Monday, August 29, 2011

What Would You Take?

Friday, August 26 - As I write this, many family and friends in southern New Jersey are leaving their homes, forced to evacuate prior to Hurricane Irene's arrival. It is a bit surreal; I almost feel as though I am taking the journey with them, for south Jersey was my home for 40 years. Thoughts like - what would we take, which vehicles would we bring, where would we go - keep floating through my head. 

I lived on the bay side of a barrier island until I was sixteen, though we weathered high tides, heavy winds and rain from tropical storms, nor'easters, and hurricanes, we never had to evacuate. We moved to the mainland portion of NJ's peninsula when I was sixteen, and I suppose we felt more immune to the weather's tricks and turns. Storms were common, but hurricanes weakened or veered out to sea. But perhaps not this time...

This event has made me pause, take mental inventory, and consider my priorities. What would I grab if I had to leave quickly? Family, of course. My Bible, important papers, laptop, flash drive, and whatever else would fit in our car.  I wonder, are we prepared for an emergency? Probably not as much as we should be.

Pondering this smacks perspective into a busy life, you know?

Tell me, what would you take if you had to leave? How prepared are you for an emergency?

Thankful for family, friends, and so many blessings,


P.S. Sunday evening update - Family and friends are fine, and all is well. Soggy, but well.

Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday's This & That

The weekend is almost here! Thought I'd conclude the week by sharing a few odds and ends. Hope you find them useful. :) 

Interested in landing an interview with a popular personality? The Renegade Writer shares savvy tips in How to Land Interviews with Hard to Get Sources. Advice like "Play Phone Tag" and "Think Like a PR Person" helps writers score big and stay on top of their game.

Jennifer Brown Banks of Pen and Prosper shares another angle for writers to explore in this post, The Pros and Cons of Ghost Writing for Pay. If you don't mind writing in the shadows, it is a viable alternative to pocket extra cash.

The Coffeehouse for Writers' new session begins Monday, September 5. Whether you are interested in learning more about blogging, writing historical fiction, SEO techniques, creating character, or another facet of writing, the Coffeehouse offers something for everyone.

I am part of the Coffeehouse "Crew", and have the privilege of teaching Basic Boot Camp for Writers. Boot Camp refreshes the basics such as punctuation, contractions, and homophones, plus structural elements, passive versus active writing, and a whole lot more. For more info, click here.

Writer's Digest sponsors a number of contests, with themes that include Short Story, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction, and Crime. Click on the highlighted theme text, or visit their site for details. Note - these particular contest deadline dates run September through November 2011.

I have a two part guest post this week at my good friend Carol Alexander's blog. The topic is Homeschool Learning Co-ops. I discuss everything from what they are and how to start one to how to determine if they are right for your family. If this is of interest to you, please feel free to stop by Carol's blog or pass it along to any homeschool families you know. Thanks a bunch!

Run across any helpful gems lately? What are your weekend plans?

Happy writing,

Monday, August 22, 2011

Don't Try This at Home

Picture this: 

It was late Friday evening, and Susan J. Reinhardt and I were on the phone, discussing and editing portions of our book. Ideas are flowing, ideas are not flowing, Microsoft Word is cooperating, Microsoft Word is not cooperating. A new idea surfaces, and we get off track and head down an interesting but not super productive rabbit trail.

(If you happened to miss the post about our collaborative project, click here.)

We're tired, we have the chapters under review about memorized, and we need to finish the task because we've got a deadline. I'm the evening's designated typist, and I am working to keep up with our revisions, making sure they are recorded accurately. Amidst our laughing, groaning, and tossing words about, the phrase "Don't try this at home" pops into my head. So, not one to keep important thoughts from my co-author, I said it out loud, garnering a good laugh from Susan.

Yes, that's us, two regular adventurers, taking the plunge into the land of the historical fiction novel. What's the rush on the edits? Well, Susan just got back from a writer's conference in Philadelphia. While there, she met with agents and editors. We wanted to test the waters and see if there was any interest in our book, so Susan pitched it to them. We were thrilled when an agent and an editor were interested. So the flurry of activity this week in PA and KY - that was us, working to tweak and refine before sending our chapters off.

I'd be remiss if I failed to mention a few things that pushed us through - perseverance, prayer, and chocolate. Don't jump out of the plane without them!

Susan is sharing more details about her conference experience today on her blog.  There was interest in Susan's other manuscript, too, so it was a productive weekend for her. Congrats, Susan! If you have a minute, hop over and say hello. She'd love to see you.

What writing adventures have you had lately?


