"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Friday, May 20, 2016

CONFLICT and MOTIVATION - by Sherry Roseberry

To my way of thinking, an excellent story plot is a blend of idea, characterization, conflict, motivation and emotion. Any writer worth her salt strives for a perfect mixture. Although, many fail to reach that end.

Some brew wonderful concepts that even Steven Spielberg would be proud to call his own. But, their characters are unsympathetic.

Others write characters to die for, however, the main threads and final wrap up are a little weak.

We’ve all read books that have deep storylines where we did not bond with the heroine and we wanted to slap the hero. Above all, great characterization is what sells books.

Most of us see conflict and motivation as a sheer cliff we must climb. It is not paramount that a writer comes up with something so complex and intertwined that even she/he has a hard time keeping track of everything. You know the ones....

The heroine's granddaughter married the hero’s grandfather’s butler who stole the crown jewels and shared the stash with his bride instead of the ex-employer, who is in reality a baby stolen from the gypsies because the Duchess was barren and now, unbeknown to the hero, he is next in line to be the new King of the Gypsies and is about to be kidnapped. Phew! Unless of course you’re hoping to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Use something simple. Example: she hates small towns because she’d been teased/outcast all her life/ridiculed by small minded people/has gone without. She lives for the adventure of being a big city news correspondent.

He has had it with the hustle and bustle of life as a big city doctor. He feels people have lost their compassion for their fellow man. He finds his haven in Small-Town America.

Bingo! Conflict and motivation.

To make things interesting, throw in a few twists and turns such as she inherited the town from an eccentric uncle. She decides she wants to raze some old buildings and replace them with a money making shopping mall. He’s already in the process of turning the classic structures into a clinic and claims to have bought them from her Uncle before his death.

Not complicated.

It’s like cars. Think of plot lines as the nuts and bolts that hold the body together. Conflict is the engine. Characterization is the chrome-bedecked chassis and motivation the super-duper, steel-belted, road-hugging tires. Now, you have the car of your dreams. Well, almost. You need one more element to make it run. Fuel. And fuel is the emotion. Without it, this baby isn’t going anywhere. With it, she’ll purr like nobody’s business. And an editor will gladly throw money your way. To top it all off, you’ll keep those readers engaged to the very last page, dying for more.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


submitted by Carol Stilz aka booklady777

If a genie appeared offering me three wishes, one wish would be for more time. Since that hasn't happened yet, I'm finding "lost time". Reclaiming lost time means using those minutes waiting for someone or something and worrying. I'll share my 11 ways to use 11 minutes and perhaps you'll share yours with me.

Since some places do not allow cell phone usage, I keep a small notebook and pen in my purse, pocket or briefcase. Whenever possible I use the notepad function on my phone, as well as relying on it for files, docs, photos, videos and recordings. With these tools handy and the list below, I'm prepared for the gift of minutes waiting in a line, office, car, etc. Choose one exercise from those below, and then, adapt it to your situation and writing projects.

1. Create a word picture of the place you are in based on the five senses. What are the sounds, colors and shapes, scents and tastes of this place? How do you feel—warm or cold, comfortable or uncomfortable, anxious or eager, reluctant or fearful? What prompts these reactions in this environment? If possible, record sounds or make a video. Take a few photos. This exercise helps me create a
sense of place.

2. What would a character from your writing experience in this situation? Ask the same questions as above, but record your character's reactions. Why would this character react accordingly? This exercise helps me get into a character's feelings and thoughts and motives.

3. If your character were in this situation, what would he/she do, buy, read, etc.?
What would your character notice and be most concerned about and why?

4. Choose one person in your viewing area. Imagine their secrets, wishes, dreams, and fears. Without staring or taking photos, jot down a phrase that describes his/her appearance. Can you create a memorable "tag" for this character, capturing speech or mannerisms?

5. Write a haiku. When my daughter was younger I wrote haiku while waiting for soccer practice or orthodontist appointments to wrap up. Haiku is a three line poem with five syllables in the first and third lines and seven in the second line. Often a season or place is described in haiku. True haiku, with the leap of thought between the second and third line is a true challenge. For this exercise focus on the imagery. A helpful template can be downloaded at www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson.../haiku_pattern.pdf

6. Write a cinquain, a five-line poem describing someone or something. If you have the internet available, go to this website for an explanation of the form and a fill-in form http://ettcweb.lr.k12.nj.us/forms/cinqain.htm.

