Choices

It’s how we live; it’s how our realities are created; and it’s the name of the new 2-book set available from most online book retailers.

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I’ve combined my near death experiences and death escort experiences with the years of information received regarding relationships of all sorts (spouses, companions, friends, co-workers, and family).

Life is all about the choices we make in our everyday lives. How we choose to act and react to the stimuli around us and the actions and reactions of others. Sometimes we choose to react in love, and sometimes we choose fear. Every choice is a valid one, but each one also has consequences and spawns further actions, reactions, and choices.

Each of my books shows examples of how choices affect our lives–little choices and major choices–and how every day we are constantly making thousands of choices without even realizing it.

If you have enjoyed the articles in this blog, then you will love the books, I’m sure. I hope each of you finds something meaningful and helpful in my writings and I will continue to answer your questions as best I can.

Happy Reading!

(Check it out at Smashwords!)

The 5 Keys to Building a Character

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My friend wanted me to attend a writing seminar with her, so I agreed to go. However, the summary said it was geared more for novices, so I didn’t really expect to learn much. Boy, was I surprised.

The speaker, a creative writing instructor from one of the top schools in the south, came in and took her place at the podium. After introducing herself and giving us a brief synopsis of what the presentation was to be about, she asked us to take five minutes to describe her as if she was a character in one of our stories.

The results were pretty much as expected. Most of the attendees gave similar descriptions to this:

Melanie is a 30-ish woman with brown, shoulder-length hair, dressed in a gray suit with a lacy, rose-colored blouse.

She told us to hang on to those descriptions, and then she went on to give us her presentation. That’s when we all learned how wrong we had been in actually thinking we had described a character. What we had described was a one-dimensional, uninspired, and uninteresting person.

A story character should be as varied as someone in real life. They should have substance, not just a description. They should come alive for the reader and become someone that the reader can actually believe in. The 5 primary attributes that each character needs in order to achieve this kind of depth are:

Mannerisms/Traits: These are the tics or compulsions that a character displays consistently. For example, the character paces when nervous or agitated, chews gum or tobacco, hums to him- or herself, blinks excessively, clicks a pen without realizing it, taps the end of a pencil on the desk all the time, bounces his or her foot, plays with his or her hair or runs his or her fingers through his or her hair, chews his or her fingernails, rubs at a scar on his or her chin, cheek, nose, etc., stutters, or laughs inappropriately.

Behaviors/attitudes: These are how the character displays his or her feelings. For instance, the character might be belligerent, argumentative, disagreeable, a yes-man, Polly Anna-like, naïve, happy, bland, or teasing.

Scents (what smells are associated with the character, if any): Most memories are related (and often triggered) by scent. Yet, as authors we tend to forget about the smell-factor. Perhaps, because books (even electronic ones) don’t yet include the ability to smell our characters or their surroundings. Still, even a description of an odor or an aroma can evoke a sense memory and help our readers remember and relate to our characters. So, include references to scents whenever possible. As it is, most people have a particular scent, and those that wear perfumes or aftershaves, or use perfumed dryer sheets, usually have a cloud of odors surrounding them. Or perhaps, your character forgot to bathe, was climbing about in a dumpster, or lives with a herd of cats.

Sounds (what sounds are associated with this character): Sounds are another overlooked, yet memorable way to help your readers remember and relate to your characters. Perhaps your character whistles, imitates bird calls, makes clicking sounds (of fingernails on a desktop or keyboard, of tongue against the roof of the mouth) or tapping sounds (of shoes or cane or fingers while texting), drags his or her foot, is associated with a rustling (of petticoats, silk fabric against skin), snapping (of cape or of gum), clomping (of boots or shoes), or wheezing (due to asthma or being overweight).

