Monday, September 15, 2014

Put It On The List



To Do

  • vacuum
  • put pool stuff away
  • paint shed window
  • caulk kitchen counter
  • clean all curtains/drapes
This is just part of one of many lists. I like lists. They help me keep order, taming the chaos of so many things that need to get done. With a list, I can see exactly what needs to be done, which task is more important, which one I can do in a certain time frame, and add on whenever something new needs to be done.

And it lets me see the satisfaction of accomplishment with every item I cross off. Sure, some days only one thing gets eliminated--but it's a big one, like 'finish manuscript edits.' And then there are days with lots of cross offs--like make a phone call, send a particular email, dust the living room furniture. They are easy-peasey things, but I still feel good when they are done. 

I have lists for everything: household chores, errands to run, signings to set up, writing tasks, yardwork, etc. It's a great matter of pride to crumple up a list that has nothing left undone. 

Do you use lists? If not, what works for you? Share it with us.

Char

Monday, September 8, 2014

Namely, Cheating.

Not a very original title for a post about naming your characters. Plus, I've done posts where I've interviewed a number of YA authors (some VERY well known) about how they go about naming their characters. Some have complex rules about syllables in the first name than last, some mix and match sounds, some do research for cosmic significance, some go through the family tree, etc.

I'm too lazy. Plus, (shhh!  a secret here-) not everyone in the family deserves to be in one of my novels or the character with their name would tick them off because no one wants to be the bad guy/gal. Avoid using family names, it can only lead to trouble.

So I cheat. Rather, I like to call it Inspirational Smack. When I need a name for a main character, I watch a movie or TV show.



No, I don't steal famous names. I steal names from the credits. Really. Sometimes a name just jumps out at you and smacks me in virtual face, it's so perfect. I read the names that scroll after a show ends, and get an endless source of unusual, typical, ethnic, and cross cultural names. Watch the wide screen and let Hollywood do the work for you. It's like walking through Macy's and seeing the most perfect pair of shoes; out of all the others, one pair seems to shine, drawing your eye and you know it's the perfect choice. Plus, these are real people getting credit for working so you have a valid case when someone says "No one would name their child that!" Yes they do, and it's in black and white, out in cyberspace.

 And your character has been given an imaginary birth certificate with a legal name.

But don't stop there. Even if you have all your characters' names, you'll be writing more novels or stories, right? Start a list of names that just grab you. That's how I got the name for my main character in my sci fi, Lethal Dose. His name is Dalen. I saw the name in a book of baby names and knew that one day I'd need it for one of my works. It was on my list for several years and now has a body.

That's another great source: a baby name book. (I'm sure most of you know this.) I flip through the pages and when I see a moniker I like (other than the common ones like Sarah or Michael or Chris which I can just pull out of my head because we're surrounded by people with those names) I put it on the list. Then it's just a matter of picking a last name that fits. Sometimes zipping through the phone book can help, although I don't particularly like that method- it's too time consuming. You have to go through all the A's, B's, etc.

So, take the easy way out. Watch TV or a movie and solve one of the biggest problems of being an author: finding the perfect name for your character.

Char

Monday, September 1, 2014

Resting From Your Labors

And I'll be doing just that- once I put up this post, make the bed, clean the cat box, get food for the college son, and work out what's for dinner.




Wishing you all a relaxing, labor-free day because when i return next Monday, it's Back to Work!

Char

Monday, August 25, 2014

I'll NEVER READ THAT!



Strange title and post for a voracious reader and an author, isn't it?

We all have our favorite genres, and even some not-so-favorites that we occasionally read. However, there are some lines that I cannot cross. Maybe that makes me narrow-minded, but there is nothing you can say to convince me to read certain books:

- computer tech manuals, although I think I need the "Social Media For Dummies" one. (Does it even exist?) I can do basic Twitter, blogspot, Facebook, and now I'm adding Pinterest, but I'm still confused and juvenile on these sites. I have to get more desperate before I'll pick up a tech manual (that's what I have sons for).

-books where I know people will suffer and die. Sorry, I can't watch or read "The Fault In Our Stars" because I know it's heartbreaking. If I read a book and there's a sudden death, like Dumbledore near the end of the Harry Potter series, I can deal--I must so I can finish reading. But to pick up a book, no matter how beautifully written, knowing that is going to wrench my heart? (especially when the subject matter hits too close to home or is one of my biggest fears?) Nope, can't do it.

-any book that involves the abuse, torture, or killing of children. I'm a mother of three and after reading The Lovely Bones, although it was handled in an excellent manner--NO. It will give me nightmares and I don't read to be upset to that degree.

