Tuesday, August 31, 2010

House Fires At Cluculz Lake

Once again I'm reminded how grateful I am for all we have. Neighbours across the lake lost their summer home to a fire. A week later their next door neighbours' summer home also burned down.

I know it's difficult to spot, but the first house stood immediately left of the one burning where the light green fence is located and just below the blue-roofed house.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Writing TIP #1 - SHOW DON'T TELL.

Don't tell me what your character saw, show me.

Buster peeked around the corner of the sofa and spotted Garagee resting on dad's legs. Buster couldn't help smiling. Or was that a sneer?


His muscles taunt, his steps powerful, Buster strutted through his kingdom, his nails occasionally snagging on the carpet. He rounded the corner of the sofa and spotted his unsuspecting victim lying across dad's legs. "Here I come, Miss Garagee, ready or not."

Today's tip is just one bridge to a deeper narrator. If you're excited about your manuscript yet know there's more you can do to enrich the prose, go through and eliminate anything that takes your reader out of your protagonist's head. Search for statements like: he thought, she knew, he watched, and rephrase to show the result of their actions. Instead of telling me he watched, show me what he saw. Instead of telling me what he thought, show me his thoughts.

He thought the pain in his chest had ripped a hole through him.
Horrendous pain burrowed through his chest; his legs crumbled. 

She heard the loud boom and knew it was a gun.
A gunshot rang out, and Julie pressed her hands to her ears. Oh shit -- my eardrums are busted!

And, as I've said many times before, remember the best part of writing a book is revising. It's like renovating your house instead building a new one.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Non Profit Rescue Centre

One of the many positive things about the internet is you get to meet people you might not otherwise ever hear of. Craig Grant is one of those people.

Craig built a farm, turned it into a cat sanctuary and named it Caboodle Ranch. You can find out more about Craig and his cats at http://www.caboodleranch.com/Index.html

It's no secret I'm a big cat fan, so when I read Craig's story, about a man who once disliked cats, I was deeply moved. Many people talk about making a difference, few do. Craig has an incredible story to tell and I hope you'll stop and visit.

He spays and neuters every cat he rescues.

Congratulations, Craig, for honouring one of God's gifts.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Beginning, Middle, and End

A Half Dozen Hints for Creating a Satisfying Story Plot
Want to write a story readers can't put down? These plotting hints will help them enjoy a smooth ride from beginning to end.

You may know what kind of story to write. You may know how to begin and end. But getting from here to there is tricky.
Don’t leave home without a map:
1. Outline your plot first—in writing. Authors vary in outlining techniques. Some go into dozens of pages of detail; some stop at a single sentence. You’ll find your individual style eventually, but the following is a good starting point:
A. Introduce main character(s) and central problem
B. First solution attempt
C. First complication—intended solution either fails, or causes a new, worse problem
D. Second solution attempt
E. Second complication
F. Third solution attempt
G. Third complication—situation now seems impossible
H. Last solution attempt either succeeds, or brings story to alternate resolution
I. Brief wrap-up
2. Always have a problem—a real problem—in your story. Nothing bores readers more than seeing everything go smoothly. While the problem needn’t be a matter of life and death, it must be serious to the story’s main character: a teenager worries about being popular; a retiree worries about the neighborhood deteriorating. Whatever the problem, the character should be directly affected by it and in a position to do something about it. Praying for a son overseas at war counts as doing something; fretting about him does not.
3. Never make your problem easy to solve. Let things get worse, at least twice, before they get better. Readers feel cheated when problems are solved immediately, with no real struggle. Letting someone miss an obvious solution is not the answer; readers are too smart for that.
Nor should the problem be solved by a “god from a machine,” the sudden appearance of a brand-new character or gadget. Which leads to Hint Four:
4. Surprise your readers—but not too much. Readers shouldn’t think “I never saw that coming” without thinking “I should have seen it coming.” They love it when someone escapes in a hidden car or when a bad guy turns out to be a good guy—if you dropped a few hints to the existence of the car or the character’s true nature. Painting a character as an obnoxious bigot won't necessarily make it believable if he suddenly murders his closest confidant for profit. There are arrogant characters and truly evil characters, and few readers automatically equate the two.
5. Tie up all loose ends. Don’t leave readers wondering what happened to Hannah, or if Steve passed his exam. As playwright Anton Chekhov is credited with saying, don’t bring a gun on stage and leave it unfired.
You can, of course, use a list of red-herring details to distract from one that will be significant five chapters later. But no character or question, onstage long enough to catch reader interest, should walk offstage without readers seeing the final departure.
Keeping track of loose ends isn’t easy; hence:
6. Keep a written master record of details—eye colors, time frames, building layouts. If you rely on memory, your central-block location may suddenly move to the corner. It happens to the best of us; Jerry B. Jenkins of Left Behind fame had to rewrite several chapters of one book after realizing his setting fit a situation that had already changed.
The idea of redoing three hundred pages is enough to make a person consider giving up writing, so here's a bonus hint: practice on short stories before attempting a novel. It lowers the stakes—and chances—of a major plot goof.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Forest Fires Rampant in BC

