The Cancer Prayer Book and The ABC's of Cancer According to Lilly Isabella Lane. Living in Nashville Indiana with her husband she finds the beauty of nature there gives way to procrastination. Visit her blog at or her website at

Inspiring People

 I often look to find inspiration for my writing in the world around me. Many times, this inspiration is found in nature, but it is also found in coffee shops, malls and playgrounds, among other places. This is where I might find inspiration for a character or scene.

But sometimes the inspiration I'm seeking is for something different. For something that will keep me focused or on track. We are all surrounded by inspiring people. Those who have achieved success in the face of great odds. Those who have persevered. Their stories have the ability to keep me going even when the road is bumpy. These people are all around us if we only stop to listen. It is less often that I stop to consider myself inspiring.

On a drive through the Wyoming mountains one day, I informed my husband I was going to climb the Grand Teton, in Grand Teton National Park. My husband knew me well. "You can't do it. You're afraid of heights." Yet, I knew I wanted to climb that mountain. I overcame my fear of heights, spent two summers training and eventually made it to the top. The task was not easy. The trail was long and uphill. I became winded along the way and at times had to overcome my fear. I walked in the dark and stood on a windblown summit. 

We each have stories of when we worked through a difficult process to find completion. Times when the going was tough and even so, we pushed through. Others would find these slices of life inspiring. Others would think we have it all together and can do anything we put our minds to doing. 

Perhaps today is the day we should all focus on becoming more "self-inspiring." Instead of remembering all of our failures, which seems somedays quite easy, remind ourselves of the successes. Some of us have written a short story, others have had that short story read, praised and published. Others have completed a chapter or two, a novella or novel, or other work. Some have taken a goal of writing each day and achieved it. We are all so amazing in the things we've accomplished. Today, inspire yourself to greatness.

D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, Flight from the Water Planet, Book 1 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

Lazy Ways to Keep The Reader Hooked - The Dan Brown Secret

Guest post by John Yeoman

‘My life began when I murdered my grandfather and was arrested for improper behaviour with an ostrich.’

How can we fail to read on? When we write a story, it’s not difficult to hook the reader in the first line. Any intriguing puzzle, high moment of drama or magical touch of wordplay will get them started. The challenge is to keep the reader enthralled in our story beyond the first page.

Try this simple strategy to engage your reader from start to finish. It’s also a tested way to gain a cash prize in a top writing award.

Many a story starts with a thunderclap and ends with an earthquake but it has a long dry desert in the middle. Elizabethan dramatists didn’t bother too much about this. Ben Jonson once remarked that his audience would slip out for an ale after the first Act and only return in the last Act to enjoy the traditional bawdy jig. So there was no need to work hard on the middle, he said.

You can’t afford such complacency in a modern story. Readers will put your story down and never come back. They’ll not buy from you again.

1. Inject Uncertainty

Every episode of your story, and certainly every chapter, must end with a gentle scene hanger. It doesn’t have to be lurid. But it must tempt the reader to turn the page. It’s also a sure-fire way to impress the judges of a story writing contest.

The simplest scene hanger is to maintain a tone of uncertainty at all times. (The term ‘suspense’ literally means ‘to hang, suspended’.) Nothing is ever quite completed. At the end of every scene, the circumstances beg for explanation. The future seems always ominous or, at least, unpredictable.

If the main plot-line appears to be emphatically finished, the reader will simply put down the book.

2. Use Foreghostings

A simple way to achieve this tenor of uncertainty is to drop in ‘foreghostings.’ These are more subtle than ‘foreshadowings.’ They’re hints of future events that the astute reader will spot but the principal characters might not.

Dan Brown has mastered this trick of suspense. His success suggests that maintaining suspense is what readers principally demand of commercial fiction.  The Dan Brown secret is very simple: he incessantly shifts the scene to another scene just before the first scene reaches a climax. And in the prior scene he foreghosts each scene to come.

Scene, in this sense, means a single unit of action. To ‘change a scene’ usually means changing the characters and/or location. In Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, there are no fewer than 133 chapters. Each is a major scene. Within those scenes there are often several minor scenes, short episodes that switch back and forwards between characters or locations.

For example, the novel starts with Prof Langdon having been called to give an important lecture at the Smithsonian Institute. He’s racing to get there by 7pm when the lecture begins. The lift is slow. Will he make it?

The question acts as a foreghosting. We know that something odd is about to happen.

