Friday, May 22, 2015

MEMORIAL DAY: WHY A NATIONAL CELEBRATION?

I originally wrote in 2013 but thought it fit for today's blog.



Memorial Day is for remembering the men and women who have fallen in a time of war. Unlike Veterans Day, which honors all those, living or dead, who have served in the military. It was originally called Decoration Day by a proclamation General John Logan, on May 5, 1868. The proclamation also decreed it to be a National annual observation and the first year it was held on May 30,1868. 

Remember the United States had recently fought a bloody Civil War. The country had not yet healed. General Logan's proclamation originally was in honor of fallen Union soldiers. The South had the Confederate Memorial Day observances with emphasis on the lost confederate cause and it was held in various southern states ranging from the end of April to mid June. It wasn't until about 1913 that the two halves of the country started showing signs of honoring American fallen, rather just the Union or Confederate. 

Even though there were places in the United States that called it Memorial Day, rather than Decoration Day, it wasn't until the 1940's that it became the common name. It wasn't officially so named until 1967. That was that year the Federal government proposed not only changing the name but the date of celebration from May 30th to the last Monday of the month May.  The law went into effect on the federal level in May of 1971.


There are those who may have observed the flag ceremony that goes with the holiday, where the American flag is raised at sunrise and then slowly lowered to half mast until noon. At 12:01 the flag is again raised full staff for the rest of the day. 

What is the significance of this ceremony? 

Half mast is in honor of those million plus men and women who have died in service to their country. Full staff represents the living rising up who will not allow their deaths to be in vain. The living honor this sacrifice by continuing the fight for liberty and justice for all.

Other celebrations held nationwide are parades, speeches, marching of veterans from various wars, listening to bands play military aires--and of course cookouts. This is the beginning of summer. Many choose to celebrate the latter rather then remembering, or even knowing the significance of the holiday. 

National cemeteries and military installations have solemn and formal ceremonies. Always, there is the playing of the Taps to commemorate those who have died; and in many places the honor guard give a twenty-one gun salute. In this way, they give honor to the fallen heroes who have given their lives for freedom.




I apologize to those who don't particularly like country music, but I happen to think this is a good story set to music. A good reminder. There are quite a few unapologetic country singers who feel the need to honor American soldiers with song and video and this is one that honors the fallen from the time this country started until today.

If you like the article please share. 

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day! 

Monday, May 18, 2015

MONDAY'S MUSINGS— BUILDING A STORY




One thing I’ve learned over the years is everyone tells a story differently. Writers build their stories differently, too.


My stories come to me in a flash of an idea. A quick sketch. Something that intrigues me whether it’s and idea from something I’ve read, heard on the news, a snippet of conversation, and a scenario develops in mind. And I should say, I always have some daydream situation going on in my mind. Once it reaches a certain point I have to get it out of my mind and on paper.

I tend to be spare when I’m starting a story or a scene. It’s a quick sketch of what I’m seeing in my head. I don’t have the time to layer every sensory bit I see and feel.

This used to be a big wall for me and certainly frustrating. What I saw, heard, and felt wasn’t always there—the bare bones were. The fluid movements, the echoes of emotion were there. I’d get to feeling like, oh my god this is such crap. Why? Because I wasn’t looking at it properly and forgot that as I wrote the scene it was my mind providing all the layers, but I wrote only the actions. For the reader to see it I had to add the layers I saw and felt.

I’ve learned a few tricks along the way. For me, it very similar to building a picture. It starts with an base outline and each pass I add more details until it matches what’s in my head. I need to get it on paper but I can’t let it go without going back and shading in and smudging the bare sketch.  

 With my story, I have to go back and add reaction/emotions/description and adding all the fun and tantalizing details. Even when the scenes are good initially I’m still going have to go back and shade in more sensory details.

I’ve also learned I’m going to have to do that over and over as I write each chapter.

Each of my scenes has to have a goal and a reason exist. I have to ask questions of myself. Is there enough conflict internally or externally? Especially in the opening. Is there enough to put my reader in the scene and make them want to read more? Am I getting them involved or are they on the sidelines? Am I using settings and dialog that showcase my characters strengths and weaknesses or foreshadow actions to come?

  • What about you? How do you build a story? What tricks have you learned?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Enriching Your Writing—Colloquiums






The use of slang, colloquiums, and clichés can add flavor to your writing, so long as those devices aren’t over used. It can also characterize your setting and add to your characters—without getting into a bunch of backstory. The use of slang and colloquial phrases are usually confined to character speech (or inner thoughts) and not to the whole manuscript.



Not every character will speak in the same manner (and wouldn’t it be boring if they did). The big city girl comes to the country for a job or another purpose. She uses proper English in her speech but hearing the way others speak can add conflict in her perception of the people or another character she comes into contact with. She might perceive them as uneducated and this could cause her to make judgments or underestimate the other character(s). That can work both ways, of course.



There are those who don’t agree with using slang, colloquiums, or clichés and that’s fine, but even some of the classic literary giants, if you will recall, used them.



A blue collar worker may have a different vernacular then a college teacher or stockbroker. A street-smart punk isn’t going to speak in perfect English and if the author, critique partner, or editor tries to force that on the character it will make the character flat
and unrealistic. Someone from the Deep South isn’t going to use his or her words or even the same sentence structure as someone from, fill in the blank____ Maine, California, Upper Midwest, Western states, Pennsylvania Dutch country, does.



