Welcome to Suzanne’s blog, Tuesday Café

Suzanne StenglAuthor Suzanne Stengl writes whimsical, heartwarming romance and cozy mysteries. When she needs a break from her keyboard, she swims lengths at the Y, skis at Sunshine Village and hikes in the Rockies. She’s also a pretty good line dancer . . . and a very poor euchre player.

The Jungle

The story of my 2007 Ecuador adventure continues. This is a letter I wrote home after our two weeks in the Galapagos and our one week in the jungle.

For the rest of the Ecuador story, go here.

Dear family and friends,

The Galapagos Islands are incredible. I knew they would be. I just didn’t know the heat would be so much. Getting back on the plane for Quito was wonderful.

The Napo River to the Jungle Lodge

The Napo River to the Jungle Lodge

We spent less than a day in Quito, and then flew to Coca, where we took a 45 minute boat ride down the Napo River to the Jungle Lodge. This was also hot, but only 29 degrees Celsius (in the shade) and there was major humidity. Very nice for your skin. I did a few jungle walks with the naturalist before I gave up.

Observation tower in the jungle

Observation tower in the jungle

 

View from the tower

View from the tower

I think my stomach reacted to the Malarone (for malaria) or maybe it was just the heat. I don’t do heat well. That was me, lying in bed at night, with my ankles sweating, while I listened to all the interesting jungle noises, the cicadas, the frogs. One frog sounded like a construction vehicle when it’s backing up.

Our cottage for sleeping

Our cottage for sleeping

We were at the Jungle Lodge for seven days, and for five of the days, we did Spanish lessons. And we slept a lot. The heat and humidity make you very sleepy.
 

Spanish lessons in the open air dining room

Spanish lessons in the open air dining room

One day we visited a Chechua home. More culture shock. I find I don’t do culture shock well. I have decided that there are two kinds of people in the world: travellers and non-travellers. I am a non-traveller. Though, I have to say you don’t often get to watch your Chechua guide reach into a swamp and pull out a crocodile. And damn, me without a camera. Esta es la vida.
 

jungle flora

jungle flora

We returned to Quito yesterday, and we leave again tomorrow. Somehow we keep bumping into people we have met before. It’s that kind of place.

We stayed at Loro Verde.

We stayed at Loro Verde.

In Quito, you can sleep. Last night was the best sleep I’ve had in three weeks, with the temperature under 20 degrees Celsius. It was heaven. And my stomach is starting to feel semi-normal.
 
Today, we did errands. First we found a shoe repair, and got Rolf’s sandal fixed, and his back pack mended. While waiting, we talked to the guy who was polishing shoes. This started in Spanish. Then the guy started using English. Rolf spoke Spanish and Bradley spoke English. Bradley was born in Los Angeles, of American dad and Ecuadorian mom, but he likes living here. Part time he works in the shoe repair place, polishing, and part time he works as a guide at the Explorers. He asked us where we were from. Alberta, I said. He knew of the place because, he said, Alberta is where the Titanic sank. He told us he knows all this stuff because he reads Watch Tower magazine, and then he began telling us about the Jehovah Witness. Rolf didn’t mind because he was getting Spanish practice. The backpack and sandal were repaired quickly, and all for $2. Rolf tipped the guy a quarter, for being so rapido.
 
After that we headed for the school, La Lingua, to pick up our certificates for doing 100 hours of Spanish. We had lunch with the director and her husband, and that took about three hours. Time moves at a different pace here.
 
Now, we are at La Sala, using the computers. It’s about 6:30 and time to decide on a restaurant. I’ll find Rolf and see how he’s doing with his emails.
 
Tomorrow, it’s the bus to Cuenca, for eight hours. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it, but apparently there is this incredible scenery that needs to be seen. I have seen so much incredible scenery I just don’t know if I have room for more. Hopefully, the bus won’t fall off the cliff and I will be able to write more emails. This bus trip is, I think, the last major adventure component of the trip. We will take another shorter bus to Vilcabamba and then fly back to Quito.
 
Oh yes, now I remember. There is one more adventure after this. We will do our last week in Baños, where Tungurahua is smoking. The volcano has not blown up for about eight years, and if it does while we are there, hopefully the wind will be blowing the right way.

Singin’ in the Rain

2014-08-19 Singin' in the Rain Movie Poster courtesy MGMShowers and thunderstorms are predicted for today in Calgary. That means it’s a good day for writing. Some people like singin’ in the rain. I like writing in the rain.

Last week, GHOSTLY TREASURE was free on Kindle. It was fun watching the downloads all over the world. I even had downloads in Mexico, Brazil and Japan. Now I’m hoping for some more reviews on that book.

In the meantime, I am hard at work on my WIP (work in progress) – the one that has turned out to be the second in a series, with the first in the series still consisting of only a few scattered thoughts.

Book One and Book Two will each be complete stories, but since I’ve spent so much time creating the fictional town of Highbury, there needs to be more than one story set there.

I haven’t added a YouTube to my YouTube collection for a while so here’s one to get you in the mood for working on whatever you are working on today.

Do you like to listen to music while you work?  

Singin’ in the Rain movie poster – from 1952, MGM via imdb.com

Ghostly Treasure – Free until Friday

Ghostly Treasure

available on Amazon

My cozy mystery is free today through Friday.

