Setting Thesaurus Entry: Diner


Smudged windows, counter with pies under glass domes, metal napkin holders, stools lining the counter, cheap Formica tabletops with chips, scratches, names carved in them, gum stuck to the bottom, dull &/dented metal cutlery, checkered tile floor, dingy/dusty curtains or blinds, white coffee mugs/plates/bowls, paper menus, baskets of fries, plates of food heavy on grease and gravy, salt and pepper shakers on tables, gum-snapping waitress in a one-color uniform holding a coffee pot or a pen and order slip, patrons seated at booths, sugar container, cash register, board with diner specials written on it, fry cook with a stained white apron, jar for tips by the cash registers, public washroom, newspaper left on counter, salt spilled on counter, hooks for coats, paper place mats, truckers wearing beat up caps, tired looking families, singles nursing coffee


Cutlery clinking on tables and scratching against plates, the farty squish of a ketchup bottle, a waitress drawling out orders to the fry cook in diner-slang, smoker's cough, creaking stools, slurping coffee from the cup, setting cups and glasses down, the clink and clatter of change hitting the tabletop, a spoon stirring sugar into coffee, the sizzle of burgers on the grill, the cook calling an order up, doors swinging open, bells on the doors, big trucks outside with their motors running, street noise, a radio belting out country music, a waitress asking customers for their order, the clunk of a coffee pot sliding back into the urn slot, the burp and hiss of a coffee machine brewing a fresh pot, the crinkle of waxy paper holding a tray of French fries, customers calling out for refills, talking, laughter, grumbling, mumbling, the papery rustle of counting out bills to pay for the meal, the glug of coffee as it's poured at the table


Meat grilling, onions frying, hot oil from the deep fryer, warm steam in the face, spices, spicy chili, soups, stews, astringent tang of vinegary coleslaw, strong coffee, over sweet or burnt coffee, pine cleaner from a freshly washed floor, bacon & sausages, cinnamon french toast


Coffee, greasy fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, smokies, subs, breakfast meals (steak and eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, grits, buttered toast, etc), chili, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, pepper, pies (blueberry, apple, strawberry/rhubarb, peach, lemon meringue, etc), grilled cheese sandwiches, steak, soups, stew, saltine crackers, spices, water, carbonated pop, juice, milk, salads, water, bacon and eggs, toast, pancakes, hash browns, ice cream, milk shakes


Sticky counter, greasy menus, salt or sugar granules left on table, cold metal cutlery, blowing on hot food or coffee, burning the tongue, jerking a napkin from the holder and having it rip, squinting at the bright light coming in the window, grease sticking to fingertips, globs of food at the corner of the mouth & licking it away, placing hands around a coffee mug to warm up, shaking a sugar packet, squeezing a condiment bottle, slouching back after a big meal, digging in the pocket for a wallet or tip change, a cold glass or can of pop or beer against the palm, stabbing fries and swiping them through a puddle of gravy, smearing food into the sauce or ketchup to soak it up, pulling a plate closer, leaning across the table to talk to someone across from you, hunkering down over a plate of food, over your food, bending a mangled fork back so it looks like a fork again, scraping a piece of dried gunge off a knife with a fingernail or napkin

Helpful hints:

--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

The man wandered in and hesitated briefly just inside the door, his hand giving his jean pocket a slight touch before moving toward an empty booth. His head stayed ducked, alternating between the tabletop and the view of the parking lot outside. He didn't even glance at his menu and it took all of ten seconds for Rena to size him up as a drifter, one who barely had two dimes to rub together. She swung by his booth, not bothering to pull out an order pad. "Just coffee?" she asked.

Example 2:

When Carl said this place was a greasy spoon, he wasn't kidding. The room permeated with the scent of deep fry. I glanced up at the specials listed on the chalkboard: deep fried fish and fries, corn dogs and fries, fried chicken and you guessed it, fries. Two empty plates sit on the counter, the crumpled napkins tossed on top sodden with smears. A waitress collects them into a stack from behind the counter, a cigarette jutting out of the corner of her mouth. With her free hand she wipes the counter using a stained rag, ashes from her smoke falling onto the counter and sticking to the wet surface. Her flinty stare catches mine and she barks, "You want somethin' or what?"

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

My meatloaf lay in the congealed gravy like roadkill floating in a mud puddle.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

Duct tape covered the cheap vinyl seats in so many places our booth appeared mummified. Was this a diner or a King Tut exhibit?

