Saturday, July 14, 2018

In the throes of Summer

Ana's summer is probably as busy as yours.

I took cell phone photos of the three ice-cream pails of just-picked-by-me raspberries and my grandkids sliding down the big slide yesterday at the county fair, but Blogger says they are not formatted for uploading. So word pictures will have to suffice until I figure that out.

I asked for, and was granted, an extension on book 2. I'm not a fast writer, and I over-estimated how many chapters I could write last winter. Writing in summer is more challenging with work, gardening and grandkid sleep-overs. I'm half way through the story. The heroine and side-kick are entering a seedy bar in search of the injured and missing hero.

I had fun this past week helping with a short film shoot. The ten-year-old granddaughter is the protagonist. She goes exploring and is frightened by an alien hiding in an abandoned house. She runs home and returns with her skeptical older sister and squirt-gun-toting younger brother. They track down the alien, who checks them out and zooms away.

My film-producer daughter brought home her camera gear, including a film drone. (The drone has crashed into tree tops twice on homing mode. Obviously, it's a city, not a country, drone. More online tutorials will be downloaded.)

The short film footage is now in Rachel's editing computer. She'll add CGI images (shimmery light?) to show the alien being. It will be fun to see the final footage. If it's good enough, she'll color correct and sound design, and who knows where it will end up. The footage Rachel shot with the ten-year granddaughter (when Brandi was five) was just released as a music video for a New York City band.




Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Month of History

Debra spent June immersed in early U.S. history.

My hubby and I love to travel. Usually our one big trip a year is a cruise over spring break for our anniversary. Summers used to be filled with long weekend trips with our parents and and another with the hubby's sister and family. But, as our parents have gotten older and unable to walk around as well as they used to, and as our niece and nephew have gotten older and it's no longer 'cool' to hang with your older relatives, those smaller trips had stopped.

This summer, things changed a bit. At the beginning of June we took a week-long road trip with a friend out to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. While we spent the majority of our week in Williamsburg immersed in 18th century history, we did take a side trip to Yorktown and Jamestown, which gave us a peek into 17th century history. Every little part of the trip was wonderfully awesome. There is no possible way to pick a favorite thing, although I have to say their Nation Builder program topped the list. My favorite to listen to was Thomas Jefferson. He talked about the importance of education and how the most important thing we can teach our children is history. My paraphrase of both speeches he gave is along the lines of: You have to know where you've been to see where you're going.

Governor's Palace - Colonial Williamsburg

Old Capitol at Night - Colonial Williamsburg

Young Thomas Jefferson - Colonial Williamsburg

The Church at Jamestown Settlement

Artillery Demonstration at the Revolutionary War Museum in Yorktown

Last spring we purchased a travel trailer, so we've been taking quite a few weekend jaunts recently. Last weekend we took a short trip out to Galena, IL (home of President/General Ulysses S. Grant) and walked around taking in the sites of 19th century history.


On July 1, I officially took over as President of our local Historical Society. I'm looking forward to leading the Society in its new direction of programming and education.

Our Newly Restored Original 1896 One-room School

Interior of Central School

Me (Playing "Schoolmarm" at a Laura Ingalls Book Discussion in the Schoolhouse)

So, yessire, it's been a history kind of summer so far. And I love it! (And what a perfect lead up to the Fourth of July here in the States!) #historyisfun

Until next time,

Happy Reading (and traveling)!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Tying up the Loose Ends


Paula’s new novel, Irish Shadows, is released today.

There were times last year, during the upheaval of changing publishers, when I wondered if I’d ever finish it. I started it in March 2017 but had no real motivation to continue it for about three months. In August, I began again, with some new ideas about the problems I was going to throw at my characters.

