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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Seeking Inspiration in Books by Suz deMello (#iamwriting #MFRWAuthor #writersblock)

In another installment of what to do when you're blocked, another option is to seek inspiration. Or, rather, do what you did when you were an author in training. 

I didn't know I was an author in training as a child and as a teen, when I read obsessively. I clearly remember the first book I really loved--I believe I was about three years old. I don't remember the title, but it was about a train, all the things the train carried, and the people on the train. 


I went from there to read just about everything I could lay my hands on. When I was a teen I was a little bit more organized. I had a science fiction phase in which I read sci-fi from A to Z, literally from Asimov to Zelazny. Then I read
every British murder-mystery I could, starting with Holmes of course, moving through Sayers and Christie. Then I started to read Regency Romance. Going to college interrupted my unplanned unconscious reading schedule. But I still read novels almost exclusively with the exception of British histories, mostly by Thomas Costain.


I didn't realize what I was doing at the time, but the obsessive reading of pop fiction educated me in the basics of writing pop fiction. I unconsciously learned everything from the overarching notion of story down through plot characterization conflict and even proper sentence structure. 




I make the point in my book About Writing, as follows:


Writing a book starts long before you open your new journal, or begin a new document on your computer and type “Chapter One.” You need to have read a lot of books, and I don’t mean craft works like this manual. Read, but not just anything.

Aspiring writers are often told, “read in your genre.” But Faulkner said, “Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.”

I don’t completely agree with the above advice. Mine is: Read well-written books.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/628973
What books are they? Try using the internet to search for lists of the best books ever written in English, or whatever language in which you’re planning to write. Do not read translated books. While many are great, you want to read excellent books by those who have mastered all aspects of writing. Book translators possess extremely refined skills, and writing an original work from start to “the end” is not often among them.

Be selective. While reading works such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the original middle English may be interesting and educational, you want to read books that are written in the version of English we use, so as to accustom your ear and your mind to modern, grammatically correct language.

The purpose of extensive reading is not to entertain but to enlighten. Pay attention to what you’re reading. Read books that call to you more than once, to figure out why they’re compelling. Look at the big picture aspects first: character and conflict, plot and story. During the next reading you can analyze narrower mechanical concerns such as word choice and sentence structure. Ask yourself, “How does this writer use these tools to elicit a particular reaction from the reader?”

Third reading: start looking for subtleties such as symbolism, subtext, and theme. How does the writer express these? What images does the author employ? What words does she choose? How long or short are sentences, paragraphs, chapters? Why?

It’s not the purpose of this treatise to teach everything there is to know about every aspect of fiction writing. It’s not possible. But reading programs your brain in particular ways. I emphasize reading modern works, works that use the same sentence structure, grammar, and vocabulary common in contemporary fiction. Read to increase your knowledge of, and command over, your tools: words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes. Read great books over and over again. Learn an appreciation for the English language and good writing, even down to correct apostrophe placement and comma usage.

Reading well-written books will imprint strong storytelling, correct grammar, and good sentence structure upon your mind, and it’s a lot easier to learn by reading than by taking classes. A lifetime of good reading can create a good writer. You’ll become a more able author, especially if you’re writing as well as reading, such as keeping a journal or making notes. It doesn’t really matter what you’re writing at this phase. If you’re writing fiction, great. If not, that’s okay too.

All of this is to encourage becoming thoroughly fluent in the English language. If you aren’t, the sad truth is that you needn’t try to write anything more complex than a shopping list or a thank-you note. Readers know what good writing is and isn’t, and they can be as unforgiving about sloppiness as the plastic surgeon’s patient.


Law school interrupted my reading. I did not realize how much I missed it until
after I had graduated and I found that something in my life was missing. My eye fell upon a copy of Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, one of my favorites, and I realized that I had not read a novel in 3 years. 


Because I'm blocked, I'm back to reading. I used to read books that I loved, and rewatch TV and movies that I adored, but now I don't do that very often. A book has to be amazing for me to reread it, and the same is true of films. I like new things. I like novelty, and I like to learn something new when I can.

And so I've returned to my roots, and am again reading fanatically. And enjoying every word.


Right now I'm reading all of Nora Roberts' The Obsession. What are you reading?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Make Your Heroes Unforgettable by Marianne Stephens




What makes a hero come alive as you read or write pages? His looks, actions, emotions? There are so many adjectives to describe a hero, and writers need the right combination to make him unforgettable to readers.

