Friday, February 27, 2015

When Night Comes by Dan Walsh

Product Details
I should have known better than to pick up a Dan Walsh book before starting Thanksgiving Dinner. The pages had to be turned, frozen turkey notwithstanding. 

Why is Jack Turner, a successful author of military history, suddenly having very real "back in time" nightmares? These dreams coincide with his return to Culpepper to give a series of lectures for his old history professor, who by the way, is acting very strange.

Throw in several student deaths on campus,  investigated by Detective Joe Boyd who doesn't agree with the natural causes report, and a hired hit man with no conscience, plus a little romance, and Thanksgiving Dinner takes a backseat. I mean, what would you do if you fell asleep in your rented apartment,  but woke up on Pearl Harbor half an hour before, oh wait, don't want to spoil it.

The heart pounding pace grabbed me from the very beginning with strong characters and believable dialogue. The tension and intrigue reminded me of The Bourne Identity. And speaking of the big screen, where I'd love to see this story, Dan Walsh proves it can be done without sex scenes and profanity. This story ran me breathless all the way to the exciting and satisfying ending. I highly recommend this book.


Dan Walsh is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than a dozen novels including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and What Follows After. His books have been highly reviewed by USA Today and in magazines such as Publishers Weekly, RT Book Reviews and Library Journal. Dan lives and writes in the Daytona Beach area with his wife, Cindi. They have 2 grown children and 3 grandchildren. www.danwalshbooks.com
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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Critique Conversations (and Why You Should Be Having Them)

I'm currently in the middle of the last stages of editing my next book release, and it's always a wild and crazy ride. (Can I really say that? I'm only on my 3rd release, and it's the first novel...Hmmm...a question to ponder later.) I'm always perplexed as to whether I'm going to get this done or not.

Graphic Conversation
Photo by Marc Wathieu
Of course, that's probably because when I receive the critiques back from those I have editing my projects, I always have a ton of questions. Inevitably, this means a long, drawn out conversation about the nuances behind a scene, areas I need to deepen or strengthen, and places I should seriously consider changing. I muse back and forth with those helping me about how to do something without breaking the integrity of the rest of the book, how someone is to be related to someone else if I take another person out of the story, and ask myself the deeper meaning behind the relationships of the characters I've created.

For instance, in the project I'm about to release, I had a character who murdered his wife. Note the "had" part of that whole business? After a long, drawn out e-mail exchange, I decide that I needed to dump the husband. But the now-single lady still had to die--it was kinda the point of the story. The solution was to make another character I already had on the outs do double duty and become the killer. It was tricky business, and I'm still keeping my original story in mostly-pristine condition for comparison in the future, but even a few weeks out from releasing it, I can see this is a change for the better.

This would probably never have happened on my own, and definitely not had I asked questions about my friend's critique, although she had suggested it. Without her collaboration, I probably wouldn't have arrived at the solution I did.

And that's why when you get a critique back, you should take the time to read it and dig in. Before I ever published a book, I did this with members of my local critique group. One member in particular and I would sit down for coffee and danish at the Panera Bread between our houses, and we'd talk for hours about each others' projects, discussing different points.

Just when you do it over e-mail, the conversation is (usually) more to-the-point. Even so, in the latest round, I needed to print out the discussion for various reasons, and it was still 17 pages long...and that wasn't even all of it!

Even though the better part of this discussion took well over a week--and it's still ongoing--I wouldn't trade it for anything. Not only am I learning a great deal more about the craft of writing, I'm coming out the other side with a better story. One I hope will delight my readers as much as it's delighted me to write.

___________________________________

Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking. A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador. She is the author of Emergence , Retaliation and Capitulation, novellas in her series featuring superhuman and police detective Darby Shaw.

