Thursday, May 26, 2011


The time has come for me to admit to myself and all my online friends that I need to push the cyber 'Pause' button, even though doing so will halt most of my daily Web adventures.

I love this blog!  And I adore all of you, my friends who have taught me so much about a writer's journey by sharing yours.  I never want to lose touch with you!  I'm not unplugging for good, just pausing. J

Here's the thing:  It's summertime in Georgia.  My kids have been out of school for a week, and time management has become a knife juggler's act.  Daily workouts (that I sooooo need!), regular housecleaning (bleh.), trips to the neighborhood pool (yeah, life's tough...), and spending quality time with my kids (they are the best!) leaves very little time for me.

When I sneak away to the computer, I want to write.  But instead, I read blogs, update my own, Facebook my friends and family, and tweet.  Also, I'm a moderator at, and I have responsibilities that go along with the title that include submitting a monthly newsletter and reviewing member stories and poems.  By the time I actually open my WiP document, the kids are accusing me of being 'boring' again, and would I please come down and hang out with them.

So, clearly something's gotta give.  Although this decision wrings my heart, I've decided to change my blogging goals for the summer.

Instead of using this platform to network, learn, and enjoy the awesome writing community you have all provided me, it will become my writer's journal.

About once a week, I'll update my progress, give voice to my frustrations, and simply validate my writing efforts.  I don't expect anyone to read these posts, especially since I won't be leaving comments on many other blogs.  I will read posts during writing breaks, but my presence will be like the scent of honeysuckle on a spring breeze, sweet but barely perceptible.

I hope my wonderful followers won't drop me, but if some decide to unfollow I'll understand.  So much of blogging is reciprocation; this I know and respect.

I plan to stay connected through the convenience of Android (I love you, new phone!!).  I tweet regularly, something I can do away from my computer.  If we haven't found each other on Twitter, I'm @NicoleDwrites.  I follow back! 

I'm also on Facebook: Nicole Ducleroir.  If we're not friends yet, send me a request pleeease!  I want to know how your writing is going and cheer you on.

If you'd like, leave me your twitter ID and facebook name in the comments, so I can find you.

I will miss regular blogging, but let's face it: what do I need a platform for if I'm not WRITING??  Time to put the horse back in front of the cart.  (Ick, a cliché *shudder*)  Man, can I do this?  I already miss blogging, and I haven't clicked publish yet!  Okay, deep breath.  Here it goes...


Monday, May 23, 2011

Sneaky Red Sock GIVEAWAY Winners!

The winners of The Sneaky Red Sock Giveaway are:

Monica Mansfield @ Storytelling and Me
Linda H. @ Lind-guistics

Whoot!!!!  Each of you have won a signed copy of Ali Murdoch's poetry collection entitled The Sneaky Red Sock.  Congrats!  I'll be in touch via email to gather your mailing 411.

Thanks for playing along, everyone!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sneaky Red Sock GIVEAWAY!

[Don't miss the Giveaway details at the bottom of this post!!]

A couple months ago, my sister's brother-in-law contacted me about a book his colleague wrote titled The Sneaky Red Sock.

Ali Murdoch is the creative mind behind this eclectic collection of poems.  Murdoch's sense of humor permeates everything he pens, including his Amazon Author Central author blurb:

Ali Murdoch is an entrepreneur turned author, who had to rely on the business route when his sporting career was cut tragically short by a lack of any real talent. The father of three very troublesome children he lives on Long Island, New York and does his best to keep control by threatening to recite poems at night unless they go to bed. It even works some of the time!

What I loved about this book:

Murdoch's clever prose reminds me of Shel Silverstein's work.  Like Silverstein, Murdoch crafts poems with a wonderful melodic quality and canny humor.

Every poem illustrates the sharp, witty way Murdoch perceives the world around him.  This book is full of smart plays on words and observant imagery that brought a smile to my face again and again.

