Monday, November 27, 2017

Never Ignore Your Dream By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

I once read an article/editorial from Jeff Rivers, an expert in writing query letters in the late, great Dan Poynter’s newsletter. It was titled “What I Learned from Janet Evanovich: Write for your Audience.” It is hard to argue with experts like Jeff and Janet. But I do disagree-or at least mostly disagree.
Certainly, authors like Evanovich and James Patterson have done very well for themselves and for their readers by “Writing for Your Audience.” And maybe they followed their hearts and gathered their audience along the way. When that’s the case, it is a risk to take a path going in a different direction from the one an audience expects. John Grisham did that with A Painted House and his courtroom drama readers weren’t much taken with it.
I was, though. Very taken.

I became a stronger fan of his work. And it’s my theory that Painted House was the novel that had been lying inside his little writers’ soul all the time. That it brought him pleasure to write it. Maybe that it kept his writing passion alive. Maybe that brought more readers into his circle of avid fans.
So, maybe sticking to your audience’s tastes too long is also a risk. Or maybe starting out with a project designed only to please others and not your creative self would doom you to be a short-lived author. Maybe an author needs to occasionally open a new door and let the beam of passion light the work they are doing.

I do a bit of acting and learned from a dedicated actor who taught new actors that new actors give the director not what they think he or she wants, but to give of themselves—to give what they feel is best to give. But life has thrown me mixed messages. When I was a retailer, I certainly learned that one couldn’t “buy for oneself” when it came to selecting merchandise for my store. When I did, I very often brought whatever I brought home because my customers wouldn’t buy it.  See my books on retailing at

But back to writing!

That same balanced note is a good one for writers to follow, too. They must keep their audience in mind. As an example, they must trust their audience to be readers. They, after all, have been reading their whole lives. So we authors don’t want to insult them. And certainly, authors should do the research necessary to avoid writing the same book someone else has written.

Still, there is another side of the coin and here it is:

When you write for yourself, your audience will follow. Do not mistake this for advice that writers go off willy-nilly with no training in craft, no awareness of rules (which we may then choose to break). But we must love what we do to be successful. Find your voice and your passion. Keep at it. Keep learning more about both writing and the publishing industry as a whole.  Market your work.  Do all that and an audience will find you. Your audience will find you.
You can do that once and you can do it all over again if you don’t mind the risk. Risk of getting less income than you’re used to getting with whatever you wrote when you garnered that first audience. Risk of teeing off some of your original readers who came to you with preconceived expectations.
I’m an eternal optimist. I believe we can balance the two philosophies. But I also see some real danger for the author (or beginning writer who still feels uncomfortable calling herself an “author”) who denies his or her dream and considers only what she figures someone else wants of him or hear or—worse—what she has been told will “sell.”.

~Carolyn Howard-Johnson is an award-winning novelist, poet, and writer of short stories. A many-genered author, if you will. She is also the author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally series of book for writers including The Frugal Editor (,, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career (  and the much applauded The Frugal Book Promoter ( The first two are in their second editions and the third was published in 2016. Learn more about all of her work at http://howtodoitfrugally.comand come tweet with her @frugalbookpormo. 

Monday, November 6, 2017


Many of the poets and authors I read in the small press should be on top of the pile rather than a number of the best-selling authors I have attempted to read, only to put them down and reach for a well-read classic. Two books I have recently read are “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville and “The Red Badge Of Courage” by Stephen Crane. These books are heavy reading; not for those who like to move along fast. However, once you have read them, you feel as though you have been on the high seas or survived a war.
Another writer I admire, who in my opinion is now classic, is Maria Von Trapp of Sound of Music fame. The books written by Maria are special for the reason each February, my family and I pack skis and winter gear and vacation at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont. This has been a tradition for twenty years. At first, we stayed at the original lodge until it was destroyed in a fire in 1980. The present Inn is very beautiful and luxurious, but it cannot compare to the homey atmosphere of the original lodge.

