Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fragrance in your stories

On a recently purchased box of Pacifica Avalon Juniper Soap, I read,

"Much like music, fragrance is a beautiful connection between cultures, experiences, and memories. It has the ability to place us in the moment or bring back the past".

In the box of essence oils I have, Juniper is not one of my favorites, but when I smelled this bar, another scent took over Juniper. It sent me back to my mom's kitchen in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the freshly cut grapefruit that waited for me on the table many mornings. I read the other side of the soap box label, and sure enough, it is a blend of juniper and grapefruit oils.

Fragrance in our writing is very important and I reminded myself to include it more often.

Yesterday, when I polished Chapter Nine of my novel, Hada,I used the sense of smell: "Neither one spoke as they prepared for bed. Hada, in her nightgown, her face washed and rose-fragranced moisturizer applied, sat on the bed and gave her feet a rub with Balsam Fir ointment."

I've put a post-a-note by my computer that says, "Use scents". Now I have to go back through the eight chapters I thought were polished, to find the perfect places to name some fragrances that add to the characters' experiences, as well as the readers'.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Ransom Stephens’ e-book is available at for those of you who would like to experience e-books. As Ransom says, his book is “on its way to becoming the first debut novel to emerge from the new paradigm of publishing”.

The God Patent is not in print yet because “it has to succeed as an e-book to ever become a book as we know them”. Checkout the process since we might need to publish our writings in a similar manner in the not too distant future.

Ransom describes his novel as “the story of a laid-off, deadbeat-dad engineer trying to rebuild his life who gets caught between science and religion in a battle over the origin of the universe and the existence of the soul”.

I met Ransom at the San Francisco Writers Conference several years ago and participated in Litquake when he was involved in organizing it. Ransom’s contact is

Ransom W. Stephens, Ph.D.
Writer*Physicist*Public Speaker

His website is one of the best in layout, color, and class. It would be worth your time to check out both links.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Have you started a new novel and it has you hooked, but you find yourself not REALLY reading and "getting" the wonderful nuances or the "aha" of how the author captures your attention? The characters are new and the writer's voice is new. You like the book, but you haven't quite settled into it yet?

Water Ghosts by Shawna Yang Ryan has been that way for me. As I mentioned, I love the setting: Locke, CA...the setting was the main hook...what a town! But now, on page 93, I know the characters well, I care about them, and the want to go back to page 1 and reread what I missed. Shawna deepens the characters for us using many writing techniques I have recently learned and discipline myself to look for in the midst of an intriguing plot...such as internalization with metaphors that blend instead of popping you out of the flow, the descriptions of the several characters' faces as their once normal world changes...they have glimpses that life will never be the same because of the three new-comers to their town.

As a reader, I feel their emotions and wonder how the changes will make or break them. As a writer, I admire Shawna for her subtle, yet dynamite skill as a writer. Her voice is and will be memorable. And when I'm finished with her book, I will have to settle into a new setting, a new author's voice, new characters or maybe I'll go back to another author I'm already familiar with: Lisa See and her new book Shanghai Girls. The transition will be easier.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tergiversation Can Make One A proponent of Redundancy

For those of you who don't subscribe to, I thought you would like today's word:

Word of the Day for Monday, June 8, 2009
tergiversation \tuhr-jiv-uhr-SAY-shuhn\, noun:

1. The act of practicing evasion or of being deliberately ambiguous.
2. The act of abandoning a party or cause.

No doubt if I worked on it, I could evolve some kind of double-talk that would get around the offensive phrase, and make the, to me, face-saving implication; but to hell with that, I have too much respect for the English language, and for your understanding of it, to go in for tergiversation and weasely circumlocution.

-- Richard Gillman, "Standing Up to Ezra Pound", New York Times, August 25, 1991

Like most writers, I have always championed thrift . . . . Not long ago, however, I experienced an extraordinary tergiversation. Now I'm an ally of excess, a proponent of redundancy.

-- Michael Norman, "When an Author's Words Are Sold by the Pound", New York Times, September 15, 1991

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Checking not only what is said in dialogue but how it is said (without using adverbs) is what I'm working on now with Hada.

To deepen the characters with more body movements during dialogue and writing about the pitch, tone, speed, quality, and volume in a fresh way is a challenge...I think it is the hardest part of writing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What happened to Locke, CA?

I've been to Locke (near the Sacramento River) several times over the years so when I found Shawna Yang Ryan's book Water Ghosts, I bought it because I've been fascinated by the history of the place (a Chinese farming town). In preparation for this post, I wanted to let you know the location of Locke, but I couldn't find it on Google maps. Actually, because Locke is filled with atmosphere that speaks to another realm, I wouldn't be surprised if it really doesn't exist.

Anyway, that is another topic. What I like about Water Ghosts is the ethereal (in a gloomy way) setting ...perfect for the story and exactly how I remember the town. Her story takes place in 1928, but it seems the same today...a place caught in the past.

The powerful feeling or mood that envelops me with each sentence I read, reminds me that setting is important in writing. Since I'm on page 30,I don't know if she makes setting an acutal character, but the town is more than a background for the characters, it permeates the reader's senses making it as alive as any character.

If you read it, let me know what you think/feel about the setting.