There’s a Bear–Over There!

I grew up in the northwest corner of South Carolina, and my family frequently visited the nearby Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. When I was small, probably about five, we traveled to Cherokee, which is surrounded by mountains and lots of wildlife. During our journey, we decided to pull over to the side of the road for lunch. There was a picnic area   at the top of a steep incline, and we spotted a small black bear rummaging through a trash can.

I thought that was pretty scary, and I didn’t know there’s usually a larger bear around when a cub is present. Everyone stayed at the car except the oldest person in our party– my step-grandfather, and the youngest–my little brother. I was criticized for screaming, but what can you expect from a five-year-old girl?  I think I was  upset partly because     two of our group were risking everything to get a closer look at the creature.

Alaska Bear, Bear, Black Bear

They climbed the hill together, Mr. Tom with his cane, and Johnny with his little boy legs, while the bear continued to hunt for something to eat.  The whole scene terrified me. I later reasoned that Johnny wasn’t old enough to be aware of the danger, and Mr. Tom was experienced enough to not be afraid. It took them awhile to climb up the slope while we all watched in anticipation, and when they were almost to the crest,   the bear forgot all about the trash can and turned toward the two visitors. As he started toward them, Johnny and Mr. Tom decided he wasn’t that interesting after all. They did an about-face and hurried down the hill and back to the car.

My mother laughed for years about how she’d never seen Mr. Tom move so fast, and that Johnny was pretty quick too. And they all love to mention how I  screamed, especially my brothers, but at least I was smart enough to know a dangerous situation when I saw one.

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Show. Don’t Tell

Writing advice I’ve heard for years is, “Show–don’t tell.” I always had an idea of what it means, but I had trouble really grasping the concept. In an effort to gain understanding,     I pretended I was letting someone watch a movie versus telling him about it. Later on, comparing my writing to a movie caused a light bulb to come on over my head. While writing a scene in which the heroine climbs from a boat to a ladder on the side of a large ship, I wrote, “She tripped and nearly fell into the water.” At first I thought this was pretty good,  since I’d added a suspenseful element, but then I imagined watching a movie in which the action stops as the main character tries to move from the boat to the ladder.      A narrator then says, “She tripped and nearly fell into the water.”

Aha! I finally understood that I needed to describe why she tripped and how her feet dangled over the water, and what she did to save herself. We need to tell exactly what happens so the reader can imagine it as if he/she is watching a movie or TV show. Determining how much activity to disclose depends on how important it is to the scene and plot, and also how interesting or unusual or traumatic it is. We should go into more detail concerning what our characters are doing, not only in action scenes, but during conversations.

“Show–don’t tell” is related to the term “fleshing out,” which I’ve become familiar with,   but I was unsure of its exact meaning. I thought it might be making the characters more realistic and believable by telling more about them, and that’s part of it, but it’s also about adding flesh to the story itself. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines it as: Adding more details to something that exists only in a draft or outline form.

Studying an excellent article by Marg McAlister, “How to Flesh Out a Story Without Padding,”  I began to think of my early story draft as a skeleton that needs meat on it.   Just as you would imagine adding flesh, features, and other details to the skeleton, think  of doing the same thing to a story that’s just “bare bones.”

But, according to the article, we need to resist the urge to pad–that is, adding useless words and descriptions just to make the manuscript longer. We could compare padding   to the “fluff” we see on TV sometimes. Our writing needs nutritious food which will give    it muscle–not fat–facts and descriptions which will add to the overall story and let us         in on what the characters are thinking and feeling. Interior monologues help our readers  to be inside the character’s heads–like they’re in the story themselves, in a sense. In describing how a character feels, it helps to ask questions such as:  How do I know        she’s angry?  Or afraid?  Or sad?  What are her tells?

I hope this is helpful to some writers, and I’m sure the article I’ve linked below will benefit your writing in some way. It’s full of good advice, and it’s helped me to under- stand “fleshing out” better. I’m still striving to master the craft of writing, but at least     I’m going in the right direction.

