Thursday, January 31, 2013


You all remember Sheriff Joe Arpaio of  Arizona , who painted the jail cells pink and made the inmates wear pink prison garb. Well.........


Oh, there's MUCH more to know about Sheriff Joe!

Maricopa  County was spending approx. $18 million dollars a year on stray animals, like cats and dogs. Sheriff Joe offered to take the department over, and the  County  Supervisors said okay.

The animal shelters are now all staffed and operated by prisoners. They feed and care for the strays. Every animal in his care is taken out and walked twice daily. He now has prisoners who are experts in animal nutrition and behavior. They give great classes for anyone who'd like to adopt an animal. He has literally taken stray dogs off the street, given them to the care of prisoners, and had them place in dog shows.

The best part? His budget for the entire department is now under $3 million. Teresa and I adopted a Weimaraner from a  Maricopa  County shelter two years ago. He was neutered and current on all shots, in great health, and even had a microchip inserted the day we got him. Cost us $78.

The prisoners get the benefit of about $0.28 an hour for working, but most would work for free, just to be out of their cells for the day. Most of his budget is for utilities, building maintenance, etc. He pays the prisoners out of the fees collected for adopted animals.

I have long wondered when the rest of the country would take a look at the way he runs the jail system and copy some of his ideas. He has a huge farm, donated to the county years ago, where inmates can work, and they grow most of their own fresh vegetables and food, doing all the work and harvesting by hand.

He has a pretty good sized hog farm, which provides meat and fertilizer. It fertilizes the Christmas tree nursery, where prisoners work, and you can buy a living Christmas tree for $6 - $8 for the holidays and plant it later. We have six trees in our yard from the prison.

Yup, he was re-elected last year with 83% of the vote.
Now he's in trouble with the ACLU again. He painted all his buses and vehicles with a mural that has a special hotline phone number painted on it, where you can call and report suspected illegal aliens. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement wasn't doing enough in his eyes, so he had 40 deputies trained specifically for enforcing immigration laws, started up his hotline, and bought 4 new buses just for hauling folks back to the border. He's kind of a 'Git-R-Dun' kind of Sheriff.





Sheriff Joe Arpaio (in  Arizona ) who created the 'Tent City Jail':
**He has jail meals down to 40 cents a serving and charges the inmates for them.
**He stopped smoking and porno magazines in the jail.
**Took away their weights.
**Cut off all but 'G' movies.
**He started chain gangs so the inmates could do free work on county and city projects.
**Then he started chain gangs for women so he wouldn't get sued for discrimination.

**He took away cable TV until he found out there was a federal court order that required cable TV for jails, so he hooked up the cable TV again.....BUT only let in the Disney channel and the Weather channel.

**When asked why the weather channel, he replied, "So they will know how hot it's gonna be while they are working on my chain gangs."

**He cut off coffee since it has zero nutritional value.

**When the inmates complained, he told them, "This isn't The Ritz/Carlton...... If you don't like it, don't come back."

More On The Arizona Sheriff:

With temperatures being even hotter than usual in Phoenix (116 degrees just set a new record), the Associated Press reports:
About 2,000 inmates living in a barbed-wire-surrounded tent encampment at the Maricopa County jail have been given permission to strip down to their government-issued
pink boxer shorts.

On Wednesday, hundreds of men wearing boxers were either curled up on their bunk beds or chatted in the tents, which reached 138 degrees inside the week before.

Many were also swathed in wet, pink towels as sweat collected on their chests and dripped down to their PINK SOCKS.

"It feels like we are in a furnace," said James Zanzot, an inmate who has lived in the TENTS for 1 year. "It's inhumane."

Joe Arpaio, the tough-guy sheriff who created the tent city and long ago started making his prisoners wear pink and eat bologna sandwiches, is not one bit sympathetic. He said Wednesday that he told all of the inmates, "It's 120 degrees in  Iraq and our soldiers are living in tents too, and they have to wear full battle gear, but they didn't commit any crimes, so shut your mouths!"

Way to go, Sheriff!

