A Setting to Remember

I love an unforgettable setting. Whether I'm experiencing it, writing it or even reading about one, a good setting can create an unforgettable image that will stay with me long after. The challenge is how to write a great setting? First of all, like all great writing, it's a must to remember to use your five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, and probably most important for setting, smell.

Setting is everything that places your reader: you need to let your reader know when the action is occurring - time of day, time of year, and era. That's not all, your reader also needs to know where in the world, or out of this world, your scene is taking place? Finally, also consider the weather as part of your setting.

Just like everything in your writing, your setting must serve a purpose. The setting either needs to work with your plot, work to create your character, or both.

"One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it," Chekhov famously said. In my novel, Rocky's Mountains, the characters are camping in the forest. When a tornado rips through the valley, they are left trapped. 

"We crawled along the edge of the rock face with branches and limbs whipping above us. Frequently Rocky would stop and I could tell he was searching for a way up and out of our tree-tunnel. The world clawed at our clothes and everything smelled of Christmas and death—pine trees and mold. Some of the needles stabbed at me, poked into my skin and were left to hang there—no time to pull them out. We struggled through mud and water. . ." Later they see trees scattered like "toothpicks" and taste blood from their injuries.

Setting can also be used to create a character. Alma's restaurant in Rocky's Mountains is a small Wyoming diner, named after the owner's greatest love - his horse. 

"A cowbell clanged as I opened the door of Alma’s cafĂ© and the intoxicating aroma of old-fashioned grilled hamburgers, homemade French fries and coffee surrounded me. According to the engraved sign over the door, the dive served food and spirits. From the stuffed two headed calf sitting high on a shelf, to the brands burned into the wood plank tables, the diner practically exuded the essence of the old west." 

After your first introduction you learn of the smell of the green stuff that comes in on the boots of the ranchers and it reminds you who frequents the place. You hear the gruffness of the owner's voice as he asks for your order. You see him spit tobacco. You know the characters belong.  

When creating a setting, work to define the space and place in such a way that your reader knows why it's mentioned.

Exercise: write about a room, restaurant, outdoor area or other place you know well. Now rewrite the setting creating an atmosphere of romance or mystery. Finally, take two completely different characters and put each of them in the space. How does each of these changes affect your setting? Give your reader not just a great story, but also a place to remember.

D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction. She 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 the author of Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception, her latest book dealing with the subject of death and the afterlife. 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 www.djeanquarles.com

Her novels are available in electronic format here, or print format here
You can also follower her at www.djeanquarles.blogspot.com or on Facebook
Or you can just contact her at d.jeanquarles@yahoo.com

Interactive eBooks: The Next Generation of Children’s Books?

During the past few months, I have been forsaking many of my writing related activities to explore the possible future of children’s books.  My publisher had asked me if I would like to create interactive eBooks for Apple’s iPad.  I had no idea what went into creating an interactive eBook.  But the idea intrigued me, so I said yes.

Lest you think that this may be some normal, run of the mill request that a publisher might make of an author (cause it isn’t), allow me to give you some background.

I have several children’s books published with Guardian Angel Publishing.  I also have a background in IT.  Unfortunately, being an author still requires that I maintain a day job, but little did I know how my two careers would mesh.

My picture book, The Sister Exchange, was built on an iPad using an app builder called Demibooks.  You don’t need to be a programmer to build a book with this app, but you do need to have a good understanding of graphic layering and how different commands will affect an object.  There was still a pretty big learning curve for me.  I went through about twelve different drafts of this book before I could consider it complete enough to hand over to my publisher.  But I absolutely love the results.

There are plenty of features to this book including, movable graphics, sound effects, music, animations, and author readings by yours truly.  There are also bonus features such as a jigsaw puzzle and hidden autograph page with a personalized message.  I even got my daughter involved; she provides the sounds effects for the characters on the illustration pages. 

So if you have an iPad and you would like to see the possible future of children’s eBooks, boy do I have the book for you!  The link to the iTunes store is below.

