THE STONE ARCH SECRET – A New Novel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My new novel, The Stone Arch Secret, a romantic mystery, is to be published in January on Amazon! Next week I will publish Chapter One, here on WordPress, please let me know what you think!  My Beta Readers have given The Stone Arch Secret a thumbs up and I am so excited.

Anyone who has written a novel knows how very complicated building a story can be, let alone development of believable characters.  Mysteries have their unique challenges too, for someone like me who is a fantasy writer.  Another challenge, and a very important one, is choosing a title and cover that works for the story content. For me, developing a title is agonizing!  I probably had five or six different titles until this one and this one fit perfectly.

Deciding on a cover that reflects what the story is, is more than challenging, it is exhausting, especially for the designer when the writer doesn’t really know what the cover needs. Fortunately, I have a wonderful, talented Cover Designer, Judy Bullard who understands and is there to present what the author envisions.  She does wonders with whatever title and content needs to be represented, You can find her at: customebookcovers.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Top 10 Elements of a Book People Want to Read!

 

 

 

 

Many Indie writers are just now finishing their summer novel writing and will publish soon!  I thought it would be a great time to repost this article about the elements of good writing for readability!

By Writer Digest contributor, Helga Schier, PhD, Editor, Guest Column | March 16, 2015

This guest blog is written by Helga Schier, PhD, former Big Five editor and founder of With Pen and Paper, an independent editorial services firm. With over 20 years of experience in the (self-)publishing industry. For more information, visit http://www.withpenandpaper.com

Aim for High Readability

People enjoy books with a high level of readability—books with a captivating story and memorable characters, books we can’t put down, books that stick with us long after we’ve read the last word.

As an independent editor, I’ve come across my fair share of readable books, and all of them are well crafted on three distinct but intricately connected levels.

  • The surface structure of the words on the page, which includes grammar, punctuation, and spelling
  • The level of style and voice, which is defined by the choice of words, the sentence rhythm, the use of literary techniques and images, and the tone or approach
  • The content level, where the fictional world comes to life.
  • Highly readable books are polished, refined, sophisticated, and mature on all three levels. To fulfill the potential of your book, develop and sharpen the following top ten elements.
  1. Your Words Are Your tools; Make Sure They Are in Working Order.

Avoid typos, sort out commonly mistaken words such as die/dye or there/their/they’re. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!] Watch your grammar—make sure your nouns agree with your verbs and the personal pronouns fit. If a paragraph begins in the past tense, it likely ought to end in the past tense, too. Figure out where those commas go to help your readers make sense of your sentences. Sounds basic? It is. So run that spell-check and get it right.

  1. Check for Inconsistencies.

Writers revise their work constantly. As a result, characters may appear or disappear at random, because chapters were rearranged; subplots remain unresolved, because chapters were cut; and timeline issues may tiptoe in. Looking for inconsistencies and holes in your story is an integral part of polishing your work.

  1. Avoid Overwriting.

Your style or voice should step into the background to serve your story. No need for a clever metaphor in every sentence, or for an adjective before every noun. Avoid complicated sentences if a simple sentence will get your point across. Avoid inflated sentences and unnecessary introductory or summarizing phrases. Don’t be verbose—every sentence has a point; get to it.

  1. Avoid Underwriting.

Allow your language to adapt to its context. Using the same words and/or sentence structures repeatedly makes a novel repetitive and monotonous. If the teenage girl and the CEO of a multibillion dollar company have the same voice, we’ll learn more about the writer than about the characters and their relationships. Avoid clichés and create your own personal images instead. Or use clichés and stereotypes to your advantage—say, to define a character.

  1. Make Sure Your Characters Are More Than a Name.

As a reader, I want to be able to relate to your characters. I don’t have to always like them or agree with their choices, but I want to understand why they say and do whatever it is they say and do. I want to care for them, fear and worry with them. Therefore, your characters need to be recognizable and unique at the same time. They need to be complex rather than cardboard cutouts, and dynamic rather than passive. Even a bad guy deserves a redeeming quality.

  1. Show, Don’t Tell.

“He was anxious.” Or: “She was happy.” Or: “They were angry.” That’s telling. Trouble is, this does not really tell me what I am to imagine. Is he chewing his nails? Is she smiling as she embraces her newborn baby? Are they raising their voices to a level that could be heard down the block? That’s showing, and it conjures up a clear image in your reader’s head. And that’s what you want.

