Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Look What The Mailman Delivered:

3 New Books In Two Days!  Books to read and review. A wealth of reading pleasure.

Gone by Cathi Hanauer   *   Following The Path by Joan Chittister   *   The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner


Monday, July 30, 2012

Maeve Binchy, R.I.P.

Beloved Irish author Maeve Binchy has died. During her career she sold more than 40 million novels world wide.
"The author said that her secret was to write the way she spoke."

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ernest Hemingway 7/29/2012

"Some writers are only born to help another writer write one sentence."
                                                     -- Ernest Hemingway

".... Between 1925 and 1961, Ernest Hemingway changed the face of American fiction and became a widely recognized public figure. One hundred years after his birth, he has become an American icon whose picture needs no identifying caption, for his face and his name, both ubiquitous are the very definition of "the writer" to many people. His rise from promising unknown writer to world-renowned figure was charted with clarion accuracy by The New York Times, in whose pages Hemingway's life and art were regular features. Here on the Web, The Times has assembled the most important of those stories, making immediate what once took days toiling in libraries to locate, find on microfilm and print. Reading through these reviews and news stories, one not only learns a good deal about Ernest Hemingway, but also will take in a short cultural history of America in this century...."

Quoted from Michael Reynolds' July 11, 1999 essay "Hemingway in Our Times"

Friday, July 27, 2012

Calling All Cooks- The Naked Foods Cookbook

The Whole-Foods, Healthy-Fats, Gluten-Free Guide to Loosing Weight & Feeling Great. 

"...easy, unprocessed, gluten-free, full fat recipes..."

There are practical tips for setting up the Naked Kitchen, advice on what to buy and why, common sense lessons on how to shop and prepare food that is healthy and gluten free and close to the way God made them.

 There are recipes for breakfast, salads and sides, entrees, soups and stews, sauces, snacks, smoothies and desserts.  The book is well organized and a great introduction to someone about to make the change to gluten-free.

Written by Margaret Floyd author of Eat Naked, and chef to the stars James Barry, The Naked Food Cookbook includes over 150 gluten-free recipes for simple dishes that bring out the natural flavors and nutrients of fresh whole food. Contains colored photographs.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Comments Are Appreciated

When I started blogging here in 2008, my goal was to extend the classroom time for my H.C.C. writing students. The title was easy because I saw this as a place for these new writers to hang out, ask questions, share marketing news and successes.

The idea however, like the road to below was sincere and made with good intentions but it simply floundered. We failed to ... well, to converse on a regular basis or even dialogue.

I quickly realized that blogging takes a lot of time and you know I had other things to do ... like, writing and my other chief occupation procrastinating. I still had a lot to say and wrote dozens of postings in my head,  but getting them online didn't always happen. It was easier to hang out on Twitter and FB. And less likely that I'd make a fool of myself here.

I cared about my former students and often wondered how they were doing. Had Mary Beth found an agent, had Sheila written that historical novel, had Dan finished his YA series?  I know some of them had become readers because they sent me email responses.

It became clear that I wasn't good at getting readers to comment. Most of the readers simply had nothing to say. Or as my writer friend and fellow blogger once exclaimed: "Hey, is anybody out there?" If it weren't for the view counter I wouldn't know the count. Well, except for that month when a young lady call girl kept leaving come hither invitations in the comment box. Now she was dedicated.

But the truth is I'm also guilty as charged. I have favorite blogs I stop by regularly to read ... and leave. With nary a comment. Hmmm, while I was considering this, my new friend Scarlett Rains, Sister of the Hearts Blog http://scarlettrainssistersoftheheartsblog.blogspot.com/ was busy writing a great and informative post. "Why Should I Comment On A Blog...And How The Heck Do I Do It?"

And while you're there do read about Scarlett, she is one interesting lady ... oh, and don't forget to leave a comment!

Thursday Thoughts ...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Scent of Rain by Kristin Billerbeck

"The scent of rain was decidedly less inspiring when it came through a moldy Dayton rooftop."

