Wednesday, July 13, 2016

MYTH BUSTERS: Debunking “Sticks & Stones” Myth for Writers

“Sticks and stones may break
 your bones,but words 
can never hurt me.”

—Old adage from 1862

Yeah, right. 

Julie here, and trust me, if you’re a writer, words can not only hurt a lot, but they can cripple the message you’re trying to convey to your readers. And let’s face it, the very last thing an author wants to write is a “lame” novel.

The truth is, for writers, one solitary word can hurt you if it doesn’t work in tandem with your scene, your dialogue, or your message. As authors, we paint pictures for our readers, creating a story in their minds. But if that picture or story doesn’t match with your choice of words, it can completely derail your message, such as in the header picture above of my sweet granddaughter when she said, "Mommy, I found a cherry book!" 

You see, my daughter-in-law takes her children to the library and bookstores on a regular basis, and I have to tell you, when she sent the picture above after my granddaughter found a cherry book she wanted to read, I laughed out loud. Not just because it’s funny, but because it reminded me just how important the right word is to the strength of a story.

That said, I thought it might be fun to demonstrate ways we can make good words even better, and one good example I have is from one of my favorite TV shows, Person of Interest. One of the main characters, Harold Finch, is a sweet and gentle professor type who almost never loses his temper. But in this one scene where someone he cared about was being put in danger, he tells the perpetrator, “I have two modes: Calm and furious.” I remember being somewhat disappointed at that line because I thought it could be so much stronger, such as in a similar statement I made to someone once about my temper: “I only have two modes: Sweet and Rip-Your-Tonsils-Out.”

Now, admittedly, I’m a bonafide CDQ (caffeinated drama queen) and not a screenwriter, but I do think the right words—powerful words—can add punch to your story by evoking emotions and adding depth, humor, impact, power, and so much more. I mean, think about it—how much power or impact would there have been in the ending of Gone With the Wind if Rhett had said, “"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a poop."

Ouch.

It’s downright painful how the wrong word can transform a strong, hulking man into a total ninny, isn’t it? And as a romance writer who LOVES alpha-male heroes (who doesn’t??), I cannot emphasize enough how important the “write” word is, not only in describing our characters, but in every sentence of our novels.

I once read a pretty good book where the heroine—a shy, quiet thing—had just suffered a tragedy. Now mind you, I was engaged in this very low-key scene, completely feeling the angst of her misfortune, tears and all, when BOOM! The author ends the scene by having her 18-year-old heroine “skipping” out of the house and down the street to see her good friend. No, No, NO! Words must fit in with the mood and the sense of the scene or they will rip the reader right out with a scrunch of their brows, a gaping jaw, or in my case with this particular scene, a comment such as “Are you kidding me?”

So, here are just a few of my favorite ways to add power to a story with the “write” words.

1.) PURPOSELY CREATE ANALOGIES TO ENRICH A STORY: In A Light in the Window, I had a scene where the hero was painting scenery outside with some little girls when the heroine comes out to talk to him. I wanted to show he was tongue-tied with the heroine, so I purposely included a clover necklace around his neck that one of little girls made for him so I could empower the already strong word “tangle” this way: 

Her scent of lilac water and Pear’s soap captured him, tangling his tongue—and his stomach—into more knots than the clover necklace Tillie had strung around neck.

In the same scene as above, I also wanted to show the heroine’s blush in a more potent way, so I created a "red" barn as one of the scenery pieces to do just that.

Her eyes connected with his and instantly her face fused as scarlet as the paint on the brush in his hand, the memory of his stolen kiss the night on her porch obviously coming to mind.

2.) PURPOSELY USE WORDS TO SET A MOOD:  When setting a scene, I try to utilize words that are in keeping with the mood or feel of that scene. For instance, in the following paragraph from A Passion Denied, I wanted to convey the dark and deadly pain that Marcy O’Connor was experiencing when her normally loving husband cruelly rejects her. So I loaded up on words like bleak, rain, weeping, gray, dismal, mourning, cold, dead, corpse, hoping to inject some of their gloom to reflect Marcy’s own:
Marcy stood at Mrs. Gerson’s kitchen window, in bleak harmony with the rivulets of water that slithered down the pane. It was a slow and steady rain, endless weeping from a gray and dismal sky, and Marcy felt a kinship with it. It showed no signs of letting up, much like the grief in her heart over the loss of her husband. A silent mourning over a spouse who was still very much alive, but whose love was as cold and dead as any corpse.

3.) PURPOSELY USE WORDS THAT DO DOUBLE DUTY: When describing a character, I try to use words or phrasing that will give more insight into a character as well as describing them, such as in this scene from Surprised By Love. I didn’t want to just describe the hero’s hair as “dark and curly,” I wanted to do double duty by showing he’s too busy to get a haircut.
He stood staring out the mahogany French doors, one palm braced to the wall, his charcoal suit coat strained against broad shoulders. Wisps of dark hair curled up on his high collar, typical for a man too consumed with obligations to take time for his barber. She noted the gray French Mossant fedora casually tossed on the cordovan loveseat as if he expected to stay and was making himself at home, also typical of the man she intended to show the door.

4.) PURPOSELY USE POWERFUL WORDS: Powerful words not only set a scene better, but they evoke a higher level of emotional response from your reader as well.In the following clip from A Passion Redeemed, the hero, Mitch Dennehy, is irate over his attraction to the heroine, Charity O’Connor, the woman he wants nothing to do with because she ruined his life. Note how his anger is manifested and magnified by words such as hurled, bludgeoned, growled, or vicious, volatile verbs/words that reflect his mood and hopefully incite the same emotions out of the reader.