CTS Entry: Saw-edged


Tree line (pine/spruce)
Thorny canes (branches)
Shark teeth
Humpback whale fin
Snapping turtle shell
Carnivore fossilized teeth
Wing feathers (in flight)
Maple leaves
Green Alder leaves
Pine cone sections
Cone flower petals
Mountain ridge line


Serrated knife
Hand saw
Circular saw
Rip saw
Picket fence
Backhoe scoop
Garden rake
Tiara or crown
Roof view of suburbia
Wrought iron fence
Arrow Fetching
Cupcake baking cups
Pleated blinds/shades


Serrated, pleated

Describing a shape is best done in as few words as possible. Think of the shape as a camera snap shot--you want to capture the gist of what you mean as soon as possible so you can get on with other related (and more important) detail, and the action happening in the scene

A weak example:

Up on my hidden ridge I spot thousands of dirty, weather-beaten enemy tents sprawling across the pass like the slats of a poorly built white picket fence.

What's wrong with this example?

A few things weaken this--first, the comparisons of dirty canvas tents and a white picket fence don't match up, no mater how poorly the install happened to be. Second, if we are to describe the tents as being saw-edged it suggests neat rows, whereas 'sprawled' suggests a wide-spread or even half-hazard image.

A strong example:

Up on my hidden ridge I spot thousands of the enemy's dirty, weather-beaten tents. They snap and crackle in the wind like a scruffy forest of foreign trees determined to root.

Why does this work?

This one suggests an enemy not yet beaten, that the men inside the tents are rooted and calloused as the trees themselves.

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The Time Has Come

Becca here, the often-silent partner of this crazy blog. Some of you are no doubt saying What? There's someone running this place besides Angela? Well, kind of. Since the birth of my daughter, I've been struggling to find time to keep up with this wonderful blog, much less get to know our awesome followers. Now my son is due in November; with two kids under the age of two, I can already see my scant free time flying right out the window. I need to be realistic with myself and fair to Angela, so I'm stepping down as co-host of The Bookshelf Muse.

I'm sad to do it. This is a happy place, so filled with creativity and wonderful ideas for writers (if I do say so myself). And I've learned a ton about how to maintain an online presence--information that will help me one day when my kids can maybe wipe their orifices themselves and leave me a little more time for writing-related activities. But I think this is the best decision for me at this point.

So thank you, everyone, for making my foray into the blogging world so interesting and successful. And thank you, Angela, for letting me limp along with you on this enlightening journey. You are still my writing soul sister, and I can't wait to see your name in print!

Zombie Haiku Winners!

Finally I get to acknowledge the awesome talent seen in this contest. I'll be honest, choosing was very difficult. Everyone astounded me with their creativity and inventiveness, and I appreciate everyone who stepped outside of their comfort zone to pen a few odes to those mindless brain-eaters hiding among us.

So, without further ado:

Winner of an in depth first chapter critique from Angela for linking to the contest (random draw):


Winner of an in depth first chapter critique from Angela for their haiku:

Sad zombie faces
Bellies won't be filled tonight
In a house of blondes

This one made me spray coffee on my monitor when I read it (literally) and then I laughed for about 5 minutes straight. Congrats, Mary Witzl!

Runners Ups (and winners of a 250 word/first page critique from Angela):

Caribbean ghost
sways to the Soca rhythms
in the Jumbie Dance.


Wrapping moist innards
In bamboo leaves, she pauses
To lick her fingers


Young girl in the dark
Face hidden by too-long hair
Skin just a tad pale

Eyes following her
A shadow slips from behind
Tongue draws across lips

Girl picks up her pace
Man laughs and begins the chase
They run in the dark

Streetlights left behind
Up the alleyway they go
No one else around

Suddenly she stops
He hesitates and steps back...
...He's not the zombie

Slash! Smash! Rip and Tear!
Too bad he didn't notice
Maggots in her hair


Digs a shallow grave,
All that's buried must arise.
In cold hands, house keys.


And because I'm tearing my hair out because all of these haikus are so amazingly awesome, I don't want anyone to leave empty handed. If you submitted one or more haikus to the contest, you can send me the first paragraph of one novel or story and I'll give you feedback on its 'hook factor'. Just reference the haiku in your email as well as your blogging handle and get it to me before the week is out.

Please send all materials to the contact email here and put Zombie Haiku Contest in the subject line.

Thanks to everyone who embraced their inner Zombie and entered. This was such a success and so much fun I'll have to do another one!

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Contest Extension!


Boy, my minions sent out the challenge and you all answered the call. Great job, people!

Seeing as I just got back from my vay-cay and have way too much of that laundry/unpacking/grocery shopping type stuff to do, I'm extending the contest a bit longer. I'll announce a winner later this week, so stay tuned, and if you want to get a last minute entry in for a chance at a first chapter critique, now's the time to do it! Just add your Haiku (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables) to the comment section of either this post or the main one. And don't forget, if you link to the contest, you'll get an extra chance to win!

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Warning: Zombies Ahead

Guurrgh....uuurgh...brrraiiins.... sllluurp.

