Monday, May 31, 2010

Common Errors in English Usage

Which is correct? Quick!
  • Awhile or a while?
  • Lay or lie?
  • Peel out or peal out?
When would you use the phrase, "Money is no option?"

Or the phrase, "Little to none?"

How do you pronounce, "mauve?"

Find the answers at Paul Brians' Common Errors in English. I've always just called the site "Brians' Errors."

Quick. Fast. Easy. Sometimes funny.

Another one of my favorites. I go there daily.

The above link hooks up directly with the list of errors. However, Professor Brians asks that you also that you check into the index page where he addresses a number of issues.

Another helpful site--and one where you might need a timer if you start to explore.


Do you have a favorite grammar or English usage site?

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Friday, May 28, 2010

One Site/One Thousand Dictionaries

My favorite dictionary search site is OneLook®. In fact, it's the only place I go. For lots of reasons.

As of this moment they've indexed 18,373,069 words in 1052 dictionaries.

That's a lot of words. That's a lot of dictionaries. The number might include other references, too.

I think those numbers must change frequently. Like increase.

At the home page, you can type a word (or phrase) you want defined in the search box. For instance, I typed in cream.

The search takes me to a quick definition list plus a list of all the indexed dictionaries where the word is found--33 general dictionaries, 5 art dictionaries, 2 business dictionaries, 1 computing dictionary, 6 miscellaneous dictionaries, 2 slang dictionaries, 1 sports dictionary (although that takes me to a list of cat terms), and 2 tech dictionaries.

I can find a bazillion phrases that include the word cream (like astronaut ice cream, barrier cream, cream-banded swallowtail, you're the cream in my coffee) that also have links.

I can also find a list of words similar to cream (like churn, whop, whip, lambaste), each with a quick definition and matching dictionary links.

That's the basic stuff. But you can get fancy and go on all kinds of advanced searches using wild cards, reverse dictionaries, translations, and stuff I haven't figured out yet.

Some say it's a great way to cheat at crossword puzzles.

I've found it to be a great writing prompt site.

I go there several times a day.

Go explore. Set a timer or you'll hang out there way too long.

What's your favorite dictionary site?

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Need to Build a Plot?

"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before." ~Willa Cather

I can't tell you how to build a plot, but these authors can and do.

I've got so much to learn!

Seems like everyone knows about Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell and Writing the Breakout Novel (and corresponding workbook) by Donald Maas.

I heart them.

But I also found 20 Master Plots (And How to Build Them) by Ronald B. Tobias buried on my shelf. And it makes more sense to me now than it did when I bought it over 20 years ago.

He states, "The best place to start a discussion about plots is to trace their bloodlines to the beginning . . . the two basic plots from which all other plots flow (that) are still the foundation of all literature. If you understand the essence of your plot, you will understand better how to go about writing it."

He goes on, "In Dante's Inferno there are only two basic sins in all the levels of hell. One is called forza, crimes of violence and force. The other basic sin is called forda, which is Italian for fraud."

Force or fraud

"Dante understood human character. These two sins come from two basic functions of human beings. Force is power, strength, physicality. Fraud comes from wit, cleverness, mentality. The Body and The Mind"

Body or mind.

When we have a story idea, we need to decide if it can be told more in terms of action or more in terms of the inner workings of character and human nature.

Doing or being.

The action plot is a puzzle plot where some kind of mystery needs to be solved. The mind plot is an idea plot where the characters almost always search for some kind of meaning.

Mystery or meaning.

If the story is plot driven, the mechanism is more important than the specific characters. The characters make the plot happen.

If the story is character driven, the mechanism is less important than the specific characters. The plot helps the characters find meaning.

Character driven or plot driven.

You decide the focus. Then you find some balance.

Tobias describes 20 basic plots (you can see them in the Amazon book preview.) He provides checklists at the end of each chapter.

He also provides a final checklist at the end of the book, questions you can ask yourself as you develop your plot.

"If you can answer all of them, you have a grasp of what your story is about. But if you can't answer any of them, you still don't know what your story is and what you want to do with it."

I'm so glad for good teachers.

I'm heading out to my porch now with a big glass of iced herb tea to rock and read.

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Reason to Read--in One Word

I asked the other day about summing up your message in one word as a writer.

So that got me thinking about why we pick up a book to read. What do we look for? What do we want in the end? What message do we want to come away with?

Is it the same with each book?

What makes us feel like we spent our time well?