He gets to the door at 7pm exactly, straightens his tie breathlessly and walks in with a smile. And he stops. The scene closes with his thoughts: ‘Something is very, very wrong’.

What could be wrong? The reader has to wait for an answer.

The novel then cut to another scene, a teasingly long description of the Smithsonian’s architecture. Meanwhile, the reader is lusting to know: what was so wrong about the lecture room?

3. Cut A Scene Before the Climax

Just when the reader’s patience is at a breaking point, Dan Brown’s story cuts back to Prof Langdon. He’s still looking at the room. It’s empty. His invitation to the conference has been a hoax. But who is the hoaxer? And why has he done this?

Brown’s gambit is to cut a scene just before a moment of high tension, switch to a long episode of dry description or seemingly irrelevant dialogue to tease the reader, and then return to the moment of high drama. It’s like a tango: one step forward, three steps back.

The reader soon learns to expect this formula. Brown’s skill is in persuading the canny reader that, nonetheless, the revelation will be worth the wait. His revelations are usually unpredictable and even more interesting than the reader expected.

Of course, there are many ways to sustain suspense in a story but the Dan Brown tango is a proven formula. Apply it to a story that’s even better written than The Lost Symbol and you’ll have a winner.

What techniques do you use in your story to keep the tension high?

Dr John Yeoman, PhD Creative Writing, judges the Writers’ Village story competition and is a tutor in creative writing at a UK university. He has been a successful commercial author for 42 years. A wealth of further ideas for writing fiction that sells can be found in his free 14-part story course at:

Dr John Yeoman has 42 years experience as a commercial author, newspaper editor and one-time chairman of a major PR consultancy. He has published eight books of humour, some of them intended to be humorous.


Difference Between Style and Voice
10 Things Every Literary Hero Needs
Checklist for Self-Editing

Email List - 10 Giveaway Freebies to Get Readers to Opt-in

As an author and/or freelance writer, you probably already know that one of the most important tools you can have for selling your books or building your writing business is a list of the email addresses of current and prospective readers and clients. This is your mailing list.

Your mailing list gives you a way to keep in regular contact with your readers and clients to let them know of your latest books, products, or services. The emails and regular newsletters you send to those on your mailing list will help these people get to know, like, and trust you a little more, and when they do that they will be more likely to buy from you on a regular basis. Everyone receives so much email these days, though, that many people are hesitant to join one more mailing list. That means you need to offer them a nice incentive just for joining (called "opting in" to) your list.

Here are some suggested give-away freebies that can help you grow your list and, in turn, sell more books or build your freelance writing business:

A Free Report or Guide
Put together a short report or guide to something that appeals to your target market, and then turn this report into a PDF file people can easily and quickly download.

A Coupon or Discount Code
People will love this if they intend to purchase from you, and it will actually give them an extra incentive for doing so right away.

A Checklist
People love checklists and it should be fairly easy to create a quick checklist that your readers will value.

 A Free Course
If you write mysteries, for example, offer your readers a free course teaching how to write a mystery. Deliver the course via a series of emails delivered once a week for several weeks. Not only will a free course help build your mailing list, it will also help build your credibility as an expert in your field or genre.

A Recorded Interview
Interview someone in your industry and record it (get their permission, of course). If you choose someone who is widely known, this freebie should get you many, many opt-ins.

A Free Consultation
This is perfect if you also coach or teach. It will give people a taste of what it's like to work with or learn from you.

A Free Video
If you're an author, you might create a video showing where and how you work, with tips for other writers.

A Free Audio
A short (15 minutes or less) audio that offers tips or advice on a topic that appeals to your target market can be a great incentive for them to opt-in to your list.

A Tips Sheet
People love tips sheets as much as they do checklists. "Ten Tips for Reading to Your Child" would make the perfect tips sheet to
offer your readers if you write children's books.

A Free E-Book
You don't have to write the e-book either. Simply find one that is in the public domain. Just make sure it is on a topic or genre that will appeal to your target market.

There are dozens of other types of freebies you can offer people in return for joining your list. Just remember, though, that once you get people toopt-in, you need to continue sending them something – a newsletter or short email of some sort – on a regular basis.

Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter. She is a former classroom teacher and was an instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature for over 8 years.

Lieurance has written over two dozen published books and her articles and stories have appeared in various magazines, newsletters, and newspapers, such as Family Fun, Instructor, New Moon for Girls, KC Weddings, The Journal of Reading, and Children's Writer to name a few. She offers a variety of coaching programs via private phone calls, teleclasses, listserv, and private email for writers who want to turn their love of writing (for children and/or adults) into a part-time or full-time career.

