Saturday, March 9, 2019

Is your first chapter overused or a cliché? by Rita Karnopp

Is your first chapter overused or a cliché?
Chapter 1 is the most important chapter of your book – including the ending.  Agents and editors will be the first to admit – if they don’t care about your characters by page one - five – they toss your book in the ‘not interested’ pile.  Why?
Today’s readers are savvy and know what they want … a book that challenges them.  A book that they can’t put down.  If you kill your character off in the first chapter – will your reader care why they were shot, crushed under a pile of cement, or got their throat slashed?  Yet, this ruse is used way too many times.
How about the cliché plots?  You’re gripping the page as the main character enters the cave.  It smells musty of years past.  She hears growling and points her flashlight and catches a glimpse of a furry animal … Is it a wolf? … or are the fangs, dripping with saliva, larger than real life?  She shudders – then it leaps – your main character jumps, crossing her arms in front of her face … she wakes sitting on her bed - startled from the oh too real dream.  Was it a warning – or premonition?  Give me a break.
Your reader will most definitely feel cheated.  These plots are overused and outdated.  Today’s reader won’t buy it – they’ll close the book or iPad.
Then there’s the prologue that many writers believe sets the story – before you begin reading.  Most agents hate prologues.  Why not grasp your reader on the first page of chapter one?
I’ve always felt a prologue was a cheesy way of giving chunks of the back-story – which would be more effective it this information was weaved into the story as it progresses.
I must be blunt and admit one thing I truly hate is the story that has so much flora and fauna that I forget what my characters are doing.  Set the scene, but don’t go overboard.  Having said that, not enough ‘setting the scene’ leaves the reader wondering what’s going-on around all the dialog.
You need to find a good balance between action and dialog.  Descriptions should be

revealed as a character sees, feels, hears, tastes, and then verbalizes.  The five senses in a good balance of natural movement.

He lost himself in her cool, green, piercing eyes.  He pulled away, concentrating on the red locks that rose above her head with endless twists and twirls until they fell back down in ringlets, caressing her ample bosom.  His breathing increased, and he fought for air . . . blah – blah – blah … you’ve lost the reader for sure.
Another way to get your reader to send your book across the room, hitting the wall with a loud thud is to bore them with ‘little’ things.  Huh?  You know when the characters are doing things that don’t advance the story … but seems to fill the pages . . . but nothing seems to be happening.  Such as staring out the window – thinking.  Leaning against her pillow – lost in thoughts.  She twirled her hair around her finger – staring at the wall.
The clichéd “Once upon a time,” or “In the beginning,” or “It all started when,” can literally be the kiss of death!  Try something more gripping … perhaps something more modern … catch your reader’s attention from the very first couple of lines. 

When I started writing “Atonement” I wanted my reader to know the tone of the book.  I wrote, “He bent her finger back.  All the way back.”  It made me shudder when I wrote it … and I hope that’s the exact reaction my reader experience.
When I start reading a book where there is more telling than showing . . . I won’t continue past the first page.  I want compelling scenes . . . a story that makes me ask what would make her do that or why is he doing that?  The writer must answer all the what, when, where, who and how or I won’t be a happy reader.
In movies as well as books, I hate when it starts out with an introduction; My name is Janet Howell, and I would never have guessed ten years ago that I’d have been the type of woman who would kill her husband.  I'm the sweet, next-door type of girl.  Really?  How more effective would it be using dialog; “I may have wished my husband dead a time or two.  But I didn’t kill him.  I’m just not that type of woman.”
I never fall for the ‘I can’t stand his guts . . . and three pages later they’re falling to the ground in uncontrolled passion
Never . . . never . . . never create a character that has no faults.  She beautiful with no blemishes, speaks flawlessly and has the whitest teeth known to man.  She couldn’t hurt a soul because she’s the sweetheart every man wishes he could marry.  If she is perfect – she can’t change and grow in the story.  There is no real conflict with her … how can there be?  She’s perfect.  Do you know anyone who is perfect?  I sure don’t… and only in a fairytale could she be … except that would be boring, too.
Lastly, let’s discuss the problem with ‘information overload’ on the first page.  The writer is so bent on ‘setting the scene and introducing the character’ they feel the need to bring us up ‘to speed’ with their life to this point.  No.  This is a bad way of eliminating the prologue . . . which I hate anyway.  Feed us this back-story information as the story progresses . . . and we get to know and care about your characters. 


Thursday, March 7, 2019

Children of Fyre, newest BWL Release from Janet Lane Walters



In this return to the Island of Fyre, each of the heros and heroines of the three previous books have children. 

