Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Victoria Howell and Using Word Choice- Guest Post

Five Ways to Boost Your Writing Through Word Choice
A Guest Post by Victoria Grace Howell

Writers often spend hours or even days finding just the right words for their sentences, ones that capture what they really want to say. Why do we spend so much time making sure each word is carefully chosen and strung together to create a novel or short story or etc.? Is the time spent worth it? I’m here to tell you it definitely is.

1.) Smoother Prose When a reader consumes your story, you want the words to flow, whether they read it out loud or in their heads. What words you use and don’t use affect this greatly. Some words to keep down to a minimum are: was (“is” if you’re writing in first person), that, which, there was, and most adverbs. Now, I’m not saying that these do not have their purpose—all words in the English language are there for a reason—but allow me to show you the difference.

Sandra was running down the street which was dark that her car was parked in. She opened the door fearfully and sat in the driver’s seat. There was a note on her steering wheel that said: Look behind you.

This isn’t ideal. It’s clunky and lacks flow. Now, let me reword it a bit.

Sandra bolted down the shadowed street to her parked grey Toyota Camry. Panting, she jerked open the door and planted herself in the driver’s seat. She pulled the door closed and locked it. Scotch tape held a note to her steering wheel, reading: Look behind you.

Do you see the difference? By eliminating ‘was’, ‘that’, ‘which’, ‘there was’, and the adverb, you get a cleaner read and a more vivid picture . . . which takes us to our next topic:

2.) Clearer Description The magic of stories lies in their ability to transport you into the scene. Some words are more powerful than others and can make the picture come alive. Let’s get back to poor, frightened Sandra.

A black figure sat in the backseat. He was really thin with a hat and coat and gloves. He leaned forward and said softly into Sandra’s ear, “Drive. They are coming for you.”

This is mediocre. Let’s use that dictionary Webster took the time to put together for us.

A gaunt figure sat in the blackness of the backseat, a hat tipped over his brow and the high collar of his trench coat obscuring most of his face. He gripped Sandra’s seat with his gloved hand and leaned in. Sandra caught a whiff of minty fresh breath as he whispered, “Drive. They are coming for you.”

Doesn’t the extra wording and the rearranged sentences make this come alive more than the previous paragraph? Do you feel more involved in the scene? This is what you want for your readers, but make sure not to go overboard with description. That’s called dumping. Tolkien is notorious for that. Basically don’t shy away from using that thesaurus.

3.) Mood and Tone General description is one thing, but it can be taken to another level to convey what the character is feeling in the moment. Changing wording to show what the character feels can immerse your reader even deeper into the story.

Happy: Sandra drove down the street. Sunlight shone through the window, warming her cheeks. A cross walk lay ahead with middle schoolers clustered on one end. She stopped and let the kids in their rainbow of clothing trot across the street.
Sandra smiled. So cute.

Angry: Sandra gripped the steering wheel as she gunned it down the street. Sunlight stabbed her eyes. She swatted the visor in front of the windshield to block the rays. A cross walk lay ahead with a bunch of middle school brats clustered on one end. She braked and let the entitled little nose-wipers scurry across the street.
Sandra scowled. If it wasn’t illegal, they would be pancakes. 
Not once did I said upfront Sandra is mad or happy in the excerpts yet you can totally get what she’s feeling by changing her perspective on how she see things according to her emotions. Let me show you a way to get even closer to the character in your writing.

4.) Character Voice Speaking of characters, what words you use to describe things and how they phrase their interior monologue can convey much about who the point of view character is. 
Sandra: Sandra walked into the office onto the plush, red rug, careful to keep her footfalls quiet. Streetlights bled into the large office. Old books lined the wooden shelves and a cherry desk lay in the center with a high backed leather chair behind it. A silver Dell laptop rested in the exact center of the desk.
She smirked. There it is.

