Everyday Life – What’s Your Story?

Well, so much for the fall-like weather. The scheduled real-feel for the day is 100 degrees. There is always something for everyone in Pennsylvania.

For sure, some of you are older than I. But also for sure, I’m older than many. I can honestly say as I enter the winter year of my life that life’s been good. There have been times there was extra money in the bank, and times I didn’t have two nickels to rub together. There have been periods of near-perfect health and many nights spent in the hospital. I’ve experienced love and I’ve faced rejection. There have been moments of success and moments of dire failure. My emotions have run the gamut from exuberant joy to extreme pain. I feel complete.

So, what about you? What’s your life’s story? What have you learned from everyday life? Tell us about that one defining moment that changed your life forever – that point of no return.

That’s the beauty of the written word. You can literally share a part of you with those who are in need. Write about the hurt, the loss, the victory, the overcoming. There is someone that needs to hear from you. You can help a floundering soul gain strength from your experiences. Share your rejection, your determination, your courage.

Someone needs you, so don’t hold back. Maybe it’s time to write your memoir or maybe you’d rather put your story into fiction form. That’s what I did in my book, Jacob’s Ladder, but either way, get it out there.

Transparency is what it’s about, and transparency can make some very good reading. Your life’s experiences may be someone else’s answer. Go for it! Until next week . . .


Things Are Getting Tense

What’s up with the weather? Lately the days have reminded me of September and October. Color has appeared in some of the foliage. That’s okay. I like the fall, but I wonder what October will bring. Regardless of what it’s like in your area, I hope you are continuing to use your God-given gift of imagination. Whether you write or just read, your imagination is a necessity, so use it wisely. Now on to our topic – tension.

I don’t doubt that what every writer loves to hear from their audience is, “I couldn’t put down the book.” There may be several things that enter that mix to cause that reaction, but one of them certainly is tension.

When you think about it, most fiction carries the same plot. Your protagonist needs or wants something and sprinkled throughout are obstacles attempting to prevent his/her attainment. Yes, your characters have unique personalities. The twists and turns may different from other books. Particular obstacles line your pages. But is that enough?

Probably not. It’s tension that keeps the pages turning. Consider the following:

  • Ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen? Then deliver. Put your character in an impossible situation that only gets worse as the plot progresses. Let the bad guy temporarily win. A hostage is held at gunpoint. What’s the worst that could happen? Remember to show, not tell. But remember also that if the hostage is your protagonist, you need to create a way for him to escape.

A peeping Tom appears at a window. What’s the worst that could
happen? Keep it clean, but be sure to bring out the emotion of that
terrifying moment.

A child is abducted in a supermarket. What’s the worst that could happen? You decide, then make it happen.

  • Create tough situations. You may love your characters, but put them in some uncomfortable circumstances.

    Your protagonist’s boss just fired him and the bills are piling up with no relief in sight.

    An arsonist burns a homeless shelter to the ground. Tough situation – now what’s the worst that could happen?

    A coworker flirts with your character and wants to spend time with him. The problem is, he is happily married, but the pressure is getting heavy. Is he willing to risk it all, or remain true?
  • Raise the Stakes. It’s not enough to just add tension. Things have to be getting worse for character as the story progresses. It may even be a they lose all hope situation. Perhaps the villain kidnaps your main man to get him to cooperate with his evil plan. When your character doesn’t give in, your antagonist reveals he also has his wife and family locked away in another room, and anything but complete obedience will bring them death as well. Keep it going. Fill the pages with tension, and your readers will read.

Okay, that’s enough. I’m going to go enjoy some of this fall weather. See you in seven.


Today Will Soon Be Tomorrow – So Just Hold On!

Another beautiful day in PA. Lately. the weather has been more like September than July. I can live with that. I love the fall. And I hope this day finds you excited about sharing your story via the written word. But you know, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes procrastination gets in the way. I know some of you never experience that, right? Here are some quotes that will hopefully get you moving on this Wednesday. Enjoy!