Lorton is the youngest son of the Wizards of Fyre and he has bonded with the yellow dragon. The dragon through the magic of the stones has been rejuvenated and is now green. Dragon sends Lorton to travel to where the Dragons of Fyre are raised.

There he meets Arkon son of the hero and heroine of the Dragons of Fyre. There have been four eggs laid and there must be two young men and two young women found to bond with them. 

On the island where the evil wizards were exiled, Cerene has grown up as little more than a slave. She can use all the fyrestones unlike her father. She learns about the kidnapping of Riara, daughter of the hero and heroine of the Temple of Fyre and vows to save her. 

The four must unite with their dragons and finally destroy the evil.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Solo Writing Retreat by Eileen O'Finlan

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Click here for Eileen O'Finlan's website

It's time to seriously focus on the sequel to Kelegeen, so I spent the last week of February secluded in a hotel suite in Worcester, Massachusetts, where the sequel will be set, to work undisturbed and undistracted.  I arrived at the Residence Inn in Worcester late on Monday afternoon.  Once I was settled in, I got right to work.  The suite has a great little work area with the most comfortable chair ever – I wish I could have taken it home!

The first hurdle was getting on the Internet.  I was given my WiFi password when I checked in, but getting to a screen that actually asked for it seemed an impossible task.  I finally stumbled upon it, put in the password and I was off and running.  The table is right in front of the windows, so during the day the sunlight helped a lot, which is a good thing since the lighting in the suite left a lot to be desired as did the lack of dish liquid and a frying pan, but I digress. 

I wanted to get as much as I could out of this week, so I made it an early night.  I had not realized just how exhausted I’d been until I tried to wake up the next morning.  Even after my brain woke up, my eyelids refused to open.  I think it was around 11:00 a.m. before I dragged myself out of bed.  Yikes!  Most of the morning already gone before I could even eat breakfast, shower, and dress. 

Assuming, I’d have no problem getting online, I fired up the laptop only to find that I had no Internet connection.  After trying in vain to retrace the steps that finally connected me the night before, I gave up and asked the guy at the Front Desk for help.  He obligingly came to my room and had my laptop online in about two seconds.  For those who don’t know (until then, that included me) when you can’t reconnect to a public WiFi connection, try going to a site called  It reroutes your computer to get you back online.  Who knew?  I sure didn’t.  Good thing Front Desk Guy knew.  Thank you Front Desk Guy!

I spent the rest of the day with my eyes glued (not literally – I mean, ouch and yuck!) to Erin’s Daughters in America:  Irish Immigrant Women in the Nineteenth Century by Hansia R. Diner.  Between reading, note-taking, and checking information online, the afternoon flew by.  I did make a point of ungluing my eyes long enough to walk all the hallways on all four floors of the building just to keep my circulation going.  There was little chance of falling asleep at the desk despite feeling like I could nod off at any minute (still in the extreme exhaustion phase) since the air around the desk felt as icy as if I’d opened the windows.  I hate being cold, but, hey, it kept me awake and working.

I went to bed extra early that night, hoping to make up for my late rising.  It didn’t work.  Well, I did get up a little earlier than the previous morning, like around 10:30.  It dawned on me that I needed this week as much to rest as I did to research and write so I decided to stop mentally berating myself for sleeping late and make the most of the time I was awake. 

When I finally finished Erin’s Daughters, it was time for my tour of the four floors.  I remembered seeing photos of various places in Worcester in the hallways of each floor so this time I took my camera.  Meg, my main character, would have arrived from Ireland on a ship and docked in Boston Harbor, then taken a train to Worcester.  I know the current train station wasn’t built until 1911 so I’ve been trying to figure out where the station would have been in my story.  One picture might have given me a clue.  It’s the outside of a building with the words Boston and Albany  New York – New Haven and Hartford – Boston and Maine engraved in the façade.  Hmmm…could this have been the original station?

Research brings both answers and questions.  The more I find out the more I need to know.  So along with my notes I have a growing list of questions, most of which have to do with the who and where in Worcester in the 1850s. 

After checking the website for the Worcester Historical Museum I found that they have a plethora of information on Worcester in the 19th century.  I gave them a call, only to find I was speaking with a woman who took the online course in Church History that I just finished teaching.  What were the odds of that?  She informed me that the museum’s archivist is an expert on Irish immigrants in Worcester.  Pay dirt!  I made an appointment to meet with her so the last night of my solo retreat was spent writing out those all-important questions I want to ask her.

