Friday, July 18, 2014

Snowflakes and commas in July . . .

I'm about 35,000 words of a meandering draft into Rivers of Stone, Book 3 set in the Pacific Northwest between 1842-1847. But I'm just now starting to work out the underlying structure. I know my characters and where they're going, but the ending eludes me.

"Crater Lake" by James Everett Stuart (1852-1942) (Wikipedia)

So I'm working with Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method that builds on a simple outline of set-up + three disasters + resolution to dig more deeply into story structure before jumping back to drafting. 

I'm finding the disasters easy to plot. After all, things go bump every day. The issues of abandonment and perseverance in the wilderness and frontier settlements with their rough code of justice are fun to work on. The plot thickens as I throw in a volcano or two, bears, a fiddler with a broken-heart, and a woman disguised as a boy. But coming up with a resolution that is true to the characters and the theme is more difficult.

Even at 35,000 words, I'm still at the beginning.

The other issue of the week is simply punctuation. A writer recently apologized for the editing of her draft, saying, "I'm just not very good at commas." Aargh!!! And, I'm wordless.

Punctuation is the warp and weave
of all words, that balance point
between order
and meaning
that we writers use with intention
in all seasons,
as sure as quail tracks in the snow,
or lines of geese heading south
under a cloudless gray sky.

So I want to say: Start small. Master just one form of comma -- perhaps the lowly interrupter comma that offsets any person being spoken about or to, as in:  "Hey, pa, I'm over here." or "My best friend, also known as a writer, insists on commas being used in far too many places."

I want to say: Write freely. Tell your story. But then take responsibility for being the best editor of your own work. Editing for punctuation is a skill that can be learned, even if you take a class or study a handbook.

But I am quiet.

What would you do?

More about Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method HERE.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Thank you between . . . and between

I'm reminded of that well-worn saying:  "It takes a community . . . "

Maybe that's particularly relevant for self-published authors.

At least this afternoon, I'm feeling thankful for those readers, friends and writers, who have excitedly embraced Years of Stone, my just published, second book of historical fiction.

Chris Kincaid brightened my morning with a wonderful review of Standing Stones, Book 1, posted on GoodReads and on her blog, Dino Chronicles, named after her dog. 

Then Chris hit Facebook this morning to say she's reading Years of Stone, Book 2, over the 4th of July!

And Sandy Brown Jensen posted the first review of Years of Stone on Amazon. She liked it! See her blog at Mind on Fire.

Thank you, Chris.
Thank you, Sandy.

After all those hours of research, drafting, writing and rewriting, revising . . . then transforming the text into appropriate formats, now, dear readers, I turn Years of Stone over to you, with hope and a full heart of thankfulness.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

A Cover Reveal . . .and a little blog hop

Today, I am pleased to reveal the cover for Soul Prompts: Finding and Hearing Your Inner Voice, written by my friend Morgan Dragonwillow.
Soul Prompts Book Cover2d
Soul Prompts is a spiritual writing experience that gives you a direct line to the source of inspiration.
If you could communicate with your soul would you?
If you could hear what your soul's plan is for this life, would you want to hear it? What if learning to communicate with your soul could help you get your words on the page?
Soul Prompts will help you connect to that voice within whether you want to have a deeper spiritual life, a better understanding of your purpose, discover which path to take next or to help you get your stories written. Are you open to the possibilities? It's time to have a conversation with your soul. This book is for you if you want to:
  1. Take your writing to a deeper level.
  2. Explore your connection to your soul.
  3. Live a more spiritual life.
  4. Have a better understanding of your writing journey.
  5. Figure out your next step.
  6. Discover where your words come from.
  7. Learn why your soul chose this life.
And so much more. Soul Prompts: Finding and Hearing Your Inner Voice - Paperback and ebook - coming out this October!
Andrea Moore aCover Artist. Morgan reports that this beautiful cover was created by the artistic and wonderful Andrea Moore! Working with her was a pleasure and she was very patient with my questions and suggestions until we were both happy with the results! If you are working on a book and don't have a cover yet, I highly recommend you have a chat with her!

