Sunday, December 4, 2011

Writer's Digest magazine

Long before I heard of writer's conferences, workshops or yahoo loops, I subscribed to Writer's Digest magazine. As a young mother, I had no contact with other writers except through this magazine and the books sold by Writer's Digest.

Life demanded too much time. I bade my time until my children were grown and retirement from work was feasible to begin again to learn the craft of writing and submitting for publication.

I joined Romance Writers of America, American Christian Fiction Writers, Christian Writers Fellowship Intl., and Oklahoma Writers Federation Intl. I attended conferences. I learned in workshops. I registered in online courses, and with three of my friends, I began blogging on this site.

Until about two years ago, the one thing I didn't do to improve my writing career was subscribe to Writer's Digest magazine. When I did, wow, what a treasure I found in that medium. Books and courses are sold online, but if you haven't subscribed to the hard copy magazine, you're missing out.

September's issue gave me the top ten genres and the secret to their success.

A sample of invaluable information I found came from the October issue. "Your first 50 Pages" broke down "4 Goals for your Beginning" by Les Edgerton, "Second Scenes" by Nancy Kress, and "4 Ways to Bond your Reader & Characters" by James Scott Bell.

I waited to get the November magazine to tell me about "Your last 50 pages," and I highlighted everything in the article "Spin Subplots like a Master Weaver" by Elizabeth Simm."

Now, I've received my December copy and guess what? I'm reading Steven James on "6 Secrets to Creating and Sustaining Suspense" (a problem I continually work with) and I can't wait to read "Timeless Novel Advice" from Stephen King and other giants in the business.

If you haven't taken a look at the newest version of an old learning tool, search out Writer's Digest magazine. I can't tell you how often I've read and refered back to the articles that purchased as separate books or courses would cost me many times more.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Whitehouse Cookbook (1887) Cooking, Toilet, and Household Recipes, Menus, Dinner-Giving, Table Etiquette, Care of the Sick, Health Suggestions, Facts...Cyclopedia of Information for the Home

I have heard several people comment about having free Kindle books for free downloads, but haven't even bothered to check it out because (((gasp))) I don't own a Kindle or any other digital reading device. At present, I'm one of those readers who enjoy holding the book in my hands. However, since I write historical fiction, I'm always on the look out for research material. My fellow blogger, Sue sent me a link for a free Kindle download from for the book, The Whitehouse Cookbook (1887) Cooking, Toilet and Household Recipes, Menus, Dinner-Giving, Table Etiquette, Care for the Sick, Health Suggestion, Facts...Cyclopedia of Information for the Home by Fanny Lemira Gillette.

I followed the link to find that has a download for people like me who aren't ready to commit to purchasing a Kindle. It is called Kindle for PC. Readers can use this download to install a Kindle program on their computer and voila!!! Readers can enjoy any Kindle book on

After having downloaded Kindle for PC, I then noticed that the cookbook link my friend sent me wasn't the only free book on Most all the popular classics, such as Pride and Prejudice, Aesop's Fables, Treasure Island, and so many more books are free.

The Whitehouse Cookbook was an interesting read and one I can use for development of my stories and maybe even useless information that I find amusing. Did you know since I have downloaded this treasure trove of information that I now possess the recipe for Squirrel Soup? Green Turtle Soup? What I'd really like to know is what in the world are the finer parts of the turtle and where exactly is the green fat found? There is even a recipe for Frogs Fried and Frogs Stewed. Only the hind-legs and quarters are used.

I have even discovered a recipe that has been used my mother's family for generations which we seemed to have shortened over the years. We have enjoyed Salmon Croquettes (I'm supposing southern-style) and have passed the recipe on to our children. The recipe I received from my mother was 1-canned salmon, bread crumbs, and egg. Mix together. Form patties. Fry them in hot grease. Serve with milk gravy. However, here is the 1887 version of the same recipe but I think probably more richer with more calories.

