Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tips to Turn the Stories in Your Head into Novels

Ever wonder what goes into writing a novel? How a published and best-selling author transforms a story she imagines into a book?

Well, Saturday, January 30, 2016 Karen McQuestion, a successful author came to the Hartland Library. Karen is self-published and also published with Amazon-imprints. Her novels include: A Scattered Life, Easily Amused, The Long Way Home, Hello Love, Favorite, and The Edgewood Series and others. Karen has sold a lot of books. She said that recently her editor told her she’d sold over a million books, but she is still approachable, kind and generous with her knowledge. During the couple of hours Karen spoke, she talked about her writing journey and just how she puts a novel together. She gave all kinds of helpful tips. My fingers were flying as I took notes. Here are thirteen helpful insights I jotted down.

1. “I’ve wanted to be a writer of fiction since around third grade. I think that’s when most authors decide what they want to do because that’s when reading become easier and stories get longer and more involved.”
2. “I’ve tried to plot everything before I start to write but when I do, it just seems too much like homework.
3. However, I do jot down scene or chapters I’m going to write for the day.”
4. “The joy of discovery is half the fun of writing for me.”
5. “I find it really helpful to set a goal for the day.” A number of words or pages I hope to complete.
6. “I’ve been using a dictation program just for fun, but I use a laptop for 98% of my writing.”
7. “I like to be in a quiet place when I write.”
8. I do something called cycling or looping before I start writing. I’ll go back to what I wrote the previous day and make corrections or just let it get me into the story again.”
9. “I find it easier to write fast.”
10. “Writing got more fun when I said, ‘I don’t care. I’ll get it down and fix it later’.”
11. “You don’t pick the book, it picks you.”
12. “There are three components of a perfect novel: language, storytelling and emotional connection.”
13. “None of this is rocket science. If you want to write a novel, you can.”
Karen’s talk was encouraging and hopeful. I enjoyed listening to her speak just as much as I’ve enjoyed reading her novels. Thank you for letting me share what I learned with you and happy reading.

For more information, you can visit or wait for my next post.  I'm sure there will be a part two.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Bored? Consider Playing a Board Game

Do you like board games? Do you remember playing them as a child? If so, you’re not alone.  Board games have been around as long as people have., a popular game design site, claims that board games and dice are prehistoric, meaning they existed before written language.  Other sources confirm this notion. Early games like mancala have been found in dig sites from 700 AD and the theory is that these games existed even before that. Painted stones that may have been used like dice were discovered in a burial mound in Turkey that experts date as being 5000 years old.

And board games remain popular in current times.

TableTop, a web series developed Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day features celebrities playing board games. Lots of people enjoy watching. I like that, but I like playing the games more.

Yesterday, I picked up one of my old favorites Don’t Break the Ice, which I hope to play with students.  It should make the routine grammar drills a little more exciting.
I’ve always enjoyed playing games.
I remember evenings full of Caroms and Checkers with my father and brothers when I was a kid.  As a parent, I continued the tradition. My older son and I had countless Battleship and Stratego forays while my younger son preferred Sorry, Clue and Operation. Later my family got into Risk, Civilization and Talisman.
Yep, I’m a big fan of board games. Here are thirteen of my favorites.

1. Monopoly, which originally called The Landlord’s Game came out in 1903.
2. Chess evolved from a game started in China before the 6th century.
3. Checkers is one of the oldest games know to humans. According to a board that could have been used for Checkers was found in the ancient city of Ur and dated to around 3000 B.C.
4. Clue-Anthony E. Pratt made up Clue in 1943 and his wife designed the first board.
5. Chinese checkers isn’t Chinese at all. It evolved from a game called Halma, which an American professor named Dr. George Howard Monks invented. It was first released in Germany under the name Stern-Helma in 1892.
6. Risk was originally a game designed by Albert Lamorisse in 1957. It was called La Conquete du Monde (French for "The Conquest of the World")
7. Candy Land- Eleanor Abbott created Candy Land while she was recovering from Polio. She sent it to Milton-Bradley and it came out in 1949.
8. Sorry-Parker Brothers published Sorry in 1934.
9. Pictionary-Rob Angel designed Pictionary in 1986.
10. Chutes and Ladders –England produced this game in the late 1800’s, but it originally was an ancient game called Moksha Palamu. People played it in India as early as 2nd Century A.D.
11. Operation-John Spinello came up with this game in 1965. He sold the concept to a game designer for $500 and it later became a huge success for the Milton Bradley game company.
12. Jenga- In 1983 Leslie Scott developed Jenga after watching her son play with wooden blocks. She’d spent time in Ghana and so she named the game “Jenga” which means build in Swahili.
13. Don’t Break the Ice- Schaper Toys first marketed the game in 1968.

