Monday, August 31, 2009

Make Your Writing Readable

The first rule of writing might be "show don't tell" but the second is surely "use active verbs." Almost every book I own on writing stresses the use of active voice over passive. Read on to find out the difference.

Verbs have two voices, either active or passive. When you use active voice, the subject performs the action and verb expresses the action. For example - Gail opened the book. The subject is Gail, the verb is opened and the object is book.

When you use passive voice, the subject becomes the passive recipient of the action. For example - The book was opened by Gail. The passive voice will have a "double verb" - a form of the verb "to be" and the past participle of another verb, often ending in "ed" as in "was opened." Generic verbs such as - is, are, were, was, be, being, been, be, had and have - don't convey much and passive voice can make a sentence confusing. Active voice is short, direct and easier to understand.

Sometimes it's okay to use passive voice such as when the reader doesn't need to know who performed the action. Example - The building was erected hundreds of years ago. The doer of the action is unknown or unimportant.

If you look for the forms of "to be", you can see where you are using passive voice. Microsoft Word 2003 provides an easy way to check for readability and passive voice. Just go to the Tools menu and click Options, then click the Spelling & Grammar tab. Select the box for Check grammar with spelling. Also select the Show readability statistics box. Click OK. Highlight the document you want to check. Click the abc icon on the toolbar, hit F7 or go to Tools and click Spelling and Grammar. Word will check your highlighted document, and then display information about the reading level.You will get a box that displays counts for words, characters, paragraphs, and sentences. It will also show averages for sentences per paragraph, words per sentence and characters per word. Under the readability section, there are three useful statistics. First listed is the percentage of passive sentences - the closer to zero you score the better. Next is the Flesch Reading Ease score, which is rated on a 100-point scale. The higher your score, the easier it is to read your writing. Last is the Flesch-Kincaid Grade level. It rates on a US school grade level. If you score a 7, then a student in the 7th grade will understand your writing.

This is only a tool and there is so much more that goes into good writing. But it may provide some useful information that will help you improve what you've written.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

The Accidental Sorcerer - Rogue Agent: Book One by K E Mills

The Accidental Sorcerer - Rogue Agent: Book One is the first of a whimsical new trilogy. Karen Miller, writing as K.E. Mills, begins this fantasy in a light amusing tone that seems suitable for young adults. But gradually the plot thickens, the atmosphere darkens, the hero finds himself in some serious trouble and the torture scenes may be more suitable for older readers. The characters are colorful, including a feminist, a talking bird, a butterfly keeper and of course an evil villain. It is a world that is magical, yet believable and great fun to visit.

Gerald Dunwoody is a third grade wizard, a civil servant who inspects staff production at factories. Something goes amiss one day and an unfortunate explosion is blamed on Gerald. Now he's out of job with no hope of finding another. The small principality of New Ottosland needs a wizard immediately and Gerald feels lucky to get a position as royal wizard to King Lional. But things are amiss in the kingdom. Princess Melissande is acting as the Prime Minister, Prince Rupert is a dim-wit who collects butterflies and the king turns out to be a dangerous egomaniac who wants to expand his kingdom. He sees Gerald turn a cat into a lion and now he orders him to make a dragon, which is illegal. The king will use whatever force he can to make Gerald bend to his will. Gerald resists but finds he is no match for a man who is much more than a king.

Mills has built an interesting world, magical but with some modern technology. Some of the characters are clichés but they're memorable and great fun. The dialogue is full of satire and wit. There's intrigue, conflict and an exciting finale. It's an entertaining read that sets things up nicely for book two - Witches Incorporated.

Publisher: Orbit (January 1, 2009)

ISBN: 978-0-316-03542-2

Mass Market Paperback: 560 Pages

Price: $7.99

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow by M.J. Claire

Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow, written by M.J. Claire, is the first in an engaging new fantasy series for young adults. Realistic themes of family, love and animal cruelty run throughout this tale of personal growth and magical adventure.

