Thursday, October 22, 2015

Grammarly Deets -- An Interim Note

I apologize for making you wait, but I'm in the midst of an editing quagmire, i.e. 2nd round (reread and revise) of my WIP, Camellia's Choice. In light of that, I decided to post my checklist, a truck load of words and phrases to cull from my story. I know it will seem a tedious, overwhelming task to many, but it really does the job. The first stage of it, anyway. Ah yes, there will be more! As if that's not bad enough, I run through my manuscript one word at a time. Go ahead and count. Yep. That's ... hmm ... around sixty-some? Imagine that. Scanning through 300 or so pages sixty times? No. I confess. I don't do that many. I search each word to see how many times I've used it. If it comes in at a low number, I skip it. Otherwise, maybe one or three years from now, you'd be finding me in a padded cell, gone cuckoo with my mind stuck in editing gear, words trolling through my brain while I sputter and spout all sorts of nonsense. Talk about nonsense ... let me stop, now, and get to that list.

·        decide(d)
·        notice(d)
·        realise(d)
·        watch(ed)
·        saw
·        heard
·        thought
·        wonder(ed)
·        look(ed)
·        seem(ed)
·        knew
·        begin/began/begun to
·        start to
·        about to
·        could

·        a bit,
·        a little,
·        about,
·        actually,
·        almost,
·        almost like,
·        already,
·        appears,
·        approximately,
·        basically,
·        close to,
·        even,
·        eventually,
·        exactly,
·        fairly,

·        finally, 
·        here,
·        highly,
·        instead
·        just,
·        just then,
·        kind of,
·        mostly,
·        nearly,
·        now
·        only
·        practically,
·        pretty,
·        quite,
·        rather,
·        really,  
·        simply,
·        slightly,
·        so,
·        some of
·        somehow,
·        somewhat,
·        somewhat like,
·        sort of,
·        suddenly,
·        that
·        then,
·        there,
·        truly,
·        utterly,
·        very

        *Phrases to shorten: 

·        in front of (before, ahead)
·        at the back (behind)
·        out of (from, away, beyond)
·        off of (off)
“Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.”
         -Raymond Chandler
          Authors on Revision
          Happy writing and editing!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Grammarly Deets #7

Back to school again with Grammar class 101. This time I'm going to focus on a few confusing words, which many misuse quite often. It happens more than you'd think and in situations from people you wouldn't expect. Of course, that only perpetuates the misuse. Gotta love the English language!

First up, and it's a biggie, is the misuse of the verbs to lie and to lay. In this case to lie is not referring to the meaning of telling a fib, but rather to recline. If you're familiar with the grammar term "direct object" this might be easier to understand. If not, please be patient. I will use examples to help clarify.

Present tense:

--to lie: I lie on the bed.
--to lay: I lay the book on the table. (notice the underlined words, the book; that's a direct object.) 

**Remember: Lay will always have a direct object when it means placing something or putting something.

Now, let's go on to create a chart (it helps me to refer to this and maybe it will for you, too):

To lie (meaning to recline)

present tense:    lie (I lie on the bed)                             

past tense:         lay (Yesterday, I lay in bed until noon.)
past participle: lain (I had lain in bed until noon three days last week.)

To lay (meaning to place something or put something)

present tense:     lay (I lay the book down on the table.)                   

past tense:          laid (I laid the book on the table yesterday.)
past participle:  laid (I suddenly remembered I had laid the books on the table.)

Don't be discouraged if you get lie and lay confused. Some of the greatest figures in society have done so, too. Remember Bob Dylan and his song "Lay Lady Lay"? It's wrong! Should be "Lie Lady Lie". Eric Clapton? "Lay Down, Sally"? Eh, eh. Nope. "Lie Down, Sally". 

You want more common grammar confusion? How about there, their, they're? It's really quite easy to remember this way: there has the word here in it. Therefore, it means location. Example: I left the book over there by the door. The word they're is a contraction. Remember that the apostrophe (') is the replacement for a letter. They're = they are. Example: They're (they are) going to the party together. Of course that leaves their. One trick to remember is to focus on the letter i in the word. I can prompt the idea of possession. Another trick is the word heir inside their. An heir inherits so things belong to him, i.e. possession. Example: They needed to bring their books to class.

A couple more? 

Accept/Except : I accept your apology. Everyone came except Tom. The first one is a verb.

Affect/Effect:  Lack of sleep affects your health. The effects of poor health may kill you. Again, the first one is a verb, second one a noun. 

Enough for now. Class is over. However, I'll be back with more word confusion next week!

Enjoy life and write well!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Weekly Deets - 10.8.15

Be forewarned today's post has nothing to do with writing. Not really. I just had an itch to post about this. However, there will be an appropriate quote or two made by authors to follow. That's sort of a tie-in. Sort of. So, on with it ... 

