Monday, February 8, 2016

How Much Fact to Put Into Fiction by Roseanne Dowell

I know well-meaning friends often say - “You ought to write this down, it would make a great story.”   Well, actually, no it wouldn’t. I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying “fact is stranger than fiction” - well it is. If you’re writing nonfiction, fine go ahead and use the story about Uncle Joe getting stuck on the roof.  It was a comical incident and will make a great creative nonfiction story. However, for fiction the idea won’t make for a great story without some changes.   For the most part, it’ll come off as false. Readers just won’t believe it. Why?  Think about it.  Other than Science Fiction - which still has to be written as believable- when you read a story or novel, one of your first thoughts is –  can this  happen. It might be farfetched but it can happen.  Besides you, the author will be telling the story.  And we want to show our stories. 

Here’s our incident. Uncle Joe got stuck on the roof while hanging Christmas lights.   He put a ladder on the peak of the garage and when he went to get off the other peak he reached his foot out, the ladder slipped away.  He moved toward it and inched his way off the roof, reached his foot out and tried to snag the ladder. Again it slipped away. One more time and it slipped out of reach. By this time he was hanging by his elbows. . No one was in the house. It was cold and the roof was covered with snow. He looked around to see if a neighbor might have come out. Nothing – his arms were getting tired and he didn’t know what to do.  The only thing left was to jump.  He knew if he landed on his feet, they’d slip out from under him and he’d slide off the roof like a bullet.  He took a deep breath and let go. Thankfully he landed and didn’t slide.

If I were writing it for creative nonfiction, I’d embellish it, make it humorous. 

But, how do we create a story from this idea?  It almost sounds like an incident from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Grisham’s Skipping Christmas? How did they do it?  Some people need to plot out the idea on paper, which is fine. I wish I could do that.  But, I’m one of those writers that just start writing.  Oh I’ll jot down some ideas and know where I want to go, but in the beginning I usually have no idea how to get there.  I know the beginning and the end. What happens in the middle is as much a surprise for me as it is for the reader. And that works for me.  Whatever works for you is fine.

Okay, we have the idea.   A man is stuck on a roof.  He doesn’t have to be putting up Christmas lights. He could be up there for a variety of reasons.  Maybe they had a leak and it was raining cats and dogs.

One of the first things, even for me, is to create the plot.  I start, of course, with my characters name, age and appearance. Okay let’s call our guy, Charlie. He’s middle-aged, slightly balding, but tall and muscular. Next I ask why Charlie was on the roof.

Once I have my characters, I develop my idea.  First question:  What genre’ am I writing?  This is where we start asking the questions, what happened, how did it happen, etc.  If I’m writing mystery I have to decide is it a murder mystery?  Who gets killed, where and why?

Hmm - maybe someone moved the ladder. And maybe Charlie makes it down but he knows someone is trying to kill him.

 If Charlie is the intended victim we’ll need a potential killer.  

Once we know the where and why, we need to know if the murder is going to happen in the book, or behind the scenes.  In other words has the murder been committed when we come on the scene or are we going to show our readers the murder.   In this case it’s an attempted murder because Charlie isn’t dead.

Then we need to know how our main character is going to solve the crime.  We need some clues, usually not ones the reader will pick up on right away, but clues that at the end of the story they’ll hit their foreheads and say “Oh I should have known.”

Do you see how we took a real life incident and changed it into something totally different? Sure we could have written humor like National Lampoon, but why stop there.  Explore different avenues. You could take the same incident and change it into a romance or fantasy. Maybe even Science Fiction.  I don’t write that either so I’m not going try to explain that. But who knows maybe while Charlie is repairing the roof, men from mars kidnap him.   Let your imagination run wild. 

Blurb and Excerpt for Entangled Minds
Visions of someone’s life disturb Rebecca Brennan’s dreams. The dreams become dangerous and she’s determined to find who shares her mind. Her search leads her to a
small town and puts her life in danger too.

