Show, Don't Tell... And why Scene-style Writing is More Effective

Happy 2014, and sorry to have been absent so long. Working on book two of my series and building our other blog (www.BeachReadAuthors.blogspot.com)...

I've missed the lively editing discussions we had here, so I'm going to use my ideas spurred from my current class, Sensational Scenes (which is open for enrollment thru 1/24 http://ce.savvyauthors.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Calendar.eventDetail&eventId=2141 ) to cover a few fun topics here.

Today, one of my lovely students today asked a great question challenging the concept of "show, don't tell". As she pointed out, many of the classic authors "told" plenty. And though I actually LOVE telling when it's done well (I'm a big Hardy fan!), my job is to teach why scene-style writing is so much more effective today for storytelling.
 
Here was my reply to her wonderful question...

***
 
Great point about "show don't tell" and how those classics worked well for their day, especially for readers who were educated and accustomed to repainting everything in their heads. Shakespeare's works, of course, were acted out, and not read widely till much, much later... but playwriting is also based on scene-style writing.

So this brings up a very interesting point about modern-day READABILITY (I used to work in the accessibility world at Microsoft) and the science of reading. Today, we have a visual media world and shorter attention spans/schedules, which is another reason why SCENE style writing is so effective. It mimics the medium of film, or at least replicates its structure so the reader can plug-n-play more readily. How fast/well/deep a reader can understand the written word translates into higher readability. That's what scene-style writing aims to achieve.

Let's go deeper.... What we see on film we experience, believe it or not. Our brain doesn't know the difference between reality and what's happening to that main character we've taken on as ourselves, except that we've taught the brain to reason/consruct that separation. But that ability to separate was not always present.

The mimic part of our brain is strongest from birth to 2/3, when we don't recognize our separation from parentage. What they do, we do. They lift their hand, we lift our hand. They laugh, we laugh, they smile, we smile (except of course when the baby is screaming it's head off). Mimicry is how we learn so fast, years before we can even rationalize concepts or reason that we are "learning".
Why, and what does this have to do with film/books?

A few times a year I get to teach at the UW locally on this subject, and we talk mostly about which words best invoke the brain's engagement and ability to "see/experience" what is written. My answer is always "verbs." Verbs are the closest thing to realistically/physically mimicking action.  If I say ball, you may picture an inanimate object, but there is no action. If I say throw, your brain mimics the act of throwing, even sends messages to the nerves in your arm. That's powerful! (Did I mention they've proven that folks who imagine working out have better muscle memory when they actually work out).

Anyway, verbs are even more powerful than nouns, because verbs can engage more of the brain/body connection. (We'll leave aside proper nouns, such as a spouse/child's name which can evoke the emotions more powerfully at times). Verbs have inherent action, and in scene-style writing they drive the "showing" because they make up a lot of action narrative. "Dick and Jane" is one of the best books any author or editor should study. Most of the book is written with a verb/noun construction (see Jane run, see Dick fall and make a fool of himself in front of Jane), which makes it really effective.

Okay, long explanation, but the summary is that in the world of READABILITY and improving the reader's experience, verbs and visuals are most powerful. These help readers perceive a scene and its actions via "information at a glance". "She smiled from mouth to eyes" (showing) is more effective than writing "she was so happy" (telling). Why? Because your brain mimicked the act of smiling when it read the verb, but has to "interpret" the phrase "was happy," which is a judgment.

Hope this makes sense. So much harder to teach this concept on paper than verbally....but please let me know any questions or if I can clarify anything.

***
I'd love to hear/see your examples of where telling works well/better than showing. I think it's important to know how to do both!

Remember to Fact Check Story Details!

Everyone loves a story told with rich details. Even I say that a story has to be 80-90% factual to be believable. The other 10-20% gives room for "fiction", or the made up part.

But lately I've been thrown out of stories by physical details not in line with reality. They were innocent, but made the reader blink. In baseball terms, they would be counted as errors--which means they were avoidable.

Go the Right Direction

For example: I read a book set in Seattle, where I live. In a moment of hurry, the hero and heroine travel from Gas Works park area to Queen Anne hill. So they backtrack to Eastlake and go around Lake Washington. Uh, wrong!

My art studio is just up the steps from Gas Works park, and I regularly have emergencies for my mother-in-law that require me to drive to her assisted care facility in Queen Anne. The fastest route is to cut through Freemont neighborhood and loop up to the Aurora Ave Bridge, which is also Washington State Route 99. Her book's route and my route go in opposite directions around the lake.

The point is that the moment I read this weird route, I broke out of the book. After that, all details about Seattle were suspect to me. And I caught a couple more errors. But they were all avoidable. Either because the detail was unnecessary (we didn't really need to know the route they took to Queen Anne) or there exist plenty of resources to verify such facts. Better yet: a few beta readers in the locale where the book was written might have caught the blunders.

Anyone who's lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and watched The Graduate can attest to the fact that Dustin Hoffman's character drives the wrong way across the Bay Bridge. The lanes on top of the bridge go INTO San Francisco. The lanes on bottom level of the bridge go OUT of the city.
Now go watch the movie and try not to get thrown out of the story by that error. Heck, they should have had him go across the Golden Gate, where both lanes are on top, and had a more colorful visual shot! Of course, that would have been the longest route to the East Bay. Maybe not...