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Thursday, August 18, 2011


I've been working on edits this week for the book  
Susan J. Reinhardt and I are writing. While reviewing a passage, I reflected on where I gathered the ideas for a young character.

I had to smile, for I took snippets of actions and conversations from my 3 year old grandson and 4 year old nephew. It was great fun to write!

It still thrills me that a teeny spark of an idea can develop into a full fledged flame, directing and adding immense personality to a story or article. This is one reason I keep a small tablet handy at all times. This way I can note ideas when they hit me. Which, btw, is often - like at the grocery store, in church (I promise I am only distracted momentarily:), in the middle of making dinner...

I, for one, am a fan of inspirational sparks. How about you? How has your writing been ignited?

Happy weekend!

Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, August 15, 2011

Do Your Elements Have Style?

Every writer needs style, right?  One way to develop fabulous style is to tap great resources. The Elements of Style is one of my all time favorite resources.

Thought I would share the following review, just in case you aren't acquainted with it. This review first appeared on the Coffeehouse for Writers blog.

The Elements of Style

By William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White 

The Elements of Style is small enough to fit into a pocket or purse.  Yet it is packed to the brim with great advice for writers. How did Strunk and White manage this feat? I’m not sure, but I’m glad they did.

The introduction contains E.B. White’s take on the background of how the book came about. While not an absolute must read portion of the book, I found his insight interesting as he points out the timeless advice within the book, and tells us how he became acquainted with Mr. Strunk. 

Chapter One, entitled Elementary Rules of Usage, reminds us about the proper handling of things like possessives, commas, conjunctions, pronouns, and participial phrases, to name a few. For example, years ago I referred to this chapter to brush up on my semicolon use. Do you use it with an independent clause or a dependant clause? Sure enough, problem solved. 

Composition is addressed in Chapter Two, with Elementary Principles of Composition.  Here the authors tell us to “Choose a suitable design and hold to it.” They encourage us to organize our thoughts, transferring them in like manner for the reader to understand. Active voice and passive voice are discussed, as are tenses and tight writing. This chapter contains my favorite piece of advice, where they tell us:

“Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. ”

A Few Matters of Form highlight Chapter Three, with a discussion of colloquialisms, exclamations, margins, numerals, quotations and more. Chapter Four elaborates on commonly misused words and expressions, telling us, for instance, when to use allude and elude and other oft-confused words.

Chapter Five closes with An Approach to Style, and includes a handy list of reminders. Awkward adverbs and overstating a point are among the rest of the helpful principles addressed in the final pages.

I purchased this book for my children when they were in middle school. Little did I realize how appropriate it is for students and adults. This book is 100% user friendly and is proof that good things really do come in small packages. If my copy ever wears out, I’m buying a new one.

What resources are your must-haves? 

Happy writing,


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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Giveaway Winner

The results from are in. :)

Congratulations to Susan Reinhardt

winner of the 300 follower giveaway!

Thank you all for your support.

Have a great weekend!


Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Delayed Reaction

I've been the recipient of several blog awards in the past year and have failed to mention the wonderful blogging friends that gave them to me. I apologize; it was not my intent to offend. I simply allowed my busy schedule to overtake good intentions.

That said, I figured late was better than never, so here are the sweet blogging friends who were kind enough to think of me:

I am honored, and again, I apologize. Thank you so much! Your thoughtfulness warms my heart.

Robyn tagged me with a meme, and although I forget the details, I know I was supposed to share a few things about myself. Thought I would improvise and share a few little known Karen facts.

  • I played the female lead, a nurse, in a 8th grade play. The leading man, aka a fellow student, and I were supposed to kiss; we chose to embrace instead. We were both really okay with that. I think my Mom and Dad were too.
  • I've driven a dump truck, a stake bed and pick up trucks. My husband was a landscape contractor for 20+ years in New Jersey. I was the driving "stunt double". Once in a while they were short a driver and I'd fill in, bringing a truck and trailer or miscellaneous equipment to a job site.
  • My landscape contractor's wife duties also included ordering thousands of bedding plants every spring for our customers. Yes, you'll be happy to learn that I know what kinds of flowers will hold up in the summer heat and breezy conditions on the barrier islands of southern New Jersey.
  • A distant relative on my Mom's side was a founder of Gettysburg, PA.
  • I really wish that a Rita's Italian Ice franchise would come to my area.

Exciting stuff, huh?  What exciting things would we be surprised to learn about you? 

Don't Forget the Giveaway

Tomorrow is the last day to enter my 300 followers giveaway. I'm giving away a book and chocolate! :)  Click here for info.

Have a great weekend!