  • “Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday”― Don Marquis
  • “Procrastinate now, don’t put it off.”― Ellen DeGeneres
  •  “My mother always told me I wouldn’t amount to anything because I procrastinate. I said, ‘Just wait.”― Judy Tenuta
  • “Someday is not a day of the week.”― Janet Dailey
  •  “My advice is, never do to-morrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time. Collar him!”― CharlesDickens
  •  “You may delay, but time will not.” ― Benjamin Franklin
  • “The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.”― Alan Dean Foster
  •  “The scholar’s greatest weakness: calling procrastination research.”― Stephen King
  • “Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a . . . death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything . . . ” ― Alan W. Watts
  •  “If you want to be a writer-stop talking about it and sit down and write!” ― Jackie Collins
  • “Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the ‘creative bug’ is just a wee voice telling you, ‘I’d like my crayons back, please.” ― Hugh MacLeod

Okay. So grab your box of crayons, and while you’re coloring, think about your next story line. That’s it for another week. See you soon.


Using Assonance

Let’s forget about the weather today and jump into our topic – assonance. First, what is it? Assonance is the use of repetitive vowel sounds in nearby words. The example above focuses on the “ee” sound. Consonants vary, but the vowel sounds repeat in several of the words. Neither do the words need to rhyme, although they may. Think, “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.” Assonance comes from the Latin word, assonare, meaning to answer with the same sound.

Often used as a poetic device, it is used in prose as well to draw attention to the primary subject of the phrase or sentence. Poetry? Well, how about Emily Dickinson’s Mayflower?

Pink, small, and punctual
Aromatic, low.
Covert in April,
Candid in May,
Dear to the moss,
Known by the Knoll. . .

. . . Bedecked with thee,
Nature Forswears

So use assonance to emphasize your points. You can always use a thesaurus to find synonyms to add some some lyrical flair to your prose or poetry.

Just a few thoughts to experiment with. Let me know how it works for you. See you in a week!


The Singer/Songwriter in Me

Welcome to your favorite weather channel, WWFK! It’s a beautiful summer morning in central Pennsylvania. Slight breeze. Temperatures starting in the low 70s and steadily rising. Humidity – a little high, but the big, white, puffy clouds against an absolute blue sky make easy to endure. I hope you’re faring well wherever you may be.

I’m feeling nostalgic today. I was thinking back to my high school days during the 70s. Every generation of high school kids has their own unique music as a backdrop to their lives. The uniqueness of the 70s centered on the singer/songwriter. Think James, Taylor, Paul Simon, Carol King, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, Jim Croce. The list goes on.

When I was eight, my father bought me my first guitar shortly after The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. It became my friend. I spent many hours practicing and playing my favorite songs. By the time I was 13, I had written my first song. It wasn’t good, but it was the first of many steps in my love for writing.

Then the 70s came. So many brilliant songwriters influenced me in those early years. I teamed up with a buddy to form a Simon and Garfunkel type duo. We followed the singer/songwriters of the day and performed songs by many of them. But the thing I most wanted was to write my own material. Gradually, we added original songs to the many covers we did. Eventually, we made the show almost all original.

Lately, I’ve been studying song writing again, and it has taken me back to my roots. I’ve learned that writing is writing, whether it be songs or fiction. Both need a hook. Without something to draw in your listener or reader, they will never listen or read without a hook. Both need a cohesive theme with each verse or chapter tugging at your audience to continue the journey. Both need compelling and believable characters.

One major difference between songwriting and fiction writing is most songs are written in the first person. You would be hard-pressed to find a song written in anything but the first person. Fiction is often written in the third person.

When writing a song or a fiction piece, the first person is more intimate. That’s only my opinion, but I think it to be true. With songs, you also have the added benefit of music which adds to the emotion of the story. Fiction calls for extra work to bring the emotion across.

Okay. So I could on and on, but that’s enough reliving in our eloquence, as singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg would say. Enjoy your week, and I’ll see you next week.


Will the Real Fan Please Stand Up!

It’s been a long week since I’ve returned from my brother-in-law’s funeral. There were moments of tears and moments of light-hearted memories. There were times of facing the reality of death and times of denying its existence. There were faces of despair and faces filled with hope. There were . . . but time moves us steadily away from those things. We’ll never have all the answers to life, death, and human suffering until we get to the other side. Now, let’s move on.

I want to look at appealing to your fan base. The following is from Randy Ingermanson’s, The Avanced Fiction Writing E-zine. I want to credit him with the following and acknowledge his expertise in the fiction writing world. It’s a little lengthy so take what you want and skip the rest. You can find more information on his website (http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com. Enjoy it and have a great week.


How to Appeal to True Fans

It’s time to talk about e-mail sign-up forms. These are typically small boxes on your website where your True Fans can subscribe to your e-mail newsletter.

There are several issues to consider:

  • What information to show in your e-mail signup box.
  • How to encourage your True Fans to sign up.
  • How to discourage everyone else from signing up.
  • How and where to display your signup forms on your site.