Take Classes, Interview Experts, Visit Your Locale

Frankly, I'm in the same boat with my book set in New York. My visits to that great city are old, useless, and my travel is mostly for family right now, so I'm not able to go test my book routes.
So I use a lot of maps, guide books, travel blogs and Google Maps street images to verify details.

If I'm not sure of a fact, I either skim the detail or write around it. Or I just delete it when the information isn't really necessary. I also watch documentary footage at times for scenery or visceral details and ask folks who live there for confirmation.

And then there's the kind of details that require more advance fact checking, like police procedures, weapons usage or general physics of an action scene. I've take classes with different law enforcement agencies and read about their world a lot! But the best source I've found for such details is the CrimeSceneWriters group on Yahoo. Or I go interview an expert. Either way, I feel safer knowing I've done what I can to fact check my story with people who know better than I do.

Apply Editing Tips & Tricks

Remember, when editing details, ask yourself:

1. Is this detail absolutely necessary to add color to the scene/character or believability to the story?
2. If in doubt of the detail, can you find a definitive verification of its accuracy?
3. Do you know an expert in that area who can help you get the info right?
4. Can you delete the detail and use some other known/accurate detail?


Good luck, my little devils, and keep writing!

Secrets of the Smirking Editor

Welcome, Eilis Flynn, who's here to give her insight into how editors think and operate based on her years of vast, colorful experience working as both an author AND an editor.

She's also arranged a sponsorship from Grammarly for her post and is offering a $15 Amazon gift card for one lucky person who comments on this post (see details below). Take it away, Eilis...


“I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because we all need to have our work checked!”

Unnecessary Introduction


When I was laid off from my job as an editor and Editor Devil Christine Fairchild kindly offered me a slot for a blog post so I could tell her readers about my editing history, I thanked her and said I would come up with something. And the months went by, and I kept starting and stopping on what I wanted to write. My own fiction writing I could tell you all about; I’m used to shilling my fiction. The part of my life that’s paid the bills for more than thirty years? I was struck dumb. For a few seconds.

Well, it was longer than that (a number of months, I’m embarrassed to say), but I finally remembered that I was giving a presentation at the end of October about editing. Hey, I should get started on that, I said to myself. If nothing else, jot down at least some random notes about editing, and why editors can sometimes be caught smirking. That I can do, I decided. The contents will change as the time grows closer for the workshop, but the intent will remain the same.

Secrets Behind the Smirking


On occasion you’ll notice editors smirking a little. You may ask yourself why. Are they making fun of you or your work? Are they thinking of cruel things to do to their clients’ work? No, not at all (as far as I know; at least that’s not why I smirk). Here’s my theory on why other editors may smirk: they know you’re scared of grammar.

At least some people are. There’s no good reason for it (being frightened, that is, not grammar. No, we NEED grammar, as you’ll see). I think it’s more likely there’s a tiny little bit of childhood in us that doesn’t want to be made fun of if we get something wrong. Everybody has that fear in them, for something or other; for some people it may be a horsey laugh they have, or a funny way they run through no fault of their own, or a tendency to mispronounce certain words (“Schenectady” and “Cinderella” were mine). Editors face that fear every single day and do battle with it. Sometimes it beats us, but more often than not, we triumph! So that could explain the smirk you may see on our faces. We not only meet our fear, but we know we have the means by which to overcome it!

On the other hand, that smirk may be there because while we hold the means by which to give your work a makeover, we know you do too. But because you allow your fear to get the better of you, you may hypercorrect (editors have been known to smirk when they read statements like “There’s nothing between Oliver and I,” because they know the author of that sentence isn’t clear about when to use “I” and “me”). Editors will tell you things like that can rip them, and the reader, away from the story. You have the power to keep the reader focused on your tale by making sure the grammar, the method by which your story is built, remains in the background. If your reader gets jarred out of your wonderful story by clunky grammar, you may never get him or her back into the groove, and the experience of reading your story goes down the drain.

Believe it or don’t, grammar comes naturally to us. It’s how we learn to think; it’s how we communicate. Without grammar, essentially, we devolve into beasts—and even wild beasts have it easier than we do at that point, because they know how to communicate without grammar. Our problem as humans is our fear of being laughed at re: grammar. Grammar should come as easily as breathing or as telling a story. It’s only when we doubt our instincts that we have difficulty deciding what’s right.

Favorite Quote About Grammar


Finally, I have a quotation from a book titled Genie: A Scientific Tragedy that I’ve always had taped up in my office. I’ve kept it in mind through the years whenever someone complains about grammar:

“...[W]e are physically formed by the influence of language. An essential part of our personal physical development is conferred on us by others, and comes in at the ear. The organization of our brain is as genetically ordained and as automatic as breathing, but, like breathing, it is initiated by the slap of a midwife, and the midwife is grammar.”

To Think Clearly, Know Your Grammar


You need grammar to think clearly. So the next time you find your thinking in a muddle...well, think grammar. And that’s why editors can be seen to be smirking: you think you need us to make sure your thoughts are clear, but the secret is, you don’t. You could do it all on your own. And that’s our secret.

And the grammar website Grammarly has kindly offered to sponsor this post, so if you leave a comment, your name will be thrown into the running to win a $15 Amazon gift card! So comment away! (Remember, the best clever/funny reason for using Grammarly each month wins a $100 Amazon gift card!)