Looks: Physical attributes are the easiest to describe and usually what we (as authors) tend to focus on. However, since most readers are inclined to let their own imaginations flesh out the character, this is where the author needs to be more sparing. Include only a few basics and let the reader do the rest. For instance, relate your character’s hair color, hair style, eye shape and color, colors worn (bright colors, dull colors), clothes styles, height, weight, or unusual physical features (scars, nose size, ear shape, piercings, missing limbs, or tattoos), but describing the shoe size, exact height, and a detailed discussion of the character’s wardrobe is rarely useful and is, most times, distracting.

With all this new information at hand, she again asked us to describe her as if describing a character in one of our stories, and the results were profoundly different. For example:

Melanie, our instructor for the day, was a professional-looking woman, who paced the stage in her enthusiasm. Our eyes followed her tapping heels, while her down-home voice engaged our ears. She was a southern lady, from her warm smile to the hint of jasmine that surrounded her.

Now, which description makes you feel as if Melanie was, or could be, a living person? Which description helps you connect on all levels with this person?

So, the next time you need to describe a character for your story, remember there is more to people than just how they look. Ask yourself: what does the character sound like, smell like, and act like. Add each layer to that character until you have someone so real you can see them standing in the room with you. That’s a character that your readers will remember. That’s the type of character you need to help you tell your stories.

Book Review, With Apologies

“Stone of Fire” by J.F. Penn

Summary:  Forged in the fire and blood of martyrs, the Pentecost stones have been handed down through generations of Keepers who kept their power and locations secret.

The Keepers are being murdered, the stones stolen by those who would use them for evil in a world transformed by religious fundamentalism.

Oxford University psychologist Morgan Sierra is forced into the search when her sister and niece are held hostage. She is helped by Jake Timber from the mysterious ARKANE, a British government agency specializing in paranormal and religious experience. Morgan must risk her own life to save her family, but will she ultimately be betrayed?

Recommended:  No

Review:

I usually try very hard to find something good to say about every book I review; however, I found little to recommend about J.F. Penn’s “Stone of Fire” book. It’s free; the concept is interesting…did I mention that it’s free?

Despite all the hype that Ms. Penn issues regarding her novels, I was far from impressed with this book. The premise was interesting: stones from the Pentecost that might contain mystical powers. However, the writing was less than stellar…in fact, it was barely adequate.

During the first third of the book, the plot and story were so thin that the framework she was building for the book was easily visible. It was like sitting in the audience of an amateur drama and watching the actors mill around while the stage hands pushed and pulled the various sets around. The characters were undefined and unclear as was the plot and the story. Someone told her she needed to have something dramatic happen in chapters 1, 3 and 5, so she focused on making that occur, whether those occurrences worked within the framework she was struggling to build or not.

About mid-point, the author finally seemed to have figured out the plot and the story started to come together. Unfortunately, she still hadn’t defined her characters. In fact, they were so ill-defined that she couldn’t even keep the POV straight. A paragraph would start out with Morgan’s POV (the female protagonist) but end with Jake’s (the male protagonist). And if the author can’t tell one character from another, how are we, the readers, supposed to? The mixed POV’s continued throughout the rest of the book, leaving me distanced and struggling to care about these characters at all. The only character that the author seemed to know and understand, and that I enjoyed, was the clergyman, Ben. However, we only got his POV for about one chapter.

In the last third of the book, Ms. Penn seemed to have finally figured out the basics of storytelling; however, she still couldn’t seem to determine whose POV she was using as we drifted from head to head, sometimes even mid-sentence. The ending was as weak as the overall book was poorly written. And the author added an addendum, which was her way of “fixing” the story so that it could become a series.

Overall, I would give this story a half-star (if only for its original premise), but since that’s not allowed in Amazon or Goodreads, I will give it one star with the note that it is half a star too much.

I just love it!

I don’t know which I’m more proud of, the fact that I have a two-ebook-collection ready for sale, or the great cover that DL-Designs and Digital Art created for it on such short notice.

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So, what do you think? Isn’t it a great cover?!

To check out the 2-book set go to Smashwords.