It's Halloween night and Kelly Black is walking home. She takes a route that cuts through a deserted park. Distracted by thoughts of her parents divorce she's startled by a strange noise and is relieved to see it's only a black cat. Kelly loves animals and plans to be a veterinarian. She attempts to pick up the cat but it claws the back of her hand and runs off. The park is full of ominous shadows and eerie noises that frighten Kelly. She takes off running, falls and passes out. When she wakes up in her bedroom, she assumes she was dreaming but the scratches on her hand tell another story. Badly frightened, Kelly goes back to sleep. When she wakes up again she's back in the park. The black cat appears but this time it speaks to her. Fagan is an animelf, one of an ancient elfin people who have the ability to take animal form. He reveals startling news about her true heritage and her evil-doing dad. It's time for Kelly to confront her destiny and right the wrongs committed by her father.

The author has created a well-drawn world with a magical yet believable culture and three-dimensional characters. The heroes are compelling and likeable and there are numerous quirky characters such as shape-shifting elves and mountain dwelling trolls. Although Kelly is a college student and there is a hint of a budding romance, her dialogue and actions make her appear younger. Could just be me, the young people I know are very mature for their age. I would have liked to see more about Kelly's mother since she figures prominently in the story line but I'm assuming she will appear in the next book. Intriguing conflicts and a quick pace will keep young readers engrossed. It is a promising beginning to a new series.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Publisher: March Books;

ISBN: 9781935367000

Publication Date - 8/1/09

Paperback: Pages 148

Price: $12.95

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Monday, August 24, 2009

De Marco Empire by J Lou McCartney

De Marco Empire by J Lou McCartney is a gripping who-dunnit that immediately immerses the reader in another world. It is an intricately plotted tale full of deceit, crime, suspense and romance, a story readers can sink their teeth into. Fans of the Sopranos will love this story.

In the prologue, we learn that Katie de Marco is on trial for the murder of her husband, Antonio, who was killed on their wedding night. Her lawyer is Matt Carmichael, an ex-boyfriend. Matt is determined to prove her innocence but all the evidence points to her.

The story begins five years earlier and we learn the events that led up to this tragic circumstance. On Lucy Carmichael's twentieth birthday and she her best friend Katie Saunders are out for a night of fun. They try to get in to a new London hot spot, the exclusive Club La Pregheira. Caught without tickets they pretend to apply for jobs as croupiers and end up being hired as waitresses.

Two rich and powerful brothers, Antonio and Gianni de Marco, own the club. Antonio is engaged to Sasha Breschnevsky, a beautiful blonde Russian. But when he meets Katie he falls for her and drops Sasha. Katie's boyfriend is Lucy's brother, Matt who is warned to stay away from her. And so Katie and Antonio become a romantic couple. Right from the beginning, they have problems. Sasha is angry at being dumped and the de Marco family has some bad history. They have enemies in Italy and they angered the Irish mobs as well but Katie is blind to this dark side of the de Marcos.

Antonio has many enemies. Any one of them might have killed him and framed Katie. The mystery kept me guessing. Several times, I thought I knew the identity of the killer but I was proven wrong. McCartney is skilled at bringing her characters to life but she has a habit of head hopping that is sometimes confusing. Shifting the point of view to different characters in the middle of a scene is something only the most experienced writers can pull off. Despite some flaws in technique, this is an outstanding first novel with an attention-grabbing plot and realistic characters, a page-turner that would make a great movie. I look forward to reading more from this new author.

Publisher: Vanguard Press; 1st edition (May 27, 2008)

ISBN: 978-1843864394

Paperback: 346 Pages

Price: $18.07

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Enclave by Kit Reed

"Enclave," Kit Reed's gripping satire about children confined on a deserted island is sure to draw comparisons to "The Lord of the Flies." She explores the classic themes of order versus chaos, how the survival of a community depends on the morality of its individuals and the relationships between youngsters and adults.

Sarge Whitmore, an idealistic ex-Marine, renovates an old Benedictine monastery set on a sheer cliff on an isolated island. He turns it into a school and recruits the children of mega-wealthy parents by using the threat of war. He claims Mount Clothos will be a safe haven for the children. The rich and famous see it as a way to get rid of their troubled and rebellious offspring while Sarge plans to create a perfect military society with these rejected kids and a staff of misfits - and make millions while doing it. the kids are cut off from everything in their former lives. Sarge shows them films of wars and disasters to make them think he's protecting them from Armageddon. But disaster strikes in their impeneterable fortress. An ill stranger appears from nowhere, infection spreads and the only link to the outside world is broken.

