Sheila's Motto

"Endeavor to enhance the lives of others through education and encouragement."

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Writing Techniques ~~ Balance

Balance can be associated with gymnastics, scales, scorecards, life, health, walking, wheel alignments, your bank statement, and many other things. How can you implement it in your writing?  Why is it important?

Step 1: Balance helps to establish a sense of progression.

Select a scene toward the beginning of your manuscript and another one either in the middle or near the end.  What has happened to the characters in the interim?  An example would be one in which the opening chapter features a castle in a state of disrepair since your fantasy aristocracy has fallen upon hard times.  In Chapter 12, francium has been discovered by the Cofferer in the northwest quadrant of the bailey.

Image result for what is francium

Eurkea overnight, the cast is dressed to the nines, royal dainties are served non-stop, and the mules have been replaced with million dollar thoroughbreds. Using this basic narrative, what is the net effect of the progression?  Is it positive or negative?  What writing techniques have you used to achieve this outcome?

In one of my prior blog posts, I touched on the flow of writing.  Some aspects mentioned therein could be joined with balance.  Here is the link:

Step 2: Progression achieved through balance reinforces theme.

If you’ve predetermined that your particular project is theme based, balance will be of utmost importance to you.  Careful construction will prevent overuse of your theme or such scant use the reader is unable to discern it in the first place.  For instance, if your basic theme is forgiveness, there are a plethora of ways to weave this into your writing to achieve an even distribution of it.  Does your project include a theme?

Step 3:  Dodge the ditches.

Have you ever ditched something?  In Step 1, we touched on the characters, but what about the plot?  If your story stays balanced, this will help prevent it from getting off in the barrow pit which may cause a reader to ditch it as well. Let’s say you have a scene where an employee is about to be terminated by a well known corporation whose headquarters are on the top floor of a swank high rise commercial building. 

If you devote four pages to explain every step of the soon to be ex-employee leaving his apartment, getting into his car, driving to the meeting, attempting to parallel park on the street; one line where the boss tells him he's fired, and five subsequent pages describing his exit from the building, it could be that some of your enthusiasts will quit turning the pages. They'll be looking for File 13 or headed to the closest thrift shop to add to their annual non-cash charitable contributions.

Step 4:  Pick and practice your act.

A gymnast needs a balance beam to practice his skill.  During the summer months of my brother’s collegiate gymnastics career, he fashioned a set of still rings between two tall cottonwood trees in our yard.  Use what is readily available to you.  Most writers have other books or movies in their homes or apartments.  Select one of your favorites from there or your local library. Repetitive reading or watching can assist you with being able to spot where your fellow author or the filmmaker completed his balancing act.  How would you rate his act along with your own?

Step 5:  The Greek Team.

After you’ve done the best you can with your manuscript, dial up your alpha and omega team.  Instruct your alpha or beta readers to make notations concerning balance as they work their way through the pages.  Your omega team member, i.e., your editor, will definitely appreciate your balancing efforts.  The ones who will benefit the most are your readers because you will have put your work in a steady position or framework so that it does not fall.

As we continue to practice our craft, we can achieve spectacular results. Speaking of spectacular, check out this stellar image relating to balance which is located in our great state.

                                                       Image result for images for Balanced Rock in southern Idaho'

South of Buhl in the Salmon Falls Creek Canyon stands the famous Balanced Rock. Over 48 feet tall and 40 tons, the wind-carved rock balances precariously on a pedestal only 3 feet by 17 inches. Nearby Balanced Rock Park is an excellent spot for a picnic.
Fellow authors would benefit from reading your comments regarding how you have managed to apply balance in your writing.  Thank you for your participation.  The rising tide benefits all ships!

Watch for my next blog post regarding additional writing techniques.
In the interim, stay balanced, and write well!

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sweet & Savory Tuesday ~~ Zesty Cod Fillets


  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. diced garlic
  • 2 - 6 oz. cod fillets
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • salt, optional

  • Saute garlic in olive oil.
  • Sprinkle fillets with salt and pepper.
  • Cook 2-3 minutes over medium heat.
  • Pour one Tbsp. of the lime juice over fillets.
  • Mix cumin and chili powder together and sprinkle 1/2 of mixture over fillets.
  • Cook 3-4 minutes over medium heat.
  • Flip fillets to other side and pour remaining lime juice over fillets.
  • Sprinkle remaining cumin and chili powder mixture on top of fillets.
  • Cook 2-3 minutes or until cod fillets flake easily.
  • Serve over rice and with garnishes of your choice.  I used sliced tomatoes, red bell pepper slices, and sliced hard boil eggs dusted with hot Hungarian paprika.

Sometimes it's a great adventure and lots of fun to experiment with new spice combinations when preparing your entree, especially fish!

Happy dining, and if you happen to try this recipe, please comment on my blog page and let me know how you liked it or what garnishes you used to complete your entree. Thank you.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Poetry & Prose ~~ "Dad, This One Is For You"

As I reminisce about the many cherished memories
I have of my dad when I was just a child,
Like sitting on his lap listening to his funny stories
Or his silly songs causing me to laugh and smile.

My dad was a kind-hearted and humble person
Who always seemed to understand,
When I would need a hug to enfold me
Or feel the strength of his caring hands.

Even though he was a man of very few words,
He would know the right things to say.
When doubts and fears assailed my mind,
He would say,"Don’t worry, everything will be okay."

When life would bring about turbulent times,
He faced them with calm assurance and laughter in his eyes.
He reminded me that each day held promises of hope
And would point to the double rainbow in the sky.

He had an ability to discern when it was time to share
His words of wisdom and offer ways to help.
He knew when the time had come for him to step aside
And let me stand on my own and do things myself.

