Monday, July 25, 2011

More ways to approach character

Time for another post about building characters in your work, and this time, I'm using one of my favorite writer's handbooks, The Writer's Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long.

From THE WRITER’S PORTABLE MENTOR, A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life by Priscilla Long

List 20 concrete words associated with this person. Clothing, foods, hobbies, occupation, favored objects.

Write a macro-portrait: quick stokes, an overall picture of the person. “A tall angular man with ginger-colored hair and a disjointed way of moving”

Use coloration judiciously: Use comparison, slow down and dwell. Use comparisons to fruits, dogs, birds, gems, stones, vegetables, horses.

Choose one part of body Language: Put the person’s habitual gestures on the page. The way the person walks, moves his or her hands, weeps, laughs, talks. Consider open and shut, looseness and tightness, defended or undefended. Consider energy, agitation and stillness.

Use pet phrases to characterize: Write one of his/her exact phrases:

Dress the person: Dress reveals character. The way people dress reveals who they are and what they think, but don’t overdue it. Choose one piece of information that dominates about the clothing.

Write for ten minutes and reflect on this person or character. What insights can you come up with?

Write a biography of the person for 10 minutes.

Compose a portrait of the person using the most telling of the attributes from each of the categories. It can be long or short, two lines or two pages.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Writer Resources

By B.D. Tharp

There is no shortage of information these days. The problem is finding it and trusting that it is accurate. Over the past few years I’ve put together quite a collection of links to web sites, writer organizations, magazines, and resources that have been valuable to me on my writing journey.

Let me first say, there is no better resource to the writer than the company of other writers. Only a writer understands the struggle and joy that is involved in the craft. Our friends and family may sympathize with our disappointments or help us celebrate our triumphs, but they don’t know what it takes for us to get there and to keep going.

There are local and regional writing organizations that will help improve writing skills, and bring you great friends. In the heartland I’ve been a member of three great groups: KWA (Kansas Writers Association, ), KAC (Kansas Authors Club, ) and OWFI (Oklahoma Writer Federation Inc., ). We also have active Romance, Children’s, and Mystery Writers groups locally as well. I was a member of IWWG (International Women Writers Guild, ) and NAWW (National Assoc. of Women Writers, ) for several years. All of these organizations have workshops, web sites with valuable information, and links to other writing resources.

I’ve also subscribed to several good publications and highly recommend The Writer ( ), Writers Digest ( ), and Poets & Writers ( ). Periodically I pick up a Writers Journal, too. These publications provide timely articles on the craft, reviews with new and established authors, information about contests, conferences, publishing, editors and agents. I generally alternate one or two subscriptions each year, so I don’t spend all my spare time reading instead of writing.

If you are searching for markets, agents, and publishers I suggest you check out Writers Market ( The web version is kept more up to date, but the print version has great articles and interviews. For the past year I’ve subscribed to Publishers Marketplace (, which has timely information about the publishing industry, new deals (book, foreign rights, film), and job listings.

A good way to investigate writer conferences all over the globe is Shaw Guides ( ). My first experience using this tool was a writer’s retreat in New Mexico given by Emily Hanlon (an author and teacher), which set my course as a writer.

Universities and writer organizations in your region no doubt sponsor some great workshops. I’ve attended several in my area that were sponsored by Newman University and Wichita State University, as well as OWFI and KWA. Check out events in your area, save your pennies, and go to at least one per year. I’m told that agents, editors, and publishers find most of their new authors at writer conferences these days, so invest in your future. It’s certainly a good way to network with others in the industry.

A writers group is a great place to share ideas, critique, celebrate, and console. If there isn’t a local group that works for you, find like-minded writers who share your love for the craft or a specific genre and start your own. You will see improvements in your writing as well as the added social benefit. Writing may be a solitary endeavor, but we need “input” to stimulate our creativity. Some of my best ideas have developed from an overheard conversation in a restaurant, a brainstorming session, a photograph, and free writing exercises. You just never know where the muse will strike.

Some of the books that have guided me on my writing path include: Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott), The Right to Write (Julia Cameron), Marry Your Muse (Jan Phillips), On Writing (Stephen King), The Art of Fiction Writing (Emily Hanlon), Writing Down the Bones (Natalie Goldberg), On Becoming a Novelist (John Gardner), The Writer’s Book of Hope (Ralph Keyes), and The Artists Way (Julia Cameron). There are many more good books out there, but these were among my favorites, and have left a lasting impression.

I used to hear “write what you know” a lot when I first started out. Frankly, I don’t know everything, so I believe you need to write what you feel and find out about those things you don’t know. An insatiable curiosity provides good fodder to the writer, but I truly subscribe to this notion - “When your heart speaks, take good notes” (Susan Borkin).

Much good luck to you all on your writing journey I hope these resources will help you along, and don’t forget to enjoy the ride.

Summer Reading Suggestions

Summer Reading

by Jacqueline Seewald

I had every intention of writing something useful and educational this month. Then I opened several of my magazines (yes, we actually do still subscribe to print publications at our house!) and low and behold there were all these wonderful articles on the best books for summer reading. With people going on vacation, sitting at beaches, pools and on cruise ships, many individuals actually enjoy relaxing with a good book.