Oh, and one more thing – Chapter 1 is well underway.  The sequel has officially begun.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Rosemary Morris talks with Janet Lane Walters by Rosemary Morris

To learn about Janet Lane Walters and Whispers of Yesteryear click on the cover above.

Whispers from Yesteryear by Janet Lane Walters is the novel I most enjoyed reading this year. The tale slips backward and forward from 1755 to July 2017. The past cast long shades over the lives of twin girls in their next reincarnation and those of those they knew in the past. The author led me by the hand through the ups and downs of their lives. Engrossed in the twin’s story I finished reading it in less than twenty-four hours desperate to find out how the havoc wrought by a heartless villain was resolved.

Janet Lane-Walters has been writing and published since the days of the typewriter. She has 30 plus novels and seven novellas plus four non-fiction books published. Janet lives in the scenic Hudson River valley with her husband, a psychiatrist who has no desire to cure her obsession with writing.
She is the mother of four and the grandmother of five with two children expected to arrive soon from China. Janet writes in a number of genres - Romance from sweet to sensual and from contemporary to fantasy and paranormal. She has published cozy mysteries and medical suspense. She also has a number of YA fantasies published.

Not the children.” Willow Carey is awakened by the remnants of a dream she hasn’t had for years. Today she is to return to Indian’s Sorrow, a house she inherited from her aunt. The inheritance has caused a rift with her twin sister. Her father and stepmother have died in an accident. Though she doesn’t want to go to Indian’s Sorrow, she must take charge of her young half-sister and brother.
Reid Talbot, a man she once loved lives near the house with his family. Now a widower, he lives with his sons. Learning to trust him again is difficult but he also has dreams.
Together, they must learn the meaning of the dreams before the whispers of yesteryear destroy their newfound happiness.

I hope you enjoy this taste of Whispers of Yesteryear.

Chapter One
July 1755

Willow Who Bends stood at the entrance of the Long House and stared at the sky. Though the sun shone brightly, to the west dark clouds gathered and carried the threat of a storm like the one she felt inside. She knelt beside the father of her spirit. Corn Dreamer had raised her and taught her the ways of healing. She prayed he would wake but feared he wouldn’t. Sorrow rode the beats of her heart and threatened to spill in a rain of tears.
"Corn Dreamer, must you travel to the spirit world and leave this one behind?" Her voice cracked and she caught a breath to still the ache in her throat. "The men have taken the warriors’ path in answer to Waraghuyagey’s call. The-Man-Who-Understands-Great-Things speaks for the redcoats, those men who want our help. What have we to do with the ones who fail to live in harmony with the land?”
Not all the pale-skinned men, she thought. A smile crossed her face. There was one who often stayed in the village and sat at Corn Dreamer’s feet to learn.
Near a moon ago, a message had come for Hair of Fire. He had left the Long House and journeyed west. A shiver crawled up her spine. Was he safe? In these days, danger rode the currents of the air the way carrion birds circled a kill.
She returned to her teacher’s side and pressed her fingers against his wrist. What had made him fall into sleep yet not sleep? Why did his heart flutter like humming bird wings and then slow. She wished for a way to rouse him for he would know the answer.
"Corn Dreamer, spirit father, medicine man, this woman is not ready for you to leave. What can this one do to help?"
She closed her eyes and sought among the things he had taught her. An answer arose. "This one must go into the forest to gather fresh leaves and bark."
From her sleeping place, she lifted a bark basket by the carrying strap and left the Long House. As she stepped outside, she heard the children’s laughter and the voices of the women raised in the growing chant. The sound chased her sorrow.
Across the clearing, her sister sat with the ones too young to work how hard she tried, she never remembered more than the cry.
She stepped from the shower. After pulling on a blue terry cloth robe, she stripped the bed and stuffed the damp sheets in the hamper.
What had triggered the dream? With the thoroughness of a pathologist seeking the cause of death, she examined the past few days and found no incident that could be called a trigger.
As she made the bed, she recalled the first time she’d dreamed. She’d been sixteen. She and her twin had been at Indian’s Sorrow visiting their aunt. Willow had always loved staying there. This time had been different. One memory lodged in her thoughts.
"Willow, come here. This is so neat." Brooke had opened the gate at the side of the garden.
Willow halted at the opening. She looked beyond her sister. "Get away from the edge."
"I’m fine." Brooke leaned forward. "The rocks look like a giant’s teeth. Come see."
"I can’t."
Brooke laughed. "Chicken."
"Something dreadful happened here."
"And I thought I was the one with the imagination and you were the logical one." Brooke spun around. "I love this place. Do you think Aunt Willow will leave it to us? She doesn’t have kids."
"I don’t..." Willow had turned away. She hadn’t
with the women. Though born of the same mother and on the same day, she and Willow by the Stream had been raised at different fires. On the outside, they wore a single face as reflected in a still pond, but their inner natures were different. As the first born, Willow Who Bends had been given to Corn Dreamer to learn about the ways of medicine and the spirit world. Her sister had been raised as a woman of the clan.
She drank in the sight of her sister. Soon Willow by the Stream would take a husband. That was good and right, but the change would further separate their lives.

