Monday, January 27, 2014

A Taste Of Dialog

I am pleased to say that things are shaping up great for my upcoming blog interview series, Observing & Writing Dialog! I’ll be posting the first interview next Monday (2/3/14) and will continue to share author interviews each Monday for the next few months. So far, I have eight authors lined up to chat with us about dialog…and I’m looking for more!
Are you an author? Are you interested in participating in a written interview for my blog? Send me an e-mail at and let’s chat about scheduling and other details.

At the end of each author interview, I’m asking authors to share a dialog gem from their own writing. To whet your appetite, here’s one of my favorite bits of dialog from Magic Within, Book 2 of my Magic All Around series.

Penny ushered Grizz further into the room. “Can I offer you a cup of coffee or a slice of sourdough bread?” He chewed his whiskers before shaking his head.
“Nope. Can’t stay, much as I’d like to. The thing is, Penny, we need some help. Wife says we need a pet sitter.” Grizz scratched his neck through the beard, his hand almost disappearing into the bristling black mass.
Roanan stood next to Penny, one arm settling around her waist. “What’s this about? You’ve never had any pets.”
Grizz shook his head. “I’m telling you, Roanan, forty-eight years of marriage and I still don’t understand the woman. Crack of dawn, she woke me up to tell me she had a dream. Said we need two goldfish and a pet-sitter for ’em. I sure don’t understand it, but I damn well know better than to question it.”
“Well, it’s no problem for us at all,” Penny said. “I’m more than happy to stop in every day and feed the goldfish.”
“Mighty kind of you, Penny, but that just won’t do. Missus said we need a live-in pet sitter. Said I should offer the job to the young lady.” Grizz met my eyes, and I felt heat rise in my cheeks as everyone turned my way. “Said you could use our car, too, since yours burned up.”
I was starting to get the lay of the land, here. This was a contrived house-sitting gig arranged to help me out. Part of me wanted to leap at the opportunity, but another part of me was embarrassed to accept the generosity.
“That’s, um, such a nice offer. I don’t know anything about taking care of fish, though.” I shrugged, and my cheeks got hotter.
Grizz eyed me steadily. “You seem sharp enough, you’ll pick it up. Missus said she’d write out instructions for you and to come over any time tomorrow. Penny knows the house, she’ll show you around.” He turned away and headed for the door, then turned back. “Don’t turn the heat too high and run me out of diesel, hear? Your dog ain’t got much hair on her. You might want to buy her a sweater if we get another cold snap.”
Grizz opened the front door then turned back again. “Missus said to tell you to expect a passel of company. Said they could crash at our place, too. All of ’em. As long as you’re there, young lady, to oversee things.” Grizz grabbed a handful of his beard and gave it a tug, nodded once at Penny and Roanan, and walked out the door.

I hope you enjoyed this taste of my writing and I hope you'll be back to read a lot more dialog snippets and find out what other authors have to say about Observing & Writing Dialog!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Seeking Authors for Interviews!

I am looking for authors to interview for an Observing & Writing Dialog blog series! Each interview will be featured for a week on my blog during February and March (and beyond, if enough interviewees volunteer).
BACKSTORY: In May, last year, I was interviewed by @KayMcFarland for her series of author interviews focused on the topic of genre. She has a terrific blog at and an amazing collection of interviews. I was inspired by Kristin’s series and decided that, with her narrow focus, she was on to something! I was determined to emulate Kristin but instead got caught up in other projects and quit thinking about it. Then, last week, @tamholland tweeted about a conversation she overheard between a couple at a neighboring table in a restaurant. The conversation managed to surprise both Tamara and I, and it generated a tweet exchange about how much we learn from listening to people talk. I told Tamara about a long ago independent study of dialog that I did in college. We chatted some more about the richness of dialog and the joys of listening to people in conversation and that’s when I remembered Kristin’s interview series! Nervous, but too excited to be reticent, I floated the idea for an interview series to Tamara, and she was enthusiastic, supportive, and encouraging. She even agreed to kick off the Observing & Writing Dialog series with the first interview, scheduled for Monday, February 3rd! 
Are an author? Would you like to participate in this interview series?
Please e-mail me at so that we can discuss scheduling and other details.
Wondering what we’ll be talking about? Here’s a sneak peak at the questions I’ll ask each author.

First, please tell us a bit about what you write and why dialog is important in your work.

Listening is an integral piece of "people watching". Do you "people listen" automatically, or do you make a deliberate effort?

