Tag Archives: Coco Ihle

A COMEDY of ERRORS by Coco Ihle

You know how some people are just “funny” accident prone? Well, my son, Rob, is one of those people, but only when he is at my house. I’ve never been able to figure out why, but because of this affliction, we’ve had lots of laughs, and sometimes the mention of a single word will bring forth gales of laughter from both of us.

One such example happened several years ago, but the mere mention of it reforms the images in our minds and sets the giggles into action. And my son has a great way of recounting the story of how it happened. It was dinner time and we were having hot dogs. Rob was helping me by setting the table and bringing out the condiments. I opened the refrigerator door and grabbed the plastic yellow mustard container and proceeded to give it a good shake so the mustard would come out nice and thick instead of runny.

When I looked up, Rob was standing on the outside of the refrigerator door waiting to get in to get the milk when I suddenly realized someone hadn’t completely closed the top on the mustard container the last time we used it and there were continuous yellow stripes up and down my son’s face and one large glob that was slowly dripping from the end of his nose. I absolutely lost it! I tried really hard not to, but the deadpan expression on Rob’s face as he looked at me, left me completely unhinged. I couldn’t say a word. I couldn’t breathe. Tears blinded my vision. A tiny little squeak was coming from my lungs, but I thought I’d never get my breath back and my midsection was hurting so bad. Of, course, that set Rob off, and it was fifteen minutes before the two of us were able to peel ourselves off the floor and breath normally again.

The latest incident was a few weeks ago when my soon to be daughter-in-law, Florence, and Rob came to spend the weekend with me. I had transferred freshly brewed coffee to a thermos pump pot after it was ready and Florence and I were sitting outside on the patio enjoying the morning and our first cups when Rob came out to say hello. I told him the coffee was ready and he went back inside to get himself a cup. Several minutes went by and he didn’t return. Florence and I wondered what was keeping him and I was just about to get up and go inside when here he came. He had that famous deadpan expression on his face again, so I asked what happened. He said he held his cup under the pump pot’s spigot and was pumping the coffee into his cup when his hand accidentally knocked down a wall-mounted mixer whisk that was behind the pump pot and that startled him so he spilled the steaming hot coffee all over the counter, his hand and floor and when he opened the cabinet underneath the sink to reach the paper towels, he grabbed one and yanked and the roll took off like he was rolling out a red carpet. By the time he got the coffee spill cleaned up and the paper towels re-rolled, he said he was ready to go back to bed. He was kidding, but by that time, Florence and I were in tears and gripping our sides, and Rob joined in.

We all agreed it was nice to start a day off with laughter. Hope you have days like that, too!

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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It’s Celebration Time – Again

                                  by Coco Ihle

In trying to decide what to write about this month, I moseyed over here to the Second Wind Blog site, scrolled down the right hand column to Categories and down to my name, clicked, and brought up the Archive of all my posts since my book, SHE HAD TO KNOW came out in April, 2011. I was astounded to learn that my blog post last month was my fiftieth for Second Wind Publishing! As I often say, Who’d a thunk it?!

For some, that’s not so many, but since I only blog once a month for my publisher, that means I’ve been here a while. I guest blog from time to time also, but this post is about my Second Wind blogs. Skimming through them brought topics as varied as writing hints and other ideas, discoveries, reminiscences of experiences, reports of travel, mourning losses, and just plain musings. In those monthly offerings I expressed joy and sorrow, surprise, wonderment, even fear and was so pleased when my readers contributed with comments, likes and e-mails.

It’s always nice when an author realizes that people actually enjoy reading their posts. I mean, we don’t get paid for doing it. It’s something like sharing our lives with other readers, for we are readers too. We exchange and connect with others even though we are sitting alone in front of a keyboard. It’s wonderful and I really enjoy it. And I’ve made a lot of friends along the way and have reconnected with people I haven’t seen in a long time. I’ve also become acquainted with new-to-me authors, whose work I now admire and enjoy.

Blogging keeps me learning things I might not have been exposed to otherwise, both in technology and in everyday living. I would like to thank all of you out there who read my blogs and especially those of you who have given me feedback. I appreciate you all so much! And happy fifty-first to me!