Clyde: Clyde walked into the large office his loafers stepping lightly on the burgundy Karastan rug. Golden yellow light seeped in from outside. Sets upon sets of vintage tomes in wonderful condition resided on the mahogany shelves and a professionally polished cherry wood desk lay in the center, with a leather Wingback behind it. A gray, flat computer rested atop the desk.
He sighed. This man had taste. Now how to get the information off that confounded computer. 
The characters are seeing the exact same things yet they view the scene through their own unique perspectives. Now, we just have one more thing to discuss: 

5.) Author Voice Last but not least, the word choice also depends on the author. I haven’t even mastered this completely. I think voice is one of the toughest things to master in writing, but basically, some people are more straight forward and some are more poetic in their prose. Your voice must stand out. Yours + the characters. It’s complicated, but possible.

By using all of these techniques together, you can turn okay writing into amazing writing. It’s more work, but everything worth doing is. Thank you, Rebekah, for inviting me on the blog!

Do you have any questions about word choice? Do you have any advice to add? Do you know of any tidbits that used some great word choice?

Victoria Grace Howell is an award-winning, aspiring writer of speculative fiction. In 2014 she won the Teen Writer of the Year Award at the Florida Christian Writers conference and in 2015 she won the Beyond the Steeple Award. She also edits for the Christian site Geeks Under Grace. When not writing she enjoys drawing her characters, blogging, learning Kung Fu, cosplaying, and a really good hot cup of tea. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and her blog! On her blog she posts about writing tips, geeky things, her books, her journey as a writer, and tea reviews.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Jordan Update 6- Final Thoughts on the Dig

The dig season is almost over. In fact, we have completed excavations and only have a week of sightseeing left before we return to the states. I have some mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I am more than ready to sleep in my own bed, to see my friends and family. On the other, I will miss the culture of Jordan and the people I have met.

This trip was the first time I have ever left the country. What I have learned from this is that I love travel (if not the flight itself) as well as the middle east. I'm already contemplating another trip of some sort for next summer.

I hope you have enjoyed these updates, as well as the guest posts. There are a few more posts scheduled for this coming week, as well as a giveaway and the announcement of the winner of the goody box.

I will not have much time to get online this coming week, so you'll here from me inshallah!


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Jenelle Schmidt and Fantasy for the Family- Guest Post

Why Family-Friendly Fantasy?

When I tell people that I write “Family Friendly Fantasy” and that my target audience is “families” I often get some very quizzical looks. “What does that look like?” and “How does one write a book ‘for families’?” are some of the most common questions that are asked.

Growing up, books were a very important part of life. My mom read me the entire series of Little House books before I turned three. My dad read books to my siblings and me almost every night before bed. That was where I fell in love with Middle Earth, Narnia, Charles Wallace, Lad, Taran of Caer Dalban, and so many other worlds and characters. When I came home from college after my freshman year, my dad challenged me to write an “adventure tale” that he could read out loud to the family each night that summer. The idea intrigued me, and I set to work.

My family was my first audience. At the time, my younger sister was 11 and my brothers were 15 and 17. I had to work hard to make the story interesting for my high school brothers, enjoyable for my parents, and yet also understandable and not too scary or intense for my sister. When that summer was over, I knew I wanted to write more stories, and I wanted to find that perfect balance again and again.

That summer is one of my favorite memories. As my family was introduced to each new character, as each segment of ten pages unfolded more story before them, I saw a picture I wanted to be able to gift to others. My hope is that my books can provide entertainment to a whole new generation of families. I know mine isn’t the only family who reads out loud together, and I would count it the highest praise to someday discover that my books had made it into that honored position of evening read-aloud time for other families.

So, you parents who read out loud to your kids before bed and watch wonder unfold in their eyes and inspire their imaginations? You children who eagerly anticipate hearing stories come to life in the voices of your parents? I wrote this book for you.

About the Author
Jenelle Schmidt grew up in the northern-midwest. She now resides with her husband and their three adorable children in North Carolina where the summers are too hot and there is never enough snow. Jenelle fell in love with reading at a young age during family storytimes. To this day she enjoys creating exciting adventure tales filled with poignant themes and compelling characters in the fantasy and sci-fi genres.
To learn more about Jenelle and her work, visit her website.

