A Show of Hands

hands-543593_640

I recently read a post on FB where writers were debating whether men put their hands on their hips. Some were adamant that they don’t, and others like myself knew they do based on my own male relatives and contacts. That conversation lead me to think about hands in general. How we describe them in our writing and when they become the center focus of a scene.

From a clean romance writer perspective, hands are often part of the romantic tension. How many ways can a couple hold hands?

Some examples:

  • Hands cupped together is less intimate than fingers entwined.
  • His thumb rubbing over her fingers, or her fingers feather light over the top of his hand are also intimate gestures.
  • His fingers tracing a pattern in her palm or her fingers roaming between his fingers as they sit and chat.

    hands-437968_640

    Clasped fingers are another romantic gesture.

 Hands play a big part in building romantic tension

A hand on the small of the back to guide a woman was considered good manners for centuries in America. But how much pressure is applied or the length it remains there can speak volumes. Is it a rough push or a gentle open palmed caress? The palm lingering long enough for the lady to notice can be either perceived as lecherous or loving.

In days gone by a man didn’t touch a woman’s ungloved hand. Women danced with gloves on.  Even the kissing of the hand was usually an air kiss or on the gloved hand. Bare skin touching was sensual.

portrait-317041_640

Hand squeezes

The amount of pressure on the hand can speak love, jealousy, anger or fear. All of the John Wayne/ Maureen O’Hara movies have the same an iconic scene repeated in each. Near the end of the movie John grabs Maureen’s hand and drags her home.  They make up and love blooms full.  Pretty sure in a modern story it wouldn’t be too believable.

  • A finger can stroke a wrist in a sensual fashion or put enough pressure on it to bruise.
  • A man whose wrestling with anger might fist his hands at his sides or dig his nails into his palms.
  • She can slap his face, scratch him or dig her nails into his palm while he holds her against her will.
  • He can apply a lot of pressure in a handshake to relay a message to his rival. Either: she’s mine, I’m the better man or even watch your back.

Hands aid tension

  • Arms and hands at the character’s side in surrender or as an act of defiance
  • In front of the face to cover a horrible sight or a laugh
  • Running through his hair in frustration
  • Fingers in his/her hair as part of a passionate kiss
  • She twists her hair between her fingers when thinking or worried
  • Moving a tendril of hair either their own or their love interests can attract attention or stir desire.
  • The position of a weapon in the hands of a character can tell the reader if they are frightened, determined or inexperienced.
  • An apparent calm character can reveal his fear with shaking hands.
  • Hanging by finger tips (we get what that indicates)
  • Hands on hips (female or male) usually relay aggravation or determination.
  • Hands grasping the arms as they’re crossed across the body can indicate both anger and fear.
  • Fingers trace objects to learn things like texture, density and temperature.
  • Those same fingers tracing skin can be looking for wounds, affection or a creepy outcome.

secret-2681508_640(1)

Hands are essential in description.

Sometimes hands are implied. He raised the rifle. We know he didn’t use his toes.  He reached for her. Unless he is an amputee we know he used his hands and arms to reach.

Hands and fingers can help layer the tension romantically, help solve a mystery or aid in murder.

Can you add to my list?

 

Don’t forget to subscribe if you’d like to receive this blog in your email.

Advertisements

Writing When Your World is Out of Control

 

14ba101fa8c31c24f6f047bbcbe32868

Photo courtesy of morguefile

 

I had a dream that my writing time was uninterrupted. No family drama or emergency took me away from my words. I stayed on task. All the items on my checklist from blogs, to edits to marketing were completed. Then the alarm went off and I woke to reality. And I’m not alone in the real world of writing during crisis. Several writer friends requested prayer or shared their own struggles with meeting deadlines while family tragedies formed around them.

 

484665892062d4dbb8c17fe028a65441

Photo courtesy of morguefile

 

Some are dealing with aging parents and Alzheimer, illness, or tough things with their adult children. Others, it’s teens in rebellion, little ones with special needs, spouses in the hospital and the list goes on.

