Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Barbara Marr is Back

Friend of the blog, Karen Cantwell, has a new offering this summer. Cantwell's hilarious Barbara Marr returns in another suburban mystery, Citizen Insane.

Here is a synopsis.

If you think PTA meetings are boring, then you haven’t attended one in Barbara Marr’s neighborhood, where murder is on the agenda. Always one to stumble into trouble, Barb learns the hard way that a seemingly innocent yearbook scandal is actually part of a more sinister and deadly plot. Join soccer mom and movie lover Barbara Marr in this second laugh-out-loud, chaotic mystery, where high-profile crime and suburban living collide in an unexpected fashion.

Citizen Insane is available for Kindle and Nook for only $0.99.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Summer Fun

It is almost Independence Day in the United States, and the temperature is heating up in Chicago. Unfortunately, the humidity level is rising as well, condemning me to countless days of unreliable, frizzy hair and a perpetual state of sticky malaise.

But, what about the words associated with the season?


The word, “summer,” much like all of the seasonal names should not be capitalized unless the season is being personified, such as in poetry or a particularly lively piece of writing.


summer solstice
summer vacation

Personification Example

And Summer, with her sun beating down mercilessly and omnipresent mosquitoes...


The word, “sunbathe,” should be one word, not split into two. This also goes for the verb forms of sunbathed and sunbathing.


When referring to the sun, keep it lowercase. The word is not a proper noun like other heavenly bodies, such as Venus or Saturn. The only time it should be capitalized is when referred to in its Greek (Helios) or Latin (Sol) name, but who really does that nowadays?


As you can see, “summertime” is one word.

Sun Belt

This refers to America’s states in the South and West, from Florida and Georgia through the Gulf states and on into California. This geographical reference should be capitalized.

The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1969. Print.

The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. Norm Goldstein, ed. Cambridge: Perseus, 2000. Print.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: Top Five Coming in July

Join us next week as we start counting down the top five pieces of microfiction that have received the most page views since Bibliophilic Blather began running Flash Fiction Fridays ten months ago.

The top five are from writers of various genres and represent the wonderful array of stories that has come to be the hallmark of Flash Fiction Fridays. Some are from the beginning back in September 2010; others are fairly recent.

Which stories do you think made the list? 

Whisper Giveaway Winners

Congratulations to R. Doug Wicker and Helen Smith on winning the A Whisper to a Scream giveaway in celebration of the paperback release. And thanks to everyone who stopped by the release party and/or commented. It was lots of fun.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Whisper to a Scream: Now in Paperback


It is an exciting day here at Bibliophilic Blather. My first novel, A Whisper to a Scream, has been released in paperback and is now available through Here is my Author Central page that has links to both the print and electronic versions.

Amazon Author Central: Karen Wojcik Berner

May I get you a beverage?

Or perhaps something a little stronger?

How about something to eat?

And what's a party without music? 

I got the idea for this book in the shower, of all places. Of course, at that time in my life, my sons were much younger, seven and two, so the shower was the only place I could get a moment’s peace. I had this image of a woman who was almost invisible, lugging children around a grocery store. Then came the opening line, “At 35 years old, Sarah Anderson discovered something quite shocking. She had Attention Deficit Disorder – she didn’t get any.”

I also could not shake a very vivid dream I had a few nights before, the details of which I cannot divulge because they have to do with Annie’s plot line. So I had Sarah and a traumatized Annie. Then I thought, “What if these two women met?”

It happens at a suburban Classics Book Club meeting led by ex-high school English teacher Edwina Hipplewhite.

The more I wrote the book club scenes, the more I fell in love with these eight characters and wanted to know more about them. The Bibliophiles series will tell their stories, past and present. The second novel is due out late fall/early winter 2011.


To celebrate Whisper’s paperback release, I am giving away one paperback and one e-book. To enter, please leave a comment below. 

Thank you for coming. This is the culmination of a ten-year journey through which I have learned so much and have met so many wonderful people. Thanks also to my husband and sons for all of your support. You guys are the best.

Up Next: Flash Fiction Fridays

We have a special announcement you will not want to miss regarding July's Flash Fiction Fridays. See you then.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Bell Ringers

Monday greetings to you. I hope all of the dads out there had a great Father’s Day.

Here are three more commonly misspelled words. They did not make our Red Flag List from the 6/6/11 post, but a little bell dings in my head to remind me that they should also be double-checked when editing.