I’m always looking to add to my game collection and I’d love to hear from you. Do have a favorite board game to recommend? Thanks.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Why is the Liberty Bell Special? Thirteen Some Facts about the Bell

The Liberty Bell is cracked. It was broken when it first arrived in the Colonies. A number of repairs later and it sounded less than musical. Bad enough that neighbors complained when it was rung, so…why does it inspire many?

There are many factors, but the first is probably because of the words etched into the bell. Underneath, “By order of the Province of Pensylvania (No, this isn’t a misspelling. This was one of the correct spellings for Pennsylvania at the time) for the Statehouse in the City of Philadelphia, 1752,” are the words, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land and unto all the Inhabitants Thereof.”
This is a scriptural quote from Leviticus 25: 10, which is, “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.”
In 1837, the New York Anti-Slavery Society featured a picture of the bell on their publication Liberty. Then a couple years later another anti-slavery magazine, known as the Liberator, included a poem about the bell calling it “The Liberty Bell” and the name stuck. (Previously people were simply calling it the Statehouse Bell.)
The Liberty Bell has been hailed as a symbol of freedom ever since. It rang to mark the birthday of George Washington, and to mourn the passing of Chief Justice John Marshall, which is when most people believe it developed its trademark crack.
But even cracked, it still proclaims freedom.
When slavery ended in the United States in 1865, the Liberty Bell traveled in hopes of bringing the people in the North and South back together. It traveled until 1915 when it was permanently returned to Philadelphia.

 In 1945, people used a rubber mallet to sound the bell to proclaim the end of World War II.
And currently almost 1.5 million people visit the Liberty Bell each year.   I was one of those people and here’s one of the shots I snapped.

Thanks for stopping by and letting me go on about the bell.

Sources (This is where I found the Thursday Thirteen header.) Thanks Heather.

The Liberty Bell by Debra Hess
The Liberty Bell by Mary Firestone
The Liberty Bell by Hall Marcovitz

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Think You Know the Liberty Bell?

Check out these facts.

When I was grade school I had a teacher, who was in love with history. She told tales of the American Revolution like she’d been there. The stories were so vivid and detailed that secretly my friends and I wondered if she might not be old enough to have witnessed the war between Britain and the thirteen colonies in person. She’d been to many of the historical sites and she’d show us her pictures and say if we ever got a chance we should follow in her footsteps. She said when we went on this pilgrimage we should make a point of visiting the Liberty Bell.
Recently, when I’m probably the same age my grade school teacher was when she regaled us with historical legends and lore, I traveled to the east coast and I got see the Liberty Bell. In tribute to my teacher, I’d like to share a few facts I’ve learned.

1. The Liberty Bell hasn’t tolled for over 150 years.
2. In 1751, colonists ordered the bell from England, intending to use it in the Pennsylvania State House, which is now known as Independence Hall.
3. The bell arrived in August 1752. It weighed 2,080 pounds.
4. Then colonists built a special steeple for the bell. They planned a special ceremony for the bell’s first tolling on March 10th, 1753, but when they rang the bell it clanked. It was cracked.
5. The colonists’ first idea was to send the bell back to England for repairs, but they couldn’t find a captain willing to sail with the bell immediately.
6. Colonists decided to ask John Pass and John Stow to recast the bell.
7. The two craftsmen added copper to the bell’s mix to make it stronger, but when the bell chimed it sounded terrible because there was too much copper.
8. Pass and Stow melted the bell down again and added tin; however, when the bell rang it still didn’t sound very musical. People weren’t fond of the sound, but the assembly used it anyway to call meetings to order and to chime the hour.
9. Townspeople really didn’t start liking the bell until delegates rang the bell on July 8, 1776 in celebration after the Declaration of Independence was read in the courtyard of the Pennsylvania State House.
10. Because colonists were afraid the bell might fall into the hands of the British they asked Benjamin Flower to hide it.
11. He asked John Jacob, a local farmer, to transport the bell out of Philadelphia.
12. Where was the bell? Colonists hid it in Allentown, Pennsylvania under the floor of the Zion Reformed Church.
13. After the British army march toward New York, colonists retrieved the bell.  When the British surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia, on October 24, 1781, the people in the newly independent America rang the bell.