The comic drawings by illustrator Simon Goodway were brilliant and heightened the humor of each piece.

The website Murdoch created to promote his book is wonderful!  Check it out here -->

Here's an example I loved from the book:

by Ali Murdoch, The Sneaky Red Sock, page 24

I was given a quiz, which I think I've solved
To explain the difference between Committed and Involved.
I was eating my breakfast, when the analogy fitted,
The hen was involved, but the Pig was committed.

Some Criticisms:

This book is self-published -- which I think is fantastic!!  However, a publisher may have cautioned against a couple things, such as:

The Sneaky Red Sock looks like its target audience is children.  The cover art is bright and cartoon-ish, something I would expect to see shelved in the children's book section.  And, the back cover blurb begins with, Welcome to a world where booby traps are successfully sprung, ghosts frighten teddy bears, and sneaky red socks turn everything in your washer a nice salmon color.  -- All this suggests to me that it is appropriate for children.

And in fact, many of the poems are.  But many aren't.  In the back blurb's second paragraph, Murdoch says, Misbehaving children and even grandparents' rowdy parties are all dissected with a moral scalpel...  -- I think a traditional publisher would have taken greater care to market this book to one intended audience.

Also, a publisher would have used a professional editor who would have found and fixed the mechanical issues throughout the book, starting perhaps with the punctuation typo on the back cover:  This eclectic mix of poems, cartoons and ditties brings you face to face with the US Army's most secretive of weapons, "the Bunny Blaster" and their all new "Think Tank".

Above all else, though, Murdoch's wonderful sense of humor captures your attention and keeps you turning the pages to see what ingenious and entertaining observations of life's absurdities he tackles next.  The Sneaky Red Sock truly has something for every member of the family to enjoy, though adults should pick out those their younger children will most appreciate.

I have THREE signed copies of The Sneaky Red Sock to share with you!  To add your name to the drawing I'll hold on Monday, May 23rd simply leave me a comment on this post!

Please Tweet and FaceBook!  Thanks!!


Friday, May 6, 2011

Action Drives Reaction

As authors, we strive to draw readers alongside our POV character and into the action of the scene. The goal is to so thoroughly engross readers that they forget they're reading words on a page and begin to watch the compelling scene playing out on the movie screens of their minds.

Achieving this goal begins with an author's understanding of one simple concept: Action drives reactions.

Consider this: In real life, if you bring a hammer down on your finger (action), pain will explode in that digit (reaction). You may yelp (reaction), possibly unleash a string of curse words (reaction), maybe throw the hammer down and clutch the hurt finger (reactions).

Now, if this scenario were to play out on a movie screen, you wouldn't hear the actor yelp in pain before you saw the hammer hit his finger. Nor would you see him clutch his finger and then hear him yelp in pain. Actions and reactions must be in the right order for the scene to come across as realistic.

One of the most common mistakes in fiction writing is presenting the reaction before the action. How many times have you read something like the following?

Art Source
Pain exploded in Paul's jaw as Jason's powerful punch connected with his face.

Here, the reaction (pain exploded in Paul's jaw) happens before the action (Jason's powerful punch connected with Paul's face). The sequence of action and reaction is out of order.

To better understand why it is crucial to write actions and reactions in sequential order, it helps to recognize that actions are external and objective, while reactions are internal and subjective responses to that action.

To illustrate this theory, let's hone in on the action from the example above:

Jason's powerful punch connected with Paul's face.

Notice that this action is external, as it occurs outside Paul, the POV character. It is also objective, because any character in the room could have seen it happen. This action is the catalyst for the chain of reactions it sets off, so it must come first. 

The reaction, however, is internal. The pain exploding in Paul's jaw is felt from the inside. None of the characters present except Paul, the POV knows what the punch feels like, in this moment. 

Reactions are also subjective because they are responses to what the POV character perceives, what comes through the filter of his or her awareness. Though his impressions may not match the perceptions of other characters in the scene, they are what motivate his reactions. And the POV character's reactions are the keys to drawing readers inside the POV character's heart and mind, and ultimately into the story, itself. 