Can we put it in one word?

Escape? Knowledge? Information? Hope? Refreshment? Encouragement?

I choose inspiration.

In fiction and nonfiction.

I want to feel inspired to reach higher and deeper.

Inspired to grow.

Inspired to learn more.
  • About something.
  • About people.
  • About a person.
  • About a place.
  • About a time in history.
  • About God.
Inspired to read another book.

Inspired to go from words to the Word.

Inspired to write words of my own.

What's your one word as a reader?

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Your Message in One Word

What's your message?

What's the one thing you want to convey through your writing? Or at least the major thing.

To focus on.

Could you put it in just one word?

I've been thinking a lot about this.

I thought I wanted to get people excited about the Word. See things they'd never seen before. Make them hungry and thirsty. In my writing and my teaching.

I still want that.

But it's not one word.

Hunger? Thirst?

Those are one words.


I want my readers to laugh sometimes. Laughter is healing.

Laughter. Humor. Healing.

Hmmm. Those are pretty good one words for a nurse turned writer.

But none are my one word.

The single most important concept for me in my faith walk has been that of the sovereignty of God. Knowing that He's in control. That He doesn't let go. No matter what. That He weaves everything into His perfect plan.

But "sovereignty of God" is still not one word.

"Sovereignty" is.

I like it.

But that's still not "it."

I think I've figured it out, though.

My. One. Word.


Physical. Emotional. Spiritual.

Yep. I think that's it.

My one message.

My one word.


What's yours?

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Jennifer Hudson Taylor: One-Word/One-Line Interview

Jennifer Hudson Taylor writes historical and contemporary Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas. Her debut novel, Highland Blessings, released this month, and the music on her video trailer (below) really gets to me.

You can order a copy from Amazon and even a signed copy direct from the author here!

How can you not love someone who has an ink bottle, quill pen, cardinal, and a dogwood blossom on her website and blog?

Jennifer lives in North Carolina, and in addition to writing, she speaks on several topics related to faith, writing, and parenting special-needs children. She's also a genealogy buff. I can't wait to get to know her better.

I accidentally asked her a couple questions (okay, three) that couldn't be answered with just one word. My bad. But I still like the questions and the answers, so they stay.

And, wow! So many followup questions I want to ask!

Welcome, Jennifer!

Jennifer Hudson Taylor in One (almost) Word

1.  What was your favorite childhood toy?


2.  What was your least favorite subject in school?


3.  What was your first job?


4.  What did you eat for breakfast this morning?


5.  What was the last movie you saw?

     The Scarlett Pimpernel.

6.  What was the last movie that made you cry?

     The Blind Side.

7.  What is the tallest building you've ever been in?

     Toronto Tower.

8.  Would you prefer a picnic or a restaurant meal?


9.  What would Akira say is your greatest weakness?


10. You just won a week's vacation of your choice. Where will you go?


Jennifer Hudson Taylor in One Line

1.  Describe your most embarrassing moment.

     In college during the '92 elections, I fainted holding a Bush sign while Hillary Clinton demanded her guys pull me out of the crowd so I wouldn't get trampled, and she told them to give me a bottle of water.

2.  What is the best thing about being the parent of a special-needs child?

     You can't afford to take your child for granted, and you feel so very thankful and blessed for each milestone they accomplish.

3.  Share your favorite time management tip.

     Avoid email, Facebook, and Twitter.

4.  Who is one person you'd like to visit and why?

     Joyce Meyer, because she is so full of godly wisdom. 

5.  What is your very first memory?

     My uncle giving me a balloon before he drowned.

6.  What is your favorite thing about Bryce MacPhearson?

     He means well, but still manages to get into trouble regardless of what he does.

7.  What wisdom from your mother still sticks with you?

     Don't worry about what everyone else thinks; concentrate on what God thinks.

8.  What Bible character do you identify most with and why?

     I admire Queen Esther for her courage, but I've been compared to Deborah, the prophetess of Israel.

9.  Describe the favorite room in your house.

     My bedroom is roomy, comfortable, and private--like a sanctuary.

10. What was the most surprising thing you discovered while researching your family history?

     That my Morgan ancestor from Glamorgan, Wales hosted King Charles II and was bestowed the governorship of Jamaica.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor on One Thing

What one thing would you like to say to your readers or future readers?

Out of all the wonderful books out there and all the things to distract your attention and strangle your time, thank you for choosing my book and taking the time to read it. I hope you will enjoy it and hope you'll give my other books set in different time periods a try.

