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!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Self-Publishing Adventure

Jennifer is self-publishing one of her backlist books...

When my previous publisher, Rebel Ink Press, let me know they were closing their doors in June, I wasn't surprised. However, I was conflicted about what to do with the four books on my backlist that I had with them. So after taking a breath, I decided to try self-publishing one of my titles

I've heard a lot about self-publishing but didn't quite know how it worked. So before I did anything, I talked to people who did it, and did it well. And what I learned is that while you have to pay money for editing, covers, etc., the percentage of royalties you make is significantly higher than the percentage you make with a traditional publisher. That's not to say I don't want to publish with a publisher. I do. I'm very happy with my current publisher. But some of the backlist books whose rights I now have back are not going to go anywhere and I don't want them to languish in the ether.

Self-publishing is a growing industry and hybrid authors (those who do a combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing) are on the rise. The stigma around self-publishing is gone, especially if you self-publish well. 

I’m starting small, only working with one of those books—A Heart of Little Faith. The first thing I did was to give it to an editor. No matter how many times it’s been looked at, it can always benefit from someone other than me looking at it. A writer friend I know is also a freelance editor. She edited the entire manuscript and oh boy, there were a lot of changes she recommended. I took a deep breath and made them, and wow, the book is SO much better. 

Then I sent the manuscript to a copy editor. Because again, I always miss the little things and those are the things that end up embarrassing me (Random Reader: Did you know you spelled that word wrong?). I know someone who is phenomenal at copyediting and she found lots of things that would have been embarrassing if they had been published. 

Whenever a book is re-published, it needs a new cover. So I hired a cover artist, who designed a beautiful cover.

https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Little-Faith-Jennifer-Wilck-ebook/dp/B07D3BNZG9

One of my critique partners does all her own formatting and works with Amazon, so she handled formatting and gave me explicit and easy instructions on how to put it up on the site. It's there now and available for pre-order. It will be released officially on June 1. Since this is an experiment for me, I'm only publishing this book for Kindle. I'm curious to see what happens. I know how much I spent and I’ll see how much I make in sales. If it works, I’ll self publish the others. If not, I’ll hold onto the rights for a while and see what, if any, other options I have. 

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 14, 2018

My mission, should I choose to accept it

Ana muses about a writing challenge.

Last week, the plot of my next chapter requires the hero to battered, put aboard a steam freighter, and expected to die of his injuries. Naturally, being the hero, he lives, but wakes with amnesia. My original draft of this chapter was in a secondary character's POV. Reasonably well-written with dialogue reveals of the hero's situation and condition.

First feedback from a round one crit partner was thumb's down. "Too telling. Try from his POV."

Hmmm. How to write a scene from an unconscious character's POV? Guess he can't be unconscious.
Here's what I have now. What do you think?

The man awoke to drumbeat throbs in his head. He tried to fill his lungs.
Pain stabbed his ribs. 
With an effort that almost left him spent, he forced one eye to open a crack. The other stayed shut.
Somewhere behind him, a hissing lantern cast a faint light. 
He lay prone on a floor, hands crossed on his chest like a corpse. Stacks of burlap sacks towered above him. He swiped his parched tongue over his lips and loosened a chunk of crusted blood. A gash oozed, refreshing the sickening taste of metal coating his mouth.
Feet shuffled past his head, followed by a heavy thump. 
He tried to cry for help, but all that came out was a barely-audible groan.  
“Think he’s stopped breathing?” a man whispered.
“I hope so,” a second replied. “I’ll check.”
Did they mean him? His heart raced with desperation. He’d heard of people who appeared dead and were buried alive. 
A floorboard creaked. Grunts sounded near his ears. Something thin and sharp-edged touched his lower lip. A piece of glass or broken mirror.
Summoning his last ounce of strength, he exhaled and prayed his breath would fog the glass.
“Sonofabitch,” the second man exclaimed. “He’s still alive. He must have medicine man blood in his veins.”
“You still wanna dump him overboard?” the first man asked.
“Can’t until he’s dead. Damn. How am I going to explain this to the captain?”


Monday, April 30, 2018

Murphy's Law or Fate?

Debra's writing has taken an unexpected turn.

Not to get too religious here, but I'm a big believer in letting God lead me in the direction He wants me to go. When I got a rejection on the mss I'd submitted to a new publisher, I took that as a sign that I wasn't supposed to make a huge career change from teacher to full-time author. Yes, yes...I also know the old adage of not putting all of your eggs in one basket, but like I said, I'm a big believer in signs. And I figured He was sending me one. Not to mention that things in my day job were looking up. (The school year got off to a rough start, but the kiddos and I had finally reached an understanding, and I was enjoying being in the classroom again. For a while there...mid-life crisis perhaps?...I really was contemplating getting out.) To me, that was another sign to stay put.