If you are anything like me, you think it should be spelled ible for some reason, but, alas, it is not.


Like acknowledgment, judgment does not have an “e” after the “g.”


The first spelling means “near, being at or belonging to the forepart,” according to It can also be defined as “strongly inclined or moving, tending or leading toward a position in the front.”

However, in publishing, a foreword is “the prefatory comments (as for a book) especially when written by someone other than the author.”

Only Three More Days 

Join me on Wednesday to celebrate the paperback release of A Whisper to a Scream. There will be music, virtual snacks and the chance to win a free copy. See you then!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: Taking Flight

Today, Sharon Cupp Pennington favors us with another award-winning piece. 

The Lovely Goodbye
By Sharon Cupp Pennington

I stood on the pier’s first rickety step, gazed at a perfect sky and whispered to no one in particular, “Today Linda shall have her wings.”

She had wanted to be a flight attendant since we were kids, to be free to travel a world she’d voraciously read about in National Geographic. She ended up grounded in California, married to a controlling ex-ball player. Mother of five, teacher of many, dead of breast cancer at forty-two.

The weathered planks vibrated underfoot as I neared the T, shoved tousled hair out of my eyes and leaned into a wind whose restlessness matched my own. That’s when I saw the child standing barefoot at the end of the pier. Her soaring kite painted ribbons of color against a backdrop of electric blue and arcing gulls. Its long, knotted tail whipped this way and that as if shouting, “Follow me, follow me.”

The child’s denim shorts and red t-shirt appeared faded, as though she had just stepped from an old discolored photograph. White-blonde hair hung to her shoulders, and curled under.

She released the kite string and waved. My breath caught. If I were closer, I’d surely see the pink spots in her wind-burned cheeks, those familiar azure eyes and dimpled grin, the pale sliver of a scar on her right knee—a fall from our grandfather’s black walnut tree, thirteen stitches.

The kite string’s spool traveled the planks, bouncing high and tumbling low, until it dropped at my feet. I stared at it for what seemed a long while, this dawdling forever. When I reached down, the fist-sized spool disintegrated to a powdery mist, then nothingness.

My head jerked at the child’s impish laughter. She had vanished. The wind gentled through me and restored a calm I hadn’t known in months. 

Linda, dearest sister, loyal friend. . .

The ornate copper urn, not at all heavy now, peered from the sagging canvas bag on my arm. I lifted it out, unscrewed the lid and turned toward the sea. Linda’s ashes caught in a sudden stir of air and peppered the sun for a moment. I smiled through a blur of unshed tears. I had regretted too long that I wasn’t with her when she died. The distance between Texas and California had enabled my sister to keep me oblivious to her illness. I suppose with thoughts of sparing me. So like her.

Suddenly everything felt right, the moment, this place—us. Linda would have her wings in the infinite rush of the wind, and in the faithful ebb and flow of the tides. 

"The Lovely Goodbye" is a tribute to my sister who died of breast cancer in 1989 at the age of 42. It won an Honorable Mention in the Whim's Place 4th flash fiction contest in February 2002 and second place in The Written Wisdom's Short Story Contest that same year. The story appeared in the December 2002 issue of The Written Wisdom e-zine. Linda would have been thrilled. To learn more about Sharon, visit her website

Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Seven Days Until Whisper Paperback Release

The countdown begins! A Whisper to a Scream will be released in paperback next Wednesday, June 22.

Here is the new cover.

Amanda Kelsey at Razzle Dazzle Designs did a great job of conveying the emotions of both Sarah and Annie, didn't she?

The Bibliophiles

I have always been interested in people’s backstories. How did they get to where they are today? What ramifications does the past have on the present?

So I decided to bring a group of people together, bound only by their love of classic literature, and see what transpired.

The result is The Bibliophiles Series, which begins with A Whisper to a Scream, the story of Sarah Anderson, a stay-at-home mother of two, and Annie Jacobs, a PR executive dealing with fertility issues, and continues with each novel devoted to one or two of the Classics Book Club members, including their fearless leader, Edwina Hipplewhite.

You can meet the Bibliophiles on their page on my new, updated and redesigned website at There is also an excerpt from my WIP, How Long 'Til My Soul Gets It Right?, which is scheduled for a late fall/early winter release, just in time for the Christmas shopping season.

