Monthly Archives: February 2013

Sue Harrison’s “Writing The Third Dimension”- part 2: Cut the Puppet Strings!

Welcome! Over the next many 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 two:


“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 2: Cut the Puppet Strings!

One of my little life treasures is a slip of paper from my uncle that is filled with handwritten notes about characterization. Uncle Bill was a composer, symphony conductor, and concert pianist, very eccentric and very brilliant. When I was in college, I worked up enough nerve to begin sending him some of my short stories.  He became my coach, cheerleader, and harshest critic, exactly what I needed at that time.  I finally wrote a novelette and sent that 40,000 words of drivel to him.  

Uncle Bill wrote a critique of my novelette, and, when he was at the post office to mail that critique to me, he ripped a deposit slip out of his checkbook and wrote this on the back: [his words and spelling] “Your characters must be so real they even defy the author.  They wake you up in the middle of the nite and spit right in your eye. You are not creating puppets that do what you want but live living beings that act their life right in front of you. You will do well to write it down fast enough when this happens.” In the critique, one of  his sentences reads: “I know more about the sidewalk [in your manuscript] than I do about your main character.” My manuscript had a fatal flaw. I had managed to write 40,000 words without allowing any of my characters to step off the page and assume three dimensions. I’d written a whole novelette about people who were merely puppets, and their strings were showing.

In my first “Writing the Third Dimension” post here on Polilla Writes, we talked about carrying your characters around in your head until you know them well enough to understand what will destroy them. That’s identifying the huge center of your character, but you also have to know all those quirky little things that will make your character real and loveable and irascible, those attributes that will make your character memorable to your readers.

If you are just beginning your novel, or if, in rereading your manuscript, you feel that your characters are stiff and fake, buy, beg, or scarf up a three-ring binder. Fill it with lined loose-leaf paper, or, if you’re a techie, start a file on your computer or iPad. As you carry your main character around in your head, take notes about him or her. Don’t try to get too organized about this. Right now you’re a hunter-gatherer. Hunt for the stuff and jot it down. When you’re answering the telephone, stop and think how your main character would answer the telephone. When you’re ordering pizza, decide what your main character would like on his pizza. If you’re clicking through the channels on your television, figure out what your main character would watch. What would he read? What car would she buy? Where does he like to vacation? If you’re writing about a different era than modern times, what horse would she ride? What fabric would she choose for her new dress? What did he name his spaceship? Write it all down.

Cut out photographs from magazines or eZines and save them until you have a composite picture of what your main character looks like. Here’s a huge secret about writing that I’ll tell you now and also tell you again in later posts. If your visualization of your character (or a setting or an item) is fuzzy in your mind, it will be visually fuzzy to your reader. That’s one of the few rules of writing that’s pretty much set in stone. Learn to see your character in action in your mind. How does he run? Like Harrison Ford? How does she smile? Like Julia Roberts?  Close your eyes and visualize until you see that character so clearly you could be watching her on television.

Last month, we were looking at the big picture – the center of your character’s being, his self-esteem, her reason for living. This month, we’re talking about the details, figuring out all the small stuff that makes people real. Next month? The whole picture. Remember, the stronger your characters, the better chance you’ll have to be published, which means that I’ll get to read your books. I can’t wait!

My questions for you: What color is your main character’s hair?  What does your main character love to do in his free time?

Any questions for me?  Please feel free to ask!

Blessings and Happy Writing!


*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 come back March 28, 2013, for part 3.


Book review: Save The Lemmings – by Kai Strand

Save The Lemmings by Kai StrandBook: Save The Lemmings
Author: Kai Strand
Publisher: Featherweight Press
Date: August 10, 2012
Genre: MG (middle grade), contemporary fiction
Pages: 108, paperback
Price: $8.99
My rating: a wonderful book for today’s young readers

 I received this book from the author in exchange for my free and honest review.

I enjoyed this little book. First of all, it is just the right size for the young audience it targets, so is a rather short but good read. Secondly, the author worked her magic into creating believable characters of varying personalities to whom young readers can relate.

Save The Lemmings, by Kai Strand, delves into the interests and conflicts of a girl in her nearly-teen life. The star of her book is Natalie, a twelve-year-old in grade eight. She is smart, a young inventor, and not the trendiest dresser in school – but that doesn’t bother her. She is her own person,  a nice girl who is focused on doing well with her life.