He reached in his jacket and hurled a wad of bills on the bar. “To the devil with my future. It might as well fry with the past.” 
He wheeled around and bludgeoned his way through the crowd, riling customers on his way out. Outside, the bitter cold assailed him, tinged with the smells of burning peat and the slight whiff of horses. He could hear the faint sound of laughter and singing drifting from the various pubs tucked along the cobblestone road. His anger swelled
He flung his car door open and chucked the bottle on the passenger seat. Mumbling under his breath, he rounded the vehicle to rotate the crank, gyrating the lever with such ferocity that it rattled unmercifully. The engine growled to life, its vicious roar rivaling the angst in his gut. He got in the car and slammed the door, slapping the headlights on with a grunt. With a hard swipe of the steering wheel, he jerked the car away from the curve and exhaled a loud breath.
It was happening again. He was finally past the pain of one sister and now it was beginning with the other. He gunned the vehicle down Lower Abbey Street, nearly bashing a pedestrian who probably wouldn’t have felt a thing, given the near-empty bottle in his hand. Mitch gritted his teeth. That’s what women did to you—drove you to the bottom of a bottle where you drowned in your own liquid travail. He yanked his tie off, loosening his shirt to let the frigid air cool the heat of his anger. Thoughts of Charity suddenly surfaced, and a heat of another kind surged through his body. He swore out loud, the coarse sound foreign to his ears. He turned the corner on a squeal. The bottle careened across the seat and slammed into his leg.
He’d been without a woman way too long. Once, his appetite had been voracious. But Faith had changed all that. Her sincerity, her purity, her honesty. She had ruined him for other women. Since she’d left, he’d had no inclination, no interest. No desire. 
Until now.

Now I ask you—take a look at each of these sentences from the clip above and tell me which you prefer to convey the appropriate anger in this scene, A or B?

A) He turned and made his way through the crowd, disturbing customers on his way out. 
OR

B) He wheeled around and bludgeoned his way through the crowd, riling customers on his way out.
______________________

A) He opened his car door and threw the bottle on the passenger seat. Mumbling under his breath, he rounded the vehicle to rotate the crank, turning the lever till it shook.
OR

B) He flung his car door open and chucked the bottle on the passenger seat. Mumbling under his breath, he rounded the vehicle to rotate the crank, gyrating the lever with such ferocity that it rattled unmercifully. 

______________________


A) The engine came to life, its rumbling rivaling the upset in his gut. He got in the car and closed the door, turning the headlights on. With a swivel of the steering wheel, he pulled the car away from the curve and exhaled a loud breath.

OR

B) The engine growled to life, its vicious roar rivaling the angst in his gut. He got in the car and slammed the door, slapping the headlights on with a grunt. With a hard swipe of the steering wheel, he jerked the car away from the curve and exhaled a loud breath.

MAJOR TIP FOR POWER WORDS! 
Two of the BEST online thesauruses I have ever come across are the OneLook Reverse Dictionary, a website I keep open constantly when I write. Here’s the link: http://onelook.com/reverse-dictionary.shtml. And my second favorite is Thesaurus.com, which I keep on my favorites bar: http://www.thesaurus.com/.

Okay, that’s just a few of the ways I use words to my advantage, but there are many, many more, so feel free to tell us your favorites as well. 

GIVEAWAY!!
Leave a comment, and I’ll enter you in my giveaway for a copy of my upcoming book 2 in the Isle of Hope series, Love Everlasting or your choice of an eBook of A Glimmer of Hope, Isle of Hope, or A Light in the Window.


HUGE SALES!
WHOO-HOO … all four of the Seeker Christmas novella collections (two historical, two contemporary) are now on sale for only 99 cents, so do take advantage of this Christmas in July sale!



Imagine getting five novels from five award-winning authors for only 99 cents! Now you can with Heart & Soul, a book bundle of novels by Ruth Logan Herne, MaryLu Tyndall, Sally Bradley, Naomi Rawlings, and moi. That’s less than 20 cents per novel, and the sale won’t last long, so check it out HERE!







100 comments :

  1. Ahhh, Julie, I love, love, love (hmmm must peruse the thesaurus for different word) when an author can make me FEEL!!! I know, I've said that a hundred thousand times already, but it's true! Anger, happiness, elation, misery, depression or any other emotion known to human kind. I want to feel what the characters are in that moment, and also SEE the scene in my minds eye. Don't forget the seeing part...."He flung his car door open and chucked the bottle on the passenger seat.". That tells me right there he is none too happy, his actions SHOW it!

    Yep, that right there is what this reader craves, power to a story with the "write" words....and as you probably already know, you NAILED it :-) Now I fell like I can go and conquer the world, you got me all stirred up...haha! But in reality, my bed calls me...maybe in the morning after I've had my coffee....

    Please add my name for book 2 "Love Everlasting", thanks so much Julie!

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  2. EXCELLENT post, Julie - - going into my Keeper File (at the *front*)!
    Need to re-read when I'm more awake (to quote Trixi in her comment: "my bed calls me") and it's been calling me, but I keep ignoring it and reading, LOL.
    Love all the examples you gave too. My WIP needs some major polishing, and this post will help me make my characters and their emotions more believable. Thank you again for sharing this - - you are an amazing author! :)
    Hugs, Patti Jo (Who absolutely MUST get some zzzzzzzz....)

