Friday, April 25, 2014

Flash Friday 4-25-14

Picture Prompt for Flash Friday @ 
Click the link for rules and to enter your own flash, then read my response below.

Canal Workers (Suez Canal). CC Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy.

A Daughter in Peril (158 words)

Leda donned the black hood nervously. "What if he refused to help?" She rapped on the door of the dilapidated apartment building.

“May I help you?”

Leda took a deep breath. It had been years since she had seen him.

“I need your help Beck. Your daughter is in trouble.”

“I have no daughter,” he replied wistfully. “I almost did, once.”

“Remember this picture?” She handed him the device. “Leda had just told you she was pregnant—scroll through—that’s your daughter.”

“Impossible,” Beck muttered, returning the device. “Leda is dead—I killed her.”

Leda removed her hood and stared into the eyes of her husband. “You did. Our daughter saved my life.”

“You kept her from me all these years--why?” Beck challenged. “I didn’t even know she existed.”

“You tried to kill us, remember? But now she’s in trouble and you are the only one who can help. She was taken by Morlings a week ago.”

Thanks for reading. Let me know you liked it. I love comments!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Picture Prompts: Flash Friday 4-18-2014

Flash Friday is no more, but my picture prompts were taken from

Gare du Nord, Paris. CC Photo by Elliot Gilfix.

Loraine tugged at her green hoodie. The station was crowded; people bumped and jostled her as she picked through the crowd. She had taken the norm tincture, effectively hiding her webbed fingers and scaly skin, but the hair—it could not hide her sentient hair.

She cursed silently as her hood was knocked back. She yanked it up, drawing it tighter about her face as she scanned the crowd. She had seen the amulet earlier—the one worn by the Morlings. She could not be captured.

She knew there was a Morling in the station with her. She had seen the amulet; she could smell the electrical charge of his breath.

Leaving the crowded station for the empty platform, she hurried to board. “Soon,” she thought, “only a few hours and I’ll be safely home.”

“I know who you are.” The electrical hiss in her ear rendered Loraine unconscious. She had let him get too close; now she was helpless.


So...Whadya think? Let me know in the comments!

Wow! I won an honorable mention for this piece. Quote from the judge:

Charity Paschall, Untitled. I love flash fiction that hints at a much larger story, just as this one does. What are Morlings? Why does the Morling’s voice render Loraine unconscious? Don’t even get me started on her sentient hair! If this was an excerpt on the back cover of a book, I’d open it up to page one.

Here's the link to see the others that won.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Scavenger Hunt Sunday 4-13-2014

I had planned to start focusing on my writing more and not keeping up with Scavenger Hunt Sunday...but I've changed my mind. I enjoy photography and being able to share my stories, so here I go:

1. Neglected
This poor sheep has neglected her fleece all winter. Her barber is having a bit of trouble. 
(If you know sheep parts and this happens to be a male--forgive me.)   ;)

2. Signs of Spring
I photographed the lovely buds on this Redbud tree on my wild edibles hike at 
Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky. 
The buds and flowers of this tree are edible. They are members of the legume family.

3. Last thing you bought
No, I did not purchase a pig! I bought admission for my family to the Homeplace Living History Farm at Land Between the Lakes in Tennessee. (LBL lies partly in KY and partly in TN).

 4. Shadow
The shadow of this tree's limbs create balance in this picture taken just before the 
wild edibles hike at LBL's Hematite Lake--in the background you can just barely see a 
bit ofwater spilling over the spillway.

 5. Four Things
Alyson felt she should be in the picture along with the four cast-iron skillets hanging on the wall. Next time, I may get her to wear the pioneer dress I made her--would make for a cute photo.

Thanks for joining me on this photographic journey. All of my pictures this week were taken at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. If you have never visited, you are missing out! Follow me or check back for future posts on LBL. We will be visiting frequently over the next months as I am researching and writing a book based in the area.

Friday, April 11, 2014

What's in a Name? Choosing Names for Your Fictional Characters.

How do you name your characters? Do names matter? Do you stick with names you know or have heard? Do you make them up yourself? I’m sure most writers have some type of system, and I would like to share mine with you.

First of all, when I try to think of a character name, I usually need help getting past the everyday Jennifer and Jason, Debby and Donald, Michael and Michelle. These names don’t evoke emotion in me anymore because I have seen them so many times.

(Ok, Michael is my son’s name--he is named after my father-in-law, but that’s a personal emotion—not a reader emotion.)

When choosing character names, it is important to consider genre and your audience. If you are writing leveled readers for first graders, by all means, use names like Tim, Bob, and Jan. You throw Aretha in a first grade leveled reader, and your manuscript is likely to go in the circular file.