She blogs sporadically at LibertySpeidel.com.
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Monday, February 23, 2015

Guest Post: Moral Premise by Gail Kittleson

Moral Premise
By Gail Kittleson


Some of you may have read The Moral Premise/Stanley D. Williams, Ph.D. Not exactly light reading, this book is a must if our goal is to improve our fiction writing skills, because the premise is the glue that holds our stories together.
        Once you get the hang of it, creating moral premises can be fun. Here’s one for In This Together, my first recent fiction sale—did I say I’m excited?
Playing it safe results in unfulfilled dreams, but taking risks leads to new vistas.
         The premise states the circumstances in which readers meet our heroine or hero, often a predicament requiring growth. How will the characters react to what life hands them, and what must occur in order to reach their goals? The story reveals how characters change and mature as they face challenges.
         Interestingly, a moral premise applies not only to the protagonist, but to other characters as well. A villain may manifest the premise in a way totally opposite our main character, but the reader will arrive at the same conclusion through both of their actions.
         That sounds complicated, but think how we understand a truth—haste makes waste, for example. Hurried, harried people teach us this maxim, but so do careful, efficient folks who manage time and tasks well. Switch the wording—taking time for tasks leads to success.
       Another example: we can become caring adults through good role models. But the back side of this truth works, too—uncaring people show us who we don’t want to become. We all know individuals who rise above bad childhood examples.
       Dottie, the heroine of In This Together, is living proof. Reared in poverty and chaos, she shows no resemblance to her abusive, neglectful father, takes responsibility for herself and her family and finds ways to contribute to her community after losing her son during World War II and her husband soon after.
        That brings me to another moral premise. Grief decimates, but time and friendship bring healing. Which premise best fits Dottie’s story? This one works for her, for Al, the widower next door who bides his time to reveal his attraction to her, and for Bonnie Mae, a new employee at the boarding house where Dottie works.
       Helene, the rather nasty house proprietor, exhibits the opposite of this premise. She concocts bitterness out of life’s challenges instead of making lemonade.
         So we come to several questions. Can a single work have more than one moral premise? And is it essential to nail down the premise before we begin the first draft? What about pansters?
Recently, Tracy Groot, whose successful fiction exhibits strong moral premises, described her writing process. Rather than focusing on the premise, she simply lets her characters live out their lives.
         I can identify. When Dottie’s story presented itself to me, no moral premise was emblazoned on my mind. But as her personality and reactions took shape, a premise emerged. If I’d waited for thorough understanding, the manuscript would still be a twinkle in my eye.


I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts on this topic. 

G&L - Version 2 
Gail Kittleson
DARE TO BLOOM!
http://www.gailkittleson.com/
www.facebook.com/gail.kittleson


Catching Up With Daylight inspires through contemporary women’s stories, ancient meditation practices, and encouragement to live in the present moment,
is available on Amazon. She also wrote Celebrating Christmas and Celebrating Easter for Abingdon Press.

catch
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Friday, February 20, 2015

Review of A Heart Deceived


Michelle Griep has single-handedly renewed my love for Regency Romance. A Heart Deceived is no bodice ripper, something I tired of long ago. It's an intriguing tale of a young, unmarried woman who must keep her brother's growing insanity a secret--or he'd end up in an asylum, and she'd end up homeless.
Michelle's  characters are as real and complex as her plot. She included a couple of men in there who I still want to smack upside the head. But her true gift as an author is in her ability to sink the reader in the setting. Of course, nothing enhances the ability to describe a scene better than life-long study and physically seeing the country. Michelle doesn't keep us in a pristine home with blooming flowers and birds chirping. She takes us out for a walk along the waterfront, where the danger lies and poverty abounds and the need to cover our noses with a lacy kerchief is overpowering.
This story illustrates the difference between God's saving grace, and man's pharisaic twisting of His laws. Definitely worth the read.
I enjoyed Michelle's novel so much, I have her newest, Brentwood's Wardon my TBR list.
griepPlace an unpolished lawman named Nicholas Brentwood as guardian over a spoiled, pompous beauty named Emily Payne and what do you get? More trouble than Brentwood bargains for. She is determined to find a husband this season. He just wants the large fee her father will pay him to help his ailing sister. After a series of dire mishaps, both their desires are thwarted, but each discovers that no matter what, God is in charge
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Why We Need to Keep Telling Our Stories

I was recently reminded about why it was so important to tell my story. We all have stories, all of us have unique experiences that shape who we are. Some of them are positive, wonderful and funny. Some of them are negative. They involve mistreatment and abuse and sadness. I don’t believe in telling your story as a way to define yourself. As a way to remain a victim. I believe in speaking the truth in order to put the ugliness behind you.

Very often, when you tell your story there are others who believe a different story about you. Others who should or do know better, but they cling to the lies they've heard or told. So when you share the truth, there will be people who won’t believe it. Who think you’re “whining” or making it up.



So why bother? I chose to tell my story because first of all, continuing to lie about it all was exhausting. Some families get so used to the lies that they forget what’s real. They lie so much they can’t remember what’s the truth and what’s a lie they helped perpetrate. Forgive these people.

And forgive yourself, because if you’re anything like me, you continued the lie just to please these people. To fit in. To be accepted. To try and feel that you were loved because you were doing what they wanted.

I chose to tell the truth after years and years of verbal abuse (and plenty of hitting, slaps across the face, and financial abuse where I helped fund my father’s alcohol habit) because I knew somewhere there was another little girl who believed the lies people told her about herself.

I’ve told my truth lots of different ways. One of them was during an essay I wrote for NPR’s “This I Believe” in 2006. I had heard they were starting “This I Believe” up again (it was originally a 1950’s radio series hosted by Edward R. Murrow) and were looking for essays. I wrote mine, sent it in, and forgot about it. I didn’t hear anything back at first so I figured they weren’t interested.

Boy, was I wrong. The essay took off. I received a note from the person that oversaw the “This I Believe” series six months later telling me it was the second most popular out of the then 20,000 entries on the site. I couldn't believe it.

And yet, I could. Telling the truth often helps us connect, and I was sure that the reason behind the popularity was that what I spoke about is a common thing, something people don’t talk about that often. We’re afraid to tell the truth sometimes because it doesn't always make us look good. I certainly don’t look back on the decisions I made or things I did back then with pride.

But I do look at my “recovery” (I’ll call it that for lack of a better word) as something I’m so grateful for I can only attribute it to God. He held me, moved me past it all. He brought me here, and where I’m at now is a very good place.



Recently I was told that my essay, which is now nine years old, is still one of the top 100 essays on the site out of 150,000 entries. I’m so humbled by that. NPR also asked me to record my essay and it was really weird to read it again, actually. It seems so long ago, so far away… but that’s another reason it’s important to talk about it again. If you are there right now, in that ugly place where someone who should love and care about you is telling you that you are worthless, please know that there is a way out of that.

And for the writers out there who are wondering if telling your story matters, I can tell you that it does. You may never hear from the people you touch, but know that your words have meaning.



Cherie Burbach is a poet, mixed media artist, and freelance writer specializing in lifestyle and relationships. She's written for About.com, NBC/Universal, Match.com, Christianity Today, and more. Her latest book is: Emotional Affairs: How to Stop, Prevent, and Move On from an Emotional Affair. Visit her website for more info, cherieburbach.com
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Monday, February 16, 2015

Stories for Soldiers

Google Free Images
I believe I've written about writing our brave service people before, but I want to share something related that our writers group is attempting.

Critique Cafe writes short stories to include in our letters to soldiers. We hope it adds to our gratitude and gives them a small, interesting, and hopefully inspiring diversion. This is how it works:

1. We've chosen to send our letters to Operation Gratitude. There are many other organizations sponsoring soldier letters as well. Follow the guidelines for your chosen avenue.

2. We write a letter expressing our gratitude for their service, and include a little about ourselves. It's nice to describe our everyday life that we are free to live because of their sacrifice and many before them.

3. Then we include a very short poem or story written just for them. The content adheres to the same guidelines as required/suggested by Operation Gratitude.

4. We critique each others' stories in our meetings, polish them up and then gather everything for mailing.

This is a new project for our group. My brother-in-law, who just completed 20 years in the Air Force, thinks it's a great idea. "Anything to help them get their mind off things for a minute. Especially the deployed." We may not ever hear of the results, but hopefully "casting our bread upon the waters" will one day be found to have blessed those sticking their necks out for us.

What do you think? Do you have any suggestions or experience with something like this you'd like to share?
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Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: Saving America: A Christian Perspective of the Tea Party Movement

As a rule, I'm about as politically-savvy as our hermit crabs, and like them, I spend much of my
time in my politics-proof shell. I'm nearly useless when it comes to debating my opinions on our candidates and the issues because 1.) I'm usually awash in the garbage that passes these days for campaigning and thoroughly confused, and 2.) my views aren't particularly popular with a lot of people, anyway. I'm staunchly conservative and many of my friends and neighbors aren't.

