Lower price at Amazon, too!

I’ve lowered the price at Amazon so Kindle users can get the same deal as other formats at Smashwords. Starting by tomorrow evening and running through the end of July, CHILD OF EL SALVADOR will be available at 25% off the usual $2.99 price.

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Smashwords is promoting e-books for any e-reader except Kindle (sorry, the coupon is only valid at the Smashwords site) during their July Summer-Winter (either hemisphere) promotion. This is your chance to save! The coupon code is RU54Y, entered during checkout.

Just visit:  https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/PennyDurant

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Quotations: #3

“Most editors are failed writers–but then so are most writers.”
-Thomas Stearns Eliot

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Writing Tip #6: And, Where Are We?

The setting of your story is more than the time and the place.  It is an essential part of the whole and deserves your attention and creativity.  Reading,  I was told as a child, can take us to faraway places and times.  A carefully crafted setting can make us feel part of that place and time.  

Setting can control possibilities in the story.  If the story is set by a lake possible plot problems can arise around the water and boats and swimming.  Sunburn and dead fish smell.  Or the cool breeze off the water.  A sense that this is where I was meant to be.

Setting can include:

  • world, country, state, city and the counterparts in other worlds
  • time of day, month, and year
  • the flora and fauna of the place
  • culture
  • buildings/architecture 
  • transportation availability
  • the trappings of the lives of the people in the place and at that time

I’ll be writing more about these ideas in future posts in more detail.  In the meantime, think about the times you’ve thought, “This is it.  This is the place that’s me.”  Let me know what places came to mind.


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Quotations: #2

“Fool!” said my muse to me, “look in thy heart, and write.”

-Edmund Spenser

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Quotations: #1

The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it.
-Benjamin Disraeli

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Writing Tip #5: Catching a Character

Do you ever see a stranger and that person catches your eye? You look again. What draws your interest? Why did you give that person more than a glance?

I love to people watch. There’s a man who visits the mall every day. Well, at least every day we go walking. He always wears an expensive suit, white shirt, and tie with matching pocket handkerchief. Soft-looking leather shoes. Omar and I have speculated on why he’s there, often just sitting on a bench. We assume he’s retired from a job where he dressed up to go to work every day. I think his wife died as well. Someday we may talk with him, get the real story, but until then we’ll let our imaginations run wild.

It’s fun to people watch, but as a writer you can take it further. Be intentional when someone catches your eye. Write down the details. Ask yourself what you see, but also jot down questions you can write about later.

One night in an upscale restaurant I saw an older man with a younger woman. She sported the largest diamond solitaire I’d ever seen, but no wedding band. They were talking earnestly, bordering on heatedly. I have practiced writing dialogue by assuming they were engaged and he was pressuring her to set the wedding date, or that he was the father of the woman, trying to talk her out of marriage to a rich, but shallow man. Take my two people and come up with a situation of your own.

Again at the mall, there was a man who sat at a kiosk. I never saw anyone stop to buy something, and the man was always on the phone. He wore really nice pants and a silk shirt beneath a sports coat. He didn’t look short of money. What was his story?
Write down what small thing that stood out, the inconsistent detail, the special characteristic. You can play with these details later, imagining characters based on them. You might give a character a similar, unusual characteristic. Be sure you know how your character got that jagged scar, why he always wears a boutonnière.

Once you get started noticing and writing things down, your subconscious will incorporate oddities or quirks and save them, ready at your fingertips, to give your characters more depth.

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Writing Tip #4: Join a Writing Group

I joined my first writing group when I was pregnant with my son Adam. (He’s now 31). Two women in the group had published books. It surprised me that they didn’t walk around with their noses in the air. It surprised me that they wanted to help other writers by sharing their expertise and experience. They tore the first thing I wrote to shreds, but over the next few days a couple in the group called to say they hoped I wasn’t giving up. My husband Omar told me I had a knack for writing dialogue. Just that small affirmation gave me the confidence to rewrite and go forward. I’m still in a writing group. I need feedback. I need to give feedback, to see what my fellow writers do well and where they can do better.

I just finished pre-judging 53 entries (up to 3 page synopsis plus the first 20 pages) for the SouthWest Writers contest. It frustrated me that I couldn’t write on the pages to point out a terrific image or turn of phrase. I couldn’t ask a question to guide the writer to more clarity. We all need feedback.

Join a writing group. If you don’t have any other writers in your area, join a group online. Hire a critiquer.

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Writing Tip #3: Have You Ever Read a Book You Wish You’d Written?

A number of years ago a friend of mine told me he wished he’d written Norman Zollinger’s Riders to Cibola, a saga about a ranching family in south central New Mexico in the 40s. He loved the characters so much that he envied Norm’s getting to spend so much time with them, much more than the time it took to read the book. My friend wasn’t interested in writing. He just wanted to live with the characters he’d come to love.
I started looking at why I loved certain stories, certain characters or settings. I think we all want a novel to transport us from the humdrum of ordinary life. Move us to another time that’s more exciting, more fulfilling, just more.
Figuring out what it is that moves you will also help you see where your heart lies. You’ll remember from Writing Tip #1 that you should write what you love. Now you’re going to figure out how to analyze what you love to read.
This begins with keeping a reading list/journal. When you read a book or story that speaks to you, make a note of it. The more detail you can include, the better you’ll capture the essence of what it was that made you feel that way. Was it the setting? Where and when was the story set? What details pulled you into the scene? Was it the characters? Which characters specifically? What qualities caught your attention and interest? Was it the interaction of the characters? Where were the areas of conflict? How did they work out their differences?
Keep track and then go back and review what you’ve written. Do you see a pattern? More entries that intrigued you with their characters? More with the plot? More the setting? You can use the details you’ve included from your entries to teach you about how to make your own stories grab your readers.

I’d love to hear from you what are your favorite books!  Just click on “Leave a Comment.”

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Writing Tip #2: 10 Reasons to Read Everything

Reading is an important part of writing.  It’s important to read in many different areas in order to:

  • give you an idea of what has been published in your area
  • show you how others approach your subject
  • develop your ear to the cadence and rhythms of language
  • spark ideas for your own writing
  • help you fine tune your sense of what is good writing, good storytelling
  • learn to read as a writer
  • whet your imagination
  • stretch your emotions
  • focus on sensory details that bring the writing alive for you
  • enrich your vocabulary

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