Friday, February 25, 2011

How to Write a Sentence by Stanley Fish

I'm reading the book "How to Write a Sentence" by New York Times columnist and professor Stanley Fish. The subtitle is "And How to Read One."

Fish's book demands more than reading; it requires study and contemplation. In his book, Fish analyzes sentences by breaking them down into their basic elements and gives examples of those memorable ones--those that draw readers in, hinting at plot and character, and making them want more.

"Call me Ishmael" from Moby-Dick is a sentence Fish cites, and one that tops several memorable first sentence lists.

Speaking of which: Did you know there are several websites devoted to sentences? Fish mentions several in his book. I found a couple on my own. Here's the American Book Review site with the Best First 100 Lines from Novels. And another one with the best last sentences.

One of my favorite first lines is from a children's book -- Kate DiCamillo's "Because of Winn-Dixie." The opening line introduces the character, conflict, setting, and voice. "My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog."

Another is from the O. Henry's short story, "The Gift of the Magi," which begins, "One dollar and eighty-seven cents."

My hope is that by reading and analyzing memorable sentences I can make my own sentences more appealing.

How about you? Do you have any favorite opening (or ending) sentences?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Friend Alice and Chicken Soup for the Soul

Yesterday at critique group, my writing friend Alice Muschany gave me a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandmothers, which will be released next month. Alice has three true stories in the Chicken Soup Grandmothers issue.

Her inscription at the front of the book brought tears to my eyes. Despite many hardships she has suffered, she is a generous, thoughtful, and funny woman--full of life and joy.

She is a wonderful writer who manages to touch your heart while putting a smile on your face. Even the guys in our group love Alice's stories--and they are tough critics.

Yesterday she also gave me a print copy of call-outs for possible CS book titles, and she read a humorous true story about her Vegas wedding for the CS Brides and Weddings call-out. With all these submission opportunities, I thought surely my blog visitors have stories to submit.

So, if you're looking for a market for your true stories, the editors at Chicken Soup have several call-outs. Here are a few with deadlines coming up soon:

* Devotional Stories in Times of Troubles - Feb 28 (a 500-words limit--but hurry, hurry)

* Canada - Feb 28 (another quick deadline for our neighbors up North)

* Brides and Weddings - Apr 30

Check out the Chicken Soup for the Soul website for submission guidelines and additional possible book titles.

Congratulations--and thank you--Alice!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

FRESH BLOOD - Saturday Centus on Tuesday

After a busy extended weekend, it's back to writing.

Over on Jenny Matlock's blog, she posted her Saturday Centus challenge. Participants are to use the words "I'd catch a grenade for ya" and write a story of no more than 100 words (not counting the prompt).

If you don't recognize these words, they're part of the lyrics from a popular Bruno Mars song.

Here's my attempt.

FRESH BLOOD

Digging through a dumpster, Rudy’s stomach growled.

Heck of a way to celebrate his eighteenth birthday. Parents killed last summer by a drunk driver, Rudy ran away rather than live in foster care.


Humming a Bruno Mars song, he read an ad while nibbling a half-eaten pizza.

“HELP WANTED. Free: Housing. Meals. Training.”


After memorizing the address he cleaned up in a gas station restroom.


Later that day, the man in green asked, “How badly you want to join us?”


Remembering the song, Rudy answered, “I’d catch a grenade for ya.”


The Army recruiter extended a hand. “You’re just what we’re looking for.”

Monday, February 21, 2011

Weekend Update, A Belated Birthday Wish, and A Question

This weekend was crazy-busy, but lots of fun!

I drove a lot and waited even more. On Friday, my granddaughter was Sophomore class female representative at her high school dance for the Winter Coronation court. I slipped in and out to take photos. Saturday and Sunday she competed in Irish dance competitions in downtown St. Louis. Rather than make an 80-mile round-trip each day, we stayed in a hotel with a magnificient view of the St. Louis skyline. Still, it was a hectic and stressful few days.