I was watching the news yesterday. The usual newsy stuff along with the not so newsy stuff, like a video of a toddler and family dog jumping up and down when Daddy comes home from work. How is that news? I can send our local network plenty of videos of my pooch doing cutesy things. Do you think the producer would include it in the show's lineup? I don't know ... I mean, they only have ... hmm ... let's see, an hour of morning news, three hours of afternoon/evening news, and one hour of nightly news to fit a tiny video into their program. Of course, most all of it is looped to repeat several times a day.

I guess at this point I should mention I'm not ranting just to, well, rant. I'm making a point. Really. We've become a society of over-saturation. News, news and more news, streaming into our lives via television, computer, tablet, and phone. Twenty-four seven to stay connected. Makes you wonder how news people managed to do it years ago in a half hour evening segment. Of course, I do realize one purpose of this is to make news available to accommodate every one's busy schedule. There's bound to be a point during the day we're free to turn on or plug in our device and be informed. Over-saturation. 

I remember learning in psychology class how watching videos with a violent theme over and over again tends to make a person immune to witnessing violence. Scary thought. Of course I cry over everything! Like those Hallmark commercials and the one showing closeups of the faces of those sad-eyed little abused puppies. You know the one  where Sarah McLachlan sings "Angel" in the background? And don't get me started on movies or books where a dear family pet dies in the story. I won't watch. (Old Yeller traumatized me forever.) Anyway, the saying "ignorance is bliss"* comes to mind. Most days or weeks, I'd rather be blissful, happily ignorant living in my own little world of fiction, thank you very much. Maybe it's my age -- years of being over-saturated with the misery going on around me. Avoiding that is quite desirable.  But then I wouldn't be very well informed, as all those news mongers would argue. Not saying it's right for everyone, but I'm okay with it. Sort of. I like to be informed. Makes me not look so stupid when I'm in a group of people discussing world views. But I can only take so much saturation. Give me small doses, thank you very much. That will do just fine. 

"There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" -- T.S. Eliot 

*Ignorance is bliss -- a phrase coined by Thomas Gray in his Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College. 

Have a great week, all. And happy writing!

This news broadcast is brought to you by Kathryn Long, a blissfully optimistic soul who will always appreciate the positives in life. :-) 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Grammarly Deets #6

It's class time. Writing 101: Obviously, these are tips established and emerging writers know. However, newbies take heed! Classic mistakes that will give you away as green and in need of guidance or a great editor, which cost big bucks, but a wise investment if you are the type to comment how grammar was never your thing in school.

Of course, there are many, but to keep this short? I'll list only a few:

  • POV - don't switch the point of view within a paragraph or even a scene if you can avoid it. Head hopping is what some call it. Not good. Very confusing to the reader. So, unless your character is schizophrenic, don't do it.
  • Avoid flooding your writing with ellipses (...) or dashes (--) Don't judge. I used to do this. See me frowning? Yep.
  • Avoid lengthy paragraphs. I mean, extremely long paragraphs tax a reader's patience.
  • Avoid the exclamation mark, or at least use it sparingly. Instead, try including words that imply the excitement of the dialogue.
  • Dialogue tags -- less is more. The "he said" or "she said" tags, sometimes called invisible tags, are really better to use. This doesn't mean you can't include descriptors throughout a conversation to let readers know what the characters are doing. In fact, you should include them.
  • Cliches -- these aren't original, won't show your unique style, are totally boring and imply you are a lazy writer. I'm guilty of doing this. Still do when I'm writing the first draft. I get rid of most in later edits. They are nasty little things creeping into your mind, so watch out!
  • Lack of specific knowledge and jargon -- If you plan on writing a novel set in China, you better know about the people, the geography, the culture, etc. Readers hate when they catch an author making errors this way. They cry foul and trash talk your book. Well, maybe not trash talk, but I doubt they buy anything else you write. Enough said.
  • Use a clear font like Times Roman. No flowery, fancy type to distract the eye.
All righty then. I'm out of here. Don't let moss grow under your feet (cliche); write ... (ellipse), edit, improve. Follow the rules, but stay creative! (exclamation mark, though I think this one fits).

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Weekly Deets -- 9.27.15

I was sitting here in my spot, my writerly spot, thinking about other people's writerly spots. Where do you find the best place to be inspired and productive? It's been asked many times, and I've answered many times ... it really doesn't matter. Inspiration comes from inside, where ever you may be. And in my case, so does my productivity. I'd read how Stephen King (Yes, I know. I reference him too much, but hey, he's the man!) will go to his private, quiet place and write for hours. Then, when he's satisfied, he comes up for air and rejoins society. 

