Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sunday Musings: April 13 2014

Chris Steeves-Speakman here again and I’m smelling – green!  No, not the colour of money, but that living scent which is fighting its way up and out of the frozen ground. The smell of life. The smell of new beginnings. The smell of Spring.

Can you guess what our Muse Family is musing about today? You got it…

We've talked about humour in our writing. Let's visit one of our senses this week...

How do important…is it to use the sense of smell in writing?


I think it's important to use as many senses as possible, and it's honestly something I'm always reminding myself as I write.  In School of Deaths, there is an ongoing theme of a strawberry smell.  Strawberries are my favorite fruit, so I tied the theme into the novel, and by the end the smell is actually crucial to the plot.  For every reader who claims to prefer movies, I remind them that a movie is purely visual and auditory, no smells, tastes, or touches- so only 40% of our senses actually engaged. 

Smell?  It doesn't really play a large part in my books.  I mention the smells of different kinds of food, the fresh, heady scent of an ocean, the less pleasant odor of a swamp.  That is about the extent of my using this particular sense.

I think smell is extremely important for the environment of the story. For me a place announces itself with it's odors. I have been spending a lot of time in hospitals and they have a distinct odor. Though this has changed over the years you always know when it is time to eat by the aromas. Also there is a medicinal smell. In my first novel, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, Carolyn, the main character tells us how the hallways smell of "fresh paint and floor wax. Combined with the perfume and aftershave worn by everyone, the smell almost suffocates me". By using smell here it puts the reader in that high school hallway. You can't write about anything without the sense of smell. I think it brings immediate awareness of the scene and readers can go back to their own life experiences and gain more meaning through it.

I like to include scent when setting a scene. I believe it adds a lot to the ambience. But I do have to remind myself to include it.


I totally believe in using all the senses in my writing.  When I taught first grade, I had units on using all the senses in their writing.  Now that I’m writing my own stories?  I follow my own advice!

I once, for a scene on burnt hair, actually did burn some to get the correct scent.  I’ve also used real Egyptian incense from Egypt(my sister is married to an Egyptian national and is studying to be an Egyptologist) to get the real feel of what an Egyptian goddess might smell like.  My sister also got me some of the incense that was used in actual mummification process during ancient times.

For my current project, I’ve been hitting Parisian bakeries to not only taste the pastries but to smell them too!

I’m a sucker for experiencing different scents.  I’ve been known to go out of my way to experience certain smells and hope that I can convey that to my readers. 

JAMI GRAY, author

When I worked on my third book in my Urban Fantasy series, smell played an integral part in the story, especially since my main characters were shifters. The challenge for me was to find unique combinations to evoke familiar emotions--chocolate and cinnamon for comfort, burnt plastic for simmering anger.

I'm a firm believer that the more of our senses a writer can weave into their story, the more "real" it will become to our readers, because scents help a reader submerse themselves in a scene.
 "...alkaline scent of stale urine mixed with rancid trash, seasoned with a hint of kerosene drifted from the brown bottles littering the alley."

Anyone else fighting the urge to wrinkle their nose at this point?

Even if your characters don't have an enhanced sense of smell, it will still enhance your scene and give your reader a "scent visual", For example, if you read "the rich, decadence of warm chocolate chip cookies", I bet your next stop is your kitchen or a bakery.

I've heard the "strongest" of our senses is that of smell.  One whiff of a stray arouma can transport us across time and space.  When I smell Ponds Cold Cream I am instantly back in my childhood watching  my mother take off her makeup for the day.  I associate the smell of Ponds and the smell of face powder with her and wish I could give her a hug.  Of course, my mom has been gone for years.

And who, when they smell either cotton candy or cinnamon buns does not think of a carnival, circus,  or a fair?

As powerful as the sense of smell can be, I am afraid I do not use it in my writing nearly as much as I could/should.  I will have to start being more aware of where and when the sense of smell can enrich my stories.

I always use the sense of smell because I find it very evocative myself. Any Scot of a certain age will recognise 'the smell of an SMT bus'. Walking round a transport museum, transports me to the 50s and being agonisingly sick whenever the family travelled anywhere.
The smell of kippers, however, is a happier memory. Combined with woodsmoke and sweet peas it takes me to the large dining-room of a big house my husband and I visited regularly while courting.
I try to have my characters carry their personal scent which their other half will recognise with eyes shut: lavender, lemon, horse muck, tobacco, sandalwood - I write Regency type historical romance. Also, I like to use oddities I've noticed such as the way new cotton garments smell of tobacco or the way one's breath may indicate an illness such as diabetes. Couldn't write without it.

A whiff of Chanel Number Five and I'm a child again. One night, on her way out for the evening, my mother hugged me tight. Whenever I felt lonely, I held my hands over my nose and the scent of her perfume comforted me. The smell of roses remind me of my grandmother. A whiff of tobacco makes me think of my grandfather, rolling his own cigarettes. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. The sense of smell stirs up our memories. I think it's a great tool for writers to use to evoke emotion in our readers.

DAWN KNOX, author

The description or mention of a smell can be an important way of evoking emotions and adding to the vividness of a scene. Used more subtly, smells can hint at something, without being explicit - probably the ultimate 'Show, don't tell.' With the advances in technology and Virtual Reality, I wonder how long it might be before e-books come equipped with built in smell, sound, touch and taste facilities. I can't make up my mind if that will be progress!

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Digital Dalliances: From slush to mush

All my life, I was a writer poised on the precipice before letting go of the Zip Line and slipping from writer into author. Finally, with the encouragement of a dear friend, I “got writing.”

“Romance sells!” They told me. The journey between writer and author is a long cinder trail of mishaps and missteps. While on that uncertain path, I wrote about writing. When I learned something important, I shared it. Later I branched out to favorite and familiar subjects such as nursing home abuse, hospice, and after a search for my birth mother, adoption.