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  3. The online reverse dictionary is new to me. THANKS FOR THE TIP!!!!

    How did your granddaughter get so big??

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  4. Hi Julie:

    Just a few late night thoughts on listening to Mahler's Eight Symphony. (I'd have taken the ninth symphony but Lewis Thomas has already taken that one.)

    "It was the wordwright who claimed that the rite words generated the most write power."

    "It is not without good reason that it has long been said that the pen is mightier than the sword."

    "Sticks and stones can kill the body; words can kill the soul."

    "The great philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, shook up the intellectual world when he showed that, "philosophical problems arise when language goes on holiday".

    "I have no doubt that it is words that are the leading contributor to teenage suicide."

    Light bulb moment:


    All this time I thought the "C" in CDQ stood for Certified. It seems I naturally gravitate towards credibility rather than instability.

    As for another example to add to yours, I've noticed this example on three different tv programs in the last week.

    The hero says something that all the viewers want to hear but typically will never happen. I saw this on "Bones" and "Doyle and Houdini" and another show that I think it was a very old "NCIS".

    Example:

    The hero looks into the eyes of the heroine and says, "Will you marry me?"
    Of course the heroine can't believe her ears. The hero is always saying how he'll never marry. The heroine, visually shaken, says, "What are you talking about?" (It is also obvious that she would love for the hero to be serious.)
    The hero answers in all seriousness, "You asked me to find out what Hodgins asked Angela at their fancy dinner date last night. He asked her, "Will you marry me."

    The really clever thing here is that the heroine knows that the hero orchestrated* this situation to get her reaction -- just in case the time comes when he might really be thinking of asking her to marry him.

    Yes, please put me in the drawing for, "Love Everlasting," Book II of the IOH series.

    Also, I just downloaded, "Heart and Soul" even though I have read both yours and Ruth's books. I figure any one of these books is well worth 99 cents!

    Vince

    *This is the reason why I referenced Mahler at the start of this post. I just had to use one of your examples.

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  5. Wonderful post Julie. I loved all the choices between A & B. I of course preferred all of the Bs, I love to be pulled into a story where my emotions are challenged, that is when I feel like I have become 'one' with the story and I am not just a bystander flipping pages.

    I would love to be in the drawing for your new book.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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  6. Good morning Julie,

    Your granddaughter favors you. What a beautiful child!

    Thanks for sharing this great post today. Once I wake up, I'll work on powerful words. Sometimes at work I hear a quaint phrase or interesting word and write it down to use in a story later. I hope you have a stupendous day! Thanks again!

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  7. This is a fantastic post, Julie! Your examples will certainly be beneficial as I begin first draft edits.
    As for your granddaughter, well she's absolutely adorable!
    I would love to be entered in the drawing...thanks!

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  8. Julie is one of the best authors! I love her vivid descriptions that make her books come to life.

    Thanks for the giveaway! Hoping for a win!!!

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  9. JULIE, thank you for this great post! Our words do have power. May we use them wisely. ((((HUGS))))

    Please enter me in the drawing.

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  10. Your correct words can hurt. I won't read an author that publishes as Christian, but chooses to use curse words in their writing. Hey Julie you are still one of my faves I haven't been around much but I love your writing. Thanks

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  11. Great post Julie I'll send folks to our blog that I meet at RWA. Have a blessed day. Hugs

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  12. CHERRY PIE, ANYONE???

    GOOD MORNING, AND I MAY NOT HAVE CHERRY PIE, BUT I DO HAVE CHERRY STRUDEL, CHEESE & CHERRY PASTRIES, AND PATTI JO'S HOMEMADE GEORGIA PEACH COBBLER, ALONG WITH ALL THE BELLS AND WHISTLES OF A RITZ-CARLTON BRUNCH. SO GRAB A CUPPA JOE AND LET'S THROW SOME STICKS AND STONES, SHALL WE?

    Good Morning, TRIXI, and LOL, nope, I don't usually know if I "nailed it" with my writing. Every single thing I write, I usually range from a nose-wrinkle to dry heaves, telling my hubby that "it's not very good, but done is better than good." The nice thing is -- and what my hubs reminds me all the time is -- in the morning, it will read a whole lot better and after a few tweaks? I'm hammering with 16-penny nails! ;)

    TRIXI SAID: "Ahhh, Julie, I love, love, love (hmmm must peruse the thesaurus for different word) when an author can make me FEEL!!! I know, I've said that a hundred thousand times already, but it's true! Anger, happiness, elation, misery, depression or any other emotion known to human kind. I want to feel what the characters are in that moment, and also SEE the scene in my minds eye."

    YES, YES, YES!!!! And, see? This is only one of the MANY reasons I love you, Trixi -- you appear to be an official EDQ, just like me -- EMOTIONAL DRAMA QUEEN!! ;)

    Thanks for your sweet comment, my friend, and here's to a win!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  13. PATTI JO!!! Were you ears ringing?? Trust me, it wasn't your alarm clock, darlin', because I just mentioned you (and your peach cobbler) up above, you sweet thing!!

    Thanks for your kind words, my friend! I do have a boatload of emotions in this bod, which help me to emote in books and bring characters to life, but as a CDQ, I've been accused to too much drama and angst. You will be happy to know, however, that the reviewer who said that has since become a good friend whom I have converted to drama and angst against her will. ;)

    Hugs and good luck in the contest, my friend!
    Julie

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  14. A wonderful post! Thank you very much for the reminder about the importance of word choice when we write. Please enter me in the drawing. Thank you.

