More Writing Props

In my  journal, I had written about taking the skiff out into the Bay of Conception to get a closer look at the many dolphins that were travelling up to the head of the bay. Paired with this photo courtesy of Amanda Naismith, and several others which triggered that memory, I wrote a scene for Kevin and Sylvia in Orion’s Gift that was very close to the truth.


Excerpt from Orion’s Gift:

Hundreds of sleek bodies broke the surface only to curve and dive down immediately and reappear a few yards farther on. Kevin cut the motor again and we drifted, a mere speck in the middle of the huge Bay of Conception, closer than we had hoped to a huge school of dolphins, all aiming for the head of the bay.

“Listen to them!” I whisper-shouted to Kevin. The mewling, whistling, singing, and crying, as they repeatedly broke the surface of the water, was an eerie choir piece. Hauntingly beautiful, it gave me goosebumps in spite of the warm day. Kevin’s face mirrored my feelings exactly—somewhere between awe and ecstasy. My mind was suddenly in turmoil, balancing this rare and precious moment with the realization that I probably had few of them left. Peaks of happiness and bottomless pits of misery played havoc with my emotions.

My eyes filled with tears. “Thank you for bringing me out here. That was so beautiful.” I lowered my head. Just needed a moment.

“It would have been a shame to have to enjoy this all alone,” he said.

Still trying to come to terms with the amazing spectacle we had just experienced, we sat a moment longer watching the last of the dolphins disappear in the distance.

“Uh-oh!” Kevin pointed towards the open end of the bay. “Whitecaps.” He started the motor and turned the skiff towards home. Within minutes, the breaking waves had moved much closer and the glassy smooth surface changed to ripples that grew into an uncomfortable lump. I’d heard San Diego fishermen talk about the lump in the sea. Now I knew what they were talking about.

“Hang on,” he said. “It could get bumpy. I’ll take us to the nearest point of land and then we’ll work our way home along the beach.”

I gripped the gunwales of the boat where they began to curve towards the bow. We bucked into the choppy whitecaps that had now overtaken us. In no time, the sleeves of my blue cotton shirt were soaked from the spray. Two-foot waves didn’t seem like much but they followed one after the other so briskly that the small skiff took a pounding. My stomach clenched into a knot of fear as we were tossed in every direction. I tightened my grip against the bouncing of the boat. More waves splashed over the bow, soaking the front of my shirt. I was glad the water was warm. It would have been an ordeal to be splashed with icy water every few seconds. The finer spray wet my face so the drops were running off my chin. I glanced at Kevin in the stern of the boat. He was completely dry except for a bit of salt spray in his hair. He looked so good and I could only imagine what I looked like. Drowned rats came to mind.


Writing Props – Journals and Photos

When I travel, even on short trips not too far from home, I keep a journal and/or take photos. It’s not that I think I’ll forget everything so I have to write it down, or that I need the proof the camera will provide. I started doing this way back when I was much younger, before I realized that I might, indeed, forget some of the details of my travels.

I’ve kept journals fairly diligently for the past 37 years. At first it was “just for the record,” but then the journal became useful for reminding me of places to return to – or not. Notes like “Pilot gas station at XXXX, California – High prices, terrible service, no room to turn with a trailer. Do not go back!” have come in very handy on a return trip.

Here are some of my journals. As you can see, any kind of notebook will do the job. Many have several trips recorded in them. I use them until the pages are full.


Photos are not as useful for travel guides but they bring back memories that may not even be on the picture. Amazing how the mind makes connections from triggers.

In my novel, Orion’s Gift, I made great use of my journals and photos from trips my husband and I had made to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Places we stopped for the night became places where my characters, Sylvia and Kevin, stayed overnight as they lived out their adventures in Baja. Photos of the towns, beaches, countryside, and people of Baja twigged memories of events and places I was able to use in the novel. We know that it doesn’t take a page of description to paint the picture for the reader. A few well-placed choice words will do the trick.

And so the journals and photos have become invaluable to me for use as writing props. Now I document my trips with a view to using some of the content in future novels. You just never know when some scene calls for details that are recorded in the journals or photos.