Each story setting can determine a hero’s demeanor, body language, and actions. If he’s in danger, or the woman he loves is in danger, a hero should be strong and willing to do anything to keep himself and loved one safe. This calls for serious actions and behavior. Bravery in difficult circumstances, even if he at first doesn’t succeed, makes a hero lovable.

Facial Looks: Heroes don’t have to have the perfect face. Heroes with physical flaws…a scar on a cheek for example) become more real to readers. Rugged, tanned features make a hero interesting. Perfect teeth, perfect, face, perfect smile, can hide a sinister soul…and we know that no man is perfect.

Physique: Most heroes seem to have wonderful abs, biceps, rippling chest muscles. Readers want to visualize those characteristics in heroes since some female readers will put themselves in the heroine’s place and crave being close to the hero’s body. And, more and more, a hero’s “bulge” is described. Having a heroine notice what’s straining his zippered area focuses her attention on lusty thoughts and sexual desire.

Emotions: Can a hero cry? Be funny? Be rude and still catch the heroine’s interest? Sure. Crying shows a deep, softer side. Being funny, keeping conversations and settings lighthearted, shows a happy man, content with his demeanor. A rude, harsh hero can come across as brooding, but still garner some sympathy. Perhaps he’s brushing off the heroine for her own good, or having a bad day and doesn’t realize how he’s offending the heroine. Being contrite and apologizing makes him more lovable.

Does your hero have a quirk, something only he does? Does it endear him to the heroine or annoy her? Having him do something like tip his cowboy hat up for intimate face-to-face conversations makes him more likeable. Cracking his knuckles can not only annoy a heroine, but readers as well.

Body Language: Leaning casually makes a hero more approachable, but a ramrod straight stance might make a heroine think twice about getting too close.  Heroes have to “invite” the heroine to share their space, and make her feel comfortable.

Voice: Tone and adding “color” to comments can give a hero that “stay with me” implication. Does he whisper, is there a huskiness quality in his voice? Can a heroine…and reader…hear his tenderness and crave to be closer?

And finally, how does your hero smell? Is there a “woodsy” aroma? Hint of lime aftershave? All-male scent that drives the heroine crazy? When a heroine inhales, are her senses bombarded by the aromas surrounding the hero?

Make your heroes unforgettable and embedded in readers’ minds. Give him a great smile, genuine passions for the heroine, and journey to win her heart.

What qualities do you look for in a hero?

In my story, I'LL DACE FOR YOU, in the boxed set SUMMER NIGHTS OF DELIGHT, my hero, Nate, has so many characteristics that intrigue the heroine, Carla. She surprises him with her secret, but he's got one of his own. Information about Summer Nights of Delight can be found at:

Marianne Stephens

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Not Your Ordinary Love Story by Charmaine Gordon

Recently I wrote a story titled A Leg Up On Sisyphus. Why I don't know. Just one one those moments. I'd finished one book followed by another and got carried away with Greek Myths. I sent it to a friend in Chicago for comment. I do believe I'll have to marry her after reading the glowing review although my hubs may not approve. She suggested I write two more short myths in the same vein and send them to Textbook Summaries. Unfamiliar to me. I do believe, in the long run, I'll send them to my publisher and get her opinion.

On the bright side, my book, Beware the Blue Eyed Thunderbolt should be coming out relatively soon. Hysteria here combined with excitement. You see, when I fell last year, my head was damaged and caused an inability to think straight. I'm just beginning to focus properly.Walking is still a problem so I struggle along. The main thing is I keep smiling and I'm hopeful.

Here's a blurb from Beware the Blue Eyed Thunderbolt:

A chance meeting at the Veterinarian's office brings to blue eyed people together. Julie Malone finds an invitation to dinner from the attractive doctor with a schnauzer and a romance begins. She calls her best friend for advice who tells her don't go out so soon with a stranger. Julie, so attracted to the man, makes up her own mind. He confesses that he's just adopted his two nieces because his sister died. She wants to run away fast and so the story begins. Tune in next time for a terrific story and see how it turns out.

Charmaine Gordon

Thursday, August 10, 2017

WITH FIFTY IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR: Even If You Can Get Into It, Should You Wear It?



Posted by R. Ann Siracusa
An issue to weigh in on.
THE BIG CONTROVERSY: Should older women dress age-appropriately?
Everyone who thinks about this issue has a different opinion. And there's as much controversy regarding what age group constitutes older women and what the word  appropriate means.
No surprise there!
Starting with the premise that most women want to look their best, regardless of age, let's take a gander at what some of the experts say.
ON THE "YES" SIDE
This side of the argument has a lot to do with how others perceive a woman. In our society today, a woman trying to look too young, too "trendy," or thinner than she is, is a sure sign of a woman who lacks confidence, composure, and style. Not someone to be envied or trend-setting.