This novel is part psychological thriller, part mystery and part dystopian science fiction. The carefully crafted plot, the use of internal dialogue and the multiple points of view to narrate engage the reader immediately. Reed portrays teenage angst perfectly. She gets inside her characters and their emotions ring true. Her characters may be flawed and immoral but they are fascinating, believable and heroic in their own way. It's a brilliant thought provoking tale and highly recommended.

Publisher: Tor Books; 1 edition (February 3, 2009)

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2161-9

Hardcover: 368 Pages

Price: $29.95

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo

"Blonde Roots" by Bernardine Evaristo is a provocative and powerful alternate history that asks the question - what if Europeans had been enslaved by Africans? She satirizes preconceived ideas of race and culture by turning history inside out and upside down. The title gives a nod to "Roots" by Alex Haley and references to his book appear in hers. The story is narrated in three parts, the first and third by a young English slave girl and the middle by her African master, who attempts to justify his inhuman behavior.

Doris Scagglethorpe, an eleven year-old blonde English girl, is kidnapped by slave traders while playing hide-and-seek with her sisters. She's transported on a slave ship to the United Kingdom of Great Ambossa, part of the continent of Aphrika. Her new owner, Chief Kaga Konata Katamba renames her Omorenomwara and brands her with his initials KKK. Omo runs away, is captured again, and tries a second escape, always dreaming of finding her family and returning home to England.

Evaristo weaves parody and humor throughout this poignant story. Her premise brings to mind the movie "White Man's Burden," starring John Travolta and Harry Belafonte. It's a contemporary role reversal film, but doesn't depict the slave trade. Evaristo focuses new attention on a period of history that was horrifyingly real by inverting events and placing them in a modern time frame. Stereotypes abound but the characterization is so good that readers will become invested in them. Readers may find the revelations difficult to read in this thought-provoking story that challenges our perceptions of race. It makes a powerful statement about humanity and the way people treat each other.

Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; 1 edition (January 22, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1-59448-863-4
Hardcover: 288 Pages
Price: $24.95

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Write Tight by William Brohaugh

Here's a new addition to my Writer's Bookshelf.

"Write Tight" - Say Exactly What You Mean with Precision and Power."

William Brohaugh's book is an excellent choice for anyone who is interested in improving the quality of his or her writing. I bought it on the advice of a critique partner and it has become one of my most utilized references on writing.

"The Elements of Style" by William Strunk Jr advises: "Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise." Brohaugh's book tells you exactly how to do it. Concise writing does not mean use all short sentences. It does mean that you should make every word count. Be clear. If your readers can't figure out what you're saying they may decide it's not worth the effort to continue.

"Write Tight" addresses redundancy and overwriting. Readers are given instruction on how to create better sentences and trim the fat - all those unnecessary words. The tips are invaluable. Trash empty modifiers such as "very," "really," "usually," "generally," "basically" and "actually." Use a single word to convey a phrase. "The writer with ambition" becomes "The ambitious writer." Lose empty transitions such as "and," "however," "well," "so." Eliminate the "deadwould." Don't be pretentious. Overkill is wordy, irritating and boring. Avoid the cliché and standardized phrases. Advice, techniques, specific strategies, exercises and tests help you check your own writing. Make your writing more effective. "Write Tight" is a must have for writers of all genres.


Foreword: Write Tight or Else by Lawrence Block
Introduction: A Tight Fit Into Today's World
The Four Levels of Wordiness and How to Tackle Them
Sixteen Types of Wordiness and How to Trim Them
Prewriting Tight
Testing Your Writing for Flab
The Danger Signs of Wordiness
Exercises for Developing Your Awareness of Concision
Reducing the Mental Length of Your Manuscript
Nonverbal Streamlining
How Tight is too Tight
Putting it all Together: Write Light
Tips for Trimming During Manuscript Revision
Shave and a Haircut and a Few Bits
Bibliography, sources and an appendix of redundant phrases.

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc.; 1 edition (September 1, 2007)
ISBN: 978-1402210518
Paperback: 240 Pages
Price: $14.95

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Saint and the Fasting Girl by Anna Richenda

"The Saint and the Fasting Girl" by Anna Richenda took me by surprise. It's historical fiction, a genre I don't normally read, but the story and the strength of the writing hooked me immediately. I could not put it down. I'm so glad Anna gave me the opportunity to read her stunning novel.

