Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Enter to win a Sony eReader!

Beginning today, The Wild Rose Press is holding a Sony eReader contest, and I’m one of the participating authors. This means that if you purchase Seventh Heaven from The Wild Rose Press, you can be in the running to win. To enter, email your order number to sonyreader@thewildrosepress.com.

SONY recently announced that they will include $25 worth of free downloads from their site with every reader The Wild Rose Press gives away. That’s a great prize package for only $2 (if you purchase my story).

The Wild Rose Press will verify your order and enter you into the drawing. If you purchase more than one title, you can enter more than one time. Be sure to check the list of participating authors. More details are online.

For questions on this contest, please contact Rhonda Penders at rpenders@thewildrosepress.com. Please put the words SONY eReader contest in the subject line. Click on each author's name to link to their books in our bookstore. If there is no link next to the author; the book may not be released yet, and you can check back at a later time to find her link.

Winners will be announced in a chat this spring (date TBD), and on The Wild Rose Press web site.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I'm over at Popculturedivas today

Come on over to Popculturedivas (formerly MissMakeAMovie) and let me know your take on e-books!
You could win a copy of Seventh Heaven, too!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Take creative cues from other mediums

When I read Sol Stein’s chapter from Stein on Writing titled The Actors Studio Method for Developing Drama in Plots, I felt vindicated. For years, I was an avid fan of Inside the Actors Studio (until the networks bought the Bravo Channel and ruined it). Other writers would give me a cockeyed look if I confessed to being inspired by it. But though they perform in a different medium, actors – the good ones, anyway – spend an incredible amount of time developing their characters.
Yes, the characters are on the page. But the actors are the ones who bring them to life. In Stein’s chapter, writers performed impromptu scenes. What they didn’t know was that the director had given them wildly different premises. I won’t give away Stein’s chapter completely, because writers wanting to better their craft should buy his book.
While some portions of episodes appear on Hulu.com and YouTube, the snippets aren’t always the most representative of craft. Many actors extensively research their roles, much like an author researches for authenticating details. They construct backstory with tedious detail. Many of the clips center more on the celebrity or entertainment aspect. Which is unfortunate for any creative person, regardless of the medium in which you create. (If anyone knows another site episodes are available, please let me know.)
Luckily the Sundance Channel launched a few new programs that allow you to get inside creative people’s heads. Spectacle with Elvis Costello features musicians who discuss their own inspirations. Iconoclasts pairs two amazing people from different walks of life with incredible results. Live from Abbey Road and too many other programs to list. If your cable channel doesn’t carry it, check it out online.
I’m also thankful to Borders for their in-depth web site featuring artists such as Madeleine Peyroux discussing their craft. I love the description of her voice as being “honey and bourbon”- so fitting. She speaks like an old soul, from the heart. For her, creating music is a spiritual experience, as writing can be a spiritual experience – when it goes well, at least. I also love their Book Club site featuring authors discussing their books.
Certainly listening to other writers discuss their craft inspires me, such as those I’d linked to in an earlier post from Ted.com. The latest issue of Poets and Writers, authors in the Writers Recommend feature list their own inspirations.
But I find listening to any artist discuss the process of their art inspiring. So I encourage you to be open to it, too. You never know when the lightning of inspiration will strike you.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Don Helin to participate in talk show about getting published

Congrats to Don Helin on the release of Thy Kingdom Come from Medallion Press! Don was the featured author earlier on this blog. He’ll be participating in the first live Medallion Press Radio show on Saturday, April 4, 2009, at 7:00 p.m. CST! The event, described below, is titled Writing a Great Manuscript and Getting It Published.

Want to get published? Join us at www.blogtalkradio.com/medallionpress for a special live edition of Medallion Press Radio on Saturday, April 4, from 7 p.m.–9 p.m. CST. This is a live, round-table discussion about writing a great manuscript and getting it published. Call in and ask questions of our Medallion Press authors live, on air, or text in questions via the chatroom. We’re only presenting this live show once in 2009, so make sure to tune in if you want to call!