What's-his-name, the hermit crab
That said, once I read Jonathan Wakefield's Saving America: A Christian Perspective of the Tea Party Movement, I felt considerably enlightened, and yet sadly disillusioned. I recall a time in my life--many years ago when I was a child--when I believed everything our president or senators, representatives, or their staff members told us. I'm not sure, but I think my parents and many of their friends, neighbors, and co-workers felt much the same way I did, but of course not with the child-like awe I felt when I thought of the men and women who governed us. Yes, those were simpler times and news (or rumors, innuendos, or outright lies) didn't spread with the speed of light, but even given that, I think we had far more reason back then to believe our leaders than we do today.

At the beginning of the book, Wakefield clearly admits he didn't want to get involved in politics, but was driven to it by the downward spiral of America's economic, moral, and world standing, and by God's leading. Frankly, I learned more about our government from reading Saving America than I'd learned my entire life. Wakefield has methodically, accurately, and truthfully researched the situation, and not only points out what's wrong, but also who's to blame (and believe me, it's all of us), and how we can rectify the situation.

I found it quite interesting that while the author points out the danger of allowing BGDs (Big Government Disciples) to continue their reign, he also shows that the roots of big government extend a century into the past. This is not a "Bush vs. Obama" finger-pointing session, but rather a close look at how the proponents of big government have been at work through many periods of our history and with the help of (or despite the disapproval of) numerous administrations.

The book not only addresses both major political parties, but present and potential Tea Partiers, Christian and non-Christian voters/non-voters, minorities, celebrities, and the church. Mr. Wakefield doesn't pull any punches and divvies out the blame or accolades as they are earned. There's something for everyone in this book--pastors who are brave enough to spread the word, politicians who do carry out the responsibilities of the job they were put into office to do and who covet the trust their constituents invested in them (and politicians who do neither), and Americans who are just plain confused. While they know something is horribly wrong, nobody has told them just what it is that's wrong and how to correct it.

To be honest, this book enlightened, infuriated, entertained, and scared the living daylights out of me. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to know how we got where we are, what we're losing bit by bit, and what we can do about it before it's too late.

Wakefield writes in a non-confrontational, easygoing manner, yet his message is anything but warm and fuzzy. He's deadly serious and after reading Saving America: A Christian Perspective of the Tea Party Movement, I realized I should be too. You'll want to mark up your copy as I have mine to share nuggets of information the next time you want to debate someone who loves big government.

I encourage you to buy it, read it, and talk about it to anyone who loves our country. Jonathan Wakefield has a written a real winner.

Saving America: A Christian Perspective on the Tea Party Movement








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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Vison for Writing

vision
Disclaimer: This article talks about religion in general and the Christian faith, in particular. Psalm 118:17 says "I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord."

Christian Writer or Writer Who Is a Christian?

Not all writers who are Christians are called by God to a full-time writing ministry or to write in the inspirational genre. Let's be honest, not all authors write about God, Jesus or Christian themes.

People write about a variety of subjects. Writers write about what they know or what interests them. I know that is the way I do it.

Not all Christians actively practice their faith and beliefs. Many have struggles with their faith.

I consider myself a writer who is a Christian, not a Christian writer. My faith affects all areas of my life. It slips into my writing most of the time. Sometimes I even do it on purpose!

It's Okay to Encourage Others Toward Trust in Christ.

Psalm 118:17 is in an account where the psalmist reminds us we should conscientiously do our duty to all, and trust God to accept and bless us. It says we should seek to live to declare the works of God.

It's okay for a Christian writer to encourage others to trust in Him, serve Him and live for Him. Such were the triumphs of the Son of David, in the assurance that the good pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hand.

Commit Our Works to the Lord.

We should commit our works to the Lord. Try praying for a vision for your writing, to God to give you the desire to write, and to open doors of opportunity for you to write.

If you are a Believer in Christ, you can then “declare the works of the Lord." Include your faith in your writing just like you do in your everyday life.