As you can see by the photographs below, the forest fires in our region have grown and the smoke is rolling in. Hopefully, today the winds will die and the smell won't be so yucky tonight.

To all those forest fighters battling these fires, our gratitude and our best wishes for your safety.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Interview with author and funny man Hank Quense

BOOK TITLE: Tales from Gundarland
326 Pages
Print Book Price: $17.99
Print Publisher: Create Space
Print ISBN#: 9781452871264

E-book Price: $5.99 pub date: 5/23/10
E-book Publisher: Create Space
EBook ISBN#: ISBN: 978-1-4523-1945-2

Category: Fantasy, Anthology, Humor, Short Stories

All the stories in the collection take place in mythical Gundarland. It's is populated by humans, dwarfs, elves and other races. Gundarland is the backdrop for unique adventures, brilliant heroes and cunning villains.

This collection of humorous short stories and novellas is now available in print, Kindle and ebook editions.

The book is filled with humorous fantasy stories including two retellings of Shakespeare's most famous plays.


"Hank Quense is at it again. He’s sharpened up his satirical pen to let the hot air out of the greedy, the power-hungry, and maybe the rest of us. And therein lies a tale…or several. These action-packed, exciting adventures are laced with humor that will have you snickering, if not falling off your chair laughing. What delicious fun." Jan Clark

"Tales from Gundarland is a magical escape into a world of quirky and colorful characters. The author, Hank Quense, writes satirical spin-offs from traditional tales and cleverly blurs the archaic gender stereotypes." Lynn Coyle

Hank Quense is the author of three previously published books. Two, Fool's Gold and Tunnel Vision are fiction while Build a Better Story is non-fiction.

Link to Press Release (click here)

Author Bio

Hank writes Science Fiction and Fantasy stories (along with an occasional writing article) from Bergenfield, NJ. All of these stories are humorous or satiric because he refuses to write serious genre stories. He feels that folks who crave serious Fantasy and SF can get a full measure in any daily newspaper.

He has a novel (Fool's Gold) a collection of short stories (Tunnel Vision) in print and ebook versions. He also authored and published a book on fiction writing (Build a Better Story) available on his website in as an ebook. Much of the book is based on his experiences in critiquing hundreds of short stories and a number of novels

In an un-published state (at the moment) are the first two novels in a trilogy involving both fantasy and alien cultures. He is working on the first book of a fantasy trilogy and several short stories.
* * * 

Thank you for being here today, Hank. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I live in Northern New Jersey with my wife. We live about 12 miles from mid-town Manhattan often called the Entertainment Capital of the galaxy because of all the extraterrestrials who go there on vacations. These visitors enjoy plays, concerts and sporting events, but the most popular attraction is getting a gig driving a cab for a few days.

What have you had published?
To date, over forty short stories and fiction writing articles and four books. Fool’s Gold is a short novel that retells the ancient Rhinegold myth as sci-fi rather than fantasy. Tunnel Vision is a collection of twenty previous published short stories. Build a Better Story is an ebook on fiction writing. Finally, there is Tales From Gundarland.