The next morning Rebecca, once again, sat in Bernard Clark’s office. Something about the heavy-set, middle-aged man with salt and pepper hair and scruffy beard reminded her of her grandfather. As usual, he listened to her story with a serious expression.
Was this really helping? How many hours had she spent sitting across from the mammoth mahogany desk, staring at the book-lined shelves behind him? And so far, she didn’t know anything more than before. Once more, that’s it. If nothing changed today, she’d quit coming. Maybe he was a quack, like her brother said. Rebecca took a breath and relaxed in the comfortable atmosphere, inhaled the smell of new leather that clung to the chair, and leaned back. Okay, maybe she did have a deep extra sensory perception connection with someone like Bernard said. The question was with whom. 
“I think you need to find this person,” Dr. Clark suggested. “It’s possible the physic mind is reaching out to you for help.”
"How?" That’s why she was here. If he didn’t help her figure it out, that was it. No more visits. Besides, it cost money, and who could afford it? If Allison hadn’t agreed to pay half, well that was another story. Dr. Bernard’s voice brought her back.
“Start with the dreams,” he suggested. “Tell me about them again.”
“I see scenes with emergency vehicles. Last night someone got shot," she told him for what seemed like the hundredth time. "I wonder if he has something to do with law enforcement or other emergency operations. I'd recognize the town if I ever saw it in person. It’s so vivid in my mind."
"Would you consider hypnotism?" Bernard fingered his beard. Intense blue eyes stared into hers. "Maybe your sub conscious mind will reveal the place, or person, or something to help you find it."
Leary about being hypnotized, but desperate to find who shared her mind, Rebecca agreed.
Under her hypnotic trance, she revealed the name of a shoe factory. A place called Booth’s Boots, and she repeated the name, Morris, over and over.

"It’s not much to go on," Rebecca told Allison later,” but it’s more than I knew before. Maybe Morris is my mind connection."
Encouraged by the information, she spent the better part of the day doing research. Using the Internet, Rebecca keyed in Booth’s Boots. Instantly, several websites popped up.
“Okay, let’s check out”
A website, showing various types of boots from hunting to work boots, popped up.
“This is great. Let’s see what this says.” She clicked on News and Events. “No help there. Okay, let’s try Outlet Stores.” She almost jumped out of her chair. “There it is!” A factory, located in Morrisville, Ohio.
“Morrisville, could that explain the name Morris?” A prickly sensation went up her spine. She was getting close; she could feel it.
“Okay, let’s try this.” Rebecca didn’t care she was talking to herself. Besides, it wasn’t the first time. Keying Morrisville into the search engine, she held her breath, more determined than ever to find the town. If it took all day, then so be it.  A site popped up with several suggestions. “Okay, let’s see what this one is about.” homepage popped up, and further down the page, it showed–Pictures taken around Morrisville.
She held her breath and clicked on one. The first picture that came up was a log cabin. No help there. “Okay, how about this one? The Square. ” It looked familiar. Shivers ran up her spine. “Okay, how about Hotel Darby. Yes! I’ve seen this place.” One more. She drew in her breath and clicked on Victorian.
“Oh my God, that’s it! That’s the house.” She almost jumped out of her seat. The Queen Anne house in her dreams showed on the screen big as life.  Where is this place?  Clicking back to the homepage, she found it on the map. “Not far from Wattsburg; only a three hour drive from here. I have to go there.”
"Allie." Rebecca phoned her friend. "I found it, I searched the net, and I found it. Even pictures of the town. I recognized all the buildings right down to the house."
"Calm down…"
"I have to go there. It’s only a three hour drive." Not waiting for Allison’s response, Rebecca continued. "I have to find out who I’m connected with."
"What are you going to do?" Allison asked. “Walk into the little town and say hey, someone here is connected to my mind."
Rebecca laughed at her friend’s wit. “I have a plan. First I’ll go to the newspaper office and check for stories about someone being shot on Friday. Then I’ll try to find out where he is. I’m sure he’s alive.” Her intuition told her danger still lingered, but she couldn’t explain that to her friend.
"Maybe it’s a she," Allison said. "What makes you say he?"
"I don’t know." Rebecca paced the living room. "It’s just a feeling I have. It doesn’t matter; whoever it is, I have to go." Okay, it was a crazy scheme, but feelings like this couldn’t be ignored. “There’s no turning back now, Al, I have to find him.”
“Would you like me to go with you?”
 "I have to do this myself.”
“I don’t like this, Beck. You shouldn’t be doing this alone. What if it’s dangerous? I mean you see cop cars and stuff. What if he’s a criminal?”
Rebecca shivered. God, what if he was a criminal? No, something told her that wasn’t the case. Call it a gut feeling or intuition, whatever it was, Rebecca would bet her life he wasn’t a criminal.
“I’m sorry, Al. Thanks for the offer, but no. I have to do this on my own. I’ll be fine. Really.”