Participating authors include Beth Ciotta, author of Jinxed (Medallion Press, 2004), Charmed (Medallion Press, 2004), Seduced (Medallion Press, 2005), Lasso the Moon (Medallion Press, 2006), Romancing the West (Medallion Press, 2007), and The Fall of Rome (Medallion Press, July 2008). Beth also writes The Chameleon Chronicles series for HQN and is a member of Romance Writers of America. Kathy Steffen is the author of the award-winning First, There Is a River (Medallion Press, 2007), Jasper Mountain (Medallion Press, November 2008), and the upcoming Theatre of Illusion (Medallion Press, May 2010). Kathy is a member of several writing associations, including Novelists, Inc. , Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America, and she also teaches writing courses at the University of Wisconsin. Don Helin is the author of Thy Kingdom Come (Medallion Press, March 2009), his first published fiction novel. Don is an active member of Pennwriters, a statewide Pennsylvania writers' group, as well as the International Thriller Writers.

Don says, " I'm pleased to be invited to participate on the Author's Panel for the Medallion Press Radio program. I've been helped a great deal by my membership in Pennwriters as well as my critique group.
I plan to stress the importance of contacts and working with other writers to improve not only the craft of writing but also the business of writing.
I hope everyone enjoys the program, and I look forward to any feedback you might have."

If you are on Facebook, the event is also listed there. Don't forget to save the date - Saturday, April 4 at 7 p.m.

Friday, March 20, 2009

New contract with The Wild Rose Press!

As promised in my earlier post, here is more info about the new story contract with The Wild Rose Press. Last year, TWRP put out a call for submission in its Sweetheart Rose line for a series called The Flower Basket. Stories had to conform to series guidelines: be set in Almendra, California, and include the Flower Basket shop and its three owners.
My youngest daughter's name is Rebecca Lynne, and we call her Becca, hence Becca Lyndon became the heroine. Design for Life is intended to inspire her to follow her own dreams. Becca's a very talented artist who deserves every good thing life has to offer.
Below are the story blurb and excerpt. Hope to have more on this soon!

Becca Lyndon must leave art school to care for her ailing mother. When she begins a job at The Flower Basket, her goals appear to be on hold though she’s taking night classes. Mike Hunter, her former high school art teacher, substitutes at her night class, and she panics. He made her senior year a nightmare with his constant criticism. When she learns the reason why, it comes as a complete surprise. She also learns when one door closes, another can open - and lead to unexpected opportunities.

“Morning, ladies!” Becca called as she closed the door behind her.
With a smile, Steffie waved as she talked on the phone.
Hitting the total key, Grace turned. “Hey, Becca.”
Donica Laurent entered from the back of the shop. “Good morning!”
The homey atmosphere in the shop always unraveled Becca’s wound nerves. Walking to the counter, she reached into her handbag, oversized to double as a briefcase to carry her art supplies. Her presentation last night had gone well, but she hoped this morning’s would surpass it.
“If you have a minute, can you take a look at these designs and let me know what you think? I used them for my class project last night.”
Grace laid a hand on her arm, her face alight. “Did you wow them?”
Becca pulled her sketch pad out with a grin. “Not exactly. But Mr. Hunter said they were good.”
Her brow furrowed, Donica stepped next to her. “Who’s Mr. Hunter?”
“A substitute teacher.” Her words came out in a sing-song tone.
Steffie clucked her tongue. “Something about the way you say that makes me think he’s kinda cute.”
Becca couldn’t help but smile. “Not kind of. Very.”
At home last night, she found herself sketching Mike Hunter. His dark hair, tapering to the top of his collar, made her want to run her fingers through its waves. She wanted to remove his black rectangular framed glasses, peer into his dark brown eyes that sparkled when his gaze met hers. Press her lips against his and push his corduroy jacket from his shoulders. Drawing his features gave her a sense of intimacy, one she wanted to experience.
Becca fanned the warmth from her neck, and hoped the women didn’t notice.
Thank goodness they were too busy laughing. Since she’d been hired at the Flower Basket, the three co-owners had come to feel like her sisters. Warm. Supportive. On the days she had to bring her Mom to her doctor appointments, all encouraged her not worry about them, even though the shop had attracted so much new business, they sometimes put in sixteen hours.
Becca hoped to give something back. Something worthwhile.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Seventh Heaven contest today!