“A ghost, a bucket list, challenges and hope. For those who like a bit of mystery, a touch of history and a light brush of romance.”
— Goodreads Reviewer

Her first adventure might be her last.

When Christie McFee reads about the gold hidden at the bottom of Lost Lake, she decides to put some adventure in her life by diving for treasure. But when she meets Gaven St. Michel, the Divemaster on La Bonne Aventure, she starts to think that treasure can be whatever you want it to be.

If only Christie could figure out how to deal with the two ghosts who are haunting her—one of them wants her help, and the other wants her dead.

A 34,000 word novella – Cozy Mystery, Light Paranormal

20 things to do instead of writing

should be writing . . .

  1. Read email
  2. Dust your keyboard
  3. Read that excellent book you downloaded last night
  4. Rearrange your bulletin board
  5. Count the number of pens in your pen holder
  6. Sort them by colour
  7. Play solitaire to realign your Right Brain
  8. Read the Chicago Manual of Style
  9. Cut out pictures for a collage
  10. Organize your bookshelf
  11. Count the number of “How To” books you have
  12. Arrange them by author
  13. Rearrange them by subject
  14. Research on YouTube
  15. Smell different hand lotions
  16. Play mood music
  17. Make tea
  18. Eat chocolate
  19. Eat cake
  20. Make a list of things to do instead of writing

photo from iStockphoto # 000009864226

A rose by any other name: Naming Characters

I have an author friend who wrote a book, and then discovered that every character’s name started with a “J”. When she told me about that, I came up with a simple grid.

The Name Grid

naming characters with The Name GridThis is a table with 8 rows and 3 columns. The first cell contains the name of the book. Then there is a cell for each letter of the alphabet up to the letter “W” and then one cell for “XYZ”.
As I come up with a character’s names (first and last) I put them in the appropriate cell. “Toria Whitney” goes in “T” and “Whitney, Toria” goes in “W”.

In this example, I have also colour-coded relationships.  Toria’s family is Pink. Ryder’s family is Blue. I use Orange and Green for some other relationships. It helps me to keep everyone organized. With a quick glance at the Name Grid, I make sure that I am varying names, and I’m not putting Peter, Paul, Patty, Priscilla, Perkins  and Penelope all in the same book.

Consider Endings

Besides starting names with the same letter, be careful of ending them with the same letter.
Suzy, Mandy, Daisy and Kelly will be cumbersome.

Other Names

At the bottom of the Name Grid, you might like to list the names of places or things or minor characters in your story. For example, in ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING I listed the name of my fictional hospital, Nose Hill Hospital.

In Real Life Calgary, there isn’t a Nose Hill Hospital, but there is a Foothills Hospital. And there really is a Nose Hill Park. Because I have trouble remembering if I decided on Nosehills or Nosehill or Nose Hill, I recorded the spelling here.

If I give the coffeemaker a name, like the BrewWell Unit in Catherine’s office, I put it here.

ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING  has several fictional street names so I listed them for quick reference:  Collins Street, Dottridge Ave, Stelmack Boulevard and Wickens Street. By the way, these are the surnames of some of my author friends.

Consistency

This goes without saying. Your character names may have different spellings but naturally you will decide on one. In ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING, several scenes take place at a Real Life coffee shop called Tim Hortons. Occasionally I have seen this written as Tim Horton’s (with an apostrophe). It’s important to pick one spelling and stick with it.

Character Name File

Whenever you happen on a name that might be a good character name, put it in this file. Then when you start a new book you won’t need to spend so long searching for the perfect names.

Names Used File

Keep another file of names you have already used. You don’t want to be always calling your hero, Ryder and your heroine, Toria.

Syllables

A different number of syllables for the first and last names sounds best. You want Chris to pher Green, not Joe Blow. Joseph Blow might work. But then again, Joe Blow might work if you want a drab name for a drab character.

Hero and Heroine

How do their names sound together? Are they lyrical? And if they marry and she changes her name, will it work? This is a romance, after all.

Diminutives

One way to differentiate between characters is to have one character say “Victoria” and another say “Toria” and still another say “Miss Whitney”.

Female/Male Names

Do not make your reader have to think. When he sees Jordan, does he think of a man or a woman? This is not so important if your lead romance characters are Jordan and Mirabelle.  Or if they are Mike and Jordan. But do not make the two lead characters be Taylor and Jordan.

Pronunciation

You may think Wynsleighe is a lovely name, but how do you say it? Is your reader going to trip over the pronunciation every time she sees it?

You want your reader to be in the story and you do not want your reader to pop out even for a second to wonder about gender or pronunciation.

Time period

Ethel can appear in the 1911s but not today, unless she is very old. A quick search of popular names by year will solve that.

Possessives

I have used Mrs. Jones. Fortunately I didn’t need to talk about Mrs. Jones’ purse, or even Mrs. Jones’s purse. But it’s best to avoid the whole problem and have “non-S” endings.

Plurals

Think about your plurals. Think about John Crowfoot and his wife, Jill, and all their little children. What happens when the Crowfoots all come for a visit? Are they Crowfeet now?

As a reader, have you ever come across character names that tossed you out of a story?
As a writer, do you have a system for choosing names?