Monday, February 1, 2016

Grandma's Chicken Soup by Roseanne Dowell

Chicken Soup topped our family’s menu every Sunday in the cold Ohio winters during the fifties. Soup making began in the late fall. Grandpa, Mom, and my uncle purchased several crates of live chickens from the Farmers Market.   Our families met at Uncle Martin’s where he and Grandpa hauled in the stained, battered, old tree stump they used for this occasion.  After making sure it sat level on the basement floor, they brought in the crates of chickens, which were clucking as if they knew their fate.
My cousins, brothers, sisters, and I sat on the steps and watched with anticipation as Grandpa placed a chicken on the chopping block. With one thump of the ax, he chopped off its head. The chicken dropped to the floor and raced around the basement without its head, still clucking. We now knew the saying running around like a chicken without its head came from.
Of course we thought it was hilarious. We’d laugh and take bets on how soon the chicken would plop over.  One or two passes around the furnace and they toppled. My uncle followed them, picked them up, and placed them on a pile.
While the chickens were beheaded, Aunt Ruth lit the old stove in the corner and set two huge pots of water to boil. Grandma and Mom set up two long tables in the middle of the basement and covered them with newspaper. After Mom and my aunt dipped the chickens in the boiling water for a few minutes, they set them on the table and Grandma showed us kids how to pull the feathers.
The stiff wet feathers were not what I expected. Far from the image of soft and fluffy, they felt sticky and prickly and clung to our hands. The gamy odor of wet feathers prickled my nose. Wet feathers do not have a pleasant smell. We shook them off our hands, usually aiming at one of our siblings or cousins when the adults looked away.
After we finished pulling the feathers, Mom, Aunt Ruth, and Grandma slit them open and pulled out their innards. Never one to mind gory stuff, I wished I could do that part instead of the feathers. I watched in fascination as they often removed eggs covered with a thin-skinned membrane. Mom showed us the eggs and explained how they didn’t take on a hard shell until they matured. They gently placed the larger eggs in a bowl for later use in baking.  The smaller eggs were discarded.
Next came the gizzard, it was removed, cut open, and cleaned out.  They set the liver aside for later use, as grandma, my mom, and aunt used it in their cracker stuffing*.  The heart was set aside with the gizzard to be packaged with the neck. Later they’d be boiled, then discarded, and the broth saved for the stuffing.
Once the insides were thoroughly cleaned, Mom, Aunt Ruth, and Grandma took the chickens to the stove. Holding them close to the flame, they singed off the remaining nubs of feathers.  The stench of scorched feathers filled the air, and we kids ran upstairs to get away from the nasty smell.
They washed and packaged the chickens for the freezer, all but one that is. That one they used the next day for a big pot of homemade chicken soup.
Mom always stuffed the chicken with delicious cracker stuffing*, secured the openings with poultry nails and string, and into a large pot of  water it went with carrots, celery, and onions. The delicious aroma of chicken soup soon filled the house. 
When the chicken was tender, Mom removed it from the soup, placed it in an open roasting pan, and browned it in the oven.
The rich soup served with thin noodles, often homemade, warmed our bellies and the kitchen on cold Sunday afternoons. Mom usually made rice or potatoes, gravy, a vegetable and, of course, the stuffing to eat after the soup.
This was our traditional Sunday dinner every week in the winter.  Mom never varied from it nor did Grandma and Aunt Ruth. I still make it, but not always on Sunday, and certainly not from live chickens.
Every time I make the soup it takes me back. Back to younger carefree days - days when nothing much mattered, helping our parents was top priority, and everything we did seemed like fun.

Grandma’s Chicken Soup
1 4 to 5 # chicken
8 – 10 carrots chopped or left whole 
8 stalks celery – chopped or whole use some of the leafy ones from inside the bunch.
     2 – 3 large whole onions-again chopped or left whole
     Bunch of fresh parley

Clean the chicken in cold water and pat dry. After you stuff the chicken (recipe below) put it in a 12 quart soup pot. Add water to within about 4/5” from top of pot. Bring to boil. Skim with small strainer. Add carrots, onions, celery, and parsley. These can be added whole (which is what I do, since some of my children didn’t like onions,carrots, or celery)or chopped. Cover and simmer until chicken is tender. (It will take several hours for a stewing chicken, less for a roasting or frying chicken.) Remove chicken to roaster and brown in 350 degree oven until golden.  Serve soup with noodles
When the chicken is browned, remove the stuffing from the cavities and slice. Carve chicken and serve with noodles, rice, or potatoes and vegetables.  

