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Reading Books!

This was my journey with books except for the frustration part.

Somewhere around #7 “Rediscovering books” I began to seriously write. Stage plays to begin with…then children’s books….

then full length novels and poetry. And then more stage plays. But always reading…reading…reading.  Non-Stop! 

Books take you away…to far off lands, to adventures which you’d probably never have, and
to meet other people from all walks of life. 

Keep reading, keep writing……remember,

Writing isn’t a calling….it’s a doing! 

 

 

 

(acknowledgement: www.grantsnider.com)

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Conflict, Lighting, Sets……Action!

As a playwright you better find some conflict in your story. Little Women had soft, cozy conflict but make no mistake there was conflict. Romeo and Juliet had glaring conflict represented by a family feud that wrought murder and mayhem. To be successful, you must have antagonists and protagonists in your plot.
CONFLICT: It is a challenge to write conflict with dialogue only. There is no description (like fiction) where you can tell the reader how angry and against something your antagonist is. Granted you have the characters right there in front of you, to tell the story with their body language but the dialogue carries the day and is the difference between weak writing and strong, successful writing.
Using examples from a recent play of mine, I will demonstrate conflict in simple, but successful (to the overall plot of the play) terms. A children’s play but the rules still apply and are no less challenging because it’s a kids’ play. Perhaps even more of a challenge.
Sub-PLOT: The sooner the plot is revealed the better. If you haven’t engaged the audience in the first three minutes, you don’t have a very good plot. 

                    ~~~~~~~

Back in the day when there were truly ‘starving actors’ we started up theatre companies all the time with a couple of platforms and four ‘spots’ that one would use in a shop in the garage at home. This is a cheap ($12. a piece) adaptable, portable light. You can even attach a gel to the cone for a few pennies per gel. Use blues for night and warm colors (amber) for day. Each light has a wire running back to the control desk/booth and while you won’t have a dimmer option, you must be able to turn the light off and on.

When we started our own company, we had to be totally portable as our performance space could be an art gallery, a café, a gymnasium, or school auditorium. Anywhere they would allow us to use their space. All sites had to be vacated when the weekend was over and then loaded back in for the next performance date.

We could light just about any play with four of these clamp-on, shop lights. The purpose of any stage lighting is to light the actors and the set. If you don’t accomplish anything else, you need to make certain this happens. If your stage is in a very small space, it’s not super critical to light the actors brightly. Just be certain they stay in the light, which is where the director’s blocking comes in.

Even if you need to stick to the basics of simple illumination, lighting makes everything feel more professional and helps the audience to better focus on what is going on, on the stage. Theatrical lighting doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Lighting is about making certain that you can see the people on stage and that the moods of the play are represented and amplified.
Clamp lights aren’t the be all and end all. You’ll have to live with the shadows that they cast.
But remember, this is all you can afford now, and you’ll also need to be able to break it down and take the lighting with you.

I still remember the thrill when we could finally afford a couple of Klieg lights.

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Most theatres have a set designer who creates the set based on the director’s vision. But it is important that the playwright sees the set. Where your story takes place. If your set requires two different scenes/sets and you have structured the play around two sets you must think about time and money. Anticipate the cost because you want the director to choose your play to produce. But if the cost of more than one set is too much, your play might never be chosen.
An envelope design works nicely for the need of two locations/sets in one play. The first set in created on the outside fold of an envelope. When the scene changes the ‘flap’ is opened, like a tri-fold (by the stage crew) and a new set/location is used. Set pieces (Furnishings) have to be changed out and this calls for some cleverness on the director’s part.
One play comes to mind that I directed: The Cemetery Club. The main set was a living room of one of the female characters. But I also needed a Jewish cemetery. The four widows went there every month to visit their dead husbands and maintain the gravesite.
So what I designed was a single backdrop (scenery). What you might see out the living room window. Then I furnished the living room with set pieces. Sofa, chairs, coffee table, lamps, etc.
Upstage on a riser I created the cemetery with three graves. I designed starfoam monuments with the Star of David on the downstage side. The women would walk up on the risers and, while gazing at the graves, deliver their monologues. It worked because the actors believed it. Thus the audience believed it.   The magic of theatre!
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Review ~~ Sunday at the Sunflower Inn

5 out of 5 stars   ~~   Book Review

First page, first sentence, the reader meets McCoy and is hooked.  A broke-down, wounded, homeless handsome cowboy. Who can resist?  This new book is part of the “Honey Creek” series. 
   
The other characters in this story are equally empathetic and interesting. Jam, Tucson, Pecos, Pop Sadler, to name just a few. My only criticism (if you can call it that) is I would have liked more paper and ink dedicated to McCoy’s story. 

