Book Review — Jane Eyre: Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic, by K.M. Weiland

When I first read Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, Jane Eyre, I took it as a Victorian romance, later realizing it was also a vaguely autobiographical account of a girl’s complex and difficult life, and a critique of the social issues of the period. I never imagined I would encounter the story again decades later and reread it as a highly effective teaching tool for writing fiction.

19336035In Jane Eyre: Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic, K.M. Weiland examines Brontë’s story from the unique perspective of an author and writing instructor, and reveals the many techniques that helped make it one of the most successful novels of its era and an enduring classic. Weiland not only identifies the techniques as the story unfolds, she thoroughly explains them.

Let me offer two examples:

In discussing characterization, following a section of dialogue a sidebar notation says, “Successfully using dialogue for characterization requires several ingredients,” and Weiland goes on to identify four – “(1.) Character voice, (2.) Choice of subject, (3.) Treatment of others, and (4.) Speaker tags and action beats.” She doesn’t just label these, but also expounds on each with specific references to how Bronte has used them in the text.

After another section of dialogue, Weiland points to Brontë’s inclusion of backstory and explains how and why it works so well. “To begin with, this conversation serves to keep the backstory front and center in the readers’ minds. Even as the main part of the story progresses, Brontë will continue to make references to the mysterious backstory. She never lets readers forget about it. She is also careful to introduce at least one new fact into each reference. She doesn’t rehash the same old information over and over. … Finally, she keeps the backstory fresh by weaving it into the body of the main story. Here she uses it to cement the foundation of the relationship that will grow between Jane and Rochester.

“Info dumps or lengthy flashbacks would only serve to slow down the story and sap the tension. But carefully placed clues offer just enough new information to keep readers panting after the truth.”

km-weiland-avatarKatie Weiland’s own writing is well crafted and easy to read in a conversational style that still manages to be concise and instructive. Her intimate familiarity with Charlotte Brontë’s classic story along with her extensive knowledge of the writing craft, have combined to produce a book that other writers will find extremely useful. It is not just another companion to the story of Jane Eyre, but a comprehensive guide to good writing that I believe should be on every writer’s bookshelf.

Jane Eyre: Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic by K.M. Weiland will be available at all major outlets upon release August 1st. Check it out on Amazon or Barnes & Noble and visit Katie’s website, Helping Writers Become Authors, for lots more information.

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Cover Reveal for FOREIGN EXCHANGE by Denise Jaden (plus a Special Giveaway)

 

Canada Day Maples

Author Denise Jaden’s next book, FOREIGN EXCHANGE, is due to be released this October. Denise is here today to let us in on the cover reveal, and she also has a special giveaway for us, involving Stephanie Perkins’ ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER. Read on to find out more. 

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First, here are a few of Denise’s thoughts on Foreign Exchange and its cover…

 

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I’m so incredibly excited to share my cover of Foreign Exchange with you! This book holds a very special place in my heart. I wrote it during a very difficult year of my life, and the characters and their stories were a real bright spot for me.

Because this book is so important to me, I’m giving away something VERY important to me to go along with this cover reveal. I was fortunate enough to receive an early copy of the highly-anticipated Isla and the Happily Ever After by one of my all-time favorite authors, Stephanie Perkins. ISLA and Foreign Exchange are both romances with swoon-worthy boys, and they’re both set partially in Europe. So I want one lucky person to receive my advanced copy of ISLA to get you excited for Foreign Exchange!

Read on, check out my cover, and read the first chapter of Foreign Exchange below. It’ll all help you in earning extra entries to win my copy of Isla and the Happily Ever After!

And here is the beautiful cover…

 

Jamie Monroe has always played it safe. That is, until her live-for-the-moment best friend, Tristan, jets off to Italy on a student exchange program. Left alone with her part-time mother and her disabled brother, Jamie discovers that she is quite capable of taking her own risks, starting with her best friend’s hotter-than-hot older brother, Sawyer. Sawyer and Tristan have been neighbors for years, but as Jamie grows closer to the family she thought she knew, she discovers some pretty big secrets.

As she sinks deeper into their web of pretense, she suspects that her best friend may not be on a safe exchange program at all. Jamie sets off to Europe on a class trip with plans to meet up with Tristan, but when Tristan stops all communication, suddenly no one seems trustworthy, least of all the one person she was starting to trust—Sawyer. 