What Goes In Your E-mail Signup Box

Here are the various thingsthat can or should go in your signup box.

  • A headline that grabs attention.
  • Optionally, a graphic that also grabs attention.
  • One or more paragraphs that explain in some detail what your True Fans get if they sign up. It’s important to be clear and accurate here. You have nothing to gain by deceiving people.
  • A field where a True Fan can enter their e-mail address.
  • Optionally, other fields for the first and last name of a True Fan, and maybe other information.
  • A button to click to complete the subscription.
  • Some sort of code that connects your button to your e-mail newsletter service.
  • Some mention of the fact that you respect the privacy of your True Fans, with an optional link to your Privacy Policy. (Please note that a Privacy Policy is mandatory for your website. Normally you link to it at the bottom of every page. It’s a nice option to also link to it from your e-mail signup box.)

How to Appeal to True Fans

True Fans are people who are likely to buy your next book. You want as many True Fans as possible to sign up for your e-mail newsletter, and you want nobody else signing up.

The way to attract True Fans and repel everybody else is to offer something of value that would appeal only to True Fans. Typically, this might be a free e-book you wrote, or a free short story, or something else free.

But current law makes things a little tricky. I’m not a lawyer, and nothing I say should be construed as legal advice, but here is my understanding of things:

  • You are asking people to subscribe to your e-mail newsletter, AND you are giving all subscribers a free welcome gift.
  • You are NOT giving away a free gift and then attaching to that gift a subscription to your e-mail newsletter.

There is a fine line between these two things, and you need to be on the right side of the line. The issue is that you need people’s consent in order to send them marketing information, which is what your e-mail newsletter is. Consent to receive a free e-book is not the same as consent to receive a newsletter. Make sure your form makes clear that they are consenting to get your newsletter. The freebie is only an added-on extra.

You have a number of options for displaying your e-mail signup box. Some options work better than others. Here is a list of the most common:

  • A widget signup box which is always visible in the sidebar of a two-column website.
  • A signup form that is always visible and is integrated into the main body of one or more pages of your website.
  • A “lightbox” that pops up on a page of your website, forcing site visitors to close the box or else subscribe. The lightbox can be closed by clicking on an X in the upper right corner.
  • A “ribbon” that displays at the top or bottom of a page, with a button that pops up a lightbox when clicked. This lightbox then has the full signup form. The ribbon can be closed by clicking on an X in the right side.

The first two of these options—the sidebar widget, and the form integrated into your web page—are always visible. They both are unobtrusive, and if someone is specifically looking to sign up for your e-mail newsletter, they’ll easily find these forms. However, you’ll find that the “conversion rates” for these forms will be fairly low. Many people will ignore them and never sign up.

The other two options—the lightbox, and the ribbon—will get more signups because they’re more obtrusive. The lightbox obscures the page it’s on. The ribbon takes up valuable space at the top or bottom of the page. Your website visitor can’t miss these, and will either have to sign up or click an X to make the form go away.

Please note that lightboxes and ribbons are annoying to your site visitors. So if you use them, set them up so each visitor sees them only rarely—like once every 7 days or every 14 days—and only after they’ve been on the page for awhile. Visitors will put up with a one-time annoyance, but if they have to keep dismissing the same lightbox or ribbon on every single page of your website, they’ll leave.

  • It makes good sense to have an unobtrusive widget or integrated signup form on almost every page of your website. Nobody gets offended by them, and some people will be looking for them. You’ll get you some signups from these.
  • If you want to get more signups from visitors using desktop or laptop machines, then create a lightbox signup form that displays on most pages of your site. But remember that lightboxes are annoying, so set yours up so a user will see them only once every week or two. And make sure to disable lightboxes on tablets and phones, because they look bad on those devices.
  • If you want to get more signups from visitors using tablets and phones, then create a ribbon signup form that displays on most pages of your site. Again, remember that ribbons are a bit annoying, so set them up so a user will see them only once every week or two. And disable the ribbons on desktop and laptop machines if you’re using lightboxes on those devices.

Em Dashes, and En Dashes and Hyphens – Oh My!

Weather Report: Well in to the 90s. Humidity, the same. Such a change from last Wednesday when the temperature was 48 degrees. I can’t control the weather, so I live with crazy Central PA changes. We don’t have lions, and tigers, and bears this week, but we do have en dashes, em dashes, and hyphens. They can be just dangerous and frightening. Let’s make the trip together.