I don't need a special place, even though I have a special place ... mostly to keep all my notes, files of stories, ideas for stories, etc. I will write there, or sometimes in the family room in front of the TV, sometimes outside on the deck or sometimes in bed. It depends on my mood. My special place, aka Writer's Cave, can get claustrophobic, hence the reason I navigate to other spots. One I've never used, though, is out in public, like a coffee house or library or the closest B&N or BAM store. Don't know, I might like it, maybe I will try it ... someday. I do like to people watch (NO. I am not a voyeur or some weird person that way) and that might tend to interrupt the creative flow. Or maybe it would help. *Cue eccentric old lady with her arms gathered round a stack of books on voodoo and witchcraft. She'd make a great character. I love quirky traits in my book people. Don't you? 

To sum it up, inspiration is where ever and whenever it hits you. Favorite places to write? That's up to each individual, of course. Hey, I remember as a kid I used to climb the apple tree in our backyard with a notebook and pen in hand. I'd sit on a comfortable branch, lean my back against the trunk, and write poetry. I loved that, and still enjoy the memory. 

News for the week: My agent updated certain parts of the agency website. All the author clients and their work, plus a short "elevator" pitch, sort of, to describe what they enjoy writing. It's all a work in progress, and will get better and better! Check it out: Golden Wheat Literary  You'll find me about halfway through the entries. 

Until next week ... cheers! And happy writing!  P.S. HAPPY 31st BIRTHDAY TO MY BABY GIRL!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Weekly Deets - 9.14.15

Scary is ... well ... scary. This time of year we think about scary. The scary movies are starting to flood our media, of course because of the Halloween season. So are scary stories. Stephen King and Dean Koontz have been my favorite authors of the horror genre. Or at least when I used to read horror genre. I think I had my fill somewhere back in the nineties. After years of feeding on the fright, the gore, and the eye-popping, heart-pounding moments I decided my health couldn't take it any longer. Seriously though, I just wanted to move along to reading my new fave genre, mysteries. Of course, some of those have gore and fright, too. I do love an evil-minded psychotic killer and the gruesome forensic evidence he leaves behind. Think Criminal Minds.

So, what is it about scary? According to an article I found: "Department head Magne Arve Flaten says that fear comes from the part of our brain that is specialized to express terror.

'Our fear centre sits in an area in the front of the brain near the temple and is called the amygdala. Studies that have been done on people who lack an amygdala demonstrate that they do not exhibit fear,' he says." ( Fear Reaction )

The article also states that our fear is immediate. Like in one eye blink, folks, we react in about a tenth of a second. No wonder we nearly jump out of our seats when someone sneaks up on us, or when we read about or watch that goon hiding behind the door who pops out to surprise the unsuspecting victim in the movie or novel. I'm shivering just picturing the shower scene in Psycho (Hitchcock's original). Surprising or not, it's something lots of people thrive on. Give 'em an adrenaline rush prompted by fear and it satisfies them. Well, it does for most, present company excluded. 

In another light and much smaller scale of scary, I'm thinking of an upcoming event where I'll be reading to listeners, big group or small, it doesn't matter. That adrenaline rush is already boosting my heart rate as the date draws closer. Not from fear, but more from anxiety and nerves. Heck, maybe it's triggered from the same place, that amygdala in the front brain. Whatever or wherever, I feel it. And will always feel it, every time I go before a group of people to talk, read, sing (that's not going to happen) or stand on my head (never going to happen). They do say, though, that a bit of nerves are good when performing at any level. Keeps you on your toes and brain alert, so you do a better job. At least that's their excuse! 

Fear. It's what makes the world go round and Halloween lovers thrive! 

Favorite Scary Movie: The Haunting (1963 version only ... and because there's no blood and gore. If I count those elements then it's The Exorcist.)

Favorite Scary Novel: The Dark Half by Stephen King (one of my many favorites, actually. I think this one fits because it's about an author who has a darker half, which comes alive to commit all kinds of horrific acts. bruhaha!)

Favorite Scary Song: Tubular Bells -- theme song to The Exorcist (okay, only if you've seen the movie, then you know exactly what I'm talking about, otherwise it's really a pretty song, haunting but pretty. And I have to give my honorable mention to that heart-pumping beat in the movie Jaws.)

Anyone willing to chime in and add their scary favorites, please do in the comment section below!

Well, that's my take on scary. And here's to a week of fun and fear! Watch your back, folks! 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Grammarly Deets #5

Do you write poetry? Song lyrics? Play drums or other percussion instruments? Of course, if you do any of these you know how important beat and rhythm are. What I'd bet you weren't aware of is how significant it is in writing. Yep. Beat and rhythm. Some will call it pacing. That's a loose translation at best, but it will do to explain this post on writing. It doesn't concern grammar, no. (If you were wondering.) However, it is very essential you master this skill. 