With heartfelt thanks and gratitude,
And without a doubt, I want my family to know,
I am grateful for lessons of life he taught me,
And he will always be my hero.

For it was only when I started my own family
That I began to ponder and reflect,
What it meant to be a loving parent
Wanting to nurture, provide and protect.

Thank you, Dad, for showing me what it means
To live my life with honor and integrity.
Thank you for being an awesome father
And being the best dad one could possibly be.

Dad, This One Is For You.

Ephesians 6:2-3

Contributed by Lesta of Heartsong Treasures. 

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Writing Techniques ~~ Voice

During the days before the advent of the internet and when people actually took the time to pen a note or letter, it was much easier to hear their voice. That is one of the reasons that to this very day, I especially enjoy receiving handwritten communication because it’s as if that person is literally sitting in my living room and speaking to me.  Most people write just like they speak.  That’s what makes it so unique.  (Can you tell I also pen poetry every now and then?)

In Literary Land, what is voice?  It’s simply the way you handle words and craft them into sentences which ultimately forms your writing style.

Joe McGinnis, one of my favorite authors, is no longer with us, unfortunately.  He was an investigative reporter who wrote such memorable works as Fatal Vision, The Last Brother, and Blind Faith.  In the midst of collecting facts and reading depositions, autopsies, and the like, he honed his craft.  I can close the hardback covers of his books and still hear his voice.  In my opinion, he had the gift of being able to place a pretty bow on the top of an already beautifully wrapped present.

A portion of the writing exercise involving voice requires the skills of both a house framer and a finish carpenter.  The skeleton or outline of the piece must be constructed first before putting the finishing touches on it. Just as with the building of a house, there’s a whole lot that happens between the time that the site is prepared and the foundation is poured until the carpeting is installed, the light fixtures are hung, and the exterior is painted.  It’s quite often called “multiple drafts”.  

Continuing with our house analogy, each of the subcontractors who work on the project don’t all sound alike. Some will be fast talkers whereas others are slow; some will be high and some will be low.  Others will be happy who offset the serious ones and on it goes.

Let’s take a minute and consider items relative to voice:
  • Who is your intended audience?  This will have a bearing upon the voice implemented in your writing. For instance, I use a somewhat different approach when penning poetry than I do for my western fiction novels.
  • It’s very important for your loyal readers to still be able to hear your voice.  Prior to publishing my first book titled A Woman of Substance, my good friend, Kathi, sent me an email to let me know that she was anxiously awaiting her autographed copy.  I will never forget one sentence in her message which was, “After reading it, I will be able to discern whether or not it’s your voice.”  A few months later I received another email from her wherein she assured me, “Yes, I did indeed hear your voice in your book!”
  • If you are using a ghostwriter or contemplating hiring one, this will take a little extra effort on your part to keep the project on course and point in order to achieve the desired outcome.
  • Do you like your literary voice or do you desire to change it?  If so, enlist a handful of honest and helpful beta readers and get their feedback.  If you’re in the market for a significant change, select a page or two from the writing of your favorite author. Then take a page or two of your manuscript or already published book, and rewrite it using his or her voice and style. Give it a little time to percolate or marinate and determine if it was a helpful exercise. The real surprise of your writing life may come when you ascertain that another writer somewhere around the globe has done exactly the same thing using your printed words on one of the pages of your book.
  • Experiment with changing point of view.  If you’re penning fiction and you’re not entirely satisfied with your current writing project, try writing it in third person as opposed to first person.  Take one of your scenes and write it through the eyes of at least two different characters to see what happens.  In the end, there needs to be a compatible marriage between voice and point of view.
  • Just for grins, read a portion of your writing to someone you have recently met.  Trust me when I tell you that you will receive some valuable and insightful commentary.
  • In order to write well and develop your voice, ask yourself these basic questions:
    • What am I passionate about?
    • What do I want to explore?
    • What gives me joy?
    • How can I help others?
    • What genres do I not like such as Sci-Fi or Paranormal?  Chances are, if we’re not keen on these to start with, why put ourselves through the wringer of trying to author one even though those types may be the hottest ones on the market?
  • Do you want your voice to be heard by your readers through painting the landscape, the talking heads, tension, or all of the above?
  • Make a list of ten people you know in real life.  Next to their names, write a short description of each of them such as “could be a stand-up comedian” or “quiet scholarly type”, and so forth.  Then make a list of ten authors you know and complete the same exercise.  Chances are there will be clues that emerge pertaining to their voices.  Determine which ones you want to study in depth. Ask yourself why you like that author’s voice and how you identify with it.
  • Are you working with an editor? After you’ve received your final draft and before you cut him or her the check, make sure you can still hear your voice between the covers of your soon to be published book.

When it’s all said and done, please remember that there’s only one you with your unique voice.

Fine tune your voice, and Write On!

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Friday, June 3, 2016

Sweet & Savory Friday ~~ "Delish & Easy Pecan Rolls"

  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • dash of salt, optional
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup ground cinnamon
  • 2 tubes large refrigerated biscuits, any brand

  • In a medium sized saucepan, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, vanilla, and salt. 
  • Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Add the pecans.
  • Pour into a greased 13 inch x 9 inch baking pan.
  • Combine sugar and cinnamon in a shallow container such as a glass pie plate.
  • Cut each biscuit in half and dip it in the sugar and cinnamon mixture.  (I wear a pair of those latex gloves for this part of the project and it seems to work out nicely!)
  • Place the biscuits, cut side down, on top of the brown sugar mixture in bottom of baking pan.

  • Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until tops of biscuits are golden brown.
  • Invert onto serving plate.

These easy to fix rolls are so delicious they will disappear before your very eyes. They are a consistent family favorite.

Happy Baking, Eating & Reading!

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