To learn more about Lieurance, visit her website at ( or The Working Writer’s Club (

Sublime Planet - A Review

Title: Sublime Planet
Authors: Carolyn Howard-Johnson and Magdalena Ball
Photos: Ann Howley 
ISBN: 978-1482054705
Reviewed by Karen Cioffi

Gearing up for Earth Day, Carolyn Howard-Johnson and Magdalena Ball are releasing a brand new collection of poems titled Sublime Planet. The collection features relevant poems by Carolyn and Magdalena that demonstrate the interconnections of the world around us, including life, family, and love, along with the growing concern for the earth’s preservation.

This is a beautifully written collection that allows the reader to pause and take note of the world around her.

One of my favorite poems in the collection is “The Giraffe:”

A tongue generous
as my head he reaches
for me, barriers no match
for his long neck, sniffs
my hair, kisses my face.
He unaware
he is endangered.
I unaware he might
be dangerous.

This poem is a powerful, yet simple tribute to a majestic creature that is now an endangered species. Can you imagine a planet without the giraffe?

Another poem in the collection that struck me is “Tipping Point” by Magdalena Ball: “[. . .] you eat and eat through four billion years of evolution now held loosely by one thread. [. . .] The future waits impatiently your decision.”

Again, powerful, and revealing.

Sublime Planet offers moving insight into the world around us and into a world that is in need of attention, and it certainly honors Earth Day. I highly recommend it.

For those who aren’t aware of what Earth Day is, Senator Gaylord Nelson created this special day in the spring of 1970. The purpose behind it was to make everyone aware of all the toxins being spewed into the air and dumped in nearby streams or other waterways by manufacturing companies.

At that time, there were no regulatory or legal safety nets to protect our planet, our environment. Senator Nelson took a stand and his cause quickly caught on.
The earth is our planet, our home, our responsibility, and we’re not doing such a good job protecting it.

Sublime Planet will be released before Earth Day (April 22nd). Keep a look out for it and get a copy as soon as it’s available.

The poems "Giraffe" and “Tipping Point” are from Sublime Planet, a book of poetry in the Celebration Series coauthored by Carolyn Howard-Johnson and Magdalena Ball. It will be released before Earth Day.  In the meantime learn more about Carolyn's poetry books (including that Celebration Series!) at And, learn more about Magdalena’s poetry and fiction at


ACX - Audiobook Creation Exchange

As a member of Sisters in Crime and havig a fairly close local chapter, we have guest speakers each month, alternating mystery authors and "professionals".  This month our guest speaker was Nina Bruhns, Sr. Editor of the Entangled Suspense line.  Entangled Publishing (previously Dead Sexy) offers a variety of ways to get books with a romantic element in them, ranging from 20 to 80% romance to suspense/mystery/thriller/whatever line you choose, published digitally (they aren't doing print books because they believe that the print books and brick and mortar stores are going by the wayside).  Nina really only looks at suspense or thrillers but there are editors for each of their lines and publicists that go along with that.  While Nina was talking about publishing through entangled, she also mentioned audio books.  She said she listens to audio books all the time when she is traveling.  Of course Amazon is the forerunner in this area as they have bought out which is the leader in selling audiobooks.  I know several places audiobooks are used- the state libraries use them for the blind patrons but they are still using bulky cassette machines with the books being on tape. will now sell audiobooks on and as well as on their main site 

I wasn't really thinking of doing audiobooks at this moment but I need some sales and I figure - adding audiobooks can't hurt.  So I went to the website and decided to see if it was a simple process, like the KDP is, or how much time it would take to get an audiobook produced.

So far, the process isn't that difficult but there are a few things you must do before actually set up  your profile and start putting your book out there for auditions and a finished product.

When you sign onto the website, the first thing you will see is a big search box kind of in the middle of the purple colored box.  You need to search for your book by title and if there is more than one book with your title, find your book.  Claim your book as your book (I own this book or This is my book - something to that affect).  Once you have claimed your book, you will be asked to sign in to your amazon account, which most of us alreadyh have established as we have posted books on the KDP program or we have made purchases on  After you sign in, you will be asked to set up the book's profile and to upload your sample for auditions.  I would recommend loading the first chapter, or if it is fairly short,  the first two chapters.  I uploaded the second chapter of Finally Home and the auditions I've asked for and gotten back I realized that my chapter 2 wasn't the exact chapter from the book (apparently I had used Chapter 2 for a workshop or reading of some sort prior to really completing the book).  It's okay  that this isn't the completed chapter as you are just giving them a sample to read from to see how they handle the content of your book.