You might read books on writing that will describe the peril of monotonous dialogue, line after line of he said, she said, where no descriptive tags are interspersed. You add a "he took a sip of his coffee" here, or "she hesitated, worried he may not admit the truth" there, and suddenly the reader feels he's been transported into the story, experiencing everything. Much more interesting, right? Of course you don't want to tag every line of dialogue. That's slowing things down too much, and quite frankly it gets annoying to the reader. 

Another piece of advice will address pacing. Nothing worse than a plot bogging down with slow, arduous and painful detail. There must be variety. And it starts with sentence length. That's where I'm taking this post. The beat, rhythm and pacing of your sentence structure. 

Take a look at this paragraph: 

Mary stepped to the door. She opened it to find Jack. She froze and couldn't speak. Her eyes spoke to him instead. She waved him inside. They sat in the living room. Neither one started the conversation.

The pacing is quick, but the monotony of repeated word length and structure doesn't lend itself to originality or prose that sparks a reader's interest. So, let's mix it up a bit. Again, think beat, think rhythm.

Mary stepped to the door. When she opened it to find Jack, she gasped. There weren't any words, nothing would fall from her lips. However, the anger inside screamed a tirade of questions. Where had he been? How could he desert her like this? She stared for another minute. Finally, stepping aside she waved him in. They sat in the living room. For several awkward minutes, neither of them spoke. 

Okay, maybe not the greatest example, but I'd bet you noticed the varied sentence structure and length. Also, I included some inner thought to deepen the character's voice. The first paragraph is rather boring. Think of a drum beat thumping out tap, tap, tap, tap, all in an even rhythm. The second paragraph mixes up the beat. Now your drum is sounding great. Tap, tap, tatata, tap, tatap. Or something like that. (I apologize. I'm not a drummer!) 

Taking it further, note that pacing dictates the action of the story, whether it should be fast or slow. When a scene needs to be fast-paced, for example in a fight between two characters or during an escape from the bad guys, repeated short sentences do the trick. When the action slows down, like in a romantic scene, you can lengthen the description, draw it out with those long, complex sentences. It works. Keeps your readers engaged and wide awake, not knowing what's around the corner ... that is, the next page! 

Beat, rhythm, pacing. They are essential ingredients to great writing!

Enjoy your weekend, and as always, happy writing!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Weekly Deets -- 9.4.15

Okay, I should warn you this post is going to read more like deep reflection and advice than my usual what's-been-happening rant. I should also add a "sentimental" advisory that the following information may cause tears. Get the tissue box ready!

What prompted me to write about this topic started when I tuned into a movie channel on TV the other night. Stand by Me, one of my all time favorites, was playing. Those familiar with the plot will know that one of the main characters, a boy named Gordie, had lost an older brother in a horrible accident the year before. Dealing with his own grief and his father's, a broken man who seems to resent Gordie being the one son left alive, is central to the young boy's actions. 

Yeah, this is morbid, I know, but it started me thinking about death, that is, the death of fictional characters. How readers deal with such a sad event is sometimes not an easy thing to do, especially for younger readers. In fact, for them it's like real death. Think back to the first time you read Bambi. Poor little fella lost his mother and he was all alone in the world. What made it worse was how Mom was shot by a hunter. (I'm sure that has caused a lot of grief for hunters.) And who can forget Littlefoot's mom killed by Sharptooth in Land Before Time? Or how about Mufasa in The Lion King? Murdered by his own brother, no less? But that's only about children's stories. Grown ups have plenty to deal with, too. I cried buckets of tears when Marly died in Marly and Me. (I'm a real puddle of goo when it comes to animals dying. I can't watch I am Legend without skipping over that scene. You know the one.) And I was absolutely in shock when Dumbledore fell to his death. I mean, I reread that passage over and over, thinking I must have got it wrong. Then, reading further, even into the next book, I wouldn't give up hope that it was all a hoax, that he never died. Shame on you, J.K Rowlings! I was heartbroken for months!

I'm sure you have your own list of favorite characters who've gone on to visit the pearly gates. As you watched or read about their demise you probably grieved, screamed and maybe spewed expletives on the unfairness of such cruelty. I feel your angst. BUT there's hope for us all. Well, maybe it's not a solution to end the pain and suffering. Still, like with therapy, maybe the following advice will help in some way.  

All right, then. Let's get to it ...

First, is acceptance. There's no reason to keep on denying the character died. If the author did his job right, the character's death had a purpose, and in that death you found a deeper meaning of that character, how he/she/it affected other characters, how the death may have helped those others to grow.

