Monthly Archives: June 2014

Inspirational music of faith

I hope you have enjoyed a pleasant weekend. Here Summer has finally taken hold and temperatures have risen from the chill.  yay!

sun-patriotic

 

 

 

My post will be brief this time.  I found some wonderful music … actually, it is worship music, but even if you are not a Christian you may really enjoy this.

Hillsong United performs an acoustic version of “Oceans” from the album “ZION”.

Click here to listen.

Blessings on your day!

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!

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Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 17: Curses, Foiled Again!

Welcome back! 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 seventeen:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 17: Curses, Foiled Again!

You’ve probably heard the old Chinese curse (maybe from me), “May you live in interesting times.”

Interesting times — war, famine, storms, earthquakes — are terrifying to live through. However, within the framework of a novel, interesting times are wonderful to write about and to read about.

mount st. helens(Photo, public domain)

 I purposely set my first trilogy (The Ivory Carver Trilogy) just prior to, during, and shortly after a large volcanic eruption that rocked the Aleutian Islands thousands of years ago. According to archaeological and geological studies, this eruption left a very clear ash layer, which is relatively easy to date within plus or minus 50 years. I chose a date (7056 B.C.) within that time frame for the first novel of the trilogy, and that allowed me to enhance the realism. These “hey-this-really-happened” moments add definition and believability to a novel. In the case of a volcanic eruption, it also serves as an effective external conflict — man versus nature.

Although many wonderful novels are based only on internal conflict, you are more likely to please your readers if you use both internal and external conflicts.

External conflicts include man-against-man (wars and rumors of war, revenge, arranged marriages, blackmail); man-against-nature (earthquakes, storms, famine, plagues, animals); man-against-machines (robots, razor sharp pendulums, crazed vehicles); man-against-spiritual beings (devils, angels, gods); man-against-entity (governments, corporations, alien civilizations).

The most important thing to keep in mind as you develop external conflicts is to keep your characters in-character. In other words, a man who hates kids probably won’t fight a government entity to protect them. Of course, wouldn’t it be a great story if he did? If he does, however, be sure you give him proper motivation for doing so. Why the change of heart?

Another thing to remember about external (and internal) conflict is that if a conflict does not pierce the heart of your character(s), your readers will be yawning. How do you pierce the heart? Here’s a few ideas:

1. Use your conflicts to test, grow, or destroy your characters.

2. Use conflicts as foils to highlight your character’s desires, strengths, and/or weaknesses.

3. Use conflicts to force your character into rip-out-the-heart choices.

4. Use conflicts to grow your main character’s problems into something larger than his or her daily life.

5. Use conflicts to make your character suffer — mentally, spiritually, or physically.

These techniques help you touch your readers’ hearts, and that’s how writers build their reading audiences.

What types of external conflicts do you like to read about?

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 come back July 24, 2014, for part 18.

Book Review: Sudden Death Overtime – by Steve Vernon

Sudden Death OvertimeBook: Sudden Death Overtime
Author: Steve Vernon
Publisher: Crossroad Press
Date: February 10, 2012
Genre: dark humour; fantasy novelette; horror
Pages: 123
Price: Kindle under $1.00
My rating: dark humour with shock value
 

Steve Vernon is an author who writes like no one I have read thus far. His freedom with the written word is astonishing. It’s as if every thought he has spills out onto paper and has to be shared. Every dark thought, as applies here.

Sudden Death Overtime does not fit my usual reading, because horror is not a genre I particularly enjoy, but I expect this is a dark fantasy unlike most others. This book (novelette because it is short) is sure to satisfy readers who like this genre, but it is not for young readers.

Steve Vernon writes well. His capturing of human nature and the could-care-less attitudes in conversation are true to life, including the coarse and vulgar language between men who are less than etiquette conscious. His imagination is spooky, in this case, horrific!

There is a totally black tour bus that shows up in odd places in a northern Canadian community and people start disappearing. There are four old men who still love hockey enough to clear the ice every Saturday for the kids in the community. There are vampires … and those determined old men … and hockey … and gore. And a twist at the end.

If you like hockey, vampires, horror, dark humour, and you don’t mind coarse language, then you will like this book. Steve Vernon has them all in Sudden Death Overtime. It is a short read that packs a wallop.

You can find Sudden Death Overtime  listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

A book reviewer’s 10 tips for authors, OR do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect

As I was saying in my last post which you can read here, no matter what I read I tend to notice errors in spelling, punctuation, anything not quite fitting together. It is distracting. As a reviewer, I have found those things also make it harder to write a review when I am bothered by them, but I try to stick to the story. Since I began in 2010 I have featured seventy books here on my blog. If the books are sold or offered on the following sites I also post my reviews on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Chapters.Indigo, Library Thing, Shelfari, BookLook Bloggers (if received through them), and Goodreads. My posts are noted on Twitter, Google+, and in LinkedIn. Several other books I have not covered here on my blog but I have posted short reviews on Amazon and other sites. This means they get a lot of coverage, so surely authors want their books to be the best they can be with that much exposure.

As you know, I want to be an author of children’s books. With that in the back of my mind, I notice those things that hurt and I try to remember the things that help. Most writers who seriously want to improve their craft look for tips and helps along the way. Some take classes or full courses, some sit in on writers’ discussions. Even though you didn’t ask, I have a few suggestions which I hope will be of benefit.

Especially for those who are self-publishing or who are trying to cut corners by omitting a good editor …

1. DON’T! Please don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t need an editor. The editing phase is extremely important if you want to be taken seriously. It is painful to read an otherwise good story that has many misspelled words, punctuation and grammar mistakes. If your work is self-published and starts selling, you don’t want negative reviews because of things you could have avoided. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

2. On the other hand, don’t leave all the work to an editor. Chances are, your work – if found to be full of errors that could have been easily fixed by you – can be set aside out of exasperation, returned to you, or worse – refused with no hope of a second chance. You don’t want those delays or the disappointment, so do as much of the clean-up as you can first. Don’t chance looking as if you didn’t care enough to make it presentable. Obtain and use a good dictionary and a Thesaurus. Get someone you trust to do an honest read-through before you even hire an editor. Many writers find joining a like-minded critique group is very helpful. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

3. Take your time. What’s the rush, anyway? Once you get it all down on paper (or computer file) put it away for a few weeks. When you take that first draft out again read it as if you never saw it before. (Yes, I did say FIRST draft.) Read slowly so that you don’t assume what is there, and you can read what is actually on the page. This is the time to do your own editing before you hire someone to do it. Start your rewrite – yes, I mean write it over again working the bugs out of it. (Keep your first copy in case some things you took out work better after revision.) Many authors do several rewrites, and then an editor usually advises more changes. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

4. If you are not writing longhand and are counting on your computer’s spell check to find and fix your blunders, toss that idea now! Their are many weighs two due it rite and a spell cheque program is knot all ways the best oar only way too go! (How many errors did you find in that last sentence?) It is so easy for a computer program to change your words into something you aren’t intending to say at all. You have the brain, your computer has a program. Use the checker for the obvious things, but be sure of them – and use your dictionary, one with synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms. Take the time to do the research. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

5. Don’t use a reviewer as your editor. Errors are distractions but not the reviewer’s job to point out to you. Once you finish writing the story you have yet to do the work. Having written that last sentence does not mean the work is done. Now you start reading from the beginning – out loud to yourself, fixing it, picking it apart, rewriting it. If you aren’t sure of your spelling or how to word something, look for books that teach you. Or take a course. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

6. Don’t take yourself – or your writing – too seriously. Your story may be interesting to you, but it may not come across to others the same way. Make it interesting. Write your story in a captivating way. Read up on how to do that. Solid writing as free of errors as possible helps, and saying it in a natural way that is not stilted and preachy is more inviting to the reader. Be ready to take criticism, because criticism will come. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

7. Don’t assume any word that sounds the same as the one you are trying to rhyme it with is the right word to use. If you are going to write a story in rhyme, study how to write good rhyme, rhythm, time, and … again, use your dictionary. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

