Category Archives: Guests

Guest Post: Host Your Own Writers’ Retreat by Fae Rowen

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Thank you to Fae Rowen for this article, which was first published on Writers in the Storm.

 

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It’s been almost ten years since I hosted my first writers’ retreat. It was a low-key get together for my five-person critique group, which had been meeting for just a few months.

We already met weekly for face-to-face chapter critiques, but we wanted time to discuss writing, trade ideas and things we’d learned from books, conferences, and hard work. I volunteered my house and the food (breakfast and lunch).

I made sure all the food was prepared—a quiche and fruit salad for breakfast and a salad bar for lunch, with chocolate goodies for dessert. I wouldn’t have to spend any time “in the kitchen” other than to set out our meals, and I knew everyone would help.

It turned out that life interrupted and only two of us ended up spending our writers’ retreat day together. That turned out to be a really good thing. At that time, Laura Drake and I didn’t know each other that well.

I’d gone through my library and pulled out the craft books that I had duplicates of. I also had a Goal-Motivation-Conflict poster board, gridded off for placing sticky notes for plotting. I piled up my stack of RWA chapter newsletters, a couple of thesauruses, a dictionary and notes with craft and industry tips. Laura brought craft books she no longer needed and magazines, along with books she really liked.

We looked through each other’s offerings and pulled out things we wanted to keep. Actually I think I took all her stuff and she took all mine. It was like an exciting yard sale, because we got to share what we loved and convince each other of the value of our reference books. We talked about plotting—we’re both still pantsers—and GMC. We shared our dreams of getting agents and publishing lots of books.

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Guest Post: “The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon” by Edward Poynter from The Joy of Museums

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Thank you to The Joy of Museums for the wonderful explanation of this painting:

'The_Visit_of_the_Queen_of_Sheba_to_King_Solomon',_oil_on_canvas_painting_by_Edward_Poynter,_1890,_Art_Gallery_of_New_South_Wales

 

“The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon” by Edward Poynter

“The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon” by Edward Poynter depicts the story from the Hebrew Bible in which the Queen of Sheba visits Solomon the King of Israel and a son of King David. The Bible describes how the fame of Solomon’s wisdom and wealth had spread so far and wide, that the Queen of Sheba decided to visit and see for herself if the stories were real.

The queen came bearing gifts including gold, spices, and precious stones and King Solomon responded in kind and gave her “all her desire, whatsoever she asked,” and she left satisfied (1 Kings 10:10). Nearly 3,000 years later, the visit of the Queen of Sheba continues to inspire the creative imagination and has become the subject of many stories that have inspired many artists.

The land of Sheba has been identified as Saba, a nation on the coast of the Red Sea and was part of what are now Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Yemen. An Ethiopian account from the 14th-century purports that the Queen of Sheba had sexual relations with King Solomon and gave birth to a son. Ethiopian tradition holds that the son grew up to become King Menelik I, and to found a dynasty that would reign for nearly 3,000 years until Haile Selassie was overthrown in 1974. King Menelik was said to be a practicing Jew who was given a replica of the Ark of the Covenant by King Solomon. Ethiopian tradition states that the original Ark was switched and went to Ethiopia, and is still there, guarded by the Christian Church. The Ethiopian government and church deny all requests to view the alleged ark.

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Guest Post: Altering the Reader’s Perspective by Ryan Lanz

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Thank you to Ryan Lanz of A Writer’s Path for this excellent article about word choice in fiction writing.

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Who doesn’t like the thought of being able to direct someone’s thoughts or emotions? Sure, it’s typically in fantasy only, but I’m sure most have skirted around the thought. When we imagine someone doing so, it’s usually an evil villain’s doing, involving elbow-length gloves and an over-sized, veiny head.

But actually, we writers do this all the time. We use words at the tip of our brushes to paint the reader’s emotions. We essentially angle wording in a way to guide the reader how to feel.

Now, you may be thinking, “Ryan, that’s ridiculous. The readers come to their own conclusions.” And yes, they do. However, let’s visit an example.

Brian turned toward me and held the baseball bat in front of him. He looked around before heading in my direction. He passed, then he laughed.

Compare that to:

Brian swiveled on his heel and reached across the table for the tip of the baseball bat’s handle. He held it front of him for a moment before his eyes flicked up toward me. The distance between us dripped away. At the exact moment he passed, he chuckled in my ear.

It sounds a heck of a lot creepier the second time, doesn’t it? The information essentially stayed the same, although I intentionally chose verbs and descriptive words that I knew would paint this character as creepy.

Writers do this all the time. Here are a few other swaps you can do. See how they change your perception.

To continue reading, click here.

 

Guest Post: Upcycled Meat?!?

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Guest Post: Upcycled Meat?!?

Thank you to Donna of My OBT, who curated these wonderful leftover-turkey recipes for us.

My OBT

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Guest Post: Avoiding First Chapter Blunders by Ryan Lanz

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Thank you to Ryan Lanz, who blogs about the craft of writing on A Writer’s Path.