Maybe if all prisons were like this one there would be a lot less crime and/or repeat offenders. Criminals should be punished for their crimes - not live in luxury until it's time for their parole, only to go out and commit another crime so they can get back in to live on taxpayers' money and enjoy things taxpayers can't afford to have for themselves.

Why can't we have this man go to Washington and drum some sense into the elected officials there who can't seem to find their butts with both hands?  Sheriff Arpaio seems to be the only elected official who finds solutions instead of padding his own pockets.  Hooray for Joe Arpaio!!!!!


      A question I’m often asked; “How did you think of that for your story plot?”  In the search for that unusual ‘never before written’ idea, most writers are sidelined by the idea there just isn’t anything that hasn’t been written before. Their range of inspiration narrows—and they’re convinced all the good ideas have been written. This is a troublesome feeling . . . a struggle for that all moving and exciting vision that will take them to the top. Let me tell you . . . waiting for creativeness to strike won’t write that book. Get off that couch and go out and hunt it down—in unexpected places.
     Go to the local shopping mall and listen, watch, if you write suspense take a visual stroll down the list of renown killers and see if they spark an idea, glance through history books if you write 1800s, talk to old people and see if they can catapult an image, prowl the internet, talk to experts in an topic of interest, etc.
     We all know the best ideas are those other writers haven’t written about, or haven’t noticed. It may seem daunting – but new ideas are popping up all over the place, and if you’re like me you ask yourself; “Why didn’t I think of that?”
     Some authors use the ‘explain common things’ style to get that story plot.  They ask experts to explain how ordinary things work, preferably things invisible to the public. For example, how does the railroad system work? What happens to old refrigerators? How do breweries make beer? How can you tell if a person is truly drowning? Why do some women desert their children, isn’t it instinctive for them to protect a child at all cost?
     Another way to get ideas is to think about what troubles or baffles you, find out why by interviewing people who have the knowledge you’re seeking. I’ve always wondered if I lived in the 1800s what would my life be like.  Housewife or pastor wife, work in a mercantile, live at a fort, live in a booming mining town, a female prospector or a dance hall girl (giggle), which turns out to be a fairly common question.
     What if you upset your life and do nothing your ‘daily habits’ dictates.  Walk to work instead of drive, go to a different church, listen to different music, dress opposite the norm, etc.  Do you think you’ll look at life differently?  Will you react to people differently?  
     I know this will be hard for those shy people, strike up conversations with people you don’t know, even cultivating the ‘strange-types’ you wouldn’t ordinarily chat with. Introduce yourself to people in the grocery lie or sitting next to you in church, or someone interesting in the airport waiting for their flight.  What about striking up a conversation with people carrying a sign or wearing a name tag?
     Accept any piece of paper handed to you on the street and start reading junk mail. Watch TV shows you usually can’t even stand the advertisements.  Ask yourself why would they appeal to anyone?
     My favorite of all - role-play as someone whose viewpoints differ from yours. I once put on a set of headphones and tried reading lips and understanding what it is like to be deaf.  It was beyond a learning experience.
     The purpose behind all this is these methods jar you out of your norm, and that’s where the writing ideas are, hiding in plain sight.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Welcome Lisabet Sarai to Dishin' It Out

 Warning:  This may be considered a little spicier than most are used to.  After all, Lisabet is the queen of sexy writings, but she does it with such class.

Helping Vampires to Save the World

Let's face it. Vampires are sexy. Something about the undead stirs up our juices. Perhaps it's their irresistible power. Even when we know the danger, we're so very tempted to surrender to their all-consuming lust. Maybe we want to comfort them, to save them a lonely, bloody eternity. Maybe we secretly crave immortality ourselves.

Vampires are frequently portrayed as evil or at least amoral, viewing humanity from the jaded perspective of centuries. Now, though, vampires are doing their part to save the world.

Coming Together: In Vein is a brand new collection of vampire-themed erotica and erotic romance edited by Lisabet Sarai. All sales of this novel-length volume support Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières). MSF works in nearly 70 countries providing medical aid to those most in need regardless of their race, religion, or political affiliation. Right now, despite being barred from the country, MSF doctors and nurses are in Syria, working with patients from both sides of the civil war. They're performing surgery in caves and sneaking into refugee camps to distribute desperately needed medications.

