Add Write With Excellence to your Writer’s toolbox

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I was good at grammar in school. Found it boring but did well. Remembering the fine points—not so much. As an organic writer, I have found that, something sounding right doesn’t make it correct.  When I got acquainted with other writers, I took their advice to heart. Jerry B Jenkins recommended The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. It’s the classic go-to book of grammar for writers. He said he reads through it every year. I determined to do the same. The original bookmark is still there. Halfway through, my eyes blurred. Don’t get me wrong, the information is helpful.  But The Elements of Style is not a cover-to-cover read. Then again, Jerry read through a set of encyclopedias as a kid.

A few years later I met Joyce K. Ellis, grammarian extraordinaire at a writer’s conference. She has a witty way of explaining grammar. Her classes at conferences were always fun to attend. And her grammar column in the Christian Communicator helped me remember what I’d forgotten.

I asked her when she was going to write a grammar book. I promised I would buy it. And over time—and with others asking the same question—Joyce wrote Write with Excellence 201. The tagline is awesome: a lighthearted guide to the serious matter of writing well for Christian authors, editors and students. It is a fun guide through the sticky parts of grammar and some basics we’ve gotten a little sloppy about.

This book is an easy, entertaining read. Each chapter is full of examples of proper grammar use. Lots of helpful stories and examples. There is a quiz at the end of each chapter. No grades here. The answers are in the back of the book.  So, you’re allowed the cheat if you get stuck. The index is a quick, very thorough reference for problem areas.

Write with Excellence is engaging enough to read from cover-to-cover. She even made me consider using the dreaded sentence diagram as a tool. (Maybe) I recommend keeping her book handy for reference as you write. It’s awesome to have at your critique group when questions arise. No more doubts about grammar issues.

I highly recommended adding this great resource to your craft books.

How many of you struggle with the finer points of grammar? What is your favorite resource?

 

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Three Favorite Reads for February

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Writers should be readers.

We often hear, “Writers should be readers.”  And I love knowing it’s okay to do so. It helps stimulate my brain when I take a break from writing my own novels. In the last month, I’ve read three books. One was a collection of seven historical romances, a contemporary romance, and a humorous romance.  They were all page-turners that kept me engaged. Maybe you’d like to check them out as well.

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Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

The historical novella collection, Seven Brides for Seven Texans has all seven Hart brothers scrambling to find brides before years’ end. Their father has a heart condition he is keeping from his sons. All seven are content to be bachelors but Pa wants to see grandkids before he dies. If these handsome Texans aren’t married before December they forfeit their inheritance.

Each story is clever and the couples involved are very different. The only common denominator is the inheritance. I loved the premise and the creative of all seven authors: Amanda Barrett,Susan Page Davis, Keli Gwyn, Vicki McDonough, Gabrielle Meyer, Loma Seilstad and Erica Vetsch. Their scenarios are so believable scenario while blending characters from the other books into the story line. As each brother finds his bride the womenfolk population grows on the ranch. By the time, Bowie the lone holdout marries life as the bachelors knew it is drastically changed.

At times, I laughed out loud and other times my eyes misted with tears. You’ll love the Hart boys and their feisty brides.

51ogzyn6ixl-_sy346_Dance Over Me

The next novel Dance Over Me  by Candee Fick has a wonderful premise. A musical theater major finally finds a job performing in Dinner Theater. We often forget Christians pursue many different career paths.

Dani is a product of foster care and was adopted at 10 by her dance instructor. Her one main goal in life is finding her baby brother who was adopted shortly after her parent were killed in an auto accident. Her childhood promise to look after him still haunts her. Now she Is pursuing her dream of being and entertainer while calling every Wilson in the Fort Collins Colorado white pages in hopes of finding Jake.

Alex the hero, trumpet player and band leader in=s content in the family business. His parents own the Wardrobe Dinner Theater. The first musical performed is 42nd Street. The plot of the novel loosely follows the storyline of the musical. It’s fun and faith-building. Dani comes to realized various truths about her relationship with God and people. I loved the title Danced Over Me based on a scripture verse declaring God dances over us with joy. What a wonderful reminder.

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Every Bride Needs A Groom

The last of the three was Every Bride Needs a Groom by Janice Thompson. So funny. Told in first person through the eyes of small town girl Katie Sue. She loves her hometown Fairfield Texas. She never wants to leave. Her entire life is one big rut of sameness. Not until she enters a contest to win a free designer wedding gown from Cosmopolitan Bride does she begin to discover the rut she’s in. Her longtime boyfriend never proposes and leaves her with the embarrassing dilemma of truth vs lies. While spending time in Dallas trying to sort the no groom mess out she meets Brady James, a pro basketball player on medical leave working alongside his mother at Cosmopolitan Bride. Katie’s zany family and close-knit small town upbringing colors the basic plot with lots of funny twists. Including three brothers, an aunt and a crazy cousin who can’t stay out of her business.  Everything works out in a deliciously entertaining way by the last page.

