About Me

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A writer by predilection, an aunt by blessing and a friend by choice, Shelley has spent many years journaling before sitting down to draft her first novel. She has a B.A. in English discourse and is currently working on her third romantic-suspense, the title of which will be announced soon pending publication. Shelley is a member of the Romance Writers of America as well as her RWA state chapter of the Maryland Romance Writers.
"I love story-telling. It's a way to live an experience through the eyes of a character." - Shelley N. Greene

Saturday, December 29, 2012


          According to the calendar, the days will now start growing longer but I can’t help but shake my fist at winter.  It's COLD.  And dark.  

          Did I mention cold?

          While I don’t believe there are any bad seasons, summer's unbearable heat and sticky humidity at least comes with the trade off of more sunlight.  I like to take long walks whatever the weather, but the cold months make you rise with sun, reluctant to leave the comfort of a warm bed, only to leave you captive inside during the few hours the sky offers up its vitamin D.

          It’s the time of year in which you compress, pull in and purge. 
          You discard the accumulations from the previous year, sift through what doesn’t serve, and let it go so that you may start afresh in the New Year.
          My writing time is likewise evaluated.  It’s cut back, condensed and more rigorously scheduled.  The content of what I’m drafting is no different, but as with all art its environment has an influence.  It reminds of those points in a novel where you can see where the author is moving at a steady clip, cruising along.  The tone and pace and feeling all flowing, then you start the next paragraph.  It seems drier, a little stiff.  Not as dynamic as two sentences ago.

          I suspect that is the break—the pause when the author had to stop and come back later to pick up where they left off.

          Like times of the year, writing involves spans of high productivity as well as periods where the writer must stoke the fire to keep it going, we must take extra pains to “warm up” in order to get it all done.
          Yesterday I bundled up, utilizing my limited day time, and headed out to do my normal walking circuit near my home. 

          Beautiful in all her seasons, nature presented the scents that come with hibernation, displayed shades of brown thick with muted reserve.  The air crisp, I felt it bite at my thighs through my jeans, pushing against me as I moved, proving how hard it is to achieve a level output in winter. I paused here and there to re-tie a sneaker worked loose by my layers of clothing, adjust a glove, shield my reddened cheeks with my scarf.  Everything took more energy, more effort. 

          Arriving home, the heated foyer that greeted me felt like a sauna, my skin tingling everywhere.  Unwrapping took extra time, a production leading to extra laundry at the end of the week, extra money for a gym to cover days when I can't make it outside. 

          Settling down at my computer, I looked at the tail end of the last bit that I’d written.  I strive to leave off in the middle, at a point of action.  It encourages me to jump back in right away because it’s not a vague beginning or some droopy area.  It’s the center, the “keep going” spot.

Looking at it, an odd thought sprung to mind.  I wondered if a reader of my book would someday be able to pick out my stops and starts.  Would they feel the tone in the writing?  Reading the words, would they sense that this part was crafted on a cold December night?
 I won’t know until I’m done, but I am curious.
          This writing gig teaches me new things every day.  

Sticking a foot out from underneath a swath of covers each chilly morning, there are days I would love to stay in bed where it’s cozy; wish that routine tasks didn't require twice as much power to get done. 

But I will say this, the tingle that comes with doing the work is worth it.  At times it will feel like you’re moving at a snail's pace or stuck at a standstill, but don’t become discouraged.   Generate heat, keep moving and stop only when you need to.

Even when the day feels over, put in the time.
          Face the cold with hot, and the stop with go.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


A while ago I received some sage advice. 

Sitting in the break room at lunch, my mind mulled over revisions I’d done on my manuscript the night before.  The events I’d written flowed, the descriptions doing their job, but somewhere in the maze of who and what and how, I wondered if the way I conveyed it made sense.  An author’s job is to entertain the reader, so the questions bubbled: Did I tell the tale clearly?  Am I a good narrator? 