Salmon Croquettes

One pound of cooked salmon (about one and a half pints when chopped), one cup of cream, two tablespoonfuls of butter, one tablespoonful of flour, three eggs, one pint of crumbs, pepper and salt; chop the salmon fine, mix the flour and butter together, let the cream come to a boil, and stir in the flour and butter, salmon and seasoning; boil one minute; stir in one well-beaten egg, and remove from the fire; when cold make into croquettes; dip in beaten egg, roll in crumbs and fry. Canned salmon can be used.

I had no idea salmon came canned in 1887. Who knew? The same recipe is used for every meat listed in the cookbook: salmon, lobster, crab, oysters, chicken, and beef. The beef croquettes adds hot mashed potatoes.

The book also teaches the housewife to cook all manner of organs. Beef hearts, beef liver, boiled beef and tongue. I'm not quite certain about all the recipes of which meat is used to make pudding. In my mind, I'm seeing vanilla and chocolate pudding, perhaps even fruit flavored puddings, but meat? Veal pudding sounded almost promising with its addition of bacon, but I'm not sure what a suet crust is or what a pudding cloth is either? Maybe I need a dictionary to go along with my reading? But by far, the worst pudding I read was Black Pudding. The main ingredient is coagulated blood of a pig. Yep, those plucky pioneers didn't let anything go to waste.

Here's a recipe that will really wake up your appetite. Calf's Head boiled. I won't give you the details of the recipe because after that Black Pudding recipe I'm a feeling a little nauseous. But think Calf's Head equals Spam.

Ooh, did you know that ketchup or as pioneers called it, Catsup was around back in 1887? The recipes say that if you bottle your catsup immediately while hot, and tightly sealed it will keep good for years. But red catsup wasn't the only one they had. There's a recipe for green tomato catsup too. That reminds me of the green or purple ketchup Heinz came out with years ago. The cookbook also lists walnut catsup, oyster catsup, mushroom catsup, and other flavors like gooseberry, cucumber, currant, apple, celery, and spiced vinegar catsup.

As far as helpful information, the cookbook has planned menus for the holidays and a sample menu for a White House State Dinner...think French food. A menu for Mrs. Cleveland's wedding lunch June 4, 1888 is also listed...again think French food or French words I cannot pronounce or even try to spell. Etiquette for the White House is listed as well with the disclaimer: Etiquette as observed in European courts is not known at the White House.  Funny? I didn't know Rednecks were around then. Information is then listed on how to check your coat in at the cloakroom as well as where to sit. Then the menu is given. The first course is French style (no surprise there), second service is sweet dishes, third service includes desserts, fruits, ice, cakes, and all principal dishes are presented to the President before serving the guests. I was disappointed to learn that the fancy folding of napkins in 1887 was considered out of fashion. A plain square folded napkin with the monogram in the middle was preferred.

For treating the sick, the cookbook cautions housewives to consider the needs of the sick first. Don't serve an invalid milk for this may constipate the patient. As a rule, invalids should be served their food in small, delicate pieces in dainty dishes. Some recipes for ailments include serving an alcoholic beverage of Blackberry Cordial to infants to relieve pain from teething and summer diseases. Yeah, I bet they didn't feel any pain. Colds are due to men sealing the house up tight during winter. The family can stave off suffering from a cold if they drink a whiskey or a glass or two of beer before supper. After a few glasses, I'm sure they didn't suffer from anything.

A toothache can be cured by saturating a piece of gauze and lying it on the tooth. Follow that with a mixture of Alum powder and salt. To cure an earache: puff tobacco smoke into the sufferer's ear. For a burn, use butter and if that doesn't help add baking soda, the yellow of an egg, and apply with a feather. Of course, with a little flour and sugar and vanilla they could also make cookies to keep the burn victim's mind off the pain. For a sore throat, gargle with hot, salt water with a little alum and honey. Follow this with bacon soaked in hot vinegar applied to the throat as hot as possible. The sick can even gargle with equal parts of borax and alum. They can gargle and do their laundry at the same time.

One last recipe for the sick. A cure for felons: take a common rock, heat it in the oven, pound it fine, and mix with the spirits of turpentine. Put it in a rag and wrap the felon. In twenty-four hours you are cured and the felon is dead. My question is how can you convince the felon to allow you to wrap him in turpentine? That or maybe nineteenth century folks defined felon different than we define it.

