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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Strategy # 6 Homespun Locale: Vacation Worksheet

Build Your Story: 8 Strategies for Writing Innovative Setting with Impact

Family Vacation Journal Worksheet

Another way to approach local flavor is to use your own personal vacations as a starting point. Then from that base material you can adjust fictionally up and down the emotional scale from humor to terror depending on your genre.

Try it out first with a short weekend trip you’ve taken recently.


1.     Make a list of all the events you remember that happened. (ex. flat tire two hours before reaching destination)

2.     a. Make a list of all the people there: family, friends, and strangers.

b. Next to each name put what was the distinguishing characteristic of that person at that time. (ex. lady in snack shack—had wild hair) (brother—told a new joke every morning)

3.     Describe the setting: place, weather, and smells.

4.     Was there then or afterwards an image or repeated phrase that became a code for that vacation? (ex. Remember the phone?)     

5.     What is your specific emotional connection that makes it your……….?

6.     Write out a rough draft of that vacation. Overwrite the sensory details. Then revise once again choosing the main focus.

  For example: “Every time I smell jasmine I remember…

Add taste, hear, touch, and see.

Share: What one incident distinguished your trip?
Read deep, marcy

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Reads 2014

Looking for some fun reading breaks through the holidays? Here’s what I’ve been reading in an assortment of short stories and novellas by both new and multi published authors. Choose from a variety of genres: light hearted to heavy drama, family G rated and a few PG with subject and language. Choose from historical, romance, humor, contemporary, and super heroes. Enjoy!

Where Treetops Glisten, three novellas about the Turner family set in Lafayette, Indiana during the Second World War. Faith, drama, romance, and intrigue. By Cara Putman, Sarah Sundin, and Tricia Goyer.

Lawrence’s Gift, from the Christmases Past short story series. Challis, Idaho 1941 and the large Baxter family prepares to gather for the holidays as the news of Pearl Harbor breaks out. Drama, conflict, tension, and hearts filled with love. By Anne Baxter Campbell.

A Rare Snow, historical Episode 6 from the Roaring Redwoods short story series. A look at the 1920’s “where the Pacific Ocean meets the Redwoods, gangsters meet immigrants, loggers meet movie stars—and the lines between right and wrong are obscured by the trees.” This has grittier content and language based on real life characters and situations. This episode covers Christmas Eve through NewYear's Eve 1927. By Leo Colson

Kathi Macias’ 12 Days of Christmas, assorted contemporary and historical with drama, families, faith, laughter, and commitment. By authors Kathi Macias, Kathy Bruins, Jessica Ferguson, Christine Lindsay, Marcia Lee Laycock, Marcy Weydemuller, Ruth L. Snyder, Sheila Seiler Lagrand, Peggy Blann Phifer, Anne Baxter Campbell, Mishael Austin Witty, and Jeanette Hanscome

The Best Blue Christmas, contemporary short story reminding us that for some Christmas brings up painful family memories. Yet hope beckons amid sorrow, laughter and fellowship. By Tracy Krauss

A Very Merry Superhero Wedding, a prequel contemporary novella to the Adventures of Lewis and Clark series, an anthology of Romantic Short Stories. Tension, action, humor and of course, romance. This novella releases on Christmas Eve. By Kitty Bucholtz

Share: What Christmas story are you reading this year?

                                              Read deep, marcy

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Strategy # 6 Homespun Locale: Connect

Build Your Story: 8 Strategies for Writing Innovative Setting with Impact

Travel Writing

Whether you do your research from the armchair comfort of your home or are able to venture into onsite research, consider doing it as if you are writing a travel piece. (You might consider using portions for blog spots later as well.) Think of what a tourist might want to know. Immediately you have a built in interest connection.  For example, in addition to their feature stories, the magazine Via always has at least four smaller columns that include places to eat, must see locations, bits of history, and often the unexpected. Their readers expect to see these categories.

Look for a local magazine within the geographic habitat area you’re interested in developing.  And/or go online and check for popular columnists. Merrie Destefano shared in an interview that she followed a few New Orleans blogs when she began researching her novel to catch the ‘voice’ of the city. San Francisco had columnist Herb Caen for decades. He became know nationally as the voice of the city. If anyone needs to know what the local population thought important thirty years ago, reading his archived columns would give a good representation.

