Work in Progress (WIP) Blog Tour

I was tagged by Melissa LeGette for the WIP Blog Tour and I’m thrilled to be apart of  it.  It is fun, creative, and helps to see other writers’ creative imaginations at work.  I will also tag several other writers to do the same. It should be great fun!  Check out her WIP post here:

http://mllegette.com/2014/09/01/work-in-progress-wip-blog-tour/

The novel I am writing is about a couple of young teens who inadvertently get involved in a tragedy. I based the concept for my new novel (in progress) on something that happened in a small New England town long ago. It is a coming-of-age murder mystery with a twist.

1. Garrett's Bones K.D. DowdallGarrett’s Bones (working title).

Amanda and Garrett, best friends and cousins by marriage, have been best friends since they were toddlers. Fifteen-years-old Amanda and Garrett have spent their growing up years playing in the grand forest preserve in the small colonial farming community of Salmon Brook, Connecticut.  The summer that Amanda turned fifteen, a tragic event set the stage for the life-changing circumstances that would turn their lives upside down.

CHAPTER 1

  1. The summer I turned fifteen began like any other.

 

CHAPTER 2

  1. Our hideout was a secret rock cave near Salmon Brook, hidden behind dense bramble.

 

CHAPTER 3

  1. The forest floor was shaded darkly by the canopy of trees, making it difficult to see clearly.

My tag choices:

Kathy Lauren Miller, author of “The Starling”,  https://asoutherngirl.wordpress.com

Ellis Nelson, author of “Into the Land of Snows”,  https://ellisnelson.wordpress.com

Daniel Ionson, author of “After Life”, https://danielionson.wordpress.com

 

 

Techniques for Masterful Writing

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Jane Eyre

 A Summary of K.M. Weiland’s  “Write Like a Master”

By K. D. Dowdall

My summary of K.M. Weiland’s excellent article presented in Writer’s Digest, Work Book: Exercises and Tips for Honing Specific Aspects of Your Writing presents the key points of her exceptional article. It is especially for writers penning their first novel, but also for seasoned writers to again remember a classic, Jane Eyre, a novel that was ahead of its time, by Charlotte Brontë.  Often, reading classics, as most of us do, gives us fresh insight to dramatic storytelling par excellence, and can improve our own writing skills. K.M. Weiland gives us 10 distinct techniques for dramatic masterful writing.

  1. Hook: Start in the middle of some type of interaction within environment, statement, or internal angst to provoke reader curiosity.
  1. Characteristic Moment: Reveal/show a personality trait of the Protagonist.
  1. Setting Description of Scene: Start broadly, and then zoom in.
  1. Symbolism: Small details set story’s tone and foreshadows its course.
  1. The World Protagonist Inhabits: demonstrate character’s interior and exterior world.
  1. Back Story: Intersperse with dialogue, don’t dump back story in long paragraphs in chapter 1.
  1. The Premise of Story: Present the Dramatic Question early on, involving the moral foundation, the impetus that drives the story forward.
  1. Physical Actions: The physical movements of characters interspersed throughout dialogue increases depth of character traits.
  1. Protagonist’s Belief: Once Dramatic Question is identified, writer presents obstacles for protagonist until she/he can relinquish belief/misconception and meet deepest needs.

10.Extraordinary Factor: What makes the Protagonist important? How at odds is protagonist in his/her world with others that creates friction, tension, and thus the central conflict of story premise.

***see Writer’s Digest, October 2014 edition, for full article.

Delphi Altair

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Delphi Altair Second Edition 9-2014 #2 a

A beautifully-written and epic novel August 7, 2014

By Kirstin Lenane

Simply put: this young adult novel is beautifully done and should be picked up by any fan of epic fantasy stories. I am very impressed by Dowdall’s ability to weave together so many characters and story-lines into a cohesive whole (it reminded me of the way Dickens and Tolkien are so deftly able to do this). The story takes place mostly in three settings: in a briny, seaside town sometime in the past, in a beautifully evocative land called Janji, and then in a familiar-seeming town sometime in the present day (where McDonald’s and Diet coke and movies exist). Whether Dowdall is evoking an other-worldly one (filled with magical creatures, such as Snagettes and Tittlecrests) or an earthly one (with clam chowder boiling on the stove and nasty schoolteachers pounding paddles on their desks), her scenes are drawn with such detail that they will pull you in, time and time again.  I really can’t recommend this book enough. Try it! You’ll be hooked and waiting for the next one.