What one thing would you like to say to fellow writers or aspiring writers?

If you are unpublished, never give up on your dream of publication. God's timing will come. To all writers, don't get so caught up in the "writing rules" and judging and critiquing that you forget how to read for pleasure.

Highland warrior Bryce MacPhearson kidnaps Akira MacKenzie on her wedding day to honor a promise he made to his dying father. When he forces Akira to wed him, hoping to end a half-century feud between their clans, she struggles to overcome her anger and resentment. Yet her strength in the Lord becomes a witness to Bryce. But there is a traitor in their midst . . . and murder is the ultimate weapon.

Jennifer's Website
Jennifer's Writing Blog
Jennifer on Facebook
Jennifer on Twitter

Thanks so much, Jenn for taking the time to help us get to know you better!

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Friday, May 7, 2010

Candace Calvert: One-Word/One-Line Interview

It's National Nurses Week (May 6-12), and so I've invited one of my favorite nurses, who shares a first name with my favorite--and only--sister, to visit The Write Pursuit.

Candace Calvert writes medical fiction where she offers healthy doses of drama, romance, humor, and hope.

She's lived it. She shares it.

And if you're a nurse, be sure to visit her blog this week. Tell her how long you've been a nurse and what type of nursing you do (or did), and you'll have a chance to win an autographed copy of either Critical Care or Disaster Status.

And now--here's Candace!

Candace Calvert in One Word

1. Who was/is your favorite TV doctor?


2.  Look to your left. What's the first thing you see?


3.  When you drive without cruise control, is your foot usually lead, light, or exact?

     Lead. (Your secret's safe with us.)

4.  You and Erin Quinn (from Disaster Status) are spending a girl's night out. Where do you go?


5.  What is your favorite board game?


6.  If you turned up missing, where is the last place your friends and family would look for you?


7.  As a child, what food did you refuse to eat?


8.  When cleaning your house, are you a gentle breeze or a tornado?


9.  You're feeling very creative. Where are you?


10. What are you usually doing at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning?


Candace Calvert in One Line

1.  What would Leigh (from Disaster Status) say she liked best about working with you?

     That we share a love for horses and that I understand the heartbreak of betrayal.

2.  What was the most memorable gift you ever received?

     From God: my children; from a person: a braided bracelet fashioned by my daughter out of strands of hair from my beloved mare, Winter Winds.

3.  What do you miss most about the ER?

     The bonds among the ER team and the satisfaction that comes with "being there" for someone in a time of great need.

4.  What is the strangest thing you've eaten when you didn't have time to cook?

     (Confession and recipe): Put a big blob of peanut butter in coffee cup, mix in a huge clump of brown sugar and hefty sprinkling of chocolate chips, add spoon--instant Reese's!

5.  What is the difference between a strong woman and a woman of strength?

     A strong woman struggles to stay "tough and in control," relying only on herself; a woman of strength finds peace and joy through faith in God.

6.  What is your most treasure souvenir and why?

     Christmas ornaments collected on world travel with my wonderful husband--keepsakes of adventures--romantic, funny, exotic, and unforgettable.

7.  Who was your favorite teacher and why?

     Gloria Kempton, author and online instructor, showed me that I could actually touch people through my writing--I made her cry.

8.  What is on the top of your to-do list when preparing for company?

     Lists and . . .  lists of lists, sometimes in colored ink.

9.  How do you capture writing ideas?

     I am a sponge for things around me--soak it up, squeeze it out through the keyboard.

10. Who do people say you look like and why?

     A woman recently told me that I look (in profile) "just like Vivian Leigh in 'Gone with the Wind'"--frankly, my dear, I don't see it.

Candace Calvert on One Thing

What one thing would you like to say to your readers or future readers?

From my heart: thank you. Your response to my stories of hope has encouraged me beyond my frail dreams. When I (finally!) stopped saying, "Who . . . me? You've got to be kidding!" to God's insistent call to write Christian fiction, it was both exhilarating and completely scary. But like my heroine, Claire Avery in Critical Care, I'm reminded that God has a plan. Getting to know my readers is such a lovely part of that.

What one thing would you like to say to your fellow writers or aspiring writers?

Network with writers and other industry professionals--if you're writing Christian fiction join ACFW. Don't write in a vacuum; writers need honest, constructive input, a sense of direction, concrete goals, cheerleaders and (sometimes) a shoulder to cry on. The relationships you build with other writers: Priceless.  

