Monday, September 30, 2013

Hi, I'm From Fedville

So here I am again writing from a reader’s point of view. Actually it starts as more of a comment on the vast variety of the way people in the US speak and how it effects writing.

I’m a Midwesterner born and bred. If you hear me speak I say ‘fer’ instead of ‘for’ more often than I wish. I say ‘wash’ but my husband says ‘warsh’. How one can get their tongue around to say it like that is beyond me. ‘Gotta’ comes from my lips even though I know better. I end sentences with prepositions without thinking.

As I read I see the decline in the US education system. That will account for part of a writer’s errors but the advent of computers is another. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm advocate of the paperless society. If it’s on paper I can guarantee I will lose it. Spellcheck is my BFF.

The trouble comes when the way someone types a word is as they say it. It’s not spelled like that but rather as another real word. I have a friend who says ‘quite’ instead of ‘quiet’ because he’s from the South and speaks that way.  In speech we understand because of the context. When reading we note the use of the incorrect word.

We are all familiar with homonyms. These are words which trip us up because they sound the same but are spelled differently. There, their and they’re. Two, to and too. Your and you’re. These are often misused.

What about words people say differently because they live in the South or New England states for example? I’ve found ‘then’ and ‘than’ switched consistently in several books I’ve read recently. I got to thinking that the writer may actually pronounce them as they write them knowing the correct meaning. They may simply have forgotten the correct spelling because what they hear and say is different. Unfortunately, it is still incorrect and a reviewer may very well make a comment.

So what’s with the title of this post? My sister had a friend in college who said he was from Fedville, Arkansas. It was months, maybe the entire time they were in school, before she found out it was Fayetteville not Fedville. 

Sophie Dawson is an award winning author of Christian Fiction. She lives with her husband and cat on a farm in western Illinois. Her characters demonstrate the courage and strength it takes to live in faith and obedience to the Word of God.
Sophie blogs one a week on her website as well as in addition to
She has recently released her fourth and fifth books, Leah’s Peace and Chasing Norie.
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What Inspires Authors?

My writer’s muse perked up when I visited a coffee shop to enjoy some tea and a scone one rainy afternoon. The tea looked perfect—steamy chestnut brown liquid that wooed my lips to sip its rich flavor. As tempting as the tea appeared, the opposite was true of the cranberry scone; it was dry, shriveled and unappealing. The only reason I’d chosen the treat was to avoid greasier alternatives nearby—a choice for my heart but not from my heart. ;-)

Now this snack in and of itself was not blog-worthy. It was what happened next that set my writer’s brain on overdrive: The scone tasted moist & incredibly delicious, while the cup of tea puckered my lips with the flavor of old tea leaves.

The contrast was startling and unexpected. And it drew my thoughts to how we judge people and things by their outer appearance rather than their real worth.

But there have been numerous blogs, articles and even novels that have birthed in the tiny cells of my brain by something that I’ve seen or heard along the way; the side views of life that often go unnoticed.

A couple of years ago I was a passenger in a car on a Los Angeles freeway. I noticed a billboard that practically shouted the letters, “Pain free divorce.” Is there any divorce that is completely pain free? I thought of the divorces my siblings had gone through and the ache of losing a much-loved brother or sister-in-law. I know I felt the hurt, regardless of the attitude of the couple. And I’m certain there was pain for them, whether it was acknowledged or not. That prompted yet another blog about the impact of divorce.

Sometimes my mind wanders to pieces from my childhood. This was especially true with my historical fiction, Fields of the Fatherless, which releases next month. I will always remember walking by a historic house down the street from our home in Massachusetts and my brother trying to scare me with the words, “There’s blood on the floor in there, you know.” I only wish that my brother was still alive to know that, in his attempt to scare me as a child, he left a forever impression in my blooming author’s mind. I grew up to write the amazing story that occurred at that historic site on the first day of the American Revolution.

There are so many other examples—a walk, a conversation, a book, a story that I hear, a trip that I take—that have inspired me to put the words down into an idea with a new twist and share it with others. I think that’s part of the writer’s mind: The ability to see with the mind’s eye that processes past the obvious. The key element here is astute observation.

While many walk and talk their way through life without noticing the person sitting next to them or the snippets of events surrounding them, a writer observes life and ponders the who, the where and the why. It calls for engaging with the world, rather than existing in it. In my opinion, the most creative authors are the ones who truly care enough to pay attention.

So what has inspired your writer’s muse?

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Mutterings, Musings...