You can help MSF in its life-saving mission, simply by indulging your passion for vampires. Buy a copy of Coming Together: In Vein in ebook, Kindle format, or print. Enjoy! Then help spread the word! Every copy we sell has the potential to save someone's life.

The list of contributors includes many names you'll recognize. Every one of these authors has provided his or her work free of charge, to support the charitable aims of the project. Furthermore, the editor is giving away a free copy of her short story collection Body Electric  to everyone who buys a copy of Coming Together: In Vein. (For details of this offer, click here.)

You'll find an excerpt below – just to whet your appetite.

Sink your teeth into Coming Together: In Vein. Help our vampires save the world. 

Tell me about Barbara,” she asked finally. “The woman in the photos.” As soon as she saw his ravaged face, she was sorry for the question.

“I was stupid, inexperienced. And we were so much in love. When I realized what I had become, I crawled to her on my hands and knees and begged her forgiveness. I was so terribly sorry to have ruined our plans for a life together. Barbara, though, had other ideas. She pointed out that, according to all information, we could now share eternity. All I had to do was turn her, make her into a vampire too.

“I was reluctant, but she convinced me. She was so beautiful, I couldn’t bear the notion that she would eventually age and die while I’d live forever.

“We planned the ritual carefully, almost as if it were our wedding ceremony...”

“The photos–” Lara interrupted.

“Right.” Jim laughed bitterly. “I set up the camera to record it all. The initiation of my beloved into the realm of the undead. But it all went terribly wrong.” He choked back a sob. Lara felt a sympathetic lump in her throat.

“What happened?”

“Everybody knows how you make a new vampire. First you drain the victim’s blood, bringing her close to death. Then you allow her to drink your blood. That’s what we planned. That’s what we did. It was incredible, terrifying and ecstatic.”


“But she died. I couldn’t save her. I couldn’t turn her. Since then I’ve learned the truth.”

Lara was silent, waiting.

“To create a new vampire, you must suck the victim’s blood while you’re physically connected. While you’re having sex.”

“You’re joking!”

“No, it’s no joke. That’s why I ended up this way. That girl at the party—all she really wanted was my blood. But one thing led to another, and eventually we were fucking. I don’t think she really understood either.”

No wonder his little demonstration had produced such an intense effect. For him, blood lust and sexual desire were inextricably entwined. The instinctive drive to reproduce, to bring more souls over the boundary of death into the shadowy world that he inhabited, this was something he could not deny, and could only imperfectly control.

Lara knew she should be frightened. She should get out his seductive presence before she made a final, incorrigible mistake. The risk, the pure reality of it, only made her want him more.

 He was watching her. She could feel his eyes on her lips, on her throat, on the rise and fall of her breasts as her breath quickened.

She glanced around the bar, filling up now that it was after five. Donnie’s was not known as a “blood” bar, but still, she noticed half a dozen men wearing capes and pale make up, plus two or three women in slinky black dresses and wigs. It was pathetic, the way they all craved a fleeting taste of inhuman power, a brush with immortality. And here she sat, thigh to thigh with the genuine article.

“I don’t fully understand it,” Jim said, obviously catching  her thoughts once again. “Why would they want to be me? Power’s nice, but overall, I live a pretty lonely and miserable existence.”

“Maybe—maybe I can make you feel less lonely. For a little while.” Lara cradled his cheek for an instant, then pulled his mouth to hers. His lips were soft as any flesh, warm and muscular as they met and molded to her own lips. She tasted the wine he had been drinking, with background flavors of iron and salt. His tongue, too, felt human, jousting against hers, exploring, questioning.

Her rigid nipples pressed rudely through the stretchy fabric of her top, pleading for his attention. Of course he knew what she wanted. Without breaking the kiss, he cupped both breasts, tracing symmetrical circles around the tips. Her pussy clenched. Her thighs opened involuntarily. She rocked back and forth on the bench, rubbing her clit against the hard wood.

“Please,” she moaned against his open mouth, and then was silent, realizing that she did not have to say anything. He broke the kiss to throw a twenty pound note on the table, then pulled her to his chest.

