Friday, January 28, 2011

In which I rant and rave a little bit and try not to offend any future employers.

Editing: What’s in a term?

I have read a lot of stuff lately, some of which had some pretty significant grammar errors. This got me wondering about editors.  Everyone who is in the process of being published, or who is trying to be published, already knows this, but there are two kinds of editors:  Acquisition Editors and Copy Editors.

Acquisition Editors are the ones you need to suck up to impress with your work, the ones who buy your book and work with you to polish the story.  They are the “big picture” editors. 

Copy Editors are the proofreaders.  They are the ones who go through your manuscript and find the grammar mistakes, spelling errors, and inconsistencies that we, as writers, probably miss because we get too close to our stories and stop seeing mistakes that are glaring to someone who has never read the book.

 For example:  I thnik taht yuo cna ese the eorrs hree.  But you can also read what I said.  Our minds tend to fix things, especially familiar things.  A writer might overlook a mistake like this, but a copy editor should not.  Especially in this day and age of spell check and grammar check.  Alas, stuff gets through.  What is up with that? 

And then, the way I understand it, once your work has been through the copy editor wringer, it comes back to you for final line edits.  Where there is yet another chance to find mistakes. 

We all know how competitive the publishing business is.  Are publishing companies stretched so thin that they aren’t able to do sufficient copy editing? 

I am a little worried about this, especially in this day and age of e-publishing.  Material goes back and forth between parties awfully quickly, and I can see how a less polished version of a manuscript could accidentally replace the final version (I am trying to rationalize how these mistakes escape).  I can only hope that if when I have something on its way to market that my crit peeps will be looking over my shoulder to watch for those msiplelings. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Genre Exploration: Steampunk

I like to read lots of different kinds of romances:  contemporary, with and without suspense, historical, and paranormal.  My first choice is generally suspense, as I am a huge fan of Suzanne Brockmann, Linda Howard,and  Sandra Brown.  The more time I spend learning about writing, the more interested I've become in other genres.  I think that the reason I am working on contemporary stuff right now is because I am just too darned lazy to do alot of research or world building required for historical or paranormal romance. 

I've heard alot about Steampunk lately, and I was like, "eeeuww". I was never into Jules Verne or HG Wells, and this is kind of what Steampunk is like.  If you are not sure what I am talking about,  here is the
Wikipedia  link to the definition of Steampunk.  It's basically a sci/fi alternate reality fueled by steam instead of petroleum.  Kind of. 
I recently won a copy of The Iron Duke, by Meljean Brook, so I thought I'd just dip my toes in the water and see what's up with the whole Steampunk phenomenon.
iron duke cover

I haven't finished the book, but I am really enjoying it.  The first chapter was a little hard because there are a couple of different terms for the significant groups of people in the duke's world.  But after I got through that, I was good to go.  I like the external plot, and the romance is great.  The hero and heroine both have some major issues, and we all know how I love a damaged protagonist. 

When I decided to talk about Steampunk, and went to Wikipedia, I learned that this is not a new genre, that the movie Wild Wild West with Will Smith and Kevin Kline is steampunk.  Well,yeah, now that I look at it.  I just had never heard the term.  Maybe I need to get out more.

I'd love to hear what the rest of you think of Steampunk.  Have you read The Iron Duke?  Can you recommend any other Steampunk Romances?  What other genres should I explore and which writers do you recommend? 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Assignment: Compare and Contrast Exercise with Writing

I started the "I Really Mean It This Time Healthy Food and Exercise Plan" yesterday.  Again.  The good news is that I have been doing great (if you'll forgive the rest of my daughter's french fries yesterday afternoon).  I even went to the gym today. 

Here's the deal with me and exercise:  I KNOW I feel better if I exercise regularly.  But the gym is ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE STREET. I mean, it's like half a block away on the other side of the street.  So I drank enough Diet Coke to get a Nike gift card with my rewards points, and I ordered new sneakers.  Then our department business manager and I decided that we would be exercise buddies and go to Tone and Torture class on Mondays.  I have to say, I think I deserve another round of french fries today because
1) I remembered my stuff, and
2) I went, even though Teresa bailed on me. 