We will have trials

We don’t get to quit our day jobs to deal with most of this stuff, and our writing is just as important. But we can adjust. One author writes only hundreds of words daily rather than thousands as she waits by the bedside of her ailing mother.

Taking the laptop to the library to distance oneself from family drama for a few hours a day is one way we writers cope.  Unfortunate circumstances beyond our control amplify the adage, “there is no perfect time to start writing.”

Jesus reminds us that in this world we will have trials. And as a Christian the second half of the verse rings true for me. He says, “I have overcome the world”. Praying and seeking His peace and clarity is so crucial during family drama.

Keep a journal

No, this is not the time to write about the trial.  You’re too close and your emotions too raw. Keep a journal or open a file on your computer and dump all your emotions there. Someday in the distant future all that angst will be fodder for a novel, article, or how-to-endure-family-drama book.

Keep moving forward

For now, you just put one foot in front of the other. Decide what things you need to let go while you deal with the emotional, physical or legal things associated with your trial. I hired a lawyer to deal with all the paperwork for my aging parents. After my father passed, my mother is happy in her assisted living facility. My son’s family lives with us at present and there are times we are responsible for the granddaughters. Drama at work can drain my energy reducing the number of writerly things I get done at the end of the day.  Individually, these are only mild hiccups, but when they all come at you like a flood it can send your writing schedule out to sea. And you find yourself struggling to catch a breath and regroup.

7383cb976a43e4e459a16cce62329b61

Once I established a way to deal with the small stuff the large chaotic surprises have a basic pattern to follow.

  • A few hundred words a day is better than none.
  • Go to the library or a café for a few hours to work
  • Turn off your cell phone if possible
  • Don’t accept a large project during a family drama
  • Have someone double check your work before submitting because your focus may be skewed now.
  • Ask for extensions but keep writing as if you don’t have one.
  • Reach out to family and friends for help. Don’t be a super hero. Not only will your writing suffer, but also those you care about most.

Anyone care to add to this list? I’d love to hear how you cope with big and small potholes along your writing journey.

Don’t forget to subscribe to receive new posts in your email.

 

Setting Mirrors Character Part 2

I’m picking up where I left off last post. I reviewed how the right setting helps the character reveal backstory and inner conflict in a natural way. Today I want to share a few examples of setting projecting mood.

secret-charades-front-cover

Secrets & Charades is my Historical Romance set in 1872. Dr. Evangeline Olson goes west as a mail order bride. A newly married couple who are strangers are going to be nervous and fearful until they get to know each other. Jake is a very practical man. Their first stop on their journey back to the ranch is at one of his line-cabins. It’s a soddie (a house constructed of dirt) that his men use if they are too far away from the ranch to make it home before dark. This is their non-honeymoon night based a a promise Jake made to Evangeline when they first met.

Evangeline scanned the dimly lit room. The lantern revealed bunk beds built right into the dirt wall, inhabited by insects. “That bed might move after all,” she muttered under her breath. “Would you prefer I cook?” She hoped her reluctance wasn’t obvious in her voice. “Show me what supplies you have.”

“I generally keep a few things on hand, but there’s other provisions in that box on the table. I’m gonna tend the horses. Watch the damper on the fireplace. It has a mind of its own.”

Evangeline’s hand trembled as she began the simple meal preparation. After placing two potatoes to bake in the hot ashes and securing a pan of beans on the fire, she set about cleaning the table with the underside of her dress. A spider met its demise as it crawled across the table.

“God,” she whispered. “I asked for a change. Help me make the best of it.”

As she reached into the box for the tin plates, she gave thanks for one blessing. “This is the least romantic place I could imagine. I hope Jake agrees.”

 

The dirt and dimness help emphasize her anxiety and her last line flows from her heart to her surroundings.

In this next example Jake takes her on a side trip on the last leg of the journey to the ranch. They visit the homestead he grew up in. This gives him an opportunity to tell her some unpleasant things about his past as they look at the run-down place.

 

Standing in the ruins of his past, Jake shared his history. “Ben taught my pa everythin’ he knew about ranchin’. They became good friends.”

“When did you move from here to your ranch?”

“After the war, I came home in pretty bad shape. The girl I’d hoped to marry had married my little brother, Robert.” Jake tried to sound matter-of-fact even though raw emotions lingered near the surface with his fatigue. “My pa died while I was off fightin’. I couldn’t bring myself to live in the same house with Robert and Nora, so I hired on as foreman for Ben.”

Evangeline nodded for him to go on.

“I was drinkin’ and carryin’ on, tryin’ to forget the war, not proud of my actions back then.” He removed his hat and wiped the sweat from his forehead with his sleeve. “Ben took me under his wing and showed me the light. Helped me forgive myself and receive God’s forgiveness. Came to Jesus because of Ben. I owe him my life.”

As they wander through the abandoned house and barn, Evangeline suggested they fix the place up. Her attitude gives him hope that this marriage can work.

There are times in the close confines of the wagon they fuss with each other because of fear and fatigue. Readers learn bits about their personalities as the story continues.

 

As you build your story world, think about places certain things can be revealed.  Places that seem natural for inner reflection or verbal sparring. I just completed a novella set in a blizzard on a ranch in Kansas. My settings are limited through most of the story. There are many scenes in the cabin, some in the barn. But key scenes take place out in the snowy woods, and in town.

th

Don’t just write a setting for setting sake. Your last vacation destination to Merrimac Caverns might not be the best setting. Unless, the fear and anxiety you experienced while the tour guide led you through the dark recesses fits your heroine’s escape plans. Then bring up all those observations and link them to your characters feelings.

A tour of downtown Aurora in New Duet was necessary for my readers to understand Isabella’s new life. Evangeline’s first visits to shops in Charleton, Texas in Secrets & Charades helps readers know her better as she met its inhabitants. And the store room on the snowbound ranch in my novella gives a feel for the past without lots of verbiage.

DSC_1325 - Copy(1)

What is your favorite scene from a novel that brought you closer to the characters?

 

 

 

 

 

How Setting Mirrors Characters Lives

 

The right setting can turn backstory into revelation. Where things are brought to light is as important as what is shared. As in real life the right setting can draw out truths. Some people think best when they are walking along their favorite path. A conversation over a cup of coffee with a good friend might open the door to sharing a secret. Changing a tire in the rain can bring out frustration and anger over things unrelated to the tire.

When I wrote my first two novels, various setting helped set the mood for what was going on with my characters. I love dialog, but spewing out information for the sake of information is so much backstory.

In my contemporary romance. New Duet, Isabella Wilson is rebuilding her life. Her controlling late husband and his mother told her how to think. Escaping to Aurora to start over is a big step for her. After reconnecting with her sister Mindy, the two of them go to lunch at an Irish Pub. Mindy points out all the interesting architectural features knowing Isabella’s artistic mind would enjoy the atmosphere. Here is a portion of Isabella’s inner thoughts as she enjoys the ambiance.

Isabella’s neck ached from trying to see every corner of the room without leaving her chair. She envisioned Maureen’s shocked expression if she saw them eating in a bar. The thought made Isabella smile. Not one muscle tightened into a cower. No carefully worded reply to the picture of Maureen’s scowl came to mind. Ming’s joyful presence was a buffer for her thoughts.

Notice how backstory is interwoven naturally.  We see how much her mother-in law and late husband still have control over her.

Here is a piece of dialog from the same setting that gives us more backstory without bemoaning her fate in a narrative info dump fashion.

Ming gave her a mischievous grin. “Guess what’s downstairs below this very restaurant.” She leaned forward. “The Basement of the Dead.”

“What?”

“A laser tag game where you get to shoot Zombies. On

Halloween, it has a pretty impressive haunted house.” She laughed and pointed. “That look on your face is priceless. All shock and awe.”

Isabella schooled her expression, embarrassed. “I’m sorry, the church Ron and I attended might have boycotted it.”

See how much more powerful the comments are in context of the setting?

I sent Isabella to an Art Gallery that featured Wounded Warrior Art and Photos. She is trying to coax her artist muse back to life. The final photograph helps her resolve to overcome. The soldier is in his formal army uniform with all his medals. He is seated in a wheel chair with a leg of his uniform folded up. She sees something familiar in his eyes.

6aff135e6f65170d297c3bfc6635ce26

Isabella gazed at the photo a while longer. If this soldier could exude peace with his visible wounds, she could seek that same peace with her internal ones. Father, I want to try. Confidence rested on her shoulders for the first time.

Artists feed their souls with art. Isabella finding confidence and peace from a well-done photograph fits her character and makes it believable that she would respond as she does. It’s not preachy but natural.

In my next post I’ll share examples of how the setting mirrors the mood of a character in a scene.

 

 

If you don’t want to miss a post be sure to subscribe and receive Jubilee Writer in your inbox twice a week.

Tell me what you really really want

Question Marks

Since I started this blog in 2010 I’ve shared a variety of writerly things and interviewed some fantastic authors. Today I decided to open it up to my readers to give me suggestions. What writerly things would you like to see on my blog? Are there favorite authors or upcoming authors you’d like to see on my site? I want to always be relevant so share with me your ideas.

What is one or a few things you’d love to know more about as a writer? Do you have some writing tips you’d love to share?

 

secret-charades-front-cover

Secrets & Charades has won three awards

 

Post your ideas here and I’ll get on them. I’ll bring guests aboard to address things that I lack knowledge.

I hate to post a blog for the sake of posting one. There are times I only post once a week rather than twice because I didn’t have something of value to share.

 

NewDuet_1400(1)

New Duet is more than just a romance.

 

Asking you all for input will continue to bring value to Jubilee Writer.

I want to be the best encouragement I can for fellow-writers. Tell me what you need.

If you would rather email me or message me on Facebook you may. Please don’t ask me to post negative things about anyone in the writing field.

 

51d8pzaoBSL._AA300_

Secrets & Charades audio version is doing well. Meghan Kelley is a wonderful narrator.

 

 

Looking forward to your ideas.

If you’re not a  subscriber and want to be you can receive a new post in your email when they are available.

 

 

Author Emily-Jane Hill Orford Stops By

 Emily-Jane Hill Orford is an award-winning Jubilee Writer gracing my blog. I’m so excited to have her share her life experience with us. Her journey is similar to mine. Welcome Emily-Jane. Tell my readers a little about your writing journey.

photoEmily-JaneHills Orford

I have always loved writing. I grew up in a family of storytellers. We would sit around the dinner table sharing our stories. Being the youngest, I found myself listening more than sharing my stories. So, as soon as I could write, I wrote my stories. I particularly enjoy writing stories about real people, real life and started my writing career in the late 1970s writing for small publications, telling people’s stories and writing about interesting places. I still enjoy writing these types of stories, but my passion for fiction insists that I write novels as well.

I wrote a lot of food/recipe stories in the 1970s and 1980s and I had a wonderful editor who took the time to help me hone my writing skills. I also started writing book reviews about this time, delving into what was current in the publishing world and learning my craft by studying the writing art of others. I still write food stories and book reviews.

My creative inspiration? My grandmother was a wonderful storyteller and she had a passion for reading, too, which she shared with me. My mother was very creative in writing, photography, needleart, art and she encouraged me in all my creative ventures, often teaching me along the way. My father, an engineer, was the practical influence, but later on he took up writing as well and encouraged me with mine. We helped each other: Dad would edit my work and I edited his, until he passed away.

What a wonderful legacy. Emily, what is your current publishing project.

My most recent novel, “Queen Mary’s Daughter” (Clean Reads 2018), is historical fiction/fantasy, a completely new genre for me. There were a lot of things that led me to write “Queen Mary’s Daughter”. My grandmother and I had a special relationship and, when I was old enough, we travelled together a lot. One special trip took us to Scotland where we traced her childhood memories (she was born in Scotland) as well as followed the trail of Mary Queen of Scots. We had been enjoying a number of novels and biographies about the ill-fated queen and my grandmother ignited my interest by telling me about ancestors who helped in her escape from Loch Leven Castle. I always wanted to write about Queen Mary, but it wasn’t until the Brexit debacle and the ongoing desire of the Scottish people to separate from England, that I started looking more closely at the stories around Queen Mary. I knew she had given birth, prematurely, to twins while imprisoned at Loch Leven. History records that the babies died at birth and were buried on the island where the castle sat. An interesting footnote states that the location of the burial and the babies’ remains have never been found. So, I started thinking, ‘what if?’. What if there had been another heir to the Scottish throne and Scotland never did amalgamate with England and Ireland? And my story unfolded.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford QueenMarysDaughter453X680

How interesting. I understand you also write middle grade novels.

I’ve just signed a contract with Tell-Tale Publishing for a Middle Grade fantasy series, “The Piccadilly Street Stories”. “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost”, the first book in the series, due (hopefully) to be released just before Christmas, delves into dreams and ghosts and little people, touched with a bit of magic. My grandmother always told me I had a vivid imagination. In some ways, this series is completely different from anything else I’ve written so far, but in other ways it’s very similar as I’m creating a plot based on some things that happened to me as a child. And, interspersed in all this are key topics affecting our youth today, especially the issue of bullying.

Love the idea. How do you research your books.

I read a lot of books (real books): history, biography, fiction. I also use the internet. Who wouldn’t in this day and age. It’s quick, easily accessible and more current. But one has to be careful what sites to believe. There’s a lot of garbage and falsehoods on the internet, along with all the good stuff.

I’d say amen to being careful of the internets’ information.

When did you realize your calling to create words on paper to share with the world?

I was the youngest of a family of four. We had a large extended family: lots of cousins, aunts and uncles.         Everyone was a storyteller and everyone wanted to be heard. As the youngest, I always had a difficult time getting a word in edgewise. So, I listened. And, as soon as I could write, I started writing my own stories. My mom kept a lot of my stories. I found them tucked away in a box after she passed away. What fun reading through things I had written when I was a child.

Do you have a favorite quote that resonates with you?

“I live to write, so I shall never die.” A quote from a master of verse, author and poet, Diana M. Raab composes eloquent synopses, postcard captions of isolated events, people, and emotions. From the ordinary to the extra-ordinary, to the reflective, the simple and sometimes the mundane act of just being alive, Raab invites us into her world, into her life. She is honest, compassionate and, at times, surreal; but, all in all, her life is very real. All life is very real.

The quote provides a touch or immortality into the written words of an author and, in a way, the author    as well.

If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?

The same advice I give my writing students: Believe in yourself and just write. Ignore the critics and the publishers who don’t appreciate your writing and remember that just because one person rejects or trashes your work, it doesn’t mean it’s not good enough. As readers, we don’t like everything we read, so why should everyone like what we write?

Who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?

Sticking to a routine. I make sure I write every morning for at least an hour: updating my journal, working on my current novel, writing articles (I currently contribute regularly to a gardening blog: https://insteading.com as well as contributing short family memoirs to http://www.curiousguide.ca), and keeping up with my book reviewing (I’m a regular reviewer on https://readersfavorite.com). I make time each day to update my marketing initiatives: blog interviews, blog posts, etc. I have other passions, like painting, composing, playing the piano and working in the garden. So, I fit all these other creative pursuits into my day before returning to my writing again later. Routine is the key. If I break the routine, I lose the momentum. And, if I have to endure a long wait in a doctor’s or dentist’s office, I always have a notebook (a real paper one) on hand to jot down some ideas and, yes sometimes, even write while I wait.

Your passion for writing is very clear in your discipline. In all your reading what is your favorite genre to read for fun?