Jesse has a young son to raise, a new floor cleaner product to launch, an overly optimistic 10% sales increase to capture at work, stockholders to keep happy and a boss with definite ideas about what separates great businesses from good ones. He also has a bottom line to content with and quickly before he is out of a job. The last thing Jesse needs is an overpriced, overqualified new employee to worry over.

Paris trained perfumer Daphne Sweeten can identify over five thousand scents on a good day. But things haven’t been going good for awhile. Her goal in life is to market Volatility her own original scent for men, but first she has to help design a floor cleaning product for Gibraltar Industries. Her recent past needs to be figured out along with a problem that could mean the end of her career.

Forced to work together Daphne and Jesse will need to learn to trust one another if they are to be successful in their separate lives. Both have a lukewarm faith, a need for personal change, and a new understanding of what it means to be happy.

This is a Christian novel about two people who need healing in their lives and what it means to have a second chance. Underneath however, The Scent of Rain looks at the theme of evil in the world. People who are motivated to do whatever it takes to get what they want, to take what isn’t theirs, to lie, steal and cheat to achieve.

In the end this is a book about what it means to forgive.

The book is by Kristin Billerbeck ... you can find her here:   http://www.kristinbillerbeck.com/kristin.html

Notice: This book was provided by the publisher Thomas Nelson for the purpose of review. The words are my own.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ending Well, Before Ever After - A Book Review

Before Ever After
By Samantha Sotto

They had been married two years when Shelley became a widow. One minute they were talking on the telephone, Shelley was asking Max to bring home some tea because tea … make that Jasmine tea made her world better. Before the conversation (and the short first chapter ends) Max is gone, killed in an explosion. Their happily ever after gone in an instant.

Fast forward three years (and on to Chapter Two) Shelley is still trying to figure out life without her beloved husband. She isn’t so much living as she is drifting, pretending really, much as her own mother had done years before when Shelley's father left them and remembering. She is stuck and struggling … until the doorbell rings.

Wearing Max’s plaid blue bathrobe and her own furry purple slippers she opens the door … and once again her life changes in an instant. Max is standing on the other side of the open door. Or at least his younger version. His name is Paolo and he has pictures of his grandfather … pictures of Max, whom he claims is alive and well. How is this possible?

Desperate to learn the truth, Shelley and Paolo jet across the globe to track Max down….

Right from the start this is a novel about endings. Before Ever After is a novel of discovery, what happened between the explosion that killed Max and Paolo’s claim that his grandfather was still alive. The one will have you guessing until the end.

Mini-Writers Workshop – Most first time novelist have an idea about how to open the story they want to tell and a vague notion about how to end it. The experienced novelist knows how to write openings that keep the reader reading, and how to construct an ending that leaves the reader satisfied. Ending well means that the writer includes a suggestion of the story-ending in the opening. In Before Ever After Shelley inherits “an obscene amount of money and a diverse investment portfolio…” and she struggles to understand why Max would keep such a secret .…” The reader realizes this isn’t Max’s only secret.

Perhaps the best advice is: Start well, write well, end well. Before you begin your first or next novel, ask yourself, how will this all end? Remember the ending begins in the beginning.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

PBS Food Highlights for July 2012

Calling All Cooks
Every month PBS Food highlights five food books and cookbooks that will be released during the month.

"In July, we focus more on food writing than cookbooks with a collection of good reads that cover everything from wine to a good cupcake mystery series. Check out what new picks are gracing our bookshelves this month."


Also, check out the recipe file for some new ideas:
Huevos Rancheros

Watermelon Feta Salad

Pineapple Coconut Smoothie


My heart goes out to the families of the victims and to the wounded in Colorado. You are in my prayers.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Because Every Writer Has Different Needs

"...self-publishing is growing and converging with traditional publishing."
                                                                                                  John Makinson, Penguin CEO

Last year Penguin was the first conventional publisher to launch its own self-publishing service, Book Country, and they've followed that landmark venture with the acquisition of Author Solutions, a self-publishing firm .... Author Solutions also partners with about six other houses - Thomas Nelson and Hay House among them - to provide "white label" self-publishing services...