  • Indicates breaks within words that wrap at the end of a line
  • Connects compounded words like “mass-produced”
  • Connects grouped numbers, like a phone number 555-860-5086
  • The hyphen does not indicate a range of numbers.

En dash

  • Joins numbers in a range, such as “1993–99” or “1200–1400 B.C.” or “pages 32–37” or open-ended ranges, like “1934–”
  • Joins words that describe a range, like “July–October 2010”

Em dash

  • Supposedly works better than commas to set apart a unique idea from the main clause of a sentence. I’m not sure.
  • Shows when dialogue has been interrupted:

The em dash? I never use it, I’m improper. I only use the en dash. I always skip a space between the last word and the en dash and skip a space before the next word – if you know what I mean. No, that’s not the way it is supposed to be done, but then again, who cares? See you next week!


Thinking About Foreshadowing

Let’s look at foreshadowing this week. Foreshadowing is when an author gives a warning of a future event. The purpose is to build suspense, and there are some things to consider in using it properly. You will need to decide how it fits your story best.

Use it subtly. Foreshadowing may be something in the fabric of your writing that is noticeable but not glaring. The reader must notice it. Otherwise, it has no purpose. At the end of the novel, do you want your reader to look back and think, “Oohhhhh! I get it now!” Well, then be subtle.

Use it boldly. Without dwelling on it, make your point obvious. Let the reader know there is a reason for it and build enough curiosity to keep your audience turning pages. But please – don’t overdo it.

Make it relevant. Not every plot-point needs foreshadowing. Too much foreshadowing can cause your writing to appear silly, or worse yet, melodramatic. Use it sparingly, and make sure there is the payoff, that point where the foreshadowing is recognized.

Done well, foreshadowing will excite your reader. It will make him want to know how the pieces connect. It will prepare her for when the foreshadowing pays off.

Add it later. So you finished your rough draft and you’re revising. You can always add a touch of foreshadow after the fact. You can always remove foreshadowing, too. Just remember, if it serves no purpose, ditch it, and be sure not to overdo it.

Next Wednesday will be here before we know it. See you then!!!


With Saddened Heart

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die,, but after this the judgment: ” – Hebrews 9:27

You may have noticed there was no update this past Wednesday. I apologize for getting to it late, but my wife’s brother passed away unexpectedly Wednesday morning. An Air Force veteran of 30+ years, in what I would call perfect health, slipped away as a vapor into eternity. We will never see him again. There will be no more phone calls. No more impromptu visits.

It is appointed unto men once to die. My short challenge to you this week is to make every minute count. One day we will all follow him to the grave – to return to the dust from which we were taken; to stand before our Creator; to give an account of the lives we lived on earth. God will not be concerned with our works at that time. His only question will be, “Have you followed my Son, Jesus Christ?”

It’s been a long couple of days, so I’ll not preach (although I could). I will simply ask you, have you found peace in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Every single human being will die at some time. You don’t know when. Are you ready? Every single human being will stand before the God of the Universe. Are you ready? If I can be of help in any way, please reach back. I’m reaching out to you concerning the most important decision you will ever make.

We’ll do our best to get back to writing next week. Until then . . .


The Hardest Thing About Writing; Self-Editing

Welcome to another manic Wednesday! It’s great to have you with us on this humid Pennsylvania morning. Hopefully, one of those Central Pennsylvania thunder storms will roll in soon and cool things off.

One of the hardest things for me to do is to edit my writing. I can catch mistakes in other’s pieces, but I miss too much when I’m checking my own – not sure why. Jerry Jenkins, notable Christian author, lists several facts to be considered when checking your own story. Where can you improve?

Have you:
Maintained a single Point of View per scene.

Avoided clichés—not just words and phrases, but
also situations.

Resisted the urge to explain, showing rather than
telling. For example, not, “It’s cold,” which is
merely flat, telling narrative, but rather, “She
shivered,” which is descriptive language, showing
a character in action, letting the reader experience
the story and deduce what is going on without
being told.

Primarily used said to attribute dialogue, rather than
any other option.

Included specifics to add the ring of truth.

Avoided similar character names or even the same
first initials to keep characters distinct. o Avoided
specialized punctuation, typestyles, font sizes, ALL
CAPS, italics, bold facing, etc.

I have to admit, I never thought about some of these. Maybe you haven’t either. Maybe it’s time. Anyway, ponder this until we meet again. See you next week!