I keep the basic format in a notebook so I can write one in 11 minutes or less. The website
http://www.readwritethink.org has the cinquain format also.

7. If you are in a grocery store, imagine what one of your characters would have in his/her cart. What does this tell you about your character? For fun, you can peek at other carts and see what you learn about the people buying those items.

8. If you see magazine covers where you are, imagine your character on the front. Why would your character be on the cover? How would your character feel looking at the picture and caption? Imagine your character in a cartoon or super hero role. Create the cartoon or word picture.

9. If you are in a bookstore, pick up a book and read the first line or first page. Does it capture your attention? Why or why not? Be as specific as possible. Using different books repeat this exercise as much as time allows. Are there similarities in the openings? Are all very different? How do opening lines in one genre differ from another? Which opening is most like yours? Would you buy any of these books? What would you expect from the opening page? What do authors promise readers in the first page or two? Would your character buy any of these books? Why or why not?

10. Save a selection of sample chapters from a site that offers them free over the internet. Download a variety of samples: fiction, nonfiction, genre, etc. I save a selection at home during commercials or when I'm on hold on a phone. Then I can access them when later.

11. I'm a worrier in rehab from a long lineage of worriers. I discovered one exercise helped me reclaim minutes from my repeated worrying: jotting down a concern and pledging to let it go until later. Each week I devote 11 minutes to reading these worries. Amazing how many worries have vanished by the time I read them.

Finally, I say a prayer of thanks for the found time I discover in 24 little hours. Of course, you can always use 11 minutes to read a blog or check messages and social media, but you already know that's possible.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


April Challenge - Submitted by Richard Earl Rice
Exercise: Creating a Short Piece Based on a Photograph

Haystack Photo
A keening, hungry hawk high above woke me. I rolled over, feeling the prickle of alfalfa stems on my face. The cut hay still carried the new-mown scent. My head throbbed and the whiskey and vomit combination filled my mouth. Another day was dawning.

Beach Photo
Waves lapped timidly against the shore, unlike the roaring tide of last night. The sand beneath me was wet, unforgiving. My hand ran over the last of her footprints leading into the ocean. A surge of grief tightened in my chest and I spat out the salt water residue.that lingered in my mouth. I had arrived too late to save her.
Submitted by Richard Earl Rice

April Challenge - Submitted by Charm O'Ryan

Exercise: Skimping on Adjectives
Describe something in detail without using adjectives … the use of color is permitted.
(First three paragraphs are written as instructed above; second to last sentence contains four adjectives, that are all the same, used for emphasis; a peek into Sandy’s eager emotions—her feelings—her excitement; to discover why she wanted … why she needed everything perfect)

A Picnic by a River
What more could Sandy ask for? The afternoon was perfect: seventy-five degrees beneath a bright-blue sky, no wind, a blanket spread atop grass so thick and soft she could sleep on it all night should she choose to do so. A lullaby, created by a robin, singing, harmonizing with the nearby river’s current, played lazily in her ear; butterflies of all shapes, sizes, and colors flitted softly on the pedals of various wildflowers planted on the knoll next to the riverbank—an occasional bee interrupted them now and then, but for the most part, it seemed the two shared the nectar naturally. With a quack, a couple of mallards took flight from the cattails aligning the river’s edge; a drake, obviously determined, gave chase behind them.
The basket setting beside her captured her gaze. She could hardly wait to eat the picnic she’d prepared. The foods nestled inside smelled more than delicious—even with the lid still closed. Her mouth watered with anticipation of her teeth sinking deep inside the sandwich loaded with egg, mayonnaise, pickles, and a pinch of pepper. Her stomach joined in the eager want to be satisfied, grumbling aloud as her thoughts feasted on the pie, still warm from the oven; a pie she’d stuffed with the three different types of berries she’d picked from her garden just this morning: blackberry, strawberry, and blueberry.
A fly appreciated the basket’s oozing fragrance, too, buzzing around it as he desperately sought entrance somewhere beneath the lid. She shooed him away with the back of a hand, and glanced at the watch dangling from her wrist. He would arrive any minute and the prospect of his kiss weakened her knees. His presence would complement the tranquility she and nature had created.
Oh, yes. It was a perfect afternoon, for a perfect picnic, by a perfect river, to accept his perfect proposal of marriage. Perfect.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