This is a story of small town, USA; Honey Creek.  Infused with colorful and interesting characters that only Jodi Thomas can serve up. 
The writing is supurb…it is Jodi Thomas after all. 

On Sale: April 26, 2022
Did you miss my Interview with Jodi? 

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews, February: Jennie Goutet
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How Protagonists Engage Readers….or Not

What’s the secret?  Why does one protagonist immediately engage the reader when another is slow to achieve this or never does?  I recently read two novels, back to back, (it sounds like I read sporadically; not true, I have a book in my hand 24/7). 

Anyway, back to my point…..one book (Growing Season by  Melinda Foster) had a single woman, late 30’s, who’s life falls apart.  Long time relationship ends suddenly, and she is found to be redundant at her job of 14 years with the same company. (Most of us can relate to some or all of this.) She is called away to her home town to help family with the business and a small farm.  She was immediately empathetic due to the excellent writing and character development. 

The other book, House on the Harbor by Elizabeth Bromke was not engaging. The four sisters, Kate, Amelia, Megan, and Clara came across as mealy-mouthed and victims. Yep, all four of them. Maybe if the development of the characters had been stronger. Maybe if the author had the reader spend more time with each sister. And the house on the harbor was a non-entity. The house should have been the fifth character.   At first glance, they have  each inherited 1/4 of the house. At first glance….

But this reader didn’t care about any of these women.  I kept speaking to them: “put your big girl panties on and move forward!”  I did finish the book but felt relieved when I had, not satisfied. 

What’s the secret?  Good writing, finely drawn characters, people the reader can relate to.  
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Book 1 in series

 

 

 

 

From Samurai Warrior to Haiku Poetry (Nostalgia #14)

As I swiveled around in my office chair I faced the back wall of my office and stared unseeing at a (manually) typed letter from James Clavell dated June, 1971. Clavell being the author of the classic and world renowned, ‘SHOGUN‘. (for you poor pathetic illiterate readers out there who have never read this classic or heard of James Clavell.)  The letter was a response to my asking him for more information on the word ‘joss’ and how it was used in ancient Japan. He responded with my answer and an invitation for us to sail up through the Strait of Juan De Fuca and the Georgia Strait to Vancouver Island and his home.  WOW! 

‘SHOGUN‘ began my love affair with Samurai Japan and the history of ancient Japan.  The Samurai, a military caste in feudal Japan, began as provincial warriors before rising to power in the 12th century with the beginning of the country’s first military dictatorship, known as the shogunate. They continue to rise to great power, known for their superb fighting skills, their unwavering loyalty, and (oddly)  their poetry.  I became a student of this warrior class for over two decades. Searching out and reading their Haiku and Renku writings. 

I was fascinated by the fact that these fierce, bloodied, bigger-than-life warriors who dedicated their lives to their lord and war could, in turn, write delicate, tender poetry. So delicate you felt as though the paper the poetry was written on would crumble if you held it too tightly. So tender your heart wept at the reading.  

One day; I don’t know which day or what prompted me, I wrote my first Haiku. And as they say, the rest is history.  I have written Haiku for over three decades, published three books of poetry. 

It is a wonderful exercise in brevity and translates over to your other writings. Helping you to cut away the excess, the fluff in your writing. And if you write enough of this poetry, the fluff in your writing will never appear in the first place. 

The Garden

I wander my blooms
the morning sun barely peeks
above the far hills
~~Trisha Sugarek

Samurai Song (Renku)
                                                                                                                                                   
delicate blossom                                                                                                                       
rests in the still gnarled hand                                                                                                                              
bruised petals weep tears                                                       

weary eyes open
tiny cuts, the body bleeds
peace still years away

sun rise breaks the hill
heralds another battle
draw your sword and charge
~~Trisha Sugarek

If you want to try writing some Haiku, click here

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!  November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews, February: Jennie Gautet, April: S. Brian Jones 
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Inspiration Comes in All Forms

  chilren's theatre, children's plays, fairy tales, inspiration, actors You find inspiration in the strangest places.   I was dedicated to writing scripts for the stage.   A few years back, I attended this production of my children’s play, Emma and the Lost Unicorn, outside of Boston .

After the actors had their curtain calls, the Director told them that if they changed out of their costumes and did their assigned tasks back stage, they could ‘have some time with  Trisha’.