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Pets in Mysteries

Mystery books are the genre I enjoy reading and writing the most. Lately, I’ve noticed my stack of cozy mysteries has grown, many of which involve pets in some way. Cats and dogs, specifically. In pondering why this has been a factor in my reading, I’ve come to the conclusion I’ve been seeking somewhat lighter fare. Books with a good puzzle to solve, but that are considered more “comfort” reads, with a good resolution and happy ending.

The pets in recent and current readings have such attributes as being affectionate, loyal, curious, obedient or not, cute and even humorous. Some have that instinctive sense of good and evil and/or use their scent abilities. Some even help describe their owners’ traits or personalities.

Sometimes, animals in books are more family members than pets and as such, are involved in the plot more like actual characters. They often set the scene with their own cute antics to which readers can endearingly relate. Pets with acute instincts or sense of smell are more to my personal liking when it comes to animals involved in the mystery’s solution. I’m not really fond of talking animals in stories, but that’s just my preference.

In my own book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, I introduce Pippi, a black cat who seems to think she is the mother of Scotti, a white West Highland Terrier. They are both family members who appear just a few times being the animals they are, chasing one another, sleeping together, or just being nosy. But, since they have such small roles, they are not featured on the cover.

There are authors who have animals based on their protagonist’s vocation, for instance, veterinarians or pet sitters, or protagonists who have more exotic animals, like birds, turtles or potbellied pigs. If a reader sees a book on a bookstore shelf with a domestic animal on the cover, I think they automatically are inclined to assume the book is not going to be hard boiled and quite possibly, cozy. I may be wrong, but it seems to me there has been an upsurgence of these kinds of books lately. Is it me? Could it be a reflection of readers’ desires to escape the challenges of today’s world? What do you think? Do you have any animals in your stories? If so, how did you use them? Or, if you are a reader and not a writer, are these among the kind of books you enjoy reading? I’d love to learn your viewpoint.

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My Welcome Home — by Coco Ihle

On June 13th, I set off on a river cruise to Russia, Estonia and Finland, and returned to Florida on July 4th. My homecoming, however, wasn’t quite what I had planned. After about thirty hours without sleep, I arrived home at approximately 3 AM to find that a pipe had broken behind the wall in my master bathroom. Water had flooded underneath the vanity cabinets into the adjacent carpeted linen closet and traveled through the wall into my foyer, soaking the oriental carpet in the entry to the front door and out into the vestibule. On inspection I noticed black mold and fuzz now covered the back wall of the cabinets, ringed the carpet in the closet and followed the path the water had taken out the front door. Draped over several objects, I found the oriental carpet drying in the garage. I knew immediately there would be no sleep for me anytime soon.

My neighbor across the street had checked on my house the day before I returned and she immediately shut off the water heater and main water valve to my house. She also cleared out the linen closet, not knowing that the leak originated next to the closet. A note citing her observations and actions awaited me on my kitchen counter since she began her own vacation early on the day I got home. Her note expressed her regrets at the problem I had before me and she left me flowers from her garden and fresh water for coffee in the morning. Bless her!

I spent the remainder of the night cleaning out and boxing up the contents of the bathroom cabinets. Of course, naturally, that morning was July 4th. Luckily, my neighbor had left her water on for me to use until my water was restored. Good thing, because my plumber wasn’t able to come until the 5th.  Can you picture me darting like an animated cartoon character across the street in the middle of the night in my nighty to use her bathroom?

Early on the 5th, the plumber came to restore my water and he spent the day trying to find where  the leak originated and to figure out how to fix the problem. When he left, I had water on the guest side of the house, but my master bathroom pipes would have to be rerouted. Today is the 10th and the job is finally completed.

My insurance claims man arrived today as well, and we’ll have to wait and see if and how much of this problem will be covered by my insurance. My brain is picturing mega bucks. Shudder!

I had planned to start writing about my trip in this blog post, but I hope you will tune in again next month, dear reader, when I’ve had time to recover from my harrowing homecoming. By then I will have looked through the myriad photos I took, brochures I gathered and wonderful memories I logged in my brain. I’ll bone up on my adjectives, too. Russia, Estonia and Finland were awesome!