The class was taught by a 22 year old Exercise Physiology major.  I am used to taking classes from 30-something  yoga ladies, who appreciate that jogging in place is NOT a good idea for the majority of women over forty.  I had on a decent bra, so that wasn't an issue, but there were other things doing the wave, and it wasn't pretty.  The instructor kept looking at me.  I suspect she is suitably horrified and will now refuse to grow older or have children. 

Anyway. Afterwards, with endorphins singing through my bloodstream, I had a lovely sugar-free Muscle Milk for lunch and came back to work, refreshed and feeling pretty darn good about myself.  I thought, gee, this is kind of like writing.  I have a hard time getting started sometimes, and sometimes in the middle, I hurt and wonder what the hell I am doing, but when I am finished, I feel a sense of accomplishment. 

So.  What do you compare writing with?  Is it something like exercise, that you know is good for you, but you kind of don't want to do, or is it like a bubble bath, something that you GET to do?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Smile, Feel Good, Pass the Blog

Hi, Kids!  It's Time for a brand new Episode of Trading Blogs, where two writers go to each other's blog and, with the help of an embarrassingly sterotypical gay web designer, rearrange the widgets and change the background, pretending to cater to the host blogger's tastes, but really just taking passive-aggressive shots at one another. 

Not really.  But wouldn't that be fun?  No?  Well, okay. The lovely and talented Jessica Lemmon decided she didn't feel like writing her blog for today, and frankly, I have been in a bit of a slump myself.  We decided to write each other's posts, instead.  I love Jessica's Blog, it makes me smile.  With a title like Smile, Feel Good, Pass It On how could you not come away with a positive attitude?  So I'm over there, talking about Critique Partnering. 

Oh, wait.  I'm not supposed to be writing here today.  Shutting up now.  And heeeeere's Jessica!

I come to you today as a humble guest of Teri Anne’s.  Thank you for having me Teri!  And hello to  all of you regular readers! *waves*
I couldn’t think of a blog for my OWN blog today so I asked who wanted to write it. Teri Anne offered. Which meant I should reciprocate, which oddly enough, I was happy to do.  I guess you could say I am “cleaning her room” today (Go HERE to see my intro to her blog today if you want to know what I mean…)

But, I needed a topic.  She suggested: My Writing Routine.  So I thought  - okay, I can do this.  Routine, let’s see.  Timeline!  People with routines have timelines. I can have a timeline…

5 a.m. – get up for p/t job (not every day – just 2x a week)
7 a.m. – get up (hmm… sometimes I sleep in until 8)
8:30 a.m. – Coffee (unless it’s a workday then, earlier)
9:00 a.m. – Blog (if it’s Monday or Thursday… or Wednesday)
9:30 a.m. – Read a novel. Or blogs. Or a magazine. But mostly novels I haven’t read by authors I often read.
10:00 a.m. – eat breakfast of eggs and toast.  Or oatmeal.  Or more coffee.  Or – I’ll own it – cookies.
11:00 a.m. – write (although sometimes I do this at 1 p.m., unless I’m at work all day, then not at all)

Then I realized. CRAP.  I don’t HAVE a routine. 
That’s okay, I consoled myself, I’ll find a common denominator – the one thing I do every day? 
Reading is my one constant throughout my life as a (yet-to-be-published) author.  I read a lot. I believe it was Stephen King that said, “If you don’t like to read, you will never be a writer.” (Forgive my bad paraphrasing.)
When I decided to become a romance writer I ravaged Harlequin’s website *snicker* … so to speak. Guess what they suggest? That you (writer) read the category that you want to write.  VORACIOUSLY.  They actually used that word. Voraciously. That means, like, RAVENOUSLY.  Or, you know. A LOT.

Why, you ask?  I have a few theories…

1.       When you read the genre you are writing, your crafty subconscious latches onto words and phrases and tucks them away for use later. This is important.  Just as romance has its cliché phrases (heaving bosoms, anyone?), it also has phraseology the reader EXPECTS in a romance. Like the slanting of lips, the arching of eyebrows and the tilting of heads.  Stubborn chins, proud noses, pouting lips… you get the idea.
2.       You can learn from a good author because they have crafted a book out of various parts, just  as you are trying to do.  If you are interested in improving your own skill, pay attention to the where the plot shifts, the way the characters interact and how to SHOW rather than TELL what’s going on.