So I found myself holding impromptu stage craft classes with these adorable young actors (age 5–18).  I was struck how serious they were about their craft.  Their questions were very sophisticated.  And then it happened……the inspiration to dare to write something completely out of my comfort zone…..a book.

children's theatre, plays for kids, writing, stage plays,

Emma

The  youngest ones begged me to write the stories from my scripts into storybook form.  They wanted to have Emma, Stare, Cheets, and Stanley in their personal libraries.  Six children’s books, a mystery series and three novels later I have found a new outlet for my story fairy tales, dragons, books for children, children's playstelling.  These children, who knew no fear, gave me enough courage to try chapter books, poetry, and becoming a novelist. Experimental at times, risky at times, scary, but so rewarding.
 
I was lucky and had a head start using my stage plays as a story outline as I adapted them to story book form.  But for my true crime series and the novels, I was flying solo….staring at a blank screen, typing that first sentence (that I am always talking about). 

   So step out of your comfort zone and try writing in a different format… it’s very liberating and you might surprise yourself.  I did!
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    
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Book 1 in series

 

 

 

Book Review ~~ The Raffle Baby

 5 out of 5 stars ~~~~ Book Review

 

This is one of those rare books where the reviewer wants to give it ten, no, a hundred, no, two thousand stars!  The writing is stunning. Ruth Talbot has a delicate, beautiful usage of words that we mortal writers can only dream of for ourselves. 

And her words craft a wonderful story. Griping, grim, tragic at times, nostalgic and loving. About friendship, perseverance, crushing hardship, with no real happy ending.  Talbot takes us tramping across this great nation of ours during one of the bleakest times in our history. The Great Depression. I, for one, never imagined that children….yes, you heard me correctly….children were cast out into the world to join the thousands of ‘hoboes‘ who jumped on and off trains and used them as their only transportation. Following work and seasonal harvests in order to not starve to death. 

Beautiful writing….a book you’ll want to take your time with. Mulling over a turn of phrase in the prose if you are a ‘English literature’ buff….or view, in your mind’s eye, the stunning visuals Talbot paints for her readers. 

This appears to be Talbot’s debut novel and we can only hope that she is working on her next one.  
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews, February: Jennie Goutet
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Buckle-bunny

Another pair of cowboy boots
beneath my bed
banishing dreams of
a permanent man
right out of my head

They call me a buckle-bunny
but that sets low the bar
for at the end of the night
I take home the rodeo star

He rides wild horses
and even wilder bulls 
I lap him up by the mouthfuls

Lust curls in my belly
when I spy the champion buckle
his laughter is sweet as honeysuckle

An aging buckle-bunny is what I see
until the next cowboy smiles at me
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With years of practice writing Haiku, Renku (and prose) poetry, I feel as though I have acquired some skill. Because that is what it takes, practice.  The more you do anything the better you become. This my first attempt, ever, at ‘rhyming poetry’.  For two consecutive mornings I had lain in my bed, between that creative space of half-sleep and wakefulness.  The poem swirling around and around until it distilled to this and I had to write it down. (for better or for worse.)

The biggest reason that “rhyming poetry” has fallen out of favor is that it is often forced and unnatural. … To the ear, it will sound more like internal rhyme (but to the eye it will appear as some form of end rhyme). In a good rhyming poem, the reader might not even realize it is rhyming poem (until later).  (Unknown. From the Internet.)      If I accomplished this, dear reader, it was by pure accident. 

The title: A young country-western song writer made up this term and it caught my fancy.  She meant it as a name for the groupies that follow the rodeo and its cowboys.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!  November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews, February: Jennie Gautet
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BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

Conclusion: Interview with Regency Author, Jennie Goutet

Author, Jennie Goutet

Q. What makes a writer great?

JG. There is natural talent, of course. But I think what makes a writer great is being able to handle critique and to incorporate the good critiques into future works – to constantly learn and grow in the craft.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

JG. I get a rough idea and write a few chapters that I love. Then I crash and don’t know what to do next so I call my development editor and we talk through the ideas. I write a really skeletal first draft and hate it. Then read through and think it’s not quite so bad. I get my critique partners to have a look and take their advice. I edit again then send it to the developmental editor in completed form (or at least at 80%). I edit again on the computer then on paper and send it to the line editor. I edit again with her changes and do text to voice to catch repeats or strange wording. Then I read it on my kindle to see it as a reader would before sending it to the proof editor. In the final stages, I send it to early readers who catch all the typos and other mistakes no one else caught. Then it’s ready to go out.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

JG. I’ve lived in a lot of places. I’m curious about human nature. I observe. I’ve suffered from the darker things like grief and depression. I’ve known wild joy and adventure. I think my characters come to life from what I’ve experienced.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