Here are a few random(ish) names (some pulled from my writing, others truly random). What emotions do these names evoke? Who do you picture in association with each name? Do certain names seem to lend themselves well to certain genre?


I will share my perspective on those names in a minute. But first I want you to consider: 

Do you get a different vibe from Katherine versus Catherine? 

How about Cathy/Kathy? Kate?    Kristy/Christie?    John/Jon/Jonathan?  

What about Lizbeth and Elizabeth? 

For me, a different spelling can completely change my perception of a character. (Note: Please do not take offense if one of these names is yours and you do not like my initial assumption--I know many people with these names who are not described by my initial reactions--for demonstration purposes only).

Leda – Pretty and exotic, but older woman.

Arnetha – Could be sci-fi, Fantasy

Beck – Strong and Handsome. 

Lindsay – High school girl—cheerleader? Popular.

John – Tall, strong, solid

Leon – Small stature, whiny.

Ruth - Shy, dark hair, glasses.

Ryan – High school – Popular, Football player

Kristy – Mom of young children, pretty, blond

Kate – Strong, tall, dark hair.

Elizabeth – Woman of stature, Wealth, a noble name

Charles – A young boy trying to be a man. (Charlie...wants to be called Charles)

James – Older, a gentleman

Katherine – tall and strong of character

Laura – Historical name, strength of character

Jennifer – Mom (Jen or Jenny if younger character)

Joe – Comedian (This is personal; every Joe I know is a joker).

Daniel – Strong, dark hair

Steve – slim, dark hair

Loraine – curly dark hair, exotic eyes

Now, you may completely disagree with my visualization of these names…and that’s okay. The main thing is to establish that people will judge your character by their name; names have significance. 

Sometimes I will pick a temporary character name to use in my draft, simply so I can get on with the draft without spending time picking the perfect name for my character. Other times my character will change his or her essence and prompt me to change their name due to my preconceived notions regarding their name.

Currently, I have two main ways that I pick my character’s names—besides out of thin air like I did with Loraine.

            1.   Online search:
This may look different each time you search depending on what you are looking for.

·         Interesting baby names
·         Lawyer names
·         Noble names
·         Cheerleader names
·         Baby names 1912
·         Vietnam Wall names
·         Pioneer names

           2. Cemeteries
Yes, cemeteries. I look at the names (and dates) on headstones in old family cemeteries. Headstones are particularly helpful for my historical fiction. I learn:

·         Historical names
·         Popular names in a certain time-period
·         Average age of death in a certain time period

Taken at Turkey Creek Cemetery on a recent trip to Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky.

To these name-finding resources I would add:

  1.  Phonebook: if you still own one
  2.  Genealogy search: can provide information on average family size etc.
  3. Family: personally I would use extended family, deceased grandparents etc. 
  4.   Bible: look at the “begets”—there are lots of name options there. 

How do you choose character names? Have I given you any additional resources to check out? Comments are appreciated. Follow me on social media for future tips.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Picture prompted.

Photo Credit:
"Foggy Otzarreta" by Joserra Martinez:

+MJ Bush asked "What kind of scene would you write here?" Here is my response:

Breathless, Loraine slumped against the tree--a soft cushion of moss beneath her. She peered through the early morning fog back the way she had come--towards Morling Manor.  
The house would soon be waking; they would find her missing and set the dogs on her. Loraine dipped her bare feet, bloodied by sharp rocks, into the water. Whirlpools of red, changed to pink froth and were swept downstream. The wounds healed almost immediately on contact with the water. 
Loraine's fingers splayed over the moss carpeting the forest floor. If only she could stay in this place--but such dreams were impossible. Her kind would never be safe in Shermel Forest; not while the Morlings were around. She shivered at the thought of her recent captivity--she must keep going. 

Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts! Leave me a comment.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What on earth is a Grease Jar?

Grease Jars:

Hillcreek Pottery sampling of Grease Jars at +Silver Dollar City Attractions 

Perhaps you have heard the term grease jar before, and perhaps you have not. To be honest, I don’t recall ever hearing the term growing up, but I am aware that my grandmother used one and most likely yours did too. 

A grease jar is just a jar of bacon grease which is going to be used later for something else. They are especially popular with people who enjoy cooking with cast iron because they help to keep the cast iron well-seasoned.

My grandmother kept her grease jar beside the stove, and used her grease often enough that it did not go bad. Some people still keep them next to the stove but I worry about spoilage and keep mine in the fridge.

Okay, my current grease jar is an old canning jar, but I love this one 
from Hillcreek Pottery at +Silver Dollar City Attractions 

When you are ready to use your grease, bring it out of the fridge and scoop it out like shortening--or you can warm it up a bit to use it as a liquid.