8. Punctuation is a serious snag to many writers. Invest in a good book that guides you through that part. Get help to avoid broken quotations, know where to insert commas, and to not use too many exclamation points!!! Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

9. Remember to watch out for details that pull your story along, but can get mixed up in your flurry of writing and rewriting. Interview their characters. Keep notes or an outline just for yourself to get to know them – describe them, their adventures, the scenes, and whatever else will add to your story. Even then mistakes can happen. That’s what editing is for, and very careful rereads. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

10. Be Patient. If you want it done right and well, take your time. Revise, revise, revise. Don’t write it, immediately send it to a reviewer or editor, and expect them to polish it to a fine shine. Take time to make it the best you can before you send it out into the world of “let’s see what we can make of this.” Your work is an extension of your genius and imagination, take your time to get the help you need to give it the best chance. Do yourself a favour – admit you aren’t perfect.

An extra tip: Look for things such as these examples in your writing —

  • One of your characters is suffering a broken left arm from an accident, but later when he is trying to get out of the vehicle his right arm hangs uselessly.  Remember your details.
  • Your character stands to talk with someone and then he stands to leave having not sat again. Watch those scene changes.
  • Be sure if you change a character’s name that you are consistent all the way through your book. When a reader comes across a character who acts as if he has been there all along but was never mentioned before, the reader has no way of knowing it’s a missed change of name.
  • When editing, read carefully to see that your action scenes don’t intrude upon one another or get out of order, such as your character running from someone dangerous, then two paragraphs later the chase is just beginning. 

There are other things to watch for, and I’m sure you can think of some. What you see in your mind, and then writing it to make sense on paper, are two different things. Be sure you take the time you need to make it work. And then know when to stop.

If you want to write a book … do it right. And do it well, the best you can. I enjoy reading books like that. 

Finally … Don’t worry, just write. And will you do yourself a favour? Admit you aren’t perfect. It will be more fun that way.

What tips do you have to add to my list?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

 

How I got into Writing book reviews

Tuesday is one of my usual days to post a book review. Obviously, I didn’t manage to do that this week, for which I apologize. I’m not sure I will even get one ready for Thursday, but I am still reading as much as I can.

There have been a few personal things come up to alter my course a bit. On Friday I had a scheduled few hours’ hospital stay, Saturday I was still getting my energy back from that, Sunday was my dad’s 89th birthday and also Father’s Day – so we had a family gathering at his house. Among our group there are five fathers. It was a great barbecue day and we had lots of delicious food to enjoy. Sunday was also my first day back at my dad’s for my week, which this time will be three to give my sister a needed break. Then Monday was my grandson’s ninth birthday! (Time is passing quickly!) Today, Tuesday, I took my little Meyya to the groomers and while she was there I enjoyed a pleasant afternoon with a friend. So you see, I have been busy in various ways. But that doesn’t stop the books from coming to me; yesterday another arrived in my mail and I’m trying to remember where I won it or chose it! (I really must keep better track.)

In lieu of a book review I want to talk a little about writing them. Writing reviews isn’t something I planned to be doing; it simply evolved. In 2010 I was excited to win a book in a writers chat room and mentioned a little about it here. Later, through what was then called BookSneeze – now BookLook Bloggers – I won a Max Lucado book in exchange for a review. Early in 2011 I reread author Laura Best’s first novel and reviewed it here in support of her work. That year, after Laura’s book, I reviewed fifteen others because I enjoyed it. I had become a book reviewer! Occasionally I receive requests for reviews, but I now have such a backlog of novels to read first that I don’t/can’t always accept. I am trying to get caught up, which is not as simple as it may sound.

When writing reviews, sometimes it isn’t easy to put into words what impressions I feel from the story I was immersed in. I try always to be fair no matter if the content appealed to me or not. What trips me up is that I tend to notice errors in spelling, punctuation, details. I say it ‘trips me up’ because they seem to stand right out as if screaming ‘Here I am! Notice me!’ and pull me right out of the story.

