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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fun With Spelling


We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be a beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one would be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
and the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
And though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his, and him,
But imagine the feminine she, shis, and shim.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Too Old to Publish?

Am I too old to be an author? Have others (maybe even well-known authors) published noteworthy books after they were, let's call it, "mature?" I enjoyed writing from an early age, but didn't feel confident I could make it a career. It wasn't until I retired that I began writing in earnest, publishing Brute Heart in 2010 when I was sixty-seven.

I did a bit of research on this subject and found several well-known authors who published their most successful works while they were not one of those whippersnappers courted by today's agents and publishers. Note: books listed are not necessarily the first ones they wrote.

Best-known Book
Age When Published
Isak Dinesen
Out of Africa
Bram Stoker
Raymond Chandler
The Big Sleep
Anna Sewell
Black Beauty
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House on the Prairie
Frank McCourt
Angela’s Ashes
Richard Adams
Watership Down
Mary Wesley
Jumping the Queue

Thursday, August 6, 2015








Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Describing Fictional Characters

He was tall, at least six foot four, with a mop of sun-bleached hair and a Malibu tan. His dimpled cheeks flanked a perfect nose, and a six-pack of abs peeked  from his unbuttoned shirt. Wow, I thought, he must work out every day! 

This is too much character description. Does the reader need so many details that nothing is left for her mind’s eye to play with? When I read a book, I create my own pictures of the characters. Just give me the basics—gender, approximate age, and maybe one interesting detail. I will learn all I need to know about him later on through his words and actions; sometimes his inactions.

Here’s an example from the novel I’m writing. It describes one of my characters the first time the protagonist sees him.

One man entered the dining hall several minutes after the others left. His neatly trimmed salt-and-pepper beard marked him as older than the other tenants, and he wore a decent-looking jacket rather than overalls. He ate his breakfast quickly, and then carried his tableware into the kitchen with a polite nod to the two women as he passed their table.

Now I just need to finish writing the story. Then I will review what I’ve written, paying close attention to how I describe my characters, making them  lean as possible (unless they’re fat, of course).

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Name Game

Naming characters isn't easy, and yet the names we choose can make or break our stories. An oft-used example is Pansy, the saccharine name Margaret Mitchell almost gave her cunning, provocative heroine.

While I was writing Brute Heart, a novel set in Oregon, I found names for every one of my characters, major or minor, first name and last name, on a map of Oregon. I was amazed at the rich storehouse of names on that map--cities, towns, wide spots in the road, parks, counties, and countless topographical features. Some of the names I used were Riley (a small town), Dusty (Dusty Canyon), Cooper (Cooper Mountain), Jordan (Jordan Valley), Annie (Annie Springs), and Jude (Jude Lake).

Take a look at a map of your own state. If you don't find names for your characters there, get a detailed map of Oregon, a state that has a penchant for unusual names such as Boring, Shedd, Bakeoven, and Drain (all small towns).

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


My husband and I returned from Arizona with the worst colds we've ever had. I'm finding it difficult to whip up enthusiasm for the simplest chores, let alone get back to writing; therefore today's message is aimed at me and any writer with good intentions who's dragging his or her feet.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Stephen King's Top Ten Tips for Writers

In an earlier post I mentioned Stephen King's book On Writing as a favorite of mine. This month I'm listing (from that book) his top ten tips for writers. I think the only tip I follow with any regularity is # 9. I need to look at this list once in a while and pay more attention to the others.

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”
2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”
3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend.”
4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”
5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”
6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”
7. Read, read, read. ”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”
8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”
9. Turn off the TV. “TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”
10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”
                                              From On Writing by Stephen King