Grandma’s Cracker Stuffing

1½ packages saltine crackers
1 T. black pepper                
1/3 bunch of chopped fresh parsley or 2 T. parsley
Liver from the chicken, slivered (optional)
½ stick butter melted             
1 egg     
Broth from boiling gizzard, heart, and neck or chicken broth)                           

Clean insides of chicken and pat dry. Place the neck, gizzard and heart in a saucepan with enough water to cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for approximately 20 minutes. This can be done the day before. Cool.  
Crush crackers very fine in large bowl. Add pepper and parsley to crackers. Chop liver into sliver sized pieces and add to crackers.  Melt butter and add to crackers, mixing well - making sure to coat crackers with butter. 
Add 1 egg and mix well. 
Add the broth to the mixture a little at a time, mixing well between. Mixture should be stuck together and pasty, not loose. More on the dry side.
 Stuff chicken cavity and neck cavity with mixture. Using poultry nails and string, weave the nails through the skin to close cavities and tie with string to secure, just as you would for a stuffed turkey. 

***Note: your can make the chicken without making the soup and make the soup from the leftover bones like you would for turkey soup.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Avoiding Adverbs by Roseanne Dowell

Writing without adverbs? Then how can we describe people, tone of voice? Some writers think adverbs are the only way to add description to a story.
Wrong – the use and over use of adverbs distracts from your story.  It puts YOU, the AUTHOR into the story.  And we never (one of the few nevers in writing) want the author in the story.
There are better ways to add description.  Let’s take this sentence for example:  Roy walked leisurely down the street.  – Okay. You, the author, just TOLD us how Roy walked – you interfered with the story.   How much better if you would have showed us how Roy walked.
Example: Roy strolled down the street. (Notice how just changing the verb and taking out the adverb shows us how Roy walked.
Roy is not in a hurry - strolled implies leisurely without the author saying so, but it’s still telling. So, let’s take it one step farther. The author can show more.
Roy breathed in the spring air. What a great time of year with the trees budding and the smell of fresh cut grass. Just looking at the sky put him in a good mood.
Now the author hasn’t even told us that Roy strolled. We know Roy’s not in a hurry because he notices everything around him.  People in a hurry don’t take the time to notice the buds on the trees. They wouldn’t stop to look at the sky.  The author has shown us something about Roy besides the fact that he’s not in a hurry.  He loves spring, and he loves nature. Other people wouldn't necessarily notice the buds on the trees, even when they’re not in a hurry. They react in different ways to show us they aren't in a hurry. Maybe they'd lollygag along watching the traffic or kids playing. That shows us something different about them.  People see different things and so should our characters.
Adverbs can never replace strong verbs. As in the above example, strolled is a much stronger verb then walked in showing us how someone went on his way, but showing him works so much better.
Adverbs combined with strong verbs – John ran quickly – are repetitive. We already know John ran, that tells us he’s moving fast, why repeat it?  The adverb has the same meaning as the verb.  By adding the adverb, we weaken the verb and the sentence, and it shows us nothing. 
Avoid the use of adverbs whenever possible.  When you feel tempted to add an adverb, stop and think about what you want the reader to know. Is there another way to say it?  Usually there is. 
Adverbs to describe how someone speaks are also interfering.
Example: “Stop, just stop,” John shouted angrily.
Well, I don’t know about you, but if someone is shouting that usually means he’s angry.
 Why not show us the anger? “Stop! Just stop.” John slammed the cupboard door.
Now that shows us he is angry much better than the adverb angrily? And, we didn’t have to use the tag line he shouted. We can say, he shouted and slammed the cupboard door, but does that reinforce the anger? Not really. The action works better alone.
Now don’t get me wrong – there are places to use adverbs, but the key is to use them sparingly.  Readers want detail, they want to see and hear the story. They don’t want someone to tell them what happened. They want to feel the anger, sadness, happiness, laughter, and tears.  Readers want to feel our character's emotion.  Characters who display emotion are strong characters. And readers remember them. They become real, believable. And if we have believable characters, readers will remember us.
So next time you write, she hurried quickly down the street, STOP!! Reread what you just wrote.  Do you really want to repeat that he was in a hurry?  Hurried already implies he was going quickly.
And next time you write – “I can’t do this anymore,” John said sadly.  Rethink it – is there a better way to show John sad?  “I can’t do this anymore.” John wiped the tears from his eyes. Notice I didn’t say John said as he wiped the tears. You can also eliminate the he said/she said tags and insert action tags that shows us more of what’s happening. By saying John said sadly, we know John is sad – but we don’t know he’s crying. 