The story is set in the dark and violent Middle Ages during the reign of King Henry VIII. Sister Georgia is one of a group of mystical nuns residing in the Priory of Saint Isela in Yorkshire, England. She is in possession of a stone amulet, a relic of Saint Isela's that brings about visions to guide her. One such vision moves her to protect an unborn child, who she believes will play a part in Saint Isela's prophesied return. While the town burns at the hands of the King's henchman, Horley Romsfeld, bastard son of an earl, Georgia braves the flames to bring the mother and unborn child to sanctuary. The baby is christened and water spouts from the ground convincing the soldiers they are witnessing a miracle. They leave but the Priory is not out of danger. The archbishop of London, Philip SeVerde, is unhappy with the attention the nunnery is attracting. He destroys the Priory but not the faith and perseverance of the sisters. Georgia endures beatings and unbearable hardship to ensure the survival of the nuns and the fulfillment of Saint Isela's promise.

Although Richenda's story is fiction, her portrayal of the medieval time period is spot on. She captures the soul, spirit and social conditions with excellent period detail. The atmosphere is palpable. Readers will feel the heat of the flames and smell the stench of the living conditions. The plot is exciting, filled with drama, action and unexpected twists. The characters are vivid. Georgia is a strong heroine, although not always sympathetic as she takes some foolish risks. The men are truly villains in the worst sense of the word. Despite the religious setting, the book is not overburdened with religious doctrine and beliefs. The story is entertaining. I highly recommend you pick up a copy.

Visit the author's website at:

Publisher: iUniverse (June 8, 2005)

ISBN: 978-1440132414

Paperback: 344 Pages

Price: $19.95

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Monday, August 10, 2009

A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi

I want to thank Preetham Grandhi for sending me a copy of his book to review. A Circle of Souls was a great read! My review as posted on EzineArticles follows:

"A Circle of Souls" by Preetham Grandhi is a terrific debut - a gripping tale that gives voice to every parent's worst nightmare. The author delivers the goods with an intelligently plotted psychological thriller that contains elements of reincarnation and Eastern mysticism. He combines a crime narrative, with psychic phenomenon and spiritual awakening and succeeds on all counts.

In Newbury, Connecticut, ten year-old Janet and her friend Melissa are on the school bus headed for home. Janet gets off first and takes a longer route home from the bus stop. When she passes an old boathouse, she hears a noise and goes inside to investigate. Janet is brutally murdered and Leia Bines, an FBI agent working for CAC, Crimes Against Children, is called in on the case.

Meanwhile, Dr. Peter Gram, a child psychiatry fellow at Newbury General and Pediatric Hospital is on call when Naya Hastings is brought in. Seven year-old Naya had a dream that she was following a flock of birds. She walked in her sleep and her adoptive parents found her as she was about to jump off the balcony. Peter takes a personal interest in her case and Naya shares a drawing with him depicting a young blonde girl lying near a large rock. When Peter recognizes the rock and goes to the location, he's immediately handcuffed. Is it possible that Naya has envisioned the exact spot where Janet was found?

Short chapters and shifting viewpoints keep the momentum brisk and the entertainment level high. Grandhi paints a realistic picture of an appalling murder and peppers his prose with police procedures and forensic details that are accurate and real. Details about Indian culture and beliefs add depth. The multi-cultural characters are memorable and the author skillfully evokes their emotions. Forget about sleep - this suspenseful page-turning thriller will keep you reading far into the night.

Preetham Grandhi, MD, practices child and adolescent psychiatry.

His website is -

Publisher: Cedar Fort; 1 edition (June 15, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1599552354
Paperback: 352 Pages
Price: $15.99

Gail Pruszkowski reviews for "Romantic Times BOOKreviews" magazine and her work has been published in the "Cup of Comfort" Anthologies.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

The Devil's Queen: A Novel of Catherine De Medici by Jeanne Kalogridis

"The Devil's Queen: A Novel of Catherine de Medici" is the first book I have read by Jeanne Kalogridis. As a rule, I do not normally read historical fiction. My usual fare is science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, urban fantasy, thrillers and psychological suspense. I do read "The Count Saint-Germain" series by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Her books contain an abundance of historical detail that brings ancient eras to life. Of course, the hero is a four thousand year-old vampire. The heroine in "The Devil's Queen" is a real person. But her story is so fascinating it had me totally engrossed.