Tell us about the latest book.
It’s a collection of eight humorous talks. Six are short stories and two are novellas. Here is my book blurb:

Laughter is like free health insurance: you can’t get too much of it. This book will give you enough laughs to boost your health.

It’s filled with delightful entertainment. Without commercial interruption!
Gundarland is populated by humans, dwarfs, elves and other races; it’s the backdrop for unique adventures, brilliant heroes and cunning villains.

All these stories are new. You’ll meet some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters, a warrior-cook, vigilantes, a trio of beautiful, lusty princesses to mention just a few of the memorable characters in the stories.

Please describe one of the stories in the collection.

Romeo and Juliet is great fun, both to read and write. I’m quite proud of this story. Romeo, a dwarf miner, and Juliet, the elfin daughter of a rich gem merchant, have a rocky courtship because Juliet’s brothers are avowed enemies of Romero’s family. Romeo, while in love with Juliet has a decision to make. If he marries her, he’ll have to five up his career aspirations to be a professional ballet dancer. Meanwhile, rather than marry an old count as demanded by her brothers, Juliet poison’s herself. When Romeo is told, he realizes that Juliet means everything to him. He finds a wizard and has him reincarnate Juliet and the pair live (well, one of them anyway) happily ever after.

How do you go about creating a Shakespearean spoof like this?
First I took his main characters and created different ones with different backgrounds and problems, but still maintaining a lot of his nuances. Next I figured out how to fit these characters into Shakespeare’s plot. To keep in within the bounds of a short story, I had to simplify Shakespeare’s plot because his plots are masterpieces of complexity.

Do you plan to wreak havoc on any other of Shakespeare’s plays?
Yes, I’m working on a two-fer. This will be a novella combining a cimplified Othello with an equally simplified Hamlet. It also has a pair of characters from this current book, Rolf and Ralf who have now gone into piracy. The brothers link the Hamlet and Othello plots. The story is slowly coming together.

How is the book selling?

So far, I have modest sales around here. It’s a best seller un Gundarland. That’s in a parallel universe. The Gundarlandian currency is mostly silver coins to if I can ever figure a way to transport the silver I’ve earned back there, I’ll be rolling in money. One of my son-in-laws is a mechanic and he’s trying to build a transporter out of an old washing machine.

Anything new in the works?
A fantasy/sci-fi novel

How can people find you online?

My website is www.hankquense.com.

Thanks, Hank. Best of luck with your book and your career.

Monday, August 16, 2010

We're Having a Heatwave

...A tropical heatwave.

The only problem is a heatwave means forest fires...

It's true, sometimes I forget no one is immune from Mother Nature. Therefore, today seems a good day to say how grateful I am for where I live; snow or no snow.

The province of British Columbia is shrouded in a haze of thick smoke. Hope those of you near one of the 275 forest fires are breathing well.

Cluculz Lake is right around the first O in Vanderhoof.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


A rural writers retreat is schedule for Oct 21-24 in Smithers British Columbia at the Driftwood Lodge.

Driftwood Lodge overlooks  Smithers, BC and offers 120 acres of breathtaking Bulkley Valley, with unobstructed views of the Hudson Bay Mountain, the Babine Mountains and the Telkwa Range.

 Creekstone Press’ Sheila Peters will discuss the importance of community and activism in writing. Jane Stevenson, author of The Railroader’s Wife and former curator at the Bulkley Valley Museum, will host a workshop about doing archival research away from a major centre. Sarah de Leeuw of Prince George will host a workshop called Writing Creatively in Rural and Northern B.C. Sarah is an instructor at UNBC and her writing focuses on creative non-fiction and poetry.

There's also a planned workshop about the art of aboriginal storytelling. Speaker to be announced later. For more information, email ruralwriters@gmail.com or check out their webpage at http://ruralwriters.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


© 2010 Arlene Miller

Although I was excited and flattered when I was asked to be a guest blogger on Joylene’s blog, I didn’t know what to write about. I just wrote a grammar book…and grammar, well, it can be a tough thing to write about! I figured I could either inform or entertain, or, ideally, I could do both. So I will. I will leave the most common mistakes people make and the parts of speech and the punctuation rules for another time. Today, I will talk about: (drum roll, please) – putting words where they belong, so you don’t make anyone laugh….unless you want them to, of course!