With a few ideas from her three best friends, Natalie invents a handy little tool for communication and calls it the Texty-Talker. During her research she comes across an organization called Save the Lemmings and gets wrapped up in wanting to save the little suicidal animals. (Actually, as the author points out at the end of her book, some lemmings die during migration, but it is unintentional and a myth that they’re self-destructive.)

When her invention becomes a nationwide hit and Natalie is thrust into the public limelight ill-prepared, problems arise. There are those who are jealous and the bullying she occasionally experiences increases; she is set up for trouble and falls right into it. Rumours fly. With her reputation at stake, even her friends begin to doubt her, and  …  well … I’m not going to tell you anymore, except to say, this little book is very fitting for today’s young readers – with all the peer pressure that’s going on.

Warning: in a couple of conversations God’s name is ill-used, but even so – do let your children read Save The Lemmings. It is inspiring for those who want to move forward with their hopes and dreams and not give in to negative peer pressure.

You can visit Kai Strand at

You can find Save the Lemmings listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂







10 points on how to create a welcoming blog

I have been working on cleaning up my blog. Again.14502340-orange-cartoon-character-with-dust-mop-and-bucket-on-the-white-backgroundI read somewhere that the less clutter there is the more pleasant it is for visitors, and maybe they will return more often. I like that idea. What blogger doesn’t like repeat visitors? So, as a visitor of many other blogs, and keeping that advice in mind, I have tried to make my blog esthetically pleasing – easy on the eyes, interesting to view, and a snap to navigate.

Here are my ten points on how to create a welcoming blog:

  1. WordPress has many themes, most of them free, a few I have tried and liked a lot but I’ve decided that my choice of three columns is a convenience for me. I like that I have my written content in the middle and on either side I can choose widgets to contain the extra things I want to share, things I hope my readers will benefit from and enjoy.
  2. I have tried to keep it as simple as I can, removing the extra unnecessary items that really don’t do much to enhance what my blog is about. That has evolved over time and is ongoing.
  3. I chose a theme with adjustable background colours I can change if I want to; right now light blue is working well. It’s calming and, I think, makes the writing easy to see. Plus, for the month that WordPress has snow falling on my blog if I want it (and I do), I can adjust the colour to see the snow more clearly.
  4. I recently discovered menus! All my page names are in the top bar of every page and now you can mouse over them for drop-down menus. Fun! I enjoy that feature on blogs I visit; it’s like finding hidden treasure. 🙂 And it’s a convenient way to see what’s offered without having to take forever to search for it, such as writers helps.  Another great thing is that using drop-down menus, I listed all my individual book reviews posted here so far, but – being concerned about monitors that have smaller screens – I divided the list into two per year where necessary so the reader can access every review. One long list could mean the reader might miss the books at the bottom, and they’re too good to miss. The menus can be layered to accommodate what I needed to do.
  5. The calendar in my left column has the dates of my blog posts in each month underlined.That way it is a reminder to me that I need to get busy writing, and an easy way for visitors to see if there is a post they may have missed.
  6. Because I find it difficult to keep to a tight routine, not as many posts are written as I would prefer, but I schedule posts ahead if I have been able to get them prepared. That’s another great feature on WordPress. It is very easy to use, along with drafts to save for later use.
  7. I wanted a countdown clock so did an online search for one. What I discovered is that WordPress has one right here! It’s called Milestone, which is why I didn’t recognize it as a countdown clock. It doesn’t even look like a clock but I like it; it’s easy to use and program. Now I have it in my right column to count down to writers workshop dates and to introduce upcoming topics. I also put up a second one when I have a scheduled author interview or book giveaway to announce. How simple, fun, and convenient!
  8. There are many other items offered by WordPress that are very helpful and some of them you can check out here on my blog. I mentioned only a few of the ones I chose and enjoy the most. I like that WordPress is so user-friendly and the team is always working to improve and add to what they offer. And one of the best things is most of the themes allow the user to personalize their blog, which is what a blogger really wants. Making your blog represent who you are can only enhance it.
  9. I am very grateful for the spam filter (Akismet), used here. It has been 99.87% accurate on my blog! The team is always aiming to stay ahead of that battle. Along with that, I’m happy with the way the comments section is set up as I have the choice to approve or deny comments as they come in. I choose to require people to fill out their name and email address in order to comment, but that is to be sure they are sincere. I also DO NOT give that information to anyone else, but I do use it to notify the person if they have won a book. 🙂  If that setting is discouraging you from leaving comments, please be assured that I am safe.  🙂  In my opinion, that setting qualifies as a good feature once the blog feels safe to the visitor.
  10. Perhaps the most important point in creating a welcoming blog is to BE welcoming. So simple a thing to do. My way of doing that is to try to be myself with everyone. I share what’s on my mind, what’s going on in my life – while trying to not go overboard with that, along with posting what my blog is mainly about … which is WRITING. I am delighted to have YOU visit me and let me know you have been here. I love it when you leave a comment or “like” a particular post.  Oh, there’s another fun feature. 🙂