As promised, today I'm holding another contest to give away a PDF copy of my Vintage Rosette (short story), Seventh Heaven, set during the 1960s. Here's some info on the story's authentic details and a bit more story background.
For a chance to win, simply leave a comment and I'll pick a random winner at 9 pm EST. Be sure to leave your email address so I can notify you if you win.
If you'd like to purchase Seventh Heaven, it's available now from The Wild Rose Press. Feel free to leave a story review on the site!
Thanks for stopping by!

Here again is the story blurb:
Lilah owns the New Hope Record and Crafts Shop with her friend, Val. Independent and free-spirited, they sell their handmade jewelry and pottery to tourists in their Delaware River town. Lilah’s only hangup is James, who bartends down the street. She’s crazy about him, but lately he’s been cold and distant. Turns out he has reason to be down--he’s had his ticket punched for Vietnam. Lilah makes him a lucky leather-string choker using a silver ankh--the Egyptian symbol of eternity. James is skeptical about its lucky charms, but warms to her again. For seven months, James is in Vietnam. He comes home changed, in more ways than one. Can Lilah show him that her love is all the luck he needs?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Seventh Heaven's release day today!

Woo hoo! Finally - today is release day for my Vintage Rosette, Seventh Heaven!
I’m over at Yankee Romance Reviewers today, so pop on over! Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of Seventh Heaven.
If you miss your chance today, stop back here tomorrow. I’ll be giving away a copy here, too.
The story blurb and excerpt are two posts below.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I made the ABNA quarterfinalists!

Faith and begorrah, what a St. Patrick's Day! The luck of the Irish smiled on me this morning. I had this message in my email:

Thank you for participating in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. We received thousands of submissions and were impressed with the incredible talent and creativity demonstrated by participating authors this year. We are happy to inform you that you have been selected to move forward in the contest.
Now that you're a Quarterfinalist, Amazon customers can read, rate and review your excerpt while your manuscript is being reviewed by Publishers Weekly. Last year, tens of thousands of reviews were written by customers and fellow contestants giving authors valuable feedback on their writing. You can find your excerpt on Amazon.com via the following link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001UG3CGM, and access the main contest page where all entries are located at www.amazon.com/abna.

I would love for you to read my excerpt and leave a review!

Also in my email was an offer for a story contract from The Wild Rose Press! I'll post more on that later. Right now, I'm still trying to process the news!
And if you'll excuse me, I feel a jig coming on...

Monday, March 16, 2009


Here’s a free PDF download of Bob Mayer’s 70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes. (Just click on the two links – apparently you don’t need to sign up for the e-newsletter as it says.)
Bob covers a lot of territory in this two-parter, everything from amorphous Not Learning Patience to Letting Your Ego Run Amok to more technical aspects such as Overediting and Not Setting Your Scenes.
To his chapter on Misusing Writer’s Groups, I would add: don’t use them as a forum to air your dirty laundry. I’ve been to too many sessions advertised as critique groups where authors spoke about their personal problems rather than their writing. It’s just not the time or place, and talking about your divorce or operation instead of POV or character arc won’t be well received. It’s also why you shouldn’t Play[ing] Out Your Personal Demons On the Page. You want to cut to the bone of your story, but don’t injure anyone else in the process.
I love the chapter Not Breaking Rules. Yes, it’s important to learn the rules of writing. Then experiment with breaking them. It’s how you’ll find your true voice.
I’d also supplement his Not Having an Idea That’s Different Enough with a bit of advice from contest editors: Write down your story idea. Throw it away. Write down your next story idea. Throw that away, too. Write down the next ten story ideas. Throw all of them away – because if you thought of it, many other writers have, too. We’re never as original as we think we are – I’m as guilty as anyone. I sometimes think I’ve hit upon something really edgy and cool only to find it’s already been done and I’m way behind the curve. However – keep in mind that while there are no original story premises, your presentation of the premise makes all the difference. As T.C. Boyle said: "But then, that’s the beauty of writing stories—each one is an exploratory journey in search of a reason and a shape. And when you find that reason and that shape, there’s no feeling like it."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Countdown to Seventh Heaven's release!

Only three more days until Seventh Heaven is released by The Wild Rose Press! Yay!
On Wednesday, I'll be holding a contest at Yankee Romance Reviewers and giving away one PDF copy. I'll post a link here on Wednesday so you can pop on over for a visit.