Isn’t it interesting how in the typewriter days, a person would have to format, spell, and use proper punctuation when typing or retype the page, and now we can utilize cut and paste, delete, find and replace, spellcheck and overwrite errors, and the quality of our writing has dramatically deteriorated?

Moving further back in history, a writer would print with a quill pen and sell the pages on the street for a few cents. Nowadays a writer can write quite easily and gives his work away on the Internet.

Isn’t it amazing that writers like Stephen King make over twenty million dollars a year, yet the average writer earn five thousand dollars? Don’t the ‘big bucks’ writers pull the average higher?

Publishers complain about e-publishing and self-publishing, yet it seems to me that a print book got read by a dozen people or so, ending up in thrift stores for a few cents. Now with Nooks and Kindles, the book only gets read by one person. Seems like a better deal for the publishers, at least in that instance.

Do you suppose libraries are on the wane? Will we see the end of libraries?

I see advantages in both types of published books. Reading e-books on my iPad is so convenient. Yet the idea of reading an electronic gizmo in the bathtub frightens me. Instead of getting a paperback book wet, I’d lose all the books, everything else, and the iPad too. For an example, take a paperback book and throw it on the floor. Now take your Kindle and… okay, maybe not, but you get the idea. The pages don’t curl and turn yellow on a Nook, either. Although I’m sure there’s an App for that.

Do you think electronic books could accessorize with pictures, video, links? Just wondering.

We live in the most wonderful age of reading. What an amazing culture we enjoy.

Keep reading and writing.






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Friday, September 20, 2013

Steven James' The King - Anticipation Reading

Friday Book Review – the Anticipation Read

The King, Steven James
ISBN: 978-0451239785
Publisher – Signet Select
Date – July 2013
Price $7.99 ebook  $8.99 pbook

I am putting this out here first: I bought and read The King, mistakenly thinking it was the end of the series. Anyone else have that experience? It’s kind of a gasp and a slap, along with your chess pie, isn’t it? But in this case, I slapped myself.

From the publisher:
FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers has matched wits with some of the most violent serial killers in history—and one of them has never forgiven him....

Patrick Bowers has pursued the nation’s fiercest serial killers—and now one elusive foe is back for revenge.

Settling into a new post at the FBI academy, Patrick and his fiancĂ©e, Lien-hua Jiang, are planning their future together with his stepdaughter, Tessa.

But just when his life seems normal, a demon from the past returns to draw him down a dark road he hoped had closed forever. Forced into a desperate hunt to save the two women he loves most, Patrick is in a race against time to stop an international conspiracy from becoming the most widespread act of terrorism in U.S. history.

See Kevin's review of The Pawn here.

My review:
Not the last of a series, and I should have realized this right away, I read the book thinking that Bowers was at last going to solve the case that began in Milwaukee all those years ago. About the time I realized I was mistaken, I was both relieved and disappointed. The experience made me think about how I read, as well as my choices of reading material.

As a book reviewer, I am offered a pretty wide array of books and genres. Yes, it’s still my choice whether to accept one or not, in any particular genre, but I like to help out others, network, and hope others will be willing to review for me sometime. Unfortunately, being asked to review, most of the time, feels like work, even with material I normally enjoy. I consider it a treat to “pig out” with authors I’ve come to call favorites, and Steven James is one of them. How did I find out about his books? I was asked to review of the Patrick Bowers books, mid-series, by his then-publisher.

In The King, Bowers and his fiancĂ©, Lien-hua, are getting close to their wedding date; Patrick’s stepdaughter, Tessa, is getting ready to graduate from high school, and bodies are still showing up in unusual places. Bowers’s nemesis, cannibal Richard Basque, is still taunting, and a companion killer we met in an earlier book is on the loose threatening the world’s psychological drug supply in an effort to weaken and then take control of governments when he shows he can manipulate government leaders’ family members. It’s a stretch, but it does come together nicely by the time the reader realizes that Checkmate hasn’t happened between Bowers and Basque.

Lien-hua plays an important role; I was glad to see this, but because I thought this was the last book, thought for sure her character was toast, ala James Bond trying to get married.  Perceptions, right? And this isn’t the end. Yet.

I am very excited to read Checkmate, which is scheduled for release in summer of 2014. I already have books from, but haven’t started, his new series featuring magician Jevin Banks, who is briefly mentioned in The King.