We add so much more to the story by eliminating needless adverbs.  We all enjoy reading strong stories, why not write them

Monday, January 18, 2016

Welcome Suzanne de Montigny

1: Thank you so much for being here, Suzanne de Montigny.

You’re most welcome. I’m honoured.

First up is the obligatory question. When did you first begin writing?

About nine years ago. Well, that’s not actually true. I loved writing as a kid and wrote my first novella in grade 6. But then life got in the way, and I forgot about writing until I was 47.

2: Seems to happen to all of us. So, tell us, what inspired you to write?

My dear old dad died of a very dreadful type of cancer, the kind you get from breathing in asbestos. It was a slow, horrible death, and when I came through the other end, I had this tremendous need to write. I remember at his funeral saying, “I feel like writing a book,” over and over again. I like to think he put the idea in my head from the other side.

3: I’m so sorry about your dad, but I believe he did put the idea in your head. Tell us, what do you like the most and least about writing?

I love pushing words around on the page. I hate marketing. It steals time away from my writing and my family.

4: I seem to get similar answers from all authors, me included.  What do you for fun and relaxation when not writing?
Glad you asked. You see, I have this child that lives within that doesn’t want to stop playing. I learned to snowboard at 47 and am crazy about the sport. I also play fiddle.

5: Fascinating! Playing the fiddle I might be able to learn, but I’m afraid I’m beyond snowboarding.  Which authors do you like to read?

I just finished reading the Harry Potter series, so JK Rowling is definitely on my favourite list. Then there’s Stuart R. West. If you haven’t read any of his stuff, you simply must. He’s hilarious! I mean ROFL hilarious. His latest novel, Bad Day in Banana Hammock had me bursting out into giggles so loud my family asked me to keep quiet. Apart from him, I like Kurt Vonnegut too as well as James Thurber and Lucy Maude Montgomery.

6: I’m afraid I’ve not read any of those authors.  I’ll have to put them on my list. Tell us the one thing you’d most like people to know about you?

I have dreadful vision and have had several surgeries to my eyes. That’s why I donate half of my proceeds from my Shadow of the Unicorn series to the Third World Eye Care Society, a group of eye specialists who travel to third world countries delivering thousands of pairs of used eyeglasses and performing surgery for free. It was thought, a few years back, that I was developing macular degeneration. But because I live in Canada, I had such excellent care that today I can see fairly well. So why not return the favour, right? Pay it forward. Actually, when I do author visits, I collect used eyeglasses from the kids.

7: That’s fantastic. I’m glad your vision is better and what a worthy cause. Tell us about your current novel, where I can find it and your website/blog.

Books We Love has just relaunched Shadow of the Unicorn: The Legacy which became a bestseller on the first day! Book 2, The Deception will be released on Feb. 14th. And I’m presently negotiating my novel, A Town Bewitched.

Here are the blurbs:

Shadow of the Unicorn: The Legacy:

Azaria, a unicorn colt, is intrigued when the young, clairvoyant dinosaur, Darius, foresees a terrifying change to their world. When a giant fireball smashes into the
earth, the unicorns struggle to survive the hurricanes and starvation that follow. But nothing compares to the danger when the creatures-that-walk-on-two-legs settle in the valley, and their leader discovers the healing power in the unicorns’ horns. Greedy and ruthless, Ishmael will stop at nothing in his pursuit of wealth – even the complete extinction of the herd. Azaria must find a way to outsmart Ishmael before it’s too late.

Shadow of the Unicorn: The Deception:

Sixty years after the unicorns’ narrow escape from extinction, Azaria's Legacy has gone wrong. The new generation barely exists, hidden in the depths of the forest. Their cruel and ruthless leader, Icarus, threatens them daily with Jaresh, an invisible being capable of taking away their powers. Angry, the young colt Ulysees and his friend Téo rebel, following an old, abandoned trail where they’re discovered by humans. Now the entire herd must flee. But Ulysees learns there’s a far greater danger than humans when he meets a giant creature who warns him of impending doom…

8: Great! Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

Write what impassions you and be a perfectionist.

9: Great advice. Do you base your characters on real-life people?