Marg McAlister’s article:

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Camp Forget-Me-Not


How can a girl break a guy’s heart, then hope to be friends?  That’s what Kayla wants to know when she comes face to face with Nick Desanti at Camp Juniper Point. They were best friends three years earlier, but she did a favor for him by letting him go. Or at least she thinks she did. Now she’s not sure.

J.K. Rock has done an amazing job of capturing Kayla’s thoughts and emotions, letting    us into her world at camp. Kayla wants to talk to Nick about all that transpired that last summer they had together, but she thinks he came back to camp to punish her.  During  the years they were apart, he has become an all-star snowboarder, winning Olympic gold and showing up in commercials and on the covers of magazines.  Kayla wants to explain   to him that she didn’t drop him that summer just to become a member of Divas’ Den,     but communication with him is sparse, thanks to Brooke–a YouTube star wannabe–        who hangs around Nick any chance she gets.

And even though Kayla is “in” with the Divas, she’s not quite sure she fits.  She’s tired       of being a follower, and she wants to express herself more. Phone calls and visits from        her divorced parents have caused her life outside of camp to seem uncertain, making     the present even more difficult.

All of the girls think Nick is gorgeous, with his dark hair and hazel eyes, but he has problems of his own. His parents follow his older brother all around to watch him play baseball, practically ignoring Nick. The pressure he feels only complicates his relation- ship with Kayla, and she feels overwhelmed at times as she searches for her true self,     trying to make sense of her future.

Camp Forget-Me-Not is a fun read with thought-provoking scenes almost any teen         can identify with. I highly recommend it.

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Biltmore Estate

Biltmore from wall 001

Since I grew up in the northwest corner of South Carolina, my family traveled to            the beautiful mountains of North Carolina frequently, especially to Asheville, where          the famed Biltmore Estate is located. The first time I visited the castle, built by the Vanderbilts of New York, we parked along the driveway just in front of the entrance, and a tour guide took us through the mansion group by group, enlightening us with facts such as, “This chess set was once used by Napoleon Bonaparte,” and “These  antiques were brought over from Europe after the castle was built.”

Biltmore House closeup 001

On one of my visits with my husband decades later, we parked in a lot about half a mile away from the Biltmore House, hiking to the site. (I believe there’s a shuttle available.) There’s no tour guide now, and the admittance fee is higher, but we also get to see more    of the mansion and estate.  A winding staircase greets the guests, and to the right is my favorite part of the house: The Winter Garden. It’s filled with palm plants which reach toward a glass dome and sunlight. As we move through the house, several large bed- rooms reveal the opulence of the Vanderbilt’s lifestyle with elaborate furniture and silk     wall coverings, and bathrooms with running water.  When the castle was completed           in 1895,  after five years of construction, all of these features were rare. A bowling alley, indoor swimming pool, gardens, and green house all give us an idea of the wealth the Vanderbilts possessed.

Biltmore greenhouse 001

Greenhouse on the Biltmore Estate

There is now a restaurant and gift shop in the former stable area, and a hotel on the property. The grounds are abloom during the spring and summer, with an enormous variety of roses and other flowers. At Christmastime the mansion is all decked out with trees, poinsettias, and wreaths, and a tour at night may include Christmas music sung by   a choir or another singing group. Touring the Biltmore Estate has changed over the years, and it’s still one of my favorite places to visit. I wouldn’t be surprised if most people who go there feel the same way.

Biltmore from a distance 001

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A League of Her Own

A League of Her Own

                        By Karen Rock
                        Genre: Contemporary Romance
                        Age category:  Adult
                        Release Date:  1 December, 2014

He was attractive, talented…and way off limits. 

Heather Gadway may have been a world-class college pitcher and a top university coach,  but she’s a rank amateur when it comes to managing the Falcons, her father’s struggling minor league team. And when it comes to managing her aggravating attraction to Garrett Wolf, their talented new pitcher. It’s going to be difficult enough to make it as the first female manager in the league and prove to her overly critical father she’s worthy. No distractions. No missteps. And certainly no romances with players. Everything stands between them—including their troubled pasts—even as Heather’s world falls apart and Garrett’s the one who’s there to catch her…

My Review:

Award-winning author Karen Rock’s romance, A League of Her Own, gives us a peek into the realm of professional baseball via Heather Gadway, a world-class college pitcher and a top university coach. With her whole existence spinning off the sport, she wonders why her father doesn’t give her an opportunity to work with the Falcons–a Minor League team which has been in their family for three generations.