The Liberty Bell has a lot more significance and a lot more history than what I’ve shared today. I’m going to do another post and give you more facts soon, but I want to stop at thirteen and wish you a Merry Christmas.

Thanks for reading my posts and I wish you a safe and blessed holiday.

The Liberty Bell by Debra Hess
The Liberty Bell by Mary Firestone
The Liberty Bell by Hall Marcovitz

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Super-Hero vs Super-Noir

By Elizabeth MS Flynn w/a Eilis Flynn
Like a whole lot of other people, I’ve been watching the Netflix offerings in the Marvel universe. I watched the first series, Daredevil, with a tiny bit of knowledge, since I’d read the comic from time to time, saw the movie with Ben Affleck (which I liked, and apparently I was one of a select few in that, but I assumed that was because the romance portion of the story was too much for the fanboys out there), and paid some vague attention to the natterings from those greater fans around me. Anyway, the series was good; and the lead, Charlie Cox, was fascinating to watch. Another Brit doing a great job of playing an American, Cox was somehow mesmerizing with those dark glasses, playing Matt Murdock, blind attorney by day and radar super-hero in Hell’s Kitchen (an earlier name for a neighborhood in Manhattan) by night. The super-hero outfit was nowhere to be seen for the most part, but he was even more interesting without it, in that the black turtleneck and pants and the black scarf worked better than the uniform he ended up with at the finish.

At least he had a uniform to fall back on. The second Netflix series, Jessica Jones, was built on a comic I wasn’t familiar with, not unusual, since me and mine were never Marvelfolk (we were DCers). Not only that, the lead, an actress named Krysten Ritter (sp unc), was memorable in whatever I had seen her in, so that was about the only thing I knew about it. A former super-heroine who quit the biz and became a private investigator, Jessica’s overarching story turned out to be just as interesting as the subplots. A super-villain named Kilgrave (played by David Tennant of Doctor Who; you really do have to appreciate their casting) with mind control abilities was interesting but not arresting—creepy; effective in that I kept wanting to wash my hands—then again, I was fine to watch those scenes if it meant the background stories would be served. Then again, it took me a while to realize that this was a story in which the major characters were all female (with the exception of Kilgrave, of course, and the love interest: Luke Cage, the character who helped name Nicolas Cage, ably played by Mike Colter, and who, if I recall, will be the center of the next Netflix series), and of course, by then I was hooked. It didn’t hurt that Jessica’s best friend, Trish Walker (played by Rachael Taylor), turned out to be in an earlier life Patsy Walker, which was the name of a super-heroine called Hellcat. Gotta love it.

Anyway, I’m darn pleased with both DD and JJ. They work well in the medium and I can only complain that Netflix bounces me out every few episodes, and so I haven’t been able to binge-watch. If you haven’t had a chance to see either, I recommend them highly.

Elizabeth MS Flynn has written fiction in the form of comic book stories, romantic fantasies, urban fantasies, historical fantasies and short stories, a young adult novel, and a graphic novella (most published under the name of Eilis Flynn). She’s also a professional editor and has been for 39 years, working with academia, technology, and finance nonfiction, and romance fiction. If you’re looking for an editor, she can be found editing at and reached at If you’re curious about her books, check out In any case, she can be reached at

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Acknowledging our #veterans #PearlHarborDay #New release

I know, I've been gone a while. All I can say is between work and writing, well... I should do better.

I have a new release Merry Christmas, Baby  just in time for the holidays but coincidentally it went live on Pearl Harbor Day, a "Momentous" day in US history.

I shouldn't have been surprised though because my focus with this series stays on veterans. My oldest vet in the series, Grandpa Earl, survived Pearl Harbor.

Every time I research background for a story or brainstorm a character, my thoughts are on how I can bring something to light about our veterans that will expose facts we somehow think are not worthy of major public concern, like the fact that we lose at least 22 vets a day to suicide, or encourage them, or  convince someone who's reading to put themselves out there for our vets, even just your veteran neighbor who needs a hand.

It's hard not to sound preachy, and I don't mean to be. I was actually doubting the needs of vets when I began my research into the first book, Hard Days Knight. Boy, was I enlightened. They need our support now more than ever because our vets are coming out of the service younger and more traumatized and still they have to fight for their health, their families and often their very lives.