***

Coco Ihle is the author of She Had to Know, published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC

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Writing Styles Have Changed

I’m reading a book right now by Patricia Wentworth, published in 1953. Although I’m very much enjoying this book, I’m finding the going slower than in the novels of today, which started me thinking. Patricia Wentworth was English, which partially accounts for her writing style, and she was from another generation of writers. Born in India in 1878 and privately educated, she was most famous for her Miss Maud Silver mystery series, although her career as an author spanned many decades with varied series and stand alone novels.

Her language is more literary than works of today and she uses larger, more obscure words, which I’m finding fascinating. I love to learn new words and have been consulting the dictionary for each one I’m not familiar with. She never would have ended the previous sentence with a preposition, by the way!

When I was writing my book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, my first drafts had “bigger” words, ones I thought described the situation or setting much better than any others I might have used in ordinary conversation, but I was discouraged from doing much of that in today’s market. Interesting, huh? I was encouraged to write simply and plainly so the reader’s experience would be smooth and rapid. I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed with that advice. In my humble opinion, some words are better than others and I had spent countless hours finding just the perfect words to explain my meaning.  However, I wanted to be published and I was confident editors certainly knew more than I, so I cut out many of the lovely words I had so painstakingly inserted.

Perhaps this situation is a generational one since, by some, I am now considered a senior . My reading experiences started earlier than that of many readers today, but I keep hearing phrases like, “Books today are being dumbed down.” Is that actually true? Is it true only in genre fiction? It definitely isn’t true with all the books I read, but many on the market are meant to be fast reads. Could that be considered dumbing down? People today have busy lives and they don’t want to spend time looking up words in a dictionary in order to understand what an author is saying. Is that true?

I guess, for me, I like a mixture of reading material. Sometimes I don’t want to have to think too hard. I just want to escape into someone else’s world for a short time. And sometimes I want to learn something that takes a bit more time and effort.

What is your opinion? How do you like to read? Am I completely off base?

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Belly Dancing…Dangerous?

TopMy twenty year career as a Middle Eastern belly dancer was fun and exciting, but who would have thought it could be dangerous? In the Bible Belt, no less? A version of the following story first appeared in Lelia Taylor’s Buried Under Books Blog over a year ago, but I recently was asked to tell it again.

Part of my job as a belly dancer was to help people celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, farewells, get wells, office parties, etc., in what was called a belly gram. You know, instead of sending balloons or flowers, people hired me to dance a ten-minute routine as a surprise for their guest of honor on his or her special occasion. In the account below I have changed the names to protect the “guilty.”

One day, my friend, Tom, a sergeant in the nearby Air National Guard, called and asked me to dance for Captain Sanders, head of security. The plan was Tom would smuggle me on base in his van, hide me in the clinic, and then he’d call and report a break-in. When Captain Sanders arrived to check it out, we’d all jump out and surprise him. I was told the base commander was in on it, so I agreed.

That day at the clinic, Tom led me into a room where folding screens were set up to hide me and my boom box, the beverages, and the cake. Co-workers helped move gurneys aside to provide an open space for me to dance and then they took their places hiding in an adjacent office.

While Tom walkie-talkied Captain Sanders, I warmed up my fingers, did body stretches and concealed myself. Within a few minutes, I could hear a commotion down the hall. Voices and footfalls were coming closer. Hurriedly jamming my fingers into the elastic bands of my finger cymbals, I awaited my cue to come merrily out of my hiding place –– hips in action.

Captain Sanders, accompanied by an indeterminate few who were all talking at once, was apparently conducting a systematic search in case the “perpetrator” was still present. As I strained to hear the conversation, I saw a disembodied hand slide through the edge of the fabric screen next to me and punch the start button on my stereo. I hadn’t expected the hand just then and as I was muffling a yelp, my music started. Swallowing my heart, I took a big breath, put on my most alluring smile, wrenched aside the screen, and propelled myself forward with cymbals madly clattering to the lively Arabic tune.

The next thing I knew, I was skidding to a dead stop. My field of vision was reduced solely to the big black muzzle of a rifle, four inches away, aimed at a spot directly between my eyes. When I could think again, I figured my expression was probably much like the one displayed by my opponent holding the rifle. We both stood frozen, like ice sculptures, mouths gaping open. He had on green battle fatigues that, oddly enough, matched the color of his face, and probably mine, too.