Before we go there, though, it’s time for the commercial:
Check out http://emsflynn.wordpress.com for editing services and pricing.
My latest book as Eilis Flynn, cowritten with Heather Hiestand, is the steampunk vampire historical fantasy, Wear Black:


http://www.amazon.com/Wear-Black-ebook/dp/B00C2VCCPQ
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/300210
https://www.omnilit.com/product-wearblack-1162852-235.html

To find other books by Eilis Flynn, see her Amazon Author page.

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Flynn worked in Wall Street and Wall Street-related firms for almost 35 years, so why should she write anything that’s any more based in reality? Published in a number of genres (fiction and nonfiction), she writes fiction as Eilis Flynn and lives in Seattle with her patient husband and the ghosts of her spoiled rotten cats. She can be reached at www.eilisflynn.com, at Facebook, and at Twitter. She can be reached at eilisflynn@aol.com. As Elizabeth Flynn, she’s taking editing clients, so drop her a line at emsflynn.wordpress.com or emsflynn.com.

From Corporate Editor to Indie-published Historical Women's Fiction Author

UPDATE:  Lisa is giving away her book to one lucky winner who leaves a comment...winners chosen randomly of course, but be sure to leave your email address :)

Today we have a guest interview with award-winning author, Lisa Costantino, who's recently published her debut women's historical fiction book, Maiden's Veil.
 
As an editor and an author, Lisa faced the challenge of striving for perfection in her book while making it still feel fresh and alive. Here lyrical passages truly use language to its fullest potential! So it's a must read if you love women's fiction and you want to see a great representation of historical literary fiction. Fortunately, her book is currently on sale, so check it out:


 
Lisa also offers editing services to authors looking to submit a manuscript to traditional publishing and/or to go indie and self publish their work. And since she's been down both paths, she can tune into issues most newbie authors miss. I know because she edited my book, An Eye For Danger. Feel free to reach out to her when you're ready to polish your manuscript, especially if you're writing in literary genres: lisacoedits@comcast.net.
 
But enough intros...here's Lisa...
 
AUTHOR INTERVIEW 
1) What inspired you to write about pagan fertility rituals, weaving, and the oncoming industrial revolution in the 1700s?
 
Maiden’s Veil was born from a trip to England to attend some of the traditions celebrated every May. There’s a sizable number of pagans in the UK, and a number of events and festivities that have been carried out for centuries. Once I overheard someone in a pub say they felt like the Lady of Shalott, an idea began to form. I wanted to write about being trapped in a web of one’s own making, and the time period and setting added to the sense of not being able to move forward.
 
2) Which character do you feel is stronger in the end, Jess or Clarinda, and which one of them is most like you?
 
Jess is the stronger, because she is able to forgive herself, whereas Clarinda cannot. As for which one is most like me—well, I love to wander through England like Jess, but I’m stubborn and defiant like Clarinda. It’s a tie.
 
3) If there was going to be a sequel, which is not common for literary fiction, whose story would you most want to move forward with?
 
Oh, I couldn’t imagine a sequel, but Clarinda seems to be every reader’s favorite character, including mine, so I’m working on a YA novel about a younger version of Clarinda. It’s not a prequel, but rather a story of a young Clarinda in, say, an alternate universe. I love herbology, and the research involved in writing historical fiction, so the time period and the self-sufficiency aspects of Clarinda’s story will carry into my next book.
 
4) You've won acclaim with this book... how does that put more pressure on writing the next novel?
 
It’s not the acclaim that’s adding pressure as much as the need to produce another book in a timely fashion. Can someone sell me more time in the day? : )
 
BOOK BLURB
For tapestry weaver Clarinda Asher, the consequences of her participation in an ancient ritual terrified her remote English village enough to banish her to a lonely hilltop. Centuries later, Jess Barlow and Owen Calder rediscover and perform the Maiden’s Veil, igniting another firestorm as the ritual’s power is resurrected and they set out to complete the task Clarinda began 300 years before.
 
ABOUT
Lisa Costantino fled the relentless sunshine of southern California to settle in the lit-friendly, rainy Pacific Northwest, where she established herself as a travel writer, book reviewer, and content specialist, while also writing fiction whenever she could find the time. Maiden’s Veil is her first published novel.

Top 10 Marketing No’s-No’s for Authors

Today's guest post comes from the formidable marketing team of C. Morgan Kennedy and Therese Patrick, who offer great tips and tricks on building your brand and book promotion at http://www.authormarketing101.com/. When they taught at the Emerald City Writers Conference last year, they offered a truly effective workshop on building a author marketing plan, from web site to attending cons to promos, that blew me away. So these ladies know what they are talking about. Without further ado....

Top 10 Marketing No’s-No’s for Authors

1.       No Pink Fluffy anything. This is a pet peeve of ours and it extends to pink-fluffy personas. Unless you write about pink fluffy kittens and unicorns, please leave them off your website, business cards, and other professional communications.  Authors, no matter how cute or perky they may seem, do not owe their success as authors to their looks or personality. Writing GREAT books and letting the world know they exist is the key to success.

2.       No Apologizing. A post that begins with some form of, “Oops!” needs to include a call to action and reason – like “I forgot to let you know my novel is free today! Get it before midnight!” Never apologize for a late blog post because no matter how loyal your fans may be, most will not plan their day according to whether or not you posted a cute tidbit.