Example: The scene about going to the spring in the desert came from my notes and photos.

desert flowers

Excerpt from Orion’s Gift

“How far is the spring?” I adjusted my pack.

“About 45 minutes each way,” Bill said.

I looked around. Rocks, sand, cholla, ocotillo, and cardón cacti, and palo verde trees. Beautiful, yet unending and without distinguishing landmarks, and no ocean in sight. I didn’t like it. Oh, it was scenic enough, but heading out into the unknown, so late in the day, putting all my trust in people I had just met—it didn’t sit right with me. “Did anyone bring a compass?”

Sharon laughed. “We know the way. You follow the dry riverbed and watch for the little rock monuments.” To my way of thinking she seemed a bit over-confident in the insubstantial. Sharon was assuming these rock piles would always be there. What if they were knocked over by people or animals? What if there was a flash flood? And besides, rocks had a way of looking alike. And even if the rocks were still there, what if we got separated and she and Bill were the only ones who knew the way?

“Who built them?” Sylvia asked. She didn’t seem to be worried. Maybe I was overreacting.


Do you use your journals or photos for writing? Do you have writing props of some other sort that you can tell us about? Why not share your thoughts?




Writing Do’s and Don’ts – by Barb Beacham

I’d like you to meet Barb Beacham, whom some of you may know from her blog  at

(I think she’s cheating with her selfie. We can’t really see our mystery guest clearly, but she’s a bit shy.)


Here is Barb with some of her ideas and tips about writing:

Thank you, Anneli, for inviting me to share about writing with you and your followers.

I have been writing for years. My ideas come to me at the most unexpected moments. When I see something and it strikes a chord, I write it down. You would not believe the pile of notes I have. There are notes on napkins, post-it notes, and on the backside of envelopes. I have since learned…First rule: Always carry something to write on and something to write with.

This leads to watching and experiencing. You have to watch life in order to understand it. You also have to experience it, with all of its rough edges and smooth spots, as well as those that are just a hmmm…People-watching leads to an understanding of human nature, and animal nature too. It is easier to write about something that you have experienced and places you have been, rather than  just making something up. I am an avid reader and I can tell you it is always apparent when the writer does not have knowledge.

When experiencing a moment in time, ask yourself, “Where will this go next?” I was sitting in an airport at a gate area that did not look like what all of us are used to. Everyone was sitting on the floor. A man walked into this area with a toy monkey on a tube that had a bulb on the end. All he said to us was, “Ninos.” Let’s look at this and ask: Was he selling a toy for kids? Was it a device that would detonate on the plane? Or, could the toy be possessed by the devil?

Write about what you know. Sure, you can tweak a situation to make it work for you. That is what fiction is all about. Write about places that you have been. This is certainly easier than dreaming up a world, like Tolkien did, which by the way was brilliant. Maybe Middle Earth was based on his surrounding area? Can’t you just hear him say to himself, “Doesn’t that mountain over there, with the cut off top, the rugged hillside, and the glow of the rising sun behind it, look like Mt. Doom?”

Face your fear of writing and being criticized. Not everyone is going to like what you write, but many others will appreciate it. Look at all the negativity that Hunter S. Thompson got on his articles and books. They still made a movie out of that book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” The book was great, the film…not so good. Crazy as it was – the book that is – it was a journey that was one man’s adventure. Did you have any of those when you were young that were so crazy it brings a smile to yourself today?

Beware: Do not create characters, or name them, with something that identifies that person in a way that others will recognize. Blend instead. Blend your unreasonable mother with the sweet lady who baked you cookies when you were a kid.

Have a plan. Seems like a lot of work, but it will be worth it. This plan is the road map to your writing. Take all those notes you have collected and set them in an order that makes sense. Those that don’t? Use them for something else. You do not have to write in order of that map. You can write where the wind blows you. In the end, make sure that it works. Ask a friend to read it with a critical eye.

And then there’s passion.  Passion is a huge driving force in writing.  It helps you to pull what you have inside yourself out and into the words.  If you are passionate about the project, the words will flow.