My hero in Her First Knight is a billionaire, Phd of bionics, ex-Army, who lost a brother to depression and has committed his life to making a difference for veterans. Luckily he has the money to create a consortium of private businesses to take over veterans' care. A dream because of course, it's romance, but also a possibility. There are many private businesses that are making a difference.

The thing is, if we each did something -- anything -- called our congressman, lend a helping hand, give a ride, donate (I have a short list of organizations on my Vet-links page) time or money, we could really make a difference. All of us have family members past or present who have served and it's getting more and more dangerous out there. Let's keep our vets at the front of our minds. They do such a tremendous job of protecting our liberty. And if you ask them, they don't consider themselves heroes. All they want is what's due them, resources and a job when they come home.

Please, next time you meet a veteran, don't just thank them for their service. Engage them, find out how we're treating them, what their concerns are and ask how you can help.

And if you or a loved one is a vet, I'm in awe of what you have given to your country.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Books I'm Thankful For

It’s safe to say, I’m addicted to books. I may even have a book problem, so as Thanksgiving draws ever closer, I’m thinking about things I’m grateful for and books come to mind.

Thirteen Books I’m grateful for
The Bible
I like the stories about people, like me, who make mistakes, but count on God’s mercy, grace and help.
The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
My friend gave me these books in college and I fell in love with Ged and the magic of Earthsea.
100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson
The language, the story and the characters pulled me in and I liked all the baseball games mentioned.
Redshirts by John Scatzi
I grew up as a trekkie and this book just might show what really happened behind the scenes of Star Trek. Also, Wil Wheaton narrated the version I listened to, which made the story even funnier.
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
I’m not a huge Western fan, but this read taught me that any genre can be humorous and fun.
Warm Bodies by Issac Marion
I liked the unlikely blend of horror, humor and romance.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Aibileen’s wisdom and kindness spoke to me.
The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum
I read this book with my grandmother.
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
This book gave me a lot to think about.
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
I loved the friendship between the girls/ women.
Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
This epic fantasy is so complex, rich and noble.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon
This book helped me to see things from an entirely new point of view.
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht
Ever wonder what a person should do in a given situation? This book series has brief easy-to -read answers.

Since I read continually and my favorite read will almost always be the book I’m in the middle of currently, this list will change. In fact, I’m hoping that you will throw me some suggestions for additions.
What book or books are you grateful for? Why?
Please share.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Writing and Looking for Ideas? Check out National Novel Writing Month and Seventh Sanctum

November started this week and with its start 2015’s National Novel Writing Month kicked off. Many aspiring authors, including me, will attempt to write a 50,000 word novel before the month ends. That means we have to pen 1, 667 or so words every day. And sometimes it’s hard to keep the story going and to simply come up with ideas.

To help another Nano participants and myself I’ve gone to Seventh Sanctum. It’s a page of random generators. I used one that made interesting characters because I’ve found if you start with some interesting people the scenes seem to come together quickly.  So here are thirteen classic, overused and archetypical types scrambled together to hopefully create some eccentric and intriguing oddballs to fuel a budding storyteller's inner muse.

See if any of these trigger your imagination or your funny bone.

1. The upper-class fop who has an unusual scar from an equally unusual incident.
2. The stealthy assassin who keeps repeating themselves over and over.
3. The mysterious elderly wizard whose scientific endeavors have given them a god complex.
4. The friendly sentient computer who wants everything for their children and who is bound by an unpleasant duty.
5. The rough-and-tumble dwarven fighter who is accused of a crime they did not commit and who is friend to a giant city-smashing monster.
6. The new kid in town who has nothing left to lose.
7. The emotionally detached genius who knows the solution to everyone's problems.
8. The family man who is a softy at heart despite strong biases.
9. The strong-willed yet elegant Southern Belle who is stronger and more skilled than most anyone.
10. The aristocratic vampire who is just this side of crazy and who wants to destroy the world due to emotional issues.
11. The loudmouthed opportunist with a heart of gold who has to prove their worth.
12. The scoundrel with a heart of gold who came back from the grave and who stands alone against the Main Villain.
13. The brilliant young adult who is persecuted by a government conspiracy and who surprises people with their ability to survive.

If you’re working on a manuscript or taking the National Novel Writing Challenge this November and you’re looking for ideas, consider checking out The Seventh Sanctum. It’ll inspire your creativity.