 “Foreign Exchange is a fresh contemporary YA that will keep readers compulsively turning pages until the very end. Combining international intrigue with a steamy forbidden romance makes for a can’t miss read.”
 – Eileen Cook  Author of Year of Mistaken Discoveries. 
“A pitch perfect voice and delicious chemistry kept me turning those pages!”
- Tara Kelly, author of Amplified and Encore
“Foreign Exchange is heart pounding and suspenseful…the teenage dream of escaping the boredom of suburbia by travelling Europe and spending quality time with a hot guy shifts into a dangerous nightmare.”
 – D.R. Graham, author of Rank and the upcoming Noir et Bleu MC series.
 

One of the entries in the Rafflecopter below will ask you a question from the above chapter!

This contest is open internationally!
Don’t forget…this copy of ISLA could be yours…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

* Note – If you cannot access the Rafflecopter Widget through this blog, access it HERE.

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So Many Books, So Little Time!

I’m sharing an article from the archives today, updated from its original posting in 2008.

But FIRST… I have to share my daughter’s exciting news! Her first publishing contract! Head over to Shari’s blog and read about it, then come back here to continue. :)

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“So many books, so little time.”  If you Google this phrase you’ll come up with about 563,000,000 results — everything from a link to the quote attributed to Frank Zappa, to Sara Nelson’s book documenting a year of her passionate reading, assorted articles on the subject, even a forum of the same name on the Indigo/Chapters site debating about what ten books you might take if you knew you were going to be stranded on a desert island.

Summer Reading GraphicFor me, the words stand alone, not as a title for anything. They emerge from my mouth sounding more like a moan, even a wail, expressing my frustration that there are more books that I want to read than there are hours left in my life. (And I’m planning for a lot of those!)

Selecting what to read — what’s worthy of my time — is always a dilemma. So I could relate to a  blog entry written some years ago by literary agent Jessica Faust.  Here’s an excerpt:

“I somehow had the impression that as a recent college grad, or just an intelligent woman, I should be reading more intelligent books (whatever that means). In other words, I should be catching up on the classics I missed out on as a journalism major or reading only books that incited great philosophical discussions… It took me a long time to accept and advertise the fact that I was a commercial fiction girl… I think all readers evolve and grow over time and eventually find their niche. I hear often from those who read only fantasy as young people and now have grown to read different kinds of fiction, and I hear from others who still can’t stomach commercial fiction but love nothing more than to cuddle into a long classic. Some typically enjoy longer literary works, but when life is tough or getting them down, they will pull out a favorite romance or thriller. What we read and when we’re reading it can say a lot about who we are in that time of our life, just like the music we listen to and the movies we watch.”

I wonder what my reading choices say about me. I’m definitely not scholarly. Today’s post is a re-run from my archives, but at the time it was first posted, my virtual coffee table held the following: Fiction — “Leota’s Garden” by Francine Rivers, “Carlyle’s House” by Virginia Woolf, “Light on Snow” by Anita Shreve and Kirsty Scott’s “Between You & Me”. Non-fiction: Julia Cameron’s “The Sound of Paper”, Des Kennedy’s “Crazy About Gardening”, and John Fischer’s “Be Thou My Vision” (daily meditation).

Reading vies with writing for possession of my time. No matter how much I spend on either, it’s never enough! I need to live to be 120!

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QUESTIONS FOR YOU:

  • Are your reading choices eclectic, or do you have favourite authors or themes that govern what you read?
  • Are your summer book choices lighter reading than what you choose during the rest of the year?
  • What’s on your coffee table (or bedside table) right now?
  • What’s on your summer reading list … anything you’d like to recommend?

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The Rhythm of Words

Breezes dimple across the water and start wild grasses dipping and dancing. There’s a special rhythm nature brings to the seasons.

What do you think of when someone talks about rhythm? The repetitive thudding bass from the convertible that pulls up beside you at a traffic light? Maybe the toe-tapping that accompanies a rousing piece of music by a favourite band?

What about the rhythm of words?

Rhythm in Writing

I came across a fascinating ‘toy’ recently — the Rhythmwriter. Try it out and then come back so we can carry on our conversation.

Go ahead,

click on the link.

I’ll wait.

Isn’t it fun?

No matter the notes you choose, the resulting pulse is like a dancing heartbeat… a vital signs monitor gone berserk. One bar of assorted notes repeats to create a pleasing rhythm. At least, it’s pleasing until the repetition works its way into your head like an earworm and begins to drive you mad.

We need a certain amount of variety, in the rhythm of both music and writing.

