Sunday Blog Share: Let’s go to the place where the sidewalk ends

Happy Mothers Day! What better way to celebrate than to share a heartwarming story by Allie Potts who routinely captures bits of wisdom from her children. Comments are closed here, so click through to Allie’s wonderful blog and smile.

Let’s go to the place where the sidewalk ends

By Allie Potts

LT sat on the tire swing in our backyard, alone. His brother had gone to play with a friend leaving LT to amuse himself while his father and I completed our chores. His legs were curled up as they wouldn’t touch the ground even if extended. As a result, the swing was nearly motionless except for a gentle sway with the breeze. I watched as his mouth move and wondered what the conversation he was having with himself might be about. He looked content, but it was a lonely image.

The last of my cleaning could wait. “Do you want to go to the park?” I called out, thinking there might be other kids he could play with. LT beamed, eagerly accepting my offer and soon we were walking down the street to our local playground. LT chattered about things like clouds, giants and other friendly monsters, smiling at everybody we passed along the way. Never once did I have to tell him to hurry up, or stay with me, or explain why he shouldn’t be carried. Who was this child?

Continue Reading: Let’s go to the place where the sidewalk ends

Writing to get RICH

rich

Well, that was a bait and switch, sort of. It all depends on how one defines rich.

I wonder how many of us start this writing journey with secret dreams of bestsellers, movie deals, roly-poly royalty checks, and hiring efficient staff with clipboards to manage our fan mail.

I write fantasy after all. A little dreaming is in order. Yet, I always knew that dream was a stretch (a gigantic one).

My husband, on the other hand, had high hopes that he’d married Ms. Moneybags who’d drag her sacks of gold from her thousands of books sales down the red carpet to the bank.

Ha ha ha. That would be nice! It didn’t take long for him to become disillusioned, the poor man.

Because that’s not how this author thing works (just in case you’re a dreamer and think it is). Oh yes, some few among us have outstanding good luck and write a book that rocks the charts, but for most of us, that trip to glittering literary super stardom is and will always be a literal dream.

So here’s the truth (from my perspective, anyway)…

Writing is hard, hard, hard work. It’s also one of the top fun things I’ve ever done in my life. What a luxury to spend hours with one’s imagination, to create whole new stories from ink and air. Writers live multiple lives and get to share those worlds of adventure, romance, mystery, history, truth and fiction. We move people, change them, distract, heal, excite, ease, and educate.

And our gifts cross continents, forging connections. Our stories cost almost nothing for hours of enjoyment, and if we’re lucky, our pages land in libraries where they’re free to the curious borrower. If we blog, we do this within a community of writers and readers who are generous with their time and talent, and we cheer each other on.

Even now, once I invest – or to be honest, once my husband invests because I’m broke and super nice to him – in all the stuff that supports my writing addiction like covers and ink and paper and software and giveaways and festival fees, etc, etc, there isn’t much left. Does it matter?

The answer is no. I’d write anyway. To those of you with this addiction, do it because you love it and it makes you happy, because that, my dear writers, is what makes us rich.

 

Influence

One of the rare joys of writing is receiving feedback that one of your books got someone thinking. I’ve been lucky to hear a few of those comments over the years, and I remember and cherish each one. Erik Tyler is a frequent visitor to this old blog, and he also beta read the whole Rose Shield series for me (my hero!). Well, I guess I got him thinking and he actually wrote a post about the magical (and not so magical) power of “influence.”

On to Erik’s post:

During my six or so years of blogging, I’ve met some stellar people online. One of those people is Diana Peach, a fellow blogger and prolific novel writer in the fantasy genre.

Just last week, Diana released Catling’s Bane: Book I of her four-book series known collectively as The Rose Shield. And — lucky me — I got to be a beta reader for the entire thing, the final installment of which I’m currently reading.

Catling's Bane: Book I of The Rose Shield series by D. Wallace Peach

If you’re a true lover of fantasy, do yourself a favor, read my Amazon review, get yourself a copy of this book — and prepare to lose some sleep over it. In short, I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of books in this genre and this series makes my top five of all time. (She will, no doubt, decry my high praise as “stuff and nonsense,” but it’s true nonetheless.)

Now, my site isn’t a book review site. And Diana has no idea I’m writing this (surprise, Diana!). But I’m telling you, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this Rose Shield series. And so, I’ve decided to go with the flow and incorporate some of those thoughts into this week’s blog post, in a way that I trust will be consistent with who I am and what this blog is about.

If you’ve read even a few pages of my book, The Best Advice So Far, or more than two blog posts here, the theme that runs through everything I write should be apparent: “You always have a choice.”

Building upon this foundation, I’ve also proposed such notions as these:

No one can make you happy.