How do you approach books? Do you read with a certain mindset when you pick up a favorite, or do you just gobble books for recreation, then forget about them after The End?
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Benefits of Being a Slow Reader

"The first step is to become a slow reader." Great advice. Slow down and savor, not just to learn to write elegant prose, but to present vivid settings, realistic characters, gripping emotion.
After a while, once you've read the how-to books about writing and the variety of blog posts and the ezines and the magazines, they all begin to sound alike. But when you read the masters in your genre with an eye toward how they do things, you're enhancing your knowledge. When you read the masters in other genres, including literary fiction and poetry, you're broadening your scope.
The best lesson I learned recently--one of many--came from Tosca Lee's fiction masterpiece, Demon: A Memoir.
In this novel, when asked whether he thinks he'll go to heaven, Clay, the main character, says yes, because he's a "good person." This announcement comes after the halfway point of the novel. All along, before and after this proclamation, Tosca shows him engaged in scenes that seem to be superfluous--a break from his intense interview with the demon, a peek into his daily life. It's not that the scenes weren't good, of course they were. But that's all I assigned to them: a break, a peek. It didn't even register with me what Tosca had done when Clay called himself a good person.
Much later, after I finished the novel and during one of the many times I mulled over the story, it dawned on me. Throughout the book, while she was showing us snippets of this man's life and personal interactions, Tosca was presenting Clay as an ordinary man. Good by human definition; certainly he wasn't evil. All his actions and emotions were understandable on a human plane. Tosca never judged; there were no signs of remorse from Clay of how he should've done this or that instead of what he'd done. She presented what seemed to be logical, sympathetic reactions to the stimulus presented. Then called him a "good" person.
But what she'd actually done is amazing. The message presented, without presenting a message at all, is a dagger to the heart of everyone who thinks they'll go to heaven because they're good.
The snippets of his life revealed him to be unforgiving, high-tempered, self-absorbed. All understandable, given the fact he was under stress from the demon, who showed up at different times in the guise of different people. But if the idea he wasn't a good person wasn't presented well enough through the fact he was conversing with a demon, it was also presented through his life.
Tosca's point was that man's definition of "good" is considerably different from God's definition. She never said that, never hinted it. She showed it. She illustrated everything, leaving the interpretation to the reader.
Such a masterful example of RUE: Resist the Urge to Explain. It's also a great example of Brandilyn Collins's charge to "write to your smartest reader." Present the tools necessary for the job, then challenge your readers to figure it out and trust that they will.
This is everything we've learned through courses and books put to use. Exceptional use. And it's only one lesson I learned from the novel.
Read widely. Read slowly. Savor and learn.
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Monday, September 16, 2013

Toward Poetry Revival


Donn Taylor

   A funny thing happened to poetry about a hundred years ago. Except that it wasn't very funny. 
    In really ancient times, several thousand years back, most of the important things written were written in poetry. The idea seems to have been that the most notable events or thoughts should be recorded in the most notable language. A lot has happened since then, and the prevalence of either poetry or prose has varied in different periods. The Renaissance gave us some of the most glorious poetry ever written, though it also brought the invention of the personal essay (Montaigne, Bacon). The creation of modern science in the seventeenth century gave rise to a new kind of prose that we now call technical writing. But, ironically, the writer most influential in its development was John Dryden, the premier English poet of the latter half of that century.

    The novel as an art form had its beginnings in the eighteenth century and grew to full fruition in the nineteenth, though poetry (as practiced by writers like Pope, Wordsworth, Tennyson, and others) continued to have large audiences. Even in the early twentieth century, Robert Frost and Edward Arlington Robinson could actually make a living as poets.
    But by WW I, the Imagists and other avant garde groups were moving poetry away from the general public and writing to smaller and smaller audiences, growing more esoteric and obscure, until most readers simply went somewhere else.
    The result was, so to speak, a divorce of poetry from the audience that had sustained it through recent centuries. And that situation, for the most part, has prevailed through the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. In a rarified atmosphere with a significant element of narcissism, poets-as-conscious-artists write to other poets-as-conscious-artists, while potential readers in the general public turn to more rewarding media.

    My message when I teach at writers' conferences is that it doesn't have to be this way. I believe that what has been called a divorce is at worst a legal separation, and that reconciliation is possible. What we need is a phalanx of writers willing to study the elements of poetry, develop their craft, and write significant thoughts in beautiful language.

    That's what I'm trying to do in my own poetry, and it's what I'm trying to teach others to do.


    I've found that people respond well to readings of good-quality poetry aimed at a general audience. And who can read or hear a good poem without thinking, "I'd like to do that"? We won't make a lot of money with our poetry, but creating beautiful and inspiring things is its own reward. And well-written poems will endure and continue to teach and inspire long after our transient commercial prose is forgotten.
    I'm hoping more and more writers will join the phalanx.
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