Heather gets her chance, though not in the way she’d hoped, when her father suffers a heart attack. Taking a leave of absence from her position in California, she heads home   to Holly Springs, North Carolina. Her father is about to sell the team for an unbelievably low price, since it’s been losing money for several years, and it takes some serious negotiating for Heather to convince her father to allow her to manage the team and bring them back to a winning status. Her relationship with him has always been strained, and she’s tired of his “You-could-do-better” attitude.  With a limited time in which to turn the Falcons around, Heather has her work cut out for her, but she must first garner the team’s respect.

When Heather meets Garrett, a new starting pitcher struggling to get back into the game after a bout with alcohol, they both realize a relationship would be a mistake, but they’re undeniably attracted to each other. He thinks dating the owner’s daughter is the last thing he needs, and Heather wonders if Garrett will be an asset or a liability for the Falcons.  Growing up in a foster home was difficult for Garrett, but Heather’s home life wasn’t much better. With a mother addicted to medications, she found herself walking  on eggshells much of the time, and she’s not sure she can trust Garrett concerning his alcoholism.

The author’s knowledge of baseball is obvious as she deftly intertwines the mechanics       of the sport into her story, giving a realistic portrayal of life in a baseball league, as well    as relationships and struggles. I highly recommend this well-crafted romance, especially to those interested in a heartfelt story.


Buy Links:

- Amazon (Kindle)

- Barnes & Noble

- Kobo

- eHarlequin

Karen RockAbout the Author:
Karen Rock is an award-winning YA and adult contemporary romance author. She holds a master’s degree in English and worked as an ELA instructor before becoming a full-time writer. Currently she writes for Harlequin Heartwarming and her first novel for the line, WISH ME TOMORROW, has won the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the 2014 Golden Quill Contest and a finalist in the Published Maggie Awards. The first novel in her co-authored YA series, CAMP BOYFRIEND, has been a finalist in the Booksellers Best and Golden Leaf awards.

You can find and connect with Karen here:
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Garrett’s grumbling teammates filed out of the pre-game meeting, followed by the coaches and Heather’s father. Garrett, however, remained in his seat, watching the lithe young woman as she stood by the door.

At last she turned to him.

“We meet again. Garrett, right?”

He stood and strode to the door. When he stopped, her eyes widened, caution swimming in their depths.

“You mentioned having individual meetings,” he said, keeping his voice even, hiding the irritation shimmering through him. “I thought we’d have ours now.”

She blinked up at him, and her lips moved. Though he strained to hear, he couldn’t make out what she’d said.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

A bright pink suffused her cheeks, and he forced himself not to notice how pretty the color made her.

“I said that I haven’t finished my notes for you yet. I’ll watch you pitch tomorrow. We’ll meet after that.”

He had to give it to her. Soft-spoken or not, she had a direct way about her. He didn’t doubt that she could lead…just not professional baseball players. “That’s what I wanted  to talk to you about. I’m requesting to be released from my contract.  This isn’t the right place for me to advance in my career.”

Her mobile face stilled. “And why would that be?”

“Look, I’ll be blunt.” He tapped his fingers on the sides of his legs. “This team isn’t hustling, and it’ll be a long time before they come around to supporting you. Things will get worse instead of better. I have a limited window of opportunity to advance. Given these factors, my bottom-line pitching won’t look good with a losing team behind me. I’d like to help you, but selfishly, this is my last shot.”

A speculative gleam entered her eyes. “So you’re asking to be released because you think    I can’t help you reach your goals.”

A long breath rushed out of him. She was going to be reasonable. “That’d be great. Thank you.”

She arched an eyebrow. “You’re wrong, and I’ll be as frank with you as you were with me.”

He held his tongue and waited to hear her out.

“I think you’re overvaluing yourself.” She nodded when his mouth dropped open. Guys talked this way to each other. Not women…especially not pretty women…to him.

