What Stephen King Taught Me


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Stephan King


Stephen King wrote a seminal work on fantasy fiction writing—a memoir of the craft on writing by the same name: Stephen King: A memoir of the Craft – On Writing.

When I decided to write fantasy fiction, instead of just dreaming about it, I decided the best place to start would be with Stephen King. Who better to learn from but a master fiction writer?  So, I purchased his book in the year 2005, read it several times, high-lighted tantalizing concepts, tabbed with sticky writable tabs until I had outlined the entire book.  I soon learned that reading about writing, tabbing every conceivable point of interest does not necessarily create a master fiction writer or even a mediocre fiction writer.

So, I stopped reading books on writing and just started reading books I loved: Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Edgar Allen Poe, Harry Potter, Hans Christian Anderson, and so many others.  I happily read a lot of books—good, I thought, know I can start writing. Nope.  Even though I looked at the world through fantasy colored glasses, I had a terrible fear of ineptitude.  I was the student who couldn’t spell, never learned phonics, didn’t know a consonant from a vowel, and a homonym is what? Regardless, I managed to get a Bachelor’s, a Master’s, and even a PhD.  I was a competent mimic.

So, what did Stephen King teach me? Stephen King taught me how to trust my instincts when he wrote, “stories are found things, like fossils in the ground.”  “Stories”, writes King, “are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world.”  Stephen taught me to lean heavily on my intuition, my inner sense of things without the mimicking and sense of ineptitude.

Well, that’s great I thought, because I walk through this world wearing fantasy colored glasses where every nook and cranny is rich with fantastical possibilities—like magical stones, talking trees, whispering air, mumbling water, and things, like humans, who walk the earth.


Cold Dark Water


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17th Century Women puritans

 A Short Short Story

The Indian summer began like any other when I was twelve years old growing up in the small colonial era farming community of Granby, Connecticut. The last fields of the summer harvest had been shorn of their corn, alfalfa, hay, and tobacco. The wet smell of fresh cut hay filled the air as well as the mingling aroma of tobacco fields that now lay bare of their crops. The large tobacco leafs would hang neatly from wooden poles to dry underneath white-sheeted tents. The smell of tobacco, sweet and pungent, hung in the air. It was a grown-up smell, a smell of intimacy and secret goings-on. My cousin Garrett and I would sometimes sneak up behind the white-sheeted tents and listen. Giggles, laugher, and strange noises were not unfamiliar sounds to our ears as we listened. More than tobacco leafs nestled under the white-sheeted tents.

Not far from the tobacco field was an ancient apple orchard that looked like something out of a wicked fairy tale. Walking through its darkly gnarled wood was a rite-of-passage experience for anyone under the age of twelve. To this day memories of Canton road, where I grew up, float across my senses.  I envision its tar paved darkness as it crosses over Salmon Brook, cuts through McLean’s game preserve, wanders by weird old Stewart Duncan’s farm, and the said-to-be-haunted Sperry colonial homestead. Canton Road weaves it way over-laying the swell of land occupied for ten thousand years by the indigenous people like the Massaco Indians who were a part of the Algonquian tribes. Evidence of their inhabitation is still visible by those who know what to look for.

Spirit Pond is one of those places. There are sightings by the locals of ghost warriors that still drink the dark cold waters of Spirit Pond and are not as rare as one would like to believe. Spirit Pond is a large spring fed body of water surrounded by tall reeds and weeping willows. Its dark cold water and deep recesses still hold untold secrets as well as the body of Minnie Brogan. My rather strange cousin Garrett was drawn to the story of Minnie Brogan and I followed suit. Young Minnie Brogan lived in a small dwelling at the edge of Spirit Pond in 1680 not far from our home in the Salmon Brook Settlement.  She was said to have met with a ghastly end. It is a haunting legend of sorts and the story appears in the town’s tourist pamphlets as a way of advertising its colonial history to visitors.