Often after reading a particularly wonderful book, I feel compelled to get off the couch and tackle my own manuscript with renewed vigor.  Especially after reading my favorite part of every Harlequin novel… wanna know what it is?
Come on guess…
If you said… 
The Letter to the Reader
You’re correct!

I love the letter from the author. On occasion the author will share where their idea originated, others clue you into their own process – like how they had NO IDEA that the story would wind up being the one that you hold in your hands.
But my favorite type of letter?  The letter from the debut author. No matter how divinely crafted that letter is, one message rings loud and clear.  Underneath the eloquent grammar, they really all say the same thing: “OMG!  I finally got PUBLISHED! I LOVE you! I LOVE my editor!  I LOVE everybody!”
If that doesn’t jet propel to your keyboard then I don’t know what will.
For today,
Smile, Feel Good, READ!!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Keeping Track

I'm suffering a bit of blogslugosity this week, which is compounded by my attempts to catch up at work after my time off with my dad.  The Dad update is good.  Dad moved from the hospital to a rehab nursing care place, where he should stay for a couple of weeks.  I say "should" because I have a feeling he'll be trying to escape soon.  He really wants to be home, and as soon as his falling risk is lower, I think my mom will feel better about him being there. 

In other news, the White Death is upon us again, and my boss, lovely woman, gave me a very loose homework assignment and told me not to come in.  So much for getting caught up! Since my cultured cells will survive nicely without me for a couple of days, I didn't fight her about that.  We've been fighting my non-scientific approach to science lately, and I'm having to make some adjustments to my recored keeping.  Like writing down the stuff I do, so that if I get different results from two separate experiments we can figure out why.  Whatever. 

Seriously...I have a hard time with details.  I think I am doing things exactly the same, but then I change one little thing and forget to write it down, and two days later, when I realize my experiment didn't work, I can't remember what it was I did.  So I am getting much better at writing things down, except it's usually on a paper towel that I grab because my notebook is in another room, and then I accidentally use the paper towel to wipe up toxic waste, and I am again in the dark about what I did. 

I totally do the same thing with my fiction attempts.  I think of something brilliant, I write it down on a reciept, and tuck it into my purse Three months later I clean out my purse because it's so heavy that can't add even a bottle of ibuprofen to ward off the back ache that my ten ton purse causes. I pull out a reciept, wonder why I save a reciept for five cheese coneys and a diet coke, throw it out, and my brilliant idea is lost.

I do have a couple of little notebooks that I keep tucked into the external uterus that is commonly referred to as a handbag.  (Side bar:  I call it the external uterus because the males of the species, especially husbands,  are always asking us to carry stuff for them.  Like wallets, car keys, and babies). Unfortunately, the little notebooks seem to be hiding when the brilliant thought strikes, and all I can find as I grope, one-handed because I am driving, is a reciept. 

I thought maybe I would be a better writer than a scientist, but if I have to keep track of stuff, I might as well bag it all and apply to be a professional talk-show audience member. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Plotting: Hopefully not a Cemetery Plot for my Novel

My goal last week was to get my NaNo project in better shape. Fortunately, I am nothing if not adept at rearranging my goals.  As you may know, my dad had open heart surgery last week (he's doing really well, should be going home this week.  Thanks for all the good wishes).  I figured since I would be sitting around watching him sleep for a few days, that I would have plenty of time to focus on writing.  Yeah. Not so much.  I spent more time jumping up to hold Dad's heart pillow over his chest, so he could try to cough, than I anticipated.  Which is fine.  My parents spent plenty of time taking care of me, I'm glad to return the favor. 

When I did have time to open my NaNo folder and start trying to assemble scenes into some sort of sensible order, I got depressed because my plot is full of holes. Actually, it's more like shredded mozzarella than Swiss cheese.  It needs triage, badly.  So, as with every other issue I've had as an adult, I consulted the modern Ouji Board, Google. 

