Monday, March 31, 2014

Write Like Your Brain Works: A book to help writers....

Valerie J. Steimle

When I read the title of that book, my first thought I had was that writing like my brain works would not necessarily be a good thing... My brain doesn't always think as it should and I can't always guarantee good works to come out of it.

But the title intrigued me and I downloaded the book onto my kindle. This non-fiction book is by Dene Low (who is a women and has a B.A. in literature, an M.A. in creative writing, and a Ph.D. in rhetoric and composition, whew!). She also writes novels as well.

 The information in this book helps writers to become better at their craft through her knowledge of what makes a better writer and then contains writing exercises to keep you in practice.

I'm already past chapter one so I wanted to talk about what I learned so far:

Whether it's a novel, article, short story or children's book remember these helpful hits when writing:

1.  Know your intended audience: Find a notebook to write down your thoughts in a place where you can refer to it later. Write all that you know about your intended audience.  What do you know about them and what do you think they would like  to read? It is important to know who your audience is otherwise writing becomes mundane and incoherent.

2. Know your purpose in writing: What is your purpose in writing what you write?  Why even bother to write at all? Do you have a passion about telling stories? As writers we must know our purpose and write it down in our notebook.

3. Know the context of your work: What is the model that rules your world? In each of your writing projects you should remember what rules are most appropriate for your creations. Writers can evaluate available options and use what they consider the most appropriate aspect of every part of their writing. When we write something out of place, it can ruin the effect we are trying to create.  You wouldn't have Luke Skywalker not aspire to be a Jedi--that is not an appropriate ideal in the Star Wars world. Think through your story for the best context.

4. Write down experiences: One suggestion to help us with writing ideas is to keep a notebook of what we experience during our day to day activity. You might not use all of them but then again you might find them very useful. Dene Low gives several examples of what she has written but I have one of my own to share which I did write about in my journal:

My husband and I were invited to the wedding of some very good friends of ours. We knew both the bride and the groom and this wedding was to be at someone's home.  It was the second wedding for both and we were looking forward in sharing their happiness.  We arrived at a reasonable time before the wedding and were milling around visiting with the other guests. I talked with both bride and groom and then it was getting close to the time of the wedding to begin. We waited, and waited and waited some more.... The bride was not coming out of her dressing room.  Visions of "Runaway Bride" ran through my head but I dispelled those as her daughter was going in and out of the dressing room talking to others. I'm sure the bride was still in there. 

I started to worry and we waited longer.  It was almost 2 hours later while we were waiting and everyone was getting really hungry.  No one wanted to eat yet because the wedding hadn't happened yet. Then one of the guys we knew who was a friend of the groom came up to me and said, "Hey- I have a great idea!"  Let's all stand around the cake table and on the count of three, charge towards the cake and start eating..." I had to keep from laughing my head off.  It was a funny idea and the vision I had was even funnier.

Of course we didn't do that but the bride gave the caterers permission to start passing out food to everyone so we could eat... They did marry eventually but it was one of the funniest weddings I had ever attended. (I think the delay was due to her getting cold feet.)

Now that is a story I could use in one of my books somewhere I'm sure.

5. Persuade your readers to experience what you want them to in your writings: Appeal to reason, facts, data and logic which will convince the audience about the truth of your assertions in your writings. Making sense is an important part of persuading your readers to your world. Always show positive influence even through challenging periods. Write about overcoming life's most difficult problems.

There is so much more information in this book which will help all writers to improve their writing. This helpful writer's book is a great addition to your writer's collection and will have readers begging you for more books. But you'll just have to download the book to study it yourself.

Here is the link: Write Like Your Brain Works

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Why of Writing

I've read and heard a few different things lately that have caused me to consider my real purpose as a writer.

First, in our Stake Conference a few weeks ago, the visiting authority suggested that we ask "Why?" when seeking motivation to adhere to any principle of the gospel. If we have a clear answer to "Why do our visiting teaching?" or "Why do missionary work?" and the like, we will be more successful at it.

I think we writers can extend that principle to our writing, so I've begun to ask myself, "Why do I write?" Is it a need, or is it to gain something--fame, fortune (Hah!), a sense of accomplishment, respect from others? Or is it something more than any of those things?

Second, there was a discussion on a message board recently about David Farland's most recent Daily Kick posting. Generally, he was pointing out that several of those he has taught have gone on to fame and/or fortune, and he was wondering what he needed to do to make it big (or at least "bigger"), so to speak. As his wife put it, "Dave, why don't you go write something big? Don't let all of your students take all of the largest contracts."

But is that why I write? To get a great big, fat, juicy publishing contract? The odds of that are slim to none, of course, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't shoot for it, does it? Hmmm...

He went on to say that he felt authors should constantly be striving to be better, surpassing the work they've done before (and I agree), but then he went on to measure the author's growth by his/her number of readers, focusing on an author's power to convert non-readers into readers.

That is certainly a compelling reason to write, but is it my reason?