TIME MAGAZINE did a wonderful job with this in their July 11th issue. The magazine provided an ultimate summer reading list of 48 books. Most of the suggestions come from famous people. They also include staff picks. But what about those of us who are published by small independents? Are our books forever to be ignored by the reading public?

I would like to mention my own recently published novel THE TRUTH SLEUTH.
I hope that you will decide to request the novel at your local library for your summer reading.

The third romantic mystery novel in the Kim Reynolds series continues the heroine’s experiences as a reluctant psychic detective. Kim is a librarian and a teacher who seems to stumble across dead people. Her romantic life is as complicated as her work.

Here’s an excerpt from the very beginning of the novel:


They watched Jimmy Sanduski ride to victory at the NHRA SuperNationals, racing a Harley-Davidson V-Rod. He roared through the field, setting the top speed for the event, and the crowd went wild. Sanduski, new kid on the block, had not been expected to win.
Kim Reynolds didn’t find the sport particularly fascinating, but she’d gone along with Bert St. Croix and April Nevins, just to see what it was like. She enjoyed the company of both women, and, as they were now into motorcycles, Kim thought she might give it a try. April had generously loaned Kim her bike, riding to the raceway park on the back of Bert’s large Harley.
But what had started out as a pleasant afternoon began shifting to something quite different. Kim was developing an uncomfortable feeling of wrongness; a kind of prickling sensation slithered down her spine. She recognized the feeling for what it was but shook her head, trying to dispel the spasm of dread that suddenly gripped her. God, not this again! Would she ever be free of it?
Then Kim gasped, seized by a stab of pain. In her mind, she heard a silent scream, an astonished cry for help. She felt another’s panic and terror. She began to shiver and tremble.
“What’s the matter?” Bert asked, her dark brows rising then knitting together in concern.
“Someone’s been hurt.” Those were the only words she managed to choke out.
“Who? Where?” April asked, glancing around in confusion.
“Maybe we better have a look,” Bert said. Her height of six feet gave her an advantage over both Kim, who was five foot six inches, and April, who was barely five foot two inches tall.
The crowd was starting to thin out, many bikers revving up their engines in anticipation of leaving now that today’s entertainment was over. Kim led, Bert and April following behind her. Although she was not really certain where she was going, Kim plowed blindly through the garbage-strewn grounds. And then she saw him: a very young man sitting in an aluminum beach chair, head slumped forward as if he were in a deep sleep.
“He’s dead,” Kim heard herself say with certainty. Her voice sounded hollow, expressionless and faraway, as if it belonged to someone else.
“Oh, God, are you sure?” April asked, tossing her gold-tinted curls as if to deny Kim’s statement. “Kim’s got this gift of knowing stuff like that,” Bert said.
More like a curse, in Kim’s opinion.
Bert knelt down, at first not touching the body. “I don’t think he’s breathing.” Bert’s voice had taken on a note of professional authority. She looked and sounded like the seasoned policewoman she was. Bert felt for a pulse, then shook her head. “Don’t touch anything. I’m calling this in.” There was a grim expression on Bert’s cafĂ© au lait features. She pulled a small cell phone out from the pocket of her black leather jacket.
Before Bert could make the call, Kim turned and faced her.
“There’s something I think you should know.”
“I’m listening.” Bert stood very still like a figure in a portrait.
Kim let out a ragged breath. “I think that boy was murdered.”

Here are a few reviews of the novel:

“The talented Seewald puts her heroine through the wringer with a romantic dilemma, a job she doesn’t like, two mysterious teen murders, deadly school politics, and financial hardships. Readers will enjoy the continuing adventures of Seewald’s conflicted psychic.”

—Shelley Mosley, Booklist

“The Truth Sleuth packs a double whammy. Not only is the solution to the murder unexpected, but the sleuth's personal life is just as surprisingly complex. Add in a colorful school setting and a protagonist with special gifts, and you get a winner.”

Toni L.P. Kelner, New York Times Bestselling author

“Who better than a psychic reference librarian to untangle a complicated romance and decipher a mysterious death? Jacqueline Seewald has written one for the books!”

Molly MacRae, award-winning author of Wilder Rumors and Lawn Order
“An attractive but demanding administrator, troubled students, along with her lover’s angry ex, complicate Kim Reynolds’ life. Author Jacqueline Seewald understands the ins and outs of high school politics and routines.” Susan Froetschel, author of Royal Escape

“This is an engaging paranormal amateur sleuth with one romance going on hiatus and another beginning while Kim changes jobs. More a character study than a mystery …readers will enjoy the Truth Seeker as Kim is forced to find herself with new employment and new relationships.”

Harriet Klausner

What books would you suggest for summer reading? What books do you look forward to reading this summer?

Monday, July 11, 2011

19th Century Travel

In doing research for my latest novel, I came upon a helpful resource, a book on the subject of Florence Nightingale’s travels through Europe. Because my book is set in the same time period, Nightingale’s letters and journals, documenting her travels, were priceless.

Among other modes of travel, which included ships and omnibuses, she frequently traveled in a diligence, the popular name for a French stagecoach. A diligence was drawn by either four or six horses, and had a place in front like a small porch, on which one could stand or sit. Diligences were used mainly between towns or rail stations, and competed with canal boats, until rail travel in Europe became more widespread in the last half of the 19th century.

Joyce Elson Moore