          Does the way I narrate have style?  
          The strongest authors have a tone so individual that it compromises their ability to submit work anonymously.  Authors—great authors—create a rhythm, a beat; a pattern of writing that is so distinctively theirs, that the book cover could be blank and you’d still know who wrote it.  They have a voice.

         Submerged in thought, I hardly noticed when my co-worker joined me at the table.  Noting the silence, he spoke. “You seem distracted, what’s up?”

          “I’m worried that I don’t have a voice,” I said, throwing out my concerns.

          “A voice?”

          “In my writing.  It’s—” I tried to find the right words to describe it.  “It’s the personal climate a writer uses when they impart a story.  The way a storyteller crafts narrative.  They speak in a certain mode, use certain words… When you read a book by your favorite author, then a different book of the same genre—the differences in tone are the writer’s voice.”

          My co-worker nodded, understanding.  “And you think that you don’t have one?”

          “I don’t know.” I paused, confused.  “It’s hard to tell when you’re reading your own work.”

          His face went serious.  “Well, I don’t know much about the writing process, but I’m assuming you’ve written more than one story?”

          I paused again, thinking.   I have a slew of drafts, several short stories, plus the two full-length novels before my current manuscript.  I bobbed my head.  “A few."

          “Have you read them recently?”

Uh.  I had to think about it.  It’d been a while.  “Over a year ago.”

“Pull one your earlier stories out and re-read it.  He dipped his head in encouragement.  “It may be hard to find in your initial stuff, but compare to your most recent work.  I bet if you have a voice, you’ll see it in the comparison.”

The idea was so simple, it was brilliant.  From the mouths of co-workers.

I went home later that night and pulled up my first novel on my computer. The draft represented a lot. The onset of giving this author gig a shot, and something miraculous happened.

I started reading and couldn’t stop.  

The first page rolled into five, thirteen, twenty. 

Following the heroine, I could see something there, this tempo, a little stattaco in certain places, but a fledgling cadence starting to emerge  
I got lost in my own story.

This experience resulted in a self-present.  I had that story, my first brain-baby, printed and book-bound so that I may hold it.  It cost a bit of money, but I look on it as my beginning, something I want to preserve. 

I read it again when it arrived in the mail, this time flipping the pages over, one by one. Savoring it.

There’s a special joy that comes from writing, and it’s amazing how much a bunch of words on paper can represent.

 It’s not every day that you discover your voice.  

- SNG   ;0)

Saturday, August 18, 2012


         The other day I hit a wall.  Writing for six hours straight resulted in seven pages of simple dialogue and basic action.  Reviewing it, the text functioned, but minimally.  The script a thin outline to the multi-dimensional production I'd had in my mind. 

           Stepping back, I made myself stop and think. 

           Comparing writing to other forms of art, a fact occurred to me:

           Similar to painting, writing isn’t single-layered. Not at all. As much as I’d like to just lump a character or situation down in one sitting, the story doesn’t always unfurl that easily.  Sometimes you have go over it once, once more to add POV details, then again for back-story, and lastly for nuances that put the finishing touch on the plot and themes. 


           A good example of this is Renaissance artist (and genius) Leonardo Di Vinci who used sheer coats of paint in his works, his technique evolving over time.  The Mona Lisa alone has been proven to have at least thirty layers, the final piece a result of many embellishments—many additions.

          I added layers to my writing.

And It’s good to have a system, a process that allows your free-flowing side to get all the imaginative sketches, color and definition down first before any edits are made. I've learned that inspiration doesn’t always come easily, sometimes it acts against you more than it cooperates. You need to give yourself credit for the time, energy and dedication writing requires. 

         Your story isn’t crap just because it didn’t miraculously pop out of your head fully formed. You have to do the work and make mistakes—lots of mistakes.  But it’s worth it. 

Plug away at it first and then revise.  No masterpiece is ever made in a day.  

Or in six hours. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012


It’s August.  AUGUST.  

Staring slack-jawed at the calendar I have to refrain from the internal barrage of “why isn’t _____ done yet?”   With set timelines for my writing, no excuse seems viable enough to explain where two-thirds of the year went.   