Amanda Hocking wrote 17 novels in her spare time and in 2010 she began selling them as e-books. My March 2011, she had sold over a million copies of her nine books and earned two million from sales.  (Wikipedia)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kay Arthur's "As Silver Refined"

Like a lot of us Kay Arthur has faced her share of difficult moments and more than a few heartaches and misunderstandings in her life.  Her latest book offers an abundance of interpreted Biblical advice and "Answers to Life's Disappointments" (taken from the subtitle).

The author has identified five deadly D's that represent the devil's strategy for disrupting a Christian's daily life. Disappointment is the first of the deadly D's and can lead the unsuspecting person into a life of discouragement.  Depression, in its various forms will follow bringing the three remaining D's... dejection, despair and demoralization.

Miss Arthur is a prolific writer and apparently has a large following. She shares stories of how her previous books have helped others save their "lives, relationships, marriages-- and minds." A fan of war movies she uses a lot of military and warfare analogies to get her message across.

But not all life altering events are simply the work of the devil, according to Miss Arthur, some can be "God's Training in Disguise (the title of chapter two). There is a lot going on in this book written for the Born-Again Christian. It's full of personal experiences, Bible stories, Bible verses and it's long.

My concern is for the reader who desperately needs help and guidance in their life. It seems to me that 356 pages could be overwhelming for the person who finds themselves not only disappointed and discouraged, but perhaps in real despair and is feeling all alone.

The good news is that there is an in-depth study guide provided. In my opinion, this book could be beneficial to a group of like-minded Believers who come together with the commitment to explore these topics in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Here's a recent video of Miss Arthur:

Disclaimer: The book was provided by the publisher, Waterbrook Press for an honest review. The words are my own.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Good Fiction Is All About What You Leave In...

I watched American Reunion yesterday. Actually I watched the first, third, and fourth movies in the series in order: American Pie(1999), American Pie: The Wedding (2003) , and then the 2012 sequel written and directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg.

While not on the short list of movies I was anxious to see, it was hot outside and I am studying a stack of books on screen writing in an attempt to improve the structure and pacing of my own novel w.i.p..

Here's the premise:
  It's been 13 years since the group of guys and their girls graduated from high school in East Great Falls so it's about time for that overdue 10th High School Reunion. When Jim Levenstein and his wife Michelle arrive at Jim's old home, Jim's dad Noah (who has been a widower for three years) is obviously happy to see them and quickly escorts his daughter-in-law and grandson Evan into the house leaving a less than enthusiastic Jim to slep their luggage inside.
  Just then a car comes speeding up the street and with horn blowing pulls into the driveway next door.  Jim watches as a gorgeous young chickie hurries out of the house (if you've watched the first pie you'll remember Jim for his Internet video  and other title antics). Chickie notices slack-jawed Jim ... and comes bouncing over to greet him instead of hopping into the car.
  Turns out that she is Kara, the girl he used to babysit. Married Jim seems not to have outgrown his high school fear of women. She is about to turn 18 she explains and invites Jim to her birthday party. Adult Jim seems to be having a hard time catching up. There are a lot of raunchy innuendos bounced around. 

Here's the problem:
   How is it that Jim hasn't seen Kara one time in these last thirteen years? Jim's mom died three years ago, wouldn't they have crossed paths then? Maybe? Or during a previous vacation? While it is clear that I am not the intended audience for this juvenile outing I do understand the deal we viewers make about suspending disbelief, but the idea that Jim is so befuddled was a tad annoying to me at first. Me, being a member of the audience.

But it got me (the writer me) thinking about scenes, characterization, dialogue and what it takes to tell a good story that hangs together. Or to be more succinct what to leave in and which scenes to delete. And in what order to write it.

If good storytelling reflects truth, and author, writing coach, screenwriter and producer Blake Snyder assures us this is indeed true, I understand that Jim needed to reconnect with Kara in the opening. It is the "truth" that bothered me.

Understanding the four-part story structure is crucial for any novelist who wants to write and sell commercial fiction. Our job as storytellers is to understand what has to happen in each of these divisions (and why Jim needed to connect with Kara in the opening), and to deliver the material in the right order. Our goal is to keep the reader turning the pages.