“Imagine your apartment,” he said, close to her ear. “Think about your bedroom. And hold on tight.”

To get your own copy:

Monday, January 28, 2013


I’ll bet you could ask ten writers their revision process and you’d get ten different styles or processes for revisions.  Some love it . . . and some absolutely hate it.  Why?
Many writers prefer writing . . . writing . . . and writing.  I think that’s the category I prefer. Others embrace the process of revision and strive on the act of strengthening, polishing, and ultimately making their novel the best it can be.
Whether you love or hate it, revision is an essential part of writing, and one that every writer must accept.
There are ways to minimize the revising process. In Revision and Self-Editing for Publication author James Scott Bell gives you four ways to revise as you write.  If this is the style of revision you prefer, his book is a worth buying and reading.  The premise of this method is as follows:
1. Revise Your Previous Pages - Look at what you wrote the day before (or during your last writing stint), and do a quick edit. This practice puts you back into the flow of your story and gets you ready to write the new material.
In Revision and Self-Editing for Publication author James Scott Bell states he likes to print out a hard copy of pages and mark them up. Of course, you can do all this on the computer screen. He just finds that the act of reading physical pages more closely mimics what a reader will be doing, and he will catch more things this way.
In this stage he shares he is mostly editing for style - the way the sentences flow. He wants to make sure what he wanted to convey has actually happened on the page. If a major plot or character problem emerges, or he gets an idea for something to add, he just makes a note of it and moves on to reach his day’s writing quota.
Mr. Bell suggests you should write as fast as you comfortably can on your first draft.
 Have you heard of the 20,000-Word Step Back - Whether you’re a ‘no outline person or an ‘outline Person,’ this 20,000-word step back can be a tremendous tool.
After 20,000 words you stop, take a day off, then read what you have. By this time your story it mapped out in your mind and you’ve done enough of the novel to know what it’s about. Now take some time to make sure you like the characters and the direction you have them going.
If thing seem off, now is the time to make some changes.  Make sure your characters are starting to feel well-rounded, they are recognizable through actions, oddities, imperfections, and tags.
Take note of the tone you’ve given your novel. Is this the direction you want it to take?  If not, again, now is the time to make some changes.
Now get excited and get that novel finished.
Bonus - Don’t lose thoughts and ideas you have along the way… make sure you keep a small notebook handy to you can jot this information down in one place.  I had to learn this lesson the hard way.  I jotted on a piece of paper a Gypsy law I discovered and could hardly wait to use it . . . the I couldn’t find it!  Never did find it on the paper or in my research.  Keep your notes in a 4x5” notebook and you’ll never have this happen to you.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Are You Facebook Savvy?

Being an e-published author, there are several options available to us for promotion, and many of us enjoy using Facebook.  Although, I personally have no issues with the site, many continue to complain about certain aspects of Facebook, and if they only knew how to use the "settings" perhaps they could settle some of their concerns.

I'm very much a Reader's Digest fan, and today I'm going to paraphrase some very helpful things offered by Michelle Crouch in the February issue.  The title of her article is 13 Things Facebook Won't Tell You.

1.  If you want to know how much FB knows about you, go to Accounting Settings in the home menu and click on "Download a copy of our Facebook Data."

2.  If you don't want to share your updates and other personal information with the whole world, you'll have to change your settings manually as FB has kept the default setting as "public."

3.  Wonder why you don't always see every post from your friends?  FB wants users to see posts that keep people on the site longer.  To do that, they move up the posts that have most frequently liked, shared or commented on.

4.  When you sign into FB, you are tracked while you surf the Internet.  Anytime you visit a page that has a FB "like" or "share" button, that information is logged.

5.  If your posts are set to "public", everyone can see your updates...that includes burglars who make note of posts about you being out of town or away from home.  Insurance companies have also been known to use posted information to raise a premium or deny a claim.  Beware what you share!

6.  Any special announcements you make such as the birth of a baby, your pending nuptials or acceptance into college will be targeted by FB and processed to stick around in your friends' news feeds until they log on.