After school on Friday, my grandson and Walt and Harley (of course), headed out to our place in the country until Saturday night. Oh, and Walt accidentally took my keys with him, which I needed to drive my granddaughter to the dance on Friday, so that made for some hectic moments. I drove Walt's truck then later found his spare set of keys.

My grandson had an interesting tale about their visit to our farm: Harley chased him around on his four-wheeler and he also chased a baby calf in the farm across the road--until the momma cow arrived and Harley ran back across the road to our place. Sunday my grandson had a soccer game and a basketball game. We made it back in time to see the basketball game.

Yesterday would've been my dad's 95th birthday. It seemed appropriate that I was at an Irish event on Sunday, Dad's birthday. James Patrick Duly was proud of his Irish-American heritage. He was one of 11 children--only five made it to adulthood. His grandfather came to America during the "Great Famine." His grandmother's maiden name was O'Donnell (which also is the last name of my grandchildren).

Over the weekend I shared some of Dad's favorite sayings and ditties with my granddaughter, in hopes that she will remember them some day. She thought they were strange, but it was my way to remember Dad and pass along family memories. When I talked with my sister Kathleen last night, we had a few laughs and shared some of our memories of Dad.

Today I visited a blog that posed the question if you could go back and change something in the past, what would it be.

The first one that came to mind is: I wish I would've paid more attention when my dad and mom and other relatives talked about our family history and "the good old days."

How about you? What would you change?

Friday, February 18, 2011

February Giveaway for My Followers

My regular readers know that I am a book reviewer for Bookreporter, Teenreads, and Kidsreads. After finishing my reviews, I often give away books to family or friends or donate them to local libraries.

Sometimes rather than receiving copies of books, I am sent Uncorrected Proofs and Advance Reader's Copies (ARCs), which I can't really donate to a library, so I keep them in a stack that has been growing larger.

To shorten my stack and show my appreciation to my blog followers, I'm giving away two ARCs this month.

In honor of February, with St. Valentine's Day and healthy-heart month, I'm giving away an ARC of THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE, written by National Book Award Nominee Beth Kephart and published by HarperTeen.

The gracefully written book is about two friends who travel to Juarez, Mexico, as part of a mission to help improve a community. The story is about courage, loyalty, and the responsibilities of friendship. You can read my entire review of Kephart's novel on the Teensreads.com site.



The second ARC giveaway is HIGHWAY ROBBERY written by Irish author Kate Thompson, published by Greenwillow Books. This is a middle-grade novel intended for ages 10 and up. It's a story of danger and suspense and an infamous horse.

You can read my entire review by visiting the Kidsreads site.

If you are a children's writer, these books are great to read to study the craft of writing. They also make great gifts for children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or students.

To sign up for the February ARC giveaway:
* Be a follower of my blog
* If you aren't a follower, just sign up before Feb 28
* Leave a comment by Feb 28 and let me know which ARC you would like
* If you would like both ARCs, leave two separate comments
* Be sure to include an e-mail address so I can contact you

I will separate comments by titles requested then randomly select the names of two followers who have left comments. Winners' names will be announced the first week of March.

Good luck to all who enter. If this giveaway receives a fair amount of response, I will repeat the process next month with similar giveaways.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

News to Share and Welcome

Yesterday was a day for good news.

My granddaughter Cari participated in the regional competitions with her high school's Future Business Leaders of America team. Cari received a first-place trophy in the Introduction to Business Communications category.

By placing first, she qualifies for Missouri State competitions next month. If she wins in the state competition, she will qualify to compete in the nationals in Orlando, Florida, in the spring.

Congratulations and good luck, Cari! We are so proud of you.

Earlier in the day our critique group crackled with good news.

* Paul told us that his book signing at Big Sleep Books on Saturday went well. His interview by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch appeared in the A&E section of the weekend edition.

