Friday, September 2, 2011

Writing The Season – What It Means

My guest is author Kenneth Weene. He shares a bit about the importance of writers setting a mood for the reader to visualize and store a sense of season. With the right choice of words we can create a happy setting or an ominous tone in our work.

It isn’t just the weather, not even the color; it’s the whole mood. That’s what changes from season to season.

It isn’t enough to say that the colors of autumn fill the little town in which your story is set. It isn’t even sufficient to mention the cold rain carrying that first hint of the fluffy snow yet to come. Sure there’s football in the yard and the crunch of dead leaves underfoot. Then the inviting smell of burning wood carried by thin wisps of chimney smoke in the ever-crisper nights. If you are into astronomy, you can change the constellations. If you are into gastronomy, what local foods now grace the table? Having grown up in New England, for example, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a pumpkin pie or suggest that apple cider, perhaps redolent of cinnamon, is being drunk. Ah, those pesky kids have loaded the cider with raisins and sugar in the hopes of a more potent brew. The sense of autumn is everywhere.

Have you, however, noticed something else? I have slowly portended something joyous, as pleasant as a game of tag football in the yard or rolling together in the just-piled leaves. I have set the mood for something to happen, something perhaps a bit delightful. We anticipate winter and Christmas, playfulness, and kids having good-natured if naughty fun. (And yes, in case you were wondering, the mention of constellations is intended to help generate an awareness of forecasting the future.)

Consider the above paragraph if I were to change it just a bit. Here are the changes (replacing the italicized sections above).

It isn’t even sufficient to mention the cold rain carrying that first hint of the wet-footed misery yet to come.

Then the acrid smell of burning wood

in the slightly darker evenings.

Ah, those damn kids have loaded the cider with raisins in the hope of a foul-smelling but potent brew.

The new description offers a less happy fall. I have now set the mood for something perhaps a bit off, certainly unpleasant, to happen.

Setting the sense of the season to the mood of our narrative is one way we can subtly bring our readers into the story. Staying with autumn as the example, suppose the writer wants to do something sexual with the story. Then perhaps we can have deer rutting or possibly go back to the pleasure of that leaf pile but instead of crunching the leaves can tickle or comfort. On the other hand, if the story is about loneliness, do not the yearlings go off to find their own lives? Do not the birds migrate leaving behind their empty nests?

Writing the seasons into you story adds a dimension that few readers will recognize but to which almost all readers will respond.

One last piece of advice: Like all writing tricks, this is one that can easily be overdone. Set the stage, but never overdress it. If a writer constantly describes the weather, the reader will stop reading those passages. Unlike the filmmaker, who can provide a constant sense of ambiance, the writer has to content himself with setting the stage infrequently and must therefore do so in a way that will motivate the reader to visualize and to store a sense of the stage in her (his) own mind. 

  • How do you show the season in your story?

Memoirs From The Asylum

What is it like to work inside a state hospital or to be a patient in such a hospital? What is it like to live inside the mind of such a patient? This tragi-comedic novel takes the reader inside the asylum, inside the worlds of three central characters: a narrator who has taken refuge from his fears of the world, a psychiatrist whose own life has been damaged by his father's depression, and a catatonic schizophrenic whose world is trapped inside a crack in the wall opposite her bed. This is the interwoven story of their lives, a story that includes love, sexuality, violence, deaths, celebrations, circuses, and surprising twists. As the plot unwinds, the reader learns a great deal about the nature of futility, frustration, and freedom. Excerpt (click on excerpt tab on the right)

Buy: Amazon

A New Englander by upbringing and inclination, Kenneth Weene is a teacher, psychologist, and pastoral counselor by education.

Ken’s short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications including Sol Spirits, Palo Verde Pages, Vox Poetica Clutching at Straws, The Word Place, Legendary, Sex and Murder Magazine, The New Flesh Magazine, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Daily Flashes of Erotica Quarterly, Bewildering Stories and A Word With You Press.

Ken’s novels, Widow’s Walk and Memoirs From the Asylum are published by All Things That Matter Press.
To learn more about Ken’s writing visit: 


Wednesday, August 31, 2011


My guest is historical romance author, Mary Ellen Dennis. Mary Ellen has two books out this month. The featured book, The Greatest Love on Earth and a reissue by Sourcebooks, The Landlord's Black-Eyed Daughter. You can read a bit about that one at the end of the article. 

Mary Ellen seems a bit conflicted, even a dual personality--no worries, she's perfectly safe--but I'll let her explain that to you...

Can two authors share one office and computer?

Sure they can, if they are the same person :-)

Denise [Deni] Dietz and Mary Ellen Dennis share one room, one desk, one computer, and one keyboard. Deni writes mysteries that have no socially redeeming values whatsoever. They are meant only to entertain. Mary Ellen writes historical fiction that is ageless. The romance in both genres is supplied…or maybe a better word would be inspired…by their mutual best friend, lover and husband, novelist Gordon Aalborg. Gordon's office is upstairs, in the loft, and he sends Deni emails suggesting they meet for coffee. Meanwhile, his photo graces the desk she shares with her alter-ego.