            My favorite recollections of Maria are of her greeting guests in the dining room each evening, wearing a traditional Austrian dress and an endearing smile. At Mass at the quaint Blessed Sacrament Church in Stowe, I can still see her bustling down the aisle, attended by a companion or family member. I have been privileged to meet one of God’s chosen.
 Maria was an iron-willed woman who never hesitated to say anything. She would not have survived in this country without her strong will. At her funeral in 1987, attended by approximately 200 friends and relatives, Monsignor Paul Taggart quoted a colleague as saying;
“God is going to be in for some surprises with Maria.”
The following books by Maria von Trapp, I warmly recommend;
A  FAMILY ON WHEELS tells the story of the Trapp Family’s successful American and International concert tours which carried the entire family from South American cities to the hidden leper island of Molokai in Hawaii.
The Trapp family fled Austria to escape Hitler’s scourge, and arrived in America nearly penniless to begin a new life as professional musicians. In this book, Maria shares the family’s fascinating experiences of home life at picturesque Stowe, Vermont; and their six-year global tour to almost every city of any size in South America, New Zealand, Australia, America, and Europe. On their visit to Austria – after a twelve-year absence – they received a royal ovation which was for Maria an unforgettable moment of happiness and triumph.
MARIA, MY OWN STORY: reveals poignant scenes of childhood, convent life, marriage, and escape from Hitler’s Germany. Maria traces Baroness von Trapp’s adventure-filled and spiritually-overflowing life through the growth of her children, the Lodge at Stowe, Vermont and her dedication to God.
 Maria von Trapp grew up in Austria and was left as an orphaned child at a very early age. She joined one of Austria’s strictest convents on the hopes of becoming a nun. As the ‘will of God’ she married Baron Georg von Trapp and became the second mother to his seven children.
Hitler struck Austria and Maria became the guiding force of the family.
Maria was not only a musician, mother, homemaker, lecturer, and world traveler; she is also an accomplished writer. The STORY OF THE TRAPP FAMILY SINGERS was made into the famous play and movie, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, the thrilling story of Maria.
Trapp Family books can be obtained from the Trapp Family Gift Shop located in the Austrian Tea Room, Stowe, Vermont 05672.
*This review was in part taken from book jackets.

GOD IS EVERYWHERE by Patricia Crandall

God is in the red brick church
where a congregation
gathers each Sunday.
Respectful, serene faces
lift eyes to the Lord.
Hands pyramid in prayer.
One eye open...
the other closed,
a pious member
of St. John's
catches sight
of a small wriggling form
peering back
at the door
ushering in sunlight.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Character Titles by Mary Deal

Although many people claim only five to seven main titles of distinctions for types of characters, you will hear characters referred to by many different terms. What follows a list of how all characters may be titled.

Protagonist – The main character of your story and can be either male or female. It can also be an animal or any person or entity around whom the story revolves. The protagonist must want something or have something to prove. The protagonist doesn’t always have to be liked.

Antagonist – The person that opposes what the Protagonist wishes to overcome. An antagonist need not be a person. It can be a stubborn obstacle or situation.

Secondary Character – Any character that has a fairly prominent place in the story but is not the protagonist or antagonist, yet stands out over all the rest.

Incidental Character – Those story people who remain in the background and only show up to round out a scene or offer a bit of story detail that others did not know. These characters are usually found by the protagonist along the way to overcoming the obstacle they wish to master.

Heroine – A female who brings about the story’s climax and denouement. Usually the female protagonist.

Hero – A male character who saves the day, also, usually the story’s protagonist.

Villain – Can be male or female. The term usually applies to a human being and is almost always the antagonist, though a few stories are written with the villain as the protagonist. The villain is usually always the one standing in the way of the protagonist achieving her or his goals.

Mentor – A character who could be behind the scenes but who guides or advises the protagonist or other important characters.

Foil – A character used to contrast another character to help establish personality.

Point of View (POV) Character – The character through whom the story is told. Applies to nearly all stories except those written from multiple points of view, as in Omniscient points of view.

Major Characters – All characters who are active throughout the story.

Minor Characters – Those in the background of the action, sometimes used as filler to round out the action.

Round Characters – Those whose personalities have been fully developed in the story, even though they may not be a prominent character. Many minor characters are rounded to give credence to what they do in the story, no matter how small their action.

Flat Characters – Those with little to no action in the story, have little to no personality development, and make few appearances. All stories have these people and the stories would not be the same without them.

Dynamic Characters – Usually those characters around whom the story evolves. Even though a character may make one appearance, or speak only one line of dialogue, it impacts the story in a way that the story would not be the same without their appearance.

Love Interest Character – Is usually someone in whom the protagonist is in love, but may apply to anyone in the story opposite any character, as long as the love interest portion impacts what the protagonist needs to accomplish.
For example, the protagonist may love a person who is already part of a couple with someone else. In the end, after trying to gain the love interest’s attention, once having solved the main problem needing to be accomplished, the protagonist realizes he or she is better off without that person in their lives. These characters’ lives can play out in any varied scenario of results.

Static Characters – People who never change throughout the story. Can be any character in the story. Their unchanging nature gives grounding to the main characters and adds greater depth to any character’s character arc. Can also refer to faces in the crowd.

Stock Characters – Story people used as fillers. They usually have no name and no real purpose in the story other than momentary, if that much, like walk0ons in a film. They pass in the background, enhance the background setting, but we never see them again.

All stories do not employ all of these people. However, as you create your plots, you will see the need to understand the characters you’re creating and their purposes.

 Mary Deal

Author, Painter, Photographer
Eric Hoffer Book Award Winner
National Indie Excellence Book Awards Finalist (past)
Pushcart Prize Nominee
Global eBook Awards Nominee
2014 National Indie Excellence Book Awards Finalist
Global eBook Awards Bronze
Global eBook Awards Silver
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Chances are You Will Want to Come to New York City

In 1958 Her streets were paved in yellow brick leading to Fifth Avenue and 42 nd  Street. You might have seen a zealous couple dance-walkin...