Larry Brooks, the author of Story Engineering cautions that if we "intend to sell what we write" we need to understand "the art and craft of the story architecture. Mr. Brooks has a ten-part tutorial on the fundamentals of story structure here: http://storyfix.com/story-structure-series-1-introducing-the-four-parts-of-story

A final note, Jim's dad, played by actor Eugene Levy steals the      show over and over again with his patient fatherly advice. I am a fan.

Monday, July 16, 2012

1922 Mocha & Java Blend

1922 Mocha & Java Blend is my new favorite coffee. Organic, rich, smooth, chocolaty and delightful. 

According to Counter  Culture Coffee: "... we discovered an old book with a 'Mocha & Java' recipe. We recreated that recipe using modern coffees, and voila: our 1922 Mocha & Java blend was born."

I love food with a story.

Disclaimer: I purchased this coffee at The Fresh Market and have received no compensation for this review. My goal is simply to share the experience with other coffee lovers.

Sign up for their newletter and receive a coupon for your first purchase. Here's their website for more information: http://my.counterculturecoffee.com/coffee/1922-mocha-java.html

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rick Bragg on Books & Reading

“But I hope I will never have a life that is not surrounded by books, by books that are bound in paper and cloth and glue, such perishable things for ideas have lasted thousands of years . . . I hope I am always walled in by the very weight and breadth and clumsy, inefficient, antiquated bulk of them, hope that I spend my last days on this Earth arranging and rearranging them on thrones of good, honest pine, oak, and mahogany, because I just like to look at their covers, and dream of the promise of the great stories inside.”

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Saturday's Are For Thinking
July 14, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Calling All Cooks - Grilled Cheese, Please

  "Say grilled cheese and the memories of a childhood indulgence, the first cooking lesson from Mom or  Dad, a bowl of tomato soup, or the aroma of melting cheese comes wafting into consciousness. And it doesn't stop there. The two words strung together also bring to mind seductive images of the sound of bread sizzling and crackling as it makes its transformation from soft and pillowly to butter-crisped and crunchy. These imagined sights and sounds tease with anticipation, because just knowing that as the bread turns golden brown the strands of cheese nestled within are languorously but ever so surely giving way to their melted glory...." *

My mother, bless her, was never late when it came to having a meal on the table. The problem was they were not worth waiting for. Mostly she worked with ground meat known by various monikers, baked chicken thighs, canned veggies (pork and beans were a vegetable in our house), canned biscuits, lots of bologna sandwiches, mayonnaise and salt. She didn't use garlic, basil, Rosemary, fresh or dried herbs, not even curly parsley and rarely added pepper to anything.  Potatoes in our house were reconstituted and drinkable.  Olive oil, like sauces and mozzarella were viewed suspiciously.

The only thing fresh was tomatoes in summer and a dozen ears of corn per season. She didn't do pasta or steak. She could however, make a mean grilled cheese sandwich with pimento cheese, margarine, and white bread. Campbell's red and  white can of chicken noodle soup was a familiar and welcome sight in our kitchen. So were hot dogs.

If it weren't for her grilled cheese sandwiches, Tasty Cakes, penny candy,and our favorite soup I do believe I might have gone hungry most days.

I learned what not to do by watching her struggles.

My mother would not recognize even one of the 50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes in this book, but she did master the 1950s child-friendly grilled cheese sandwich.

The author Laura Werline is a James Beard award-winning author with an unbridled passion for cheese. If you love grilled cheese this book will make you weak with hunger.

"Whoever thought that the most basic of sandwiches, the one we all grew up with, the one that was the easy solution for Mom instead of a full meal, the one we all loved but didn't really pay attention to, the sandwich that combined nondescript cheese, would today become the subject of recipe contests and blogs, the focal point of entire restaurants, the inspirational fuel that fires up mobile food trucks, and the basic foundation on which Americans build their ideal of the best grilled cheese sandwich?"*

(c) 2011   Grilled Cheese, Please is published by Andrew McMeel Publishing, LLC, Kansas City, Sydney, London.
* Taken from the Introduction

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Agatha Christie's Missing Manuscript ...

Elderly spinster, Jane Marple has charmed readers since first being introduced during the Murder At The Vicarage in 1930. Dame Agatha Christie featured this now world famous slueth in 12 published novels. Could there be a 13th offering?