Read for inspiration

All three of these books a total of 9 stories in all inspired me. The words are honed to perfection and I found myself experiencing Texas in the past and present and Colorado’s musical theater lifestyle. I love the you-are-there feeling in novels.

Writers must make time to read. Maybe you don’t read as many books a month as I do. But even one in two months can make a difference in your writing.  I read in my genre and out of it. It keeps my creative juices challenged. And there is a certain amount of writing technique we learn through the osmosis of reading others people’s works.

Check out these books by clicking on the covers.

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What have you been reading this month?

 

 

 

My Personal Pick of Books For Holiday Gift Giving

I love to read. What books have you read this year?

I love to read. What books have you read this year?

Over the last few years I have written almost 80 reviews. My goal is to reach 100 in 2015. Because I love to read and people often ask me for book recommendations I thought I’d share a list of some of the goodies I’ve read in past year.

Add some to your to-read-list or buy them for your favorite book worms.

I’ll divide them by genre and encourage you to check out my reviews on Amazon or Goodreads.

Some on this list are debut novels of exceptional quality. All of the authors have a wonderful grasp on the craft of writing and draw readers into their stories. This list reflects my love of reading and willingness to review books outside my own genre of historical.

Historical:

World War II settings:

With Music in Their Hearts by Carole Brown

Under the Silk Hibiscus by Alice J Wisler

Lightning on a Quiet Night by Donn Taylor

Revolutionary War setting:

Fields of the Fatherless (YA book) by Elaine Cooper

1800s setting:

Kincaid Brides Trilogy by Mary McConeally

Trouble In Texas Series by Mary McConeally

Mystery:

The Cat Lady’s Secret (cozy) by Linda Yazak

Chapel Springs Revival (humorous) by Ane Mulligan

Murder on Edisto by C Hope Clark

The Simulacrum by Brad Seggie and Linda Yezak

Firewall (FBI Houston #1) by DiAnn Mills

Contemporary Fiction:

Breathing On Her Own by Rebecca Waters

Reservations For Two by Ann Patrick

Traveler’s Rest by Ann Tatlock

All My Belongings by Cynthia Ruchti

Almost Amish by Kathryn Cushman

Lake Surrender by Carol Grace Stratton

Give The Lady A Ride by Linda Yezak

Fantasy:

Blood For Blood (Vampires, 1800s setting) by Ben Wolf

Innocent Blood; Equinox of Reckoning (Halloween setting with Celtic lore) by John Turney

Crossing Into The Mystic (The Crossing Trilogy #1) (Ghosts) by D L Koontz

Whiskey Sunrise (Crime Drama involving the supernatural) by John Turney

Devotionals:

Dare U To Open This (8-12 yrs. olds boys) by Carol McAdams Moore

Just Sayin’ (8-12 yrs. old girls) by Carol McAdams Moore

God, Me and Sweet Tea (women) By Rose Chandler Johnson

Hungry For God, Starving For Time (women) by Lori Hatcher

These are only a portion of the ones I read this year. Some authors I would recommend that may or may not have made this short list whose overall body of work are wonderful reads are C Hope Clark, DiAnn Mills, Brandilyn Collins, Virginia Smith, Gilbert Morris, Jerry B Jenkins, Carole Brown, Elaine Cooper, Mary Conneally, Cynthia Ruchti, and James Scott Bell.

What books have you read this year? Which ones would you recommend?

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An Introduction to With Music In Their Hearts A World War II Spy Novel

With Music in Their HeartsI loved With Music in Their Hearts and am so honored Author Carole Brown agreed to an interview. She will be sitting down with me next month to share about the creation of this novel and her writing journey. I am so excited I thought I’d share a few things to wet your reading appetite. Hopefully, get you as excited as I am about the interview. So I am sharing the review I post on Amazon, the back cover copy and an excerpt from the first chapter (Carole gave me permission) to generate some interest in this fascinating novel.