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  15. TINA, I have NO earthly idea, my friend. Seems like she was scooting across the floor just last week, but that's what old age does to you. But as a good friend once told, "Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The faster it goes, the closer you get to the end." :)

    And, YES, the Online Reverse Dictionary is one of THE BEST tools I can recommend for a writer, although they recently changed it to make it better, but this old dog don't like new tricks.

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  16. Your writing is always so expressive, Julie! Great post. Wonderful excerpts from your various stories. Thank you for encuraging us to find the perfect, sometimes hard-hitting word that makes the passage zing!

    Thanks too for the links. I need to add them to my favorites!

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  17. VINCE!!!

    Always LOVE your comments, my friend, because you put SO much thought and depth into them. Of course, you're also like a stun gun, because after I read anything you wrote, my mouth and eyes are gaping, blown away by something brilliant I've never heard or thought of before. Were you ever a professor or teacher because you sure make people THINK ... and LEARN!!

    "Sticks and stones can kill the body; words can kill the soul."

    LOVE THIS!!! And the jaw will drop once again if you tell me you wrote it ...

    And I hear you on certain lines in TV shows. The only show that ever consistently stunned me with their words and made me laugh and shake my head was The Gilmore Girls, the dialogue so fast and witty, I almost couldn't keep up. And I was A LOT younger then ... ;)

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, Vince, for buying H&S -- you won't be sorry, I promise! I have read four of the five stories, and they are OUTSTANDING!! And guess what? If you posted a review for any of them individually (which I know you did), you can post that same review(s) for H&S and accrue 10 extra points in my contest to have a character named after you in Love Everlasting, so do let me know, okay?

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  18. Like a breath of fresh air ...to start off the day with a Julie post!! The "grand" is just precious! I look forward to reading your newest book and would love to be in the drawing for it! Thanks! Keep up the great writing!!

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  19. CINDY W, thank you for your sweet comment and I love your statement, "I feel like I have become 'one' with the story and I am not just a bystander flipping pages."

    As I said to sweet Trixi above, YES, YES, YES!!! Me, too, my friend -- for me, the more drama (produced by the "write" word), the more intwined I become in the characters life, making me "one" with the story.

    Fingers crossed for a win (since you can't really pray to win in a group of Christians who pray, right??).

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  20. Oh, JACKIE, YES!!! Me too, my friend! In fact I just read Catherine West's wonderful new novel called The Things We Knew, and jotted down a number of words/phrases that really rocked. Of course, they're so unique and obviously from Cathy's fertile imagination, that I would never use them myself, but the one that sticks in my mind the most is when the hero sees the heroine for the first time in years. He says in his mind, "Holy Mother of Wonderful!" Great phrasing book and great book!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  21. Thanks, JILL, she IS adorable, isn't she? But I won't tell her that Jackie above said she favors me, because she may not like being compared to JuJu ... ;)

    And I appreciate your sweet comment about the post. I usually reserve the word "fantastic" for a post that's four time as long with four times as many points, but I thought I'd give everybody a break and not drone on and on ... ;)

    Good luck in the contest, and here's to a win!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  22. KATE, you sweet thing, THANK YOU!! Is this Kate Voss? Because if so, DOUBLE THANK YOU for your incredible review of Isle of Hope, my friend -- YOU are THE BEST!!

    HUGS and GOOD LUCK!
    Julie

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  23. LOL, CARYL ... and hugs have power too, my friend, so THANK YOU for always being so generous with them and your amazing support for Christian fiction!!

    Hugs and here's to a win!
    Julie

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  24. APPLE BLOSSOM!!! Abs, where have you been, my friend?? I've missed you because you are one of my faves, too, so don't be a stranger. If you still have a blog and want to be on my blog tour for Love Everlasting, let me know, okay?

    Hugs and more hugs,
    Julie

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  25. LOL, SANDRA, you always make me smile, my friend -- our Seekerville ambassador is on the job!! Hope you are having a great time. :)

    Hugs and more hugs,
    Julie

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  26. HEIDI, thank you, my friend, and consider yourself in the draw, girl, so GOOD LUCK!!

    HUGS,
    Julie

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  27. DEBBY SAID: "Your writing is always so expressive, Julie!"

    LOL ... a natural byproduct of being a CDQ, my friend. Besides, I have to put all that drama and angst somewhere besides my marriage, right??? ;)

    And, YES, Deb -- DO add the Reverse Dictionary to your favorites. You won't be sorry!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  28. JACKIE SAID: "Like a breath of fresh air ...to start off the day with a Julie post!! The "grand" is just precious!"

    AW, thanks, my friend, SO appreciate your kind words! Trust me, there are days when I am like a "breath of stress air," so I appreciate your statement more than you know. :)

    And, YES, my grand is indeed "precious" and wonderfully grand!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  29. Thank you for a great post, Julie!! I sure need to study up on making my writing more powerful. I will be printing this article off and adding to your stack of writing advice. Can't wait to meet you next month at ACFW! Enter me in the drawing, please!

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  30. Oh, KELLY, me too!! I'm sooooo you'll be in Nashville because I have a great, big hug waiting for you, girlfriend, so see you there!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  31. Awesome post!! I constantly have the online Thesaurus on tab, even at work!! :) It always comes in handy.

    I can't wait to read your new book, Julie!!