Kevin McNamee is a writer and poet.  His other books include: If I Could Be Anything, My Brother the Frog, Lightning Strikes, The Soggy Town of Hilltop and What Is That Thing?    

To find out more about Kevin, please visit his website at http://www.kevinmcnamee.com/ or his blog at http://www.kevinmcnameechildrensauthor.blogspot.com/. 

"The Difference between Style and Voice," by Mayra Calvani

What is the difference between style and voice?

Style is the particular manner of writing individual to an author, the unique way an author puts his words together.

Different authors have different writing styles and sometimes their styles are directly related to the type of book they write. For example, historical writers may write in an old-fashioned, archaic style; romance writers may write in a rich, florid style; an experimental writer, on the other hand, may write in a clipped or minimalist style. Each style has its own flavor and none is better than the other, though some styles may become more popular or ‘accepted’ than others depending on the times. For example, until Hemingway arrived to the scene, the accepted style was more embellished and convoluted, with an overuse of description and adjectives and adverbs. But Hemingway made his simple, straight-forward, plain style so popular, a lot of writers started to imitate him and began to shun the earlier, more elaborate Victorian approach.

Sometimes an author’s style depends on his main character. For instance, if a protagonist is a crazy person and the novel is written in first person POV, then the narrative and style would have to reflect the deranged thoughts and speech patterns of that character.

Though the terms ‘author’s style’ and ‘author’s voice’ are sometimes used interchangeably, the truth is they are two separate concepts. The term ‘voice’ is evasive, even more evasive that ‘style,’ especially for beginners.

While an author’s style relates to words and the way he puts them together, an author’s voice is the way the author looks at the world, a unique sensibility that pertains to that particular author. An author’s voice comes deep within the soul and heart of that author.

Besides an author’s style and voice, there’s also the voice of your main character. You must have heard it from agents and editors: “We want a strong character voice.”

While style applies to the whole book and the way it is written, a character’s voice is the way the author narrates the story through the eyes of that character, or the way the character’s behavior, thoughts, mannerisms and dialogue are expressed in the story. You can have different voices for your hero and heroine. Through their particular voices, their personalities come alive. You can have different voices in different books depending on your characters. Many times, though not always, the character’s voice matches the author’s voice.

An author can have different character voices in different books, yet his writing style may be the same. Take Hemingway, for example. His writing style was always the same—minimalist, straight forward, unadorned—but each of his characters had different voices in his different books.

Let’s take another example: Anne Rice. Her style is rich and embellished. She's said herself that she'll use as many adjectives as she has to in order get her point across. She loves going to excess. However, the voice of her characters is different in each of her books. In Interview with the Vampire, her main character Louis is gloomy and depressing. His voice permeates the manuscript throughout, affecting the tone of the story. In The Vampire Lestat, however, Lestat’s voice is defiant and willful, and the tone of the book is affected accordingly. Lestat’s voice infuses the text with his own particular energy. In both books, the voice is strong, but in a different way because both characters have different ways of looking at themselves and at the world around them.

But what about her author’s voice?

Rice has an author’s voice that is independent of her writing style and of her characters’ voices. She has a unique way of looking at the world. She is an utter romantic, and by this I don’t mean romantic in the sense of a ‘love story’ or sentimentalism but romantic in the way Beethoven was a romantic, by believing and expressing deep emotion. She goes deep where the pain is, where the pleasure is. She has an immense regard for art, history, music, philosophy and theology. She has an almost obsessive love of beauty and learning, an almost morbid obsession with death, and all of this comes across in her books in one way or the other.

“Style can be the downfall of many otherwise talented writers,” states Noah Lukeman, author of The First Five Pages, but he goes on to say that “When handled well, style can add a new dimension to the text that nothing else can, give it an unnamable charm; when handled expertly, it can go so far as to advance the overall message of the text.”

The truth is, most beginning writers feel intimidated with style and voice. They don’t trust their own vision and in trying to develop a strong style and voice, they try to force it to make their manuscripts appear more original. This almost always doesn’t work and the result is that the writing comes out unnatural and exaggerated.