King’s Warrior and Second Son are the first two books in Jenelle’s debut series “The Minstrel’s Song.” She hopes to release the third book, Yorien’s Hand, sometime this year. You can purchase her books through Amazon here and also here.


Giveaway: Jenelle is offering a copy of King's Warrior to two lucky winners. There is a physical copy for US entrants and an ebook for international entrants.
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Monday, July 20, 2015

Half Blood- Jaye L. Knight

Having read Resistance and King's Scrolls, I was super interested in Jace's back story. Half-Blood starts us with Jace at the age of six and takes us through until he is removed from slavery. If you are familiar with Jace's point of mind in Resistance, you know that he starts that book with a very low opinion of himself. In Half-Blood, instead of being like Resistance, where he gradually begins to see himself in a better light, we have the opposite, where he starts to see the worst of himself.

Half-Blood is not a light read. It is a story of the abuse Jace suffered before he came to be with the followers of the King. It is far from being a stand alone story, as it can only be appreciated after having experienced Resistance. However, it is well worth the read.


Tuesday, July 14
* Tour Introduction at Jaye L. Knight
* Review and Author Interview at 26 Countless Possibilites
* Review and Author Interview at Lianne Taimenlore
* Review and Author Interview at Crumpets 'n' Cream
* Review at Tialla's Tellings

Wednesday, July 15
* Review at The Destiny of One
* Book Spotlight at One Servant's Heart
* Review and Author Interview at Leah's Bookshelf
* Review and Author Interview at Red Lettering
* Review and Author Interview at Zerina Blossom's Books

Thursday, July 16
* Review and Author Interview at Sutori no Hana
* Review and Author Interview at Scattered Journal Pages
* Review and Author Interview at The Splendor Falls on Castle Walls
* Author Interview at A Writer's Faith
* Review and Author Interview at writinganyone

Friday, July 17
* Review and Author Interview at Written Rest
* Book Spotlight at Tell Tale Book Reviews
* Review and Author Interview at The Pen of a Ready Writer
* Review and Author Interview at Morgan Elizabeth Huneke
* Review at Poetree

Saturday, July 18
* Review at A Writer's Heart
* Review at Reality Calling
* Author Interview at The Art of Storytelling
* Book Spotlight at Thilly Little Nothings

Sunday, July 19
* Review at Through My Lens
* Review at Elvish Pens, Fantastical Writings
* Book Spotlight at Letters from Annie Douglass Lima
* Review at bookend

Monday, July 20
* Review at Pencils Can Change the World
* Review at Backing Books
* Review at Melody Jackson, Author
* Book Spotlight and Author Interview at In the Character's Shadow

Tuesday, July 21
* Review at A Vintage Girl in the Modern World
* Book Spotlight at However Improbable
 * Review at God's Peculiar Treasure Rae
* Review and Author Interview at Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections

Wednesday, July 22
* Review at To Be a Person
* Tour Conclusion at Jaye L. Knight

About the Book

The gasps and murmuring grew. Though some were hardly more than whispers, clear words reached
Jace’s ears—dangerous, monster, animal, soulless. He tried to back away from their accusing eyes, but the collar pulled hard against his throat and held him in place.

For all his years as a slave, Jace has known nothing but the hatred people hold for his mixed blood—one half human, the other half the blood of a race considered monsters. Always, he is the outsider and quickly learns it is better to keep to himself. But, when his volatile ryrik blood leads him to do the unthinkable, he is thrown into a world of violence and bloodshed.

Forced to become a gladiator, Jace finds more and more of his heart dying as his master works to break down his will not to become the monster everyone believes he is. When a stranger interferes with his master’s harsh punishment, Jace’s world is upended yet again. But with it comes the possibility of hope that has long since died. Could the man possibly hold the key to escaping the hopeless darkness that is Jace’s life? Is there such a thing as life beyond the cruelty of slavery?

See where Jace’s story all began . . .

Available on Amazon! Buy Now Add to Goodreads
Discover Ilyon in Resistance and The King’s Scrolls.