“Just as musical notes blend together to create an auditory tapestry, so should your words.  Mix it up, shuffle the deck, alter the rhythm of your words.  Punctuate a paragraph with some staccato sentences.  Layer your language with elaborate harmonies.  Refrain from playing the same refrain over and over.  Use this musical analogy to think about your audience while you write and don’t forget to vary the rhythm of your words.” [Sari Mathes]

In writing, rhythm is achieved by varying the length of sentences and the style of their structure. We want the end result to sound like us — to reflect our literary voice — but at the same time we want the listening experience to be pleasant.

“The aims here are:

  1. to avoid overusing any one sentence structure in a way that becomes a distraction to the reader,
  2. to move gracefully back and forth between the clarity of simple sentences and the richness of complex sentences, and
  3. to evoke the rhythms of your own vocal style, with the same rising and falling of pitch, the same ebb and flow of phrasing between breaths.” [Michael Fleming]

Fleming suggests the best way to establish a natural rhythm is by reading your work aloud. I wonder how many writers do this. Do you? Do you read your manuscripts aloud while in the sanctuary of a closed room, play the words back to yourself via text-to-speech software, or perhaps share them with others at public readings or critique gatherings?

Are you conscious of developing rhythm in your writing? Do you think it’s more important in poetry than in prose?

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Watching and Waiting: a poem

You may be getting tired of my bear photos, but I’m hoping you’ll bear with me a little longer. (I honestly didn’t intend that to be a pun!) I’ve been taking part (after a fashion) in a book study being done by a group of us on Facebook, organized by Sandra Heska King. The book is MAKING MANIFEST: on Faith, Creativity and the Kingdom at Hand, by Dave Harrity. ‘Taking part’ is presumptuous… an over-statement. I’m barely auditing the participation of others, reading portions as I have time, skipping bits, or re-reading others that particularly appeal to me.

There is an exercise for each day, a prompt provided, meant to stimulate a response to the day’s chapter. Day #21 was about “Making New: Bear [or bare] yourself before the page, wait, be patient. Ask for something impossible. Come to the desk [or the yard] for renewal,” and we were asked to write a ten-line poem that features an animal.

It made me think of our recent visiting bear, waiting for her invisible cub to finish its nap, hidden away behind the greenery. Thus my ‘bearwatch’ poem was born.

I don’t write much poetry, but I believe the required spontaneous creativity has a spin-off effect on my other writing. How about you? Do you ever write poems? Do you prefer the tidy, measured, rhyming kind, or the more emotional free verse? If you’d like to try your hand at this exercise I’d love it if you’d add a poem in the comments section below. (I won’t critique yours if you don’t critique mine.) :)

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WatchingBear

 

WATCHING AND WAITING

~

Patience stretches time

into moments undone

unseen

hidden in green

waiting while a babe restores.

We would do well to emulate

watch and wait

and be recreated

a child of God

in His endless time.

~

(Carol J. Garvin for the ‘Making Manifest’
book study group’s Day #21 exercise)

Hiding from… what?

Ten days ago we celebrated my aunt’s 91st birthday with a small party… cake, presents, flowers and, of course, photos. There are other better ones, but I rather like this photo… a ‘peek-a-boo’ shot of her hiding behind her flowers, taken as a joke by her son.

20140508 - Mom behind Birthday Roses

(Photo credit: Ra McGuire)

Just a week before the birthday celebration there was a photo-taking situation of a different kind in my backyard — I posted about it along with a sampling of the photos here. But there were additional, less impressive photos that I wasn’t planning to display.

Bear Tree

 

Bear Bush

In each case, the subject was hiding, one willingly, the other unwittingly. The shots made for… um, interesting, but not terribly useful records of the event. None of them gives a very clear picture of the subject.

What they do, however, is get me thinking. (I know, that can be a dangerous thing!) People also hide more often than is acknowledged. Not too long ago I attended a social gathering where I spent a good portion of the time hiding behind my camera. I’m not great in social situations… often at a loss for words to engage in meaningful conversations. I’m better at putting them on paper.

I think authors hide among their pages, peeking out via their characters. We’re asked if we put ourselves or our friends (or maybe our enemies) into our stories, and the answer is almost always ‘no’. But glimpses…? Ah, yes, I think some of our characters say things we wouldn’t dare say but might like to, wear the clothes we wish we looked good in, live in homes we can only dream of in settings that appeal to us.  Would we admit to it? Maybe not. We like to hide.

Do you agree? If you’re a writer, do you model any of your characters after yourself or people you know?

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Poetry or Not (preferably not!)

 

“Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes.”