* Claudia reported that an agent has requested a full manuscript of her latest romantic suspense novel. The request for a full is a result of Claudia winning a Romance Writers of America competition.

* On Monday, Alice received 30 contributor copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandmothers, which will be released soon. The reason Alice received so many copies is because she has three stories in the anthology. Way to go, Alice!

* Tommie brought along as a guest her lovely daughter Cameron, who is a marvelous critiquer--but more impressively--she's going to have a baby girl on Friday.

Talk about a busy and an exciting day!

But wait, there's more.

I'm extcited and pleased to WELCOME my three newest followers:

Val Thevictorian
Ann Best
and
Kathy Holmes

Thanks for following Donna's Book Pub. Feel free to leave comments or e-mail me if you have any questions. Hope you visit often and stay long!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Squirrely Valentine

Last night a little after 7 p.m. the phone rang. It was my grandkiddos’ other grandmother, who lives close by.


From her voice I knew something was wrong.


“I don’t know what to do,” she said.


“What happened?” I asked, thinking something happened to her mom--the kid’s great-grandmother--who is 90, and lives in a nursing home.


“A squirrel is stuck in my fireplace.”


I breathed a sigh of relief and repeated. “A squirrel in your fireplace?”


Michael, who was sitting nearby getting out his books to do homework, perked up immediately.


She said, “I called for someone to get it out but they want almost three-hundred dollars to come tonight or one hundred if I wait till tomorrow. Do you think Michael can bring his b-b-gun and shoot it?


"Michael's b-b-gun?" I asked, thinking I didn't hear her right.


Woa! Wait a minute. That wasn’t going to happen. First, you don’t shoot a gun in the house—not even a b.b. gun, but I didn’t want to make things worse by lecturing her on gun safety.


Instead, I asked her to hold on, and I gave the phone to Walt, squirrel hunter extraordinare.


It was déjà vu all over.


Several years ago, right around Christmas time, my sister Kathleen had a squirrel stuck in her fireplace. Kathleen’s husband Jim was at work, so she called her daughter Angie then me, and it was Walt to the rescue.


My niece Angie tried to help Walt catch the squirrel, which darted from the fireplace when Walt opened the door. The squirrel sprinted between Angie's legs and hid in the Christmas tree. The squirrel jumped from branch to branch, knocking down ornaments. My sister freaked out because it was her “Irish” tree--the one with several Waterford collectible ornaments.


Long story short: Walt caught the squirrel, but the little guy gave up a fight, biting Walt all he way out the door. As blood dripped from his hand, Walt squeezed, hoping the squirrel would stop biting. But the harder he squeezed, the harder the squirrel bit down. Walt survived, although at my sister's insistence he visited the ER to make sure he didn't get rabies. A few ornaments (thankfully none of the Waterfords) and the squirrel were not as lucky. For Christmas that year, my sister gave Walt a stuffed toy squirrel. It was the hit during the gift exchange.


Back to last night. Before he left the house, Walt found a pair of leather work gloves. He didn't want to get bit this time. Michael put on his hoodie, and when Cari heard what was going on, she rushed out of her bedroom and asked them to wait for her. Michael’s b-b gun, our dog Harley, and I all stayed home.


Less than an hour later, Walt and the grandkiddos came back. They were exicted and couldn't wait to tell me what happened. Walt had caught the squirrel in a towel and released him out the front door, unharmed. And this time Walt didn't shed any blood.


Not exactly a romantic Valentine's night, but definitely a squirrely one, and the makings of a good story.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Your Heart

St. Valentine's Day is traditionally the day we show our love for others. I think it's also a fitting day to remind us all to take care of ourselves, especially our hearts.

Heart disease is the #1 killer of American women.

My sister and brother-in-law have recently had surgeries to address heart issues. Thankfully, they have adjusted their diets, are exercising more, and doing great. (I need to follow their examples.) My sister-in-law also has had several surgeries for a congenital problem with her heart. So, this issue hits close to home.