July 2017
Chapter Two

"Not the children!"
Willow Carey jerked into a sitting position. Her heart thudded in her chest. Waves of terror flooded her thoughts. She gulped deep breaths of air.
She stared at the familiar surroundings and wondered why the bedroom seemed alien. Like a shroud, the sheet had twisted around her legs. She tugged it free. Her sleep shirt, soaked with perspiration, clung to her skin. She shook her head to dislodge the fragments of the nightmare that had awakened her. Terror, grief and rage had followed her into consciousness. What? Why?
Once her heart rate slowed, she reached for the alarm clock. Too late to go back to sleep and too early to get ready for work. As the effects of the adrenaline rush faded, her sense of uneasiness grew.
She hugged her knees. Once again, she had failed but she couldn’t remember who or how.
Moments later, she stood in the shower. Warm water washed away the sour smell of fear. The nightmare wasn’t new. Six years had passed since the last time the cry had jolted her awake. Always the same urgency and the same surge of emotions. No matter how hard she tried, she never remembered more than the cry.
She stepped from the shower. After pulling on a blue terry cloth robe, she stripped the bed and stuffed the damp sheets in the hamper.
What had triggered the dream? With the thoroughness of a pathologist seeking the cause of death, she examined the past few days and found no incident that could be called a trigger.
As she made the bed, she recalled the first time she’d dreamed. She’d been sixteen. She and her twin had been at Indian’s Sorrow visiting their aunt. Willow had always loved staying there. This time had been different. One memory lodged in her thoughts.
"Willow, come here. This is so neat." Brooke had opened the gate at the side of the garden.
Willow halted at the opening. She looked beyond her sister. "Get away from the edge."
"I’m fine." Brooke leaned forward. "The rocks look like a giant’s teeth. Come see."
"I can’t."
Brooke laughed. "Chicken."
"Something dreadful happened here."
"And I thought I was the one with the imagination and you were the logical one." Brooke spun around. "I love this place.”

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Captain Kidd & Wooden Ships by Katherine Pym

YA for All Ages London 1665


Capt Kidd in NY Harbor. It was traditional to have wives & lovers aboard before sailing

Research takes me to different eras and locales. One of those places is on a wooden ship slicing through the ocean's heavy swells. I have several books that describe the building of them, their terminologies, but few mention what it was like living on board. Until now...

Oh, I knew ships were crowded. Cages of ducks, geese and chickens lined the main deck rails. Cows and goats were harnessed to masts. Below decks, the magazine and filling rooms sat close together but the powder room was farther astern. Safety, you know, even as ships sometimes spontaneously exploded.
Capt Kidd's New York home
Seamen would often re-use old gun cartridges that, after a while, would deteriorate to a fine dust, and combined with particles of sulphuric and nitric acids found in gunpowder, a highly combustible substance called ‘guncotton’ would form. This friction of dust and gunpowder would cause terrific explosions, sinking the ship and everyone on board. 

Upward to several hundred men crowded onto a vessel. Captain Kidd, the privateer who turned pirate in the last years of the 17th century, had one hundred fifty-two men and boys cheek to jowl aboard his ship Adventure Galley. Men had to sleep in shifts. 

Inaccurate renduring of Capt Kidd
The decks were so short, maybe 5 feet ceilings, everyone had to walk in a permanent crouch. Unless a seaman was given express permission from the captain, no fire could be taken below decks, and unless the decks had gun ports, it was damn dark down there. 

“’No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail,’ observed Samuel Johnson. ‘For being in a ship is being in jail with the chance of being drowned... a man in jail has more room, better food and commonly better company.’

“Every available inch below deck was taken up with water-casks, barrels of salt beef, peas, beer; coils of ropes, bundles of extra canvas;” a private cabin or two, depending on the ship’s rate. These cabins were 4x4 feet. No one could stretch or pace. One had to sleep in the fetal position. 

“For landsmen, novices at this naval dormitory, the smell of that sleep chamber was gagging. Their overworked fellow sailors rarely changed their clothes or bathed; to top off the aroma of vintage sweat, toilet hygiene was rudimentary at best. 