  1. Sharpen that Dialogue…

Dialogue passes on information between characters and to the reader. Dialogue propels the plot forward. And, dialogue reveals the personality of the dialogue partners, as well as their relationship. Avoid repeating small talk, too much clever banter, and uninterrupted speeches. At least two people should exchange information, ask questions, answer them, comment, fight, tease… whatever. The way your characters interact with each other says a whole lot about them and about their relationship.

  1. …And Expose that Subtext.

People don’t necessarily say what they mean or mean what they say. Every conversation has a subtext. Dialogue is not only about what is being said, but also about how the dialogue partners feel about and relate to each other. Do they like each other? Who has the upper hand? Do they trust each other? Show us in their gestures, glances, body language, and behavior while they’re talking. Is anyone leaning in or moving away? Anyone nervously fidgeting with a pen? Anyone looking out the window because he is bored or to the floor because she is ashamed? The narrative must support the dialogue by exposing the underlying tension, conflict, and motivation of your characters.

  1. Drive the Plot Towards Your Reader’s Aha-Moment.

A readable novel provides meaning to the world we live in, which is to say that the succession of events must make sense. Your characters react to these events in ways that are motivated by their psychological disposition. The interplay of events and character behavior moves your plot forward. The writer’s hand should remain invisible. Therefore, prepare your plot twists within the novel before they happen, and give your characters a reason for their behavior. These clues should not be so obvious that we can predict the way your story goes, but in retrospect, once the plot has twisted a certain way, your preparation must become clear. It’s your readers’ aha-moment, if you will.

  1. Build Your World.

Stories don’t happen in a vacuum. Your story could happen in China in the distant past, in present day America, or in the future on a planet you imagined. Your readers need to know how your world compares to theirs. This is world building, which involves establishing a clear timeline, a recognizable locale of your overall story, and, just as importantly, the ambiance of any given scene.

As a writer, you must create a world populated with characters who live their lives before our eyes, and you must do so with words only. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!] There is no camera to show us that the police car drives off with lights flashing, no sound to give us the sirens, and no actors to make a comment sound bored or sexy or irritated or funny or scared. Your words and their rhythm build your world and make it turn.

Your words are your tools; make sure they are in working order.

Change The World

Adm. William H McRaven has written the most inspiring, uplifting, and wonderful speech I have ever heard! thank you for this wonderful uplifting post.  https://fourthgenerationfarmgirl.com/2017/08/17/change-the-world/  and also https://jenniefitzkee.com/

fourth generation farmgirl

This speech by US Navy Admiral, William H. McRaven is beautiful, moving, and inspiring.  I hope you will watch it.

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10 Great 10 Minute Fixes to 10 Common Plot Problems!

Some years ago, I found this interesting and these helpful fixes to writing problems that I come in handy. Good fiction takes time. You cannot sit down at the keyboard and pound out the Great American Novel in one or two sessions. (Take it from me; I’ve tried.) Says the author of this piece of writing. I don’t remember who the author is and if anyone knows, please let me know. I would like to give him or her credit!
No, we must be patient with our art and our craft, we must read, we must study, we must write. And write, and write. Then we must think, cut, rewrite, polish and look again.
But there’s such a thing as agonizing too much over your writing. Just as excessive reworking with charcoal and gum will ruin a drawing, too much scrutinizing and amending will sap the vitality of your original words. Most aspiring authors fall victim to this from time to time, causing needless pain, delay and, frankly, stunted results. It’s the hard parts that get you. When you come up against a knotty structural problem, take a breath and do what professionals do:
• Calmly evaluate the problem.
• Decide whether it really is a problem.
• Work out a solution.
• Implement it.
• Move on.
• Revisit the situation later.

1. I’M MISSING A CRUCIAL PIECE OF INFORMATION.
You’re writing a key scene, and you realize that you really need to know something, but it’s either impossible to find out or too costly in time or money to do so.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: If you can’t find the exact data you need, get as close as you can and wing the rest.
Recently I was on a conference panel with other authors discussing intensive research, and after everybody shared exciting (or humiliating) stories about our quests for authenticity, we all agreed on one thing: When the chips are down, make it up.
You might be surprised at how much you can make up in a convincing way. Maybe you need a recipe for the perfect poison and have no idea where to begin. Invent a character who’s a chemist, and have that character develop a poison that’s as lethal as cyanide, as innocent-smelling as strawberries and as traceable as water.
Be bold!
2. MY ACTION IN THIS SCENE DRAGS.
We’ve all been there: You’ve got an action scene that’s starting to bore even you. Granted, your story is moving forward, but it feels cumbersome.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Resist the urge to pile it on; rather, tighten what you’ve got.
You could spend hours—days!—trying to inject more life into a scene, but the best solution is often just the opposite. Usually a quicker pace will do the trick.
One of the easiest, most effective ways to tighten prose is to turn full sentences into fragments and opt for one-line paragraphs.