Andrea Moore grew up in a town so small, on top of a marsh, that the mosquito was considered the city bird. She uses her degree in computer graphics and her artistic abilities to sprinkle joy throughout local consignment shops and EtsyEtsy. Andrea is now breaking out of the box further as she explores the adventures of book cover creating.

Fun Trivia Game!  What's a party without a game? In this game you will hop from one blog to the next, finding the clues and when you think you have the answer, go back to Morgan Dragonwillow's post, Soul Prompts Book Cover Reveal Party, and put the answer in the comments. 

The first person with the correct answer will win a signed copy of Soul Prompts and a $10 Amazon gift card!

Question: Where in the world is one of my favorite places to sit or walk and connect with the source of creation and to remember we are all one? CLUE: It is in Humboldt county.

Next Stop Poetry, Prose, Art, and Creativity 

Good luck, but most of all, have a great time!   

Me a

Morgan Dragonwillow is a poet, survivor, lover of all things magical, dancing with words, recovering perfectionist, and indie author that (mostly) doesn't let her fears get in the way of her passion for writing and creating. She is team leader at @StoryDam and creatrix of #OctPoWriMo. She lives in Marietta, Ga. with her loving and patient partner, their dog that thinks she's a princess, and the cat that reminds her that she isn't.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Party . . Party . . Years of Stone is out!

Years of Stone is now available. Whew! Just last Friday, I pressed that PUBLISH button on CreateSpace and then spent the next two days reworking the Kindle format. Late last night, the Kindle version went live. 

Hard copies have been ordered. Some time towards the end of July, we'll have a book signing at a local coffee shop right here in Spokane . . . and I'll be deep in the research phase for the next book, leaving Mac and Deidre behind.

If you want to order your paperback copy, why not jump on over to CreateSpace and take a look. Or if you love e-books, you can go to Amazon for your Kindle version.

No reviews yet, but folks who read the excerpt of Years of Stone for Amazon's Breakthrough Novel competition had nice things to say. You could be the first to write a review -- or drop me a line to let me know what you think. 

So wherever you are, think good thoughts. Celebrate the moment! Now, it's time to get writing on the next story. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saturday Surprise: Dead Men Don't . . .

Today's post celebrates the release of a new book in Pepper O’Neal's Black Ops Chronicles: Dead Men Don't, a pretty exciting romantic thriller.

Dead Men Don't opens as Andi Merritt, sheltered daughter of a mob underboss, is kidnapped only to discover that her father has sold her to a Middle Eastern oil baron’s harem to pay off his gambling debts. Fighting her sense of helplessness, Andi struggles to escape. 

That’s how she meets Levi Komakov, ex-CIA black ops expert, who kicks down a door to save her. Nicknamed the ‘Ghost,’ Levi works on special missions; his team pulled from unlikely places within the organized crime community, the CIA, and the police.  

This thriller/romance/adventure story sizzles with action in diverse settings --  a secluded, well-guarded estate, a remote mountain cabin, headquarters of a crime family, and a harem in a desert palace, all believably created. Pepper’s characters ring true, and we learn a good bit of information about self-defense for women as well as how to prepare for a black-ops mission, planning, weapons, fight strategies and explosives.

Levi exemplifies a curious set of ethics; he’s committed to protecting those he serves and loves; yet, he’s not afraid to take action outside the law or to commit murder, when the crime is heinous.  All in keeping with the title: Dead Men Don't. In a very interesting way, O’Neal has written a story about strong women as much as the strong men who love them and protect them. 

Fans are ready for the next book in the series, neatly introduced in Dead Men Don't at the very end as an old friend calls Levi for help. Can Jack, a footloose and free-spirited former Navy SEAL, help Jordan, the grandniece of Levi’s employer, solve the mystery of race-horses dying from no known cause?

A personal note from Pepper O'Neal

I met Pepper the first time I attended a Willamette Writers conference in Portland, Oregon. Her fiery red hair and outgoing personality mirror her heroines! Pepper answered a few questions for today's release:

1.  How would you describe your genre? Why do you write this genre?  I’d call it romantic thrillers, and I write it because I’m too much of an adrenalin junkie to write standard romance.