Several corporations have programs to encouage us to take care of our hearts. Campbell's soup has a sweepstakes going on until March 31 to encourage people to have a heart-healthy lifestyle. They are giving away prizes as part of their continuing program to fight heart disease.

Their AdDress your Heart program going on until March 31 also encourages women (and men) to watch inspirational celebrity videos. For every video viewed, Campbell's will donate $1 to the American Heart Association's "Go Red for Women program," up to $625,000.

So, while you're remembering your loved ones today, don't forget to take care yourself--and love your heart!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday Centus Time - Valentine Superhero

Jenny Matlock's Saturday Centus is a humdinger of a challenge this week.

Rather than creating a story, because Monday is St. Valentine's Day, we are to create a greeting card.

Jenny searched the Internet to come up with our prompt.

Here it is: Using the photo of a pug dressed in a Wonder Woman costume (below) we are to come up with a Valentine card of no more than 50 words.

Impossible, you say? What would Wonder Woman do? Hmmm. I may not be Wonder Woman, but I am a writer, so I'll give it a shot. Here goes:

Outside: Happy Valentine's Day to my Superhero!

When I'm with you I turn into an animal.


Inside: What? You were expecting Halle Berry as Cat Woman?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Celebrate, Speak Out, and Share the Love

Yipee!!!! Celebrate with me: When I logged on this morning I noticed Donna's Book Pub has reached a milestone. I now have 100 followers. Whot! Whot!

Thanks, everyone. While this milestone might be modest by some standards, I appreciate every one of you and thank you all for coming along for the ride. Thanks for your support, comments, questions, humor, and wisdom. I'm honored to share my thoughts and words with you all!

I'd also like to acknowledge my four newest followers:

Elsybeth42 at ElysabethsStories

Poetic Justice at tragiccreativity

Vicky Alvear Shecter from History with a Twist

Sara Katt at the Red Cat Society

Another of my followers, Melissa Ann Goodwin, is the featured blogger today over at WOW! with her inspiring Friday Speak Out on being a late blooming writer.

Yet another follower, Jules over at Trying to Get Over the Rainbow, passed this award on to all her followers. So, with St. Valentine's Day on the horizon, I would like to share the love by passing this lovely Bloggers = Love award. Just download the button on the left and post it to your blog. Then in the spirit of sharing the love, pass it on if you like. (Did I just use the word love four times in this paragraph--oops, make that five.)

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend. It's going to warm up a bit here, so hopefully some of our evil snow will melt.

Next week I'm going to announce a giveaway to show my appreciation to all you wonderful folks.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

From Woman's Day - Life Lessons from Romance Novels

This Woman's Day article written by Denise Schipani got my attention.

In her article, Schipani discusses seven life lessons readers can learn from modern romance novels.

I believe a few of these lessons also apply to being a writer. Of the seven, these three call out at me: authenticity matters, listen to your gut, and never give up.

* As I writer, I want to be authentic and passionate about my writing. If I don't believe in myself and my work, who else will?

* I try to take time and listen. I've learned that inspiration can come from anywhere or anyone, but I have to let myself be open to it and follow my intuition.

* Like love and romance, writing is not for the thin skinned. Rejections hurt, but they can be badges of honor and a way to connect with other writers.

How about you? If you read the Woman's Day article, do any of the seven life lessons apply to your writing?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Short Deadline - Short Story

Writer's Digest is looking for "Your Story" submissions of short stories of no more than 750 words, using this prompt:

"It was on a bright, starry night that the traveling circus rolled into town."

Deadline is FEBRUARY 10.

For complete guidelines, visit the Writer's Digest website.

Good luck.