In the English language, words are assumed to belong with the words they are written next to. When words are put in the wrong place, the writing may be difficult to understand, or it might even be unintentionally ridiculous. This grammatical error is sometimes known as the “dangling participle” or just the “misplaced modifier.” Let’s look at some examples.

Here is one I like to show to my students:
“While still in diapers, my mother remarried.”

Well, you might just skip by it, whether you have written it or are reading it….and assume it means what it should….but it doesn’t. The way it is written says that my mother was still in diapers when she remarried. Probably not what the writer meant?? Since “my mother” comes right after the participial phrase “while still in diapers,” it is assumed that they go together. There are usually many ways to fix a sentence. Here is the most logical fix:

“While I was still in diapers, my mother remarried.”

Here is another one:
“The girl walked her dog wearing a bikini.”

Once again, you might go right by this one and not notice that anything is amiss. However, since the phrase (participial again) “wearing a bikini” comes right after dog, it really means that the dog is wearing a bikini. Now, even my Chihuahua didn’t wear a bikini! Here’s a possible fix (there are many):

“Wearing a bikini, the girl walked her dog.”

Here is one that is hard to pick out, but it may actually make the meaning of the sentence confusing:
“The audience members congratulated him on his speech at the end of the meeting and promised their support.”
Have you found the problem? You really cannot tell what it was that happened at the end of the meeting. In all likelihood, the audience members congratulated him at the end of the meeting. However, the sentence says that his speech was at the end of the meeting.

Here is one possible fix:

“At the end of the meeting, the audience members congratulated him and pledged their support.”

One of the most commonly misplaced words is the word only. It seems as if it is put in the incorrect place most of the time, and while you can usually still understand the sentence correctly, look at how important its placement is. Read these five sentences. They are the same except for the placement of the word only.
  1. Only she made a speech at the meeting.
  2. She only made a speech at the meeting.
  3. She made the only speech at the meeting.
  4. She made the speech only at the meeting.
  5. She made the speech at the only meeting.

Each sentence has a different meaning, depending on which word only is placed near. Here are the different meanings:
  1. No one else made a speech at the meeting – only she did.
  2. She made a speech, but she didn’t do anything else at the meeting.
  3. Aha! Means the same as the first sentence. No one else made a speech.
  4. She didn’t make a speech anywhere else – just at the meeting.
  5. There was no other meeting.

Well, I think my space is about up….but here are a few things that made me chuckle this past week or two: I was looking up a certain school on the Internet, a very good private school. On the page about Language Arts, they claimed they taught “grammer” – with an er. I also saw on the internet that a girl wanted to forget about her “sorted” past! I hope the sordid parts were sorted out! And what about those important tenants that you live your life by -- aren’t they the people living in the house you own?

I will close with something true and serious. This is no laughing matter. The word that means “fear of long words” is (are you ready?)

 Arlene Miller

Arlene Miller was a writer and editor for many years (newspapers, books, technical manuals) before becoming an English teacher several years ago.  She has a degree in Journalism, a graduate degree (it look seven years!) in Humanities, and a teaching credential. Originally from Boston (Bahston), she has two young adult children, no Boston accent, and lives just a bit north of the Golden Gate Bridge in California. In her former life (until about 8 years ago), she was also a tap dancer.

a recent radio interview with Arlene Miller:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ask PZM - August 2010

Q: What are some basic social media tips?

1. Use the same headshot photo of yourself across every social media platform on which you participate. And also use this photo for a gravatar (gravatar.com) for leaving comments on blog posts.

2. Follow the same rules of good manners for social media participation that you would offline. For example, if someone retweets you on Twitter, tweet a thanks (and consider including the link from the original tweet in the thank-you tweet).

3. Employ common sense when deciding what should be a private online message and what should be a public message. On Twitter, for example, you probably would use a DM (direct message) to send your personal phone number to one person.

4. Share new information continuously in your status updates. You want people to engage with you and not unfollow or unfriend you because you always share the same information. (Repeatedly sending out the same message can be considered spamming.)