2.  Which is your favorite book you've written so far -- and why? In this series, it would have to be this one, Dead Men Don’t. In my paranormal series it would Blood Fest: Cursing Fate.

3.  How do you fight off writer's block -- if you've experienced it? Yeah, I experience it all the time, and I fight it by writing whatever pops into my mind. I tell myself, it’s just the first draft, so type something and move on. I might have to delete a lot of it later, but it gets me past the block.

4. What advice would you give to a writer starting out? Finish the novel! I know so many ‘wanna be’ authors who have half a novel they polish over and over. You’ll never publish half a novel, so finish it before you start polishing.

5. Do you think writers should self-publish? Why or why not? I am hesitant to self-publish because so many authors did so without proper editing and it gave self-publishing a bad name. But lots of authors do it and do well at it. I am not really qualified to format and all that other stuff self-publishers have to do. So I don’t think it’s for me. But as I say, I know a lot of authors who do well at it.

6. What has been your best "aha" moment in writing? I think it was when I realized that I had to finish a novel before I could publish one. Now I do my entire first draft before I start polishing.

7. Your covers are amazing. How were they created? The first three I had an artist friend, Dawne Dominique, do, but this time I decide to try my hand at it, and I did this one myself. It was fun.

Thank you, Pepper, for visiting the blog today -- and congratulations on your new release! 

Connect with Pepper O'Neal on her website at or check out her books on Smashwords or GoodReads or Amazon

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cover reveal -- and a selfie?

After roughly two and a half years of dreaming, researching, drafting, revising, editing, and jumping into the world of self-publishing, I'm thrilled to report that Book 2 of the McDonnell Clan is nearly ready.

Cover reveal . . . 

Here is the fabulous cover for Years of Stone, designed by Angie Zambrano of pro_ebookcovers on

And the Blurb for Years of Stone:

In 1842, Deidre follows her sweetheart, Mac McDonnell, from Scotland to Van Diemen's Land. But can she build a new life with him in this rough and tumble penal colony?

Reviewers say Years of Stone "grips from the beginning" and is "not to be missed." Years of Stone was a 2014 Quarter Finalist in Amazon's Breakthrough Novel competition.

The official release date? July 1, 2014.

Over the next five days, I'll be checking the final proof, ordering physical copies, and making those changes that will create the Kindle version.

To celebrate, I made a 25-second 'selfie' to introduce the cover. So join me in doing a little happy dance. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Writers: Raise your eyebrows?

Met with my writing group last night, and we got into an interesting discussion about dialogue tags. Three examples: 

"How could you possibly trust him?" Joanne winked.
Note: The wink counters the statement entirely. Winks are linked to jokes. They may suggest flirting, affection, a hint, or something that is sly or hidden (for example, Joanne's committee winked at her expense report). 

"I'm sorry to hear that." Joanne smiled and leaned forward. "Which hospital?"
Note: Smiling (a positive act) directly contradicts Joanne's expression of sorrow and leads the reader to doubt Joanne! Leaning forward suggests intimacy, that Joanne has nothing to hide, that she is comfortable with the person she's talking to -- and that she perhaps likes to gossip or did not like the person who is at the hospital. Here, the conflict between her actions and what she says adds interest to the story.

"You have a new boyfriend? He's Croatian? How interesting." Joanne raised her eyebrows.
Note: raised eyebrows can communicate surprise or mild disapproval. Substitute just about any nationality or race, and the above statement (and the character) could be misunderstood.

Our conclusion? We writers need to notice the connections between what a character says and what that character does. Is the combined effect intentional? 

As Joe Navarro points out in his article, our physical responses have been honed over millions of years. Trust what you see the body doing and watch for contradictions between speech and action. If we are more precise in describing what our characters are doing, we move closer to "showing" rather than "telling," bringing us closer to the magic of storytelling.

So, do you use body language in your stories?

Joel Robison, "Catch the Spirit"

You may want to take a look at: 
"Body Language" from
"Eye Expressions" from Psychologia
Joe Navarro's "The Key to Understanding Body Language" from Psychology Today