Here's an excerpt from the recently discovered Miss Marple Mystery:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Book Review - Constantly Craving

"If I had that job, or that relationship, or lived in that city or that house, or lost twenty-five pounds, or gained a lot of money ... then I would be happy."

We want more, we need more, we just want what every one has, we long to be happy. Bigger is better, right, after all we deserve to be happy. Right?

The big news according to author Marilyn Meberg is that getting more isn't the answer we're looking for. Craving won't make us whole or happy. It will keep us on the path of restlessness and the endless loop of searching. In the end the only thing we'll have is the perfect list of wants.

There is something deeper going on in our lives that we may not even recognize.  We only think think that we need the perfect black skirt, or a different car to make us happy.

Actually, we know from past experiences that checking off items on our wish list simply gave us more space to add more items. The high didn't last because it didn't address the real dissatisfaction.

What we crave is purpose. If we say we are Christians we want to find our "God-given meaning for living."  We want a relationship with our Creator, to discover His purpose for our lives, we want to serve Him and be of service to others.

Marilyn Meberg's Constantly Craving will help the reader discover "the how, when, and where of living out our purpose." God is not indifferent to the details of our lives, should we be any less mindful?

Marilyn is known for her common sense, great stories, being a speaker with Women of Faith. Here's how to connect with her: http://www.marilynmeberg.net/ .

Thomas Nelson supplied this book to me for a review. The words and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I spent most of the Sunday afternoon hanging out on the Internet doing research for my next writing project. The novel that I am currently writing is set in a real place, Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood.

Although I’ve not lived there, it is a place I’m immensely fond of and somewhat familiar with. Growing up in Hampden, another prominent Baltimore neighborhood, I experienced the same type of homegrown loyalty and love for place. Baltimore is known for its neighborhoods and these are two of my favorites (Fells Point is another).

Over the years I’ve shared meals in most of the restaurants in Little Italy, gone to Mass at St Leo’s Catholic Church, attended the St Anthony Festival in the Spring and St Gabriel Festival in the Fall (consuming even more food), shopped at the stores and shops, including Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop, strolled High and Stiles Streets hanging out and talking with the residents of this historically rich, charming and very proud ethnic community.

My story could only happen here. These characters live here, work here, they are who they are because of the culture of the community and their heritage. But like the rest of us they have to deal with what’s really going on in their lives and what, if anything, they will do about it.

The setting is as much of a character as the lead protagonists and if I do my job well, each will be clearly and memorably defined. It is important that I choose concrete details and set the stage properly if I am to succeed. But the job of a writer is bigger, we have to find meaning and share a bigger truth among the familiar sights and sounds and scents of the places and stories we define. This community has been around since the late 1800s and has undergone a few changes in its lifetime, yet always remaining true to it authentic self. The theme of my novel is all about personal transformation, openness to change and second chances while remaining true to one’s self.

And so on a warm Sunday afternoon I looked at pictures, prints and photographs that spoke to me, capturing them on my own online storyboard here at “Dialogue.” And thinking about setting as theme and character as I hang out with All Our Tomorrows my w.i.p.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tips on Capturing the Novel Setting

             Four Ways to
       Bring Settings to Life

by Moira Allen

The devil, it's said, is in the details. So, too, is much of the work of a writer. Too little detail leaves your characters wandering through the narrative equivalent of an empty stage. Too much, and you end up with great blocks of description that tempt the reader to skip and skim, looking for the action.

To set your stage, it's important to choose the most appropriate, vivid details possible. It's equally important to present those details in a way that will engage the reader. The following four techniques can help.

1) Reveal setting through motion.

Let your description unfold as a character moves through the scene. Consider which details your character would notice immediately, and which might register more slowly. Let your character encounter those details interactively.

Suppose, for example, that your heroine, an "Orphan Annie" of humble origins, has entered a millionaire's mansion. What would she notice first? How would she react to her surroundings?

Let her observe how soft the rich Persian carpet feels underfoot, how it muffles her footfalls, how she's tempted to remove her shoes. Don't tell us the sofa is soft until she actually sinks into it. Let her smell the fragrance of hothouse flowers filling a cut-crystal vase.