Up Next: Flash Fiction Fridays

Monday, June 13, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: The Necessary Tedium

Okay, so you have completed your big-picture continuity editing (see last Wednesday’s blog, 6/8/11). Now it is time to put all of your grammatical ducks in a row. I know most of you hate this part, but it is crucial to your success. No novel is perfect. There will always be some errors; we are human, after all. But, as writers, it is our responsibility to use our tools of the trade correctly.


Do not trust spell check. Often, it misses homophones, and that is one of those mistakes that can make a brilliant storyteller look like a complete moron. Check dialogue and slang terms. Make sure character names are spelled consistently. Double check place names. Be on the lookout for our red flag words from the 6/6/11 blog, as well as common mistakes, such as your/you’re and to/too/two.


Make sure all of your periods, commas and apostrophes are correct. Remember, don’t make something possessive, if you want it to be plural.

Weather on the 5’s (the fives cannot have anything, right?)
Correct: Weather on the 5s
Wrong: Merry Christmas from the Brown’s (from the Brown’s what?)
Correct: Merry Christmas from the Browns

Also, double check subject and verb agreement. Plural subject=plural verb.

You cannot trust your computer’s proofreading function either. Computers only know the words on the page, not the overall context of the sentence. My computer was wrong about awhile/a while today while I was writing this.

Proper Paragraphing

Pay attention to this, especially for checking dialogue. When different characters speak, indent and start a new line.

Any extra spaces? If so, close them up. Don’t put two spaces after periods. It is not done anymore.

Karen’s Cardinal Rule: Never be too lazy to look something up. 

Once you have done this, let your manuscript sit for awhile and do something else until you can look at it with fresh eyes. Repeat the process, then let it sit again. And again. Believe me, each time you do this, you will see things you could have sworn you caught the first time. 

Now it is time to send your manuscript to an editor, whether that person is a professional or an English major you have bribed with Starbuck’s beverages.

Congratulations. You are on your way. Bring on the Beta readers.

These are just some of the things I do when editing, whether it is a novel, short story, piece of flash fiction, blog post or magazine article. What works for you? Please share your editing tips in the comments section.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: Escape Month Continues

Here is my piece of flash that garnered an honorable mention in the WOW! Women on Writing Winter 2011 Flash Fiction Contest. It is a little longer than our usual 500 words because the contest parameters were 750 words or less.

Sheep Boy
By Karen Wojcik Berner

Okay. Mail the bills. Go to the bank. Get bread and milk and, oh yeah, Brianna wanted more markers for school. Twenty minutes until the bus dropped the kids off. Just enough time to pick up a quick cappuccino.

“Hey, how are ya? Care to sample our new low-fat crumb cake? Not that you need it or anything.”

Leah gave the kid a WTF look.

“No, I meant the low-fat part. You look pretty good to me.”

Good save. He was cute, this kid, with his fuzzy white-guy ‘fro all the college boys were sporting lately. She wanted to shear him. “I’ll have a medium nonfat cappuccino, extra hot, please.”

“Extra hot indeed.” He smirked, then called out her order to a taller, skinnier fuzzy guy with a square Herman Munster head. Him, she had no desire to shear.


Drew had gone punk, not goth. What was wrong with her? Did she honestly think he would go all emo on her? When Leah was young, “goth” and “emo” did not exist, only jocks, preppies, nerds and stoners. She was beginning to feel more like her mother every day.

“What’ll it be? Oh, hi. Nonfat cappuccino, right? Size?” Sheep Boy’s grin was charming.

“Medium, please. Can I ask you something?”

He draped his hands over the cash register. “I’m all yours.”

Leah shifted nervously. “Maybe you can help me understand something. My son recently went punk.”

Sheep Boy’s eyes lit up. “Awesome. Ramones. Green Day.”

“Older bands?”

“Yeah, punk’s punk. Wait, how old’s your son?”

“Thirteen. He’s in Junior High.”

“No way.” Sheep boy threw his hands up and backed off the register, shaking his head. “There is no way you have a thirteen year old.”

“Unfortunately there is.” This did not look like calculated flattery for tips. This was a moment of true astonishment.

“Well, you sure don’t look it. I mean, I knew you were older when you said ‘son,’ but I didn’t think that old, no offense.” He winked.

And so it began. The daily conversation. The oasis from her family’s insanity. Her crush on Sheep Boy.


The cappuccino was waiting for her when she walked in. “Saw your van in the parking lot. How’s your son?”