3.       No Whining. No one wants to hear about how much you hate promotions, or how tough it is to be a writer, or how many people have not liked your page.  You can write for fun all you want, but when you choose to try to sell your books…well now you’ve entered into a business venture.  Suck it up and do what it takes to be successful or resolve to “let the chips fall where they may” without complaint.  You can’t continue to do nothing and expect to have a best seller.  Plus, do you really want to be perceived as one of THOSE negative, whiney authors?

4.       No Dirty Laundry. You are an author, you write books to entertain and inform readers. So unless your topic is stain removal or chiropractic adjustments, keep the soiled undergarments and skeletons in your closet.

5.       No Rants. Keep your indignation and politics private unless you are an authority who has the power to create change with a rant so stellar it causes peace to break out in war torn countries.

6.       No Shotgun promotion blasts. This refers to authors who load promo materials into a shotgun, climb into the back of a pickup, and tour social media sites blasting “buy my book.” If you are offended by the gun analogy, refer to this point as “No Blind Bowling”.  Target your marketing for specific audiences and your efforts will pay dividends.

7.       No Purple Promotions. This applies to descriptions of your friends’ books as well. Reviews are important but don’t trade gushing praise for each other especially if you haven’t read the book, or wouldn’t buy it if you didn’t need a review of your book.

8.       No Menopausal Meanderings. This applies to men as well. Unless your core audience is menopausal women...otherwise create blog posts, newsletters, and other marketing messages that are suitable for your audience.

9.       No Fad Following. Every year there’s a new gimmick for promotions that costs more than it sells. If you do invest cash in a promotional tool MAKE SURE YOUR WEBSITE IS ON IT! Make sure it represents the same colors and themes of your website and business cards.  And have FUN with it.  Consider how this new thing fits into your overall marketing strategy.  If it makes sense, do it.  If not, don’t waste your time and money.  For example, when author trading cards first hit the scene a few years ago, a lot of our author friends scrambled to have them designed and printed.  Trading cards only make sense, if you frequently attend READER functions.

10.   NO Using Marketing and Promotions as an EXCUSE that you are too busy to WRITE. ONLY 10% of your writing time should be used for marketing and promotions.  Remember, you are a writer FIRST and great books will keep your readers coming back for more!

ABOUT US

 
C. Morgan Kennedy has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University and an MBA from Otterbein College. Marketing and Entrepreneurship were her MBA focus.  Throughout her fifteen year career in Corporate America, she has worked in international and large account sales, corporate training, and product marketing. She is currently a Product Marketing Manager for a $20 million global product portfolio. Ms. Kennedy is based in Portland, OR.

Therese Patrick is an active member of RWA for ten years. For Rose City Romance Writers she was a past treasurer, on the newsletter staff, and has been a coordinator with the Golden Rose Contest teams since 2003. A former Business Operations Consultant and Technical Writer she was part of the start up team for a national electrical services company. Ms. Patrick is a mother of four daughters, lives in Oregon, writes contemporary romance and memoir. She is an active blogger since 2009 and is marketing both her fiction and memoir.

More Lessons from Indie Publishing

Since this is my birthday week (Wed, FEB 6 is my bday), I decided to share what I've learned in the last year since publishing four books as an indie author.

1) Getting READY to be published definitely took a village.
I couldn't be where I am without my husband, who's supporting us financially, and my critique group partners, who helped whip my books into shape and whipped me when I got out of line (just kidding) and wanted to quit the book because I was sick of editing.

The big lesson here was about the psychology of burn-out. Sometimes for authors, this problem manifests as writer's block, sometimes illness, sometimes disgust for one's own work. Basically, you lose rational perspective. This is when friends/family/critique partners are very important in helping you see more clearly. Listen to them and don't give up!

I burned out hard on An Eye For Danger near the last edit rounds, but my village pushed me through. Including my readers at Wattpad, who with every chapter were sending me emails demanding more more more. So don't underestimate the power of having fans. Whoa, that pulled on my heart strings. I couldn't give up at that point, because I hadn't the heart to let them down.

TIP: A big helper was that I created my book cover early, so that made the book feel like more than words hidden in a file on my computer. Making your book real, via announcements and fans, makes you work much harder to reach the finish line!

2) Having no marketing budget makes you very resourceful.
Granted, my husband is carrying our bills so I can launch my author career. But my marketing budget still had to come of my own sales. So there's the chicken and the egg dilemma. How to make sales so you can advertise to make more sales?

My choice was to enter the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program so I could manipulate exposure of my book via the 5 free days. There are so many sites that will promo your book if it's free on Kindle, that the free advertising was indisputably a leg up. My first run scored 12,000 downloads. Yes, free, but the resulting book reviews by readers and the sales bump for the next week were both worth the sting to my ego.

In a six-week period I used up my free days (2 days, then another 3-day run at the end of Oct) and garnered about $1,100 in resulting sales. AND my second free run was a complete disaster, because Amazon's ranking system failed and I didn't get picked up by the major announcement sites (Pixel of Ink and eReader News Today).

But I'm still proud of all the free blogs and promos I did because I made new connections and found new authors and learned new lessons. Very worthwhile to have to forage that hard for exposure!

TIP: Get a blog or web site going via a free tool, like Blogger or Wordpress. But be clear how much time you have to spend on these and what you want to say. I like to give away information and teach, so a short blog is perfect for my personality and time constraints.