          In retrospect, I should answer to the English degree hanging on the wall.
But starting out, is starting out.  There’s a balance to it, one that involves no time off and a coffee IV.

          Writing is an art, like singing or dancing or painting.  All artists have to work and perform at some point in the beginning.  There are biographies of singers who lived on their dilapidated tour buses, and used glue guns to design their stage clothes.  Dancers who didn’t just walk onto a stage and know the steps.  They practiced them. Musicians repeat the notes, that inflection over and over until perfect.  Performers turn and step, jump and land, bruise and bleed, until the move looks flawless.  

           I try to remember that.

          Writers draft and cut, patch and par down; prune, elaborate, clarify, enunciate, reveal and cliff-hang.  We work the words.  And sometimes the words pin us to the floor, not the other way around…

          And still I write.  I struggle.  There are times that for all the endless revising, I don’t think that I've earned the title of “Writer.” 

But I believe that any endeavor in which time flies, whatever hobby that engulfs you fully, is what you’re meant to do. 

          Watching the Olympics this week, that principle got me thinking.

          Proud participants from around the world stood representative of their countries; talented athletes that trained and practiced for years.  In a myriad of categories, the best of the best competed in the games, expressing physical excellence in each of their selected fields.  
          I harbor that passion for writing, and I’m not alone.  Looking around, I’ve always held a deep unity with other writers.  I respect the hardship of it, the challenge; the resulting joy when published.  I want everyone to be successful, and I want to succeed, so I can one day have the honor of standing up with other great authors. 

I love the diversity of the sub-genres.  There are historical writers (to whom I give mad props for doing all that added research), paranormal, YA, and suspense. 

Some knew that they wanted to write at eighteen, some followed a longer path to getting established.

As someone who took a long time to discover what I wanted to do with my life, I can say that I feel at home with authors who got their start in their later years.  I had an author that I respect and admire say that she, a “late bloomer”, discovered romance in her early-thirties, which thrilled me to no end, because I did, too.  :0D

It’s a journey to find what you love to do, and a test to prove that you can actually do it.  You have to remember that you’re not alone.  Ask others how they made it, be inspired by their stories.

The images of those Olympians come to mind.  It’s amazing to see what muscles they have. Swimmers are lean and toned, equestrians lithe and petite, runners holding bulk in only the areas that serve them on the track. 

This made me wonder:  What muscles does a writer have?

Comparing the two professions; writing challenges have knocked me down and forced me to build brain muscle.  

But if never faced with the hurdles, how do you learn?  If you do everything perfect the first time, how do you become better?

Like an Olympian, those are the scuffs and scrapes that define your character. 
I’m sure that every one of those hopefuls had to face pressure, stress and failure.  They’ve shed tears for the broken bones, pulled muscles, and frustration when their best wasn’t good enough.

Sitting down at my desk each night, I don’t imagine any songs of victory playing; don’t envision any moments of glory.  I do know that it’s important, however, that simple act of sitting down to get started.  If even for a short while…

I assume the writing position, and the muscle of my mind comes awake.  My body conditioned, my head familiar with the drill.

Like a runner poised at the starting line.

Body limber, knees crouched, fingers tented against the hard ground. 

Maybe it’s like that: Ready.  Set.  Go.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

47 Seconds

There are points in one’s writing journey where you start to question, “Am I meant to do this?  Can I do this?”

          A few weeks ago I submitted a portion of my story for critique and received some frank advice in response.  Going into it I knew what the chapter lacked, but something in hearing the direct feedback still jarred me.  The reviewer was honest with me, and delivered the information in a softer manner than she would anyone else, which was appreciated, but I'm not going to lie.

          It felt like a punch to the gut.  As all constructive criticism does.

          Wading through the revisions, I felt disheartened.  I want my work to be professional and presentable.  The problem is that I want to work with a mainstream publisher, and that requires extra everything: a literary agent, a perfect query letter, a flawless manuscript...