“He discovered ‘Combat Rock” this week.”

“Epic disc. Three-fifty-six, please.”

Leah dug in her purse, remembering how old she was the first time she heard “London Calling.” It was a lifetime ago. When everything was new. When there was electricity in the air. When music was...she chuckled to herself...epic. She handed him a five.

His hand touched hers briefly when giving her the change. Her face flushed. He did not look away. “So what are you up to tonight?”

Leah could not bring herself to recite the litany of monotonous chores awaiting her. “Not much. How about you?”

“My band is playing at Frankie’s.” Sheep Boy’s eyes sparkled. “You should come. It’s going to be awesome.”

“Maybe.” Leah scurried out of the coffee shop. 


That night, Leah dreamt of being in the front row at Sheep Boy’s concert.

“This song goes out to a very special lady.” Taking her cheek gently, he tilted her face toward him and...

“Leah! Get up!” Her husband poked her. “Your alarm’s been ringing for five minutes. Don’t forget to pick up my suit from the dry cleaner. I need it for Thursday.”


There were several people in line before her. Leah scanned behind the counter for Sheep Boy, but could not see him. Disappointed, she collected her cappuccino from Herman Munster and headed toward the door.

“Wait. Don’t leave.” Sheep Boy caught up to her. “I thought of you last night.”


“I heard ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ on ‘XRT while I was driving home, and I thought of you.” He searched her face for a reaction.

He was taller than she thought, standing there before her, out from behind the counter. She wanted to say she thought of him often. Each time her husband came home pissed from work expecting dinner. Each time she drove the same neighborhood streets over and over transporting the kids from school to activities to friends’. Each time she closed her eyes at night.

“That’s a great song.” Leah looked down. “I gotta go.”

Sheep Boy’s face fell.

“Goodbye.” She left, knowing she could never return.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Continuity

In film editing, “continuity” focuses on smooth transitions of time or space. It also connotes psychological or symbolic association of ideas. A writer can apply this to editing his or her novel. Here are a few things to look for regarding “big picture” editing.

Does the story make sense? 

Read your novel. I know it seems obvious, but try to remain impartial, and read it from start to finish just like your readers. Does anything leave you scratching your head? How did Joe get to Planet X? No idea? That might pose a problem.

Does it flow well? 

Is there a consistency in tone? Does the writing style and voice sound the same throughout the piece, whether you wrote it in one month or over five years? Do the characters sound the same throughout the novel? Does each character have a distinct voice? Are they easy to tell apart, even without dialogue tags?

Do the details stay consistent? 

Authenticity is in the details. Whether you are writing literary fiction or fantasy, writers have to stay true to their fictional worlds. What makes J.K. Rowling so great? She created an entire alternate universe, and her readers completely bought into it, myself included. (Actually some days, I much prefer her world to my Muggle existence, but that is a blog post for another time.)

Little facts, like characters’ first and last names, children and their ages, or cars they drive, obviously must stay the same, but what about secondary characters or, even more difficult, what about “ambiance characters,” those who appear only once to set the scene, say at a party, for example? How do you keep track of everyone?

To help me keep them all straight, I make a character list for each novel that has first and last names, plus a short sentence of where they appear and a bio fact, such as “Dr. Mitchell Adams, fertility specialist, owns Mitchell Adams and Associates Center for Reproductive Health where Annie and John go for their diagnosis and procedures.” 

It helps me to have all of the names listed in one place, so I do not give two characters the same name. Using names that sound too much alike, such as Sarah and Sasha, can throw readers off as well.

Check your phraseology and sentence structure. 
Does your word choice convey your message or could the sentence be reworked to flow better? Does every word count? If not, get rid of it and rewrite the sentence. Word play is a part of good writing. Vary your sentence length and structure. Use short, clipped sentences to quicken the pace and heighten tension. Shorter paragraphs also accomplishes the same thing as you build to your novel’s climax.

We will continue this topic next Monday with “How to Edit: The Necessary Tedium.”

Up Next: Flash Fiction Fridays

Monday, June 6, 2011

Editing for Grammarphobes: Red Flag Words

Everyone who wants to be a writer did not study English in college or work on his or her high school newspaper. Maybe you are following up on a life-long dream that seemed too “pie-in-the-sky” to pursue seriously. Maybe you have come to love writing later in life. Maybe you were paying more attention to the girl across the aisle from you than to how to use an apostrophe correctly.