Use active verbs to set the scene. Instead of saying "a heavy marble table dominated the room," force your character to detour around it. Instead of explaining that "light glittered and danced from the crystal chandelier," let your character blink at the prismatic display.

"Walking through" a description breaks the details into bite-sized nuggets, and scatters those nuggets throughout the scene so that the reader never feels overwhelmed or bored.

2) Reveal setting through a character's level of experience.

What your character knows will directly influence what she sees. Your orphan may not know whether the carpet is Persian or Moroccan, or even whether it's wool or polyester. If these details are important, how can you convey them?

You could, of course, let the haughty owner of the mansion point out your heroine's ignorance. Or, you could write the scene from the owner's perspective. Keep in mind, however, that different characters will perceive the same surroundings in very different ways, based on their familiarity (or lack thereof) with the setting.

Imagine, for example, that you're describing a stretch of windswept coastline from the perspective of a local fisherman's son. What would he notice? From the color of the sky or changes in the wind, he might make deductions about tomorrow's weather and sailing conditions. When he notices seabirds wheeling against the clouds, he doesn't just see "gulls," but terns and gannets and petrels -- easily identified by the shape of their wings or patterns of their flight.

Equally important are the things he might not notice. Being so familiar with the area, he might pay little attention to the fantastic shapes of the rocks, or the gnarled driftwood littering the sand. He hardly notices the bite of the wind through his cable-knit sweater, and he's oblivious to the stink of rotting kelp-mats that have washed ashore.

Now suppose a rich kid from the big city is trudging along that same beach. Bundled to the teeth in the latest Northwest Outfitters jacket, he's still shivering -- and can't imagine why the lad beside him isn't freezing to death. He keeps stumbling over half-buried pieces of driftwood, and fears that the sand is ruining his Doc Martens. From the way the waves pound against the beach, he thinks a major storm is brewing. The very thought of bad weather makes him nauseous, as does the stench of rotting seaweed (he doesn't think of it as "kelp") and dead fish.

Each of these characters' perceptions of the beach will be profoundly influenced by his experience. "Familiar," however, needn't imply a positive outlook, while "unfamiliar" needn't mean "negative." Your city kid might, in fact, regard the beach as an idyllic vacation spot -- rugged, romantic, isolated, just the place to make him feel he's really getting in touch with nature. The fisherman's son, on the other hand, may loathe the ocean, feeling trapped by the whims of wind and weather. Which brings us to the next point:

3) Reveal setting through the mood of your character.

What we see is profoundly influenced by what we feel. The same should be true for our characters. Filtering a scene through a character's feelings can profoundly influence what the reader "sees."

Suppose, for example, that your heroine -- a spunky young girl on holiday -- is strolling an archetypal stretch of British moorland. Across the blossoming gorse, she sees the ruins of some ancient watchtower, little more than a jumble of stones crowning the next hill (or "tor," as her guidebook puts it).

The temptation to explore is irresistible. Flicking dandelion heads with her walking stick, our heroine hikes up the slope, breathing the scents of grass and clover, admiring the lichen patterns on the granite boulders. At last, warmed by the sun and her exertions, she leans back against a stone and watches clouds drift overhead like fuzzy sheep herded by a gentle wind. A falcon shrills from a nearby hollow, its cry a pleasant reminder of how far she has come from the dirty high school she so despises.

A pleasant picture? By now, your reader might be considering travel arrangements to Dartmoor. But what if your heroine is in a different mood? What if she has become separated from her tour group and is lost? Perhaps she started across the moor because she thought she saw a dwelling -- but was dismayed to find that it was only a grey, creepy ruin. The tower's scattered stones, half-buried in weeds and tangled grasses, remind her of grave markers worn faceless with time. Its silent emptiness speaks of secrets, of a desolation that welcomes no trespassers. Though the sun is high, scudding clouds cast a pall over the landscape, and the eerie, lonesome cry of some unseen bird reminds her just how far she is from home.