Here again is the blurb and excerpt for Seventh Heaven:

Lilah owns the New Hope Record and Crafts Shop with her friend, Val. Independent and free-spirited, they sell their handmade jewelry and pottery to tourists in their Delaware River town. Lilah’s only hangup is James, who bartends down the street. She’s crazy about him, but lately he’s been cold and distant. Turns out he has reason to be down--he’s had his ticket punched for Vietnam. Lilah makes him a lucky leather-string choker using a silver ankh--the Egyptian symbol of eternity.James is skeptical about its lucky charms, but warms to her again. For seven months, James is in Vietnam. He comes home changed, in more ways than one. Can Lilah show him that her love is all the luck he needs?

James stands in the open doorway. The choker gleams from his neck. “I came by to say thanks.”
The distance she’d felt between them last night is gone. His warm eyes search hers, reaching again for a connection.
“I didn’t know it was you.” She steps from behind the counter. No more barriers between them.
He closes the door. “So. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. It looks good. It’s an--”
“An ankh. I know.” Something seems to be holding him back, but somehow she knows she must be patient, let him come to her.
“The Egyptian symbol of eternity.” She doesn’t know what to do with her hands, and her breath is jagged. “Sorry. I mean, Ben told us. It really stinks you’re leaving.”
He runs a finger across a glazed jug. “Bad timing.”
She clasps her hands in front of her. “I guess it’s never a good time…”
He glances up and flashes a switchblade smile. “I mean, I wish we had more time.” His soft voice rushes at her like the wind and billows the sails of her heart’s rocky boat.
The air thins, seems rarified. “Me, too.”
He takes a step closer. Time feels maddeningly slow. She wants to run to him, fill her arms with him.
She folds her arms. “I hope you’ll write me, if you get a chance.”
He’s within arm’s reach. His gaze flows over her inch by inch, over every curve and hollow.
The floor needs sweeping. And needs to be smaller. Or his steps need to be more expansive. “Sure, I’ll keep you up on the local gossip. Send you goodie packages.” A lock of her hair. A photo of herself so he’ll think of her every day. And night.
His eyes lock on hers. “That’d be nice.”
“We’re going to miss you around here.”
“You will?” The timbre of his voice rumbles inside her like an earthquake.
With his last step, he is so close her skin tingles with his heat. “No one can make a margarita like you.”
He fingers her hair, tucks a strand behind her shoulder. “Come back tonight. I’ll make you all the margaritas you can drink.”
In her head she is already there, sipping at a wide-rimmed glass, serenaded by Dylan in the background, James attending to her alone. “OK.”
“See you about seven, then?”
She smiles. “Seven it is.”
He backs toward the door, slowly, as if still taking her in. The silver ankh winks in the light as he turns to leave.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Self-editing tips, part 6

For the final installment of the series, here, as promised, is a list of recommended reads for any writer. Not a complete list, by any means, but the ones on my book shelf. I constantly supplement my Amazon wish list with more (and more and more).

Sol Stein: Stein on Writing
“Usable solutions” for fiction and nonfiction writers. Includes detailed sections on characterization, dialogue, pacing, flashbacks, the “triage” revision method and an innovative way of developing drama. I’ll expand on this last in a later post.

Janet Burroway: Writing Fiction
One of the classics – for good reason. Instructive from first draft through final revision.

Robert McKee: Story
Geared toward screenwriters, but because stories are universal, invaluable for writers in any medium. (I'd love love love! to take his workshop! If only it didn't cost thousands of dollars...)

Madison Smartt Bell: Narrative Design: A Writer’s Guide to Structure.
Heavy duty stuff, but great. Dissects stories to reveal structural strengths and weaknesses.

Dwight V. Swain: Techniques of the Selling Writer
Recommended to me by an editor for its advice on developing an emotional rapport with your reader.

David Michael Kaplan: Revision: A Creative Approach to Writing and Rewriting Fiction
Provides guidance for every writing stage to help you cut to the bone of your story.

Robert Olen Butler: From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction
Adapted from Florida State University’s writing program. Archived at www.fsu.edu/butler.