Hmmm traveling circus. Guess I better juggle my schedule and stop clowning around so I can try to hit the big time with my entry.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Four Welcomes, Nine Pens, and One Question

I've both read and heard that readers are more likely to check out what you have to say (or write) if you use numbers in the title. Don't know if that's true, but using numbers in this title fit with today's post, so here goes:

Four Welcomes

First, I want to exentd a warm welcome to my four newest followers:

Kay Theodoratus, Janet, Janice Votsmier, and Jenny Matlock

Thanks for signing up to be my followers. I hope you will visit often, and I hope my regular readers will check out your blogs. I did.

Nine Pens

Some of my favorite writing gifts--to give and receive--are books, journals, and pens. I was so excited last week when I got my e-mail newsletter from Real Simple, which included a feature on nine "noteworthy" pens.

Here's a link to the Real Simple feature with the pens. Designs include a carved dog pen (with a carving of a dog on top), a set of 1951 retro pens (my favorite), colorful Campo Marzio roller ball pens (very cool), a key pen, and several others. Prices vary from affordable to extravagant.

One Question

How about you: Do you have favorite writing-related gifts?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Blog Me, Baby - Calling All Contest Lovers

If you're looking for a groovy contest that's easy to enter and will help another writer achieve her goal, hop on over to Writing in the Buff .

In her goal to reach 100 followers this year, Lisa is giving away some nifty prizes, including a gift card, a Stephen King book on writing, and a lovely journal.

Lisa's contest closes on February 25. For contest details, visit Lisa's Writing in the Buff blog.

Good luck!

Saturday Centus

I'm a tad late posting this, but here's my entry for Jenny Matlock's Saturday Centus.

The entry needs to be no more than 100 words and must include the phrase, "it was growing bigger by the minute."
The title of my story is: Well Done

Cobwebs draped the front porch of the Black’s crumbling mansion. Mrs. Black wore an ebony formal and greeted her son Ben and his fiancé Abbey at the door.

Wearing an apron over his tuxedo, Mr. Black stood in the kitchen. “Welcome,” he said. “You like barbeque?”

“Don’t mind Dad,” Ben said. “Any excuse to play with fire.”

Abbey asked for her steak medium rare.

Smoke poured from the grill, and Abbey’s meat looked like a piece of coal. As she chewed, it was growing bigger by the minute.

“Like your steak?” Mr. Black asked.

Between bites, Abbey said, “Well done.”

Friday, February 4, 2011

Dead of Winter Contests

Looking for a way to stay warm in the dead of winter? How about heating up the keyboard and entering a writing contest or two?


My friend Amy Harke-Moore from The Write Helper has not one, but two, contests going on right now that you might want to check out.

Amy is an award-winning writer and an editor who has won over sixty awards to date. Her work has appeared in The Writer, Chicago Quarterly Review, The MacGuffin, Permafrost, Grit, Writers’ Journal, Spring Hill Review, Echoes of the Ozarks, Cuivre River Anthology, and Bellowing Ark.

Not only is Amy an acclaimed writer and editor, her contests are a bit differnt from most others. How?

Feedback: Amy offers a free critique if entrants request it.

Money--and fame: The winning entry is posted and the winner profiled on Amy's website.

For the Winter Flash Fiction Contest, she is accepting entries of: Short fiction, open theme (no porn or gore) 500 words or fewer. Free critique upon request. Enter online or by mail. Fee: $7 per entry or 3 for $20 (limit 3 entries). Prizes: First - $100, second - $50, and third - $25. Winning entry posted, winner profiled on website. Deadline: postmarked Feb. 10.


For the Dead of Winter Nonfiction Contest,
Amy wants m
emoirs, essays, articles, prose. Must be nonfiction of 2,500 words or fewer. Free critique upon request. Enter online or by mail. Fee: $10 per entry, limit 3 entries. Prizes: First - $150, second - $75, and third - $50. Winning entry posted, winner profiled on website. Deadline: postmarked Feb. 10.

For complete deadlines, check out The Write Helper website.