3) Staying flexible matters, but the definition may surprise you.
Editing is critical, especially when you're dyslexic. There is no end to the amount of editing I can do on a book. That's partly my problem: I over edit material. Worse, I introduce new errors due to my dyslexia. So staying fluid about updating my book regularly was important. There are still changes I want to make to the current version, and no one can tell me "no" because I own the process. And the book improves every time I clear up more issues.

And then there is my husband, who is the voice of reason. My goal should be to finish writing book 2, not still fidgeting with book 1, he says. Why does that man have to be right so often?

So... flexibility sometimes means NOT acting on your impulses. Hence, I have edits waiting till my other goals are met for the month. Since I was out of the office nearly four whole months due to family issues and personal illness, let's just say I was VERY behind in reaching goals. Again, staying flexible according to what's important matters. The health of your loved ones (and yourself) is more critical than any book!!!

TIP: Get a life coach, editor or a good friend to talk publishing "goals" with you at least once per quarter. I'm easily distracted, so having someone remind me of my life-centered goals kept me on track. Of course, I can't get everything done. But did I get done the things that make me happiest? YES!

4) Starting early with networking and research gives you an advantage.
Sure, I had a website and a blog site and Twitter account and Facebook page...all those are important to have BEFORE you go to market. But I also joined several writing and marketing groups via Yahoo Groups before I entered the game, and thank God for that! I learned so much from folks who were "several hamburgers ahead of me in this restaurant" so I was able to anticipate and make decisions more quickly.

An important aspect to networking is discovering which book sites, reviewers (I wish I'd paid more attention to these sooner!), and bloggers you want to leverage once your book hits the shelves. Let's just say that when I come out with book 2, I'll definitely put my interview and review requests into the right sites sooner! Like before the book is published!

Another example of learning from others: I've been reading posts from authors who've used BookBub, a service that announces books to a mailing list of dedicated readers. Their experience and sales numbers are impressive. So I saved up $360 and bought my own spot (comes out Feb 21st), because I put my book, An Eye For Danger (http://amzn.com/B008QPZ8O4), on a $0.99 special for my birthday month. Best part, I could rationalize this to my husband by pointing to the testimonies of other authors.

TIP: Get on Goodreads early. These readers are tough on books, but if you win them over, you get great reviews and they pass on the word. And set up a promo schedule FAR in advance if you want to use eReader News Today or Pixel of Ink or BookBub services. These are the best, but they are booked! So "last minute" promos don't fly well with them, and having them on your side can mean hundreds of dollars in profits! Not having them can mean a flailing promo, which can discourage your future efforts. Nothing ruins a book career faster than discouragement!

I hope these lessons help you move forward in your own publishing journey, whether you go indie or traditional! And remember, life is not a vacuum--we need each other. So pass on what you learn to others :)

Yours truly,
The Editor Devil

Find Joy & Balance for Christmas

Today we have a special guest for Christmas Day... my friend and writing critique partner, Kim Hornsby, who is one of the most effervescent, fun, creative, determined and inspiring people I know. She's been an art teacher in elementary schools, a singer who opened for famous muscians, an actress, a dive instructor, and a loyal and true friend to me for several years!

Kim's also a working mom of 2 who's managed to write several books in her "spare time" and begin her own publishing company, Top Ten Press. Her first book was of course her own: The Dream Jumper's Promise, which I promise is a great love story and mystery combined and a surprise ending.

Kim's next book, Necessary Detours, is due out in April via Wild Rose Press. So she's one busy woman!

Please help me welcome someone who's been a Santa in my life as she talks about finding joy AND balance in the season... and check out her special book offer at the end of the post. Take it away, Kim!
 
Merry Christmas, Everyone!
 
I do not refer to this time of year as the generic ‘holiday season’ or Festivus or any other name to include everyone in the world. Sorry. It’s Christmas-- my favorite time of the year.
 
I was raised under the influence of a Presbyterian minister grandfather and as we prepare for Santa's visit and shop for gifts for people we appreciate, many are remembering the birth of someone who influenced the world so greatly that we are still talking about him two thousand years later.
 
Santa's trip down the chimney is a bonus, tacked onto the age-old celebration, like whipped cream on cocoa. For me Christmas has become the time of year to haul a tree inside the house, string lights and enjoy a jolly atmosphere. To eat cookies, sing carols, wrap presents, hope for snow and decorate the house with garlands and pictures of the kids on Santa's lap from days gone by.
 
It’s a time to see extended family members, gather friends together for parties and to take a moment to laugh. Christmas is a magical time, based on tradition and rooted by family values. I love the way nasty personalities are transformed by Christmas (read the book Scrooge).
 
Extend a Hand
 
Helping others at this time of year is something I highly recommend. It feels just plain good. Like donating a goat to a village in Africa http://donate.worldvision.org/OA_HTML/xxwv2ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?go=gift&&section=10389 on behalf of Grandma and Grandpa or sponsoring a family who's down on their luck this year but still want their children to get a present. Both benevolent gestures are wildly gratifying. Or just picking out the perfect pair of earrings for a mother who's worked so very hard all year picking up clothes and toys, is another act of kindness (hint).
 
Don't Forget Your Sanity, Ladies!
 
As we approach the end of the season that can drive a sane woman to the brink of too much Chardonnay, I implore you women to pace yourselves. Don't burn yourself out, take moments to breathe, don't go overboard on the toys and remember, no one will remember if the napkin rings all matched but they will remember if the hostess was a mental mess at Christmas dinner.
 