Do Not Hold Back

In the late former Beatle George Harrison’s autobiography “I, Me, Mine” he mentioned he did not hold back in promoting his Hinduism faith and the Hare Krishna movement with songs like “My Sweet Lord”. He viewed his celebrity as a way to support his beliefs.

Include Your Faith in Your Writing

Why shouldn't a Christian include faith in his or her writings? Again, Psalm 118:7 says “…declare the works of the Lord." Habakkuk 2:2 declares “And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” The key is the writer needs to write. Your faith is part of who you are.
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Monday, February 9, 2015

Michelle Griep's Five Secrets to Getting Published

Writers are insecure little mammals, all spastic and twitchy. No, really. Poke one with a harsh review and watch him curl up into a ball.

As a result, writers flock to conferences and seminars, forking out cash they don't have for all kinds of crazy workshops such as:

  • How to write a cozy vampire space opera romance

  • Creating characters that rip out a reader's heart, juggle it around for a hundred pages or so, then replace it with a kiss

  • Ninety-nine rules to make the publishing gods bless you with a contract

I know. Those sound like stupid, made-up classes, and you're right. But if these topics were offered as workshops, writers would attend. Why? Because they're looking for answers. Writers want to find the golden ticket to publication. Here’s the deal, though . . .

There are no answers.

Stephen King doesn't have them. Charles Dickens didn't. Not even J.K. Rowling can cast the magical spell for hitting the big time in the book biz. They can give you ideas, suggestions, and possibilities, and even share the milestones of their journeys, but there's nothing carved in stone (hieroglyphics aside) that's an instruction manual for landing a contract. It's all advice.

You, my friend, are the ultimate master of your writing success, namely by writing. That's it. Anyone saying anything else is a snake oil salesman.

There are, however, a few tips that will make your road to publication a little less bumpy.


Five Secrets to Getting Published

1. Learn the craft.

You have to know the writing rules to break the writing rules, even if you're wearing a leather jacket and have a pack of Pall Malls rolled up in your tee-shirt sleeve. How can you rebel if you don't know what you're rebelling against? There are certain writing rules you need to know simply to have an intelligent conversation with another writer—things like point of view, showing vs. telling, writing tight, and the endless debate on whether a Pilot G3 beats out a Uni-Ball Jetstream (and it does, every flipping time).

2. Write a kick a** story.

Even when you've learned the craft of writing, story is still king. If a reader doesn't care about the sweeping saga of a love-struck coyote pining for a rock badger in Colonial America, you're not going to sell the dang thing. There's got to be an oh-my-goodness-what-happens-next kind of breadcrumb trail to lead your reader from beginning to end.

3. Breathe life into your characters.

And not just the hero and heroine, baby. Any character that shows up in your story needs to be a person of interest, even if that "person" is a dolphin. Your reader needs to relate to your characters in some way, shape, or form or they just won't give a fig about them. And personally, I hate figs. Fig Newtons included.

4. Finish what you start.

Newsflash: if you keep re-writing and overthinking the first few chapters, you'll never type "The End." Seriously, didn't you learn this in preschool? Listen up, class. When we begin a project, we should see it through to completion. Unless, of course, you're sheet-rocking a ceiling. In that case, just hire it out.

5. Get out there and network.

I understand you're an introvert. Most writers are. Quit whining and make a run to Target for some big kid undies. The point is that you need to suck it up and go meet agents and editors. They are the gatekeepers for traditional publishers. And even if you decide to self-publish, you'll need to network to get the word out about your book.

There you have it, boys and girls. It really is as simple as pounding your head against the wall. All getting published takes is perseverance and a bucket load of blood, sweat, and tears.

About the Author . . .

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She seeks to glorify God in all that she writes—except for that graffiti phase she went through as a teenager.

She resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, where she teaches history and writing classes for a local high school co-op. An Anglophile at heart, she runs away to England every chance she gets, under the guise of research. Really, though, she’s eating excessive amounts of scones.

Follow her adventures at her blog WRITER OFF THE LEASH or visit michellegriep.com, and don’t forget the usual haunts of Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter.



About the Book: Writer Off the Leash . . .

Are you a writer at heart? How can you tell? And if you are, how do you go about composing and selling the next Great American Novel?