The ‘blurb’ sums up these problems:
After a heart-breaking experience, Rose Finlay has vowed never to give another man a chance to hurt her – until Liam McKenna arrives at Mist Na Mara Arts Centre to organise an anniversary celebration event. Liam has his own reasons for not wanting to embark on a new relationship, and both fight the mutual magnetic attraction.
Shocks await them when Liam meets the boy his sister gave up for adoption twenty years earlier, and Rose’s ‘ex’ makes contact with her thirteen-year-old son. Rose also discovers a betrayal which has divided her family since the Irish Civil War in the 1920s.
Will Liam and Rose be able to resolve all the shadows from the past in order to find a future together?

As you can see, the characters have quite a lot to deal with in addition to their relationship issues, but I enjoy playing with different strands and trying to interweave them. My big problem came when I was nearing the end of the story, and needed to untangle all those strands and tie everything up so that there were no ‘loose ends’. I knew (roughly!) how each strand was going to be resolved, but didn’t know when or in what order.

I eventually made a list of the resolutions of each sub-plot, made some vague notes about possible events leading to these resolutions – and then worked backwards, which is something I’ve never done before. Doing that helped me to decide, for example, that event A needed to happen before event B, and that C, D, and E might work better as D, E, and C!

Long discussions with my brain-storming partner over several pub lunches helped, too, although I do wonder what the couple at the next table must have thought if they’d overheard our conversation about how long a body in a shallow grave would take to decompose! I do hope they weren’t the same couple who overheard us a couple of years ago (when I was writing ‘Irish Secrets’) discussing the best place to hide stolen goods.

Anyway, I finally managed to work out the order of events (although, of course, the characters did decide to deviate from my basic outline a few times!), until all the loose ends were tidily and happily resolved.

Irish Shadows will be available for a few more days at the introductory price of 99c/99p.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Stiletto Contest

Jennifer is a finalist in a writing contest...

This weekend I found out that my book, In the Moment, is a finalist in the Stiletto Contest, sponsored by the Contemporary Romance Writers (an online chapter of the RWA). I was thrilled, to say the least. It’s my favorite book and it’s only the second time I’ve ever finaled in a contest before. As a bonus, the graphic they give the finalists is pretty!



But what I found most interesting is the score sheet they returned to me for the book that didn’t final. For whatever reason, the contests I’ve entered in the past have never returned those before and I was curious to see what the judges said.

There were three of them. One was unpublished, the other two were published in romance. They were all members of RWA. They were to rate the book on a scale of 1 to 5 in a variety of different categories. They could use decimals if they wanted, and they were encouraged to leave comments.

Contests are subjective, and these comments and ratings were too. While there was some agreement in certain areas, for the most part, the three judges differed significantly in areas such as conflict, POV and voice. I respect the time they took to read my book (as well as many others), and their opinions, even though I disagree with many of them. But there were a few things they pointed out that are good for me to be aware of in the future.

All in all, it’s exciting. I’m thrilled to have even been a finalist with one book—it was a much needed boost.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Children's rhymes aren't always warm and fuzzy

Ana's historical WIP heroine just got a job playing piano for riverboat passengers. Her new partner Tess suggests they perform old favorites so the deck passengers can sing along. Research yielded this ditty, entitled 'Miss Susie.'

The steamboat had a bell
Miss Susie went to Heaven and
The steamboat went to–

–Hello operator,
Give me number nine.
and if you disconnect me
I’ll chop off your be–

--’hind the heavy icebox
there was a piece of glass,
Miss Susie sat upon it
and hurt her big fat

Ask me no more questions,
Tell me no more lies.
The cows are in the pasture
making pies for

Flies are in the kitchen,
Bees are in the park.
Boys and girls are busy
kissing in the dark.

This reminded me of another rhyme that girls used to sing when jumping rope. 'Bill and Sarah, sitting in a tree, K I S S I N G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage.'

Pretty bawdy stuff for kids, my heroine thinks. But she's from a rich family and knows her father didn't invest in her classical music education so she could become a vaudeville act. 
She and Tess are due to start entertaining in fifteen minutes. 
Will she?




Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Sabbatical

Debra is re-prioritizing her life.

