Inspiring writing reminder

“I wonder how old we are when we stop thinking like kids?”  – This Kid Reviews Books  (Quote used with permission. Thanks, Erik!)

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Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – Part 19: By Hook, Not By Crook

Welcome back! Over the next several more months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month nineteen:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 19: By Hook, Not by Crook

What do a fisherman and a writer have in common?

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Yes, you’re right! Using a hook! How did you ever guess?

If you’ve read any how-to books about the craft of writing a novel, then you’ve read about the all-important hook — that sentence or idea which draws the reader into the story right from the first page on.

This post isn’t about that huge hook. It’s about another place within your novel that benefits when you append a hook. The end of a chapter. I’m one of those novelists who believe, that in our current reading climate, most readers prefer short chapters. I know there are exceptions, but long chapters can make a reader feel like she is listening to a long, boring diatribe.

Short chapters ramp up the tension, allow for more fluid point-of-view changes, and help the writer segue more easily into a new scene. However, shorter chapters mean more chapter endings and chapter endings can be a problem.

When I write, my goal is to pull the reader into the story and to do everything I can to keep him there. So the reader lives and breathes and sees the world as if he were the main character. Chapter endings remind the reader that he or she lives in another world. No matter how many positives exist because of a chapter break, those breaks also act like stop signs in the continuum of the story. Pop! The reader is back into real life. He or she sets down the book and goes about regular business. So you, the writer need an edge to bring him or her back as soon as possible, and that edge is the proverbial hook.

Basically, I observe two rules when I end a chapter with a hook.

1. The hook is short, contained in only a sentence or two or three.

2. The hook is honest. It doesn’t set up bogus expectations.  You don’t want your reader to feel cheated. The crooked hook: “Albert caught his breath. He was staring  into the golden eyes of a snarling cheetah.” The disillusionment, next chapter: “Of course, the cheetah was only a poster on the wall in Albert’s bedroom.”

I’m not at all the best  hook writer in the business. I’m afraid I’m not even in the top 1000, but I own the copyrights to my novels and my works-in-progress, so rather than cite hooks from other writers’ copyrighted novels,  I’ll close this post with a few examples of chapter-end hooks that I have written. I hope they’ll convey what I mean and give you some examples to draw from as you write your own hooks.

From MOTHER EARTH FATHER SKY, Chapter 25: “Then Kayugh took his daughter to the beach while the others finished burying his wife.”  [The hook: If he can't even bear to see his wife buried, how will Kayugh be able to survive his grief?]

From CRY OF THE WIND, Chapter 41: “‘River Ice Dancer,’ she said, holding out her hand, ‘you are cold, and my bed is very warm.’” [The hook: Will River Ice Dancer fall into the wily hands of the temptress K'os?]

From BONE FIRE (work-in-progress), Chapter 3: “If Rose wasn’t still pregnant when they got there, the Spirit-caller wouldn’t take her in trade. Then what would Villr do? Watch his own daughter die?” [The hook: Why would his daughter die? What are Villr's horrible plans for the main character Rose?]

Remember, you want to draw your reader back to your novel, even after the disruption of a chapter break. A small hook will do, a tease that will make your reader want to stay in the story. Be quick. Be honest.

Strength to your pen!

Sue

*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back September 25, 2014, for part 20.

Book Review: Emma Bean – by Jean Van Leeuwen

Emma Bean1Book: Emma Bean
Author: Jean Van Leeuwen
Illustrator: Juan Wijngaard
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Date: September 6, 1993
Genre: picture book for ages 3 and up
Pages: 40
Price: can be found at a wide range of prices, from a few cents for used to phenomenal prices for new
My Rating: a book to love for its wonderful story and fabulous illustrations
 
 

The back story: I was studying, taking a course called Writing Children’s Literature. I had a long reading list of children’s books, so I began buying some from the bookstore and borrowing many from the library to read from that list. One day I made a trip to the bookstore and just wandered around lovingly looking at and touching the many, many books, when I came upon this particular one. Emma Bean by Jean Van Leeuwen was the most gorgeous hard cover book I had seen that day … and maybe ever up to then. I stood in a quiet aisle of that bookstore and read the story. Oh my goodness! It so touched my heart it was all I could do to keep from crying right there. In fact, I think I did sniffle a little. Not prepared to buy anything that day I reluctantly put the book back, but a few days later I went to the little shop with a specific purchase in mind and left with my own copy of Emma Bean.