“Your control isn’t where it should be, and if that’s not addressed, you’ll also be another reason why this team isn’t doing well. But you have potential, and I can help you.”

“Right,” he scoffed. What could a softball pitcher do for him? “No offense, but I need someone with more experience.”

She tapped her chin and angled her head, her eyes flashing up at him. “If I can change your mind about that, will you drop your request and give me your support and a hundred percent effort?”

He held in a laugh. Was she for real? There wasn’t a chance she could change his decision. “What do you have in mind?”

She stepped closer, and her subtle citrus scent curled beneath his nose.

“A contest. If I get more strikes out of twenty pitches than you do, you stay. If you have more, then I’ll release you.”

He stared at her. Processing. She couldn’t be serious. Sure, he had control issues, but he was still better than a college-level player. She was making this easy. But if she was foolish enough to offer him this out, he’d take it.

They eyed each other for a long, tense moment before he jerked his chin at her.

“You’re on.”



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Do I Use a Comma Before “Too” or “Also?”

Something I’ve run into fairly recently is whether or not to put a comma before “too”        or “also.”  I’d never thought about it much, and I probably just used one when it seemed necessary, but I started noticing that some writers use one every time. Perplexed, I found the answer in an old grammar book.

It’s actually quite simple: If the emphasis in the sentence is on the word or words just before “too,” put a comma. Otherwise, leave it out.

Whether or not there is a comma can actually change the meaning of the sentence.          For example:

He likes baseball too.

What does this tell us?  He likes baseball as well as someone else. The emphasis is         on the word “he.”

Note the difference: He likes baseball, too.

In this sentence the emphasis is on the word “baseball,” indicating that he also likes other sports or activities.

I keep it straight by separating the emphasized word from “too” or “also” when it’s at the end of the sentence. If the emphasized word is near the beginning, I don’t use a comma.

Here’s another example of how the meaning of a statement is changed depending on whether or not a comma is used:

He’s going to town also.  (He’s going to town as well as another person.)

He’s going to town, also.  (He’s going to town as well as some other place.)

After reading variations of the use of commas before these two words, I’m glad to find     an easy way to be consistent and get it right every time.

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Vignettes and Petit Fleurs. Stories of Chances and Change

Picture                  Picture

Louise Caiola’s stories in Vignettes and Petit Fleurs are as lovely as the covers of these sister books. The author deals delicately with subjects such as loneliness, change, relationships, and the loss of loved ones, each story with a theme of its own. And while Vignettes focuses more on “tales of choice and change,” and Petit Fleurs concerns “first tries and second chances,” the two intertwine and complement each other.

My favorite story is “Twin” from Petit Fleurs, which deals with dreams fulfilled, but perhaps too good to be true. I felt drawn into the story of Tori and Jenna, two cousins close in age as well as spirit. Keeping in touch even when Jenna moves from New York     to Tampa, Florida, they share their happiness with each other when they both end up   with the men of their dreams. But will it last? The story kept me guessing until the end.

“The Chameleon Dance,” from Vignettes, is about self-discovery and living the lives which are right for us. As little Ileana spins and twirls for approval in New York, so far from her home in South Africa, she never stops to wonder whether or not she wants to  be a prima ballerina–until later in her life. Why is she there? Is it because her parents and others  tell her how graceful and poised she is, or because it’s what she wants?

“Unbridled Hope of Eighteen,” Petit Fleurs, is where past meets future, helping us look      at life in a different light and wonder. When Gwendolyn Sykes takes a bus toward her home in Pennsylvania after a ten-year stint of trying out her acting skills in New York,    she feels discouraged. But when the bus makes a stop, a bubbly, eager eighteen-year-old climbs aboard, reminding Gwendolyn of herself at that age, but a mystery prevails.  This story reminds us that sometimes our goals and dreams are still out there and it’s not too late. We might just need to revisit the familiar to be recharged.

Hearts can’t help but be touched by the depth of Louise Caiola’s stories, and her descrip-   tive language well-expresses the thoughts and feelings of the characters, making both Vignettes and Petit Fleurs enjoyable reads.

Available here:

Petit Fleurs                                 Vignettes

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