Toward the end of the book, there are helpful laundry hints like how to wash black lace and how to wash feathers. Who said 19th century brides were prudish? Did you know that washing feathers required ironing too? Adding alum to the rinse water will keep dresses uninflammable.

I leave you today with a few facts worth knowing:

To Prevent Oil from Becoming Rancid - Drop a few drops of ether into the bottle containing it.

Slicing Pineapples: - The knife used for peeling a pineapple should not be used for slicing it, as the rind contains an acid that is apt to cause a swollen mouth and sore lips. The Cubans use salt as an antidote for the ill effects of the peel.

Choking: - a piece of food lodged in the throat may sometimes be pushed down with the finger, or removed with a hair-pin quickly straightened and hooked at the end, or by two or three vigorous blows on the back between the shoulders.

Table Etiquette: - Be careful to keep the mouth shut closely while masticating the food. It is the opening of the lips which causes the smacking which seems very disgusting.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Prodigal by Elizabeth Lee and The Visionary by Pamela S. Thibodeaux

This last month I've learned a lot by reading the works of two new authors, one, completely new, the other, only new to me. Both books speak of healing and redemption in seemingly impossible situations.

Ms. Lee self published her first book "The Prodigal" with Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords. This inspirational women's fiction deals with two sisters and a mother thrown into heavy, real life situations such as abuse and depression. They find it hard to deal with life and harder to continue belief in God. I asked Ms. Lee what she liked about her chosen mode of publishing. She liked "the speed of getting out the book." Standard publishing avenues often held up her book for months while she desired to get out her message of hope. She advised that "with the proper format and good cover, her book could go into a premium catalog and be distributed on iBooks and Nook." Good advice given by Ms. Lee for anyone else interested in formatting a book for this medium of publishing is "to get the Smashwords guide on and follow the directions word by word. Do not skip steps. Then you adjust for Kindle guidelines. It takes a bit of time, but it's well worth the effort and it's free." This new author also has a historical "Honor and Lies" published in the same way. I've learned a lot about this new avenue of publishing as well as I enjoyed an enthralling story. I recommend checking it out.

I met Pam Thibodeaux, a native of Lake Charles, Louisiana now that she's moved to Texas. She's written for years and has come to be known by a tagline "inspirational with an edge." Her newest book "The Visionary" will be released on Nov. 16, 2011, but can be advanced ordered at the present time. Pam's writing was new to me, so I read this new book with no expectations, just curiosity. Truthfully, few people could handle the delicate topic of devastation caused from sexual abuse as a child leading to murder. This book demonstrates the breadth of God's grace. The tender way which she illustrates hope over a dark, untalked-about subject is unrivaled. I asked Ms. Thibodeaux what she liked about her publishers. "They are author-friendly - patient in helping new authors understand their rules without making them feel ashamed or embarrased." Besides women's fiction, she also writes inspirational romance and creative non-fiction. You can find her on to learn more. I found her helpful and knowledgeable in all aspects of writing and her book, captivating.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond is a fun book to read. Ms. Drummond started out with a blog about how she met her husband. I had heard about her blog and read a couple of her entries online. When I saw the book, I knew I had to buy it.

A city girl meets a cowboy and the fun begins. Being from the city and deciding farm life wasn't for me after spending two days hand planting tomatoes, I was instantly interested. Ms. Drummond doesn't hold back on the reality of working with animals and ranch life.

I am one of those readers who can never get enough of stories about the West whether historical or contemporary. I love those cowboy and cowgirls. I grew up in the Midwest, but every Summer we went to South Dakota where my daddy grew up. I used to beg to move there, but daddy liked being able to pay bills and my mother was an only child who grew up in the Midwest and had no desire to leave.

The Air Force sent my husband and me to Western Washington, Eastern Montana, and finally Texas. So I consider myself a westerner since I've lived in Texas for over thirty years. I discovered Louis L'Amour in Montana where I purchased my first pair of cowgirl boots. I've been hooked since then. I might add that I have no desire to ride a horse. I'm scared to death of those huge animals.