New Novel by Bill Corbett/aka Will Edwinson

Greetings Blue Sage members and blog followers. I’d like to take a minute to tell you about my latest novel entitled, LouIsa---Iron Dove Of The Frontier, to be released by Wheatmark Publishing located in Tucson, Arizona. It will be available for purchase at www.amazon.com on December 15th.

I write fiction under the name Will Edwinson, and this is my third published novel. It is a story loosely based on the life of Louisa Houston-Earp, Sam Houston’s quarter Cherokee granddaughter. Houston lived for a time among the Cherokee Indians. First, as a boy from age fifteen to age nineteen, and again later, when he separated from his wife Eliza. During this later sojourn he married the powerfully beautiful Tiana Rogers, a Cherokee woman, though he was still technically and legally married to Eliza. From this marriage came a son, Samuel.

Samuel Houston married Elizabeth Waughtel with whom he had twelve children. It is believed that LouIsa (pronounced with a long i sound) Houston-Earp was one of those children.

Not much has been written about the real-life Louisa. This novel is not an authorized biography, nor is it intended to be. A great deal of literary license has been employed in the development of the story.

Louisa, is a mix of what historical information I was able to gather about her, and what I was able to conjure up from my own imagination. “It is left up to the reader to decide what is fiction based on history, and what is history based on fiction. In real life she was married to Morgan Earp, Wyatt Earp’s younger brother.

My characterization of Louisa is that of an interesting well rounded lady. When necessary, she can wrangle little dogies and cattle with the best of cowboys and fight as adeptly as the roughest of gutter rats; but also, when necessary, she can don an evening gown and be right at home with Vassar graduates.

She is a stalwart, but genteel woman of quiet strength, educated in an Eastern finishing school where she learned the ways of “Ladyship” and studied classical piano under the tutorship of masters becoming proficient in the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, and others. She introduces this “high-brow” music into frontier saloons and actually wins the rowdies over into liking it.

Some of those rowdies learn the hard way, however, that ‘You don’t mess with LouIsa.’ She is a crack shot with her custom made .38 LouIsa Special revolver and has the temperament to use it when necessary as one rowdy learned when she shot him where no man wants to be shot. She is also a shrewd business woman. LouIsa has her heartbreaks to deal with as well, but she overcomes.

The book, will be available in print version and e-book versions for Kindle, Nook, and other digital reading devices. You can also go to Will’s website at www.willedwinson.com and read more about the book, and also read a few excerpts.

Corbett/aka Will Edwinson, currently lives it Tucson, Arizona

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Chat with Carol Curtis Stilz

When did you begin writing?

My first stories were written in first grade, but in third grade, I began sharing what my teacher, Mrs. Winter, called creative writing. She returned my first effort with an “A” and said, “You can be a writer when you grow up.” Her comment encouraged me, as did teachers throughout school. I began writing stories and plays when I taught creative dramatics to preschoolers. Eventually, I entered KIRSTY’S KITE in a Willamette Writers Contest and won the Kay Snow Award that year in 1987.

What have you written (books, short stories, articles, etc.)?

In addition to writing articles, stories and books for children, I have had articles, interviews, and a food column published with newspapers and magazines. The food reviews were in “Check It Out” for a local Gannett newspaper.

Which of the novels you’ve written are your favorite and why?

I wrote one novella in grad school. So far, I’m not a novelist.

What is your favorite genre to read?

Mysteries. I love a good mystery. I enjoy guessing the ending. It's so much fun for me to see how the author developed the conclusion.

What is your obligation to your readers?

To provide a good reading experience so the reader feels satisfied when he/she has finished.

What is your obligation to yourself as a writer?