When this traveler looks at the gorse, she sees thorns, not blossoms. When she looks at clouds, she sees no fanciful shapes, only the threat of rain. She wants out of this situation -- while your reader is on the edge of his seat, expecting something far worse than a ruin to appear on this character's horizon!

4) Reveal setting through the senses.

A character's perception of a setting will influence and be influenced by the senses. Our stranded hiker, for example, may not notice the fragrance of the grass, but she will be keenly aware of the cold wind. Our city kid notices odors the fisherman's son ignores, while the latter detects subtle variations in the color of the sky that are meaningless to the former.

Different sensory inputs evoke different reactions. For example, visual information tends to be processed primarily at the cognitive level: We make decisions and take action based on what we see. When we describe a scene in terms of visual inputs, we are appealing to the reader's intellect.

Emotions, however, are often affected by what we hear. Think of the effects of a favorite piece of music, the sound of a person's voice, the whistle of a train. In conversation, tone of voice is a more reliable indicator of mood and meaning than words alone. Sounds can make us shudder, shiver, jump -- or relax and smile. Scene that include sounds -- fingers scraping a blackboard, the distant baying of a hound -- are more likely to evoke an emotional response.

Smell has the remarkable ability to evoke memories. While not everyone is taken straight to childhood by "the smell of bread baking," we all have olfactory memories that can trigger a scene, or a recollection of an event or person. Think of someone's perfume, the smell of new-car leather, the odor of wet dog. Then describe that smell effectively, and your reader is there.

Touch evokes a sensory response. Let your reader feel the silkiness of a cat's fur, the roughness of castle stones, the prickly warmth of Dad's flannel shirt. Let your heroine's feet ache, let the wind raise goosebumps on her flesh, let the gorse thorns draw blood.

Finally, there is taste, which is closely related to smell in its ability to evoke memories. Taste, however, is perhaps the most difficult to incorporate into a setting; often, it simply doesn't belong there. Your heroine isn't going to start licking the castle stones, and it isn't time for lunch. As in real life, "taste" images should be used sparingly and appropriately.

The goal of description is to create a well-designed set that provides the perfect background for your characters -- and that stays in the background, without overwhelming the scene or interrupting the story. In real life, we explore our surroundings through our actions, experience them through our senses, understand (or fail to understand) them through our knowledge and experience, and respond to them through our emotions. When your characters do the same, you'll keep your readers turning pages -- and not just because they're waiting for something interesting to happen!

Copyright © 1999 Moira Allen

This article originally appeared in The Writer.


Moira Allen, editor of Writing-World.com, has published more than 350 articles and columns and eight books, including How to Write for Magazines, Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests. Allen has served as columnist and contributing editor for The Writer and has written for Writer's Digest, Byline, and various other writing publications. In addition to Writing-World.com, Allen hosts TimeTravel-Britain.com (a site dedicated to historic travel destinations in Britain); Mostly-Victorian.com (a growing archive of articles and excerpts from Victorian books and magazines); The Pet Loss Support Page; and AllenImages.net (showcasing her photography). She can be contacted at editors "at" writing-world.com.


This article was used by perission by the author:
Moira Allen is the editor of Writing-World.com (http://www.writing-world.com) and the author of more than 300 published articles. Her books on writing include Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests.

Located a very short walk east of the Inner Harbor, Little Italy is a friendly and unique neighborhood in Baltimore. From the Feast of Saint Anthony in June and the Feast of Saint Gabriel in August, it seems this area is always lively and entertaining. Saint Leo's Roman Catholic Church dominates the area and is the center of the community. Other sights in the area include the Christopher Columbus Monument, the Flag House, and the Baltimore Public Works Museum. And most important to the area are its restaurants such as Ciao Bella, Della Notte, Sabatino's, and Germano's.

Side Street ... Baltimore's Little Italy

Photos of Little Italy, Baltimore
This photo of Little Italy is courtesy of TripAdvisor

novel research ... Little Italy

Roof Top View of Little Italy

Photos of Little Italy, Baltimore
This photo of Little Italy is courtesy of TripAdvisor

novel research ... roof top view of  Little Italy

Little Italy in Baltimore

Photos of Little Italy, Baltimore
This photo of Little Italy is courtesy of TripAdvisor