I tried to write a ranch story once about South Dakota. I quickly figured out that I lacked knowledge to pull it off. So as I read her experiences, I could identify with her adventures. So if you want to know what ranch life is really like and measure it against what you might be tempted to write, this is the book for you. If you want to write a memoir, this is the book for you. And if you just want a fun read, get a copy of her book. She obviously loved her cowboy enough to become a rancher's wife while I parted ways with "tomato" man and found my true love in Air Force blue.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Critiquing and Mentoring


We hear alot these days about finding critique partners and the do's and don'ts of productive critiquing. Critique partners are so good about catching flaws in our works-in-progress and encouraging us to keep writing when we feel like our words are not worthy enough for publication. Critique partners hold our hand through the raw, rough drafts. Critique partners can join together at different skill levels and still be productive. The amazing part of different skill levels coming together is the offering of different perspectives. A skilled author may see plot holes and grammatical errors whereas a novice may see the work as a reader might see it, pointing out where the story is slow.

Finding a critique partner may be difficult. Attempting to find critique partners which you are compatible with may be even harder to find. When looking for partners, try joining a writer's group. Many of them offer services to join like-minded genre authors together. You can also find an online writer's group where anyone can submit their chapters for critiquing. Then after you find people you like to work with then you can separate and form your own small group. Make certain the people you want to critique with offer honest criticism but not literary homicide.

Several years ago, after I had joined ACFW I  combed the organization's rolodex, looking for writers who lived near me. I had already started a small group of three writers. We had the privilege of adding Shirley Harkins to our critique group. She was a beautiful lady who was well versed in the word of God. Her passion was to write scripts for plays. Shirley even had a theatrical group, Drama Drash who travelled to nearby churches to perform her plays. When she decided to write fiction for the first time, her works-in-progress lacked emotion. It was a couple of months after she joined our group that we had learned of her script writing. We then realized that in script writing the actor takes the dialogue and applies the appropriate emotions, but in writing fiction the author has to write the emotions for the reader to feel. When we came together and discussed the subject of emotions and writing fictional character's emotions, Shirley had that ah-ha moment. She laughed and said it made sense to her and for months she thought we didn't like her work. But we did like her work, it was more that we were trying to diagnose what was wrong with her chapters. When critiquing online, don't leave the group too soon. A misunderstanding may be cleared with a little communication. I would love to speak with Shirley again, but she went to Heaven on my birthday in 2009.

            Shirley Harkins


Mentoring is different from critiquing. Yes, critiquing is involved sometimes in accordance to the agreement, but the role of a mentor is different from a critique partner. Mentoring is all about having a trusted guide to lead you through the writing process and the publication journey. A mentor gives advice in a non-threatening way, appreciating the value of the writer, empowering the writer to move forward with confidence. A mentor helps sets realistic goals for the writer and holds the writer accountable. If the relationship allows, the mentor may offer constructive criticism on the writer's works-in-progress. A mentor knows the big picture of the writing journey and steers the unpublished writer on the right path.

Finding a mentor may be even more difficult than finding a critique partner. Many published authors do not have the time to mentor. Not that they wouldn't mind but with the pressures of deadlines and writing it is very difficult for them to commit. I have had the pleasure of knowing four mentors in my short writing career, and all of them came from the act of joining a writing group or organization. Not from the same group though. My first mentor, Jackye Plummer welcomed me into her house, allowed me to sit at her table, and taught me the basics of writing. My second mentor, Kay Swanson took me under her wing, and taught me about conferences and the publishing world. Both ladies encouraged me and pushed me to continue to write. I met both ladies through a local chapter of Romance Writers of America. My third mentor, Margaret Daley and I met after I had joined Faith, Hope, and Love. This chapter of RWA had began a new program of pairing published authors with novice writers. I enjoyed my time with her. She was a constant source of optimism. My current mentor, Judy Bodmer and I met when I applied to the Christian Writer's Guild for their apprenticeship course. I hope one day I can mentor in the same manner as she. Judy blends the right amount of encouraging words with honest criticism.