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  32. Thanks, MICHAELA -- I can't wait for you to read it either!! ;)

    And GOOD GIRL on the online thesaurus tab!! :)

    Hugs and GOOD LUCK!
    Julie

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  33. I agree, JULIE, word choice matters a lot! One of my pet peeves is reading a historical novel where the author slips in modern-day slang or other terminology they'd never have used in that era.

    And I agree with DEBBY about your expressive writing. You do have a knack for creating clever metaphors that fit both your characters and the scene.

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  34. Julie!!! LOVE this post! I have to say that the fear of being picked at for the wrong words in writing is SO STRONG for me! You're right, no one wants to be known for writing a lame story. Just the thought has be shaking in my boots...lol! I don't want it to stop me from pursuing my dreams, but it is hard. This post is a big encouragement for me! Your tips are great! I'm a tough critic when it comes to books, and I'm equally tough on myself....so it's always nice to see I'm not alone in that. Thanks for taking the time to share you knowledge with us!

    Also, I feel like it's been forever...I hope all is well with you and your family! I think of you and your books all the time...and can't wait for your upcoming release! Hugs!!!

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  35. JULIE, thanks for the great examples of the importance of words in our stories. You always use strong, action-packed verbs. Your characters never walk or turn or nod. They stomp and wheel and jerk their heads--strong words that bring them alive on the page. This post will make me more aware of strengthening my prose with the right words.

    Your granddaughter is adorable!

    Janet

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  36. Julie, this post nails so much of why your books fly off shelves... you have a knack of jam-packing the action into the simplest scenes.

    Everyone would do well to pay heed to this.

    It is such excellent advice!!!

    I've got a house full of kids I must get back to, but I wanted to stop in and say this rocks!

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  37. MYRA SAID: "One of my pet peeves is reading a historical novel where the author slips in modern-day slang or other terminology they'd never have used in that era."

    Oh, AMEN, my friend!! If I see the expression "he/she couldn't wrap their heads around it" in one more historical novel, I'm go ape!! ;)

    You also said: "And I agree with DEBBY about your expressive writing. You do have a knack for creating clever metaphors that fit both your characters and the scene."

    WOW, Myra, THANK YOU!! Compliments from readers are always a blessing, but from a respected peer? Golden!! :)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  38. EMILY!!!

    Girl, it's been an age, my friend, and in my case, an old one!! Hope you and your family are doing well also, and I think of you frequently too. :)

    And I'm a tough critic when it comes to books as well, but boy, oh boy, when I love something?? It's Gush City!! ;)

    Can't wait for you to read Love Everlasting because for some reason, I think you are a lot like Shannon, Em, so I'd love to hear what you think after you read it. :)

    Hugs and more hugs!
    Julie

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  39. JANET SAID: "You always use strong, action-packed verbs. Your characters never walk or turn or nod. They stomp and wheel and jerk their heads ..."

    LOL, ya think? Definitely trademarks of a CDQ, I guess, or as my mom used to say, "a real character." And THIS character absolutely loves to write characters with an overload of passion and angst because let's face it -- somebody has to, right??

    Yeah, I will agree with you, my friend -- my granddaughter IS adorable, but then I could be prejudice!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  40. Thanks, RUTHY, and once again you amaze me with all the hats you wear, my friend -- not just with different publishers, but in life!! YIKES!!

    Hugs and have a great day. :)

    Julie

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  41. And that is why we can't put your books down!! :)

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  42. Aw, JANA, what a nice thing to say, my friend, THANK YOU!!! Although I have received letters from a number of readers that COULD put them down ... and none too gently, either. ;)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  43. Oh, Julie, I just love your writing tips! It's no surprise that your heroes sure know how to stir up your pulse, hehe. Thank you so much for this enchanting behind-the-scenes look on your work! You indeed have passion with a purpose in your novels! :)
    Please sign me up for an ebook copy of Isle Of Hope.:) I wish I could read book 2 as well, but I have to choose one only,right? *sighs* lol

    God bless you! :)
    Manuela

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  44. Great post, Julie. Use of the right words are so important. You have given some great tips that I will try to incorporate.

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  45. Julie, can you share a paragraph from one of your books where you characters aren't angry but you still use strong verbs to describe their actions? Because I'm sure that's true.

    Janet

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  46. Thank you for this wonderful and informative post,Julie! Loved it!! You are so right,nothing ruins a scene more when the wrong words are used. Your GWTW example is a great point! Why David O. Selznick(the producer of the film version of GWTW) was a willing to take a $100 fine from the censors of 1939,because he knew that the last line of the movie would have less punch if it would have been changed. Reading this post makes me realize that your use of words is one of the many reasons we love your books. You convey the feelings of the scene so well!! Not only do you give us great stories,but you're a genius at knowing how to use words to do it!!
    Oh,BTW Loved the the picture of your granddaughter,she's a cutie!! When I read your story and saw what book she was holding had to laugh out loud! :) Thanks again for this post and giveaway (Please enter me ,if possible). Always a joy to learn from one of the greatest CF authors ever!! :)

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  47. Hey, MANUELA, thank you for your sweet comment because I do dearly love to "stir up the pulse," so that's a true compliment! Oh, and girl, I DEARLY would like you to read Isle of Hope, too, so fingers crossed for a win!!

    Hugs and more hugs,
    Julie

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  48. Thanks, SANDY, appreciate you reading it, my friend, so here's hoping I can send you a copy of book 2 in IOH!