Open Book

 

You’ve got your idea. Your characters are fleshed out. The setting is crystallized in your mind.

You power up the laptop, and you place your fingers on the keys. Chapter one.

There’s a magic in that. You can practically feel the readers forming an orderly line to purchase your book, even before you finish the first paragraph. But what do you want to accomplish? What are the things to avoid in your first chapter? In this post, we’ll look at the nitty-gritty of a novel’s first chapter.

What are you looking to accomplish?
In a first chapter, you have several things that you want to accomplish and clue the reader on. This is not an exhaustive list, but let’s look at some common items.

  • Identify a protagonist
  • Establish something the protagonist wants
  • Set the tone for the book
  • Make a few promises
  • Indicate what time/place in history
  • Present an immediate conflict/issue

To continue reading, click here.

Guest Post: 5 Techniques to Make Your Readers Laugh by Lisa Wells

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Guest Post: 5 Techniques to Make Your Readers Laugh by Lisa Wells

A big ARHtistic License thank you to the hysterical Lisa Wells for these humor-writing tips, which first appeared on Writers in the Storm.

Every book needs a dose of laughter. Even hard-core, freak-out scary stuff needs a scene or a sentence or a word intended to allow the reader a moment to breathe out some of the tension you’ve mummified them in for pages and pages and breathe in ease.

This post will acquaint you with five make-them-laugh techniques you can choose from when you want to give your readers a giggle, chuckle, snigger or even a good old-fashioned, snorting,  belly laugh.

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Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

5. K — the sound it makes is the funniest letter

This rule appears to be universally agreed upon by comedians. So much so, that in Neil Simon’s 1972 play The Sunshine Boys, there’s a scene in which an aging comedian schools his nephew on comedy and the letter k:

“Fifty-seven years in this business, you learn a few things. You know what words are funny and which words are not funny. Alka Seltzer is funny. You say ‘Alka Seltzer’ you get a laugh … Words with k in them are funny. Casey Stengel, that’s a funny name. Robert Taylor is not funny. Cupcake is funny. Tomato is not funny. Cookie is funny. Cucumber is funny. Car keys. Cleveland … Cleveland is funny. Maryland is not funny. Then, there’s chicken. Chicken is funny. Pickle is funny. Cab is funny. Cockroach is funny — not if you get ’em, only if you say ’em.”

This is an easy way to add a touch of subtle humor to your writing. Any author can give the diner their character is hiding out in a funny k-name. (Crunchy Cracker Café). By the way, according to my research, these sounds are funniest when you put them in the middle of sentences. (I don’t write the rules — I’m just reporting them.)

Closeup portrait of a group of business people laughing

4. Shock

If you want to make your readers laugh, shock them. According to Author Scott Dikkers in his book How To Write Funny, this funny filter includes anything you shouldn’t say in mixed company.  He also says it’s a method best used like a garnish. Never the main course.

Example: The television series The Black List deals with grim storylines. The kind that make you me want to close your eyes and turn down the sound. Here is one example of how they used shock to elicit laughter in the midst of a tense scene in which Reddington is trying to extract information from a guy who is part of an illegal organ transplant ring. The bad guy has a heart condition, and Reddington (the bad guy you can’t help but love) has spiked his drink with Viagra.

“Those drinks you’ve been enjoying on the house? They weren’t from the house. They were from me. I hope you don’t mind. I took the liberty of adding a special surprise ingredient. Something to treat any localized dysfunction you may be suffering. Has the little man been falling down on the job? It’s a miracle drug, not so much for a glutton with a bum heart, however. But look on the bright side, you’ll die with a marvelous erection.”

woman laughing white holding knees

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3. Misdirection

As an author, you can easily set your readers up to they think they know what’s going to come next — and then throw them a curveball.  An example of this can be found in another scene from the show The Black List.  The character, Reddington, is standing in front of this huge portrait of a woman hanging on the wall in someone’s house, and he says:

“Last night I got up for a scoop of orange sherbet and she caught my eye. I just stood here in the dark, squinting at her. She’s breathtakingly unattractive.”

The curveball is the word unattractive. Up until this point, the audience thinks he’s going to wax poetic about her beauty, and he doesn’t. Not only is she unattractive, she’s breathtakingly unattractive. Breathtakingly misdirects us to think beautiful. Had he said very unattractive, the laugh wouldn’t have come. But he used a word that our brains are trained to pair with the word beautiful. We were misdirected, and as a result, we laughed.

To continue reading, click here.

Guest Post: “White House at Night” by Vincent van Gogh from The Joy of Museums

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Thank you to The Joy of Museums for insights and background on this painting.

Whitehousenight

“White House at Night” by Vincent van Gogh

“White House at Night” by Vincent van Gogh was created six weeks before his death. It is thought that van Gogh painted “White House at Night” around 8:00 PM based on the position of the “star” in the painting. Astronomers calculated that the star in the picture must be Venus which was bright in the evening sky in June 1890.

According to the Museum, this painting:

“expresses the great psychological tension under which Van Gogh found himself.”

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