          Staring at my computer screen, an image of auto racing came to mind.  Large-house publishing is like that.  You have the established names—the writing pros—out on the track, making the laps.  A new author only gets the caution flag and pace car for so long before they have to be familiar with the speed, ready to go the distance.

Image Source

          Reading over the critique notes, my heart sank again. 

Will I ever get up to speed?

          A quote popped into my head:

“I'd rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate.” 
- George Burns

          Along with a memory…

          A mutual friend I knew in high school once invited a group of us out to her family’s lake house.  I’d never been out in nature like that before, asked to bring my bathing suit and head out to spend a weekend outside.  It sounded exciting.

We'd camped out in sleeping bags spread out on their back deck, where I saw every star in the sky that first night. The next morning our friend and her brother walked us to the docks.

          “Have you ever been waterskiing before?” she asked, hopping aboard their motorboat.

          Shaking my head, I hadn’t.  The whole operation appeared wild, equipment and ropes and vests, but I couldn’t say no.  Why not try?

Twenty minutes later, I sat floating out in the water, life vest buoyed up around my ears, flexing my legs as I worked to keep the two skis from crisscrossing in the air.  Following my friend’s instructions, I positioned myself as if I “were sitting in a Laz-E-Boy recliner,” awaiting the signal that they were going to start the boat.

          “Go slow,” I heard my friend tell her brother, the captain of the vessel.

          Then he gunned the gas and I went airborne.  I lost one ski that first time, and I could of sworn that I'd managed to balance one-footedly, if I hadn’t immediately been dragged into half-mile long belly-flop/human rock-skip across the water’s surface.   

My friend slapped her brother’s arm, reiterating, “This is her first time, slow down!”

          Spitting water and nursing a magenta-pink stomach, I climbed aboard and we retrieved the lost ski.

          “Sorry,” he called out to me.

 Waving an It’s okay, I jumped back into the lake and got into position.

“Again,” I said.

“Ready?” the brother called out.

“Ready,” I affirmed.

It took a several more tries.  On a latter attempt, I felt the propulsion lift me up, my legs bracing and utilizing the leverage.  Balancing, I didn’t fall, didn’t fold.  After an initial ten seconds I dared to look around as we’d circled the lake.  Wind blowing through my hair, I flew across the water.

I stayed up 47 seconds.  I'd learned how to water-ski.

Looking back at my ripped apart chapter, several truths dawned on me:

 I’m not staunchly competitive.  The thrill of the win isn’t as important to me as doing the job right.  I may not be able to move as fast or be as prolific as some.

I’m not aggressive, I’m tenacious.  

So I will say, “Again.” 

I will go again and again and AGAIN until I get this right. 

If I stay afloat 47 months, 47 days, 47 hours, or even just 47 seconds in this industry, I’ll be happy.

I’m not stopping until I fly.

-         SNG

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

High School Memoir

          I kept to myself in high school.  While others jumped into the social pool with little abandon, I preferred hanging out with the outliers.  The bullies knew better than to screw with me, the popular crowd found me too plain, and manners banned me from the bad-ass clan, so I skirted the fridge.  As a locker shortage threw me together with a tall, lanky girl who’d later turn out to be my best friend, I was stratified and loving it.  I spent lunch in the art room tuning out the world with my Walkman, side-stepping the cacophony of teen existence.  
          I had Earth Science first period, the only class with my best friend, J, and the two of us coasted in the door on time one morning, immediately noticing that the desks were pushed together in pods of four; topped with metal racks, one-time use foil pans full of water and matches.  Science experiment day, in a time when students were allowed to create steam using organic things like an open flame.

          J and I were assigned to different tables, one of J’s friends—we’ll call her T—stationed with the group in the middle.  T was the center cog of the popular crowd, stylishly dressed with immaculate hair.  Being that we were less than five years out of the 80’s, Big Bang represented more than a science theory.  A well-constructed, highly hairsprayed satellite dish on T’s forehead, the trend baffled me.  Did girls need to receive signals from alien planets through their hair?