Once you have  completed the profile and uploaded your sample for auditions, then the fun begins.  This can be a very time consuming part of  the production of the audiobook process unless you narrow your search down.  When you get to the "auditions page", you are informed that there are something like 10,930 narrator files to search from.  There are options to narrow the field down.  So for my book, I opted to narrow down to genre, gender and payment type - genre - teens - this is my target audience; gender - female (since my characters are basically female and are teenaged girls); and payment type - royalty split.  The payment type should be indicated when you set up your book's profile and you have 2 options - you can pay the narrator a straight fee (this is based on hours to produce the book and can range from $50 per produced hour on up the gamut to over $1000 per produced hour.  The second option is a 50-50 split royalty on every book sold through, itunes. com and - Audible will set the retail price (there is a formula based on number of hours the book takes to produce to get the price).  Since I don't personally have over several hundred dollars to pay someone to narrate the book, I opted for the royalty split option.  To me this works out best.  Anyway, after narrowing down what or who I would like to narrate the book, I dropped from 10,930 to 79 options. The next thing to do is listen to the  sample narrations that are available.  I found four or five within the first 3 pages of samples (there are usually 12 per page and I only 7 pages to go through), and basically within the first couple of pages that I was impressed with. 

After listening to the sample narrations, then I started checking the profiles of the ones I liked and sent them each a message indicatig that I was looking for a narrator for my book, Finally Home, and if they would be interested in auditioning for me.  At the time of this writing, I had requested auditions from four ladies and had received two back.  The first one I received, she wasn't too bad but she read the main text very quickly - I almost felt like she was on a speeding bullet.  She did get Emma Louise's personality in her reading rather well, so that was a good thing.  The second one I received, I really liked how she got the gist of Kelly's character but she seemed a bit too southern (yes, I know Emma Louise is southern and all but she's not quite that southern).  Basically  I have two good readings of my sample text but neither are quite right.

After I get the other two back, I'll either search for more readings, maybe narrow it down to only females and payment type as opposed to genre and see what I come up with.  It may actually take the longest to find the right narrartor for the book than anything else.  I'll probably update the status on my blog as I get closer to getting an audiobook produced of Finally Home

That's my experience so far with ACX and creating an audiobook to sell and hopefully start seeing some profits on my book sales. 

Since it is almost Valentine's day and this is the last of the "giving holiday season", how about give your loved ones a good book to read or listen to.  Pick an ebook or audiobook or even a signed copy of one of the authors from this group and show them you love them.  I have one Melonberry bookworm left and can't find that yarn at any of our local Walmarts, so in honor of Valentine's day, I will do a drawing from the comments on this posting for that particular bookworm.  All you have to do  is comment and leave your email address in the coment (in the format of email addy (at) whatever (dot) com if you don't want to be spammed) and I'll do a random drawing on Friday, the 15th for the bookworm.  Don't worry if  you  live outside the United States as you a re eligible also since the cost of sending overseas isn't really that high.  Good luck to all and see you in the postings - E :) 

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of Finally Home, a middle grade/YA mystery

Ms. Eldering is the award-winning author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad (JGDS), 50-state, mystery, trivia series.  Her stories "Train of Clues" (available in print and as an ebook on kindle), "The Proposal" (available as an ebook), "Tulip Kiss" (available as an ebook), and "Butterfly Halves", all placed first, second, or runner up in various contests to include two for Armchair Interviews and two for Echelon Press (Fast and ... themed type contests).  Her story "Bride-and-Seek" (available as an ebook) was selected for the South Carolina Writers' Workshop (SCWW) anthology, the Petigru Review.  She also has written several other short stories for contests including the second place winning story, "Zombies Amuck", and "La Cave".  Ms. Eldering makes her home in upper state South Carolina and loves to travel, read, cross stitch and crochet.  When she's not busy with grown children still at home, working her full-time job as a medical transcriptionist or participating in virtual classroom visits, she can be found at various homeschool or book events and festivals promoting her writing.

You can find more information about the JGDS series on the JGDS website or follow the JGDS blog.

You can find out more about Elysabeth and her other writings on her website or follow her blog.

Active vs. Passive Writing: Energize Your Prose!

 by Suzanne Lieurance Ever feel like your stories and articles are a bit slow-paced and wordy?   If so, that’s probably because you’re using...