7.  Liking certain Facebook pages can be a nuisance, but can also work to your advantage.  For instance, if you like a certain clothing stores, you'll appreciate the coupons that pop up for your use.

8.  You can sort your news feed to fit your fancy.  Change to "most recent" rather than "top news" and then add your favorite people to your close friends list and unsubscript from any friends you no longer are interested in.

9. FB makes money by selling ad space to companies.  Hey, the have to make bucks somewhere so we can utilize the site for free.  The advertisers provide the demographics, desired locations, career and level of education and FB places the ads on the pages of those who meet the criteria.

10. If you have really important news you want to share, you can pay a fee from $7-$10 per post to move your update to the top of your friends news feed.

11.  Timeline is one of the things that lots complain about.  Get used to it.  It's not going least anytime soon.  It's the most effective way FB has found for people to share in a visually appealing way, plus it provides a better platform for marketing.

12.  If you feel overwhelmed by posts, you can limit them to Facebook friends who live in your city, who went to your school or who work with you.  You can even elect to allow everyone to view a post except your boss.  Click the arrow in the lower right-hand corner of the status update box, and you'll find all the options.

13.  A smart person will never leave their computer while logged onto FB, especially if you live or work with someone with a sense of humor.  You never know what "you" might post even in your absence.

Remember, I take no credit for this interesting fact I learned a lot from it.  The article says for more insider secrets from Facebook, go to

Thanks to such an amazing publication for this information.
The sources in the article are listed as follows:

David Jacobs, consumer protection counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Brittany Darwell, lead writer for, Cameron Camp, cybersecurity expert at ESET in San Diego and former FB employee.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Power your writing project – by Rita Karnopp

     There are so many things we can do to power our writing projects.  What do I mean by that . . . well it’s a method I use to charge my senses in the genre’ I’m writing.
     Take for instance when writing an Indian historical I make sure I listen to Native flutes and Native music.  I watch movies that take place in the 1800s.  I read books that are Native in nature; both fiction and non-fiction.  I even burn sage or other scents of the time period.  If I’m writing about being out on the trail, I’ve been known to munch on jerky!
      So why do I create such an atmosphere while I’m writing?  It’s a mood . . . an ambiance that makes me think, feel, hear, see, smell, and even taste the time I’m writing about.  You’ve often heard that when you write you should be aware of the five sense (smell, taste, hear, feel, and see).  I actually believe there are seven senses – think is that 7th one.
      If you surround yourself with the feeling for the time-frame you’re writing, you’re most like going to remember those seven senses – and believe me when I get a whiff of sage or the sound of the flue permeates my thoughts, it forces me . . . no it reminds me to include them into my book.
     Now I’m working on my Holocaust Tango of Death trilogy.  For months I’ve read nothing but documentaries about the Holocaust.  I’ve watched nothing but movies on the Holocaust. I’ve studied the dress-code and mannerisms as well as the language used during the 1940s. It is so easy to slip and write with modern slang.  If I’m studying the 1940s I know I have a better chance of writing the 1940s.  If nothing else, it reminds me to stay true to the genre and timeframe I’m writing.
     In Partisan Heart, Book two of my Tango of Death trilogy, I wrote; “You are nothing short of Cinderella,” he said.  She glanced at him and smiled. “I’m surprised you even know that American fable.”
     That night when I went to bed it hit me like a blast of cold air; was Cinderella an American fable and was it even written in the 1940s?  Good thing I asked myself that question.  What I found out is; "Cinderella", or "The Little Glass Slipper", (French: Cendrillon, ou La petite Pantoufle de Verre, Italian: Cenerentola, German: Aschenputtel) is a folk tale embodying a myth-element of unjust oppression/triumphant reward. Thousands of variants are known throughout the world. The title character is a young woman living in unfortunate circumstances that are suddenly changed to remarkable fortune. The story was first published by Charles Perrault in Histoires ou contes du temps passé in 1697.
     Readers are savvy these days.  We not only need to be cognizant of the genre’ and timeframe we’re writing, but be careful of the information you use or refer to.  All it takes is one slip-up like the Cinderella comment and the reader will stop believing you as a writer and toss the book down.  You certainly don’t want that to happen.
     Stay in your element . . . and surround yourself as much as you can to aid in that endeavor.  One last trick I will share with you.  I create a book board.  In the Holocaust trilogy, I have my six feet by four feet cork board that is covered in pictures of Gypsies, maps of 1943, swastika, picture of Hitler, Gypsy wagons, concentration camps, etc.  At the top are pictures of the three book covers; Gypsy Spirit, Partisan Heart, and Jewish Soul.  They keep me grounded and inspired. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