This is a tough time of year for women who manage a household and try to do everything perfectly. Most of us deserve some pampering by the time husbands go back to work, kids go back to school and the house is quiet once again. That’s why so many of us get massages on January 2nd, and that’s why you can’t book a pedicure all that week.
 
Women, get to your stations, arm yourselves with cookbooks and happy smiles and when it’s all over, curl up by the fire for a stolen moment, grab a good book and escape for awhile in someone else’s life.
 
On your mark... get set... GO!
 
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Jolly Kwanza, Delightful December Everyone!
 
‘Tis the Season to give Freebies. And just to make your season a little brighter.... from Christmase (December 25th) to the 27th The Dream Jumper’s Promise will be free on Amazon Kindle.
 
About The Book
Tina Greene can't accept the surfing death of her husband Hank without a recovered body. Months after signing the death certificate, she pulls herself from the emotional wreckage and trades mourning for saving her Maui dive shop from bankruptcy.
 
When war hero, Jamey Dunn, walks back into Tina's life, things take a strange turn. Lifelike dreams have the dive instructor questioning her sanity and leaning heavily on Hank's best friend, Noble. Jamey and Noble clash at every turn, both desperate to help Tina. When the dreams uncover clues to Hank's disappearance, Jamey must reveal his strange ability to enter dreams.
 
 
But for Tina, trusting the man who betrayed her years before, doesn't come easily, and the decision to let Jamey enter her subconscious has a price she isn't sure she can pay. As Noble, Tina and Jamey get closer to solving the mystery of Hank's disappearance, grave danger sets in to reveal that one person is flirting with insanity, one is a traitor, and one is a murderer.
What Readers are saying about The Dream Jumper’s Promise
“This is a little gem. The story is engaging, the relationship between Tina and Jamey builds nicely, the suspense keeps coming, and there are twists and turns that caught me completely off guard.”
 
“A very engaging and entertaining beach book--even better, a great winter read for bringing a little Hawaii warmth into colder climes.”
 
“I will be staying up late again tonight to find out what happens.... great first book by Kim Hornsby!”
 
“I was hooked by the vivid imagery and relatable characters. The paranormal aspect of the story was delicious icing on the cake.”
About The Author
I'm a mother, a wife, an animal lover and a girl who loves adventure. Writing takes me through the long wet Seattle winters without the help of a shrink and satisfies my need to talk non-stop.
 
When I'm not furiously typing away at my computer, I can be found outside. I don't like to spend alot of time inside a building (even my own house) so look for me in the garden, at the dog park, on the lake (see photo), at the soccer field, the grocery store or at Hector's with my critique group. Ok, the last two were buildings, but hey a girl has to get groceries and visit her writer friends.
 
For more information about Kim or her novels and recipes from her books, visit http://www.kimhornsby.net/index.html

Welcome to a Birthday Bash!

Happy Birthday, Amber Kallyn, and thanks for making us apart of your giveaway extravaganza and this great chain of authors (see list below). Take it away, Amber...
 
Welcome to Amber Kallyn’s Birthday Bash. We’ve got some great giveaways for you to win!
I love the holidays, but not necessarily having my birthday fall smack dab in the middle of them, LOL. But this year, I’d like to do something special for my readers. Over 25 authors and bloggers have come together to celebrate my 24th birthday (I won’t mention how many years I’ve turned 24 again ;)
 
We have some wonderful prizes, and all you have to do is leave a comment at the participating blogs to win. Easy.
 
And don’t forget, Bloodstorm (Heart of a Vampire, Book 1) is currently free right now for an early present : )
 
Grand Prize
One commenter will win their choice of a NOOK Simple Touch™ with GlowLight or a Kindle Paperwhite (Up to $140 value)
 
Ebooks from the following Authors:
Paloma Beck (Coming Home, Contemporary romance)
Jami Grey (Shadow’s Edge and Shadow’s Soul, Urban fantasy)
Zrinka Jelic (Paranormal romance)
Christine Fairchild (An Eye For Danger, romantic suspense)
Marian Lanouette (If I Fail, Mystery)
Sylvia Hubbard (5 Ebooks)
Kenra Daniels (Safe Heart and Kassern, Paranormal romance)
 
A $40 Gift card to either Amazon or B&N
 
Plus, there will be giveaways at some of the other blogs : )
 
How to win
The contest is open from Dec 19th to Saturday the 22nd. Hop to all the blogs. The winner will be chosen from the commenters on all participating blogs. Leave a comment at each blog for additional entries to win. That simple : ) Winner will be drawn on Sunday the 23rd.
 
 
Enjoy meeting new authors and book bloggers, and good luck on winning the Birthday Bash Prizes.
 
Blogs

Combining Dreams & Research to Write Historical Fiction

Please welcome Anna Brentwood, who is sharing with us her the path toward her dream-inspired 1920's historical novel with lots of gangsters, action and details of a long-lost era. Take it away, Anna....

MAKING HER DREAMS A REALITY
‘The Songbird with Sapphire Eyes’ came to me in a sequence of three very detailed and realistic dreams, so in a sense, I didn’t choose the story or the time period rather the story and the time period chose me. 
Because those dreams were so vivid, detailed and haunting, I was inclined to think they were some kind of past life memory. At first, I was more interested in finding out if there were any verifiable facts I could discover to prove that this might be true. It wasn’t until much later (think ten years later) that I got the opportunity to indulge my inner writer and had a chance to dedicate myself to writing and researching Hannah’s story, eventually making it into a novel.   