As I was cleaning out my inbox and deleting old e-mails, I came across the one I'd gotten from Wild Rose about getting my books into audio. I'd re-upped all of the contracts necessary to start the projects, but to be honest, with the keep-to-the-path-you're-on signs I seemed to be getting, and a bit of laziness thrown in to boot, I'd kind of lost interest in the idea. So, I deleted that e-mail.

Wouldn't you know it? A day or two later, our marketing rep contacted me and said she was going through old e-mails/files and saw I'd re-upped all of my contracts, and unless I had any questions or special requirements for narrators, she would mark those books as ready for audio auditions. I told her to go ahead, honestly thinking those auditions were hard to come by and it probably wouldn't amount to anything in the long run.

By know I really should know better than to tempt fate, right?

In the next few days I was inundated with auditions for my books. There were coming in two and three in a day. And then things really got rolling.

As it stands right now, here's what's going on:

I have one book (New Year's Eve at The Corral) almost ready to be released. There was just one small correction in one chapter.

(I wanted to attach the 'retail sample' audio clip here, but in reading directions in how to do that in blogger, it seemed WAY too complicated, so I'm not even going to attempt it right now! LOL)







I have another book (Wild Wedding Weekend) mid-production with the narrator sending me chapters to approve as she gets them done.

I've approved chapter samples for two stories (One Great Night and Valentine's Day at The Corral.)

And, I've heard and approved auditions for six other stories, which should mean that contracts have been offered and I'll be getting chapter samples on those soon.

Which means that all of my stories except for my original Corral trilogy (Which I haven't re-upped the contracts for...long story...yet) and An Unexpected Blessing are the only titles not at some stage in the audio process at the moment.

Keep in mind that all of this started on April 5. Less than a month ago.

So in addition to being excited about getting my stories...especially the older ones...out there in a new format and giving them new life, here's what I've taken away from this whole thing.

Apparently God wants me to be multi-dimensional in my life's pursuits.

And I'm getting more excited about my writing again...even though with the school year quickly winding down (which involves more projects, special nights, and field trips than imaginable) I really don't have time to write these days...and am looking forward to sitting down with my laptop once summer comes and figuring out what the heck to do with my completed mss that needs some work and the mss I started for NaNoWriMo...which is a GIANT mess...and (hopefully) getting that sucker finished. Where they'll go once they are fixed/finished is anyone's guess at this point.

But I'll be keeping my heart and mind open for signs from above, and what is meant to happen with them will happen. He always lets me know...in His own time.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Adverbs or No Adverbs?


Paula looks at adverbs in our writing.  

‘The road to hell is paved with adverbs,’ said Stephen King.

In one sense, I agree with him. Adverbs can often lead to lazy writing. Recently I read a novel (by a best-selling author) which was littered with adverbs, especially after dialogue tags. On one Kindle page alone, there was: said truculently, said coldly, retorted sarcastically, said wearily, reiterated sullenly, said dourly - and when I got to 'she ejaculated hoarsely’ I nearly splurted my coffee in the middle of Starbucks!

Yes, there are times when we should avoid adverbs, especially when they are redundant (‘she whispered quietly’) or when the adverb can be replaced by a stronger verb (‘he raced down the street’ instead of ‘he walked quickly’). With dialogue, it is usually better to show (with a simple action/gesture) how a character is feeling, rather than giving readers a plethora of adverbs to tell them how someone said something.

However, this doesn’t mean that ALL adverbs have to be deleted! Sometimes an effort to do that can lead to ‘clunky’ writing, especially if the writer is simply substituting an adverbial phrase in place of the adverb. Isn’t it better to say ‘He stroked her cheek tenderly’ instead of ‘He stroked her cheek in a tender manner’ (or any other verbose description of what ‘tenderly’ means)?

Do a search of your latest chapter for ‘ly’ words, and you’ll probably (there’s one!) be surprised by how often you use words ending in ‘ly’. But then consider how the sentences containing each of those words could be rewritten. Could I have removed ‘probably’ from the above sentence? Yes, but then I’d be assuming that you WILL be surprised or, worse still, insinuating that you have used millions of adverbs! Omitting that adverb would change the whole meaning of the sentence – and that can be true in our fiction writing, too.

I do think we need to be aware of not overusing adverbs, but at the same time, not go overboard trying to find other words. Sometimes a simple adverb is the best word to use.