The Starling

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The Starling

What’s It About:

The Starling Trilogy chronicles the struggles of a teenage girl who, by a twist of fate, is transported through time to earth’s future where humans are dominated by a malevolent AI and Humanoids. Used as bait to draw out free humans, Jamie risks her life to warn them even as she finds herself falling for her handsome guardian, Quinn. The problem is he’s not exactly human.

A Commentary:

The Starling novel is a fantastically exciting foray into a world that may exist in the near future. The writer combines great characters in a futuristic adventure with intrigue, danger, romance that is so realistic you begin to believe this will be our future. It is exceptional because the writer uses real scientific possibilities that are actually on the drawing board of technological advances. I look forward to the 2nd book in The Starling Trilogy with anticipation. I highly recommend this terrific novel.

The Unimaginable

 

UnimaginableFrom the author of One Pink Line, Dina Silver, comes a story about letting go of the past and finding bravery in the depths of fear. Set on the sun-soaked beaches of Thailand and the rough waters of the Indian Ocean, The Unimaginable paints a vivid portrait of a young woman on a journey to find herself—and her harrowing fight for survival. Not yet released but will be available in the near future. Commentary: I found this to-be-published novel on Goodreads and I look forward to it being released on Amazon. This book is very relevant today due to the constant threat of bandits, pirates, and terrorists who haunt the coasts of many countries, waiting for the opportunity to attack and board tourist vessels to harm the innocence people on board and commander the vessels.  Even on American coasts, especially Florida and California, privately owned small yachts are under attach as well by criminals.  When I lived in Florida on the east coast, it was common, although apparently not news worthy, to report the number of small vessels boarded and lives put at risk.  Fortunately, Cruise Ships are too big thus far to be easily commandered.  They are however, sitting ducks and I foresee that they may be the next on the hang plank for hijacketing.

Three Secrets to Great Storytelling!

Whispering

3 SECRETS TO GREAT STORYTELLING as presented on Writer’s Digest. I found this article by Steven James helpful in forming the structure of scenes. 

As a novelist and writing instructor, I’ve noticed that three of the most vital aspects of story craft are left out of many writing books and workshops. Even bestselling novelists stumble over them – Steven James

But they’re not difficult to grasp. In fact, they’re easy.

And if you master these simple principles for shaping great stories, your writing will be transformed forever. Honest. Here’s how to write a story.

Secret #1: 
CAUSE AND EFFECT ARE KING.

Everything in a story must be caused by the action or event that precedes it.

As a fiction writer, you want your reader to always be emotionally present in the story. But when readers are forced to guess why something happened (or didn’t happen), even for just a split second, it causes them to intellectually disengage and distances them from the story. Rather than remaining present alongside the characters, they’ll begin to analyze or question the progression of the plot. And you definitely don’t want that. When a reader tells you that he couldn’t put a book down, often it’s because everything in the story followed logically. Stories that move forward naturally, cause to effect, keep the reader engrossed and flipping pages. If you fail to do this, it can confuse readers, kill the pace and telegraph your weaknesses as a writer.

Secret #2: 
IF IT’S NOT BELIEVABLE, IT DOESN’T BELONG.

The narrative world is also shattered when an action, even if it’s impossible, becomes unbelievable. In writing circles it’s common to speak about the suspension of disbelief, but that phrase bothers me because it seems to imply that the reader approaches the story wanting to disbelieve and that she needs to somehow set that attitude aside in order to engage with the story. But precisely the opposite is true. Readers approach stories wanting to believe them. Readers have both the intention and desire to enter a story in which everything that happens, within the narrative world that governs that story, is believable. As writers, then, our goal isn’t to convince the reader to suspend her disbelief, but rather to give her what she wants by continually sustaining her belief in the story. The distinction isn’t just a matter of semantics; it’s a matter of understanding the mindset and expectations of your readers. Readers want to immerse themselves in deep belief. We need to respect them enough to keep that belief alive throughout the story.

 

Secret #3: 
IT’S ALL ABOUT ESCALATION.

At the heart of story is tension, and at the heart of tension is unmet desire. At its core, a story is about a character who wants something but cannot get it. As soon as he gets it, the story is over. So, when you resolve a problem, it must always be within the context of an even greater plot escalation. As part of the novel-writing intensives that I teach, I review and critique participants’ manuscripts. Often I find that aspiring authors have listened to the advice of so many writing books and included an engaging “hook” at the beginning of their story. This is usually a good idea; however, all too often the writer is then forced to spend the following pages dumping in background to explain the context of the hook.

By consistently driving your story forward through action that follows naturally, characters who act believably, and tension that mounts exponentially, you’ll keep readers flipping pages and panting for more of your work.