Second, (and I know this may sound silly ... after all, these are fictional characters we're talking about) it's okay to cry and be angry over the loss. Trust me, it helps. As an author I'm constantly reminded that my job is to write a story that will evoke a reader's emotions. Cry, laugh, shiver with fear, love until your heart breaks. So, let go and vent! It's what readers should do.

Third, (and here is where it gets a bit weird) remember the happy times. Just like with the loved ones you've lost (in REAL life, folks) you try to recall all those cheerful moments, when they smiled, laughed, made you laugh. Maybe this will help you get over your grief. 

And last, in a more creative effort, rewrite the scene, have the character live! Yes, it can be done. It's called fan fiction where you decide to rewrite a popular story, and if you so choose, make everyone live happily ever after! Joy. 

Whether you choose to use any of these or not, I hope reading about the demise of any favored character doesn't make you quit reading. Or worse? You may find yourself in danger of turning into an angry, crazed fan who goes ballistic on her favorite author and destroys his leg while he's chained to the bed! Remember the Stephen King novel, Misery? *maliciously grinning* Please, don't. We need avid readers and great authors to live!

That's it for this week, folks. Enjoy the weekend and ... happy reading!

Kathryn Long, author of

A Deadly Deed Grows and other mysteries

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Grammarly Deets #4

I found a quote last week that suits this week's topic. It pretty much covers all points of writing, and how you should divide, share, and conquer! It goes something like this: "Most of your novel should be Action and Dialogue. Description is the dessert. Interior Emotion provides the spice. Interior Monologue is the salt. A little salt goes a long way."

This post is specifically about the details you include in your action, dialogue, description and so on. I'd like to focus on that. Stephen King advises writers to provide enough of those details to make a great story, but always leave the reader something to imagine, to figure out for himself. Reading is an active exercise, not passive, as you should know. You must keep readers guessing, predicting, imagining, and drawing conclusions. That's your objective. You settle for nothing less. (Oh, boy ... those English teacher habits seep out of me on occasion, like now!)

Besides maintaining balance and proper proportion, your story details should be relevant. Otherwise, the story becomes boring, overwhelming, even confusing. And worst of all? The plot slows to a crawl. So slow, a turtle could pass it up in a race! Oh, yeah. That reminds me of yet another piece of advice, a la Stephen King, of course. At all times, and I do mean all, you should be thinking of the plot. The actions, dialogue, inner thoughts, etc. in every way should drive the story toward the plot's resolution and the ending. Your words need to have purpose. It's as simple as that. Okay, maybe not simple to do, but who said writing was easy? 

That's it for this week, folks. Keep on writing, and above all else, enjoy!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Grammarly Deets #3

Last week the topic was passive words, the week before ... overused words. This week I'm focusing on unnecessary or excess words. Yes, we use them when we talk or write an informal email, text, etc, and no one much cares. On the other hand, whether it's fiction or nonfiction, when it counts, (as in you're trying to get published or earn that A+ on your latest school assignment) be more concise, i.e. get rid of excess words. Sometimes, the solution is to simply replace an expression that contains three or more words with a more specific term. Example? in front of can sometimes be replaced with before or ahead. A few other examples are: at the back = behind; out of = from/away/beyond
off of = off.

Of course, I'm not implying these all must be changed. Remember, you are looking for concise writing, writing that expresses what you want to say in a smooth, flowing manner. This attracts readers. This keeps them interested to read to the last page. 

One tip that comes to mind in searching for more exact synonyms is to use the thesaurus feature in Word. It's helped me when I draw a blank on replacements. However, I'm passing along this link which gives 50 wordy expressions with their one word substitutes. Caution: I don't favor all of them. For instance, replacing in order that with so. (refer back to last week's post on passive words.)

So (haha!), there you have it. Go forth and chisel away at those wordy expressions and enjoy your week!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Weekly Deets -- 8.24.15

It's Monday morning and I'm attempting to jump start my week. Protein and fiber included in breakfast (I'm usually not so vigilant; most of the time it's coffee and more coffee.) to get the energy juices flowing. Then I stare at the current WIP and ... and ... okay, so I decide to pop in here to write a post. After all, I totally skipped last week *gritting teeth being reminded of bad habits, i.e., procrastination*. Seriously though, this is writing calisthenics, which will get me going on that WIP. I'm 99.99999_% sure of it!