Rachel Ballon, Ph.D.: Breathing Life Into Your Characters: How to Give Your Characters Emotional and Psychological Depth.
I tend to shy away from any how-to book that practically guarantees publication if you buy it (this one’s jacket says: Creat convincing characters that readers – and editors – can’t resist!). Though I’d recommend Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer if you can only buy one and not the other, this has useful info.

Gothan Writers’ Workshop: Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School.
Provides the “fundamental elements of fiction craft.”

John Gardner: The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers
Or writers of any age. Not just for beginners, as stated.

Charles Baxter and Peter Turchi (eds): Bringing the Devil to His Knees: The Craft of Fiction and the Writing Life. Tips on craft from nineteen award-winning writers, essays adapted from Warren Wilson College MFA Program.

Jon Vorhaus: Creativity Rules!
One of the more useful workbook-type texts, though I’m not one for writing prompts.

Frances Mayes: The Discovery of Poetry
Not just for poets. Chapters such as Words: Texture and Sound with sections on The Muscle of Language and The Kinship of Words – how can any writer not find these relevant?

And, for the sheer joy and celebration of language, I highly recommend Michael Chabon’s Maps and Legends. He is one of the writers that makes me feel high just reading him. Margaret Atwood, Charles D’Ambrosio and T.C. Boyle too. I’d like to get in a room with them all.

The poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote: "We wish to be told, in the most memorable way, what we have been meaning all along."

Wow. If you can do that with your writing, you’ll have a lifelong connection with readers.

In a future post, I’ll share some more titles from my bookshelf related to writing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Self-editing, part 5

Continuing from previous posts...

1. Evaluate the amount of the character’s history included on the first 1-3 pages. Often authors think the reader needs this up front before the action starts. Not so. You, as the author, need this backstory to create the scene, but the reader can learn the information as the situation demands or as needed by the second character. Revealing these details in dialogue or as short internal thoughts is most effective.

2. Show scene breaks by inserting four asterisks centered on a line by themselves. Usually with no white space between. One publisher asks authors to remove all chapter breaks in manuscripts under 80 pages.

3. Vary your characters’ speech patterns. If one character is educated and the other is less so, their speech should reflect it. Make each character unique without being a stereotype. In short, give each character a bit of character of his/her own.
Avoid, however, overuse of brogue and other dialogue affects that will slow your reader down, frustrate your reader, perhaps to the point of setting the story down. A little goes a long way, as the saying goes.

4. Alternately, make your characters’ voices consistent. Check each character’s speech patterns individually. Make sure each maintains the same voice throughout.

5. No idle chatter. Speaking of voice, don’t include idle chatter in dialogue. Yes, it will mirror real life but it will also bore your reader. They’ll start skipping ahead, and may skip something crucial.
Cut any dialogue that does not advance the story line. However, if it seems idle at the time but somehow provides a clue to an important event later, include it.

6. Read your story aloud. Editors recommend you read your work aloud at some point in your self-editing process. If not with a critique group, then at least to the dog. Your ear will catch what your eye often overlooks.

John Updike said: "(Writers) find the quick of human experience and use words that make it sing." Make yours a song with full orchestral backup with diligent self-editing.

Holly Lisle posted some great advice on how to revise in one pass-through (something I've yet to accomplish but now will attempt!) It includes advice similar to mine on planning ahead for publication.

In the final installment in this series, I'll provide a list of reference books I've found useful in self-editing.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Self-editing, part 4

This series of self-editing tips are only simple editing guidelines. For more advanced revisions, a critique partner can provide perspective on such things as varying sentence structure to improve flow, punching up drama with shorter sentences, logistical or consistency issues, maintaining a character’s voice, etc.

1. Basic show versus tell. Search through your manuscript for areas you can reword to show the reader what’s going on rather than telling them. ‘Telling’ tends to keep the reader at arms length like they’re watching what’s going on through a telescope or through an overhead camera.
It’s a somewhat tricky process, but if you stay inside your character’s head, it helps a lot. Experience what your protag is experiencing in the scene. Add more description: what s/he sees, smells, hears. In this way, you’ll help the reader experience the story through the character’s senses. In doing so, you’ll also help the reader develop an emotional attachment to the characters. They’ll care what happens next, root for him/her.