Look at the words of the opening page:  Once there was a rabbit and she had a    girl. The girl’s name was Molly. The rabbit was Emma Bean.

How sweet and inviting is that beginning? This is the most adorable story. Emma Bean was made to be a cuddly toy bunny for a baby, and as the little girl grew Emma Bean got to have lots of experiences – from taste-testing to ‘flying’ (not always the best fun) to going to school.

The illustrations by Juan Wijngaard are fabulous. Rich, colourful, realistic, they help to make the story delightful and memorable.

Emma Bean2

 

 

 

This is the back cover.

If Emma Bean by Jean Van Leeuwen had been available for me to read as a little girl, for sure it would have been one of my most cherished. Even though it was published two decades ago, I highly recommend this book for a child you care about, or for your own bookshelf – like I did. :)

You can find Emma Bean listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! :)

Quiz: What magical creature are you?

Here it is Monday already! I missed blogging on the weekend, but I have a really, really good reason.

Friday at 3:00 PM my doorbell rang. When I went to the door who should be standing there but … my daughter who lives in Alberta!!  She came home for a ten-day visit, a surprise to everyone except her oldest sister who helped in the planning. :)  That’s neat because on her last trip home (in April) it was that sister who was the only one NOT to know she was coming since it was a surprise for her special birthday event.  What a lovely treat to have her home.  :)

It was a busy weekend, including a family event at the cottage to welcome into the ‘clan’ my sister-in-law’s fiance'; their upcoming wedding is in October. It was after receiving the invitation to Sunday’s special occasion that my daughter started making plans to come home again. She had been blessed to get a promotion with pay increase at work which enabled her to make two trips home this year, the first time she’s been able to do that since moving to Alberta six years ago.

Sunday was a gorgeous day for family and feasting (including lobsters and muscles on the menu), and then my beloved and I went canoeing for a little while on the calm lake. I needed that.

So … all the above, including reading to review, and I missed blogging – but with good reason, don’t you agree?  :)

Now, this post was originally going to be on the weekend and about this fun quiz I would like you to try. The question is: What magical creature are you?  I don’t know if I should tell you what I am according to that. ;) Funny.

Do try the quiz and leave a message to share what magical creature you are.  :)

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

 

Book Review: The Michael Letters: Heaven’s Answer to Screwtape – by Jim Peschke

The Michael Letters, Heaven's Answer to ScrewtapeBook: The Michael Letters: Heaven’s answer to Screwtape
Author: Jim Peschke
Publisher:  Jim Peschke
Date: 2010
Genre: religious fiction
Pages: 142
Price: Kindle under $5; paper under $10
My rating: good attempt at a follow-up to C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

 

In order for you to make sense of the intent of this book – The Michael Letters: Heaven’s answer to Screwtape – you may first have to read C.S.Lewis’ famous classic The Screwtape Letters. Even having read Lewis’ book I found this one a little hard to ‘get’.

Jim Peschke‘s writing is good – the archangel is writing to a guardian angel whose main focus is on a man who is struggling with his faith. All through the book other people in this man’s life are mentioned, sometimes pulling the focus off the main character, but making connections to his life.

The angels address his conflicts with his mother, his interest in a lady friend – even talking about her being overweight, his problems at work, and his worries about being a charitable person.

There were a few places in what the angels were believing where the author did not line up with Scripture. This may be a matter of interpretation, but if I may give an example: “The Son came to wonder if he could die for mankind’s sin.” This is not quite accurate; Jesus never doubted His mission and godship, although as man he was not welcoming the suffering He knew was coming.

The Michael Letters is an entertaining read, not C.S.Lewis standard but the author claimed to not pretend to write the same as Lewis. He does give a modern reply by angels to what the devil and helper were saying in The Screwtape Letters.