Over the last few months, heck...probably the last few years, I've been debating and debating about what I wanted to do with my writing career. I really love my small press, but was wondering if maybe it was time to branch out a bit. I had an iron in the fire that didn't amount to anything. Recently I've had a huge upswing in auditions for getting my books into audio. (Three are on the market now.) A contest caught my eye, as one of the final judges was an editor at Harlequin, and I figured that would be a good way to possibly get my work in front of her. It would require shortening a mss, but a couple beta readers (Thanks, Paula!) had encouraged that, so it was definitely something to consider. But as I read further through the contest final judges, another name jumped out from another publisher. One I've been really, really interested in. Problem with this one was I'd already been rejected by them for the mss I thought of entering. Did I try a different, albeit incomplete, one and hope that if it caught her eye I'd have it done by fall when the finalists were announced? The deadline is fast approaching, and I still have yet to make a decision.

Probably because I think what I've decided overall is to take a sabbatical from my writing. It's going on the back burner for now.

Oh, I'll still do some publicizing of books I already have out there. And with finalized audio books coming at me left and right these days, I'll be spending time getting together some publicity and campaigns for those. But I'm not going to make writing a huge priority. If the muse happens to strike, my fingers will hit the keyboard and knock out whatever pages I can, but I'm not going to force myself to write every day. And I'll still post and follow and like on Twitter. And of course here at Heroines with Hearts. (Although I am thinking of switching my Facebook account over to my real name instead of my author one, if that's even possible to do.)

I have other things going on in my life right now that I want to focus on. Effective July 1 I will be the president of my local historical society, and I am so excited about that! Oh boy do I have plans! I've written up my five-year plan already and have started outlining and gathering materials for a series of monthly programs I want to develop. I am definitely going to be a hands-on president. So that's where my focus is going to be for the time being.

Writing has always been a hobby for me, not generating anything I can call income in any sense of the word. I thought maybe it was time to go after writing in a more career-minded way, but I've found that my mind is less and less focused on writing and more and more focused on other things. New directions. New opportunities.

I still consider myself to be a writer and always will. But for the time being...I'm going to be a writer who's not writing. Will I come back to it? Hopefully. I still have lots of ideas in my head for stories, books, and series, and I really, really hope that someday they'll see the light of day in published form. But my instinct at the moment is to set that aside and do other things.

So that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Comma Splices


Paula looks at comma splices.  

Recently, I’ve read a couple of books with dozens (if not hundreds!) of what I call ‘run-on sentences’, which are also referred to as ‘comma splices’. Basically, this is when two independent sentences are ‘connected’ with a comma.

For example: Paula loves Ireland, she has been there many times.

I hope that, like me, you are cringing, because all my instincts say this is incorrect – and this is confirmed by every grammar guide.

Independent sentences like this should not have a comma between them. They should have either a full stop (period), or a conjunction, or even a semi-colon. NOT a comma!

One source I checked suggested that comma splices were a common error made by ‘inexperienced writers’. However, the novels I read were not written by newbie writers who hadn’t had their work checked by an editor before self-publishing. Both had independent publishers – and therefore, one assumes, competent editors. But both novels contained not just single comma splices. Often they had three or more independent clauses with only commas between them e.g.
Charlie gazed in admiration at Jane, he was looking forward to dinner with her, they had not been out together for weeks, who knew when they would again.

I’ve adapted this rather than quoted it directly – but it’s an example of what occurs frequently in both novels. And, apart from the comma splices, shouldn’t the final ‘independent sentence’ have a question mark at the end anyway?

This leads me to wonder
(a) whether the authors are totally ignorant of basic grammar rules.
(b) whether these novels have actually received any editing (despite one of them being with a fairly high profile publisher)
(c) perhaps more worrying in my opinion, whether today’s editors are ignoring a fundamental grammar error.

What do you think?

P.S. I’m happy to report that most novels I have read recently do not contain this error!