Posted in adventure, Craft of writing, Debut Novel, fiction, Historical Fiction, Travel Writing, Women traveling, Women's Fiction

The Gold Standard of Book Reviews

I’m thrilled to share with you the book review I received from Kirkus Reviews just last week. Kirkus Reviews are the gold standard for anonymous, fair, unbiased book reviews. Many librarians use their reviews to determine which books they will purchase and shelve. See a partial review of Song of Herself, my debut novel.

… Wiley-Jones packs her narrative with a plethora of captivating themes and images that expose Fiona and readers to India’s cultures, religions, and styles (Women “wrapped their silhouettes with sarees in every color from ruby red to sapphire blue, and marigold to lemon yellow”) as well as the building Indian resentment toward British imperialism. Then there is the chaos of Calcutta, which the author describes in vivid detail, capturing the city’s history, topography, sounds, smells, and foods. Fiona is a complex character who repeatedly turns to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass for inspiration and guidance in her search for her own center. …

… An engaging period drama overflowing with historical tidbits.

Consider buying a copy for a Christmas gift of the book, Song of Herself !

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1639885501

Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BDK7Q54J/

Recently my friend Marge wrote me,

“I just finished your book and loved it. It was a page turner! I loved the character development and learned so much. All your hard work paid off! Thank you for the adventure. I loved the ending!!”

If you have read the book, please leave a short review of two or three sentences on Amazon. 

Posted in Craft of writing, Description, Details in Writing, Editing & Revision, Pacing, Travel Writing

Description, Detail, and Pacing

Research that Serves the Story

In my last post, I illustrated three places in my recent novel, Song of Herself, where research served the story well. Without it, there would not have been sufficient particulars to give credibility to the characters.

As writers, we must search for and offer just enough details to render the character believable, but not so much that it bogs down the pace of the story. That’s a fine line.

Four friends have commented on that fine line and how my story achieved that for them as readers.  Here are their words.

Rhonda has taken years to craft this story and the work shows. One of the best books that I’ve read. The image of “monkeys swinging from thought…” sticks with me the most. (George H.)

You captured me with including wonderful information about things outside my world. The vocabulary of the ship and the special “horse words” are a bonus, but not ones that get in the way. (Jane W.)

Calcutta, I was there fifty years ago. You nailed it. The story flowed—made it easy to read. (Bruce B.)

The horses, you got it just right, but not too much. (Lenell D. )

Tips for Writers

  1. As writers, we must remember that readers want a fast-paced story with specifics that tell the story without slowing it down. Two to three targeted details usually get the job done.
  2. Presenting them in the context of an appropriate environment helps, as well. To find how much time is spent in a scene and then match it to how the reader experiences the story is critical. This is called pacing.
  3. Writers develop the skill of pacing over time from experience and feedback by beta-readers or writing group members helps.

If you haven’t already ordered my book, Song of Herself, see below

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1639885501

Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BDK7Q54J/

If you read the book, please leave a short review of two or three sentences on Amazon, what you liked, what you found intriguing, or what you discovered about yourself in reading the book. Thanks, so much!!!

Posted in adventure, Craft of writing, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction, Horses, Research for Fiction Writers, Women's Fiction

Research Enhances the Story

Do you ever wonder if research is done before the writing starts? Or if it’s done as the author is writing? And how does the research change or enhance the story?

For me, I found I needed to conduct more research than first realized. I discovered along the way, how many details were required to satisfy my reading audience. So I had to stop and dig for info, dates, and details. In the process, I learned that history was often on the side of the story.

The First Example: British Indian Military’s use of Polo for Cavalry Training

As I researched the game of polo, I came to know that the British Indian military utilized the game of polo to train and prepare their cavalrymen. The agility of horse and rider working in tandem and moves atop a horse were just the right skills for warfare. In addition, building a strong relationship between horse and rider was equally important.

The Second Example: The Garment, Salwar Kameez, Worn by both Men and Women

The combined garment consists of the trousers as the “salwar” and the overshirt as the “kameez.” I thought it was worn only by men, but research illustrated the outfit as fitting both men and women. This made it an androgynous attire that fit Fiona’s work life and her preference for comfortable clothes.