Whatever the reason, how do you know what to look for when editing and proofreading your novel?

Somewhere along my educational way, probably in journalism class, I received a list of the most commonly misspelled words. We were told to memorize them, not necessarily how to spell them, but rather to commit the words to memory so every time you came across one when you were editing, it would raise a red flag in your mind and remind you to double check the spelling.

Here is the list of 25 Most Commonly Misspelled Words.


Some we have covered here before, but it helps to have them listed like this, don’t you think?

Coming Wednesday – How to edit.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Flash Fiction Fridays: Escape

Cleveland W. Gibson starts off June month with a magical tale of transformation. Enjoy.

The Totem Pole Escape 
By Cleveland W. Gibson

I am a jungle Totem pole, so scared of the night, because bad things happen, things I can't put right.

I am scared of little things, things you might not see, but they all have long legs, and walk and walk on me.

I feel the lick of the spider, the patter of hairy feet, the snakes also keep coming. Ugh! Beetles never look neat.

It is because when it comes to walking, I feel I have the curse, I cannot escape or leave this jungle, for better or for worse. And I must.

Then I heard that sound, in the middle of the night, the devil striking matches, turning dark into daylight.

The flames creep up from tiny, they grow to terror tall, dwarfing all the green trees, me too, who now looks small.

Up high in a soot-black forest, the smoke curls to the sky, but trouble didn't end there and it's why I know I cry. The chainsaws cuts the trees, one day they'll see me too, their blade attacks will weaken me but what else can I do?

I call up the moon spirit, shout her beauty is divine, do lots of things like that, I act while there is still time.

As Miakoda's name hits the wind crowds wait and wait to see, a wonder in the moonlight, what walks away is only me!

As I hear the kettle drums, I'm itching to the beat, I look down at the ground to see I've grown two feet.

What a wonder of wonders, and it's kind of true, my height has dropped to inches around sixty-two. I see the jolly scarecrow, love the jacket tweed, the dandy hat and braces, I borrow all I need.

My face keeps on shining, I'm dapper you see. A pole dressed to kill? Who else can it be? I'm in the pub drinking two pints good and strong, 'til the Morris men come, invite from me a song. I shake my legs and dance, my wooden feet click a treat, the crowd go wild clapping, dogs chase me in the street.

Come morning and first light, I feel the fever spring, hot cross buns a quiver, my God, I love to sing!

Then quickly out of a time zone, I look towards the sea. I hear a marching band, grim-faced men after me. Closer still the Press Gang, marching to click and beat, heading for the famous pub, bang men on head they greet.

My legs are full of beer, plenty in my head, I catch a noggin pin, and think I'm only dead. But I've escaped at last to...the Land of Dreams.

Cleveland W. Gibson is the author digital shorts Silver Wolf and Only the Best, plus several others available through He was born in colonial India in an atmosphere of colour, mystery and intrigue. In the UK, he worked in the government, trained as a life guard and was a road race director for over ten years. Since taking up writing, he’s published over 200 short stories, poems, articles in more than eighty-five countries. His current project is a fantasy novel, House of the Skull Drum

Photo courtesy of the Native American Encyclopedia

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

And July’s Flash Fiction Fridays Theme Is...Summer!

Ahhh. Days filled with fun in the sun. More flexible schedules. Barbecues. Swimming. Hanging out at the lake or by the ocean. A summer romance, perhaps? Or memories of your own personal independence at summer camp.

Whatever summer means to you, it’s time to start sending in your flash fiction pieces for July’s summer theme. Please submit 500 words or less on your fictional interpretation of summer. The deadline is June 27.

Please send submissions to Put "Flash Fiction Fridays" in the subject line and include a short bio with your story. If you aren't doing so already, please sign up to follow Bibliophilic Blather, so we can build our online writing community. 

Thanks. I look forward to reading your work.

Watch Out! Mama’s Coming for You 

Friend of the blog, Robin Morris, has released a new novel. Here is a synopsis.

One scary mother.

As the Conover family drives from L.A. to Chicago, increasingly strange things begin happening. Nine-year-old Michael sees a face form in the car window. Fourteen-year-old Alison notices two creepy children outside the family's motel room. A car purposely hits them, then speeds away. Mama has found the Conovers and is using them as a lesson for her children. 

Mama is relentless. 

Mama is powerful. 

And Mama will not stop until the Conovers are dead.

Robin's new novel is available at and