Translation: Angela is in Idaho, amassing a zombie horde for world domination vacationing with her family. Normal Thesaurus posts will be suspended until her return August 16th.

Lucky for you, she's left a few of her favorite lieutenant zombies in charge, and our first official act is to announce a little contest. We think you'll like it.

First Annual Zombie Haiku Contest

Oh yes--you read correctly. Sure, Zombies eat brains. But don't we also have an inner soul, a burning desire to unleash pent up emotions in the form of, erm...poetry?

Let's face it--Zombies? Poetry? Someone needed to go there. Angela is that person. The question is, are you up to the challenge? Can you get in touch of your inner Zombie and make Angela tear up or better yet, laugh out loud? We hope so, because you could win an in depth first chapter critique.

This is quite possibly the most awesome contest on the web. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised at all if the talent rolling in is so gut-spittingly awesome that more than one critique will have to be awarded.

So for the Haiku challenged, the format is scary simple: 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables. Like so:

Hungry moans outside
Fingers scrabble at the door
Time to get the axe

Look, the ice cream man
Only has one flavor left
What's Head Cheese Surprise?

My silent boyfriend
We hold hands in the moonlight
Likes me for my brain

Is there a Zombie Epic inside you, longing to burst out? Set it free and post your haiku in your comment section! The contest will run until Angela returns, dead or alive. Followers can enter as many zombie haikus as they like.

For extra chances to win, post a link to this contest on your blog and let me know in the comments section where you spread the word. Each time you post a link to this contest you'll earn an additional chance to win a bonus critique!

So, what are you waiting for? Let's see some poetry, people!

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Setting Thesaurus Entry: Toolshed


Dust, cans of paint, rake, shovels, boxes, axe, hoe, rake, lawnmower, tool boxes, old bikes, folded up lawn chairs, chainsaw, spade, gardening gloves, dirty pots, garden hose, twine, chain, extension cords, dust, chemicals, lawn fertilizer, potting soil, dirty or cracked windows, coffee cans filled with nails, nuts, bolts and odds and ends, oil cans, degreasers, vice, handsaw, sawhorses, open bad of birdseed or sunflower seed, roll of chicken wire, hammer, sledge hammer, files, rasps, sandpaper, power tools (sander, miter saw, table saw, drills, etc), spiderwebs, spiders mouse droppings, mice, beetles, ants, dead flies on the window sill, clumps of dirt and grass on the floor


clumping footsteps, dragging a sack of fertilizer across the floor, creaky floorboards, squeaky hinges on the door, bee or fly buzzing against a glass window, moving boxes, metallic clatter as you sort through cans of screws, the clink as a nail drops to the floor, swearing or muttering in frustration at trying to find something, a grunt of exertion when moving something heavy, scuffs, scrapes, coughing on the dust, the pitter-patter of rodent feet, overhanging tree branches scraping at the roof, the wind under the eaves


Dust, dirt, mulched grass from the lawnmower blades, fertilizer, must, rusted tools and nails, sun-baked metal, oil, grease, gasoline


Dust, spit


Splinters, lifting a bag of fertilizer or seed by the corners, tugging, pulling, shoving to get at tools or to boxes/items in the back, reaching up to pull boxes of nails down from a shelf, hanging a saw by its handle on a hook, the points and pokes of nails as you reach into a can or container for one, smacking work gloves against the knee to knock dirt out of them, wiping sweat from the brow, pulling/tugging to get items free of their storage places, bumping into a narrow door, backing into a rake or shovel leaning against the wall, stepping on something left out: paint cans, a gas container, etc.

Helpful hints:

--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

I rattled the can and by the sound, I could tell right away that I'd be making a trip to the hardware store. I glowered at the hodge-podge of boxes and rusted bike tires and rotten garden hose. Why was it Earl kept his shed packed to the rafters with useless junk, but couldn't even keep enough nails on hand to build a bird house with?

Example 2:

Pa said the box with my old train set was in the back of the shed next to my old bike, and I figured it would be the perfect thing to set up for my little cousin Davy. At the doorway I stopped, my smile fading. I'd been in this shed a thousand times, sent in to grab the shovel or and hand full of nails, but now, with night coming on, gloom clung to the walls and shelves and hung over the barrels of feed, making everything unfamiliar. Each breath I took was sour with dust and rot and when a gust of wind sent tree branches screeching across the tin roof, I spun around and high-tailed it back to the house. Me and Davy could just as easily put together a puzzle or play a board game.

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

A shabby assortment of rakes and shovels leaned against the rough wooden walls like the old men who gossip on the front porch of Bidsey's General Store.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

The sagging boxes with water damaged corners sat piled up against the shed wall, on layover before reaching their final destination: the town dump.

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