So, topic for the week? I've been thinking about the whole representation-publication-because-I-want-a-career process. I've trudged through nearly fifteen years of it, faced the battlefields, hurdled the obstacles, picked myself up and, well, trudged on some more because that's what we do if we want something badly enough. And I want it. I want it baaaaad. *maliciously grinning while drooling* Anyway, returning to my original thought. Let's go far back in time ...the image in my brain is a caveman writer, chiseling out his story on a stone tablet, and then Dino the dinosaur traveling miles and miles to deliver it to the Bedrock Publishing Company. No. Wait. That's the Flintstones. Wrong story. Oops. Seriously, you get the picture and you know it hasn't always been easy to get your writing out there to somebody, anybody, like it is today. 

Up until the nineties, the process was quite simple, well, not simple as in easy, but there was one way to do things. Only one. You wrote a story. You wrote a query to introduce the story. (Remember, all of this needed to be typed ... on a typewriter, folks. Ever seen one?) You printed off your story, your query letter. Searched for an envelope. Oh yeah, almost forgot, you needed a copy of the Writers Digest, (actual book, cause there wasn't a computer and internet, or any modern technology to go searching through, right?) And last year's copy wouldn't work. No, no, no! Writers Digest  was, and probably still is, released once a year. You needed access to the current one because editors come and go so quickly in the land of publishing, don't they? So, you found an agent or publisher you thought would like your story, and then you sent your work to said agent/publisher. Don't forget, you had to include a SASE for their response. Yeah, they don't flip the bill for that. And then you waited. And waited. And waited some more. Really this should sound familiar. Even through cyberspace communication, you wait, and wait. 

If you were lucky you got a positive response. Maybe the person you addressed wanted to see more (if this was a full-length MS), in which case, NOW you were about to spend a whole lot more on additional chapters to print, or even the whole thing! This, on a possible yes-we-want-your-story from agent/publisher. And if no? Well, you started over. *sigh* Yes, today seems so much easier and cost-effective, if only the market wasn't flooded with so many wannabe authors. Still, we try, don't we? Because that is what we do if we want something badly enough. 

Happy writing! Enjoy your week and above all, if you write it, they will come. Or at least if you keep subbing your story, they will ... eventually ... we always hope. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Grammarly Deets #2

This week I'm focusing on what I call air filler, those words you really don't need because they fatten up your writing with air and no substance. They keep you from sounding concise. Concise is good, very good. It makes your writing move at a smooth pace and keeps the reader interested enough to keep reading. No bogging down, here, folks! Every single word you write should have purpose. 

Anyway, here's a list of passive words to watch out for and change/omit whenever possible or when they occur too often: 

a bit, a little, about, actually, almost, almost like, already, appears, approximately, basically, close to, even, eventually, exactly, fairly, finally, here, highly, just, just then, kind of, mostly, nearly, now practically, pretty, quite, rather, really, seemed, seems, simply, slightly, so, somehow, somewhat, somewhat like, sort of, suddenly, then, there, truly, utterly, very, AND any other -ly word should be examined.

Now, you ask, do you have to trash each and every passive word you find? No, not at all. In truth, it's not possible, or sometimes not even favorable. Sometimes, those words fit. And heck, we are writers -- here's where you pull your shoulders straight and tip your chin up because you're proud to be one -- but also human. A few of those words here and there aren't going to make your writing crappy. A ton of them lingering about and you'll be wearing the sign "AMATEUR" in bright green neon letters! *grin*. So, erase away! Edit, change, omit, polish your work until it's crisp, clean, consise, and colossal! How's that for alliteration?

Until next week, happy writing ... and editing!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Weekly Deets - 8.13.15

Middle of August blues? I know, plenty to get blue about, right? For kids it's soon or already the start of ..... okay, won't say that six letter word, but I don't have to, do I? That goes for teachers, too :-) I had the same vibe up until two years ago when I retired. Now? I can do a little dance and say, "nanner, nanner, nanner!", right? 

So, what else? Who gets down in the dumps this time of year? Boaters! My older daughter is one. She laments that the boating season in Ohio will be over in another month or so. (It's not the weather so much as the Portage Lakes agenda. They lower the water level every couple years. Too difficult or impossible to go putting around when that happens. Then, it's time to store the boat!)

Hmm ... anyone? Swimming, golfing, or just enjoying the nice, warm, sunny days ... it's closer to autumn, and after that ... da, da, da, DA! Winter. Burr, cold, ugly, not so much fun. All those outdoorsy activities conducive to warm weather will be gone until next year. 

The real torture this year was that "summer" as we define it, didn't arrive until late July, here in northeastern Ohio. We had rain, lots and lots of rain. And clouds, and more rain, and thus cooler temperatures, i.e., definitely not summer. It's been a total cheat, but hey, what's that saying? Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. Well, gee, what exactly can we do about it but talk and complain? 