My review

I opened to chapter one in my Kindle and heard the music coming from the piano at the boarding house. I felt a part of the intrigue and saw the characters as they interacted with one another. Carole Brown’s World War II spy novel With Music in Their Hearts is a fascinating read. The realistic dialogue, setting and characters dress drew me into this 1940’s mystery. Americans spying on Americans during a turbulent time in history perked my interest. Make that spy a pastor and add some romance and I was fully engaged. The character’s reminded me of an old black and white movie from the period especially the way the men and women flirty and behaved. Carole is a gifted writer and meticulous researcher. Both talents show through in this page turner. Some may refer to it as cozy because there isn’t a lot of graphic violence. But the suspense still rings true. Lovers of World War II historicals aren’t the only ones who will enjoy this novel. If this time period is not your normal fare give With Music In their Hearts a look you won’t be disappointed.

The Blurb

Angry at being rejected for military service, Minister Tyrell Walker accepts the call to serve as a civilian spy within his own country. Across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio, a spy working for a foreign country is stealing secret plans for newly developed ammunition to be used in the war. According to his FBI cousin, this spy favors pink stationery giving strong indications that a woman is involved.

He’s instructed to obtain a room in the Rayner Boarding House run by the lovely, spunky red-haired Emma Jaine Rayner. Sparks of jealousy and love fly between them immediately even as they battle suspicions that one or the other is not on the up and up.

While Tyrell searches for the murdering spy who reaches even into the boarding home, Emma Jaine struggles with an annoying renter, a worried father (who could be involved in this spy thing), and two younger sisters who are very different but just as strong willed as she is.

As Tyrell works to keep his double life a secret and locate the traitor, he refuses to believe that Emma Jaine could be involved even when he sees a red-haired woman in the arms of another man. Could the handsome and svelte banker who’s also determined to win Emma Jaine’s hand for marriage, be the dangerous man he’s looking for? Is the trouble-making renter who hassles Emma Jaine serving as a flunky? Worse, is Papa Rayner so worried about his finances and keeping his girls in the style they’re used to, that he’ll stoop to espionage?

Will their love survive the danger and personal issues that arise to hinder the path of true love?

Excerpt from Chapter 1

A vehicle’s tires spinning gravel behind him warned him he’d not lost the black

car. Slowing. Creeping. Engine purring. Only a few feet separated him from the car and

making a sudden decision, he jogged around the corner and hugged the building trying to

put distance between it. The car’s tires squealed as the car sped up. The driver took the

corner, gravel crunching and spinning into the air.

They must have spotted him for the driver braked, throwing the passenger

forward. Tyrell flung himself at the car and grabbed for the door handle.

The window slid down.

Something tugged at his arm.

And the handle tore from his grasp as the car accelerated.

The seemingly belated, reverberating crack of a gun vibrated the air around him.

The car spun around a far corner, and Tyrell reached up to rub his stinging arm.

The sticky wetness drew his attention.

Blood. He saw the tear in his coat sleeve, the minute traces of blood oozing.

He’d been shot?

Why would they—whoever they were—want to shoot at him? It was a scratch,

and they’d been close enough to kill him if they’d wanted to.

They didn’t want to. What were they after? A scare tactic? To warn him away?

From what? Perhaps all this was a coincidence, a figment of his active imagination.

No sign of the car. Satisfied he was rid of them, he entered the hotel. At the

reception desk, he filled out the necessary papers, climbed the stairs, and headed down

the hallway.

At the far end, a red-haired woman inserted a key into the lock.

Was she the same woman who’d been in the recruitment office? That hat . . . He

called out, “Hey, lady.”

She glanced his way, her luxurious hat tilted at just the right angle to hide one

side of her face. With a flip of her plaid skirt, she shoved open her door and disappeared

inside.

Tyrell hesitated at his own door, next to her’s, but inserted his key and entered.

Inside, he switched on a light then as quickly flicked it off. He stepped to the window.

And drew in a breath as if he’d been sucker-punched.

Down below, across from the hotel, the streetlight reflected off a long, black

Oldsmobile. Standing beside the car staring up at the hotel, stood Ben Hardy.

His cousin and best friend.

 

With Music in Their Heart

Kindle Link:   http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00OVFWA5S?pldnSite=1

Print Link:    http://www.amazon.com/Music-Their-Hearts-Spies-World/dp/1941622038/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415113865&sr=1-1&keywords=With+Music+in+Their+Hearts

If you’re curious enough to add this to your reading list I hope you will stop by on Monday, December 1st to see the interview with this wonderful writer. By the way it is available in e-book format as well.

Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss this upcoming interview as well as interviews with other authors who have agreed to share with me. There will be giveaways 🙂

Devotionals for Tweens that Make Exploring God’s Word Fun

Carol McAdams Moore has written two delightful devotionals for tweens. That’s 8-12 year olds if you want to know. This is the age where drawing, coloring and lots of glitter are the best ways to express feelings and tell tales. These books would be great for Sunday School teachers to gift their class to encourage person devotions. Oh, where were these kinds of books back when my children were young.