If you can find a mentor for your writing life then cultivate that relationship, but also know that some relationships are seasonal. As one of my writing friends said recently, "A writer's life and a writing group seem to ebb and flow." We have to allow for changes in relationships and cherish the time we have with our mentors.

Even though I knew my season with my first mentor had come to a close, I wished that I had spent more time with her as a friend. Rest in sweet peace, Jackye Plummer. (February 22, 1920-July 25, 2011)

      Jackye Plummer

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Legend of Storey County by Brock Thoene

The Legend of Story County by Brock Thoene is a good example of first person point of view. He begins the story by having Seth Townsend, a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner traveling to Virginia City, Nevada to cover a story about the closing down of a railroad line. Townsend interviews Jim Canfield, who is 100 years old and knows all the old stories about Virginia City.

The remainder of the book is written in first person with Jim Canfield telling his own story. Point of View has always been a difficult thing for me to understand,

Any writer knows that "head hopping" is frowned upon unless you are a best selling author. For the new writer, "head hopping" is where you tell what one person is thinking or doing and then switch to what the other person is thinking or doing in the same scene.

I recently read a good article about author intrusion. Author intrustion is when the author makes statements to give further information that the character probably doesn't know.

Third person is the most popular style of writing in which the character is he or she. Each scene belongs to that character. In one workshop I attended several years ago, the presenter suggested that we write the scene as if we were looking through a camera lens. You can only see what the character sees.

First person is harder to write because there is not the luxury of additional information from other characters. A lot of mystery writers use first person.

I had never read any books by Brock Thoene although I had heard his name mentioned as a good writer. I attended a book sale and grabbed up his book to read. I will be reading more since he is now on my list of authors to read. He did such a good job of telling Jim's story using the first person point of view. If you are interested in learning more about first person point of view treat yourself to The Legend of Storey County where you can not only enjoy a well-written story, but also study an example of first person point of view.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

For Women Only, What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men

I recently ran across a great reference book for characterization. Shaunti Feldhahn's book, For Women Only, What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men is a resource of how men think and view their personal relationships with the women they love.

The author decided to interview men she knew for insight into a male character for a book she was writing. The more she learned, the more she wanted to learn. Professionals helped her develop a personal survey, and she did personal interviews of men from all walks of life: friends, strangers, married men, singles and different ages.

The information she garnered makes up the book. One chapter title is "Chocolate, Flowers, and Bait Fishing". This chapter discussed a man's idea of being romantic. As I read the various chapters, I was surprised to learn things, that in spite of being happily married for forty-five years, I didn't know.

Men, according to the author, wish women knew these things, but they don't know how to explain them. The agreement on issues from a wide-range of men of different ages and professions gives creditability to her findings.

My particular edition also came with a study guide at the end for possible use with a discussion group. When I concluded the book, I thought this would be a great resource for writing more realistic male characters instead of our feminine view of men.

I found this book in a box of donations for a sale. I gladly paid my dollar to keep it for my own shelf of reference books. If you want to write better male characters or just understand the man in your life, you need to find this book. It's an eye-opener.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon

I am working on my current manuscript which is a Christian historical romance which could better be called a prairie romance. I finished the novel last year. However, it occured to me that the ending was wrong, so I've been rewriting the ending before I begin my massive editing process. There are a few things that I struggle with like how to write a convincing fight scene, how to write good dialogue without using proper nouns on every tag, how to vary my sentence length, how to vary my sentence structure so every sentence doesn't begin with a proper noun, and how to write narration which incorporates the character and isn't written just from the author. I want to better my story and I have a long way to go, which makes the book Manuscript Makeover such a blessing for me at this time.

Manuscript Makeover, written by Elizabeth Lyon, the author of The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit, which has been reviewed previously on this blog, declares it possesses the revision techniques no fiction writer can afford to ignore. The book says it can help writers enhance style, clarify structure, deepen characterization, and clean up punctuation and syntax errors.The chapters are broken up into four parts. Part one is on recognizing and strengthening style. Part Two covers craft works and how to follow the tried and true story plots. Part three covers characterization. Part four covers marketing, query letters and synopses.