It was said that young Minnie Brogan lived a solitary existence in her meager dwelling on the edge of Spirit Pond and tended a few chickens and a vegetable garden. She also grew medicinal herbs. In colonial times, a female living alone who also concocted remedies was sure to raise suspicions of witchcraft. Yet, Garrett and I doubted this explanation and we would often sit by the edge of Spirit Pond trying to envision that long ago crime. Minnie Brogan was dragged from her thatched hut. She was bound by her hands and feet and thrown into the spring fed pond. We wondered how scared she must have been as she slowly sank into Spirit Pond’s cold dark waters. I personally believe there was more to it than just medicinal herbs. Minnie was young, alone, and was said to be hauntingly beautiful. She was accused of conjugating with evil forces. As a six grader, I had no idea someone could actually be murdered for not knowing how to conjugate a verb (although there were times I was sure by teacher at thought of it).

So, it was in winter when Spirit Pond was frozen-over that Garrett and I would go ice skating and just as often we would look to see if Minnie Brogan’s ghostly apparition would rise up from the ice. Although we never actually saw her ghostly-self rise from the pond, we imagined what she would look like if she did. I wonder about Minnie Brogan’s secret hopes and dreams that vanished into the dark cold waters of Spirit Pond one nefarious moonless night long ago. Sometimes I even imagine I can feel her presence as I dip by fingers into the waters of Spirit Pond. It is though the earth remembers her and still holds her secret longings. I, too, will always remember Minnie Brogan.

A Spellbinding and Sexy Thriller!

Protecting His Witch book cover

This fascinating and imaginative mystery romance is exceptionally well written and keeps the reader totally engaged as the writer builds the story into a crescendo from breathless interludes to heart-stopping suspense. From the very first pages, the reader is drawn to the beautiful and enigmatic Kat and the very dangerously sexy Matthew, as they try to untangle the web of mystery surrounding them.

Kat has no idea who and what she is as she struggles to understand the strange phenomena that grips her and even threatens her life.  Matt is determined to avoid being pulled back into a world of ancient mythology that he has tried to forget. Kat and Matt, suspicious of the inexplicable physical chemistry in their passionate and contentious union, find they are under attack by powerful forces that threaten their very existence as ancient enemies lead the world toward Armageddon.  Kat and Matthew are determined decide their own fate at the risk of losing everything they hold dear.

I was completely spellbound by the power unleashed in this story of sizzling passion and high suspense to see what fate had in store for the beautiful Kat and the devilishly handsome Matthew.  I could not put this story down for a minute and I highly recommend this stylish and sexy thriller as a must read.

THE BOY – A Short Short Story


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Ryan 1


                                                            The Boy     

By K. D. Dowdall

   Beneath the forest canopy, she heard a slight rustle and then she saw him. 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. The girl followed him, Indian-like, through the path the dark-haired boy made through the forest. She was almost close enough now to see the boy’s nostrils flare. In the distance, the girl 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 adeptly scampered over the huge glacier boulders and disappeared from sight. She followed suit and climbed over the boulders to reach the rocky banks of the brook. When she turned to looked for the boy, he was nowhere to be seen. She sat down for a moment and sighed. The girl wondered who he was, where he disappeared too, and why she had never seen him before.

As she pondered his sudden disappearance, she dangled her feet into the clear water. The girl looked down at her reflection, mirrored in the brook. Her long golden brown braids framed a face that softly tanned from the summer sun, hazel eyes now as deeply green as the moss beneath her feet. She became acutely aware that she was being observed and when she looked up, she saw the boy. His lean muscular body glistened in the sunlight. He stood with legs apart and his arms akimbo, staring down at her with an amused grin.

Her damp blouse was revealing more than it ought too. She blushed. She pushed her slender young body into the cool waters of the brook with nary a sound. Like an Indian brave, the boy dove into the water and came up beside her with a shy smile. She sighed deeply, realizing her androgynous past was gone and her path was uncertain.