3. ONE OF MY CHARACTERS IS STARTING TO SEEM LACKLUSTER.
Sometimes you get too careful with a character, especially if you’ve based her on yourself or a close friend or relative. If this seems to be the case, consider adding weirdness.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Give her an obsession.
Obsessions are great because they’re simple to drop into a character’s personality, and you can use them repeatedly to spice up your plot.
Think what you can do! Give a ghetto hooker a fixation on growing the perfect eggplant in her window box, turn the commander of a space station into an incurable pack rat, bestow upon your straight-A prom queen a fascination with arson, twist a fat, old cop into a joyful, compulsive transvestite.

4. I HAVE TO COMMUNICATE A LOT OF INFORMATION, AND IT’S OVERKILL.
You’re at a turning point in your novel, and you’ve got one character revealing information to another, or making connections in his head as the puzzle pieces fall into place. Or your omniscient narrator is explaining a lot of stuff to the reader. And it doesn’t feel natural.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Turn narrative into dialogue.
Don’t underestimate the modern reader’s ability to infer, generalize and make connections. A professional’s first instinct is to cut exposition, but when you’ve sliced away all but the essential and you’re still looking at an awkward block of text, turn it into dialogue. Scope around for a handy character for the first one to talk to. Then, give the two some back-and-forth, something to disagree about. Create a little conflict while delivering your basic facts.

5. I DON’T KNOW WHAT SHOULD COME NEXT.
You’re writing something new; perhaps you even have a rough outline. You’re galloping along, happy and breathless, and you finally bring a scene or chapter to a satisfying conclusion. Then you get that uh-oh feeling.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Have a 10-minute brainstorm.
I actually feel great in this situation: I love to brainstorm, and I know I’m about to have ideas I’ve never had before.
Flip to a fresh page in your notebook or computer notepad, check the time and give yourself 10 minutes to write down anything and everything that might come next. Record every idea that comes to you, even if it seems ridiculous or awful. Keep going. If you do this with a feeling of open exploration, you will come up with a good idea of what should come next.
The answer is a paradox: The more honestly and thoroughly you brainstorm, the sooner your material will sort itself out. The chaff will be obvious—and there will be wheat.

6. I’VE GOT A COMPLEX PLOT, AND ALL MY FINAL UNRAVELING FEELS FORCED.
You’re proud of your plot, and you want to show the reader that you’ve thought of everything. This one’s as tight as a drum! But now it feels as if you’re ticking off boxes on a checklist, and the effect is artificial.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Choose some loose ends to leave loose.
Readers will know they’re in good hands if you pay off your suspense. This is key, and it bears repeating: Suspense is the most important aspect of a book to build and bring to a satisfying climax and conclusion. This holds true in any genre; even the most sedate literary novels are built on a foundation of suspense. In this way, Mrs. Dalloway and her flowers have everything in common with Hannibal Lecter and his fava beans.
Challenge your impulse to wrap up everything with a bow, and you might achieve a more natural result.

7. I NEED A BRIDGE BETWEEN TWO SCENES, BUT I’M AT A LOSS.
Transitions can be the bane of fiction writers. I think this goes back to composition teachers in high school, who insist that there “be a link” between every idea. Oh, the contortions we used to go through to satisfy that requirement! Forget it.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Insert a chapter break, or use the magic word.
An excellent way to bridge two scenes is to actually separate them. A chapter break can eliminate the need for a bridge altogether. Pick a novel you like and study the last and subsequent first pages of chapters. You’ll find that most modern novels freely jump forward (even backward) in time, or sideways in space (from one character’s viewpoint to another’s, for example), and the overall effect is smooth. Give it a try.
The magic word is meanwhile. Rather than a big-deal transition, meanwhile might be all you need.

8. MY ENDING MADE MY CRITIQUE GROUP GO, “SO WHAT?”
You’ve written your novel, you’re at the point of bravely hearing any and all criticism, and you’ve just found out that your ending leaves your writing buddies cold. You feel (understandably) frustrated, and maybe a little angry. Now what?