Whether you style is embellished or minimalist, a strong, compelling style is usually about contrast—the combination of long sentences with medium-length sentences with short, clipped sentences.

We all have our own styles and we all have our voices because we’re all different people with different backgrounds and experiences. But what happens is, we often lack the confidence necessary to trust and follow our own vision. If you still feel frustrated because you don’t think you have a distinct, definite style or voice yet, experiment with different ones and see what happens. But do your best to have trust in your self and talent and avoid imitating other writers, though this is also fine when you’re starting. Sometimes the learning process starts by imitating until you find your own unique way.

“To set your voice free,” advises Donald Mass, author of Writing the Breakout Novel, “set your words free. Set your characters free. Most important, set your heart free. It is from the unknowable shadows of your subconscious that your stories will find their drive and from which they will draw their meaning. No one can loan you that or teach you that. Your voice is your self in the story.”

About the author:

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. She’s co-author of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, a ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award Winner and a 2011 Global eBooks Award Winner. She’s had over 300 stories, articles, interviews and reviews published both online and in print, in publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Acentos Review, Bloomsbury Review, Mosaic, and Multicultural Review, among many others. A reviewer for more than a decade, she now offers numerous book reviewing workshops online. She also offers workshops on the art of picture book writing. She’s represented by Mansion Street Literary and Savvy Literary. For her children’s books, visit www.MayrasSecretBookcase.com.

The Golden Pathway Celebrates Black History Month

Spark interest in your young muses about the Underground Railroad and discover the Educator’s Guide and Lapbook project in direct relation to Donna McDine’s award-winning book, The Golden Pathway. Both FREE with purchase of The Golden Pathway.

Book reviews of The Golden Pathway and other Underground Railroad children’s books, and Underground Railroad museum information will be shared throughout February.

Visit throughout the month of February and enter at a chance to win a $25 Starbucks gift card http://thegoldenpathway.blogspot.com/2012/01/golden-pathway-celebrates-black-history_30.html.

Looking forward to your visit!

Bio: Donna McDine is an award-winning children's author, Honorable Mention in the 77th and two Honorable Mentions in the 78th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competitions,  Preditors & Editors Readers Poll 2010 Top Ten Children’s Books, Global eBook Awards Finalist Children’s Picture Book Fiction, and Literary Classics Silver Award & Seal of Approval Recipient Picture Book Early Reader ~ The Golden PathwayHer stories, articles, and book reviews have been published in over 100 print and online publications. Her interest in American History resulted in writing and publishing The Golden Pathway. Donna has three more books under contract with Guardian Angel Publishing, Hockey Agony, Powder Monkey, and A Sandy Grave. She writes, moms and is the Editor-in-Chief for Guardian Angel Kids, Publicist for the Working Writer’s Club, and owner of Author PR Services from her home in the historical hamlet Tappan, NY. McDine is a member of the SCBWI. Visit www.donnamcdine.com.

Best regards,
Donna McDine

My Three Favorite Editing Tips

My Three Favorite Editing Tips

I find it hard not to edit while I write. But we all know we're not supposed to do that. The best writers will tell you to write, let it sit for a day or so and then edit. But what's the best way to edit? Well, everyone has their preferences. I have three techniques I like to use. They aren't the only ones, just my favorites. Maybe you'll want to try them too.
  1. First I print the pages I plan to edit, making sure the pages numbers are included. Next I jumble the pages up. Because I wrote the words, I know how they should flow. That makes it easy to miss things like awkward phrasing. By reading the pages out of order, it really allows me to concentrate on just what is on that page. I'm not so much worried about how it fits with the other pages at this point. I'm concentrating more on finding repetitive words or phrases and awkward and run-on sentences.
  2. Read your writing out loud. Sometimes what sounds good in your head, doesn't sound so great when it's actually spoken. You'll be surprised what you can find and tighten up after reading your page aloud. 
  3. For each printed page, look for overused words. I have a pack of highlighters just for this. I'm the queen of the word "that". To make sure I'm not using it too frequently, or at all, I go through the page and highlight each instance. Then I decide if each will be cut, replaced or left as is. I write devotions so I use "God" frequently. I highlight that word in a different color. That shows me where I need to replace it with another name like "Lord" or "Heavenly Father". It's helpful that I have compiled a list of words I tend to abuse. But I'm also on the lookout for new offenders.
These three tips have made editing a more thorough process. What editing techniques do you use? Which are your favorites? 

