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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Give the Gift of Words by Carol Curtis Stilz



Each of us has the power to choose words as we select gifts. We choose carefully, making sure the gift fits and is appropriate. What if we chose our words with the same thoughtfulness?
I relish books that give me delight like a box of chocolates with no two tasting the same. So my desire is to give my readers that experience. Even in this busy season I can savor words, images and sounds to use in my writing. Then I’ll record those images and sounds on my phone or in my pocket notebook. For those sensory details of smell and taste, especially chocolate, I must capture the essence in a word or phrase. That’s a challenge I face in writing picture books! 
If you choose to join me in building a storehouse of rich images and phrases, you will need a pocket size notebook and pen (Dollar Tree item) or a smartphone with space for recording photos, sounds, and videos. I’ll use both depending upon the situation. And, I’ll need a plan since I’m easily distracted, so I’ve written it as an assignment. Modify it to suit your needs. The teacher in me never retired.
First, be aware of scent, taste, and touch in your surroundings. Since readers are drawn into a scene by the sense of smell evoked in words, focus on scents. Is that the aroma of cinnamon, vanilla, pumpkin, evergreens, or peppermint? How would you describe it in a word or two? Then consider taste. Take that bite thoughtfully and let the taste linger. Sip that beverage slowly. How would a foodie capture the essence? Move on to experience textures. (One year my daughter wanted a fir tree for Christmas, or so I thought. What she wanted was a tree that felt furry and fuzzy like her grandma’s flocked tree.) How would a textile designer describe the feel? Is it different from the appearance?
Next, give attention to sight and sound. Look for images both black and white and color. Change your viewpoint. Look at your holiday decorations from a child’s view or a pet’s perspective. Observe how subjects react to light, or lack of light. When you watch movies and television, notice lines of dialogue and musical sounds, as well as what you see on the screen. Can you evoke the sound of silence? That one can be tough depending upon where you are. Record sounds and images on your phone or notebook. Snap a photo or sketch a special image or viewpoint that is clever. If space on your phone is an issue, use an SD card.
Finally, transfer items from your phone to your email or computer or index cards. Be respectful of copyright and do not share copyrighted material. (Oops, that means I don’t post others’ creative work on social media.) Save this collection in a useful format. (I like flashdrives for this step.) Label categories and record your sources with place, date and time. For handwritten notes, tape them to individual index cards. (Color coded cards work for me. A pack of white and a pack of four colors.) Organize them on a file ring. Make your own with a punch in each card and a keyring. Or, put everything in a special box or bag that closes tightly and pull out cards when looking for inspiration. (I’ve seen greeting cards, tea bag tags, napkins and ads provide inspiration to writers and artists.)
The gift I’m creating takes only minutes. An image or sound can be captured in seconds. Saving them for later use takes only minutes. I give myself the gift of mindfulness, living in the moment, enjoying the delights of the senses, and building a storehouse of treasures to share with my readers.
The challenge to transport my readers to my character’s world through rich sensory images came from outstanding authors whose workshops I attended. I am grateful for their shared wisdom and encouragement. At the Southwest Washington Writers Conference in Centralia, Washington. I listened as Melanie Dobson, Robert Dugoni, Veronica Noice, and Kyle Pratt shared their experience. At the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Kathy Murphy, known as the Pulpwood Queen, inspired and entertained me. You can meet Kathy (Patrick) Murphy as she interviews Fannie Flagg via Beauty and the Book on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzDIMvjCtI4. She started book clubs from her beauty shop! Her book, The Pulpwood Queen's Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life will be a movie released by DreamWorks. Checkout http://www.thepulpwoodqueens.com/ for more information on 740 book clubs, their reading lists, and activities.
Happy holidays and a Prosperous New Year!
Carol Stilz

Monday, October 16, 2017

I CONFESS by Sherry Roseberry


As writers we are often asked where we get the ideas for our books. This question, more often than not, has left me at a loss for words until I realized that I've gleaned some terrific ideas from old movies, especially those of the 30's and 40's found on cable. Where else can a person discover such a large range of juicy tidbits, one liners, gags, and plot ideas in a day except from TV?
Did you know that: if you want to shoot at a horseman riding downhill, you aim at his knee? For a time bobbies in England were called crushers? Adding nickel to gold will harden it? If an Adult swallowed enough table salt, he could die of heart failure? (What a nifty way for an undesirable character to rid her/himself of a rival, especially if the victim is a fanatic on taking herbs in capsules. Someone could easily replace the herbs with salt.)
Old movies are my downfall. I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of I Was A Male War Bride starring Cary Grant. He marches into the heroine's office with an armload of clothes and dumps them on her desk. Their laundry got mixed up, but he purposely gives everyone the idea that she has left her things in his apartment. The more she denies the implied accusation, the more he tsks.
What a cute scene!
With a different setup, this could be a delicious way for the protagonists to meet, or to create friction, or it could be a means for them to see each other again and make up.
In Mazy in the Congo starring Ann Sothern, Mazy, a show girl, dresses up and convinces the attacking natives that she is a witch by doing simple magician's tricks, thus saving everyone. The locale could easily be changed to the early West and the natives to Indians. The heroine could be running a friend's traveling magic show when the scene unfolds.
But why stop there? What if the heroine is actually using the show as a cover in order to dig up evidence that could clear her father of fraud, but the way she goes about it could send her to prison? What if the hero is sent out by Pinkerton Detective Agency to investigate the case and rumors pertaining to a certain young lady only to find...by golly, I think I've come up with another plot.
From the cop shows, I've found different ways to defraud people out of their money, learned what can spoil a good murder, and figured out how to set up clues. Thanks to the talk shows, I've gathered a wide range of scholarly nuggets from the molding of a serial killer and the psychological makeup of a schizophrenic, to split personalities and extreme life styles. All fodder for a good plot.
There are other pluses! Have you ever copied down last names from the list of credits? Have you ever written descriptions of the actors--their personality quirks, facial expressions, the way they walked, talked, acted--and put what you’ve found on cards to file away? Or have you ever watched a movie and come up with a twist of your own?
Well if you haven't, come on over. You bring the popcorn, I'll furnish the drinks. If anybody asks … we’re doing research.        

If you enjoyed Sherry's post be sure to check out her books on Amazon. Her newest novels are THE DEADLY DOUBLECROSS and TENDER DECEPTIONS...                      

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

OH, BABY! WE LOVE THOSE FREEBIES!

BLUE SAGE WRITERS WITH GENEROUS HEARTS!

NO money? NO worries!
This week, our own Sherry Roseberry has TENDER DECEPTIONS, a mystery-romance, listed at the low price of zip, nada, zero, no gooseberries whatsoever, for five full days on Amazon. This is for the Kindle version.  Be sure to take advantage of the free download.
https://goo.gl/GU9cye


 GET IT FREE FOR FIVE DAYS...


Starting September 20th, Richard Earl Rice has a book listed in the Goodreads.com giveaways. SANCLEM will be given away for free to five lucky winners so be sure to enter!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Sanclem by Richard Earl Rice

Sanclem

by Richard Earl Rice

Released September 11 2017
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Sunday, August 27, 2017

AND THEN IT GOT DARK. . .

Expect a few good stories to come of the Great American Eclipse of 2017. Any event so moving has to foster at least one novel or novella.
Blue Sage Writers took advantage of the influx of people into the Idaho area by gathering the authors and books together and marching down to the river to put up a tent and book display/signing table.
We sold books and enjoyed each other’s company. We talked to the general public—even those with sticky fingers and those holding those scary little children by the hand. Books don’t sell themselves. It’s a struggle to prod, push, and cajole people into putting that special book into a bag and forking over some funds. At the end of the day, we’d sold more books than most small book stores may shove off their shelves in a day.
Getting people to read—especially YOUR book—is always worth it. But it isn't about the ten dollar bill an author gets from a sale. That ten dollar bill represents the pat on the back for getting the book written in the first place. It's the time expended, the soul searching, the nights of staring at the computer keyboard wondering where those easy nouns and verbs disappeared to. And it's knowing that the encouragement of a sale keeps an author writing. After all, we have more more missing worthy words to round up, lasso and put down on on paper. We have stories to tell.

And one of those stories may even address “Where were you when the lights went out?”

Submitted by Mary Ann Cherry, author of Death on Canvas in awe of the Great American Eclipse of 2017

Monday, July 10, 2017

HERE COMES THE SUN - AND THERE IT GOES!

submitted by Mary Ann Cherry (author of Death on Canvas)

On Saturday, August 19th, which is the last Saturday before the scandalous upcoming eclipse ( I mean, who does old Sol think he is?) the Blue Sage Writers plan to offer a table of books during the Farmer's Market along the Snake River. What fun! Come to our tent and buy a book to read in the dark. You can have it personally signed by the author.

Now, all writers know that spelling and grammar are important. Our authors will sign your purchased novel. We can sign it for anyone you choose to bless with an authentic book - from Idaho - purchased before the sun blots out Idaho Falls - we promise. We will not promise that old devil, Sol, will not also singe the book. Come over and find out!

Saturday, August 19th, 9am - 1 pm
during Farmer's Market along the Snake River at Memorial Dr.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

THE ART OF A CRITIQUE GROUP


Submitted by Karen Finnigan

I love those blogs that consist of a list. If I could create one, it would sound neat and tidy and imply there are answers to all our publishing dilemmas, like these:

  • Ten secrets to getting published
  • Eight traits agents want in a client
  • Six tips for writing a successful pitch
  • Top three ways publishing will be different a year from now
  • The number one reason a book idea stands out

I would not try to create a list giving the secrets of successful critique groups. I don’t think they’re so easy to pigeonhole. Not that any of the above are easy either, but critique groups provide such unique challenges. For starters, each individual writer brings different talents and expectations to a group.

  • Some members write by the seat of their pants
  • Others outline every scene in detail
  • Some rewrite umpteen times
  • Others can turn out a quality first draft

Some of us want to be critiqued with brutal honesty. Give it to us straight, we say. Lay it on thick. We can take it. It’ll toughen us up for the real world of publishing.

Others prefer we go gently on their creative efforts, want lots of positive feedback for what they do well, praise being the sandwich bread into which are spread a few mild suggestions.

Some have outgoing personalities that relish the give and take of off-the-cuff talking. They thrive on the show and tell of sharing every time and might enjoy a leadership role.

Others are shy, preferring structure, where an agenda guarantees they’ll get a turn to talk or read. They might beg off easily or wait in the wings to be asked if they brought anything.

Some hate agendas and don’t see the need.

Some watch the clock and see time as a pie to be divided fairly.
Others measure time by creative moments.

Some prefer critiquing the storyline like a beta reader.
Others can discuss the nuances of characterization and motivation.
Still others like to get down in the weeds and correct grammar.

Some come for treasured friendships that go back decades.
Others come once and never return, though we never know why.

Some see traditional publishing as their holy grail.
Others are thinking about e-publication or self-publishing.
Still others are content to write for the joy of it and leave their writing in a bureau drawer for their literary heirs.

A few are too tired, sick, weary, busy, distracted to write.
And maybe, every meeting, someone is secretly thinking about quitting it all—a different someone each time.

But I do think we have this in common--a need for mutual support of our writing dreams, camaraderie, and once a month lunch out. It’s a list, I guess, but barely.

So, it’s not surprising that frustrations will occasionally surface. But for all the dissymmetry, it’s still preferable to not having a critique group at all. Through the din of personalities and differing styles, goals, and pen colors, there is headway made. There are glimmers of inspiration, commiseration over rejection letters, writing news brought from conferences, names of agents taking submissions, and contest deadlines. A few guidelines are helpful maybe, like toss your lunch wrappers, share your email addresses, and take turns talking. But nothing heavy, mainly because I’ve decided managing these groups is too akin to tacking jello to a laptop. In short, I think keeping a group going is more art, less business.

I see each meeting as a little incubation room, where we are free to learn our craft with each other as validators, but without the spotlight of the entire world watching as we clean up our mistakes. We celebrate successes together too, of course, because that’s an art form too and definitely worth incubating.

Actress/Commedienne Amy Poehler once said: to paraphrase, she was glad she had been pretty much left alone in her 20s to practice her craft with no spotlight on her. Some of what she did was good, some was bad, but all of it gave her experience and maturity to handle the success she now has.

May we each someday (soon) share her creative experience with success. May we each look back when we are published or republished and think the same of our humble and imperfect critique group. That it was worth it. That it gave to us more than it took from us. That it readied us, step by step, along the journey to our dreams. That, when we get ready to write our list of thanks for the inspiration, our writing group is right up there.

Maybe even number one.

Monday, June 6, 2016

CONSIDERING AN ONLINE COURSE? ASK YOURSELF THE FOLLOWING

By Carol Stilz, author

1. Can you get information on the topic of interest elsewhere on the Internet or from a book? Compare cost and time. One advantage to an online class you take at your pace is you can control the time. The disadvantage is often the cost.
2. Where can you look for information on your topic?
• Do a global search using " " marks to specify exactly what you want.
• Check self-publishing sites such as Amazon Create Space, Book Baby, Outskirts, etc. Often their free guides contain enough information to provide an introduction to the subject.
• Check the instructor's website for blogs that may cover some of the material you want from the class.
• Check libraries and Amazon for books on the subject. For e-books download the free sample chapters that often include a table of contents.
3. Is the instruction geared to your level of knowledge on the subject or genre?
4. Can you download lectures, video, power points, audio, Q & A sessions?
5. Is your computer software up to date and able to handle the online class?
• Check virus and firewall protection.
• Update browser.
• Update or install Adobe Flash player, QuickTime, or other programs necessary.
• Have a compatible video/audio program for downloads.
• Have a notebook handy with the support phone number or email just in case you have trouble.
6. Will you have one-on-one time with the instructor? This time may be through
an online Q&A, email, a tab on the course page,
7. Is a critique or offer to query, or both, included with the course fee?
8. Will this critique or query go to the agent or editor, or to an intern or reader?
9. Will the course offer an opportunity to network with other writers or offer an online critique group after the course is completed?
10. Will the course materials be available for 30 days after the class ends?
11. Can you use a tablet one day and a laptop another day? Do you need an app to use your phone for a class session?
12. Is this course unique? If so, this may justify the expense.

Of course, check the credentials of the instructor. Vet those agents. Also check for coupons, discounts, and offers that may give you a price break.

May the course be for you!