[Joseph Roux]

Yeats 14-A Coat

During April I’ve been participating in National Poetry Month. Participating how, you may wonder; it’s a far stretch from novel writing. Well, I admit I didn’t write a single poem during the month. The initial challenge at Tweetspeak Poetry was to pick a poet and study his or her work, reading a poem each day.

I’m not sure why I chose William Butler Yeats‘ poetry. Much of it is gloomy, focused on aging, lost love and politics, and yet Yeats (1865-1939) is “widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century.” He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1923. The Poetry Foundation says he “was interested in occultism and spiritualism. He had been a theosophist, but in 1890 he turned from its sweeping mystical insights and joined the Golden Dawn, a secret society that practiced ritual magic… he became convinced that the mind was capable of perceiving past the limits of materialistic rationalism.

For all of that — or perhaps because of that — Yeats’ poetry is fascinating to me, not so much for what he says, but for how he says it. He is very strict in his adherence to the traditional verse forms of his time and the words bring a kind of verbal magic to the page.

Dennis Gabor (1900-1979) once said, “Poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them.” (Gabor was also a recipient of the Nobel Prize, but in physics.)

At the end of each day this month (with the exception of a few missed ones at Easter), I chose a Yeats’ excerpt that spoke to me, despite often being out of context. I added it to one of my original photographs, and posted it on Facebook and Flickr, just to prove to my fellow poetic sojourners that I’d done my daily reading.

The earlier graphic is from April 14th. This is yesterday’s…

Yeats 27 - Innisfree Peace

If you’d like to see the entire month’s collection, you’ll find it here.

So, when April has ended what will have been the point of this exercise? I want — no, I yearn — to prove the truth of L.Willingham Lindquist‘s observation at Tweetspeak Poetry:

We’ve noticed something about people who read poetry every day: they write better, whether it’s poetry or prose. Maybe it comes from exposure to well-crafted lines. A little like osmosis, so to speak. Or maybe a corollary to what your mother always told you about the kind of friends you keep. I like to think it also comes from what the words do once they get inside you. Those well-crafted lines have a way of opening passages into our souls. They gently (and sometimes not so gently) push us to look at things differently.”

There is something to be gleaned from reading in genres other than one’s favourite. I don’t consider myself a poet. Except for rare occasions, I don’t write poetry and seldom read it. Oh, years ago I introduced my Grade One and Two students to it with fun verses by Ogden Nash, but who takes that kind of poetry seriously? (May the ghosts of his ancestors not descend upon me in wrath!) No, I prefer good ol’ fiction… a traditional mystery, perhaps historical fiction or something inspirational. But if reading poetry can make me a better writer, who am I to pass up an opportunity for improvement?

This month has also been about enrichment and self-discipline, and can’t we always use a good dose of both?

How do you feel about poetry? Have you marked National Poetry Month in any special way?

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poem-a-day-dare-tweetspeak

National Poetry Month, a Novel, and Now

Throughout the month of March many of us took part in a literary version of March Madness, daily working our way toward an assortment of writing-related goals. Now April has arrived, bringing with it National Poetry Month, and a new daily challenge — reading a poem a day.

Sunny Tree

The challenge was dished out to me by Sandra Heska King and her allies at TweekspeakPoetry.com. Who can deny having time to read just one poem each day? I already read a portion of scripture and the poetry of the Psalms. How hard could it be to fit in a few more verses? Of course, one could jump in with more of a commitment and write a poem a day, but that would stretch my poetry moments into poetry hours, and end up overshadowing the other writing I want to do. I know my limits.

Each day I spend a chunk of time working on the new novel I began last month, but my tortoise-like progress reminds me of how easy it is to let other activities obscure that priority. I have writer friends who hold down full-time jobs, homeschool their children, and still cope with the deadlines of multiple book contracts. I’m always in awe of Ruth Logan Herne who daycares a houseful of children, prepares material for and monitors two daily group blogs (in addition to her own website), has chickens, and dogs, and goodness knows what else, but is consistently up and writing by 5:00 a.m. every morning, getting her couple hours in before the rest of her household awakens and her ‘other’ workday begins. My days are mostly empty, but I get much less done. It’s all about priorities, having goals, and not letting them become lost behind other attention-grabbing pursuits. Oh, and knowing how to juggle a bit doesn’t hurt.

I watched a video yesterday and one statement in it really hit me: “It is always now.” Yesterday is an unchangeable memory. We may wait for tomorrow, hoping for our situation to get better, easier, or improve in some other way, but each moment we live is our NOW. We will never get this moment back to do over. What we want to accomplish tomorrow will only happen if we work towards it today… beginning right now.