The owner of these bangs has chosen to remain anonymous. 

Anyway, we all settled down to our project, the instructions being that one person carefully light a match and heat the pan of water.  Yeah.  I don’t need a marching band to show you where this is headed…

          The middle table’s elected match lighter, T, struck her splinter of wood against the small matchbox, singing “Happy Birthday” aloud as she moved the tiny flame towards the candle underneath the water pan.  To this day I can’t recall if it really was her birthday or not, but I do remember looking up to catch the action-packed slow-mo with vivid clarity.  The uneven flame on the matchstick surged, sparking as the light hit a thicker patch of muted red phosphorus.  And then, I sat staring in terror as the speck of glowing ember jumped to an individual strand of T’s hair, working its way north in a blink. 

          Given my reserved nature, J was quick to notice when I scrambled to disentangle my body from my wrap-around desk, yelling, “Oh-SH*T!” as I flat-out ran over to the chalk board.  (Yes, in the days before dry erase.)  Just as I’d forcefully shoved a poor, unsuspecting student out of my way, I heard T begin to scream, the sound garbled with a strange sloshing. Grabbing my target—two chalk board erasers—I wheeled around, hauling ass the opposite direction.

          The blur that followed had a soundtrack I’ll never forget.  Panicked screaming coupled with the scrape of chair legs on linoleum—T trying to get out of her desk while flailing.  Then bam-bam-BAM-bam-BAM followed by a crick-SPLASH!

          In the thirty seconds that elapsed, heavy breathing hung in the air along with loud whimpering and muttered curses.  Our homeroom teacher hovered over us, ready to have half the school’s administration teleport to our classroom, stat. 

          The erasers hit the floor with a dull thud as I put my hands up like an apprehended felon.  Cold air hitting my skin, I then noticed that my shirt stuck to me like a second skin, trickles of water making rivulets down my calves and pooling in my socks. Gaping in shock, I threw a glance over to J standing next to me, sharing my did-that-really-just-happen? expression; a bent-up, empty metal pan dangling from her hand.  T looked up at us equally horrorstruck, her once fancy hair-do a flattened mass of rectangular, white stamps of chalky powder, sticking up in jutting, angular lines. She patted her head with shaking hands as if she expected nothing to be there anymore. 

          “Is it out?” she croaked.

          “It’s out,” I assured, evaluating it as she leaned forward to give me a better look.  “It’s OUT—are you okay?”

          “OH my GAWD!” someone bellowed from the scamper of surrounding voices, a protective crowd gathering around T, insulating her where the teacher had to command everyone to sit back down.

          Five minutes later, I held the golden ticket of all hall passes in my hand as I squish-squish-squished it down to the gym.  J stayed quiet until halfway through the trek, wincing with every step of my water-logged Chuck Taylors.  The scene replayed silently as we walked:  Both of us seeing T’s hair catch fire, me running for the erasers, J grabbing the closest pan of water.  The cheap tin torquing in the middle as J tried to lob it at T, the water tsunaming me in the solar plexus instead.

I miss those shoes... (Image Source)

          The squishing echoed through the desolate halls: a form of rhythmic humiliation.

          “I’m sorry—I wasn’t aiming for you,” J kept repeating.

          “I know,” I reaffirmed.  “This is ‘in awe’ quiet, not ‘pissed at you’ quiet.  Although, it’s probably better that you didn’t douse T.”  The mental image of one of the totem pole, teenage higher-ups sitting there soaked like a drowned rat brought out both a smile and another wince.
          Reaching the gym, I flashed my pass to the guards and bee-lined it to my locker.  While a blue cotton tee and shorts with the phrase “Property of ERHS” plastered across them wasn’t the ideal fashion choice, it was infinitely better than sopping through the rest of the day.  The only problem was that my underwear had also been affected by the deluge, giving me a far too real empathy for kids who wore diapers.