I love reading a lot of genres. I guess I could narrow my favorites down to two: mysteries and historical fiction.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I have an antique spinet desk positioned by a large picture window that looks out into my wooded front yard. I feel a little like Jane Austen when I sit at this desk, even though I’m writing on a laptop instead of on paper.

Must be a beautiful spot. Thanks so much for stopping by. I’m sure your journey will inspire many of my readers.

More about Emily-Jane:

Emily-Jane Hills Orford is an award-winning author of several books, including Gerlinda (CFA 2016) which received an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards, To Be a Duke (CFA 2014) which was named Finalist and Silver Medalist in the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and received an Honorable Mention in the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards. She writes about the extra-ordinary in life and her books, short stories, and articles are receiving considerable attention. For more information on the author, check out her website at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca

Author Links:

 

Website: http://emilyjanebooks.ca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/realpeoplestories

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ejhomusic

Blog: http://beyondtheordinaryincanadianstories.blogspot.ca/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1732544.Emily_Jane_Hills_Orford

 

Purchase Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.ca/Queen-Marys-Daughter-Emily-Jane-Orford-ebook/dp/B079DMRRR8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1517317427&sr=8-1&keywords=queen+mary%27s+daughter

 

Synopsis of  Queen Mary’s Daughter

 

There are so many possibilities that affect the course of history. One change, one small item overlooked, can make a world of difference, not only in a person’s life, but in the history and well-being of an entire nation. And then there are those multiple scenarios of what if? What if King James VI of Scotland didn’t succeed in amalgamating Scotland with England? What if there had been another heir to the throne of Scotland? One who would secure its independence? Would Scotland have remained free and independent and a nation of its own well into the twenty-first century? And would Scotland, this independent version, make its own decision to join the European Union when its southern neighbor was choosing to pull away?

If you enjoy author interviews and writing tips subscribe to have Jubilee Writer come to your email evry time there is a new post.

An Out of the Box Book Signing Venue

DSC_1315Finding places for book signings can be such a hassle. The possibilities of sales are risky. When I wrote my latest release New Duet I placed it in Aurora, Illinois with the intention of garnering a fan base from my hometown. To gain those readers I had to have book signings locally.  Which required me to leave my writing cave. One of the settings in my book is an Art gallery frame shop called If These Walls Could Talk. The owners support the arts. My heroine Isabella goes there to view the artwork and gains inspiration for her life.

DSC_1358

When I approached the owners about having a book signing they were excited. Aurora has entertainment every first Friday of the month from April to October. We agreed First Friday in August would be the perfect time to showcase me. Each First Friday has a theme. In a city of 200,00 there are activities at various venues down town.

DSC_1389

If These Walls Could Talk arranged to have the block in front of their store closed off for an Artist Block Party. The artist set up on the block to sell their wares. Many created pieces during the night. One woman held an art class for passersby. There were no other authors there.

 

DSC_1381

Notice the easel, paints and military items. These represent the characters of Isabella and Dan in New Duet.

 

The shop offered light refreshments and a wine tasting to those who came by to see the art inside. Jennifer is a smart marketer. She displayed my books in her window for two weeks before the event and they will remain for two weeks after. My book trailer played on a loop in the window.

I sold more books then I have at any event. Patrons came in and I mention my book was set in Aurora and this shop was one of the scenes. That intrigued them. (Key marketing point: Talk to people don’t just sit behind your table and hope to sell books.) I had copies of my historical romance Secrets & Charades on the table and those sold as well.

People who wouldn’t normally buy inspiration romance or shop in a Christian bookstore purchased New Duet. I found avid readers who were thrilled to get an autographed copy from a local author. The art community is a great supporter of one another. Often we forget writing a novel is an art form.

DSC_1390

I met ladies who are part of a book club. Who knows I may get featured there.

Getting my face out there in a non-typical book signing setting was fun and hopefully brings me new fans.

I offered a chance to win a $10 amazon card if they signed up for my e-newsletter.

I’d do another event like this in a heartbeat.

How about you? What venues were gold for you?

If you’ve enjoyed this post and would like to recieve new ones in your email please sign up.