I have it on good authority that Amy hasn't received a lot of submissions for either contest, so your chance to win could be improved! Hmm. I might enter one myself.

But act fast, the deadline for both contests is Feb 10. Don't be left out in the cold!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thoughts on the Feast of Saint Blaise

After checking two of my calendars, I found reminders that today is the feast of Saint Blaise, but I really didn't need the reminders.

For some reason I always remember the feast of St. Blaise, patron saint of throat ailments. While attending Catholic schools, Feb 3 was special because of the blessing of the throats.

On this day, after Mass, priests place two blessed candles, one touching each side of believers' throats. The priests say the blessing of St. Blaise to deliver the believers from ailments of the throat and other evils.

St. Blaise was a 4th Century Aremnian bishop and martyr known for his kindness and healing. He was sought by believers to cure medical conditions of loved ones and animals. St. Blaise is the patron saint of wild animals and throat ailments. According to tradition, a young boy had a fishbone caught in his throat and was about to die when his family brought him to St. Blaise, who cured him.

The year my husband was in Vietnam, my infant daughter and I lived with my parents, who belonged to St. Blaise parish in Maryland Heights, MO. That parish has since been renamed, but I still think of it as St. Blaise parish.

As a writer, I find stories about saints and historic characters fascinating, so I thought I'd share my thoughts about the feast of St. Blaise.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Love and Chocolate and Zombies from Bookreporter

Looking for a way to forget about the snow and ice and freezing temperatures? How about love and chocolate --- and zombies?

Just in time for Valentine's Day, my friends over at
Bookreporter have heated things up with a beautiful batch of delicious books, which includes a Book of Zombie Love Songs.

From now through February 4th, readers will have a chance to win one of five Bookreporter.com Valentine's Day prizes.

Featured authors include: Adriana Trigiani, Michael P. Spradlin, Susan Wiggs, Victoria Alexander, Caroline Leavitt and Robyn Carr.

Along with one copy of each of their featured books, winners will receive some yummy gourmet chocolate from Godiva --- including a heart-shaped box of truffles, a chocolate heart lollipop and a chocolate-dipped strawberry bar.

But act fast, the last date to enter is Feb 4. I can't enter because I write reviews and interviews for Bookreporter, but I hope my blog visitors will take a chance on love -- and chocolate.


While you're visiting the Bookreporter site, please check out my recent interview with Mary Burton. In Burton's interview she talks about how she creates such riveting characters, speculates on the similarities between baking and being an author, and gives readers a few hints about what they can expect in her suspense novel Senseless and its insta-sequel Merciless.


Bon appetit and bonne chance!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ice, Ice, Baby -- and January's Progress Report

As ice and sleet continue to pelt our roof, window screens, and deck, I wonder how long until the snow and blizzard-like conditions hit--the second blow of the one-two punch. I pray our power doesn't go out. According to the weather reports, we are in the midst of a monster storm "of historic proportion."

At the supper table last night I told my grandkiddos, "This could be a storm you can tell your grandchildren about when you're my age."

They looked at me like I'd just asked them to eat a green vegetable. No doubt they can't imagine themselves one day being as old as their grandmother. They're more concerned about having a snow day.

Speaking of snow days, today is a good day to stay inside and catch up on writing. I have a deadline tomorrow for a book review, so I'm going to finish that.

Yesterday I updated my 2011 writing submissions/activities/expenses/income spreadsheet for January.

Each year I create an Excel spreadsheet to track my writing progress--and to use when tax time rolls around. Keeping track of my income and expenses makes my husband happy, and it makes me feel good to see what I've accomplished each month.

Here are a few entries for January:

Income:
Book reviews: 3
Author Inerviews: 2

Expenses:
Contest entries: 2
Magazine subscriptions: 2
Membership Dues: 1

Other Activities:
Write 1/Sub 1 short stories written/submitted: 1 (3,000 word story)

Blog Posts: 17


How about you? What tool do you use to track your writing progress?