I do have a suggestion, or two. Fortunately, we live in a time when grass huts or sleeping under a tree or in a cave is not the norm (unless you are on some reality show like Survivor, but really, who wants that?) So, the comfy indoors is our domain, complete with every modern convenience possible. Great time to catch up on that favorite TV show you've been missing while enjoying the great outdoors. Binging on an entire season will take time. I did this with seven seasons of True Blood. It took me exactly three weeks. I'm cross-eyed from the experience, but heck, I so enjoyed it. Besides that, the wonderful fall lineup of shows will arrive soon. Can't wait for new episodes of Castle. OR you can read a book! Yeah, that rectangular-shaped object with front and back covers and all those wonderful pages in between with fantastic words, clever words, action words, emotional words, words, words, words! It's euphoric and totally satisfying. I learned that if you read even six minutes a day, it makes you calmer. I'm all about calm. Anyway, you should try it :-)

Now, as I bring this lengthy, non-stop, never-pausing-for-a-breath post to an end, let me close with a quick (did I say quick?) summary of the past week's events. It is titled "Weekly Deets", after all. How about I make it a bullet point checklist to shorten things up? Okay, got it.

  • August 3: shopped for a new vehicle (hubby's car is hitting the dust at 14 years old)
  • August 4: bought a vehicle, and it's a beaut! First SUV. My mantra? Don't wreck it!
  • August 5: writing seemed to encompass the day (got to catch up sometime, right?)
  • August 6: nada, except maybe more writing *grin*
  • August 7: family evening -- chance to take a cruise around the lake on that boat!
  • August 8 & 9: relaxing around the home front -- grilling, chatting, and so on with hubby :-)
  • August 10 to NOW: okay, definitely writing! How is it I never seem to move fast enough?!
That's it! Enjoy your summer remainder and get outside! Before you know it will be ... brrr ... yeah, I won't say that six letter word either!

A Deadly Deed Grows -- great summer romance and suspense.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Grammarly Deets #1

I am starting a new post idea ... we'll see how it goes. Many of these will be familiar but maybe a few will prove new and useful. Okay, so what am I talking about, you ask? (Now, take a look at the post title ... um hum, yeah, that's it., aka, writing tips.)

This will be short but otherwise noteworthy, I hope. 

Tip #1: cull your writing by searching for these overused words: would, could, start to, only, about to, begin/began/begun, that, as. Consider eliminating or replacing some of them. Don't be discouraged. Some of these changes can be really simple. For instance: example 1: Use he walked away. instead of he started to walk away. Example 2: Use she saw the possibly instead of she could see the possibly. Others may require a bit more clever rewording. 

To help move the process along quickly and smoothly my suggestion is to use the find or search function in your document and attack one word at a time. Make changes where they fit and be sure it reads okay, (not just changing them because you think you need to get rid of all the overused words). 

Okay, that's it! Next time I will talk about some common passive words you should tackle. 

Enjoy writing ... and editing!

Author of:
A Deadly Deed Grows
Dying to Dream
Whips, Cuffs, and Little Brown Boxes

Monday, August 3, 2015

Weekly Deets (or more like MONTHLY this time around!) 8.3.15

Busy week, great stuff, and more great stuff. Enough stuff to make me super happy, super excited, and super optimistic! First, I was offered a publishing deal which made me waver back and forth about what to do. So, I decided to take a risk and maybe be just a bit pushy ... okay, maybe hugely pushy, but it was worth it. Squeakiest wheel and getting the most oil, you know. Back on point: I decided to email the agent who had my full, AND by the way, she's the one who I really wanted to have represent me. I asked her for advice and pressed the point how much I wanted an agent to help me with my career. Going it alone was not really in my best interest any longer. I guess I may have done a teensy bit of groveling ... okay, a lot of groveling, but it paid off. Yes. It. Paid. Off. 

This brings me to #2 round of great stuff: I have an agent! Yepper. I am no longer flying solo, which is a really big deal. Really, really BIG deal. When Jessica answered my mail (and, by the way, she suggested I pass on said publishing offer) I was over-the-top excited. You see, we sort of have a history together. Back in February I participated in a Twitter contest called #adpit. Jessica requested a partial of my manuscript. Circumstances didn't create the deal, then. But fate wasn't about to give up on us! Fast forward to July, and another opportunity came about. This time it was on #pit2pub, also a Twitter contest. I took a chance and asked her if she'd be willing to look at the revised work. She said yes and I was stoked.