2. Look out when you describe the action of looking. When describing an action the eyes make, use the word ‘gaze.’ Editors will point out that eyes cannot be physically mobile (i.e., cannot drop or fall or snap, though a gaze can).

3. Cause and effect sentences. Sentences need to relay information about the cause before the effect or result. In other words, write the sentence in the order the events occur. In this way, your readers will experience the scene in a linear way (and you won’t confuse them).

4. Every character’s action or thought starts a new paragraph. An action and line of dialogue by the same person exist in the same paragraph. Do not mix dialogue of one character in the same paragraph as another.

5. Only one POV per scene. Simply put, no head hopping. Readers find it jarring to be inside one character’s thoughts and suddenly find themselves inside the other. Keep it clean.

Dr. Maya Angelou said: "Not everything you create will be a masterpiece, but you get out there and try. Sometimes it happens, the other times you're just stretching your soul." Add self-discipline to that stretch to make it art.

Still more tips on the way!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

New contract from Eternal Press for my novella!

Woo hoo! I love when my email springs great surprises on me first thing in the morning. Yesterday, a contract arrived from Eternal Press for my women’s literature novella, Picture This. The unofficial blurb is below.

Picture This
Harrisburg News reporter Sydney Welles writes award-winning, attention-getting news stories. Her career’s on track, but she’d like a little more attention in her personal life. A year ago, she shared a great kiss with Philadelphia Daily News photographer Ben Taylor. Since then, nothing but a string of one-hit wonders. Suddenly, Ben’s back in her life – well, in her newsroom, anyway – but he acts as if he’s meeting her for the first time. Their story assignments throw them into uncomfortably close quarters, but Claudia, her editor, reminds Sydney she’s a consummate professional. She can handle it. Sydney’s not so certain when she and Ben go undercover to expose the mayor for shady dealings and he kisses her again. To keep their cover, he says. The mayor resigns amid shame, and Sydney’s the toast of the town. Two other reporters take an interest in more than her journalistic talents, but Sydney can’t help picturing herself back in Ben’s arms.

More info on this, hopefully soon…

Friday, March 6, 2009

Self-editing part 3

More tips on preparing your manuscript for submission, compiled from various publishers.

1. Avoid adverbs. Delete LY words whenever possible and use a more descriptive verb instead. For example: He hit the egg gently against the bowl. ‘Hit’ is too strong a description in this case so requires gently to accurately depict the action. Instead, use: He tapped the egg against the bowl. Tapped is a better description of the action performed by the character, and lets you omit the adverb.

2. Commas. This one’s tricky. Some publishers follow Chicago Manual of Style, and others have their own style.
One publisher wants commas before conjunctions such as ‘and’ ‘but’ ‘or’ ‘yet’ ‘for’ ‘nor’ and ‘so.’ As a Catholic School grad, this really went against the grain for me, but then I got used to it. Unfortunately, other publishers may not like it, so the key here is to pay attention to those self-editing tips the publisher sends when it accepts your manuscript and adjust accordingly.
In general, place a comma between a series of words/phrases: ‘They walked, talked, and caught up on life.’
Place a comma between descriptive adjectives (i.e., the cool, clear water)
The trend for commas used with ‘too’ leans toward: If ‘too’ is at the end of the sentence, do not use a comma before it. If it appears in the middle of a sentence, separate it with commas: ‘he, too, asked for directions.’

3. Ellipses. To ‘trail off’ at the end of a sentence or thought, use Use .… (four periods with no spaces in between). Not to be used to interrupt thoughts or sentences (see #4).
If the sentence ends with a question mark, use three periods and a question mark.
At the end of an exclamation point, use three periods and the exclamation point.
Within quotes, use three periods, a comma, and then the end quote: “I just can’t believe you’re really…,” Amy shook her head, “…expect me to believe that.”

4. Em (long) dash. Use — to show an interrupted thought or sentence.
One publisher’s example:
“If I never see you again—”
“I’ll be the lucky one,” Sandy interrupted.

Milo took the same route each day — the same route his father took before him — to the village below the castle.

5. Possessive form for names ending with ‘s.’ Use apostrophe ‘s’: Jess’s, not Jess’.
For this one, I suggest you check your publisher’s guidelines.