I really don’t want to write bad reviews because of that, or at all, because the errors are not the story, but they do affect an observant reader. Instead I try to be honest about my findings without trashing a book.

Even after a writer’s hard work there may be much yet to be done. Sometimes the typos and conflicts are glaringly noticeable and very distracting to the reader. In my next post I will be presumptuous and present a few tips – or maybe more like observations – for authors, especially those who are self-publishing or are trying to cut corners.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

 

Book Review: Songbird Under a German Moon – by Tricia Goyer

Songbird Under a German MoonBook: Songbird Under a German Moon
Author: Tricia Goyer
Publisher: Summerside
Date: June 13, 2011
Genre: Christian romance; historical fiction
Pages: 320
Price: Kindle $7.77
My Rating: dramatic fiction to interest romance readers

 

Songbird Under a German Moon by Tricia Goyer is set in the post WWII years in Germany. The story begins in a noisy twin engine airplane that is transporting Betty – a twenty-year-old singer – with several soldiers on their way to Germany,  but already there is drama. The plane is having engine trouble and must try to make a safe emergency landing in Nuremberg, Germany.

In Bayreuth, Germany, there is a famous opera house – Festspielhaus – where Hitler was said to enjoy operas, especially those of Richard Wagner. This opera house is where the musical entertainment is being performed for the soldiers, not far from the house where Hitler had sometimes stayed and where the ladies are now living between performances. But there is something creepy about that war damaged building, something unsettling.

When Betty, and Frank, a photographer for the military, first see one another romance is soon in the air. But Frank is not all he appears to be; he has a secret. He is not the only one with a secret, though, and when there is a murder those secrets start being revealed. Realizing her life may be in danger, Betty thinks she can trust Frank to help her.

Some scenes seemed a little stilted in this story, perhaps a bit unrealistic when dealing with human emotions in relationships, but the drama pulls one’s attention in another direction. It was easy to get interested in Songbird Under a German Moon by Tricia Goyer. 

Interesting facts, around which Songbird Under a German Moon was written,  about Festspielhaus opera house, Wahnfried house, and Richard Wagner can be found on the Internet.

If you enjoy historical fiction with romance and a Christian flavour this may be the book for you. You can get a history lesson at the same time!

You can find Songbird Under a German Moon listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Double Exposure – by Michael Lister

Double Exposure by Michael ListerBook: Double Exposure
Author: Michael Lister
Publisher: Tyrus Books
Date: September 1, 2009
Genre: thriller
Pages: 240
Price: Kindle under $5.00; paperback $14.95
My rating: mild thriller filled with action and drama
 

I had not read any of Michael Lister‘s books until Double Exposure, so I didn’t know what to expect. After reading the blurb on the cover: “… absolutely riveting! … squeezed every ounce of terror and thrills out of a dark night in the woods” I thought this book is one I would not want to read late at night. I can be easily spooked, especially if I am really drawn into the story. Not to worry.

There was one section near the end where I did feel the tension, but the rest of the story was mild as a thriller. I’m sure it could easily affect other readers quite differently. Although intended to add suspense, what broke the tension for this reader was how, in many places, the author wrote in clipped one word thoughts. It left much for one to imagine, which can be a good thing, but it also seemed to yank the reader through the story, the choppiness tending to keep one from fully engaging in the drama.

Remington James moves back to Florida after his father’s death and takes on the care of his ailing mother. He also picks up his camera again, something he had drifted away from in favour of the big income. While trekking through his father’s woodland (left to him) to check out his camera traps (hidden cameras set up to capture wildlife images when he is not there to do it) he discovers something unthinkable. Soon after, he finds himself in a dire situation. The rest of the story is the main character’s struggle to survive and all the dangers set against him.

Despite what I said in the second paragraph, Double Exposure does have its high points. Michael Lister has written a story that is gripping and action-filled. His main character becomes an accidental victim and is mercilessly pursued through hazardous circumstances. Never mind some questionable moments, this is a story that pulls the reader along just to find out what is going to happen next. If you enjoy thrillers, chances are you will like Double Exposure.

You can find Double Exposure listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