Oftentimes, but not necessarily. Many of my characters have a bit of this person, a bit of that person, etc. And of course, a lot of me.

10: Seems to be the consensus with most authors. Where do you get your ideas and what inspired you to write this book?

My ideas are always swimming around in my head. This series was based on the novella I wrote back in grade 6. I actually intended it as an exercise when I began writing. I didn’t expect it to go anywhere at all.

11: We never know when an idea will turn into something more. I love when that happens.  What are you currently working on?

Why, book 3, of course. Shadow of the Unicorn: The Revenge. Here’s the blurb.

Born deep in the forest, far from the others, Damien is kept a dark secret by his parents until his father, Samuel, decides the colt must join the herd to be initiated. But the unicorns are horrified by Damien’s birth defect. They see him as a freak despite his astonishing abilities. Then when Samuel is pushed to his death by a rival, Damien’s talents turn deadly. Can anyone stop him before he destroys their world?

12. I should have known. LOL Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?
Sure. Here are my links:

And if you’re interested in downloading an ebook copy of The Legacy, voila! It’ll keep your tween, boy or girl, reading for hours

Monday, January 11, 2016

I Live in a Make Believe World

I live in a make believe world. Okay, not literally, but vicariously through my characters.  I decide where they live, name their towns, and sometimes I let them live in a real city/town.  I prefer small towns, maybe because I’ve always wanted to live in one. I especially like towns with Victorian houses and apparently so do my characters, because I use them a lot.  I often say I must have lived during the Victorian area, probably as a mean old nanny. I’m sure I wasn’t the lady of the house, and by house I mean mansion. Queen Anne homes are my favorite. I love the round turrets, all the gingerbread, and wrap around porches. It was always my dream to buy one and restore it. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be and I’m past the point of wanting one now.
Back to my make believe world. I say I decide where they live, but that's not entirely true. Mostly my characters make that decision.
I’d also like to say I choose my characters, but truthfully, they choose me.  Sometimes I even get to name them, but if they don’t like the name, well believe me; they misbehave until I change it. And, yes, that’s happened several times. Just because I like a name doesn’t mean they do. The last time it happened it wasn’t even a main character. She was only in the story for a short time, but boy was she stubborn. She refused to talk to me and anything I wrote was garbage, better known as dreck in the writing world.
As some of you know, I write many different of genres, from Women’s Fiction to Romance to Mystery and even Paranormal. Most of my books are a combination of romance and another genre. As a reader, I’ve always favored mystery and romance, so it only made sense to combine them.  Mine are classified as cozy mysteries. I also love ghost stories – not evil mean ghosts though. One such story is Shadows in the Attic and another Time to Love Again. 
In Shadows, two ghosts are discovered – yep you guessed it – in an attic. During a renovation, Anna Hughes and her boyfriend uncover a hidden room complete with furniture. Two shadows hover over a trunk, beckoning to Anna.  Of course she's the only one who can see the ghosts.  At least she is until her sexy contractor arrives on the scene.

Fifty-eight year old, Rose Asbury is a recluse in Time to Love Again, not that she care. She just wants to be left alone. Enter the man next door who insists on speaking to her causing feelings she doesn’t want.  Then her sister’s ghost shows up and well….you’ll have to read it to see what happens.

. I’ve always been fascinated by ESP, hence my story Entangled Minds –
Rebecca Brennan experiences strange, realistic visions and dreams and she’s determined to find who shares her mind. Her search leads – where else – to a small town filled with Victorian homes filled with interesting people and puts her life in danger.

My character’s range from their mid twenties to middle age and even into their seventies. Yes, seniors need love, too. Geriatric Rebels is a favorite. A humorous story about seventy year old Elsa Logan and seventy-two year old Mike Powell. Their middle of the night escapades  soon turns into a loving relationship and the discovery of deception and fraud.
 It’s fun working with different characters, and I especially like when they add a bit of humor. I really form an attachment to them. Once a character chooses me, I make a character worksheet to discover everything about them, not just what they look like.
I love creating my characters, discovering their careers, anything from housewife, authors, teachers, floral designers and interior designers. Sometimes their careers play a part in the story, sometimes not. The character in my work in progress (WIP in the writer’s world) is from a previous story, Aunt Beatrice Lulu. It’s the third book in the Family Affair Series titled It Is What It Is.
Aunt Beatrice Lulu first appeared in All in the Family but not as the main character. Callie Johnson returns to her hometown to take over the police chief’s job. Aunt Beatrice Lulu decides to play matchmaker. What ensues is a string of unsuitable suitors.