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Into  the Land of Snows

Author Ellis Nelson writes as one who knows of being in the land of snows, of being with the Himalayas, Sherpas, Monks, Lamas, and hence the beginning of an amazing life changing experience for Blake McCormack, Ellis Nelson’s main character in this fascinating novel. I came upon this amazing story by chance and did not even read the book description. The title alone was compelling to me. The story begins with the angst of a young 17-year-old boy, Blake, who is angry at his parents. Blake is forced by his physician father to accompany him to the Himalayas to help at the base camp at Mount Everest, but here the story takes a life changing turn for Blake and then the real story begins. Into the Land of Snows takes the reader into a world so different, so beautifully challenging in its vision of life that the reader is drawn-in completely. So strong is the vision presented in this book it may even change the being within you. I came away from this reading experience with a heightened sense of being. It has been almost two years since reading Into the Land of Snows and I still remember it vividly. I think this beautifully written adventure, with all its perils, is not to be missed.



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                       A beautifully woven Tapestry of historical milieu

The “Unveiling” is a beautifully written story that at its essence is a tapestry rich with intrigue, historical milieu, and wonderful characterizations. Each paragraph imbues a literary quality to every detail. Sara, the protagonist, carries the story forward in her impetuous youth in search of self.  What that means in a society that allows her no freedom to examine her true needs and wants is the crux this novel explores.  It is up to Sara and her parental family to choose or not the ways of the heart over an unyielding desire of societal tradition; a societal religious conviction that is meant to honor God and family. The Unveiling is a compelling story that is more than a story; it is real, heartfelt, and is true of every human spirit that chooses to dream and make those dreams come true.

Word Painting – The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively


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Word Painting

Word Painting – The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan (an excerpt from Writer’s Digest, January 2015) 

Here are four secrets to keep in mind as you breathe life into your characters through description.

  1. Description that relies solely on physical attributes too often turns into what Janet Burroway calls the “all-points bulletin.”

It reads something like this: “My father is a tall, middle-aged man of average build. He has green eyes and brown hair and usually wears khakis and oxford shirts.”

This description is so mundane, it barely qualifies as an “all-points bulletin.” Can you imagine the police searching for this suspect? No identifying marks, no scars or tattoos, nothing to distinguish him. He appears as a cardboard cutout rather than as a living, breathing character. Yes, the details are accurate, but they don’t call forth vivid images. We can barely make out this character’s form; how can we be expected to remember him?

When we describe a character, factual information alone is not sufficient, no matter how accurate it might be. The details must appeal to our senses. Phrases that merely label (like tall, middle-aged, and average) bring no clear image to our minds. Since most people form their first impression of someone through visual clues, it makes sense to describe our characters using visual images. Green eyes is a beginning, but it doesn’t go far enough. Are they pale green or dark green? Even a simple adjective can strengthen a detail. If the adjective also suggests a metaphor—forest green, pea green, or emerald green—the reader not only begins to make associations (positive or negative) but also visualizes in her mind’s eye the vehicle of the metaphor—forest trees, peas, or glittering gems.

  1. The problem with intensifying an image only by adjectives is that adjectives encourage cliché.

It’s hard to think of adjective descriptors that haven’t been overused: bulging or ropy muscles, clean-cut good looks, frizzy hair. If you use an adjective to describe a physical attribute, make sure that the phrase is not only accurate and sensory but also fresh. In her short story “Flowering Judas,” Katherine Anne Porter describes Braggioni’s singing voice as a “furry, mournful voice” that takes the high notes “in a prolonged painful squeal.” Often the easiest way to avoid an adjective-based cliché is to free the phrase entirely from its adjective modifier. For example, rather than describing her eyes merely as “hazel,” Emily Dickinson remarked that they were “the color of the sherry the guests leave in the glasses.”