          J frowned when I emerged from the bathroom looking like a public school convict.   

          “Shelley, you have a pass to go home.”  The reproving look of Dude, get your priorities straight, registered; I just didn’t want to miss third period, my literature dork nature winning out over all my frivolous teen urges.

          “We’re analyzing Shakespeare’s Queen Mab speech in English.”

          J narrowed her eyes in disbelief.


          “I’d be home.  All I’m saying.”  She punctuated her opinion with a locker slam and lock-up.

          The bell rang as we hit the stairs, the halls filling with bodies and backpacks, an ever-moving current of activity.  I’d prepared myself for the side-long glances, not liking the attention.  Before information went ‘round the world in thirty texts, it took a good three hours before the grapevine circulated the story, and facts were guaranteed to get warped in transmission.  I’d have to survive the social reproach until lunch; by then it would be public knowledge why I assaulted a popular with chalkboard erasers.

          J and I parted ways at the split to second period, my gym-uniform chic standing out instantly as I fish-stepped over to west wing.  Walking along, I noticed that the looks started to change, becoming softer.  More “Hey, that’s the girl,” versus “Whoa, this isn’t gym” expressions.  One guy even patted my arm in passing, saying, “Way to go, eraser girl.”

          By the end of the day, everyone knew.  And T sent out a pop-posse to hunt me down before school let out so she could hug—well, linebacker tackle me.  I patted her back as she squeezed me tight, murmuring things under her breath like, “I imagined myself bald!”

          J and I walked home that afternoon, feeling as if that through a strange kink in time we’d somehow shifted position in the social food chain. Swinging the plastic bag of my lumped-up clothes, I walked into the house, my mom in the kitchen preparing dinner.

          “Hey, how was your day?” she called out.

          With a lop-sided grin, I replied.  “Good.  Is the dryer open?”


Monday, April 30, 2012


The last letter of our alphabet, I wanted Z to stand for something important. 

            When writing a story, it’s a challenge to move back and forth between the small details and the overall plot.  It reminds me of those satellite maps, where you “zoom in” to see a city, and then “zoom out” to see the entire parameter of where you’re going.  It's like that in writing; one minute you’re in the character’s private world, the next you’re moving the entire narrative along, the lens of the telescope pulled back.

          It's a tough balance defining the character in tempo with the unfolding events.

 Talk about “Seeing the forest for the trees.”
            Too much “step up close—leap back” and you could leave a reader with vertigo. While too much of either extreme may give your story a plodding tread.  I have yet to find any exact guidelines to managing this issue other than, “If the scene sounds drawn out, it most likely is.” 

It’s advised that you read a scene aloud when drafting, then wait a few days before going over it again. This helps to prevent you from lolling in the distanced perspective or the personal character mindset for too long.  This allows you to look at the section of writing with a fresh perspective.

It’s also good to let your critique partner (or group) review it.  They’re sure to give you an unbiased opinion about the pacing and character development.  

            Zoom in and out only as needed and you can’t go wrong.

            This is it?  Seriously?   It’s Z end?

            I’d like to thank everyone for checking out CN.  I’ve had such a great time talking craft with you, and the experience has taught me so much!
            Keep reading and writing! 

And I’m here, so please check back for more of the NARRATIVE.  ;0)

Sunday, April 29, 2012


I switched days again.  This is Saturday’s post.  I just needed some time to think about this one, the yardstick I have in mind is a personal one.

            I think you’ll know what I mean.  In every career endeavor made, one is bound to compare themselves to other successful examples.  In writing, you look up to other great authors.

            This is okay to do at first, it’s good to get feedback and not reinvent the wheel when you’re starting out.  However, it’s important not to take that search for knowledge too far.

            You want to grow as a writer, not as a clone.

            And I’ve learned that when you look too closely at what makes a good writer, you aren’t allowing yourself to be a good writer.  It’s a hard lesson, albeit an important one. Writers are like snowflakes; each having different styles, different goals.  You’ll never be exactly like someone else, and that’s a good thing.