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Add passion, violence or both.
A weak ending, of course, may signify major problems with the rest of the book. But not necessarily. If you’ve built convincing characters and worked out a believable, suspenseful story, but things still fall flat at the end, this could be because you haven’t gone far enough. Some authors simply take their foot off the accelerator toward the end, either from fatigue or from an unnecessary sense of restraint. Whatever the case, if you discover you’re one of them, you’ve got to ramp up the emotion.
Now, you don’t want to be cheap, but be advised that exploitation works. Readers expect to be knocked out of their socks, and it’s really OK to give them that.
So try heightening the ending you’ve already got. A good way to do it is to add passion or violence—or both.

9. MY AGENT/EDITOR WANTS ME TO CUT 10,000 WORDS!
Many authors on the brink of getting published are told by a prospective agent or editor, “I love this novel, but it’s too long. If you can cut it by about 10,000 words (or whatever terrifyingly high number), I think I can sell (or publish) this.” They don’t want any specific cuts at this point; they just want the manuscript to better fit a common format.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Micro-edit your way to success.
You can spend lots of time rereading your manuscript and painfully strategizing what hunks to cut, but an excellent way to quickly trim it to size is to cut one word per sentence. This technique is pure magic. Or, you can divide the number of words you need to cut by the number of pages you have, and come up with an average words-to-cut per page. Of course you won’t be able to whittle down your whole manuscript in 10 minutes, but take it as a challenge: Time yourself, and I bet that once you get the hang of it, you can blow through 10 pages of a draft in 10 minutes. This is a job you can do in the interstices of your day; you don’t have to find large spans of time for it.

10. THE WHOLE THING STINKS.
Every author is stricken, at least once per book, by Creeping Rot Disease. CRD begins as a dark feeling that takes over your mind and heart when you least expect it. You look at your manuscript and the feeling creeps over you that all you’ve done is foul a perfectly good stack of paper. It’s lousy. It’s not original. It’s nothing any agent, let alone editor, would look at twice. I’m wasting my life, you think. I’m a fool.

10-MINUTE SOLUTION: Take a break!
Believe me, when CRD strikes, you are in plentiful, excellent company. Terrific authors have drunk themselves to death trying to self-medicate against CRD.
The better solution is to take a break. Turn off your computer, close your notebook, cap your pen (because the problem is not with your manuscript, it’s with you) and do something completely different, like:
• Walk outside. Pay attention to the first great-looking tree you see. Hang out with it for a while. Get some good coffee. Phone a friend and spill your guts.
• Prepare a mini picnic lunch and open the window. Make a sketch of a simple object, like a bowl or a bottle. Or do anything else you can to break the stream of negative thoughts.

 

Tears of Morning

The world awakes each day,
Wet with tears of morning,
And in the silent dawn,
Upon the earth’s sweet tears,
The world begins a new,
For with the promised sun,
The earth renews its hope,
In life itself,
And dries its tears,
In the morning air,
To begin again,
For what have we,
On this earth so rare,
Is to forgive,
And be forgiven.

 

Copyright @ Karen D. Dowdall 1997

 

 

 

Do We Have the Moral Fortitude to Stand Up ?

Remember, each one who stands up, reduces the power of evil, because evil cannot live in the light of day.

So, do we have the moral strength to stand for what this country was founded for, even though not perfect. Inasmuch, as all men are created equal and thus, bigotry, racism, should not tolerated. We are all the same under the skin. Donald Trump, who has no moral authority to lead, does not believe in Democracy, does not stand for what America is suppose to stand for? It is for us to stand up to people who hate others for their religion and the color of their skin.

Remember that these  White Supremacists, White Nationalists, Neo-Nazis, and racist hate God’s children, made in his image.  This is how it began in Germany. This is how it begins in America!


 

LEARNING TO LOVE

 

No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin, or their background or their religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than hate. ….Nelson Mandela and President Obama

 

Whether we believe in God or not, we are all in this together, and only small minds of indifference, hate, intolerance of others, fear of the unknown, and a sense of scarcity drive the insecure to seek vengeance on one another.  We are all the same under the skin. …K. D. Dowdall

 

 

Loving your enemies does not mean you are one with them, it only means you understand with empathy their intolerance to love others who are different. …K. D. Dowdall

 

 

 

 

Mercy deepens the innate goodness of our human nature, when we see hate, anger, loathe, and intolerance.  Mercy is the greater good of the human spirit. ….K. D. Dowdall