Those differences can be used to give flavor to our characters and settings.



An author who does this well, in my opinion, is Carolyn Brown. She writes about people from Texas and Oklahoma in small town and ranch country. She gives richness to her stories with the use of colloquial phrases and regional slang. Her writing pops with location, setting, and realistic people. I laugh because it captures that area so well. Even if you’re not from or never visited the area it works. She doesn’t waste time defining the phrases or words she uses but the context in which they’re used is self-explanatory.



If you write Regencies, you automatically use syntax of the era as well as the slang. It gives the feeling of place and time. Military suspense, thrillers, or romance use slang or jargon because the military has its own terminology as does law enforcement. Someone writing sci-fi or paranormal will create his or her own world jargon and slang.



I think it’s perfectly legitimate to use colloquial speech and clichés in your writing to add texture to your story so long as the terms fit and aren’t use merely as a form of laziness.

  • Do you use, colloquiums, and clichés in your writing?
  • How do you decide when and how to use them?

Monday, May 11, 2015

MONDAY MUSINGS—THE MOMENTS BETWEEN DARK AND DAWN





The moment between dark and dawn is magical.

The morning dew coats the grass and leaves. It softly drips through the thin wisps of fog that skirt the trees and stroke the tops of the brush. A transparent moon hangs above the western hills. The hush of the early morning is haunted by the last echoes of the whippoorwills. The blaze of rust as the fox fades into the tree line and home. The triumphant cry of the owl and shriek of its prey cuts through the moment between dark and dawn.

The breeze pushes back the dark grays and purples of the dark leaving mauves, a blush of rose and turquoise in their wake. To the east a crimson glow highlights the silhouette of oaks waiting to greet the sun. The scent of flowers merges with the rich smell of fertile earth and trees.

All around is the murmur and rustling wings of birds as they stretch and shake off the shadows of the night.  Mourning Doves are cooing among the branches and flash of red and bright chirps of cardinals weaving through the leaves toward the feeders. The sudden flutter of wings as a flock of doves land under the bird feeders to break their morning fast. Flickers of yellow and green announce the arrival of the finches.

Layer by layer the morning symphony builds. The buzz of the bees harvesting nectar. The aerial display of the crows against the rose and gold sky crying out a counterpoint rhythm to the chorus of birds as they sing up the sun. 

The sun opens its arms on the horizon banishing the shadows and bathes all in the golden glow of morning.



There is just something magical in that moment between dark and light. And it fills me with peace and quiet joy.   

Friday, May 8, 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW—JADE LEE



Today I'm excited to welcome romance author, Jade Lee, to Over Coffee. Jade’s latest title, 50 Ways to Ruin a Rake, is out  and marks the beginning of her hilarious new Rakes & Rogues series. To celebrate her new release, Jade is here for a mini-interview.
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  • What piece of writing advice sticks with you to this day?
    It’s a marathon not a sprint. A little bit every day. In the end, it’ll grow up to be a career. 
  • What has been your biggest adventure to date?
Writing funny. It’s a ton harder than I ever thought. But I’m loving the exploration.
  • Which one of your characters do you relate to the most?
Flaky heroine with the long suffering hero who (a) GETS her and (b) translates her to the world and the world to her. That would be my husband and me. And a piece of that is in every book I write. 
  • Speaking of writing funny, you mention on your blog that 50 Ways to Ruin a Rake is the funniest book you've ever written. Why?
  • There’s an escaped turkey in the book. 
  • The turkey fights in a duel. Or a melee depending on if you count the turkey as a combatant. Which you should. 
  • Everyone in the book has a plan. EVERYONE. And their plans go horribly awry. 
  • Because I was focused on joy when I wrote the book.  That’s been my new mantra.  
  • Wait a minute. A turkey fights a duel?
There is an escaped turkey who gets in the middle of a duel/melee, but that’s just a small piece of the book. In truth, the main thing is that the whole romp is about people with PLANS. And those plans just don’t work out how they expect. At all. And yes, this is the year of JOY for me. Everything is about being soul-deep happy. It’s not all perfect, but it’s working for me. And this book is one of the results.


                                                                                                                                                                 

Mellie Smithson has a plan…
  
Mellie Smithson is trapped in the country with no suitors and no prospects on the horizon except, perhaps, the exasperating—although admittedly handsome—guest of her father. Unwilling to settle, Mellie will do anything to escape to London... 
  
Trevor Anaedsley has a problem…
  
Trevor Anaedsley’s grandfather has cut off his funds until he gets engaged. Beset by creditors, Trevor escapes to the country—ostensibly to visit his old tutor Mr. Smithson—where he meets Smithson’s lovely daughter Mellie. The obvious solution is suddenly before him—but will this fake engagement go as Trevor and Mellie plan? 

Or will they find that even the best laid plans often go awry?  EXCERPT

BUY: Amazon, B&N, Chapters, Indiebound






                                                                                                                             

USA Today bestselling author Jade Lee has been scripting love stories since she first picked up a set of paper dolls. Ball gowns and rakish lords caught her attention early (thank you, Georgette Heyer), and her fascination with the Regency began. An author of more than thirty romance novels and winner of dozens of industry awards, Lee lives in Champaign, Illinois.