Finally, I came across the reason that rings closest to my own. It was given by Kurt Vonnegut in a 2006 letter politely declining to visit a high school in New York. They had wanted his best advice for a successful career in writing, and this is what he wrote, as published in The Huffington Post:

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:
I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don't make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.
What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.
Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you're Count Dracula.
Here's an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don't do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don't tell anybody what you're doing. Don't show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?
Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals [sic]. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what's inside you, and you have made your soul grow.
God bless you all!
Kurt Vonnegut

That's the reason I write: to make my soul grow. And if I can help some other souls grow in the process, all the better! 
I may not do it every day. I may not ever get an agent, or a big publishing contract, or have a line of fans out the door at my book signings. I may never hit the NYT Bestsellers list (or any bestsellers list, for that matter). But you know what? No matter how much Dave Farland or others try to make this into a science, I think writing is an art, and art is serendipitous. Some, like J.K. Rowling, hit it big and not just because they write well. Most do not. It's kind of beyond our control after a certain point.
The only thing we can control is the practice, and practice, as we all know, makes perfect. It makes our souls grow. That's why we were given talents in the first place--to grow them and grow our souls. And the best way to make your soul grow through writing (or any other art) is to create something that serves others.
That's my why of writing. This will be my last post here. Thanks to Valerie and all of you readers for your kind attention. I wish you success in finding the best way to grow your own souls.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Story of the Scout Shirt

It would soon be my son's turn to enter the 11-year-old Scouts in our area, and I had given some thought to purchasing a brown shirt, but with some trepidation.  Those things are expensive, brand new.  But then his Webelos leader showed up on our doorstep and gave us a shirt her own son had outgrown.  She's awesome, what can I say.  Anyway, our shirt woes were over.

My son happily wore his shirt for a few months, and then it went missing.  We looked high.  We looked low.  We looked in between.  We ripped apart the house.  We looked behind furniture.  I even posted the dilemma on my Facebook status, and took all the suggestions that were posted in reply.  It wasn't in the freezer.  It wasn't hanging on the back of his door.  The thing was simply gone.

I began to wonder if perhaps we'd been targeted by Scout-shirt-hating criminals who break into people's houses and steal their shirts.  But when no ransom was demanded, I gave up on that idea.

Board of Reviews came around.  He couldn't attend in street clothes, so he wore his church shirt and pants.  (It took several minutes to find his pants, but I'm really not feeling emotionally strong enough to go into that.)  He passed the requirements to achieve his second class ranking (woohoo) and then it was time for Court of Honor.

You absolutely must have a Scout shirt for Court of Honor.  And, since he was part of the color guard, it was even more important than ever.  I decided that the house was going down.  I was going to peel back wallpaper to find that shirt, if that's what it took.  I mobilized my entire family.  We started at one end and began to demolish the place.

"I found it!" came the cry.  My son had shoved it back behind an old TV he'd been hoarding for parts.  My heart rejoiced. 

"We have an hour until Court of Honor," I said.  "Go throw your shirt in the wash.  It's dusty, but we have time to get it ready."

With much pomp and circumstance, the shirt was placed in the washer, and then the dryer.  The relief was great.  I was overjoyed.

"Mom!" came the wail.

Did you know that a dark green crayon, when left in the pocket of a light brown Scout shirt, and then sent through the dryer, leaves dark green ink streaks all over said brown shirt, in such vast quantity that one would need an abacus to number them all?

I saw red.  I also saw green, which caused me to see red.

There was nothing that could be done.

I grabbed the telephone and called a ward member, who has several sons, and begged and pleaded to borrow a shirt.  Bless her heart (and her son's heart) they lent us a shirt. 

"Go put on your church pants," I said to son.  "We're going to be fine - we're borrowing a shirt.  But we need to get your lower half ready."

"But I don't know where my church pants are," son said.

Oh, let us not even get started ...

We found the pants.  We wore the borrowed shirt.  He participated in the color guard and he received his second class. And then we obtained another Scout shirt.  Which I stapled to his forehead, right next to his church pants.

Monday, March 17, 2014

5 Editor Tips that Help You Write Like a Pro.

by Michelle Wilson

Most of what I've learned about writing has been self-taught. I've read nearly every how-to book from the library, attended writer's conferences and retreats, read a lot of books, and did my research online.

Over the years I've found some wonderful articles - but my favorite types are the easy-to-read, bottom-line, tips and advice from professionals (which do me more good than "Just follow your dreams")

I came across a great article recently called '5 Editor's Secrets to Help You Write Like a Pro'

The article is great, and I highly recommend you read it, but below is a summary of the 5 secrets:

  1. Sentences can do one thing at a time.
  2. Paragraphs can do one thing at a time.
  3. Look closely at -ing.
  4. Omit unnecessary words.
  5. Reframe 90% of the passive voice
     Bonus secret: Use spell-check!

There is no 100% formula for successful writing--but there is one for failure: Don't write.

So, if you want to write, do it. Research, read, practice!  Let others read your writing, and be sure to wear you big-girl underwear when they tell you it needs work (if they are good friends, they will!)

Then, re-write, edit, research more and keep writing!

Smile on!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Ruby Pendant is finally here!