 

Before You Begin Your Masterpiece!

 

pen_paper4 Common Grammar Rules You Think You Know!

Grammatically Correct, 2nd Edition by Anne Stilman

THE ADVERB-ADJECTIVE DISTINCTION

Much could be written on adverbs, but the most needful point to make about them is simply. USE THE DARN THINGS WHEN THEY’RE CALLED FOR!   (Primers on e-mail etiquette advise that all-caps text can be interpreted as shouting. Yes, this text is shouting). Far too many people use an adjective when an adverb is the correct choice.

What is wrong with the following sentences?

I was shaking so bad I could hardly make out what the letter said.

I can’t walk as quick as you—please slow down.

It was real nice of you to come.

The roads are slippery, so do drive careful.

The kids are being awful quiet—should we check on them?

Adverbs are not a difficult concept, you may think but like adjectives, they are modifiers, but while adjectives modify nouns, adverbs modify verbs and adjectives. Most (though not all) adverbs are formed by adding “ly” to an adjective.  Answers: In the sentences above, shakingwalk, and drive are verbs. Nice and quiet are adjectives. Accordingly, their modifiers are NOT the adjectives bad, quickrealcareful, and awful, but the adverbs badlyquicklyreallycarefully, and awfully.

 

 

Words Your Editors Will Delete!

words-to-eraseWords your editor will delete from your writing as posted on the Writer’s Circle.com

“And then the meeting was suddenly interrupted by a very loud noise that startled the board members.” If the previous sentence isn’t a train wreck to you, it’s perhaps time to analyze your own writing. The sentence should hopefully drive in this useful point: the best writing out there isn’t determined by what happens, but rather by word choice. Nothing takes readers out of the moment like one poorly worded sentence. To help your writing, we compiled a brief list of words to avoid along with our reasons and a few suggestions to help you get around some messy phrasing. Oh, and if you were wondering, a decent way to rephrase the starting sentence would be “A deafening noise crashed through the otherwise quiet meeting, agitating the typically lethargic board members.”

1. “Very” or “Really”

Mark Twain said it best: “Substitute ‘damn every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be’. The words “very” or “really” (or truthfully any intensifier) are just another way of increasing the value of a word without adding anything descriptive. You’re also using two words when one would suffice, and unless you’re getting paid by the word, it’s best to avoid. Instead of saying “very loud” like in the first sentence of this article, use “deafening,” “thunderous,” or “piercing.” Not only do they roughly mean the same as “very loud” but they are much more descriptive. Here’s a great, if brief, list of words you can use in replace of “very”.

2. Suddenly

“Sudden” or “Suddenly” is another practically useless word. Anton Chekhov once said “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” The word “suddenly” tells the reader the moon is shining. It’s telling the reader what to feel instead of forcing them to feel it. Let the sentence or the action itself jar the reader into feeling the suddenness of the action. “Suddenly” ironically slows down the action and delays the actual suddenness of the sentence. There’s no actual replacement for the word, either. Just don’t use it. Let the silence speak for itself to convey your message.

3. “Amazing” or “Awesome”

Both of these words are meant to convey very specific feelings. “Amazing” means “causing great wonder or surprise” while “awesome” means “extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.” There are two great reasons to not use these words. First, it falls into “telling and not showing,” that is: telling the reader how they should feel or how the character feels instead of actually describing it in a way in order to convey that emotion.

The second reason to avoid these words is simple: they are over used. Everything, these days, is either awesome or amazing. Seriously, ask yourself the last time you’ve used either of those words to describe something innocuous like a hamburger or a delightful chocolate dessert. To quote Louis CK, “As humans, we waste the [expletive] out of our words. It’s sad. We use words like ‘awesome’ and ‘wonderful’ like they’re candy. It was awesome? Really? It inspired you to awe? It was wonderful? Are you serious? It was full of word. You use the word ‘amazing’ to describe a [expletive] sandwich at Wendy’s. What’s going to happen on your wedding day, or when your first child is born? How will you describe it? You already wasted ‘amazing’ on a [expletive] sandwich.”

If you intend to use these words, it’s worth asking if what you’re describing really is ‘amazing’ or ‘awesome’ in its true sense. If it is, find a way of letting the audience feel that. If you aren’t using the true sense of the words, there are alternatives like “neat,” “delicious,” “outstanding,” or <insert other words that will fit better without entering into the realm of cliche hyperbole>.