My issues of fraud, longing, humor, and more “natural” issues such as card playing and travel while observing senior citizens combined to jell my Brand.

Daughters of the Sea, (2013) is a romance based on the legends of the South Pacific. Legends make good blurbs describing visual scenes without disorienting the readers.

Daughters of the Sea's legend of the coconut as told over dinner by contemporary hero, Ian Christopher, to contemporary heroine, Laura Cates.

“Oh, you know, the old love conquers all stories.” Ian hunched closer.
            “One told of how the coconut palm came to be. Are you sure you want to hear it? It’s fantasy.”
            “I love fantasy.”
            “Well, okay. It seems long ago when the island was bare of tall trees an eel from the sea fell in love with the Goddess of Earth. They met each day on the shore, to make love. Soon they came to realize they were not suited. She couldn’t live in the sea and he couldn’t survive on land. 
            “One day, as a show of his love, he climbed all the way to the top of her mountain. He was dying and asked her to cut off his head and plant it. ‘From my head will grow a tall tree reaching toward heaven. The tree will bear fruit. Inside the fruit will be a sweet liquid to remind you of the sweet kisses we have shared. The face of the fruit will be my face. Then I will be with you always.’”

In January, Morning After Midnight (2014) family dynamics, one of a shattered white southern family contrasts with our hero’s relatively upwardly mobile black friend in the midst of social unrest. 

Usually titles fall trippingly from my pen, but my most recent work for MuseItUp was bereft of a title. Brainstorming was my only solution. I needed a way to encapsulate the story in a zippy title—something that expresses friendship and mature love. Picking a title is like picking a cover. It’s a form of poetry in imagery and emotion.

This southern story, Morning After Midnight, conjures up visions of magnolias and humidity, conflict and soft speech. Add a difficult family dynamic and you have the essence.

The dysfunction in my families is reversed. Skillet, named after a martyred saint, is from a traditional family: hard-working father and mother, only child, and a pretty good student. His friend is our hero, Aaron. It’s his story. Aaron is from a messed up, convoluted and confusing set of circumstances. The boys’ proximity, as so many were in the South, was shaken asunder once they entered school —separately. The emerging relationship overcomes social stigma during the 1960s on through 1996 when the two young men, one white, one black, emerge into the light of acceptance.

To find a title, I kept thinking of the song, “Walking After Midnight”. The two young men’s world was dangerous for either to walk in the dark, but the music has a poky kind of rhythm I liked. A new age was dawning. “There’s Got to be a Morning After” came to mind. Both young men find their place and their true loves years after many have settled down to boredom. By combining the two images, the book became Morning After Midnight.

Log line:

Unsettled times and dysfunctional families force young lovers to rethink their values and find love between the States.


Two boys, Aaron who is white and Skillet who is black are bonded in a friendship forged in secret in the deep South. Yet it is the white boy, who must adjust and readjust as his family splinters in the changing climate of Integration during the fifties and sixties.

Aaron is hard on himself, but with Skillet's vision he finds a place to rest his weary cautions and return to the happier seven year-old boy he starts out to be when the book opens. Both boys learn what it is to be responsible family men. For Aaron, it's a struggle. Unlike his friend, he has few examples of the man he wants to be.

Julie Eberhart Painter, raised in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, boyhood home of James A Michener, is the author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and the 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee, and sequel, Medium Rare from Daughters of the Sea, e-book and print. Julie’s first paranormal romance.

Morning After Midnight is available from MuseItUp Publishing and other online e-book distributers.
Find Julie at:
Twitter: @JulieEPainter

Julie is a regular blogger on , and feature writer for!issue-14 an online slick. Her flash fiction appears under
Visit Julie’s Web site at for Bewildering Stories, my bio

Blog for The Writers Vineyard, every fourth Monday Link:

Monday, April 7, 2014

Zen Workspace by Jolie Pethtel

To be honest, I spend most of my work time in the sitting cross legged on the couch balancing my laptop on my knees. The living room is kind of the hub of the house, where I can keep an eye on what all the kids are doing and get my work done at the same time. Still, when I get the chance I love to
escape to my sanctuary. Translation: bedroom/office. I have an L shaped desk with attached hutch where I can write in peace. I used to have it in the front room, but my kids kept spinning in the office chair, not caring they were scraping off an entire layer of wood veneer or whatever it is they use to stain desks that pretty expresso color. 

            My workspace area is usually cluttered with binders, notebooks and lots of stuff I cleaned up before taking this picture, especially since I do first drafts in pen. I’ll only use precise v5 pens, preferable purple, because they have wonderful flow and I hate the blobby stops and starts of cheap pens. I have a white board on the wall that I’m determined to use for storyboarding, though I’m basically a pantser rather than a plotter and above that a ghost writer caricature I got done of myself at Indy scream parks last year. 

I collect tarot cards, which are great inspirational tools and right now I have a thing about ravens because feature in a story I’m working on, so I’m collecting those too. The battery operated flameless candles set a zen mood without the risk of my kids burning down the house. I used to have a newton’s cradle, but my little weapons of mass destruction tangled it up in knots. It’s really hard to get into the flow of writing with so many distractions, particularly the children constantly yelling for mom to handle this or that. 

Truthfully, I get most of my work done late at night after they’re all asleep. Given my husband works the night shift, we both tend to keep vampire hours and sleep while the kids are at school. Now that my youngest is in Kindergarten I’m finding it much easier to get things done with my current system. I could work while they’re at school and sleep when they do, but I guess I’m nocturnal at heart.

Jolie Pethtel, Author of the Jezebel Jinx Mystery Series