I don’t remember who broke the spell first, but I discovered the saying, “your life flashes before your eyes when you think you’re going to die,” wasn’t a myth. I became aware my fingers had restarted clicking the cymbals. It was probably a nervous reaction, but we’ll say it was my…um…professionalism kicking in. Anyway, the sound of music and cymbals brought everyone out of their hiding places and Captain Sanders, rifle and all, was whisked away to his sultan’s chair to star in his role as victim…er…Guest of Honor.

Surprisingly, my routine went better than usual. There’s something to be said for adrenaline, and Captain Sanders actually got up and danced with me to the accompaniment of tambourines I’d given some of the audience members. We ended in a “ta-da” pose to explosive applause. Well, that may not be the best choice of words, but I think you get my drift.

I had cake in my mouth when Captain Sanders apologized profusely for pointing his weapon at me. Can you believe, when I finally managed to get the cake down my throat, I actually told him it was okay? I said I was just glad he or his gun hadn’t had a hair trigger.

Word spread and my apparent bravery “in the line of duty” earned me an abundance of dance jobs for various military events after that. Who’d ‘a thunk it?

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Excerpt From “She Had to Know” by Coco Ihle

After the deaths of her adopted parents, Arran discovers her long lost sister’s name and, despite a terrifying premonitory dream, embarks on a quest to find Sheena. After reuniting in Scotland, the sisters search for the reason their birth father and his housekeeper mysteriously died and why Sheena’s life is being threatened. Led to a cryptic rhyme rumored to map the way to an ancient hidden treasure buried deep in the bowels of Wraithmoor Castle, the sisters follow the clues. A murderer follows the sisters. Will the secret passages lead them to discovery and triumph, or death and eternal entombment?

EXCERPT:

Hours of compiling, arranging, rearranging and packing had left Sheena’s body fatigued, but her brain wouldn’t rest. She kept thinking about her father’s unknown cause of death. Something distracting would help, perhaps a book to read. Several were on the nightstand, and she looked through them. The Magus, by John Fowles, she’d already read. The next was Barbarians at the Gate, by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar. No, not in the mood. The third book was most curious. The aged volume of The Nature Library on Birds, by Neltje Blanchan, seemed especially heavy for such a small size. Sheena was immediately intrigued. The front cover had an illustration of a bluebird family: male, female and chick. How odd. This hardly seemed the kind of book her father would read.

The shock came when she opened the front cover. Inserted in a precisely cutout hole in the pages was a gun. Carefully, she extracted the weapon by the wooden grip and held it in the palm of her hand under the bedside lamp to get a better look. “MADE BERETTA USA CORP” was etched on one side of the blue-black metal barrel. The .22-caliber semi-automatic, just like the one she had learned to shoot a few years ago, was loaded.

As she was carefully returning the gun to the hiding place, she noticed a folded piece of yellowed paper tucked in the bottom of the hole. Laying the gun on the bed, she reached in to retrieve it and noticed the edges of the folds were weak and brittle. As she was carefully unfolding them, she felt a firm lump between her finger and thumb. A cracked piece of cellophane tape was stuck to one side of the paper, and under that, a key. A safe-deposit key. Stamped into the flat surface, were the initials, “CMB.” Chase Manhattan Bank on Madison Avenue, a few blocks away, was the bank on her father’s monthly statements. Why wasn’t this key in Father’s study with his other papers?

Turning the book over, she discovered another surprise. Inside this cover was another cut out section containing a small leather notebook, underneath which, a thick piece of cardboard separated the two compartments. She opened the notebook to the first page. In the upper right corner was written, “Oct./Nov.” Centered below was “This Book Belongs To: J.W.B.,” her father’s initials.

She plumped up two pillows and leaned back against the headboard, excited by this new discovery which appeared to be a journal. The entries were sporadically dated, and the writing, in her father’s hand, was scribbled and barely legible, as though written in a hurry. He had used initials rather than full names throughout. She read aloud the last entry dated the week before he died:

“Have the feeling I’m being followed. Yesterday, a car almost hit me outside the hotel. Driver didn’t stop, too dark to see license plate. Wonder if it has something to do with running into P.S. last week? Never liked that greedy snake.”