I loved the first chapter. I've heard at conferences and workshops people talking about style and voice and not really knowing what the people were talking about. I mean what is the difference between the two words. Ms. Lyon gives the defintion as, "Style is based on 'wordsmithing', choosing and tweaking words to create the desired effect and to fit a character and genre. Voice is the author's natural use of language to create authentic and original characters and unique story telling. More simply stated, style is an outcome of voice, more so than vice versa."

She also pointed out that ideas are like fireflies. Writers have about "fifteen seconds to capture an idea before it vanishes. They are like fireflies, difficult to catch if you don't act quickly." I am so guilty of thinking that I'll remember a great idea for my story and then when I finally get back to my story I can't remember what my thought was. I now have a notebook near where I can reach them in a quick moment of brillance.

Chapter two went into detail about the five types of sentence structure and sentence beginnings which I will cleave to as I edit. By chapter five, we cover story plots. My strength is characterization and my weakness is plotting, so this section of the book really inspired me. Ms. Lyon covers concepts taught by Joseph Campbell, Christopher Vogler, and Maureen Murdock. I love the way she takes these concepts and condenses the information into one totally understandable and readable chapter. In chapter seven, we cover motivation-reaction-units or elements of actions (inner and outer), reactions, emotions, reversals, subtext, and raising questions. The last section of this book cover characterization. I learned more about the topic and decided there are still some elements I can use to make my characterization even stronger.

I really enjoyed the structure of the book. Ms. Lyon gives examples of an element, lets say point-of-view. She writes the strength and weakness and gives examples of each point-of-view and then writes the advantages and disadvantages of using that element. Also each chapter has a compact checklist/summary of the chapter for quick and easy checking during revision.

All in all, I'd compare this book to having all of my Margie Lawson workshops and half of my shelf of craft writing books all balled up into one sixteen chapter book. Pretty neat, huh? I have decided that the information in this book will be invaluable to me during my editing process, so it's not getting shelved for awhile.

Happy Writing!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Storyboarding with Shayla Black and Supplementing Your Fiction Habit with Janice Hanna Thompson

The "book to write by" that I wish to discuss this month is not a book at all, but two online courses that helped me in 2010. My money belt tightened. I left off conferences. So, last year, online courses became my main source of learning. A pitch for online instruction includes, learning at your own pace, in your home, in your pajamas, if desired. I've taken several of these, but I'd like to disucss two that helped me in particular areas of my writing.

The first one is "Supplementing Your Fiction Habit" with Janice Hanna Thompson. I would recommend this to any writer who wishes to write in more than one form, or who's shopping around a long manuscript but needs money, now. I love writing long fiction, but I also love short stories and devotions, so I found this course helpful. Ms. Thompson told us where to research markets, how to discard distractions and set up weekly goals for both long and short writing. She suggested thinking in terms of fifteen minutes to two hours instead of four to six hours for writing time. Different venues and other modes opened for me by studying what Ms. Thompson has done and continues to do though she is now multi-published in long fiction.

The second course which taught me this last year is "Storyboarding" with Shayla Black (aka Shelley Bradley). I utilized her method in writing the manuscript I have just finished. Shayla breaks storyboarding into easy-to-follow steps. Using storyboarding showed me where I needed to add focus, subplot or follow a thread of plot that by page one hundred, I might've forgetten. I used a simple poster board and four different colored post-it notes to storyboard, so a lot of expense isn't required. Ms. Black's lessons brought instant visualization to my manuscript. I highly recommend the course.

Online courses are a must-use for me. Though this year I do plan on a conference, I plan on scheduling certain courses in the comfort of my home.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Recently, my husband and I have allowed our teenage daughter to open a Facebook account. We are very protective parents. When she is allowed on the Internet to play on Facebook, we monitor her activity with our smart phones. We have certain rules for whom she may add as friends, and we speak to her about manners when communicating with people online. 