6. Keep tense consistent throughout. Self-explanatory. Don't confuse/lose your reader with sloppy tenses.

Harold Pinter said: "The speech we hear is an indication of that which we don't hear. It is a necessary avoidance, a violent, sly, and anguished or mocking smoke screen which keeps the other in its true place. When true silence falls we are left with echo but are nearer nakedness. One way of looking at speech is to say that it is a constant stratagem to cover nakedness."

Keep ‘em interested enough to want to uncover it all.

More self-editing tips to follow.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Self-editing tips, part 2

More tips on preparing your manuscript for submission.
I compiled the following tips from self-editing sheets I received from various publishers. Follow them to make your manuscript stand out from the others, and so you’ll have less editing work after your story’s accepted for publication.
As noted in part 1, the basic rule of thumb is: delete any part of your story that does not advance the plot or enhance your characters. Make every sentence, paragraph, scene, and chapter move the story forward in some way, including dialogue. If something isn’t relevant to the story, or in some way takes your reader’s attention from the story line, cut it. If you don’t want to remove it, rework it to make it relevant.

1. Streamline your sentences. Simplify wherever possible. Look for the redundant phrases below –and others like them—and remove any redundant words.
Stand up = stand
Sit down = sit
Turned back = turned
Turned around = turned
He thought to himself = He thought. (Who else can he think it to?)

2. Don’t overuse names. Repeating your character’s names over and over is a reminder to the reader that s/he’s reading. Overusing names draws a reader out of the character’s POV. And signals to editors you’re a novice. By the time they’ve finished the first page, your reader knows your protagonist’s name.
Take a yellow highlighter (or use the search and replace feature on your computer) and highlight all uses of your characters’ names for one chapter. (If you don’t have time to do that, you can simply glance at the beginning of every paragraph for a page or two. Do they all start with someone’s name? This is another sign of overuse).
Whenever possible substitute “he” “she” “her” “him” and other adjectives for the names. This will help your reader to stay in your character’s PV and can make or break the difference between a reader simply reading a story – and feeling like they’re a part of one.

2. Same word overkill. How many times is it necessary to use the same word in a paragraph?
One publisher’s example: Mary stared up at the wide staircase. She dreaded the thought of climbing those stairs. Nevertheless, she put one foot on the bottom stair and began the journey, one stair at a time until she reached the top of the stairs.
The above is an exaggeration for effect, but most of us do something along those lines without realizing it. Bonus points if you caught the similar sounding ‘stare’ as well as the two ‘tops.’

3. Convert sentences from passive to active. Have your subject perform the action rather than the action occurring as if spontaneously. Occasionally, however, a passive sentence can improve the flow of the story, but use sparingly, if at all. Again, do not begin sentences with ‘It was’ or ‘There were.’

4. Limit speech tags. Use anything other than ‘said’ or ‘asked’ sparingly. Overdescriptive dialogue tags distract the reader from the natural flow of the story. Let your punctuation do the work to show to the reader the action so you don’t have to tell it. For instance, “Look out!” yelled Steve. You need not specify ‘yelled’ because the exclamation point illustrates it.
However, this does not apply to tags used to show action. For instance: “Look out!” Steve pulled Amy away from the falling stone. This gives readers an action – almost a visual – to go along with the dialogue.

As William Carlos Williams said: "It is not what you say that matters but the manner in which you say it; there lies the secret of the ages."

Actually, I'd argue that it's both, but the point is, pay attention to your craft.

Tips continue on Friday.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

BBB Crux New Release Contest Entry

Bitten by Books is having another great contest - check it out here!
Here's an excerpt from Crux: “Jackson Holt makes a decent living as a private investigator in New Orleans, home of one of the largest underground supernatural populations in the United States. He and his partners have never met a case they couldn’t crack…until a local bar owner asks him to do a little digging on her newest hire.
New Orleans is the fourth destination in as many months for Mackenzie Brooks, a woman on the run from a deranged stalker. After all, any man who shows up on her doorstep claiming to be her destined lover has more than a few screws loose. But crazy doesn’t explain why he always finds her no matter how far she runs.
When her well-meaning boss puts a PI on her case, Mackenzie comes face to face with the incredible truth: magic is real, and whatever spell has kept her hidden and separate from the paranormal world is rapidly deteriorating.
With time running out, she has no choice but to trust Jackson as he struggles to uncover the truth of her past-and her destiny.”