“The ship’s head (i.e., toilet) consisted of a plank with a hole in it, which extended forward from the bow; a sailor perched on it, rode it like a seesaw, and, while doing his business, resembled some gargoyle or perverse bowsprit; the ship’s rail might provide the merest amount of privacy. A man attempting to tidy his ass risked a plunge into the sea.” 

Sailor being flogged

Even as existence such as this seemed pretty unpalatable, it got into the blood of men. Once they found their sea legs and learned the ways of the sea, many wouldn’t leave it for all their stolen treasure. If they didn’t like what their captain did, they could always mutiny, throw the offending captain overboard (as the Henry Hudson’s crew did) and sail away into the stormy sunset. 


Many thanks to: 

Wikicommons, public domain 

The Pirate Hunter, The True Story of Captain Kidd by Richard Zacks. Hyperio, NY, NY. 2002

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Writing for Sanity

Years ago I was fortunate to teach a journaling class as part of a Women's Wellness seminar at a hospital in Edmonton. It was my first time every doing any sort of presentation in front of a crowd and my co-instructor, a minister, had made notes to keep us both on track. On that page of notes was a typo. A mistake. That one little piece of "wrong" struck me as funny and relaxed us both. When I told the story in the session, one woman got very angry at me for "embarrassing" the other woman in front of the crowd. The typo - and our nervousness - wasn't the point of the session.

The entire point was learning to give yourself the freedom to write.

In all fairness, I had asked my partner if I could talk about that tiny mistake as an example of how we don't need to be perfect when we write. We just need to do it. We don't need to be afraid of the mistakes, just write to get the ideas out of our heads. To clear our minds.

Rough drafts, to me, are like journaling. Things come out of our heads, out of our pens, our keyboards and fill the page. Sometimes they make sense. Sometimes they're disjointed scenes of a book that really don't seem to connect until we get them down on paper and find a way to connect them. Sometimes they're even filled with weird typos that make us laugh. But those things aren't meant for an audience, yet sometimes we share them just to give our friends a good laugh. Our finished novels are.

One of the most common complaints I hear in my writing group is that everything has to be perfect and writers will work on Chapter 1 for days, weeks, or even years until it is just right. Then they will move on to Chapter 2 and find they have to go back and change something in Chapter 1, and so on.

My cure for that is simple. Just write the book! Your rough draft doesn't have to be perfect. I just has to be written. Once it's done, then go back and smooth out the rough spots. Remove paragraphs. Add paragraphs. Take out whole chapters. Whatever it takes to get those thoughts out of your head and turn that book into something you can be proud of.

Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way, talks about Morning Pages. Sitting down every morning before you do anything else to "prime the pump." Basically writing all the gunk out of your head so you can go on to form actual thoughts and create your art whether it be writing, creating music, painting or the like.

Whatever you call it, just write to clear your head. For your sanity.
I'll be here writing for mine!

Diane Bator
Author of Wild Blue Mysteries, Gilda Wright Mysteries & Glitter Bay Mysteries

The confusing world of idioms by J. S. Marlo

I love idioms. They can be colorful, sarcastic, and more often than none, impossible to translate in a different language. 

The first idiom I encountered in English was When pigs fly. I was in my twenties slowly learning English when one of my friends said it. I understood the when, the pigs, and the fly, but I couldn't figure out how or when she switched the conversation to pink farm animals. She explained, but then she was also surprised we didn't use that expression to say never in French. I told her we do have a similar expression, which also features a farm animal. In French we say Quand les poules auront des dents, which translate to When hens will have teeth
That's when I learned I couldn't translate idioms words for words. At the same time, it was fascinating to discover how two different languages use two different images to convey the same meaning, like:

Love at first sight   is the equivalent to   Coup de foudre (lightning strike) in French.
Once in a blue moon   to   Tous les trente-six du mois (every 36th of the month)
To feel under the weather   to   Ne pas être dans son assiette (not to be in one’s plate)
To mind one’s own business   to   S'occuper de ses oignons (to take care of one’s onions)
To have other fish to fry   to   Avoir d'autres chats à fouetter (to have other cats to whip)
To put in two cents   to   Mettre son grain de sel (to put one’s grain of salt)

It just goes to show that every language is truly unique and meanings can really get lost in the translation.

Happy reading & writing!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

BWL Publishing March Releases and Mystery Suspense Features

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Enhance your reading experiences by enjoying books from
BWL's authors.  March's feature books are
Mystery and Suspense. For purchase and author information simply Click any book cover
Spider Play
Secrets of Echo Cave  
Ring Around The Rosy

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