To pace myself and not neglect other areas of my life.

Who is your favorite hero/heroine?

As a young reader, my hero was Nancy Drew and later Jessica Fletcher. I love super sleuths. My real life hero was Mattie Stepanik who wrote HEART SONGS while he dealt with challenges for a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

What was your easiest book to write?

None are easy. I wrote KIRSTY’S KITE in one sitting but had to revise and revise.

Which was the hardest?

It’s usually the one I’m writing now. I have one in research, two in revision, and one with an agent.

What is the hardest part of the creative process for you?

Choosing the format for the story or information.

Do you write by an outline?

Sometimes. I sketch 3-12 main points depending on the length of the writing project. Three to five points works for articles and short pieces. I use 10-12 stepping-stones in historical fiction.

If not, what is your method?

I write in sections, like one quilt piece at a time and then stitch the sections together.

Do you have set hours in the day to write?

I like mornings best but write whenever I can.

Writing is tough. What makes you keep coming back?

It’s in my blood and gives me the “high” runners talk about. When I have a passage that I can read over and over and over again, without editing, I know I’m done for now. That feels great!

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Read, read, read! Read in the area in which you want to write, not just books on how to write. You will find your own process as you read and write, write, write.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Chat With Linda Sandifer

When did you begin writing, and why?

I started writing when I was 12. I loved to read, and it became clear to me early on that I wanted to create stories like the ones I read.

What have you written (books, short stories, articles, etc.)?

I've had 13 books published, several short stories, and a number of industry-related articles. When I was a teenager I wrote a lot of really awful poetry.

Which of your novels are your favorite and why?

I'd have to say The Last Rodeo is my favorite. Probably because the characters followed me around for over thirty years, so I grew very close to them. I tried several times to tell their story, but it kept going back in the closet while I wrote other books that were under contract. The story itself was sort of like having to wait for a peach to ripen before you can pick it. The characters ranged in age from 16 to 80, and I think I needed more life experiences to give me the insight necessary to write each character's story.

Who are your favorite authors?

I usually think of favorite books rather than favorite authors because, ultimately, it's the nature of the story that intrigues me. There is some subject matter and some settings that just don't appeal. But there are a few authors who I'll keep going back to because I love their writing styles, and I know their stories will never disappoint.

In women's fiction I like Barbara Delinsky, Kate Morton, Alice Hoffman, and Lucinda Riley. For westerns and western novels: Elmer Kelton, Louis L'Amour, and Larry McMurtry. In the romance category, I've recently enjoyed Kaki Warner, Carolyn Fyffe, B. J. Daniels, and Sharon Sala. I seldom read mysteries but I do like James Lee Burke, Craig Johnson, and everything Tony Hillerman ever wrote. And even though I'm not one to read horror, I will read Dean Koontz. A foreign author who comes to mind is Carlos Ruiz Zafón. For nonfiction, I'd have to say Hampton Sides, who writes history as engaging as any novel.

What is your favorite genre to read?

I like both historical and contemporary fiction. As a general rule, I'm not interested in horror, sci-fi, "Tolkien" fantasy, erotica, spy thrillers, vampire books, or who-dun-it mysteries. I do like paranormal elements, however, like ghosts, skinwalkers, time travel, reincarnation, and Southwestern culture and settings. I don't waste time on anything that doesn't engage me in the first few chapters. If it doesn't seem to be going anywhere on its own, I put it on a fast track to the used bookstore.

What is your obligation to your readers?

When an author starts a story, they make a promise to the reader. It is my obligation to not only give them that promise, but to fulfill it in a big way. I want to entertain, of course, but I want to craft a story that readers will truly feel was worth the read, and I want to create characters that are not easily forgotten. Also, it is my obligation to know who my readers are, and to give them the type of book they expect in any given genre. Sometimes, this can be the hardest part of writing a book because if you don't know who your target audience is, you won't know how to write the book.

What is your obligation to yourself as a writer?