There is one item I just didn't think I needed to instruct her with, and that was grammar and punctuation. Let me say first, that I am not an expert on the subject, and I make mistakes from time to time. Honest mistakes and even careless mistakes I understand. However, I have discovered a truth which makes my skin crawl. My daughter and sometimes even my husband make grammar and punctuation mistakes on purpose! At first, I thought it was merely to irritate me. I'm kinda an obsessive-compulsive person anyways, so to annoy me is great fun for them.

But this is what I've noticed. I check my daughter's status bar and see misspelled words. I speak to her about using a dictionary, so she will know that she wants to tell her entire friend list that she is watching the Superbowl and not the Superball. At the very least, ask me to spell it. She says to me, "Mom, please don't critique my status bar. People know what I'm saying."

I then check my husband's status bar and am horrified. He doesn't use captital letters to begin a sentence. If that wasn't bad enough, I discovered he doesn't use punctuation. My eyes blink and a little nervous tick begins twitching in my cheek. I ask him about his status bars and he says, "Why should I use proper punctuation? No one else does on Facebook. We all know what we're trying to say."

Here in Texas, we have had an unusual amount of snow days. This type of forced vacation has been the perfect time to place a dent in my to-be-read-pile. One book stood out to me above the others, and it was a small, hardback book with the title, Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss. My family asked what I was reading, and I told them it was a book about punctuation. Their noses scruntched up, followed by a look which said, "Mom, you're an alien!"

I particulary enjoyed the book. I felt that I was in good company with the author, even though she knows considerably more about the subject than I. This book is not a text book with mind numbing information. Instead, it is a book about the history of punctuation and also how to use it correctly. I have had stumbling blocks about certain punctuations. For instance, why are exclamation marks so wrong? Why can't I add...elipsis whenever I want? I love...elipsis. What is the deal with periods inside the quotation marks and periods outside the quotation marks? Which one is right? Questions like these will keep me up at night. So, this is why not only did I read the book but learned from the book.

I even enjoyed the panda joke at the beginning of the book. I would relate it to you now, but I'd probably mess up the punch line. Please get the book and read it for yourself. You won't regret.

I will end my post with a crowning star moment from a conversation between me and my son yesterday.

"Mom, did you know the word eat can be a fun word?"

"How is that?"

"You can take the 'e' in eat and place it behind the 't' and the word becomes ate. Then you can take the letter 'a' and place it behind the letter 'e' and the word becomes tea. That's so cool!"

All is not lost. We should just keep teaching, training, and keeping our standards up.

P.S. While looking for an image to include with this post, I found a couple of links you might enjoy.

Google link for worksheet which will help solidify the information in your brain: 

If the above link doesn't work, search "eats, shoots and leaves" and locate the google link.

Happy writing, Y'all!!!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

One of My Favorite Writing Blogs

Gail Gaymer Martin is one of my favorite places to go for information about writing. You can find her at She has written information about almost any topic regarding writing. Just three of those I noticed were Characterization, Deep POV, and Common Writing Errors. There were many more topics to chose from. She writes in an easy to understand style that clearly presents the topic.

I highly recommend that writers check her site and sign up for notices when she
posts a new topic.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Recipes and Food from the Civil War by Jim Long

In October of 2010, I went on a trip with a group to Branson, Missouri. Between shows, we visited several gift shops. One of the items I purchased was a book called Recipes and Food from the Civil War by Jim Long. A few examples in the book are the instructions for Red Eye Gravy, Jerky, Dried Apples, Corn Pone, Fried Squirrel, and Rebel Stew.

Do you know what Leather Britches are? I was concerned that soldiers were forced to eat pieces of leather until I read the directions. Leather Britches are dried whole green beans.

There is a section called "Treatments for Horses" that would be key to anyone who relied on horses for transportation.

If you are interested in this book or several others such as Herbal Medicines of the Civil War, contact Jim Long at his website, or at Long Creek Herbs, P.O. Box 127, Blue Eye, Missouri 65611. He also has a gardening blog at

For now, I'm going to read Mary Ball Washington's recipe for Lafayette's Gingerbread, which was a popular during the Civil War period. I might even give it a try. I'm going to skip trying Pemmican though.

Writing Tip of the Day