About the Author
Jaye L. Knight is an award-winning author, homeschool graduate, and shameless tea addict with a passion for Christian fantasy. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope. She has been penning stories since the age of eight and resides in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

You can connect with Jaye on her website, blog, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Etsy, and on her new fiction forum where you can interact with other readers of the series.

Share in the excitement of the release and enter to win a themed giveaway pack! Prizes include an autographed copy of Half-Blood, a blue feather bookmark hand crafted by Jaye, a bronze sword pendant, and a $5 Amazon gift card! (Giveaway is open to US residents only. Cannot be shipped internationally.)

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Jordan Update 5- Wadi Rum

This last weekend, we spent the night camped out in this beautiful valley called Wadi Rum. It was a two day trip and so much fun. The valley is run by a Bedouin village, who make their living off of taking tours through the valley.

The First Day
When we first arrived, the Bedouin packed us all in the back of some trucks and drove us around the valley, stopping at different sites to look around.

The trucks we rolled out in.

That Night
At the end of the tour, we were dropped off in a camp and offered tents to sleep in. After dropping off our stuff there, we hiked up a mesa to watch the sunset. Once we had our fill of the view, we returned to camp for a dinner of chicken and rice (which was delicious!) and then stayed to dance and hang out for a little while.

Around 11pm, people started splitting off into groups to find a place to sleep (we decided to forgo the tents and sleep under the stars). My group of four slept on the mesa where we had watched the sunset and, since we were the last group to leave, we did so without mattresses and instead just had whatever blankets we could find.

Me trying to sleep while Sara flashes everyone with her camera.

The Next Day
After waking up at about 4am,then  stumbling to the tent so I could catch some more sleep without my group members waking me up every so often as they rolled around, knocking rocks everywhere, I finally got up at 5:30am to look at the sky before breakfast. I was able to watch the Bedouin herd in a group of camels, and after breakfast we all got to ride one back to the other side of the valley.

If you ever get a chance, I would highly suggest Wadi Rum as a place to visit. It is absolutely gorgeous and a whole lot of fun.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Savannah Jezowski with When Ravens Fall- Guest Post

Coming October 2015

"Frigg's Prophecy"

My son is raven cursed, 
Slave of bone and fire.
Ice there is,
And empty halls
And a great tree burning.
Swords be broken
Shields be cleft.
Will no one love my son?

The raven falls.
Fire freezes and winter burns, 
Ashes gather over the Niflheim.
All is lost or not lost
When roses bloom no more.
Ever by blood 
Fate is slated.
Will no one love my son?


It is the age of dreams.

When Kenna, the raven, foresees a girl in the Mist, she believes she has finally found the one to break the curse. That has always been her mission, since the day her misguided anger cast the curse than engulfed both her and Odin's son, Baldur, complicating what was already an impossible nightmare. But the girl she sees in the Mist is different than the others who have come for the Trials, than the others who have failed and returned home terrorized by their experience. This girl actually wants to be here.

Astrid, the dragon slayer's daughter, has a plan of her own. She is not interested in dreams and curses. There is only one thing that she desires, and falling in love is not it. After all, some girls were never meant to fall in love.

Baldur, the bear, inherited the gift of dreams from his mother. His dreams are consumed with the one event in his future he cannot seem to escape: his death. For years, he and the Raven have tried to find a woman capable of loving him in spite of his monstrosity, and for years they have failed. The roses are dying and the sky burns red like fire. The times tell the tale of the end.

And the end is always the Dragon.

Savannah Jezowski lives in a drafty farmhouse in Amish country with her Knight in Shining Armor, who is no less shiny after eight years of matrimony, and a loyal brigade of kitties, who may or may not sleep on the job. Her work has been published in Ray Gun Revival, Mindflights and in the student publication of Fountains at Pensacola Christian College. She is also a featured author in Five Enchanted Roses from Rooglewood Press, coming July 27, 2015. She likes books, faeries, writing hats and having tea with her imaginary friends.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Jordan Update 4- Aqaba

The Atmosphere
Aqaba is a definite tourist city. There is McDonald's circle, which has just about every American fast food restaurant you could want (not that any of us have eaten American food here). This includes Gloria Jeans, an American coffee shop which is pretty much the only place to get coffee that does not come in an instant packet (and which we have all stopped in at multiple times).