-anything political. No matter how good the journalist, everything is skewed. We can't help it, we're imperfect people and our own agendas come into play. Plus, I believe there is no more objectivity in reporting now. Just watch any news show. Everyone is biased.

-black magic, satanic, or similar stuff. Yes, I'm a Christian, but I read plenty of fiction that deals with these subjects and I can disassociate my beliefs from the story. But books about this stuff in real life? NO- it freaks the hell out of me. I believe in evil, and that it exists both in our world and in people. I don't want to invite it into my life.

-literary essays. I find the language pretentious, dull, and frankly, I had enough of it in college. Who cares if there's another viewpoint that says Shakespeare stole all his work from another? They're all dead, can't change that, and it's only opinion.

-management, corporate life, and such. I bailed out of the corporate world. For good.

-books that are an insult to someone else, to justice, to peace. No way will I read OJ Simpson's book because he was trying to make money off a horrendous event--at the expense of the Brown and Goldberg families. (Makes me even more convinced of his guilt if he could do that.) I won't read anything that denigrates women, my country, authors, religion, and anything else I hold close to my heart. Constructive criticism is one thing, pure malice is another.

-anything that is so boring I can't get past the first few chapters. I don't care if it's a huge bestseller and people tell me "it gets better." There are too many great books out there I want to read and wasting my time on a dense book is something I won't do.

I think that's a pretty extensive list of 'won't read.' There are other categories that I limit how much I read of them, like autobiographies. The person has to interest me (self-aggrandizing people are tedious), even if I find them abhorrent, like Adolf Hitler or Charles Manson. I'm curious about what makes them who they were, but I can only take so much. Another category is the legal thriller. After a while, they seem to blend, but I like a good one now and then.

Is there something YOU won't read? Not even if everyone else is reading it? Not even if someone dragged you over hot coals? Tell me about it.

Char

Monday, August 18, 2014

Get Thee to a Bookshelf...

I read a post on Twitter about how many books students working toward an English degree have to read. The person counted about 150, but that also included books for the other subjects. I'm not going to bore you (and myself) counting all the books I read for my English degree (nor do I want to), but instead, I'm going to list some of my faves (not all of them were required reading, some were for fun and maybe shouldn't count, but I'm putting them in anyway):

English Romantic Poetry. Ah, how can anyone not love On the Grasshopper and the Cricket by John Keats. Or The Nightingale by William Taylor Coleridge. Lord Byron's, She Walks in Beauty is swoony romantic. There are lots more, but moving on...

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. One of my all-time absolute faves. You don't have to be a Christian to understand and appreciate the messages of charity, hospitality, fairness, generosity, and compassion that are required of all of us as human beings.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. This is science with scare and caution in an eloquent tale. I'm a big fan of Mr. Stevenson.

Oscar Wilde's The Strange Case of Dorian Gray has been made into several movies. It's kind of like the the artist's version of Jeckyll and Hyde.

While I could never be as composed as Jane Austen (I'm a Scorpio, we tend to run emotionally amuck at times), I love her passion. And it doesn't end like a Disney-princess story, which annoys me a bit about modern books. Humans have less perfect endings, yet so many books have the opposite. I'd write a book with a realistic, bad ending, but no one--agent, editor, reader--would probably want it.

I took a class in Arthurian literature and the bible of that class was Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon. I loved the female perspective which gave it a deeper feel than the traditional male-let's sword fight-woo the damsel-save the kingdom feel. It really gave me my first connection to feminism.

My list could never be complete without J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings opus. It is the almost quintessential book for me. (The only holdback is that Tolkien, a man of his times, neglects to include both strong female characters and the female perspective.)

Although it doesn't shine as much as her beloved Interview With a Vampire or The Vampire Lestat, my favorite of Anne Rice's works is Rameses The Damned, Or, The Mummy. Anne makes me feel the dry heat of the desert seeping under archaeological tents, or a body freezing with fear as Rameses stalks his enemies. Love, love, love. I keep leaving comments on Facebook (cause, we're like, 'friends') for her to do a sequel. So far, I'm being ignored.

One last one: The Secret, by Julie Garwood. Yes, it's an historical romance but it's wonderfully written and reading Garwood's novels helped me learn how to write dialogue. (Some novels fail miserably at this.)

As you can see, I'm not pinned down by any one genre. And that's great because when I leave one for a while to try something new, I come back and rediscover why I liked that first genre. It becomes fresh again. So maybe you should re-visit some of those novels you read in high school or college (or soon after) that you liked or loved. (I don't waste my time re-reading novels I hated, hoping I'll like them again. I won't.)

There's nothing like revisiting an old friend.

Char


Monday, August 11, 2014

Stop The Presses!