Soon, she wanted to set up a time for THE CALL. When we talked it was like fate brought us together. We clicked. I know that sounds cliche, but it's true. Most times, I am extremely nervous talking to people I don't know. (my childhood shyness and insecurity at its best) But not this time. Turns out, I felt very comfortable. I like her, really like her. She's enthusiastic, energetic, quite knowledgeable about the publishing industry, and she had such wonderful things to say about my writing. I'm impressed with her powerful ideas on where to get GRAVE MAKER BLUES published. We shall see. I have every confidence in her. So, thank you, Jessica Schmeidler and Golden Wheat Literary. I think we make a great team!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Weekly Deets -- 7.15.15

Tweet, tweet! And twitter tweet some more :-) It's what I am doing today with another *sigh* contest. I truly believe writers are addicted and these fav stars are our crack candy! I collect them, for sure. 

Thank Yous: Anyway, I wanted to check in and extend a warm thank you to all those who help the starving, struggling writers, (count me in) with supporting comments, wonderful promos, and just being all around nice. Kudos and cheers to you! 

Business: Last Saturday I spent the afternoon at the Learned Owl Book Shop. No, I wasn't shopping or browsing for books, though I love doing that. I was there for a book signing. It was fun, met a few really nice folks, chatted up a storm (I do it well) and sold ... well, who cares about that? lol It's the socializing and stuff that I enjoy most. Next up? The Wadsworth Library on Tuesday evening July 28th.

Reflection: It's been twenty-three years this month since my mom passed away. She was a grand lady, spectacular cook and baker, and always overflowing with love. Never one to ask for something in return, she gave and gave even more of whatever she had. I'd like to think she's my special guardian angel. I can't imagine a more appropriate one. After these many years I am able to remember her without crying, or at least most times I can. When I write characters into my stories and need one to be that person, you know, the one who guides others, offers sound advice, and isn't afraid to tell the truth, like it or not, I think of her. She was funny, too. Loved to gab with strangers. And never showed a dark side, at least not to me. She loved nature, the color yellow and long rides in the country. She grooved to soul music more than anyone her age I know. Play some Brooke Benton or Sam Cooke tunes, and maybe throw in a little rockin' blues by Elvis and she was happy. She'd sacrifice her all to save you. And never complain. She was my rock, but taught me how to stand on my own two feet. It doesn't get better than that, folks. 

I think I will leave this post, now. Before those tears start! Besides, I have to get back to all the tweet, tweet twitter feed going on! It's booming. 

Cheers! And enjoy your day!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Weekly Deets -- 7.8.15

Yes, yes. Late again. Yet, here I am. I wanted to wait until after my author visit to post, but another day passed and then another. Before the week is entirely gone, I am writing a new post. Part of my excuse deals with the True Blood series. I finished watching the final episodes today with my daughter -- the one who caused all this madness in the first place by suggesting I watch! 

I loved it. I truly loved it. And now I'm heartbroken because it's done. After three weeks of binge TV and seven seasons, i.e. 110 episodes, and I refuse to add up the total minutes, I am experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Sad, yes, I know. But true. Next comes the books. I've only read the first, and there are thirteen Sookie Stackhouse novels. I want to compare the author's writing to the show, how they differ, because I'm assured they do differ. Will post later on that.

Monday evening I made another author visit to my hometown library. It's always fun going back. I don't live that far away now, but I love to reminisce. There were a few visitors, my sister and brother-in-law included. I also got a wonderful surprise to see a high school classmate. I love him for that. We hadn't seen each other since graduation, and I won't admit how many years ago that's been! I sold a few books, but it's the talk that I love the most. Such a great time.

Next up, the Learned Owl Bookshop on Saturday. Signing at bookstores is so different. Engaging in a more intimate way, one on one most of the time, talking with customers. I'm looking forward to browsing the store for goodies! Independent bookstores are full of them. 

Writing is coming along. Sort of. One of my guests Monday evening asked what kind of mood writing puts me in, if I experience times when I somehow connect with the story on a much deeper level. Or maybe have an "ah hah!" moment. I told him I have plenty of angst! It can be shear torture at any given point when each word on the page is a struggle, especially with descriptive details. And when it's done ... like a labor of love, painful but worth the effort, it will shine, and I do enjoy that. 

Wrapping it up, I will quote Stephen King (from his book On Writing) on descriptive writing -- "Description begins in the writer's imagination but should finish in the reader's." In other words, when putting descriptive details into your work ... "The trick is to find a happy medium."

And by the way, you may find it interesting that one of King's pet peeves about description is when writers include the tiniest details about what a character is wearing or how he/she looks. Unless, for example, Martha wearing a blue polka dot dress is significant to the plot, you don't need such detail. In his words, "If I want to read a description of clothes, I can always get a J. Crew catalogue." Of course, this is just his opinion. But he is friggin' Stephen King!

P.S. A Deadly Deed Grows now has 15 reviews on Amazon! Chug, chug along. 

Happy reading and writing, everybody!