    Hugs and more hugs,
    Julie

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  49. Such great tips, Julie! Susan May Warren always recommends creating a word pool that can be used to convey the mood for the scene. I've always remembered the value of knowing the mood I want to convey and thinking of words that will match that. You do a masterful job in the examples you shared here. :)

    I always learn from your posts, Julie!

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  50. JANET SAID:
    "Julie, can you share a paragraph from one of your books where you characters aren't angry but you still use strong verbs to describe their actions? Because I'm sure that's true."

    Oh, make me work, Janet, why don't you! ;) Well, actually, the scene above with Marcy looking out the window is a good example because that's just sorrow, not anger, but the words are strong enough to evoke that sadness, I hope.

    I did find one or two of my favorite lines where I think the words are strong:

    The lust had finally simmered and stewed.

    (Instead of saying, "The lust had finally given way to love."

    OR:

    A feast for the senses, but a drought for the soul.

    (Instead of saying, "He was attracted to her, but not spiritually."

    Here's a little clip I found for Isle of Hope that I like with what I think are strong words in caps:

    The door WHOOSHED (instead of opened) open and there he stood in all his glory, muscled body filling out a polo a little too well for a man his age. With a fold of arms, he BUTTED (instead of leaned) a shoulder to the jamb with that little-boy grin she remembered whenever he’d TROUNCED (instead of beaten or won against) her, Karen, and Adam in Scrabble. Only back then it made her smile.

    Not BUCKLE (instead of make her weak) her knees.

    “The ice cream’s melting,” he said, the husky tease in his tone doing a little melting of its own. “What took you so long?”

    Her cheeks PULSED (instead of heated or burned) with heat as she BOLTED (instead of ran) into his house, INCHING (instead of moving) sideways to avoid touching his arm. “Had to change after I wrote a note for the kids,” she called over her shoulder, all but SPRINTING (instead of running) down the hall to the back of his house. “Told ’em I was taking a long walk.”

    Yeah, a long walk. Off a short pier.

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  51. Hey, LYNNE, thanks for coming by, my friend -- ALWAYS a pleasure to see your sweet name pop up!!

    You said: "Why David O. Selznick(the producer of the film version of GWTW) was a willing to take a $100 fine from the censors of 1939,because he knew that the last line of the movie would have less punch if it would have been changed."

    ABSOLUTELY, and although he got a lot of flack for it, it made for a truly powerful ending.

    Thanks for laughing over my granddaughter's pic. I was a wee bit worried somebody might not think it's funny, but it sure was to me."

    Hugs and more hugs,
    Julie

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  52. JEANNE SAID: "Susan May Warren always recommends creating a word pool that can be used to convey the mood for the scene. I've always remembered the value of knowing the mood I want to convey and thinking of words that will match that."

    EXCELLENT IDEA, Jeanne & Susie!! I actually have a WORD DOC where I do this -- list various words for things like stomachs, pulse, heart, etc., and I use it CONSTANTLY, so Susie May is dead-on!!

    HUGS!!
    Julie

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  53. Julie, wow!!! I'm in awe. Love the strong words you used to convey sexual tension! You are good, girl!

    Janet

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  54. Julie, ever think of selling that word doc? Probably there would be a bidding war and it would go high.

    Janet

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  55. Yard work day. Finally getting back here.

    Vince! I love that little vignette you told! You should be a writer. You told it in such a way that I felt like I was there.

    Great little story.

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  56. I'm in on the bidding war for Julie's words.

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  57. JANET SAID: "Julie, ever think of selling that word doc? Probably there would be a bidding war and it would go high."

    Nope. Although, I actually did put it on one of my Seeker blogs once, and Keith looked at me with a slash of his brows and said, "Julie, do you REALLY want everybody using the same words you use??" OH. DUH. GOOD POINT. so I scratched it. I guess if people want my list of power words, they're going to have to read my books. ;)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  58. LOL, TINA!! I couldn't agree more about Vince's vignette, which pretty much confirms to me that he is definitely a writer, something I surmised long ago after reading a part of his book, his blogs, his emails, and his reviews!! :)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  59. TINA SAID: "I'm in on the bidding war for Julie's words."

    LOL ... not gonna happen, my friend, so go back to your yard work! ;)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  60. hahahaha!! Seriously. A Juicy Words Non Fiction Book by Julie Lessman.

    I'd buy it.

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  61. Julie
    Of course it's B'S across the board. ';)

    Love the post and could see my story going through some deeper word work!

    Would love to win books in the ISLE OF HOPE SERIES - haven't managed to get my hands on them yet.

    Much love and appreciation for your work!

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  62. That saying has always been one that bothers me. In a sense, I believe people use it to try and block out the hurtful words that have been said. One word or comment from someone can play in the back of your mind effecting the rest of your life. It is hard to unhear those words, in fact it is impossible, but at times you just have to push them aside.
    As you said the same is true of books. An author's words can create a beautiful masterpiece or it can leave you feeling confused and annoyed. There was one book that I read that was amazing, but then how they ended it did not fit with the rest of the book at all and was extremely annoying. I have read quite a few of your books and never had that happen. I have enjoyed all of them. Thank you for the opportunity to win one of your books.

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  63. I am wondering how you remember all these great scenes and words you wrote, Julie! It seems like once I move onto the next book, when I look back at a previous book, it almost feels like someone else wrote it lol! Sometimes I'll think -- that sounds pretty good! But I don't often remember sections. But I'm not normally trying to teach anyone, like you do. Anyhow, my 2 measly cents -- I had an editor I worked with who cautioned me against using too many strong verbs or powerful words. To be careful and be balanced and choosey where those words are used. So I have gotten more careful as my preference is to use too many of them and it tires the reader out. But I don't want to wimpify (my word lol) my writing either, so it is a balance! Enjoyed this article, sweet Julie!!!