Marietta Taylor is an author and speaker. She is the author of Surviving Unemployment:Devotions to Go. Marietta is a monthly blogger at the Go ask Mom Blog at www.wral.com. Her tagline is Mom of Teens. She was also a contributing author to Penned From The Heart Vol XV. Marietta has a bachelor's degree in Biology from the University of Illinois-Chicago. Visit Marietta at www.mariettataylor.net or www.marismorningroom.blogspot.com or email her at maritaylor@mariettataylor.net.

Square credit card reader

Do you do a lot of in-person events? If you do any events where you sell your own books (not like a book signing where you sell on consignment or the bookstore actually does the selling of the books) and you aren't taking credit cards at said events, why not?

Did you know you could get a free device that reads credit cards and is connected to your checking account? It's called Square. You can sign up for a free account and receive a free card reader here. What does it cost to use? Just 2.75% of the charge when you swipe a card, which basically comes out to 3 cents on the dollar being taken out before you receive your money. You can also manually key in a credit card number but the percentage is higher - 3.75% plus 25 cents for each transaction. The pay out is the next day. The other device you will need to use the card reader is an iphone, ipod touch, ipad, smartphone or any android based type device that the Square app can be downloaded to and need to be in an wifi area.

This was a big issue for me when I was at the Savannah Children's Book Festival in November; a lot of people asked if I took credit cards or stated they didn't have any cash on them. I've had my Square since last summer but haven't had a device to use the card reader on until last month. My daughter got a new Pantech Crossover phone through AT&T and it has an Android 2.3 OS and she was able to load the Square app and we tested my Square out and I now have the capability of taking credit cards at my events. So now, until I can afford a device of my own, when I have an event, I will have to borrow her phone for the purpose of taking credit cards (not into using her phone for phone purposes). Each Square is programmed to your account only. Do I feel safe using it? Yes. Am I worried someone might keep swiping cards and trying to take my money? Not really. I get notices when the card reader has been used and if there is a dispute on a charge from a customer and I can refund the charges, I don't feel fraud or identity theft is a problem. I can't wait to put my sign up for display at my first event of 2012, Geofest, February 18.

For more information, check out the Square here. May you have lots of sales at your in-person events. - See you all in the postings - E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of Finally Home, a YA paranormal mystery
"The Proposal" (an April Fools Day story), a humorous romance ebook
"The Tulip Kiss", a paranormal romance ebook
"Bride-and-Seek", a paranormal romance ebook
"Butterfly Halves", a YA fantasy ebook

Ma America, The Travelin' Maven
Author of the JGDS, 50-state, mystery, trivia series and "Train of Clues" (a mystery destination story and predecessor to the JGDS series)
Where will the adventure take you next?



Writing for publication takes practice. Lots of practice. You don’t study for six weeks and then play first violin with a symphony orchestra, become a brain surgeon, or compete in the Olympics. Too many wannabe writers jot down some ideas from the top of their heads and then call me asking how to find a publisher. What they’ve written might be good. If they have some innate talent, it may be very good for a beginner. But it will get better with refinement. To submit a first draft manuscript is about as rational as entering a newborn baby in a marathon.

Writing for publication takes both short and long-range goals that are specific and measurable. To complete a short story in thirty days is a short-range goal. To find a publisher for the story by the end of the year is a long-range one. Interim goals will include refining your story and studying market guides to find a half dozen or so potential publishers.