Dressing like your teenage daughter or pouring yourself into a too-tight dress is more likely to inspire criticism and laughter behind your back than it is to impress anyone. No one wants to be laughed at.
Another argument for dressing age appropriately is gravity. Ladies, gravity is not our friend. It takes its toll on all of us, some more, some less, depending on genes, diet, exercise and many other factors. But eventually, human beings begin to sag somewhere, and the "yes" side argues that sagging needs to be taken into account in the way we dress.
According to Lifescript.com, the following styles are not appropriate for a women over fifty to wear in public. [I assume in your own home even fashionistas let you wear what you want.] I disagree with some of the following, but it's what many experts say. I'm certainly not an expert. 
While the quoted material and some of the photos below come from and article by Rachel Fischer Spalding on Lifescript.com July 6, 2016, these general guidelines were found in numerous other articles about what not to wear over 50.
http://www.lifescript.com/well-being/articles/t/top_10_items_youre_too_old_to_wear/b.aspx.

● Distressed denim 
"If it looks like it's been run over by a bus and bedazzled by a tween, it doesn't belong in your closet." This doesn't mean you shouldn't wear jeans, but they should fit and not be too glitzy, too distressed, too glitzy, too tight, or too anything (even if you can get into them).

● Cheap Chonies 
Buy good quality under garments to avoid lumps and bumps and to keep everything in place. When you're over fifty, that's more important than pink ruffles with black ribbons. Remember the gravity issue. Good under garments are always appropriate regardless of age.

●.Excessive Cleavage"A plunging neckline can come off as desperate or attention-seeking. Rule of thumb: Anything below mid-bustline is way too low."
But wait a minute! Let's take a look at two women who are over 60. Wow!
Christie Brinkley                                                  Mary Steenburger













Granted, these ladies are celebrities and can afford whatever it takes to keep their looks and bodies in good shape, but still ….  Besides, most women never looked as good as Christie Brinkley does at 61, even at eighteen or twenty. Sigh.

● "F"-me heels and other extreme footwear 
While these shoes and boots may be very trendy, they make your feet ache, among other things. For some reason, footwear sends a loud message.

 
● Crop tops, short shorts, and micro miniskirts 
"Micro-mini skirts tend to look exponentially trashy with age.” Unless you have the legs of a 20 year-old model, get rid of the short shorts and miniskirts at about 40.
         
By the way, the short-shorts rule should apply to men also.

Giant hobo bags"These oversized, slouchy, embellished bags hold a lot, but tend to be second-rate fabrics and distracting patterns. They don't make for a timeless look." 
Undershirt inspired Tank Tops 
"They may feel cool but come off sloppy and classless. Go to a scoop-neck T-shirt." 
● Taking Accessories from Teens
 "Arm candy, nail glitter and animal print anything are trendy traps that substantially age their victims rather than keep them looking young and hip....and can lead to to a gaudy disaster." Retire them at age 30.
● Peek-a-boo Bra Straps  "It’s UNDERwear, not outerwear. It’s not meant to be exposed." Once you reach your mid-twenties, ditch the exposed straps and have specialty bras for strapless, backless, plunging and unique necklines.


● Boastful Graphic T-shirts "Freedom of expression is great — until it’s obnoxiously splayed across your chest. The boasting comes across as simply juvenile." T-shirts, yes, but not ones that brag about the wearer, even the greatest grandmother.
● Color Coordinated Makeup 
Give this up at 16 and replace with subtle hues without lots of shimmer. They’ll make you look fresh and ready to seize the day. The more you age, the more delicately makeup should be applied." 

● Pajama bottoms outside the house. Retire at 16
● Mismatched socks
: Retire at 22 [That's too old, in my opinion.]
Scrunchies: Retire at 12
Tiaras: Retire at 5 -
Fashionista Jacquelyn Mitchard adds berets and fishnets to the list, although she didn't mention age.
Sleezy clubbing dresses: Retire at 28
Juicy sweatpants, shorts, or anything with writing on the backside, including Hollister [which is the name not just of a clothier but also of a company that makes colonic irrigation supplies]. Not at any age.
Purses with dogs in them. Not at any age.


See through tops and bottoms and Cut-Outs.
Apparently this doesn't apply to Hollywood celebrities over fifty.