When I did begin, I felt more like a psychic detective, often able to verify information I’d imagined as “fact”. I often deduced the rest through imagination, interview, meditation and research.
 

PUTTING HERSELF IN 1920's SHOES
To understand the 1920’s and its impact, one has to realize what the world was like prior to those years. People were coming out of the Victorian era; America was still becoming the melting pot it had been founded to be with hoards of immigrants landing daily on its shores. There were staunch societal and moral restrictions and rampant social inequities and for most people, life was brutally hard, short and contained very few pleasures.

While most of us imagine the 1920’s as fun-filled, exciting and happy, the reality for most people living then was anything but. People were either very rich or very poor. There was no middle class and people had to actually work for a living. Prejudice and discrimination were rampant and there was no such thing as human or civil rights. If one was lucky enough to even have a job, think long hours, unhealthy work situations, low pay and every kind of harassment possible. Children were often sent away because their families could not feed them or orphaned and had to go out into the world on their own. Folks were pretty much at the mercy of their employers and there were no unions, no social, state or federal service programs. If you didn’t work, you or your family could actually starve to death and did. If you didn’t pay your bills there was servitude or the poorhouse.

There was no air-conditioning and no such thing as a thermostat. Cars were just becoming available and horses were the most common form of transportation. Streets were often dirt, rough and hard to navigate and cities were filled with garbage and refuse and waste from the horses. The smells were disgusting and flies were everywhere.

Large cities had hundreds, if not thousands, of smokestacks. Clouds of pollutants –- sulfur, ammonia, and coal dust – settled on laundry, lungs, and gardens. Tanneries with their slaughter houses, bone boiling, and manure added their own unique flavor to the air around them. Pollution was accepted as the necessary price of progress and early street sweepers who were hired to keep the streets clean were not just picking up gum wrappers. In twelve months a city with 15,000 horses produces enough manure to cover an acre of ground to the depth of 175 feet.

Wives belonged to their husbands and were for cooking, cleaning and having babies. A man had the right to “discipline” and beat his wife. Divorce was a disgrace. Cocaine, heroin and opium were common household and medicinal remedies and alcohol was prescribed for everything from nervous disorders to disease. No one knew that smoking caused lung cancer and almost everyone smoked. Taverns were mostly frequented by men and some had drains in the floor so a man could just stand and urinate from his spot at the bar. There was no television, cell phones or computers. If people wanted to keep in touch they had to write letters. Hobos were common and begging was an actual profession and after a hard day in the factory or on the farm, most people didn’t have electricity, indoor plumbing, running water or electric lighting.

Most jobs were for men. Women without benefit of the protection of family or a husband who had to go out into the world alone were at the mercy of anyone and anything. There was no such thing as women’s rights. A woman alone had to rely on her wits or her body and it wasn’t hard to go from being a good girl to a bad one.

CONNECTING HISTORY TO HANNAH'S TALE
In Hannah’s world, when the twenties roared, people were more than ready for a good time even if they only lived it vicariously through others or the moving picture shows.

In the 1920’s, morality was being redefined daily and society began changing. It has never stopped since.

Women discarded their corsets in the twenties, hemlines got shorter and just a glimpse of a woman’s limb or a whispered indecency could enslave a man, and did. Men wore hats, took them off indoors and tipped them when they opened doors for the ladies or just wanted to flirt. There was no need to lock doors, children respected their parents and obeyed and heaven was the reward for hard work. In most cases, people were kinder, more considerate, watched out for their neighbors and honored their word. Yet, when one didn’t want to play by society’s rules, crime could pay and the sky was the limit. Fortunes were made or lost in a night and criminals often mingled with kings.
 
I could go on and on but the more I understood the history, I could not help but adore the 1920’s and admire Hannah and her friends even more.
 
Their world was so different from ours, the choices for women so limiting, yet Hannah not only survived, she thrived. And even when her world had long ended, her spirit bellowed on for me to let everyone know what she’d learned. And that is, that every life lived, whether well, foolishly or barely has a purpose and no matter the risks, it is better to live life true to yourself, than to just exist to be safe or comfortable.
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  
Anna (which is her real first name) was a bookworm almost since birth and was recognized as a writing PRO by Romance Writers of America in 2002. An active professional member of Willamette Writers, RWA, the Rose City Romance Writers and NIWA, Anna grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from Philadelphia’s, University of the Arts where she majored in Illustration.
 
Anna's debut novel, ‘The Songbird with the Sapphire Eyes’ first began as a series of dreams that so haunted her they became a personal quest to explore possible past life memories. The journey was both eerie and exciting and the manuscript finaled and won second place in the Women’s Fiction category of the 2006 Tara Awards.

Anna is inspired to write about interesting characters whose lives take them on journeys we can all enjoy and perhaps learn something meaningful from. She is busy working on a
sequel to 'The Songbird With Sapphire Eyes' which will take readers on a journey through the 1940's with Johnny and Hannah's son, wartime hero, playboy and New York mobster, Anthony Gallo.

A wife, mother and doting new grandmother of two, Anna lives in a log home on 45 wooded acres on Oregon’s coast range with her former Navy-Seal husband and a menagerie of animals that include one pug, one cat, one horse, two wolf-hybrids, a red-tailed hawk named Lucky and a feisty but lovable African grey parrot named Warlock

You may contact Anna at annabrentwood@ymail.com or through her website at www.annabrentwood.com.
Twitter@annabrentwood
Speakeasies.