Most of us at Gloria Jeans

Since it is Ramadan, most everything is closed until sunset, when the city comes alive and the shops are open to tourists. There is the suk, a shopping center that stretches as far as you can look any way. It is full of clothing stores, jewelry stores, and any other kind of shop you can imagine. Much like any other tourist city, you can find pretty much the same shop on every street corner, the only difference being how far down you can haggle the price. And remembering to haggle has definitely been difficult for me to remember, and I am sure I have spent far too much on some items (oops).

There is one vendor we call the spice guy. Every time we walk by his stall, he had us try his spices, gives us tea, and agrees to most haggled prices by telling us to smile.

The Food
There are all sorts of places to eat other than the American shops on McDonald's Circle, all selling some sort of local or foreign cuisine. So far I have only eaten the falafel, which came as a full meal for only .30 JD, or about .42cents.

The falafel place

Until this trip, I had never taken a taxi before. Here, they the only way for us to get into Aqaba from our hotel. You never know what kind of driver you will get, with some giving us pretty good deals while others try to get us to pay twice as much as we should. Since the taxi drivers will not turn on the meter here, we have to haggle a good price, which is always interesting. Luckily, there always seems to be two or three of them driving by, so we have no problem finding a ride.

Goody Box
I believe I have found the prize I will bring back for the Goody Box, one that will hopefully mail well and make any winner happy. It is a scented bar, one that rubs on like a cologne and comes in a cool tin with Arabic writing and iconic pictures. It also smells really nice, and can work as an air freshener if the winner doesn't want to wear it.

There's just about a month left until I get back home. Until then, enjoy the rest of your summer!

Rebekah Gyger

Thursday, July 9, 2015

MaryLu Tyndall on Time Travel and Pirates- Guest Post

Imagine for a moment you are a young woman living in the 21st century with all the modern
conveniences and technology we know and love, and you are suddenly transported back over 300 years to 1694. Egad! No indoor plumbing, no electricity, no refrigerators, no computers, TVs, cell phones, toothpaste, showers ... NO deodorant! Yikes! 

But it gets worse …

Now, imagine ending up on one of those majestic tall ships sailing in the middle of the Caribbean with tiny cramped quarters, no privacy, constant swaying and rocking, no fresh water or decent food, and the potential for hurricane-force winds to rise at any moment.

But it gets worse ...

Imagine that the ship is a pirate ship, captained by a fearless pirate with a crew of less than savory men who haven't had shore leave in quite a while. Oh, my!

But it gets worse ...

Okay, you say. How could things possibly get any worse?

Imagine you suffer from anxiety, depression, and OCD, for which you need daily medicine, and you don't have any with you. Also imagine you were recently diagnosed with liver cancer and were scheduled to start chemo within a few days.

This is the premise of my latest release, The Reckoning. And yes, I love to torture my characters. I've always wanted to write a time-travel story, ever since I first fell in love with Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series years ago. Yet, time travel stories have been so overdone that most publishers won't even look at a proposal for one these days. My response to that is that everything has been overdone. “There is nothing new under the sun,” the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 1.  The trick is taking an idea and putting your own spin on it. For me, that means unique characters and a crazy plot that keeps the reader guessing. 

In order to create that special spin, I start with a basic idea of sending a woman back in time to a pirate ship and then ask a ton of “What if” questions. “What if the heroine is a drug addict?” “What if she’s a black widow?” “What if she’s pregnant?” “What if she’s from outer space?” etc… Some of these are ridiculous, most I toss out, but there’s always a nugget in there somewhere. “What if the character has cancer and will die without treatment?” Ah, that’s a good one! Of course I added the OCD and anxiety because, hey, I have those issues myself, and I thought it would be fun to put someone like me through the most harrowing circumstances possible! What would I do if I was this woman? How would I react?

But, here’s another spin. What if I believed the entire thing was a spoof put on by my father to get my mind off my cancer?