Regarding writer’s block:  When you hit that wall, step away from what you are doing and take a walk, bake some cookies, just do something else for a while.  You need to step away from writing in order for that flow to come back.  Don’t be discouraged over this.  Mark Twain stepped away from “The Adventures Huckleberry Finn” for a couple of years.  He was midway through the book when he did this.

Nothing drives me crazier than reading a book, a published book, that has grammar errors and typos. Check, re-check, and re-check again. Use a software program that will review that too. Be aware that words do sometimes get bypassed because they are spelled correctly, but the usage is wrong. Another reason to have someone else who is good with your native language review your writing.

The last thing that you need to do is practice writing. Flash fiction challenges are good for this. You have to write a story with a limited number of words (make sure you stick to that limit) that has a beginning, middle and end. I would love to see what you write and will help you. Please visit my flash fiction site Mondays Finish the Story.


I thank Barb Beacham for her insights into her writing. What about you, dear Reader? Your comments are always welcome on my blog. Please “add your two bits’ worth.” We’d love to know what you think.


Sharing Writing Ideas – First Drafts

penToday’s topic is “Writing Methods.”

Readers, have you ever wondered how a story grew from someone’s imagination into a novel?

Writers, won’t you share your secrets with us? How did your novel take shape?

I know there are all kinds of odd writing habits that produce a novel. Why not share what you do? I’ll start by sharing an odd writing habit that worked for me.


When I began to write the first draft of Julia’s Violinist, I happened to be in Mexico. I bought a couple of Mexican school exercise books – the kind we usually call scribblers, although that name always bothered me (my mother always told me to write neatly, not scribble). I took my beach mat and a pen and notebook to a quiet spot on the beach and, with the sound of the waves swishing in the background, I began to write. Heidi and Harry, an elderly German couple who rented a bungalow next to ours were also at the beach. When it got too hot to write, I went for a dip in the ocean. Treading water next to Heidi, I asked her all kinds of questions about what life was like for her in the days  before, during, and after WWII. Some of what she told me became part of my novel, Julia’s Violinist, and it’s because of her help that one of my characters is named Heidi.


After writing a chapter or a scene in my notebook, I took my beach gear back to the bungalow and turned on my laptop. As I transferred the “scribblings” into my Word program, I was able to add, delete, and change the text to fatten up the story.

Day after day, I did this, and gradually the novel took shape.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section. No answer is wrong. All input is appreciated.

Don’t be shy. Tell us what you think and share your ideas.


Sharing Writing Ideas – Online Chapters

penToday’s topic is Making chapters available online.”

Readers, have you ever read a novel as a serial in a magazine (online or otherwise)? What was your experience? What do you prefer? Would you rather read the book a chapter at a time and have to wait for each installment, or would you rather have the whole book available to finish at your leisure?

Writers, what are the advantages and disadvantages of allowing your novel to appear online chapter by chapter? Have you had any good or bad experiences you’d like to share with us? Do you think it helps your sales to make your novel available as a serial, one chapter at a time? Is it a good idea, or not?

I’ve thought about making my novels available as a serial book, but would be very interested in what the blogging community’s experiences, thoughts, and feelings are about reading a novel in this way.

From a business point of view, is it a good idea for writers to offer their work as a serial book? Why or why not?

Please share your thoughts in the comment section. No answer is wrong. All input is appreciated.

Don’t be shy. Tell us what you think and share your ideas.


Sharing Writing Ideas – Description


Again, I’m inviting everyone (both writers and readers) to share some of their beliefs, writing habits, expertise, and opinions on a variety of subjects connected to writing or reading novels.

Today’s topic is description. I’d like to hear what you think. How much description should you provide for your characters? Is it better to let the reader fill in the blanks after a very sketchy description, or should you paint a complete picture of what they look like?

I’ve read some books where I have no idea what the character looks like, and I’ve read others where I am nearly falling asleep from the detailed description.

As a reader, what do you prefer? As a writer, what is your style and your advice on the use of description?

Please don’t be shy. Tell us what you think and share your ideas.