4. That

“That” is a handy word and isn’t always useless, however it’s also commonly a crutch without a purpose. Whenever you’re about to use the word, ask yourself if there is a better way to avoid it. Consider this sentence: “I saw the grail that shined brightly.” The sentence is weak, right? Change the sentence entirely by avoiding the pitfall of the word “that” by rewriting it to “I saw the brightly shining grail.” The sentence sounds much cleaner now, right? Also consider “I think that all puppies are adorable.” Just remove the word from the sentence to make it cleaner once more: “I think all puppies are adorable.” Any time you’re about to use the word, ask yourself it there’s a cleaner way of phrasing your sentence, or if the sentence makes sense without it. If it does, just ditch the word entirely.

 

5. Started

“He started running.” “She started dancing.” “The dog started jumping.” All of these sentences are passive and slow. “Started” serves to slow down the sentence and little more. Instead, remove the word from your vocabulary. “He ran.” “She danced.” “The dog jumped.” Any action performed is one started. If you want to signal that the action is a continuing one, add descriptors after. “He ran tirelessly past the starting line.” “She danced all night long.” “The dog jumped repeatedly.” Each sentence provides a better scope of time than using the word “started”.

Started isn’t a word to avoid without exception, however, but it’s pretty close. The car didn’t “start”, it “roared to life,” for example. One time you can use the word “start”, though, is when there’s something that has a definite starting time. “I started writing in the 8th grade.” These opportunities occur rarely, and it’s much better to try to avoid the word as best you can. There are much stronger ways to communicate your point.

 

 

 

Writing with too much foreshadowing – how much is too much?

ForeShadowing 3

I was working on my second edition of a middle grade novel when my editor told me that I should be careful about using foreshadowing to liberally.  In fact, she eliminated, in each chapter, all but one of my foreshadowing lovelies.  It was hard to take. So, in a state of rebellion I put several of the best, in my opinion, back where they belonged. I kept those rebellious foreshadowing evils in my revision.  The following is an example:

After supper, Laura cleared the table and put the dishes in the sink to wash them. the summer storm had passed and in its wake was a beautiful evening.  It helped Laura to forget about the nightmare that still haunted her.  At the kitchen window above the sink, Laura watched as the first star of twilight became visible. It was the Dog Star, Sirius. The star that guided wayfaring sailors home from the raging seas. “I wish, I wish” said Laura, that I could fly up to the planets and discover the world my parents knew, my home, somewhere up there. Laura had no way of knowing how prophetic her words would become and the danger therein.

Come what may, I will live with this decision. Of course, if anyone out there as an opinion or something helpful or comforting to say, bring it on.

THE BOY

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Ryan 1

Jenna Sweet was taking a walk back in time. It was now mid-afternoon, sunny and warm. A slight breeze rustled through the trees. A dog barked in the distance. She walked along the side walk, not really aware of where she was headed. Jenna guessed it was by instinct alone, a path she could not forgot. A narrow bridge was ahead of her and Jenna knew it was the bridge that crossed over Stone Brook. It was a place where she swam and frolicked as a kid. It was where her mother and her aunt Beatrice would bring lunch for Jenna and her cousins. Her mom, Dorothy, and Aunt Beatrice would sit around the picnic table talking, laughing, and smoking cigarettes. Both of them have been gone for a very long time now. It was a terrible accident. It changed all of their lives forever.

Jenna stood looking over the bridge, looking down into the rippling water feeling pensive and sad. She listened to the flow of the brook over the rocks and stones as the afternoon sunlight glittered on the water like sparklers on the fourth of July.  She breathed in the sweet smell of the glacier-fed brook and the musky scent of wet moss along its banks. A long kept memory of a young stranger came flooding back into her consciousness from the past.

Jenna was once again walking through the forest and it was cool and shadowy. She remembered how the sunlight coming through the tree tops dappled the forest floor with shades of light and dark. The forest, thought Jenna, was a masterpiece of infinite color: shimmering emerald leaves, azure sky above, and red earth below.  The pungent memory scent of evergreens enveloped Jenna’s senses. She remembered the feel of the waxy substance of the fallen leaves beneath her bare feet as she padded through the dense forest and listened for the sound of water against rock. She would follow the sound to discover the hidden part of the Brook that few had ever ventured to see.

Beneath the forest canopy she heard a slight rustle and then she saw the boy. His long slender legs moved with an effortless grace like a white-tailed deer through the brambles and bushes. He leaped dancer-like over decaying logs and skipped stone by stone over mossy growths—wet with dew.

