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.


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.


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.



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

S.B.I.C. - Now!

If you've been to writing conferences, or network with other writers, you know what this means:


There are other variations:


There might be others that I haven't heard, but these come to mind. Frequently. Like every day.

Sit Butt In Chair
Get Butt In Chair
Butt in Chair

They all mean the same thing:

Sit down and write.

Don't move from there until you've written something. Anything. Even if it's crap and you're positive you're going to delete it. (Chances are you probably will.) That's okay, because if you hone that idea, create that perfect scene, develop that character even just a bit, you've had success.

Writers write. For a real writer, there is no "Someday I'm going to write..." Those words are for dreamers and wannabees. As Yoda might say, "Dream not, do."

Writer Warriors, get ready for battle!

And when you win and have written more than a grocery list, reward yourself. I highly recommend a cookie.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Common Scents

One thing some aspiring and many established authors forget to do is


And "smell the roses:" to live life, to garner new experiences, to step outside the box, etc.

In other words, leave the writing alone for awhile--it'll keep; life won't.

I've been catching up on yard/housework, taking care of family business, attending my cousin's wedding, listening to concerts in the park. I needed to do these activities, but more importantly, my Superior temporal gyrus (the section of the right brain where creativity is thought to spark) demanded a break.

I take a 'brain break' by working in my meditation garden, and this has been the result:

And this:

And this:

Other flowers will bloom after these are finished, so I will always have something of beauty to gaze upon, appreciate--and take care of. Just like my writing, there are times you simply have to enjoy something but turn your attention elsewhere. My garden doesn't need me now, but my writing does.

Need a fresh angle? Stuck on dialogue?

Don't write.

For now.

While you're mulling over the writing obstacle you're facing, do something else and let the solution come to you. (It will!).

I'm headed back to the writing cave, but I know this afternoon, I'll take a break and after some laundry, I'll be here:

Go enjoy a mini mind vacation.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

You're So Puny!

I've been frantic lately with both family and professional events, so I'm going to cheat and treat today.

Fancy yourself a writer? Better educated than most?

Here's some advice from one of my fave people, Weird Al Yankovic:

Word Crimes

(Click on the video for Word Crimes. You can look at the other funny videos after.)

LISTEN to this god of pun, sarcasm, satire and humor. And then appreciate.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

There's A Place For You...

A time and space for you... to paraphrase an old show tune from West Side Story. A time and space for you to write. Or draw. Or meditate. Whatever passion you follow. People who know me have seen my office:

(Keep in mind this is post-annual writers conference and middle of 3 projects mess.) Unfortunately when the kids are home or someone rings the doorbell or I want a cup of tea, it's 3 flights of stairs down. Good exercise, but by the time I get down the stairs and then back up, my muse gets lost on the way.

Sometimes though, I have to get out of there, or I'm simply not in the mood to sit at a desk, so I chill here:

But that darn TV is a temptation/distraction. (And that's my cat, lounging on the couch, trying to hide her face. She insists on laying on my lap while I try to type on my laptop.)

This past weekend it was a lovely day and I chose one of my favorite spots to work in- my meditation garden.

It was cool under the trees, and I had a comfy chair. Various flowers were blooming and I'd weeded it recently so there was no guilt. Plus, it was far enough away my family didn't notice me or were too lazy to come all the way in the backyard to get me to ask stupid questions like, "Where are my sneakers?"

Paradise. Perfection.

Persistent gnats.

Chewing the hell out of me.

I left.

Not being one to plaster myself with chemicals, I chose a different spot. Another of my faves is here, looking out over the pool. It's close enough to bathroom and refrigerator.

And the kids.

And the husband asking me what's for lunch at 10:30 a.m. (One of the hazards of living with a crazy person who likes to get up at 5 a.m. even on holiday weekends. I hadn't even had breakfast yet.)

And the neighbor's weedwhacking.

And the stereo from the other neighbors (either Frank Sinatra over and over and over, et al, or the kid's techno shout-your-tonsils-out horrors. And the speakers are pointed towards us because they think the whole freaking world wants to listen.)


There is no all-the-time perfect place. Conditions change. Your moods change. Your needs change.

So scout out a few places where you can work. Maybe the coffee shop? (too noisy for me). How about the library? (Can't bring my tea in with me.) Then there's the park (unless it rains or is too hot or is taken over by the loudest 9-year-olds you've ever heard).

Just remember that there is always a place for you. Figure out what you require for that span of writing time and get it.

Everyone deserves a space of their own.

Keep writing and keep happy.