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Monday, August 8, 2011


Good writers weed all the time. How? By taking out excess words. We do it to meet word counts and of course, to make our writing sharper.

I often weed as I write. (My inner editor is the intrusive type. It does help to send her on errands though...:)

What kinds of things do I look for? I look to eliminate the fluff, or empty phrases. For example:             

  • free gift  
  • at the present time                          
  • thought to myself           
  • end result                           
  • the honest truth                               
  • large in size        
  • past history                      
  • repeat again                                            

When considering whether to yank one of these phrases out of my carefully penned prose, I wonder…

  • Why wouldn't a gift be free. If it isn't, do I want it?
  • Can you think to anyone but yourself?
  • Doesn’t the result usually signify some end?
  • What exactly is the honest truth? Is there a dishonest truth?
  • If large isn’t a size, what is it?
  • Isn’t all history past?      
  • Why would I need to repeat something again?             

How are you at weeding the excess from your writing? What do you look for to help tighten and polish?

Don't Forget -

I am having a giveaway to celebrate the 300 follower milestone (almost there!). If you missed Thursday's post with entry info, click here.

    Happy writing!


    Photo credit: Stock Exchange

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    A Dare and a Giveaway

    The Dare

    Ever been double dog dared? I have, just this week, actually, by none other than Jennifer Brown Banks of Pen and ProsperJennifer used trifling-ness in this post and asked if it was a word. I responded in the comments saying yes, I thought it was a word, (well, why not? :) and that maybe I would use it in a future post. 

    Another commenter, Janette Dolores, said that if I used it in a post, then she would too. Jennifer responded and double dog dared us to use it. Yes, we are all adults here. For real. :P

    So there you go, Jennifer, I used trifling-ness in a post. I must say though, I think the word fit into your topic better than mine...

    The Giveaway

    I have almost reached the 300 follower mark! Thank you, faithful followers, for supporting me. You are a blessing. I've gained so much from our wonderful blogging community.

    To mark this special occasion, I am offering a small token of thanks to one of my followers. The giveaway includes a copy of A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell (read my review here). If the weather cooperates with cooler temperatures, I might even pop a bit of chocolate into the package.

    Giveaway Details

    • You must be a follower and leave a comment that includes your email address.

    • Gain a bonus entry by posting this on Facebook, your blog, &/or Twitter. Please include link w/comment.

    • Open to residents of the United States only.

    • Deadline to enter is midnight EST, Friday, August 12, 2011. Winner will be announced Saturday, August 13 and notified via email, and will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.

    What criteria do you use when choosing to follow a blog? How has the blogging community helped you?

    Happy weekend,

     Bouquet photo credit: Stock Exchange

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    The One Sheet

    Do you know what a One Sheet is? I had never heard the term until Susan J. Reinhardt asked me for feedback on the One Sheet for her first manuscript. It was a great introduction to my current task, the One Sheet for our collaborative WIP. More on that in a minute.

    For those of you who don't know what a One Sheet is (and don't feel bad, I had no clue till about a year ago), it is a summary used to present an idea to editors or agents at a conference. It contains brief information such as genre, title, bio, contact info, and word count, and works as an intro and ice breaker.

    As Susan said, "A One Sheet is reserved for editors/agents and trusted friends because it often gives proprietary information about the book. You don't want to give away the ending to the whole wide world now do you?"

    Think of it as a portable reference document that can be sent with whomever expresses interest in your project. So if you want to pitch your amazing fiction book idea, that non fiction guide you've always wanted to write, or a fabulous article, a One Sheet is a handy tool.

    I volunteered to finish the One Sheet for our collaborative book when Susan ran into technical difficulties with the program she was using. She sent me the rough draft and I inserted the info into a template I made in Word. I edited the text and added our bios and pictures, then we had a phone conference to finalize the draft.

    Our One Sheet has the title centered at the top of the page. A small picture (designed by my son, who is a graphic designer) sits to the left of the title. The left side of the page contains the book summary and info on our collaboration. A narrow column on the right contains special notes of interest and word count. The second page contains our bios and pictures. Normally this info can be placed on the first sheet, but since there we are co-authors, we decided to use a second page for a better layout.

    If you'd like more details on how to compose a One Sheet, check out this article by Tracy Ruckman, or this post at the Arkansas ACFW site.

    Susan's Monday post has more info about our One Sheet journey. I'm sure she'd be delighted if you stopped by to say hello.

    Have you ever written a One Sheet? Do you have any pointers for us? Any good conference One Sheet stories?

    Happy writing,

    P.S. The 300 follower giveaway info will be posted on Thursday. :)

    Image credit: Stock Exchange