             Gangsters.

                          Flappers.

 In 1918, Kansas City is Sin City.      

Forced to leave home at age fourteen, beautiful Hannah Glidden struggles to survive, but with help from her childhood friend, Meg, mistress to a wealthy married man and her roommate, the irrepressible, flapper extraordinaire, Rosie, she thrives as a cabaret singer.

The early 20’s roared. Fortunes were made or lost in a single night, and criminals mingled with kings. Neither the government nor Prohibition could stop the flow of alcohol or the lure of the “good life.” Handsome rum runner Johnny Gallo is part of New York's large, growing criminal empire where the sky is the limit. The ruthless Gallo has a knack for knowing the right people, and a single-minded devotion to getting what he wants. And, he wants Hannah.

Hannah goes with Johnny to Al Capone’s Chicago and eventually to Brooklyn, New York where she basks in the glamorous shadow world of gangsters and their gals. Johnny becomes a force to be reckoned with, but in time the free-spirited Hannah clashes with her controlling lover.

She faces the dark side of her dreams but dares to defy Johnny despite the dangers and unwittingly discovers that for her, dying just might be the only true path to freedom after all.

Writing Historical vs. Contemporary Fiction

Today we're honored to host award-winning author of contemporary western fiction, Paty Jager, who'll be sharing insights on writing historical vs. contemporary fiction. Please comment on Paty's post for a chance to win a prize and to show your thanks. Take it away, Paty....

 
Thank you for having me here today, Christine.
Giveaway

This is the first day of a two week blog tour. I love to give and you could be the winner! I will be giving away a $5 egift card to a commenter at each blog stop and will give a bag full of goodies to the person who follows me to the most blogs and a gift to the host who gets the most commenters. You can find the blog tour hosts at my blog: http://www.patyjager.blogspot.com or my website: http://www.patyjager.net

Is there a difference when writing historical and contemporary?

As an author of both, I would have to say yes. The easy to spot difference would be in the research. A historical requires not only the time and place be researched so the events that happen are accurate but the writer also has to know what people wore, how they lived, and the social events of the time period. A writer can’t just say I’m going to write a book set in Nebraska in 1870 and start writing. If they do and haven’t read anything about the state or the people who lived there at that time, they could be writing things that may not be accurate. People who read historical novels know their stuff and will call the writer on anything that isn’t correct. Especially if someone from Nebraska who knows their history picks up the book because of the locale and then it’s all wrong. That writer will never sell another book to that reader and they will most likely let everyone know that writer didn’t know what they were talking about.

The same goes for contemporary, the writer needs to know the area or the professions given to the characters in the book as well as the social tone and events in the area. But the good news for a person writing contemporary, there is no need to explain a cell phone, a washing machine or the everyday items that the reader is familiar with like they must be explained when writing a historical.
 
My downfall, and requires a lot of research when I write both historical and contemporary, is I tend to like to set the stories in real places. That requires I find out everything I can about the places. For contemporary, I get maps of the areas and guide books so I can write things that people know and that gives it a feel that I have actually been there even though I may not have been able to travel to the area. For historical books, I try to get a Sanborn map of the town. They actually had town maps back in the 1800’s and you can find them in most libraries or online.

With historical the writer has to also be conscious of the language used at the time of the story. There is a definite feel to Medieval, Regency, and Westerns. The proper or not so proper usage of the language is appropriate depending on where and when the story is set. The etiquette of the time also has a part in the language that is used.
 
Contemporary stories there would be a need to reflect the area or country the books are set or the characters are from, but it is easier to write contemporary language than staying in the historical atmosphere for the whole book.
 
If you’re a writer what are the pluses and minuses you see in writing contemporary or historical stories? As a reader have you ever had the feeling the writer hadn’t done their research?

Author Bio:

Wife, mother, grandmother, and the one who cleans pens and delivers the hay; award winning author Paty Jager and her husband currently ranch 350 acres when not dashing around visiting their children and grandchildren. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

Her contemporary Western, Perfectly Good Nanny won the 2008 Eppie for Best Contemporary Romance, Spirit of the Mountain, a historical paranormal set among the Nez Perce, garnered 1st place in the paranormal category of the Lories Best Published Book Contest, and Spirit of the Lake, the second book of the spirit trilogy, was a finalist in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.
 
You can learn more about Paty at her blog; www.patyjager.blogspot.com  her website; http://www.patyjager.net or on Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/#!/paty.jager and twitter;  @patyjag.

Book Blurb: Secrets of a Mayan Moon

Child prodigy and now Doctor of Anthropology, Isabella Mumphrey, is about to lose her job at the university. In the world of publish or perish, her mentor’s request for her assistance on a dig is just the opportunity she’s been seeking. If she can decipher an ancient stone table—and she can—she’ll keep her department. She heads to Guatemala, but drug trafficking bad guys, artifact thieves, and her infatuation for her handsome guide wreak havoc on her scholarly intentions.
 
DEA agent Tino Kosta, is out to avenge the deaths of his family. He’s deep undercover as a jaguar tracker and sometimes jungle guide, but the appearance of a beautiful, brainy anthropologist heats his Latin blood taking him on a dangerous detour that could leave them both casualties of the jungle.
Secrets of a Mayan Moon is available at Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords