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Seekerville: The Journey Continues

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TO STRIVE, TO SEEK...

By Guest Blogger Richard Mabry

Most of us are aware of the five interlocking rings that are the Olympic symbol. But I suspect that many are unfamiliar with the motto that goes along with that symbol. It’s Citius, Altius, Fortius, which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger.” Participants have hardly completed the games before they’re already planning for the next one. And their training is aimed at letting them go faster, allowing them to leap higher, strengthening muscles that are already strong by normal standards. They never stop improving. And that should also be the goal of each of us who writes, whether we’re as-yet unpublished or the author of numerous books.

TO STRIVE, TO SEEK...

At one of the first writing conferences I attended, I had the temerity (or stupidity—take your choice) to approach an editor and pitch my book to him. Probably to get rid of me, he told me to submit the whole thing to him and he would read it. I didn’t know any better, so I wasn’t surprised when I got notification from him that he was taking it to the Pub Board. Those of you who know how the publishing world works will be amazed that an unpublished writer with so little experience would have such a thing happen. I wasn’t. I took it as a usual thing and was genuinely surprised when I was notified that the Pub Board turned down the book. Looking back on the event, I wonder that my book got this far. It still resides on my hard drive and will probably never see the light of day unless I rewrite it.
Why did this happen? Because I didn’t know enough about writing when I composed it. I didn’t even know enough to realize how much I had to learn. I needed to become much more proficient at the craft. Eventually I did, but I did it by learning the fundamentals, studying, practicing, and striving to constantly improve. And I’ll try never to stop.
When I was practicing medicine, I initially attended conventions and conferences to learn more about my specialty. Later, I was fortunate enough to be in a position to lecture at the same conferences, but although I was a teacher I made it a practice to continue attending the sessions held by others. Why? I realized that medicine was constantly evolving, and my level of knowledge was never as high as I needed it to be. It was best for both my patients and me if I continued to constantly learn.
Doesn’t the same thing apply with writers? Just as we expect our physicians to keep up and improve, don’t our readers expect that our next book will be even better than our last? When I attend a writer’s conference, I always want to leave with one or more pearls that I can apply to my writing. Perhaps I learn a way to make transitions between scenes smoother. Maybe it’s a method for displaying what my protagonist really wants and the danger he or she faces if that doesn’t happen. Whatever I can glean, I try never to stop learning.
But reading and listening only goes so far. Then comes practice—writing, and rewriting, and rewriting again. Of course, writing without constructive criticism by an accomplished person is meaningless. Practice doesn’t make perfect if we keep making the same mistakes again and again with each repetition. Comments by your mother or a friend are nice to receive, but what matters most to me is when a fellow writer tells me that he or she especially likes—or doesn’t like— something in a book I’ve written. The struggle for each of us to improve our work never stops, nor should it. We continue to strive for “faster, higher, stronger.”

TO STRIVE, TO SEEK...

When I had completed my most recent novel, GuardedPrognosis,  I proudly showed the finished product to my wife, who is my first reader. She’ has always been both my biggest fan and my severest critic, and she pulled no punches with her assessment of this one. I was proud of my opening sequence and the story arc that followed, but she pointed out that it failed to get her attention (and would likely do the same with my readers). Instead, she suggested an alternate story arc which would be timely and intriguing. It required my essentially rewriting about half my already-completed novel, and every author reading this knows how much we hate that. But I did it. And it worked. Why did I do it? Because I could see that I was resting on my laurels, instead of seeking to write a better novel.
I’m not an authority on the poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, but I think the last line of his poem, Ulysses, is applicable here. Ulysses and his companions have done it all, so to speak, but he exhorts them not to rest on their laurels. They are to keep on until the end— “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” Every writer should have those lines above their desk. Every book, even the ones turned down by a publisher, should be better than the one before. To do less is unfair to everyone concerned…including the author.
Are you striving?
*     *     *

TO STRIVE, TO SEEK...
Dr.Richard Mabry is a retired physician, now writing “medical mystery with heart.” His novels have garnered critical acclaim and been finalists for a number of awards. He and his wife live in north Texas, where he strives to improve his golf game and his writing.