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  64. Yes, that story and pic of beautiful little Rory gave me a chuckle, as did the description of your characters by Janet. I never get enough of that stomping, wheeling, and jerking - even in your 500+ page novels, lol. Good thing you have that wonderful hubby of yours to "keep you in line" - although with your hard-wired passion, I know your writing couldn't be duplicated, Word Doc or not. Thanks for always using the "write words", Julie and giving me so many hours of inspiration and enjoyment!!

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  65. This is a brilliant post, Julie. I'm so slow checking in today and I'm sorry.
    I'd hever seen that reverse thesaurus before. I've got it open now. Thank you.
    I go to Thesaurus.com a lot and it's sister site dictionary.com
    Usually the dictionary site is to help me decide if a word is historically accurate. Or better to say did it EXIST when my book is set.

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  66. Julie, I love this post! There is probably a better word choice for love. I like the thought of PURPOSELY adding the right word. I do think about word choices, but I need to concentrate more on the impact of those choices. Keeping a list of perfect words would help. Thanks for the thesaurus links.

    What a precious granddaughter!

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  67. Great post! Super excited to hear that Love Everlasting will be releasing soon!!! :D LOVE this contemporary series, Julie!

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  68. JOY!!! Soooo good to see you here, my friend, and do let me know if you will be at ACFW, because I would love to give you a hug, okay?

    Hugs and Here's to a Win! :)
    Julie

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  69. ELISE SAID: "There was one book that I read that was amazing, but then how they ended it did not fit with the rest of the book at all and was extremely annoying. I have read quite a few of your books and never had that happen. I have enjoyed all of them. Thank you for the opportunity to win one of your books."

    Oh, Elise, I hear you on this!! I read a bestseller book once that SO impressed me, I constantly turned to my hubby to point out things the author said that I liked, thinking this was a very good book. But when I got to the last quarter of the book, it just fell off a cliff. Rushed, uneventful, not even a bit special, so I was stunned because this was a top author!!

    Thank you, my friend, for your kind works about my books. Here's hoping I can send you one when you win. ;)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  70. Julie,
    I am not a writer but a reader. I have read many stories that haven't let me down. With that said there are those that just drop you off the face of the World and screaming what we're they thinking.
    My favorite part of what you wrote that I loved is one that keeps me into it and wanting more. He flung his car door open and chucked the bottle on the passenger seat. Mumbling under his breath, he rounded the vehicle to rotate the crank, gyrating the lever with such ferocity that it rattled unmercifully. The engine growled to life, its vicious roar rivaling the angst in his gut. He got in the car and slammed the door, slapping the headlights on with a grunt. With a hard swipe of the steering wheel, he jerked the car away from the curve and exhaled a loud breath! Thanks for the education love learning more.

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  71. Julie,
    I am not a writer but a reader. I have read many stories that haven't let me down. With that said there are those that just drop you off the face of the World and screaming what we're they thinking.
    My favorite part of what you wrote that I loved is one that keeps me into it and wanting more. He flung his car door open and chucked the bottle on the passenger seat. Mumbling under his breath, he rounded the vehicle to rotate the crank, gyrating the lever with such ferocity that it rattled unmercifully. The engine growled to life, its vicious roar rivaling the angst in his gut. He got in the car and slammed the door, slapping the headlights on with a grunt. With a hard swipe of the steering wheel, he jerked the car away from the curve and exhaled a loud breath! Thanks for the education love learning more.

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  72. Hey, CARRIE, sooooo good to see you, my friend -- cannot wait to give you a huge hug at CFRR and hope to catch up over coffee!!

    You said: "I had an editor I worked with who cautioned me against using too many strong verbs or powerful words. To be careful and be balanced and choosey where those words are used."

    Wow, that's an interesting point of view, Carrie, and I would have to say I agree to a point. I personally don't like using mundane words like "run," when I can opt for words like sprint, jog, bolt, etc., but I can see where too many powerful words could be over done in a normal scene. However, in a scene where you're trying to convey anger, tension, or passion? Bring on the powerful words!! ;)

    Hugs and more hugs,
    Julie

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  73. Hey, KAREN, thank you, my friend, and you're in the draw, so GOOD LUCK!! :)

    HUGS,
    Julie

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  74. BONNIE!!! Soooooo appreciate you coming by, my friend, with all you have going on, so THANK YOU!!

    YOU SAID: "Good thing you have that wonderful hubby of yours to "keep you in line"

    LOL ... ain't that the truth! ;)

    Cannot WAIT to see you, my friend, and it won't be long now ... :)

    Hugs and more hugs,
    Julie

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  75. Hey, MARE, thanks so much! And, girl, you are going to LOVE the reverse thesaurus, trust me! That and my Etymology Online Etymology site (the best I have found for telling me if a word was around at the time of my story) are my to go-to dictionaries.

    Hugs!!
    Julie

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  76. You are so right Julie! I'm a reader and can't write books but I do know when an author has my heart in a book. If I don't feel emotional when I read a book it's not a good deep book for me. I want to feel a book in my heart when I read. I really didn't know what made a great book good to me except by my emotions but you explained it very well. Thank you for all the examples because I now understand how much more vivid the image can be instead of being mediocre.