IS IT BELIEVABLE? by Rita Karnopp

Have you ever put a book down because you didn’t believe the plot?  I have.  You won’t pick that book back up, nor will you read another book by that author – I won’t.
We are all familiar with the term suspension of disbelief.   Let’s face it, as readers approach stories we want to believe them. Readers have both the intention and desire to believe what is going to happen. As writers, then, our goal isn’t to convince the reader to suspend her disbelief, but rather to give her what she wants by continually sustain her belief in the story.
It’s a matter of understanding the mindset and expectations of your readers. Readers want to immerse themselves in profound belief. We need to respect the reader enough to keep that belief alive for the duration of the story.
Let’s say you create a world in shambles with no electricity. You must create this world on the page and through your characters, the reader will accept that—but now she’ll want you to be consistent. As soon as someone whips out a cellphone, the consistency of that world is shattered. The reader will begin to either lose interest and eventually stop reading, or will disengage from the story and begin to look for more inconsistencies—neither of which you want her to do.
As readers stop believing your story, they’ll stop caring about your story. And readers stop believing stories when characters act confusingly or out of character.
When writing continually ask yourself, “What would this character ‘naturally’ do in this situation?”  And then I let him do it. Don’t force his behavior – it will read forced.
We know as readers we’re asking the same question; “What would this character naturally do?”
The minute your characters acts unbelievable, either in character or the story’s development, the reader loses faith in the writer’s ability to tell that story.
Also realize that when something that’s unbelievable or odd happens, don’t be afraid to let your character notice and respond to it; “I never expected her to say that,” “What? That just doesn’t make sense,” or, “Obviously there’s more going on here than I thought when I first saw the gun.”
If a character acts in an unbelievable way, you’ll need to give the reader a reason why—and it’d better be a good one. Always remember to give the reader what he wants, or something better. If you don’t give the reader believability, you must satisfy him with a twist that thrills him more than he ever expected.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Welcome Anita Seymour and Her New Release...


Royalist Rebel by Anita Seymour

Intelligent, witty and beautiful, Elizabeth Murray wasn’t born noble; her family’s fortunes came from her Scottish father’s boyhood friendship with King Charles. As the heir to Ham House, their mansion on the Thames near Richmond,
Elizabeth was always destined for greater things.

Royalist Rebel is the story of Elizabeth’s youth during the English Civil War, of a determined and passionate young woman dedicated to Ham House, the Royalist cause and the three men in her life; her father William Murray, son of a minister who rose to become King Charles’ friend and confidant, the rich baronet Lionel Tollemache, her husband of twenty years who adored her and John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale, Charles II’s favourite.

With William Murray at King Charles’ exiled court in Oxford, the five Murray women have to cope alone. Crippled by fines for their Royalist sympathies, and besieged by the Surrey Sequestration Committee, Elizabeth must find a wealthy, non-political husband to save herself, her sisters, and their inheritance.

Royalist Rebel by Claymore Books, an imprint of Pen and Sword, released on 17th January 2013

For a little background on the novel, see Anita’s Book Blog

The National Trust Website of Elizabeth Murray’s former home, Ham House, at Petersham near Richmond, Surrey

Anita’s Blog

Note from Ginger:  Anita is one of my favorite historical authors.  Although I used to consider anything about British history dry and uninteresting, Anita definitely changed my mind.  Her writing style puts you in the characters shoes and shows you all the emotions, scenery, lets you smell the aromas, and definitely engage with her awesome characters.  If my vote counts for anything...she comes highly recommended.