5. Be careful to distinguish between sharing personal information such as your favorite music, which helps establish bonds with others, and private information, which should not be shared on the Internet. This is particularly important to try to prevent identity theft. For example, on Facebook share your birth month and date but not your birth year (see Facebook privacy controls).

Note: These are the Miller Mosaic Power Marketing tips found in the new tips booklet HOW TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO INCREASE YOUR BUSINESS. The booklet includes tips from 13 other businesses – and many of these tips would be good for book promotion.

You can download a free pdf of the tips booklet at the Miller Mosaic Facebook page at www.facebook.com/powermarketing (Inner Circle tab). While you’re there, do join the page by clicking on the “like” button. (And we also have a Facebook book marketing page at www.facebook.com/bookmarketing)

Q: Should I take the time to do reviews of other people’s books on Amazon?

Absolutely! You’re a book author – and people on Amazon who are looking at other authors’ books are presumably book buyers. And the best books to review are probably ones similar to yours.

The more reviews you write the more you will be getting your name in front of book buyers. And even if your book isn’t yet published, you want book buyers to know about you.

Anyone who has ever bought anything on Amazon (and thus has an Amazon account) can post a review. The review itself doesn’t have to be very long (I personally think less is more) although it should provide helpful information rather than only saying something such as “great book.”

To see examples of the “identification” of people who posts reviews on Amazon, use this link – http://budurl.com/MrsLTAmazonreviews – and scroll through the reviews to see how reviewers can promote themselves by writing reviews.

In addition, if you want to learn more about how posting reviews on Amazon can help promote your book or business, check out the information about Cathy Goodwin’s Amazon promotion package at http://www.millermosaicllc.com/recommended-products/ – scroll down until you see From Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D.: Boost Business with Online Book Reviews (this is an affiliate link).

© 2010 Miller Mosaic, LLC

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the co-founder of the social media marketing company Miller Mosaic Power Marketing. She has just self-published through CreateSpace (owned by Amazon) the book FOUR COMEDY SCREENPLAYS, and she wrote the fourth screenplay in the book, DR. SOAPY, with Queen Latifah in mind. Read about this book at http://www.millermosaicllc.com/four-comedy-screenplays

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Where There Is Life There Is Death

Farm sitting isn't the same as being a farmer. I was raised on a farm; it requires a 24/7 commitment. But a few years back, my husband befriended a farmer who was looking for someone to feed his animals every morning while he was at camp. My husband, being retired, thought it was something he and I would enjoy. And we do. I do. But anyone familiar with farming knows that where there is life there is death.

One morning I entered the nursery (a building separate from the chicken coop) to find one mother hen in distress with one chick close by. As soon as she saw me she rushed back to where three more chicks were and clucked frantically. I don't understand chicken talk but call me crazy, I think she was trying to tell me to do something. It's a long story, but me and this particular hen are friends.

At first I thought they were dead, yet as soon as I touched them they moved. And the more I stroked their feathers, the more they responded. I held them close to my body for awhile, they were wet and cold, then placed them in my pocket and went about my chores. Once home, I placed them in a box in a very hot bathroom. Again, they just laid there dying. I ended up sitting on the sofa holding them close the rest of the day. By dinner time they were chirping and pecking at my shirt for food, so we took them back to the farm. I introduced them back into their mother's care with no problems. The next morning, the middle chick was dead.

The second day, of the remaining three, only one of the chicks above and the original black one that had hatched first remained. 

I was raised on a farm with plenty of horses, pigs and chickens, but I'm no farming expert. I've never understood why some animals live and some die before their time. Life is like that, I guess, unpredictable. I do believe that how we react to life and death says a lot about our character. 
When I brought home the three chicks, I did so because I felt the need to make a difference. I gave two of them a bit more time. Or so I think. But who's to say that the result would have been exact the same had I not interfered?

Here's a thought. If I hadn't interfered what story would I be telling you now?

In fiction writing, there are those who believe it's our job to help readers understand life and all its trials and tribulations. That seems like a lot of responsibility to me. I rather think that its our job to tell the story and let the reader figure out the rest.

What do you think?