Deni met Gordon, aka Harlequin romance author Victoria Gordon, on-line through an authors’ loop. Gordon was living in Australia, Deni lived in Colorado. They decided to collaborate on a romantic suspense and fell in love, sight unseen. Gordon asked Deni to marry him. She replied, “I think I should meet you face-to-face, first.” He described his house, which included a guest bedroom, and invited her to visit him in Tasmania. She said she had a strict book deadline. He said, “Silly wench, I have a computer.” So Deni hopped a plane to the land of Kangaroos, Koalas, and Hugh Jackman. She knew that she and Gordon were soul mates. She hoped there’d be “chemistry,” and there was. Sparks flew. Almost immediately, Deni and Gordon sold up, packed up, and bought a cottage on Vancouver Island. They were married at a writers conference and will celebrate their 11th anniversary this October. Deni says, “You’ve never been romanced until you’ve been romanced by a romance author.”

Deni and Mary Ellen both think writing should be fun as well as creative, so the items on their computer desk tend to make them smile. First and foremost, one's gaze is drawn to a Gumby-like statue of Edgar Allen Poe, looming over a red Staples "That was easy" button.

Deni has a wonderful photo of her actress sister, Eileen Dietz ( ), who played the possession scenes—and The Demon—in The Exorcist. Eileen inspired Deni to write FIFTY CENTS FOR YOUR SOUL, a somewhat supernatural novel that revolves around events that occurred during the filming of The Exorcist—a novel that Publishers Weekly called "Hollywood noir."

Deni likes to listen to show music. On her side of the computer desk she has a stack of CDs that include Les Mis, Once Upon a Mattress, Candide, Phantom of the Opera, and a dozen other Broadway shows (she hopes someday to appear on Jeopardy and hit the Broadway Musicals category). She also has the Dixie Chicks, Harry Chapin and Barbra Streisand. Mary Ellen prefers Celtic music and drove Deni daft by listening non-stop to Loreena McKenna's "The Highwayman" while writing THE LANDLORD’S BLACK-EYED DAUGHTER.

Above the computer desk there’s a framed poster of Daniel Day Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans, looking just like Rand, Mary Ellen’s hero in “Landlord.” There is also a circus poster of a bareback rider on a white horse, inspiration for Mary Ellen’s THE GREATEST LOVE ON EARTH.

Deni’s stuffed "deadline vulture" perches on top of the modem. She named it Michael Seidman after her first editor. Deni and Mary Ellen share a heavy rock, ostensibly a paperweight, that has CREATE chiseled on its surface. They also share a small ceramic tortoise. It reminds them that if you only write one page a day, by the end of the year you'll have written a book. Both write more than one page a day. Deni owns a small ceramic frog in a witch’s hat, seated behind a crystal ball. The frog inspires her to write TOE OF FROG (aka "The DaVinci Toad"), her sequel to her romantic mystery, EYE OF NEWT, starring reluctant witch Sydney St. Charles. In “Frog” readers will meet a “reincarnated Rottweiler” who is afraid of doorbells and songs from the 1970s.

One wall of the office is devoted to Deni and Mary Ellen’s book covers. In the place of honor are the covers for THE LANDLORD’S BLACK-EYED DAUGHTER and THE GREATEST LOVE ON EARTH. Don’t you agree that they are both beautiful covers? In fact, the drop-dead gorgeous highwayman depicted on “Landlord” won a Romantic Times KISS (Knight in Shining Silver) contest.

Finally, Mary Ellen collects angels. Her favorite angel holds a piece of paper with a Luciano de Crescenzo quote: "We are each of us angels with only one wing and we can only fly by embracing each other."

  • What is your favorite piece of furniture, or picture, or keepsake—something that sets off a fun memory or begins a new memory?

The Greatest Love On Earth—Mary Ellen Dennis. Available now

He's fearless, except when it comes to Calliope Kelley...

Nothing could shake the courage of lion tamer Brian O'Connor, until the circus is threatened and the love of his life deserts him...

Danger, drama, dazzling excitement are her world...

Bold, beautiful Calliope Kelley would jump through flaming hoops to protect her father's circus. But when disaster strikes and Calliope loses everything, she knows she must build brand new dreams... 
Torn apart and betrothed to others, a twist of fate brings Brian and Calliope back under the bigtop, where together they'll walk the high-wire to see if great loves turn to ashes or rekindle to burn brightly forever...Excerpt

BUY: Amazon,, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million  Available in ebook and print

Former singer/actress and perennial rule-breaker Mary Ellen Dennis is the author of several award-winning historical romance novels and culinary mysteries and is growing her audience for both. She is married to novelist Gordon Aalborg (aka Victoria Gordon), whom she met online through a writer's group; they live on Vancouver Island. She has two books in stores this month, released by Sourcebooks Casablanca: The Greatest Love on Earth—set in the exotic world of a 19th century circus and sweeps readers into death-defying feats, dangerous rivalries, and a love that has all the thrills and romance of the greatest show on earth., and a reissue of The Landlord’s Black-Eyed Daughter: A fast-paced and passionate retelling of the story of two timeless lovers who would die for each other. If only they didn’t have to. This gorgeous romance gives the poem a whole new depth and a happy ending. 

For more information, please visit