You can find The Michael Letters: Heaven’s answer to Screwtape listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Book Review: Heaven’s PREY – by Janet Sketchley

Heaven's PreyBook: Heaven’s PREY: A Redemption’s Edge novel
Author: Janet Sketchley
Publisher: Choose NOW Publishing
Date: November 1, 2013
Genre: suspense; regional fiction
Pages: 322
Price: Paperback under $16; Kindle under $4
My rating: hard to read but harder to put down
 

I received a copy of Heaven’s Prey from the author for my honest review.

This was a novel hard for me to read but also hard to put out of mind. I had to know how it ended, and not only in order to write a review.

In Heaven’s Prey by Janet Sketchley we meet Ruth, the main female character who is still mourning the loss of her niece, a young woman who had been brutally attacked and murdered. We meet Tony, Ruth’s husband who refuses to accept the God to Whom his wife prays … for the killer! In a dramatic turn of events we meet the killer, Harry, who had escaped from prison and was not on the west coast of Canada where everyone was looking for him, but in Nova Scotia – on Canada’s east coast.

Mild spoiler alert: On her way home from a prayer meeting Ruth makes a stop at a convenience store. That’s when things get dramatic. In an odd turn of events Harry is there and kidnaps Ruth, not knowing her connection to his last victim (her niece) before he was caught. This traumatic event leads to dramatic change in the lives of Ruth, Tony and Harry.

Janet Sketchley is a strong writer. Heaven’s Prey is well-structured, dramatic, hard to read in places because of content, and keeps the reader interested in knowing if/how Ruth will survive, and what will happen to Harry.

Although this novel is a story of redemption and forgiveness it is definitely not a book for young readers. If you enjoy a good suspense with no foul language, scenes that are on the edge but not graphic, drama that rises and falls and increases again, then this is the book for you.

Heaven’s PREY by Janet Sketchley was a finalist in the 2014 Word Awards in the suspense category.

You can find Heaven’s PREY listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

 Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

Depression is depressing (saying goodbye to Robin Williams)

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It’s been a week now since the shocking news of Robin Williams’ apparent suicide.  My first reaction when hearing of it was denial .. It can’t be true! Not Robin Williams.  When realizing it was not a mistake, contrary to conflicting reports being posted online, I went from denial to shock to sorrow to a level of depression.

 

Depression.  Anger and disappointment combined. That’s what it was for me.  In light of that along with some other things going on in my life it’s been a tough week during which I struggled to appear okay. Yes, I withdrew a little more; I tried to keep the emotion under control; I spent some time reading, tearily looking at YouTube clips about Robin Williams, but also listening to the music I enjoy to keep myself from going under.

What again was emphasized to me was the agony of soul a person experiences when in such depths of despair there is no way out to be found. It’s a lie, of course, but not to the blinded mind in the throes of it. What grieved me so much about Robin’s choice of remedy is many-faceted.

1. It was Robin Williams – the man whose crazy, spontaneous humour brought laughter and cheer; the brilliant quick mind that could respond to anything in half a moment while everyone else was still thinking up a reply.

You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it. – Robin Williams

2. Robin’s pain was so deep that no one seemingly even suspected how severe it was. At least, not to the point they feared for his own actions nor did what they could to prevent it. How did they not know? Or maybe they did but couldn’t yet reach that deep.

3. If Robin could suffer so greatly without raising suspicion, how many others are in that same place of torment, also going unnoticed? Robin Williams’ act gave more proof that depression can happen to anyone. Anyone. Most successful suicides are unrecognized issues until it’s too late.

4. I worried if Robin Williams resorted to that decision for his end of life, how great an influence would that be to others in the despair of depression?

5. Personally, I know that kind of pain. I know those thoughts. Thankfully, I recognized the lie. I was so saddened that Robin didn’t pay attention to what he knew and even warned others against. His words linger on …

“Remember, suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.”

6. In that same week following Robin’s suicide, there were two others I heard about – one not far from the home of one of my daughters, the other my husband saw – while driving from one work location to another – shortly after the fact of its happening, emergency vehicles just arriving.

7.  No matter how bad it seems there is always a better choice. There is help in some form, help that will make each dark day easier to bear until the light is reached. No matter the anguish of soul suicide is not the answer.

8. There is hope, there is life after depression, there is reason to live, there are people who care. The affect a person’s death has on another is beyond description. And when that death is self-inflicted by choice there is no way to explain the guilt, the pain, the anger, the lasting impact the survivors suffer because of it.