 






What Makes 1776 a Great Story? History... and Sacrifice



With Commitment Came Freedom!

What Makes 1776 a Great Story? History... and Sacrifice

Ruthy here, and since we were closed on Wednesday, July 4th, but open on Thursday, July 5th, only Thursday is a carryover day from Wednesday, then we'd be officially closed on Wednesday and Thursday and that's wrong with a capital "W"! And how was that for a run-on sentence, darlings?

So in keeping with the themes of patriotism, faith, hope, love, sacrifice and romance, we're going to dissect the award-winning Broadway musical (and then film) "1776" starring William Daniels, Blythe Danner, Ken Howard, Howard DaSilva and Virginia Vestoff among many others.

What breaks this musical down into what we love as viewers and/or readers?

1. Emotions

Any patriot will appreciate the deep emotions of both sides of the political debate that raged during the Second Continental Congress. Ripping a colony away from the mother country, especially a mother country that is big on money and power and manpower and weaponry seems absolutely foolhardy in the present... but in retrospect we see that it was the right thing to do.

But those emotions pull the viewer in. Not just the debate of liberty... but the frustration of argument, proving points, gathering votes. And the major frustration of being away from one's wife for months at a time while illness raged throughout New England and the South and medicine only had a rare solution. How tough that must have been!

What Makes 1776 a Great Story? History... and Sacrifice

2. Romance

The beautiful sacrificial romance between John and Abigail Adams is a heart-tugger, but they also make it funny... which draws the viewer in. Romance should have an element of fun, teasing, laughter. What if they'd done the whole thing dripping with sadness?  OY.

"There's one thing every woman's missed in Massachusetts Bay," sings Abby...

John smirks... because of course it must be him they're missing!

"Don't smirk at me, you egotist, pay heed to what I say!" she sings back to him.

Smiling. Laughing. Grinning... as if they were together, but they're not, they're bound by letters that take far too long to get from fetid, foggy, fuming, foggy, filthy... Philadelphia!

And what about Thomas Jefferson (Howard) and his lovely Martha? (Blythe Danner)

Oh be still my heart because poor Tom couldn't keep his mind on writing a declaration of anything except true love right about then after a long enforced separation from his beloved...

And John Adams sent for Martha figuring that once Tom's problem was solved... the country's need for a Declaration of Independence would be solved, too.

What Makes 1776 a Great Story? History... and Sacrifice


3. Difficulty that we can relate to:

90 degrees.... No air. Open the windows and you get flies... so many flies!

Keep the windows closed and the heat builds and builds. If you've never visited Independence Park in Philadelphia, it is so worth the trip. The viewing, the setting, seeing your ancestors or our forefathers as it would have been nearly 250 years ago!

Keeping food fresh in hot conditions

Being away from family.

War: loss of life, loss of property, loss of standing. A lot to lose for people whho were loyal to the crown if the revolutionaries win.

What Makes 1776 a Great Story? History... and Sacrifice

4. Great music:

I love this musical score. I love the whole thing (with the exception of Cool, Cool, Considerate Men that they left out of the movie... it was slow and kind of meaningless... ) but when the young messenger soldier sings "Mama! Look Sharp!" about a mother searching for her dying son's body after a battle... oh be still my heart.


"Sit Down, John!" A wonderful musical tribute to John Adams' legacy of being slightly difficult to get along with as a general rule, but a man of commitment! Oh, wouldn't we love that today?


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKEE0ol9tpo


And  for romance poignancy:  the beautiful song from John to Abby and back to John...

"Yours, Yours, Yours..."

How he misses her once Martha has joined Tom in the city... When he begs her to come to Philadelphia, but it's impossible. Children with measles and a failing farm. And Abby handles it all... alone.

The viewer/reader feels the true emotion of their loneliness... the depth of their sacrifice for a cause so much greater than sexual satisfaction... but being married and in love and normal... they miss what a normal life and marriage would bring, but they hold tight, supporting one another from afar to attain a cause far greater than married love... Freedom.

A strong and satisfying conclusion:

The declaration... written finally.... is adopted by all thirteen colonies with New York originally abstaining, then approving.