            I think of the famous quote by Oscar Wilde,
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” 

            You’re encouraged to learn the rules, to follow the example of the greats, but in application, follow your own path.

            In the end, measure your accomplishments against your own yardstick.     

            Are we down to our last letter, already? 

Please come back tomorrow—Z is for ZOOM IN, ZOOM OUT


Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for X-MARK

            I cracked open the dictionary and there were like, five words for X.

            Okay, I’m exaggerating—there were twelve.   But I suspect that everyone participating in this challenge has had to get creative with this letter.

            For me, X stands for an author's simple signature. Your mark.  

            Whatever you write; be it romance, comedy, action, science, erotic or intrigue—it has your fingerprint  on it. 

            And that’s one heck of an X. 

            Only two letters left!   Where has April gone??

            Tomorrow Y is for YARDSTICK. 


Thursday, April 26, 2012


              Keeping it simple tonight.  

              I almost changed W to be something else because this topic is another one of my weak areas.  There are subjects I get windbag about, some that I know a little something and then topics like this.  But everyone has been accepting of my naivetĂ© so far, which I appreciate.  The more you practice, the more you learn, right?  :0)

            And the way I understand it, word choice is where you choose the most succinct and appropriate word in a sentence.  The word can be long, short, multi syllable or humble, as long as it sums up your point concisely.  This concept is simple enough, but the biggest hurdle I've encountered with word choice is vocabulary.  

Or in my case, limited vocabulary.  

It’s tough to cinch a sentence when you have a narrow list of words to pick from. 

In the T is for TENSE entry I’d mentioned that children learn by hearing and repeating, and it’s interesting how language is picked up from one’s environment that way.  Traditionally, you need to hear a word or expression being used before you integrate it into your own verbal collection.  And when I think about it, my vocabulary consists mainly of idioms and terms spoken by people in my surroundings, my family and friends.  And while this is good for everyday conversation, it's generally expected that a writer’s glossary be much more expansive.

            So with my writing I strive to be a word collector, contributing new terms to my mental dictionary every day.  Call me strange, but in my nightstand I keep a 5”x8” steno pad of paper and a pen handy to jot down words that stand out to me when I'm reading.  I make a mental note if I hear a new phrase used in conversation, and I even have a word-a-day calendar on my wall, so I can take a new word with me. 

             My goal is to use the new word at least three times that day, allowing its meaning and application to sink in. 
            The game is pretty fun.  In the last month alone I’ve come across words such as: 

Parietal,   DisingenuousKitted,  Semaphore,  Gloze,  Evince,   Prurient, Estival,  Didactic,  Vinaceous,   Anneal,   Popinjay,  Intestate, Turbid  and  Deft

            And there are terms that really center in on the action like:

            Susurrus,  Flyting,  Keelhaul,  Deke and  Chicane

          Simple formations of letters that have prompted me to explore new places, situations and things.
             Isn't it amazing how powerful one little word can be?

            Please come back tomorrow—X is for X-Mark. 


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for VILLAIN

*Shelley clears throat—hums loudly*  


Tonight’s letter gave me the perfect opportunity to do that—V is for Villain.

One would think that a villain would be an easy topic, but I found that it really brushes up against our last letter, the Usual suspects. 

In a majority of fiction today, the villain is one dimensional.  He’s bad to the literal bone.  Which makes sense because he is the bad guy, but like secondary characters, there are archetypes to the baddies.  

These outlines make for strong villains, they play the role rightI mean, if you can’t be good, heartless is the way to go, however in the genre I write--Romance--the villains need not always be so mean.  In the last novel I wrote, I took a different tack with my villain, and in turn, got a lot of feedback.  Going into it I thought of the bad guy as a real person, and I asked, “What would make this character do this despicable thing to the heroine?” 

In the story, the baddie is an ex-fiancĂ© who technically leaves the heroine at the altar on their wedding day.  This should make him an unforgivable @#$&*!, right?