  1. Strengthen physical descriptions by making details more specific.

In my earlier “all-points bulletin” example, the description of the father’s hair might be improved with a detail such as “a military buzz-cut, prickly to the touch” or “the aging hippie’s last chance—a long ponytail striated with gray.” Either of these descriptions would paint a stronger picture than the bland phrase brown hair. In the same way, his oxford shirt could become “a white oxford button-down that he’d steam-pleated just minutes before” or “the same style of baby blue oxford he’d worn since prep school, rolled carelessly at the elbows.” These descriptions not only bring forth images, they also suggest the background and the personality of the father.

  1. Select physical details carefully, choosing only those that create the strongest, most revealing impression.

One well-chosen physical trait, item of clothing, or idiosyncratic mannerism can reveal character more effectively than a dozen random images. This applies to characters in nonfiction as well as fiction. When I write about my grandmother, I usually focus on her strong, jutting chin—not only because it was her most dominant feature but also because it suggests her stubbornness and determination. When I write about Uncle Leland, I describe the wandering eye that gave him a perpetually distracted look, as if only his body was present. His spirit, it seemed, had already left on some journey he’d glimpsed peripherally, a place the rest of us were unable to see. As you describe real-life characters, zero in on distinguishing characteristics that reveal personality: gnarled, arthritic hands always busy at some task; a habit of covering her mouth each time a giggle rises up; a lopsided swagger as he makes his way to the horse barn; the scent of coconut suntan oil, cigarettes, and leather each time she sashays past your chair.

A Date With Lucifer


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Cursed by S.J. West

Lilly Rayne Nightingale has a date with Lucifer but she doesn’t know it. She is somehow unique in the world and that uniqueness may change the balance between good and evil, angels and demons. Someone is trying to eliminate her from the world. Lilly, totally oblivious to the powers of good and evil surrounding her, is like any other 18 teen year old looking for acceptance and love. Fate has always been one step ahead of her as her best friend Will manages to save her from several near fatal “incidences”.

However, Will broke her heart after their one and only first kiss. Years later when Lilly and her best friend Tara go off to college, Lilly meets the devastatingly handsome and intriguing Brand Cole. With conflicting forces of good and evil surrounding her, will she allow herself to open her heart once more to a new found love, Brand Cole and will she be able survive the destructive forces wanting her death.

  1. J. West’s story is enigmatic as it touches on universal themes that harbor in the hearts of all of us. Is there an unknowable heavenly battle raging amongst us, between the forces of good and evil playing out in our daily lives?
  2. Is there really “free will” in the world considering the mind-bending influences that prey upon us from birth until death?
  3. In the end will good (as subjective as that concept is) win over the forces of evil (depending on that subjective concept as well)?

*Comments and discussion welcomed.

Deciphering Book Descriptions


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Fresh Eggs

How interesting and telling are most book descriptions?  Most, are not very at all. Maybe there should be professional book description writers.  Reading a book description should not be a word puzzle to try and figure it out. It can be daunting to write your own book description, especially if one is so subjective, the premise is lost on the nondescript reader who hasn’t a glue anyway.

A Book description: Example,” Fresh Eggs” by Rob Levandoski.  Calvin Cassowary is ready to do whatever it takes to keep Cassowary Farm in the family for one more generation. Hatching a scheme to specialize in chickens, soon he’s got a million hens laying eggs for Gallinipper Foods, b…ut he’s getting deeper and deeper into debt. To make matters worse, his chicken-loving daughter Rhea starts growing feathers. Filled with as many tears and chuckles, Rob Levandoski’s Fresh Eggs is a provocative father/daughter tale guaranteed to make you ponder the realities of modern farming and think twice the next time someone asks, “white or dark meat?

What we know about this book:  All we know so far is that raising and selling chickens will get you into debt and his daughter child is growing feathers.  So far, so what.  Who sheds tears and why is the owner chuckling? After all, I can’t think of anything worse things than to have a child grow feathers.  Pondering the realities of modern farming?… I can’t wait to read it!!


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:


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.


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



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



  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




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