Monday, March 2, 2009

Self-editing tips, part 1

During the first draft of any story, I turn off the editor’s voice in my head. The main objective in this phase is to get the story on paper. Revisions come later.
But when they do, don’t skimp. Do yourself a favor and follow a few simple rules before submitting your piece to help make it stand out. The more you polish your story, the more it will shine in an editor’s eyes.
I’ve compiled several self-editing tip sheets from publishers. The first several parts will deal with issues concerning simple language and sentence construction.
The next will focus on higher-level issues such as POV and the oldie but goodie, show versus tell. The final part will consist of a list of reference books I found useful while revision and self-editing.
So when the publisher returns your story with an attachment on self-editing, you’ll be one step ahead.

1. Crutch words. Search your story for all instances of ‘that’. Evaluate each—you can delete 95% of the occurrences without losing any meaning. If it’s not needed, your sentence will be more powerful without it.
Other crutch words include ‘just’ and ‘really.’ As in: ‘I really have no idea why I overuse that, I just do.’ Yes, such words sound conversational – you may get away with adding them in dialogue. For the most part, avoid them.
‘Suddenly’ should be used as infrequently as possible. Yes, some well-known authors who shall remain nameless get away with it. But it becomes tedious for readers to encounter sudden events with such frequency. It makes your character appear to be afflicted with ADD.
Learn these crutch words and you’ll eventually recognize them as you write your first draft. The less you have to edit, the better.

2. Watch for pet words. Sometimes we use phrasing or words without realizing it. If you find you overuse words such as ‘then,’ ‘as’ and ‘when,’ change up your sentence structure. Vary your word use as much as possible.

3. Stall phrases. Likewise avoid stall phrases such as: ‘tried to,’ ‘began to’ and ‘started to’ whenever possible. They’re effective only if you want to emphasize the slowness of the scene, or draw out its drama. Stall phrases do nothing to change the meaning of the sentence, and actually weaken it. Go with the simple past tense of the verb instead. You shouldn’t use them to pad your word count.

4. Avoid using 'it' as the subject. In most cases, the sentence is strengthened by deleting the vague pronoun and identifying with a solid noun.

5. Strengthen weak verbs. You can usually eliminate ‘was’ and ‘were’ by replacing them with stronger, more descriptive verbs. Editors don’t flag them all, but will return your manuscript if you overuse these two. Usually, ‘was’ and ‘were’ precede an ‘ing’ word, and you can simply convert the ‘ing’ word to make it stronger. For instance, instead of: ‘He was watching the evening news,’ change to: ‘He watched the evening news.’ Voila.

6. Avoid ending sentences with prepositional phrases (to her, at him, for her, etc). These are usually implied and leave the sentence with a weak ending. If you’re in a character’s POV, such phrases are unnecessary.

7. Punctuation belongs within quotation marks: “The time has come,” the walrus said, “to talk of many things.”

James Michener said: "I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter." Enough said.

Look for Part 2 later this week.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Welcome to Author Chat!

While the Author Spotlight is intended to focus more intensely on the writer's craft, Author Chats aim to acquaint readers with the author on a more personal level. 

Author Chat will be an occasional feature, linked from this page, similar to the setup for Author Spotlights.

So if you'd like to participate, just email me at cate.masters AT gmail.com for the interview questions and we'll set up a date for your Author Chat.

Rachel Brimble, author of Paying the Piper, is chatting now.

2011 chats
May 26: Paty Jager
June 23: Sherry Soule
July 7: Arlene Webb
July 21: Sherry Gloag
Aug. 4: David Brown
Sept. 1:
Sept. 15:
Oct. 20:
Nov. 3:
Nov. 17:
Dec. 1:
Dec. 15:

New cover for Liberation via Pen!

This weekend, Wild Child Publishing's cover artist sent me the artwork for Liberation via Pen.
Wow, I've never received a cover so fast. I love it, too!
The excerpt is here. No release date yet, but I'll keep you posted.