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  77. Just restarted my blog, and this post spoke to me! The Power of WORDS!! And of course in the eyes of children. it can be very humorous. Thanks Julie for a great reminder post! Blessings.

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  78. Hey, SHERIDA, thanks SO much, my sweet friend! And I don't know -- I think "love" is a pretty special word that doesn't need any alternative. Although I will say that one of my favorite lines from a movie was in Annie Hall when Woody Allen tells Diane Keaton he "loves" her, then decide it's not strong enough to convey the depth of his feelings, so he tells her he "lurves" her instead. I don't know why that has stayed with me all these years, but it has. So much so that I even occasionally say it to my hubby. :)

    Hugs and more hugs!
    Julie

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  79. Thanks SO much, SYDNEY, and I'm pretty excited, too, because I am really enjoying writing contemporaries, although I will never stray too far from historicals, I promise. :)

    Hugs and thanks for coming by!
    Julie

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  80. Hey, JUSTINA, thanks SO much for coming by -- here's hoping for a win!

    You said: "There are those that just drop you off the face of the World and screaming what we're they thinking."

    LOL, I hear you, girlfriend! I can't tell you HOW many times I have stared at a book, jaw gaping as I say, "Are you kidding me?" or "Seriously???"

    But then I have no doubt there are plenty of people who say that about my books, too, when they read them. ;)

    Hugs and GOOD LUCK!
    Julie

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  81. BRENDA SAID: "If I don't feel emotional when I read a book it's not a good deep book for me."

    Oh, AMEN, My friend -- I'm right there with you on that, because for me, emotion is key. Which is why my books are chock full of it. That and because I'm a natural EDQ (emotional drama queen)! ;)

    Hugs and GOOD LUCK in the contest!
    Julie

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  82. Hey, BREE, I'm soooo glad this spoke to you today, my friend, so THANK YOU for coming by, and here's to a win. :)

    Hugs!!
    Julie

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  83. Hey Julie! Your granddaughter sure is cute :)

    Thanks for all the tips, and those resources - I may just go prowl through them for fun!

    I'd love to be added to the drawing for Everlasting Love; that clip last week on your blog made me want more!

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  84. Great post, Julie!

    Please enter me for a copy of your new book "Love Everlasting."

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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  85. I really enjoy the excerpts from your books to illustrate your points. It's like revisiting old friends. I work with second graders; we call these "powerful words" "million dollar words" and encourage the kids to use them to make their writing stronger and more interesting.

    I've read all your books so am eagerly awaiting Love Everlasting. I'd be super happy to win your drawing!
    Blessings to you, Julie.

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  86. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  87. Great post (as always) Julie! Re: Harold Finch --since he's normally mild mannered, maybe his description of himself is keeping in character? It almost sounds like a more flamboyant or descriptive sentence wouldn't be "him" ... (Disclosure: I've never watched a full episode of PoI). =)

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  88. Great advice. I'm pinning it for future reference!

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  89. Hey, SARAH, how you doing, girlfriend? Thanks for coming by, and you're in the draw, so GOOD LUCK!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  90. I like answer B best I want to be the 3rd sister...lol. To be on my TBR soon list!

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  91. Hey, PHYLLIS, Seekerville and I will take all the blessings we can get, so THANK YOU!! You're in the draw, girlfriend, so here's to a win!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  92. Aw, PAM, thank you, my friend! I like the sound of "million dollar words," although none of my have ever reached THAT high, unfortunately. ;)

    SO appreciate your sweet comment AND you reading my books in the first place, so THANK YOU! You're name is in the hat, girlfriend, so fingers crossed ... :)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  93. Good examples of descriptive writing. The visual is what keeps me turning the pages of a book that seems to fly off the pages. Thank you for sharing Julie!

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  94. Julie,

    Great article! All of your books are filled with such wonderful descriptive words, keeps me turning every page!

    Please put my name in for the drawing!

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  95. ARTIST LIBRARIAN SAID: "Re: Harold Finch --since he's normally mild mannered, maybe his description of himself is keeping in character? It almost sounds like a more flamboyant or descriptive sentence wouldn't be "him" ... (Disclosure: I've never watched a full episode of PoI). =)"

    I suppose you're right, Jenn, but my CDQ personality just automatically goes to extremes, which Harold never does, so good point! And you've never watched a full episode??? My daughter and SIL got me and hubby hooked, I'm afraid, and we've watched almost every episode. :)

    Hugs and GOOD LUCK in the contest, my friend!

    Julie

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  96. JJ, thank you!! And I like your name -- JJ is the name of my blog (Journal Jots), so I hope you check it out sometime. Thanks for coming by, and here's to a win!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  97. Hey, CARLA, thanks for planning to read my book, but if I may, I'd like to make a suggestion. The quotes above are from my Irish family saga series that is best read in order, so I recommend starting with the prequel to the first series, A Light in the Window, WHICH is currently on e-Sale for $2.99, so I hope you check it out. Here's the video my artist hubby did for it using my daughter as the model for both the book cover and the video: A LIGHT IN THE WINDOW VIDEO

    Not sure what you mean by "you want to be the third sister," but if you do, that would be Lizzie, the shy bookworm of the family, and her story is very interesting. :)

    Hugs and GOOD LUCK!!
    Julie

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  98. Hey, MARDELL, you are MORE than welcome, my friend -- glad it could be of help to you. Thanks for coming by and here's to a win! :)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  99. Aw, thanks, EDWINA!! And, yes, you are in the draw, darlin', so fingers crossed for a win!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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