Humans exchange a lot of information paraverbally, that is, through intonation, pacing/rhythm, volume, and enunciation. What paraverbal cues are you most sensitive or tuned into as an author, an observer, and a participant?

Do you enjoy writing dialog? Is there anything about writing dialog that you find challenging?

What have you learned about yourself and your relationships by observing real life & fictional dialog?

Do you have any characters with catchphrases or verbal habits? What are they? How do these personal quirks add depth to your characters?

Do your characters ever interrupt, cross-talk or change the subject? Do you use communication interference in your dialog? Why/Why not?

Please share with us a dialog gem that you've recently overheard or participated in. What do you think makes this dialog interesting?

Please share with us a dialog gem from your own writing. (If published, please share the title & link to purchase site.) What do you think makes this dialog interesting?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

10 Ways To Get Less Done Right Now!

5 Steps To A More Organized Life

10 Secrets From Real-Life Super Moms

Work Smarter & Get More Done

How To Accomplish More With Less

Build Efficiency Into Your Life

3 Exercises To Keep Your Brain Nimble

200 Things You Should Be Doing Every Single Day

You’ve seen these articles, right? They’re nearly ubiquitous. The trend is even hotter at this time of year when the media capitalizes on the notion of New Year’s resolutions.  Some of them even contain great nuggets of inspiration and useful strategies that really do make things healthier, easier, faster or more efficient. And I’m not knocking them. There’s a place for them, especially in a culture like ours which values appearance, accumulation and achievement above contentment, serenity and humble simplicity. 
When I was a kid and Mom was teaching me table manners, grammar and interpersonal skills, I sometimes objected to the lessons.  After all, we were living in a floating shack without plumbing, electricity or even a table, in the middle of nowhere. Why did I need table manners? No, I'm not off topic, stick with me. Mom always explained that she didn’t expect me to use these skills every time I ate, spoke or interacted with someone, but she expected me to master them so that later in life I would have a choice. There would be times, she predicted, when the skills I would choose would be mental toughness, a cocky attitude and an ability to remove the knife from my belt-sheath and snap it open one-handed while keeping my other hand on the throttle of the outboard motor. There would be other times, however, when I would choose to eat, speak and interact with people from other walks of life. There would be times when I would rely upon the skills she was teaching me, to be 
tolerated and even respected. Mom was so right. I’m ever-grateful to her for giving 
me choices!
The same is true, I think, of our cultural fascination with the hare in the ancient story The Tortoise and the Hare. We value the art of busy.  We teach ourselves, and our children, to speed through life. We even try to train the hare to stay focused, organized and efficient. After all, a well-trained hare would certainly have won that fabled race, right? 
The skills and lessons of the hare are valid and useful skills to master but they are not the only skills. We are neglecting the skills and lessons of the tortoise. We are, in general terms and as a whole, not teaching ourselves, or our children, how to go slow.  We are not learning how to relax. To be still. Thus, amongst the multitude of “Get More Done” articles, I’m offering you an alternative.  Here are 10 Tips To Getting Less Done NOW!

1- Stop multi-tasking. Especially when you’re doing something that’s important. Are you talking to a child or loved one? Whatever other stuff you’re doing, stop. Turn away from the computer, turn off the radio, pull the car over…whatever is safe to do in order to focus on the one important thing in this moment.
2- Set aside time to do NOTHING. Ahem, you there. Me? Yes, you. Put down the book/e-reader/smart phone. Just for a few minutes. Try sitting still and not even reading. It's good for you.
3- Say ‘No’ to stuff that doesn’t really matter. Are you detailing your toaster?  Scrubbing your baseboards? Making and sending birthday cards for every human being you’ve ever met? Just Say NO! ;-)
4- Watch the clouds, birds, people, cars, dogs, flowers…
5- Stare at the wall
6- Focus on your breathing.
7- Give yourself a massage.
8- Take a silent retreat. It sounds expensive, time consuming and difficult but it doesn't have to be. Try it for just five minutes. Or, if you have the time, five hours.  Your call. Make it work for you.
9- Take a nap. Take a cue from Jeb in the photo above and Zzzzzzzz. 
10- Delegate. This one is cool. Is there someone in your family or work environment who can lighten your load? Allow them to help you. Really. It’s okay if they don’t always get all the suds off the dishes. I know it’s really hard to do, but you can let it go. If I can let it go (and I do manage sometimes), you can too.

There ya go! So simple. Do less.

I hope you enjoy these tips and feel free to let me know in the comments what works for you!

Please feel free to check out my books on Amazon.