Sheena’s intake of breath was followed by an icy chill shivering through her body. With pounding heart she looked across the room at the photograph of her parents, singling out her father’s image and said, “What in the world happened to you? Did you die naturally? Or were you murdered?”

***

Coco, a product of foster care and adoption, spent over fifty years searching for her sister, whom she found in 1994. Thus the idea for SHE HAD TO KNOW was born. She discovered Scottish roots and plays harp and bagpipes, along with piano and cello. The Florida Writer’s Association published a short story of hers in 2009 in their first anthology. Coco is a member of MWA; SinC; FWA; The Alma Society, which aids in family searches; the DorothyL Digest and the Scottish St. Andrew’s Society.

Click here to buy:
She Had to Know

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We’re Here to Help You Escape!

Second Wind Publishing would like to offer

an “Escape” service to Earth’s readers!

Click   ESCAPE    to jump into fictional realities created by

Second Wind authors.

Here’s a little taste:

__________________________________________________________

Ghost Mountain by Nichole R Bennett

Moving is stressful enough, but when Cerri Baker moves with her family to the Black Hills of South Dakota, she begins seeing things—things like murder.
Named after a pre-Christian Celtic Goddess, Cerri has spent her life trying to avoid the spirituality and “hocus-pocus” her mother embraces. Once in the Black Hills, Cerri doesn’t seem to have much choice as her spirit guide insists she find justice for a murdered man. As she struggles with her own destiny, Cerri must also convince the FBI that she is getting her information from another realm and not from first-hand knowledge of the murder.

 __________________________________________________________

False World by J J Dare

The second book in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy continues where False Positive ends as Joe continues his mission to destroy those who have destroyed his life. As the world changes, Joe’s search for justice takes on a global urgency and he races to find answers before deadly answers find him. In this second installment of the Joe Daniels’ stories, the mystery and thrills are non-stop. Beginning in a secluded town in the middle of nowhere, it is not long before Joe is traveling across the country and, ultimately, across a collapsing world on his quest for vengeance.

The world is not what you see.
And neither is Joe

__________________________________________________________

Lacey Took a Holiday by Lazarus M Barnhill

A desperate act of love creates a cascade of changes. Lacey, the most unlikely heroine, has been betrayed and abused by the men in her life. Andy has lost everyone he ever loved tragically. This 1920’s mountaintop romance breaks every rule.

 __________________________________________________________

She Had to Know by Coco Ihle

After the deaths of her adopted parents, Arran discovers her long lost sister’s name and, despite a terrifying premonitory dream, embarks on a quest to find Sheena. After reuniting in Scotland, the sisters search for the reason their birth father and his housekeeper mysteriously died and why Sheena’s life is being threatened. Led to a cryptic rhyme rumored to map the way to an ancient hidden treasure buried deep in the bowels of Wraithmoor Castle, the sisters follow the clues. A murderer follows the sisters. Will the secret passages lead them to discovery and triumph, or death and eternal entombment?

 

http://www.secondwindpublishing.com

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A Picture = A Thousand Words

It may seem clichéd or elementary, but how many times have we heard, “A picture is worth a thousand words?” Writers often can’t use pictures in our work; we have to create them with words. In order to do that, we must draw forth a mental image for our readers to better understand what we are trying to say. For me, eliciting emotion is one way to accomplish that goal.

Many years ago, I worked for a company that sold bottled water and rented water coolers to deliver that water to their business clients. The coolers were able to provide cold water and hot water for different beverages and soups. We sales personnel were urged to use certain words that would conjure pictures in the customers’ minds to encourage them to want our products for their business customers. Hot water became “piping hot water” and cold water became “ice cold water.” We were even told to emphasize the “p” in piping and the “c” in ice to make it even easier to imagine.

As writers, we can do basically the same thing. In my book SHE HAD TO KNOW, I describe a castle in Scotland. The building is early-seventeenth-century, sits off the main road on the edge of a cliff overlooking a body of water, is on a moor with trees spotted about, and the castle is often surrounded by fog. I wanted to create an atmosphere of quaintness, mystery, a hauntingly gothic feel rather than just describe it literally.