I had planned to write an entire post dedicated to grease jars and their use, but there is someone else who has already done it—and probably better than I could. Christy Jordan at is who originally taught me (through her posts) the wonders of bacon grease. 

Sure, I had reused grease to fry eggs but that was about the extent of it. Christy showed me what I was missing.

Read about grease jars here and here on her website and look around at all of the other great recipes and stories she shares. 

Do you have a grease jar? Did your grandma have one? 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How to Use a Thesaurus to Improve Your Writing

As a fairly new writer, my thesaurus has quickly become a close companion. A thesaurus is used to find synonyms or antonyms to common (or uncommon) words--they can be helpful for vocabulary building, or just adding some variety to your writing. A thesaurus can be an excellent writing tool but it can also get you into trouble. Currently, I use an online thesaurus rather than a print one simply because it is at my fingertips on my phone, tablet, or laptop.

Photo credit: +Martha Curtis

What happens when you look up thesaurus in a thesaurus?

I tried it on and was rewarded with this list of words:

  • Reference book
  • Glossary
  • Lexicon
  • Onomasticon
  • Terminology
  • Vocabulary
  • Language reference book
  • Sourcebook
  • Storehouse of words
  • Treasury of words defines the word Thesaurus as ‘a dictionary of synonyms and antonyms’

As I am writing, or rather, as I am editing, I begin to notice words terms I have used over and over again. These repetitions make my writing sound tired and dull stale and boring even to me.  If I can’t be excited about what I have written after only the second or third time seeing it, I know it will not seem fresh to a readers eyes either be stimulating to my reader either.  

In the above paragraph, I used the strike-through so that you could see some of the possible changes a thesaurus can help you to make. (Apologies for any difficulty you had reading it as a result).

I use my thesaurus to banish clichés from my writing, I use them to improve the description of a scene, and I use them when I cannot find the right word. I occasionally use the thesaurus to find a word that I have previously heard in conversation but am unsure of the meaning.

In her article, Is the Thesaurus Your Friend?, K.M. Weiland asks: 

'Why should a writer limit his vocabulary to words he's known and used all his life? If a word is correct for your story, it doesn't matter if you've known the word for years or if you just learned it.' 

 (Note: this is a partial quote, for the caveat; click through to her blog post).

Writing is not simply putting one word after another; good writing has a rhythm and flow that is almost musical. Consider your favorite Dr. Seuss book. Would he have been so popular writing about Sam the Turtle instead of Yertle the Turtle? Of course not! The lyrical way that he organized words is what made his books popular.

Readers do not want to read tired sentences; they enjoy lyrical locution. 

Would you rather listen to someone lecture in a monotone, or are you engaged by speakers with expressive inflection? Do you tune people out when they use the same tired words again and again? Personally, I would rather listen to someone who has life to their voice, and similarly want to read someone who has given that life to their words.

Perhaps you already know hundreds of thousands of words, and don’t believe you need a thesaurus. Let me ask you. Can you always recall the exact word you want to use at a given time? Do you know their meanings, and can you arrange them in a sentence with lyrical flow? If so, perhaps a thesaurus would not be your tool of choice.

Look at the possibilities for replacing the word "large" in your writing...
Look for inspiration in the antonyms too!

Photo credit: +Martha Curtis 

The thesaurus can be a great asset to help you find less-used words, or to help banish clichés from your writing but it can also be your downfall.

When you look up synonyms, you might see a word there that you had overlooked or didn't previously know the meaning to. Before you use it, consider this—will your reader know what it means? There are some words you can let context define for you, but if you get too heavy-handed with these flowery words, your reader will feel as though you are writing over their head and will lose interest quickly. Let this be a word of caution to use those words sparingly.

In her article, Hint to Writers: Use the Thesaurus with Caution, Jennifer Blanchard wrote: 

'By using the thesaurus to change words I thought were “common,” I ended up sounding fake. And readers can always tell if a writer is being genuine or not.'

Consider these examples:

The blonde laughed at me.

The golden-haired beauty giggled at me.

The auricomous gentlewoman cachinnated at me.

I personally would not have a clue what the writer was trying to tell me if I read that last sentence. I would either skim it and keep going—perhaps losing an important element in the story—or I would lay the book down and probably not pick it back up. Either way, if the writer did this to me again—I would be turned off and would not bother finishing the book.

A thesaurus can be a great tool to help you engage your reader and offer them some verbal variety but you must be careful not to overuse it. 

Do you use a thesaurus in your writing? If not, will you after reading this article? What is your favorite writing tool? I would love to hear from you in the comment section.