WRITER OFF THE LEASH answers these questions and more--all in an easy to understand, tongue-in-cheek style. This is more than a how-to book. It's a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn't know how to take their writing to the next level. Award-winning author MICHELLE GRIEP blows the lid off stodgy old-school rulebooks and makes it clear that writing can--and should--be fun.


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Friday, February 6, 2015

Book Review: Business For Authors

If you want to have a career as an author, you have to understand business. But most of us are artistes, so have we really given any thought to the business we have, especially if we're independent authors? While we may be tempted to focus more on our art than our incomes, if we want to support our family or leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren, being cognizant of the business aspects of being an author are incredibly important.

But who among us has a business degree? Not too many, I'd wager.

That's where Joanna Penn's Business For Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur may come in handy. Before her life as a writer, Ms. Penn was a business owner, so she knows a thing or two about business. She put together this practical manual for the author who wants to take control of their own business and utilize systems to be more efficient.

What I loved:

Even though she's had a lot of experience in business, it didn't feel like she was talking down to me as the reader. She laid things out logically, starting at the very basic questions of what it means to be an entrepreneur and how you as an author are one from the moment you press "publish" or sign a book contract with a publisher.

The topics discussed are incredibly practical and help you think outside the box. Who among us, especially when we're starting out, has thought that as an author, she'd have employees? But Ms. Penn lays out who your employees could be--editors, cover artists, accountants, bookkeepers, and more.

In addition to the book, you can download a companion workbook through Joanna's website that can help you sift out your own ideas for your business and your perceptions of money and what you want to write. I admit I got a little overwhelmed at a couple points working through this, so it may be good to read through everything slowly, or a couple of times at the very least.

This isn't a "writing" book per se. So if you're looking for guidance on writing your novel, this is not the book for you. But if you're releasing your first or second book and are trying to figure out how to maximize your book sales, and if you're wanting to have a lifelong career as an author, this is a book to pick up.

The resources mentioned in this book are very wide, and I was pleasantly surprised by who Ms. Penn cites--especially since I'd read a few of the books already. 

What I didn't like: 

There really isn't much in here I didn't care for. I noticed on one review on Amazon that there's little about marketing, which is true, however Ms. Penn also has an entire book devoted to just marketing. This book is more for systems you should have in place and understanding how to manage your role as CEO of your business.



Overall:

If you are an author looking to make a nice side income, or possibly replace your job entirely, this is a book you can't afford to do without. I intend to re-read this as I'm able to help solidify my own thoughts on my business.


Important Information:

Business for Authors by Joanna Penn. ASIN: B00MQTR9HA  $5.99 for e-book on Amazon. $13.99 /paperback


___________________________________

Liberty Speidel has been a voracious reader since reading her first Nancy Drew book. But she was telling stories long before then with her figurines from Disney's Rescue Rangers. When she's not writing, you may find her gardening, baking, crocheting, or hiking. A lifelong Kansan, she now resides in the Kansas City metro area with her husband, children, and chocolate Labrador. She is the author of Emergence and Retaliation, novellas in her series featuring superhuman and police detective Darby Shaw.

She blogs sporadically at LibertySpeidel.com.
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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

SELF-EDIT HELPS


READ YOUR WORK OUT LOUD – NO CHEATING
That's my best advice.


Then there are these self-checks: 

·         One space after the period/end of sentence

·         Be aware of what you habitually do in your own work, like I miss little words all the time, and overuse words and phrases, especially words used close together in the same paragraph or on the same page. Do a global search to identify these usages.

·        Create your own cheat sheet
·         Use a guide – even the Chicago Manual of Style refers to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary; Kathy Ide’s Polish the Pugs, which leaves room for you to add your own material

Commas are fairly subjective, but they are still used in a series and introductory phrases (though not a hard & fast rule), preceding a dependent clause (a piece of information, not a phrase that stands alone), and usually with independent clauses (where a phrase can stand alone). If the sentence is understandable without, leave it off. Rarely use commas in appositives anymore.