This is how I created the picture of it:

Off the Corniche Road amidst vast desolate moorland and gnarled groves of trees stood the often fog shrouded Wraithmoor Castle, an early-seventeenth-century Scots Baronial manor house. Perched on a rocky cliff overlooking the Firth of Clyde, it lay dreamlike, as if a product of Morpheus, a few miles south of the village of Ballantrae.

Another example describes a character who is a famous and elegant mystery writer:

With shiny, blue-black chin-length hair and prominent angular nose, she posed a striking but elegant image. One was reminded of a raven seeking sustenance as her black eyes darted from guest to guest while peering over the rim of her brandy snifter.

The third example describes a trip from the Glasgow airport to the castle:

They skirted Ayr and Alloway, the birthplace of the poet Robert Burns, and continued south toward Maybole and Girvan. The road paralleled the Firth of Clyde that flowed to the Atlantic Ocean. High above, sea birds floated on invisible currants like terpsichorean ballerinas, their distant cries—music for the dance.

These examples use emotion to create the mood of the building, person and scenery in my story.

Have you different ways of using words to describe the pictures in your stories? I’d love to hear your methods or examples.

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The Kinship of Music & Writing

How many times have we heard from our editor that our sentences are choppy, or sluggish, or don’t have flow? What does that mean?

I’ve found that years of studying music has helped me enormously with my writing. Music, like writing, has rhythm, flowing passages, abrupt changes, accents, etc. These entities are also present in sentences and paragraphs in writing.

In evoking a calm mood in a story, sentences can be longer with mild descriptive phrases much like the terms ‘largo,’ ‘andante’ or ‘legato’ that are present on our sheet music. If urgency or danger is something you want to demonstrate, shorter or more abrupt sentences may be in order; i.e., ‘allegro,’ ‘vivace,’ ‘presto,’ maybe even, ‘staccato.’ Dialogue can be emphasized in the same way. Choice of words is important. If a powerful, angry or frantic mood is present, words and phrases that are short and precise work better than longer ones. It sounds like common sense, but so many of us get this wrong in our excitement to establish the scenes. In music, one sees the symbols, ‘p,’ ‘pp,’ ‘mf,’ ‘f’ or ‘ff,’ which correspond to soft, very soft, slightly loud, loud, very loud, and ‘marcato’ is a term indicating accents. Those lexical items can also be accomplished with words if the writer is careful about selection.

I don’t know if what I’ve said has made any sense to you, dear reader, but, how about examples?

In my book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, an example of a calm setting with longer descriptive sentences is:

Massive stone pillars guarding the entrance stood like monoliths. Between them, intricate wrought iron gates shadowed black lace patterns on the lawn as the sun cast its late afternoon beams through the ancient ironwork.

Notice there’s a gentle rhythm to the words in the sentences as they meander through the description. The sentences are generally longer and the rendering of iron, lace, and sun are all complimentary to one another. The sentences flow.

If I were to write:

There were massive stone pillars guarding the entrance. They looked like monoliths. The ancient gates cast shadows that looked like black lace on the late afternoon lawn.

The information is basically the same, but the sentences are choppy and have no mood or flow.

In the next example, I deal with a tense, frightening moment:

Pressing her body flat against the wall, slowly inching further in, she stood dead still, praying she wouldn’t be seen. The footsteps were quite close now. Sheena held her breath. Turned her head to see who was about to pass. She wasn’t cold any longer; perspiration streamed down her body. Her head and heart beat like jackhammers. The lantern light was almost upon her. The footsteps sounded like claps of thunder in her ears.

Notice in this example, the sentences are choppy and shorter. This is intentional so the reader can feel the sense of urgency and fear in the words. Here I’ve used word accents like perspiration, heart beating, and loudness to give the reader the image of what is happening. These words are not equal to the others. They stand out in emphasis. ‘Mercato,’ in music.

If you think of your writing as a music score while you construct your sentences and paragraphs, you may very well have some really interesting passages. I test mine by reading them aloud. I’ve taped myself and played the tape back to get an even different perspective. Our own voices often sound strange to us, so it’s almost as though someone else is reading and we can hear when the rhythm is right. Try it. You might like it.

Anyone else have a trick they use to create a smooth flowing symphony of words?

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