In addition, a salwar kameez is made of cotton or linen fabric that both shades and therefore cools one, while simultaneously allowing the breeze through the open weave of the fabric. It serves as a symbol of a paradox, a “both/and” of allowing air in while keeping the sun out. (Yes, today, we know better, but in 1906 they did not.)

Third Example: The 1905 partition of West Bengal

As I did a history dive, the 1905 partition of West Bengal reared its head. The fallout that continued into 1906, the date in which my story happened, created much unrest and many factions that each wanted to respond differently.

In the midst of this civil unrest I anticipated that the Society of Religious Friends or Quakers would be involved. In this accompanying research I learned that indeed Quakers were split on the issue of how much they should get involved.

Fun Writing & Fun Reading

With those three examples of research that served my story, I let my imagination loose to fill in some unknown details. All the more fun in writing fiction.

I hope you will find Song of Herself as much fun to read as I had writing it.

If you haven’t read the book, please choose your reading preference and order the book in one of two ways.

Order Here

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1639885501

Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BDK7Q54J/

If you read the book, please leave a short review of two or three sentences on Amazon, what you liked, what you found intriguing, or what you discovered about yourself in reading the book. Thanks, so much!!!

 

Posted in Craft of writing, Editing & Revision, fiction, Revision, Writing exercises

Three Elements for Power-packed First Sentences

INTRODUCTION: Writers continue to learn the craft no matter where they are in their writing development. Recently, I read in the January 2022 issue of The Writer magazine an article by Alison Acheson, “In The Beginning: Three elements that create a strong opening sentence,” pages 26-29. First sentences draw the reader in and give them a sense of character, setting, and emotion. They carry a lot of weight to gain your readers interest and trust in your writing. The author suggests that there are three elements to carry that responsibility of reeling in the reader. Here is my take on reading her article. I hope you will reader her article.

Three Elements in First Sentences

CHARACTER: Readers want to have a sense of the main character(s). We may not know their names, but we know something about them that will show up again or throughout the novel.

SETTING: The first sentence will offer a sense of place, maybe a location, time in history, or an event.

EMOTION: This may be indirect or implied by the setting or action or event. We likely won’t be told in the first sentence what the emotion is, but the writer will hint at it. We will get a sense of it.

EXAMPLE

I’ll offer an example from Ernest Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms. I’ll give you the first sentence then I’ll dissect it to learn what Hemingway accomplished in using those three elements. Your take on it maybe somewhat different than mine, but that’s okay.

HEMINGWAY in Farewell to Arms. “In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountain.”

CHARACTER: The word, “we,” implies two or more people. The rest of the sentence tells us that they live together in a house. My assumption before reading the book would be that it is a couple, which it is.

SETTING: “In the late summer of that year,” tells me it is about a point in time that we will learn more about later. But it happens in a season that is waning, which gives me the feeling that something is in decline, about to hibernate, or die.

The phrase, “a house in a village,” makes me think of a remote location, perhaps isolated.

The prepositional phrase, “across the river and plain,” again gives me the feeling of being in a valley far from the big picture, or where the action occurs.

Finally, the last expression, “to the mountain,” tells me they are looking to what is or might be happening on that mountain. Or perhaps it is just a goal, a wish, or even an illusion.

EMOTION: The setting has carried a lot of metaphorical and emotional weight of distance, foreboding, remoteness. A moment in time that might entail a connection, an affair, an event that does not bode well.

Summary

As you can see, Hemingway’s sentence deftly implies a decision by his main character’s to give up his arms to fight in World War I. The relationship between he and his lover is waning because they are looking at what they need and want, which is not each other.

What’s next in the coming weeks?

Look next week for another example taken from a narrative nonfiction classic. The next week another one from a short story; and finally the last week the example from my own novel, Song of Herself, to be published next year (soon I hope).

What about you?

Does this help you think about the first sentence in your story, novel or narrative nonfiction? Examine your first sentence and tell us what you find.