Do you have any desires or goals that are being eclipsed by other things? What are you doing to try and achieve them?

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March Madness 5: Believing in Yourself

Anyone who’s visited my place would understand when I say my garden beds are a little on the wild side. Not in a nice, English country garden style of wildness, but more of a weed-filled, woodsy mess. Even in the middle of gardening season they tend to get neglected and the ferns and salal that pop up in places where they don’t belong, get ignored.

Woods 1

 

Ferns 1

(Animals that show up where they don’t belong are harder to ignore but I have a ‘live and let live’ philosophy about them, too.)

Bear 1

I’d like the gardens to be more civilized, but I’ve come to accept that moss and weeds are more energetic than I am. More persistent, too.

Years ago a friend gave me a wonderful gift… a set of Celtic-themed garden stones that look exactly right in my au natural space. I have them tucked into special spots around the yard where their messages bring a moment of of reflection each time they’re encountered. Despite a bit of moss, one in particular seems very appropriate for us writers as we move into these last few days of our March Madness — Believe.

Believe2

  • Writing is more fulfilling when you believe you are an authentic writer.
  • Reaching a goal is more likely if you believe you can.
  • Persisting in the face of discouragement and rejection is easier if you believe in the value of what you’re doing.

Insecurity and uncertainty hound all of us at times. I’ve been writing for many years, but I think I first began really believing in myself as a writer after hearing Robert Dugoni’s keynote speech at the closing of the 2010 Surrey International Writers’ Conference. It was a re-visioning of Aragorn’s rally call, ending with a rousing, “This day we write!” and it resulted in a standing ovation from all 600 attendees. If you need an extra dose of inspiration, consider taking the time to listen to it:  http://www.booksontheradio.ca/podcasts/Bob_Dugoni_SiWC.mp3

And then head into these last couple days believing you are a writer and you can reach significant goals on this journey if you will keep trying.

Do you believe?

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Now… I’d like to give away yet another March Madness prize from our prize arsenal. Today’s winner is…

Girl Parker!

Congratulations! Stop by our goal-setting post, and choose your prize from those still listed. Then e-mail Denise at d(at)denisejaden(dot)com with your choice and we’ll get it out to you as soon as possible.

And if you didn’t win, there are still lots of great prizes to be won, so keep checking in each day. It’s not over until it’s truly over!

Our second-to-last check-in is tomorrow at Angelina Hansen’s blog.

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March Madness #4: Writing as Magic or Ministry

We’re different, you and I. As readers, you may love to lose yourself in a richly told romance, while today I might prefer a faith-filled inspirational story, and tomorrow a mystery.

As writers, we choose our genres based on a particular level of comfort… telling stories that may be close to our hearts or based on our knowledge and experience, or our desire to master a challenge. How we get those stories out of our heads and onto the page is a unique process for each person. Why we do it and what we accomplish may be equally unique. For many there is an element of creative magic that is intoxicating.

“Writing is magic, as much as the water of life
as any other creative art.”

[Stephen King]
 

Bud

Those of us who are Christian writers sometimes question the validity of our calling to write if we’re drawn to produce secular instead of Christian fiction. We may think it’s frivolous to write something that doesn’t intend to convey an inspirational message, or at least a message of significance.

It’s an attitude that can spill over into other daily activities and even our careers. However, I truly believe that any task done with passion that attempts to bring beauty, help or healing, is a calling… a legitimate form of ministry. At first glance some writing may appear only to entertain but will still have a purpose — providing a brief escape from the mundane, or showing how characters overcome difficulties and solve life problems.

It’s not so much what we do but the attitude we have towards doing it, that determines whether our work is self-indulgent or a ministry/calling.

How do you view your work, whether it’s writing or any other regular pursuit during these thirty days of March Madness? Is it a calling, a satisfying hobby, or simply something you do because you’ve become caught up in the routine of doing it?

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We’re on the brink of our last week of March Madness.  Are you ready to push ahead and make the best use of these final days?

As a bit of encouragement I’d like to give away another prize from our huge prize arsenal today! Today’s winner is…

Nicole Luiken!

Congratulations! Stop by our goal-setting post, and choose your prize from those still listed. Email Denise at d(at)denisejaden(dot)com with your choice and we’ll get it out to you as soon as possible.

And if you didn’t win, there are still LOTS of great prizes to be won. Winners are chosen from participants who comment at the daily check-in blog locations, so keep checking in each day. Tomorrow’s check-in is at Angelina Hansen‘s blog at  http://yascribe.blogspot.com

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