But I wanted to pull on the heartstrings of the reader a little bit, so I gave the ex a reason for doing what he did.  Yes, I gave the jerk enough “likeableness” for the reader to be conflicted over his motives.  In the end he still does the evil deed, but you can sort of understand why.

This is a fantastic counterpart to have in your story.  The reader wants to connect to the villain but can’t because the badness gets in the way.  This technique has been used in breakout fiction quite a lot in recent years—Severus Snape has one of the biggest frickin’ fan clubs I’ve ever seen.  

When the reader can relate to the villain—just a little bit—then the drama begins.  The bad guy isn’t merely a dark soul, he's a lost one.  

 It’s important to keep the balance, the villain has to remain parallel to the hero, but a touch of concern makes the reader really consider your bad guy, rather than simply write them off in the beginning.  That makes for great tension.  You want your reader to be torn, to scream, 
               “I want to like you, why must you be so bad?!”

Then your bad guy can tip his black hat and reply, 
         “’Cause I’m the villain. Muahahaha.”   ;0)

Only four more letters to go! 

Please come back tomorrow—W is for WORD CHOICE.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012


            Let’s do this.  Time to throw open the door, trot ‘em out and line ‘em up.   You know who I'm talking about - the Usual Suspects.

            When writing fiction, your hero and heroine are always the main focus.  While they interact with the leads, the secondary characters are primarily in place to play specific roles: the temptress, mentor, confidant, fool, trickster, devil, fool, king/father, etc.  These functions are important to the story, but often the rudimentary job of the secondary character gets a little played-out.  That’s when they become the usual suspects.  

            The bubbly best girlfriend, the trusty guy companion, the smarmy rich guy there to rival the poor-guy hero, to cite a few. 

            Essentially the usual suspects are stock characters and they get that bum rap because, let’s face it, they work.  They have the heroine's back at the right time and enable the hero to ride to the rescue on his horse.  This is good, but if you want your writing to stand out, you want to push against the tried-and-overused.  Turn the usual on its head.  Avoid the stereotype.  

            It is okay to go with the same ol' suspect line-up, just give them new traits.  For instance, don’t let the trickster look so mischievous.  Let him act smooth, almost innocent.

            Make the mentor reluctant; the sage scatterbrained, the confidante assertive.  Keep them simple, but hard to pick out of the crowd.  Call in the unusual suspects.  

            We’re in the homestretch to Z!  Twenty-one letters down, five to go! 

            Please join me tomorrow—V is for Villain.   *evil grin*


Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for TENSE

          Looking at my letter list, I figured that this would probably be the “See Spot Run” entry, but that’s okay.  Twenty letters in and we’ve had a few tough ones, funny ones and brief ones.  Our alphabet is winding down fast.

            And verb tense determines in what time your narrator is speaking.  It basically determines if the action is currently happening, will happen in the future or has already occurred.

Simple Present:       She writes

Present Perfect:      She has written

Simple Past:             She wrote

Past Perfect:            She had written

Future:                      She will write

Future Perfect:        She will have written

            I think I got that right(?)  Honestly, verb conjugation intimidates the crap out of me.  All the perfects, participles, regular vs. irregular and subject-verb agreement makes me anxious.  With all those rules, there is too many ways to mess up.

   The best advice is to choose a tense and then play it by ear.  Children learn language by hearing and repeating; adults are the same way.

The only caution in writing is that you want to try to avoid passive language.  The verb “was” is an indicator of the passive “to be” when paired with a past participle.  An easier way to spot this—as a wise contest judge once taught me—is to search your word document for the term “was.”  If more than fifteen highlights pop up on the page, you’re using passive language.  It’s not officially wrong to write passive, it’s just that staying in the moment is the strongest way to hold your reader's attention.  You can write in the past tense and still be in the center of the action.

            Okay, this is the last toughy letter, I swear. 

If you come back tomorrow, we’re in for some fun—U is for the USUAL SUSPECTS.

            *heeheeheee*  Goodnight!