Everyone would agree that at the heart of every story is ‘tension,’ and at the heart of tension is ‘unfulfilled desire.’ At its core, a story is about a character who wants something but cannot get it. We all know as soon as he gets it, the story is over. Bear in mind, a story is made up of many smaller problems that must be resolved within the framework of an even greater plot escalation.
It’s a good idea to create a “hook” at the beginning of your story.  Aspiring authors all too often dump pages of background to explain the context of their hook - not a good idea. Why?  Because you’ve killed escalation.
I believe this is also why dream sequences typically don’t work—the protagonist thinks she’s in a unreal nightmare, then wakes up and realizes none of it was real.  So, things really aren’t that bad after all.
That’s the opposite of escalation—you’ve killed the forward movement of your story.
It’s plain and simple - tension drives a story forward. When tension is resolved, the momentum of the story is lost. Neither character nor plot really drives a story forward—only unfulfilled desire does.
Page after page of entertaining dialog about your character, description about the landscape, or even incredibly interesting history won’t move your story along; it’ll cause it to stall out. We need to know what the character wants and what the story is about, or we won’t care or agonize about whether or not the character’s desires are ultimately met.
It’s the same thing with your plot, which is a series of events your character experiences as he moves through a crisis that will change – for better or worse, his life. So even if you have shoot-out after shoot-out, the reader eventually won’t care unless they know what the stakes are. A story isn’t driven forward by events happening, but by tension escalating.
All stories are “tension-driven!”  Stories should have two struggles that play off each other, which will deepen the tension of the story. The character’s external struggle is a problem that needs to be solved; her internal struggle is a question that needs to be answered. The interaction of these two struggles is balancing until, at the climax, the resolution of one gives the protagonist the skills, insights or ability to resolve the other.
The genre you write might have expectations and guidelines that dictate the scheme of the internal or external struggle in your story. Today’s readers are perceptive and narratively cognizant. Include both an internal struggle to compel the reader to empathize with the protagonist, and an external struggle that drives the movement of the story toward its exciting climax.
I once was told that as I plot my novel, I should ask myself, “How can I make things worse?” This is an exciting question to ask, and it will pressurize you to create ways to drive the protagonist deeper and deeper into an impossible situation (emotionally, physically or relationally).  You are then charged with the wit to resolve them in a way that is both surprising and satisfying to the reader.
Keep in mind your story needs to evolve toward more and more conflict, with increased intimate struggles and deeper tension.
As the cliché goes; the plot must thicken; it must never thin. Think about it this way, repetition is the enemy of escalation. Every murder, car accident, or injury you introduce decreases the impact that each subsequent murder, car accident, or injury will have on the reader. Repetitive injuries, appeals, prayers, sex scenes lessen the impact to the reader, simply because repetition serves to work against the escalation your story so desperately needs.
Strive to constantly make things worse for the protagonist. You’ll actually be making things better for the reader.
When characters act in ways that are convincing and realistic in their drive to reach their goals, the story remains believable.  These deepening conflicts and struggles keep the reader caring about what’s happening as well as interested in what’s going to happen next.
By consistently propelling your story forward through action that flows naturally, characters acting believably, and tension that mounts compellingly, will keep the reader flipping pages and gasping for more of your work.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