The most enjoyable part about the whole process was imagining myself in a situation with every modern convenience completely stripped away. Not only that, but having to wear layers of clothing: chemise, stockings, petticoats, stays, skirts, bodice, etc… in the hot Caribbean! Food aboard a ship consisted of hard biscuits often infected with bugs, dried beef, and fish stew. Water was so foul they had to add liquor to it to make it palatable. And people in those days rarely bathed! I decided that if I had to choose three things I would miss the most, they would be my soap, toothpaste, and indoor plumbing. (I guess I’m a clean freak)

So, what three things would you miss the most if you were transported back 300 years to a pirate ship? (Besides your sanity and safety!)

Giveaway: MaryLu is giving away one copy of her book, physical for US or ebook for international.

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Friday, July 3, 2015

Jordan Update 3- Roman Forts

For those of you who do not know, I am currently working on a dig of a Roman fort in Jordan. There is not much I can share with you as to the specifics, as nothing has been published yet, but I can tell you some basics.

Ayn Gharandal
To start with, I was placed in the bathhouse, along with three other students and our supervisors. There is another square working in the bathhouse as well, but I don't know as much about what is going on with their group. We spent the first week digging out back fill from the last time this square was dug, and today we finally completed the back fill. Below I have some before and after photos at about a week apart from each other.

Gabe sitting on our square before.

Our square after one week.

As you can see, the walls are taking shape and we have doors now!

After a week of digging, we took a break for a field trip. This was to another sight in Jordan (a finished excavation, so I can tell you all I want about it), with a Roman fort and bathhouse, a Byzantine church, a mosque, and a Nabataen tomb. There is a lot more visible at Humayma, however (even though it is meant as a tourist sight), it is little known or visited.

My square leader, Craig, giving an intense lecture on the sight.

Next Week
This coming week I plan to share with you another field trip, as well as some photos from Aqaba. These will include our shopping trips and dinner runs. Hope you are enjoying these updates so far!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sherry Palmer and Life With Charley- Guest Post

Life With Charley

Someone recently asked me why I wrote Life with Charley. I opened my mouth to answer, and then had to stop myself. You know what? I didn’t know. Was it ego? The desire to be published? Maybe.

The fact is, I hadn't thought about it for so long, that even I didn't have the elevator speech for that. I've been writing Life with Charley for so long that even I can't remember the actual day I started.

I do know this, however. I didn't own a computer then. Everything I wrote was penned long-hand. Stories, dialog, details. It's all there, between the pages of my journals sitting on the bookshelf in my study at home. Every milestone, success, failure, shocking admission.

I never planned on a book. Then one day, Charley was sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor playing with his robots, while at the same time telling me he wanted to go on a date.

That was the day I knew Life with Charley had to become a book. Why? Because I know there are other parents who might need to know Charley. People who might need to know what a gift they’ve been given. People who might have more patience for their child if they could know my child.

So, I dusted off the journals and decided to share. The good, the not so good, and the in-between. Perhaps my stories could offer hope, joy, comfort. Perhaps they could reach into the heart of someone fearful of the diagnosis of Down syndrome, and let them know the journey they are about to take is one they were chosen for. Sometimes we choose our journeys. Sometimes they choose us.

That’s how Life with Charley was born. With the desire to allow people access to Charley. It hasn’t always been easy. In fact, as I say in my book, "Writing isn't easy. It means telling the truth when I want to lie.” Seriously, why would I want to tell complete strangers what an unmade bed our lives are?

For the price of a book, you get a front row seat to our shortcomings.

That said, I hope you also get a front row seat to our overcomings.

Join us, won’t you, on a journey into the mind of Charley. His silliness, his shenanigans, his dancing. The way he lights up the room when he walks in. The way he is 100% himself 100% of the time. His innocence. His logic. His sweetness. He is a story worth telling.

Thank you for the opportunity to tell you about “Life With Charley: A Memoir of Down Syndrome Adoption.”

Please follow Charley on Facebook at:  Life with Charley - And Down syndrome

Also, please visit Charley on my blog:

Giveaway:  Sherry's giving away one copy of Life With Charley to one lucky US entrant.

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