It's also important to the authenticity and believability of an action scene that certain reactions happen before others. Instantaneous, knee-jerk reactions logically occur before conscious actions and speech. Continuing with our example, Jason has just punched Paul in the jaw:

The immediate, involuntary reaction is the pain shooting through Paul's jaw. A split second later and in response to that pain, Paul's reflexes fire. Very quickly, though, Paul recovers. His rational mind catches up, and he's ready for conscious action and speech. Here's a revised and expanded scene:

Jason's powerful punch connected with Paul's face.

Pain exploded in Paul's jaw. He shook his head in disbelief. As his vision cleared, he looked up through stringy brown hair and smirked. Raising his dukes, he circled Jason. "That it? That all you got, little man?"

Notice that the action is presented in its own paragraph, separated from the reactions in the new paragraph that follows it. This is also important to the logic and comprehension of the scene. The transient pause in narration at the end of the action paragraph allows the reader to absorb the implications of that action, before going on to experience the POV's reactions.

The sequence of actions and reactions is cyclical. When the POV has fully reacted, he will be spurred to further action (which will go in a new paragraph). This action will initiate reactions by the other characters, which in turn will cause them to act, triggering more reactions by the POV, and so on. The sequence of actions and reactions repeats, until the scene ends.

Writing compelling action scenes is a skill that sharpens over time with practice. Writers new to the craft, though, may find that concentrating too hard on theory hinders their creativity. This is a legitimate concern I once shared. I would suggest writing the first draft with unfettered, creative abandon. Then, use the revision phase to scrutinize drafted scenes, correcting wherever the sequences are out of order and the reaction comes before the action. Doing so will strengthen your current manuscript, while honing your writing skills for fiercer first drafts, in the future.

[This article originally appeared on March 30, 2011 in a newsletter I wrote for]

Thanks for reading!


Monday, May 2, 2011

A-Z Thank Yous and An ANNOUNCEMENT

(Very special announcement at the bottom of this post!)

Is it May already??  I was in a bit of a haze this whole A-Z Blogfest: head down and plugging away.  Then Friday's Royal Wedding had the reality haze feeling more like a fog, and now today's news that Public Enemy #1 is dead has me spinning in pea soup fog.

*waves arms in the air, swishing the fog, clearing her mind*

Thank you's are in order.  Thank you, Jessica Bell, my A-Z partner-in-crime who came up with the idea to write micro-fiction entries prompted by an alphabetical list of emotions, feelings, and states of mind.  I had such a wonderful time coming up with ways to show the prompt word, and each time a commenter guessed the word correctly validated my efforts that day.

So thank you, fellow bloggers, for your visits, for reading my posts, and for playing along in this mad game of "guess what?"  Without your support and encouraging comments, I would have lost steam by "H!"

A special thanks goes out to Arlee Bird for his genius idea for the blogfest, and to his amazing co-hosts. You guys rock:

Jeffrey Beesler's World of the Scribe 
Alex J. Cavanaugh Alex J. Cavanaugh 
Jen Daiker's Unedited 
Candace Ganger's The Misadventures in Candyland 
Karen J Gowen at Coming Down the Mountain 
Talli Roland 
Stephen Tremp's Breakthrough Blogs 

Lastly, I want to thank Elizabeth Mueller for the pretty blog award at the top of this post.  Thanks for helping 
recognize the effort and energy every A-Z participant put into the challenge!

I have a special announcement!

Gina Maxwell has discovered a young writer who at the tender age of 18 shows incredible promise in her craft.  She's penned an essay that Gina shared on her blog today.  Gina asked me if I'd help direct traffic to her blog, so you can enjoy it too.

Please pop over and see what all the buzz is about!  Follow this link to Gina's blog.

Thanks so much, and have a wonderful, SAFE, peaceful day!!