My agent, Cameron McClure, is a demanding reader whose opinions I value. After reading my latest manuscript, she sent me notes, including one concerning the following chapter ending, in which the proprietor of a filling station in the storm-soaked Pacific Northwest is concluding a conversation with a visitor:
First Truck goes off without telling me, now Joey. The gas pump busts, and I’m here selling no gas. No garage work getting done either, I’m sure you notice. Turned away a brake job this morning.
Cameron wrote: “This isn’t a good way to end a chapter—it doesn’t feel over. You do such a good job with chapter endings, and making things feel both wrapped up, yet throwing in some detail or aspect that makes the reader want to read on and know more, that this half-assed chapter ending really sticks out. Can you fix?”
(Side note: As an author, you must develop the necessary dermatological depth to be OK when your own agent calls your work “half-assed.”)
I pondered her request and realized that I could add a feeling of menace and uncertainty. I left everything the way I had it, but added this paragraph to close the chapter with the internal thoughts of the visitor:
When I went out, the moss on the bulletin board looked like it’d grown an inch longer since I’d gone in. The moss, I realized, thrived on the heavy moisture in the air, and the wood that hosted it was decaying because of the same. The wet giveth, and the wet taketh away. Yeah, that was written all over this place.
The day after writing that, I gave a talk in a bookstore about reading and writing mysteries, and I used this as an example of working with an agent—if the agent has good suggestions, you take them. I read the original chapter ending to my audience, then my agent’s criticism of it. Then I read the added paragraph, and listened as they collectively made a soft little “yeah” sound.
No storyteller invents everything; to be honest, we steal stuff from one another all the time. Joseph Campbell figured it out in The Power of Myth and The Hero With a Thousand Faces, both of which are useful references for any writer. Humankind’s basic stories are always with us: sacrifice and bliss, love and death, adventure and gifts, war and peace. Scratch any good novel and you’ll find one or more seminal myths supporting the story, forming the framework for the characters and the action. And boy, every one of them is a page turner.
Consider the best-known suspense tale in history, the Adam and Eve story from the Bible. From the moment you hear God tell Adam and Eve, “Whatever you do, don’t eat the fruit from that tree over there,” you know something bad is going to happen. You know they’re going to eat the fruit. You know you would eat the fruit. And you know how you would feel afterward: guilty. You broke the rules. You know there will be consequences. Dire consequences, given the setup.
And you keep reading to find out what happens.
The dudes who wrote the Bible were nobody’s fools.
Look back even further, to the story of Pandora, Greek mythology’s first woman, who was instructed by Zeus to never, never open that pretty box over there. Once alone with the box, does she just throw it open and scatter its contents?
No! She sits there and thinks about it. She gets up and paces. She agonizes, she wrings her hands, she convinces herself to open it, she convinces herself not to open it. She fights with the two sides of her nature: obedience and curiosity.
That myth came to mind when I was working on a chapter about a woman who receives a box from a messenger. The woman is a rich industrialist whose son has gone missing. She has shrugged off a ransom demand, believing her son is trying to trick her. Now, in the middle of a meeting with a private detective about another matter, this box comes, a beer carton sealed with duct tape.
It sits on her mahogany desk like a redneck at a tea party.
I could have made her tear it open, or I could have made the detective snatch it away, or I could have made it explode.
But whatever I was going to do, I sure as heck wasn’t going to do it fast. So I made that box sit on her desk while they argued about it.
Is it a joke?
A hoax?
Should we call the bomb squad?
Was I wrong about my son?
How am I going to handle this client if the box contains something potentially devastating?
Use it strategically. Here are some plans of attack:
LET IT HANG FIRE, OR LET IT GO OFF. Carefully delayed action, as in the example of Pandora’s box, works wonders to draw your readers’ nerves to the breaking point. But then you must pay it off. Someone barging in with a gun is always alarming, but something as small as a sneeze at an inopportune time can make your readers reach for their heart medicine.
CONSIDER CONSTRUCTING YOUR ENTIRE PLOT AROUND THE BULL’S-EYE OF ACTION. In John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, the Joads embark on a journey, and immediately the journey itself lends structure, interest and tension: Will they get to California? Will they find work? Will Tom get in trouble again? Where’s Rose of Sharon going to give birth: a ditch, a shed, a boxcar? Journeys can be literal or figurative. Of course, the journey plot is just one example of extended action.
LET LOOSE A CANNONADE. Rapid-fire action is handy when you have to have dialogue to reveal information. Instead of sitting two characters on a porch, put them in a fast convertible and make one try to smoke a cigarette while they talk. Make a cop interrupt with a speeding ticket. Make them come upon a crash. Shove the conversation into the interstices of the action.

If a husband is going to slip and reveal an extramarital affair, make him do it while bringing his wife to climax. If a kid is going to stumble upon a secret, make him do it while chasing his escaped pet lizard.
When reading a good page turner, analyze it. Ask yourself why it’s good, and you’ll find any number of these techniques. Then invite your subconscious to come up with some variations of your own.

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