Of course that didn’t sit well with her and she insisted on her own story – All’s Well That Ends Well – Known for being a busy body, Beatrice Lulu Eberhardt lives up to her name and then some. Too many things happening for Beatrice Lulu to ignore and she’s bound and determined to figure things out on her own, usually dragging her sister along for the ride. This time, she might have bitten off more than she can chew.
So there you have a bit of my make believe worlds. You can find all of my books at Amazon.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Learning to Lie by Roseanne Dowell

From my blog a while back, we know  ideas are all around us - From our workplace to our neighbors. From getting stuck in traffic to grocery shopping and thumbing through magazines to reading the classified, so let’s put it all together.
 You overhear a conversation in a restaurant. The woman is crying. You can’t hear the whole conversation. But, your writer mind begins
to ask questions - Is she breaking up
with her date? Is he breaking up with her?
Or maybe those are happy tears?  It’s not necessary to know the truth. Your writer’s mind starts working and you imagine what you want. You begin to formulate a story about it.  You begin to build a character in your mind. You can see her clearly. Can even hear his/her voice.
You don’t even need to describe the characters in your story as the same description of the people you see. In fact, if it’s someone you know, its better not to.  We don’t want to write about our cranky aunt and have her recognize herself through description.  Change her into the complete opposite of what she looks like. Age her, make her younger, but what ever you do don’t use her description. You should create your own characters. Certainly, I use people I know.  In fact, I have a list of friends and relatives with character traits - make a list of your own.  I add special character traits, like my husband and son have a habit of touching everything on the table and moving it from place to place while you’re having a conversation. (Truthfully, it drives me up a wall and I often grab their hands to stop them – they don’t even realize they're doing it)  But that’s a trait to add, it makes your characters believable. We all have habits. Some people twirl their hair, some chew on nails. Write them down; use them in your stories.
So, back to our original character, maybe this lady has jet black hair.  Your character may have gray hair or blonde. Short, long, straight, curly it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you create her. Maybe she’s young, old, middle-aged. Again, it doesn’t matter. What matters is to visualize your character in your mind. And make notes!!!  As I said previously I use index cards.  I list the name of my character, age, color of their hair, height, character traits, who in their family they look like (especially if it’s important).
List everything you can to know your character better, even if you aren’t going to use it in the story.  The more you know about your characters the better and more believable they will be. Nothing is worse than reading about a blonde who suddenly has dark hair half way through the story.   And be careful with names too.  I wrote a story using the character’s name, Daniel Stephens.  Half way through I changed it to Stephen Daniels.  Fortunately, I always ask people to read my stories before I submit them and someone caught it.   I also use character work sheets; they include everything from my character’s descriptions to their favorite foods and colors. A lot of the information I never use, but it helps me know my character better. By time I’m done, I feel like she/he’s my best friend (or enemy).
And, of course, the senses, not just what we see, but what we taste, smell, touch, and hear.  These senses help your story come alive.  Take notes on them too. Become observant.  Touch that wood, feel the smooth finish, or the rough texture of a statue.  Listen to the sounds around you. Not the everyday sounds of traffic, although those are important too and sometimes we become so used to them that we don’t notice them.  But out of the ordinary sounds.  Listen to the birds early in the morning or the children playing in a park.
 These sounds and senses help make your story come alive. Use them.
All of these things combined contribute to good story ideas.  Sometimes we come up with an idea from something we touch or smell.  Something soft and smooth or maybe a bakery provokes a memory from the past. Use it.
Maybe it’s a restaurant,  a deli, or even a car dealership.  Take notes on all the places you visit.  Settings are often as important as our characters. Write down these settings, keep a notebook.  If a particular restaurant strikes your fancy, take notes. Who knows you may use it someday.  I wrote a scene in a restaurant we visited on vacation.  It was a quaint little place and I really liked
it, so I jotted down some notes and it didn’t take long for me to use it.  I visited another restaurant with friends and loved the place. It was a typical tearoom type restaurant, definitely for women.  It was also an antique store and quilt shop.  I just used it in a novel.   Even hospitals or doctor’s office, you never know when you’ll have call to use such a setting. Beauty shops and health spas, too.  Take notes every place you visit.
Which brings me to the last point, find a writing buddy!  Someone you can exchange stories with or someone whose judgment you know and trust. Someone you can brainstorm with and toss ideas around. Sometimes we get stuck and just
need to discuss the story. They may give us ideas but just talking about it with someone, sometimes gives you the idea on your own.
I strongly suggest finding someone who writes.  Only a writer can understand your frustration of a blocked mind or enjoy the feeling of an acceptance. And only another writer is honest enough to tell you what's wrong and right with your story. Often times, family and friends are afraid to criticize your work, afraid they’ll hurt your feelings. You want someone honest enough to tell you the strong points in the story as well as the weak points. Trust me, sometimes these critiques  hurt, after all you worked for hours to put these words to paper and you love this story, it’s a part of you.
 I often ask three people to read my stories.  If two of the three comment on the same thing, I know it needs to be changed. If only one comments on it and the others think its fine, then I leave it.  But the end decision is mine to make.  It is my story, after all.
But you want it to be the best you can do.  So DO keep an open mind. If you ask for someone’s opinion, respect it.  You don’t have to take all of their advice.  I once had an editor tell me to cut a whole scene. A scene I felt was critical to the story.  I had several writer friends read the story. After they were done, I asked if they thought I should cut the scene. They all said no, it was too important to the story.  Alas, I didn’t get the story published at that time, but it remained intact, and I’ve submitted it elsewhere and it was accepted.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Holidays are Over