Thanks so much for visiting, Candace! You are an inspiration to me as a person and as a writer!

I appreciate your hosting me here, Sandy--and the challenge. The hardest thing for a writer to do is give a one-word answer! I've enjoyed the opportunity to connect with your readers--thanks much.


Charge nurse Erin Quinn escaped personal turmoil to work on the peaceful California coast. But when a hazardous material spill places Pacific Mercy Hospital on disaster status and stresses staff, she's put to the test. And thrown into conflict with the fire department's handsome incident commander who thinks her strategy is out of line.

Fire Captain Scott McKenna has felt the toxic effects of tragedy; he's learned to go strictly by the book to advance his career, heal his family, and protect his wounded heart. When he's forced to team with the passionately determined ER charge nurse, sparks fly. As they work to save lives, can they handle the attraction kindled between them . . . without getting burned?

Watch for Code Triage--coming September 2010!

Candace Calvert's website

Candace Calvert's blog

Candace Calvert on Facebook

Candace Calvert on Twitter

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

This Writing Thing - A Ramble

"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple, learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." ~John Steinbeck

I can see Gracee and the neighbor girl outside.  Gracee writes something with her finger in the wet sand while Jackie sits in the "castle" with dolls. Lost in an imaginary world. Nothing hanging over them.

No bills to pay. No laundry to do. No dinner to plan. Not worried about doing too much or not enough.

Just being. Whatever they feel like at the moment.

I feel more like a writer every day.

But I still feel cluttered. Duties distract, and I resent the time taken from writing. When I write, I fight guilt. This afternoon I emptied the dishwasher and cleaned up from Monday night's dinner. Such as it was.

Yes, I know this is Wednesday.

But I devote Monday to study, and then I teach on Tuesday. And after class yesterday, I met Abby for lunch and shopping. And then I came home and wrote some more. And this morning I wrote. And then got a pedicure with Abby.

I lived some life.

And the kitchen finally screamed for attention.

I just dewrinkled the same load of clothes for the third time. I need to comb through photos and mementos and organize them for posterity. I stare at partially stripped wallpaper and walls that need fresh paint. I peer through dirty windows. The carpet demands a visit from the cleaning professionals. The weeds may soon crawl under the doors.

That basement bathroom looks pretty gross. So does the upstairs one for that matter.

And my year-old harp weeps for a loving hand.

Always torn.

Never free. Of duties that need doing. Of ideas that keep breeding.

I need more time to be.

I need to shed even more stuff. Simplify yet some more.

Because I want to live a simpler life. 

Because I want to lose myself in an imaginary world.

Because I want to play in the castle with words.

Because this writing thing chases me, yowls and paws at me like a love-hungry cat.

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

Monday, May 3, 2010

Book Review: Plan B by Pete Wilson

Been there. Done that. Plenty of Plan B's in my life. Some as light as dandelion fluff. Some as heavy as a bloated hippo.

Plans fizzled. Dreams shattered. Expectations failed. People let me down. Life smacked me upside the head. Life slammed me to the ground.

You've been there, too, in some form. And will again.

Enter this book written by Pete Wilson, lead pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

He asks, "What do you do when God doesn't show up for you in the way you thought God was going to show up?"

Pete's weathered his own Plan B's. And held others through theirs--a family whose pregnant teen delivered a stillborn, a marriage battered by pornography and an affair, a missionary couple who turned to Plan B and Plan C with an unexpected pregnancy and ensuing complications.

Pete made me laugh and cry. He writes with an engaging style and makes scripture stories sparkle. I saw things I didn't before.

I lingered over this statement, "The greatest of all illusions is the illusion of control."

In fact, I lingered over many statements.

Pete talks about the importance of community when traveling through the dark and the importance of authenticity. "We'll never know what might have happened if people had been able to open their lives up enough to hear--and to say--'me too.'" So many of us huddle in shame or fear of judgment instead of sharing hurts to receive healing.

Been there. Done that.

We can be transformed through tragedy.

Pete doesn't have all the answers, but he offers an anchor.

Have you lived a Plan B? Are you living a Plan B? If not, a Plan B looms.

Someone you know struggling with a Plan B? If not, you will.

You need this book.

PlanB Promo from Cross Point Church on Vimeo.

Plan B Website

Copyright © 2010 by Sandra Heska King

NOTE: Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”