These are a few things I hope will help you a little in creating a welcoming blog. They are what I have figured out over the three years I’ve been here on WordPress. In fact, January 9 was my third WordPress birthday.  Thank you for making my blogging an adventure I truly enjoy. (most of the time) 🙂  Oh, and if you want to subscribe to receive notice of new posts, you’ll find an easy-peasy widget at the top of my left column. It’s automated and free to sign up! 🙂

What blogging features or tips have you found that work for you?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂











Tips for author etiquette (a shared post written by editor Jon Bard)

Today I am sharing a post written by Jon Bard and posted on his blog. Jon is one of the editors of Children’s Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children’s Writers. He wrote an interesting article – actually a rant – to which he received a deluge of responses. Because of requests to share it, he gave permission to do so through tweeting or blogging, so here it is. I thought you might enjoy it also. You can also check out his blog here.

Sorry folks, but I’ve *really* got to vent about something


Note: This rant is almost assuredly not about you, dear reader.  It’s about a small percentage of folks who are really getting under my skin.  But even if you’re not in that group, please read on — just don’t take it personally!  :-)

If you spend a fair amount of time online, perhaps you’ve noticed it:

People are becoming ruder.  And angrier.  And more entitled. 

Really, I’m simply amazed at some of what appears in my e-mail inbox.  Folks with whom I’ve never corresponded are sending me demanding messages such as “SEND ME THE EBOOK!!!!” and “I WANT TO GET PUBLISHED. TELL ME WHAT TO DO!”

People (non-customers) send us long, detailed questions out of the blue and expect immediate responses.  If they don’t get one, we often receive an abusive message as a follow up.

And then there’s the magic words that many people seem to be using as a justification for curt, nicety-free missives:

“Sent via my iPhone”

Look, I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve got a pretty thick skin.  So I raise this not to prevent my feelings from being hurt, but rather as a cautionary message about how *not* to sabotage your writing career.

As a 21st century author, your ability to communicate is paramount to your success.  Editors, agents, bloggers, book reviewers, distributors, promotional partners and readers are just some of the people who are important to your career.  For goodness sake, treat them with more respect than “Here’s my new book. Write a review!”.

Here then, are my tips to help you be seen as a courteous author worthy of consideration:

  •  “Dear”, “Thank you”, “Please” and “Sincerely/All the Best/Yours Truly” aren’t archaic leftovers from the distant past.  They’re still as important as ever.  Use them. Please.
  • Composing a message from your phone or tablet is not an excuse for overly-direct curtness.  If you have a business message to send, wait until you have the time to write it properly.
  • If you’re contacting someone for the first time, make the effort to introduce yourself, and clearly state the purpose of your message.
  • If someone doesn’t get right back to you, don’t fire off an angry e-mail accusing them of ignoring you.  Perhaps the message got lost.  Maybe they’re on vacation.  Perhaps they’re ill.  Calmly send another friendly message restating your request or comment.
  • Remember that you’re dealing with human beings.  In our case, every piece of e-mail is read either by me or by Laura.  We don’t have a building full of underlings to take care of that for us.  When you send us kind words (and many of you do — thank you!), it feels great.  When you’re rude or angry, it stings.   Treat me with respect — I think  I’ve earned at least that.

The vast majority of you are nothing but gracious in your communications with us.  That bodes well for your future success.  Keep at it, and gently work to correct those who aren’t minding your manners.

For the few of you who may have let your etiquette slip, please take heed of the points I’ve laid out, and make a resolution to make the online world just a little bit more courteous.

That’s it — venting over!  :)     Onward….

What is your opinion on what Jon Bard had to say above? Most of you will not be in his job situation, but do you find people are more impatient in today’s modern methods of communication? Tweeting, texting, and emailing are quick. Do you find people to be more demanding of you, or do you find yourself waiting for a reply and getting impatient when it does not come immediately?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂


Where did my get-up-and-go go?