Christmas and New Year are now part of the past. It's time to take down the decorations. I used to leave them up until after January 6th - the feast of the Epiphany. (also my son's birthday) - but I started taking them down soon after New Years several years ago.
I always hate taking them down. To me everything looks

stark and cold. Gone the bright colored lights that lends a warm glow to the room and the greenery along with the candles and other decorations.
I know everything looks clean - at least that's what I've heard. But to me it just looks bare. Maybe it's because I love the Christmas season so much. You'd think since I put the tree up in November before Thanksgiving I'd be tired of them, but I'm not.
The thought of dragging all those boxes down doesn't appeal to me either, not to mention packing them up, trying to remember what goes in which box,  and then dragging them all back upstairs doesn't set well with me.
I asked my daughter and son in law to help bring the boxes down, although that's probably the easiest part. Taking them back upstairs, well everyone knows it's harder going up the steps than down. But we'll manage.
I should probably get rid of some of my stuff because we're probably going to have to move next year. Not looking forward to that either. Talk about packing things up.
Nothing about moving appeals to me. Well, that's not entirely true. The place we're planning on moving to - if everything goes right - has central air and I do miss that, but that's the only benefit to moving.
We'll be going to a condo where someone will live above us and next to us. Right now we live in a single home with 10 acres. Not that we use all 10, but our yard is large enough and fun for entertaining in the summer. We've enjoyed many cookouts, birthday parties, clambakes, and even a pig roast with family and friends. 
I'll also miss the deer and other wildlife. 
I will say, I won't miss the snow on the long driveway that we're blessed to have my nephew plow. Last year was so cold and snowy, that our driveway was sheer ice for many days. Another benefit to the condo is we'll have a garage. No more cleaning off the car, which was delegated to me since my husband suffers from emphysema and the cold plays hell on his breathing, as does the summer humidity - hence the blessing of central air.
Not that I mind cleaning off the car, I really don't - well I didn't except in the brutal cold we had last winter. I also have the privilege of shoveling around our car after my nephew plows. I certainly won't miss that. Although now I think about it, it was probably good for me to get a bit of exercise. I guess I'll have to get that by walking my dogs, which will be much easier at the new place. The deer have made a mess of the yards here when it rains. There's so many hoof prints, it's dangerous to walk anywhere. I always fear I'll fall or sprain my ankle. So far I haven't but I tread lightly. Not the kind of walk I like to take. Not that I walk briskly, mind you, I'm pretty much beyond that at my age, but I like to move a little quicker than a snail's pace and I'm sure my dogs would appreciate it also. Right now I have them on a long leash so they can at least run ahead. But I like to walk with them beside me like they're supposed to.
At any rate, what will be will be and I hope we don't have to move too soon. I'm not crazy about moving in the winter. I'm sure my kids would rather not move us then either. I am hoping to at least get movers for the big things - I'm sure my kids will appreciate that. The small stuff (boxes and smaller tables/furniture) can be moved in their pickup trucks and we won't have to rent a truck. At least that's my plan. We'll have to see how much it'll cost to move the larger items.
But for now, I'll enjoy living here.