Choose a city, type in the name and columnists. Then pick the largest paper first and scroll through the column categories. Then go back and pick one of the smaller papers. Compare subject choices.

If you are using a place that is local and familiar, take a day trip from another perspective. If you usually go with friends or family—go alone. Or reverse—if you usually visit some place alone next time travel with a friend or two who have never been there before and see it through their eyes.

Here’s an exercise on finding a travel idea close to home from L. Peat O’Neil in his book Travel Writing.

“Here are the kinds of questions to ask yourself: Is there a nearby college campus with historical buildings? Does the community have a park featuring a nature center or wildlife preserve? Have any famous people lived in the area—writers, artists, performers, political notables? Are their former homes open to visitors? Perhaps there is a nearby shopping district or local crafts or antiques. What is the history of that statue in front of the civic center? Why are all the Italian restaurants in a certain neighborhood? What is it about the river that attracts all the kayakers in spring? Why is that art gallery named after certain family?”

Share: What is the first thing you look for when you visit any new locale? My children were amazed that I would always spot the bookstores immediately. : )

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Strategy # 6 Homespun Locale: Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles

Build Your Story: 8 Strategies for Writing Innovative Setting with Impact

Case Study: Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles by Merrie Destefano

Take a look at this brief excerpt from a local graveyard in New Orleans, Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles, by Merrie Destefano, and apply the sensory questions as before that we did in the last session: Strategy # 5 Honest Sensory Keys

“Dead leaves rustled and tumbled through a narrow courtyard. She was gone.
“Hey,yeah! Angelique. Where are you?” Stone met stone, shadows changed from gray to purple to black.

           "Babysitting 101: Never turn your back on a Newbie. Especially on Day One."

            "There were no sounds except my own footsteps as I stumbled through uncharted darkness; my own heartbeat, as it chugged along like a train on rickety tracks. I began to jog between temple-tombs, moved through what looked like a black-and-white-vampire movie set.”

Note: color and decay.

These three excerpts also contain a measure of suspense and yet the mood, the tone and the sensory details give this story a personal voice and authenticity very distinct from the two previous historical excerpts. However, the difference is not because this is in a different genre. The resonance works because the senses work in sync with your protagonist.

Share: Which detail caught your attention?

Read deep, marcy

Find out more information about Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles and more stories at Merrie’s website:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Strategy # 6 Homespun Locale

Build Your Story: 8 Strategies for Writing Innovative Setting with Impact

“You present your story in terms of things that can be verified by sensory perception. Sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch—these are the common denominators of human experience; these are the evidence that men believe.” Dwight V. Swain

 Introduction Local Influence

No sensory observation is considered complete until the fictional character’s emotional response is included. When eating new foods, or hearing new sounds, the concrete details help the reader recognize the character as more real as he reacts to the senses. Just as word choices need to be specific, so do the sensory details need to be definitive, externally as images and internally as personal reactions.

What are the telltale signs that we’ve moved from one neighborhood to another? What makes the restaurant on one street so much better than the next? We also want to make these sensory observations unique.

When we examine the local flavor of a setting we discover a treasure trove of details in attitude and speech, special foods, ceremonial events, public safety, law enforcement and city hall meetings.

Merrie Destefano set her richly layered urban fantasy in New Orleans. Here’s the first question in her discussion guide.  As you think of your ‘local’ setting consider how you would want readers to answer this question for you. What influence would you want to filter down?

“Discussion Questions:

1. Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles is set in New Orleans, a city rich in culture and cuisine. It’s the historic birthplace of jazz, a center known for voodoo and Mardi Gras, and it’s also a city that suffered greatly as a result of Hurricane Katrina. How did the setting of New Orleans add to this story? How would you describe the voice in which the author tells this tale? What does it add to the overall effect of the book? Discuss.”  

Share: What style voice will you choose for your story?

Read deep, marcy

Stop by and visit Merrie's website at for a full discussion guide and more.   

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