Cute cover don't you think.

Cute cover don’t you think.

Parents with sons who hate to read or don’t seat still for long devotional reading will find a fun place to explore God’s Word in Dare U To Open This Book. The title of Carol McAdams Moore’s devotional for tween boys takes that dare to fun places. Ninety days of scripture and what if questions to spark boys imaginations. Chances to doodle and expand the concepts creatively, no essay writing involved. Lessons are short allowing the reader to take as much or as little time as he feels inspired to with each lesson.

Just Sayin'

If you are looking for a fun devotional for your daughter that challenges their thinking without a lot of boring fill in the blank questions have I got the book for you. Just Sayin’ is Carol McAdams Moore’s devotional for tween girls. It’s jam packed with 90 fun activity pages. Every page has a verse and spectacular ideas to ponder. Laid out like a scrap book it has short, sweet and creative daily devotional pages. Lots of markers, glitter and gel pens are needed to doodle and create answers to the questions for each day. Perfect for girls to visualize the truths of God’s Word without using a lot of words.

Carol McAdams Moore_Author Photo

I‘ll be interviewing Carol soon about all things devotional. If you have any questions I’ll pass them along for you. She’s also having a drawing to giveaway these books to some lucky commenters.

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Blood For Blood A Surprisingly Satisfying Read

Blood for Blood CoverBlood for Blood the debut novel of Ben Wolf is not the sort of book I would normally read. But its unusual premise intrigued me. Psalms 23:3 He restoreth my soul is the theme verse for this new adult novel. (Adults in their 20s). This novel set in the 1800s isn’t focusing on any old body’s soul but a vampire. That part gave me pause I don’t read horror and never followed Twilight or any of the TV shows available today that feature vampires. But in the pages of Blood for Blood I found so many wonderful examples of the redemptive work of Christ. Reminders of how Christians judge the validity of someone’s salvation based on the level of sin in their former life.

Evangelist Zambini believes God can restore anyone’s soul and when he draws the soulless vampire Raven Worth toward the truth of God’s word interesting things happen. This author researched the folklore of vampirism and used his findings as a great foundation for the struggles of his protagonist. Those struggles parallel our very human Christian walk as Raven grows in faith and out of his vampire life.

There were surprise plot twists and the villain was not who I expected. Well-written and captivating. If you enjoy D L Koontz and Ted Dekker you will enjoy Blood for Blood. Even if you are an anti -horror reader like me you will find this story compelling and entertaining. If you are paying attention you’ll probably find a few choice nuggets of truth to meditate on as well.

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Author Ben Wolf

Coming soon

Because this is so out of my wheelhouse when it comes to reading preference I wanted to pick the brain of this debut author regarding the creation of this story. Look for an indepth interview with Ben next week.

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Emotional Thesaurus : A Great Writer’s Tool

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I have found a wonderful resource book that I want to recommend to all my fiction writing friends.

The Emotional Thesaurus, A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is a great tool to help writers find the right gesture, description or inner feeling for any character. The book is divided into 75 emotions starting with adoration and ending with worry. Each emotion is broken down into definition, physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, cues of acute or long term, cues of suppressed and a Writer’s tip added for good measure.

This book could be read from start to finish but is better used as a resource. As I am rewriting and editing my novel I ran across a section where I used the word nervous. I need to show that nervousness to the reader. Turning to the Nervousness section I found lots of helpful clues.

The list of physical signals was quite long. I found rubbing hand’s down ones pants, a lack of eye contact and scraping hands through hair as great suggestions. But one needs to go deeper so I looked at the list of internal sensations discovering nausea and an empty feeling in the pit of the stomach set my imagination in motion. The mental response that best fit my character was a desire to flee. I found panic attack in the cues of acute or long term nervousness and a pasted on smile under cues of suppressed nervousness.

The Writer Tip on the nervousness page was a helpful reminder. “Body movement and external reactions alone will not create an emotional connection for the reader. Pairing action with a light use of internal sensations and or thoughts creates a deeper emotional pull.”

I found reading thorough the list caused me to reexamine my whole scene adding the components that were missing. It stretched my imagination as I created a new more powerful scene. The lists are not designed for you to copy the words into your manuscript but rather expand your thinking regarding your characters. As I read the list I could see which qualities fit my heroine and which made more sense for my hero or a minor character.

The Emotional Thesaurus is a must have for your writer’s bookshelf. Keep it close at hand for easy reference.