No one can make you mad (or jealous or insecure or a host of other negatives).

And while compliance can be forced, we cannot make others respect us.

Nor can we make another person love us.

But … what if we could?

What if it were possible to soothe another’s anger, suppress their violence or calm their anxiety, all by force of our will?

What if we did hold the power to irresistibly compel the others around us to respect us? Desire us? Permit us? Love us?

What if we could inflict unspeakable pain or induce euphoric pleasure with a thought, heal with a touch — or, with the same touch, end a life?

Really think about that what-if for a moment. What would you do differently if imbued with such power? Who would you influence — and how? In your secret heart, what would be your biggest temptation?

(Continue Reading: Influence)

 

 

Ordinary Handsome Review – A Stunning Read

Steven’s New Cover! Global Link to Amazon

With my shift into some breathing room, I’ve begun indulging in some overdue reading. My TBR pile is teetering, and I’ve had to purchase more books to prop it up. I’ll be posting reviews now and then when I surface from a really great read. I read this one a while ago, and it’s a book I still think about. If you love the beauty of words, I highly recommend it. 

My Review of Ordinary Handsome

I just finished this book and sit here collecting my thoughts. From the first page, I knew I had happened on something special, something that would sweep me into the otherworld offered by a talented author and his beautifully written book.

The story is grim, about the dying lives that labor on in the dying town of Handsome, Oklahoma. Ghosts in a ghost town. The book follows ordinary men dealing with the epic struggles that shape human experience: love and death, failure, fathering, poverty, murder, and lost hope. It revolves around a young man, Euart Monroe Wasson, and the men who participate in the tragedy made of his life.

The book isn’t one to speed through. Baird writes with a style that requires one to pay attention. He slowly draws aside the veils that reveal the interconnection of each man’s story. I had the impression that I was piecing together a mosaic, the tale assembled from the shards of shattered lives, memories, impressions, and illusions.

The narrative is informal and appropriate to the rural landscape. At the same time, the writing is textured, rife with precise detail, stunning imagery, and raw emotion. Baird is a master at finding the perfect word and painting a picture that shifts and clears with each new perspective.

I highly recommend Ordinary Handsome to any reader who wants to get lost in an exquisitely written tale. This book will stick to your heart.

***

I picked up Ordinary Handsome after following Baird’s blog and falling in love with the quality of his writing. I’ll also happily recommend his book, A Very Tall Summer.

hey__steve__by_angeink-d813x0kSteven Baird is an author, amateur photographer, and 36-year newspaper compositor. He has published three novels, including his latest, A Very Tall Summer, and has been writing since the age of 10. Steven is a native Canadian living in southwest Virginia with his wife Angela, a horse, dog, cat, and a Neurotic Band of Chickens. He does not take himself as seriously as his portrait would suggest.

Global Link to Amazon: Ordinary Handsome Amazon

Link to Steven’s Website: Ordinary Handsome Website

 

Sunday Blog Share: Steel Venom

I thought maybe I’d start sharing why I picked a certain piece for the Sunday Blog Share. In this case, Almost Iowa gave me a hysterical reminder of the crazy, dangerous things I did as a kid.  Prepare to laugh (or cringe).

Comments are closed here, so click through and enjoy.

Steel Venom

by Almost Iowa

Every summer my wife tries to get me on an amusement park ride called Steel Venom.

She loves the contraption – about as much as I hate it.

Last summer was no exception and one afternoon we found ourselves bickering in the shadow of a half roller-coaster half catapult.

“You’re chicken,” she taunted.

“Not at all,” I said.

Overhead, the ride flexed and moaned as a trolley corkscrewed its way up a high tower. When it reached the top, it paused for one heart-thumping moment to dangle its riders above a flock of confused birds – then it plunged into a wild spiral that ended only inches from the ground.

The riders flashed by us, howling in terror. A few wore faces whiter than death and I thought for a moment that I recognized an old friend among them.

Without the slightest hesitation or remorse, the trolley fired up a companion tower then repeated the process over and over – until everyone, rider and observer alike, was nauseous.

“Don’t look like much fun to me,” I observed.

“Chicken,” she repeated.

Believe me, Steel Venom did not frighten me. I’ve dodged bullets, survived a car wreck and endured an audit by the IRS and not one of those things even quickened my pulse – because nothing, absolutely nothing will ever come close to the ride I took on a Radio Flyer wagon when I was six years old.