Writing for publication happens sooner when writers narrow the focus of their works according to what they want to accomplish through each piece. They do this by asking themselves three questions:
A. Why am I writing this piece? To share a family story I want passed down? To paint the world in which I grew up? To entertain my readers with a funny incident I’ve experienced? To give my readers a story to help them escape their daily grind? Whatever the purpose, the story must excite the writer so it can be written with passion.
B. For whom am I writing this piece? The next generation? My family? Any contemporary reader? A reader who wants a laugh? It helps to have a specific reader in mind, such as my best friend, or someone who opposes abortion. It’s your decision.
C. What do I want to say? That I had fun growing up with eight siblings? That we live in a unique era with many blessings? That some days we need to learn to laugh at ourselves? That we can visit other worlds, real or imaginary, by reading a good book? Again, it’s your call.

Writing for publication goes faster and avoids dead ends once the writer summarizes the piece in one sentence of twenty-five words or less. Fewer words are better. If you can’t do that, chances are you don’t have a clear idea of what you are writing or why. Neglect this step and you are setting yourself up for a roadblock in the future. You can find examples of these summary sentences by looking at the cataloging in the books you are reading, or in the summary sentences in book reviews.

Writing for publication works best when you brainstorm everything you know about the story before you attempt to write the first paragraph. You can do this by making a list, or by free writing a paragraph about the things you want to include. When you can’t think of any more, read what you have written and organize it into an outline. Study the outline to see if it’s inclusive or if it has things you don’t want to include. Make necessary changes. Now you are ready to begin writing. It’s acceptable to make changes as you go along. You have to know where you are going if you expect to arrive at your destination. An outline helps you figure that out.

No matter what genre you want to learn to write, I recommend three things to help you on your way. Be as regular with practicing them as you are in taking your daily vitamins.
A. Read! Read! Read! It’s important to read all kinds of books, but concentrate on the kind you aspire to create.
B. Read How-to-books in the genre you want to write. Find them in the library, in the bookstore, on line at sites like Barnes and Noble or Amazon Books. Or Google the topic you are looking for, such as plotting, characterization, or viewpoint.
C. Write! Write! Commit to writing every day, 24/7. It doesn’t have to be the next chapter of your manuscript, but it should be something that you have to think about.

About the Author: Hope Irvin Marston is a member of the New York State Retired Teachers, the Greater Thousand Islands Literacy Council, the Jeff-Lewis Librarians Association, and the Adirondack Center for Writing, the St. Lawrence County Arts Council, the North Country Arts Council and SCBWI. She organized the Black River Valley Writers Club and served as its leader for several years.
In addition to writing thirty-two children’s books and several adult titles, Hope has been on staff for Christian Writers Conferences at Hephzibah Heights (MA), Montrose Bible Conference (PA) and at St. Davids Christian Writers Conference at Beaver Falls, PA. She has taught creative writing workshops at Jefferson Community College, the Jefferson-Lewis Teacher Center and the North Country Arts Council.
Her picture book series, MY LITTLE BOOK COLLECTION (Windward), has grown to eight titles thus far and has 125,000 books in print.

Hope does school visits from kindergarten through post-graduate college and presents writing workshops for kids and adults. When she is not researching, reading or writing, you may find her cooking or baking in the kitchen, or out walking Heidi.

The World of Ink Network will be touring three of award-winning author Hope Irvin Marston books. Her most recent release Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest (ISBN: 978-0-89317-071-4) is a biography, but was written as an autobiography. Windward Publishing (An imprint of Finney Company) released the book December 1, 2011. The other two books on tour are My Little Book of Bald Eagles also from Windward Publishing (An imprint of Finney Company) and Against the Tide: The Valor of Margaret Wilson from P & R Publishing. 

You can find out more about Hope Irvin Marston’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/HopeIrvinMarston.aspx. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Marston and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions. For each comment, you will be entered into the big Giveaway at the end of the tour.

In addition, come listen the February 6, 2012 to Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork. The hosts VS Grenier and Irene Roth will be chatted with Hope Irvin Marston about her books, writing, the publishing industry and experiences. The show aired live February 6, 2012 at 2pm EST.

What Is More Valuable Than Fame

By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin) Many writers believe writing a book will make them famous. They believe getting their book into the market wi...