The tall boy stopped now and again to smell the air as he made his way through the forest. Jenna, Indian-like, followed the dark-haired boy through the brambles and bushes. Jenna was almost close enough now to see his nostrils flare. In the distance, Jenna heard the flow of water over pebbles and stones as she followed the stranger who followed the sound of the brook.

Ahead of them were large granite boulders and the sound of rippling waters. She watched the boy as he skillfully scampered over the huge glacier boulders and disappeared from view. Jenna followed suit and climbed over the boulders to reach the rocky banks of the brook, but when she looked around, the boy was nowhere to be seen. She sat down for a moment and sighed as she wondered who he was and why she had never seen him before. After all, reasoned Jenna, this was a small farming community with only one middle school.

Jenna dangled her feet above the crystal clear water as she looked at her reflection that was gazing back at her. Her long golden brown braids framed a face that was tanned from the summer sun, hazel eyes now as deeply green as the moss beneath her feet.

She then slipped her slender pubescent body into the cool waters of the brook and was suddenly struck by an incredible sense of freedom within her being that was exhilarating and daunting at the same time. She was growing up and her life and all of life was before her.

Jenna looked down and saw that the wet cloth of her blouse had fallen away, revealing small child-like breasts just beginning to blossom. Suddenly, she was aware of someone looking at her from above. It was the tall dark-haired boy. He was looking down at her. She was sure he had been watching her and then he smiled. Jenna blushed crimson. The boy’s broad shoulders and long muscular legs glistened in the sunlight as he stood high on the rocky over-hang above her.

Without acknowledging it, both Jenna and the boy were awakening to their bodies as they grew and changed. Soon, thought Jenna, they would no longer be the androgynous children who swam with abandon and ran like deer through the ancient forest. Jenna turned away from the boy, but secretly smiled at this innocence flirtation as the sunlight sparkled like diamonds on the rocks, the trees, and the water’s surface.

The boy, not unlike an Indian brave stalking his prey, suddenly appeared near Jenna, having silently slipped into the water. His indigo blue eyes were dark and penetrating. The boy smiled knowingly at Jenna—as if he could read her thoughts.

“Listen, he whispered to Jenna as he placed his hand near to his ear. “The water is whispering – do you know what it is saying?”

Jenna leaned into the water to hear the voice of the brook. The brook murmured as it gently flowed over the rocks.  Puzzled, Jenna could only shrug her shoulders.

The boy leaned closer to Jenna—his face just inches from her up-turned nose. His indigo blue eyes, now glittering in the sunlight, looked into Jenna’s willing her to somehow absorb the mystical knowledge of the brook that he so easily understood.

“You must hear it for yourself” he replied gently, in a voice that was softly mesmerizing.

Jenna felt spellbound by his presence and she opened her mouth to speak, but she could only shake her head. Suddenly, a flock of Canadian Geese flew over their heads and broke the spell. Both of them, remembered Jenna, had looked up together to see the geese majestically cross the sky. So close to them, she thought, that she could feel the air move around them. A single feather swirled downward to the water’s edge and the boy gently cupped it in his hands. He then placed the feather in her hand. She brought it to her lips to touch and smell the still warm and fragrant odor of wheatgrass, marsh, and meadow. The white quill was downy soft and still warm. She would always keep it.

When Jenna turned to thank the boy, he had already climbed back up to the rocky ledge and was staring at her.

“Wait”, she cried out. “Who are you?”

“Someday you will know, Jenna.” And then he was gone.

Jenna stood on the bridge over-looking the brook remembering those moments long ago. She was now twenty five years old and her life had taken many twists and turns since that day that seemed a lifetime ago. It surprised her how constant the memory of the boy stayed with her. How many years, she thought, have I returned to this town, to stand on this bridge, wondering whatever happened to the boy.  Jenna held the white quill in her hand and brought it to her lips. It still held the scent of wheatgrass, marsh, and meadow.

Slowly, Jenna became aware that someone was watching her. She then turned to see a tall, dark-haired young man. He was staring at her. His long slender legs moved with an effortless grace as he walked toward her. She was stunned. There was something about him, she thought. Her mind raced with speculation.

The young man came to stand in front of her. He leaned in, closer to Jenna—his face just inches away from her up-turned nose. His indigo blue eyes, now resplendent in the afternoon sunlight, looked into Jenna’s, willing her to remember. “The water is whispering, he said with a grin. “Do you know what it is saying?”

Jenna understood now. She nodded to the tall, dark-haired young man with the indigo blue eyes and smiled. “We are like the brook–a constant thing, she told him. “Nothing is ever truly lost.”

The young man with the indigo blue eyes smiled and nodded.

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