I found Plot Diagrams, which I actually remember from high school English:

I found lots and lots of websites with suggestions on plotting: 
Patricia Sargeant's version of Jennifer Crusie's method

Freemind is an interesting program, and a free download.

suite 101 has suggestions.

I could go on and on and on, and there are alot of great suggestions out there.  Unfortunately, I don't think there is any surefire method that doesn't include BICHOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard).  And finding those holes, plugging them, then going back and filling in the next one that crops up.  And then melting the shredded parts together. 

Remind me again why I wanted to be a writer? 

Friday, January 14, 2011

WTF: What the Friday?

I had a really clever idea to blog about this morning, but it was one of those ideas I had while I was driving, and it's gone now. Oh well!

I've been hanging in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit the past three days with my dad, who had open heart surgery on Weds.  He's doing much better, although in a lot of pain.  It's been hard to step into the role of caretaker with my parents.  It's probably much harder for them to let me be a caretaker, though.  My dad is doing much better today than yesterday.  He has a lot of pain, so I spend a lot of time pressing on his giant stuffed heart pillow to help him cough.  He had a really cute guy nurse yesterday, Mark.  I think Mark might moonlight as an Abercrombie model, but he didn't take his shirt off, so I can't be sure.

ANYWAY.  This morning C.J. Ellisson posted an edit of my NaNo excerpt on her blog, which is just totally cool of her.  I was very nervous about this, since it's like taking off my clothes in Time Square.  But she was very kind and gentle with me, and I am not ready to toss my laptop into the Ohio River just yet.  So please, go check out what she said, and let me know what you think!

C.J. wrote Vampire Vacation, which I have been reading with interest.  V. V. is an erotic UF, with a different type of voice than I am used to--but I like it!  She writes in first person present, something I am used to with Urban Fantasy, but not erotic stuff.  It works for me.  But I probably need to not be reading this while I'm at the hospital with Abercrombie Mark wandering around. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Misplaced Sandwiches

My dad is having open heart surgery as I write this morning.  He's in his seventies and has some complicating factors like obesity and COPD, so this isn't a "minor" open heart surgery (like it's ever minor?), but he should be fine.  He's having a valve replaced and another one possibly repaired.  My mom and I are hanging out here in the hospital lobby.  We chose a spot under the surgery update TV, which was probably not such a good idea. Every other person in the waiting room has been by standing next to us while they check on their own loved one. 

My plan is to get my WIP out and get some work done on it while we hang out here, but I am having a little trouble concentrating.  Mostly because my mom keeps looking up at the screen and saying things like, "What does that little symbol mean?  Why do those other people have bandaids on their status updates already?"  It's all good.  I am really glad to be able to be here with her and my dad. 

As I was leaving the house this morning, I asked the kids if they had any messages for Grandpa.  From TeenDramaQueen: "Tell Grandpa I love him and I hope he feels better and I miss him".  From the Bearded Wonder: "Good Luck" and finally, from The Middle One:"Tell Grandpa good luck and I hope noone drops a sandwich in him". 

I'm going to go ask the receptionist if there is a symbol for that one. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Morning Cornerbacking

I always wondered exactly what a cornerback does.  According to Wikipedia, "a cornerback is a member of the defensive backfield or secondary in American and Canadian football.[1] Cornerbacks cover receivers, to defend against pass offenses and make tackles".

That really has nothing at all to with today's post, I just thought we'd probably had enough of the monday morning quarterbacking.  And it's well into afternoon at this point, but it's morning somewhere. 

I did a little bit of writing over the weekend. I realized that I used one of the biggest cliches possible by having my hero wake up with no memory of the previous night in my opening scene.  So I just backed up a few hours and had my heroine drag him out of the river.  I was going to forego the waking up thing altogether and use it as flashbacky backstory, but I am just not that good at sprinking that sort of thing in.  So...cliches or info dumps...what's your perspective? 

In other news, I took my daughter to see Country Strong yesterday.  I had to bribe her with candy and threaten her with death if she made fun of me for crying.  We made it through unscathed.  I cried a little, she didn't make fun of me. 
I really liked the movie. It wasn't anything great, there were more than a few cliches, but there was a lot to like about it.  There was Garret Hedlund, my new boyfriend, and Tim McGraw, my other boyfriend. 