Catherine was a pampered child who entered an arranged marriage with Henry, the heir to the French throne. They were both fourteen years old at the time. Although Catherine loved and supported her husband, who became King Henry II, he took a mistress, the beautiful Diane de Poitiers. Catherine turned to sorcery to win her spouse's love and enhance her fertility so she could bear heirs to the throne. She went to Cosimio Ruggieri, an astrologer and medieval psychic. He persuaded her to play a part in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of French Protestants to insure her children would inherit what was rightfully theirs.

Kalogridis' novel is well researched and highly entertaining. She casts a favorable light on Catherine who is usually depicted as a devil and her prose brought Catherine de Medici to life for me. The betrayals, political intrigue and vivid descriptions of the Renaissance French court were all fascinating. And as a reader who enjoys the supernatural I was especially interested in Catherine's dabbling in the occult. Having enjoyed the book I intend to look for the authors previous books, "I, Mona Lisa" and "The Borgia Bride." Future books by the author will definitely be on my "to be read" list. Historical fiction has moved up a notch on my favorite genre list.

Publisher: St. Martin's Press (July 21, 2009)

ISBN: 978-0312368432

Hardcover: 480 Pages

Price: $25.99

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

EzineArticles -100 Articles in 100 Days Marathon Challenge

EzineArticles -100 Articles in 100 Days Marathon Challenge - For More Traffic - Prospects - Publicity - Profits

As I reported previously I completed the EzineArticle Challenge with 118 articles submitted and approved. It gave me a real feeling of accomplishment which was prize enough but when I came home from the beach I found another prize waiting for me. The limited edition mug, note pads, pen and mouse pad are pictured above. Thank you Chris Knight and EzineArticles.

On the back of the mug is printed #HAHD.
The meaning is:

The # sign before the HAHD is a hash tag - to follow along in Twitter.

People ask "why write for EzineArticles?"
The answer is simple. It is the #1 Article Directory on the internet and it receives over 15 million unique visitors a month!

I've already started submitting for the next challenge and look forward to my next 100 articles for


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rick and Bubba's Guide to the Almost Nearly Perfect Marriage by Rick Burgess and Bill "Bubba" Bussey

One week ago my husband and I were packing for a vacation at the beach. I have so many books on my "to be read" list I was having trouble deciding which ones to bring. It turned out to be an eclectic mix - science fiction, paranormal romance, urban fantasy and "Rick and Bubba's Guide to the Almost Nearly Perfect Marriage." My first day soaking up the rays I picked up the Guide and I could not put it down until I was done. This was my first exposure to the self-proclaimed “sexiest fat men in America” but it will not be the last.

Rick Burgess and Bill "Bubba" Bussey are cohosts of a syndicated comedy radio program in Birmingham, Alabama and they are the authors of several books. They often talk about their Christian faith and beliefs on the show and in their books. This book is a humorous look at marriage and the ongoing battle of the sexes.

My son and daughter-in-law, who were vacationing with us, caught me laughing out loud more than once over chapters such as "Ball and Chain," "Annoying Habits" and "To Love, Honor and...Duck!" I had to stop and read passages to them but I was still able to finish the book. Good thing too because it did not make it home with me.

Rick and Bubba, who have a combined total of thirty-three years of marriage, write about incidents and situations in their own relationships. Their tongue-in-cheek advice is great fun but they offer some good common sense lessons as well. I could really relate to so many of them. I constantly found myself thinking that is so true or that sounds so familiar.

I especially loved "The Ten Commandments of Marriage."
Number two: "Thou shalt apologize to your wife for whatever agony or discomfort she has had to endure on any given day, physically or emotionally, including mishaps with appliances or motor vehicles, or as a result of national or world events, because it is your fault. Accept it.

Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys a good laugh.
Check out the Rick and Bubba website:

The book comes with a CD of highlights from Rick and Bubba's radio show.
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; Pap/Com edition (June 2, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1401603991
Price: $16.99
Paperback: 240 Pages

And here's another goody from Oprah:
Colum McCann's new novel, "Let the Great World Spin" will be available for download from 11 a.m. ET Monday until 10:59 a.m. ET Wednesday, August 5, 2009" at:

In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in bestselling novelist Colum McCann’s stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people.