I'm excited to announce that my second book came out last week. It is part two in the Cleopatra's Legacy series and is entitled, The Ruby Pendant. My books are fantasy adventures for ages 8 and up. The best price is at Amazon- . If you purchase a book I will send you a signed name plate for the front! Just drop me an email at and tell me who to make the inscription to.

About the book- Welcome to New Orleans- home of Mardi Gras, jazz music and voodoo. Eighth grader Melanie Belaforte is home for Spring break and itching for excitement. Late one night she discovers a hidden chamber and a secret journal in her deceased Aunt Florence’s bedroom. The diary contains the writings of a mad woman, along with vague clues to the whereabouts of a ruby necklace that once belonged to Cleopatra. 
The ruby bestows upon the wearer the power to hear other people’s thoughts- even the thoughts of the dead! And so the hunt begins. Melanie, her best friend Sybil, and a haunting specter unravel clues that take them from crumbling graveyards, to the busy streets of the French Quarter, and then into murky swamps, all to find the prize. But they need to watch out, because a murderous cult is matching them step for step, and they won’t give up, ever.

People often ask me- How do you find time to write when you have six kids? The truth is that it is really hard. My family comes first, so I have tons of places to go and things to take care of. When I do find the time to write it is usually in bursts, for two weeks at a time or so. I rarely write everyday. I find the time either after my pre-schooler heads to school or sometimes at night when everyone is home and occupied. The hardest part is the first draft, because that takes the longest. After that it is mostly edits and rewrites. My poor kids have heard me stay often, "Shhh! Monmmy's writing." But, they now take it in stride. Plus, my older ones can help my younger ones. That help really makes the difference.

I hope you'll take the time to check out my two books, The Emerald Ring and The Ruby Pendant. Both are available as a papercopy and as a Kindle.

Monday, March 10, 2014

What Puts You in Your Happy Place?

Since I'm new to the Mommy Author Blog-- I thought I'd share a little about what makes me tick. I love it when my children get along. I love it most especially when they play board games together and seem to truly enjoy one another's company. I love songs that extol the virtues of being part of a family...songs of men who love their wives and women who love their husbands. 

As a reader, I love stories about strong families, which is probably why as a writer--strong families are a main theme in each of my series. Some songs instantly transport me right smack dab into the middle of my books. I love songs like Dan Seal's: One Friend and Bop. Dan Fogelberg's: Longer, Craig Morgan's: This Ole Boy. I like lots of different kinds of music-- but my overall favorites are Country and Christmas. 

What appeals to me about country music is the plethora of ‘family’ and patriotic songs. What’s not to love about music that treasures home and country? Songs that celebrate hard work, loyalty, service to one another, helping out a friend, being there for another and faith in God? Life is NOT a ‘do-it-yourself’ project, it’s an “I’m-here-to-help-if-I-can” deal.

Helping can be as simple as offering to bring a meal or allowing someone to cry on your shoulder when they are dealt a rough hand. Sometimes it means coordinating the myriad of details when a surgery, illness, death, or accident disrupts family routine: child care, food needs, transportation and the never-ending piles of laundry. Sometimes a smile or a listening ear is all that is needed or required.

Being there for friend or family when they need it can be summed up with words from 2 country songs: "It’s just life." and "It’s what we do."

I am partial to ‘front porch’ songs: I haven’t heard one that I don’t like. My favorite two are Tracy Lawrence’s “If the World had a Front Porch”, a song that extols the virtues of treating people like good neighbors and kin, solving the world’s problems with understanding and enjoying the blessings of a front porch swing.

The front porch swing has set the scene for many a first kiss, a gentle scolding for bad behavior, a quiet moment between two people, rocking in peace and harmony with just crickets and frogs to play background music.

If the world had a front porch like we did back then
We'd still have our problems but we'd all be friends
Treatin' your neighbor like he's your next of kin
Wouldn't be gone with the wind
If the world had a front porch like we did back then

Lonestar’s : “My Front Porch Looking In.” is a song about prioritizing family, a song where a man has it all: a music career that provides well for his family, but he doesn’t feel complete until he’s home, looking in through his front door and seeing the important people in his world: his wife and children.

Both songs transport me instantly into the middle of my West books: a series about a family who has known many trials, but who come together and help and strengthen one another rather than divide and fall apart. The "Heart of the Wests" family farm is modeled after one I spent every possible moment I could as a teen ... and recently visited for the first time in 7 years.

I loved the front porch, I loved the swing, and I loved the steps as well. I often sat gazing at a small flock of white ducks playing in the nearby creek, shaded by huge maple trees. The smell of growing alfalfa or corn wafting through in the air. Good times. Moments that made all the difference in a hurried life.

If my house had a front porch, you can bet it would have a swing ... in hopes that many a memory will be forged and shared.

My blessing are in front of me, it’s not about the land.
I’ll never beat the view from my front porch looking in.

What real or imagined place makes you happy? And what does it take to get you there? Please let me know, I'd love to hear from you.

Laugh lots ... Love much ... Write on. :)