Ever have ‘one of those days’? I’m having one right now. In fact, I’ve been having one for more days than I care to admit.

You know the saying, “my get-up-and-go got up and went.” Yep! That’s what has happened to me.

So many things I want to do, things I have to do, but I’m lacking the drive to do them.  *sigh*  I keep saying I must be tired. Well, that’s true, I am tired, but it seems to be more than that. Perhaps a temporary change of scenery/location is needed as I just don’t seem to have the motivation to get my act in gear.

Noticeably, I didn’t post a thing here all last week. That’s not good. I have some wonderful books lined up to review here but I can’t seem to think my way through it – but I will, really! I also have books stacked up to read, some of those to review, but I’m plugging away at War and Peace. Sometimes my reading is just for me, which is necessary, and I am enjoying W & P; it’s just taking me forever because I interject other books along the way.

Of course, there is life and all that entails. A sweet acquaintance/friend passed away the morning of February 15, and after hearing about her I learned that my uncle passed during the night of February 14. Both were expected, but not quite that soon.

Have you suffered with the flu this season, or the cold virus thing that is pulling people down? I am trying to avoid it, but I think that may be a lost cause. Two of Dad’s caregivers have been sick, so I am here longer this time until they recover past the contagious stage. I am expecting to go home tomorrow. It’s a little difficult to avoid my beloved at home, though, who is also recovering from it. Astragalus, an herbal remedy which helps to improve immune function, could be my happy thought. 😉

We were hit with a blizzard last night and this morning. That mixed things up a bit. The power went off at 4:00 this morning at home – not here at Dad’s – so I’m glad I wasn’t there for that this time. My husband didn’t even try to get to work – roads were treacherous with wind, snow, ice – but instead he took care of things at home during the power outage.

I already asked if you have had the flu this season, and now I have a couple more questions for you:

  1. What do you do when your ‘get-up-and-go’ got up and went?
  2. Do you enjoy winter storms? how do you cope with them? and power outages?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂



Book Review: Elephant Summer – by Douglas Jackson Channell

Elephant Summer
Book: Elephant Summer
Author: Douglas Jackson Channell
Publisher: self-published; sold by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Date: April 9, 2009
Genre: fictional story based on non fiction; Nature; YA
Pages: 175
Price: (on Kindle) $2.99
My rating: Exciting, excellent story

I found this book on Amazon and was drawn by the title.  I love elephants and, in looking at the description of this book, had to read it. I was not disappointed.

The story opens with everyone running from a rogue elephant, so my attention was captured from the very beginning.

During their summer vacation, three young teenage friends – two boys, one girl – visit the archeologist uncle of the boy telling the story. His uncle is living and working in Kenya, Africa. The three teens become involved in learning about a family of elephants and help with gaining new information about them.

Elephants are amazing, intelligent animals, individual in personality and habits. This story brings to the reader’s attention how wonderful these animals are, and how serious is their plight as they are still being destroyed needlessly and cruelly. It is told through the concern and humour of the young friends who have the privilege of learning first-hand about them. There is adventure, danger, teenage antics, humour, and more, set in the jungle camp and surrounding area. It’s a fun book to read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well, except for the harsh reality of some scenes which were a little hard to read knowing it does actually happen, but it was handled in such a good way to be suitable for young readers as well. From the title and summary that influenced me to obtain this book, right to the last word in the last chapter, my interest was held. It made me want to be there.

If you like elephants, or enjoy stories about adventures in the wild – in this case, Africa – give this book, Elephant Summer, a try.

You can find Elephant Summer listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Now, apart from the book, and because I love elephants, I’m going to put in a plug here for the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, USA. This is a quote directly off their website:The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, founded in 1995, is the nation’s largest natural habitat refuge developed specifically for endangered African and Asian elephants.” Check out their website:  and see what they are doing to help these magnificent animals, one at a time.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

We have a winner of Steve Vernon’s book “Sinking Deeper”!


My husband drew a name out of the basket for me and we have a winner of Steve Vernon’s book Sinking Deeper OR My awesome brilliant Questionable Heroic Decision to Invent a Sea Monster”!

Drum roll please …   snare-drum-thand the winner is …

Janet S!  Congratulations, Janet!  I will be sending you an email for your mailing information.

Thank you, everyone, for entering. I know Steve appreciates your interest.  Keep tuned in, there will be more book reviews and giveaways later.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