ON THE "NO" SIDE 
On the "no" side, modern women [even those over fifty] don't want to be told what they can wear and don't want to cater to the dictates of others regarding style. Many are tired of being forced by designers and stores into uncomfortable clothing and shoes because that is what's proper, socially acceptable, or fashionable … particularly when men are making those decisions.

Remember pointed toes and "don't wear white before Easter"? 
Who has the right to tell you what styles and colors you can wear? Many women, whichever side of appropriate they believe in, don't want to be slaves to public opinion. If you don't like what I'm wearing, don't look!
Madonna (58) has been criticized a lot for the way she dresses. Someone wrote in an article after a recent event, “It’s time for her to stop trying so hard all the time to look young".

Considering that she's old enough to join AARP, do you
think it's okay to dress like this, even for a celebrity performer? How about the other lady in the photo below?
           
Other reasons for taking no side of the question "Should older women dress age-appropriately?"
● I don't want to be a slave to public opinion.
● If I still have it, I want to flaunt it.
● Others' opinions don't matter. Don't let those opinions make you uncomfortable or self-conscious.
● You can't make everyone else happy, so make yourself happy.
● Feeling comfortable is more important dressing a certain way. I don't want to give up comfort.
● I want to be unique and have my own style, make my own statement.


● I've always dressed this way. Why should I change? It's what I'm comfortable in.

● I don't like wearing dull drab clothing. 

Unfortunately, the clothing and shoes that some people believe to be age-appropriate for older women are plain dull colors and loose-fitting drab styles. Most women don’t want that either.
BREAKING THE FASHION RULES

Fashion is all about breaking the rules. But first, you need to know the rules and why they exist, before you break them. Then you can break the rules in a manner that is a complement to your personal style and looks without causing people to make fun of you behind your back. Just because you're over fifty doesn't mean you have to give up colors and style.

 A MATTER OF STYLE
The bottom line is that we are what we are in the    
world we live in.
Even if we wish to make fashion less to do with age and more about fit, tailoring, color, and the confidence and creativity of the individual, other people see and evaluate us based on their own beliefs and the general consensus about what is appropriate at the time and for the occasion.
Remember, stylish and trendy are two different things.While most women are pretty middle-of-the-road, each person tends to lean toward one or the other, but it helps to know the difference.  Trendy and fashionable can be bought; style can't.  Stylish means that you know what clothing styles and colors flatters your body, whether or not it's the latest fashion. Often times what's in fashion may not be what looks good on you. 

To achieve the ideal combination, whatever your age, requires repeated assessment of nuances and, as one fashionista writes, "… a degree of letting go." The objective is to regard letting go not as a loss but as a process of streamlining, simplification, and replacement. Timeless, well tailored pieces in flattering neutral colors mix and match easily with your favorite, flattering seasonal trends. A woman can be both stylist and trendy as well as showcase her own style and identity, and still be appropriately dressed.

Resources
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2624823/Younger-No-just-want-look-good-say-women-60.html
http://sixtyandme.com/60-things-older-women-want-younger-women-to-know/
http://totalimageconsultants.com/blog/2016/01/27/what-not-to-wear-after-age-50its-not-what-you-think/
http://www.grandmagazine.com/2016/05/not-wear-age-50-final-say/
http://www.lifescript.com/well-being/articles/t/top_10_items_youre_too_old_to_wear/b.aspx
https://www.thebudgetfashionista.com/fashion-advice-older-women/
https://www.pinterest.com/alittleoven/fashion-faux-pas/?lp=true
http://blog.lindasonline.com/2011/08/15/the-great-white-debate-what-to-wear-under-white
http://femalehotactressesphotos.blogspot.com/2012/01/female-actresses-over-60.html
http://www.sixtyandme.cofashionulous-without-trying-to-look-younger/
http://styliaque.com/stylish-vs-trendy-how-to-differentiate-the-two/
http://restartyourstyle.com/40/the-difference-and-the-relationship-between-style-and-trends/
http://labellush.com/blog/trendy-vs-stylish
http://www.aarp.org/entertainment/fashion-beauty/info-04-2011/what-not-to-wear-over-50.html
http://lifestylefifty.com/things-not-to-wear/
http://www.lifescript.com/well-being/m-slideshows/top_10_items_youre_too_old_to_wear.aspx
https://hubpages.com/style/Too-Short-Dresses-The-Equivalent-Of-Wearing-A-T-shirt
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-1323968/8-glamourous-greats-Fashion-classics-grown-own.html
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/562175965963272957/
https://jiacollection.com/blogs/news/88730241-the-girlboss-guide-to-desk-to-dinner-fashion
http://www.whowhatwear.com/best-style-older-women/slide4









                                                                      











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