To write the best story I can! But it's important not to second-guess yourself at every turn. If you begin to doubt yourself, then your voice becomes stilted and you become crippled. Critiques are good, but a writer ultimately has to trust his/her instincts. When I finally determine the story has gone through enough revisions that I can say it's finished, I want to feel as if I truly did accomplish what I set out to do, and that I didn't compromise the heart of the story with self-doubt and fear (like worrying what my family and friends will think!).

Who are your favorite hero and heroine?

Rhett Butler comes to mind from Gone With the Wind. And Meg Cleary from The Thornbirds. But I think heroes and heroines who are memorable are those who are tortured in some way, and who have to go the farthest and face the highest obstacles (but within reason--no Perils of Pauline, please!). One hero who comes to mind is McCall in Lonesome Dove. It's interesting what Larry McMurtry did when he wrote that book because he made Gus the likeable one, the obvious "hero," and yet it was his friend McCall who set the entire sequence of events into motion, and who was the last one standing. So he was the true hero, and, technically, the main character. He isn't a hero anyone would think of as their favorite, but he certainly was memorable.

What was your easiest book to write?

"Easy" and "writing" and "book" don't really go together! But, I suppose I'd have to say Desire's Treasure. The hero and heroine played off each other very well, and it came together without too much angst. It was a fun book to write. I also found Came A Stranger quite easy to write.

Which was the hardest?

I'd have to draw straws, because it seems the more I've learned about writing, the harder it becomes. Each book has its own particular challenges. But I'd have to say The Last Rodeo was one of the most difficult because it wasn't genre specific, and there was no "formula" to keep me on the straight and narrow. In general fiction, the path you take is entirely up to you and if you take the wrong one, you could be wandering around in the forest forever. I got lost in the woods a helluva lot while writing that book, but I finally found my way, thanks to some comments made by agent Donald Maass who read the book in an earlier draft.

Also, Raveled Ends of Sky was tough because I was under a tight deadline with the publisher, and it was a monumental undertaking with tons of research and a lot of characters and storylines, both real and fictional, that had to be woven together. I had research books scattered over the entire floor of my office for the eight months of writing. I was completely burned out when it was finished. But I'm very proud of it.

What is the hardest part of the creative process for you?

I would rather write a 500-page novel than wrestle with a one-page query letter. They didn't used to be so tough when I first started in this business, but agents have become entirely too anal about them.

Do you write by an outline? If not, what is your method?

Outlines are too restrictive. But I don't write completely by the seat of my pants, either. There are certain things I want to happen, and there's always a destination, but how I reach it remains fluid. My method is kind of like putting together a grocery list. I only write down the stuff I absolutely have to have. Then I go to the store and walk up and down the aisles and pick up all the other goodies I see along the way.

Do you have set hours in the day to write?

I used to when my life had a schedule; i.e., when my children were in school and my husband was working. Now that my husband is "retired" and I have children scattered from Florida to California, I'm doing more "time-traveling" than writing. (There is at least one member of our family in every U. S. time zone!)

Writing is tough. What keeps you coming back?

Insanity, most likely. But I prefer to believe it's in the blood.

Tell us a little about your venture into the self-publishing market.

I self-published The Last Rodeo. The agent I had at the time loved the book and shopped it around New York to all the big publishers. It got good feedback, but ultimately no sale. From what I could gather, it was a marketing issue. My agent suggested that if I wanted to turn it into a "cowboy erotica" she could probably find an editor for it because that was a hot market (no pun intended). I wasn't about to dismantle all the years of hard work I had put into that story and those characters. I could have continued to search for a publisher (and a new agent), but I decided to publish it myself so no one could possibly turn it into something I didn't want it to be.

Would you self-publish again?

The advantage to self-publishing is that your book can be available for as long as you want it to be, so, yes, I'd do it again if I had a book I felt was worthy. It's nice that there's no longer a stigma for self-published books.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Probably more than a beginning writer would like to hear! But, seriously, follow your heart and your instincts. Write the story that speaks to you and it will likely speak to others. Learn the craft. Don't ever think that the rules don't apply to you (they do). Writing is a creative process but once it's on paper, it becomes a business. Keep abreast of the industry and the markets. Read. Read. Read. Evaluate what makes good books so good. Interact with other writers (it's nice to know you're not wandering the Desert of Insanity alone). Realize that your writing will never be perfect--no one's is--but always strive to make it the best you can. When you feel strongly about something you've written, stick to your guns. And never give up. As William Feather said, "Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go."