Freedom.... adopted. And then fought for and won as blood spilled.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal... that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are Life... Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

And so we go on this 5th of July, 2018.

What is your favorite part of history, American or general history? What draws you in? What makes it meaningful?

What Makes 1776 a Great Story? History... and Sacrifice


I've got bread pudding here (a big New England favorite) and a Low Country boil going on as a nod to our Southern colonies that joined in the quest for freedom. 

Coffee's ready! 

Multi-published, bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne is loving life, liberty and her personal pursuit of happiness which includes but is not limited to writing beautiful stories with unforgettable characters... just like the kind of books she likes to read! Follow her on facebook or stop by her website ruthloganherne.com She'd love to meet you!


Layering In Texture and Emotion

Layering In Texture and Emotion
Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

Today I want to talk about my favorite part of the writing process.  Once I finish the first draft of a book, I get to dig into the polishing phase. In addition to cleaning things up and making sure there are no loose threads I forgot to wrap up, this is the phase where I go in and look for ways to layer in texture and emotion.



Texture is about specificity. It includes the specific detail you need to include in order to convey feelings, color, atmosphere, setting – in other words, it’s about allowing your readers to immerse themselves in your scene with all of their senses. To do this you add descriptors and sensory words, but you do this with surgical precision – too much and you risk bloating your prose, too little and you miss opportunities to paint a vivid picture for your reader.


Layering In Texture and Emotion


I always do better with examples, so I’m going to draw from the opening of one of my books, A Matter Of Trust.

Here is the stripped down, bare bones version:

“The preacher’s cat is an elegant cat.”
“The preacher’s cat is a frightened cat.”
“The preacher’s cat is a gregarious cat.”
“Gregarious.”  Toby drew the word out.  “What does that mean, Ma?”
Lucy Ames smiled down at the boy walking beside her. 
“It means to be sociable, to want to be part of a group of other folk rather than off by yourself all the time.” 
“Oh.”
Lucy watched him mentally file away her definition.  Her sweet little boy. 
She stepped over a root and paused while Toby studied a beetle.  They’d been strolling along for about thirty minutes, and the creek crossing was just up ahead.  Some of the choicest blackberries in the county grew there. 
Once they’d picked enough for Lucy to make a cobbler or two, they’d eat the picnic lunch she’d packed. 
A noisy commotion from somewhere up ahead caught her attention.
Toby whispered,  “What’s that?”
I told you it was bare bones - not much sense of place or anything else here - mainly just talking heads.

Now here it is after I add in a texturing layer (noted in blue text):

“The preacher’s cat is an elegant cat.”
“The preacher’s cat is a frightened cat.”
“The preacher’s cat is a gregarious cat.”
“Gregarious.”  Toby drew the word out as he stretched the band on his slingshot.  “What does that mean, Ma?”
Lucy Ames smiled down at the boy walking beside her. 
“It means to be sociable, to want to be part of a group of other folk rather than off by yourself all the time.”   Lucy pointed to the floppy-eared dog capering along beside them.  “For example, Jasper here is very gregarious, but Mustard, for all his skills as a mouser, isn’t.” 
“Oh.”
Lucy watched him mentally file away her definition.  Her sweet little boy. 
Then she hitched her shoulder, shifting the weight of the basket she carried.  It was a beautiful day here in the dappled shade of the woods, and they had an afternoon of picnicking and berry picking ahead of them.
She stepped over a knobby root and paused while Toby and Jasper studied a large beetle lumbering up the side of a hickory treeShe inhaled, drawing in the scent of pine needles and just a hint of honeysuckle.  They’d been strolling alongthis leaf-carpeted trail through the woods for about thirty minutes, and the creek crossing was just past the bit of heavy brush up ahead.  Some of the choicest blackberries in the county grew there. 
Once they’d picked enough for Lucy to make a cobbler or two, they’d eat the picnic lunch she’d packed. 
A noisy commotion from somewhere up ahead caught her attention.
Toby whispered,  “What’s that?”
This version is a bit better. Hopefully I’ve added enough detail here to give the reader a sense of place, enough to help her really visualize the setting.

But we can do better. Where Texture is all about grounding the reader in your scene, Emotion is about subtext, nuance, feelings, mood – in other words, it’s about allowing your readers to engage with the characters in your story.


Layering In Texture and Emotion


Using the same scene, here is how I layered in the emotion (again in blue text):

“The preacher’s cat is an elegant cat.”
“The preacher’s cat is a frightened cat.”
“The preacher’s cat is a gregarious cat.”
“Gregarious.”  Toby drew the word out as he stretched the band on his slingshot.  “What does that mean, Ma?”
Lucy Ames smiled down at the boy walking beside her.  The Preacher’s Cat was a favorite game of Toby’s.  He collected new words like other six-year-olds collected rocks and bugs.
“It means to be sociable, to want to be part of a group of other folk rather than off by yourself all the time.”   Lucy pointed to the floppy-eared dog capering along beside them.  “For example, Jasper here is very gregarious, but Mustard, for all his skills as a mouser, isn’t.” 
“Oh.”
Lucy watched him mentally file away her definition.  Her sweet, curious, intelligent little boy, so precious to her.  Now that her mother was gone, he was all she had that truly mattered.
Her smile faltered at that reminder, and she pressed a hand lightly against her bodice, comforted by the feel of her mother’s locket, cool against her skin.  Then she hitched her shoulder, shifting the weight of the basket she carried.  It was a beautiful day, tranquil here in the dappled shade of the woods, and they had an afternoon of picnicking and berry picking ahead of them.Time to concentrate on her blessings, not her losses.
She stepped over a knobby root and paused while Toby and Jasper studied a large beetle lumbering up the side of a hickory tree. She inhaled, drawing in a feeling of serenity along withthe scent of pine needles and just a hint of honeysuckle.   There was no need to hurry, no sense of urgency.  After all, the walk was as much a part of the outing as the destination.  They’d been strolling along this leaf-carpeted trail through the woods for about thirty minutes, and the creek crossing was just past the bit of heavy brush up ahead.  Some of the choicest blackberries in the county grew there. 
Once they’d picked enough for Lucy to make a cobbler or two, Toby’s favorite treat, they’d eat the picnic lunch she’d packed.  Afterwards, they could wiggle their toes in the creek, or look for cloud pictures, or--
A noisy commotion from somewhere up ahead caught her attention. At the same time, Toby reached for her hand.  “Ma,” he whispered,  “What’s that?”

In the above version, I’ve added in the cues to let you in on what the characters are felling, how they view the world around them and each other. I’ve given you more reason to care about them and reason to feel things more deeply when their peace is shattered, which it will be in the next few paragraphs 😊.

Adding layers to your story is not difficult, but it does take a deft touch.  It’s important to pay attention to your story as a whole, but especially those key scenes in your story. Give your readers layers to discover, to absorb, to delight in. And they will reward you by returning to your writing again and again.


Layering In Texture and Emotion

So now it's your turn.  Do you have any tips on how you go about adding layers to your work? Any examples you find particularly well done?

Comment below to be added into a drawing for a copy of A Matter Of Trust, the book I drew my example from. Or, if you prefer, you can select any book from my backlist.


A MATTER OF TRUST

Layering In Texture and Emotion
Texas, 1892 - He’s a man with a mission...
When Lucy Ames rescues a stranger from being beaten and robbed, she can’t just leave the man to die. But with her reputation in town already in tatters, how can she take this wounded man into her home? All she can do is what’s right…and hope for the best. Unlike Lucy, Toby, her little boy, is delighted to have a man in the house. As much as Lucy wants the man gone, she can’t begrudge Toby the kind of father figure he’s never had before. 

On a self-assigned mission to locate his nephew, Reed Wilder can’t believe his luck when he realizes his beautiful rescuer is the strumpet who beguiled his arrow-straight brother. But she’s not at all what he expected. She’s independent and feisty and…captivating. 

Before either of them realize it, Lucy and Reed fall in love. But how can their relationship survive the secrets that plague them both?



TO STRIVE, TO SEEK...What Makes 1776 a Great Story? History... and SacrificeLayering In Texture and Emotion

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