Periods and commas go inside quotation marks; usually question marks and exclamation marks will too, except when the question is not part of the dialogue

Semicolons and Colons go outside of quotation marks

Titles of complete works are italicized; segments, short stories, chapters, are quoted

Apostrophes – pain and horror and supreme annoyance: IT IS=IT’S; 1850s; Jesus’s love for us.

Hyphen/dash:
o  Noun/adjective – no hyphen (generally, no hyphen when descriptive term is after the noun being modified); i.e., ear splitting
o  Adjective/noun – use a hyphen; i.e., jet-black; over-the-counter drugs are available on that shelf; vs. I’m buying drugs over the counter
o  Adverb/noun; Noun/adverb – no hyphen

Plural pronouns/plural usage: Someone didn’t get his nap today. We all need our naps.   Examine an author’s work carefully to see if she had any typos. “They/Their/Them” cannot be used as singular gender neutral pronouns. Just don’t do it.

Tense: past/present – make sure the usage is consistent throughout.

Point of View – make sure you are experiencing a scene through one character’s head at a time.

Strong voice – few usages of the “was…ing” construction

Formatting your page: (standard manuscript) one-inch margins, font with a seraph, 12-point, indented paragraphs, no space between them, double-spaced, no funky symbols, no section breaks; headers/footers – check the guidelines on the agent/publisher site – always check anyway

Elements of story: Every story must have a recognizable beginning, middle, end

Know the genre

Identify your inciting incident (this will help determine where your story actually starts)

Make every sentence/scene/chapter/character count for something or else you end up with a bunch of independent little cute incidents stuck together


Write a killer hook sentence that will sell the work

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Monday, February 2, 2015

To the Moon!

I'm over the moon! After many, many long months of writing, agonizing, and taking turns doubting myself, wondering why I ever thought I could write in the first place, and having daily, sometimes hourly inner pep talks--you know, all the joyful things we authors do while writing a book--I finally finished my latest manuscript this past week.

Yep, it's done. The End. Whew! It's finished, by golly. All behind me now.
Moon over Murfreesboro, TN.
If you look closely, you'll see a
 teensy me hurtling over it. (Not really.)

Or is it?

That's a silly question, isn't it? Just because I finished the story doesn't mean I've arrived at the end product any more than delivering a baby means you've raised an independent, loving, and responsible adult ready to take on the world. It just means you have the stretch marks to show for it.

What it does mean (aside from the stretch marks in my brain) is that I've completed the easy part and am about to embark on the 8th (yes, 8th) round of editing. Since I'm a pantser, I spend a lot of time editing previous chapters--to stall, of course--while I wait for inspiration to arrive. Even after I finish with the editing procedure, I have to send it out to other readers, write the synopsis (ugh), and prepare a brilliant proposal to present to my agent, who, I pray, will love it and send it out to multiple publishers, after which a raging bidding war will ensue. (This is why I write books. I live in a fertile fantasy world.)

I'm hoping this latest manuscript will become the first in a series. Perhaps that's why it took me so long to complete. Not only did I need to establish the plot and characters for this particular one, but I had to keep in mind how I wanted things to play out in second and third books. That whole series idea is a bit optimistic, I know, considering I haven't turned it into my agent yet. But if I have sequel ideas firmly planted in my mind and can then relay that information to the publisher-to-be in the proposal, I'll have a better shot at it. So the work I put in to make a series feasible while writing this book will be well worth it if it comes true. Thinking ahead takes time (for me, at least), but in the end I think I'll have saved myself some grief.

Still, I don't want to short-change my accomplishment. Yes, I have much to do, but I did just complete a complex 100,000+ word novel and I have God to thank for that. Every time I was ready to throw in the towel (or my laptop), He came to my rescue and gave me just enough of the story to let me write a few more pages. The pace was glacial, but in the end, I realized it needed to be. Some books come easier and faster than others, but this wasn't one of them.

However, it is finished. Now I'm free to devote my time to the more difficult parts of manuscript submission, and I hope those facets will be made a bit easier by the fact that it took me forever to get this far. I have all the details in my head. I've tied up all the plots and sub-plots, haven't left anyone dangling, and somewhere in my brain are the perfect synopsis, proposal, and back cover copy. I'll agonize over each of them just as I did with the book itself, but in the end, it will all be finished.

Then I'll be free to start on another one. We never learn, do we?

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