You can find Linda's books at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Chat With Richard Earl Rice

When did you begin writing, and why?

I retired from my day job at age 61. For a while I tried to occupy all my now-found free time with golf and fishing. Unfortunately in Idaho, you only get about six months of weather decent enough to do either. And the wind blows relentlessly. And I can’t say either pursuit adds much of value to anyone other than myself.

I had always wanted to try writing, and in fact, had a few false starts along the years, but never took the time to finish anything or really learn the craft. But now I was free, so I grabbed one of my dozens of latent story ideas and launched myself.

Probably it’s an ego thing. I reasoned if I was successful at telling a story, maybe someone out there would laugh, or cry or escape into a world I created. Maybe someday my kids will read my stories and pass them on to their kids and in a way I’ll live forever.

What have you written (books, short stories, articles, etc.)?

In the dozen or so years I’ve been at this, I’ve completed three novels, with a fourth nearly done, but set aside for a while to incubate. I’m a third of the way through my fifth novel. I’ve also written a dozen or so short stories.

Which of the novels you’ve written are your favorite and why?

My last novel, Star Eaters, is my favorite. I think the story is good, but more than that, I’ve had a lot of help on perfecting the manuscript. First, it was rigorously critiqued by my writing group. Later, the story caught the attention of an agent, who encouraged me to try getting a professional editor take a whack at it. I took his advice and actually hired two editors work it over - a story editor and a line editor.

The feedback from all those folks helped me remember all those rules of grammar I once learned and taught me a lot about story pace and development. I may never get this novel published, but it marked a turning point in my writing career…I believe I’m a far better writer because of all the help I’ve received.

Who are your favorite authors?

I have a pretty long list, as I knock off about a book a week. When I crave weirdness, I go to Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crighton, or Scott Sigler. If I’m hungry for SciFi or Fantasy, give me Ben Bova, Terry Brooks, Suzanne Collins, Robert Sawyer, Jack McDevitt. Thriller/spy writers like Brad Thor, Lee Child, Vince Flynn and Daniel Silva trip my trigger. I’ve also enjoyed more conventional stories from talented, best seller authors like John Grisham, Ridley Pearson, James Lee Burke, Stieg Larson, Wilber Smith, even Janet Evanovich.

What is your favorite genre to read?

I like thrillers - the conventional spy, secret agent, anti-terrorist good guy vs. bad guy stories

What is your obligation to your readers?

To give them a story they will not forget, and maybe a warning to tuck away that our world is in a lot of danger these days and the future may have to be approached very carefully.

What is your obligation to yourself as a writer?

To always keep writing and never stop learning.

Who are your favorite hero and heroine?

Jack Reacher – Creation of Lee Child – masculine, competent, different

Stephanie Plum – Creation of Janet Evanovich - cute, real, never gives up

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Be prepared to go into it with gusto. Half an effort, with lots of excuses to avoid wordsmithing won’t get you there.

What was your easiest book to write?

I wrote a thriller called Incendiary. It had elements of firefighting and light airplane flying, which are things I have done during my lifetime. It was also set in parts of the world where I have lived at one time or another.

Which was the hardest?

A novel I’m calling Prodigy. I had the first part of the story nailed, but could not find a way to conclude it to my satisfaction. It is now sitting quietly in a box in my closet waiting for a new inspiration to strike.

What is the hardest part of the creative process for you?

Finding good ways to “show” instead of “tell”

Do you write by an outline? If not, what is your method?

Sometimes a general one, but mostly…no. I try to get an idea in my head of where the story goes in general then let the characters take me there.

Do you have set hours in the day to write?

I try to crank out at least 500 words before noon then go do other stuff.

Writing is tough. What makes you keep coming back?

I’m not of the opinion writing is tough. Fighting forest fires is tough. Manual labor in an oil field is tough. Studying for final exams is tough. Giving a technical presentation to a vice president is tough. Telling a man you’re laying him off is tough. I’ve done all those things and I’d by far rather write.