***

At first, I simply put things into my wagon and towed them around the yard. But I soon discovered it was more fun to hop in the wagon and roll down our backyard hill…

(Continue Reading: Steel Venom)

Guest author: D. Wallace Peach – Room to Breathe

I’m honored to guest post over at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo today. If you have the time, stop over to say hi. ❤

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Photo: Sue Vincent

I’m delighted to guest blog today on Sue’s wonderful Daily Echo. I’m sitting in my recliner looking up, wondering what to write. There’s a ten-foot long spider web hanging from the ceiling fan to the beam over my head, gently blowing with the heat circulating around the room. Tapestries of cobwebs grace the corners of the high windows that I can’t reach without a ladder. More delicate threads crisscross the Christmas star that I never took down – from 3 years ago. I kid you not.

When my grandson was 2 years old, he said the house was “spooky.” I laughed but didn’t whisk them away despite the cute commentary.

It feels good to sit and stare for a few minutes, to breathe and relax and study the floating web and the way it catches the light.

I’ve been writing full-time for seven years and blogging…

View original post 553 more words

Writing Chapter One – Tips

chapter-one-tips

I’ve wanted to write about first chapters for a while, primarily because they’re so important. After all, they’re the gateway to Chapter 2 and getting a reader to Chapter 2 is a fantastic idea.

I did some research and almost instantly the rule-resistant rebel in me kicked in. She’s the writer who scowls at formulas, who insists that form has to fit the story, not the other way around. She’s the reader who doesn’t want to read the same story over and over with different titles.

Well, I suppressed the first-born smarty-pants part of my personality and learned a few things.

First, I learned that there are actually a number of perfectly legitimate types of first chapters. Writer’s Digest has a great article by Jeff Gerke that describes 4 approaches with examples (summarized here):

  • The Prolog – A prolog is an episode that pertains to your story but does not include the hero (or includes the hero at a time well before the story proper begins, when he’s a child). It might not be “Chapter 1” per se, but it can serve as a legitimate opening—if it works.
  • The Hero Action Beginning – In a hero action beginning, the hero is onstage, doing something active and interesting related to the launching of the core story (it need not involve explosions and car chases, but it certainly can).
  • The In Medias Res Beginning (in the middle of things ) – With in medias res, you start at a point deep in the story, show a bit of activity to intrigue the reader, and then you hit the rewind button and spend some or all of the rest of the book catching up to that moment.
  • The Frame Device – The final major way of beginning your first chapter is to use a frame device. In this, your story is bookended on the front and back (and usually a few instances in the middle) by a story that is outside the main story. The primary tale is framed by this other story.

With that out of the way, I went in search of tips that apply to Chapter 1’s regardless of the book, tips that I could apply as I conceive of, write, and edit my stories. As usual, there are exceptions to these tips, and the list is not exhaustive.

Context: Backstory, Setting, and Detail

  • Avoid backstory. Include the bare minimum necessary and trickle the rest in as needed.
  • Don’t overdo setting. Give a smattering of strong, vibrant details to establish a sense of place and time. Then fill in the rest later as the story unfolds.
  • Connect the character to the setting so it isn’t just a backdrop. You might show how the character interacts with the setting.
  • There’s no need to skimp on details that serve the story. If your story is about snipers, give sniper details. Make sure they’re sharp and interesting. Avoid being vague. Write tight!

Structure: Theme, Mood, and Plot

  • Start the book as late in the story as you can. Does your story still work if you start with Chapter 2? If so, Cut chapter 1.
  • Write a great first line. A great first line grabs the reader’s interest.
  • The theme is the argument that the story is making. The first chapter should hint at theme.
  • Establish your mood. Ask yourself how you want the reader to feel while reading the book.
  • Think of every chapter as a short story with a mini-plot and conflict, especially Chapter 1.
  • Avoid telegraphing. Let the immediacy of the action carry the chapter to the end. Keep your pov tight.

 Character

  • Most writing experts will recommend introducing your protagonist in the first chapter. Some recommend introducing your antagonist as well. Avoid opening with other characters talking about the main character.
  • Make your reader care about your character. How is the character at risk?
  • Have your character engaged – active versus passive.
  • Not absolutely necessary, but dialog is a great way to reveal character, and conflict and manage pace.

Conflict

  • Have some sort of conflict – physical, emotional, or mental. Conflict disrupts the status quo. Conflict is drama and it’s interesting.
  • You don’t need to spell out the stakes for the entire book in chapter one, but hint at why the conflict matters.
  • A note on action: Rip-roaring action might be fun, but it’s best if the reader cares about the character. Without an investment in character and context, an action scene can feel shallow.

Hooks

  • End your first chapter and each chapter with a moment of mystery, an introduction of conflict, or a twist of the tale. It doesn’t have to be a huge one; it just needs to be intriguing enough to propel the reader forward.
  • Mystery. While action needs context, one of mystery’s strengths is that it makes the reader wait for context. It’s okay not to explain everything. At the same time, mystery does not equal confusion – find the balance.

Happy Writing!