TMcG was totally hot with his salt and peppery beard and hair, longer than he wears it in real life. 

Gwyneth Paltrow was wonderful, as was the supporting female actress, whose name escapes me at the moment and I'm too lazy to look her up.  There were a few too many dramatic close ups, but when they were of my boyfriends, I didn't mind too much.  There were love triangles galore...maybe love quadrangles?  The music was good, I'll be downloading the score.  It was kind of The Rose meets Coal Miner's Daughter meets A Star Is Born

The guys chose to see True Grit, which was probably a good choice for them.  This is a good date movie, there were lots of guys there, just not my guys. 

Anyway, I give it a thumbs up and 2 kleenexes (out of five.  Five would be Terms of Endearment or Beaches)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fun Friday

Okay, I don't know about FUN, but I'm into alliteration this week.   Freaky was just not on my horizon today, and Pay It Forward Friday has been scarfed up by CJ Ellison, who is generously editing submissions and helping us noobs figure out how to be better writers.  I'm up next friday...ack! 

My laptop had to go to the clinic for a few days, and I've had a million kids things to do, so haven't had much time to write.  My dad is having an aortic valve replacement next week, which is scaring me a little bit now that the surgery has finally been scheduled.  He has some complicating factors (as if being old and needing a new heart valve wasn't enough) and it's all starting to sink in and freak me out a bit.  But hopefully the new fan for the laptop will be installed in time for me to hunker down in the waiting room and do some writing while Dad is being well cared for. 

I wanted to share some thoughts on recent entertainments I've experienced lately.  Over the holidays we had our first, possibly annual, Badly Behaved Celebrity Film Festival, and the 2010 winner was Charlie Sheen.  I bought each of the kids a DVD and we made it through Major League, but didn't get to Young Guns or Navy Seals yet.  I am really excited to see Navy Seals again, because when I saw it the first time, I didn't really appreciate the strength and skill required to maintain nicely blow-dried and gelled hair while saving the world.
But boy howdy, look at the size of that gun!  I sure hope Charlie can get his stuff together in real life, because he just has the best jaw ever, doesn't he?  I have managed to fall back in love with Rob Lowe and Robert Downey Jr., so maybe Charlie can win me back, too. 

I have to confess, I watched a full ten minutes of Jersey Shore on two separate occassions recently.  As the absolute best example of Train Wreck Television out there, I am working my way up to fifteen minutes at a time, unless someone can come and stop me.  I think The Situation may be the love child of Paulie Shore and Madonna.  O. M.  G.   What idiots!  But nice abs. 

Finally, some entertainment that I can recommend unequivocably, and that is Goodnight Tweetheart  by Teresa Medeiros.
Goodnight Tweetheart
 I am especially susceptible to a Twitter storyline, since I have just started learning how to tweet.  But even without my love of Tweeting to prejudice me, I think I would love this book.  It's not deep and desperately thought provoking.  It's a really great little romance, however. 

Goodnight Tweetheart is the story of an Oprah's Book Club author who is trying to write her second novel but is closer to becoming a crazy cat lady.  She starts Tweeting at the behest of her publicist and connects with a college professor who teaches her the finer points of tweeting.  He's funny, she's funny, they go on virtual dates.  There are alot of great cultural references, most of which I got (yay!).  Abby and Mark begin each conversation with a "What are you wearing" question, and the answers begin to reveal alot about the state of minds of the MC's.  And they end with a "Goodnight someone-with-cultural-significance" back and forth. 

There was only one jarring note for me, and that occurred when we went right from a bittersweet visit with Abby's mother to a major plot point.  I would have liked a chapter to recover, but it didn't wreck the book for me.  I finished it this morning while waiting at the bus stop with my daughter; and she had the opportunity to get in my face and say, "ARE YOU CRYING?  OMG, MOM, YOU ARE CRYING!"  I do not take this child to Nicholas Sparks movies with me any more, but I will probably give her this book to read.  Yeah, it didn't have any sex in it.  Just a few references, nothing I wouldn't let my teenager read.  And I love it anyway! 