I have been guilty of saying suicide is the cowardly way out. Not that the person was a coward, but that they lacked the strength to carry on the fight for life. Perhaps it is simply harsh desperation – unheeded, unheard, unrecognized. I believe it takes a lot of courage to stand against the warring voices in one’s head – the voice to give up versus the voice to hang in there – and choosing to live.

Suicide is not because someone wants to die. Suicide is an escape from the pain of living. And I firmly believe that suicide is not the end.

If you are toying with the idea of suicide — DON’T DO IT. PLEASE. Don’t give up. There is a saying, Don’t give up on the brink of a miracle. If I had given up I would have missed out on SO MUCH that God has for me. The impact would have been horrendous on my family. I know that now although it was extremely hard to see the truth of it then.

Depression. Is. Not. The. Answer.

Choose to live. Seek help. Talk to someone.

If you suspect someone in your life is struggling with harmful thoughts, if they’re despondent, sad, withdrawing, maybe using anger to keep people away … do your best to draw him/her out. Love them unconditionally. Do little things to show you care. Encourage them to get help. Pray for them.

But do not .. DO NOT .. feel guilty if you miss the signs.

I will miss Robin Williams, his manic crazy humour, his brilliance. There are four more movies (one is a voice-over) coming out that Robin starred in – two later this year, one in 2015, and one with no set date as yet. I’ll be watching for them.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

 

 

Book Review: Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom – by Tricia Goyer

BalancedBook: Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom
Author: Tricia Goyer
Publisher: GoyerInk
Date: December 17, 2013
Genre: women’s non-fiction, family living
Pages: 106
Price: Kindle, $4.97
My Rating: a must-read for all work-at-home moms who feel guilty because they can’t do it all
 
 

If you are a mother with still-at-home children to care for, if you are trying to work at home while caring for your children (this doesn’t mean that caring for your children is not work), if you are super-stressed with trying to do it all and maintain your sanity — this book is for you! Or if you know someone who falls into that category, perhaps even a work-at-home dad, this book should be in her/his hands.

Author Tricia Goyer is a prolific writer having many books to her credit. She doesn’t hide the fact that she lives by her faith in God, and that her writing talent is a gift from Him. If you are worried about “religious” content, don’t be. In a non-preachy way she shares about how to make change happen in your life to help you find balance as you try to handle both children and career.

The following is a list of the eleven chapters in which she shares practical and sound advice, ideas, and suggestions in a conversational, non-clinical manner.

  1. My Story of Finding Balance {And Some Practical Starter Ideas}
  2. How Your Work Benefits from You Being at Home
  3. How My Kids Benefit from My Work-at-Home-Ness
  4. What Does God Have In Mind When He Selects and Shapes a Person?
  5. Working and Serving from Your Core
  6. Becoming the Architect of Your Own Schedule
  7. Successful {Not Stressful} Family Living
  8. I Can’t Tell You How Many Times a Week I’m Asked, “How Do You Do It All?”
  9. Being a Mom and Following Your God-Given Dreams … I Give You Permission
  10. The Freedom of Knowing Yourself
  11. Balance Isn’t the Ultimate Goal – Knowing God Is

Since I seem to like quotes, a few things Tricia Goyer said stood out to me, such as:

  • “Dreams don’t happen if they stay dreams; you have to do something about them.”
  • “When we do the work He’s called us to do, we can trust the outcome to Him.”
  • “I want to live the type of life I can write about.”

I also liked these quotes she mentioned by other people:

  • “I am here to serve; not to show off. I am here to inspire; not to impress. I am here to make a difference; not to make a name.” – mantra of author and speaker Sam Horn when she gets up to speak
  • “When you want what God wants for the reasons God wants it you’re unstoppable … for the glory of God.” – Steven Furtick, pastor at Elevation Church
  • “There are two great days in our lives. The day we were born, and the day we discovered why.” – William Barclay

From my personal position, I found this book is not only for work-at-home moms, but for anyone with legitimate demands on their time and attention as they try to ‘work at home.’ Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom is worth the short time required to read it, and may help you discover things you didn’t know about yourself.

You can find Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)