Pulling Weeds

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I used to think of the internet as a lovely garden. You could wander down intriguing paths and find all sorts of lovely sites. Sometimes, you might even luck out and find a place offering something for free. And who doesn’t love to get something free.

Unfortunately, the other day I followed some signs claiming to have freebies, but  when I got there, I found nothing but weeds.

I’m talking about scamming sites, phishing sites. Sites that offer you something for nothing…and not just any something, my something. These places were offering my book for free. The sites claim that all you need to do is give them some personal information and you can get a free copy of my book. But the truth of it is, I didn’t authorize a giveaway of my book, and they don’t have copies of my book. What they have is a way to lure you into giving them your personal information and you get nothing, except hurt feelings and maybe some anger at me, the author, for not following through.

So far, my husband and I have come across these seven (7) web sites offering to let you download my book, The Starstone, for free, but there may be others that we haven’t found (yet):

  • Mortgage Magic System
  • Elka Acne Storage
  • Zippy Share
  • Media Fire
  • Deposit Files
  • Freak Share
  • GET.TT

The site listings appear like this in a Google or Yahoo search:

beware2_circledbeware_circled

My spouse and I are reporting these sites to the Federal Trade Commission; however, I doubt that it will keep them (or ones like them) from popping up under some other name. Sites like these are like weeds, even when you kill one patch, they pop up in another cluster somewhere else.

Do not give any of these sites your information…in fact, don’t give any site that isn’t secured any personal information. A secured site is one that starts with an https:// (The ‘S’ at the end of the http indicates that it is secured.) Also, please feel that you can ask me whether I’m hosting free books at some site other than say, Amazon, my blog (here), or some other recognized book selling site.

For fellow authors, be sure to check your own books to ensure that scammers aren’t using them to phish with. The last thing any of us wants is for our names, brands, and books to be tarnished by someone else’s flagrant misuse of them.

If any of you find any phishing sites of any type, be sure to report them to the FTC (at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/) and to the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (at phishing-report@us-cert.gov). Perhaps if we all remain efficient gardeners, we might eventually keep the weeds from polluting our lovely garden of books.

Give a weed an inch and it'll take a yard.
Give a weed an inch and it’ll take a yard.

Just in Time for Summer Reading Enjoyment

GOS Front Cover - 6x9 - 150 PPI

 

Wow…the cover is done! I think it’s spectacular, but then DL-Designs and Digital Art has never let me down yet. If anything, the design process took a bit longer only because I couldn’t make up my mind. I absolutely drove the poor man batty with my “…try this over here…” or “…can we add some of that…” nonsense. But he put up with me, and the cover is wonderful.

I’ve placed the book with CreateSpace (for those who prefer paper), and I’ve got it out with Amazon and Kindle. However, I’ve brought in help to conquer the confusing and obtuse world of epub. I’ve waded through the instructions for publishing with Smashwords (oh, but those people need a competent techwriter to help them out with their guides) and still can’t seem to make it through their maze of rules without getting pinged somewhere along the way, so now I have help. I figure once it gets through Smashwords, Draft2Digital should be a breeze.

So, with any luck, and lots of manpower and technical help, I should have all e-formats covered by the end of the week. This leaves plenty of time for people to order a copy for their summer reading pleasure.

 

 

 

 

My Review of “Elephants Never Forgotten”

I had the privilege of reading “Elephants Never Forgotten” by Ellis Nelson and quite enjoyed it. In fact, my greatest disappointment in the book was that it ended too soon. I wanted more.

The story flows around two young adults, Nigella and Kepler. After receiving some micro-elephants, Nigella becomes convinced that perhaps some true-sized elephants might still exist, and she enlists her best friend, Kepler, to help her find them. They travel to different points of the globe in search of information, while being helped along by several adult mentors.

The story was entertaining and informative. (I knew very little about elephants before starting this book, but am now so intrigued, that I have begun researching these large, gentle giants.) I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants a mild adventure, some intriguing information on elephants, and an interesting take on a possible future Earth.