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Bridge, a "Show me Yours" NaNo project.

ACK!  The "show me yours" blogfest started today and I totally forgot to get this posted last night.  So much for my "no more procrastinating" resolution.  I'll start that one tomorrow. 

Ad I totally don't know how to add the linky thingy to everyone else's thingy.  I suck. 
anyway, here it is, just 50% over the 500 word limit....

The Bridge
 by Teri Anne Stanley:

Cold plastic slapped Hank’s face. He opened one eye just in time to see a pink flipper about to nail
 him again.  “What the fu…?” He held his hand up to protect himself and peered over his fingers at a small, blonde mermaid.  She was sitting on a stool, leaning back on her hands to support herself for the next blow.
The mermaid was about 7 or 8, Hank guessed.  She wore a baggy purple  swimsuit and pink swim fins.  Her mer-legs were fused with an ace  bandage that had seen better days.   When she saw Hank looking at her, she leaned forward and put her mer-tail on the floor.

 Hank tried to focus bleary eyes and scrambled to remember where he was. 

  Are your eyes bleeding? ”, asked the little girl. She leaned  towards him, then back quickly, pinching her nostrils.  “I’m going to get you some Trident.  Mom says if I forget my toothbrush, I should chew gum  to make my breath not so yucky.”    She stood and hopped away on her mermaid tail.               
 Hank tried to sit up to see where she went, but his brain  threatened to pop and his stomach rolled, so he lay back and closed his eyes again.   What the hell?  He had no idea where he was.   His feet were bare and he wore only cargo shorts, which seemed damp. 
Oh God, please don’t let me have pissed myself.

 “Here.” The little mermaid was back, patting him on the arm.  He  peeked at her and she held out a pack of gum and a juice box.

Hank pushed himself up on one arm gingerly, taking the juice box and  sucking at the straw.  Good.  Add a little vodka and this might even get him vertical.  She held the gum out, brooking no argument.  He took a piece, unwrapped and chewed it slowly.  “What is your name?” he asked her.  Normally when waking up with a strange female, it wasn’t a  good idea to admit you didn’t remember her name, but in this case,
 he didn’t believe he was breaking any drunken morning after rules.

 “Ariel, duh,” said the little girl, settling back on the stool and  fiddling with the elastic bandage around her ankles.  “I know who you are.  You’re Hank the Drunk Cop.  My mommy said you need some major help but Uncle  Dave said you would be okay since they saved you from drownding and that all you  needed was some sleep and you’d be fine.  You don’t look fine.  And I don’t think you should be friends with Lord Simon the Sour anymore”. 

"Who is Lord Sim--huh?"  Hank decided to focus first on the last unknown person in that list.

"Lord Simon the Sour," The kid, Ariel?  Really?  said, with patient condescension.  "The bad guy on the bridge.  He's not very nice." 

Only one thing the kid said made sense.  He was
not fine.  He'd sworn he wasn’t going to do this anymore.  He thought he’d had his last drink  three months ago.  But then he and Rick went to the ball game, and the sun  was so bright and hot and the Reds were so bad that it seemed that just one draft beer would be fine.  Shit.  Not again.  But then hell, he’d already lost everything, hadn’t he? 

Hank lay back down, because the world was starting to rock.  Wait.  The rocking was real, not a figment of his hangover.  Was he on a boat?  He sniffed.  There was a slight mildew smell, along with the distinct eau de Ohio River with a touch of diesel fuel.  He looked around.  He was on the deck of a houseboat.

 “Grace Elizabeth, you know you are not supposed to be out here.  Get back inside, now!”, a woman with a blond pony tail and long tan legs stood in the doorway of the boat’s cabin.

 Ariel, or Grace, or whoever she was, glared at the woman.  “I’m not Grace this morning, I’m Ariel, Mommy, and Hank the Drunk Cop is awake and  he needed a drink and some gum.  I’m going to make him some cereal now.  Be nice, he’s company.”  The mermaid hopped past her mother and back inside.

 The mommy, who looked more like a porn star cheerleader than a mommy, glared at Hank. 

 “Ummm,” Hank started.  Hi?  What’s shaking? Was it good for you? Who are you and how did I get here?