Some of you have seen my Facebook posts about reading a book I picked up from BEA (Book Expo America) about 2 years (maybe more?) ago. It's an adult western/paranormal/romance.

And you've been hearing about my frustrations with the too-many-to-count errors: spelling, point-of-view, incorrect word usage to name a few.

The book is 340 pages long, and up to page 214, this is how many errors I've noted (some post-its reference 1, 2, or 3 errors each):


Plus, I didn't start making notations until page 79.

That's a LOT of mistakes for a finished book. Originally I thought it was an ARC, and that would have been bad enough, but for a FINISHED BOOK??? This is put out by a very small press and it has an outrageous price: $22.11 for a trade soft cover. And who prices books at $22.11? Maybe $21.99, or something like that, but this is even more expensive than the hardcover of Blonde OPS.

Some of the mistakes:

*using "pension" in the phrase "He had a penchant."
*describing one character's eyes as "cobalt, sapphire, azure, blue." (Note: they are not all the same color).
*numerous point-of-view shifts per page. One, maybe two, but three, four povs?
*"...he ran an absent hand over..." If the hand is 'absent' it isn't there to do anything. 'ran a hand absently over' is the correct form.
*"...those who bare the mark..." The correct word is 'bear' which means to carry or exhibit. This mistake happens consistently through the book.
*"...but not yet. Not yet." There are numerous incidents of repetitive phrases which repeatedly annoyed me.
*There's a passage about Eve being "led astray by the beauty of the snake." In all my years of Sunday School and church going, it's never been alleged that the snake was beautiful enough to lead Eve astray. His words were enticing, not his form. This is too much license.(And who really thinks snakes are beautiful, other than herpetologists?)
*using "knocked-out" when the correct form is "knocked out." No hyphen needed here.
*"Black came the night. Black, cold..." Either more unnecessary repetition or it wasn't caught (along with everything else) by the copyeditor.
*"arrhythmic beating of her heart..." ? Who uses SAT words like that in a Western novel? Over-description.
*irregardless. Yes, that word was used. At least twice, but I haven't gotten to the end of the book, so maybe more.
*"Humiliated pain sought to steal her voice." I didn't know pain was a being that could feel humiliated.
*inconsistencies in time/place/situation: first the character is headed toward the barn, then he's making love outside under the stars, then he wakes up in bed and I have no clue how he got from one place to the other.
*I don't think obsidian, a black stone, can glow. Can anything black (which is a lack of light) glow?
*"Jaundiced green haze..." Isn't jaundice a yellowy color? How can it be green? Maybe a sickly green?
*It's listed as a paranormal but nothing paranormal takes place until about midway through the book.

There are so many more errors which frustrated me as a reader (the storyline had a good premise so this is really sad) and angered me as a writer that people are putting such rough drafts (no way is this a finished work) out there. It makes smaller presses look bad, the writer look incompetent, and the buyer angry at being duped.

I won't tell you the title, the author, the press, or the editor/copyeditor because I don't want to humiliate anyone (we've all made mistakes and some of my writing in the drawer, although horrendous, doesn't have these amateur mistakes), but as a cautionary tale. I hate numerous revisions. BUT I DO THEM. Take the time to really polish your work. Take writing classes. LEARN your craft. If you need help, get someone who knows grammar and spelling, and can really edit your work with an honest eye. Take your lumps when it's poorly written. All pubbed authors, whether traditional or good self-pubbed, take the time, expend the effort, and seek out feedback to ensure that their work sparkles.

I see no reason to finish the book because of all the flaws. I read for enjoyment and this book was just too frustrating for me and now I don't care if the cowboy dies, is reunited with his true love, or defeats the evil what ever it is threatening them both.

Char


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Looks Easier Than It Is...

Yoga isn't easy. Oh, I know commercials and tv shows make it look easy, but trust me, it isn't. What could be so hard, you think. You sit or stand on a mat, stretch your arms out, breathe deep and say Namaste.

That's like thinking writing is easy.

You sit down, write a novel, send it to a publisher who instantly loves it and now you're a bestseller.

Uh, no.

Writing, like yoga, requires you to stretch muscles you haven't used in a while, or if ever. (I don't remember ever having been in a downward dog position.) After a few sessions of stretching, reaching, twisting and forcing my body into new and not wonderful shapes, it's complaining. I'm sore.

When you write, you have to stretch your writing muscles. This means getting into the habit of writing every day, trying new techniques, and living with the pain from criticism (some of it your own).

But with time it all gets easier (or so I'm told. It doesn't feel any easier today after several classes). No one said yoga or writing was easy, and if they did, don't believe them. For some with abundant natural talent maybe, but like yoga, writing is a skill that can be honed.

Go stretch, discover new things about yourself and learn to live with the pain.


Namaste...

Char