Monthly Archives: April 2017

Brought To You By The Color Drab: A Peek Behind the Scenes

Choosing Cincinnati as My Setting

The germ of an idea for the plot for Brought To You By The Color Drab was a story about a teen boy trapped in the ghetto who becomes a driver for a blind piano tuner. To write the novel, I needed to know more about an inner city ghetto as my hometown was too small.

Since I had done a great deal of research about Cincinnati when writing novels for Barbour Publishing’s American Adventure Series, I chose that city.

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Choosing Cincinnati Christian College

My thought was to locate a young college student who might agree to drive me around the city to aid in my research. When I selected Cincinnati Christian College (now University), I had no real agenda, but God did.

Enter: The Carmichael Family

I called the college and a courteous young woman answered. I explained that I was an author and needed help with researching her city, especially the inner city.

Her answer was, “My father pastors a church in the inner city and he would be more than happy to assist you.” Or something to that effect—I forget the exact words. For an author, this is like hitting the mother lode. What an exciting moment.

The young lady turned out to be Christy Carmichael (now Acheampong), who also proceeded to explain that there was lodging on the college campus used by visiting missionaries. She was sure I could stay there for a modest fee. And I did exactly that. (So much better than a hotel—for me that is.)

My Stay in Cincinnati

I began to put plans into motion to fly to Cincinnati. The year was 2004.

Christi, her parents James (Jamie), and Kathy, and her sister, Melissa, became my hosts during my stay. (Even Christi’s aunt Nancy was brought in on the scene.) I was a guest at their home for dinner. They drove me around the city and offered a great deal of background information that later showed up in the book. The entire visit was so beyond anything I could have ever imagined.

Clean Teen ReadsThe Lengthy Time-Gap

Why it took from 2004 to 2017 for Race’s story to finally see the light of day, is a story too lengthy for this blog. Much had to do with my decision to become an indie author. I stopped chasing agents and publishers and struck out on my own. I wanted to use my past titles as a proving ground, before bringing Race’s story out of the shadows and into the light. (Which is now, Brought To You By The Color Drab.) The strategy turned out to be a good one; albeit  a lengthy one.

Your Behind-The-Scenes Glimpse

This then gives you a brief glimpse of how a book comes together. It’s never an isolated event, but involves many kind, caring, helpful individuals. Like the Carmichael family.

Race and I are both very thankful!

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Download Chapter 1 & 2 of

Brought To You By The Color Drab .


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Be A NovelistClean Teen ReadsBe A NovelistTired of the struggle writing your book? Need a helping hand? Norma Jean’s Coaching Services may be the answer you’re looking for. Fill out the questionnaire on the page and let’s see if we’re a right fit. A FREE consultation gets the ball rolling. (Or the pen writing!) Click HERE!

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What’s the Matter With Grammar? – Part II

English grammarIn my blog post  What’s the Matter with Grammar? Part I, I established that grammar is one of my tools as a novelist.  I went on to state that it’s my passion for my craft that leads me to strive for excellence in novel writing – and that includes knowledge of the good use of the English language.

Communicate Clearly

One of the highest goals of a writer is to communicate.  In order to communicate clearly, one must be understood.  Correct punctuation, spelling, and grammar work to keep meaning clear.

Solve the Puzzle

Let’s use this set of words as an example.  (If you’ve seen this little word puzzle you already know the answer.  For others it will not be so easy.)

that that is is that that is not is not is not that it it is

As it stands, it makes very little sense.  Something is lacking.  That something is correct punctuation.

How about this:

That that is, is.  That that is not, is not.  Is not that it? It is.

Ah! Now we are communicating.

The “Mechanical” Aspects

It appears to me – in all my years of teaching, editing, and working with writers at all levels – it’s the mechanical aspects of grammar that make most writers cringe and recoil.  They just want to do the creative stuff!

Grammar-Check a Joke?Be A Novelist

If you’ve chosen to lean back and rest in the fickle arms of grammar-check (or some form of it) my only response is that you have my heart-felt sympathy.  I have often joked that those who designed grammar-check for Windows must have English as a fourth language.

I would venture to guess that grammar-check helps me about 15% to 20% of the time, if that.  Outside of that, it’s good for grins and giggles.  Some of the suggestions that come forth, just make me laugh – right out loud.

Not a Good Editor 

Grammar-check reminds me of a ghostwriting gig I had several years ago.  The client had already commissioned his book to a small publishing company.  This meant after I finished his book, and after he approved it, the manuscript was sent to this small press.  When the galleys came back to me for one final edit, I nearly fainted.  The so-called editor had actually introduced grammatical errors (structural errors too) where none existed prior.  It was a total disaster!

This in no way is meant to be disparaging to editors – every writer on the planet (everyone who wants to excel, that is) loves a good editor.  This was not a good editor!

The Professional’s Need-to-Know

The point is, you cannot – and indeed you should not – rely on either spell-check or grammar-check.  Leave that for the novices.  You want to be a professional!  Right?

Take time to understand your own relationship with grammar.  If your view is that it’s all mechanical and arbitrary, this says you have yet to come into a full appreciation of the tools of your profession.

Correct grammar usage and correct spelling and punctuation is organic, not arbitraryInterpreted that means it is belongs to and is an integral part of the written language.


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Just Do It

If grammar truly is a problem for you, stop thinking it doesn’t matter.  It does matter.  Take refresher courses at a local community college – or online. Find good reference books and keep them at your fingertips. (Or on your desktop.)  Then use them!

Whatever it takes – do it!  Do what it takes to hone this particular writing tool, and then Be A Novelistwork every day to improve your skills.

Only then will you truly be on your way to becoming a novelist!


Clean Teen ReadsBe A NovelistTired of the struggle writing your book? Need a helping hand? Norma Jean’s Coaching Services may be the answer you’re looking for. Fill out the questionnaire on the page and let’s see if we’re a right fit. A FREE consultation gets the ball rolling. (Or the pen writing!) Click HERE!

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