JG. This is a weakness of mine. I do not have down time. I work all day on writing or the other aspects of the business (marketing, social media, production, translation, audio), then make dinner and listen to my teens talk about their day. On the weekend I’m doing ministry stuff. (We serve the teen ministry). I know this is just a phase, though – these teen years – so I’m okay with it. I really enjoy reading in bed at night. And we go away a few times a year, which is great. Sometimes I take a walk by the Seine river, or visit a friend, or go into Paris, but there is no regular downtime.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

JG. I’ve written contemporary romance. A Noble Affair was my first novel and it’s not the finest in terms of literature but it was good practice for a full-length fiction work. And A Sweetheart in Paris is a decent book, I think, but it hasn’t attracted much attention. I’ve written a memoir as well, Stars Upside Down. I think if I were to switch genres I wouldn’t stray far. Georgian or Victorian as opposed to Regency. But I really love what I write.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

A. Well, this won’t be relatable to everyone, but my main life’s lesson is that when I draw my last breath my books won’t matter. Only my relationship to God will. So I need to make sure that success doesn’t go to my head and that failure doesn’t destroy me. I am just God’s kid, and He’ll make sure I have all I need.

Did you miss Part 1 or Part 2?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews, February: Jennie Goutet
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Interview with France based author, Jennie Goutet (part 2)

The summer Alps

Q. What does it feel like to be an American writer, living in France, writing in an English, historic romance genre. (Special challenges? Funny stories?)

JG. I can usually forget about where I live when writing my Regency England books. But it can be tricky when translating the books, especially when the Napoleonic wars are portrayed. My latest book was set in Waterloo and we all know how that turned out for the French. I’ll be putting a disclaimer in the front and the back of the book for that one. (Oui, oui, I love my adopted country). Otherwise, I think it helps for the historical details. I have a much easier time getting to the French chateaux, but they can easily inspire me much in the same way the English ones would were I able to visit them.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

JG. Sometimes I start out with a good idea of the character and who he or she is. At other times, I discover my character as I go. He or she takes control of the story and runs off with it in an unexpected direction.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

This blogger is a big fan!

JG. I had tried writing when I was younger. A handwritten book in the 8th grade, 10 chapters of a book that went nowhere when we were living in Africa, a fantasy book that I mapped out and abandoned. It was finally the freedom of writing for the sake of writing on my blog that allowed me to see how much I enjoyed written expression, and it was my memoir that allowed me to see that I could finish a book. From there I wanted to keep writing books but I had already told my own story. It was time to tell someone else’s.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

JG. It truly depends on the book. I might start with Character: ‘I want to tell the story of a woman who keeps her poise when faced with a series of difficult situations’ (A Fall from Grace); or Situation: ‘I want to tell the story of an arranged marriage where the bride is furious to be sold off and the husband is feeling sheepish about having arranged it’ (His Disinclined Bride); or it could be that I know the character from previous books and tackle Both: ‘I want to put shy, retiring Phoebe with her unrequited love through the fires of Brussels in 1815, which will show her just how strong she is.’ (A Daring Proposal). It just depends.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

JG. I should say yes. That is what a proper writer is supposed to say. But no, not always. Sometimes it’s just a job and I have to get the word count in. Fortunately (for the reader, I suppose) there will always come a point when I am fully invested. But in terms of proportion of time spent getting lost, it’s a little less like first dates / falling in love and more like married for 25 years and still grateful – if that makes sense. Even if a lot of the writing feels like work, I do love it.

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

a trip to Rouen

JG. Right now I’m in the process of launching two season finales. A Daring Proposal is just released in the Memorable Proposals series. This is the one about Waterloo. And The Sport of Matchmaking is set to come out in May. This one is the last of the Clavering Chronicles series, and it’s fun and light in tone. There is a pretty strong contrast to A Daring Proposal, which is more about the deeper emotions. So now it’s time to start something new. I am in the process of thinking about a series. I’m working out the setting, the characters, the covers and the names, but it’s too early in the process to say anything because it might yet change.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

JG. I was a regular and invested blogger for years, but those were always short posts rather than the longer works. I published my memoir at the end of 1813 (Oh my gosh. That is how much of a Regency writer I am – I literally wrote that date instead of the 21st century) in 2013 and I have not looked back since.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

JG. I’m not sure. If we increase bamboo production and start to use that instead, and start to reduce battery-operated small appliances … maybe we’ll keep paper? Unless the e-readers all become solar charged? I do think that the trend will be based more on the needs of the environment rather than readers’ preferences.

Did you miss Part 1 of our interview?
Join us for the conclusion next week. 

Did you miss my REVIEW of this author’s book?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: Life Coach, shaman, author, Jennifer Monahan, November: Susanne O’Leary, December: Mimi Mathews, February: Jennie Goutet
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK